Approaching the familiar doorway off the alley, Greg uttered the latest password (“Gordon was robbed”) and was granted entry into the dunk club. His usual excitement was magnified by two factors: he would get to see Emma for the first time since their secretive rendezvous at that far-flung cafe, and progress on his leaping ability had been steadily improving, to the point where he thought he might be able to dunk like the rest of the guys.
He was also worried that, upon entry into the musty gymnasium, he would see the one known as Dragon, who had attracted the attention of the Authority while en route to a previous meeting. However, Dragon’s lithe, casually athletic form was nowhere to be seen, and Greg breathed a sigh of relief. Greg’s own advice, combined with whatever advice Nate had provided, had been enough to convince the easygoing Dragon to sit this meeting out.
Greg noted that nobody called out “newbie” to him as he walked in. There was a new face among the men that lingered around the nearly fully-faded lane markings underneath the basket. So, Greg had graduated from “newbie” to whatever the informal rank above newbie would be.
“You’re one of them now,” Emma commented as he sat down, eerily echoing Greg’s exact thoughts. “That’s probably the most substantial milestone in your recent life.”
These words didn’t sting like Greg expected them to. The pattern of people’s lives in the current society meant that only childbirth and job promotions were noteworthy accomplishments in one’s life, and Greg had experienced neither. “Yeah, and I think I’m going to add another one to the list today.”
Emma was quick on the uptake, despite Greg’s vagueness. “Oh, that. I see that the true point of this club was not so easily forgotten.”
“Nope. This idealist is still a simple-minded sports fanatic at heart,” Greg replied. “Hey, JD! Toss me a ball!”
“Greg thinks he can dunk!” JD ribbed in response, but he nevertheless threw a basketball Greg’s way. “If it’s a layup like last time, I vote that we kick this dude out!”
“No danger of that,” Greg announced, walking onto the court. There was no doubt in his mind that the last few weeks of leg exercises had given him the ability to dunk a basketball. “So clear out!”
The rest of the group dutifully moved out of the lane so that Greg would have an unhindered path to the basket. Greg set up just behind the three-point line, sized up the basket, then began to run.
As soon as he jumped, he knew he would make it. He was getting much higher in the air than his previous attempt. Reaching out with one hand, he spiked the ball through the ratty net, but he didn’t showboat by grabbing the rim, not least because he wasn’t sure how securely it was attached to the backboard.
There was immediately a burst of cheers, but underneath it, Greg could hear an unexpected pounding sound coming from the direction of the entryway. Suddenly, Reggie, the man who asked for the passwords and who had been waiting by the door for any stragglers, came running into the gymnasium. “It’s the Auth! They found us!”
While other men began running in different directions towards disused hallways that led to unknown parts of the building, Greg stood rooted in spot, his mind spinning. If he was caught and arrested, it would be the end of his career, but he would get out eventually after some “rehabilitation”. But if they found Emma’s notes, which included many of his personal thoughts on the state of the government, he would receive the “Anti-Authority” label and be looking at a lifetime of imprisonment so isolated that there weren’t even any rumors of how he would be treated.
A plan was forming in his mind. He ran over to Emma, who was somehow maintaining her characteristic calm demeanor despite the situation. Greg could clearly hear several shouting police offers trying to break down the door, which had been reinforced in a makeshift way just for a situation like this.
“I’m guessing Nate was feeling the heat and reported us to save himself and his job,” Emma said.
“That doesn’t matter right now,” Greg said, although he privately believed that Emma’s theory was correct. “You have to get out of here. If they find your notes, you’re done. We’re done. I’ll stay here.” Greg had no idea if there were any other exits to the building, or if there was a perimeter set up around the building to catch escapees, but he had to hope that by volunteering himself for arrest, it would deter the police from trying too hard to locate additional suspects. He also had to hope that Nate had not divulged too many specifics about the club’s attendees.
Emma nodded once, understanding just as clearly as Greg the gravity of the situation, then ran out the near end of the gym just as three heavily-armed officers came in through the far end. Greg put his hands up and allowed himself to be roughly tackled to the floor. Questions were barked at him, but he kept silent. There was nothing he could say that would help him now.