He's ordering me around. I don't like it. -_-
Well, that's because he's in charge of the operation. Of course he's gonna tell you what to do.
I can figure out a location ping and hack some stupid hardware on my own. I don't need him. I'm not a goddamn plebe.
I know that, but it's his mission. He asked for assistance and you offered.
See, that's the thing. I distinctly remember you telling him that 'Yeah, Wrench would just LOVE to help out with your fucking errand,' but neglected to tell me about it.
Because otherwise you would have said no. :)
If you weren't so insanely smart and gorgeous, I just might not like you…buuut, then again I can't resist such a devil woman.
Such a gentleman. ;) Just think of it as a…bonding activity? Get along. Work together. I don't know, gain each other's trust. You just might need it one day.
I'd rather be locked in a room, completely naked and covered in honey, with 10,000 angry bees than put my faith in Ray.
A great mental image, thank you. And you're stuck with him anyway, so just get it over with already. You can complain when it's all done with. :)
Does complaining about not being able to complain count?
Riley smiled down at the text messages from Wrench, wondering how things were going with the op. All she'd heard from him so far were complaints, but she was sure things were going well despite his bad attitude. Wrench got things done, that was certain. You just couldn't always guarantee he would enjoy himself along the way.
She'd suggested to Ray that Wrench help him out for several reasons. One, she was tired of hearing him complain about not having a fun mission to do for such a long time. Two, it would probably help them repair the relationship since the whole Wrench Jr. incident. And three, Riley wanted some alone time. It was great seeing Wrench all the time and all, but she hadn't had some time to herself in a long while. Some fresh scenery would do her some good.
The brunette rose from the couch in the hackerspace and grabbed her bag, intent on heading out to go…somewhere. She'd decide on the way. She stood there another moment, selecting some music to listen to on her way, when Josh approached with a laptop in hand.
"Riley?" He asked quietly, and she swung around to look at him.
"Yeah, what's up?" It wasn't often Josh sought her out specifically. This must be important.
Josh, in his usual habit, rocked back and forth on his feet, as if he always had somewhere else to be, and talking to you was just slowing him down. "If you're not busy, I need your help. We got an email from a supporter, asking us to look into something."
He opened the laptop a bit more and turned the screen around so she could see. The email was sent directly to Josh himself, which in of itself was unusual. Riley knew, only just recently in fact, that requests for help normally came through Snickerdoodle, a trusted DedSec agent, who would then forward any messages to one of the main DedSec members.
"I know you're probably busy with way more important things and everything, keeping our privacy and personal information safe and all, but if you could spare some time, there's an issue with Stanford University that nobody seems to want to solve.
I applied to be part of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority last week. Thought it might look good on an application or something. I don't know. Mom said it would be good for me. Either way, I applied and they accepted me in. But they have a really messed up hazing that…I don't really want to get into. It was awful. It shouldn't be allowed to continue.
I tried bringing it up with student resources, and even the safety administrator's office, but because I didn't have proof or any evidence, it was just filed as a complaint. How messed up is that? Somebody needs to know about this, but I can't do anything from my position. In fact, I'm transferring schools, just so I don't have to run into any of them again. I'll be going to UCLA from now on.
If there's any way you could look into their hazing practices, maybe it'll save other girls from experiencing the same thing I did. Please do something."
"Isn't hazing a banned practice?" She asked, and Josh nodded.
"It is. But it doesn't stop it from happening. Most houses have just learned to keep it secret now." He closed the laptop again, turning to her wit that usual serious expression. "This isn't something that directly benefits DedSec. It's not even related to ctOS. But I don't like the idea of universities turning a blind eye to abuse and bullying. It isn't right. I want to do something about it."
Though she'd previously felt like she needed some alone time, now her interest was piqued. Plus, it wasn't often Josh approached her with a request. Or even at all. They were friends, but mostly acquaintances when it all came down to it. Riley hoped to change that. Spending a bit of time helping him on this mission might just accomplish that.
