The city of Echelon towers above the ruins of Old San Francisco and the surrounding wasteland. Its feet are planted in the mudflats of what used to be a bay. The city above promises technology, protection, and hope for a better life. Alcatraz Station is shrouded in a misty fog. The underside of Echelon covers what might have been seen of the sky. The cold, coastal weather slips underneath, undeterred.
Hundreds of other hopefuls huddle around terminals lit by flickering halos. They come from every side of the flats. Old rivalries and ancient tensions seem to have been set aside under the watchful eyes of patrolling mechs. Every twenty minutes, in a deafening rumble that seems to shake skin from bones, a vator launches and another lands in a marvel of precision.
The hooded applicant in line before you steps aside. The line jostles you from behind.
The terminal screen refreshes. “Welcome,” it reads. An image of a hand with fingers splayed pulses. Inside the hand appear the words, “Palm here,” in a dozen languages.