It is the year one thousand three hundred seventeen of the Great Clock. The three hundredth year of the reign of the glorious Oberon the First*. And time for the fortieth pente-annual Grand Exhibition. A time of wonders unveiled; a time to show the world the greatest heights that science has yet reached - or the depths to which it has sunk, if that's what floats your boat. There are foot races and parades and vendors hawking strange wares (Genuine Stygian rat-on-a-stick! Get yours now!), but the real meat of the exhibition is the science fair. Anyone can enter; a child's potato clock may stand shoulder to shoulder with an expert engineer's thermionic switch. There are five rounds of judging, each weeding out the inventions that are not worthy of the next level; the final round is judged by Oberon himself. And, of course, there are prizes. Any invention that makes it past the first round is guaranteed to win something - though the exact nature of the prize varies wildly by the whims of the judges.
This exhibition is being held in Irallith; thirteen of the realm's largest airships have been linked together to provide housing and support for the exhibition; the actual event itself will take place on the decks of the HMS Nonsuch, the latest (and largest) vessel in Oberon's air force. The Nonsuch uses an experimental new flight system, about which few details are publicly available. The upshot of which is that, unlike conventional airships, there is no massive volume of void cells, and a simple open deck forms the upper surface of the warship. (For purposes of the exhibition, much of the Nonsuch's upwards facing firepower has been removed - leaving more space open for use.)
Local officials have been quietly panicking for about the last year, now. The exhibition attracts sparks from every realm of the core (and some from further away, as well). And, with that many sparks in one place, something always goes wrong. Last time it was Doctor Orbotnik's plague of mechanical rats - which won second place by the simple expedient of being one of the last two projects still intact. This time, with the black cloud drifting ominously below the exhibition, there is potential for a far worse disaster. Oberon has dispatched a score of medical and emergency rescue frigates from his air force to patrol the area, but seems otherwise unconcerned.
* Quibblers might note that three hundred years ago marks Oberon's discovery of the great clock, not the beginning of any actual ruling per se. They might also note that, as yet, there is no Oberon the Second, nor any sign of a (legitimate) heir of any sort. (Illegitimate heirs are, of course, a dime a dozen. Or, at least, people claiming to be illegitimate heirs. Oberon usually ignores them.)
Also note that this thread is open to general questions about the exhibition, the area around it, and so on; it is not actually an RP thread per se.