Riley smiled, setting her bag back onto the couch. "Well, let's do something about it then, shall we?"
Stanford University was a buzz of activity. Students were scattered about the lawns with laptops and books scattered around them, or biking down the walkways, on their way for their next class. A few had pets on leashes, and some even were allowed to freely roam, though they mostly stuck close to their owners.
It was still recruiting week for the Greek houses, as several stands and booths were lined up along the pathway all around the commons, enticing to students to join a fraternity or a sorority. She saw the house in question on the corner of the commons area, with several girls holding flyers and information for joining. Riley passed them by, thinking it would mean less people at the house to catch her snooping.
Complete with fake glasses and a book bag slung over her shoulder to make her look more like a student, Riley walked her way through the main common grounds. Many of the main halls surrounded the square commons area, but that wasn't why she was there.
"Where is Greek Row from here?" She asked, walking towards the huge tower in the middle of the campus.
"Fraternity and Sorority houses should be on the eastern side of campus. Turn left at the tower and keep going. Sigma Delta Tau should be second from the last house on the right."
"Thank you." She said kindly, doing as she was told.
There was several minutes of silence, as Josh wasn't really that big of a talker unless he needed to say something. Everything he did was necessary and logical. Sure, he had his moments of unexpected humor and social integration, but they weren't often, and Riley had hoped this op would bring them a little closer together. It seemed she'd have to do most of the instigated to get him to talk.
"So, I know you don't like bullying and it's obviously completely unjust that the university isn't taking this seriously but," she started, having been wondering herself about this, "you seem a lot more invested in this op than I would assume you to be. This is a little more personal to you, isn't it?"
There was a long silence. Maybe her questions wasn't appropriate, but she wanted to know more about Josh. Maybe this would glean some information. Plus, she'd picked up a sort of familiarity vibe from the girl who sent the email. It sounded as if she knew him personally.
"Yes, actually. The email came from my cousin, Megan." He eventually said.
"…oh." She didn't know what to say about that. "Well, knowing that, is she ok after everything that's happened?"
"She's alright. I think she's more angry than anything. Megan normally wouldn't do something like that, but her mom pushed the issue."
Riley stepped out of the way of a bicyclist who nearly ran her over. She shot the guy a glare as he passed, though knowing he wouldn't see it. "Well, that's not her fault. She couldn't have known."
"Obviously. She's just venting. Stress can make you irrational."
By that time, she'd reached the tower and swung a left towards Greek Row. She could see several houses further down the way. "How close are you and Megan?"
"She's the only one of my cousins that live nearby. Our families spend every holiday together. We're very close." There was a pause, before he continued. "Please don't mention this to anyone else. I don't like bringing my family into anything to do with DedSec. They don't need to be involved."
"My lips are sealed." She promised. It wasn't easy keeping secrets from a hacker group, and most likely the rest of the members knew about everyone else's family anyway. When you dug through information systems like they did, things could unintentionally be discovered, after all. But it wasn't hard to imagine that he'd want to keep most aspects of his personal life private.
He had a right to it after all. And it honestly wasn't anyone else's business. Josh had probably only asked for her help because he couldn't exactly go snooping through a sorority without being caught acting suspicious, and she just happened to be in the hackerspace at the right time. And Josh wasn't one of the more hands-on members of DedSec. He was a genius when it came to straight coding, but he normally wasn't the best fit for field work. But Riley didn't mind it.
"Thanks." He said, tone always remaining the same. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he were being serious, or if he was happy or didn't care at all. Oh well. She'd learn his vocal cues eventually.
Before long, she came across the Sigma Delta Tau house, seeing the greek letters displayed on the front, so there wasn't any confusion. At first glance, she'd thought it said 'eat,' which made her smirk with amusement. Man, she'd have loved to be in the EAT sorority in her community college. They must have the best barbecues.
Shaking her head to rid herself of the ridiculous distraction, she looked around for anyone that might be watching. The trick to blending in seamlessly was to make it look like you were supposed to be wherever you were going. The more confident you looked, the less likely someone was going to say something.
