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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?”
“He knows enough!”
“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?” I said.
“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.’