<Location: Office of the President of the United Federation of Planets. Geneva, Sol III, Present Day>
Within the elegantly appointed confines of the Press Room, shafts of sunlight spilled through crystal skylights, creating a decidedly cheerful setting for what otherwise would have been very dark business indeed.
Standing behind a podium at the center of the room, Malia of Delta IV, smiled, shook her head slightly, and let out a chuckle that was almost as infectious as it was musical. “No, no, no, Michael.” She chided a reporter. “That's not what's going on at all.”
The question had originally been asked; why now did the President see the need to “militarize” Starfleet, by adding Marines to the official command structure.
Malia tilted her head, giving the unfortunate reporter a playful wink. “I think it's time for a little history lesson to put things in perspective.” As she spoke, Malia moved with nearly impossible grace, stepping out from behind the dark-stained wood of the podium. The outward goal, no doubt, was to put the audience more at ease, essentially turning what might have been a lecture or a scolding into a discussion or dialogue. However, by revealing her nearly six foot frame, tailored in an expertly crafted, executive style pencil skirt and jacket combination, the hypnotic Press Secretary also used her biology to her advantage.
There was no denying that Malia was an attractive woman. She was tall and lean, and while no one looking at her would ever accuse her of being overtly sexual, or wanton, her movements, combined with the way that her decidedly conservative suit accented her hips and waist had a way of creating allure about what one did NOT see.
Malia paced slowly back and forth as she addressed the assembled press corps. “As I'm sure you know, there have been armed contingents on ships, first terrestrial, then inter-stellar, since the earliest recorded civilizations.” Her voice was smooth, with just a hint of smoke and lilac.
“Well, yes,” the over-matched reporter stammered. “But…”
“But you don't see the need for a dedicated Starfleet Marine Corps, right?” Although she asked the question, she didn't wait for an answer. “In point of fact, the administration is simply re-establishing a proud and noble Starfleet tradition.” She offered matter-of-factly. “In it's earliest days, the MACOs were commissioned to meet a specific need. Over time, of course, those needs changed. That's only natural, but in point of fact, there have always been armed personnel on our ships. You're used to the Tactical Branch filling that role.
This policy merely sets aside a cadre of highly trained professionals to take care of outside needs; say on a hazardous away mission, while not depriving a ship of vital specialists. They've been there before and, for the time being, they are again. Surely there's nothing wrong with that?”
Having asked the question, Malia turned, pausing just a bit too long as she put her back to the gallery. Then she glided back to her place behind the podium. She looked down, checking the details of her scheduled remarks on her PADD. “It is the position of the President that the presence of Starfleet Marines on every ship in the fleet will serve as much as anything else, as a physical symbol that Starfleet stands ready to respond to any crisis. Are we clear?”
As was often the case, there was a murmur of reaction to the secretary's statements that caused a low hum in the room before another question was asked. With a polite nod and an easy smile, Malia raised her hand and indicated to a blonde-haired reporter in her mid 30's, dressed in a rich vermillion suit. “Next question, Ms…?”
“Ileana Quenones, New Zanzibar Dispatch…” the reporter said clearly.
“Well,” Malia said with a playful wink, “Someone's a long way from home.” Her voice had just a touch of prurient interest. `Keep `em guessing' she thought silently.
The reporter cleared her throat. “Well, yes, but… I wonder, do you have any comment on the internal inconsistency from the President's Office regarding internal communications concerning the…” She paused, looking down to check her own notes. “…'Diplomatic Officer' position? It seems to be interchangeably referred to as Strategic Advisor or Political Officer. Can you clarify?”
The question seemed to catch the Press Corps off guard. Not surprising, considering that the shipboard post of `Diplomatic Officer' had essentially been created less than 16 hours before, during a closed-door session of the Starfleet CnC's closest advisors. That meeting had been closed to the public for security reasons. A fact which meant that the reporter would have had to have been tipped off as to the happenings of that meeting.
