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“Yeah, pretty boring name if you ask me,” KJ said.
“Not to mention it really puts the racism out in the open,” Kate said, adding: “We put ‘other’ right in their name.”
Julio shrugged. “I don’t know—you’ve seen them. Don’t they seem pretty OTHER to you?”
“Please, this is bad,” Green suddenly spoke. “Sorry my Earth speaking is still not good, but the Galak-Ga are a space nation of many different people. We know this hate but we over come it. We must. Peace and unity command it.”
“Your English is really getting there, Doc,” I said.
“Based on my analysis, however,” Jim began, “I believe she means the Galak-Ga are a confederation of many alien nations, many peoples.”
“Jim, we got that,” I said.
“Jim, what did I t-tell you about c-c-correcting her? Please stop it!”
“I was just trying to help her.”
“Help her when we are not in a meeting. Julio, please continue.”
“To Kate’s point, we can call them Conva. I work with some people who are racist. I’ll admit it.”
“Call them whatever you want. I am just trying to understand what is going on with them now.”
“The War Conva, as some of us have come to think of them, are the problem. M has been gunning for them since probably before they were even a thing. The Peace Conva, they obviously want to peacefully—”
“Whoa—hang on hang on,” KJ said, “Is this some shady false flag deal or something where we create our own enemy?”
“Word—and who’s this M guy?”
Green spoke next: “If there is a Peace Conva, then why not they control War Conva to not be war type?”
“Yeah, yeah and yes, all good questions. I don’t know exactly what a ‘false flag’ is but maybe the War Conva were inspired by our concerns. Like, maybe they thought if we were suspicious of them, they thought they should be suspicious of us.”
“Because we’re the type to be suspicious,” KJ said.
“And this ‘M guy’ isn’t a guy, it’s a department. Department M is this department that seems to specialize in advanced tech. But not just exo-tech. Insanely advanced stuff from here on Earth.”
“What do you mean? Like the iPhone 15 or something?” Kate said, on the edge of her seat.
“No, stuff waaay beyond that. Stuff I’d swear was exo based on what it could do but not by the parts. The parts looked like stuff from Earth. Guys, I can’t tell you how nice it feels to speak all this stuff out loud.”
“You been playing the game for a long time, huh?” Jill asked sounding a bit cynical. Julio smiled weakly and nodded. Jill smiled and made a pushing motion with her hands. “Well, keep going!”
“OK! So, Department M is like a DARPA only more secret.”
“DARPA!” Dot said out of the blue. Julio eyed her suspiciously and continued speaking.
“Yeah, those guys. Only M is more locked down. Serious dark agency stuff.”
“Word. So wait–you said M was out to see the Conva as War Conva before they were War Conva? So you mean, like, the whole department was seeing them as bad guys from the start?”
“Yeah, it seems that way. I came in late so I’m going off of what I was told. The point is, I think the Peace Conva can win, but the War Conva are pretty focused. The rumor is that they are planning an invasion.”
“So, we’re beyond the whole ‘rattling saber’ stage,” KJ said.
“That’s the rumor. I can’t get a straight answer as to whether it’s actually happening or not. I’m just in FFD, Front Facing Development.”
“That was one of my q-q-questions when I still worked there–what’s back facing?”
“But you’ve interacted with the Conva yourself, haven’t you? How did you deal with them when you got us out of the network hub?” I asked. Julio just stared at me. He clearly had no idea what I was talking about. “The hub? I have interacted with the Conva before. That’s the other thing that makes me feel a little hope that we can have peace between our people and maybe avoid this cold war getting hot.”
“I’m about tired of that metaphor,” Dot said.
“So, it sounds like we need to gather more facts before we move on,” Jill said.
“Wait–you didn’t answer,” Green said.
“I’m sorry, what was your question?”
“Why can’t Peace Conva control War Conva?”
“That question is a good one, Dr. Green. Simply put, war mongers are always the loudest–the most dramatic, I think.”
“I know these types. Back home. Fear is a tool to them,” Green said.
“Yes,” Julio said. “But if the other rumor I’ve heard is true, that there is an ecological disaster in their dimension that threatens them all, then the fear is probably one hundred percent warranted.”
“It’s true,” I said. “One hundred percent.”
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Julio paused for a long moment suddenly and turned to Jill. “You know what though, Jill, you’ll have to tell him some time.”
“He already knows. I t-t-told him.”
“Oh yeah? You told him the whole story?”
“Guys, I’m standing right here.”
Kate nodded. “Why you guys gotta leave him out like that? Just ask him what he thinks!”
“Julio, would you p-p-please get to the part where you got recruited?!?”
“Damn. She just blew me off. I’m sorry Jake, I tried.” I shrugged as Julio continued. “I’m just going to say it—Little Jacob got mixed up with some exo-technology that changed him and made him be not-so-little sometimes and not so nice sometimes, as well.”
He gave me a sympathetic look and added: “just being honest, little man. I wish all that never happened. I’ll tell you all about it sometime if your sister still won’t.”
“I look forward to it,” I said.
“Anyway, so the massacre that Jake did was terrible on many levels. The very least of which was that I didn’t want what happened to bring too much attention to the business, The Trade, or us. You guys are my family.” He made fists and then brought them close to his chest. “So, I shut everything down and got outta town.”
“And so did we,” Jill said.
