Nines ushered the last of his mixed group of students inside the classroom before he closed the door. Turning to face them all, he grinned widely as he announced, “Today we shall be having a small oral examination of sorts!”
The class groaned, but when he eyed them with an air of warning and caution in his eyes, they calmed down significantly. “Come on, young lads,” he chuckled out, “the Lord chastises those who are lazy, and remember; idle hands are the Devil’s workshop!!”
Nodding, they all soaked up his words while dressed in their Tuesday morning bests. Not a single wrinkle or crease was upon their white dress shirts, and they’d buttoned up to their necks like good, obedient children. With absolute perfect love and trust emanating and welling within himself, Nines stood tall before his class.
Clasping his hands together tightly, he said, “I’m going to ask you all to place yourselves in a real-life scenario, and—”
The door suddenly flew open, and then slammed shut just as quickly. Heavy footsteps dragged along the floors until they stopped at a vacant desk close to where the young Mexican boy named Carlos was seated.
Nines sneered at Gavin Reed. “You’re late,” he spat, “my class begins at 7:30 in the morning sharp, Mr. Reed, will that be an issue for you?”
Reese, as well as some older boys closer to his own age snickered while Gavin was reprimanded. The young sixteen-year-old however merely sighed, and then yawned while stretching his hands upwards. Although he was wearing the required uniform, Nines noticed that he’d gone out of his way to ‘bastardize’ the style. He was wearing the black dress pants, but he’d hung his belt down low to hang like an accessory while hooking it onto his pocket by his right thigh, and upon closer inspection, Nines noticed that Gavin had even punched plenty of unnecessary holes in the belt. His dress shirt was unbuttoned halfway through, and he was wearing a black muscle top beneath it.
Shaking his head in disgust and disapproval at the display, Nines reached forward, and he tugged at the belt hanging loosely down by Gavin’s thighs. “This isn’t a part of our dress code and uniform, young man,” he warned, and then Gavin slapped his hand away.
Backing away from Nines, Gavin cried out aggressively, “Don’t touch my shit!”
Snarling, Nines wrapped a bundle of papers he swiped off his desk, and after rolling them up tightly in a cylinder shape, he used it to smack Gavin in the arm. “Don’t curse in a school of Christ!” he warned, LED light red with fury that matched his emotions, “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap otherwise, Mr. Reed!”
Gavin huffed, but otherwise brushed his hands on his ‘uniform’. Nines glared at him from head to toe, and then stepped up closer. With anger directed at Gavin, he growled coldly, “Before lunchtime begins, I expect you to wear the required uniform properly. Have I made myself clear, Mr. Reed?”
Wanting more of the ‘show’, the rest of the students stared over at Gavin, as if anticipating an angry burst of a response. Instead, Gavin merely clenched his jaw, tightened his fists into balls, and stood defiantly. After some heavy moments of silence, he ground out, “It’s my body; my clothes.”
Nines inched closer to him, head titled down. “I’m sorry?” he snickered, “I might’ve misheard you…would you kindly repeat that for me?”
The students all grinned evilly at Gavin, knowing he was in a tight and uncomfortable position. He would either have to continuously rebel, or break down. The social tension and pressure were impossible to miss. All eyes were on Gavin Reed, and even the old clock on the wall at the front of the classroom slowed down…
Finally, Gavin grumbled something to himself, and Nines stood tall as he spoke out loudly, “I think this is a very good lesson for us all, and we have Mr. Reed here to thank…” gripping Gavin’s shoulders tightly, Nines shoved Gavin roughly towards his desk. “Everything has a limit; everything has a proper balance in the world. Defiance can only go so far…” eyes shining with malice, he snickered as he held his head high, much like an eagle surveying the fields for a tiny mouse to devour. “Respect for one’s elders shall be rewarded by the Lord, class,” he sighed out in pleasure, “respect for thine own self is one of the commandments, as well as honoring the authors of thy being; thy father and thy mother!!”
