Author's Notes: - Thanks to Stonedtoad for betaing.
I am stunned that I have actually written a fifth story in this series without jumping to something else. There is another story being written now.
"Why?" Nathan Bridger demanded of his old friend as he leaned back in his chair.
"Senator Kincaid is one of the people you need on side for future funding," Noyce reminded him, "All you have to do is pick him up at Fairmain, where you are due to go anyway and bring him back to Florida. You're not going out of your way and you give him the grand tour of what the money he can give us is for."
Nathan sighed, "Bill, I hate politicians."
"I know," Noyce sympathised, "But it's an election year so it's not like you can avoid them at the moment."
"On the bright side you will be picking up your Chief Scientist on the way to Fairmain," Noyce reminded him.
"Two months into the tour," Nathan retorted but a smile slipped onto his face.
"Well blame her," Noyce chuckled, "She wanted to finish her project. Oh I've been told to warn you about a surprise, I just want to let you know I have nothing to do with it."
Nathan grimaced as before he could ask the vidscreen blinked off.
"Commander," he called up to the bridge.
"Yes, sir," the voice of his Ex-O filled the room.
"We're picking up a VIP on Fairmain," Nathan told him, "Can you make sure everything is prepared for our guest."
Yes, sir," Ford replied making Nathan smile at the irritation he felt was echoed by the other man.
"Any word from the Exon?"
"O'Neill just spoke with them and their ETA is still the same," Ford reported.
Nathan nodded, "In that case I'm going to get some sleep. Call me if anything happens."
"I'll try and make it a quiet night," Ford promised before the radio fell silent.
Nathan stretched before changing and climbing into his bunk, as he fell asleep he mused that it would be nice to have Kristin back on the Seaquest.
"That's me," Wendy smiled at Tim as she pressed a small pad of cotton wool to the injection site and raised his arm.
"It's been three months," Tim noted as Wendy filed the blood sample with the others, "Surely something would have shown up by now."
"Possibly," she smiled back at him, "But I'm just being cautious. So, how are you feeling?"
Tim chuckled, "I'm fine."
Wendy took a seat and looked at him making him squirm slightly, "And once more."
"I really am fine," Tim told her, "Spending the time with my family was great but it's nice to be home."
Wendy hesitated before pressing, "From what I've been told you were happy with your family but there was an issue with a certain individual."
Tim winced slightly, "You mean Kate."
"You tell me."
"The version of Kate in the simulation told me something that shook me," Tim confessed, "But I talked with the real Kate and I know it wasn't true."
Wendy smiled as she felt Tim's surety that Kate was his friend and the strength of his feelings for the young woman.
"I'm glad," Wendy told him, "Well, I'm done here."
"Thanks, Dr," Tim nodded as he slid off the bed, "Enjoy your trip. Goodnight."
Tim checked his watch and decided to head to bed, he wasn't due on the bridge until midmorning tomorrow but he did have a few things he wanted to do before his shift so decided to get some sleep.
Reaching his cabin Tim checked to see if he'd received any messages, disappointed that of the ones waiting for him none were from Kate. He was a little bemused that he hadn't heard from her, it had been almost three months since he'd last seen her at the wedding. Taking off his glasses Tim rubbed his eyes as he thought back to the kiss they'd shared, the one she'd confirmed afterwards she only saw him as a friend while unwittingly cementing his confused emotions into the realisation he loved her.
Tim quickly noted down the few ideas he'd had during his shift to the log he was keeping. Once he had everything together he'd pull together a proper proposal for Captain Bridger. The Captain had asked at the beginning of the tour if he could augment the communications systems the same way he did during the simulation but Tim wasn't sure it would as easy as it had been then in reality so he was working on it during his downtime.
With that done he went to bed.
"A High School Reunion?"
Tim chuckled at his friend's bemused question, "Yeah."
"Aren't those things usually done on ten years or something?" Miguel asked as they walked through the corridors.
"The ten year was cancelled when the venue was flooded," Tim explained, "And for various other reasons they only managed to finally reschedule it for this year."
"You know if you did want to go to this thing you will be able to have a knockout date," Miguel reminded him, "As in a date that will knock out anyone who annoys you."
Tim chuckled, "True but one, if I wanted to go to this torture and see these people again there is no way I could get there in time."
"I haven't heard from Kate in months and have no idea where she is," Tim shrugged a little sadly.
"How're the upgrades coming?" Miguel changed the subject quickly, he was very aware of how his friend felt for the con artist.
"Slowly," Tim smiled, "It seemed much easier the last time."
Miguel chuckled before they entered the docking bay and the two men stopped.
"Wow," Miguel whistled, "She doesn't travel light, does she?"
Tim smiled when he spotted the distinctive figure of Kristin Westphalen as she directed the unloading of the launch. She turned and saw them standing watching her.
"Excellent," Kristin said, clapping her hands together, "Two strong men to help me."
"Nice to see you, Dr," Miguel greeted her, "What can we do?"
"I thought we agreed you weren't going to volunteer both of us for things anymore," Tim murmured to his friend who simply shrugged and grinned at him.