`Damn!' Malia cursed silently. `We've got a leak!' Despite her inner fury, her face was a picture of calm and poise. Playfully, Malia put up her hands. “Uh…don't shoot the messenger?”
The line got a polite chuckle from most of the gallery.
Malia smiled again and continued. “That particular decision was made by Fleet Admiral Fakunakue. For the specific reasons, I'd suggest that you contact the Admiral's office.” She said simply, as if that alone was enough to close the matter. “With respect to the difference in labels or title, I'll simply say that while the need for the position was and has been well known for a long time, what to call it was a matter of some debate.”
The answer didn't serve to quiet the reporter's concerns, or ease the frown on her face. “Will this position usurp the role of Ship's Councilor?”
That question bought a furor of shouts from the assembled press. Malia kept up a brave face, but inwardly, she was furious. The intention of President Kostya had been to keep the addition of a new Command level position quiet. Of course, word would get out, but when it did, they could treat it as an internal decision best left to the people who knew what they were doing. The thought had also been that by the time the story DID break, the officers would be in place, Kostya and the Hawks would have the eyes and ears of every captain in the fleet, and the inertia of the change would be impossible to stop. Sadly, this was all apparently for naught.
Nonetheless, the Press Secretary kept her cool. After all, that was her job. With a simple, friendly gesture, Malia shook her head. “No, the Diplomatic Officer will NOT replace the Counselor, at least on ships that HAVE a Counselor.” She explained. “What the Diplomatic Officer's role WILL be is to coordinate shipboard policy as well as potentially sensitive inter-stellar and other frontier engagements, with increasingly rapid and developing policy goals of the administration. All other shipboard duties will remain the same.”
Malia could tell that the explanation wasn't quite enough to sway the crowd. “Think of it as a `Diplomat at Large'.” She offered. Someone who specializes in defusing potential crises BEFORE they boil over.“
Thanks to the mellow tone of her voice, and the calm, steady look in her eye, the work of rebuilding Malia's mastery over the Federation Press Corps began anew.
Another fire put out with a charm offensive. For now.
<USS Republic, NCC-81371, Mars Orbit> Newly launching starships were always a bevy of activity. Now, as Republic's newly arrived Diplomatic Officer materialized in Transporter Room 3, she quickly scanned the room, and what parts of the corridor she could see, and felt a certain level of comfort that some things never change.
Behind the console, the on-duty Operations crewman looked up and snapped to attention. “Ma'am. Sorry. No one told me who was coming.” The young man explained somewhat quickly. “If you'll give me a minute I'll notify the Exec and…”
The officer brought up her hand and brushed the crewman's thought aside. “No need, Crewman.” She offered, her voice smooth and calm. “You've all got a lot on your plate.” She stepped off the raised transporter pad. “I'll find my own way. As you were.” Having settled the matter, she quickly moved to the corridor outside. “Computer,” the new arrival asked of the interface panel.
“Please state inquiry”.
“Where is the ship's Executive Officer?”
“Lieutenant Commander Hawk is on the bridge.” The disembodied voice answered simply. “Follow the illuminated path.
The Diplomatic Officer followed directions, just as she always had.
<Main Bridge, USS Republic> For the moment, the storm on the bridge had calmed and Nat Hawk paced, somewhat anxiously, along the secondary science and engineering positions behind the command deck. Something was off, and he knew it. He just couldn't put his finger on it. He shook his head to push the thought away and turned to face the main turbolift that opened to the bridge just in time for the doors to part.
As the lift car's passenger strode onto the bridge, Hawk felt his jaw tighten. “Aww Hell, no.” He hissed through gritted teeth.
The visitor came to attention and cleared her throat. “Lieutenant Commander Chase Meridian, Diplomatic Officer, reporting as ordered, XO.” She explained. “Permission to come aboard?”
Hawk frowned. “Seems ta me ya already have.” He retorted. Hawk could almost SEE the storm clouds gathering again as he noticed that his new Diplomatic Officer's collar was black.
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