While the class clapped, Nines watched as Gavin threw himself into his wooden chair behind his desk, and he lowered his head and rested it on his arms. It appeared as though he was going to try and sleep, and Nines wasn’t having any of it.
“Continuing on with our exam and activity,” he stated loudly while steadily approaching Gavin’s desk, “we know in history that Tiberius, the second Roman emperor, forbade Judaism in Rome, and Claudius expelled them from the city. Jewish Persecution of Christians ran abundant as well...” pausing beside Gavin, he tapped the back of his head, and a weary eye peeked up at him.
Nines glared, and he saw the messy lengths of Gavin’s hair pouring down into his eyes, much like a curtain.
The sight of it made Nines sigh. “Cut your hair, for God’s sake,” he spat down with vitriol while Reese hid a devious smile behind a hand pressed against his mouth.
Moving on when Gavin snorted angrily, he carried the lesson onward. Eyeing Mackenzie whispering something to Travis and Greg, Nines extended a leg, and he kicked it lightly-much like a tap-on the desk legs. The teenagers snapped out of their conversation, blushing furiously.
Nines scowled at them, “The great conflict between the Church and the Synagogue and the gradual breakdown of the immense bureaucracy of the Roman imperial government both occurred during the fourth Christian century. This breakdown and the ever-growing influence of the ecclesiastical authority on the central government is visible in the Roman legislation of the century which dealt with the actual rights and privileges of the Jewish community. The Theodosian Code, a compilation of the mid-fifth century, does not contain all the legislation previously passed, but it probably contains all that was ever enforced or not withdrawn before 438. The Theodosian Code gives accurate dates and place locations from which laws and rescripts were promulgated; from these it is possible to reconstruct the progressive decline in privileges and security suffered by the Jews in the Roman Empire from 321 to 438.”
When he’d completed the memorized part of his text, he looked up beyond the classroom door’s glass insert, and he saw Brother Simon walking down the hall outside leisurely while on his break along with Brother Ralph. The androids stopped for a moment, waving and nodding their heads politely at Nines.
Nodding back, Nines then turned his first ‘quiz’ question to the class. He made an extra effort to ignore the gentle snores coming from Gavin’s desk, but Reese kicked the back of his chair. Gavin didn’t even stir, however.
Pointing down at his favorite student, Nines smiled, “Would you care to tell the class what the Theodosian Code teaches us, Reese?”
Beaming as though he’d been waiting all morning for the opportunity to show off what he knew, Rees stood up like a strong, bold solider. “The Theodosian Code shows us that those immunities which had been granted to the Jews by the pagan emperors, which had made them a privileged class dwelling within the Roman world, were continued by the Christian emperors!”
Nines clapped, “Excellent! We know that at the opening of the fourth century, Jews were classed as Roman citizens and enjoyed all the advantages of civic status. They were in every economic stratum of the empire; many were rich, many were poor,” he explained while standing in the center of the classroom and spinning in a slow, tiny circle so he could observe all his attentive students, “some were merchants, others artisans, and still others farmers. They had their own cult organizations called synagogues. If any Jew did not belong to such an organization, he had to pay the Roman government poll tax and sacrifice to the Roman gods.”
When he’d spun around full circle, Nines held his hands over his hips, and he merely shook his head while watching Gavin snore away. Reese made an attempt to kick his chair again, but Nines glared at him. Stopping dead in his tracks, Reese merely stared down into his desk, cheeks turning pink with shame.
Spinning back towards the front of the classroom, Nines drew his speech to an end. “Much of Christian hatred toward the Jews was based on the popular misconception-amazingly enough still prevalent-that the Jews had been the active persecutors of Christians for many centuries.” He stood before the blackboard, hands still on his hips. “All that being considered for further reflection at another time, we shall now proceed with our exam, class,” he announced loudly, and the students sat up to their full attention.
