ZO13 missiles will impact in six seconds. Chances of population survival: 0.1%.
—An Imperial droid launching ZO13 at a planet
Zeltron Osteoporosical Monoamine Gangliate, better known by its Imperial designation as ZO13, was a type of Imperial biological weapon that amounted to a genetically engineered viral pathogen. Based on an aborted project originally developed by the Confederacy of Independent Systems, it was created by genetically engineered Zeltron antigens with added genetic codes from what were said to have been some of the most dangerous diseases in the galaxy. According to researchers, the disease itself was tailored not to discriminate when it came to victims.
The virus gained a reputation for the painful and slow death that beings who became infected with it supposedly suffered, and due to its tendency to spread in large-scale epidemics when administrated efficiently. It was also feared for its ninety percent death rate. During development, ZO13 was responsible for the destruction of several small civilizations, and it almost resulted in the destruction of all life on Utapau shortly after the Battle of Endor. However, ZO13 did not become a regular Imperial weapon due to the Emperor's lack of interest in it and the Imperial High Command's worry that it could do more harm than good. Nonetheless, it was still used in warfare during the Yuuzhan Vong War, albeit on a limited scale.
Cute little things, aren't they?
—An Imperial scientist's sarcastic comment while inspecting ZO13 pathogens
ZO13 pathogens were crafted to resist all immune systems and medicine, and were able to coordinate their invasions of a body, save for in a pre-programmed and supposedly 'unintelligent' way. They contained a variety of chemicals to assist in doing this, such as very obscure and dangerous acids that only Imperial scientists had access to, and would use these to overcome antigens of a bodily immune system. They would also exert acid to burn through flesh and bodily cells, and could also consume said cells to fuel reproduction. Appearance-wise, ZO13 pathogens typically resembled misshapen spherical blobs, although some variants resembled insects. Some of these variants were designed for use against specific species, and so they were equipped with appropriate chemicals to fool the immune system of said species.
The chemical coding within each ZO13 pathogen caused them to immediately begin causing destruction in a body. Because the virus was artificial, said coding was, to the Imperials who developed it, very advanced for a virus, allowing ZO13 viruses to supposedly be very effective in their destruction of a body. It also accelerated their reproduction, which was a factor in ZO13's speed. Scientists later recounted that some variants that they deemed rare, such as ZOV-2343, could even disguise themselves as immune system antigens when attacking a more bodily developed being by altering their genetic coding on an exterior level or by releasing appropriate phermonic signals.
Some strains of ZO13 were capable of surviving in a vacuum, due to a mucus-like cocoon structure in the viral pathogens that essentially made the virus dormant until it came into contact with something organic, whereupon the body heat of said organic object would awaken the virus. Imperial scientists discovered this when a ZO13 phial was accidentally launched into an asteroid belt, and resulted in the total extermination of the belts' space slug and xenomorph populations. This feature of the ZO13 was put to good use in the Yuuzhan Vong war by the Imperial remnant against biological Yuuzhan Vong spaceborne forces.
—An infected person before dying of ZO13
ZO13, when injected or inhaled into the body of a being, would start off like other known viruses by infecting bodily cells and using them to reproduce. However, after some time, it would start to attack muscle cells and vital organs, and could overcome agents of the bodily immune system either by consuming them, infecting them in a conventional way or dissolving them with acid. ZO13 pathogens would then head towards the brain, where they would systematically destroy it, resulting in a drop of intelligence in the host. Witnesses later reported that this would result in madness and delirium.
Once that was done, the host's vital organs would begin to fail. ZO13 pathogens would then begin to produce toxins that would expand the blood vessels of the host, resulting in bleeding, pain, and paralysis. Bone marrow would also be attacked, and shortly after this the host would become immobile. Body temperatures would also drop drastically due to mass death of blood cells and collapse of the circulation systems. Due to blood cells being destroyed, the skin would become pale or, in some cases, flake off, resulting in the host having a corpse-like look.
After this, the ZO13 pathogens would continue to systematically destroy their host, reproducing as they went, until the host was dead. They would then leave the host and become airborne, infecting other beings they came into contact with when breathed in or otherwise accessing the body via any exterior openings. The time of this process depended on the species; in less biologically developed ones, it would take minutes; with humans, about half-an-hour, and with more evolved species, around a day. Nonetheless, it was deadly to nearly all types of known organic being in the galaxy.