Stance and stride never changing, she veered directly towards the right side of the house. "Any idea where the panel is?" She asked hopefully, knowing it would save her the trouble of having to use her drone. She'd prefer not to be caught using it to spy on a sorority that wasn't hers. It might put a kink in their plans.
"I'm not sure. I don't have access to the architectural or electrical plans." He explained evenly. Well, it was a long shot but worth the try.
She snuck behind a tall tree, scanning the side of the wall for any sign of the signature ctOS electrical panel that she'd grown so used to hacking into. There wasn't any sign from this side, but a quick detour to the other end of the house revealed it's location. Just in front of the the backyard's gate, and behind another tree.
It gave her a bit of cover to work with, thankfully. Listening around for any shouts of 'You shouldn't be here!', she popped open panel's cover and pulled out her phone. With a few button taps and some lines of code transferred between devices, access to the house was all hers.
"Alright, I've got access to the cameras." She said, standing from the panel and walking back towards the main commons walkway. Now that she had gotten the hacking part over with, she could blend in seamlessly and just appear to be studying something on her device. No need to be next to the house to check the feeds now.
"Megan said the hazing was a week ago. Try pulling the records from that date."
She popped down under a tree across from the house. This way she could watch the people going in and out as well. Might be useful to start familiarizing herself with faces, to match names to later.
Laptop open, she clicked through the security cameras to try finding anything suspicious. Nothing overtly wrong, though one girl was hiding away down a corridor with a bond, but that wasn't really what she was looking for. Focusing her attention to the stored security feeds, she followed the time stamp to the same day Megan had claimed she'd been hazed on.
Riley copied the feeds and sent them off to Josh to look over. "You should have them now."
"Got it." Even through her earpiece she could hear the faint tapping of computer keys as he got to work. Riley started fast forwarding to try pinpointing specific points during the day when things weren't quite normal.
"What does Megan look like?" She asked, thinking it would be more beneficial is she knew which one was her in the cameras.
"Long, straight brown hair. Fairly tall. She isn't that great in crowds."
As soon as he described her, Riley spotted the girl in question on the cameras. Megan didn't seem to talk to many of the other girls all that much. She had been a new recruit after all, but it just seemed strange. She was almost…shunned, would be a good word. And Josh's cousin wasn't the only one. Several other girls in the sorority seemed to also get the cold shoulder rom the more interact and talkative girls in the feeds. Maybe there was a wide gap between those who were established members and the new recruits. Perhaps the results of the hazing determined if you were respected by the others. Riley wasn't sure though.
They searched through days and days of camera footage just in case, but neither of them found anything. All just normal come and go of the female students, and the occasional boy brought inside in secret. "Whatever this hazing ritual is, I don't think they hold it at the campus house." She concluded.
"Looks like it. I can ask Megan to tell us more information."
Riley paused. "I don't think we should. She almost sounded traumatized because of what happened. We don't need to have her relive everything again. She's probably trying to forget it all anyway."
"But we don't know where the hazing takes place." Josh said evenly, not exactly mad, but wanting to find the answers..,
Riley's gaze drifted back over to the commons area, just visible at the end of the lane. Lots of people still milled about. Hmm… "Maybe there's another way to get that info…" She trailed off, closing the laptop and putting it back into her bag. She stood from the tree and started walking towards the main commons again.
"What? How?" Josh asked curiously, but she didn't answer, hoping that this idea would in fact work.
The brunette approached the Sigma Delta Tau recruitment stand, and was greeted by a boisterous blonde girl with extremely curly hair. "Hi there! Are you looking to have an amazing academic year? You should join Sigma Delta Tau! We've got a whole bunch of activities we do every year, lots of fundraising, discount tickets to sports games," the blonde girl was piling paper after paper into Riley's hands, one after another as each key feature about the house was listed off, "study sessions and group tutors, scholarship opportunities, member's only parties and events, and a great place to meet lasting friendships!"