"Well," Kristin spoke up, "Miguel, you can help me with the last load from the launch. Tim, can you help my new assistant over there?"
Tim nodded. As he moved through the maze of people and boxes to a woman sitting on the ground sorting through boxes he mused that despite the mess it was good to see Westphalen back.
"Dr Westphalen told me to help you," Tim said as he stood over the woman stunned when she turned and grinned at him.
"Fantastic," Kate smiled up at him.
"Kate," Tim gasped, "What are you doing here and why are you wearing a science uniform?"
She stood and Tim couldn't stop himself cataloguing the differences in her appearance. Her once pale skin now held a healthy golden tan while her dark brown hair now had streaks of red and gold through it pinned up in a tight bun.
"You can interrogate me later," she rolled her eyes; "I thought I would at least get a hug first."
Tim smiled, happily obliging by wrapping her in his arms. He closed his eyes as Kate cuddled close to him, her body stiffening for a moment when he squeezed her tightly before she relaxed and rested against him. After a moment the noise of the room invaded and they parted. Tim looked down at her and grimaced as she gave him that smirk.
The one that said she was up to something.
"What do you think of my new assistant?" Kristin asked.
Nathan stared at her before looking at where Kate was sitting with that annoying smug smile on her face. He turned back to Kristin, "Are you insane?"
"I am sitting right here," Kate noted trying to look offended.
Nathan rolled his eyes before turning back to Kristin, "Why? That's all I want to know."
"Kate has been a little overzealous in her work lately," Kristin noted disapprovingly, "We decided that she needed some time away to rest."
"And you brought her here?"
"Tim's here," Kate said softly.
Nathan nodded understanding. O'Neill was the one person that'd had a positive influence on Kate since he'd known her.
"Nathan," Kate continued, "I am not here to cause trouble, I'm not after anything other than a break and some time with a friend. Kristin offered me a position on her staff for the time being so that if anyone asks who I am you have an answer."
"And how exactly do you intend to work as Kristin's assistant?" Nathan asked.
Kate smirked at him, "My mentor was originally a biochemist, he taught me enough about what he used to do so I can fake it. And considering my boss is very aware of my limitations in this field I'm sure there won't be a problem."
"Okay," Nathan nodded, "But I am warning you right here, right now. If you so much as act as though you are about to betray my trust I will kick you off my boat and never let you back on. Are we clear?"
Kate nodded, "Crystal."
Kristin looked up as Kate walked into the lab, "Come in and close the door."
Kate did as she was told and sat on the chair across from the doctor.
"Alright," Kristin said, "Let me see."
Slowly and painfully Kate slid the jumpsuit off her shoulders before pulling off the white t-shirt she wore beneath it revealing the large bruises that covered most of her back.
"How did you manage to hug Tim the way you did without crying out in pain?" Kristin asked amazed.
"Practice," Kate smiled slightly before wincing as Kristin gently pressed against her back. She took several deep breaths as she let the doctor examine her injuries, thankfully once they'd said hello Tim had started his shift on the bridge so she hadn't had to explain anything just yet.
"Do you have any idea how lucky you are?" Kristin stated darkly, "You could have been killed, Kate. You do know that, don't you?"
"You've told me this several times already," Kate noted.
Kristin frowned at her, "Well it's worth saying again. I never took you for someone with a death wish but from what Bill Noyce told me all of a sudden you appear to have one."
"I don't have a death wish," Kate replied with an annoyed sigh.
"Then what is it?" Kristin demanded, "What's prompted this sudden reckless streak?"
The younger woman sighed rubbing her hands across her face, "My life used to be so much simpler, you know. Find a target, make a plan and get money out of them. So easy but now…"
"I spend far too much time trying to make sure I'm the good one," Kate replied, "Too much energy trying to make him…" she slammed her mouth shut.
"Trying to make Tim proud of you," Kristin finished for her, "I wasn't one hundred percent certain that you felt more than friendship for him until right now."
Kate dropped her head with a sigh.
"Have you thought about telling him?" Kristin asked sitting at Kate's side.
Kate stared at her, "You know Tim and you know me. There is no way it ends in any way other than me hurting him in some fashion because that's all I've ever done."
"You're not as poisonous as you think you are."
Kate shrugged, "Yes, I am."
Tim finished his shift on the bridge and did his handover as fast as possible. He headed through the Seaquest to the bunk Kate had been given looking forward to spending some time with her. He was also very interested as to why she was masquerading as a member of the science team.
"I expected you sooner," Kate grinned as she opened the door to him.
"I have responsibilities," he reminded her as he stepped inside taking a seat on the bed, "Now I'm free."
"So," Kate said sitting up beside him, "How are you?"
Tim shrugged, "Fine."
She laughed, "For a man who loves words you can be very monosyllabic when you feel like it."
Tim shook his head, "It's been three months since I heard from you, Kate. What more do you want me to say?"
She sighed dropping her eyes, "I'm sorry but after everything that happened I thought you might want some time without me intruding."
"I missed you," Tim told her.
Kate smiled, "Good. I missed you too."
"So, working for Dr Westphalen," Tim noted with bemusement, "How did that happen?"
