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In this town...

Posted on Sun Nov 21st, 2021 @ 5:26pm by Rear Admiral Thomas Romanowski & Captain Jocelyn Blake

Mission: Episode 2: 18th and Constitution
Location: The Horseshoe Cafe
Timeline: Mission Day 18 at 1300

[Horseshoe Cafe, San Francisco]
[MD 18 - 1300 Hours]

The great bay window of the Horseshoe Cafe was dotted with droplets of rain. Pregnant dark grey clouds spread out over Horseshoe Bay, out into the San Francisco Bay beyond huddling together in the sky as if working in concert to keep out the blue skies that were invariably beyond them. To Jocelyn the clouds felt close to the ground even though she knew that they were no closer or further away than usual.

Large, bowl-like coffee mug wrapped in both hands, the Press Secretary stared out the window absently, eyes unfocused bringing the rain drops into relief rather than the sweeping view. Two PADDs and an untouched salad sat in front of her, forgotten. She had been enjoying the opportunity to simply not think--to hide out at the Horseshoe like she had over so many years though the recent weeks had not afforded her the same opportunity.

Jordan had been the one to suggest that she step out for lunch, by herself, that day. Or at least as by herself as the security detail that regularly trailed her allowed. Both officers were seated a few tables over, chatting together with their own cups of coffee--at her insistence--while they took turns glancing her way to make sure their charge remained safe.

A heavy sigh escaped her, eyes focusing again as she lifted her mug to her lips, taking a long deep sip of the warm drink. She had missed this. Shaking her head lightly, she turned, setting the mug back on the table, and picked up one of the PADDs. Even when she wasn't at work, there was always work to be done.

Thomas kept close by the buildings to avoid most of the rain as he walked towards the Horseshoe Cafe. He wore his long overcoat that doubled as a rain jacket and carried his briefcase in his right hand. He had long ago discovered the coffee shop back when he was serving as a trial judge and had found he was able to enjoy his lunches at the establishment without having to worry too much about his workload. As he approached the entrance, he paused to let a young couple hurry out from the entrance onto the sidewalk before he entered. Being raised in Montana, he had quite the affinity for coffee, and he always felt that in order for him to get through the day he needed to drink a few cups at lunch.

As he passed by the front counter he made eye contact with Marie as he made his way to his usual spot in the back, "I'll have the usual please Marie." He said this loud enough over the sound of coffee grinders and she nodded back to him in response. He then sat down at the table with his back facing the wall and set his briefcase on the table. He removed his lunch that his wife Charlotte had packed for the day as well as a PADD which contained the latest novel he was working on reading. He powered the device on as he arranged his lunch in front of him, and he stood to accept the mug of coffee that had been brought to his table.

Jocelyn was skimming. She should have been reading, but she was skimming. She sighed, putting the PADD back down on the table and reaching up to rub the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger. Marie swooped by, a glass of water in hand, and deposited it on her table with a pointed look and the younger woman signed again.

"Yes ma'am," she called after Marie, picking up the glass and downing half of it in one go. She raised her arm using the back of her sleeve to dab and excess from her lips as she held the glass up for the establishment's matron to see. Back behind the bar, Marie shook her head, but a warm smile lit her features.

"Drink the rest of it before you finish your coffee, Joce," she called.

Jocelyn nodded, grinning back, and downed the other half, eyes refocusing on a table a few seats away from her where a familiar face had taken up residence. Her brow creased lightly as she worked to place him, relaxing when his name clicked into place in her head. Thomas Romanowski. Rear Admiral Romanowski, she reminded herself. She considered a long moment then, snagging her coffee mug, stood, walking over to the table.

"I hope you'll pardon the intrusion," she said as she paused next to the older man's table. "I'm still familiarizing myself with department heads and I don't know that we've had a chance to meet yet." She stuck out her hand. "Captain Jocelyn Blake, Press Secretary," she said.

Thomas had not seen the younger woman approach his table as he was reading his PADD. He looked up at her with a bite of his lunch in his mouth when she spoke to him. While she looked familiar, he could not directly place where he had seen her. He grabbed a napkin and wiped his mouth as he finished chewing his food. He stood and accepted her proffered hand, "My apologies Captain. I don't normally have visitors when I take my lunch here." He then smiled at her and motioned to the vacant seat, "Have a seat please. I recognize you know from seeing you around HQ, but I'm glad I can put a name with the face. Admiral Thomas Romanowski, Judge Advocate General." He waited until she sat before resuming his own seat. He took a sip of his coffee and placed it back on his table before powering off his PADD.

