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Big News

Posted on Sun Jun 5th, 2022 @ 4:20pm by Rear Admiral Sal Andolini & Fleet Admiral Sturnack & Captain Jocelyn Blake

Mission: Episode 3: Conflicts of Interest
Location: Andolini Resdience, Illinois, North American district
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1800

[Andolini Residence]
[MD 1: 1800 Hours]

The evening was their usual Christmas plans, dinner was non replicated, and the family was all together. Tomorrow would be the big family dinner where everyone shows up and the house is crowded, usually after mass.

Dogs were consistently underfoot, both Bear, the large lab/husky mix and Juno, who was a mix of some sort of shepherd and what was described as some sort of wolf creature, who were trying to obtain snacks of dinner, usually from the younger children, and of course from the Admiral. Maria had taken some leave to come home for the celebrations, and her brothers were enjoying getting to pick on their sister again.

As they dug in to their dinner the dogs perked up hearing something outside and going to begin the investigation.


"He said 'any time,"' Jocelyn was saying as she came up the walk of Sal Andolini's home. Her hand was tucked in Sturnack's, a habit that had formed extremely quickly over the last 24 hours. "And getting ahead of even the slightest possibility of this news breaking without our say so... it's important." She sighed, nervousness flowing through the link alongside her certainty that this was the right step even in light of the holiday.

"Though he indicated that any time was permissible," the Vulcan replied, "surely he did not anticipate a Christmas visit. We should expect some level of potential consternation, though perhaps this will help," Sturnack said, lifting the bottle of burgundy red they'd brought with them from The Fortress. According to its label, the wine was over 50 years old -- a gift to hopefully smooth over the unexpected drop in. Perhaps the wine would even soften the enormity of the bomb they were about to drop? Through the link, some of Sturnack's own unspoken and unacknowledged nervousness shone through as well. Despite his placid mask, the Vulcan clearly was uncomfortable.

They reached the door and Jocelyn turned, looking at Sturnack and squeezing his hand slightly before releasing it. Telling Starfleet's Communications Director about their newly embarked upon relationship was the first of many people who needed to be let in on the news and she was ready to get it over with. Like ripping off a bandaid, she thought. Her hand came up to the chime that would alert those inside of their presence, setting off a cacophony of barking from behind the door.

"Canines?" the Vulcan asked, raising an eyebrow. He'd been about to say more when the door opened, the face of the Communications Director becoming visible. "

The barking preceded the bell and soon Sal had gotten the door after shooing both dogs away from the door but they were still trying to get close and see the new people who would be come friends because all bipeds liked them. When he got the door opened he saw his Press Secretary and the Commander in Chief of Starfleet on his porch.

"Ah, Admiral. Happy Christmas," Sturnack said with zero enthusiasm, offering the bottle of wine out to the man. "We are sorry for intruding on your...special day," he said rotely, recalling Jocelyn's earlier coaching. "Please accept this gift as both apology and invitation to imbibe." The whole thing was comical, though the Vulcan did seem to be trying.

After the greeting and offer of the bottle, Sal waved them in, "Come in, it's cold out there." As they stepped in he again shooed the dogs off, both of whom began sniffing the newcomers, trying to place scents. "You'll have to excuse Bear and Juno, they want to say hello." He indicated which dog was which.

"Please let me introduce the brood, my wife Connie, my daughter Maria, my sons Lorenzo and Pietro. "

Jocelyn slipped past Sturnack into the house, following in Sal's wake and reaching down to greet both of the dogs with pats before turning to make sure the Vulcan was with her. The aforementioned Andolinis were all arrayed around a family table and Jocelyn felt her cheeks flush as they were introduced. "Hi," she said giving a small wave at the table. "I'm Jocelyn." She turned, gesturing to the Vulcan who had stationed himself just behind her and to her right. "And this is Sturnack."

"Greetings," Sturnack offered, eyeing the family members as they were introduced in turn before dipping his head in acknowledgment. It was the dogs, however, that drew the bulk of the Vulcan's attention as he looked down at the pair of canines swirling about their feet. He'd never particularly been comfortable around dogs -- he didn't understand the human need of their companionship -- but he offered his hand for them to smell anyway, understanding they needed the scent to perhaps feel comfortable and calm down.

