THE BURNING DISTRICT

Few visitors can be found within the walls of the Red City, and among these few, there are none who dare set foot in its Burning District. There is very good reason for this, as its name might suggest; it is a place set aside for destruction to live, so that what remains of humanity’s works beyond might be spared.

At the height of its technological renaissance, the Red City was illuminated from below by a vast, underground fountainworks of flame. “The Great Fire Network,” as it was known at the time, burst forth from steel tubes rising from the streets as torches, and flowed from forges to ovens to fireplaces seamlessly, as directed by the mechanisms above. Whereas other cities relied upon tamed lightning to channel power from one place to the next, the Red City had a unique feature which made this approach unnecessary: it happened to rest atop a vast, underground ocean of oil, which provided so much fuel as to seem infinite. 

As one might imagine, such a thing could only last for so long before mistakes were made.

The Fire Department is said to have fought to their last man, and when there were none left among their ranks to fight, their automatons carried on in their stead. These beings of brass and rubber bore the countenance of humans from a distance, but on the inside, they were powered by the very same fire they fought against. The more cunning flames saw through this ruse, and saw themselves through the eyes of the machine men, and learned to wear their bodies like masks.

That could have been the end of it right there, but the Fire was shrewd, and knew better than to burn it all down at once. It wandered forth from the Burning District as a battalion of smoking brass, and named the terms of humanity’s unconditional surrender: a section of the city all to itself. There, it would burn, rebuild, and burn it all down again, forever, without relent. Should the living ever trespass, or attempt to extinguish it again, there would be no warning: it would thenceforth claim the rest of the city for itself.

Surprisingly, the Great Fire Network continued to operate over the course of the decades that followed. In spite of past conflict, the flames welcomed trade and diplomacy, and continued to service the rest of the city in exchange for natural resources. Within the district's walls, factories churned out contraptions designed to destroy themselves in beautiful and elaborate ways, from ouroboros-mouthed howitzers to self-smelting volcanoes of iron. The brass automatons had increased in number, though any human semblance had been lost in favor of numerous, sea-urchin like clusters of limbs. Through its parallel existence with humanity, the Fire learned to prosper.

Even so, the network gradually fell out of use, in large part due to general unease. For the first time in their history, the people of the Red City felt more comfortable in the dark.


An outbreak of magnetic fire would have been even worse.

Above all else, the Red City is plagued by bad ideas.

Visitors to the surface of the sun report similar conditions.


DRASTIC MEASURES

ALMAGRO'S GECKO