The Virus is a worldwide political movement that has its origins in North America. It is a movement that is difficult to define, as it has no centralized structure or any semblance of organization, with many seemingly competing interests acting in its name. The only commonalty that exists among those who have taken up the movement is that they are decidedly "anti-establishment", with The Virus frequently becoming a rallying cry for marginalized groups within various societies. Most of its activities are online and the movement has become popular across many different social media platforms, although some groups that have pledged to be part of the movement have set up "offline" locations to co-ordinate their activities.
The Virus gained notoriety in 2013 when a rash of crimes committed in North America occurred with the criminals stating they are acting as part of the movement, although its origins appear to have come much earlier. Many prominent crimes have been declared as part of the movement, the most prominent of which was the Night of Anarchy on July 11, 2016, which caused so much disorder worldwide that the Treaty of Buffalo was signed. Thus, the movement has become a special concern of police forces worldwide, with the Buffalo Treaty establishing the Mundiali Imperium police force to deal with the threat. The Virus was also instrumental in exposing the Order of St. Maria Goetti as a cover for Birean human trafficking operations, leading to the arrest of several prominent Birean individuals.
The Virus is not a formal organization in the conventional sense of the term. It is not organized at all, and anyone can claim to be a member of the movement simply by declaring their membership. This complicates efforts in combating the movement, since there is no way of determining with certainty who is actually a member of The Virus, nor is there a way of determining which crimes are specifically Viral crimes. Preventing those crimes can be even harder, as criminals could hide their association with the movement until after they've committed their crime, causing law enforcement officials to miss the association until it's too late.
Nevertheless, certain general principles are agreed upon as hallmarks of The Virus. Galla Claudia, who investigated and studied The Virus from 2012-20 for the Roman Special Crimes Unit, noted these common elements among Viral culture:
- It has a heavy presence on social media, with posts often signed with simply "The Virus" or "The True Virus". The second signature came into prominence during the Byzantine flu, as many members of The Virus asserted that the governments combating the Byzantine flu were "the true virus"
- They are generally an anti-government organization, especially the parts of the government tasked with upholding law and order. Many Virus members believe that all government officials are corrupt because governing systems are themselves corrupt since they concentrate power in a country within a small group of individuals
- Danforth Grayson, the first known person to be a member of The Virus, is generally recognized as the movement's leader, at least in a spiritual sense. Though he holds no actual power over the movement or its members, Virus members are heavily influenced by what he does and says, making stopping him a top priority in curtailing The Virus
- Virus members advocate for fundamental changes in governing structures, though there are substantial disagreements over what changes are needed. They generally divide themselves into two camps, one favouring direct democracy and the other favouring anarchism. Grayson himself is an anarchist, since he does not believe large government structures can be effective, although he does not oppose direct democracy as a form of government in principle.
The origins of The Virus are unclear, with the first documented sighting of the movement coming in 1999 when a website registered to Danforth Grayson, a Texan who, at the time, worked as a criminal defence lawyer in Denver, Colorado, although Grayson would use "The Virus" as the name of various activist groups he was a part of dating all the way back to 1990. Grayson's website was a "how-to" guide assisting readers on how to commit crimes while evading the detection of law enforcement officers, with the site soon expanding into an online forum and a wiki that allowed other users to contribute to an ever expanding encyclopedia on how to commit crimes without detection. It soon gained the attention of law enforcement agencies in Colorado, with many lawmakers attempting to get the site shut down, but Grayson successfully fought off these attempts in court.
Grayson's common line of defence was that his website was about "enabling justice" and allowing "those who have been wronged to right the wrongs the police failed to do", with the website making frequent and explicit calls to its users not to target innocents or to use the website's resources for their own gain. "Crime should never be about vanity," Grayson once told The Denver Post-Gazette in 2003, "it should always be about justice. Those who act for their own selfish interests only serve to create enemies, and when you create enemies you create an endless spiral of retaliation that destroys the entire order within society." Grayson also frequently defended the website by asserting that no actual crimes had been committed by users of its content, as well as an ironclad rule that tells users of its forum that outright discussions of committing specific crimes are prohibited.
Spread in North America
The Virus first gained worldwide attention in 2015, although Roman authorities- led by Claudia- had been investigating the movement much earlier. In February 2015, the Siege of Louisville occurred after a tip local law enforcement received about Viral activity in the city. The ensuing investigation revealed that Virus members staged a hostage crisis as a way of deterring the Soldiers of the Lord- operating clandestinely as a fake Catholic organization known as the Order of St. Maria Goetti run by rogue members of the Aramean Army- from executing a planned human trafficking raid. The move exposed the Soldiers' activities on a global scale, making it impossible for the Bireans to continue to deny their existence, although the Bireans' ultimate association- as well as Virtue's- with the Soldiers is still debated in law enforcement circles.
