“I’m telling you —” the girl was telling the boy who wasn’t listening.
“No, Marsha, let me finish.”
“Mark! It’s the stupidest thing ever!”
“It is not,” Mark insisted. “Jupiter Force #27 has all of the answers to the whole thing.”
“And it’s the only one in the whole series you don’t have.”
“I had it. I had the complete run. Now it’s missing. Doesn’t that tell you anything?”
“It tells me the last time you read it, either you didn’t file it back in your collection or you misfiled it,” Marsha said.
At first they didn’t notice the man in the raincoat watching them from across the street.
“All I know is that when I woke up this morning the sky was kind of purple, and then those orange streaks crossed over the city just like the K-Men in Jupiter Force #26,” Mark said. “And then —”
“Right, then there was the big announcement that everyone had to stay indoors,” Marsha said.
“— just like in Jupiter Force #26!”
“Mark, I read the stupid comic book, OK? I see what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Then why are you fighting me on this?”
“Just because Jupiter Force #26 has a plot similar to what’s going on, it doesn’t mean that what happens in #27 would happen in real life!”
“But it might,” Mark said. “And I called Cal. His copy of #27 is missing, too. Cal NEVER misfiles his comics.”
“We Googled ‘Jupiter Force #27,’” he said. “It’s nowhere on the internet. No images of the cover, none for sale on eBay, not even some blog dissecting all the nuances. It’s just gone, as if someone erased it and all mention of it from existence.”
“All the print copies, too? How does that happen?” Marsha cried.
“I don’t know, I’m just telling you. It —”
“Excuse me, please,” came a third voice. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.”
“I’m sorry, we’ll be quieter,” Mark began.
“No, you don’t understand.” It was the man in the raincoat, who had crossed the street and held his hands up to assure them. “I think you may be on to something.”
“Did we ask you for your two cents?” Marsha said.
The man reached for his pockets. “I don’t think I’m carrying any cash, but —”
“No, I mean leave us alone, buddy, we don’t need you help.”
“I am from Jupiter Force,” the man said.
That caught their attention.
“I knew it was real!” Mark said.
“Oh please, are you kidding?” Masha said.
“We mustn’t talk here, out in the open,” said the strange man. “Follow me.”
“Wait. Why should we follow you?” Mark said.
“You’re not actually thinking of following him?!” Marsha said.
“I have a copy of Jupiter Force #27,” the man said.
“Yes, I am,” Mark told Marsha.