Bridge, Federation Command Cruiser Excalibur
"Thank you, Mister Secretary-General," Grey said, "but we were simply doing our duty. Three other ships were involved in that battle, and two of them were destroyed. Hundreds of brave men and women paid with their lives." I wonder, Grey had a passing thought. Do Tholians have women?
      "Being this we know," the Arcturian leader said. "Having to the Klingons sent message I have, and to the Tholians. Condolences said we crewmen they lost for."
      "You are a gentleman for having done so," Grey said.
      "To know you have duties other," the Secretary-General said. "Welcome your ship Arcturus visit offers. And promotion Captain Fleet deserved much was." The circuit closed.
        "Always fun talking to Arcturians," Grey noted, shaking his head. "I saw you standing there, Lieutenant Aarie. What can I do for you?" Junior officers had always known that when they needed to talk to the senior officer about something important but not urgent, and he was busy, the accepted protocol was to simply stand where he could see you holding a datapad in your hand. That let the senior officer know that you wanted something and decide how quickly he wanted to conclude what he was doing, and put the junior officer next in line for his attention.
      "An interesting stellar event, Captain," the Deian science officer said. "A star near the Tholian border has exploded in a very unusual manner. I've already received notices from two battle stations, which saw it before we did as their systems are more powerful. Of course, we had seen it ourselves by the time we got their messages. I suspect that the science officers on those battle stations have sent messages to Seventh Fleet asking for a ship to be assigned to conduct a scientific investigation."
      "And you want me to volunteer Excalibur for the mission before the Admiral picks a ship at random."
      She only smiled.
      "Well," Captain Grey said, "I suppose the Excalibur could use a Star Fleet Science prize."
       Aarie's eyes brightened. The prize would go to the ship, but also to herself as an individual. Her career aspirations were not the command of a starship, but in the field of astronomy. Such a prize would open any door she chose to knock upon. Captain Grey had just made her career.
      "Katsunaga," Grey said, "see if you can find this star" ‹ he lifted a finger to warn Aarie that she did not need to volunteer the information ‹ "and head us in that direction at cruising speed."
      "I don't suppose, Lieutenant," Grey said with a smile, "that you have already composed the necessary message to Seventh Fleet command?"
      Without a word, she handed him a datapad. He reviewed the page on the pad, and found she had written three different messages. He indicated the second one.
      "Communications," Grey said, "Send a message to Starbase Eight. Lieutenant Aarie will give you the text." Grey noticed that Aarie flashed two fingers to the ensign at communications.
      "Message sent, Captain," he answered in only a second.
      Fifteen minutes passed before the reply arrived.
      "Captain," Ensign Rollins said. "Seventh fleet has assigned us to survey the star, but advises that it has had diplomatic channel messages from the Klingons that they are also sending a ship. Also, we have a message from the Star Fleet Police that the Tholians have advised they are sending a heavy cruiser."
      "Any news on what ships?" Grey asked.
      "The Klingon ship is Devastator under someone named Kyrolian," Ensign Rollins said. "He has full captain's rank so he must be an 'old dog' who has been around for years."
      Star Fleet was convinced that any Klingon K6 captain commanding a battlecruiser was someone who had held the post for years without being promoted. The dangerous ones were the K5 commanders who just got their ships, and the K7 commodores who were looking for promotion to admiral. An "old dog" was someone who would be professional and rational, at least to the extent that Klingon command officers were ever rational.
      "Well, at least it isn't Korath," Grey said under his breath.
      "No data on the Tholian ship," Rollins added.
      "The Tholian ship is probably Antrex," Katsunaga said. "That's the ship that took over as sector command recently."
        "The Admiral authorized full speed," Grey observed, "so get us moving. How long until we arrive?"
        "Eight hours, maybe nine," the navigator said.
      "Very well," Grey said, "time enough for dinner and a nap. Get the second shift up here an hour from now. I want the primary bridge crew rested and ready to meet the neighbors."

Bridge, Klingon Battlecruiser Devastator
      "Dropping to Warp 3, Captain," Lieutenant Korm reported. "Target star is at 600,000 killikams."
