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SD241803.22 - Joint Duty Log - Smith, Merlin - "The Lady Doth Protest Too Much"

Posted on 242003.28 @ 14:40 by Lieutenant Ra'lin Sha'mer & Lieutenant Commander John Smith

Mission: Lacuna
Location: Cold Station Theta
Timeline: SD 241703.28

=^= Strategic Ops =^=

Following the directions supplied by the computer, John was dropped off outside the StratOps department by a convenient turbolift. The corridor outside the main double-doors was completely empty, and he idly wondered if it was always this quiet, or if the people inside just didn't have much reason to get out and about this time of day. Somewhere like Security might be more active, while other places like Astrometrics might prefer their isolation.

In any event, he wasn't achieving anything out here, so he walked in through the automatic doors and walked straight to the most promenant, manned desk.

"Excuse me, do you know where I can find Lieutenant Merlin?"

"Ehh… one moment…" The Trill looked around. "Generally, all over the place, but-"

Just then, a wobbling mountain of PADDs was set down on a nearby desk just before it reached the point of falling. Two hands steadied the pile, and a man with twinkling sea-coloured eyes and long, dark curly hair bound in the nape of his neck emerged from behind it. "That'd be me. And you must be… you don't look like a Spook, so I guess you'd be Commander Smith, am I right?" He strode over, smiling.

"That is correct. Good to meet you." the Commander replied with a friendly smile, offering his hand to shake.

The smile was real, as were the convivial feelings behind it, but that didn't mean John had stopped thinking. He considered the pile of padds, which indicated this guy was either being used as a gopher (unlikely for a Lieutenant, but possible), or that he was up to his neck in work. John had been told this man had spoken to the Empress after the trouble at the masquerade, so perhaps a lot of those were demands for information. Everyone and his brother-in-law would want some or all of the information on the matter, and there was no way he'd been the first to consider speaking to the man who might have insight.

Heh, perhaps he could just record their chat and mail a copy to everyone. That might cut down on the reports, the Commander joked inside his head. It was definitely a joke, as nobody would want the same report given to everyone else. all would desire some edge, some hidden fact, some clue to unravel the matter before their peers. Which meant the Lieutenant would have to write out each report by hand, individually.

Poor guy.

"Pleasure to meet you, too," the Lieutenant said, shaking the other man's hand. He grinned as he saw the look towards the pile. "Just a bit of light reading…" he said, picking up the top PADD and displaying the title: 'How To Be An XO For Dummies'. He placed it back on the pile with a grin. "So, what can I do for you?"

The diplomat chuckled at the light-hearted title. Ok, maybe it wasn't *all* reports.

"Ah heh, anyway, I was hoping to speak with you on a more serious topic." he said, suddenly conscious of the disjoint between the funny padd, and the grim topic he had come here to discuss. "After recent events, I have been tasked with speaking to the offended party in a matter of hours, in an official capacity. Is there somewhere here we can sit down? Privately." he added, using vague terms that wouldn't disclose secure information to all and sundry. He didn't know if anyone else here was familiar with the shooting, and he was unwilling to spread that information any further than neccessary.

Besides, if the Empress heard any gossip on this topic due to his loose lips, his conversation later on might just be an execution. He had no idea how dangerous she was, nor how liable to execute the messenger. Diplomats always tread lightly, he had been told, if only to conserve energy for running.

"Sure. I do have an office around here, somewhere." The Lieutenant looked around and pointed. "Ah! There." He spun around, pointed at the stack of PADDs and commanded: "Stay!" Then he turned back to the diplomat and said, a bit sheepishly: "I didn't mean you. Please follow me." He blew an errant strand of hair out of his face, which promptly sagged back, and walked towards his office. He looked around as if this was the first time he'd been here. With one finger he stroked the desk and glanced at it. "Automatic cleaning systems, cool! Anyway, please have a seat," he said, gesturing around.

One eyebrow twitching briefly at the eccentricity, John shook it off and followed the Lieutenant into the man's office. Accepting the invitation, he took a seat in one of the chairs nearest the desk, waiting patiently for the door to slide shut behind him.

"Ahem, now that we are alone, I came to ask about the incident at the masquerade." he said, overtly stating what he had only hinted at outside. "I am to liaise directly with the Empress in a matter of hours, and I was hoping you could give me some insight that could help me prevent a war."

"The masquerade… Ah, yes! To be honest, I was a bit confused about it myself. From what I've gathered after reading the reports, it came down to this. There are two people called Vokar, one from here and one from… ah, elsewhere. Whether or not you know which elsewhere probably depends on your security level. Suffice to say I found it a very interesting read. Anyway, it seems that the Vokar who was the Empress' protector and confidante was an impostor. The other one returned and shot the impostor. The Empress, bereft by the loss, attacked the other one in turn." He leaned back in his chair and was idly playing with the glass ball, letting it roll over his arm and hand in one fluid motion. "If that wasn't enough to set her off, though, in the last few days two people were abducted from the station. The Chief Medical Officer of CST, a Vorta who is a Stenellis resident, and her niece, Lieutenant Si'a Dai'xun. So she's understandably on edge." There was now no sign of the manic babbling officer, the man sitting in the other chair was calm and professional. Well, maybe except for that errant strand of hair, which came sliding down regularly before being flicked back again.

