It was a cold spring evening. Oh, not the day of this story, no … sorry, I am telling you this on a cold spring evening. The story takes place on a warm fall day, back in the year 2010. Yes, then my master was but an eighteen-year-old Senior in high school. I do apologize for the confusion. My name is Jevreddy or Jevy, when Mr. Sproot is indifferent to my existence or simply in a hurry to get to his next attempt at a case. The current year is 2022, and I have at this point become a fully functioning robot butler. Back in the time of the story however, I was basically a head with legs and crab-claws, used to fetch miscellaneous items for the Sproots. My master is always working on me to improve my functioning. It has been a hobby of his since he first gave me artificial intelligence, when he was but fifteen. Anyhow, what makes this fall day stick out in my database, is how my master had asked me to swing by after his last class that day. Instead of heading to his evening job, he said that he had been kept after school for detention, and forced to call his employer, at the mechanic shop, to tell him he could not come into work that night. Considering the spontaneity of Mr. Sproot’s nature, and the unpredictability of how long it will take those offering him a case to realize he will or won’t be able to help, now is as good a time as any to begin the story. I will be relating this to you as though I was there (such is Mr. Sproot’s power of description, and my database recording of it), and I will use the names of all the relevant participants. Any parts that I am in will be told from my perspective directly, while the rest is all from my master.
It was September 17th of the year 2010. Friday was upon Sprittley Sproot, and his fellow high schoolers of Ahmaust High, one of the cheaper places of education in the suburbs of the state of New York. Thankfully, most of these wise and worthy educators stepped up to the plate and went above and beyond their salaries to give the students an education that would actually get them somewhere (the hiring managers at Ahmaust had a way of finding such folks). They rented out old, and yet informative books, free of any charge. They put the maximum use they could into the marker boards and markers that they were given. Of all the people who were members of this assorted bunch, one stood out from all the rest as being the least popular in the opinions of the grand majority of students.
Mr. Albert Finchley was a man of an odd and peculiar nature. He only ever really opened up to people at his level of intelligence. Perhaps out of a desire to attain more friends, he pushed his students farther than any other teacher would dare think reasonable. This being the case, he taught the senior class exclusively, and was kept on board for his ability to expand the minds of those under his tutelage. In Sproot’s senior class, Mr. Finchley’s popularity did not reach far beyond Sprittley (or Sprit for short)’s own enthusiasm, and that of only a couple of his fellow students. John Heverstead, who was often pointed out as the class’s nerd, and Udemia Jackson, who like Sprit was an African American intellectual, were the only others who respected Albert’s teaching style.
On the flip side of the coin, there was the ring leader of Finchley’s many “haters,” Jake Blake, son of a glass factory executive (Blake’s Glass and Windows, “If It Blakes, We’ll Fix It”). This young individual was in the habit of pulling pranks on unsuspecting students and staff at Ahmaust High, but he had never pranked a teacher, yet. This was probably because he did not want to make enemies of the men and women who were passing him along through his education. However, everybody expected Mr. Albert Finchley to be the exception to the prankster’s rule. He greatly disapproved of both of the classes taught by the brain stretching wonder (The Advanced Study of Altered Physiology, and A History of Strange Happenings). One day, most people thought, Jake and his gang would nail the “old” man real good. Sure enough, there was a day when something did happen in Mr. Finchley’s History class, though whomever instigated the incident was likely disappointed that almost no one got to see the fruits of his or her labors.
Every high schooler was in their last class, each of them eager to get home, or wherever they were headed next. Sprittley had thus far had a very uninteresting encounter with life, just as he had in the weeks past. There was not much for the young prodigy to learn, except what Albert was about to teach him. In fact, Mr. Finchley’s class was what made Sproot look forward to every new school day. Unfortunately, this particular teacher’s classes were always last hour, making it harder for his students to concentrate, or for those who actually enjoyed his musings, it provided a longer wait then any of them tended to enjoy. It was roughly midway through the class period, when suddenly Sprit began to notice some unusual markings on the board. They were little black dots intermingled within the letters Finchley formed his sentences with.
