The Grain Blight of 2012 completely changed Sterling. A huge influx of farmer refugees turned Sterling into a "boomtown" virtually overnight. However, the farmers moved back into the town only to starve, since there was no more food in Sterling than there was in the country. Livestock disappeared quickly and food riots broke out, and soon reports of cannibalism abounded. Two things kept Sterling from vanishing completely: water and oil.
At the turn of the century, severe droughts struck the Midwest and the lack of water seriously threatened the farming community. Sterling kept its economy alive and its people fed by selling water from its large underground aquifer to neighbouring small towns at highly profitable rates. Sterling also provided oil for itself and the smaller towns from several operating wells. Even today. Sterling is one of the largest North American producers of oil outside of Alaska and the Free Oil States.
Northeastern Junior College, located in the northern part of Sterling, saved the town during the Blight. The college administration coordinated the water sales (although some called it extortion) to other towns and kept a small hoard of livestock alive on prairie grass. The students also formed their own Civil Defense program to insure the city's protection and survival. A relief team was sent in a locally famous cross-country trek to Peoria, Illinois, to obtain some of the first samples of the algae food source. This algae, as well as the cattle herd, saved the town from slow death by starvation. Quickly, the NJC students grew the algae and became one of the first "Greenvilles" of the Midwest. Relief teams coordinated by NJC were sent to surrounding areas bearing supplies of food and water.
Today, NJC has expanded to become Northeastern University of Colorado at Sterling. The town is a fortress town which still sometimes has to defend itself from invaders. These invaders are not after salvage, normally, but water and oil.
The lands around Sterling have not been fanned since the Blight. The area which was called the "Great American Desert" in the 19th century has become the "Little Sahara" in the 21st. Sterling is the single oasis for miles around and has expanded to become a large city capable of sustaining itself and providing a safe haven for all travellers in the area.
2) Northeastern University of Colorado: NUCS is a full-scale university which acts as the counterpart of CU in Boulder. It is surrounded by a large wall with laser-guided rocket-launcher emplacements. Inside the campus, duelling is strictly forbidden and the prohibition is strongly enforced.
3) South Platte Airport: The airport is a major stop for all Denver-Chicago flights. It services helicopters, microplanes, blimps and airships.
4) Sterling Sugar Refinery: Over 85 % of all sugar used today in North America is produced by the refinery in Sterling and distributed by a fleet of cargo airships the company maintains.
5) Sterling Regional Medcenter: This is the largest hospital for hundreds of miles in any direction. It has a helipad, full Gold Cross facilities, a fleet of ambulances and three helicopters to respond to any emergency.
6) Municipal District: This section of town has all the public agencies such as the police and fire stations, library, local government, as well as an AADA office.
7) Logan County Fairgrounds: The regional arena and fair is here. The Sterling Public Works Department maintains a large stretch of grounds available for carnivals, flea markets, rodeos and other events. The Sterling Silver Arena is also located here. Nicknamed "the Snake" by just about everyone, the arena is a fabulous racetrack which loops around in a series of tubes and channels which cross over and under one another like a serpent. The Silver Arena is also the arena of the NUCS Rattlers, the University team which competes actively on the NCADA circuit.
8) Stahdler Refinery and Power Company: The largest American oil well and refinery outside of the Free Oil States and Alaska is located here. The refinery and wells are heavily guarded and fortified. The local power station is located here, with underground cables reaching several miles to a huge field of windmills to tap the power of the prairie winds.
9) Mullen Waterworks: This was originally the base of operations for James A. Mullen, one of the most notorious "waterlords" of the 2010s. Now it is a water treatment and storage facility. Pipelines are under construction to reach outlying towns. Eventually the directors of the plant hope to build an extensive irrigation system so that the fanning can begin again.
There are two local TV stations. KTVS is the local news/entertainment station; it operates three news helicopters which monitor local events. KNUC is the university station which covers most of the local sporting and duelling events.
The dangerously-curving Sterling Silver Arena is considered one of the toughest venues on the pro/am circuit.
University Police: The University police patrol the campus. They tend to be distrustful of the Sterling Police, and only aid them if the problem directly affects the campus. They drive green and white cycles with windshells.
The Rattlers: The university-sponsored autoduelling team is the NUCS Rattlers. Membership is about 30 duellists, half of which regularly compete on the NCADA circuit in all divisions. They are excellent drivers, placing more value on good handling than on marksmanship, although they are not lacking in this respect either. They operate out of the SSA and fly their school colors, green and white, and have a rattlesnake painted in a prominent location on their vehicle.
Midwest Farmers' Daughters: The colorfully-titled MFDs are a loosely knit band of teenagers (of both sexes) with nothing better to do than to build up flashy cars and look for trouble. They fly no particular colors, but their cars are often extravagantly decorated and detailed. MFDs build their cars from the ground up - there are virtually no recognizable stock vehicles in the group. Their membership is about 50 kids, with about 30 of the members actually owning and operating vehicles of various sorts. They are in good standing with citizens and police, because the trouble they look for is usually outside town and of the cycle gang sort. They help defend the town from raiders and put on benefit car shows and duels for charity.
The River Rats: The River Rats are a band of raiders from the south. They operate out of one of the deserted towns along the South Platte. All their vehicles have OR equipment and they use the river extensively as a means of avoiding pursuit by authorities. They are rumoured to use at least one monster truck in their attacks and ambushes.
The Scarecrows: This cycle gang which occasionally allies itself with the River Rats is about 60 strong, preferring to ambush on the highway. They raid Sterling on occasion.
The Fremen: The mysterious Fremen are another cycle gang who live in the Little Sahara, plundering water and oil convoys for their livelihood. Rumour has it they operate at least two dozen cycles and trikes, half of which are gas-burners. They also have at least one small copter which they use to help overrun convoys. They appear and disappear into the desert with startling quickness. Their vehicles are camouflaged to blend in perfectly with the desert dunes and prairie grasses.