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Post 8 - Out of the Frying Pan

Posted on Mon Jan 4th, 2021 @ 10:30pm by Captain Jocelyn Blake & Fleet Admiral Sturnack & Commander Marlena Glenn
Edited on on Tue Jan 5th, 2021 @ 12:27am

Mission: Episode 1: Acta Non Verba
Location: SFC Headquarters
Timeline: Day 12 - 0550 Hours

[Starfleet Headquarters]
[San Fransico, CA]
[Day 12 - 0550 Hours]

It was a strange feeling walking into the Starfleet Headquarters building not as a visitor, but as an employee. Not that Jocelyn had never been in the building before--as the PR contact for R&D she had been in and out on a number of occasions over the years. None of those, however, had been more than visits. Today, she was arriving because this was now where she belonged.

The conversation on the walk back from The Horseshoe Cafe had been lighthearted, an encouraging feeling following the intensity of their discussion at her favorite back corner table along the window-wall. And so it was with a smile on her face and a spark of excitement in her chest that Jocelyn Blake, newly promoted Captain and Press Secretary to the Commander in Chief of Starfleet Command found herself in the warren of offices and cubicles that made up the CinC's wing of the building.

If it was possible Headquarters was busier than she had seen it the day before when she arrived for her meeting. It occurred to her that many folks had already been hours into their day when she arrived just before her 9 am appointment.

"So," she said following Marlena to her desk, "I assume I'm in Admiral Truman's old office. Anything you need from me before I go look over the press notes for the start of the day? I assume the first briefing is at 0730 per the schedule we've held in the past."

"You got it, Joce," Marlena said, taking the offer to use the Captain's first name even further by transforming the word into something that rhymed with 'boss.' "0730 briefing but...I'm afraid I have some bad news," the woman looked crestfallen as she read something on her PADD. "You're gonna be jumping right into the fire, is my guess. Here," she said, extending her arm to hand Blake the CinC's coffee. "He wants you bad before your briefing, it seems. Take this in with you and I'm sure he'll fill you in. And yes, Admiral Truman got his retirement cake so no longer holds sway in that office. Make it your own," the woman smiled before plunking down behind her desk.

The feeling of excitement that Jocelyn had been feeding since entering the building flared and was rapidly replaced with nerves. "Ok then," she replied. "Right into the fire it is. Thank you Marlena."

She took a step in the direction of the door before quickly backing up. "I should just hand him the coffee in the middle of a briefing?" she asked. "Or... wait until he says something?" Suddenly feeling very unprepared she floundered a moment. Why on earth was this what had her stuck?

"Walk in there like you own the room but do not," Marlena stressed the word, "hand him coffee like an assistant. Just say I asked you to bring it in with you and that you didn't mind. Then jump right into whatever it is you're needed for. Now get," she shooed the woman through the door with her eyes.

[CinC's Office]

"When did this happen?" Sturnack asked, nodding to Captain Blake as she edged into his office. He noted that she carried two tumblers, one of which was unmistakably his own. He held a hand out expectantly but it was the other woman in the room who had the bulk of his attention.

"0452 hours, sir," came the reply from Commodore Kitteridge. With the Director of Interstellar Aid having taken the regime change as an opportunity to retire -- as was often the custom with a new CinC, who might want to install their own departmental leaders -- it was the Commodore's duty to temporarily fill in. That was, at least, until the new Director took office, which was slated for the next day. "Governor Methuen of Chalvana III reports that the incident began with a small coronal ejection from their central star. It released a massive amount of radiation that's hitting the populace hard. Communications and power have also been knocked out as a result of the radiation blast."

"I'm not a scientist," piped up Rear Admiral Whitford, serving as Sturnack's temporary DCinC, "but shouldn't the Chalvanan scientists have predicted the ejection? And the resulting radiation?" A human man in his late 40s, Whitford was known for being pretty direct -- especially when it came to assigning blame.

"That's the thing, though," another voice joined the discussion -- this one belonging to Captain Lamonthan of the USS-Martin Luther, who appeared larger than life on the wall-mounted viewscreen. "My science officer tells me this ejection should not have naturally occurred. We're still en route to Chalvana III but long range scans point to possible outside interference."

"You mean someone triggered that ejection?" Whitford asked incredulously, pointing an alarmed look at Kitteridge. Just then, he noticed Blake had joined them and nodded her way. "Great timing, Captain. Ready to announce an interstellar disaster to the Federation at large?"

