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The interview

Posted on Tue Oct 31st, 2023 @ 12:23am by Captain Jocelyn Blake & Fleet Admiral Sturnack & Rear Admiral Sal Andolini

Mission: Episode 3: Conflicts of Interest
Location: Tribune Towers, Chicago IL Earth
Timeline: Mission Day 4 at 0930

[Tribune Towers]
[Chicago, IL]
[MD 4: 0930 Hours]

The Tribune tower in Chicago had been standing for centuries. It was the amusing irony that with the Federation News Service coming in to play, the two big Chicago papers still clung to their independence, even though they worked hand in hand with FNS.

It was just tradition, so the paper still came out, Sal was in the lobby just for a quick brief before they went up for the agreed to interview.

He just waited for Jocelyn and Sturnack to come in so he could get them ready with a bit of a brief and then they were on their own, one of the rules that was set up, he can't go in to the interview.

Sturnack and Jocelyn had beamed into a public transport booth just down the street, appearing amidst the morning hubbub of thoroughfare activity. Given that it was two hours later in Chicago vs. San Francisco, the business day was fully in swing for those walking the streets of the famous "Windy City." But for the Vulcan and his paramour, it was still early coffee time before the day started in earnest. Well, on most days at least. Today, given the translocation of timezones, the pair had indeed beamed into the thick of a morning already in progress. Six Starfleet Security officers walked ahead and behind, creating a loose perimeter.

Chatting as they walked, Sturnack and Jocelyn marveled at the city around them. San Francisco had plenty of skyscrapers but the buildings here were of a different style; older, it seemed, and designed with an entirely different aesthetic. Sturnack called out some of the more interesting variances as Jocelyn sipped coffee from a streetside cart they'd passed. The two did not hold hands or entwine arms as they walked, the news of their relationship not yet commonly known. But all of that, of course, was about to change. The Vulcan anticipated that the walk back would involve significantly more looks directed their way.

Having reached the appropriate building, Sturnack held the door open for Jocelyn to enter, then followed behind. Admiral Andolini was visible in the lobby and it was to him that the pair approached. "Greetings Admiral," Sturnack intoned. "We are appreciative of you setting up this morning's interview."

Jocelyn was all nerves in a Starfleet uniform. Her Captain's pips felt conspicuous that morning, no doubt a possible source of questions during this interview as the two of them worked to control the narrative of their nascent relationship. She was tempted, as she approached Sal Andolini, to hug the man. She'd not worked with him long before she and Sturnack were hurried away to the Fortress, but he'd already proven himself to be one of the best men she'd worked under. His willingness to help in this moment was not lost on her. His reputation, to some extent, was on the line as well with this favor he'd called in.

"Good morning sir," she said in greeting. "Think they're ready for us?"

"I think so." Sal paused, "Then again, I'm just here to brief you a bit, Marrina did request no spindoctors, so I'll be able to talk but it's the both of you talking to her."

Jocelyn nodded at that, confirming her understanding though a thoughtful look settled on her face. "Any gotchas we should look out for?" she asked. She didn't know Marrina beyond the woman's reputation, but it did seem that Andolini had a relationship with the woman that was strong enough that he ought to know if they were walking into anything worrying.

Sturnack looked at Andolini with a neutral gaze. The man had proven himself capable as a Communications Director, though the Vulcan wondered if Sal lamented having to call in personal favors to spin this particular story. "Yes," he began aloud, arching an eyebrow, "what pitfalls should we expect? Are there any statements you think we should absolutely be sure to make?"

"With Marrina, best bet is to just be honest, big speeches look too rehearsed, she won't try any gotcha questions, or play any games." Sal paused and looked at the large oil painting of Col Robert Mccormack, the man who built this building and was one of the more influential editors and wondered what he would think of this situation or the situation in general., "Main thing we want to present is true love united, and show you're just two decent people who found each other."

"Indeed," Sturnack replied. "As a Vulcan, I am not prone to big speeches or prevaricating commentary. However, I can, at times, be a bit...blunt," he added, his thoughts drifting back to the bombshell he'd dropped on Sal and his family on Christmas night. "Jocelyn has been coaching me on how to be more delicate," the Vulcan said, meaning to assure Andolini that Sturnack would not purposefully do anything to derail the interview.

Jocelyn had nodded along to Andolini's comments. All of the things he'd said made sense to her. It was as much a matter of reminding herself of things she already knew as anything else. "When we've had time," she said, "I've tried to explain some of how this kind of interview works," she clarified. She had talked with Sturnack about it, but they'd had so little time together that she could hardly call the conversations they had coaching.

That got an approving nod from Sal, "In this case blunt is the best way to be." They were walking through the lobby to the elevator and began the ascent to the 10th floor. "Any last minute concerns, questions, angry comments?" Sal figured a little humor to cut the mood, even with Sturnack's emotional discipline, it couldn't hurt.

