[Fiction] Friday Challenge #161 for June 25th, 2010
Include a telepathic parrot in your story.
The Education Revolution of 2015 brought an end to conventional warfare. The guns were turned into iphones. The bombs were transformed into children’s play equipment. But the war of the mind had just begun.
Out of the shadow of the Revolution came a new army: the hearts and souls and minds of thousands upon thousands of school children, called to learn for the advancement of their country. They were to take over the ivory towers and wage algebraic war. Universities and high schools waged brutal war as academic papers filled the ether like gun smoke.
The Homework Police appeared as silent ghosts, sentinels of academia.
These are their stories…
“Probationary Constable Dawkins, it would be much appreciated if you could hurry up for your first shift on the beat,” said Senior Sergeant Croydon. “And make sure you collect the parrot.”
Probationary Constable Dawkins followed his superior officer to the patrol car, the birdcage cradled in his arms.
“Just watch your fingers as Polly here takes a fancy to the odd digit poked inside his territory,” said Croydon. “And his name is ‘Fingers’ which happens to be ironic and a clever pun.”
Croydon fired up the ignition and pulled onto the main road.
“We are the guardians of intellectual integrity,” intoned Croydon. “We are the matrix that binds our community and gives us the upper edge on other fourth-grade reading nations who prefer the sandpit to intellectual endeavours.
“You see, there are two types of intellectual avoiders, cheaters if you like. The first is your simple down and out. They know that their life is destined for menial tasks, totally required for the function of society mind you, but their sights are not set on world domination. All they are trying to do is boost their marks a bit to get a better job.
“The second is your driven individual. You know, the one who was reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time at age four and playing Mozart’s concerto on violin and piano simultaneously by age six. They will try anything to get ahead: brain vitamins, mental arithmetic, anything legal or illegal.
“And that’s where we come in. Identify and prosecute.”
“But where does the parrot come in to all of this?”
“It’s telepathic. It can read the brainwaves of students and knows if they are cheating or trying to hide something, even when kids take beta-blockers and delta wave inhibitors.”
Croydon pulled the patrol car into the grounds of the school and parked in the spot marked “Principal.” Dawkins followed in Croydon’s wake to Reception and was directed down a corridor towards the main auditorium.
The sound of two hundred and fifty pens and pencils scratching on exam papers sounded like a bunch of mice having a Bacchanal orgy whilst writing a cryptic apocryphal gospel.
“Kids these days with their ipods and facebookspace and their make out parties. Best thing they did was stop computer testing and go back to old fashioned pen and paper,” said Croydon.
“What was that, boss?”
“Nothing. Just talking to myself.”
Senior Sergeant Croydon crossed his arms, moved his feet slightly apart and scanned the hall. The presence of Homework Police was nothing new during final exams; it hardly raised an eyebrow. Nevertheless, the guilty could feel their heart rate quicken as their breathing became shallower.
“Release the parrot, Dawkins.”
With a hop and a step the parrot exited the cage and took off around the room. Croydon began to amble down the aisles, watching for tells and signs. The fidgety glance; the uncomfortable bum shuffle; the dropped pencil.
Croydon whipped out a tissue and thrust it into the face of a fair haired lad.
“Stop your sniffing. It’s just annoying.”
The parrot squawked and alighted on a desk a couple of rows over from Croydon. A young girl let the wavy brown locks cover her face.
“Come on. Let’s see you,” said Croydon.
“Hello, Uncle Jack,” said his niece.
Croydon lifted his cap and scratched his thinning hair.
“This is going to make Christmas a very awkward affair this year. Let’s go. On your feet.”
Two hundred and forty eight pairs of students’ eyes followed the parade of the guilty, while only one noticed the pencil roll off the edge of the table, watching it tumble like an acrobat until it hit the floor, its point fragmenting into splinters.