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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Swamped
The Goddamn Pacman

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You think it's another Tom... Fifth, maybe? No, wait, he's got that slight curl in his hair. This must be Eighth, then.

They're facing you, but Lisa doesn't take notice. She seems to be looking at a notepad. The other Tom does see you, however.

"Get lost," he says. "We're busy with something."

Lisa doesn't even look up in response to his rudeness, which is odd. She must be seriously focused on whatever it is. Now you're really curious. You know she doesn't get like this unless she's faced with a difficult problem.

"Can I help?" you ask. "I don't really have anything else to do right now."

"No."

"Yes!" Lisa suddenly shouts. Tom gets nervous.

"Keep your voice down! What if someone hears us?"

"Oh, sorry," she says. "It's just, I'm pretty sure I br-"

At this point, she finally catches on to your presence.

"Sixth! When in the hells did you get back?"

"Today," you reply. "I saw you in the halls earlier, but you didn't seem to take notice of me at all."

"Thank goodness. I didn't have the time to indulge your penchant for gossip, and for that matter, I still don't."

"Really? It sounded to me like you were done," you say innocently.

She just glares at you. She's wise to all your tricks, as usual.

So if you're getting anything out of this encounter, you'll need to think up some new ones.
05-15-2018, 01:10 AM
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btp
 RE: Swamped
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Let's talk about the big man, see who reacts

What? No I meant the big man in town, Davey Muscles. Who are you talking about?
05-15-2018, 12:14 PM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Swamped
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"Really, there's no reason to be so upset," you say nonchalantly. "I'm still getting my bearings, finding out what I missed, catching up with old friends, maybe even having a talk with the big man if I'm lucky..."

Tom Eighth's eyes turn on you very abruptly. How interesting.

"What'd you just say?"

"What, about the big man? Oh, sorry, I couldn't remember his name. Maybe it's Davey? Strapping fellow who signed up last year. Really been hoping to meet him, and now might just be my chance."

"Just get lost, Sixth," Lisa groans. "Don't have time for your nonsense right now. We've still got work to do."

Hmm. Well. She can tell you're bluffing, of course. But the other Tom's eyes already gave away plenty.

And while Lisa's good at hiding her intentions - damned good - she's not perfect. And you're better than most at catching the few flaws in her defenses. You've never won a game against her, no one has. But you've won bets she wasn't expecting to lose.

Right now, she's got her betting eyes on. She's in the middle of a big gamble. And she doesn't want you mixed up in it if it goes wrong.

Add in Eighth's reaction, and the conclusion is clear: it's a gamble involving the big man.

Which means, all in all, that this is far and away the juiciest lead you've gotten all night. You need to get in on this, one way or another.

So what's your next move?
05-16-2018, 02:25 AM
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btp
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The best tactic you have is to assume she knows everything, and work backwards from there.

So assume she knows about the password, who the big man is, the creatures Juliet has been drawing, what Squib is up to, how Ash recruits, what Grey is worried about, and that the postmaster wants you to help decide the next commander.

Okay, well she probably doesn't know all of that, but it doesn't take long for Lisa to go from inclination to deduction.

Once you assume she knows all of that, it makes it easier to give up some information (after all what's the value of gossip if you don't spread it around?) Lisa has a tendency to think other people are as on-point as she is, so she'll let things slip thinking you already know it too.

Ash seems to be a hot topic around here. Start with him

"I guess I should get going, Sargent Ash wanted to speak with me. I'm nervous though, don't know much about the guy. Anything I should be aware of?"
05-16-2018, 08:37 AM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Swamped
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Lisa's amazing at reading people. Anyone who's played a game of Swamprats with her can tell that.

But it's not just her reads. She's clever, too. When she doesn't quite know what to make of someone, she's quick to come up with a play to narrow down the choices. It makes her formidable.

It's also her main weakness. She's a bit too clever for her own good. Or rather, she tends to assume her opponent can keep up the same train of thought. Which means if she's just made a good deduction, she'll bet based on the idea her opponent's thought of it too.

And sometimes, if they haven't, the bet goes bad. It's hard to actually make use of this, but eventually you learned to look for that spark of insight. And when you saw it, you immediately stopped thinking further and went with your best guess. Only worked about three times out of five, but that's a pretty good rate against a master.

So... well, you suppose this is less of an interrogation method, and more of a shortcut. If Lisa knows what you know, she'll figure out what it means first and then she'll be less cautious about her deductions. After all, you must have already come to the same conclusion, right?