Her ears were nearly ringing by the time she was overladen with the thick packet of information she'd been given. If she'd been asked to recite any of that garble, Riley wouldn't have bet her life on her ability to do so. "Oh…yeah, I was interested in applying." She said simply.
"Riley, what are you doing?" She heard Josh ask in a slight panic in her ear. But she ignored it.
"Awesome!" The blonde girl turned around to the other girl manning the stand with her and snatched one of the application papers from her pile. "Alright, you just need to fill out this information, and attach a copy of your class schedule that lists your current GPA."
"Ok, how long are you guys out here recruiting for?" She asked, wondering where she'd turn the stuff into. The last thing she wanted to do was turn it in late and miss the opportunity.
"I don't think you-" He started, but the rest was overtaken by the blonde girl speaking.
"We'll be recruiting for another couple days. You'll have to file the application before that time, or the recruitment offices won't accept any more applicants." She explained kindly. She pointed back down the Greek Row, at one of the first buildings. "Recruitment offices are right there if you have any questions. You can turn in the application to us, or give it to them and they'll distribute them out to the right houses."
"Ok, thank you!" Riley replied cheerily, walking away casually and stuffing the application into her bag. She'd have to get all the information the sorority house needed to confirm her place as a student on campus, but she had every bit of confidence that Josh could forge those documents.
"This is a bad idea." Josh stated nervously in her ear, but she only shook her head.
"I can join and get the evidence myself. I'll set up cameras or something, some microphones. We'll record the whole thing." She reasoned, but Josh didn't seem convinced.
"Look what happened to Megan. Please don't risk it. We'll find another way."
She blew a strand of hair out of her face and adjusted the stupid glasses. She wasn't used to wearing things on the bridge of her nose. They were bothering her. "Well, any other ideas? Because I don't see another way. They only let potential members know the location, right?"
Josh groaned. "I really don't like this…"
"I know, but I volunteered. Even came up with the idea myself, so you don't have any of the blame if things go wrong." She shrugged, not seeing the big deal. What's the most that could happen? Megan survived, and Riley had gone through a long session of legitimate, thorough torture. Surely nothing could be worse than that.
She nodded, glad they'd come up with a plan of action. "I'll need you to get me enough documentation to pass me off as an actual student here, though."
"If you get me access to the school records, it shouldn't be too hard."
"Done and done."
A few hours later, Riley returned with the application filled out, her new student documents Josh had forged stapled to the back. She gave them back to the blonde girl, who beamed happily.
"Yay! I'm so excited to get to know you!" She said with joy, and Riley tried returning the same enthusiasm. She left after that, knowing it would take up to a week to hear back from them about the application. These things took time, after all.
"Now we just sit back and wait." Riley said.
"I just hope you know what you're doing." Josh didn't sound as confident as she did in regards to the plan, but at least he was sticking to it. It was nice to be trusted enough to come up with a valid plan with the group. Marcus had always been the unspoken, unofficial leader of DedSec. He had that unmistakable ability to get people to trust him. They all naturally gravitated towards him, and believed wholeheartedly in his plans. Riley tried emulating some of his own confidence with this mission. She legitimately believed this was the best course of action. She just needed Josh to believe she could carry it out.
After about a week, Riley got a call from the recruitment offices, saying her application to Sigma Delta Tau had been accepted. She nearly sighed with relief. All of this would have been for nothing if they'd denied her request, but Josh had made her grades and student profile appealing enough that any sorority would probably want to recruit her.
She expressed her excitement to the woman who'd informed her, and asked for all the information in terms of the rest of the acceptance process. The woman notified her of the Rush date to get a tour of the house, and Riley thanked her, already trying to figure out how to hide a camera on her person to capture evidence.
Turned out that the glasses were the best bet. Josh helped her attach a camera to the inside of the frame, leaving a small hole for it to be able to record out of, but nothing big enough to notice. On Rush day, Riley participated in all the cringe-worthy activities and getting-to-know-you parts of the orientation. There were several different sections of the day. One was to get to know your fellow members. Another to familiarize herself with the house itself. And another for learning the rules and dress codes.