The dogs found the Admiral interesting he smelled different so after some sniffs, however their curiousity was satisfied. and they now find the smells from the kitchen more interesting, perhaps one of the food givers left some stuff out to obtain. They were only helping

The family had different reactions, Connie, who was used to wierdness, being Sal had sometimes had coworkers come over when he was working for the tribune, especially when working on a major story, so she just did her best smile and said "Hello."

Maria had a look on her face that was 1/2 shock, 1/2 more shock, that wasn't just a normal Vulcan, this was the top of her chain of command Vulcan, so she was more quiet then normal

Lorenzo being 14 was a sullen teenager who noticed but looked a bit blase' he barely looked up though he was finding his sister's unease, amusing.

Pietro just waved and said "Hi I'm Pietro."

Sal looked at his daughter, "breathe, it's a social visit. You're not getting sent to the Breen embassy."

"I'm so sorry Admiral, I should have double checked the time, I didn't realize we would be interrupting dinner. I can come back later or call you or..." Jocelyn trailed off, not sure what best to say.

Sturnack, meanwhile, had assumed a rigid posture next to the woman. Arms clasped at the hands behind his back, the Vulcan's chest jutted forward, his face an impartial mask of impassivity. As Jocelyn fell into her own insecurities -- a trait he'd often noticed in his new paramour -- Sturnack elected to simply double down on their reason for coming, dinner be damned. "We have entered into a romantic relationship and anticipate the press will have a...what is the expression? 'Field Day?'" he asked, eyes darting between Blake and Andolini. "We wished to make you aware and work to get ahead of the oncoming fire storm from the press." So there it was. Without any sort of grace or aplomb, the Vulcan had dropped the bomb. Sturnack wondered how Andolini would take the news.

Jocelyn's mouth opened into a little 'o' of surprise as Sturnack plowed ahead, flushing a brilliant shade of red. She gave Andolini a mortified apologetic grimace already imagining the conversation the man was going to have to have with his kids about not relaying this encounter to anyone ever. The press were no strangers to getting leaks from kids who didn't think they were telling anyone anything of real interest. Her eyes turned to Sturnack next, struggling to even know which part of her was needed right now... the girlfriend who understand the social and workplace implications of dropping that bomb or the press secretary who needed to calculate the risk of their news being discovered before they could figure out how to manage it.

Second news drop of the day made Sal pause before the usual invitation to dinner. "Ok then." Was all he said, "I think we should continue this conversation in the office."

They headed through the small kitchen, where the dogs had gotten some leftovers, which were actually set down for them. Heading the steps to the basement, Sal's "office" was a finished basement which had a few plaques on the wall and some stories he had written over the years.

They took seats in the collection of chairs around a table and Sal began, "First off Congratulations. May you have many happy years."

"Thank you," Jocelyn managed before diving in. "I am truly sorry to drop this on you like this. And for putting your family in the position of needing to keep this news to themselves." Her eyes darted to Sturnack for a moment before turning back to Sal. Her heart raced, worry plain on her face. She knew that Andolini had a real sense of her credentials for the job she had, but she had no illusions about the complication of a romantic entanglement. She sighed, heart pounding, and clasped her hands together, leaning on the table in front of her. "I know it's not a small thing to field something like this even under ideal circumstances and we both know we are not looking at ideal."

"My fault," the Vulcan acknowledged, referring to his role in dropping the news bomb in front of the whole family. "My apologies for any inconvenience the situation has created," Sturnack dipped his head to Andolini. "However, Jocelyn and I anticipate a resurgence of people speculating around sexual impropriety as a means of ascending the Starfleet ladder. And, I suspect," the Fleet Admiral continued, "that will only be the beginning of it. There will be, no doubt, much, much difficulty in the days ahead. I agreed with Jocelyn that you must be made aware immediately." Without touching, Jocelyn would be bereft of any indication of the Vulcan's feelings but it was apparent that the whole situation had him more rigid than a bar of tritanium.

Sal paused for a brief moment, collecting his thoughts, "Ok, So, we have an advantage, as long as nothing breaks on it, But if we can break it first, we can control the narrative, and that is our goal." His speaking seemed to lose some affectations as he sounded more like Sturnack as he analyzed it, "The biggest thing is what sort of story we can sell, because if the wrong media gets ahold of it, we can have everything from, 'sleeping her way to the top' to 'Vulcan mind control' Last one usually in the conspiracy groups, " He had dealt with them with the Voyager return assignment, apparently there was a conspiracy that the Federation faked the entire thing to get good PR for reasons they never specified.

"So, as cold as this is, let's plan this out and we'll get the story we want out of there."

