Ask, but be flirty about it.
You decide to turn on the ol' Tom Sixth charm.

"So what did you say to him?" you ask, batting your eyelashes a little.

First doesn't seem to pay any attention to it.

"That's confidential," he says calmly. "Strictly between the two of us. That's how it's got to be with this sort of thing - it'd be bad if, for instance, I said something harsh about Ash and word got around and then he took on the post. Even if he didn't take it personally, it'd be bound to get in the way of us both doing our jobs. Hells, it'd be awkward whether the vote went his way or not. So, whatever I said stays between me and the Postmaster and everything goes as smooth as it can."

Well. That didn't go so well. You were probably too direct, and now he's not likely to tell you anything.

You've been out of practice too long, that's the problem. Getting gossip in town was an entirely different beast, and you spent the last two weeks in a carriage on top of that. And your driver was all too happy to talk, so that wasn't much of a challenge.

You're going to need a warmup before you head to the Rock. Someone who opens up easy, but not so easy that you don't even think about it.

So who can you think of who fits that bill?
Ninth would just be happy to have another Tom around, so that's a little too easy.

Lisa Black would immediately see through you so gotta watch out for her.

Oh! Dean would be the perfect candidate! Let's go find him!.

What do you mean "captured"?
The first name to cross your mind is that eager kid, Tom Ninth. But he's a little too eager. Especially around other Toms. You can get pretty much every scrap he knows just by offering a sympathetic ear. There's no real challenge, and most of what he knows is easy to pick up anyways.

You then think back to your pals on your repair squad, who you haven't really been able to check in with, and Lisa Black is the first name you think of. But you need all your wits about you to get anything good out of her. Most of the times when you have a talk, she manages to get all your gossip and you barely learn a thing. She's just that good.

Of course, repair squads work closely with pest control squads. And that's when the perfect candidate comes to mind - the Dean. He's exactly the warmup you need. Give him a chance and he'll babble about all sorts of things - but the trick is getting him to focus on the topic you want to hear about. And as long as you keep him talking, he won't think anything's up.

It's the perfect plan, so you opt to go and check in with his squad. They should be doing an equipment check about now before winding up for the night.

But when you stop by, you only see five members on his squad. And Grey is directing them.

"Oh, hey Sixth," he says, noticing you. "If you're here to fill in on our squad, you're a little late."

"Fill in?" you ask. "No, I just wanted to check in with the Dean."

"You won't find him here," Greenbags pipes up. "He got captured by the Marshguards, and prisoner negotiations haven't even started yet. So, unless you want to sneak into the Marsh Fortress to have a chat, you're just going to have to wait."

Well. That's disappointing. So what's your plan now?
"Aw that's too bad, guess I'll have to wait to tell him about..." Then cut yourself off like you almost let some big secret slip.

See who perks up and mention the name of one of the candidate officers. So and so might not want you to know.

You should get a reaction or two
Well. May as well make the most of what you've got. For one, the squad's going to be at least a little curious as to what you want to see Dean about.

That's an opening.

"Pity. He definitely would have wanted to hear about it. Oh well, nothing I can do, I suppose."

Surely one of them's going to rise to that bait.

"Hear about what?" asks Nina. "Did you have a weird animal sighting?"

"Maybe," you say. Always good to keep them guessing. "At least, that's what I thought it was, but..." You pause before finishing. "Actually, I suppose I should double-check with Sergeant Ash before I go spreading that too far. "

Grey's face goes a shade of red you haven't seen before.

"The hell does Ash know about pest control?" he shouts at you. "If there's a dangerous animal on the loose, we need to know about it. Especially with..." He almost catches himself. "With some of the stuff that's been going on lately."

Oh, now. Seems Grey knows something juicy.

"I just mean, it might not have been an animal," you say. "Since the Dean's our resident expert, I thought I'd talk to him. But I haven't cleared talking to anyone else about it with Ash."

Technically true, seeing as you haven't talked to Ash at all. Grey doesn't need to know that, though.

"Figures Ash wouldn't know who's missing. Dean's not one of his cronies, after all. You ought to stay away from him before you get roped into whatever trouble he's causing."

