- "Oh God... This is it. It's all over... This is how it ends. That's right... I have to end it. This nightmare will finally be over... Time to... wake up... My fingers scraped across the floor as I picked up the scalpel. I lifted it slowly, carefully, to my neck, as if someone were guiding my hand with theirs... And drew it across my throat."
- — Sigma Klim, slitting his throat because of Radical-6
Radical-6 is a lethal airborne virus unleashed by Free the Soul that is introduced in Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward and an important subject of the story and the series. First appearing in December 2028, it caused a worldwide pandemic on Earth, almost eradicating humanity by suicide and causing the deaths of 6 billion people.
Radical-6 seems to be a tasteless, colorless, and odorless virus. It is extremely contagious, requiring a quarantine for anybody afflicted by it. Radical-6 has two major symptoms:
- The first symptom affects the brain, mainly a person's perception of time. An infected human perceives time at about √6 of normal rate, increasing mental processing rate. For every roughly 2.45 seconds in real time, an infected human would process this as 1 second. Thus, 2 minutes and 27 seconds (147 seconds) in real time is perceived as 1 minute (60 seconds) to a patient infected by Radical-6.
- The second and truly fatal symptom is an overwhelmingly strong desire to kill oneself. It is strongly implied or believed that this is because of the virus' first symptom of the slowed processing rate. Because the brain's processing rate is slowed, they are taking in more information, and the brain can't keep up and thus, starts to fail. There is no premeditated method that they will kill themselves with. Most will choose simple methods such as shooting themselves, hanging themselves, etc. Usual rational thought is ignored, since depravity to kill themselves leads to crashing planes and mass unified suicide. The desire is so strong that even a small child can slightly overpower an adult trying to subdue them. The only possible way to stop this symptom is to knock them out with a strong sedative, such as Soporil ß.
A Treatment Pod can slow down and ease the symptoms of Radical-6, but it cannot fully remove the virus, as it does not contain an antidote. There is only one known cure that can completely rid someone of Radical-6: Axelavir. However, even after being treated, some of the symptoms (most notably reduced brain processing) will linger for a while.
Patients that are showing signs of Radical-6 will stand with their eyes blank and their mouths slightly hanging open as their processing speed is slowed down. To the patient, the world will appear as if it is on "fast-forward". Everything happening, including when someone speaks, appears to be sped up and can hardly be understood.
Radical-6 Nevada outbreak
In December 2028, Radical-6 first appeared after an accident occurred at the Mars Mission Test Site in Nevada and an unknown number of people working there become infected by this disease. It is not known why the virus was present in this test site or how it had gotten in and out, but Free the Soul was responsible for its creation.
The disease escaped from the test site on December 31, 2028, and spread across the world, becoming a global pandemic. Bodies began to pile up in the millions, and then billions, as people took their own lives by any means in a mass suicide, creating an extremely nauseating stench from all of the rotting corpses. Nearly every single town and city on the planet had thousands - hundreds of thousands - of bloody dead, rotting corpses in giant piles and mountains. It became a literal hell on Earth, with humans killing each other for food and water just so that they wouldn't starve to death. Most forms of transportation were rendered useless as roads, streets, and highways became blocked by crashed vehicles, meaning food couldn't be distributed, so many people starved. The humans who were immune to the disease were locked in underground shelters by the government.
- "Pretty soon the bodies started to pile up. Some people would take a dive off a building or shoot themselves in the head. You know, the classics. But for some it was poison, or fire, or asphyxiation, or the noose... Plenty of people jumped in front of trains or cars. One pilot on a passenger airline drove his plane into the ground. Most forms of transportation ground to a halt pretty fast. That meant food couldn't get distributed, and thousands of people who weren't even infected died from starvation. Everywhere you went there were just... piles of corpses, covered in flies and rats and crows. I don't know what Hell's like, but I imagine it's a lot like that."
- — Tenmyouji on the Radical-6 outbreak
Antimatter Plant Explosions
By April 13, 2029, the death rate was so bad that the remaining humans plotted to eradicate the virus by blowing up 18 antimatter plants simultaneously. It was successful. However, by doing so, the dust fallout blotted out the sun, killing millions of lives including plants and animals, and turned the Earth red.
- "You ever heard of a nuclear winter? Well, that's basically what we got. The explosion threw a ton of crap up into the stratosphere, where it joined up with smoke and ash from all the fires. It blotted out the sun for seven years. Plants withered, and animals died by the millions. The few humans who were left banded together to survive. They were rough times."
- — Tenmyouji on the Antimatter Plant Explosions
Ironically, as a result, the spread of Radical-6 was successfully contained and the pandemic came to an end. Humanity then decided to expand to the Moon by building rhizomes - at least 54 of them. Somehow, Akane Kurashiki and her Crash Keys organization managed to save a sample of the virus.
In 2038, from several survivors who built up an immunity to the disease, Axelavir is developed as a cure for Radical-6 by harvesting antibodies from the immune survivors.
Virtue's Last Reward
- "We're all going to die... We're all dead already... All of humanity is going to DIE! The virus will spread! Adults! Children! Everyone! EVERYONE! There won't be anyone left! I... I'd rather die here!"
- — Alice, on Radical-6
In January 2074, during the events of the AB Project on Rhizome 9, 8 participants of the game were infected with Radical-6. One was not infected because they are a GAULEM, thus immune to diseases. They were infected to help develop Phi and Sigma's timeline jumping abilities. It was also used to mask the fact that they were on the Moon, where gravity was 1/6th the normal strength. The disease's most deadly symptom were shown only through Quark and Alice. In most routes, Quark shows suicidal thoughts after going through the first set of Chromatic Doors and is quickly subdued with Soporil ß. Usually right after Quark is sedated, or before the second round of the AB game, Alice begins to show signs of the disease. In some routes, Alice does kill herself, while in others, she is knocked out as well. During Quark END, Sigma, Dio, and Clover discover a journal that details the Radical-6 infection and its effects on the human population. Phi discovers that the journal was written on December 29, but has no year written on it. It is also unknown how Zero Sr. was able to keep a sample of the virus, despite it being destroyed in 2029.
Sigma also shows symptoms of Radical-6 in the Security room on Luna's route when Phi appears to speak faster than Sigma can comprehend, however he feels no suicidal urges and seemingly recovers after resting for a bit.
Everyone possibly shows the suicide symptoms in Clover END, including Phi and ultimately Sigma. All participants except for Quark and possibly K (whose fate is unknown) die from suicide, using a scalpel in the infirmary. If K was infected, he would have found a different way to kill himself because the scalpel wouldn't be able to penetrate his armor.
In some endings, including Phi END, Quark and Alice are cured of their suicidal condition using Axelavir. After the Nonary Game is over, Akane gives all of the infected players Axelavir, curing them all of Radical-6.
- It is possible that the reason the virus was designed to make people die by suicide was because of the police ruling on Left's death, which was falsely accepted as a suicide.
- Quark tries to kill himself and says that his soul has to escape. This could be a reference to Free the Soul's philosophy of "freeing the soul from the body".