3

Brenda disappeared into the screening trees that lined Mill Street. “Okay,” Benny said. “Let’s go.” He carefully crushed his cigarette in the makeshift ashtray, then lifted the shopping bag out of the bike’s wire carrier. Inside the bag was the old-fashioned yellow Geiger counter, which had gone from Barbie to Rusty to Julia… and finally to Joe and his posse.

Joe took the juice lid and crushed out his own smoke, thinking he would like to try again when he had more time to concentrate on the experience. On the other hand, it might be better not to. He was addicted to computers, the graphic novels of Brian K. Vaughan, and skateboarding. Maybe that was enough monkeys for one back.

“People are gonna come by,” he said to Benny and Norrie. “Probably lots of people, once they get tired of playing in the supermarket. We’ll just have to hope they don’t pay any attention to us.”

In his mind he heard Miz Shumway telling his mom how important this could be to the town. She didn’t have to tell him ; he probably understood it better than they did.

“But if any cops come by…” Norrie said.

Joe nodded. “Back into the bag it goes. And out comes the Frisbee.”

“You really think there’s some kind of alien generator buried under the town common?” Benny asked.

“I said there might be,” Joe replied, more sharply than he had intended. “Anything’s possible.”

In truth, Joe thought it more than possible; he thought it likely. If the Dome wasn’t supernatural in origin, then it was a force field. A force field had to be generated. It looked like a QED situation to him, but he didn’t want to get their hopes up too high. Or his own, for that matter.

“Let’s start looking,” Norrie said. She ducked under the sagging yellow police tape. “I just hope you two prayed enough.”

Joe didn’t believe in praying for things he could do for himself, but he had sent up a brief one on a different subject: that if they found the generator, Norrie Calvert would give him another kiss. A nice long one.

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