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Meet the Press

Posted on Thu Oct 14th, 2021 @ 3:27pm by Captain Jocelyn Blake & Vice Admiral Nathan Cowell, MD

Mission: Episode 2: 18th and Constitution
Location: Press Secretary's Office, Starfleet Headquarters
Timeline: Mission Day 10 at 1300

The communications wing of Starfleet Command was a busy place on a normal day. Then days after a bombing and in the middle of an interstellar aid mission, the energy of the place was approaching frenetic.

Lieutenant Kathryn Landingham liked the buzz of the place normally. But since taking over as the Press Secretary's aide-de-camp she had to admit that the busy-ness was wearing on her. She sipped a cup of coffee as she poured through a PADD's worth of data, sifting what needed to be directed to Captain Blake and what could be redirected to Lieutenant Hoover.

She had decided that she liked the new Deputy Press Secretary even if he was unfairly handsome and possibly a bit of a flirt. He at least seemed genuinely excited to be on the job which... in a time of crisis... was unquestionably helpful for morale.

An alert came across her PADD then, reminding her that Captain Blake's next appointment was due at any moment.

The visage of an elderly man clad in the uniform of a Starfleet Admiral stepped into the antechamber of the office not more than a second or two following the alert. The surly countenance the man possessed made it rather plain for any observer to see that he was not thrilled with being where he was, nor did he seem overly intent on waiting around for anyone to attend to him.

"Is the door open?" the man said, breezing by the reception desk while giving the occupant of said desk less than a cursory glance before heading right up to the portal separating him from his intended partner for conversation.

Landingham's head shot up, taking in the new arrival with mild alarm, and jumping up from her desk as she did. She was torn between stopping him from entering Captain Blake's office before she could announce him and dropping into attention as was befitting of this man's rank. The result was a sort of comedic half salute followed by a stumble to follow behind him.

"Oh great... a comedy routine... this meeting's off to a wonderful start..." the old man muttered before holding a hand up to stop the woman in her tracks, "Don't bother getting up, this isn't the first time I've walked in to a room without someone announcing me. Just go back to being lost in thought... or whatever the hell aides do..."

The old man turned around and addressed the door, "Medical override, Cowell-alpha-zulu-seventy-seven-oh-twenty-one."

The door slid open instantly, allowing the elderly doctor to stroll in without a moment's hesitation.

"Captain," Cowell said in the way of a greeting, "Keep your seat, I'm sure I won't be taking up any more of your time than I already intended to... which isn't much."

Jocelyn looked up as her door slid open, an amused frown crossing her features as the person who entered the room was not her aide-de-camp. "Admiral Cowell," she remarked, knowing full well who was due to meet with her. "Is there something about the admirals pips that make people of those ranks enter an office unannounced, or have I just specifically earned that special privilege with so many of your esteemed level?"

"I do it because I'm damn near 600 years old and I'm not one for pomp and ceremony. Probably the rest of the people you've dealt with just have a superiority complex or something..." Cowell said, slumping down into the chair at the other side of the woman's desk, "Just between you, me, and the recording device you no doubt have running when you talk to folks, I didn't want to even be an Admiral, I just wanted to be a doctor. I'm damn good at being a doctor, but ain't worth shit when I have to deal with politics."

"Well thankfully I only need you for your doctor's expertise and not for your rank," she remarked wryly. "Can I have Lieutenant Landingham get you something to drink?"

"No thanks," the old man shook his head, "I only drink after hours, and it isn't synthetic junk. How about we just cut to the chase and deal with whatever it is you call me here to talk about. That way I get out of your hair quick and get back to doing the stuff I'm actually back on Earth for the first time in a long time to do... that being doctoring, if that wasn't clear."

She nodded, appreciating his directness. "I don't know how much you've been told about the goings on around here," she began, "but the press seems to have decided to take the bombing of the Romulan embassy as an opportunity to suggest that we are covering things up that the public should have access to. We're not, mind you, but it's my job to alleviate some of that view. So to that end I'm aiming to run out a press release announcing your appointment and giving some insight into your approach to things. Perhaps some aside to how you've addressed the care of those injured in the blasts."

Her fingers drummed lightly on her desk as she thought. "It's a bit of political misdirection, I admit, but we really need them to leave us alone so we can actually do the work of finding the people who did this rather than spending our team deflecting conspiracy theories."

"I know just enough about it to be dangerous," Cowell said, leaning back in his chair, "About seven of the two dozen critical care patients I worked on yesterday when I walked in the door yesterday were Romulans. Hell of a warm welcome, by the way. Up to my eyeballs in green blood... and a few other colors of blood now that I think about it... Point is, I had my hands inside a lot of innards yesterday and I can tell you with no small bit of confidence that if there's someone drumming up rumors about something the rest of you aren't looking at as plausible... chances are they actually are. Because in my experience, Romulans don't use these kinds of overt terrorist acts if they have another option. Doesn't fit their personality... and it's way too flashy."

