Clocktown is metropolis similar to Victorian age London built on giant size moving clock gear. Greatest cogwheels are couple of kilometres wide and can sustain several city block while little ones got just a single house (probably not even a big one).
Gears are not always on the same level, nor same shape: some of them overlap, form a 90 degrees angle, or are facing each other; some are spur gear while helical, bevel, crown or even worm gear are presents. Shaft are not generally presents, however sometime a couple of cogwheel share the same shaft, with lift and maybe even building rising around it and thus creating a path from one to another.
Wheels spin around central axis, but most of time there is no sign of shaft, nor of an “external structure” where this gigantic clockwork are encased: it just float in a mist, which eventually degrade directly into the strange (thus creating a connection). This mist change colour according to hours, so it’s dark and black during nights and brown and light grey during day hours. There are no sign of stars, but in the “central” districts, where a lot of wheels are located, during clear nights is not uncommon to see across the skies the streetlights of a facing wheels, while on the “suburban” isolated cogs you can see a fractal shaped burst of lighter-than-usual-sky or single shifting point of light, blinking, moving or just disappearing (a reflection of the strange on the skies)
All gears are connected, by direct meshing teeth, transmission chain, shared shaft or worm gear and even if they seems like steel metal they are indestructible; some of them, normally in the poorest district, appears like rusting and most have signs of wear, in a couple of case so big that a stream can run through it; those sign however never worsen and new ones does’nt appear, and clocks are still the same since… well… since recursion was formed (so they “always been” for their inhabitants). They are covered by layer of earth, rocks and dirt and urban district are built on enough solid terrain to support a (limited) underground sewer system; rural and farming wheels however grows plants and herbs and there is also a cog with an (artificial?) lake fed by an underground source.
Gravity is always pulling on one direction, generally speaking from one side of a gear to another side, so only one “face” of the wheel can be inhabited. Still, two or more cogs can be facing (maybe connected by a third bevel-like wheel or by sharing the same shaft) so direct travel from one to the opposite can be tricky and needing a way to “flip gravity” on the middle (thus far direct travel from one wheel to the facing one is not granted and a traveller should need to jump to several different cog. see “going around”).
In all the gearwheels, weather is normal, and there are some water source, a lake, and several stream here and there; water is synthesized from air by specialized “water factory” (see below) while a sewer and plumbing system is interlocked between gear, also sometime using a dam system to prevent fluid from running out from sewer and plumbing and falling down to other gear (and also to bring back “used” water to water factory to purify them again). Raining is not uncommon while strong rain are very rare and storm force wind is almost unearthed of. There is no sun, but the grass are growing (even if in a perennial autumn colour). There is just a single season spanning from mid to late autumn. Most important, production of food, coal, and prime needs are constant even if there is a “closed world”. No one on clocktown argue about this, about “what’s beyond the clocks” and “what forces keep the gear moving”: they just rotate fixed in place, they always had, and probably they forever will. Most of the people around clocktown does’nt have the spark and just a very little part of them are quickened, so they don’t argue about it. The very very few ones who seek answers, most of time ends up on the Council, working as Clockworkers, traveling on recursion like PC (or PC minions), isolated as “crazy men” or as religious fanatics of the “Church of the Great Clockmaker”. Sometime someone ends up dead.
The city itself is no much different from a Victorian age London. Except normal physics is not the law there, but mad science and some sort of distorted physics law: gunpowder exists and policeman all carry a gun, and electrical energy could be used for some secondary use, however city light are still on oil, and the machinery mainly powered by steam, coal, oil and most important mechanical and clockwork “science”. Huge factory rise and span over an entire city block, powered by coal engines (and sometime also the same rotation momentum of the gigantic cogwheel where they are built) while smaller machine are used to pump water out after a strong rain (pushing them inside sewer and plumbing system back to the water factory where can be recycled again), to drive a cableway, and of course power the central tower city clock. More fantastic use are common, like powering a self moving vehicle, artificial pet, a jumper machine (see “going around”) an automatic bridge between two different cogwheel or rotate an entire building; can be used also for production not really possible with standard physics law, like water factory who refines and recycle “used” water and rain water (and also humidity from the air) to produce fresh water, really fast growth hydroponic for food production, and likes. Using clockwork mechanics to replace lost arms or enhance a physical prowess, fantastic clockwork weapons or artificial pet is not really common but it’s not considered “strange”, just something many citizen does’nt do but can expect and does’nt really draw attention unless they are very important well known people acting weird more than usual
The ruling institution is the City Council, a circle created by the most well-respected men (and a couple of women) of the city: administrator of the main factory, chief commander of city police and fireman, and of course Clockworkers’ representative. They establish rules and regulations, and administer all city institutions. Council’s members are elected by their peers once every 5 years (however, recursion is no more than 2 elections old). Many “clerks” work around Council needs, both managing administrative tasks and carrying orders down the chain of command; loyal member of the City Police take care of public security, while Fire Prevention deal with hazards from fire fight and prevention, to rescue people under building collapse, to prevent falling outside the gears, etc. There is no public medical attention, however City Hospital board of direction are Council members (or close to them) and medical services are very cheap thanks to public money, and way more advanced than Victorian Age London on Earth; still, going to hospital does’nt mean “being healed” and many dies while under their not adequate cures. Many “not standard medical centre” are scattered through the city, mainly on suburbs and hidden inside anonymous building, who use advanced medical system, clockwork mechanical apparatus and mad science; those underground labs lack of most basic hygiene procedure (even worse than city hospital) and are a little more than dirty workshop but sometime can solve medical problem better than normal hospital (if you’re lucky more than wealthy).
