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0520 hours, 48.393288,-122.496242, 30.38in baro.

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This is nothing but speculation.

cw: murder, child murder, conspiracy, and a pessimistic view of human nature.

Panem: (Non- Newsflesh version)
In the early 21st century, there was a recession. and by the end of the second decade, people thought that they were climbing out of it, were climbing beyond it. Scientific advancement, fueled by the desire to reduce the cost of... well, everything, was at an all time high. Transportation, computers, astrophysics, medicine.

And of course, war.

It began in Alaska, of all places, and the enemy was not Russia, not North Korea, not China. No old boogeyman reared its head. No. It was revolution, and it began outside a small town in Alaska, as a terrorist action against an oil field that the locals had been protesting for a decade. It was nine men or maybe ten, and one ultimatum, and then it was ninety two workers dead. They blew up the oil rig with bombs made of fertilizer, sugar, and plastic pipes. Much later, it would come to light that they hadn't intended the explosion to go anywhere beyond the rig itself, but that would be hindsight, and we know what they say about that.

Intentions or not, what happened in 2019 was the complete destruction of the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, the largest oil field in the United States. 213, 535 acres of land were burning by morning, the ground erupting to spew more and more oil up to fuel the flames, brought up from 9000 feet down by the intense heat. The clouds of fumes covered all of Alaska and Canada, and the northern half of Russia and Europe too. Within a week, the oil slick covered the Arctic ocean and began to bleed south. The environmental predictions were grim, and the scaremongering was grimmer. Hundreds of species to become extinct! All northern shipping and fishing destroyed! Sea levels and current change and all of the meteological monsters. Half of America's oil gone!

Blame flew fast and thick. The oil companies across the country, and more than a few abroad, demanded martial law to prevent another attack, even though all available reports said that the perpetrators had died on the scene. Because the public had not forgotten that BP, owners of the field, had been responsible for the massive Deep Water spill a decade before, and had gotten away with a slap on the wrist. And as they posted armed guards and raised prices to pay for them, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Attacks began to happen across the country on BP refineries and even gas stations as gas prices hit eight dollars a galln and kept climbing. Analyists, those men and women paid to predict the future in numbers, began to beg to be heard, to point out the ruinous slope on which the country found itself. No one listened.

To them, perhaps it looked like dominos. A shooting in a BP-owned all-night gas station in Chinitook, Michigan, caught a school bus in the cross-fire, and nineteen children died, four wounded. Before the blood was even dry, their teacher, an unbandaged bullet wound in her thigh and the bloody handprint of a dead child on her cheek, looked directly into the camera of the first reporter on the scene and told the world that gun control was the answer. It may as well have been a second bomb.

The political climate was ripe for it. The current president, a young Republican, had won his seat with a campaign that had balanced its moderateness with the promise to be as tough on crime as he would be on the ethics of his own administration. With him bringing the focus of the entire nation to the tragedy, the trail was a media circus, the verdict quick and punitive, and the appeals that followed spread the blame far and wide. An avalanche of lawsuits followed, and those climbed the circuit too. One, a law suit against the men who had sold the perpetrators their firearms, reached the Supreme Court.

Again, if these seeds had fallen into a different kind of soil, perhaps recovery would have happened. But the world was scared. The fallout from Prudhoe Bay was ongoing - the oil field still burned after two years, with no signs of extinguishing, and the northern hemisphere was still shrouded in stinking smoke. Famines were declared in Russia, Canada, the European Union, and finally, in the United States. The National Guard was put on 'indefinite' duty to guard food supplies, farms, and even water reservoirs. Their ranks swelled, and there were accusations of them acting outside their charter.

Into this soil dropped the verdict of the Supreme Court. They decreed, after an eight-day deliberation and in a fourteen minute press conference, that while the Constitution guaranteed a man's right to bear arms to defend his life and loves, that was not automatically spread to all weapons, and a city could, as Chinitook had, make a law against the sale or possession of any gun with a large clip.

