by M.D Schultz
A brief description of the first of three members making up the Triumvirate.
After the creation of the first Prism Gate there became a present need for an organization to oversee matters pertaining to the parallel realms. The Fifth Chapter was the world's answer to the rift phenomena. A confidential organization dedicated to protecting humanity from the horrors beyond the gates. The first members were a collaborative group of investors who came to make up the original council. However, the United Nations eventually took over funding when the Environmental Protection Act was passed and the council was replaced with the Triumvirate. When the true hierarchy was developed, the three most elite members, who oversee all Chapter operations, came to be known as the Triumvirate. These individuals are gifted in dealing with the parallel realms because of their “unique” conditions. However, these augmentations make them a clear danger to humanity in a rogue scenario. As such, with their approval, case studies have been opened surrounding each member. Given the strict policies of confidentiality, especially with lower ranked officials, identities will be withheld save for their respective code names. The members of the Triumvirate include the Rift Walker, the Cathedral, and the Ouroboros. Case study 365081 will cover our data on the Rift Walker.
The Niflheim investigation "Case Study 365010 Niflheim" garnered a lot of attention for it was the first time anyone had traveled beyond a gate and returned alive. However, this operation was far from a success. Three of the four members never returned from the world called Niflheim. The lone survivor, the senior ranked chapter member, would later become the Rift Walker. Several hours after the London investigation team left, the subject returned near hysterical and was quickly quarantined. Over that year, our studies revealed very little and the lone survivor was misdiagnosed with post-traumatic stress due to odd hallucinations. Hallucinations that took the form of a creature called the Basilisk. An eyeless white cat that plagues the mind of the afflicted. Since that time, the Basilisk has proven to be much more than an illusion. Though none of our instruments can detect a physical presence, we can pick up ultrasonic vibrations around the subject. This inaudible signature, according to the Rift Walker, is synonymous with the Basilisk’s speech. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence suggesting the creature can invade minds causing significant brain damage and memory loss. Only the lone survivor of Niflheim appears partially immune to its effects. I say partially because the subject suffers from a split personality. The appearance of this disorder was noticed several years after the London rift incident. The Basilisk exhibits a cold and calculating demeanor and cares little for human life. Fortunately, this creature is, so far, only dangerous to those who threaten its host. Several altercations over the years have ended with members suffering from mild memory loss to brain damage. Regardless of the outcome, all the afflicted suffer from the same horrifying visage. The visage of an eyeless white cat. Injury is likely caused by a rapid increase in the ultrasonic vibrations within the skull of the victim. In other words, Brain damage is caused by the Basilisk’s screams.
It wasn’t until sometime after the Rift Walker's release from quarantine that unusual activity surrounding the individual was reported. The incident in question revolved around an unstable combatant who attempted to take the lives of eight researchers including himself. Working around rift activity and the horrors within can have unforeseen consequences on the human psyche. Regular psychological evaluation became mandatory after the emotional breakdown of several active members. The most severe incident left seven researchers mortally wounded not including the Rift Walker who received four fatal gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Despite the severity of these injuries, the subject made a full recovery after a period of dormancy.
As a member of the Fifth Chapter, you learn to understand that miracles are the first sign of activity from the parallel realms. The impossible recovery of the Rift Walker didn’t go unnoticed for long. Suspicions eventually lead to the re-opening of the Niflheim case and a new investigation into the lone survivor. Samples taken from the subject would reveal a unique mechanism of survival that makes the Rift Walker as close to immortal as anyone can get.
Tardigrades are microscopic organisms capable of surviving in extreme conditions. You would be forgiven for believing that these creatures are a type of extremophile which are defined as organisms that can live and reproduce in lethal environments. Tardigrade’s, however, are not extremophiles. These microscopic creatures cannot live in harsh conditions but rather enter a state of dehydrated dormancy. In this state, Tardigrades can survive almost any scenario including the harsh vacuum of space. Their survival is owed, in part, to their ability to purge themselves of moisture and drop metabolic activity to less than 1%. This dry state makes them resistant to high pressure, radiation, freezing and burning temperatures. Re-introduction of moisture fully revives the organisms which are then immediately capable of division. Amazingly, the Rift Walkers cells act in a similar manner to Tardigrades. When the life of the subject is in danger, these cells empty themselves of moisture and enter a dormant state. We have discovered that almost every cell type of the Rift Walker, including neuronal cells, can undergo spontaneous desiccation under extreme conditions. These cells shrivel to a fraction of their original size and can remain dormant for many years. This prevents any further damage from occurring to the subject although can be jarring for the Rift Walker appears as little more than a dried corpse. Once the danger has passed, these cells can rapidly consume moisture from the environment and undergo subcellular regeneration. Every cell type possesses regenerative capability and, as such, no wound is ever truly fatal for the lone survivor of Niflheim. As expected, the Rift Walkers cells have a carbon-silicon backbone and it is unknown when these changes occurred.
