The World of 2041

The Near Future

After their abduction by Loke, Kim, Timur, and Patrick are trapped in the year 2041, more than a quarter century in their future on a Thread nearly identical to our own.

From the perspective of a person in Midgard, the future seems a constantly-shifting, wholly unpredictable. But in fact, thanks to the gods, the course of human history is very similar across most Threads. The course of history moves along a trajectory through possibility-space, with deliberate and random events occurring across Midgard shifting this path through time towards Critical Points, events that must be if the multiverse is to remain intact.

One of these always Critical Points invariably falls around the middle of the 21st Century, typically between the years 2020 and 2050, when humanity is destined to endre a period of global turmoil as the European-dominated World-System collapses and is replaced by something new. Several converging trends usually intersect and produce a crisis - provided, of course, that humanity does not destroy itself during the Cold War (observed by the gods in 42% of cases):

  • Declining quality and quantity of cheap energy reserves. As human industrialization proceeds, it gets more and more expensive to access new reserves of time-limited high energy gain resources like coal, uranium, and conventional oil. The effects are subtle and often masked by swings in the broader economy, but as energy costs fundamentally increase at the same time average demand for energy is going up as a result of global economic growth the costs of all basic goods steadily increase. This disproportionately impacts the poor, eroding their standard of living and increasing their numbers even as the economy appears to grow overall.

  • Increased ability to communicate and travel long distances due to industrialization, culminating in a global society capable of transmitting information, goods and services - and pandemics - across the planet in record time. Cheap information made possible by the global Internet generates a surge of creative thought, expression, and reconsideration of social values that induces substantial churn across many human communities, altering norms of behavior. At the same time, the unusually large generation born after the end of the Second World War faces imminent numeric decline and corresponding loss of power and influence as the 2020s wear on.

  • Climate change of increasing speed and magnitude begins to inflict casualties and economic losses as the environment shifts to a new, fully human-dominated regime. Once-in-a-century storms occur each decade, disruptions in food supply chains lead to famines in unstable or otherwise vulnerable regions. Already-stressed communities and nations begin to fracture, sparking escalating cycles of violence and large-scale migration. The number of refugees seeking assistance from the global community dramatically increases, with many nations closing their doors to migrants.
It is the nature of any complex system to go through a regular cycle of collapse, rebirth, rapid growth, then long maturity before the cycle starts anew. Human society at all scale levels exhibits the same recurring patterns of behavior, with the magnitude of the collapse and the speed of the recovery depending on the choices made by people struggling to cope - this is known to systems ecologists as the adaptive cycle.

Usually, the seeds of the collapse are sown early on in the prior reconstruction, and this can easily be seen in the Collapse fated to fundamentally alter the world as those then living knew at the turn of the century. Though amplified by these three global challenges, the proximate cause of the Collapse stems from the stagnation and disintegration of the two dominant World Powers left after the Second World War.

Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States of America truly demobilized after the conflict, the leaders in both choosing to focus public fear of the other to legitimize a national system propping up an alliance of well-connected economic interests crucial to winning the war. Ultimately, both the USSR and USA are torn apart between the 1980s and 2030s by internal power struggles over the direction of their large, diverse countries as a whole, the leadership in both regimes failing to enact meaningful reforms before it becomes too late to hold their people together.

And geopolitics, like the rest of nature, abhors a vacuum. Very often - and this certainly proved the case by mid-century - Collapse once begun is driven to a terrible conclusion by powers arising to take advantage of a period of chaos to secure and expand their interests.

Timeline to 2041
  • 1945 brings an end to the Second World War and the start of the atomic era, unleashing a wave of scientific advancement. The Axis powers are occupied and dismembered.

  • 1945-1950 sees a brief period of peace and demobilization, with the United States moving to help Europe rebuild. Former colonies of European powers break free and many fight for independence against former occupiers and their allies.

  • 1950-1959 is a decade of increasing tensions, and the emergence of an ideology-driven Cold War between the USA and USSR. The brutal Korean War serves as a proxy war between the former Western Allies and Communist China, backed by the Soviet Union.

  • 1960-1969 sees the Cold War nearly go hot and nuclear in the Cuban Missile Crisis and rising unrest in subjugated places like Eastern Europe and the American South. The USA becomes embroiled in a bitter war in Vietnam, suffering tens of thousands of casualties.

  • 1970-1979 represents the apex of the Soviet bloc, with the USA forced to evacuate Vietnam while mired in domestic scandal. The Oil Crises caused by wars in the Middle East draw the USA deeper into that region and speed the financialization of the global economy.

