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“Nice–Department J–is that for Department ‘Jacob’?” KJ asked just after we got back to Nowhere House. I shrugged and replied “No, man! It’s Department ‘Jill’!”
“What’s this now?” Jill asked.
“Nothing. If anyone asks, we’re called Department J.”
“Doesn’t that make it sound like we’re affiliated with Department M?” Dot asked.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said.
“I was thinking we’d call ourselves the Wise Agency,” Dot said. I smiled and suggested: “How about the Dot Department?”
“Oh, hey! I like that one, kid!”
“Alright, so what did you accomplish?” Jill asked sounding like she was ready for bad news.
“We connected. We exchanged information. We seem to be on the same page,” I said.
“That’s great but what did you l-l-learn?”
I had to resist the urge to play the little brother and mock her stutter. I’m a grown up and am perfectly capable of resisting childish urges.
“We learned a bit. I kept expectations low because she’d just seen a friend die and really it was about making contact.”
“But what did you l-learn?” She was just speaking pretty forceful at this point but she wasn’t quite yelling. KJ jumped in. “We learned that the Double-Oes are just like you and me, apparently. At least that’s according to Ms. Manchester.”
“Mizzz M-M-Manchester,” Jill said to herself without really sounding like she was making a judgement call on the “ms.” part, she was just repeating it. KJ continued. “Yeah, seems they have families just like us and Tedesko was practically a local. He lived in NYC for ten years and had become a real pillar of the community.”
“According to Mizz Manchester,” Jill said, staring off into space. “Go on.”
“Well, it wasn’t all friendship and flowers,” I said. “We also learned that Tedesko overseeing infrastructure–water supply, power grid–that kinda stuff.”
“Oh, well, that’s just g-g-great. So glad he goes home to his own dimension so much! That way he doesn’t have to remember all that intel he’s bringing back. Wow–if I had kn-kn-known that when I was staking him out, I’d have just grabbed him then–or worse.”
Kate spoke up next, “Yeah, but Manchester said she didn’t think he was spying for the Double-Oes. She seemed to think Teddy Ted was a pretty upright citizen and wouldn’t ever do such a thing.”
“What do you think, K-K-Kate?”
“About Tedesko? I have no idea–I really don’t have enough data to conclude anything. You know what I’m saying?”
“What about Manchester.”
“Manchester? She seemed cool enough. Flustered, but that was understandable. I’d say she was probably telling the truth. There was a hesitation there, but that mighta been just about her not knowing or trusting us.”
I spoke next. “The other stuff we learned was that there are two factions factions of Conva and the one that wants an all out invasion is why the human negotiating team was put together. They feel like they can find a peaceful way forward.”
“In the meantime, it’s like another Cold War and whatnot,” Kate said.
“Which is better than a hot war,” KJ said.
“Only if it stays cold, you know?” Kate said,
“True,” KJ said nodding.
“Did she say why the “Invasion-Oes” w-w-wanted to inv-v-vade?”
“She didn’t,” I said.
“I thought about asking her but decided to wait until our next contact,” KJ said.
“F-f-fair enough. I guess it’s time to see what we can find out.”
“As in?” I asked.
“As in, maybe you need to reach out to Uncle Julio and see what he has to say about things since you last saw him.”
“This assumes he’s alive,” KJ said. The thought of him not being, made my stomach a little queazy. He wasn’t perfect, but he helped raise us for a couple years there.
“Yes and more data on floor is helpful,” Dr. Green said.
“On the ground, you mean?” Jim was correcting again.
“Yes, sorry. On the ground. In the other place land space.”
“Dimension,” Jim said.
“Jim, please stop correcting her, it’s really annoying,” Kate said.
“I’m helping her learn,” Jim said matter of factly.
“You’re A.I.splaining! Cut it out!”
“A.I.–what?” He was flummoxed.
“It’s like mansplaining, only even more obnoxious,” KJ said. “I try my best to always apologize when I find myself mansplaining.”
“Mansplaining,” Jim said like he was hearing the word for the first time. Then his eyebrows went up. “Oh! Holy night! I’m so sorry! Presumptuous, rude, impolite, negging, gross.”
“Holy night?” KJ repeated smiling. “I didn’t know you were so G-rated, Jim!”
“So, what Dr. Green is suggesting, Jill,” I began, “it may be time for a reconnaissance mission to the Fire Escape Dimension?”
“Oh, sweet, that sounds so COOL!” KJ said. “PLEASE say yes!”
“WHOO!!” KJ said, throwing his fists in the air.
“Datas on all the things in the dimension would be help. Air, food, gravity strong, those things.”
“But first talk to Uncle Julio,” Jill said.
“Oh, man–just the sound of it is so cool! A Reconnaissance Mission to the Fire Escape Dimension!! So COOL!”