Years before the founding of First Ward and the establishment of Praetoria, years even before the Hamidon Wars that heralded Marcus Cole's rise to power, the area now called Neutropolis was a sprawling industrial complex built alongside the Lethe River and the location of Dr. Raymond Keyes' revolutionary antimatter reactor. Built in the years leading up to the Hamidon Wars and designed to meet the energy needs of the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, this pivotal energy production site emerged as a flashpoint in that devastating conflict, one that could have decided the fate of humanity.
As chronicled by the researchers at the Cultural Direction & Education Center, the Devouring Earth targeted the antimatter reactor with a massive assault, the success of which would have severely crippled a broad swathe of the eastern U.S. It was only the peerless leadership and undeniable power of Marcus Cole that prevented the destruction of the reactor. Because much had been lost at that time, Marcus Cole was determined to keep this vital resource from falling to the Devouring Earth. In later years, Marcus Cole openly admitted that securing the Keyes Island Reactor was one of the first, and most important, steps he had to take to ensure the creation of the utopian city-state of Praetoria. Without power, there is no growth, and the Keyes Island Reactor has power in abundance.
Without the power generated by the three antimatter reactors (or in Dr. Keyes's own parlance, the "neutral polarity synchronizing reactors") and the subsequent creation of the first generation of Clockwork Androids, Praetoria would have remained merely a dream. Backed by the near limitless power generated by the reactors and their tireless robotic tenders, First Ward was built in a handful of months, and the complex around Keyes Island expanded to include a growing industrial infrastructure. Nothing seemed impossible in those first heady years of Praetoria's life. First Ward and Keyes Island continued to grow as eager refugees flocked to the burgeoning city to seek safety and a future free of war and privation. But the Devouring Earth still lurked in the unclaimed wilds, plotting Praetoria's demise.
Neutropolis was already a growing district when the Devouring Earth launched a second major assault upon humanity, an assault that saw the near complete destruction of First Ward. In the aftermath of that second attack, Marcus Cole redoubled his efforts to expand Praetoria, starting with Neutropolis. Thousands of survivors from First Ward were relocated to temporary housing there while Praetor Berry relocated his corporate HQ on the newly founded eastern portion of the district, providing much needed employment to the many who had seen their work torn down in a single day.
As Praetoria evolved, so did Neutropolis--and not entirely for the better. Once Imperial City and Nova Praetoria were founded, many of the businesses and services of Neutropolis moved into the brand new corporate complexes being erected there. New opportunities for employment in Imperial City and Nova Praetoria incited a mass exodus of people as well, draining entire neighborhoods over the course of weeks and months. Those without the connections or skills needed in the bustling new districts found themselves stranded in a Neutropolis that grew dingier and dirtier with each passing year.
As residential neighborhoods were emptied, the bulldozers moved in to clear the way for warehouses, business parks, and industrial foundries. What had once been a promising commercial and residential district became one of industrial fumes, clanking Clockwork laborers, desolate warehouses, and the three antimatter reactors that spew plumes of exotic particles into the air. Hemmed in among all this industrial noise are the last of First Ward's refugees, forgotten in Praetoria's rapid expansion.
Neutropolis has only gotten worse in the years since. While high-profile business parks have sprung up along the district's eastern shore, they cater almost exclusively to upscale workers from Imperial City and Nova Praetoria. Lambda Sector, the training facility for Praetoria's military, sits like a slumbering beast more apt to bite the head off any who stray too close rather than to protect the citizens of Neutropolis from the dangers that prowl its streets at night. And a new evil lurks now from the alleys and manholes across Neutropolis, preying upon the civilians that call this district home. Dubbed "ghouls" because of their unsavory eating habits, cadaverous predators strike suddenly and violently from the shadows, resulting in an epidemic of missing persons that the city government seems strangely uninterested in solving.