Kyrolian grunted. The targeting readout on the main screen actually said 603,000 killikams but it was dropping fast, and Kyrolian had taught his crew that round numbers were easier to grasp in non-shooting situations.
      "Magnificent," Science Officer Berinarias said. While a Klingon and a commissioned lieutenant, the science officer was no warrior. "Captain this is truly breathtaking."
      "Commodore," Kyrolian said to the intercom. "We have reached the star. You can see it on the viewscreen in your office. Do you want to come to the bridge?"
      "Not at this time," Korath replied without rancor or warmth. "I am busy. Are there other ships about?"
      "There is a Tholian cruiser well out of battle range, and we've been told to expect a Federation ship."
      "As long as it's not Grey, you can handle this," Korath said, closing the channel.
      "I have a channel from the Tholian," Junior Lieutenant Xenost, the Dunkar communications officer said. "Data only. A standard warning to remain beyond 300,000 killikams of their ship."
      "This isn't their space," Kyrolian said, "but let's not start shooting. Korm, can you get us where the science officer wants to be and stay that far away from the Tholian?"
      "About 200,000 killikams would do nicely," the science officer said. "Very nicely, if I can have a probe ‹ or even a probe drone that goes closer."
      "That distance is workable for the time being," Korm said. "I can tell from here that the Tholian's fire control is active and his weapons are fully armed."
      A few minutes later, the Devastator had achieved its station.
      "Keep the shields up and reinforce the front one," Kyrolian said. "Full active and passive scans. Send a probe in there, keep another one ready, and get a probe drone ready for launch. Is there anything else, Science Officer?"
      "You have been most accommodating, Captain," Lieutenant Berinarias said. "That will be splendid. Generations of scientists will thank you and the entire fleet for this courtesy."
      "When the Federation ship gets here, spacing is going to get more complicated," Lieutenant Korm said. "I can still make it work, if the Federation ship doesn't try to crowd us."
      "And where is he?" Kyrolian asked.
      "Three hours away," Junior Lieutenant Xenost said. "I have had a navigational notice from them, broadcast to all ships in the area but clearly meant for us."
      A navigational notice was simply an announcement that a given ship was at a given location and proceeding to another location by a certain route. It sometimes included information on nearby conditions, such as ion storms. A navigational notice did not ask permission for the travel, nor did it give any orders or make any claims. It was simply a means of avoiding confusion and uncertainty of the kind that caused unwanted battles to start.
      "And they made sure the Tholians heard it, no doubt," Kyrolian said. "This is not a battle, but no foreign starship will attack my ship without my knowing he's about to do that. What ship is it?"
      "Checking," Junior Lieutenant Xenost said. "It is the Excalibur under Captain Richard Grey."
      "I want half-hourly reports on that ship until it is an hour away, then reports every 10 minutes," Kyrolian said, reaching for the intercom switches. "Commodore," he said.
      "What is it?" Korath asked  clearly annoyed at the interruption. "I am busy with my work."
      "Grey and Excalibur will be here in three hours," Kyrolian said, knowing full well what would happen.
      "I will be on the bridge in two hours," Korath said. "When I get there, Kyrolian, I will be assuming temporary tactical command of Devastator. That is all for now." The circuit closed.
      A commodore could assume "temporary tactical command" for a limited period for a specific purpose. In this case, Korath's real reason was his hatred for Grey, but he did have the valid excuse that with multiple foreign ships in one area the senior officer would be held personally accountable for whatever happened. In theory, the older and wiser head would prevent things from going in the wrong direction.
      "Communications Officer," Kyrolian said, "send a navigational notice. Make sure the Excalibur and that Tholian ship both hear it. Message is to be as follows: 'Devastator is on station to observe the stellar phenomenon. This is not a military mission. Commodore Korath is on board. No honors are required.' Send that as soon as you can."
      "Very well, Captain," the communications officer said.
      The term "no honors" meant that Korath, despite being the ranking officer present, would not expect the foreign captains to send salutes or visit his ship. It was a standard protocol for non-allies. Kyrolian did not yet know that the Romulans were on the way to see this unique stellar event.