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Post 6 - A misunderstanding of sorts

Posted on Sat Dec 12th, 2020 @ 4:05am by Captain Jocelyn Blake & Fleet Admiral Sturnack & Commander Marlena Glenn
Edited on on Sat Dec 12th, 2020 @ 4:08am

Mission: Episode 1: Acta Non Verba
Location: CinC's Office, SFC Complex
Timeline: Day 11 - 0845 Hours

[Presidio Grounds]
[Day 11 - 0845 Hours]

It was a rainy morning in San Francisco. The plop, plop, plop of heavy raindrops created a soothing undercurrent of sound on the sidewalks. Here and there, wet leaves in crimson or gold were strewn about the surface, plastered to the pavement by the drip, drip, drops of morning moisture. In the chilly mist, steam rose from two coffee cups held by a woman in her 40s. Carrier-nestled coffees in one hand and an umbrella held in the other, Marlena Glenn quickly strode down the path leading towards the main building of the Starfleet Command Complex.

As Marlena approached the glass door that was its entrance, it swung slowly open to admit her. "Morning Bob!" she verbally tossed to the security officer manning the front counter, who sat beside a receptionist there as well. The young man yawned and waved back at her. "Late night?" she asked, moving to the counter and setting down the coffees. This allowed Marlena to close down her umbrella and gather herself before stepping into the gaggle of activity she knew waited on the other side of the inner door.

"Kids were up all night again," Bob nodded. "It's amazing how little sleep they think they need. Thank goodness for their mother -- I don't know how she does it," the security officer chuckled.

"I'm sure you do your part too, mister," Marlena flashed him a playful smile. "Say hello to little Sadie for me," she winked before looking towards the next door. Taking a breath, she picked up her coffees and said, "Ready."

"I will. And you're good to go," Bob smirked back, reaching forward to trigger the door. "I trust you are who you say you are but...are you sure you don't want me to screen your blood just to be safe?" It was, obviously, a joke.

"I do hope," Marlena mock-groaned, "we've left those days far behind." Five years prior, the Changeling threat had necessitated such measures. Nowadays, SFC had returned to standard biometric scans to permit entry into sensitive areas. "Catch you later, friend," she said, giving the security officer one last smile before slipping through the entry way.

Now on the other side, the calm of Marlena's rainy day coffee break evaporated. People were speed walking everywhere, it seemed, and the conversational din assaulted the ears. This was nothing new, of course: she'd worked in the SFC Complex for years now and was used to the environment. But things were different now, with her being the CinC's Aide-de-Camp. Demands for her attention and assistance had exploded overnight.

Passing several people who looked up from their work to flag her down, Marlena shook her head and pointed to the coffees. "Gotta get this to the CinC before it gets cold. I promise, we'll talk later!" she tossed back, suddenly wishing she were wearing an invisibility cloak of some kind. Finally arriving at her desk, she set down the coffees and then stowed her umbrella before turning back to enter Sturnack's office, his cup in hand once again.

The Commander-in-Chief was not presently there -- he was in a meeting on the third floor -- so Marlena placed his coffee in the normal spot: one foot to the right of the Vulcan's chair and then one foot forward. As Sturnack put it, the placement was "prime efficiency" when it came to consuming the beverage without knocking it over while working. With an 180-degree pivot, Marlena exited the office, finally spotting the bespectacled young woman she must have missed when she arrived.

"Oh hello," Marlena flashed a spritely smile, "you must be Commander Blake? I'm Commander Glenn, Aide-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief." She offered a hand, moving closer to the woman who was there to interview for the Press Secretary position. "The Admiral should be back soon -- can I get you anything while you wait?"

If Jocelyn Blake's appearance the night prior had been scattered, this morning she was pristine. Her dress uniform, sporting R&D's science blue looked as though it had been lifted directly from a dry cleaning rack to fit perfectly onto the wearer's figure. Her black boots were shined and, though she had walked through rain and puddles to get there, showed now indication of the woman's travels. Jocelyn's eye glasses were perched on the bridge of her nose--calico today to make her face more memorable while still looking professional. Her hair was up in what her mother would have called a perfect ballet bun, red locks smoothed back severely from her forehead, two tendrils spiraling down on either side, while the remaining hair had been tamed into submission. The two locks at the front were a concession--her goal to ensure she didn't come across too severe, but to ensure she looked truly and completely competent.

It's a fine line between approachable and incompetent, she had told Jordan the night before after her third glass of wine had finally unwound her nerves and she was headed off to bed to get the tiniest modicum of sleep. She stood fluidly, sticking out her hand to grasp the aide-de-camp's offered palm a bit too quickly. "Lieutenant Commander," she corrected kindly, indicating her collar with a flourish of her pointer finger. "You've got me by one pip, ma'am."