"Well, I don't know that I had his full attention," you continue bluffing. "I imagine he's got a lot on his mind."

"Nah," says Greenbags, "I bet he did forget. Wouldn't be the first time. He keeps track of what people can do, but he doesn't pay any attention to the missing or injured list. Heard lots of stories about him overlooking it."

Now that's an interesting tidbit. Exactly the sort of thing the Postmaster might want to hear.

Maybe you should press Greenbags on it. Then again, Grey clearly seems to have some good info - maybe relevant to the leadership vote, maybe not. Either way, though, you definitely want to try and get it out of him; but maybe there's a better time.

Decisions, decisions. Which angle to pursue? Or do you just keep the conversation going and see if anything else pops up?
Damn, Tom Sixth is warmin' up. Dude is way better at this than Crosswinds.

Sixth knows the best info can't be gotten alone, he's got to work the crowd, get some sympathy.

That injured list has been getting longer lately, huh? That's terrible! And the Marshguards have been acting up.

Put out those few lines and see if you can work the conversation back to Grey's info.
It's coming back to you now. Rule number one: read the crowd.

And this crowd is not happy about Ash. Grey seems to feel stronger about it than everyone else, but there's been a distinctly unhappy mood since you dropped his name.

"I hadn't heard about that. Haven't seen him much since I got back, and it's not like I talked to him a lot before then, either. Sounds a bit careless of him, though. I mean, I heard we had some trouble lately, so I'd imagine the injured list is longer than usual."

"Trouble!" Grey laughs. "Trouble, nothing. It's been one crisis after another. Between the greatrats, the tunnelers, and the Marshguard attack..."

"We've been lucky, though," Nina interjects. "Despite all of that, we haven't had many injuries. The bigger concern is damage to the base. In fact, I hear we're having more of a problem with injuries from knights who aren't used to repair work."

"Boat squad still got beat up bad, though," Greenbags says. It's like you don't even need to say anything. "But I guess they got off easy for a squad that tangled with Mudviper."

Wait. What?

"Mudviper? Why would boat squad be getting into a fight with someone that high up the ranks? They try to stay out of trouble."

"It was an ambush," Greenbags continues. "Viper and two others snuck onto the barge. I hear it would've gone real bad if our one-armed newmuck hadn't rushed onto the scene at the right time."

Grey stares at him.

"Wait, the newmuck stopped Viper? I hadn't heard about that."

"Well, you don't talk to boat squad much. They told me about it when I was asking them if they'd had trouble with greatrats."

Hmm. You think you've let the conversation drift on its own enough. It's time to think about where to nudge it.

Especially if you want some kind of hint at the secret Grey's sitting on.
Ask if Mudviper is still in the base. Grey was triggered to talk when you mentioned possible threats roaming around.

If its not enough try again from a slightly different angle, what are the higher ups doing to keep us protected?
Something strikes you. Greenbags said the ambush was Viper and two others.

But Sergeant Dominic said you had two Marshguards in custody. Of course, that was a conversation you weren't supposed to hear.

"So, hold on. Does this mean Viper's still in our holding cells?"

"She escaped," Nina says. "Wasn't even there a whole night."

"Same night the Marshguards attacked, too," Greenbags says. "So we didn't have much chance to look into how. The other two are still locked up, though."

Hmm. A high-ranking Marshguard sneaks onto the barge, gets captured, escapes, and there's a major offensive that very night? It's odd, to say the least. You'd expect Viper to be involved in the assault, considering she's one of their better commanders.

"You don't suppose she was trying to steal the barge to prepare for the assault?" you muse.

Grey shakes his head.

"No, I don't think so. See, we're the ones who took the barge out the night before. It was an emergency run for fly eggs, so we could poison the greatrats. Greenbags here stayed behind after drawing the attention of the rats on the ship, and Dean and Nina went off in a lifeboat to get the eggs. So there were just three of us."

"And on top of that, there was another group of Marshguards nearby," Nina adds. "That's why we took the lifeboat. We're pretty sure that's when they slipped aboard, though we don't know how yet. If they just wanted the barge, though, I'm pretty sure they could have taken us right then and there."

