Jesse, Matt, and Mary passed through the South Tower vestibule and into a seemingly endless narrow corridor which appeared like the catacombs of a gothic cathedral with hallway intersections interspersed throughout. Gold-glowing chandeliers hung down from the grey ceilings twenty feet apart but only provided minimal illumination of the white concrete floor, silver walls, and the faces of the uniformed students and formally dressed faculty walking to and from.
However, when the Maiths turned left at the third intersection, they felt as if they entered a time warp; exiting a veritable 15th century AD crypt and into a futuristic colony. Awestruck, they studied the holographic three-dimensional pictures and words depicting academy events, class schedules, or images of teachers and administration adoring the ghost-white walls. When they reached classroom 3003, their mouths were rendered ajar as they took their first glance at a dissolving matter barrier; forcefields that appear like an ordinary tangible wooden, vinyl, or glass door. After Jesse swiped his student card, he and his cousins oohed and ahhed as the wooden pixelated image in front dissolved into thin air. Jesse entered the room, but Matt, lagging, got stuck when the forcefield reappeared at light-speed, trapping his left boot. Pained, he screamed like a banshee, and Jesse and Mary laughed hysterically.
“Shut up!” Matt shouted. “You mean to tell me you’ve never had a hologram break your ankle before?!”
“Hey man,” Jesse replied, catching his breath, “it won’t be my fault when Chick Lowe benches you Friday night because of your buffoonery!”
“Cram it, golden boy!” Matt semi-sarcastically shouted.
“Ah, my silly little brother,” Mary said, still catching her breath from laughter. “Still clumsy after all these years!”
“I’m glad comics taught you common sense!” Matt barked as he limped into the classroom.
“You’re welcome!” Mary retorted. “Gentlemen, I’d love to stay here and have more laughs, but room 3007 is calling my name! Toodles! Be free!”
“Be free,” Jesse replied.
“Yeah, yeah…be free!” Matt said.
Room 3003 is a brightly-lit room with white-tiled floors, DRF flags draped ceiling-to-floor on each corner, desks equipped with custom-built holographic computer tablets, blackboards with two ingrown holographic television screens on either side, and a teacher’s desk with a holographic portal for room-to-room communication. Matt and Jesse took positions at desks adjacent to one another at the back of the classroom, Jesse’s desk adjacent to the double-paned windows. As Jesse took a moment to glance outside to study a spectacular view of an artificial rainforest within a courtyard, other students began filtering in. Suddenly, the tranquility of Jesse’s surroundings turned somewhat surreal.
“Whoa, you’re Jesse Maith!” a lanky blonde-haired boy shouted.
“Wow! I saw you on TV the other day!” a brunette girl following behind cried.
“The next legend of Pioneer football!” the blonde-haired boy bellowed. “Does Paramus’ defense run a cover 2 or man-to-man?” Jesse, shocked by the attention, frowned and recoiled in distress.
“Are we going undefeated?” the brunette asked.
“Hey, miss, I…” Matt attempted to interject.
“Maith!” a tall muscular boy shouted as he entered the room, drawing the attention of all present. “Anything less than a national title is a disgrace!”
Jesse attempted to remain calm despite his insides feeling like they were twisted into a knot. “Guys, I…” he interpolated. Suddenly, the red-carpet atmosphere was interrupted by a Cockney accent echoing throughout the room.
“RIGHT!” a bald, short, thin man in a dark blue tweed sweater and brown corduroy pants wearing reading glasses howled. “Everyone take your seats!”
A crowd of about thirty students collectively sat at their desk. A red laser-generated image appeared on the blackboards:
WELCOME TO EVERTON ACADEMY
14 N.G. ACADEMIC YEAR.
“Thank you, class,” the teacher bellowed. “My name is Mr. Bristol, and yes, I am from England!”
“Do you tickle your bum?” Jesse whispered to Matt. Matt doubled over in obnoxious laughter.