Kate shrugged, "She was talking with Noyce when I returned from the last job he had me doing. I was a little worse for wear and she decided I needed a break. When I told her it's not something I could really do as I don't have a family or home to go to she mentioned she was returning to the Seaquest and if I agreed to sign on as an assistant for a few weeks then it would be a way to spend time with you without my presence being questioned."
Tim stared at her for a few moments, "Define worse for wear?"
"You had to pick up on that bit," she laughed, "I was just tired, Tim. I've been running around a lot and not stopping so I'm just really tired."
Tim nodded satisfied with her answer, "Then you don't want to join poker night?"
Kate laughed rubbing her hands together in exaggeratedly, "I love this place."
"Lucas," Tim frowned at the teen as they sat eating breakfast, "Please tell me you're not seriously thinking about trying to invent a time machine?"
"Of course not," Lucas rolled his eyes, "But I have been thinking about the mechanics involved and I think I can improve the engines by a thousand."
Tim smiled at the enthusiasm Lucas had for his subject, "Why are you telling me?"
"Because I need your input before I take it to the Captain," Lucas replied, "Please, Tim just have a look at what I've got."
Tim nodded, "No problem but if I'm checking your ideas then I need you to look into a few of mine."
"The communication upgrade?" Lucas asked
Tim nodded, "Among other things. Once I went over everything here it was more complicated than when we were…" he hesitated trying to think what to call it before settling on, "In that place. While we were there I spent a lot of time thinking of things to do to the ship. I've written it all down but with my schedule it's not been that easy to implement. I'm working on it though. Mind you with Kate here my downtime will be a little busier than before."
"Yeah, I was stunned to find her working for Westphalen," Lucas mused, "I didn't think she knew anything about science."
Tim shrugged, "I don't think she does."
Kate sat going through the inventory Kristin had asked her to complete. It was actually quite relaxing work to her surprise. Rubbing her hand across her eyes Kate tried to stifle a yawn; she was exhausted despite sleeping most of the night. Whatever Kristin had given her for the pain was doing its job but was practically knocking her out.
She was happy to be on the Seaquest, as much as she would profess Tim to be her only real friend it wasn't exactly true. She and Miguel were on very good terms plus she got on well with Tim's other friends, although only those who had been onboard during her first visit knew the truth about her past. The others just believed her to be a UEO operative who knew their Captain and communications officer.
"I still don't believe it," the amazed voice made her look up to find the resident teenage genius walking over to her.
"Hi, Lucas," she greeted him.
"You're actually working for Westphalen?" he laughed pulling a stool over to the table, "Seriously?"
"Temporarily," she smiled back, "Why are you here? Don't you have amazing breakthroughs to make?"
Lucas shrugged, "Normally yes but they're about to do one of their preparedness drills. It's best to be out the way or they whine."
She chuckled before studying him for a few moments, "How are you?"
"I'm good," Lucas grinned, "It was the weirdest experience and no matter what their intentions they made me realise I'm meant to be here."
Kate sighed her eyes becoming distant, "I wish I had that kind of certainty in my life."
"I love this movie," Kate noted as she offered Tim some popcorn, they were sitting side by side on his bed watching Arsenic and Old Lace on the viewscreen.
"Me too," he murmured back taking a handful of the snack, "I also like watching a movie knowing I won't have a hangover."
She chuckled and elbowed him, "You're no fun sometimes," she teased.
Tim playfully shoved her stunned as she cried out in pain when her back hit the wall, "Kate?"
She drew in a shaky breath, "I'm fine," she gasped trying to catch her breath.
Tim swung himself off the bed, "No you're not. I'm going to get the doctor."
"No," she snapped before softening her voice, "I'm okay. I don't need the doctor. Kristin already has me on pain medication."
Tim stared at her, "For what?"
She sighed and unbuttoning the top few buttons on her blouse slid it back off her shoulders letting him see her back.
"Kate, what the hell happened to you?" Tim gasped as he stared at the black, blue and yellow patches across her skin, one of which he was almost sure was a boot print.
She shrugged, "I just lost control of a situation. But Kristin seems to think I have a death wish so demanded I take some time off to heal."
He stared at her for a few moments, "Kate, what exactly are you doing for Noyce?"
"I'm doing what I've always done, Tim," she told him sternly, "I just get information instead of money these days."
"Did you ever end up like this when you were only after money?"
Kate frowned before reminding him, "I was tortured and poisoned when I was only after money. It's been worse."
Fixing her top she watched as Tim rubbed his hand over his eyes, "Hey," she caught his hand, "I'm fine. I came here to spend some time with you so can we just watch the rest of the movie?"
He nodded, after fixing an extra cushion behind her back to make her more comfortable Tim stretched out on the bed beside her then started the movie again. When Kate rested her head against his shoulder Tim rested his cheek against her hair trying to make her feel as safe as he could.
Kate sighed as she woke up, warm and comfortable feeling completely rested and safe. Then she realised why. She'd fallen asleep in Tim's bed and she was wrapped in his arms as he slept peacefully beside her.