This sounds stranger and stranger the more you hear about it. It also doesn't seem to be leading Grey back towards his secret, but it's juicy all on its own, so you're good for now. Although, you thought you noticed him getting a little bit tense when he mentioned Dean - that could be something.

Still, for the moment, work with what you've got. At the least it could get you a good story if you need to bend someone's ear before they open up to you.

"So why do you think they snuck aboard, then?" you ask. "If they could have taken the barge, they probably would have done just that. It'd only make sense if they wanted something in the base, and saw the barge as a chance to get closer to it."

It should be interesting to hear their guesses.
Sounds like...a decoy! They wanted to get caught, so it would be easier to take something that was on the barge - attacking from within! And the other two...uhhh, scapegoats? Focus on them so the leader got away. Not seeing the trees for the forest, or something.
One of the quieter knights suddenly speaks up. You think this one's Mary Eleventh. Or was it Tenth? You have enough trouble keeping track of all the Toms.

"They were on the barge for the better part of a day," she says. "Maybe they wanted to get caught."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Grey asks. "If they wanted to get caught, they could have attacked us and held back."

"Not if the Marshguards nearby didn't know about their mission," Nina muses. "They might hear the commotion and come running."

Grey shakes his head.

"Still doesn't make sense. They could have let themselves be caught once they were in the base. Why wait?"

This sounds like a good spot to toss in some theorizing of your own.

"I think you're right that it doesn't make sense as a goal. But it does have some sense to it as a way of getting out with whatever they were really after."

Grey looks at you, bemused.

"What are you getting at?"

"Well. Mudviper managed to escape, didn't she? So, they were looking for something - maybe even something on the barge - got caught, Mudviper slipped away to take it back to the Marsh Fortress. While the other two are mainly here to keep us busy. Serve as a distraction if she needed it."

The squad members exchange a few glances. Then Grey shakes his head.

"If that's what it was, she didn't get it. We were doing inventory while she was hiding out. And another check right after she escaped. Only major thing missing was a leaf-masher for making swamp mush. Hardly seems worth going to that much trouble."

"Well, it wouldn't have to be a tangible thing. Could be she was trying to get some information. Listen in on boat squad while they patched up the barge, maybe?"

Greenbags' eyes suddenly light up.

"Or maybe the plan was to talk to Captain Long. He handled her interrogation, you know. Give him some info, get some info, away from prying eyes."

"Bah, you've been reading too many spy novels, Greenbags," Grey says. "Get captured to exchange info with an officer? That plan's just ridiculous."

"Yeah, you're probably right," Greenbags sighs. "I mean, if that was it, she could have warned him about the assault."

Hmm. That was by far the most interesting guess. It's probably not true, but it'd make a good story. Always worth keeping gossip like that in mind.

You think you've heard enough about this, though. It's time to try and work out what Grey's hiding. How can you direct the conversation back that way?
Be reeeaaally unsubtle about it. Something like "Holding back info like that, why, it's downright illegal. There's no way any of US would not share what we knew, and if one of us did, they'd be a real traitor!" Lay on the guilt thick-like.
You consider being direct. But that's likely to backfire. The conversation's moved too far off; chances are nobody else even remembers Grey's slight pause. And his squadmates probably wouldn't take your side if you made a show of it.

What was it that got him upset in the first place? You mentioned Ash, of course, but you've had a fair amount of conversation on him and Grey hasn't slipped up again. So maybe it was the broader subject...

Right. Animals. He got upset at the idea of Ash getting too hands-on with pest control. Maybe that's where you need to move the conversation.

Well. For the moment, there's some news you probably ought to react to.

"Wait, Captain Long handled an interrogation personally? That seems odd."

"It is pretty weird, yeah," Greenbags agrees. "He even handed off command temporarily to do it."

"To Ash, of all people," Grey grumbles. "What was he thinking?"

Well, that's gotten you quite a bit closer.

"What bothers you so much about Ash?"

"You don't directly report to him, do you?"

You shake your head.

"Certainly not now, my squad assignment's in a bit of administrative limbo."

"Good. Because I've seen what he does to the knights who do. He treats them like they're his knights. To do his personal bidding, whether it's good for the base or not. Last thing we need is someone that selfish in command."

