Ragabash Elder Challenge

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She’s thought about it for a couple of days since Joey came to her and told her she was leaving, and that she had recommended her for the spot. She’s still vaguely new to the city, she’s certainly not the highest-ranking member of the Auspice here and…well, she was weird enough with the fact that people called her the Strider Elder. She’s not fuckin’ old, after all. In addition, challenges aren’t something that she can take lightly. Her pack’s totem demands that they pick and choose their battles, and having the wisdom to know when the risk is worth it. Should she lose this, it’s not just her that pays. She has to consider all of this.

But it would be good for the city, and good for her, to get new perspectives. That’s what being a Ragabash was all about, right? Making sure that new perspectives are seen, and no one gets settled into old ways for the sake of them being old. A Devil’s Advocate had to be in place, especially during a time of change in the Sept like this. Her pack chose her for this very reason, and she chose them because she knew she could complete them in that way. If she was a fit there, then she could be a fit here as well. It’s time for her to step up.

And thus, Sarita makes her way into the Sept, seeking out Balance-Without-Fault. She’s dressed simply—black tank top, jeans, cowboy boots and that ever-present duster settled on her shoulders. When she comes upon the Grand Elder and acting Master of the Challenge, she gives him a little incline of her head. A touch to respect and deference for the Adren.

“Good afternoon, Rhya. Joey told me that she was leaving town and thus that the Ragabash Elder position is going to be empty as a result. I’m here to hopefully fix that and challenge for the position.”

[Janis Ian] Sarita was not the only one that had considered the ramifications of Killswitch’s absence. Word travels fast about the departing of the Auspice Elder, while Janis’ concerns for Joey are kept to herself with the Rotagar’s sudden leaving. The Fenrir has given a hard long thought to the position; she happens to catch the Silent Strider on the same afternoon heading for the Grand Elder.

She tips her head in a curt nod to Sarita in greeting, red hair spilling down her shoulders in two twin braids that touch to her hips. She tucks her hands in her pockets, waiting for the Strider to speak first as they both approached the Grand Elder.

There is a respectful tilt of her head downward, her body bowing like the branches of a tree caught in a heavy storm, “I too, most esteemed Alpha, come to challenge fer the position.”

[Balance Without Fault] Balance Without Fault regards the two Ragabashes a moment. Then he paces a circle around them where they stand. Dust puffs as he drags the toe of one boot through the dirt.

Challenge circle inscribed, he steps in with them.

“This will be a multipart challenge,” he informs them. “Part one: you are allowed to ask one question of each other, and one only. Make it good.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She looks over at Janis, nodding to her a little and giving a faint smile. There’s nothing in the way of malice in her eyes toward her auspicemate…only the appraising look of a Garou sizing up her competition. She smiles a bit and returns the curt nod with an amicable one of her own.

Her eyes remain on Janis while Balance Without Fault inscribes the circle, looking at him when he steps inside. The first part of the challenge is heard, listened and considered. It is a couple moments before she looks at Janis, head cocking as she crosses her arms over her chest.

“We No-Moons, we have to be good at ferreting out information. We also gotta be good at pointing out where others fall short, so we can help shake them out of their set ways and force them to look at situations—including themselves—differently. By needling them if necessary, hitting them with whatever we have to. We’re there to make sure Litany is considered and understood, not just accepted at face value in the way other people say it is.”

“So,” she says with a half-grin, “that being said. Why, with the Litany in mind, is it a bad idea for me to be Ragabash Elder?”

[Janis Ian] Janis waits patiently, her eyes drawn to the circle that the Grand Elder draws around them, the dust swirling into a little cloud as she moves a fraction to widen her stance; feet braced and balanced evenly with her shoulders. She draws her arms up across her chest, tucking her hands to lay them flat across bare biceps. The tattooed skin of her right arm twitched reflexively under the inked glyphs on her right forearm, the Fenrir glyph that sits on the curve of a deltoids muscle.

She tilts her head down, focused on the Strider as Sarita asks her question. Red eyebrows dance upward, widening her eyes to the question that spills from the Strider’s lips. “Litany itself doesn’t govern who is best chosen, ’tis the actions in ‘ow the No Moon, in question, interprets the Litany and uses it as a tool to best suit their purposes.”

Janis clears her throat, “With that said, I ‘ave neither seen nor ‘eard of yer actions that would say ye’re bad for the job. I cannot judge on face value. The one thing that may go against ye, Strider, is the very nature of yer tribe. Wanderlust. ‘ow can ye dedicate yer time to guiding our auspice if’n ye feel that nip at yer heels to walk with the sun at yer back and the wind in yer face? We’d just be ‘ere again searching for a new auspice elder when that time comes.”

She had one question to ask, “Why, Sarita, do ye want to this position that whatever ye can do for the auspice, it’ll be different from Killswitch-rhya’s time?”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[I will try to get a response in within the 24 hour timeframe, but I am working at the moment so it might not be possible. A slight extension would be appreciated if possible.]]

[Balance Without Fault] “An answer,” Balance Without Fault replies as soon as it becomes apparent that Sarita, like Janis before her, means to answer the question posed to her, “was neither necessary nor requested, Cliaths.

“If you are to play the questioner, you must first learn to listen. Carefully.” A wry smile, “It shouldn’t be possible for a Philodox to outfox a Ragabash.

“Part two. Answer this question: Why shouldn’t I dismiss both your challenges at this point?”

[Janis Ian] “Ye should since ye ‘ave proven that neither of us can listen well enough to figure out the first part of the challenge.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Sarita just grins a little bit when Balance Without Fault points out that he only asked about a question. If there’s admonishment, she doesn’t show it; she merely accepts his point and moves on. Then Janis says that they should, and she cocks her head curiously at the No-Moon before she gives her answer.

“That’s easy, Rhya. You’re absolutely right that a Ragabash needs to be able to listen as well as hear. They also need to be able to listen to what’s not being said and make a judgment call there. As the questioners, we have to look at what might be implied and go from there.”