A special city office called The Clockworkers is composed by special technicians who dedicate their entire life to maintenance and upgrade of the huge machine the city needs; they normally travel alone and use the aid of Clockchimp, a breed of half organic half mechanics chimp with clockwork artificial brain; however only a little part of them have the spark so many are just technician doing almost mindlessly their job to clean the clock mechanisms, repair strains or fixing the machines, while the few very expert are capable of wonderful technological miracles who defy laws of physics. They are admitted in special places where only the workers can go, even if most of them are places where normal people would’nt want to go like uneasy and smelly tight passage between a gigantic wheel and a huge machinery, the space between two teeth of a gigantic spun gear, or the flue of a water factory; they wears workers clothing like jacket with many pockets and hinges and masks with big black-glass protection goggles, are covered by charcoal dust and smell like oil; most of time use also clockwork aid like artificial (or additional) limb, a multi lens eye, or special pack connected to their internal with tubes. Supervisors or specialists could look like normal workers while on the field but appear like normal respected man while off-duty, and they can attend to “normal people” pubs and locales (while most of time they go to pub and café frequented by colleagues workers)
Living on Clocktown
Most of the people inside Clocktown has no spark, thus considering “normal” the way they live, the giant cogwheel, the sepia coloured mist forming the sky, the water factory and weird food production system. Other than clockwork and steam-powered fantastical mechanics, general culture and behaviour are the same late 1800/early 1900 London.
Men are almost always wearing beard or moustaches, and always wearing a black, dark red or grey vest over a white shirt and a black or very dark shade of blue or grey coat; while outside a black or very dark blue or grey shade overcoat, top or bowler hat, and a cane is normal save for extravagant and weirdos; less formal menswear, used for indoor inside his family or familiar house, is the same without coat but very rich men wear bright colour vest. Every day woman dress are black sometime with dark red or dark blue layers inside, bustle, long sleeves and large but easy ankle-length gown; while outside, hat and cap are common accessories, as well as women umbrella and handbag, and short jacket. If riding an animal (organic or clockwork), or driving a jumper or a car, pants are not uncommon even for female while too many menswear on a woman are considered “weird”. Dress used on daily basis for outdoor use are intended for practical “modern day” woman; high society house dress are way less practical and more coloured, with frills, large gown, corset, and large and awkward accessories.
Low class citizen, servants, valet and housemaids, clerks however wears different clothing, mostly without overcoat or jacket, the accessories, way simpler gown or pants, and mostly undyed (ie ranging from brown to cream colour), a shirt and maybe a vest or a longcoat to protect from raining and bad weather; accessories are almost unheard of for low social class and a single garment can be passed from several different brothers; patches and mendings are common and it’s not uncommon to see used and mended high class garment received from charity donations.
A casual traveller, i.e. the PC or NPC translating from a different recursion, can’t avoid to notice here and there little bits of clockwork or mechanical detail: cogwheel-shaped cane handle or tip, a couple of pocket-watches hanging outside belts, gears sewed on hats or caps; they are considered normal and goes unnoticed. A bit more strange, but still not more than an unusual coloured hat, the use of clockwork accessories: artificial dog or horses, clockwork limbs, a self moving 4 legged chariot or a brass-and-leather goggles with a lot of wires sprouting from their side and ending into pouch-sized power pack on belt. More weird things, like an half mechanical ape carrying a lady on his back, or a metal backpack with mechanical retractable gliding wings, are possible but still looked like weird or strange.
Clocktown is a working city; people usually work half or all day long, either on factory related department, city services (administration, public transport, security department, etc), or commercial area (vendors, suppliers, etc); the ones who doesn’t work are the richiest, who actually own a trading company, a factory or a business of some sort, or the poorest who stay on the street all day long, usually doing some occasional menial jobs to “keep the wolf from the door”. There is no discrimination inside the same “working class”; women have same right than men (or no rights at all, as in lowest social classes) and same rights of half mechanical people; skin colour differences are also uninfluential as does orientations (even if that’s something no one talk about). Only thing who matter is social class and working habits.