Jocelyn nodded to those gathered in the room placing the coffee tumbler in Sturnack's hand with a murmured explanation that Marlena had given it to her to bring in. The affronted glance of Commodore Kitteridge did not escape her as she took an open seat next to Rear Admiral Whitford. "Might as well get the first one out of the way early," she remarked. "Do we expect impact for other planets as well or is the Chalvana system distant enough that this incident would only impact their populace?"

"Chalvana II is devoid of any kind of life," came Lamonthan's reply over the comm. "However, Chalvana I has a pre-warp civilization. Stone age-types and such. We believe they're far enough away to be minimally impacted but," he sounded somber, "there will be casualties. Few maybe, but still an impact."

"This situation is obviously still developing, Captain," the Commander-in-Chief said, steepling his fingers together in front of him. The coffee Jocelyn had brought -- making a point to mention that Marlena had asked her to bring it in -- now sat in its customary spot, one foot away at a 45 degree angle from his right hand. "Inform the press as to what we know so far. Stress that Starfleet is making every effort to assist in conjunction with the Federation and Chalvanan governments."

"And downplay," Whitford spoke up, acting again as temporary DCinC, "this potentially being an act of interstellar terrorism. We don't know that for sure yet. Just say we're looking into all avenues. Also, I know this is your first briefing," Whitford's tone became almost condescending, "so a couple of tips. Don't get cute: you aren't their friend and you certainly aren't one of their colleagues. Also be sure to take questions from around the room, not just the front row."

It sounded as if he was finished but then Whitford took a breath to speak again. "If you get into trouble, just say you'll answer more questions at the 11am briefing. Then come to me and I'll help you figure it all out. This is all probably intimidating for you, so just you your best or whatever. Worst comes to worse, I can take the podium for you at 11 and tell them you got called away. Don't stress, OK?" he said, the last word sounding more like 'uh kay' than 'OK.

Jocelyn had encountered plenty of condescension from the admiralty since Leyton, but to have it done in front of her new boss on her first day felt like a particularly low blow. And no matter how often it happened she was still surprised to encounter it. Thankfully, by now, she had gotten quite good at hiding that surprise. Her face had shifted from a look of eager interest to a blank lack of emotion as the Rear Admiral spoke.

"Thank you for your concern Admiral," she said, her voice icy despite her best efforts. "I'm I can find my way to the Deputy Director of Communication should I run into anything, but I appreciate your offer to clear your own schedule to assist at 11. I'm sure Admiral Ul-tan will be in touch should she feel a substitution is needed."

Not bothering to wait for the acting DCinC's reply, she turned to Sturnack, "If there's nothing else, sir, I'd like to spend some time with the press notes before the first briefing of the day."

"Proceed, Captain," came the Vulcan's reply. He watched the woman recede from the room like a hurricane threatening the coast but then moving off to sea. Sturnack looked then to Whitford, an eyebrow arching. "That was, perhaps, inadvisable, Admiral," he said.

"We don't have time for first days," Whitford pointedly retorted.

[Communications Offices]
[0615 Hours]

The walk from the CinC's office to the Communication team's suite of offices and open layout work space for lower echelon team members was a short one, but it was long enough for Jocelyn to have played and replayed the conversation with Whitman over and over in her head. By the time she reached the office that had formerly been occupied by Admiral Truman, she could practically feel the steam leaking out of her ears.

Ignoring the hand waving of a young man whose station was positioned right outside of the empty office that was now hers she went through the doorway, waited for the door to whoosh shut behind her, and then gritted her teeth letting out a frustrated AGH!. Taking a deep breath and straightening her uniform sleeves she turned and walked back out into the melee of Communications Department team members.

"Captain Blake," the young man who had been trying to get her attention said relief showing on his face when she turned to acknowledge him.

"That's me," she replied, placing her thermos to her lips and taking a draught. She realized as she did that she hadn't touched the coffee since entering the building. "Can I help you?"

"Uh, yes," the man replied. "I'm Lieutenant Yaris, your interim aide. I'm supposed to give you this morning's press notes."

"Right." Jocelyn repositioned her glasses buying herself a moment to look a bit more like the supervisor the lieutenant was expecting. Taking another sip of her coffee she held out her empty hand for the press notes PADD. The lieutenant shifted awkwardly.

"I, umm," he stammered, "would you like me to bring them to you in or office?"

Jocelyn raised her eyebrows. "They're not right there on the PADD in your hand?" she asked, curious.

