Deep inside abandoned factories on Earth, sometimes you can find an ignored passage with a rusted over gate barring the way. If you can find a way past the impossibly-complex lock, and wind your way through the soot-blackened corridors, you might see the slow, constant light of a natural gas lantern. You have made your way into the Factory.
INSIDE THE FACTORY
The Factory has many areas, some vast and open with simple (rusting or sooty) wood-and-steel walkways, some with bricked tunnels with massive gears churning along the walls, and yet others constrained as crawlspaces made even more claustrophobic with the hot pipes and occasional steam clouds. Steam floods through the many pipelines that are typical in the Factory, but other places the steam is used to power massive mechanical gearworks that are commonplace. In a few open places, there are Victorian cottages making villages where the human inhabitants live, dotted with mansions that house noble families.
The layout of the Factory is complex, but inhabitants can naturally find their way to the locations they are familiar with. It seems to wrap around oddly and not follow any sane topography; two side-by-side level passages may lead to large open areas that would seemingly intersect but are completely unrelated. Fortunately, there are runners – typically younger individuals or those that aren’t skilled at repair tasks – carrying information from place to place or watching for locations in need of repair that can help those that become lost.
The automatonery is the primary construction and repair site of most automatons. Though some gear-operated presses are available to make most of the parts for an automaton, time and disrepair have taken its toll on the assembly line. These days, the construction and repair operations are overseen by Miss Lillian McLachlan, a talented young mechanic who is happier doing things herself than giving orders, but she has had to take a reluctant leadership role since the last head mechanic disappeared and no one else chose to step in as the replacement.
The furnaces of the Factory are kept burning around the clock from a veritable army of automatons and humans. They ensure coal is fed at the appropriate rate from an unknown source; only individuals without the spark fetch coal from the depths of the Factory and attempts to follow them result in their subject never reaching the source of the coal, instead returning to work shoveling coal or one of the villages. It is believed among researchers of the Factory that, because the spark-less workers expect to find coal, they simply do. Those with the spark can find an endless supply of coal on the Train.
Some areas of the Factory are filled with endless gearworks, chains, axles, and other clockwork machinery, dotted with occasonal steam motors. Some gears are as tiny as those that go in a pocket watch, while others can be as much as 50 feet (15.25 meters) in diameter!
Occasional villages can be found in the Factory, where human workers return to rest and relax during their off hours. These are often winding streets with rows of Victorian cottages accented with impressive cathedrals, clock towers, and parks with fountains and gazebos. All of these, however, still exist within the factory, though many have large glass domed ceilings looking out into various landscapes including a summer sky, the bottom of an ocean, and a blizzard. Rumor has it that there once was a village whose dome looked out into a fractal landscape, but the way was closed, and the inhabitants have not been seen since.
What seems to be a single railway runs through the entirety of the Factory, supporting only a single steam locomotive that moves workers from the villages to the many parts of the Factory and back. The Train seems to have its own never-ending supply of coal; “breakfast” is served on the train to automatons not going to the furnaces, and the Train never needs to be restocked with coal, though it does stop for water from various towers throughout the Factory. It is said that you can reach anywhere in the Factory from the Train, and indeed there are places that are only reachable by using the tracks, but not everywhere is connected to the rail: there are portions that have been disconnected from the main loop for unknown reasons. These areas slowly get neglected then forgotten by the denizens of the Factory, and it is uncertain whether they are actually removed from the recursion or simply lost. The head engineer, Charles Angus II, is an amicable man and doesn’t like to rest often. He’ll be happy to take you where you need to go, even if the tracks have been disused. Occasionally he’ll ask a favor in return; rumor has it that it is not wise to decline his request.
Automatons and human workers alike constantly toil to keep the Factory in top shape, repairing leaks, replacing gears, and even tending to each other. Those without the spark are tireless in their work, though always seem exhausted. Those with the spark are still unaware of the nature of the Factory, falling into management roles and directing those with whom they come in contact.
“LIFE” AS AN AUTOMATON
Life as an automaton in the Factory is surprisingly similar to being a human. As the automatons in the Factory are steam-based, they still need to drink water (to ensure they have steam to keep powered) and “eat” (coal instead of food). Healing, however, must be done through repairs: another person (automaton or human) must make repair rolls as the first aid rules. This comes with some benefits: gain an Armor 1 due to the automaton’s metal body, Armor 10 vs. heat, and +3 points to each of Might and Speed pools.