  • 1980-1989 brings a new near-apocalypse during a Cold War standoff, ameliorated by successful direct talks between the USA and USSR in hopes of de-escalating. The Oil Crisis is followed by a price crash that devastates the Soviet economy, already caught in a foreign intervention in Afghanistan that quickly became the USSR's Vietnam, as the Iran-Iraq war rages in the Mideast, the USA and allies backing Iraq. With the Soviet Union paralyzed, rebellions across Eastern Europe lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

  • 1991-1993 sees the Soviet Union collapse, while a US-led international force fights a brief and successful war against Iraq, which had invaded its neighbor Kuwait. The first President born in the Postwar Era is narrowly elected in the United States on a centrist platform.

  • 1993-1999 The USA becomes the sole Global Power while the USSR splits apart, much-reduced Russia controlling the bulk of its dwindling wealth and military might. The Internet age dawns, further cementing the USA's role as the economy booms along the Pacific Coast. However, in regions like the American Midwest, factories begin to shutter as jobs are moved overseas by multinational corporations driven to pursue high profit margins by stock holders.

  • 2000 represents the high point of the American Experiment, and American scholars proclaim it is the "End of History." However, internally, stark divides between conservative and liberal are amplified by the emergence of partisan 24/7 news media and the steady hollowing-out of the middle class, most pronounced in the region around the Great Lakes now called the Rust Belt.

  • 2001-2003 The ill-fated War on Terror begins in response to a catastrophic terrorist attack by an extremist group residing in Afghanistan on New York City and Washington D.C., leading to a US-led multinational invasion of Afghanistan. The United States subsequently declares it will target an "Axis of Evil" alleged to support terrorism. Despite unprecedented global protests, Iraq is invaded and occupied.

  • 2004-2008 The world watches in shock as the United States fails to subdue an insurgency in Iraq during campaigns marred by numerous war crimes and widespread urban devastation, this only a prelude to a terrible civil war in Iraq between Sunni and Shiite factions that forces 20% of Iraq's population to flee. Russia and China begin major military modernization efforts, alarmed at perceived American adventurism and evidence of crucial institutional weaknesses.

  • 2009-2012 America inaugurates its first Black President after the economy falls into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, brought about by risk-taking and overt malfeasance across the finance industry, enabled by its ability to lobby for friendly regulation in the US Congress. The Iraq War rages on, but Afghanistan now proves equally difficult to control, and casualties continue to mount until U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq in 2011. The Arab Spring uprisings begin, caused by political repression and spiraling food prices.

  • 2013-2016 Partisanship in the USA rises to unprecedented heights, with most substantial legislation stalled while military operations continue abroad, using drones instead of large numbers of soldiers. The murderous Islamic State group rises from the ruins of Iraq and nearly conquers the country as well as much of Syria, which has descended into civil war. They are rolled back by a multi-national coalition at great human cost. Libya and Yemen also disintegrate, and millions of refugees flee to Turkey and Europe.

  • 2017-2019 The American political system degenerates into brutal partisan angst and deadlock unlike any since the Civil War. The branches of government begin to fight among themselves while the growing non-partisan population is increasingly disengaged from politics. The economy roars under a business-friendly administration, however worries grow this is only delaying an inevitable economic downturn.

  • 2020-2023 The challenges facing the United States of America increase exponentially. A deadly global pandemic in the same year as a bitterly-contested election results in chaos at the federal and state level. Nearly half of Americans believe the election result is fraudulent, and the stark differences in basic values held by red and blue Americans all-but tears the country apart. In a desperate attempt to hold the nation together, the leadership in Washington D.C. focuses on external threats, predominantly Russia and China, which respond in kind, escalating global tensions. The US economy experiences a series of boom-and-bust crashes in a record amount of time, leading to an historic move of investments from US markets to China and the European Union.

  • 2024-2027 China launches a pre-emptive strike against the military forces of Vietnam and the Philippines to secure its control of the South China Sea, and the United States proves unable to mount an effective response. The chaotic 2024 election results in multiple candidates receiving Electoral College votes for the first time in over a century, ending in a Contingent Election where a centrist candidate is chosen by Congress as the next President amid violent protests by right and left-wing partisans. The nation of Pakistan collapses, triggering a multi-national intervention to prevent its nuclear weapons from falling into extremist hands and opening a new flashpoint for confrontation between nuclear powers.

