CHAPTER 13

"Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."

- Robert Heinlein, Earth (Human)

IMPERIAL KLINGON BATTLECRUISER RAGE, DISABLED

JANUARY 2275

Wilkes was still sitting in the Klingon Sick Bay when Captain Kamov called, demanding his report. As he went through everything he knew, he continued holding Sooth's hand while she lay in the diagnostic bed, her head encased in big chunk of equipment. When he finished his description of how he destroyed the device he just stopped talking, still focused more on Sooth's motionless shape.

Kamov studied the silent Lieutenant for a moment. The Klingon vessel was being considered a plague ship until Starfleet and Empire medical experts identified what was left of the organisms crushed inside the bomb and cleared them as uninfected. But the Captain was a bit of a romantic, and he thought of his own wife, safe at their home on Starbase 11 and what it must have been like for Wilkes.

"Lieutenant." he said quietly. Wilkes didn't respond, so he raised his voice more, "Lieutenant!"

"Oh, sorry, yes, sir?"

"Well done, Lieutenant. We're sending some volunteers over to help with the casualties. There are some experts in this...sort of injury. I'm sure she'll be fine."

That got a small smile, so he continued, "And Lieutenant?" he pointed at the blue-grey and tan mottled Dosadi battle armor he still wore, "One day I am going to see you in Starfleet issue and on that day, I will know the universe has truly gone mad."

Sooth opened her eyes. And everything was black again. There was no light. Nothing. No sound. She was back in the pod – it was just like...no. Her hand. Someone was holding her hand...Wilkes! Everything came back in a rush, her memory ending with a blinding flash of light and pain. She wondered what had happened – how was she even alive? The Klingon had shot her in the face with a disruptor at point-blank range. Did Wilkes defuse the bomb? Something was wrong with her head she couldn't move or move her ears or eyes or smell or...She squeezed his hand, feeling the strong, confident squeeze back, and then his other hand petting her arm.

Whatever had happened, it was going to be all right.

Colonel Jons came and found them the next morning. Still in his scorched battle armor, he sat heavily, exhaustion showing in his eyes and movements.

"I think we've got the mess mostly sorted out, Wilkes."

"What happened? Are we going to be able to go back to the Delos? Were you able to convince them?"

Sighing, he said, "Let me back up and fill in the details. As you know, our ships were shooting the Klingons, they were shooting us and the Federation was trying to keep everyone from shooting at each other. When we beamed through the Rage's shields, we were able to keep the individual teams together, but the teams were scattered. Force Leader Inveth and the other half of the Dosadi Marines materialized near the bridge and attempted to assault through heavy opposition to take control of the ship." He put his hand over his eyes and sighed heavily. "The carnage was...heavy. They were badly outnumbered since the Klingon's primary security posts are just aft of the bridge. The team ran out of ammunition but continued their assault. The fighting turned hand-to-hand when Inveth lead a charge into the Klingon line. They were actually within sight of the bridge at the end, but none of them survived. Klingon casualties were horrific and the damage to the ship's internals was heavy. Some Federation security personnel were involved as well.

"My son's squad appeared close to the engine room and being unable to locate the device, assaulted there. They actually managed to briefly take control of main engineering and disabled the warp drives before they too were overrun and annihilated. Once main power was down, the jamming fields collapsed as did the Rage's weapons systems and the commanders were able to talk instead of fight. That was shortly before we breeched into the ambassador's quarters and is the reason why we weren't killed outright as well when the Klingons overran our position."

Wilkes looked up, "Your son?"

With a small, sad smile Wilkes said, "Yes. He performed his duties with great courage and honor, Wilkes. Because of their actions, our mission was a success." he paused, thinking back over the events of the past year. "The scales always balance, Wilkes. Remember that. There is always balance." he was silent for a moment and then continued,

"The Rage is still disabled, but the Hood is providing power and damage control teams and medical teams for the wounded. You and I are the only two who remain whole from the assault force." he shook his head. "The Klingons are furious, but the combat tapes from our men and especially from you and I support everything we told them.