She pauses a moment. “Now, obviously in this case, both Janis and I made the judgment call and guessed wrong. But my question to you would be this, Rhya…should the Elder of the Auspice be someone who, when faced with a decision to offer more you more or less, simply offer up the bare minimum and hope that’s enough? Or should they take a risk, offer up more at potential cost to themselves to give more information. We have to think on our feet, and if we’re in the field leading a recon mission, we can’t always wait to see what the next order is, step by step.”

“This Sept is beset at the moment. We’re always pretty beset, but not so much at our front door. But when push comes to shove, decisions have to be made and someone needs to be there in order to question…listen, yes, but question as well…the decisions being made. A few too many questions is always a better than then too few. Too many and some time might be wasted in the asking. Too few, and plans aren’t as thought-out as they need to be. If you want someone who’s doing the bare minimum and leaving it at that, then send us packing and hold off. But if you want someone who will think on their own and give more of themselves than expected, well…

She holds her hand up, as if volunteering. “Here you go.”

[Balance Without Fault] When both Cliaths have answered, Balance Without Fault nods to Janis.

“If you don’t feel yourself deserving of the role, then you can only be correct. Your challenge was honorable, Rides-Like-Cowboy, but it is at an end. Stand down.”

He turns back to Sarita.

“Echoes of Laughter, your packmates currently sit two of the five auspice elderships, and they are powerful ones. The Ahroun Elder is our warleader, whose authority in war is superceded only by the Warder’s. The Philodox Elder is the penultimate word of the law in this Sept, whose authority in peace is superceded only by mine. One might argue that between them, your pack already holds significant sway in this Sept.

“Were you to join the Elder Council, that makes three of five. That is a majority, enough to clinch any vote. Furthermore, it might be argued that the Ragabash elder is the check against the power of the other Auspice Elders. That part of the Ragabash Elder’s role would be to ask questions, test the edicts and theories and plans and resolve of the other Elders. To argue against them if need be, and to always present the minority opinion.

“Echoes of Laughter, answer these questions. If you were to become Ragabash Elder, don’t we lose the check your position is meant to represent? Wouldn’t that make your pack — forgive my terminology — a sort of controlling shareholder in this Sept? Isn’t it a good Ragabash’s job to prevent absolute dominance?”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Janis is given a smile—not triumphant, not any kind of Simpsons-esque “HA HA!” type of look, but just a friendly smile when she is dismissed. There’s respect there from the Strider for the Fenrir to have stepped up at all. She turns back to Balance Without Fault quickly, listening to what he says.

A faint smile hits her lips as he lays it out. This is something she actually considered herself when the decision of whether to challenge or came to her mind. She struggled with it for a short while, so it is easy for her to give the reasons that she countered her own doubts with.

“It’s definitely a thing that I can see people being concerned over, Rhya. Before I joined the Unbroken, I myself called it ‘The Elders Pack.’ Making another member of the pack an Auspice Elder would sure as hell be something I would be raising an eyebrow over…you know. If that member wasn’t me.”

She smiles a little, though it’s brief. “And you’re right. A Ragabash should prevent situations where a small group just pushes through everything. They should be able to make sure that more than one opinion is heard, and that all sides of an equation are looked at. It’s our nature and our job.”

“That being said…that’s exactly why I’m in the Unbroken. I’m not there to just fight alongside them, share a pack link and chill in Bellamonte Loft. I’m there because I’m not afraid to question them. Say the things that need to be said…shake them up as much as anyone else.”

“You ask if this gives the Unbroken a controlling interest in the Sept. There’s no way to get around the fact that as you put it, three out of the five Auspice Elders would be bonded together. But that doesn’t mean that the Unbroken will control the Sept. If I thought that was a concern, then to be honest I wouldn’t have ever challenged, Rhya. It’s the uniqueness of my Auspice…questioning everyone and making sure no one is just resting easy or falling along party lines…that makes this not a controlling interest situation.”

“There will be times that we’ll agree, obviously.” She shrugs. “They’ll happen. Maybe it’ll happen more than half the time, maybe not. But there is just as much chance that we’ll disagree…and if I were to agree with them just because we’re packmates, than I’m failing both the Council and the very pack I’m agreeing with against my better judgment.”

“I’ve always gone my own way,” she starts her finish with. “Janis mentioned that the Strider tendencies toward wanderlust could be a detriment, but I see it as an advantage. I’m good and settled, first of all. I wouldn’t have joined a pack otherwise. But the fact that I’ve been on my own for as long as I have, that I’ve had to make up my own mind about things and I didn’t have a party line to toe to outside the Litany, means that I am my own person. I don’t fall into voting blocs just ’cause it makes life easier. Besides, easier is less interesting. The road less traveled is more productive and more fun.”

[Balance Without Fault] “Why,” Balance suggests, sounding reasonable, “don’t you just always speak against your packmates, then? Wouldn’t that be a satisfactory solution? There would be no risk of absolute dominance, and it would fulfill your role of the questioner, would it not?”

[ This was BWF’s Manip + Subt roll:

Ivan Press
Mon 3:09 am
Roll valid
to Hilary Durante
[for bwf!]
Dice Rolled:[ 6 d10 ] 1, 2, 2, 5, 6, 8 (Success x 1 at target 6)

You can roll against it with percep + subt to simply detect falsehood/deception, or you can try percep + empathy to figure out what the underlying truth is. Or both!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] The words from Balance Without Fault draw pause from the Strider. She’s got a very good face on at the moment…having something to do gives her a chance to forget that she’s had trouble sleeping since Wednesday, had her own personal things she’s working out in her head. The more she’s goal-focused, the more she’s able to focus on being the Sarita she needs to be.

However, she isn’t perfect, and perhaps it’s the mental blow that she’s been suffering that causes her radar to go off and read the authenticity of his words entirely wrong. She cocks an eyebrow, arms crossing over her chest.

“I could do that. I suppose you’re right, it would prevent absolute dominance. But let’s look at that, play a little Devil’s advocate.” She smiles a little. “Since that’s what I’m supposed to be doing anyway.”