If you were good enough to bluff about what you know, you might even be able to get something better than that. But the Black Queen can see right through you. So your best bet when dealing with her is not to bother hiding anything.

"No time for your old pal Sixth? Ah well, suppose it's not surprising. Anyhow, I'm busy too - or rather, I'm not and I ought to go see a sergeant about fixing that."

No reaction - from Lisa. Eighth, however, still seems on edge.

"Say, maybe you've got some idea where I could find him at this hour. I think his name's Ash?"

And that's when Tom Eighth punches you in the face. Hard. You weren't really expecting that.

"I don't think he was threatening us, Eighth," you hear Lisa say, as you struggle to hold onto consciousness. "I think he was just trying to figure out what we were doing."

"Didn't want to take a chance," Eighth grumbles. "But yeah, I overreacted, sorry. I'll take him to the infirmary. And I'll keep an eye on him after he wakes up."

"But I need your help to convince Penelope!"

"Trust me. It'll go smoother if I'm not there. We might work together, but that doesn't mean she likes me."

Penelope, you muse. That's an interesting name. Didn't you know someone with that name once?

Well, you don't recall her by the time you black out.

---

You're now Lisa Black, and Tom Sixth had to just stick his nose into things again. Only now, thanks to your unfortunately aggressive partner in this mess, he's gotten it seriously bloodied.

On the plus side, you've worked out Ash's code. But now you're on your own for persuading Penelope to give you any other messages. And you still haven't even figured out where to intercept her.

So. What's the plan?
05-17-2018, 12:48 AM
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Pharmacy
 RE: Swamped
wake me up in five.

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Hold a Swamprat tournament.
05-17-2018, 03:08 AM
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btp
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Oh no! Tom's beautiful face!

Oh hey, apparently Penelope was looking for you.
05-17-2018, 08:19 AM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Swamped
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"There you are."

You haven't even had time to think of anything - other than musing on if she'd come to another card tournament - when Penelope shows up right in front of you.

"Seems I'm popular tonight. I hope you don't need help with repairs, I've just handed in my tools for the night."

She's glancing right at the notepad in your hands. Good thing she can't see the message itself.

"What's the notepad for, then?" she asks.

"Just some reminders on things I didn't have time to get to today," you say casually. "You know how it is, there's always complications popping up when it comes to repairs. So, how can I help you?"

"Well, first off I'm wondering why Tom... Eighth, I mean... had an unconscious knight slung over his shoulder when I was on my way here. I tried asking, but he just rushed off."

"Oh, the boys got in a stupid argument over something or other and Eighth lost his temper. So now he's taking Tom Sixth to the infirmary."

"That was Sixth?" Penelope asks. She seems surprised. "I remembered him being taller."

"You're not getting to the point, Penelope. What do you want?"

"Well. I want to know why Tom Eighth spent his free periods today with you instead of working on the... that project of his," she says. "Because he's been at it every day since he heard the news of Third's death, and I have to wonder what could possibly be so important that he'd put it aside."

She's more on point than you expected. How do you respond?
05-18-2018, 12:53 AM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Swamped
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You decide to let her lead the conversation for now. If you're going to figure out how to sway her, you'll need to see where she's doubting first. And the more in control she feels, the more noticeable her doubts will be.

"Well. What do you think we're doing?" you ask pointedly.

"I'll admit, my first thought was that it was some sort of romantic rendezvous. I didn't take Eighth for the type, but it was the first thing I could think of that might cause such drastic changes in behavior."

She's shifting her eyes a bit on 'first thing'. So maybe she's not so eager to talk about the second. Well, maybe you can play along for a little while and see what that tells you.

"So, what, you're jealous or something?"

"Not at all. If I ever had any attraction to Tom, I'd have given up on it long before now, what with how obsessed he is with that thing."

"That thing you're helping him with," you note.

"Are you suggesting something?"

"Nah, not me," you say. "Just, you know how people can be. You find this nice fellow, he's kind of gruff and not really interested in you, but he's got a project he's keen on and you help him with it to get close to him. I'm not the sort to spread a rumor like that, mind, but there's plenty of knights who are."

Penelope's glaring hard at you.

"Well, it isn't like that. And if I seriously thought that's all it was, I wouldn't care. Frankly, I'd be happy for the break."

You're not seeing any signs she's lying. Though, after spending much of the day with Eighth, you don't think he'd be disappointed.

"Then what do you think it is?"

