Where will your degree take you after the apocalypse

When the world finally shrivels into a crispy ball of coal dust and off-white coral, which overqualified students will survive?

Artwork by Ranuka Tandan

The sun dips below the clock tower, basking the Quad in a dusky orange glow. Outside, a warm wind shakes the tattered flags that still line Eastern Avenue, bringing with it the smells of a fallen city: smoke, dust, decay. As the Victoria Park gates pull closed, the bells’ final toll rings out, a death knell for any who remain outside the campus walls. Sydney’s nightlife has been dead for a long time, but now, it’s deadly.

The old world is gone. The University of Sydney is all that remains, guarded and populated by the students left on campus when the city collapsed.

The bells mark the return of the day’s last salvage crew—an elite unit of SUSF members tasked with picking through the rubble for supplies. It’s a rough job, but it’s been over a month now and Ralph’s is running dangerously low on catering. Most of the crew are still pretty healthy, having only emerged from the gym-college microcosm after the first week of fighting had passed. This physical prowess makes them perfect scavengers for collecting food and medical supplies, as well as higher priority items like tapioca pearls. But shortages are beginning to bite.

Coffee was the first thing to go, its absence playing on a campus-wide caffeine addiction to fuel ancient tensions within the university. Taste Baguette and Courtyard have both been down for a week, still smouldering after a series of interfaculty raids on the Arts/Law faction. With no way to access over-priced meals, regular iced-coffee, or firm-sponsored catering, Law students have been forced into Manning, ill-at-ease with their new home’s radical past.

The Darlington Alliance remains steady, its neo-feudal economy ruled by an oligarchy of Commerce and Political Economy graduates from the untouched reaches of the ABS building. Despite the hierarchical power structure, the south side of City Road is remarkably peaceful, thanks mostly to the abundance of food flowing from Cadigal Green. Cooperation between the ag, bio, and engo fiefs has provided the Alliance with a steady supply of rad-resistant cabbage, while super-strength beer keeps the remaining Hermann’s Radicals subdued.

But it’s becoming chaotic on the Camperdown side. Loyalties are fraying, alliances splintering. Petty feuds magnify a thousand ideological divisions; party lines separate competing visions of utopia. Though SASS led a valiant defensive effort during the initial throes of the apocalypse, popularity has been declining in lockstep with factional unity. Already at home with the hopeless, jobless reality of their degrees, Arts students adapted well to the apocalyptic void. But repeated attempts to install a Marxist government in Manning House brought down the wrath of the Liberal SASS exec. Most of the revolutionaries were killed in the fighting, but the ruthless response led by Lachlan Finch’s personal guard was widely condemned. In a final cruel twist, Finch was assassinated by a lone SAlt separatist, only three days out from his 20th year in power.

In the midst of such chaos, the threat to stability is now more internal than external. Only yesterday, internet privileges were revoked by the Cadigal Entente—a ruthless cartel, created by the Engineering and IT faculty to revive and control access to the various university meme pages. Broken Things in PNR memes for Engineering Teens is now the only website that can be loaded, campus-wide—and includes a digital shrine to St. Jason Chan. But, in a stroke of disaster, Camperdown devices are now unable to access USyd Rants. With no anonymous, online outlet for interpersonal angst and administrative frustration, tensions have moved offline, sparking uproar on Eastern Avenue. The megaphone clicked on within minutes, chalk dust tainting the air and colouring the City Road border with old world resistance slogans. Ever-vigilant for a revolutionary opportunity, SAlt has reemerged from exile in the Fisher basement.

Sydney’s last bastion of resistance rests on a knife’s edge.