In September 2016, the Milner Report, written by Mike Milner, came out, asserting that police forces across North America had a "hero mentality" which caused the police to only pursue cases that promised fame and glory and were not too difficult to solve. Milner, a former detective and prosecutor in Savannah, wrote his report after investigating the case of Hayden Myers, who asserted she suffered for years at the hands of Ted Bundy at his Inland Empire, California ranch while the police did nothing about it. Milner concluded that, despite the fact that the police had known about Bundy's activities, they did nothing about it because Bundy was "too difficult to catch". In 2016, after her arrest, Myers confessed to killing Bundy, concluding it was the only way she could end her trauma after the police consistently ignored her pleas to investigate.
The Night of Anarchy
In 2016, the Romans' already frayed relationship with the Arameans- owing to the Siege of Louisville- became severed after the Arameans conspired with Virtue to prevent Anatu from coming to power in the Asia Minor Confederation despite being the overwhelming popular favourite. The move led to the Televised Riots, which the Arameans brutally suppressed although it failed to end anti-government movements in that country.
Coupled with the findings of the Milner Report that fall, many pledged members of The Virus vowed to strike back at their local government, especially after Grayson released a video on social media that told its audience that "every government acts just like the Arameans did". This led to escalating protests through the winter and into the spring of 2017, as protesters and police clashed in many countries worldwide.
On July 11, 2017, the protests reached a crescendo, as literally billions clashed with police and government forces across the world, demanding the overthrow of corrupt governments. Some 134 countries were affected in some way, with thousands of governments- many of them local, but several were provincial or even national- toppled literally overnight. Grayson released a video the next day admiring the carnage, stating that "the night of anarchy" (giving the phenomenon its name) was a reminder to world governments about the "true power of the people". Grayson's own involvement in the protests is disputed, as no evidence has emerged that he was a participant, although many law enforcement officials believe he was involved in some way.
The Night of Anarchy sent shockwaves worldwide, so much so that Rome and Virtue set aside their differences and signed the Treaty of Buffalo just over a month later. The centrepiece of the Treaty- aside from a vow towards friendship- was the creation of a worldwide police, the Mundiali Imperium or simply the "Mundiali" to deal with The Virus. Upon hearing the news of the Treaty, Grayson ominously predicted that the Roman-Virtual relationship would fail, since the two implacable foes had too many differences to reconcile, and political pundits have since noted the uneasy relationship and concluded that Grayson was right. Grayson also took the opportunity to "declare victory" since his movement forced so much global change, but he also stressed that "The Virus' work was just getting started".
The New War
On September 18, 2018, Grayson released a video through The Virus' social media channels openly declaring war on the world's governments. In the video he denounced all forms of government as weak and ineffectual, stating that governments "work only for themselves and never for you". The video drew comparisons to Thomas Rotler, who used many of the same arguments to denounce the Weimar Republic, but Grayson's supporters vehemently denied the comparison, saying "Grayson actually does work for others".
2020 arrest of Danforth Grayson
Main article: Danforth Grayson#2020 arrest and conviction
On April 7, 2020, it was announced by the Mundiali that Grayson and many of his associates had been arrested for several Virus-related offences. Convictions were later secured, as Grayson surprisingly agreed to plead guilty for his crimes.
While many in the law enforcement community rejoiced over the news, some- led by criminologist Jason Parys- were skeptical that Grayson's arrest would be meaningful in any way. Parys points out that The Virus is more of an "idea" than an actual organization, and as long what fueled The Virus remains, The Virus itself remains. Parys also questioned why Grayson capitulated so quickly, considering his track record as a criminal defence attorney, leading him to think Grayson is trying to "martyr" himself to lift the spirits of his movement. Few details have been released regarding Grayson's criminal case, leading Parys to wonder what else about Grayson and The Virus the Mundiali is not telling.
The Mysterious Symbol
In late 2020 and early 2021, a number of criminals- seemingly disconnected- arose bearing a strange tattoo on their chest, right over the person's heart. This tattoo is a simple figure of a circle on top of a line on top of a triangle, all coloured royal blue. The representation varies little from person to person, with the only variance being those of mistakes made by the tattoo artist in copying a version of the tattoo. To the naked eye, they are all practically the same.
The symbol itself became even more notable when it was revealed that Grayson himself had the same tattoo emblazoned on his chest. Grayson himself has stayed silent on the issue and refuses to discuss it, simply stating he got the tattoo because he "liked the design". He also denies any association with the other criminals who bear the same tattoo, although he does note the "coincidence" of so many criminals also sporting the same tattoo.
What the symbol represents is a matter of speculation, although the prevailing theory is that it represents the Sign of Tanit, a prominent symbol in Carthaginian and Phoenician culture. One of the criminals convicted who bore the sign, Asharte "Ash" Hamilcar, has stated in interviews that the mysterious symbol is indeed the Sign of Tanit and she states she gave Grayson the tattoo "on a lark" sometime in 2010. Grayson has denied her story, and little evidence has emerged to corroborate her story.