"I see." said John, recognising how the situation had gone from bad to worse for the Empress. One man had managed to get close enough to her to kill someone close, quickly followed by the loss of yet another emotional tie. It was possible someone was systematically applying pressure to the Empress, trying to get her to react brashly. If so, from what he had heard, she wasn't quite there yet.

"Would you say there are others on the station that she cares for?" he asked, trying to limit his field of view to the things he could influence. Ultimately, it was impossible for him to guarantee the safety of everyone the Empress knew, but he could at least try to get ahead of things here on the station.

The Lieutenant shrugged slightly. "Her entourage. Me. For the rest, I don't know."

"Hmm. I assume her entourage will be well guarded after recent events. As for yourself, well, could I impose on you to stay in well-lit areas?" he inquired, aware that though his rank gave him some ability to impose on the man, the fact that their command chains differed might rub some noses the wrong way if he had the man restricted to some heavily-guarded location.

"In all fairness, probably not," the Lieutenant said with a smile. "Then again, I'm very familiar with the station. And I generally have some tricks up my sleeve…" he raised his hands to demonstrate and added a somewhat surprised "Oh…" when a glass ball which couldn't possibly have been hidden there came rolling out. He tucked it away again into some pocket or another. "Are you going to talk to her?"

"Yes." John replied, lining up another question for the asking. He almost opened his mouth, before realising that the Lieutenant's response seemed to imply...something. "Any thoughts on that?" he asked, keeping it vague.

"Nothing in particular. If you're asking me for advice, I haven't got any. I'm not a diplomat or anything…" He trailed off, thinking. "Maybe one thing. In addition to an Empress of an area that could plunge the Federation in chaos if she does decide to go all out on us, and an obvious target, and a point of interest for multiple organisations… she's also a person who has just lost a friend and whose niece has gone missing." He shrugged again. "That's it."

"So I shouldn't push too hard." John concluded, looking into the distance for a few moments as he marshalled his thoughts. Taking it easy was all well and good, but a difficult proposition if the Empress started threatening war. Normally a good diplomat would attempt to defuse such a situation, followed by pushing back if things got rough. Klingons, and other warrior races, simply wouldn't take you seriously if you tried "softness". He had heard the Stenellis were a race that threw lightning around and held fast to a caste system that valued warriors fairly highly, so he didn't know about their stance on the fine art of diplomacy.

He had a lot of research to get through before that meeting, he knew that for sure.

"Thank you for your insights. If you remember anything else from debriefing her, I expect I'll be awake straight through to the meeting, so drop me a message any time." said John, a brief yet complicated thought accompanying that statement.

The short version was that he was positive that, should two consenting adults meet so soon after an extremely stressful incident, especially given their closeness, much more would have passed between them than the simple "she is upset" message he was being given. Merlin would have to have a very strong relationship with the Empress to not be stopped by her security, and this meant their conversation was almost certainly short and sharp, deep and complex, or physical.

In all three cases, it was personal, and therefore it was absolutely none of his business. He really wanted that information, but alienating the Empress' remaining on-station consort wasn't going produce any information that would serve him better than tact. On an emotional level, he respected their privacy. On a practical level, pressing the Lieutenant now would only turn the Empress against him, and the ease by which he could do his job wasn't worth tempting the spectre of war.

He was aware he'd used that word a lot tonight. He'd wished he hadn't had to.

"So, I should get back to the reading. The Stenellis have a fascinating culture, I must admit. Under other circumstances, it would be a pleasure, but..." he drifted off, knowing he couldn't say anything they hadn't both heard far too much recently.

The Lieutenant shook his head with a smile. "I didn't 'debrief' her, Commander. Nor did I visit her in any official function. I didn't come to her as a Starfleet officer, or a Federation citizen." He leaned forward, hands folder under his chin, his sea-coloured eyes fixed on John. "Maybe I can make you understand this – thus far, I've had little luck in getting people to understand, and in twenty minutes I have a meeting with representatives from Starfleet Intel and I doubt I'll have more luck getting through to them. I went, as a friend, to lend support to another friend who has suffered recent losses and berevement. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just this."

"Then I am glad she had a sympathetic ear in this time of crisis. Good day, Lieutenant." said the diplomat, standing up. However you sliced it, there was no more information to be had here. He made a note to apply for a copy of the Intelligence department's reports after they met with this fellow later. They were more experienced than he was, and perhaps they would ask questions he had neglected to, or even the same questions but in a better way.

Nodding to Merlin, John turned and left the office, well aware that time was passing, and he had a lot of research to get through before his meeting with the Empress.

- tag 1, and I don't know if I don't believe Merlin because he's protesting so much, because the second John pressed him for info on the Empress Merlin suddenly became terse and vague, or if I don't believe the guy OOC because I read the log where he boinked fish lady in her own bathtub. OOC-vs-IC is tricky huh? Anyway, go ahead and post when yer happy. Good log. :) -

- Different fish lady!! Well, to be sure, *this* time nothing more happened than plain comfort. I won't talk about zero-G stuff or anything like that. And besides, my Weirdo has said what he told you to more people, but nobody has asked him to define 'friendship' thus far. Anyway, thanks for the log! It was fun. I'm hoping to get one out which falls before this, but if that takes too long, I'll send this one.

=^= End of Log =^=

Lt Cmdr John Smith
Chief Diplomat
USS Vindicator

Lieutenant Evan Merlin
Chief Strategic Operations & Acting XO
Cold Station Theta


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