“And so you see, if it had not been for the Hazotians attacking Sandron, and ultimately blowing that planet to smithereens, we would not have the complexities of liquid substance 939 to occupy our own planet. Please turn, if you will, to page 156 in your books. We will be discussing some of the final days before Sandron’s explosion for the remainder of this period, and how the mysterious liquid still had an effect on our societies. In Antarctica, circa … Yes, Mr. Sproot, you have a question?”
“Sadly Mr. Finchley, I do not.” A sigh of relief spread throughout most of the class room, which was used to the complexities of Sproot’s intellect. “No. Rather sir, I was wondering if I could make an announcement? Please understand that it will benefit the class, and perhaps save us all some embarrassment.” Jake chuckled at the final sentence, while his two best pals, Yester and Tom, glanced at each other and smirked.
“That will be enough Mr. Blake. Proceed, Mr. Sproot.” Having never had a student desire to make an announcement in his class, the teacher found himself uniquely curious.
“Well…” Sprit got up in front of the class just to the left of Albert’s podium. “You see Mr. Finchley … You Have Been Pranked!”
“Are you pulling my leg, Mr. Sproot, because it isn’t funny.”
“No, sir, no! I admire you,… Which is Why I Must Point Out the Foul Prankster!” Here Sprit glanced ominously in the direction of Jake and his closest friends. “Jake and his gang have undertaken it, and I have discovered how!”
“There is no need to yell, just explain yourself before I give you a detention.”
“No need, sir.” (ignoring Albert's warning) “Take this spy glass and look at your marker board. There should be several clearly visible black spots on it.”
“Yes, I see. Those simply need be erased. I was about to do so anyway…”
“No! Excuse me.” Sproot took the erasers away from Mr. Finchley. “Erasing the board would surely reveal a nasty phrase or insult intended to greatly taint your day. Furthermore, if I am not mistaken, the phrase itself could not be erased.”
“Why do you suppose that would be?”
“Because sir, there is an extra layer of board, only the foremost layer is glass, which would allow the insult to show right through. The black marks showing through your own writing are proof of that. Currently, it is plastered expertly in a thin coat of weak, white adhesive powder. I could tell the extra layer existed simply by noticing how the board is sticking a whole extra centimeter from the wall than usual.”
“Now that you mention it, the board does seem a bit thicker, but how did you pick up on the powder?” Albert looked at the marker in his hand. “Was it connected to the added flare of this marker tip?”
“That has everything to do with it. If you were to scrape that marker’s tip, a black sludge would come off, and be too dry in-and-of-itself to color anything. The sludge is merely the powder connected to some of the markers dark ink.”
“Incredible! Though, I am sorry to hear that you were not paying attention in class as you deduced all of this.”
“Oh never fear, I took the necessary notes, and so forth. What I have just divulged was a side process for me.”
“Well, it is quite an elaborate attempt, if it is but an insult. How do you think they pulled it off?”
“So glad you asked, sir. Their cheesy behavior yesterday, which conveniently earned them after school detention, gave them ample opportunity to prank whomsoever they pleased. Likely, Jake and his friends waited until their supervisor had to go to the bathroom, got some of their associates to bring the plastic-wrapped slab of glass from outside somewhere, wrote the message on the board, put powder on the glass, put the glass in place, threw the plastic wrap away, and quickly sat back down in their seats! Amazing what a few determined kids can do in just a few minutes, isn’t it?”
“Very well, Mr. Sproot. You may sit down now. I will use the adjoining board for the time being. Okay class, back to Antarc…”
Jake stood up next to his desk and protested, “Hey, Mr. Finchley! You can’t just let him accuse me like that! Find out who really did it, if anyone did! Sprit’s got no right calling people out for doing things that he is just imagining!”
“Be that as it may Mr. Blake, I must ask you to sit down, unless you want a detention, regardless of whether or not you are in fact guilty. I have spoken with your parents about yesterday. I was not directly involved, but I wanted to be sure that none of the students in my class got plastered with trays of cheese covered noodles from the cafeteria. Getting detention the day after staying late for the prior days offence would do nothing to brighten your mother and father’s moods. Are we clear?”