The old man rose from his chair and and began to walk toward the window overlooking a well-preened garden, "Not that your ancestors were even a tinkle in their own ancestors' eye yet when this went down, but back on Earth... we're talking pre-warp Earth... they used to talk about conspiracies all the time, all the government cover-ups about this, that, and the other thing. Funny part about it was... there were a lot of them that knew the truth. Take extraterrestrial life, for instance. People back in the 20th century "knew" there was no such thing as aliens. And you know what? Every time I heard that I laughed... because I was living proof that there was life outside of their little biome."

"Point is," Cowell said, turning back to face the younger woman, "Half the time, the conspiracy theorists know more than the experts. They don't even know they actually know something legitimate at the time, but they aren't blowing smoke up your butt. If you want to catch the people who did this, grab you a nut case and crack him open. They'll spill all kinds of dirty secrets... most of them will be shit, but it's that one nugget of truth that'll make suffering through the ranting worth while."

The old man flopped back in his chair, "Or we can talk about how green my elbows where after playing pool with people's intestines... whichever you think is going to help the Federation more today."

Jocelyn had sat through the surly doctor's description quietly, one hand on a cup of coffee at all times while the other tapped a few things into a PADD. When he returned to his chair she regarded him with a mixture of thoughtfulness and slight amusement.

"You'll be glad to know, then, that the source of the conspiracy theories that the press is expounding on is from a crackpot picked up by Homeworld Security for the exact sort of shaking out the change questioning you're suggesting."

She smirked slightly, another quick tap of fingers across racing across her PADD. "Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately depending on your perspective, I don't have much say in how the investigation is conducted. It's just my job to make sure the press doesn't ferment a panic while it's done. So, perhaps you could give me a general status update on the patients in your care... without personal details of course... and then we can talk about what pretty things you'd like me to say about you personally."

"Well... let's see..." Cowell said, taking a second to consider the question before beginning, "As far as the patients are concerned, every single person I had my hands in was about half an hour from death before I made it to Earth. Having the Chief of Starfleet Medical die in the blast, along with a few other skilled surgeons put a real hurt on their manning. Thankfully, my old boat got me here just in time to spend damn near an entire day wading through the wounded and yanking them kicking and screaming back to the land of the living. The initial death toll didn't get any higher than last report thanks to the staff at Starfleet Medical being able to adapt to my arrival fast enough to keep people alive. You can beef up the numbers of patients I physically had hands inside if you think that'll sell more newspapers, but the fact is, it was chaos before I got there, and I made damn sure the chaos stopped the minute I took command."

"As for what you can say about me personally... you can use my name. Anyone worth their salt ought to know who I am. Anyone who doesn't... well... that's their bad luck. Unless you got something specific you want to ask me," the old man shrugged off the personal commentary without so much as an eyelash batted.

She nodded, adjusting her glasses slightly. They were a deep green today, contrasting against the command red of her uniform. "That should give me everything I need," she remarked, "And I have your dossier for any additional career details."

She sat back then, lifting her coffee to her lips to take a long sip. Cup returned to desk she continued, "I appreciate everything you've done, Admiral. Truly. I was on site at the back of the room during that blast. And I'm the one who found the CinC. It's not an image I'll forget quickly and I'm certainly more than slightly cognizant of the effort required to, yank them kicking and screaming back to the land of the living."

"You've more experience in your pinky than I've got in my entire lifetime. If you've any passing advice or observations to share for how to manage in this place I'd be more than glad of it."

"Managing the rumor mill?" Cowell couldn't help but scoff at the idea, "Kid, I avoid politics like the plague. And your job is all politics. So, vicariously, I avoid dealing with your kind of people like the plague. And before you get all huffy about it, it's nothing personal or even all that mean. I know what I'm good at, and I know what I'm terrible at. I can rip a man from Death's door after he's already opened it and is about to pull a man into the hereafter like most people walk across a room, but I can't bend words around to save my own ass, let alone keep other peoples' asses out of trouble. That's not my gift, and I know damn well it isn't. You... you look like someone who can just about keep their head above water in the pool of sharks you swim in... and good on you for it, kiddo. Takes guts, takes wit, and takes some big damn balls... gender limitations not withstanding."

The elderly man scratched his chin for a moment before remarking, "If you want advice though, I'll give you this little nugget of wisdom. Stand your ground. Don't let people walk all over you just because they don't like something you said, or what you believe in. Your line of work has all kinds of snakes in the grass and they'll never give up once they grab hold of you once. As long as you don't show them a weakness, they'll never be able to do more than hiss at you. Best advice I can think of for you."

Jocelyn nodded, her expression thoughtful. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate the advice."

She sat forward then, hands clasped together on her desk. "I think I have what I need. Is there anything you need from my office before you go?"

"Unless you're hiding some trained doctors and nurses in your back pocket, I can't say as I do. But if I need someone to spin a good yarn, I know where to go. Keep your chin up, kiddo," Cowell said, pushing himself onto his feet, "I'm going to head back to my office, but if you ever need someone patched up, you know where to find me."

With that parting shot, the elderly physician headed back out the way he'd come in, in a manner similar to his entrance.

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

Vice Admiral Nathan Cowell, MD
Director of Starfleet Medical

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary


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