“Throwing a monkeywrench into all their plans would sure as hell make certain that the pack wasn’t controlling the direction of the Sept. But isn’t that just another form of a status quo? That runs pretty much counter to what I’m supposed to be doing. It’ll just get us set into a different but equally stagnant way, and in that case I’m not doing my job. Nor is the Sept benefitting. They shouldn’t be able to count against me any more than they can be sure I’m going to just fall in line. A Ragabash Elder needs to be of their own thoughts, not controlled by anyone, and if I get the spot, no one’s gonna escape the old Strider crosshairs without at least a little consideration…Lukas, Kate, Adamidas, Matthieu or even you.”

The smile twists into something a bit lopsided, and she shrugs.

“With that in mind I gotta say, Rhya…can’t really get on board with it. So if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m probably not your gal.”

[Balance Without Fault] Balance bows his head a moment, considering the dirt at his feet. Then:

“Part three. A professional blogger interested in paranormal affairs has an office on the 3rd floor of the [x building], located at [this address in bronzeville]. One of our enemies has FedEx’d him an SD card loaded with potentially veil-damaging photos. The package is currently locked in his inbox. He’ll check first thing in the morning.

“I’ll give you three hours to retrieve the package. After that, your challenge is dismissed, and Evens the Odds’ Ragabash will handle the matter.

“You may use whatever gifts, fetishes, talens, tools, strategies, and/or resources at your disposal. You may begin – now.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She listens quietly to what he says, commits the information to memory. The location, the details…all of it. As soon as he says “Now,” she’s jogging away, giving him a grin.

She heads back to the loft, grabbing a couple of talens—a Chiropteran Spy and a Nightshade—out of the chest at the Loft. And with that done, she takes off toward the building in question, picking up her phone and dialing up her private detective friend.

“Hey, Richard…s’up, sexy? It’s Sarita. Yeah, you too jackass.” It’s fondly said, and with a grin.

“Listen…I need your help. Remember that thing that I do, that you don’t ask questions about? Yes, the one that the cops don’t need to know that I make money off of. Well, turns out someone has something on me that I need to obtain. Can you do me a favor and do a quick check in your awesome civil databases that you have P.I. access to, see if [address] has any active and registered security systems?”

She grins. “I’ll love you forever…”

Logs of the mission:

[paratracker.com] [abbreviated rules!
– IC post in

[paratracker.com] Continuing from forums then —

Roll Investigation + Clout to get info!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Clout+Investigation]]
Dice Rolled:[ 6 d10 ] 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10 (Success x 3 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] [ WTF. okay, rules weren’t supposed to be THAT abbreviated.

– IC post in 10 min or less if we’re not rolling (if you IC post at all — I’m just gonna OOC it cuz I’m tiredlazy!)
– Roll in 2 min or less.
– There is no set way to win, nor to lose. However, failure is possible, and can be dangerous!
– That said, it’s also possible to recover from a misstep.
– All in all, feel free to be creative; I’ll adapt to what Sarita does! ]

Now then! Roll Investigation + Clout to get info from the contact *LOL*

[paratracker.com] Sarita finds out that the building in question has 3 entrances (front back and side). Security cameras monitoring each entrance and some interior halls. A fairly simple, suburb-residential-quality security system monitors the doors and windows.

I’ll sketch a quick map!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Okie. 🙂 *Ponders in the meantime*

[paratracker.com] (http://i24.servimg.com/u/f24/13/34/10/41/breaki10.jpg)

[paratracker.com] Red X marks the spot
Black X’s are elevators
Blue arrows show field of vision for security cams
All doors/windows are alarmed, but it’s a pretty crappo alarm system.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She’ll thank Richard for the information, promise to call him soon, and head on over. This is an office building…are there lights on in the place this late, or just dark with the cameras?

[paratracker.com] There’s a light on. 3rd floor, the office across from the paratracker.com office. Everything else is fairly dark, though emergency lighting is on.

Area looks pretty shady. Trash strewn streets, junky cars, peeling paint and rust on buildings, sirens all night long, etc. Gauntlet is stiff, but not insurmountable (I’ll give you an exact number if you try to cross)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She is gonna peek. If Sept enemies provided this information, they may have something in this area safeguarding it. And she may get lucky and have this building be old enough to exist on the other side.

[paratracker.com] [peek from realm to umbra is +3 diff, so roll gnosis vs diff 10. -1 if you have a mirror.]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Yay rearview on the Bitchmobile! GN]]
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 1, 6, 10 (Success x 1 at target 9) [WP]

[paratracker.com] Nice!

Umbra looks about what you’d expect in Bville. A lot of decay, a lot of despair and impotent anger. Banes, but mostly lowlevel ones, barely sentient. There’s one larger one prowling the premises, but it’s uncertain whether it’s been left there as a guard or not.

Roll percep + alert for more!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Percepty-cepty!]]
Dice Rolled:[ 5 d10 ] 2, 5, 6, 8, 8 (Success x 3 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] It seems to linger on the third story, near the office with the lighted window.

Oh, and — the building has some umbral presence. Not a lot, but some, more on the third floor than lower down. It might even be solid enough to walk through there.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] All right, so something up in that office is keeping an eye on things. That’ll make things fun.

She was hoping to save this, but she needs some more intel on what’s inside that office. She’s using the Chiropteran Spy to check out the building, report back what’s inside in terms of people or other.

[[GN to Activate]]
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 2, 4, 8 (Success x 1 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] Spy is active!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She’s sending it in to look at primarily the third floor. Any people or other life forms up there, particularly in the target office or the office opposite.

Also, while that’s going on…clarification on the map. To access the fire escape, it is necessary to come in view of the camera in front of the first floor door, short of some dextrous maneuvering, yes?