Her new aide's cheeks flushed, "They... well... yes, ma'am, but Admiral Truman liked to have his aides give him the highlights."

"Ah," Jocelyn replied, understanding dawning across her features. She held up the coffee cup. "Clearly I need more coffee. I prefer to get the highlights in writing so I can take some time with the notes myself. But let's go ahead and do it Admiral Truman's way today."

She ushered the him into the spartan office, taking a seat behind the desk and gesturing the lieutenant to sit on the other side of the desk. Relief written across his features he did so.

"So, what have we got" she paused, "I'm sorry what is your name?"

"Lieutenant Yaris?" he asked, making his response a question.

"No, I'm sorry. Your first name."


"Right, Frank, what have we got today?"

Frank's overview was quick, concise, and professionally put together giving her the key details that had come across major media outlets since Admiral Truman had put a lid on his last briefing the night prior. She couldn't help appreciating his work and made sure to tell him so as he wrapped it up. His face lit up with her praise and she wondered, as it did, if he was aware that he telegraphed is every emotion.

Placing the PADD on her desk he stood to go. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" he asked before he turned to go.

Jocelyn smiled, thinking it over for a minute. "Come get me at 0715? I'd like to review quickly before we head into the briefing room."

"Of course, Captain." Frank agreed.

"And Frank," she said as the door to her office quietly slid open to reveal the chaos of the Communications division beyond, "Get me the casualty numbers for Chalvana III before we do our review. They weren't in the notes and we should at least have an early estimate by now."

Nodding, the aide left Jocelyn at her desk, and the door wooshed shut leaving her alone with her thoughts for the first time since she had walked in the door.

[Press Briefing Room]
[0730 Hours]

The door leading into the press briefing room from the CinC’s wing was uninteresting. Just like any other entrance you might find throughout Starfleet Headquarters. It bore the seal of the office of the Commander in Chief and had a small plaque above it that indicated its use, but beyond that, it was unremarkable.

Jocelyn breathed deeply pausing just out of range of the sensor that would cause the door to open at her approach.

“Time?” she asked the young man beside her who had been declared her defacto aide until she could hire someone.

“0729, Captain,” he replied, handing her a PADD as he did so.

“Then here we go,” she said, as much to herself as her aide.

She stepped forward, the door giving a soft whoosh as it moved to the side giving way to the room beyond.

The seats of the briefing room were packed with representatives from press outlets throughout the Federation and some even beyond that. Every eye in the room swiveled to follow her as she entered the room and a hush fell as those few who were finishing up sentences upon her entrance realized she was there.

Jocelyn strode to the podium taking her position behind it, legs shoulder width apart, back straight, chin up.

She set the PADD on the podium in front of her then reached to push her glasses up the bridge of her nose. The silence stretched taut as she did so feeling like it might tear if someone didn’t soon break it.

“Good morning,” she addressed the room, despite the nerves that swirled in her belly her voice came out firm. There were many things about this job that would be new for her, but this--addressing a room of people--was not one of those things.

“I’ll give a brief statement and then we’ll open the floor for questions.” She paused, letting her gaze touch lightly on a few different people throughout the room. She didn’t let herself look at them too closely. Not yet. Not this first time.

“At 0452 hours this morning a flare erupted from the surface of the sun in the Chalvana system, resulting in a catastrophic event impacting a significant portion of Chalvana III’s atmosphere. The government of Chalvana III reports 12,183 casualties and numerous injured. The numbers for the injured are still coming in. The Department of Interstellar Aid in collaboration with Starfleet Medical is evaluating options and will formulate and put in motion relief efforts later today. We’ll provide an update on those details at our 11 am briefing.”

She paused, taking in the room. The tension that had been there at first had settled slightly and she saw several members of the press tapping rapidly on PADDs in front of them.

“Moving down the list to less urgent matters, the Fleet Admiral is interviewing a number of candidates this week to fill recent openings, in particular the heads of the Department of Interstellar Aid and the Department of Research and Development. As we all know it is not uncommon for some department heads to choose to retire when a new Commander in Chief is appointed. We’ll be sharing details around these positions as they are finalized.”

“Lastly, the new Romulan Embassy will be opening in seven days. We anticipate the arrival of a number of dignitaries prior to that that. Fleet Admiral Sturnack will be meeting with the chief dignitaries this afternoon -- more on that later. But any quotes from those dignitaries will be provided to you in a press packet leading up to the date along with official photos for your use.”

“I’ll take questions now," Blake opened the floor.

