The photographer said, “Not happening. I took those pictures. They’re mine. End of story.”
He pulled his camera with one hand, and held his left a little away from his body as if he intended to block with it. It didn’t look like he’d had any kind of martial arts training. The way he held his arm, it would come up too slowly.
Hunter asked me, “Isn’t there some kind of law against taking pictures of people like us?”
I glanced over at Haley, and she shrugged.
Turning away from her, I said, “I don’t know. I think there might be some kind of law that allows people to seek damages if a photo of an unmasked person results in someone getting killed, but I’m not sure. I think photos might be a freedom of speech thing.”
Gifford looked at me and then at Keon. “Can’t either of you do something?”
We both said, “No,” simultaneously.
And what could we have done? I might have been able to cause an EMP and take out most of the cell phones and computers in the building. It would have been a solution, but not a smart one.
The bouncers each took one of the photographer’s arms, and escorted him out.
He tried to talk to them. I couldn’t hear his words over the noise of the club, but the bouncers kept on walking, and neither let go.
Gifford exhaled, slumping a little as he stood on the dance floor. “This is fucked. He’s got our faces.”
I shook my head. “It’ll probably be fine. My understanding is that most publications simply don’t print superhero identities unless the person’s been convicted of a crime. Aside from which, they handed out photo blurring dust, so assuming we all used it, we’re all okay. Besides, you don’t have a secret identity, right?”
Gifford shook his head.
“Um… What do you mean? Are you saying that you don’t have a public identity or that you didn’t put the dust on?”
His mouth moved, but I didn’t understand his reply. He must have realized that because he tried again, this time making his voice heard over the music. “Both.”
Keon blinked. “Are you kidding me? That was not smart.”
Camille’s jaw dropped. “Oh… That’s awful.”
Next to me, Haley said, “That explains why his heart has been beating so quickly.”
Courtney didn’t say anything, looking in the direction that the bouncers had taken the man.
Hunter spoke after a moment. “No. Don’t worry about it. I’ve got this.”
Then he broke out into a grin. “My mom showed me how to handle this once. I didn’t think I’d ever have to use it.”
Courtney raised an eyebrow. “How did you handle it?”
Hunter looked around, and I followed his eyes. No one stood near us. The dancers were further away from us on the floor.
Coming to the same conclusion I had, Hunter said, “You probably guessed I’ve got the same power as my mom. Well, we can’t do much with small particles, but once our creatures are big enough, we can do a lot with them. I grew a couple guys before we went into the club in case something happened. On the photographer’s way out, one of them bumped into him. Then he extended little tentacles into the camera, and damaged the memory cards.”
Gifford laughed. “That is awesome. You just saved our asses.”
Hunter shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I brought people here.I figure I’ve got to handle it.”
“Still,” Gifford said, “that doesn’t change what you’ve done. It just keeps it awesome.”
Adam broke into the conversation. “I hate to be a party pooper but if we want to talk about this any more, we need to talk about it somewhere safer.”
“A good point,” I said.
It was. Anybody could show up at the club at any time.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement, and turned to find that Keith and Zoey had left the dance floor, and joined the group.
Keith tapped me on the shoulder. “I saw the guy with the bouncers. What’s going on?”
* * *
Later that night, I drove the van back to Castle Rock. It wasn’t a bad drive. Construction had closed for the day, and there wasn’t much traffic. I liked driving at night in any case.
With all the other cars reduced to headlights, and the landscape little more than darkness, it felt a little like flying.
Of course, with all of us sitting there and nothing to do but look out the window, it was inevitable that we’d talk over the night.
Camille had swapped seats with Courtney for the ride back. Her voice came from the distant far end of the van. “Hey Haley, is this what it’s always been like for you? Green rooms and paparazzi?”
Haley twisted around in her chair. “No. The only time we got into costume was to fight, and if we were somehow in costume without fighting, it was because we were still inside the Heroes League’s base, and you know what that’s like.”
“I don’t,” Keon said. “What is that like?”
Camille giggled. “Not a green room. It’s more like a musty basement with forty year old carpet.”
Keon laughed. “That’s more than I had to work with when I started. I was stuck with my room for a lab. I would have killed for a musty basement. It would have been nice to not have people walking in on me all the time. My mom freaked out when she found me taking my wheelchair apart. Crazy.”
He went silent for a moment, and then said, “Are any of you worried about what happens when the guy discovers he’s got no pictures?”