"That's just it," she says. "I can't think of anything else. But I'm very sure it's not that. So that's why I'm asking you."

She definitely can think of something else. She just doesn't want to tell you what it is. Which, with what you already know, makes you suspect it involves Ash. Seeing as the knights who work with him don't like to talk about what they do.

So, you'll need to work out what it is. Luckily, you don't need her to tell you the truth directly. You just need to lead her in the right direction so she's forced to talk about it, and then you'll figure out if she's lying.

Now, how can you do that?
05-19-2018, 03:07 AM
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btp
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Penelope doesn't suspect what you do about Ash, though she probably got your insinuation that her attraction to him is similar to her attraction to Eighth. Though you can push her on that front to try and make her uncomfortable (though that's really Sixth's forte).

Seeing Penelope's muted reaction to your mention of Tom's project...you think she knows he finished it.

And if Penelope knows that, then it means Ash knows that, and he also knows that even though Tom has cut ties, he can't bring himself to destroy an invention of his.

...you just hope Clancy gets far enough away with that key.
05-19-2018, 11:56 AM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Swamped
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"You know, it seems to me you're overlooking a rather simple explanation," you say calmly. "Maybe Eighth's not working on his project any more because he finished it."

"He'd tell me if it was. You'll recall I was helping him with it. Hells, I'd be expecting him to run around telling the whole base he was done, and everyone would be shocked to see him in a good mood for once."

Hesitation on he'd tell me. She's worried he wouldn't. But... you can't quite work out why.

Maybe it would help if Eighth had told you what the damn thing was. All he said was that it could help with the plan. Not that it'll amount to much if you can't persuade Penelope to help.

Hmm. Well, she knows what it is, doesn't she. Since she looked over the plans. But Tom swore her to secrecy... what if she told Ash? Would she be worried Tom would find out and wouldn't trust her any more?

If she trusts Eighth more than Ash, you've got a way better chance of persuading her. You'll have to work that out.

"Ah, I see. I suppose you'd have a better idea of his progress than most. He wouldn't give me any details about it, so I kind of wondered if he was finished and just being aloof. But I suppose you'd know him better."

"I'd have a better idea than anyone outside of him," she insists fervently. "Tom made me promise not to tell anyone what I was seeing in his notes, and I took that very seriously."

She's not lying. But that's not the same as "I didn't tell anyone", is it.

"Well. You'll have a harder time of that once Tom Sixth gets back on his feet and finds out you know something," you laugh. "Hope you're ready for him, he might be tricky if you haven't had much of a challenge in keeping it secret before."

You hope that gives you an informative reaction.
05-20-2018, 01:49 AM
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btp
 RE: Swamped
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She seems confident she can't be tricked out the info...but that isn't the same as not sharing it willingly.

Maybe that means you can convince her to help if you know what her treasure is, what does she really value?
05-20-2018, 11:33 AM
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Dragon Fogel
 RE: Swamped
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"I'm not worried about falling for any tricks," she says.

And again - telling the truth. But it's not the same as saying she wouldn't share the info willingly.

Not that she's being careful with her words. That has its own tells. But sometimes people tell themselves things. That one more sandwich isn't really cheating on your diet. That one kiss doesn't mean anything. Or that telling one person when you have a good reason doesn't mean you aren't taking your promise seriously.

That kind of deception isn't easy to read, no matter how good you are. It might be that's just what Penelope decided to say, or it might be that she's feeding you the same excuse she feeds herself, without even thinking about it.

You've got a hunch it's the latter, but you're not quite ready to bet on that yet. You need to tease out a little more info.

And your best option for that is leading her on with vague answers.

"If you say so," you say with a shrug. "Well, regardless. Why's it matter to you why Tom and I were hanging out? We're allowed to, even if you think it's weird that he took a break from his project."

"He's worked on it every day for the last three years. Even when he was sick. Why would today be any different?"

"Maybe I should put it a different way. How's it any of your business?"

She's taken aback.

"Well, I suppose it's not my business, really," she says. "But I'm just annoyed. Last week he was asking me to finish faster because he was trying to keep to a schedule. Now he's interrupting that himself? You can hardly fault me for being upset about that, can you?"

My business. So she is asking for someone else.

"Sounds like something you should take up with him, not me."

"Please. You think that man answers questions unless he absolutely has to? I thought if I asked you, I might at least get some idea of why he was doing it. But apparently you're just as stubborn as he is."

Does she even realize how transparent she is? She's clearly trying to get you upset.