  • 2028 A year of relative stability and an unusually tranquil presidential election campaign is shattered in August by the simultaneous detonation of six nuclear weapons in Newark, Miami, and Los Angeles. Senior members of the administration and government are killed, and the Secretary of the Treasury, Carolyn Pilsudska, is sworn in as President, launching a retaliatory nuclear strike against North Korea and Iran, whose agents are blamed for the attacks.

  • 2029 A palace coup orchestrated by an Air Force general named Hollahan forces Pilsudska to decamp to Seattle. The new government launches a cruise missile attack on China's nuclear deterrent, claiming China was involved in the plot to decapitate the U.S. government. China retaliates by blockading Okinawa, and the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea ensues, China dealing the United States a devastating blow and burning the carrier Carl Vinson to the waterline. The Second American Civil War breaks out when an independent investigation alleges Hollahan was involved in orchestrating the August Attacks. An attack on the West Coast is defeated at great cost, but nuclear weapons use by both sides induces a devastating Russian nuclear intervention, bombarding 300 American ICBM silos in the Great Plains with nuclear warheads. Nuclear fallout sweeps across the Corn Belt, forcing tens of millions of people to evacuate. After a round of American retaliation against Russian ICBM silos, military coups in both Moscow and Washington, D.C. terminate the conflict. Pilsudska returns to D.C. in hopes of rebuilding the shattered Republic.

  • 2030-2035 The formal breakup of the United States is effected by a Constitutional Amendment, adopted by 42 State legislatures in 2031, devolving all federal powers to states or regional governments that demand them. Oregon and Washington leave first, followed by the rest of the Pacific States - California, Alaska, and Hawai'i. Texas goes soon after, but the states in the American South descend into violence and divide, with the new Regions of Appalachia and Kingsland forming, with personnel routinely skirmishing along both sides of the DMZ, despite UN patrols. The global economy experiences a brutal two-year recession as global systems adjust to the breakup of the United States.

  • 2036-2040 The world continues to roil under the changes brought by the American Collapse. The Internet is segmented as a result of dozens of nations seeking to control the flow of information in and out of their borders. India splits into its constituent states while China faces waves of internal protest by middle-class families angry at a decline in living conditions resulting from the split of the global economy into trading groups. And violence continues in the United States, with new successor states like the Deseret Nation, Texas Republic, and Great Lakes Confederation expanding their power towards the Rocky Mountains - and the last surviving ICBM field in the world. The United Nations contracts with one of the many new private military corporations operating across the world to deploy a force capable of keeping any other power from taking control of the nuclear weapons under Montana.

The world of 2041 is one where history goes down a very dark trajectory from about 2015 on. The three key drivers listed above are almost imperceptible through the political, economic, and social churn, but by the middle of the century they have combined to present humanity with a very difficult situation.

Once-in-a-century storms are striking every few years across the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard. In the Indian Ocean the monsoons are devastating some years, absent in others, stretching water supplies across South Asia to the limit. Lethal heat waves come annually in Europe, deserts are expanding in Central, Asia, and Africa, and much of the Amazon burns every year. The goal of keeping the planet under 1.5C warming relative to pre-modern levels is already seen as a fantasy of better days. Earth is now locked in to surpassing the 2C threshold in only a few decades, and most likely 3C by the end of the century - the point where life as we know it in many places will begin to become impossible.

Geopolitically, the world is more than multi-polar - it is hyper-polar, even small countries are well-armed with potent military arsenals capable of devastating neighbors. Conflicts are common, but thanks to the threat of mutual destruction usually indirect - proxy groups and mercenaries are all the rage, equipped with the full spectrum of military equipment - tanks, jets, artillery, warships, and all the other big-ticket stuff many national military organizations can no longer afford. While major, direct fights between nation-states are not common, this is more because most of the big ones like the USA, Russia, Brazil, and India no longer exist, and those that do, like the European Union and China, have either federalized or dramatically decentralized. However the proxy conflicts rage unabated, doing as much damage as a major war over a longer span of time.

The global economy is a tale of haves and have-nots, most governments working closely with major corporations to ensure their citizens have reasonably stable incomes. Trade occurs between members of the same bloc, which are defined mostly by geographic proximity - the Atlantic States of North America focus on trade with Europe, while the Pacific States look to Asia. But much of the world, particularly inland regions most strongly affected by droughts and heat waves, are mired in deep poverty - except the places with oil or natural gas reserves, which are again in high demand. And rapidly-increasing migration rates are placing a strain on many nations, with a new wave of anti-immigrant backlash growing in many places.