Placing a hand on his chest, Nines cried out, “I’m a Roman solider, and each and every one of you are dedicated Christians. I’ve caught you, however, as we’re living in Ancient Rome and there is a risk of you losing your lives simply for believing in a different God…”
The young twins Peter and Ronald gasped in fear, and a few other seven-year-olds mixed in with the class also trembled. Nines tried leaving all the other gory details out of it, but he knew that whatever he was going to say would be for their own good.
Rubbing a finger along the length of his throat in a horizontal motion, he yelled out, “Beheading!!”
A few of the younger ones did scream this time, and Gavin finally groaned as he held his head up slowly. He blinked hard a few times, stared at Nines, and then scoffed.
Ignoring him, Nines pressed on. “Beheading and decapitation was the norm simply for believing in and holding a difference of opinion, and now I ask each and every one of you, if you knew your life was almost at an end at the hands of the Roman soldiers, what would you do?”
A split-second worth of silence ebbed on before Reese bellowed out, “I would tell the Romans that I believe in Christ until the end and until I breathe my last breath!!”
Cheering for him, the entire class-including Nines-clapped and smiled from ear-to-ear.
“Well done, Reese!” Nines sighed out proudly, “having the love of Christ in your heart shall send you straight into his arms in heaven above!!” he then walked back to the blackboard, wrote the boy’s name on it, and placed a checkmark symbol beside his name. “You’ve passed the exam!!”
Grinning in pride, Reese sat back down and high-fived the other boys his own age around himself.
Nines looked through the rest of his class. Some of the students were almost leaping out of their seats with their arms stretched out. They were all so eager to answer, and he had no idea who to select first…
Randomly looking at Greg, Nines called upon him, and the boy answered, “I too would trust in Christ, and knowing I have his love and guidance, I will never tell the Romans I believe in any other God!!”
Again, rounds of applause went off in the room like firecrackers during a celebration.
Suddenly, before Nines could call upon Travis next, Gavin sat up and screamed angrily, “You guys are absolutely crazy for just being okay with having your heads chopped off just because ‘Jesus’ said so!”
Every jaw in the room fell open, and it got so quiet that one could hear a pin drop. The students all stared at Nines, next, and the android merely leaned against the edge of his desk while he eyed Gavin cautiously. “Mr. Reed,” he pressed out thinly and softly, “you seem to be of an entirely different opinion in this imaginary scenario, then?”
Snorting, Gavin scratched his long hair. “Well, yeah,” he shrugged, “I don’t want my head cut off, man!”
Reese fumed, “That’s why you’re going straight to purgatory, Reed!”
“I don’t care!” the boy argued back while throwing Reese a dull glare over his own shoulder, “if it’s gonna allow me to keep my head, I’m doin’ it.”
One of the seven-year-old boys who often woke up in the middle of the night from nightmares and terrors named Charlie gasped while his eyes almost were wet with tears, “B-but what about your soul??”
Gavin squinted at him, “My soul?”
“Yeah!” Charlie cried in response, “Brother Nines said that children who don’t believe in Jesus before they die will end up in limbo!”
Gavin sighed, “Oh for Christ’s sake…”
“Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain!” Reese warned him angrily, but Gavin ignored him.
Throwing his hands into the air, Gavin spun around in his seat, glaring away at everyone. “What’s wrong with you guys?” he cried out in confusion, eyes squinted at them all, “you seriously are prepared to die on the spot just because someone forces you to believe in their God?”
“What’s wrong with you, Reed?” Patrick snorted, waving a hand at Gavin, “you seriously want to abandon Christ so easily?”
Reese looked up at Nines as if begging him to stop the strange discussion going on, but Nines held up a hand. He wanted to let this continue. Usually, a discussion like this wouldn’t ever be permitted in Brother Simon’s class, Brother Josh’s, or even Brother Markus’ class. Nines didn’t even have the patience for the rebellion himself, but for some reason, he found himself growing curious about what Gavin’s motivation was for wanting to answer in the way he had…sure, he wouldn’t encourage anyone else to follow in Gavin’s footsteps, but there was something mysterious and…interesting about this young man…
Nines couldn’t stop himself from wanting to chase after the answers, and he moved over to stand behind the classroom’s lectern while he waited for Gavin to get ready to answer.