“Yes…yes sir, it won’t happen again.” Jake sat back down, clearly ashamed, and looking as though he had narrowly escaped a minor disaster.
“Antarctica; a continent that is so little inhabited, and yet so full of mystery. Its cold climate causes the greater majority of observed life to avoid it. However, my research, which I am willing to back up if asked, has shown me that a bare minimum of three lesser known groups have begun to flourish there. Today, we will be focusing on the earliest of these peoples, and their connection to the alien substance I mentioned earlier…” After class, Mr. Finchley asked to speak with Sproot, and waited to begin until everyone else had left for the day.
“Hey, uh, what’s this about? My parents want me home before dark, and the mechanics I work for only have so much patience. I need that job, sir. I was already fired from four other places, just for giving them an “excessive” amount of ideas that would actually improve their business.”
“Call your job, and tell them you cannot work tonight.”
“You disturbed my class for almost an entire quarter of the period. I appreciate your concerns, but that was not called for. In the future just calmly ask me to use a different board, and briefly explain why.”
“But, I solved a mystery! You’ve got to respect that! You’re always goin’ on about how this and that is mysterious, but sometimes the puzzle is right in front of you!”
“Now calm down, Mr. Sproot, I have not finished. Before I tell your parents what happened, I want to test your theory, and I think it only fair that you test it with me.”
“Oh. Shouldn’t I be testing it with you? It is my theory.”
“Irrelevant. Now, hand me one of those erasers.” Mr. Finchley proceeded to wipe the powder off of his board. There was indeed glass behind it, but… “Oh my…”
The writing behind the glass read similar to a letter, as follows: Dear Mr. Finchley, I realized that Jake and his friends were trying to prank you when I saw how far the board stuck out. Thankfully, there is a free period before your class, and no other teacher uses this room for any reason. You don’t want to know what they wrote, sir. I only wrote something because I did not have the time to get the glass out of the building. Explaining myself, and thereby removing their dire message was by far the best option. I left the powder on the glass, so as not to risk anyone knowing anything about it. I guess if I fail, having this read in front of class would be embarrassing, but I am willing to risk it. Thanks for being a great teacher, and giving us so many under-explored facts to learn! Sincerely, John Heverstead
“It would appear as though somebody else got to it first. Mr. Heverstead, hmm. You know, the two of you are among my three best students. He beat you to the chase, Sprittley, and avoided a detention in the process. Since I have not received any definite evidence other than the deductions and observations of two of my students, Mr. Blake and his gang will get off free. I will be speaking to Jake’s father about the glass though, as it is only logical that it is from his company. If the dad was in on it, then I can do even less to reprimand his son. As for you, I really am sorry that I must put such and academic stand out in an after school detention, but rules are rules. Nevertheless, good work son. Henceforward, I would recommend knowing more about your suspects, and gathering further evidence before jumping to conclusions. Have a wonderful night! Your supervisor will be Miss Durgemire. I have heard she is the silent and kind type. See you next Monday!” Sproot calmly thanked Mr. Finchley for his words of encouragement and bid him a good night.
Miss Durgemire walked in and addressed Sproot, “Follow me young man.” She led him to the detention room. Upon walking in she plopped herself onto the chair behind the office desk, and gestured for Sprit to sit in one of the chairs across the room. “You may leave at 5:00pm, dear.”
Sproot, befuddled at his first experience in the state of silent solitude, sat and thought a moment. Perking up he said, “Miss Durgemire would you kindly let me speak with Jevy.”
“Excuse me? We do not allow speaking to other individuals during detention.”
“Oh well, that may be, but he is a robot I made. I just want to talk to him. May I please send for him?”
“It sounds as though you would find this entertaining, but so long as you do not leave the premises for the full hour-and-a-half, I am fine with it.”
“Oh thank you kindly, Mam! Sincerely!” Sproot immediately whipped his phone out, and had it send Jevreddy his location.
