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Asteroidea merozoite was a virulant protozoal disease, native to Barugi. In 2553, it was being weaponized by the Forerunner archeon-class ancilla Intrepid Eye through the Office of Naval Intelligence aboard the research and development station, Argent Moon. The compounds were designed with the goal of creating a biological weapon that could remain dormant and asymptomatic as it spread through a population before being activated by a certain otherwise harmless aerosol dispersal. The formulas developed by the researchers were tested on live Kig-Yar prisoners, and possibly on unknown, misshapen creatures that were present in at least one laboratory on the station.
In 2538, there was an outbreak of asteroidea merozoite at the Barugi Preparatory Academy. In just thirty hours, ten thousand people at the school were infected and all but nine died shortly after. The nine survivors were all partially resistant to being infected thanks to mutations they had that resulted in variants of thalassemia. Six with delta-beta thalassemia survived for years before finally succumbing to the disease but those with gamma-thalessemia from a novel mutation did not suffer any adverse effects. The three survivors were Kerbasi Tuwa, the medical officer of the academy, and his two children, Catalin and Yuso. The devastation wrought by the infection caused the academy to be shut down and by 2541, the entire planet was placed under biohazard quarantine (BQ). This required encircling Barugi with a net of thermonuclear Hornet mines and blockade beacons that would alert any vessels that showed an intention to approach. The Barugi Incident was first made a matter of public record around a year after it occurred but in late 2553 it was mysteriously classified and compartmentalized.
In December 2553, after the murder of Admiral Graselyn Tuwa and the abduction of her family, Operation: RETRIBUTION was launched to gain revenge and recover the survivors. However, in the process, Veta Lopis' Ferret team connected the Tuwa family to the Barugi Incident and discovered that someone was trying to weaponize asteroidea, using the Tuwa's immunity to it to culture a vaccine. The plot was seemingly foiled when Veta destroyed the cryo-jars containing the Tuwa's organs and the bioweapon plot was exposed. However, the incident was blamed on Lieutenant Bartalan Craddog and Intrepid Eye, the true culprit, remained undetected. Intrepid Eye manipulated the final report on Operation: RETRIBUTION and Project SLEEPING STAR so that the research on asteroidea and a vaccine was moved to Argent Moon with an unlimited black budget.
In March 2557, an accident caused a particularly aggressive form of asteroidea to vaporize and spread throughout Argent Moon via its air systems, killing nearly all aboard. Those closer to the accident were killed instantly, being liquidized from the inside out, and, depending on distance from the accident, the rest of the vessel's personnel began suffering symptoms from the chemical minutes to hours later. Although shipboard smart AI Rooker attempted to enforce quarantine protocols, they failed massively and all personnel aboard Argent Moon were dead by March 19. Two days later, Rooker made the decision to quarantine the vessel by jettisoning what portion of the asteroidea compounds and dead bodies he could into empty space and setting the Argent Moon on a course that would keep it clear of any inhabited systems. He also recorded a message which was set to repeat for any potential ONI personnel that would try to reclaim the station, warning them that her air was not safe for humans to breathe. Rooker eventually succumbed to rampancy and chose to initiate his own final dispensation on September 12, 2557.
In October 2558, nineteen months after it went missing, Argent Moon was discovered by Kig-Yar scavengers, who sold it to Jul 'Mdama's Covenant. One week later, Spartan-II Blue Team was tasked with securing the vessel and its intel, encountering Covenant scavengers aboard the vessel. During the mission, Blue Team recovered Rooker's data logs about the asteroidea outbreak and some of the research data. However, the mission to recover Argent Moon was scrapped when a Covenant fleet, sent following the death of Jul 'Mdama in the Battle of Kamchatka, arrived. Instead, Blue Team decided to scuttle the station by overloading Argent Moon's reactor. Blue Team was able to escape in the Winter-class prowler ONI Acrisius as the overloading reactor destroyed Argent Moon, the nearby vessels caught in the blast and all of the asteroidea remaining on the station.
Due to the station's obscurity, UNSC investigators who examined the remains of Argent Moon were initially unaware of the station's role, but upon searching the debris for clues, the investigators eventually discovered that the station's crew had been manufacturing a bioweapon.
Asteroidea 59B: Subjects exposed to Asteroidea 59B sickened, but all recovered, with no fatalities. It was determined that the formula needed to be adjusted to increase toxicity.
Asteroidea 61F: Morbidity in subjects was deemed satisfactory, but the LD50, or the dose that will be lethal to 50% of the targeted population, was deemed inadequate.
Asteroidea 472A: Both the morbidity and the LD50 were judged to be sufficient, but the shortening of the compound's half-life became the next goal.
Asteroidea is the name of the biological class to which starfish belong. It is derived from the Greek aster, ἀστήρ (a star) and the Greek eidos, εἶδος (form, likeness, appearance).