A secluded café in a secluded town was the setting for a meeting between two, I suspect, secluded visitors.
“Shouldn’t we be somewhere a little less secluded?” I asked across the little circle of a table to a man with a plan who wasn’t nearly as cool as he thought he was.
“We’d be overheard. Never good.”
“And we’re not going to be overheard here?”
I gestured around at the empty café, and at the waitress who was currently running the till.
“You didn’t get the memo? This is my café, and she’s on my payroll. Anyone who comes in will be sat far away from us.”
“You own a café?”
“You don’t exactly strike me as a café-owning person.”
“You don’t strike me as someone who wants to join a team of hackers.”
That prompted an awkward silence. I don’t think I started this off well.
“So what’s the deal with this team of hackers?”
“You know about the encryption ban? Of course you do. Well, we want justice for it.”
“What kind of justice?”
“Whatever it takes to get encryption back. You have hacking experience, right?”
“I mean, it’s not exactly listed on my CV, but sure, I can probably get some things together.”
“We’ll be using an encrypted chat to communicate, so if you’re in you’ll be operating outside of the law.”
“Now I’m worried about what you’re planning.”
He laughed. I folded my arms.
“Don’t worry. We’re not doing anything crazy. Just… using a little force to get what we want.”
“Fine. I’m in. Does this ‘team’ have a snazzy name and logo? When can I expect my official goodie package to arrive?”
“We’re called the Catalyst. Sometimes a reaction, a breakdown, a formation of something new is inevitable. But sometimes it’s a little slow, and worth speeding up.”
“But the real reason is it sounds cool, right?”
“Let’s do this, then,” I said, and shook his hand.
“Cool. Take this,” he replied, handing me a USB stick, “Plug this into your computer at home. It contains a copy of the secure TOR browser and all the details you need to connect to our chat. Don’t use Windows to access it; the government can access files on there. Ideally get a laptop you haven’t used before and won’t again and go to a place you haven’t been to before and won’t again.”
“Got it. I’ll, uh, connect up with you soon, then.”
He smiled again and left. I wondered what his name was and thought about how he’d first contacted me online and told me to meet here. I wondered if someone had come here to watch us, or if this was all a big trap.
But I didn’t think about the potential dangers for long, because I left the café and started walking back to the train station filled with excitement about joining the Catalyst. Finally I could make a change, or so I hoped.