Back in the home of the Sproots, my faceboard began beeping. I had received a request from my master to visit him. Being programmed to obey, I immediately crawled out of the family’s pet door, and grappled myself from one vantage point to the next until I arrived at the window of the detention room. Seeing my master in his chair, I leapt through the open pane and made my way to his lap. Do pardon what follows. It is old programming.
“Master, I have come, as you asked. How are my abilities relevant in detention?” Miss Durgemire requested that Sproot and I keep it down. I lowered my voice’s volume in accordance.
“Well Jevreddy, I did not just bring you here to keep me company. I have a tale to tell!” Mr. Sproot barfed up everything, if it makes sense for me to say so. All I could do was remember the details, for I was incapable of emotional reactions.
All I could bring myself to say was, “That is too bad, master.”
“Hush dearest, I am reading, and you are being disciplined.”
“Sorry. Too bad. What do you mean, too bad?”
“I am inexperienced in these scenarios, master. Am I supposed to sympathize?”
“Oh, but I am rather excited. Ah, whatever. I will fix that as soon as I can. After all, what really is the point of my telling you anything, if I cannot even get a proper response?”
“I will never forget it, master, unless you delete it from my files.”
“Ah, right. I suppose that could be helpful. Funny, my invention is telling me how to use it. While I am at it, I should program you to refer to me as ‘sir’ when speaking to me.”
“Whatever you say, master.”
After Mr. Sproot’s detention had ended, he put me in his backpack and stepped outside to get his bike and ride home. As he approached the bike rack, and unlocked his from it, he noticed that some fellow students had been waiting for him. It was Jake and his two most loyal side-hands, Yester Day, and Tom Orrow. Both the Days and the Orrows looked up to the Blakes, since their own businesses needed Jake’s father’s expertise to succeed. In the meantime, Yester and Tom had become good friends of Jake’s, respecting the fact that he knew how to have a good time.
“Hey Sprit! Yester, Tom, and I were just wondering where you got all of that baloney from? I really don’t appreciate being told I did something wrong.”
“Well, you did. As it turns out, somebody else found out before I ever got the chance. He erased, and replaced, he did. Brave young soul.”
“Who was this?”
“None of your business! I am heading home now, and I recommend you do the same.”
“Oh, it’s my business alright.” Jake snapped his fingers, and Yester and Tom rushed at Sprit from both sides.
“Aaaii!…Jevy, surprise tactics, surprise tactics!” I lept out of my master’s backpack and onto Tom’s face. Shocked and a little scared of this, Yester fell backward. Taking advantage of the confusion, Sprit took his bike, lifted it, and threw it wheels first at Jake. Jake, petrified with both fear, and amazement at my master’s physical feat, allowed the veritable velocipede to hit him square in the chest, flattening him. “Jevreddy, back in the pack!” As I obeyed, he picked his bike up and began speedily pedaling straight home. Thankfully, Jake and his pals never bothered to corner Mr. Sproot again, anywhere. We made it home safe, and Sproot quickly blabbed about the evening’s gallivanting to his entire family.
And that is why my master was late and missed work that night twelve years ago.
(Outside the butler’s database) Ding-Dong! The house’s doorbell rang. “Dagnabbit! Jevy, I told you to unlock the door, when I am on my way home!”
“My apologies master Sproot! I was rather distracted with other matters…”
“Oh do shut that robotic gap of yours! I have a tale to tell!”
“Why of course you do, sir. Do you think they will keep you on this case? You do have a habit of getting kicked off rather quick.”
“Yes, yes. Well it is hard for some people to accept my evidence, and I am still learning to fine-tune what details to track, but this time… oh this time they haven’t a choice! No one else wants to know what fell from the sky. Kind of odd, really. I suppose people fear it, or find it unworthy of notice. Oh but the person whose property it fell in cares! Nobody else believes the old geezer! As for me, I will take any case I can get, even if it means risking embarrassment! I need experience, Jevreddy, experience!”
“Whatever you say, sir.”