Greg stared at the text message for a while, waiting for his racing thoughts to calm down before he even considered crafting a response. The intent of Emma’s message was clear, but Greg knew he would have to respond in a way that kept their friendship platonic; if anybody monitoring their text conversation had reason to suspect otherwise, it would be trivial to look up Greg’s marital status and then arrest him.
From his position in the government, Greg was aware that the agency in charge of monitoring communications between citizens was not well-staffed enough to monitor every single thing at all times. However, arrests originating from that agency were common enough to give the public the impression that all communications were under constant surveillance. Now that he thought back on it, he much have mentioned the understaffing to Emma in one of their long, winding conversations, thus emboldening her to send such a blatant text message rather than waiting until the next meeting.
His thoughts wandered to his wife, Lisa, who was sleeping in a shared bed by herself, unaware of the intrigue that was unfolding around her. He doubted she would care about his infidelitous urges as long as she continued to benefit socially from his relatively high placement in the societal pecking order. However, she was also at risk of being socially ruined if his anti-Authority leanings were to be found out.
Greg was unsurprised to realize that the thought of his wife becoming a pariah by her association with him was not an unpalatable one. If she had been gifted with any kind of intellectual ability, she certainly never used it, and while that might have been fine to his younger self, the emerging intellectualism of his present self despised her for it. That was probably why he was entertaining the idea of seeing Emma on the side.
His phone was glowing at him, awaiting a response. After many starts, stops, and re-starts, he finally had typed something that he felt Emma would understand while sounding completely unromantic to an outside observer: “I would love to continue talking about your book project in person.” That statement wasn’t even inaccurate, as her project documenting the activities of the Dunk Club was fascinating to him.
Emma quickly fired back with a suggested meeting place, some cafe that Greg had never heard of that specialized in “crepes”, a type of food that Greg had also never heard of. A quick search on his phone revealed the place to be on the outskirts of town, far enough away from the city center that the chances of being seen by acquaintances was minimal. He sent a message back in agreement, with a suggestion to meet that very night when he got off work..
“So,” Greg said as he sat down across from Emma, who had her ever-present notebook and pencil sitting next to a half-eaten plate of what he presumed to be crepes. “I made it.” The busy cafe gave little opportunity for them to be overheard, but he lowered his voice for the next part anyway. “It was nice to make a cross-city bus trip without having to conceal my identity.”
“Now we can talk about my ‘book project’,” Emma teased. “After endless chapters of dry philosophizing, I’m sure my readers will appreciate the part where a young, single intellectual and a disillusioned government worker make out in the bathroom of a crowded cafe.”
Greg blinked a few times. “Yeah. They’ll like that.”
“Honestly, though, this whole thing became a lot more interesting when you showed up,” Emma said. “I feel like the rest of those guys know the significance of the club, but they don’t talk about it and they’re really there just to play sports, so the whole narrative was just speculation on my end and no real input from them at all.”
“You’re welcome,” Greg replied. “If it weren’t for the allure of forbidden sporting activities, I’d be sitting at my desk right now filing SPR’s and reviewing video.” Emma seemed to be about to add something; Greg cut her off. “But I don’t want to think about work right now. You mentioned something about making out in the bathroom?”
Nate had held true to his word; over the next week, Greg found a steady stream of open-and-shut cases in his queue, giving him ample excuse to ignore the footage of Dragon suspiciously changing outfits every three blocks on the way to the dunk club. However, Greg’s distaste for the job was growing stronger by the day, and every arrest he authorized reinforced his conviction that the government he worked for was on the wrong side of morality.
He knew there was no escape. Government workers didn’t leave government. The dunk club had opened his eyes and sparked a passion in his life that he didn’t remember feeling before, but it had also brought complication and disorder to his previously comfortable life.
Still, he awaited the next meeting with tense excitement, not only because of what the meetings meant to him, or Emma’s presence at them, but because of the progression of his leaping ability.