“Which was for the best. If you had stayed in the city, in The Trade, you’d never had gotten the scholarship, gone to college, got proper training and become who you are today.”
“No, that’s t-t-true. I’d be someone different but ‘different’ doesn’t always mean ‘bad.’”
“Fair enough. Fair enough. But about two years later I was contacted by some people from Department M who said they needed me to consult with them. They promised me good money and flew me to an undisclosed location to learn more. Needless to say, it was not what I expected. I figured it would be something about connecting them up with a supplier or helping them jiggle a cable on some positronic oscillator because they couldn’t get it to modulate an EM field properly.”
“But, on my first day I found myself inside a warehouse in an undisclosed location that looked like a Best Buy from outer space. It had stuff I recognized from when I was in The Trade and stuff I’d never seen before. Stuff that was so advanced I wondered if I was in over my head. Then I looked at these government guys, involved in a secret government department that nobody’s ever heard of and they were looking at me like I had all this experience with exo-tech and then I thought ‘maybe I can do this?’ You know?”
“But then you brought me in,” Jill said.
“Of course! You’ve always been smarter than me, Jill, you know that. The problem was that my handler inside Department M wouldn’t let me tell you everything. Hell, I was barely able to convince her to let me bring you in.”
I could tell he was about to get to the part where he caught up with me and we already knew that part. So, I spoke up. “What weren’t you telling her, though?”
Julio paused, looked up at the sky, and then spoke. “You guys already know there’s a cold war on, right. We call our enemies the Double-Oes, which is short for what the first to accept contact with them referred to the as: ‘Other Ones.’
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Julio tells the Story of the Strife (part one).
Indirectly, it all started back in the late nineties. Julio had been working at a chop shop (also known as, a place where stolen cars are sent to be disassembled and sold for parts). He had gotten to be trusted well by the guy running the place and was working late one Friday night when a man came into the shop demanding to talk to the boss. He tried to reach the boss, but it was a Friday night and not everybody had cell phones back in those days. Julio had to make a call, either try to cover this guy’s needs on his own or lose his boss a client.
He felt he was just a kid and was very unsure about what he was doing, but as he looked around at the other guys he was in charge of, who were looking at him like he knew what he was doing, he decided that maybe he did know what he was doing and told the customer to bring in his wheels and he’d take care of it, no questions asked. After all, the customer was demanding absolute discretion. He even demanded Julio take the whole car apart and load it into crates alone. He paid half up front and would get the other half at pick up. It wasn’t the normal way they did things, but he figured, the money was good and the boss would like that part.
So, in comes this amazingly hot looking black Lamborghini that had white accents all over it. The paint job was so glossy Julio swore he could see he needed a shave, his reflection was so clear in it.
At first, he did as the client requested and worked on it alone. However, as soon as he looked at the engine, he knew he was in over his head. What he saw was an engine that was pretty advanced. He could make sense of certain aspects, but not enough to get started with the process of taking it apart. He had no choice but to get the guy he trusted the most to come help him. Tomas agreed to keep it a secret, even from the boss. When Tomas looked at the engine he was honest, and said he’d seen nothing like it.
“How about you, Little Boss?” he asked Julio. Hey, I wonder if that’s why he started calling us “Little Jacob” and “Little Jill”? Anyway, Julio shook his head but said, “Sure, I’ve worked on Lamborghinis before–just older ones. This one must be brand new.”
Tomas thought it might be some sort of unreleased concept car because he’d never seen anything like it before. Regardless, working together, they stripped it bare and had everything ready in crates forty-eight hours later, right on schedule. The client was incredibly impressed. So much so, that he kept bringing work back to him. Eventually, he and Tomas figured out that these cars coming in weren’t advanced prototypes or unreleased concept cars but cars running technology for other worlds. That made it even more important to keep this all to ourselves.
Before too long, the boss demanded to be in on one of these jobs instead of being kept out of the makeshift tent they would set up so no one else who worked in the shop could see what he and Tomas were doing. And we were doing a lot. Julio managed to talk him out of it because the client was pretty clear with his instructions and besides–who cares so long as the money keeps coming in?
For a while, that line persuaded the boss. But Julio could tell he was getting iffy on it. He didn’t like something going on under his nose without knowing what it was. So, Julio made a deal with the client to give him some time off. He used that time to help the boss more around the shop, and to come up with a good cover story for why he wanted to leave the shop permanently. Just as the client started to get antsy to have Julio’s services back at his beck and call, Julio quit the chop shop and started working out of this parking garage. Actually, it was the parking garage they never let me see.
“What do you mean we never let you see it?” Julio asked me.
“Uh, it was a big deal to me–I wanted to help you guys with whatever you were doing there and you’d never let me!”
“Not how I remember it!” he said confidently.
“No, no, you’re misremembering, Julio,” Jill said. “We never let him in.”
Julio looked at her for a long moment, appearing pretty puzzled, himself. They he shrugged. “Well, I don’t know how to jump to the next important part of the story without including the part
“Just skip to the part where Department M enters the picture, damn it!” Jill said.
“For reasons Jill won’t let me go into, I quit the Trade, that’s what we called it–we weren’t alone, by the way. There were other exo-tech chop shops and we’d come up with terminology all our own. Regardless, I quit, closed my shop and my basement showroom and got out of the biz. Eventually, I was approached by someone.”
“Someone from Department M.”