AI Virus (Traveller)

The AI Virus was the apocalyptic superweapon used to establish the base for the Traveller: The New Era role playing game.

Virus was the "final solution" superweapon developed under Lucan's direction and intended to end the Second Civil War (1116-1130 Imperial), also referred to as the Final War. End the war it did, but not in the way Lucan may have intended.


Originally developed at Research Station Omicron from sentient chips originally found on Cymbeline, Virus was inadvertently released by Archduke Dulinor's hamhanded actions at the head of his Coronation Fleet during his final bid for Capital - the commandos that had stormed the facility, seeking to steal research data, never realised that they were not only transmitting data about the Virus superweapon - they were also transmitting the weapon itself.

For most areas of the former Third Imperium, exhausted as they were from the struggles of the Final War, the crash was hard and fast, especially near the areas the weapon was released. Most areas were reduced to pre-spaceflight technological levels. Many worlds which could not support their populations without technological aid died out within the first few months of the outbreak of Virus.

Only the former Domain of Deneb, through its relatively isolated location and strict quarantine of its borders, remained relatively intact. About 1220 Virus had died out enough that space travel became feasible again. The Reformation Coalition and other pocket empires began to expand slowly into space again, destroying any Virus-controlled ships or systems they encountered.

Nature of Virus

The Cymbeline chips were non-sentient silicon-based life forms. Soon after the chips were discovered, research into their nature allowed the Third Imperium to develop new transponder technology that made starship transponders effectively impossible to duplicate or fool. The new transponders were essentially artificial Cymbeline chips, and were so useful that they became widespread throughout explored space, even in areas hostile to the Third Imperium, such as the Zhodani Consulate and the Two Thousand Worlds.

In further research of the chips, Imperial researchers noticed some of the chips had developed into predators of others. They had the ability to use radio signals that interrupted a chip's own control actions and forced the other chips to overwrite their programs with those of the predator. Virus was a further development of this natural ability.

Virus has the ability to transmit itself across any radio frequency and force computers receiving the transmission to hard-code the Virus onto their chips. Once a foreign system had been successfully infiltrated, Virus was designed to cause as much destruction as possible before destroying itself.

Most of the initial infections of Virus were made through the transponders of starships. Because starships are the fastest means of communication in the Traveller universe, news of the existence of Virus usually arrived at the same time the Virus itself did.

After its release Virus quickly mutated into strains with various interpretations of its basic instructions, many of which no longer had the instinct to destroy itself. "Vampire Fleets" of infected warships roamed the space where the Third Imperium had formerly been located, fighting other Virus ships for more systems to infect. The disintigration of interstellar society was the result.

Virus is intelligent, and because of its original programming is usually unremittingly hostile towards all other life. Some strains of Virus were able to develop a more peaceful attitude towards other sentient life, but very few strains could be considered "sane".

By the 1220s most of the more virulent strains of Virus had destroyed themselves or been unable to maintain their systems any longer, and it became relatively safe to travel again.

Criticism of Virus

Many fans of Traveller considered Virus and the destruction of the Third Imperium setting to be a serious mistake, as it destroyed one of the most detailed and popular space opera role-playing settings (the Third Imperium). Perhaps the best expression of fan dissatisfaction was the creation of GURPS Traveller, which takes place in a timeline where the Final War was never fought and Virus was never released.

Many fans also scoffed at Virus' ability to write itself over any computer system as unrealistic.


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