Even if there are many similarities with Victorian age London, quality of life is better: “clockwork medicine”, even if unreliable and seen as no more than a desperate solution for desperate men, is effectively better than millenial Earth’s medicine, capable of rebuilding limbs or internal organs, bringing back animals from death and creating hybrid organic/mechanic being. Coupled with mad science law of physics they are a step forward of everything on Earth, thus capturing attention of recursion traveller like Recursion Miner or OSR. Ordinary medicine, quality of food, personal hygiene, caring and ordinary city services are close to ‘seventies on Earth, so travellers from other recursions can found the place not really unpleasing… if they don’t mind sepia sky and smell of smoke and ash…
Population is mostly atheist, professing (hard) work, (mad) science and self reliance; however someone follow the precepts of a religious sect named “Church of the Great Clockmaster”, who pray one godlike entity who assembled the giant cogwheel in a way to sustain life. They claim He/She/It gathered the gear scattered around The Void, the “space beyond the mist” (probably reference to The Strange), and connected them so Clocktown could arise; He/She/It is the force behind the motion of the gear, the invisible shaft, “the spin who make us breath”, and made all the city possible. The Followers are not madmen nor exalted, they are just preacher who gather “faithful” inside churches scattered around the city; many of the followers are not faithful either but just people who goes every sunday to the church just to see other people and show themselves. Truth is: the Great Clockmaster is the one who created the recursion, whose name is still unknown but someone suspect is an ex Estate agent gone MIA; the Clocktowners have mostly no sparks, so can’t understand what’s the Strange is, and even less of them really suspect the Church is a chronicle of what really happened (even if in an inaccurate and mystically enhanced version). The very very few quickened see at the Church as a naïvete at most, and no more than a bunch of people trying to understand what they absolutely can’t.
Walking is the commonest way to travel from two different place inside the same cogwheel; in the upper town streets are large enough to permit an easy travel, while in the poorest blocks buildings are close enough to create narrower passage and some back alley are not large enough to permit more than a couple of people at the same time. Problems arise when someone need to move from one wheel to another one.
If both of the gear are on the same levels, it’s just matter of using the time while the teeth are interconnected. Where a two big (and slow) gear are connected, a travel system of moving bridges or rotating platform are used; in at least one situation, a rail track run around the circle of the wheel and an automatic steam powered train run counterclockwise at same speed of gear rotation, with a wagon-mounted bridge connecting to a similar structure on the touching wheel. Most of time the spin is different so one gear rotate at different speed than the one touching, and a fixed structure would be impractical. If they both have shaft, either “natural” or just a building built on wheel’s centre of rotation, a drive chain-mounted cableway is a common solution.
Travelling from two wheels mounted on the same shaft is the easiest way, because they have same spin and are in fixed position relative to one other, so an elevator or a lifting mechanism is a good choice.
Best way to move around the gigantic cogwheels are the “jumper”, steam or clockwork powered legged cable who “jump” (hence their name) from a tooth of one gear to adiacent tooth of a different gear. Piloted by skilled driver they can also travel from cog not at the same level or forming a 90 degrees angle between them; they are not free of charge and they could be proven a bit expensive for low class citizens; also, many people don’t trust them enough to let them replace “safer methods” like the aforementioned bridges or cableway. However, there are really not a lot more choice to go from a wheel to another one at 90°.
Low class citizens, the ones who can’t afford a jumper or reckless and fearless enough sometime physically jump between one gear to another one, same way a jumper does. However, the jump is not easy ’cause there are always a little gap between them and a wrong jump mean falling down into the misty sky, or get caught and crushed between the gears.
One universal way to travel (almost) safe from one place to another is by air: hot-air balloons or mechanical wings are expensive, and both are not easy to use, but sure did’nt have problem from different spin, angles or shaft. They are not without problems however: wind current are really dangerous, especially when gravity change because of different gear orientation, and being caught by an anomalous wind current can drive a balloon into the misty sky, and into the strange (drift endlessly at the borders of the strange).
Very few people know (and can use) what’s probably the only safe travelling methods: portals. As a matter of fact, there are an handful of portals scattered here and there and can be used by quickened and the ones who have the spark; they are made by the original creator, or someone else very capable during first days of recursion life, and are heavily guarded and secured and maybe there are the one of the most hidden secret of the entire city.
Those are not the only portals in the recursion: even more secret and hidden than the latter, rumors are there are portals inside water factory or underground grottos in some farm cogwheels who actually “steal” water, and fishes too, from other recursion to bring them to the City. Of the very few people working the factory, or warding the cave, who knows the portal locations, mostly think those are “water synthesizer machine” who create water from humidity in the air, while only a couple of people really knows what they are and are capable of to keep their existence a secret.