Jocelyn was quiet, listening as the two spoke. "It's not cold," she said after a moment. "It's practical." She looked at Sturnack, seeing the tense lines of his shoulders and instinctively slid her hand into his. For a moment the only thing she felt was tension roiling behind a wall of composure, but she was rapidly growing accustomed to the connection and so her own emotions soon asserted themselves, among them a calm and cool practicality. "Whatever we decide, though," she said, "we need to hold to. So as close to the truth as we can get is ideal. Anything we share that isn't true... we'll have to function as though it is at least until this is out of the public's eye." She squeezed his hand lightly as she said it hoping it would help.

"Perhaps it would help if we explained ourselves to you first, Admiral," she said with the same professional collectedness. "It's a bit too... new. I'm not sure I have enough distance to find the right threads easily."

Sal nodded, "The floor is yours." He leaned back a bit waiting to hear the story.

Sturnack subtly squeezed Jocelyn's hand back, sensing her discomfort and discombobulation through the link they shared. Believing that Vulcan dispassion would be a boon in this situation, it was he that then spoke up, addressing his commentary to Andolini. "I shall attempt to explain, though Jocelyn may wish to add her own thoughts as we go. It all began several months ago," he began, his thoughts casting back to his first week as the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet.

"After being elevated to my position, I had to help make several key appointments within Starfleet Command," Sturnack explained. "Working with the acting Communications Director, we had to select a Press Secretary that could function well in front of the press core. There were many, many names of candidates who would do quite well in that arena. However, given previous improprieties within Starfleet Command, it was also important to me that our selected candidate be passionate about the truth and keeping Command honest."

"Jocelyn Blake," Sturnack spoke as if he weren't presently holding the woman's hand, "had proven dedication to such with her exposing article on Admiral Leyton's attempted coup. She'd been warned that getting the article out would mean potential harm to her career but she acted anyway. This caused a great deal of difficulty for her personally -- she was, as a result, sidelined into working for R&D -- but the article shook up Command and resulted in needed change. That is how her name came to be on the shortlist for Press Secretary."

"It wasn't until weeks after joining my administration," the Vulcan continued, "that I began to develop more than a deep admiration for Captain Blake's work. In working closely together, we began to establish a rapport that transcended being just workplace colleagues. We began taking walks together, getting coffee on and off the clock, as it were," Sturnack nodded, "and during those walks, we would talk about a great number of topics. Topics," he added, "that opened my eyes to the kind of person Captain Blake was. Quite naturally, I found myself wanting to spend more and more time together."

"Then the bombing of the embassy happened. And after that," Sturnack pressed on, "the first assassination attempt. I believe the shared trauma helped to further forge a connection between the two of us; a connection that continued to flower while we were sequestered away for our safety." The Vulcan arched an eyebrow, "While I'd already had certain leanings, a poor prior experience had convinced me that it would be fruitless and perhaps even harmful to reveal my desires to Captain Blake. But, sequestered as we were, it was then that my Pon Farr occurred."

"I attempted to keep my distance," Sturnack went on, "trying to avoid the Captain given the blood fever thundering in my veins. Doctor Cowell even came to visit, bringing with him medications that would reduce the need to mate...make it manageable until the crisis was over and I could return to Vulcan. However," he dipped his head again to Jocelyn, "the medications were not effective and the Captain could tell that something was amiss. To make quite a long story short in length, she was successful in getting me to explain what I was experiencing. And it was, as consenting adults, that we decided to navigate the Pon Farr together. I believe Jocelyn had her own feelings on this matter, which perhaps she can explain?"

Jocelyn found herself glancing back and forth between Sturnack and Andolini throughout the Vulcan's deadpan explanation of the sequence of events. It amazed her how he could relay the whole thing in the same tenor as if he was reading a cooking recipe or an entry from an encyclopedia. Nonetheless there had been details in there that she hadn't known, most notably when his feelings had begun, and that gave her pause.

When he finally reached the part of the story that involved Pon Farr her cheeks flushed a deep red. She knew they were going to have to be up front about that, but it didn't make it feel any less like being forced to explain to a parent what they had walked in on. As the store wound to a close she tried to wipe the flustered feeling from her face. Successful might have been a stretch, but she at least managed to compose herself well enough to share her own thoughts.