“If you’ve quite finished,” Mr. Bristol shouted toward the Maiths, “we may continue with my introductions ’ere!”
“Apologies, chief constable!” Jesse jested. The classroom erupted in laughter.
“Thank you again, sir!” Bristol remarked. “Now…you are all ’ere because you are the best and the brightest in the Divine Republic. This is an elite institution. Success is met with tangible and intangible rewards beyond your wildest dreams.”
“So long as you meet the indoctrination standards,” Jesse mumbled to himself.
“So,” Bristol continued. “let’s spend a few minutes ’ere describing the standards of this institution.” Bristol dimmed the lights and swiped the holographic image on the board. “Number one, represent Everton with dignity in and out of the classroom. Number two, maintain elite academic principles…”
“HA!” Jesse shouted, startling Bristol and his classmates. His cousin chuckled underneath his breath. An annoyed Bristol approached Jesse, eyeing him with virtual daggers.
“I know you’re our quarterback, Mr. Maith,” Mr. Bristol growled, “but that doesn’t give you the right to be a scramble-static, does it, then?”
“I’ll say yes when you teach the class the standard of using such a dumb term that became a paragon of popular culture!” Jesse retorted. More chuckles ensued.
“You know this is a classroom and not a chat show, eh?”
“Oh, really? Darn, I thought it was!”
“Very clever. Do you know why you’re ’ere, Mr. Maith?”
“Um, to get a piece of paper?”
“Wait a second, that’s technically what I’m here for, right?” Jesse leaned forward and studied Mr. Bristol’ hazel eyes intently.
“Yes, you are correct, Mr. Maith. But that was not the answer I was looking for.”
“Then what’s the answer?”
Bristol walked toward the window, then his eyes became bloodshot as he pointed his finger in Jesse’s face. Jesse did not flinch. “You’re ’ere because you’re damn lucky to be not only a pain in the arse but a damn smart rassie! And you know something…” Bristol began pacing around the classroom. “I consider it an honor to be an instructor at Everton. Oxford is bloody easy street compared to this place. Are you up to the challenge? You’d better be! Because if your attitude is dodgy, you will not survive! Failure is not tolerated!”
“I’m taking Neo-Libertarian Philosophy, Endgame Conflict class, and I guarantee you I will get an A in advanced calculus,” Jesse interrupted. “In Freshman year!”
“Oh, really?” Bristol replied. “We begin advanced learning about The Conflict on Remembrance Day!”
“Good!” Jesse squealed.
“I s’pose you’re already prepared for that, Mr. Maith?”
“My father died in the Conflict. I think I have some credibility to speak about it.”
“My deepest condolences.”
“And furthermore, what else can you teach us that we don’t already know or at least read about on the interlink?”
“Thank you, Mr. Maith…”
Jesse’s tone became impassioned. “And personally, I don’t think the Government has been forthcoming about the circumstances behind America’s surrender! The DRF has been hiding behind the truth for years!”
“That’s enough, Mr. Maith!”
“It’s time to stop denying it!” Jesse emerged from his chair and leapt to his feet. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is an indoctrination camp! Question everything! The DRF and Everton’s so-called academic agenda is going to blind you from the truth!”
“Mr. Maith, if you don’t cease your infernal rambling, I will see to it that you never set foot in this institution again, mate!”
“Fine! In fact, I’ll leave now!”
“Out of my classroom!”
Jesse indignantly grabbed his backpack and made a beeline toward the barrier, not making eye contact with anyone. “All your classes are revisionist history!” Jesse shouted while walking past Bristol. “It’s all designed to prevent you from violating The Third! Think about it!”
“Cheerio, Mr. Maith!” Bristol sarcastically muttered. Jesse swiped his keycard and exited into the hallway. Awkwardness hung over a silent room 3003. Bristol slumped his head downward and shook it in disgust, and the students looked back and forth at each other, not knowing whether to laugh or remain silent.
Finally, Matt remarked after many seconds of silence: “that was the greatest introduction to any school, anytime, anywhere!”