On the other hand, if you leave things where they are, she might just leave and you'll have nothing to show for your efforts.

You've probably been pushing too hard, considering what you want is to get her to switch sides. You need to show her some sympathy, you think. You're just having a hard time doing that with the way she's acting right now.

So what should you say?
05-21-2018, 12:28 AM
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btp
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Oh Lisa, not telling the difference between a strategic emotional play and some genuinely frustrated.

Tell her she is right and that it's not fair to her. You convinced Tom to help you with a project as an old favor.

But of course that somehow still alienates her. Was she not plotting something? Was she just jealous?
05-21-2018, 05:01 AM
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Dragon Fogel
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"All right, you've made your point. I needed his help with something, and I called in an old favor. He wasn't happy about it, but that's all this was. He did grumble about keeping his schedule, I didn't realize that had been a problem for anyone else."

"There! Was that so hard?" she says, frustrated. Maybe you switched gears too late.

"Sorry. It's just that you rubbed me the wrong way when you started asking."

As soon as you say it, you realize she'll throw it right back in your face.

"And of course, you were unfailingly polite in return."

"I didn't say that. It's just... well, look. At first I was a little snippy, then the next thing you did was comment on your theories on my romantic life. And then it got worse from there. I think we both kind of let ourselves get carried away a bit."

She pauses a moment to think about this.

"I suppose we did," she agrees. "For my part, I'm sorry. It's no excuse, but my day hasn't been going too well up to now, so I was a bit less patient than I ought to be. And come to think of it, you've been hanging around with Tom for much of the day. That's probably made you more irritable."

She's got a point there. Eighth has been helpful, but he's also still his usual sour self. Still... you might have an opening here.

"You know what? Let's see if we can't do better tomorrow, when our moods aren't so poor. Just have a nice friendly lunch together, as a mutual apology."

She's mulling it over.

"It's a nice idea, but unfortunately I don't expect tomorrow to go any better than today. My workload's not showing any signs of easing up."

"I know what that's like," you chuckle. "There's always more repairs to be done."

"At least repairs must be interesting sometimes. All I'm doing is running around taking messages from one person to another. And I'm doing a lot more of it lately. Ash has been in such a..."

She pauses.

"Never mind. It's just been busy. Resettling after all that's happened means there's a lot of messages that need to go around. Gods, it was so tedious, I'm almost glad I got chewed out when one went missing. At least it was a change of pace."

She glances at you for just a moment when she mentions the missing message. There's no emotion behind it, just... curiosity. She suspects you, but she's not eager to pursue it now. Maybe it's Ash's priority more than hers.

She's opening up quite a bit. It's probably best to keep her talking. But how should you go about that?
05-22-2018, 02:21 AM
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btp
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Ash really trusts you huh?
05-22-2018, 06:02 AM
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Dragon Fogel
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"Seems you do a lot of work for Sergeant Ash in particular," you muse, sounding nonchalant. "Is he appreciative, at least?"

She frowns.

"Hard to say. He's always telling me 'good job Penelope,' but it comes across as something he's saying because he's expected to say it. On the other hand, he doesn't seem to be very personable in general, so maybe that's just how he is when he's making an effort. I know that's hard for some people."

She means herself. You barely even need to read her to see that.

And you've seen it yourself. She's delivered instructions to your squad a few times, but she's always so terse when she does it. Most other couriers make small talk, she clearly seems to just want to get it over with.

Funny. She seemed friendly enough back when Tom Third introduced you...

...and of course, as soon as you think back to that, the reason for her change in attitude becomes obvious. She misses Third, and hasn't been able to come to terms with that yet. You can hardly blame her.

But you can damn well blame Ash for taking advantage of that grief. If only you could get her to see that's what he's doing.
05-23-2018, 12:29 AM
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Pharmacy
 RE: Swamped
wake me up in five.

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Get cold hard evidence and show it to her face.
05-24-2018, 12:36 AM
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thriggle
 RE: Swamped
I thought it would be funny.

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Time for some honesty. Tell her what you suspect of Ash. Insinuate that it would only take a small amount of evidence to damn or exonerate him, and that would be a hell of a lot easier if you could get your hands on the orders he's been sending all over, unbreakable ciphers notwithstanding.


Penelope: nod and smile and politely excuse yourself to report this to Ash ASAP.
05-24-2018, 01:21 AM
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Dragon Fogel
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Maybe your best option is to provide a contrast. Show her what genuine respect is like.

Maybe even trust her a little. At least see what she does.