"If I'm honest, I didn't know that anyone else at HQ was aware of this place. I thought I was lucky when I discovered it back when I was on the judiciary," he said as he took another bite of his lunch. He knew that his wife would chastise him for eating of his guest, but he felt that since both he and Jocelyn were on their lunch break it was understandable to eat and chat.

A warm chuckle emanated from the red haired woman. Jocelyn had thought nearly the same thing herself as she had approach the man's table. With a quick forefinger she pressed her finger to the corner of her glasses, cranberry red today to match her uniform, moving them back up her nose. "The Horseshoe has been a refuge for me for years. Marie has always been discreet about acknowledging Starfleet officers here. I haven't been at HQ, exactly, until the last week though. I was allocated to R&D for most of the last six plus years."

She snagged her coffee mug by its handle, lifting it to her mouth and taking a quick sip. "I'm surprised we haven't run into each other though."

"I see," he said as he took a sip of his coffee to wash his food down. He did think it was curious that she had gone from R&D to the press office, but he didn't think it was proper to inquire as to the reasoning yet. The JAG office did it's best job by keeping the daily goings on out of the press. It never did any good for the good citizens of the Federation to know too much about the legal trappings of Starfleet personnel. "I am surprised, as well, considering I got considerable coverage by the news a few years ago," he said with a chuckle. His work on the Dominion War Crimes tribunal was covered extensively, and his role as co-defense counsel had not earned him many friends from the press.

Jocelyn nodded sagely. "I'm familiar with that coverage. You made quite a splash when you took up that case." She paused here, lifting her mug for a long sip, the space giving her an opportunity to consider her next statement. "I have to confess I followed it fairly closely. The handling of the female changeling's fate was of particular interest to me. You're likely familiar with the exposé I wrote regarding the handling of Admiral Leyton's attempted coup. It seemed to me that your involvement helped ensure that any of the poison still lingering from Leyton's xenophobia couldn't infect the proceedings."

She shrugged lightly then, a self conscious movement. "And I was glad that someone who got that much grief for doing the right thing wasn't penalized for it."

Thomas nodded at her response. In truth he had not enjoyed being covered in the press. Many of his colleagues had expressed their distaste at his volunteering to act as co-defense counsel of the Female Changeling, but Thomas had not let this affect his actions. Throughout his career he never allowed public opinion or the opinions of his colleagues to sway his beliefs on the law. The conclusion of the tribunal had earned some of the respect from the legal community back, but there were still others who did not hold favorable opinions about him. When Jocelyn mentioned the exposé on Admiral Leyton, he looked back at her with curiosity. He then snapped his fingers when the realization hit him, "So your the one who blew the whistle? Now I know why your name is familiar to me. After that article appeared, I had heard that the person responsible had been quietly reassigned to keep them out of it." He then shook his head before continuing, "I'm guessing the message I sent never got through to you. I had requested a communique be sent to whoever it was that I would represent them since it is against both Starfleet regulations and Federation law to retaliate against whistleblowers."

Jocelyn had the grace to look slightly ashamed at that. "No," she said, embarrassment coloring her tone, "I received it." She sighed before continuing. "I didn't respond to much of anything at that time. It was hard not to see ulterior motives in everyone even when their offers were genuine--one of the side effects of the fall out I suppose." She shrugged apologetically then. "I did appreciate the offer, but by the time I felt comfortable taking you up on it too much time had passed. And now..." she raised her mug in a sort of half toast gesture, tilting her head away from the captain's pips on her collar, " it doesn't really matter."

She brought the mug to her lips, draining the last of the coffee before setting it back on the table and wrapping both hands around its sides. "Belated thanks seem to be appropriate," she remarked with a small smile. "Thank you. I did appreciate the offer."

Thomas took a sip from his coffee to wash down the remainder of his lunch. He understood her initial mistrust at his message. In her position he would've felt the same way. His time in the JAG corps had shown him that there were some who tended to use the law for their own personal gain. He nodded with an upraised eyebrow when she acknowledged the pips on her uniform, "When you reach bottom the only way forward is up." He placed his mug back on the table before continuing, "Your quite welcome, and the offer still stands. You never know when you'll need a lawyer, especially with Whitford stomping around up." He rolled his eyes when he said the last bit. He knew it was no secret his distaste for the Deputy CinC.