We've been unable to identify whatever the...thing was. The best guess from Doctor Bhutto is that there was a chemical on the knife Sooth threw that was highly toxic to the...whatever it was. It reacted corrosively.

At the moment, it looks like there will be no war. Whatever other consequences there will be, I do not know. Obviously there will be no negotiations with the Klingons. As to us, it is likely to take a few days for the organism to be identified and us to be cleared to leave. Until then, we are somewhere between guests and prisoners."

Wilkes digested all of this and asked, "Colonel, how much of this mess was because of your spying?"

Bemused, Jons looked up and said, "MY spying? Wilkes, ALL of this was the direct result of YOUR spying."

"I'm not a spy! I'm an engineer!"

Jons laughed, "Wilkes, you are the most famous spy in the known galaxy. You have a nickname you know."

"I am n...what?"

"People in the intelligence services refer to you as the accidental spy." he laughed again. "You have allowed more information to be exchanged more freely between rival agencies than we've been able to do, ever. Normal channels are rather round-about and are usually one directional.

"But you? Wilkes, you're a Federation citizen and Starfleet crewman who is married to a Dosadi Marine, business partner to a Hydran Marine and who trades with Klingons, Dosadi, Hydrans, Romulons and Orions – and anyone else! You are like a giant shared clearinghouse for information both accurate and inaccurate. Your background has been heavily researched and your every movement is monitored by every intelligence agency in the galaxy. But you are seen as too valuable – and under too much scrutiny - to co-opt.

"It is ironic but the people who most deal in information are the most unable to share that information – especially information that must become known to the highest levels of government but must remain out of the public eye. You provide a...a fulcrum. A balance point between all the various agencies. A sort of neutral third party."

Wilkes tried to think this through. "I..." he thought again. "Jons, I don't get it. I'm just me. I don't want to be a spy, I just want to live a normal life, raise our kids and I don't know, retire and play cards or something."

"Wilkes, that's all most anyone really wants. But sometimes God has different plans for us. I told you once before that spies were not what you think they are. You look at the carnage and the loss and the pain all around you, " Jons waved his arm across the packed Sick Bay "and you think how awful this all was and now you start to think that you were responsible. And you are."

Wilkes looked up, stricken, and Jons continued, "But Wilkes, what you are also responsible for, as are all the spies who uncovered the truth behind this plan, is saving the lives of uncounted trillions of people across the galaxy. People who will live normal lives and raise their children and retire and who will never know that my son was killed in a filthy Klingon engine room in the middle of nowhere, or that your mate had part of her face shot off, or that dozens of brave men of many different species fought and died so that they could go ON living normal lives and raising their children. They will never know, and they will never say thank you because they will never know.

"Wilkes, had it not been for the information exchanged between all these different agencies, we would not have known about this plan. The Federation would have seen a devastating plague released on Earth by the Klingons – while under a flag of truce. What you saw here today would be repeated across thousands of planets with women and children caught in the cross-fire. Instead of dozens of dead, trillions would die. Whole races exterminated, planets made uninhabitable, and very likely the entire fabric of the interstellar community undone as a result of that war. The spies of the galaxy are responsible for saving those lives as well."

"Who's plan was this, anyway?" Wilkes asked after trying to comprehend all of Jons' information.

"We don't know yet. The Klingons appear stunned and completely in the dark. Maybe the Orion's. Or the Romulons. We'll probably never know."

"So this all might happen again?!"

"Wilkes, there is always something going on – usually many somethings – that threatens the peace of the galaxy. And it's a spy's job to find those out and stop them."

"So you've always been a spy?"

"Me? Wilkes, I said YOU were a spy, even if only an accidental one. I'M a Marine." Smiling he stood, patted Sooth's leg and said "Take care of your mate, Wilkes. I have another duty to attend to before I rest." Stopping as the door cycled open he said, "Oh, and Wilkes? Once she's done with regen and rehab, my wife and I would be honored if you would bring your family to visit us. For both business and pleasure, of course." and he left the room.

Wilkes thought about that. There was still a long journey ahead for all of them apparently.