[paratracker.com] Roll me Wits or Intel + Occult or Enigmas, whatever combo is highest.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Intel+Enigmas]]
Dice Rolled:[ 5 d10 ] 5, 5, 6, 8, 10 (Success x 3 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] The lowest landing of the fire escape is on the second floor. If she doesn’t pull the ladder down and tries to jump straight up onto it, she might be able to stay out of sight of the camera. Other than that, yes, she’d be in the camera’s FOV.

Spy flappities up to third floor. Unable to find an open window (yay air conditioning = sealed windows!), it simply looks in from outside. Soon enough it returns and reports that all offices are empty except for the lit one. Through a lot of spirit gibberish and confusion — what do bat-spirits know of modern tech? — Sarita manages to figure out there’s a dude in the office across from paratracker.com, working on his computer. He’s typing very, very, very fast. The talen-spirit is disturbed by this dude and doesn’t want to have to go near him again.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She thanks the little guy and has him keep a look out on the outside, find her and warn her if anything similarly disturbing shows up. And she’s going to go look for the outside circuit box, if there is one. It’s her first good chance of bypassing the alarm system.

[paratracker.com] Crappp it wasn’t refreshing. Little guy takes a post on the streetlamp.

Percep + Investigation to find a circuit breaker box outside!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa]
Dice Rolled:[ 4 d10 ] 3, 7, 8, 8 (Success x 3 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] No breaker box, but the wires run aboveground here. She could snip the one that looks like it goes to this building if she wanted…

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Hmm, but just snipping the wire could shut off all the power, which could trigger the alarms anyway.

She’s gonna go to one of the windows on the bottom floor, check and see if she can tell how the alarms are triggered when a window is open (sensors being lined up, wires, etc.) that will give her a better idea.

[paratracker.com] Percep/Intel + Streetwise/Science, whichever is highest!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Per+SW
Dice Rolled:[ 6 d10 ] 1, 4, 7, 7, 9, 10 (Success x 3 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] Looks very simple – just optical sensors that get blocked when the window is opened past a certain point. Other than that, the locks are just catches. The windows open by flapping out and up. Due to the fulcrum being pretty far at the end, she could probably open it 2-3 inches without triggering the alarm if she’s careful (Dex + Streetwise or at a higher diff, Survival)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Man, what she wouldn’t give for Jam Tech. Okay. She’s gonna be alike an octopus, trying to feel out the weaknesses of the damned bottle so she can get in and eat the fish. If you’ve ever seen Deep Rising, that sentence may make sense. But there’s one other spot that she hasn’t considered, and that’s roof entry. So she’s looking for a strong-looking drainage pipe before she goes all-or-nothing and tries to jump onto the fire escape.

[paratracker.com] There are drainage pipes aplenty. Dex + Ath vs diff 7 to climb; an add’l Dex + Stealth vs diff 8 to do it relatively quietly!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] And now it’s time for some Gift Rolling before this whole Mission Impossible stung First Silence! Dex+Stealth
Dice Rolled:[ 7 d10 ] 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 10 (Success x 3 at target 6)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Next Up, Blur of Milky Eye!
Dice Rolled:[ 6 d10 ] 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 10 (Success x 2 at target 8 )

[paratracker.com] [Silence negates need for the dex+stealth vs diff 8 roll!]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] And now Dex+Ath vs. 7…
Dice Rolled:[ 5 d10 ] 5, 6, 7, 7, 8 (Success x 3 at target 7)

[paratracker.com] Up she goes. Easy climb. We’ll say she’s going up the right side of the building on the map. She can stop and look in the windows if she wants, but it’ll confirm what the spy told her – all offices empty. A lot of small struggling businesses here, Great Ideas that never really took spark. paratracker.com’s office is tiny and dingy and crammed with files, books, photocopies, and burger wrappers. There’s a picture tacked onto a corkboard of a man, a woman, two kids, all of them smiling and chubby. Looks like they’re at Disneyland.

Roof is empty. There’s an attic door, a ventilation shaft, and the fire escape just over the edge.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Looking at the attic door, see if it’s alarmed as well. [[Per+SW, smack me if I should be rolling something else]]
Dice Rolled:[ 6 d10 ] 2, 4, 7, 7, 9, 10 (Success x 4 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] Oops. Looks like Advantage forgot an entrance! (No alarm)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Hee. Silly security people. Nobody expects the Strider Inquisition! She gives a quick look around, and then a little Open Seal to get her in.
[[Gnosis]]
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 1, 5, 9 (Success x 1 at target 7) [WP]

[paratracker.com] Pop! Lock’s open. Dex + Stealth to ease that creaky bastard open without making noise (sorry, Silence doesn’t cover incidentals!)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Deximus + Stealthimus
Dice Rolled:[ 7 d10 ] 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 6, 8, 10, 10 (Success x 4 at target 6) Re-rolls: 2

[paratracker.com] Open without a sound! Dropping down doesn’t make a sound either. Attic is dusty as hell. Hope you don’t have allergies. It appears to run through most of the third story, though ventilation pipes are obviously closed off. There are ceiling panels though. How good’s your mental map?

(Intel + Streetwise/Investigation, whichever is higher)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Int+SW; This is 3rd WP. Noted so I can keep track!]]
Dice Rolled:[ 6 d10 ] 3, 4, 4, 4, 7, 8 (Success x 2 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] 3 suxx, not 2!

How nice do we wanna be? Odds – nice. Evens – not nice.
Dice Rolled:[ 1 d10 ] 9 (Success x 1 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] Lucky you!

There’s a trapdoor right over the red X. Another one in the corner office (front left corner) and another in the lit office.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Carefully…CAREFULLY open that sumbitch up and slide on in. [[At least one Dex+Stealth, I’m assuming?]]
Dice Rolled:[ 7 d10 ] 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 7, 10 (Success x 2 at target 6) Re-rolls: 1

[paratracker.com] [that wasn’t as good. do the neighbors hear? — sound, not vision, no blur bonus.]
Dice Rolled:[ 4 d10 ] 1, 2, 6, 9 (Success x 1 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] Typing next door — which is frenetically fast, so fast the keystrokes blur together, what the hell could he be writing? — stops for a tick. Then continues again. Ceiling panel as been removed. Sarita can drop down soundlessly, but don’t land on a rustly pile of loose papers or burger wrappers!