"I don't know if it's that," you say. "I've heard some stories about Ash lately. Been trying to figure out if there's anything to 'em."

Her face goes blank. You opt to continue.

"There's a guy named Clancy who quit and headed back to civilization today. He told me Ash asked his squad to do some shady stuff. Of course, he seems like the sort who might hold a grudge, but some of the things he said... well... I can't help but be worried it'll turn out to be true."

"Get to the point," she says.

"Well. Are there any messages he asks you to deliver that seem... weird?"

"I don't go peeking at messages I'm supposed to deliver."

Hmm? You think you caught something there. Not a lie, per se, but an awareness of hiding something.

"I don't mean the message itself. If it seems like there's something odd about how he's having you deliver it. I don't know. Like if he asked you not to tell anyone else about the message, say?"

"I really can't think of anything like that. There's a few messages he said were real important, that's it. But that's normal for an officer, right?"

You don't think you're making much progress. You can see a glimmer of doubt in her eyes, but it's overwhelmed by fears. Fears of losing Ash, the one person she can count on in this world.

Right now, you get the distinct sense she wants to run back to Ash and warn him, but she can't quite bring herself to.

You've only got one piece of evidence with any chance to sway her in your favor. The coded message. But you didn't fully decipher it yet; you just worked out enough that you know you can.

But should you... yes. Your every instinct tells you this is the one card you have to play, so play it with all you've got.

Of course, that's not to say the way you play it doesn't make a difference.
05-24-2018, 02:03 AM
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btp
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Just ask if she recognizes it.
05-24-2018, 09:47 AM
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Dragon Fogel
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It would be easier if you had the actual letter, you suppose. You could let her catch a glimpse of it, try to catch her attention that way. Work from there.

But it's locked in Tom's closet. All you've got is a copy of the message in your notebook, not to mention a couple dozen attempts at playing around with it.

Well... there was that odd reaction when she denied peeking at messages. It didn't look like a lie, but maybe getting back to the subject will clear something up.

You flip to the "clean" page, with the original coded message, unsullied by your notes.

"So you wouldn't recognize this, then."

Penelope just stares at you, confused.

"It looks like gibberish. Just a jumble of letters."

"It's your missing message from earlier today. It's in code. Now, if it were going to another officer, I could understand that, for security and all. But it wasn't from Ash to an officer, was it?"

Penelope doesn't say anything. She doesn't seem to know what to say."

"And sure, maybe there's other people he sends orders to where it's important enough to keep a secret. I could imagine a repair squad being quietly sent to fix something when we want to be very sure the Marshguards don't know it's broken. But you know, given who Ash was sending this to, that doesn't seem like it either, does it. Unless I'm misremembering who it was for. Perhaps you'd like to refresh my memory there?"

Penelope looks torn between running and staying put. After a tense minute, she finally opens her mouth to answer.
05-25-2018, 01:11 AM
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btp
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It was Vera's subordinate.

It doesn't matter who gets command, Ash is in charge either way.
(This post was last modified: 05-25-2018, 04:55 AM by btp.)
05-25-2018, 04:53 AM
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Dragon Fogel
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"I think his name's Peter," Penelope says. "His main job is cleaning out Vera Greenwoods' office."

"That's what I remembered, yes," you agree. "Which seems rather odd, doesn't it? It's not the kind of job that's likely to get secret messages... and certainly not from a different officer entirely. Why would you even have a code set up with someone like that?"

Penelope shrugs, though she's clearly thinking along the same lines.

"Maybe the message was really for Vera, and Peter was just going to pass it along?" she guesses. "And he didn't want word to get out that he was sending her a message."

"Doesn't seem likely. There's lots of reasons for officers to send messages to each other. Even if it were something really sensitive, nobody would have thought anything was odd if he'd asked you to deliver it directly."

"Well. What's your guess then?"

You don't respond right away. Instead, you glance down at your notes and start translating the whole message.

"The forest has claimed our treasure, but she doesn't know what it means yet. Make sure she doesn't get the chance."

Penelope just stares at you.

"Forest here most likely means Sergeant Greenwoods," you say. "What this sounds like is, she found something Ash didn't want her to find, and he was trying to act before she figured out what it is."

But just as you finish explaining that, Penelope bolts off. You start chasing her, and calling out after her; but she won't respond to you.

You have no idea what she's thinking. Where is she even running to?
05-26-2018, 12:38 AM
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btp
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Greenwood’s office,

Smells like desert.
05-26-2018, 01:37 AM
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