When the dust settled from the chaos of the fall of the United States, the four Contingents were born: Western, Eastern, Mountain, and Great Lakes. The basic premise were agreements struck between the Contingents, depending on the usefulness and benefit of the agreement for each Contingent.

The areas between each Contingent’s boundaries were known as the Deadlands. Although one could survive, the Deadlands were considered an area of “freedom” out from under the thumb of the Contingent’s strict rules and restrictions. Freedom was guaranteed; death was probable.

ENR Construction Science Fiction Contest“This meal is highly illegal and a bit unethical,” Jones thought to himself. However, being an engineer for the Mountain Contingent had its perks, which included the occasional distilled beverage and unconditioned beef. After the restrictions agreed upon between each Contingent to maximize water resources for the new piping project, some pastimes came up against Contingent code and were punished accordingly.

Distilled liquor and processed meat were prime examples of waste: Liquor dehydrates the body, causing unneeded moisture loss from the human system, and the Contingent’s treatment division discovered that processing, or “drying” the butchered livestock, harvests more water than allowing the less efficient human body to process it.

As the Contingent’s motto states: “Every Drop Counts”.

Jones savored the last of his meal and drink as he looked out over the arid mountainscape. These mountains were once covered with snow. Generation after generation had skied on them. This thought had always perplexed him. After the weather patterns changed in the 30s, the only place one could see skiing was on old videos, and who wanted to watch that? It was like an elder looking at photos of their youth and wanting for something that will never come again. Waste.

Jones finished his meal and began making his way down to the wind rails to take him out to the site for his shift. The first of four planned transmission pipes that would bring desalinated water from the Western Contingent was almost complete. Although there had been a few snags, mostly from raids from the Unwanted tribe in the Deadlands, the pipe would be fully commissioned after the plant repairs from the San Andreas Disaster were finished. The new reservoirs within the settlement had all been installed and tested and were prepared to accept water. “Now if I just don’t screw up my part of the design,” he thought.

Due to the weather changes, natural disasters weren’t natural disasters anymore; they were expected. Civilizations that didn’t prepare and plan for worst-case scenarios quickly discovered that their civilizations weren’t going to last. Out of the new disasters the Department of Treatment was born. Although at the start of the 21st century reuse and recycling of resources had started to become a priority, by 2045 reuse had become a necessity.

Any material that was used—be it solid, liquid, or gas—was researched by the Department of Treatment to determine its reuse possibilities. The biggest breakthrough occurred in 2035, when the processing of human waste made great strides from designs earlier in the century to allow individualized systems to be created. Although these systems were made available to residents, albeit wealthy ones, the power requirements made the individual design impractical. Existing municipalities found they did not have the funds to upgrade systems and their constituents did not feel it was the best way to expend already shrinking coffers.

By 2055, the area formerly known as the United States of America enacted martial law to try and stave off the impending water crisis. It didn’t work. The populace rebelled due to the perceived violation of their “God-given” human rights.

What the populace didn’t understand was that the act of martial law was the last breath of a dying nation, too far in debt with too many enemies. Previous pleas for conservation of resources had gone unheeded.