ZO13 had effects on certain species that Imperial researchers believed were very peculiar. With Wookiees, it would initially result in a loss of body hair, resulting in it being jokingly nicknamed as the 'bald virus' by Imperial scientists. In the case of Hutts, it would result in weight loss, giving the victim a shriveled appearance, and causing pain and discomfort. In the case of Gammoreans, it resulted in an increase of intelligence, the cause of this symptom having been unknown to Imperial researchers. According to research journals, Imperial scientists believed that the Gamorrean test subjects became almost as intelligent as the scientists themselves, possibly due the effect the chemical composition of the virus had on the Gamorrean neural structure, although the virus would still kill the Gamorreans within a short while.
The Separatist council would like to report that it is retracting funding for this project and considers it void...our armies would be more effective than some stupid virus anyway.
—Grievous to Verx Steinen
What would become the ZO13 project was a CIS biological weapons project during the Clone Wars, which was quite abortive due to the lack of decent microbiologists on the Separatist side. The project would be canceled towards the end of the war due to the lack of faith the Separatist council had in it. However, during the time in which it was in operation, it successfully created some deadly, albeit somewhat uncontrollable and basic, biological weapons, but Dooku voiced his displeasure at all of them. Unbeknownst to the Separatist science teams, his negative opinion was due to the fact that his master did not want any bio-weapons that could tip the tide of the war in the favor of the CIS and ruin his master plan. Several Republic spies managed to stumble across information the project, but most of them were dispatched before they could deliver their information, and the intelligence delivered by those that survived was considered too vague by Republic spymasters to be of any use, resulting in the Republic being largely unaware of the CIS's bio-weapon development.
Nonetheless, the head of the project, the fairly competent doctor Verx Steinen, took a zealous attitude to completing the project, and often pestered the separatist high command with petitions for increasing focus on the project, believing that it could win the war. Dooku himself veteod all petitions, and some of the top council members, such as Gunray, became genuinely fed up with the project when it repeatedly failed to yield its targets. For this reason, the council formally canceled the project in the last year of the war. Steinen, nonetheless, continued research on the project in a commerce guild lab on Felucia until the lab was discovered by clones. Steinen managed to escape with his notes but was mortally wounded in the process. He holo-faxed his notes to his sun Frevek before burning them and then dying.
Imperial development and use
Team 4 would like to report that ZO13 has a 99% success rate and is therefore a better serving as a demonstation of Imperial power rather than some silly battle station...
—Excerpt from a report from from the ZO13 project scientists
After the rise of the Empire, Palpatine expressed interest in an Imperial bio-weapon after uncovering files on this Separatist project, and ordered the best Imperial microbiologists to continue the project, including Steinen's son. To avoid risk of sabotage derailing the whole project, research took place simultaneously in different locations across the galaxy. Several scientists would die during the course of the research due to accidentally being infected with the prototype pathogens they produced. Many acts that would later be deemed barbaric were committed during the research, such as the kidnapping and experimentation upon civilian Zeltrons. The results of these experiments left the Zeltrons with a ruined immune system, and they often either left to die or disposed of in trash compactors. A few Imperial scientists eventually decided that they had had enough with the project and wanted either to expose it or ruin it, but tight Imperial security over the whole undertaking resulted in these scientists either being executed or 're-educated', as official Imperial documents put it, in prison camps on Rhen Var. The first ZO13 prototype pathogens were tested upon political prisoners at a laboratory on Mygeeto, but they were not entirely effective, as some prisoners whose species had resilient immune systems survived. Members of said species were therefore kidnapped and taken to ZO13 development labs to have their immune systems cracked.
Eventually, however, the ZO13 project was complete. It was tested out on several primitive planets, exterminating several civilizations, and the Emperor was pleased with the result. He ordered immediate mass-production of the bio-weapon, but was not pleased to hear that doing so would be very expensive. However, the Emperor soon lost interest and forgot about the project and began to concentrate on another Imperial weapon. The produced batches of ZO13 were stored in its main production facility on Utapau, within a vault designed to withstand even a Base Delta Zero.
