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First Impressions

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When Mordecai Justice was a young boy, one of the general themes that his parents tried to instil in him was that first impressions are the essence of a lifetime worth of professional relationships. But to the young country boy in Las Venturas, that was a lesson for older people and the nerds who spent their starry nights studying rather than stargazing.

One day, that changed. The day he became a man. When Mordecai Justice was a teenager, his dream was to save the world.

Because people tended to laugh at those types of dreams, Mordecai slowly became accustomed to the ridicule that often accompanied his type of person.

He decided that the only way to prove his intentions was to be the absolute best. Mordecai had not been interested in studying or his grades in elementary school, but he decided to make up for that in middle school. He received the best grades, did every extracurricular activity that he possibly could, and was finally able to apply to the oldest and most prestigious high school in Liberty City.
His parents were adequately happy for him. His mother smiled and his father had even patted him on the shoulder. Perhaps in retrospect, it was less impressive the second time a son of theirs had gone down that path. His stupid older brother. His stupid jaded family. They all frustrated him to no end.

It had been like this ever since he had discovered <i>tikkun olam</i>, a phrase he had to say many times during prayer, but never understood. When he looked it up and translated it to basically “saving the world”, he knew that it was a sign. His purpose. Mordecai Justice lived by <i>tikkun olam</i>, holding on to the belief that his opportunity was going to come soon. His brother had laughed at him. Even his super traditional parents were unimpressed by his revelation.

But gaining his family’s respect was further down the line of his master plan. In an effort to stay on track, Mordecai spent his entire summer planning out his route to school. He wanted to take total advantage of every second he would quickly lose. The Justices lived in upper Algonquin and Liberty City High School was in the lower part of the borough. It was a two hour commute, but he was confident that he could make it work, just as- no, even better than- his jerk older brother had.

So he’d wake up at 5am and be on the city bus by 6am. He’d be there at school by 8am. Easy as cake.
And of course, on his first day as a freshman, he was running late.
His dear older brother had so casually let it slip to their very, very traditional parents that neither of them had plans to attend yet another cousin’s bar mitzvah. And that of course had led to a lecture on the importance of their Jewish heritage... or something. Mordecai really did try to pay attention (one of the Justice boys had to) but the ticking of his watch as the hour passed was steadily slamming into his ears.

<i>Late for the first day of my first year. Fantastic, Aba,</i> he thought, gritting his teeth as he hailed a taxi.

It had only been through a prayer and an extra $20 tip that Mordecai managed to get to Liberty City High School with only three minutes to spare. He straightened his red vest and headed to the Criminal Justice room at the end of the hall. It was his specialized area of study and his very first class. Normally, students would choose their special studies in their sophomore year, but it would be more than impressive if he had two special studies from such an esteemed high school. He had taken summer classes to speed up that process, opened some space on his schedule and made way for his second series of classes, which would be decided in the next year.

He was going to be the only freshman in this class of sophomores- bigger, older, and much more confident young adults who had already spent a year together. And even though they all wore the same uniform and were united as Liberty City Falcons, their alliances would still be with each other, not him. So the last thing he wanted was for them to just think that he was some kind of flake. It was going to be up to him to prove that he deserved to be there and that meant presenting a great first impression and that meant BEING ON TIME FOR THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS.

Mordecai slid into the room just as the bell rang- back row, second to last seat. One of the instructors had just begun speaking. “Welcome back to the Liberty City High School Criminal Justice programme. Be seated so that I may take roll and we may begin.”

Mordecai suppressed a silent sigh and squinted through his rose tinted glasses to focus on the teacher. He was tall, muscular and stern looking. Something about him caught the young student’s eye. Maybe it was the half glasses that sat on the bridge of his nose or the way his shiny black hair was slicked back with not a strand out of place.

“William Caleb...”

It could even have been the pronounced British accent...

“Kenai Huxtable...”

...but immediately, Mordecai recognized that he was one of those teachers didn’t take any crap.
<i>Perfect.</i>

“Mordecai Justice?”

“Here!” he called, shooting his hand up.

His notebook flipped off the table and onto the floor as people turned and looked at him. The teacher focused his sharp eyes on Mordecai for a second. “Why don’t I recognise that name?”