Oddly, though, the chaotic conditions have had an upside - technology continues to progress at an exponential clip. With the rise of deadly pandemics has come massive investment producing a revolution in medical technology, treatment, and science. The disconnections produced by unstable or rigid borders are ameliorated by computing technology that lets many people meet in purely virtual environments without leaving their own home. For those able to afford the price, everyday life generally isn't any worse than it might have been in the 2020s - even better, for those lucky enough to live in stable regions.

But for those trapped in one of the many expanding conflict zones, where the climate, economy, and geopolitics conspire to make life miserable for almost everyone, the reality is far more dystopian. And the threats to the stability of even the sheltered parts of the planet are growing, as several dangerous wars - particularly the simmering civil war in post-America - threaten to spiral into an outbreak of full-fledged, sustained military conflict across the globe.

Timeline of the American Collapse

Scholars have, in the years after America died, attempted to understand why they didn't see it coming sooner.

There is still no consensus on the subject, however most have identified fundamental, irreconcilable differences in social values held by people living in different regions of a continent-spanning nation, each with its own history and social challenges. A massive centralization of power in Washington D.C. during the 1930s and 1940s proved to be dangerous in a time of deep social divisions and hardening group boundaries.

Most also agree that by the 2020s, little could be done to stop the impending crash barring dramatic, popular reforms decentralizing power in the nation - and whether those existed, none can say with any real certainty. And once the slide to chaos began in earnest, dramatically accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 which demonstrated the many cracks in the crumbling national foundation, it would have been very difficult to arrest. By 2028, it was definitely too late, as Hollahan's dark scheme was, by then, fully prepared, his four aircrew and two programmers with top-level clearance now in place.

Thanks to multiple international investigations, the specific events chain of leading to the Collapse can now be charted with reasonably accuracy:
  • August 24, 2028 Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers piloted by Hollahan loyalists use a military exercise to stage a covert nuclear strike on four cities: Newark, New Jersey; Miami, Florida; Los Angeles, California; San Francisco; California. The last is saved by a lucky accident, resulting in Treasury Secretary Carolyn Pilsudska being the senior survivor on the Presidential succession list. Secretary of Defense Young is sworn in as her Vice-President.

  • August 25 Two Ohio-class submarines fire dozens of nuclear warheads into Iran and North Korea, devastating both countries' nuclear and ballistic missile infrastructure on suspicion of their involvement. Pilsudska declares deterrence restored and moves to assist the three battered cities where hundreds of thousands have lost their lives in the nuclear blasts.

  • January 3, 2029 The Chinese government announces it has recovered the wreckage of an American nuclear missile near the coast of California, and presents evidence to the United Nations, obtained by one of its submarines, showing an American ship shooting surface-to-air missiles near San Francisco immediately before the detonations occurred across the country. Young publicly denounces China and promises a response, but Pilsudska demands an internal investigation.

  • February 14 Several newspapers report receiving information from confidential sources in the United States intelligence community alleging Pilsudska was born in Poland, not the United States, and thus ineligible for the Presidency. She denies the report, which is later proven to be a hoax, but Congress - staffed with many new members appointed by state governors the prior year, chooses to investigate.

  • March 15 In the Coup of the Ides, Young declares he has firm evidence Pilsudska is part of a Chinese plot to destroy America, asserts his claim to the Presidency, and publicly fires all members of the Cabinet loyal to her. The Secret Service removes Pilsudska from the White House, fearing for her safety, as Young gives a press conference announcing he is in control.

  • March 16 A close confident of Young, an Air Force general named Hollahan is appointed Vice President at the precise moment dozens of American stealth bombers take off from Guam and Diego Garcia, flying to the Chinese border and launching hundreds of cruise missiles at Chinese nuclear weapons storage depots. In a public address, Young and Hollahan denounce China's alleged destabilization operations and claim their attack is just retaliation.

  • March 17 The Chinese government announces that Okinawa, a crucial support base for the attack will be blockaded until Japan forces all American military units to leave. Three aircraft carrier battle groups of the Chinese navy head to sea with their battle groups. The United States counters by ordering four of its supercarriers to deploy to the Western Pacific.

  • March 17-31 From Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle, Washington Pilsudska makes contact with as many military units and elements of the government as possible, working to subvert Hollahan-Young control. Meanwhile, the United States and China conduct a major military buildup while placing substantial diplomatic pressure on Japan.

