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Professional Courtesy

Posted on Tue Aug 17th, 2021 @ 7:08pm by Captain Jocelyn Blake & Rear Admiral Joshua Whitford

Mission: Episode 2: 18th and Constitution
Location: Press Secretary's Office, CinC's Office
Timeline: Mission Day 5 at 1030

[Press Secretary's Office]
[Starfleet Command]
[MD5 - 1030 Hours]

Jocelyn stared at the Starfleet Command logo emblazoned on her wall screen. It stood at the ready, the screen having come to life following a heads up from Landingham that Jocelyn had an incoming inquiry from Harris Zhao, a headliner for the Federation News Network.

Zhao’s face loomed on the screen a moment later, replacing the logo.

“Mr. Zhao,” Jocelyn said, standing next to her desk and facing the screen. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Zhao nodded his acknowledgement. “Captain,” he replied, “I’m calling as a professional courtesy.”

Jocelyn’s eyebrows crept up at that. “A professional courtesy?” she repeated. “I’m listening.”

Zhao nodded. “This morning we received a tip from a source that the bombing of the Romulan Embassy was a ploy by a separatist organization here on Earth trying to drum up xenophobia around the arrival of the Romulans.”

Jocelyn’s eyebrows crept higher, a look of disbelief settling on her face. “I’m sorry, Mr. Zhao,” Jocelyn began, “But you surely know I can’t comment on speculation related to an ongoing internal investigation.”

Zhao shrugged, an infuriating gesture that caused Jocelyn to scowl at the screen. “I’m giving Starfleet a chance to comment, but my editor wants me to run with the story. If Starfleet appears to be tolerating, or worse, hiding terrorist activities..." he trailed off before continuing, " the world, and our neighbors, deserve to know it. Starfleet isn’t the governing arm of this planet, Captain, and the duly elected President of the Federation was severely injured in that blast.”

“I see,” Jocleyn replied, steel in her voice. “We would strongly recommend against running with this story until more facts are known.”

“I can give you until tomorrow morning,” Zhao replied, “but then we’re publishing the story.”

“Thank you for the notice,” Jocelyn replied, cooly, “if our position on giving a statement changes you will be the first to know.”

A tap at a PADD on the edge of her desk closed the line, not bothering to sign out.

The press secretary sank against her desk, realization hitting her as she did so.

“Shit,” she muttered, and then stood, stepping to the door so that it slid open. “Landingham, I’m going to need to see Rear Admiral Whitford.”

[CinC's Office]
[Starfleet Command]
[MD5 - 1040 Hours]

"I don't care if he's on Mars. Get him in," Rear Admiral Whitford said, not bothering to care how nasally, high, and demanding his tone had become. "Marlena, you should know something...I hate repeating myself. Please don't make me do it again."

"Commander Glenn," the woman intoned back cooly.

"What?" Whitford shot back, looking up at her over the edge of his PADD. "Did you say something?"

"Yes, I did," Glenn stiffened her back, looking pointedly at the man who outranked her by a dozen levels. "I've not given you permission to use my first name, sir. You may refer to me as 'Commander' or 'Commander Glenn.'" The fire in her blood kissed Marlena's cheeks in pink.

"Fine. Whatever," Whitford waived Marlena away with frustration. "Just get on with it. And send in Little Miss Stepped-In-It on your way out. I can see her waiting out there," the Rear Admiral half-growled from behind his PADD.

"Very well, sir," Glenn replied, turning away and rolling her eyes as she strode through the double glass doors into the anteroom beyond. "If I were you, Joce," she sighed, sliding down into her chair, "I'd tread lightly in there. He's on the warpath and definitely feeling his new power today. Best of luck," Marlena smiled overly-sweetly; a sardonic expression she knew Jocelyn would read as half-sarcasm, half-best wishes. Clearly the woman had had her fill of Whitford already.

"I bet he is..." she muttered, doing everything in her power to tamp down the desperate desire to roll her eyes. Marlena looked like she had been through the ringer. Likely Jocelyn she had been lucky at the embassy; sititng away from the main blast, but not escaping unscathed. "Coffee later? We may both need an excuse to leave the building after I'm done in there."

As the Press Secretary entered the CinC's office -- bereft of the Vulcan calm Sturnack normally exuded -- Rear Admiral Whitford slammed his PADD down on the Vulcan's desk. "Boy did you screw up. Again...and again..." he stood, coming around the desk, leaning back to rest his posterior on its surface, "and again and again and again. I realize you got your hair blown back in the explosion but that doesn't excuse what they're saying out there."

Whitford snatched his PADD back up and read from it:

"...Blake appeared noticeably rattled and dazed."

"Captain Blake seemed unaware of where she was and what was going on..."

"In a press briefing about the incident, the Press Secretary seemed detached and cold."

"You know, we needed that briefing to reassure people, Captain. Instead, they're scared and finding zero," Whitford's voice shot up several octaves, "comfort from their governing body. Thanks for that. Really," he said snidely, tossing the PADD again back onto his desk.

Jocelyn has stopped just short of the door as if distance would somehow spare her from the vitriol that Whitford spewed in her direction. Marlena had warned her it would be bad and yet she still found her hackles rising, frustration and grief and anxiety mounting along with them. The CinC--because she couldn't bring herself to think of Whitford as the man holding that title--would never have treated her this way.