That was all it took. No actual federal laws against the ownership of assault rifles had time to be filed, let alone deliberated upon. Militias formed almost overnight, and coordinated to declare war against any figure of authority they saw. No one predicted the swiftness with which they organized and on one day, on June 19, 2021, policemen, sheriffs, national guardsmen, and soldiers, both off-duty and on, began to die by the thousands. The authorities responded in kind, and abruptly, within a week, the entire nation was a police state, which did precisely nothing to calm the situation.

The media called it 'The Chinitook War.' The government called it insurrection, and it was fought on a hundred thousand fronts. Washington was the first state to declare that any citizen caught carrying a weapon, so much as an airsoft gun, could be shot on sight. Texas was the last.

2022 was a year of gunfire, and a terrorist sect who called themselves the Minutemen attacked military installations across the country. The same installations that had risen up to protect the food supply. The news was too full of murder and riots to report on the rising, rocketting food prices as the fields continued to grow sickly under the cloud. There were children beginning preschool in the northern states who had never seen a clear sky in their lives.

By 2023, the death toll was rising past thirty thousand. American refugees were fleeing south, seeking sanctuary in Mexico and beyond. The border hostility had been reversed, and border-jumpers faced guns and desert, but at least there was food in Mexico. Forty countries had closed their borders to US citizens, and there were stranded ex-patriots across the globe who were not allowed to return home.

The famine was not only in the USA. Canada had become entirely reliant on imported grain from Australia and India, and Russia had offered China land, two square miles for one, in exchange for a huge swatch of Chinese farmland, and the deal was in process. Estimates of the starving included nearly a hundred million dead. Just in 2023.

In 2024, a can of tuna fish cost eighteen dollars. A gallon of milk cost more than twenty. More if you wanted it from an American cow. The minimum wage had been forced to double in almost every state, and even that wasn't enough. 89% of Americans were now living under the new standards of poverty, and this time, no one thought the market would recover. Desperation and despair drove the poles of thinking further and further apart, and the violence only escalated. And both sides starved.

The elections that year were a whole new explosion of violence. Polling stations were attacked, and citizens were afraid to vote. That young Republican president was still winning by a hair's breadth when a woman who waited in line in the rain for six hours to shake his hand, three days before the results, pulled a plastic gun from her coat and pulled the trigger. It was a one-use gun, the shot destoying it, but she only needed one. She died in custody, leaving a nation screaming questions without answers.

Each side accused the other, loudly, angrily. And while they argued, two of the larger militias, a moderate army who called themselves The Peacekeepers, and another, larger coalition of former farmers who called themselves The Breadbasket, joined forces for the first time, stepping up into the empty shoes left by the collapsed state government in Colorado.

The trails and skirmishes over the empty President's office went on for six years. The death toll of the combined war and famine rose and rose, with no end in sight. Except in Colorado and the neighboring states who, one by one, let the new coalition, Panem, assume the responsibilities and costs of government. Those states flourished, by that decade's standards. They made the most of the limited ability to grow crops. They instigated a state-wide healthcare system, paid for by high taxes on any land not being used to either house citizens or grow food. The fiction of state sovereignty was upheld by their status as 'contractors,' but that became flimsier and flimsier until, in 2030, when the circumstances and parties of the first election since the assassination where finally all agreed upon, Panem submitted their own candidate for President, Tyrone Beecham.

There were 14 million people left in the United States of America. 8 million of them voted. More than 5 million voted for Beecham, almost all of them residents of the Panem-run states. In his first four years, Beecham spread the polices of Panem throughout the country, and "The United States of Panem" became less and less a joke. When Canada, entirely bereft of arable land by then and even more diminished than the States, petitioned to join the United States on the condition that they not be relegated to the status of states, the nation's name was changed officially. What was left of the UN recognized Panem officially on January 9th, 2035
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