The Press Secretary's eyebrows raised slightly at the mention of Whitford. She was used to the small circle she had become comfortable with acknowledging that the DCinC was a bit of a loose canon with his own motives, but it was a first to have someone she had only just met acknowledge it. She couldn't help marveling at the chutzpah and maneuvering that must have been required for a man like Joshua Whitford to find himself where he is when so many others in positions of power clearly distrusted him.

"I'll keep that in mind," she said, nodding her appreciation. "I'm afraid Admiral Whitford and I are not exactly on the best of terms, so if there's any legal danger there I'll certainly be happy for help. Hopefully that won't be necessary, though."

Absently she picked up her mug lifting it to her lips before remembering that it was empty. She tipped it down, looking at it regretfully before sighing and placing it back on the table. "And of course should there ever be a time I can support you, I am glad to do so. I know that the JAG corps isn't the biggest fan of the press, but they can be a valuable asset under the right circumstances."

Thomas downed the last of his coffee and replaced the mug on the table before looking back at the young woman. He had heard the scuttlebutt that Whitford had attempted to have the young woman removed from her position, but that Fleet Admiral Sturnack had absconded from Starfleet Medical to intervene. Thomas knew of Whitford by reputation, and they had a few professional dealings in the past. Those dealings had always left a sour taste in his mouth. Whitford had connections and he knew it, and he was precisely the type of person who Thomas did not care to associate with unless absolutely necessary.

"I hope so as well. He is definitely one to watch out for," he said as he noticed her mug was empty. He raised his hand to signal Marie. "Personally I hold no animosity to the press. I feel that the JAG corps does it's best work when it's kept out of the press, but I'm sure I'll be relying on you while we still try to straighten out this whole embassy thing," he said before smiling at her. "I'll be sure to include you should I need to use your expertise to put up a smokescreen." He chuckled at this last bit.

As Marie approached the table, Thomas looked up at her, "I think this young lady needs a refill Marie." He braced himself for Marie's retort as he checked his watch.

Marie's eyebrows crept up at Thomas's use of the term young lady, but nodded. "Your usual Joce?" she asked, a grin on her lips.

The Press Secretary nodded, grinning back. "Please," she said, "but can we put this one in my tumbler? I'm going to have to head back sooner than later."

Marie nodded and turned back to Thomas. "And you, counselor?" she asked, a friendly teasing tone to her voice. "Would you like something to go as well?"

He shook his head, "No thank you Marie. In fact, I best be getting back to the office." Thomas popped the snaps on his briefcase and placed his lunch containers, and PADD back inside before closing the lid. He looked over at black with a smile when he saw her shaking her head

Jocelyn chuckled at the exchange and shook her head. "She's fabulous isn't she?" she asked, inclining her head in the direction of Marie's retreating back. "She sold me on this place as much as anything else."

Thomas nodded in agreement, "She reminds me of my wife, and both don't let me get away with anything." He laughed as he collected his briefcase and stood while offering his hand to Jocelyn. "Thank you for the company Ms. Blake, I'm sure we will be seeing more of each other soon around headquarters," he said as he felt her take his hand. He paused and looked at her with an upraised brow, "And remember what I said, you ever need anything just let me know." He then collected his overcoat and made his way over to the exit as he threw a parting wave to Marie.

Watching as the JAG made his way out of the Horseshoe, Jocelyn sighed. She hoped she wouldn't need the man's services, but with the way the press and Whitford had been over this period of time, it was hard to be certain that she wouldn't. Mentally she made a note to glance over his file again and refamiliarize herself with the Female Changeling's trial. Maybe there would be some inklings of how the coverage was handled then to capitalize off of in response to FNN's claims of xenophobia in Starfleet's highest ranks.

She stood then, stretching and snagging her mug to return to the counter, exchanging it for a full tumbler of coffee--the Starfleet Command logo emblazoned brightly across it. She stared at it a moment, a swirl of conflicting emotions surrounding such a simple emblem and then she turned, heading over to the table where her security detail sat.

"Ready to go?" she asked.

=/\= A Mission Post By =/\=

Rear Admiral Thomas Romanowski
Judge Advocate General

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary


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