An alarming battery of flashing cameras and near-shouting voices suddenly filled the room, all focused on the new Press Secretary. No one looked particularly angry or high-intensity but clearly everyone wanted a chance to ask their question and any potential follow-ups. In the pool were representatives from at least 70 different news outlets, many different races' faces clamoring for attention with hands held high. In the midst of the pack was a Bolian woman who was instantly familiar -- a recognizable face in the landscape of galactic news. She seemed as good a choice as any to be the first chosen.

"T'lon Tressa," the woman rose from her seat, offering Blake a smile that could melt iron into slag, "from the Bolus News Consortium." Her azure face scrunched up then, assuming an expression akin to bemusement. "Reports from sources inside Starfleet Command have indicated that Fleet Admiral Sturnack passed over several candidates who were much more highly qualified for the Press Secretary position than yourself, Captain. I understand that Admiral Whitford, among others, advocated Admiral Claudia Janney for the role. Can you tell us why the Commander-in-Chief would ignore his primary advisers and select you instead?" She stared at Blake with a venomous smile, daring the woman to even try dodging her question.

Jocelyn smiled patiently back at the woman trying to pin her down on her very first question, her expression was otherwise neutral despite a roiling anxiety that had started up in the pit of her stomach. "The Commander in Chief is perfectly capable of making hiring decisions based on input from numerous sources, his advisors included. Sounds to me like someone has a bone to pick and has fed you some water cooler gossip." Her gaze cut away from the Bolian, dropping the subject before she had an opportunity to counter as though any further consideration of the subject was beneath her. "Next?" she asked, pointing to someone else.

"Grengath Tothklan, Tellarite News Service. To follow up on my colleague's question," the man smiled briefly at Tressa before looking again to Blake, "your takedown piece on Admiral Leyton from several years back triggered Starfleet into benching you," piped up the Tellarite whom the Press Secretary had given permission to speak. "Given that the Admiral is currently enjoying a quiet retirement in Okinawa with his family, your hiring has put him back into the public eye with a vengeance. Do you regret making a name for yourself by smearing a man who put almost 40 year of his life into Starfleet?" He held a recording device up, hoping to capture Blake's response with crystal clarity.

Jocelyn fought the urge to groan outloud at the question. What was this, some sort of conspiracy? There was a rapidly developing interstellar crisis and the concern was whether Admiral Leyton's quiet retirement had been interrupted? While all of this played out in her head, she allowed a lightly amused smile to grace her features. "There is a lot of interpretation in that question, Mr. Tothklan," she started allowing some amusement to color her voice. "If you're looking for a personal interview I'm afraid you'll have to speak to my assistant and get on my schedule at a more appropriate time. It may be a while, though, what with an interstellar crisis brewing and a new embassy opening in a week."

She turned and scanned the room again, "Now, does anyone have questions about news specifically pertaining to the business of Starfleet Command?"

Every. Single. Hand. Lowered.

The room was dead quiet for a few moments, which then stretched further into even more dead quiet moments. Image capturing devices eventually began to flash again, however, capturing the Press Secretary's reactions to the lack of pertinent questions. Finally -- after what seemed like hours -- a hand limply rose in the back of the room. When she was called upon by Blake, the woman -- a human from Earth -- spoke up.

"Helen Ty, Federation News Service," she began demurely. "Chalvanan III officials report that the pre-warp civilization on Chalvana I is also threatened by the solar event. I know you mentioned further information on Chalvana III would be coming later," she nodded, acknowledging Blake's earlier statement, "but has there been any discussion of interceding with Chalvana I? Given the Prime Directive, that seems unlikely perhaps?"

"We are aware of the concern for Chalvana I," Jocelyn began, all business despite the massive relief that made her slightly light headed. "at the moment it appears the impact for Chalvana I will be minimal, but Interstellar Aid is monitoring the situation closely. Our primary focus, at this time, is on minimizing the effect on Chalvana III's citizens and assisting their government with relief aid for those who have been impacted already."

Taking a breath, Jocelyn whipped up a confident smile for the room. "We'll pick back up at 11."

Turning without pause she made her way back out the door she had entered and beat a hasty retreat to her office leaning back against the wall right next to the door as soon as she was inside. It was only just 0800 hours.

Apparently, it was going to be a long first day.

=/\= A mission post by =/\=

Fleet Admiral Sturnack
Commander in Chief
Starfleet Command

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary
Starfleet Command

Commander Marlena Glenn
Aide-de-Camp to the CinC
Starfleet Command


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