His Magnificence

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For once, the aura within Classroom 3003 was that of order and not chaos. On this partly cloudy Wednesday morning, Jesse, reeling from the previous day’s near-death experience, was in no mood to engage Mr. Bristol in debates.

 On this day, the students would present Endgame oral reports. Jesse had not studied or prepared facts and figures. After having a laster pointed at his head, he felt the need to not only question those facts and figures, but offer the content of projectdriht.link as facts.

 His pupils’ obedient silence astounded Bristol. Before he demanded their attention, he viewed their faces one-by-one to validate their obedience was genuine. Finally, Bristol stammered: “right, um, class, um, I trust we are all prepared for our reports? Because I will not tolerate unpreparedness!” Then, trepidation ceased, and his authoritative side surfaced. “I would like to break with the age-old tradition of drawing names out of a hat to select a presentation order. Let’s first get what surely will be a very interesting display out of the way! Jesse Maith? To the blackboard!”

Then another surprising thing happened: Jesse calmly stood up and approached Bristol’s desk. No questions, no smart-alecky remarks.

Folding his arms, Bristol shot Jesse a skeptical scowl. “Mr. Maith, you are not holding any flash drives, electronic devices, or any materials,” he scoffed. “I safely assume you were not prepared, and…”

 “Mr. Bristol,” Jesse interrupted, “I would like to ad lib my report, if I may.”

 Bristol squinted. “Charming. Just like the rest of your conspiracy theories?”

 Jesse glanced at Bristol with desperation in his eyes. “With all due respect, sir, I don’t believe these are conspiracies. Not anymore. Flunk me if you must, but all I ask is for a few minutes of the class’ time to hear me out.”

 Bristol shook his head. “You may have your five minutes, Mr. Maith, but this had better be the best damn presentation in history.”

Jesse grinned and extended his hand toward Bristol’s. When he looked into Jesse’s eyes, Bristol felt a tiny modicum of legitimacy within his gesture. Reluctantly, Bristol reached his clammy right hand to return the handshake.

“Thank you, Mr. Bristol,” Jesse replied. “I normally would never do this, but I believe in Joshua Evans’ philosophies. Based on information I’ve recently learned, I feel now is an excellent time for a Joshuan prayer.” The jaws of Bristol and Jesse’s classmates slumped downward, and most inaudibly gasped as Jesse raised his arms in the air. “Great Joshua, yes, we are all here because of you, but today, we turn to your teachings of kindness toward humanity, because I’m afraid we will soon use your name for blasphemous and misguided means. In your name, we pray, amen.”

 Jesse opened his eyes and eyed every occupant in Room 3003 with zealous intensity. He exhaled, then folded his hands. “You assigned an oral report on the Battle of Chicago and whether it was the turning point of the Endgame. Mr. Bristol, I had prepared flash drives and slideshows, but I now feel my preparations will ring hollow. I won’t produce hearsay content from projectdriht.link.” Jesse then looked at Bristol. “Instead, I will play off a theory that you, sir, had alluded to in our lesson last Friday.”

 Bristol frowned. “Okay, mate, you may proceed,” he replied. “Four minutes!”

 “Mr. Bristol,” Jesse resumed, “you stated two reasons Chicago was spared total H-bomb devastation while cities like Los Angeles and Washington weren’t so lucky. One, because the New Axis had a strategic advantage over American Marines, so H-bombing was no longer necessary. The second reason you provided, however, just didn’t seem right. The Russian general in command was ordered to abort the H-bomb deployment because such firepower would be necessary for future battles. Now, I’m no military strategist, but does anyone else find that strange? The New Axis could have ended any American hope by detonating that H-bomb. Instead, the war persisted for the following three months. Washington was destroyed, and it took Joshua’s actions to convince you-know-who to surrender. I’m paraphrasing your words, sir, but you alluded that the evasive tone you-know-who displayed in his daily press briefings following the American retreat; specifically, the words he used appeared to suggest an ulterior motive.”

 “Yes, that’s correct, Mr. Maith,” Bristol replied, “in fact, you-know-who reiterated five times in one press briefing there were classified reasons for the pullback.”

 “And they classify some information to protect the troops and their families, we understand. But when asked if it was information that may compromise the combat efforts, you-know-who snapped at reporters and angrily reiterated the information was classified. Why be so defensive?”

 “I appreciate your sentiments, Mr. Maith, but please stay on topic. Do you believe the battle of Chicago truly was the turning point of the Conflict?”

 “Yes, it was, but now, I believe it was not for the reasons they have led us to believe. It can’t be that simple that you-know-who signed off on the Treaty of Shanghai to conclude the Endgame after the battle of New York based on Joshua’s actions. More had to have led to that decision. If so, why would he need to go to great lengths to protect it? It would explain a lot about his reasoning behind establishing the Third.”

 “All hearsay, Mr. Maith! Get to the point.”

 Jesse’s throat quivered. Memories of the previous days’ incident raced back into his mind. He remained silent until he could coherently regain his thoughts, but it proved to be too much of a struggle.

 “I’m sorry, Mr. Bristol. I can’t say anything more that will not appear to be hearsay. It’s all… hunches. I won’t waste anyone’s time further. Thank you.”

 Head slumped, Jesse helplessly returned to his desk. After an awkward silence, Bristol clumsily reiterated his intent to flunk Jesse, until a voice chimed in.

 “I believe him,” Matt declared.

 “Thank you, Matthew,” Bristol retorted, “but this doesn’t…”

 “Sir, if I may…” Matt interrupted with an uncharacteristic lack of sarcasm. “I have no clue if this projectdriht.link stuff is genuine, but I will say this: something bad happened to my cousin yesterday, and it distressed me. For the sake of applied learning, sir, you mentioned last Friday that you-know-who’s disposition changed after the Battle of Chicago. He once was a charismatic optimist, but now, he’s a paranoid narcissist. Is that coincidence?! And I’m sure my cousin will agree with me, there’s a lot more we need to learn about Chicago beyond our textbooks. Thank you, everyone.”

 Thunderous applause ensued as Matt sat back down. Jesse nodded to his cousin to thank him for standing up for him.

Bristol, meanwhile, leaned back against his desk and adjusting his glasses. Then he warily nodded, and produced a tiny smile.

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