Welcome to a world where super-science (or mad science, or Onslowtech, or whatever you grew up calling it) is unfortunately a way of life. Why do I say unfortunate? Well, read on, my friends.
In this world, there are individuals who have a talent known as "The Spark". Sometimes, they're simply referred to as Sparks. Whatever it may be, these people have the ability to somehow temporarily "bend" the laws of reality to create things that should be scientifically impossible. Many of them already have some scientific background; the Spark simply gives them a temporary "boost" to their talents.
Unfortunately for many of these folks, a side effect of these bursts of super-geniusness tends to be extreme focus on their work, often paired with impatience and aggression with those whose thoughts don't run with the speed or in the direction of their own. Because of this, some of these thoughts veer off in truly alarming directions. This makes them dangerous and shortsighted ("I wanted to simply build a robot butler, but then I began to think, 'Why not give it the ability to spit acid? Or give it retractable claws that can rip through a tank? Or an obsession with killing every human named Roger?'")
Most Sparks begin to demonstrate signs of this talent as they approach puberty, a la Homo superior, though very rarely, some people Spark when older. But it's not until their "breakthrough", when they create their first mega-project (often utilizing components around them, such as a car or kitchen appliances) that they're truly a Spark.
Despite their tendency to act like a cross between Sam Kinison and Clayton/Pearl/Kinga Forrester, most Sparks aren't "switched on" all the time. They tend to remain their semi-normal selves unless their working on a project. Many eventually begin to develop a "major" with their projects (such as cybernetics, exotic vehicles, GELFs, and the like), gaining a Spark "style" that's recognizable to other Sparks (whether color scheme, a personal insignia, their name written across the machine in giant letters, etc.).
It's unknown how long Sparks have been around, but the "first wave" began making their appearances shortly after the Korean War. It's been rumored that the primary cause was due to various technologies harvested from the Roswell and Tunguska crashes, which led to several hidden Science Cities on both sides of the Iron Curtain. It's definitely possible that Sparks may have existed before this: There were rumors that certain geniuses throughout history, such as da Vinci, Tesla, or Wonka may have had "the gift"; whether this is true or not is unknown.
Back to the original point: Sparks began to appear in the 1950s, and for every stereotypical cackling, ranting, castle-on-the-hill lunatic Spark who would "MAKE THEM ALL PAY!", there were other folks with the Spark who were there to oppose them. While there were some Sparks who simply wanted to devote their time to lab-work, nearly three-quarters of them were action/adventure junkies, obsessed with making the world safe "FOR SCIENCE!"
As you might imagine, it was only a matter of time before these ongoing conflicts/science projects would begin to get out of control, and by the mid/late 1980s, the Spark War began. For nearly two decades, Sparks were engaged in various conflicts, primarily of the guerilla or secret war variety. Alliances changed; these madboys and girls were always trying to one-up one another (see The Butter Battle Book for an example of this); many truly insane believed that a person wasn't a "True Spark" unless they had at least three or four other wackos trying to murder them daily.
Approximately 10 years ago, the war was finally ended by a Spark named Joseph Onslow. A legend among all Sparks in the vein of Big Boss/Doc Savage/Judge Dredd, a brilliant mind even when not "sparked up", the term "Onslowtech" has become a slang word for super-science gadgets among many people.
On May 5, five different advanced Spark headquarters/fortresses were suddenly destroyed by what was described by onlookers as "bolts out of the blue". Surprisingly, there was no fallout from the blasts, no after-effects; the bases were simply erased from existence. Less than a minute later, nearly every communication network across the planet received the following message:
"This is Doctor Joseph Onslow. As you have just seen, these attacks were a mere demonstration of what I'm calling a peace-ray. I've destroyed these structures in order give a warning. This will be the only warning: Behave yourselves, or receive a second dose.
While I do regret the loss of life, I knew that eventually the conflict between Sparks would continue until the entire planet was engulfed by the conflict. I swear to all that can hear this that my actions were performed without any assistance, and I assume full responsibility."
Shortly afterwards, the world breathed a huge sigh of relief as the War began to end. Doctor Onslow was never seen after his actions. Some say he left the planet, some say he committed suicide, along with the dozens of numerous other rumors. Whatever happened, the peace-ray has never been used since that fateful day, and Joseph Onslow has never been seen again.
Afterwards, many veteran Sparks did their best to adjust back to civilian life. Many of them have worked with various labs, military groups, and the like, doing their best to move past their lives. Nevertheless, several of them have found their way back into the lives of adventurers, due to various factors:
* The emergence of new younger Sparks (both crazy and semi-crazy), to whom the war was just something mentioned in history books.
* Many Sparks were killed during the War, but they left all their toys in the yard. There are plenty of abandoned fortresses/labs/lairs scattered all over the world, with plenty of abandoned projects just ripe for the picking.
* A few said projects could easily escape (giant robots and the like), requiring the help of heroic Sparks to keep the horror at bay.
In short, due to the War, it's a rather exciting world to live in. It's a world that needs heroes; people to rise up to the challenge and help out when
needed. Those rare folks who can buck the odds, bring in a win at the last minute, and save the day! HAVE A SCIENTASTIC DAY!
(Psst, that's your cue!)
(NOTE: Yes, this idea was strongly inspired by Phil Foglio's Girl Genius, so you don't need to bother mentioning it).