"Lieutenant Commander Jocelyn Margaret Blake of Lakeside, Pennsylvania," Marlena rattled off by rote with a smirk. "Pop's a high school teacher and mom's a geologist. I know your rank honey," the woman chuckled lightly, using biographical knowledge to underscore her point. "Around here, we tend to drop first part of ranks unless we're being exceedingly formal," she explained, eyes bright. "A 'Rear Admiral' is just 'Admiral.' A 'Lieutenant Commander' is...wait for it," Marlena pursed her lips in good humor, "a 'Commander.' Relax a little," she encouraged kindly, moving back to her desk after shaking hands. She picked up her coffee and was about to take a sip but then said, "Ah, there he is now."

And indeed, the new Commander-in-Chief was just entering the suite that contained his office and Marlena's desk. The Vulcan -- walking crisply and with a purpose -- was accompanied by a pair of Starfleet security officers; one took point and entered first, nodding back to the Fleet Admiral in a gesture meant to convey safety. As Sturnack stepped inside, the remaining security officer took up position outside the suite, standing beside the door and looking passably stern to passersby.

"Lieutenant Commander Jocelyn Blake," the Vulcan said impassively. "I admire your promptness given the inclement weather. Please accompany me into my office," he said, gesturing towards the inner door. "Commander," Sturnack nodded an acknowledgment to Glenn before slipping into his office and taking his seat. "Please sit," he gestured Blake to one of the less-than-comfortable chairs in front of his desk. Behind him -- through the expansive windows looking out over the Presidio -- the solar-panel-covered Golden Gate Bridge was visible in the rolling fog that accompanied the rain.

Jocelyn had followed behind the CinC, barely remembering protocol and slipping into attention next to her seat only moments before the Vulcan indicated she should sit. The heat of a blush from Commander Glenn's response to her clarification on rank had abated just in time for her body to respond just a beat too late to the CinC's request.

Feeling less than graceful, she settled herself into the chair, both feet flat on the floor and shoulder length apart. In a bid to keep her hands from shaking, she folded them in her lap, pulling her shoulders back and sitting ramrod straight in her chair. She didn't remember the last time she had felt this nervous and was afraid her voice would betray her. Taking a quiet breath, Jocelyn spoke: "Thank you, sir. For the opportunity today and for the seat."

"The seat is not yours, Lieutenant Commander," the Vulcan replied drably. "At least, not yet. However, you are welcome to occupy it...for a time," Sturnack amended, picking up a PADD from his desk and keying up some information. "Your name had been in consideration for the Press Secretary position until I read this..." From the PADD, he voiced, "'Vice Admiral James Leyton, in an unprecedented overreach of Starfleet’s powers, was prevented from completing a military takeover of Earth.' This," he lowered the PADD back to the desk, "is from an article you published at the express discouragement of Starfleet Command in April of 2373. Explain, please," the Vulcan affixed Blake with neutral eyes, "your reasoning for publishing anyway?" Sturnack's fingers returned to their steepled position, this time accompanied by an expectantly-raised right eyebrow.

It was a physical effort for Jocelyn to control her tongue, one she was only partly able to hide as her eyes narrowed slightly. She may have had a limited amount of experience interviewing for positions, but the sudden impression that she had been brought here not because she was being considered, but so that she could be lectured on staying in her lane was inescapable.

Taking a moment to breathe she composed herself and then, unable to completely relegate her emotions to someplace other than her tone of voice she replied. "Respectfully sir, what you said implies that I'm no longer in the running. I'll answer your question but, frankly, if you're not considering me for the role, why did you even bother to keep the appointment?"

Jocelyn's voice, the very one she had been so concerned would betray her nerves moments ago, came out steely and cold. Any warmth or even camaraderie by way of inclusion in the same organization, that she had intended to convey was placed to the wayside. What right did this man have to waste her time on an expose that was nearly 10 years old?

"A fair question," the Vulcan conceded by way of a nod. "It is true that I have already made a decision about your candidacy. However," Sturnack's eyebrow rose higher, "I still felt it polite to meet with you rather than cancel the interview. And given our meeting, I could not forego the opportunity to gain insight into your questionable behavior -- insight that might assist me in contextualizing it," the Fleet Admiral explained. "I seem to have -- as humans are so fond of saying," his tone remained neutral, "'struck a nerve?'"

He picked up the PADD and read from it once again: "'Starfleet requested this series of events be kept from the press -- a step in the direction of former Admiral Leyton’s willingness to remove personal liberties from Federation citizens.' A bold brush stroke, painting the entirety of Starfleet as potentially complicit," the Vulcan's eyes sharpened ever so slightly, "with Leyton's desire to restrain personal freedom."

Jocelyn took a breath, her anger dropping from a raging blaze to resigned frustration with the CinC's explanation.

"I published the piece on Leyton in part because Starfleet asked me not to. Leyton's attempted coup wasn't current. It had already been a few months past by that point. I wasn't revealing state secrets or information that might jeopardize Starfleet. Their request that I not proceed with the publication didn't protect them from harm, it prevented them from dealing with a messy bit of PR."

