Gears, ratchets, sockets, and springs. Certain streets and empty lots of Paragon City shudder under the weight of mechanized feet, stomping Clockwork soldiers performing mysterious acts of violence and aggression.
The first of these Clockwork men – commonly called Sprockets – appeared several years ago. Early reports were confused, as victims and witnesses thought the Clockwork men might be one or two super-powered villains. Although violent, they were stealing objects of relatively low value – copper wire and steel cable, metal beams and machine shop tools. Incident followed incident, and suddenly there was a rash of Sprocket crime through the industrial districts of Paragon.
Initially confused, and somewhat amused by the strange robots behavior and appearance, police finally took the Clockwork seriously when an officer was killed trying to prevent two Sprockets from stealing a spool of copper wire from a cable service van. The police cracked down, but the Clockwork men proved difficult to injure or contain, due to a single-minded purpose and their metallic hide. So the commissioner called in a number of favors with local heroes, including the former policeman Blue Steel, and a city-wide manhunt was undertaken.
The Sprockets were eventually tracked down to an abandoned warehouse, where a major assembly line production seemed underway. There were dozens of Sprockets attempting to construct scores more of their kind. Blue Steel scouted ahead and reportedly saw a young, disheveled man overseeing the operations.
When the combined task force of heroes and police raided the warehouse, all hell broke loose. In the firefight that ensued, several propane tanks were ignited and the warehouse caught fire. The robots fought on, ignoring the flames. When the heroes and SWAT Team finally broke their ranks, it appeared that a number had escaped, including the young man. Tragically, three officers were killed in the fight and fire.
Blue Steel chased after the robots, ranging far ahead of his fellow heroes and the SWAT Team. The young man was carried through the sewers by a half dozen robots, and finally reached a “safe house,” a decrepit bungalow in Boomtown. When Blue Steel radioed back to the commissioner, he learned of the officer casualties … and a fury exploded within him. He launched himself into the bungalow.
The young man was too disoriented from the early encounter, hurt by smoke and fatigue, and could not coordinate a proper defense. Blue Steel single-handedly smashed the Sprockets to pieces, and then turned his rage upon the man, beating him into a bloody pulp. Blue Steel collapsed, exhausted and spent. He checked on the man, and felt the bile rise when he realized the man was dead. Disgusted with himself and the whole day’s tragedy, Blue Steel radioed in for the coroner and clean-up crew. With a heavy heart he left to help fight the fire. The pieces could be sorted out later.
Thus there were no witnesses to whatever happened next. When Blue Steel returned later, the emergency crew was cleaning up the debris. There was sign of the scuffle, but none of the Sprockets were there, nor was the body of the young man. Had Blue Steel been wrong, and the man not died? Did the robots repair themselves and carry the corpse away? Was there something else at work here?
Thereafter, there were a handful of sparse reports of Sprocket activity but the questions were put on hold, then forgotten, as Paragon City trembled under an apocalyptic threat: the Rikti War!
When the war finally ended, the city was a ruin and chaos governed everywhere. Quietly, or as quietly as a gear-and-ratchet machine can be, Sprockets started to appear in ones and twos, helping with the clean-up. At first, the city officials were confused but thankful for any aid. In those grim days it was hard to tell who was friend and who was foe. The Sprockets proved adept at clearing out scrap metal and sifting through debris for salvageable parts, but instead of helping the city separate it for reuse, they stole it away, and used it to build more Sprockets.
A reporter for the Paragon Times, Maggie Greene, who had followed stories of the Sprockets before the war grew concerned. As no one coordinating the relief effort seemed to know anything about them, she took it upon herself to follow a group of Sprockets. Over several days, they finally led her to an abandoned factory, where she discovered an assembly-line production.
One of Paragon’s surviving heroic Super Groups, the Regulators, were alarmed by Greene’s report. They quickly gathered and scouted out the factory. Whatever peaceful intentions the Sprockets were displaying quickly vanished into an aggressive defense of their territory. The Regulators barely escaped with their lives, but now the city knew the Clockwork meant them harm. Gears, ratchets, sockets, and springs.