20 years post YS The first thing I had to get used to was the noise. I doubt there was a noisier place in the Outer Ashlands - certainly not the wastes I was used to patrolling in the Mojave Union. They had sent me here, handing me a pile of papers and a similarly paper-thin backstory. I was a “caravanner”, as they were called, bound from New San Jose up to San Francisco. The guards suspected me, of course, but my papers were quality work. I still see them watching me, though… So there I was, fresh in from San Jose. I mean, you could smell the ash on me. If there are two things you need to know about San Francisco, they’re that it’s loud, and it’s big. Coming from the wastes such as I was, and being barely old enough to remember the eruption that made the world the mess that it is today, the thought that any building could be much more than three stories was a new one for me. Here, though, the shantytown that had grown seemed to touch the sky. Clinging to the edges of crumbling skyscrapers, the wooden structures seemed like they were about to collapse at any moment - and indeed some of them did, with some poor fucker’s house shearing off the rest and going tumbling down to the ground. Usually someone would come around to pick up the body, but in my time there I would see some corpses that had clearly been there for a month or more. Initially, it made me wonder why they didn’t just live inside the skyscrapers, but I soon learned that the interiors of those giant structure were filled with machinery of all kinds, pumping out all kinds of goods to trade. The houses had been created so that the workers could easily commute to these sweatshops without having to navigate the streets below. In fact, given the huge number of walkways stretching precariously between shantytown towers, it seemed like most residents never touched the ground. The other side effect of these sweatshops, in combination with the huge mass of humanity all stacked in one place, was that during the day, the noise in some of the more crowded areas of town was almost unbearable. The thumping of heavy machinery, coupled with whistles, merchants shouting in any of a hundred languages, and the noise of the shanties combined to produce a pulsating, almost sexual rhythm that the whole city seemed to revolve around. Combined with flickering neon lights and an abundance of cheap, loose women, the effect was intoxicating. Compared to the wastes of the Mojave, you can hardly blame me for wanting to stay. And if it weren’t for the jackbooted thugs that ran the place, I would have felt almost guilty for plotting to burn the whole place down.