Sighing out loudly, Gavin sniffled next, and then rubbed his eyes. “Look,” he began as he directed his answer at the front of the room, “I don’t think there’s a single kid in here who would actually legit be okay with having their head cut off just because they—”
“I WOULD!” Reese screamed, and it made a few students leap up in their seats.
Gavin remained unaffected, however. “I don’t think so, dude,” he scoffed while staring at Reese for a brief moment, “not one dude in here would have me believe that when faced with the guillotine, you would all just grip your Rosary beads and say prayers and be all high and mighty!”
A few students whispered back and forth, and eventually, the room picked up in loud chatter. Majority of the death glares however went back and forth between Reese and Gavin.
Nines cleared his throat, and Gavin looked at the front of the room. Throwing the boy a half-nod, Nines seemed on the brink of explosion. His eyes twitched, his LED light was pure red, his nostrils flared, and his shoulders tightened into his body. “So you would deny Christ just like that, Mr. Reed?” he jeered judgmentally, shaking his head sadly.
Gavin winced, and then pushed out, “No, I mean, I’d just say that to the Romans so they wouldn’t cut off my damn head!” he then spoke to the rest of the class, “inside I would’ve believed in Christ, yeah, but why would I tell the Romans that?”
A few students suddenly seemed to agree with Gavin. They nodded slowly, whispering as they stared at him for many minutes. One by one, their hands went up, and a few boys cried out, “Can we change our answer, Brother Nines?”
Realizing what was happening, Nines began panicking internally.
Oh no…that wouldn’t do at all.
In less than twenty minutes, this Gavin Reed had turned his entire class into a mockery and a joke, and he wasn’t going to have it. A student questioning him??? A student that young trying to show he knew it all and had all the answers in life?? No…Gavin Reed had nothing in the way of experience and intelligence, nor had he truly lived in the world long enough to have experienced the jading Nines had…
Why even bother comparing?
Nines had seen the world; Nines knew how evil men truly could be. Gavin was nothing, and he was a nobody.
Shaking his head while pinching the bridge of his nose, Nines pushed out with a pained breath in his lungs, “You all are missing the point, but especially you, Mr. Reed,” he started as he then lowered his hands and placed them in his lap. “The Devil asked Christ to deny God’s existence as well, and the Devil is still working in mysterious ways as we speak; we need to know that there is life beyond death, and those who stay loyal to God will be rewarded in His heavenly kingdom, now and forever.”
The room grew quiet, and Nines seized the opportunity to zone in on Gavin alone as his lips formed his words effortlessly. “If our Lord Jesus-when He was in agony because of our sins- denied His loyalty to God, then where would we all be today?? Hmm?”
A few ‘ohs’, and ‘ahas’ went on in the room, and the light bulbs in his students’ minds turned on suddenly.
Nines nodded, “Yes, that is precisely why we should all focus on abandoning all attachments to the mortal and physical, material world here, and we need to instead bring ourselves to account in order for ourselves to do better each day, learn each day, grow our minds and spirits, and bring ourselves closer and closer to our Father’s heavenly kingdom.”
Not wanting to listen and accept this, Gavin merely sat back and scoffed.
Nines wasn’t put off by this, yet. Moving away from the lectern, he wanted to approach Gavin, but he still had a point to make. He then moved backwards until his back hit the blackboard. Grabbing a bit of chalk, he wrote Gavin’s name on the board, and beside it, instead of placing a checkmark, he crudely fashioned an ‘x’.
Glaring away at it, Gavin’s jaw fell, but Nines answered it all for him.
“You’ve failed, Mr. Reed,” Nines announced, dropping the chalk on top of his desk when he had no use for it anymore. He brushed his hands together, wiping the chalk dust off, and he offered Gavin nothing short of a cruel sneer.