Trying to move she winced as her pain shot through her, she hadn't lied when she told him she was fine it was just a little worse early morning especially when she hadn't taken her pain meds the night before.
"Tim," she whispered, shaking him. Smiling as he moaned in annoyance, "Tim, wake up."
He sighed and opened his eyes, "Kate," he smiled his eyes closing for a moment before they sprang open in shock, "Kate?"
She winced as he fell backwards and off the bunk with a thud. Kate slid over and looked down at him.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he moaned looking up at her, "We fell asleep."
"I guessed that."
"You know if anyone sees you leaving here…"
Kate chuckled and slid off the bed offering him her hand to help him up, "Then I'll make it appear I just came early this morning."
"What was my previous profession?" she cut off his question.
Tim gave a half laugh, "Yeah."
Kate twisted her hair up and clipped it back using the clips she had left sitting on the desk the night before then poured the cup of water sitting beside them over a bemused Tim's head. Opening the door she saw a few of the crew wandering by.
"Next time you offer to give me a swimming lesson," she said as she walked out, "Remember and set your alarm or next time I'll toss more than a glass of water to wake you up."
She gave him a quick wink before leaving him standing.
"I have Fairmain Central Control on the line for you," Tim reported to Bridger.
"Thank you, Lt," Bridger said before taking a deep breath obviously dreading this, "Put them through."
"Captain Bridger," a woman appeared on the viewscreen, "I'm Helen Donovan the Controller of Fairmain. The Senator is eager to see you."
"I'm sure he is," Bridger replied, "We have the supplies you ordered. We'll be docking in just under an hour. We'll unload these and then we'll take the VIPs off your hands."
"Captain, I was also hoping you could also lend us some of your expertise," Helen added, "We're having a few computer glitches."
"I'll have a team come over and see what they can do," Bridger told her.
Helen nodded before the screen went blank.
As the screen returned to its neutral state Bridger turned to O'Neill, "Call Dr Westphalen and have her put a team together. You have one hour to get ready."
"Sir?" he asked confused.
"It's time you took on more responsibility, Lt," Bridger told the stunned man, "This is your operation. You're in charge."
Tim nodded handing over his station to Thomson; he stopped as the Captain caught his arm, "Take Kate with you. Get her off the ship while I get the VIP settled just in case his security people recognise her in any way."
"This is a good thing, isn't it?" Kate asked after Tim had debriefed the team on what they were to do, "Being given this."
Tim shrugged, "I guess."
"You guess?" she frowned at him, "Tim, this shows that Nathan actually trusts you and as I understand it this may help you get a promotion."
Tim shrugged again, "I just…it seems a bit out of the blue."
"You're working on upgrading the communications systems, you have ideas for upgrading the WSKRS and you're working with Lucas on a new propulsion system," Kate ticked each one off on her fingers, "I think you've been noticed."
Tim laughed, "And you're my assistant on this."
"I prefer stunningly beautiful sidekick," she smirked back at him.
"I have just under an hour to get this sorted," Tim told her, "Can you give me some time to work?"
"Sure," Kate rested her hand on his shoulder, "You are brilliant, Tim. This just proves I'm not the only one who thinks so."
Tim smiled when she kissed his cheek before disappearing; he really liked having her here.
Nathan took in a deep breath, their guests were about to disembark from the launch.
"At least our temporary troublemaker isn't here," Ford reminded him.
"True," Nathan sighed, "Do you think I could get out of this too?"
Ford chuckled as the doors opened and Senator Lewis Kincaid entered the Seaquest with his wife Rosemary and entourage.
"Captain Nathan Bridger," Kincaid moved towards him with a smile, "It's wonderful to meet you and an honour to be allowed to see your wonderful ship."
"The pleasure's ours," Nathan smiled back, "The Seaquest was my dream and I enjoy showing everyone that it was a worthwhile to support its funding."
Kincaid turned and drew the small pale woman to his side, "My dear wife, Rosemary."
"Mrs Kincaid," Nathan greeted her taking her hand in his, "A pleasure."
A soft smile touched the woman's lips, "Thank you, Captain. I'm hoping to spend some time with your science teams. And I hear you have a dolphin on board also."
Nathan smiled, "Yes, we do. I'll arrange for Dr Westphalen to give you a tour and if you wish to swim with Darwin. He likes meeting new people."
"Excellent," Kincaid boomed drawing Rosemary back into the group again.
"Commander Ford," Nathan called to his perfect military second in command, "If you would escort our guests to their quarters."
Ford nodded and motioned them out of the docking bay.
Nathan sagged in relief and turned to Brody who was standing there as part of the guard, "Do you think he'd notice if I went into hiding?"
"Mrs Kincaid," Kristin greeted the Senator's wife with a gracious smile, "Captain Bridger told me you wanted to talk about our work here?"
"I read most of the proposals that go through my husband's office," she explained, "The Seaquest research proposals are the ones I have become fascinated with. And please just call me Rosemary."
Kristen clapped her hands together, "Then I'll give you the grand tour. Just give me one minute to lock down a few things; my assistant has been stolen to work on helping the colony so I'm here on my own just now."