  • April 1 The Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, also referred to as the Second Battle of Okinawa, results in a crushing Chinese victory over the United States. The supercarrier USS Carl Vinson is nearly destroyed and half her battle group is sunk, USS John F. Kennedy suffers significant damage and is forced to withdraw to Seattle for repairs. China is able to encircle Okinawa with warships, aircraft, and submarines, while Japan remains publicly neutral and US forces led by the carrier Enterprise are forced to regroup near Guam.

  • April 2 News of the shock defeat breaks across the United States like a mighty wave, shattering public illusions about American military capabilities. Public outrage rises, with conservative partisans favoring Hollahan and Young's demand for escalation and liberal partisans rallying to Pilsudska, who denounces the unnecessary war and loss of five thousand American sailors. Protests break out in most cities, and federal troops are deployed to Washington D.C. to quell an alleged attempt to seize the White House.

  • April 3-30 America simmers, while Hollahan and Young regroup and prepare their response to China's blockade. Efforts to convince Japan to enter the conflict fail, though Japan moves forces in position to defend their sovereign territory. Frustrated, on April 20 Hollahan gives a speech threatening nuclear escalation if China does not withdraw.

  • May 1 Pilsudska gives a speech to the American public openly denouncing Young and Hollahan as traitors, releasing evidence collected by the FBI detailing Hollahan's involvement in a cover-up related to the August Attacks and asserting that the actions of March 15 constituted a direct threat to the integrity of the Constitution. She demands for the first time that military units obey only orders from her, denouncing the war with China as unlawful.

  • May 5 Young orders all naval units presently docked in Puget Sound, near Seattle, where the United States' main ballistic missile submarine base on the Pacific Coast is located, to sea. Leaks in the press indicate the administration's plan is to use a nuclear bombardment to destroy China's naval forces and nuclear infrastructure before it can deploy its arsenal. Pilsudska responds by publicly countermanding these orders, taking the Washington National Guard under her personal command, and physically blockading Puget Sound to prevent the submarines from deploying. After a tense day, they return to dock, the admiral in charge accepting Pilsudska's legitimacy.

  • May 6-31 Negotiations quietly take place behind the scenes, a bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators working out a plan to restore the federal government by holding early elections. Skirmishes continue in the Pacific between the United States and China, but the conflict appears frozen for the month of May, raising hopes of a negotiated solution. Pilsudska gives a speech asking state governors to formally make statements supporting her lawful claim. Washington and Oregon immediately agree, and public polls indicate widespread support in California, Hawai'i, and Alaska for their governors to follow suit.

  • June 1 Hollahan personally orders brigades from the 82nd Airborne Division to begin an invasion of California to prevent its governor from announcing her support for Pilsudska. Soldiers parachute into the Sacramento region, surrounding the state capitol and seizing the nearby International Airport, flying in two brigades' worth of heavy equipment over the next week.

  • June 2 Governor Patil orders all California National Guard units to drive north to Cascadia to join Pilsudska's forces. Units of the 82nd shadow them closely in anticipation of orders to surround and disarm them. Protests rage in many cities as federal police are flown in to maintain control of federal buildings.

  • June 4 Commanders in the 82nd Airborne and California National Guard secretly communicate to avoid any conflicts as the Guard's convoys move north along Interstate 5 - right past the 82nd's base north of Sacramento. For two crucial days the majority of the Guard's formations drive unchecked before Hollahan replaces a brigade commander and personally orders a pursuit.

  • June 6 The California National Guard retreats north across the Sacramento River near Redding with combat-ready battalions of the 82nd moving in position to engage the rear-guard. Local commanders, however, continue to quietly coordinate, allowing the last Guard units to exit the city before scouts from the 82nd reached the Interstate bridge. Unfortunately a pro-Hollahan militia group seizes a bridge and fires on the 82nd, mistaking them for Guard forces. A soldier is injured, and Hollahan - now closely monitoring from Washington, orders that the bridges must not be held against the 82nd and orders an artillery bombardment on the town to prevent the California Guard from establishing a defense. Witnessing what appears to be an unprovoked attack against a civilian target, the Californian rear-guard battalion turns to engage, and a bloody battle follows.

  • June 7-15 Protests intensify in the United States and abroad as footage of the destruction of Redding is broadcast worldwide. The California National Guard pulls back, now subjected to artillery fire and air strikes, but is given air cover by U.S. Navy fighter squadrons from the Seattle area. Guard units are moved into western Oregon to recover and reorganize, while drone and jet strikes destroy bridges and passes along the main transportation routes leading through the Klamath mountains.