“I’m new, uh a ninth grader, I, uh... wasn’t here last year.”

“Ah. So if I’m correct, you are the lone freshman afloat in this sea of sophomores?”

“Um... yes.”

“Well... I am your instructor. Former Prosecutor Miles Finch. I will be teaching you about the United States court system and proper court etiquette this year. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Hi. I’m Mordecai. Mordecai Justice.” He took a deep breath before saying, “And I’m going to change the world.”

The titters that spread across the room were no big surprise to him. He had learned long ago not to let it bother him. But the teacher silenced them all with a glare.

“Justice...” he mused. “How appropriate. Continuing on...”

He went back to his class roster and Mordecai leaned back with a smile. <i>That went well,</i> he couldn’t help but think. <i>At the very least, he remembers my name.</i>

“Kinzie Norris...”

<i>And that means that the first phase of the first impression stage has been successful!</i>

“Shannen Elisabeth Stone...”

<i>So, as long as I can get through the rest of the day without getting on his bad side, we should be fine...</i>

“Mercutio Christopher Wright. Mercutio Christopher Wright!”

Mordecai looked up, noticing that Prosecutor Finch’s face was growing more and more annoyed as he said that name. <i>What kind of person is late on the first day of school?</i>

As if on cue, the door cracked open and everyone, Mordecai included, turned to face it. It quickly closed back. Someone pushed on it again, groaning at the effort and without thinking, Mordecai jumped up and pulled it open for whoever was on the other side.

It was a student, in black slacks that needed ironing and a red wrinkled Liberty City High School vest with a stained white shirt underneath. Aside from his atrocious uniform, the first thing Mordecai noticed about the kid was that long dirty blond hair. No. Not dirty blond; his hair was dark brown with awful straw yellow highlights. In this gritty city, Mordecai had seen a lot of questionable styles and tastes, but this was easily the worst hairstyle he’d ever seen.

That wasn’t the only sore thumb that stuck out on this kid. The reason he had been struggling with the door was because his right hand was in a cast. A dirty, signature strewn, brittle cast.

“Your first lesson, Young Justice. Always ask who is at a door before opening it. You never know what will be rotting on the other side,” Prosecutor Finch instructed dryly.

The kid turned to the teacher and smiled as he panted, “What’s up?”

“Mercutio Wright. I’d ask if your middle name was ‘Tardy’ but...”

“With all the respect I can spare for you, sire, I think you should know my name by now. It’s Christophe. Christophe. I don’t call you by the name you hate.”

“Mercutio, I simply aim to refer to you by the name the negotiating officers will be shouting when they close in on you in the not too far off future. It is, of course, my underlying duty to assure that you are quite prepared for your inevitable future.”

Mordecai caught himself before he stared up in disbelief. He couldn’t believe this teacher was talking to a student like this. It wasn’t right. But... <i>You’re still in the first impression zone. Not yet.</i> He did his best to reassure himself, to keep himself from getting involved. It was his first day; he didn’t know this kid, this teacher, or the situation at all, but...

As he opened his mouth, he knew that it was bound to happen. He couldn’t just sit aside and watch a teacher take advantage of his position and bully a student like this. “Excuse me sir, but he’s in a cast, I mean, it’s not like he did...” Mordecai trailed off as he realized that every student in the class had turned and was once again staring at him.

That was a bad sign. The look Finch was giving him was even worse.

“Justice,” he began slowly, “let me tell you something about Mercutio Wright. He is an unfortunate urchin, a plight upon my class. It is with much regret that I see him every day and it takes the entirety of my strength of mind to refrain from sending him out to beg for change, as he is dressed to do. I would advise you to mind your tongue. The last thing you want is to make these next three years more unpleasant than they have to be.”

<i>There goes my great first impression.</i> Mordecai closed his eyes and stifled a sigh. <i>I just had to open my big mouth...</i>

A strong silence hung in the air, but the kid didn’t seem too affected by it. “Well, that happened. So why don’t you make this a little easier on all of us and get this year started and over with, Miles.”