Now this is getting interesting. If you can just get the subject of animals back into the conversation, you might be able to catch Grey hesitating again.

Although... there also might be something more to Grey's frustration here than he's letting on. Maybe you should wait a bit before trying to pry that secret out of him, because you might just get something else good in the meantime.

What's your plan?
Who...does report to Ash anyway?
"Who reports to him, then?"

"As far as we can tell, it's not an official arrangement, but there's about five or six squads he keeps in close contact with," Greenbags says. "What's odd is that most of the knights on them had serious disciplinary problems."

"Maybe he's just trying to keep them in line?"

"Then he's doing a piss-poor job of it," Grey grumbles. "Squib Squad, in particular, seems to get into much more trouble as a squad than they ever did individually. And you know what happens every single time? Ash gives them a talking-to, and they're right back at it after a couple of days. Sometimes I wonder if he's giving them orders to make a ruckus."

"Squib Squad? I can't say I'm familiar."

"They're fairly new," says whichever Mary it is. "They're a reserve squad, one year out from graduating to full squads now. They wouldn't have much involvement with your repair squad, especially considering they have a tendency to break things they're supposed to fix."

Now this is interesting. You might want to have a word with this Squib Squad later, just to get another point of view on Ash. Then again, if they're as bad as Grey suggests, you might need to tread very carefully in that conversation.

You think you've got enough to work with now. Could just leave, even though you don't have Grey's secret yet.

Hang on a moment. That actually gives you an idea for taking the subject back where you want it.

"I had no idea that Ash was involved in that kind of shady business," you say. "Well. Maybe I shouldn't bother checking with him again after all. I'll just talk to another officer about what I saw earlier."

Now you've got Grey's attention.

"Hang on. If you saw an animal, why can't you just tell us now? We'd just go and report it, and ask for permission to investigate. I mean, okay, we're not the senior pest control squad, but this is our job. I can't see why there's any need to be secretive about this."

You're going to have to be careful here. If Grey thinks your story's off, he'll probably figure out you're up to something.

So what are you going to tell him?
If I saw an animal, sure. And if I saw damage, I'd report it to repair squads. But when I see something that requires an important decision, I need to report it to an officer who has the base's best interests at heart.
You might as well bluff hard.

"Well, yeah, if I just saw an animal poking around, whatever it was, I'd tell a pest control squad. I mean, I've taken my fair share of repair reports, it's the same thing. But sometimes there's other stuff that needs to be reported, you know? And sometimes you can't tell just anyone about it. Sometimes you see something that's going to mean a big decision, so you've got to tell an officer."

"You made a hell of a choice on which one," Grey grumbles. "What could possibly be so important, anyways..."

"Rider's beast," the fifth member of the squad says. This one's real quiet; you can't recall hearing them talk before at all.

But they've just helped your bluff quite a bit.

"What?" you ask, doing your best to look as if you're downplaying the suggestion. "I don't know what you're getting at."

"Rider's gone missing, but his beast is still around," they continue. "I heard it's been real upset ever since. So who knows what kind of trouble it could be getting into."

"No, that's not it at all," you say, sounding as unconvincing as you can. "But, ah, that is a good example of the sort of thing I'd have to talk to an officer about before going to see pest control."

"I can see that," Grey says, though he sounds a little skeptical. "But if it's just a matter of chasing off Rider's swamp beast, why would you need to consult Dean specifically? Garrett's squad has seniority on us, and they've even got experience dealing with swamp beasts."

"Yeah, that is weird," Greenbags agrees. "Dean's studied lots of animals, but you wouldn't really need that for the swamp beast. Usually when people ask for him, they want an unusual animal identified..."

"Eh, that's enough, Greenbags," Grey sighs. "If he can't tell us, he can't tell us. Guess that's all there is to it."

If you weren't watching Grey carefully, you might have missed it. But he seems just a little too eager to move on from the subject of unusual animals.

However, you said you were leaving and now Grey wants you to leave. So you can't really direct this conversation much more. If you're going to get a better sense of his secret, you'll have to drop something tantalizing in your parting remarks.

So. What should you say?
Keep your ear to the ground!