Rosemary nodded and watched as the Dr finished her work, gently stroking the locket around her neck.
"That is lovely," Kristin noted before clarifying, "Your locket."
Rosemary nodded sadly, "It belonged to my first husband's mother, when he died I gave it to my daughter…my Sophie."
Kristin reached out and took the other woman's hand, "I'm so sorry to bring up such a painful subject for you."
Rosemary shook her head, "No, I like to talk about her sometimes. She was such a wonderful child, so bright and full of life."
"I can only imagine the pain you suffered when you lost her to that…monster," Kristin whispered sympathetically.
Rosemary sniffed forcing back tears, "Lewis always reminds me that she lives on in my heart. I wish I could speak to the other girl though if I could find her, just to ask her about my girl." After a few seconds she dabbed her eyes and took a deep breath, "Why don't we start the tour?"
Tim stood leaning against the wall of the mess wondering how long this guy was going to talk. Checking his watch he knew Kate would be here in a few minutes for lunch and he really didn't want to try to stop her doing anything that would get her noticed by the Senator's security team.
"What's going on?" Kate said coming up behind him.
Tim turned away from the crowd to smile down at her, "An impromptu speech by our VIP."
"Wonderful," she groaned, "So lunch has been cancelled?"
"Kate," Tony called from his spot, "If you want to see get on the ledge."
Tim rolled his eyes as Kate balanced on the ledge placing her hand on his shoulder using him to steady herself. Sure she wasn't going to fall on him Tim turned his attention back to Kincaid.
"The work you do here is important to everyone," he said, obviously trying to secure their votes, "Here under the ocean protecting the environment and our future."
"What a windbag," Tony murmured, making Tim nod in agreement.
"My wife and I are intimately aware of the dangers of this world," Kincaid stated intently, "We lost our beautiful daughter many years ago. Who I firmly believe from her curious nature would have been one of the science team here on the Seaquest had she lived. For many years we have grieved her loss, the only consolation we have is that she saved another."
He dropped his head for a moment before looking up and scanning the crowd in front of him, his eyes stopped on Tim, Tony and Kate for a moment before he continued his speech. Tim winced as he became aware of Kate's nails digging into his shoulder, turning he frowned worriedly as he saw her eyes dark and her face pale.
Without a word she started walking away from the room. Tim frowned worried at the way she was marching through the corridors realising suddenly she was heading to his bunk. The moment she entered Kate headed into the small toilet and dropping to the ground vomited.
"Hey," Tim knelt beside her gently moving her hair back, "What's wrong?"
"I…" she whispered.
"Was it what he said?" Tim asked confused, "About his daughter. I know the fact your parents left you…"
"Tim," she cut him off taking his hand in hers as she looked up at him defeated, "I'm Sophie Kincaid."
"Nathan," Kate sighed as she sat cross-legged on the bed with a pillow held protectively in front of her, "Will you please stop looking at me like I've grown another head."
Tim winced as the Captain levelled a hard glare at her. After telling him her real name Tim had persuaded her to let him call Bridger and Westphalen because this was too big for him to keep from them.
"Are you seriously telling us that you are Sophie Kincaid?" Bridger demanded, "Kate, that is impossible to believe."
"Why do you think I never told you?" she snapped back at him.
"Kate," Tim said softly, "You have to understand why we're all a little stunned."
She let out an annoyed sigh and dropped her head.
Kristin sat beside the younger woman and took her hand, "We know the story, Kate. We know what happened to you when you were taken by Henry Moore. I know how traumatic that must have been but these are your parents. You can't blame them for your abduction."
"I wasn't abducted," Kate told her shaking her head in annoyance, "They gave me to him."
"What?" Tim and Bridger cried in unison.
"I know it must have felt like that," Kristin said in the same sympathetic tone.
Kate snorted in derision, "No, it was exactly like that. I stood and watched as Lewis Kincaid gave me away because I would get in the way of his political career."
They all stared at her; Tim moved closer and wrapped his arm around her shoulders giving her support. Kate smiled at him softly resting against him for a second.
"Tell us what happened," Bridger told her, "Why does the world think you're dead?"
Kate took a deep breath, "He had another girl, we were about the same age and looked very similar, obviously his type but she'd been homeless so had no family to miss her. Moore put us in the back of his RV so he could get us somewhere he could be alone with us."
At the quiver in her voice Tim tightened his arm around her and gripped her hand.
"I set fire to it," Kate told them, "And I caused the crash. I remember the squeal of the tyres and then I slammed into a wall. The next thing I knew I woke up, I was lying on the ground and there were people everywhere. I saw the other girl and knew she was dead, they thought she was me."
"Why?" Bridger asked.
"Because she was wearing my locket," Kate sighed, "She thought it was pretty and knowing I'd just been given away I let her have it. They asked me my name so I gave hers."
"Her name was Kate King?"
"No her name was Kate," she shrugged, "I started saying Kincaid automatically. I got as far as Kin and stopped so they picked up King. I became Kate King."