With a deliberate turn back to Andolini she added her own color to the telling. "My appreciation for Sturnack began around the same time," she said, though at first I was very firmly determined that the only thing happening was a blooming friendship. Still, I found it easy to talk to him. I was being harassed pretty persistently in the weeks leading up to the bombing. My parents as well. And the turning point, for me, was really the morning before the bombing after someone had vandalized my apartment. I hadn't slept and he came to check on me. That morning is pretty blurry in my memory. I was so tired and so scared. But Sturnack managed to help me find calm enough to move ahead in the day and later I remember thinking I shouldn't feel as strongly about that as I did."

She glanced back at Sturnack then, just briefly, as if he might give some visual cue to how he was feeling. These were things he, perhaps, hadn't known as well.

"I was the one who found him after the bombing," she continued. "And for weeks after that image haunted me. I had nightmares where he didn't make it. And with the strength of that fear I became more certain of my own feelings. I was beyond relieved when it was evident that he was going to make it. And I visited him in the hospital. I rationalized it as a work matter, but the reality was that I just wanted to see for myself. When he was finally cleared by Dr. Cowell to return to the office we resumed our walks and coffee dates. I had come to sort of thing of them that way though I wouldn't have admitted it at the time. And that's when the assassination attempt happened.

She paused, looking between the two men again, though neither seemed inclined to interrupt. "Then we were sequestered away together and... it all came to a head so to speak. You can only be around someone you're falling for in close quarters during a crisis for so long without some of that leaking through and..." Here her cheeks flushed dark again. "And when I understood what was happening to Sturnack I offered my help with the explanation of what I had been feeling. And... well... now we're here."

Sal paused and listened then he nodded, "Crisis forged new bonds, or revealed true feelings. " He still used paper for some things, with the argument that people can't hack a notepad. And he wrote some stuff down. "That's good." Then he nodded, "Ok, first things first, After Christmas day we can schedule an interview with Marina Pol. I can set that up, just don't lie to her, she's an empath, helps with her stories, play fair she can help tremendously, people love these stories.

Jocelyn nodded her agreement. She was familiar with Marina and knew that the woman used her empathic sense in her work. It was part of what made her so effective in her reporting, though there were many uncomfortable with the idea that their emotions could be read, thinking Marina would choose to use them for some self-serving purpose or another. It wasn't how Marina did things, though, and the Press Secretary was surprised she hadn't thought of the woman herself. "I agree. And we'll be open."

Sturnack gave Andolini's suggestion some thought. Vulcans were trained from a very young age to suppress their emotions and protect their own minds from intrusion. If an empath was going write a story about them, Sturnack knew he would have to loosen some of his mental barriers to allow the woman to sense what she needed to sense. While such was logical, it was not particularly palatable. Still, they knew this was going to be hard work and such was probably just the beginning. Sturnack nodded in confirmation to the idea, saying, "The interview is acceptable."

"Second," Andolini nodded and then continued, "join us for dinner, two reasons, first any questions can just call it a private get together, second, you probably could eat, and my oldest is wondering what she did to get the Commander in Chief in her living room." It was common knowledge the Admiral's daughter was a cadet at Starfleet Academy.

"If it's not an imposition then we'd be glad to stay." Jocelyn didn't give Sturnack a chance to say differently. It would be good to be around people together and besides that, Andolini's logic was sound. Better to make sure they could avoid questions.

Sturnack looked over at Jocelyn as she accepted a dinner invite on their behalf. Was it always going to be like this, he wondered? The human of the pair understanding nuances Sturnack did not and acting for their betterment, even if the Vulcan wished otherwise? Through their linked hands, Jocelyn might feel a flash of irritation at accepting the invitation without consulting him, though Sturnack himself kept his face, as ever, an impartial mask. "Dinner it is, then," the Vulcan nodded, though did not relish the idea of expending energy on small talk with people he did not know.

Without waiting for Andolini, Sturnack rose once again, his hand falling away from Jocelyn's. His feet carried him to the stairs, where the Vulcan began to slowly ascend, ultimately coming out on the floor above. He held the door open, waiting for the other two to make their own ascent while surveying the lodgings around him.

Slender shoulders bunched in a shrug as Jocelyn made eye contact with Andolini. Her expression, if it were any barometer for how she felt, suggested that there wasn't much helping the Vulcan-ness of the CinC. She had picked up the flash of irritation and it had surprised her--a reminder of just how new this romantic entanglement was along with the reality that both of them came from vastly different backgrounds.

"Guess we should follow him," she said, the statement coming out as more of a question as she stood.

Sal chuckled, "I guess so."


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