'This is a Class 3 Public Safety Alert: a minor accident on Highway 90 has occured, involving two vehicles. No serious injuries occured. Any citizens planning on traveling down Highway 90 are advised to take detours as emergency crews clean up the scene. The cleanup operation is estimated to take 1 hour. Thank you, and God Bless the Republic'.

I don't what idiot came up with alert system, but I think he oughta be slapped for coming up with it. Feels like every 30 minutes, one of these damn things pop up on the radio. I think there was even one a few days ago about a friggin cat up a tree.

I guess I really shouldn't complain too much though, really. We got lucky when Yellowstone blew it's top, so it's a fucking miracle we're even still alive on the Coast. Not like the system's out of place or anything, gotta keep civic order and all that. Gotta keep the people safe and all that. I just wish they didn't use it for every little occurence.

No sooner than I finish that train of thought, I hear that godawful synthesized school bell noise they use to announce each alert: 'This is a Class 1 Public Safety Alert'.

Class 1? Then it's actually something serious this time.

'An Ash Monitoring Station in Northern Mississippi has detected a shift in wind patterns, which is predicted to send a moderately sized Ashstorm towards the Gulf Coast. All citizens are therefore advised to practice safety drills to protect themselves from the Ash and it's harmful effects.Thank you, and God Bless the Republic'.

Not the worst thing in the world, I suppose, but I better get ready for it.

As much as I may bitch and moan about those PSA's I acknowledge they serve an important purpose. So, I go ahead start my own little Ashstorm drill. I live by myself, always have since I graduated high school all those years ago, so I don't have to dumb down any of this for a child to understand or wait for anybody else to get started. First I need to find my CBRN gear.

Ever since the Gulf Republic got up and running, they've made a point of public safety being their number one priority. As a result of this, everyone person residing within the Republic's boundaries is issued a basic set of CBRN gear: a hooded suit and a gasmask with 2 filters. Those filters go quick, so local government buildings and military bases always have spares in stock for civilian use. It seems silly, being that our little fledgling nation sits outside the Ashlands, but you never know when an Ashstorm or something like that will roll in. Take now, for example.

I put on the suit as quickly as I can, pull up the hood, and affix my gasmask. After that, I go to every door and window in my house and insure they've been completely Sealed, or at least as sealed as I can get them. It's an imperfect solution, but it's better than nothing. Not that any of this matters for me, though. I just do all this to make sure no dust gets inside my house.

My little secret weapon, as I like to call it, is my basement. I had some contractors come in after the Eruption to install a new on it. This door seals so tightly that no air whatsoever can get inside. Gets a little warm, but it's better than choking on ash. It has one flaw, and it's ironically the seal. I have to open it back up after a certain amount of time or else I'll suffocate. Still, I'll have an easier time with the coming storm than a lot of people will.

Does that make me a selfish asshole? Well, that depends on who you ask I guess.

Couple days later, I hear another alert crackle from the radio. The eggheads predict that the storm will cross into the boundaries of the Republic within the hour, so the alert says to 'get to an enclosed area, preferably away from windows. If this is not possible, please flag down Military Police who will issue you an emergency gas mask'. That emergency mask won't save you from the ash, but it'll be enough for you to find some shelter. Theoretically, anyways. So I lock my doors and windows and retreat to my underground hideaway, safe from the ash. I still bring my CBRN crap with me, of course, along with a book to keep me sane. Then again, I could just sleep. Either way, almost exactly an hour later, I hear that distinctive whooshing noise over my house. I've been told that standing outside during a Ashstorm is a bad idea, even in mikd storms. Full CBRN gear can't orotect you from 60+ mile an hour winds. Still, some maniacs still do it, either from morbid curiosity or because that's their job. When Duststorms roll in, the streets are filled with MP's to guide civilians to safe areas, and to deter any criminal elements from taking advantage of the situation. They mostly stay in APC's, from what I've been told. Once it's all over, they send out an all clear signal, so then us civvies have to get to work scooping up Ash from our properties. I especially have a lot of motivation to clean it up as soon as possible. My lawn's the pride of the neighborhood.

The next day, my lawn is almost entirely cleared of Ash, front and back, and I'll be damned if it doesn't look even better. Must be all those minerals in the Ash. Then, right in the middle of the one time I get a song request through to the local radio station, the DJ interrupts the music for an 'urgent' message from the governor. 'Citizens of the Gulf Republic', his booming voice begins, 'this most recent Ashstorm is only the most recent in hardships our small nation has faced. And yet, it is events like these that prove we have a right to exist as a nation, and as a people.' Blah, blah, blah, 'every citizen's responsibility', blah, blah, 'safety in mindfulness.' I swear that man is a broken record. Every speech he's ever made always loops around to that rhetoric. I've learned to tune it out, but if it truly gives people some hope, what's the harm in it? He finishes his recycled speech, and the DJ returns to the air. 'Inspiring words from our Governor. Anyways, I think I should take the time to remind all of our listeners that the Department of Gulf Preservation is accepting volunteer applications for the cleanup operations in the Gulf,' says the DJ. 'Well anyways, I think we owe our listener request a do over, as his song got interrupted.' The radio turns back to that old song I requested, and I can't help but feel like everything has finally returned to normal. Of course, we'll probably be repeating this all again in about a month or two, what with the wind patterns and all.

Just part of the routine, I suppose.

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