Nathan watched the young woman laying out her past before them; it was something he'd never expected. In all the years he'd known Kate the most he'd ever learned about who she really was came from the night he'd led the team to save her from Mason. Scared and in pain she'd asked him to stay with her so they watched an old movie until she was able to sleep. Drowsy from the medication Kate told him how she'd seen it with her grandmother and that her love of old movies stemmed from then.
"Kate," Kristin spoke up, "I've spoken to your mother, she is still devastated by your death."
"Where do you think I learned to lie so well?" Kate retorted.
"I still don't believe that they wouldn't have seen you," Nathan stated, "It makes no sense."
"Nathan, dead I was the perfect way for him to advance his political career," Kate said darkly, "Alive, I was just a nuisance and I knew what they'd done. The transport I was supposed to be in heading for the children's home crashed."
"Why weren't you in it?" Tim asked softly.
Kate turned to him, "My social worker called me Sophie, so I ran and it saved my life."
"Alright," Nathan said as he took in everything. He was almost completely sure Kate wasn't lying about this, she'd fooled them before but from the way she was curled against his communications officer it was clear she was telling the truth.
"Lt O'Neill," Ford's voice came through the room clearly.
Tin's eyes widened, "I'm meant to be on the bridge, sir."
Nathan nodded and hit the radio, "Commander, I'm responsible for keeping Lt O'Neill from his duties. He'll be up in a few minutes."
"Of course," Ford replied and the radio cut out.
Tim frowned, "Sir?"
"You have duties on this ship, Lt," Nathan reminded him, "If what Kate believes is true I don't want there to be any change to our routine."
Kate squeezed Tim's hand, "I'll be fine till the end of your shift. I promise."
"Kate," Nathan chased the young woman through the corridors, "Where are you going?"
"To pack," she threw back at him as she dodged through the people moving along the corridors.
Nathan grimaced, "What are you talking about?"
"I'm leaving," Kate told him, "He saw me and he might not know who I am yet but he will work it out. And when he does I'm as good as dead."
They reached her room and he grimaced as he watched her throw her belongings into a bag.
"This is insane," Nathan told her, "Kate, we can make sure he doesn't see you. It's a big boat."
"Not big enough."
"So you're going to run away?" he demanded.
Kate shrugged, "We had this conversation a long time ago about how much of a coward I am, remember?"
"So you leave," Nathan caught her hand stopping her packing, "What then?"
She shrugged, "Then Kate King has to die."
"What about O'Neill?"
Dropping her eyes Kate stilled, "It's what's best."
"Really? He cares about you," Nathan continued, pushing the only advantage he had, "And you care about him?"
"I love him," Kate whispered shaking her head, "And I've never told him because I knew that one day my past would rear its head. I didn't think it would be this but I knew I would have to leave."
"We're in the middle of the ocean," he tried a different tactic, "How do you plan on getting off the Seaquest?"
Kate finished packing and lifted her bag, "I'd rather not say."
"Nathan," she wrapped her free arm around him, "Thank you and I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" he managed to ask before the shock arced through him and he fell into blackness.
Kate walked through the corridors of the Seaquest trying hard to look nonchalant as she headed for the launch bay. She needed to get to the Stinger, it was her only chance to leave the ship and as much as the thought that she would never see the people she'd come to care for again hurt she knew it was for the best.
She paused as Tim's voice filled the hallways with a crew announcement and she forced herself to keep going, she was about to disappear on him forever, she was about to destroy that connection she had known she shouldn't make.
Reaching the launch bay, Kate grimaced as she saw her step-father talking with one of the science team just to one side. She sped up heading towards where the Stinger was berthed.
"Stop her," a sharp voice called.
Kate saw two of the goons Kincaid had with him move towards her, tossing her bag at one of them she dodged round. Trying to find a way to get to her one chance of escape she cried out as one of them managed to grab her arm and she slammed into a wall. Kate struggled as the other one grabbed her as well and she was dragged forward coming face to face with the man she never wanted to see again.
"Let go of me," Kate snapped twisting against the men holding her as she glared at Kincaid as he walked towards her with a slight smirk on his face.
"What's going on?" Jonathan called as he cut through the crowd.
Kincaid turned to him, "Commander, I'm sorry to tell you there has been a security breach here on Seaquest."
"Security breach?" he asked glancing at Kate who was still struggling slightly.
Kincaid nodded, "This woman is responsible for the theft of several important documents from several of my colleagues. I've spoken with contacts in law enforcement and her records show that she is a danger to this ship, your crew and my people. I'm prepared to have my security team take her into custody."
Kate stared at Jonathan, panic filling her eyes at the suggestion.
"That won't be necessary," Bridger said as he appeared, he walked over to where Kate was being held. As he reached her she looked up at him, "It took a little longer than I expected for you to show your true colours but you did. We stopped the information packet you sent, it's over."
Kate let out a snort and Jonathan almost sighed in relief that she was playing along, "It was fun playing with your crew, Captain."
"Lt Brody," he motioned the man who had followed him over, "Take Miss King to the brig and I want a guard on her at all times."
Jonathan watched as Kate was passed over to Brody and a security guard before being led away.
"Senator," Bridger turned to him, "I apologise for this. I was aware of Miss King's criminal past but needed to wait until she made a move before we could arrest her."