Mr. Finch tore his glare from Mordecai back to the late kid. “To be absolutely honest, Mercutio, I simply do not understand how you manage to be late and how you find it acceptable when-”

“Whatever,” he snapped, sitting in the very last seat of the very last row. Mr. Finch pursed his lips, and then turned to the whiteboard behind him. “Class, copy down these notes as I write them. We will have a short discussion, and then you will have an open note comprehension test. It is imperative that you pass this first test. Mr. Justice... if you are who I think you are I believe you will find it interesting to note that when your brother took this course, he performed exceptionally well. He still holds the record for the highest grade received on this test and for that matter, in this class. Good luck.”

Feeling the red crawl up his neck, Mordecai sat frozen. <i>And there it is. For as long as he knows me, he will never judge me based on my own merit. It will always be “your brother received a much higher grade” and “your brother did it like this”...Well... I guess that’s that. </i>

He sighed and withdrew a notebook from his backpack. <i>I better get through this as smoothly as possible... I wonder if it’s too late to switch to Health Pro,</i> he thought as he began copying.

However, before he even got one word down, he became distracted. By sounds coming from the kid.
He had taken out a pencil and started jamming it into whatever hole he could find between his cast and his pale skin. He made little grunting sounds whenever he ended up stabbing himself, growing into quiet swears.

Mordecai couldn’t believe it.

Getting into Liberty City High School was a feat in and of itself; getting into the Criminal Justice studies was nearly impossible. Mordecai had to go through interview after interview and write essay after essay just to get in. He had to sacrifice clubs and a few friends and a normal middle and high school experience just to get into this class. Mordecai devoted his all into getting into this school and being the best he could be.

Their instructor had just informed them that they had a test that day and here was this kid just blatantly disregarding all of that, on top of disrespecting the teacher (<i>A former prosecutor!</i> Mordecai’s mind kept screaming) just to scratch himself.

Mordecai dropped his pencil and simply stared at him in disbelief. It was all he could do.

At the sound of the dropped pencil, the kid looked up. Thankfully he was the only one who did. He focused his light blue eyes on Mordecai and suddenly smiled.

<i>Dude, this just keeps getting weirder.</i> But he went with it, smiled back, and whispered, “What happened to your arm?”

The kid smiled down at his cast and replied, “Actually, it’s just some of my fingers. I was out courting this chick, right, and I was so almost in there, but then I had to take her home for her curfew and I realise <i>s***</i>, I’m almost past my curfew. So now I’m doing like sixty, straight off the highway into my residential and I park in the neighbour’s driveway, don’t even realise it until I try to get in their garage and it hits me that we don’t have a garage. But I don’t have time to cut over so I just figure I’ll wake up early tomorrow, so I get out, I’m closing the door and remember that my phone’s still in the car so being the moron that I am, I reach back and the door slams my fingers right in there. But my curfew man! So I yank ‘em out and get home just in time. My brother sees my fingers bleeding and stuff so he takes me to the hospital. Didn’t even care that I was almost late. Heh heh... it’s still funny to me.”

He started chuckling to himself, but all Mordecai could do was stare in horror. Breaking his fingers in a car door to the point that they’re bleeding was most definitely not his idea of a funny story, but... <i>first impressions.</i>

“Wow,” was all he could manage to say.

“Yeah, I’m something of a klutz,” the kid mumbled, making circles on the table.

Perhaps it was his nonchalant tone, his lack of concern for something that would have freaked Mordecai out so much. Or maybe it was more of his defiance and simultaneous adherence to little gestures of respect or even that he dared to show up in public with that hair, in clothes that made him look so dishevelled that kept Mordecai’s interest, despite the horrendous first impression.

But whatever it was, Mordecai dropped his horror struck expression and smiled. This kid was exactly what he needed. “We’re going to be best friends.”

Now it was his new friend’s turn for shock. He laughed lightly and protested, “I don’t even know you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Mordecai insisted, brushing that off, “we’re going to be best friends.”

He was still stunned by this sudden acquisition, but a smile fought its way to his face. “Christophe Wright.”

Mordecai took a deep breath. <i>Still in first impression mode. Go for it.</i> “My name is Mordecai. Mordecai Justice. I’m going to change the world.” <i>Okay, go ahead. Go ahead and laugh.</i>

Christophe considered that for a second, then nodded and whispered, “Way cool. Rock on, bro.”

As silly as it sounds to him now, Mordecai knew then that they really were going to be best friends.

And that Christophe Wright was going to help him change the world.





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