[Wits + Stealth to land right!]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Wits+Stealth!]]
Dice Rolled:[ 5 d10 ] 2, 3, 9, 9, 10 (Success x 3 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] Nice landing. Office is all crowded. Smells like unwashed geek. Ratty old books everywhere, stuff like VAMPIRE COMPENDIUM and ELVES: FACT OR FICTION? and THINGS THAT GO BUMP. Also lots and lots of papers from very questionable journals. Oh, and those ubiquitous burger wrappers. Computer is old, 2004 at best, small form factor and sitting on the desk, which is also totally crowded with supernatural “research”. Keyboard looks sticky, and so does the phone. Message indicator is blinking 2 new messages. Lots of typing going on across the hall, noisy enough to vibrate through the walls.

[paratracker.com] Intel + Investigation or Science to figure out how to program the VCR. Or, y’know. Listen through receiver.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Ugh. Idiot X-Files freaks. She looks around, then leans down to look at the answering machine and figure this stupid thing out.

[[Int+Inv]]
Dice Rolled:[ 4 d10 ] 1, 2, 7, 8 (Success x 1 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] She comes perilously close to letting that thing squawk into the room. It actually starts hissing dead-air when Sarita hits the STOP button, then pushes a few more, then finally gets it right.

First message is boring, wife asking when he’s coming home. Second one is a distorted voice, probably run through some anonymizer. Wants to know if he’s gotten the package, and to contact “them” at (this number) if he wants more where it came from.

[Intel + Streetwise for a chance at more info!]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Int+SW]]
Dice Rolled:[ 6 d10 ] 2, 4, 6, 6, 9, 10 (Success x 4 at target 6)

[paratracker.com] She hasn’t been in the area long, but that sharp mind of hers has osmosed area codes and prefixes. That number comes from a swanky part of town — north shore, home of intimidatingly huge houses and country clubs and rich rich people. It’s a landline, not a cell phone. Also probably not the number attached to typomaniac next door — that guy’s a whole different can of worms.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She looks around, grabs a piece of paper and writes down the number, just in case committing it into memory isn’t good enough. And then she starts looking for the damned package.

[paratracker.com] Open seal to unlock desk, then Dex+Stealth vs diff 8 to dig around without anything rattling, crunching, plinking or thudding.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Open Seal]]
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 1, 5, 7 (Failure at target 7)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Trying again at higher diff! WP +4]]
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 1, 6, 7 (Failure at target 8 ) [WP]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Oh fuck’s sake]]

[paratracker.com] [Wits + Streetwise to do this the old fashioned way! Diff 7.]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Wits+SW]]
Dice Rolled:[ 5 d10 ] 2, 6, 7, 8, 8 (Success x 3 at target 7)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Dex+Stealth
Dice Rolled:[ 7 d10 ] 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (Success x 1 at target 8 )

[paratracker.com] Nice lockpickin’. Close call on the searching though. All sorts of random shit in there. Pens. Pencils. Pencil sharpener. Ruler. Stapler. Magnifying glass. Stickie notes. Slinky toy. CD holder. Envelopes. Rubik’s cube. An old Playboy. A can of air duster. A stuffed koala bear that SQUEAKS — or almost squeaked —

and an overnight envelope from FedEx. Return address is the same as mailing address, and both are this building, this room.

[paratracker.com] [+1 WP for successfully getting the package!]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] All right, time to try and exit the way we came, since out the door still leaves us with potentially tricky alarms and Sarita is not a bomb squad person! First off, Dex+Ath!
Dice Rolled:[ 5 d10 ] 1, 7, 8, 8, 9 (Success x 2 at target 8 )

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] And pulling up! Str+Ath!
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 2, 6, 7 (Success x 2 at target 7) [WP]

[paratracker.com] Safe in the attic again!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] And back to the roof we’re headed. Nasty fucker may warrant more attention later, but he’s still an unknown quantity and dealing with him may screw the retrieval mission. So she’s headed back to the roof, and down the pipe.

[paratracker.com] One str+ath (diff 7) to get out of the attic the same way, and then a dex+ath (diff 4) to shimmy down the drainpipe!

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Str+Ath
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 1, 4, 8 (Failure at target 7)

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] [[Higher diff, dammit!]]
Dice Rolled:[ 3 d10 ] 2, 6, 8 (Success x 2 at target 8 ) [WP]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] And Dex+Ath
Dice Rolled:[ 5 d10 ] 5, 6, 8, 8, 9 (Success x 5 at target 4)

[paratracker.com] WPless, but package in hand and home free! Back to the boards with thee. I’ll post up this transcript for those interested.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Woot!

[paratracker.com] [Exeunt!]

[Balance Without Fault] Not an easy task. Lots of close calls. When Sarita returns to the Caern, she’s utterly drained; probably wants nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep for a few days.

Balance is still waiting for her, though. The challenge circle remains unbroken. And he doesn’t give her a moment’s rest.

“Welcome back,” he greets her. “Report.”

[For the record: Truth of Gaia is active.]

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] Sarita looks exhausted, a little wobbly on her feet. She rubs the side of her face as she approaches Balance Without Fault, holding SD card. When the Grand Elder greets her and asks for her report, she straightens a little bit, shaking off the weariness for a moment.

“Whoo boy…okay. So, on the way to the location you gave me, I called up a contact of mine, got the security layout for the place. Stopped by Katherine’s loft and picked up a couple of talens for pack use that might do me well…a Chiropteran Spy and Nightshade. As it turned out, the Spy was useful, the Nightshade not needed.

“Once I got to the location, it was evident that the information I’d gotten from my source panned out. Security cameras, nothing particularly fancy but pretty extensive to prevent people getting in. The lights were more or less out, with the exception of one office across from Mr. “I Want To Believe.” Peeking across the Gauntlet showed a few Banes, only one that was anything to speak of. It was creeping around the place, bein’ a creeper.”