Jocelyn glanced over at her superior officer and tried for a weak smile. She knew he was trying to help and she appreciated it even if her stomach was churning at the thought that the whole world... plus some... were about to know she and the topmost officer in Starfleet were an item. It felt like the weirdest kind of holo-novel in that moment. The kind that doesn't happen in real life.

"Remind me when this will air?" she asked hoping she would remember, in the middle of everything, to call her parents. She still hadn't gotten up the nerve to do it and she didn't want FNS to be the way they learned this news.

Sturnack, meanwhile, had his hands clasped behind his back and his chin tilted ever so upward. It was a customary stance for the Vulcan, who always appeared so poised and calm. Little did his elevator companions know, however, that he wasn't as perfectly in control as they might think. This was going to be difficult for him; difficult to resist his urge for privacy and invite the entire Alpha Quadrant into his personal affairs. But Sal and Jocelyn had both been right in that this was the correct course of action to take and, thus, the Vulcan had to come to terms with this invasion of his personal life. "Yes, when will everyone see this?" Sturnack echoed the question.

"My understanding, probably a Sunday special, get the most audience." The doors opened and they began the walk, "So anyone you need to tell, do so as soon as possible."

A small wiggle of discomfort settled in Jocelyn's belly. She'd considered who she needed to tell--her parents topped her list. But she hadn't determined, yet, whether or not to tell Jordan. On one hand, as her best friend, she couldn't imagine not telling him. But on the other... he was her deputy and was a likely target once this came out. He might fare better if he were able to say that he hadn't known anything before the rest of the world.

Sal paused as the door opened, then they were met by Marrina Pol, a familiar face to most people her dark hair spilling her shoulders and dressed in more subdued tones, she walked up to them and smiled, "Sal, welcome back to your old stomping grounds. This must be Captain Blake and Sturnack. Welcome."

"Thank you," the Fleet Admiral dipped his head in appreciation before entering. He walked far enough into the room to allow Jocelyn entry behind him but not so far as to presume where he should stand or sit. He'd leave that up to Pol, who no doubt had specific ideas on that front. "We are appreciative of the opportunity to speak with you. I am, of course, Fleet Admiral Sturnack," he said, not offering his hand as a human might. Vulcans were, after all, quite touchy about being touchy. "This is Captain Jocelyn Blake," he turned to nod towards the woman behind him.

Unlike Sturnack, Jocelyn stuck her hand out automatically. "It's a pleasure to meet you Ms. Pol. Admiral Andolini has shared how much he respects your work. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us."

"My pleasure", the two women shook hands, "We'll get started in a minute, right now someone needs to go down and argue with the Sports department again, they're trying to say Gm'Pok will not be a good draft pick for the Packers."

Sal nodded, taking his cue. "Let me know when they're done."

Sal walked off, his usual lack of military bearing showing as he headed over to discuss the NFL draft with a few of the sports reporters.

"Sal Andolini an Admiral. Not the usual cut of a military leader." Pol smiled, "C'mon back to my office and we can start."

Were this any other interview Jocelyn would have been perfectly at home without the safety of having Andolini nearby. She'd done enough of them over the years even through the period of intensive questioning that followed her expose of Admiral Leyton. But this one felt different, and so she tracked the Admiral's movements as he went before turning back to Pol and nodding, pulling out a smile meant to cover some of the nervousness she felt.

Pol led the way through into a decently sized office, set up with a small couch fronted by a coffee table and flanked by two overstuffed high back chairs. At the opposite end sat the reporter's desk with an inset console and another set of chairs, these more utilitarian than the seating arrangement that Pol waved them over to now.

With a quick glance Jocelyn settled onto the couch, waiting for Sturnack to follow suit and then, aware of the image they were meant to project, let herself relax towards him until their shoulders brushed and she could tuck her hand under his arm, resting it on his forearm. Close enough that if touch was called for it would be manageable, but far enough that there wasn't a danger of accidentally initiating the still bewildering emotional link that came with satisfying the Pon Farr.

"So," she said, addressing Pol directly, "where do you want to start?"

Sturnack lowered himself into position as well, noticing the arm snaking around his own. The sleeve of his uniform was properly fit, extending all the way to the hem of his hand. If Jocelyn wanted or needed to connect with the Vulcan during the interview, she would need to touch his hand directly, it seemed. The Fleet Admiral looked at Pol expectantly while also glancing around for a camera device, given that the interview would be recorded and broadcast.

She chuckled, "Everyone does that, we hide the cameras, so it's more like a conversation." There was a pause, "Let's begin, You have been one of the most gossiped-about pairings, that's not in the entertainment sector. Let's start at the beginning, what started this relationship?"

