///From the author:this is an interesting sort of thought experiment on my part, a "What if?" story that I've bounced around in my head for about six or seven years now, and which finally took form when the alternate history aspect of the asteroid strike on Phoenix, AZ in March 1989 entered the Spacers Saga storyline. Think of this as a kind of "through the looking glass" fable, a cautionary tale if you will, of what can happen when worlds collide...
(A map of the Divided States of America circa November 2009)
In 1989, asteroid 4581 Asclepius passed close to the Earth, and wasn’t even noticed until nine days after its closest approach. In an alternate 1989, it slammed into Phoenix, AZ, killing millions. But what if this impact was mistaken for a Soviet strike, and led to World War III? In this alternate-alternate world, the war lasted less than four months, but completely upended the global status quo. Within a year of its end, the Soviet Union collapsed–but the United States had itself already fractured into several rump states.
Now it is 2008, almost twenty years from the shadow of Asclepius, and a frigid calm has settled upon the continent of North America. In the west, the Union of Pacifica hangs onto the remains of the West Coast, while in the northeast, the North Atlantic Federation retains close ties with the ruins of NATO. Between them, the Commonwealth of Allied Sovereign States holds sway by maintaining much of the former U.S. military’s strength, including its nuclear arsenal. In and among these new nations gray cities, which were destroyed by WWIII; and free cities, wherein nonconforming citizens unable or unwilling to relocate to the neighboring states can live relatively normal lives, usually close to a border or sea access point.
In the ten years of peace, each nation has maintained weapons and technology research, with Pacifica and its Pacific Rim allies leading the way in the ascendant field of space exploration. But this decade of calm could be about to be shattered as CASS makes a leap in their own weapons research, all as rumors swirl that they have plans to subvert a mutual security agreement between the UEP and NAF. And a battle-scarred WWIII vet and current EPC special intelligence agent named Mark Portage will be right in the middle of it all…
Timeline of the Dark Years:
1989: asteroid 4581 Asclepius slams into Phoenix, AZ, killing over 1.5 million people; in the aftermath, the Soviet Union attempts to reconcile with the U.S. in order to aid in the recovery process
1990: despite international interest in aiding in the recovery, the U.S. draws inward, as finger-pointing over who is really to blame for Phoenix leads to a violent cycle of self-recusal and civil strife
1992: evidence mounts that 4581 Asclepius was nudged onto an alternate path by external forces, and U.S. extremists accuse the USSR of using this to end the Cold War on terms favorable to them
1993: after nearly a year of rising global tensions, the unthinkable–East and West embark on a short but violent war which ends after just ten weeks with a brief exchange of nuclear weapons
1994: as the world begins to pick up the pieces, a long-term peace deal between the U.S. and the USSR is agreed upon–the terms attest that neither side will pursue nuclear research going forward
1997: eight years after the Phoenix Event, a memorial to the victims is built at the edge of the crater, which is left mostly barren and unrepaired as a monument to the horrors spawned from it
1999: a weary world celebrates the eve of a new millennium by remembering the millions who died in WWIII, and by looking ahead to a new era hopefully filled more with peace than with violence
2001: after roughly five years of civil strife and interstate conflict between the disparate regions of the “Divided” States of America, a peace deal separates the U.S. into three new successor states
2002: almost as soon as it was formed, Pacifica allied itself with ASEAN, Japan, the Korean People’s Republic, a status which soon makes it an economic powerhouse of post-WWIII North America
2004: the North Atlantic Federation, already an official member of NATO, draws up a new treaty with the remains of the EU, Australia, and a handful of others to advance green technology research
2006: five years after the Treaty of Dayton, the CASS (the only American successor state still largely cut off from geopolitics) is approached by Brazil and India to form an alliance against a rising China
2008: as the generation born after Asclepius starts coming of age, hope can be found as the post-WWIII rebound into new forms of green energy leads to renewed prosperity and increased self-reliance
2009: despite the optimism many younger people have for a Green Tomorrow, many old-timers fear that lingering strife–such as between the U.S. rump states–will plunge the world back into chaos