Riley would have loved to make fun of the dumbest of the rules with Wrench, but she'd sworn herself to keeping this mission between her and Josh. Wear pink on Sundays? No thank you. In an effort to stay healthy, no sugary foods or drinks on Mondays, and workout sessions for one hour? Hell. To the. No. Thank god she wasn't actually hoping to be a part of this sorority. Why would anyone agree to these terrible rules? No one was taking sugar away from Riley on the day she'd always needed it most.
The list went on, seeming to get worse the further down you went. The members went over the forms, emphasizing how important it was to follow rules.
It was a slog getting through all this shit, but it was necessary. Riley needed to keep up the appearance of a potential future member of the sorority so they would give her the time and date of the hazing. And the location. That was the most important thing. She wasn't even sure how long into the recruitment process they initiated the hazing. Megan hadn't mentioned.
Luckily, it apparently wasn't very long, because by the end of the day, the potential members that had expressed a genuine interest in the house were given a slip of paper inviting them to an outdoor retreat to, as the flyer described it, 'gain a deep and spiritual understanding of your fellow sisters and the values of the Sigma Delta Tau house.' Riley wasn't sure whatever the hell that meant, but it had a date, time, and location on it, which is all she'd really come for.
This next Friday, 10:00 pm. At the edge of the northern woods, across from the 8th street bus station.
"You got all that?" She asked Josh after reading it aloud, walking back to her car after the long day or orientation. She desperately wanted to get out of these shoes and put on some comfier clothing.
"Yeah. We should stake out the area and set up some cameras." He said logically, and Riley nodded agreement.
"Definitely, but I'll still need to attend and-"
"There's no need to actually go through with this if we set up surveillance." Josh interrupted, sounded slightly agitated. "You're putting yourself at risk."
"I know that, but think of it this way. We know the meet-up spot of the hazing, great. However, that doesn't mean that's where it actually all takes place. They might meet up there to all travel to the actual location together. I doubt they'd hold a hazing ritual right next to a main road." She explained.
"If I don't go in there with a camera to make sure we get the video, there's no guarantee those cameras we set up will catch anything. And if we miss this opportunity? We have to wait another 6 months before being able to try again."
There was a long silence on the other end, and she knew Josh was realizing she was right. He just didn't like the idea of her actually going through with something that had given his cousin acute trauma. He didn't want his friend having to go through that too. Danger wasn't something he was comfortable with.
"I'll be ok, Josh." Riley pressed convincingly. She legitimately believed it too. She'd seen way worse shit in her life than anything these college students could throw at her, surely. Riley had overcome nearly dying. "Just trust me on this. I'll get that evidence, and Megan won't have suffered for nothing."
"…" Besides a heavy sigh, Josh didn't respond for several seconds. "Why do all of you take these stupid risks?"
She smiled, amused. "Well, if we didn't, DedSec wouldn't be where we are today, right? And my stupid decisions highlight the best parts of my personality."
"Welcome, ladies!" The blonde girl from the recruitment stand addressed the group of female students that had applied to enter the sorority. Maybe 9 or 10 in total. They were all gathered a bit further back from the bus stop on the street, a two big vans parked on the grass. "I'm so excited to see you all here tonight. You've all made it past all the boring orientation stuff and all the rues and whatnot, but you have yet to experience something truly fun from your new house of sisters."
Riley stood between several other girls, all watching and listening her talk about what was going on. The brunette glanced around at all of the senior members, getting them all on video. Camera glasses still in place on her nose, Riley panned over all of the participants, as well as the hosts. Best to get a count of everything going on if she could help it. It was dark so making out specific features or faces was a little difficult, but Josh could probably enhance it with lighting and make it legible. The blonde girl kept going on about how the activity was supposed to bring them all closer together.
"Our goal is to strengthen the bond we have with our fellow members. We may go in as strangers and acquaintances, but we come out as sisters and friends. That connection is what we strive to emphasize with you tonight on this retreat. By morning I promise you. You'll feel like a new person."