She pauses, there, looking down at the SD card with a bit of a frown before she looks back.

“That office across from the blogger’s got someone…less than normal inside of it. It needs to be checked out…I would have done it myself, but I was fairly spent and I figured retrieving the card was more time-critical. Judgment call. I’d be happy to go out with whoever might be sent.

“Anyway, I used the Spy to check the place out; it confirmed that there was something off about the guy. Had it do some guard duty while I checked out the security a bit closer…windows, circuit box, anything like that. Dropped into Silence and Blur of the Milky Eye, then decided to go pipe-climbing to the roof, found an in there that took me into the building. The crawlspace had a dropdown directly into the blogger’s office.

“Once I was inside, I did a little bit of checking. There wasn’t a hell of a lot I could do with the potentially Wyrm-ridden guy typing away right next door, but I checked phone messages…our boy got a call from the people who sent it, promising that there was more if they wanted it.”

She pulls out the scrap of paper with the phone number on it. “This is the number that they left. Sounds like one of those ritzy posh areas. I got into the desk, grabbed the envelope, then came back the way I went.”

She shrugs. “Outside of this and whatever our enemies are trying to pass over, there’s not a hell of a lot that he has that seems legit. Alternative press bullshit, the usual. He’s an idiot who’s read too damned much Dylan Dog or some other bullshit comic book. If we take care of the source and strike out the guy in the other office, we should be fine.”

She holds up the SD card. “There ya go. I’m sure that can be analyzed or some sort of thing to get some info on who sent it.”

[Balance Without Fault] Anyone can see Sarita is exhausted. And there are watchers now – curious parties drifting by to see what was going on. She can see the Ragabash Guardian in the audience. He raises a hand in a friendly wave as she looks his way.

Then it’s Balance Without Fault, it’s her report, it’s the events of the night laid out and laid bare for inspection.

The Grand Elder listens carefully to every word. He weighs every word for truth, not because he distrusts this particular Ragabash but because that is his job. He listens to her explain her setup, her entry, the office next door, the extraction, the exit. Even more keenly, he listens to her rationale. Her reasons. Why she did what she did. Why she didn’t do what she didn’t do.

When she’s done, Balance holds his hand out for the SD card, turns the small thing over in his hand a few times, then tosses it to the Ragabash Guardian.

“If you were the Ragabash Elder, leader of our scouts,” he says, “what would your next move be?”

[Sinclair] There’s an unexpected party that’s come drifting over to watch the rest of the challenge. Around Sinclair there’s a faint smell of ozone, her eyes a bit brighter than usual, like she’s high on something, the edges of her body jazzed somehow — that all may be illusion. No one in Chicago has seen her since she skipped town early one morning to drive to San Diego, but here she is.

Poor Lucille, dropping the phone in the Loft when visible electricity and soundwaves leapt out of the handset and conformed themselves in midair to the shape of the Galliard.

Someone — maybe Lukas — asked her why she didn’t just call a phone at the Caern. Reason the first: she’s not sure anyone would pick up. Reason the second: That just seems wrong, y’know, like… apparating inside Hogwarts or something.

She’s not here to stay for more than a matter of hours, she told them through Perun, but she zapped her and drove to the Caern and walked up to this particular challenge circle tonight to stand and watch, observe, remember. Her long hair is down, arms crossed over her shoulders. There’s a bright blue streak in that hair now, and a braid to the left side of her face that’s got a couple of beads and a feather hanging at the end. Sinclair catches Sarita’s eye sometime during her report.

Winks.

[Milo Sweeney] Among the onlookers come to watch this challenge, there’s a relative newcomer in the crowd. He doesn’t exactly blend in today, because Maelstrom is a relatively small sept. Even so, Milo keeps out of the way, nondescript in boring dark colors, hands resting in the pockets of his zipped up hoodie.

He didn’t come here specifically to watch. Still without a pack, the quiet Gaian pulls his weight anyway, helping out the Theurges that tend the land, and he scouts the area surrounding the Caern, including that notorious construction site.

On his way back through, the commotion at the challenge circle caught his attention. Curiosity tugging him relentlessly, he goes to watch how challenges are handled here. He recognizes Sarita, vaguely, from when he stayed at The Brotherhood before. He remembers she always had a friendly word when they passed each other in the hall.

Shifting around the small collection of onlookers, Milo makes his way a little closer, for a better look. He doesn’t wink, should she happen to look his way, but if she does he tips his chin up, mouth quirked in a slight smile.

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] She doesn’t notice Milo show up; she’s too damn tired, both mentally and physically, to do so. If she did, he’d get a quick smile and a wink, but alas. She does however feel the pricking of a pack member drawing close, and is surprised, momentarily pausing, when she realizes that it’s neither Lukas nor Katherine. In that moment of surprise there are no words over the pack link, just gratitude.

That momentary pause also has her considering her answer. She runs a hand through her hair, fingers clenching to gather it together right at the back of her skull as she purses her lips.

“I’d have that SD card analyzed, see if there’s any infosend a pack out to do a fuller assessment and based on that, if they thought they could handle it, as quiet of a removal of the bane if possible. One that’s balanced, has a Theurge in it at least for the extra spirit dealing-with mojo. If there’re no packs immediately available, a grouping of whoever’s available. Give Derek or Izzy a call, have them run the phone number of the guy who called our boy the Frog Broth…err, the ghosthunter. That would give us an address we could stake out, and give us an idea of where we could go from there.”

She pauses and points at the SD card in the Guardian’s hand. “I’d also have the data on that SD card checked out, see if there’s any information on there that helps us identify the source. Might not help, but you never know.

“The one at the office would have to be done really quietly. The guy in the office across from Blogger Boy didn’t seem to necessarily be the same kind of nasty as we had shining a light on our dubious affairs, but that doesn’t mean the two aren’t related. If we already have someone in place staking out the address, then any reaction from the elimination of Typity-Type could betray some sort of information in the Master Plan, so to speak.”