Kincaid nodded and started away. Bridger moved to Jonathan and pulled him to one side.
"Keep one of our men on her at all times," he ordered, "And whatever you do, do not let O'Neill off the bridge until I've had a chance to talk to him."
"Sir," Brody stood stiffly in the ward room, "Why wasn't I informed about Miss King's past?"
Nathan sighed, "Because I didn't want you watching her every move when she was here."
"If she's a threat to the security of the boat," Brody continued, "I should have been warned."
"Kate isn't a threat," O'Neill snapped.
"Tim," Nathan said softly resting his hand on the younger man's shoulder to calm him, "Lt, you weren't told because despite her past I trust her. I've known Kate for many years and because of her you're alive."
"Sir," O'Neill spoke up, "You can't leave her in the brig. If what she told us is true…"
"I know," Nathan sighed, he tapped the controls and turned as the viewscreen sprung to life showing Noyce who waited, "Lucas?"
"Completely secure line," the teens face appeared in a small box, "I'm also watching the brig."
"I didn't hear that," Nathan told the boy, "But good."
The moment Lucas disappeared Nathan turned to his old friend.
"What was she doing?" Nathan demanded.
Noyce sighed, "I didn't understand why she was reluctant when I asked her to go after the information. There have been rumours recently that Kincaid's campaign funding is coming from some sources that were 'shady'."
"So you sent Kate," Nathan mused, "Did she know it was connected to Kincaid?"
Noyce shook her head, "Yes."
"Did she mention her connection to him?" Nathan asked worriedly.
Noyce sighed, "I worked it out from the little she said after the last mission she did for me. When I explained what I wanted her to do she became very intense in going after him, a little too intense."
"Is that why she's injured?" O'Neill spoke up.
"Injured?" Nathan turned to him.
"Her back is a mess of bruises," O'Neill explained, "One even looks like a boot print. Dr Westphalen has her on pain meds."
"It was Kate's choice not to tell you," Noyce replied to the accusation, "Look as soon as you get to Florida I'll have her transferred into my custody. We'll work out what to do afterwards."
Nathan nodded and the screen blinked off, he turned to the younger man sitting waiting for him.
"You can't go near her," Nathan told him, stopping his protest, "I know you want to be able to stay with her but if your relationship with Kate is revealed to them then it's something they can use against her."
"Yes, sir," he sighed.
"Tim, you have to trust me on this one," Nathan told him, "Kate and I may not always see eye to eye but I care about her too. Let me deal with this."
Kate sat on the bed in the brig waiting. Finally the door opened and Lewis Kincaid stepped into the room.
"Look at you," he said as he moved to stand right outside the bars, "All grown up."
"No thanks to you," she retorted sharply, "What do you want?"
"Sophie," Kincaid growled, "As far as the world knows you died a long time ago, it's time you did."
Kate swallowed hard, "Isn't it a shame I'm in UEO custody?"
"Accidents happen in transfers," he reminded her, "And escape attempts."
"Why would I try to escape?" Kate demanded.
Kincaid laughed at her, "Well, if you want your friend to survive. What's his name again," he gave her a smile, "Ah yes, O'Neill."
Kate's stomach turned and she stepped forward slightly, "If you even think about it, I will destroy you."
"Sophie," he chuckled, "If you had anything you would have used it years ago. You're completely impotent."
Kate's eyes darkened, "I don't care about you or whatever you do. If I did I would have told someone a long time ago who I am. Think about it."
"Then you should have stayed hidden," Kincaid retorted, "Coming after me through the others was just stupid. Then again who is going to believe the word of someone like you when we identified the body all those years ago? Or when I did."
She frowned a little confused.
"Finally I've stopped you talking," Kincaid sneered, "You never knew when to shut up. I can't believe that you really are as gullible as she is."
Kate's mouth opened several times as it sank in what he'd just told her, "She actually believes I was abducted by Moore."
He started to laugh obviously enjoying himself.
Kate stared at him for several minutes before she sat on the bed again, "Go to hell."
He laughed again, "Sophie, you have no way out of this. I will get you handed over to my security team and an accident will happen."
As he left Kate dropped her head trying very hard not to let him get to her and losing the battle.
"Captain, please let me talk to her," Tim pleaded as he watched Kate with her head in her hands.
"No," Bridger replied sharply.
Tim sighed, he was about to argue when his captain touched his shoulder.
"You can't be involved in this," Bridger told him, "I won't risk your career."
"It's my career," Tim reminded him.
Bridger shook his head, "Tim, I need you to trust me. Okay?"
He sighed and nodded, "I do trust you, sir but I've never seen Kate like this."
"I need you on the bridge," the Captain told him, "I need you to be seen on the bridge for the next several hours. Alright?"
Tim nodded reluctantly leaving the ward room finding Miguel waiting for him.
"Come on," his friend said clapping Tim's shoulder.
Looking back at the screen showing Kate one last time he headed away hoping that the captain would keep his promise and somehow fix this.