Interestingly, the lone survivor lacks a functional immune system. Both innate and adaptive immunity are underdeveloped and unable to protect from foreign antigen. At first glance, the subject appears to suffer from a form of severe combined immunodeficiency which, in addition to B-cells and T-cells, lacks mature innate cells such as macrophages and neutrophils. As a result, the spleen and lymph nodes of the subject have become poorly developed and the bloodstream is host to many immature non-functional immune cells. It’s as if the immune system has become vestigial similar to tonsils or the appendix. Despite this discovery, there is no physical or psychological evidence of immunodeficiency and the subject is incapable of contracting illness. This was, at first, a great mystery especially given the microscopic dangers present in our environment. Without the human immune system, we wouldn’t be able to survive for very long. However, the Rift Walker was an exception to this rule displaying resistance to viral, bacterial, and parasitic infection. By studying the Rift Walker’s cellular structure, we could identify the mechanism behind this protection.
Viruses are capsuled protein structures that ferry DNA to a host cell. Most viruses function by injecting their DNA into a cell which proceeds to infiltrate the nucleus, generally through transporter proteins, and incorporates itself into the human genome. This assimilation is so perfect that human protein is unable to tell the difference between host and viral DNA. As such, foreign protein is made and the cell becomes a malicious factory for viral production. However, the Rift Walkers cells are completely immune to this mechanism. Studies revealed that the cytoplasm of the subject’s cells is host to several digestive enzymes that consume exposed RNA and DNA within seconds. As soon as viral DNA enters these cells it is broken up before it ever reaches the nucleus. Furthermore, the cell's genome possesses a unique signature in the form of an amino acid cap. The digestive enzymes are unable to function on the capped DNA and RNA protecting the cell from damage. This elegant design makes the subject completely immune to viral infection but what about bacteria? Most of these microorganism’s cause damage through replication in the bloodstream and other organs. However, the Rift Walker has a cocktail of antibacterial peptides in the blood and gut. This protein is highly specific to bacteria and is a form of modified penicillin. Up to six different peptides were discovered effectively preventing drug-resistant bacterial strains from establishing. These peptides are so potent that the Rift Walker lacks any diversity in the microbiome. In fact, very few microbes can establish themselves in the gut. This would explain the subject's resistance to most parasitic organisms. It has long been shown that without a microbiome most parasites fail to thrive within a host organism. Altogether these protective mechanisms make the Rift Walker almost entirely immune to disease with no need of immune memory.
In summary, these adaptations make the Rift Walker near immortal and an ideal candidate for travel into the parallel realms. Over the years, the lone survivor of Niflheim was eventually made into one of the Triumvirate. In this position, the Rift Walker was given command of all operations pertaining to the exploration of the parallel realms. As a member of the Triumvirate, they hold a position of highest respect and authority within the Fifth Chapter. However, this power comes at a cost. The case study was opened because of the threat the Basilisk poses to humanity. We have yet to determine the true extent of its abilities nor the depth of its ambition. Thus, these studies were conducted to determine a way of destroying the Rift Walker should the subject become a threat to mankind.
The lack of an established immune system could perhaps be the Achilles heel of the Rift Walker. Our team has developed a Flu Virus (TDF9) with DNA expressing the capped protein of the subject. This makes TDF9’s viral DNA resistant to the cell's digestive enzymes. Without an immune system to stop it, this virus would likely replicate uninhibited causing severe illness and possibly death. Furthermore, TDF9 is relatively harmless in human patients leading only to mild symptoms of illness. However, it is unknown if this weapon will effectively kill the Rift Walker which can lie dormant in a desiccated state and has astounding regenerative capabilities. In addition, harming the Rift Walker would put many people in danger from the Basilisk and we don’t know if the creature can simply move to another host. These are risks that we must take should the situation call for it. Until then, the lone survivor of Niflheim has proven an invaluable leader and their investigations have advanced our understanding of the parallel realms. Though precautions are in place, we will continue to serve the Rift Walker as we will all members of the Triumvirate.