The Billow-Harris Institute for Actual Education, founded in 1934, is a very exclusive school that a cluster of the most intelligent children in the world have the privilege to attend. In this building, the students are learning all day, and without complaints. There is no homework, no unfairness, no tears. How can this be? Well...
Metallic blue light illuminated the room, spotty, erratic, and unreliable, but at least there was light.
Eight children sat at eight different desks with eight frowning faces and sixteen frightened, vibrant eyes. The desks were arranged systematically, two rows, four in each, all desks precisely the same distance apart.
They didn't know how they had gotten there. They were afraid, somehow, to fidget; as if a hardened, ruler-brandishing teacher was glaring at them, and so they simply sat still, with their hands folded neatly on the sparkling surfaces of their desks. They were waiting for something to happen, and presently something did.
The figure motioned with his skinny fingers. "I'm Mr. Harris," he explained casually, slinking into a large armchair, having apparently appeared out of nowhere. The effect of this simple statement was immediate; eight desks were briefly relieved of their burden as eight surprised leaps into the air were taken.
There were three boys and five girls, all between the ages of eleven and twenty-one. Eight children, eight hopes and dreams, eight bright futures, glimmering gems in the vague abyss of Tomorrow.
Bert Harris's thoughts, however, were focused more on this question: only eight?
He was a tall man, at six foot four, but rather average looking. His face was dim and his hair was blond and his suit was coal-black, and that is all there is to say. He cleared his throat, and then realized with some annoyance that he had failed to write out some magnificent speech, and so all he said was, "Welcome to the greatest school in the world," and it was probably for the better that it happened this way. Children tend to have very short attention spans.
The smallest, an eleven-year-old girl named Madeleine, timidly raised her hand.
Bert pointed at her.
"Yes, you, the little one."
"I am Madeleine Belitzky, sir," she commenced.
"Speak up, child, I can scarcely hear a word you're saying."
He twinkled his eyes in what he hoped was a friendly, inviting manner.
"If you please, sir, why are we here?"
Mr. Harris rose unexpectedly from his chair and began to pace across the dim blue room at an alarming speed. "Children, you must first learn the history of the Billow-Harris Institution for Actual Education, and we'll go over it as quickly as we can."