If you hear any strange noises, remember to stay on your toes.
You can't think of much. Might as well wrap this up casually for now.

"Well, it's been a pleasure. I hope they can get Dean back soon," you reply. "Keep your ears to the ground, everyone."

It's a pretty standard farewell when dealing with pest control. Just a reminder that funny little noises might mean something running around under the floorboards. Probably won't get a reaction from Grey, though, unless what he's hiding is that he saw something with big ears.

"Later Tom," Greenbags says. "Stay on your toes."

And Greenbags offers the typical reply to repair squad. This one stems from an old joke about fixing a high shelf. Ah, you missed that good old banter. Now it's starting to feel like you're home again.

You keep your eyes on Grey for any sign of a reaction, but there's none. Though you think you catch a nervous glance from Nina out of the corner of your eye. Weird... but you've got to be getting a move on, if only for the sake of appearances.

That wasn't too bad as a warmup. You didn't pry anything out of Grey, but you got a good sense of events. And of the problem some knights have with Ash. You'll just have to see if you can work out his secret later.

But now... well. Your plan was to head to the Rock. But maybe you should talk to Squib Squad first, just get a feel for their opinions on the officers. Might keep you from crossing any unpleasant lines in a more mixed crowd, at the least.

Then again, you might be walking into a mudcrawler's nest if you try and meet with Squib Squad by yourself. If you go to the Rock, you should at least have a chance to find some backup.

You'll need to think about this for a bit.
It's Squib Squad time!

Oh yikes it's Lisa! But she doesn't notice you? Aw man a secret that gets her that focused is bound to be good.
You can probably handle this Squib Squad on your own. Most bullies just need a little ego-stroking.

The problem is where to find them. Seeing as they're not a permanent squad, they won't exactly have their own room.

Well. With all the trouble the base has seen lately, they're probably working. That's likely why you haven't seen as many knights as usual around. So if you could find out where they're working, that would be...

Your train of thought breaks as you realize there's someone else in the hall. Well! Maybe whoever it is can point you in the right way. You turn for a better look...

Wait. It's Lisa. And she hasn't noticed you at all. You're quite sure of that because she never passes up an opportunity to give you a hard time. She rushes off hurriedly.

Something must really be holding her attention. Which means, of course, that you need to find out what.

Though, she's moving rather fast. You'd have a hard time keeping up. It might be easier to try to predict where she's heading.
Based on the direction, she could be seeking medical attention.

For herself or for someone else, though? If it were an emergency would she be this discreet?
The infirmary. She was headed in that direction, and it's the sort of place someone might rush to. Seems worth a shot, at any rate.

You get there just as John Medic is leaving and Eve is taking over. You don't see Lisa anywhere, but it seems surprisingly busy for this hour; there's an actual lineup. About six knights seem to be waiting to get in.

Hmm. Did the greatrats and the attempted Marshguard attack cause that many problems? Or is something else going on?

You can't help but wonder. And there's a line of people to ask right here. But... asking people about their injuries is a tricky thing. Easy to come off as insensitive.

Though there's one way you can start. There's six people here, after all.

"Are you all from the same squad?" you ask the last knight in the line.

"That's not funny," he says, keeping his voice down. "I don't appreciate being lumped with Squib Squad. Don't know what they're here for, maybe they just gave each other a pounding. Me, I got some bad stomach cramps, I think maybe there was something unpleasant in my swamp mush."

Oh. Well. At least you found Squib Squad, apparently. It's going to be a bit awkward starting a conversation with them here, though. Waiting their turn is likely to put them in a foul mood, and you'd rather not talk to them with someone else around. It's likely to make them more guarded.

That'll have to wait, though. You've started a conversation with this fellow, so it's best to finish it.

"Sorry," you say to the knight. "I just got back from leave. So I missed a lot around here. Couldn't tell at a glance, just saw there were six of you and I was wondering."

"Yeah, well, one of their squad quit the other night. Guess the Marshguard attack scared him away. Of course, he was always the least intimidating of the group. Can't wait to see what musclehead they replace him with."

His disdain is clear, but he's also talking very quietly. He obviously doesn't want the squad to hear him.

So. While you've got his attention, what should you talk to him about?