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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
where Little Jacob–“
“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.”
“Some one?” Jill asked.
“Someone from Department M.”