Albany is a silly place.
The plane landed at the Albany International Airport with no complications. I still had no idea why I had to fly to the capital of my home state, and I had no intention of staying long. I had read through the notes I had stolen from the C.R.E.A.N. agent in the airport, but the only important word was “BRAND”, emblazoned in capital letters on the side of an envelope. The envelope was addressed to the University of Albany Athletic Department.
As I arrived in Albany, I immediately made plans to take the Amtrak south to New York City. I’d meet with my sister in Brooklyn before heading back home, at last, for a surprise vacation. But the train wasn’t supposed to leave for another three hours, giving me absolutely nothing to do. I decided, on a whim, to take an Uber to the address listed on the envelope.
Albany itself is a very dull place, home to New York’s sleepy and usually incompetent state legislature and not much else. The University of Albany, home of the Great Danes, was the only thing really worth visiting. My Uber driver, a 22-year-old student at the university, took me there quickly. I did not realize that he was tipping off an unseen member of a hidden organization on his iPhone as I left the black Honda Civic.
With nothing better to do, I wandered into the Albany Athletic Department building. And then I bumped into Ben Goren. Suddenly, everything made sense.
“Hey Ben, what are you–”
“Shut the hell up Tristan, get out of my hiding spot.”
Ben Goren was a former member of Inside NU, and apparently he had chosen a job at the Albany Athletic Department as his undercover spot. He chose well. No C.R.E.A.N. member would ever bother to check in Albany.
“Juicy J, great to see you, but you shouldn’t be here. How did you find me?”
“Look Ben, I saw a C.R.E.A.N. member at the airport. He was headed to Albany to interrogate you. That’s why I’m here. They tracked your mail.” I showed him the envelope.
“Damn, it was my Tweets from the PR account. I knew the #brand would get me into trouble eventually. But you’ve stopped them, right? We’re good?”
“Far from it. I’d estimate our chances of survival match Northwestern’s attempts to make the NCAA Tournament this year.”
“The team’s been disbanded thanks to us so…that means it’s basically close to zero.”
“Yeah, I’m sure they’re following me after I assaulted that man in the airport. I’m headed to my house in the middle of nowhere.”
“Well, I’m not coming with you Tristan. If I have to flee, I’m going to a city. Our old friend Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell is camped out in New York right now. I think I’m safer there.”
At that moment, one of Ben’s coworkers rushed into the room.
“They’re here!” she shouted.
I immediately bolted out of the copy room and used the fire escape on a window to exit the field. Ben followed and we headed, in panic, but currently without any chasing agents, to SEFCU Arena, the home of Great Dane basketball.
“I know a place we can wait them out!” Ben said. “We can make a break for my car in the parking lot after they leave! My coworkers will cover for me.”
Ben’s “hiding place” turned out to be the SEFCU maintenance room, but it did the trick. To pass the time, I played Peggle on my phone while Ben waxed rhapsodically about every traumatic Northwestern sporting event since 2000. It took about 5 hours to complete.
“And finally, when Northwestern won that Wisconsin game and we had hope that Demps–”
“Ben, shut up, I think we should check if the coast is clear. Text your coworkers.”
Ben received confirmation that the coast was indeed clear. We stepped out of SEFCU Arena and realized it was a trap. The entire Albany Athletic Department staff was being held captive by approximately 35 agents of C.R.E.A.N.
“Well shit TJ, I really screwed this up. I sure hope they don’t shoot us.”
“We’re not shooting you,” said the largest C.R.E.A.N. agent, who was wearing a mask but looked eerily like Connecticut center Amida Brimah. “Take this whole lot back to the stadium.”
C.R.E.A.N.’s method of interrogation was predictably cruel and basketball-related. Ben and I were given 25 basketballs and ordered to shoot from the three-point line. Every time we missed a shot, the C.R.E.A.N. agent would administer an electric shock through the floor and demand the location of the other Inside NU members. If we made one, we’d get a reprieve.
I missed 24 of 25 shots, but I wouldn’t crack. Ben somehow made 5 and was still in decent shape.
Amida Brimah was joined by someone who looked suspiciously like Duncan Robinson.
“This is taking too long,” Duncan Robinson said. “I’m going to shoot a three. If I make it, we’ll break one of your fingers. Every three I make, we’ll break a finger until you talk.”
Duncan took the first three. He missed. Honestly, missing the shot was actually a more effective torture method than you’d think. I didn’t even know where the other Inside NU members were, but Ben thought of something mildly clever with the pressure cranked up.
“They’re with the SBNation staff under assumed names!” Goren said.
“Now we’re getting somewhere. So they’re in New York then?”
“Yes, and they record a podcast after every college football Saturday. You should find them there.”
“Good to hear. Well, with that, we’re probably going to kill you and throw your remains under the renovations for Welsh-Ryan Arena.”
“It’s fine, Morty wouldn’t care anyway you selfish, Williams-attending asshole.”
Duncan Robinson hadn’t realized I had stolen one of the basketballs while Ben was talking. In order to continue the torture method, they had untied our hands, which is always a terrible idea. I quickly chucked the ball at Duncan Robinson’s oh-so punchable face and dived for the loose weaponry on the floor.
“It’s a jump ball!” Ben said, his witty one-liner abilities kicking in at just the right moment. “Possession arrow…Brand Goren!”
He dodged Brimah and seized Duncan Robinson’s large lacrosse stick that he used to subdue us.
“If you move one inch, I’m breaking his kneecap!” Ben shouted at the other C.R.E.A.N. agents.
“Don’t listen to him. Even he does it, I’ll just come back next year,” Robinson said.
“Ha, do you really think that Michigan won’t push you out of the program once they realize your knee is busted?” Goren replied. “Once a transfer, always a transfer. They’ll throw you to the curb. Just let us leave, and you can go find the real prize at the SBNation headquarters.”
Duncan Robinson hesitated.
“Fine. But next time, we shoot to kill. C.R.E.A.N. out.”