Nathan watched his communications officer leave and wished he had a way to make this all go away. He'd only ever seen Kate look this vulnerable once before and hated seeing her like this. She'd always caused trouble but Nathan was used to her being annoyingly smug not defeated.
There were days he wondered what he'd been thinking introducing Tim O'Neill, straight-laced and model officer, to Kate King the self-confessed thief, liar and con-artist but in many ways it had actually been good for him. Tim had become more self-assured while somehow managing to be a positive influence on Kate at the same time. Nathan would never admit it to Kate but he did care about her as much as she drove him crazy and he was not letting this destroy her.
Leaving the ward room Nathan walked to the brig setting his face in a blank expression when he reached the security room.
"Lt?" he asked Brody who was sitting there watching their prisoner.
"She hasn't moved, sir," Brody reported obviously still not happy that Kate's criminal record had been kept from him.
"Senator Kincaid was here," Brody reported.
Nathan nodded he touched the radio, "Lucas, turn it off."
"Yes, sir," came the teenagers voice.
Brody watched him confused.
"Don't ask, Lt," Nathan told him before he stepped into the other room.
"Nathan, I have to leave," Kate said the moment he entered, moving to the bars, "You have to let me go."
"Calm down," he told her.
"I can't," she snapped, "He threatened Tim. I can't be responsible for something happening to him. Please, Nathan I need to leave."
"Dr Westphalen needs to see you to check your injuries," Nathan told her ignoring her pleas, "I'll be sending Dagwood to escort you. I suggest you get comfortable Miss King."
Kate stared at him before nodding, "Thanks for nothing, Nathan."
Sitting on the bed she looked up at him from beneath her eyelashes for a second before laying back to stare at the ceiling.
About an hour later the door opened again and the gentle giant who cleaned the Seaquest stepped inside.
"Hello Dagwood," Kate greeted him softly.
"Hello," he smiled sweetly at her, "Hmm...Captain Bridger told me to escort you."
She nodded and waited for him to open the gate. Once it was open Kate stepped out and waited for Dagwood to start walking.
"Why are you in the brig?"Dagwood asked as they moved through the corridors.
Kate shrugged, "It's a long story, Dagwood."
He gave a slight grimace and continued walking, Kate smiled to herself as she realised the route they were taking through the boat. They were just outside Launch Bay three where the Stinger was berthed.
Thank you, Nathan she thought to herself wincing as their way was blocked suddenly.
"Trying to escape?" Kincaid smirked at her, "My security team will have to stop you."
Dagwood stepped forward, "Kate is with me. I am escorting her."
Kincaid sneered at him, "Get out of my way, Dagger."
Dagwood growled slightly, "I am under Captain's orders. Kate is with me."
As the two security men tried to rush the GELF Dagwood simply caught them and threw the two men away. Kate grabbed one of the guns when it dropped and turned it on Kincaid.
"Come on," he sneered at Kate, "You know you want to shoot me, Sophie. Do it."
Kate glared at him, "You're not worth it."
She stepped into the launch bay and as soon as Dagwood joined her she locked the door. She dropped the gun and entered the security codes before turning to him.
"Dagwood, I need you to give two messages from me," she said, "Can you do that?"
"Dagwood can," he nodded.
Taking his hands she smiled at him, "Tell Captain Bridger I understand."
Dagwood nodded, "You understand."
"And tell Tim," she hesitated not sure what she could possibly say in a few words to let Tim know what he meant to her finally deciding on, "Tell Tim thank you for being my friend and I'll miss him."
Dagwood frowned slightly and repeated the message. Kate stretched up and kissed his cheek, before getting into the small ship.
As she launched Kate whispered a soft goodbye to everyone.
"Tim," Kate's image appeared on the viewscreen, "I can't tell you what you've meant to me and I wish I didn't have to say goodbye like this but we didn't exactly get a chance to talk before I left. I want to be able to tell you that no matter what happened I'm going to fight it but I can't," she paused for a moment, "Kate King has to die. I'm sorry but this is all I can do. Please don't hate me for this because your friendship has been the best thing to ever happen to me. I'm going to miss talking with you and watching old movies. Take care of yourself, Tim. Goodbye."
Tim stared at the frozen picture before turning to the Captain.
"I'm sorry," Bridger told him softly.
"She can't be serious," Tim whispered.
Bridger sighed, "Kate always had an escape plan. She has the contacts to get a completely new identity. By now Kate is gone and I doubt we will ever see her again."
Tim continued to stare at the woman frozen on the screen as the Captain left him alone.
Kate stood in the middle of the small house she used making sure that when she did this she would be declared dead. She knew she didn't have long; her step-father would have people coming after her soon so she had to do this now. Taking out the match she struck it but before she could start the fire the picture sitting on the mantelpiece caught her eye. It was a photo of her and Tim on one of the shore leaves she'd appeared on. The hotel photographer had caught them sitting in the bar laughing both completely relaxed. He'd bought the photo and she knew it was in his quarters onboard the Seaquest, he had no idea she'd asked for a copy as well.
Staring at him Kate shook her head and lit another match. Glancing once more at the photograph and the smiling pair within it Kate brought the match to her lips and blew out the flame.