She nods. “So yeah. Two-pronged situation, to deal with one—maybe two—possible threats. That’s the way I’d go.”

[Balance Without Fault] There’s no pause. No deep breath before the plunge. No drumroll before the envelope is opened. As soon as Sarita finishes, Balance speaks the verdict.

“Sarita Echoes-of-Laughter, you have proven yourself a worthy successor to Laughs in the Face of Death.”

That’s not where it ends. There’s no room for celebration yet; no deep breath of relief. No time for that. He continues immediately — levelly, pitilessly, dissecting each moment of her performance tonight. Point by point. Action by action.

“In the single question you asked of Janis Ian,” he says, “you did not attack her, though you could have. You aimed at yourself instead, and that takes courage. It’s also a necessity. No Ragabash can hope to question others if they do not question themselves first.

“Too often young Ragabashes forget that their role is not an excuse to be disrespectful, rebellious, or arrogant. A Ragabash does not question because she are always right, and everyone else is always wrong. She questions because that is her duty, and because by doing so, she strengthens the pack, the Sept, and the Nation.

“You did not forget that tonight, Sarita. Well done.

“What you did forget was to listen carefully; to pay attention. And what I said then is still true. A good Ragabash must listen carefully before she speaks. If your job is to find the weakness in any argument, any plan, then you must know the argument and the plan as well as its proposer. Poorly done.

“That said, that test was not wholly fair. But it was never meant to be. I wanted to test your wits and your ears. But even more, I wanted to test how you would respond to a setback. I wanted to see if you would grow sullen or combatative. If you would argue, or sulk.

“You did not. You responded with courage and good humor. With intelligence, and with tenacity. Well done.

“The concern that your sitting the Auspice Council may unbalance things in your pack’s favor is a valid one. It is also one that will continue to dog you, I suspect, long after this challenge. You have defended yourself well tonight, but words are words. You will need to defend yourself again and again against this charge. You will have to prove with your actions that you are capable of thinking for yourself. That when you speak with the Ahroun and Philodox elders, you are not blindly following. That when you speak against them, you are not blindly rebelling.

“You have taken one step toward that proof tonight. You rejected my flatly ludicrous demand that you always speak against your pack. I don’t think you ever realized my true intentions, and a Ragabash Alpha will have to be sharper than that — but perhaps that made your trial by fire all the more telling. Even when you thought I, the Grand Elder of the Sept, demanded this of you; even when you must have thought I might fail you for refusing, you refused.

“Politely. Respectfully. But with the same courage and good humor you have shown throughout this challenge. Well done.

“Those were all tests of your social abilities as Ragabash Alpha. But we are a Sept of war, and at war. Your abilities as the scoutmaster will be just as important, if not more so. You will need to rally and direct the Ragabashes — a task often harder than herding cats. You cannot hope to do that if you do not first prove yourself an adept scout yourself.

“That was the purpose of the final part of this challenge. You were tasked to retrieve a sensitive item. It was an urgent matter, and I was glad to see you wasted no time, and that you were clever and resourceful in your solution to the problem.

“Still, when offered any resource you could gather, you forgot the single most important resource of all: your allies. You could have asked the help of your packmates. Other Ragabashes. Even Broken Glass, the Ragabash who first unearthed this situation. You are a Strider, and perhaps accustomed to working alone — but you have chosen to join this Sept, and you are challenging to lead its Ragabashes. A good leader doesn’t merely dominate; she guides, and shapes, and weaves her followers into a coherent whole.

“Perhaps that, too, is an unfair expectation. After all, you were in the middle of a challenge, and perhaps you thought that you would fail if you did not go alone. Still; this is something you will have to keep in mind from here on out.

“As for the mission itself: you proved yourself a more than capable scout tonight. You accomplished the task I laid before you, as I suspected you might. You retrieved the flashdrive. You even unearthed its source. Well done.

“But as you may have already guessed, that was not the true test. We knew, long before I sent you in, of the man across the office and the bane that follows him about. I withheld this information to see what you, alone in the field with a time-sensitive mission, would do in response. And more importantly, why.

“Had you attacked blindly without concern for your mission, you would have failed. We have no use for a stupid Ragabash Alpha. Had you ignored the situation simply because you were not instructed to take care of it, you would have failed. We have no use for a Ragabash Alpha who cannot think for herself.

“Had you decided the threat was too great not to investigate, and investigate now, you may well have succeeded all the same. But in the end, you decided it was more important to return to the Sept with the stolen data before the workday begins. You decided that your given mission was more time-sensitive, but you did not forget about the snag. You gave your reasons clearly, without attempting to spin it in your favor. You have a clear plan of action for dealing with the additional confounding factor.

“That is completely valid, and shows sound judgment and wisdom on your part. Well done.

“One final detail, then. When you spoke of your next plans, you laid forth intelligent and sound ideas. However, don’t forget that your role as the scoutmaster of this Sept requires you to disseminate information to the other Elders; to hear their input; to formulate a cohesive response.

“I trust your judgment and your expertise. I know in an emergency, you will act quickly and with cunning. That is why you have proven worthy of the position you seek. But there is no room for uncertain plans and weak alliances in this Sept. As the old human adage goes, we must stand together or die alone.”

At last, a pause. Balance Without Fault rotates his head on his shoulders, cracking his vertebrae. Then, with a ring of formality in his voice:

“Echoes of Laughter, knowing now the full burden of your duties and responsibilities, do you still seek the position of Ragabash Elder of Maelstrom?”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] There may not be time for a breath of relief before Balance Without Fault starts assessing, but one is taken just the same. She couldn’t have avoided it even if she’d tried. The tension in her shoulders, running down her spine doesn’t vanish, but does alleviate somewhat as the pressure of at least a couple details, like “Whoops, lost us the totem, guys” vanishes into the ether.

That moment is purposefully kept short-lived, though. The Grand Elder goes into his assessment, and she listens. She hears the points she did well, and the places where she slipped up. There is a hint of a grin, tired as it is, when the Glass Walker mentions that the datacard was not the true test. Not a ‘I’m so cool for realizing,’ but an appreciation of the ruse. It’s exactly the sort of thing that a No-Moon should appreciate, after all.