Very shortly after the Battle of Endor, the scientists at the Utapau facility panicked, fearing that the New Republic would imprison or execute them for the crimes they performed during the project, and committed suicide by releasing the ZO13 virus into the atmosphere. Within minutes, several thousand square kilometers of the planet were infected, prompting the government of the world to send a distress call on the HoloNet, prompting Mon Mothma to dispatch an aid task force to the world. When the New Republic arrived on Utapau, they found a large part of it in the grip of a ZO13 epidemic. Quarantine was nearly useless due to ZO13's airborne nature, and there was apparently no cure, and all medicines on the world had proved ineffective. The New Republic forces tried to construct temporary shelters in unaffected cities, but the sheer size of this task made them feel that Utapau was doomed. Nonetheless, New Republic scientists managed to capture a sample of ZO13 from an infected Utai, and after studying it concluded that citric acid would be able to neutralize it long enough for it to be removed from the body, but that it was not a final cure. Deciding that it was better than nothing, the New Republic brought in an entire fleet of merchant ships carrying citric-acid heavy orang fruits, and distributed them across the planet. Using this, the ZO13 infestation on Utapau was eradicated, but at a heavy loss of life. Individuals whose ZO13 infections were too great to be treated were either euthanized or cyro-froze. Meanwhile, the Z013 lab was sterilized by freezing it with liquid nitrogen, containing the virus, and allowing Republic biologists to study it further. Realizing the danger of the virus, the Republic moved to several secret containment facilities on selected worlds. Years later, once the Imperial Remnant surrendered in 19 ABY, the New Republic was further able to analyze Imperial data on the virus.
Yuuzhan Vong War
Curse this infidel plague! No doubt the desecrators stole it from us!
—A Yuuzhan Vong warrior
Decades later, during the Yuuzhan Vong War, the New Republic, searching for an effective weapon against the Vong, rediscovered the ZO13 project. This came about after a secret meeting of New Republic leaders, sans Jedi, was held on Coruscant, to discuss the deployment of new weapons against the Vong that would nominally be considered unethical. An intelligence officer present suggested reviving the ZO13 project. Initially, Mon Mothma was highly against it, pointing out that the virus would indiscriminately target innocents as well. Despite this, the other New Republic leaders, including Borsk Fel'ya, voted for usage of the ZO13 virus. Forced to retract her objection under pressure, Mon Mothma signed a document authorizing deployment of ZO13. Samples of ZO13, stored in high-security New Republic vaults, were brought to New Repbulic scientists and replicated on an industrial scale. As a result, ZO13 was unleashed on organic Yuuzhan Vong forces on many worlds, and proved a very effective weapon against the enemy initially, as well as a morale boost. Thanks to ZO13, several Vong strongholds on key worlds such as Koru Neimoidia and Korriban were completely eradicated. ZO13 also proved able to survive in the vacuum of space, and thus it was used against biological Vong capital ships to great effect.
Nonetheless, the Vong soon naturally became more resistant to it, due to a combination their more evolved immune systems and their biotechnology, which helped create counter-pathogens. Due to it infecting New Republic affiliated-beings in the process, New Republic forces soon stopped using it, although the Imperial Remnant, which had reproduced ZO13 samples it had recovered from old Imperial bases, made liberal use of it, using it to annihilate several Peace Brigade divisions on key worlds. Palleaeon considered unleashing ZOV-1138, a recently developed variant on the virus that could also eat through metal and almost any surfaces, but he was soon convinced that it would do more harm than good and had it eradicated. The Jedi, specifically Luke Skywalker, were horrified at the usage of the biological weapon. Upon seeing this reaction, the New Republic made sure usage of the virus did not reach the mainstream media, fearing a civil outcry, so very few of the New Republic populace became aware of the New Republic's use of the virus.
After the war, Mon Mothma decided that all samples of ZO13 were to be eradicated. An agreement was made with the Imperial remnant that Imperial ZO13 stockpiles would also be disposed of, as the remnant itself had suffered due to its overzealous deployment of the virus. 99% of all the ZO13 in the galaxy was destroyed under controlled laboratory conditions, as were the various bio-blueprints of the virus, but some New Republic and Imperial scientists personally kept some phials of ZO13 and stored them away in safe places. Several criminal and terrorist groups learned about these last ZOMG samples, and tried to obtain them, but to no avail.
By 130 ABY, only two ZO13 samples existed in the entire galaxy, cryogenically stored in two separate vaults in unknown locations. Multiple bounty hunters and scientists tried to obtain the two samples, but failed. With the deaths of the original owners of the samples, ZO13 was, for the time being, considered forever lost to the outside galaxy.