  • June 16-19 Recognizing that Pilsudska forces can too-easily defend the passes over the Klamath mountains, Hollahan forces move north into central Oregon, in the plains east of the Cascades. While harried by air strikes, heavy reinforcements from the First and Third Infantry divisions move north to seize control of passes leading through the Cascades, hoping to strike Pilsudska's forces massing in the southern Willamette Valley from two sides.

  • July 20-23 The Battle of the Willamette is fought on land and in the air, with elements of the California, Oregon, and Washington National Guard reinforced by two brigades from 2nd Infantry division holding off an assault by brigades from the 1st, 3rd, and 82nd Airborne Divisions. After pushing an armored brigade from 3ID into the valley itself, Pilsudska aligned forces manage to surround and cut it off, enticing the brigade commander to surrender and switch sides.

  • July 24-August 8 Defeated Hollahan loyalist forces retreat back into California while the United States Navy defeats a bold Chinese attempt to destroy its base in Guam. Pilsudska's popularity rises both domestically and internationally, and the California National Guard begins the "liberation" of California.

  • August 9 Hollahan orders the battered city of Redding to be held at all costs, deploying all available brigades - including those that had just conducted a two-week retreat harried by air attacks and closely shadowed by Stryker teams from 2ID. Morale cracks an hour into the fight, and local commanders choose to retreat towards Sacramento rather than face annihilation once a massive wave of airstrikes levels what remains of the city.

  • August 10 Just before midnight, Hollahan convinces President Young to authorize a demonstrative nuclear strike to deter Pilsudska forces from advancing any further. An ICBM is fired from Montana, detonating in the air above the town, demolishing it but causing no casualties thanks to a warning to Pilsudska from inside the White House.

  • August 11 At dawn, Pilsudska orders an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine to fire one missile carrying three warheads at Sacramento National Airport. The three detonate simultaneously far over the airfield, too high up to cause severe damage but causing an electromagnetic pulse that devastates most electronics within two hundred kilometers. She publicly warns against any further use of weapons of mass destruction, and calls on the international community to recognize her legitimacy and pressure Young to resign.

  • August 13 At 3:00 AM Pacific Time, text messages are sent to every cell phone in the United States by the Russian government. It warns of an impending preemptive nuclear strike against American ICBM silos in Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and Montana and advises recipients to take shelter immediately. Many dismiss it as a hoax - until six hundred ground-level nuclear blasts tear apart the American Midwest. Russia, perceiving the nuclear escalation in the American Civil War poses a mortal threat after the attacks on North Korea, Iran, and China, chooses to intervene to prevent Hollahan forces from launching any further nuclear strikes.

  • August 14 Nuclear fallout descends on a huge area stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Ohio river valley, contaminating vast tracts of productive farm land and the local water table. Tens of millions of people from the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas are caught downwind, then a freak weather system carries a plume further east over Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, bringing chaos. Pilsudska orders forty Trident II missiles fired from two ballistic missile submarines to deliver hundreds of nuclear warheads to Russian ICBM sites in order to re-establish deterrence and warn Russia against any further escalation.

  • August 15-September 1 The shock of the nuclear exchange causes a pause in conflicts on all fronts. Pilsudska's forces complete the liberation of California but experience no resistance. Global efforts get underway to assist millions of refugees in the USA and Russia as state efforts to contain the damage and protect local populations fall woefully short.

  • September 2 Simultaneous coups in Moscow and Washington D.C. end the Putin and Hollahan governments, military and political leaders in both countries becoming terrified the fighting will soon escalate into a global nuclear war. Negotiations begin to stand down strategic forces on both sides, and commit to a global no-first-use policy. Pilsudska is invited to return to Washington D.C., where Young and Hollahan are soon to be formally placed on trial for treason.

  • September-December 2029 Preparations are made to hold the United States Presidential Election, delayed since the disasters in 2028, while the nation tries desperately to recover. Vast swathes of America remain dangerously radioactive and crop disruptions in two of the most agriculturally-productive parts of the world, the Corn Belt and California's Central Valley, drive up global food prices. Many Americans question whether America even exists anymore, and though Pilsudska wins the delayed election, fewer than a third of Americans vote.

  • 2030-2031 Calls for the United States federal government to devolve powers to the states grow along the Pacific Coast and in Texas, which feel that the federal government can no longer hope to function. Congress largely disintegrates into half a dozen squabbling factions unable to pass coherent legislation, leaving Pilsudska forced to govern by Executive Order. Tensions rise between and within states, and Americans begin to adopt new identities, caught up in a wave of what scholars later call "post-Americanism." The formal breakup of the United States soon follows.
Map of 2041 North America