The Institute served a dual purpose: rounding up and containing the rowdiest and most dangerous delinquents the City had to offer…and honing those skills to a fine edge. The officers who ran the Institute normally kept the second part of their mission a secret, naturally, lest some graying City Councilor complain that the youngsters were being rewarded for their transgressions.

And, to be sure, few of the Institute’s residents would call it a reward.

The “cadets” were enrolled in a rigorous program of martial training along the lines of the City’s final military schools. But there was a second, and unwritten, training system in place: for each cadet to graduate, they had to perfect the skill that had landed them in the Institute in the first place.

Say that, as it was for one cadet, they had stolen a car on the outside. Their challenge, then would be to steal more cars–perhaps one of each type, or just a round number like twenty-five or fifty–from the Institute grounds. A delinquent who had hacked into a transport network to steal a shipment of nutri-gel might be tasked with 50 comparable hacks at the Institute. In a very real way it was a crucible, since the Institute staff did their utmost to prevent the assigned tasks from being carried out.

Those who didn’t meet their hidden goals? If they were still at the Institute at 21 they risked transfer to the City Prison as lifers or executes.