Direct Neural Programming had been the dream of many education "reformists" and technocrats. The perfect way to teach skills, divorced almost completely from the requirement that human teach human. One single avatar of a skill could be used to propagate that skill until it became obsolete. Billions were poured into its development and marketing, thirsted for by corporations, the military, and politicians, each group wanting the surface and the sinister. But it was not to be.
The old clock tower stands tall, but the bulk of the uppermost storey is crumbling and unsafe, with gaping cracks in the walls. The metal struts and girders supporting the great bronze bells are still intact, though, and the bells survive. The grotesque gargoyles and arabesques which decorated the original design have either fallen into the street (once or twice a year more bricks fall from the tower, prompting calls for its demolition) or have been defaced, but the main doors to the clock tower are still intact and show signs of being kept in working order. This is the home of The Captains, clad in raggedy clothes, with sooty faces, and perpetually runny noses. But behind each set of eyes is the look of a survivor. They live to stick together and make it through each day. Older than their years in many ways, the friendship they share with each other and Wims ghost keeps the core of a childs innocence and hope alive in each. But they are still very suspicious of outsiders. They are a group of street children who live in the clock tower. Some are orphans, some runaways, and some nomads who occasionally return to their homes. But they’re all poor, dirty and perpetually hungry, as well as being wily, unscrupulous and mischievous in a fairly brutal way. Enough of them have suffered at the hands of adults for all of them to be wary of any grown-ups, particularly ones who ask too many questions, although with hard work and a lot of food it might be possible to win the confidence or even the trust of a few of them.