Gavin merely shrugged apathetically, “I don’t give a fuck,” he spat out rudely.
Everyone let out a shocked gasp, and Nines’ brow furrowed in anger.
With fists tightly clenched, he steadily approached Gavin’s desk. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Reed?” he asked in a menacing tone normally reserved for the extra misbehaved students. It always worked on them, making them immediately cower in fear. But it had no affect on Gavin Reed whatsoever, sadly. The boy defiantly met Nines’ glare equally.
Not wanting to be made a fool of before everyone else, Nines pointed down at the classroom floor. “I feel the appropriate punishment for your foul language right now is at least thirty pushups, Mr. Reed.”
The rest of the class seemed to feel that was a good choice, and they waited for a reaction while they watched Gavin closely. Eventually, the boy got up, and he lazily swayed about in the isles of desks. He was deliberately taking his time, but when he got to the front of the classroom, he sarcastically saluted Nines.
Taken aback by the raw rudeness and attitude displayed unlike any he’d ever seen before, Nines huffed, “You should be grateful, Mr. Reed; anyone else in your position would’ve received much worse in the way of a punishment.”
“He should bow down before you, Brother Nines!” Reese suggested, and while the rest of the class exploded out in their suggestions, Gavin held up his hands. While Nines watched with wide eyes, Gavin got down, but rather than assuming the position of doing a push up, Gavin pursed his lips, and his face hovered by Nines’ black dress shoes.
Peeking up once at the android, Gavin grinned confidently, “Shall I kiss the feet you walk on then, your Majesty?”
Suddenly, right then and there in broad daylight in front of the entire class, Gavin inched forward, and he planted a kiss right on Nines’ shoes. The boy actually kissed his dress shoes. Nines blinked hard, but that didn’t change facts, not even when he rubbed his eyes.
Gavin Reed was still passionately kissing his shoes as if his life depended on it.
He even went so far as to even ‘French kiss’ the shoes. Sticking his tongue out, Gavin open mouth kissed the shoes, and he tongued the laces sensually. He gave his all into the kiss, and his cheeks turned deep pink while he unleashed a flurry of pecks and sweet licks up and down and then side to side along the shoes. Afterwards, he lowered his hips to the floor, and he moaned lustfully while rubbing his crotch all along the floors.
At once, all the students-except Reese-burst out in boisterous laughter. They truly were enjoying themselves, and they began egging Gavin on while they shouted out for him to keep going, to do other funny things, and just continue to make them all laugh. The classroom turned into a menagerie of zoo-like beasts, practically, and the levels of noise were just too much for Nines to handle.
Gavin leapt back up to his feet pumping a fist into the air. “Booya!” he cried out in zeal, “what’d ya think of that, Nines?”
As everyone laughed harder and louder, Nines felt the last bits of his control leaving. Watching as the entire class laughed while pointing at him as though he were a part of a freak show circus, Nines felt something inside himself snap. His LED light flashed multiple colors, and he cocked his head down at Gavin while the boy smirked up at him.
Enough was enough.
Seeing red shades behind his eyes, Nines lashed out, and he gripped Gavin’s shirt collar tightly in a strong hand. The boy tried backing away, but Nines didn’t let him. Dragging Gavin roughly towards the classroom door, Nines pushed out the rounds of laughter still echoing in his audio receptors. It was a lot quieter in the halls, and he was more than pleased to kick his classroom door shut on all the other noises emanating out of the students.
“Where are you taking me??” Gavin cried out in a panicked voice.
Nines was seething, but he thought of the exact place he was heading into with Gavin. The boy could struggle all he wanted, but Nines wasn’t letting him go anytime soon, not until they finished what they’d started.
What they’d started of course was a game and rivalry of wits and nerves, and Nines wanted to win it. There was no way he was going to lose to a silly, bratty child. Not after he’d worked so hard for everything in his life up until this very point.
No, Nines wasn’t a quitter, nor was he a failure.
He was going to win this time.