Cross is a desolate island stranded amid a steaming ocean of geothermal goo, on a tiny planet located somewhere in the armpit of the galaxy. The intergalactic government uses it as a dumping ground of sorts, for underage undesirables. Children of rebel planets are kidnapped from their homeworlds and brought to Cross to be reformed. The government intends to break the rebellion by breaking the loyalty of its youth and turning them into tools of the empire.
When refugees are brought to the city they have two choices. They can chose to enroll in the Academy, where they will be guaranteed safe housing and warm meals (so long as they attend the mandatory classes and brainwashing sessions) or they can take their chances and try to scrape a life out for themselves in the dog-eat-dog wreckage of Cross.
The army allows the island outside of the protective electric walls of the academy to exist in a near anarchic state, only dropping meager supplies into the district on a sporadic basis. As a result, gangs have formed are constantly warring for territory around the Drop Zone. The three most prominent gangs are The Black Stars, who hold the ruins and temple, The Aces who dominate the slums, and The Helix Kids, who have THE GUN and the position closest to the Dropzone.
The kids aren’t the only ones trapped there. The native reptilian alien race, the Krell have been pushed to the edges of the island and driven underground. They too have different clans joined together in an unsteady alliance against the invaders. Their temples and cities have been bombed into oblivion, and are now overrun with refugees. Now they make their nests in caves and among the geysers. Due to the scarcity of food, the refugee children sometimes raid the Krell and steal their eggs for food. And a Krell won’t hesitate to devour a stray kid, without even batting its double eyelid.
There are two ways to get off Cross. The first is to be granted a passport upon graduating from the Academy. The second is the option offered to the hoodlums who refused to go to the Academy- they are permitted to enlist in the army when they turn 15. Some accept the offer, but a greater percentage commit a ritualized suicide as a sign of defiance. As a result there are almost no residents of Cross over 15.