The tossing of the PADD seemed to signal a break in the tirade; or perhaps a lull in the storm. "I'm glad to review my performance at a briefing mere hours after helping to pull dying officers from the rubble if you feel that's necessary," she finally bit out, "but I have a more urgent and time sensitive thing to discuss. If I may?"

She indicated the chair in front of the desk, facial expression maddeningly neutral as she waited by the door for the Admiral to decide how he wanted to proceed.

Whitford looked across the room with ire and fire, half-pissed off the Jocelyn was side-stepping his tirade but also half afraid of whatever the hell news the woman was bringing him. "Sit down and get it out already," the Admiral coldly said, a vein just under the surface of his forehead throbbing like a squiggly little "s." If Blake was pre-empting his chew out, part of Whitford -- a part very deep down -- knew there must be something very serious indeed happening. That part of him also advised calming down in preparation to hear whatever it was. He was already deeply entrenched in fight-or-flight chemical reactions; Whitford needed to avoid giving himself a heart attack.

Jocelyn walked to the chair, not rushing, but not taking her time either. Part of her wanted to simply run from the room and avoid whatever insane calamity might await her once Whitford heard her question. The other part refused to be cowed. She sat, tapping a PADD she held in her lap and throwing a picture of Harris Zhao into the air for Whitford to see.

"Harris Zhao of the Federation News Network reached out to me this morning as a professional courtesy. His office received a tip that a separatist group was responsible for the bombing--trying to drum up xenophobia to put cracks in the relationship between the Federation and the Romulans. He wanted a comment," she shot the Rear Admiral a pointed look, "which I told him he could not have."

She watched Whitford for a moment, giving him a chance to process what she was saying. "They're going to go to press tomorrow and without a comment from us it's going to appear we are tolerating, or worse enabling, domestic terrorists."
She tapped then to drop the image of Zhao, his face disappearing as the holo-image cleared. "Sir, it's only been a few days, but I am sure there are theories already about the source of the bomb. We don't have any reason to believe that this was a separatist group, do we?"

It took several long moments for Whitford to respond. When he did, his voice was colder than Andor's iciest regions on their most sub-zero day. "How did this information get out? I swear to Surak," the Admiral drew on the Vulcan almost-deity, "that if I find out who is spilling all of our secrets, I'm going to lose it on them." He huffed heartily, sinking backward into his chair. For once, at least, his ire didn't seem to be focused on Jocelyn herself. "This obviously wasn't you. But someone around here is blabbing at the mouth and I want to know who."

The room was practically frozen out given Whitford's manner. "We are exploring all of the possibilities right now. There have been rumblings of an isolationist group that's not been happy about the Romulans being here. Homeworld Security picked up one of their members for questioning but doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. My guess?" Whitford said, his voice raising in register. "That's probably where this is coming from. Someone got wind of the pick up and they're jumping to conclusions."

"Obviously," his face became more pointed, "we don't want to say we aren't getting anywhere with this. The public needs to know we're taking action. But we also can't hang our hat on this. Starfleet Intelligence is chasing down other leads as well but, with Ojo gone," Whitford sighed, "the department's in a bit of a mess right now." Almost as if he hated asking, Whitford drew a breath and inquired, "What do you think we should do?"

Jocelyn considered a moment, thrown off guard a bit by Whitford's question considering his extreme dislike of her. Finally, she opened her mouth to speak.

"Honestly, sir," she began, "I think our best bet here is a general comment. Something to the effect of Starfleet Command has put our best people onto the task of investigating the bombing and are investigating a number of leads. This is, however, an ongoing investigation and we cannot comment on specific details or leads at this time.

Her voice had gone serious as she quipped what she imagined a quote would look like. "That way we have given a quote, so we don't appear to be ignoring anything, but we're not giving the impression that we're willing to just let the public have a front row seat to our process."

She frowned then, thinking back to her interview with Fleet Admiral Sturnack. "I know Admiral Sturnack hired me with the intent to help provide transparency to Starfleet's workings, but in this it doesn't seem like the best choice to provide more information than that."

She paused to try to gauge Whitford's reaction, but his expression was still icy. "And then we weather whatever storm comes with it."

The Admiral gave Blake's plan more than a few moments of thought before nodding with finality. "Alright then, it's your show, Blake. Give them the comment if you think that's the best way to go. But know that, if this blows back on us somehow, it's on you. Hope it's as good an idea as you think it is." As a long-term political operative, Whitford was obviously used to moving the machinated pieces around the board to his own advantage. It was clear that if things went sideways, it would be Jocelyn who took the fall for it, not him.

"You've a lot of work you should be doing. Get to it, Captain," Whitford said, disappearing into one of his PADDs again. He did not look back up at the woman, his attention solely focused on the screen in front of him. Just because he wasn't looking, though, didn't mean his frosty intent wasn't clear. The temperature in the room was still sub-zero. Get the fuck out already, he thought to himself, mentally urging the woman to take her leave.

Jocelyn hesitated only long enough for her features to settle into their own icy reaction. She recognized being dismissed, however rudely, when it happened.

"Yes sir," she said, working hard to keep sarcasm from her voice as she rose. And then, not bothering to say anything further she slipped out of the office that she still couldn't think of as anyone's other than Fleet Admiral Sturnack.

She did have work to get to, afterall.

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

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary

Rear Admiral Joshua Whitford (played by Brad)
Acting Commander in Chief

Commander Marlena Glenn (played by Brad)
Aide-de-Camp to the C-in-C


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