Her praises get little nods, maybe a smile here or there when something she wasn’t totally sure about—the assertion regarding going against her packmates, or her decision to return instead of learning more about the bane—is detailed. The critiques, the things she could have done better…she listens, and she nods. The idea of going to others in the Sept for aid gets a look on her face—the kind that you would expect someone to get when they knew they had the right answer on Jeopardy! but went for something else instead. But in all she listens, she files away as lessons learned.

Then he straightens. And he asks her if she still seeks the position. And she understands why…after all of this, some people might actually say no, thinking it’s too much.

She doesn’t say no. She just nods, and speaks four words.

“That I do, Rhya.”

…hey, a simple “Yes” would have been too straight-forward. This is Sarita, after all.

[Balance Without Fault] “Then it is yours.”

Balance Without Fault takes a step backward, his heel deliberately breaking through the challenge circle. He turns to the onlookers – raising his voice loud and clear.

“Wolves of the Maelstrom: your Ragabash Elder, Echoes of Laughter.”

[excellent challenge, all! thanks for participating! i’ll leave this post in this forum for a while longer, then move it into moot forums since this sort of thing usually happens at moots.]

[Katherine Bellamonte] Katherine has approached, toward the end of things. She brushes against her sister who also watches; a hand briefly twitching one of Sinclair’s fingertips in a wordless hello before she turns her eyes on the Challenge Circle.

Watchful.
Waiting.

When Balance Without Fault officially names her sister the Ragabash Elder; the Silver Fang’s smile is genteel in its pleasure. Ever dignified, that was Katherine. “Well done, Ragabash Elder for Maelstrom.” She greets her with the new title, her warmth tinged with a pack-mate’s tease.

[Lukas Wyrmbringer] Lukas did, indeed, want to know why Sinclair hadn’t just call someone at the Caern. Sinclair explained it in Harry Potter terms; this led to a conversation in his car, en route from Loft to Caern, about how lame or awesome each of the HP movies were.

“I can’t wait for the next one,” he confesses, pulling the chainlink fence open to slip through into the bawn,

and out of mortal sight.

Later, much later:

Of all the packmates, Wyrmbreaker is the only one tonight who’s chosen to take his animal form. It’s cold, after all, and he walked out in his pajamas. When that first thrill of mingled excitement and relief comes across the totemlink, the black wolf’s ears prick. When the final question is asked, he shifts where he sits, front paws stamping back and forth once or twice.

Then Sarita accepts. And he rises to his feet, ready. When Balance Without Fault breaks the line, the black wolf bounds forward, rears up on his hind legs to plant big muddy paws on Sarita’s shoulders. Whuf! he says, closes his teeth lightly and affectionately on his packmate’s — well. Her face. It’s a gentle gesture, though, and brief. A moment later he drops down. He circles around his packmates a few times as though to keep them, protect them, ward them, then sits, lolling his tongue out.

In this form, even his thoughts are feral and fragmentary:

Good words. Clever scout! Proud!

[Milo Sweeney] Milo listens to the Grand Elder’s words as he details where Sarita went right and where she went wrong, his eyes on the Strider. Her humor in the face of it all, weary as it is, is a relief to see. That she doesn’t sulk or flail about or make excuses for a misstep or a thing overlooked. And also that she doesn’t preen when she receives praise.

His mouth quirks when she says those four words. Congratulations will wait for another time, though, maybe when Sarita’s had some sleep. Now, her packmates go to her, and the quiet Child of Gaia slips away.

[Sinclair] Perhaps due to the nature of her auspice, Sinclair is silent and steady for the remainder of the challenge after that wink given to Sarita. She flicks Kate’s fingertips back, a subtle hello, but otherwise she’s watching Balance Without Fault and Echoes of Laughter. She stands by Lukas’s lupus form, but she understands the words the Grand Elder and Ragabash use better when she’s like this without the urges and instincts of a wolf’s body tugging at her.

She’d remember it just as well if she were in lupus. She’d remember it differently, though.

Of all the Unbroken, her reaction is the quietest. The two Adrens move forward to congratulate Sarita, one tidily and one muddily, one with a tease, one with a nomf to the face. Sinclair hangs back a bit, then walks forward. She’s taking a breath, letting go the role, hanging onto the challenge for later to write it all down, but as she comes over to her pack she grins. Her hand drops and scritches Lukas’s neck and behind his ear affectionately as he circles them — happily, proudly, protectively.

She gives the Strider a tight, quick hug. “You kicked ass,” she tells her while she squeezes her, offhand, as though implying that it’s so obvious it goes without saying. Letting her go, she swings around and claps her hands on Kate and Sarita’s backs, slings her arms around their shoulders. “Lukas, putcher manface back on. I got til eight a.m. central before I have a phone call to catch back to San Diego, so we’re gonna go get wasted. Champagne for Kate, vodka for you, Hpnotiq for me, and…Idaknow, we gotta figure out what the Strider tribal booze is.”

[Sarita Ecos de la Risa] When the announcement is made, she finally relaxes, slumping a bit. Katherine greets her by title and a smile; Lukas puts lupine paws on her shoulder and bites her face. They’re a varied pack, you see. Sarita almost stumbles at the sudden gesture, laughing a bit. She finally notices Milo, giving him a little nod as he departs just before Sinclair comes up. She’s pulled out her cheapo ancient cellphone and sending a text—poorly—when Sinclair comings up and hugs her.

“Thanks, guys.” She rubs at her eyes, and smirks at the question of Strider tribal booze.

“I don’t know what it is worldwide, I ain’t society enough to know what Egyptian booze there is. But here in Chicago, I decree it’s freakin’ Jimmy Cuervo.” She chuckles, the blinks and shakes her head.

“Let’s do it.” And after a nod of respect to the Grand Elder, she turns to leave with her pack, texting badly along the way.