"Honeyed words and nice promises. They're good salesman, at the very least." Josh said quietly in her ear. She agreed, but could respond without acting suspiciously. Still, it was comforting to know he'd have her back throughout this experience. For all the confidence in the world, if things did go wrong, having backup never hurt.
Riley noticed that a few of the other senior members were starting to get closer to the group of girls, and as if on cue, the blonde girl held up her own cell phone. "In order to do this, we ask that you turn over all electronics and devices, to prevent distraction and keep the focus on face to face communication."
"No…no, no, this isn't good." Josh said in a rush as soon as he heard that bit.
A couple girls grumbled, but the members began collecting phones without too much protest. Riley narrowed her eyes, feeling uncomfortable with the requirement. Parting with her phone? Well, there went her attempt at recording audio for the duration of the hazing. Of course, there was always her earpiece. She saw a couple members doing physical pat-downs of some of the participants, and she realized they'd find her tiny earpiece unless she hid it.
Shit, where was she supposed to put it? Pulling it discreetly from her ear, she immediately put it in her mouth and relaxed the muscles in her face, making it seem as though there was nothing out of place. Hopefully it wouldn't ruin the device, but there was no other alternative at the moment.
She could feel minute vibrations from the earpiece, meaning Josh was saying something, but she couldn't hear.
Another girl came up and extended her hand. Riley reluctantly put her phone into her hand, didn't resist the short pat-down that followed, and tracked the device with her eyes until she disappeared somewhere behind her. Man, this sucked. If things got bad, all she would have was her earpiece now. Calling for help wouldn't be an option. She'd have to rely on the camera for most of the evidence now.
"You'll have your phones returned at the end of the retreat. They'll be kept in one of the vans we have with us." The blonde girl gestured to the vehicles parked there, and finally clapped her hands together. "Alright, now lets all head off to the retreat area!"
The girls began piling into the vans one by one, piling together tightly in the back of the vans. Riley was nestled in and pressed up against another girl. The black-haired girl looked up at her and smiled shyly. She returned the gesture and was pressed in closer when another girl sat on the brunette's other side.
"Are you ladies ready?" The blonde girl called back from the driver's seat once everyone had been piled in. Most of them let out an excited cry, but Riley was one of the ones who stayed quiet, along with the black haired girl beside her. Then the door was shut, and plunged them into darkness. Riley took the moment to pluck the earpiece from her mouth and stick it back into her ear.
"This is how they ensure no evidence gets back. They rid victims of all means of documentation and communication." Josh was speaking quickly, mind going a mile a minute. "But with the amount of people that participate, there must be more than one person that comes forward with a claim. They can't all possibly end up as complaints in a metal filing cabinet somewhere."
They bumped along in the back of the van together, in pitch darkness, for quite some time. There were no windows in the back part, so Riley had a hard time judging direction. It was slow-going simply because of the terrain; the woods didn't have any pre-paved or well-kept roads anywhere, meaning they were left to drive on the grass and dirt and trees that littered the ground. More than once the back occupants were jostled around harshly, no doubt having hit a hidden rock or tree branch laying in the vehicle's path.
The whole while, Josh formulated his theory, jabbering away in Riley's ear. "Unless, some sort of blackmail is involved. Victims who are too scared of consequences don't come forward. Perhaps the actual number of people that snitch is much less than I anticipate." She could already hear the keys tapping away.
Some of the girls started talking amongst themselves, quietly discussing how excited they were to be part of something for their college experience. Or finding lifelong friends. Riley wasn't so sure, trying to peer around and get evidence with her glasses, but it was too dark for any sort of real footage. Hopefully Josh would be able to clean it up a bit more at the hackerspace.
"I just got the results fr-…the database. I w—…righ-. There—…on-…two com—…" The rest of his sentence faded away into snippets of sounds and vowels, until even those were completely gone. Just silence on her end. An eerie silence of being alone.ns 22.214.171.124da2