She paused, fiddling with her fingers for a moment before meeting the Vulcan's gaze directly. "If we're really going to tout that Starfleet is setting the model for freedom, liberty, and inclusion in the galaxy, but not acknowledge what was not only a failing in our midst, but one that could have caused significant harm to Federation citizens, then can we really be trusted to believe what we say? It's the job of the press to inform the people and, by proxy, to keep those in power honest, sir. Would it have hurt anyone had I just gotten in line? No, probably not. But would Starfleet have been forced to reconcile its failings in a transparent way before the citizens who it aims to serve and protect if I hadn't. No, probably not. Leyton was a symptom of a problem, sir, not a one off. Hiding it from the world was no better than saying our word was only good when it was convenient."

After a long measure of silence, "I see," came the Vulcan's two word reply. Sturnack deigned not to get into any kind of deeper discussion around the woman's actions a decade prior, instead setting the PADD aside once again. The Fleet Admiral then picked up the coffee cup Marlena had so meticulously placed for him and, with eyes still regarding Blake, the CinC took a long sip. The temperature had cooled considerably in the minutes since the cup had been left for Sturnack. However, the coolness wasn't what triggered the less-than-pleasant expression on the Vulcan's face.

"This is entirely too weak," he said with a trace of dispassion. Eyeing the cup now, the Vulcan arched an eyebrow once again. "Coffee seems such a simple thing and yet," he looked up at Blake, "The Baristocracy does not seem able to adequately fashion my latte. Despite Marlena's love for the place, I find myself disquieted by their lack of skill. The replicator is almost preferable to this," Sturnack said, lowering the cup to the table and then sliding it away.

Jocelyn had expected a reply, certainly, but not a complete divergence from the topic. She felt a tiny bit of a headache beginning to form behind her eyes and realized not only should she have stopped after the second glass of wine last night, but also that the coffee she had that morning was now hours past.

"Of course they don't, sir." She replied, allowing a small smile to cross her face as she moved into familiar territory. She suddenly had the feeling that she had somehow entered an alternate universe. "You can't expect a good latte from a place like that. I'd recommend Horseshoe Cafe if you want something real. You won't be disappointed. I'm actually planning to stop there myself after this appointment."

"The...Horseshoe Cafe?" Sturnack sounded the words out, as if testing them in his mouth. "I have not heard of that establishment prior to today. However," he nodded to Blake, "I will make a note to seek it out, Commander. Thank you for your recommendation. And, of course, your time," the Fleet Admiral added. "While my decision had already been made, your added context provides further supporting validation." With that, he stood and came around the desk, moving closer to the woman. "I am a firm proponent of transparency when and wherever possible. Starfleet Command was wrong to sideline you, Commander, no matter what problems your story caused. And," he noted, "I would like you to ensure that level of transparency is present for my own administration."

Jocelyn had hurried to stand as the CinC came around his desk and so it took her an extra moment to process what he had just said. "I'm sorry, sir, you want me to come work for you?" she said, unable to conceal her surprise.

"Indeed," came the Vulcan's impassive reply. "I am afraid I have little time for shock and awe at the moment, Commander. It's been a very busy day here and Commander Glenn is going to come in at any moment to collect me for--"

"Sturn?" came the voice of the CinC's aide-de-camp, who had popped her head into the room. "You've got the thing right now. I won't have you being late on your first official day," Marlena mock-chided before looking once more to Blake. "She good to go then?"

"Mostly," the Fleet Admiral nodded. "I have informed her of her selection, though she is still processing, I believe," Sturnack stated, eyeing the calico-spectacled woman, who at present seemed somewhat at a loss for words. "She will, of course, need to switch to the Command track for this assignment. And as the bare minimum rank required for the Press Secretary position is Captain, we will need to address her pips in addition to her uniform color. Please see to that, Marlena," he ordered, collecting a couple of PADDs and moving to exit the office. Something sparked his memory, however, and the Vulcan turned back to Blake.

"Congratulations, Captain Blake. I will see you at 0600 hours tomorrow," Sturnack nodded politely. "And, if you would not mind, I would appreciate you filling Marlena in on this...Horseshoe Cafe. I believe," he looked to his aide, "it will be our new source of morning coffee."

"What's wrong with The Baristocracy?" Marlena asked, almost pouting. It seemed she did, indeed, enjoy the place.

"So very much," the Fleet Admiral stated in dead-pan fashion. And with that, Sturnack was gone, his security detail adhering to him once again as he passed.

"Well," Marlena huffed, eyeing Blake dubiously, "it seems you've forever altered the course of my morning walks. The least you can do is show me around the place. Care to meet out front at 0500 tomorrow?" She moved, then, towards the woman and handed her a small box covered in dark velvet. Even without opening it, there was no doubt as to what awaited Jocelyn inside: a Captain's pips. Without waiting for Blake to find her voice and answer, Marlena shrugged. "Gotta go: lots to do. See you tomorrow!" she tossed back on her way out of the office.

It was already a full beat too late when Jocelyn finaly pulled herself together and realized she was standing alone, in the CinC's office, holding a box indicative of a full two ranks higher than she was when she had walked into the room.

"What just happened?" she said out loud to the empty room before fully registering the Commander Glenn's parting request. "Wait. 0500," she said before hurrying for the door. "Out front of where?" she yelled after the woman.

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

Fleet Admiral Sturnack
Commander in Cheif
Starfleet Command

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary
Starfleet Command

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


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