No matter what, we are committed to helping our allies in Osea. No man, woman, or child will starve as we stockpile food for what we thought we would receive. We can help, and we will.
-Republic of Anea Foreign Minister Dalija Brecher 
* * *
Ebersole, Osea, January 29th, 2002
The SUV hit a massive pothole, shaking the occupants of a once luxurious Danvers Explorer. Jason looked back in the rearview mirror to make sure none of the precious contents in the back had been disturbed.
“So,” he said, “Weren’t we planning on sending in road crews to fix up the supply routes?”
“Nope,” his passenger drawled, a woman with unkempt brown hair, and a grimy windbreaker and jeans, “The Provisional Gov is using most of the labor crews to build more housing blocks near Bana.”
The south of Osea was too warm for snow, so brown lawns sat around moldy subdivisions and cracks were visible in the concrete of strip malls. The Explorer thankfully had the privilege of a clear road, the only major thoroughfare in Ebersole with such a status: the rest clogged with cars trying vainly to get from here to Bana or St. Hewlett. The crews came out here at least a little bit.
“You’d think they’re giving up on here entirely,” Jason said, taking a hand off the steering wheel to brush a dangling lock of blond out his eye.
“Look around,” his passenger explained, “there isn’t a lot here to give up on.”
It was true. Oured Department was on sandy soils, with not a lot of farming potential, in addition to extraordinary population density. Not a good spot in the New Osea. Jason passed by a shopping mall, which had burned from an unnoticed gas leak a year ago. It’s black streaked concrete mass was a waypoint for the interstate on ramps. Jason passed by the last of the outlying parking lots, and then turned left onto the westbound TOH 5. Its initial purpose of 70mph motoring was long since gone; cars choked most of the highway, and deteriorated and pockmarked asphalt handled the rest. They were getting close to the Zone. Jason decided to be risky and do 40, crumbling shoulders and bridges be damned.
His passenger noted the speedometer.
“I know this highway is like the ones back in Port Edwards, but we’re going to hit something.”
“Relax, Ashley,” Jason said, “It isn’t like this is our car or anything.”
This comment took Ashley down a trail of thought she had probably thought too much for the past two years. She slumped into the leather of her seat and looked out the window as the houses and strip malls grew closer together, and progressively had more damage to facades and windows, as if to swallow up the lives that had been there.
“I wonder whose car this used to be,” Ashley thought, her lips pursed as Jason swerved to avoid a derelict white convertible with a slashed top and missing wheel.
“Probably one of the families in those houses back there,” Jason said, pointing back to the old mall, just barely visible on the horizon.
“At least it was good shape when the White Shield found it,” Ashley concluded, knowing full well what happened here.
“It’s just so awful, you know,” she continued, “All these people here, in the metro area for the second largest area in the world, and then all this happened. I mean, it was supposed to happen to us. Y’know, Stonehenge, the Erusea tensions, the 98’ Rebellion…”
“Yeah, but it didn’t. It sure sucks to be here, but hey, it could be worse. It’s snowing about two meters in the North right now. Comms have been out with Sudentor for eight hours.”
“Yeah, but they can go a few days without too much worry. I’m more concerned with the Belkan government in Kitzingen. The higher-ups haven’t been able to send much over there, and the Oseans take whatever we try to send through them.”
“Guess they’re still angry over the war,” Jason hypothesized, “or they’re just that hungry. But it’s so lame how this all happened. All of the farms are there, it’s just the highways.”
“That’s modern agriculture for you,” Ashley said, “You need literal tons or fertilizer and electricity for refrigeration.”
“Not to mention all the rail and road links. Speaking of which, have they got relief flights into November City yet?” Jason asked.
“It’s not a target. At this rate, the dieoff rate had to have been too high to really make a difference. Better to focus on everyone streaming into Bana and Apito.”
“It’s stupid, I mean, such death, just over highways?”
“Well, there was also the Bannion secession. That closed off the Eaglin Straits Bridge, and then poof, no more grain trucks from the North,” explained Ashley, looking out her window to see a very large crater, with the surrounding ring of devastation coming almost up to the highway in a wall of wood, steel, concrete, and cars. The highway soon left the ground and began the final elevated section into Oured
“Well,” Jason said, “at least there are good little Useans like us to volunteer for White Shield instead of college this year.”
“Yup, saving the motherland and all.”
The gray sky stood above them as the highway left the inland suburbs and began to run by the south bank of Oured Bay.
“There it is,” Ashley said as what once was Oured came to view. The center of the city was a complete ruin. Airbursts had leveled entire districts, leaving empty patches in the skyline like gap-toothed teeth. Craters pockmarked the earth where thousands once lived and worked. The Oured Bay Bridge had collapsed entirely, leaving very little left besides the on-ramps. Massive amounts of plate glass had shattered off buildings, leaving very little left on buildings and a lot on the streets below. Thankfully, the highway itself had been swept off and cleared of cars for this segment, so Jason was able to finally floor it, accelerating to 80. Ashley took out a map of Oured from the glove compartment, dotted with red X’s.
“I’ve got the list of shelters here. We should be able to start delivery starting…here,” Ashley trailed off.
The former skyline of the Financial District came to view. Oured Bay Center, once a tall, black gleaming monolith to Osean excellence, was gone, in addition to the three white towers of CentralBank with their slanted roofs. The entire lower half of the Oured Peninsula, not to mention the surrounding areas and Bright Hill, was gone. In its place, a circular continuation of the bay existed, swamping the nearby towers in nearly two stories of water around the crater itself.
In his shock, Jason almost missed his exit. He quickly swerved to the right to get off and braked hard. A piece of cardboard with an arrow drawn on directed him to the left. A block down, the cars were off the street, and the glass repaired. Electric streetlights flickered, but were still on thanks to generators. The first shelter in Oured marked the beginning of Jason and Ashley’s work.
“Well, ready to feed the starving?” Jason asked as he put the car in park, and people began to pour out of buildings.
“Don’t say it like that. These people were stockbrokers, bankers, artists, before all of this. Besides, it was only ten hours.”
“Ten hours what?”
“That’s how far off the predictions were. For Ulysses. I mean, this could have been us. The FCU was prepared, but probably not that prepared.
Jason felt a knot in his gut for that. Scientists had predicted Ulysses XF041994, but not to the exact hour. Someone had conjectured it would hit Usea, and they were wrong. And millions of Oseans, Belkans, Ustians, Sapinians, and others had paid for it.
Jason waved to the eager and hungry crowd outside, got out, and began to unload the first boxes of MREs.
This is is my first story, and pretty much my first post on ACS. Please read and comment, and hopefully I should have a few more AU short stories, most likely from this universe.
- Yes, Anea united in 2000.
- Currently the defacto capital of Osea.
- The area around the Bannion Sea is equivalent to Ireland. Long an assimilated part of Osea, Ulysses provided a chance for pro-independence politicans to break away, leaving them one of the most intact nations in the Osean continent.
Edited by DemonSomething, 29 January 2014 - 04:53 PM.