They'd been told to prepare for this and even talked with Sal through a sort of mock interview, so the question wasn't a surprise. Still, when it came to answering on camera, Jocelyn found herself hesitating. "Well," she said slowly, squeezing Sturnack's arm as she looked over at him with a small smile. "I don't honestly know that I can pinpoint that exactly. Call it a whole series of kindnesses and friendship that just... added up... until I realized there was more there than just friendship. At least... for me..." She pressed her lips together quickly, eyes dancing as she dove further in to rip the band aid off. "And then an attempt was made on Sturnack's life..." This too had been practiced... using his name rather than his rank to separate them from their work. "And it wasn't clear at the time who the target was, so we found ourselves sequestered away together. And... it all happened very quickly from there."

That got a nod, "And, do you see this as a long term relationship?"

It was Sturnack's turn to speak up. "On Vulcan, relationships such as this are not entered lightly. I, myself, have taken that careful approach to even greater lengths than most of my kind would. Having spent over a hundred and twenty years of my adult life without romantic entanglements," he continued, "I can tell you that my relationship with Jocelyn," he too used her name instead of her rank, "is no dalliance. What we have discovered in each other is important to pursue," Sturnack affixed Pol with a placid expression, "despite the challenges our working together might present." As coached, he'd brought up the workplace romance angle proactively, so it did not appear as if they'd not thought of the topic already.

She paused, good the transition would start, "As C-in-C of Starfleet, you are the overall commander of Starfleet, but are you Captain Blake's direct superior?" She knew if she didn't bring this up the interview would be accused of a puff piece, and she was too much of a professional to soft ball things.

"I am not," Sturnack conceded. They'd been advised to speak to this point in particular, so the Vulcan was satisfied that Pol had brought it up herself. "Captain Blake reports to Admiral Sal Andolini, the Director of Starfleet Communications. While Captain Blake does periodically brief me on certain matters, all aspects of managing her performance in role go through Admiral Andolini. This separation of command oversight was in place long before either Captain Blake or myself stepped into our respective roles."

The obvious question seemed likely to be next. She didn't report to Sturnack, but she did have his ear. "I am, on occasion, asked my opinion of things," Jocelyn piped up. "But those are always within the context of my job and my background experiences. Typically Rear Admiral Whitford or Admiral Andolini are amongst the group when that is the case. As Press Secretary it is my job to consider the goings on that the galaxy has a right to know about while taking safety and propriety into consideration. All true press persons have this mandate and my relationship with Sturnack doesn't change that."

That got a nod, She then moved along deciding to add a soft question to bring folks back to the love story. "So....When do you meet the parents?"

Unable to help herself, Jocelyn blushed prettily at the question. "We haven't had a chance to... ahm... look at everyone's schedules yet," she commented. In truth she had not yet spoken with her parents and didn't know if Sturnack had spoken to his mother. She was holding onto that until after they had taped the interview today. She wouldn't let them learn it by watching on television, but it had been long enough since they'd brought someone home, let alone someone whose race and position was bound to raise eyebrows. "But I'm sure we'll arrange for something as soon as is convenient. It's always a bit tricky working around everyone's schedules when you work at Starfleet Command."

"We are quite busy, it is true," Sturnack nodded slowly. "But there are other elements in play as well. My people can be quite insular, especially when it comes to mating outside of our species. Approval from my family," his thoughts instantly went to his mother, "is not desired nor required."

The Vulcan knew that, upon viewing the interview, the matriarch of his family would put on a good show for her colleagues and the rest of the family. She'd adopt her customary aloofness and project a sense of being above it all. She'd likely espouse her son for yet another misstep in his personal life and simply carry forward. But deep down, it would rankle her, whether she'd admit it or not. Sturnack was not a vindictive person but sparing his mother that mattered little to him.

Her reporter instinct knew there was something there but she nodded politely and looked for a new set to talk about.

They'd not spoken much about their families, truthfully. In so many ways they had done things out of order with the seriousness and intensity coming first and the things that came along with building a relationship second. She felt a bloom of warmth and deep tender affection toward the man she'd fallen for so quickly and hard. Gently she slid her hand forward, eyes still on Pol who was guiding them into another set of questions, and brushed the tips of her fingers against the inside of Sturnack's wrist. It was a simple gesture and brief, but the touch was just long enough to spark their connection, sending a brief flash of the tenderness she felt toward him across before it and her fingers, were gone. When she'd moved her hand back out of reach of his skin she gently squeezed her hand on his forearm.

Nodding and grinning genially at Pol, she chuckled, and opened her mouth to answer.

=/\= A Mission Post by =/\=

Fleet Admiral Sturnack
Commander in Chief

Rear Admiral Sal Andolini
Communications Director

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary

Marrina Pol (Written by Pat)


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