“So, it’s good, right?”
When the video ended, Andy tilted the lid of his laptop partially closed, popped his ear buds out and focused his attention on a grinning, Joe.
Joe was Andy’s best informant. He never delivered anything but pure gold and his videos were in high definition with high bitrate sound. This combination made them all the more valuable.
Of course “Joe” wasn’t Joe’s real name. To him and everyone in the network Andy was “Nate” and Nate was the father, mother, and moderator of the SuperHub. It collected and stored video, photos, audio recordings and text data on super humans spotted around the city from his five informants. Those informants had their own networks of people who “Nate never meets because his five primaries were enough to trust these meetings to without suspicions being raised.” It was the law as far as SuperHub was concerned, and anyone who wanted to be involved knew that that was the price of admission.
“It’s fucking brilliant Joe. It’s…” Andy struggled for the word, “…beautiful,” he concluded.
Joe’s grin couldn’t have gotten any wider, and Andy opened the screen to play the video again, a single ear bud adorning his ear.
The view was from a high angle, possibly shot from a tenement fire escape with a telephoto lens. A teenage superhuman was phasing through the glass window of a jewelry store. The camera zoomed in on his hand as it slid through the glass like it wasn’t there. Zooming out, Joe’s video showed that there were people around him spitting “holy shit” and “no way” and they also filmed what looked like a Dynamo stunt.
Just as the kid’s hand was about to clasp around a necklace, he turned around to wink at his audience, and his face contorted in pain while he screeched at the top of his lungs. He stumbled backward and fell, a fountain of blood erupting from his sliced stump.
Andy admired Joe’s quickened breathing as he zoomed in on the severed hand that lay in a pool of blood inside the glass, and then on the teen that twitched in agony as he clasped his arm.
The last image on the video was of police officers coming around the corner, and an askew view of a metal fire escape as Joe switched off the camera.
“He couldn’t do it without looking at the process,” Joe whispered. “Like he had to concentrate on that, and only on that, but he got cocky.” Joe tilted his head to the side. “And it cost him.”
Andy pulled a green flash drive from his laptop port and dropped it in his inner jacket pocket. “What happened to him?” he asked.
Joe grimaced, his eyes losing his trademark sparkle as if the rest of the story was such a bore.
“Cops took him to the hospital. They spent an hour photographing the…” he held up his fingers for an air quote, “…scene.” He got serious for a moment. “They managed to save his life, but he couldn’t explain how a chunk of his arm ended up on the other side of the glass. He’ll probably get three to five months in juvy for his little stunt.”
“What a shame.”
The café door opened, and three people walked in. They directed themselves toward Andy’s table and took the empty chairs. Someone was missing…
“Where’s Donovan?” Andy asked.
Maya, an athletic brunette with devilish black eyes who Andy fantasized about from time to time answered first. “He’s sick or something. Sorry, Nate. He passed his drive along to me, though.” She refused to meet Andy’s glare.
Andy clenched his jaw. “You know what we talked about. We need to be careful. Someone else finds these USB drives, and we’re all in deep shit.”
“Yeah, says the guy who makes these meetings in a fucking crowded Polish café,” Lester quipped.
Andy turned to Lester. He didn’t like “Lester” very much, not because he looked like a thug, but because he complained about “Nate’s” leadership consistently. They’d all seen some weird stuff, but no one had ever captured the level of evidence Andy had at the Seventh Street King’s warehouse. Andy was glad his camera had backed up to the cloud before he destroyed his camera in a low moment of fear.
Maya had answered Lester’s challenge before Andy finished processing the insult. “No one here listens. Barely any of the customers speak much English as it is. To them, we’re a bunch of students having coffee.”
“That’s true,” Mickey conceded, nodding.
Lester rolled his eyes and covered his mouth with mock surprise. “Mickey finally says something!”
“Leave him be, Lester!” Maya hissed across the table.
Mickey took his red flash drive out of his pocket and slid it across the table to Andy. He pulled on his woolen hat – a nervous tick Andy had seen many times before.
Lester sighed and took out his black drive. Maya produced a pink one and a yellow one.
Andy collected them and hid them in his inner pocket with Joe’s flash drive. He pulled out four pieces of paper and gave each of them one.
“That’s the new pass for the SuperHub for this week. Be sure to burn the paper or whatever when you’re done with it.” He met Maya’s questioning eyes. “Make sure Donovan knows, but for God’s sake, be discreet.”
Maya nodded solemnly.
“I’ll contact you in the Hub once I’m done with your videos. Keep looking, keep searching. Keep documenting.”
The four nodded as they always did and Andy put his laptop in his backpack, took a shot from his coffee and walked out of the café.