“So Stef’s gonna be okay,” Johnny told the others, eating a late lunch at a large round table in the Laurel Room. “He and Palmer are moving into #107 so he can get out and around. Palmer and Tim are hunting up a chair for Stef right now; Rita gave them some med supply places to check out. When they get back, we’ll roll Stef into #107 and he can start healing.”
“I guess if there was one piece of technology that still worked, I’d want it to be cellphones,” Rita said, sitting close by Johnny. “I know it’s necessary to make these trips, for sanity’s sake if nothing else, but if both of them had been seriously injured —” She shook her head.
“What about radios?” Cody asked around a mouthful of sandwich (peanut butter and jelly in one of Sally’s rolls). “My dad had a CB rig in his car, mostly to listen to the truckers tell everyone where the cops were.” He grinned at Cleve, who snorted. “He bought an antenna to have one in the house, but the H-O-Assholes wouldn’t let him put it up.”
“Prrrroperty values über alles, mein Herr! Ja wohl!” Johnny gave a Nazi salute, sandwich still in hand. Cody snickered; the others rolled their eyes. “Y’know, now that you bring up the CB, I had an uncle who was into ham radio. He could talk just about anywhere with that setup. Maybe we should look into getting some of those. I remember him saying you had to have a couple different kinds, depending on whether you wanted to talk across town or across the ocean. Maybe we could get in touch with anyone still out there while we’re talking to ourselves.”
“Sounds good — so who’s gonna Google the Yellow Pages?” Kelly grinned. The others laughed; that was a running joke since the first day everyone came together. “Maybe there’s a store or two that sold radio stuff around here.”
“Wonderful,” Sondra said, but with a smile. “More stuff to charge in the evenings. Speaking of which, how are the solar panels doing?”
“Plenty of capacity,” Cody said. “Even with everyone’s stuff charging, it’s still charging the battery until 5:30 or so on sunny days. Then we’re turning on lights anyway. If we get some more panels, we could probably get by without the generators unless we get a bunch of overcast days in a row. Y’know, if we could get one panel for each of the occupied units, we could run some lights at night.”
“Figures,” Cleve laughed. “Tim and Palmer are out on an expedition now, and we’ll have two or three more for them before they get back!” The others laughed with him. “I guess we gotta get those radios though, we might not be so lucky next time.”
Nobody spoke for a long moment. “What I don’t understand,” Rita said, “is what happened to the bicycles. Ben showed me the video where Cody threw a crowbar through the truck out by the gate. If Stef was already off the bike, and he’d have been likely killed otherwise, shouldn’t the truck have simply passed through it without damaging it?”
Sondra nudged Cody. “Um,” he said, “I might have an idea about that. We can check it out after we finish eating.” He popped the last bit of sandwich in his mouth and chewed slowly.
“Well, what are we sitting around here for?” Kelly glared at Cody. “You had this idea, and you weren’t going to share it?”
“Sure I was!” Cody growled around a mouthful of sandwich, crossing his arms and returning Kelly’s glare. “I don’t see why I’m always the one who has to think of these things — I was waiting to see if someone else would think about it.”
“Well, what is it?” Johnny laughed. “You gonna share now?”
“Sure,” Cody said. “I think I stashed the crowbar downstairs. If someone wants to get Ben to video this, we can be done in half an hour.”
Word got around, and once again everyone gathered at the gate. Cody grinned at Charles and took a stance much like his “lecture” stance, with the crowbar behind his back. “Awright, let’s review what we know,” he said, then pointed at the truck with the crowbar. “Shush, you, I’m lecturing here.
“So we know if you touch a truck —” he stepped over and gave it a gentle kick — “or touch it with something —” he rapped the hood with the crowbar — “it’s solid. It’s there. But —” he tossed the crowbar onto the hood and watched it drop through — “if you throw something at it, it goes right through.” He reached underneath the truck and retrieved the crowbar.
“Hey,” Johnny said. “I just thought of something. If we got some ropes with hooks on ’em, do you think we could pull this sonufabitch off the property and roll it into the street?”
“Good question,” Cody said, “but not ger— uh, not relevant to our experiment today. Ben? Zoom in on the front of the truck, just get everything between the wheels in the frame.” Ben fiddled with a rocker switch and nodded; Cody gave him a thumbs-up and turned the pointed end of the crowbar to the pavement, leaning on it like a cane in front of the truck. “Okay, Stef was off his bike, and the truck smashed it anyway. So we’ve thrown things at the truck, but we never leaned anything against it.” He propped the crowbar against the grill of the truck and let it go —
And it stayed in place, leaning against the truck. The others murmured as if Cody had pulled off a spectacular magic trick. Cody himself watched it suspiciously for a moment, then took up the crowbar.
“The truck is solid to other objects if they’re touching a living being — or if they’re touching the ground,” he said. “Y’know, if they ever decide to make trouble for us…”
“Yeah, well maybe we should make some trouble for them,” Johnny said. “And you ain’t the only one around here with ideas.”
Cody grinned. “About time! What’s the plan?”