|A Leap for a Knight
Author: lucidscreamer PM
In order to stop an old enemy from destroying FLAG and changing the future, including Project Quantum Leap, Sam Beckett leaps into Michael Knight in the year 1986. With Al out of reach, Sam and KITT must trust each other to save the day.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Friendship - & KITT - Chapters: 2 - Words: 31,800 - Reviews: 91 - Favs: 35 - Follows: 41 - Updated: 11-05-10 - Published: 01-23-03 - id: 1195378
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Crystal Swan Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada
September 24, 1986
Sam stared at the man KITT had assured him was Jennifer Knight's personal assistant, Jeremy. "What do you mean, you don't know where she is?"
"I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Knight," Jeremy said, fidgeting with the ballpoint pen in his hand. He clicked it absently as he spoke. "Ms. Knight did not inform me of her itinerary."
Something about the man - the way his eyes shifted away from Sam's, the nervous way he couldn't stop fiddling with his pen - set off Sam's internal alarm bells. He raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that unusual? You are her assistant, after all. Shouldn't you always be aware of her schedule?"
"As I understand it, sir, Ms. Knight's return to Las Vegas was on the spur of the moment." When Sam nodded, the assistant continued. "Perhaps she did not have time to update me about her plans."
Sam didn't buy it for an instant. Something fishy was going on and this guy was in it up to his slicked back hair-cut. Sam was sure of it. But all he said was, "Keep me informed. I want to know the minute you hear from her."
"Of course, Mr. Knight."
With a parting nod, Sam left the hotel and headed for the parking structure where he had left KITT. As he hurried across the expansive lobby, past the central fountain with the glass swan sculptures catching the light from the atrium and painting the floor with rainbows, he had the feeling he was being watched. He could sense a malevolent stare burning a hole between his shoulder blades. Trying to be unobtrusive about it, he darted a look around the crowded space. The lobby teemed with tourists and conference-goers. If any of them wished him ill, Sam failed to spot it.
Outside, the sun was starting to set, throwing the neon lights of the strip into glorious relief as the sky darkened. Sam settled behind KITT's steering yoke, his mind still preoccupied with his unsatisfying conversation with Jennifer's assistant.
"He was lying." KITT voiced the opinion without preamble, startling Sam from his musings.
"Ms. Knight's executive assistant," KITT clarified. "I was monitoring your conversation via the commlink, as you requested, and the man was obviously lying." A section of the complicated dashboard lit up, along with one of the video monitors. "As my voice-stress analyzer clearly shows."
Sam nodded. "I agree. The question is, why was he lying? Did Jennifer order him to do it to buy herself some time at the conference? Or is he working for the bad guys?"
"Yes, that is the question." A pause, then the vox box flashed again. "Any suggestions on finding out the answer?"
"Just one," Sam said. "We're going to keep a very close eye on our new friend. And hope he leads us to some of those answers."
As plans went, it wasn't much. But it was all they had. KITT located the rental car registered to Jennifer's assistant and instructed Sam on how to plant a small tracking device underneath the rental car's bumper. Then they settled down to wait.
At Sam's request, KITT was monitoring the parked rental car, and had also tapped into the hotel's closed-circuit security cameras so that they could keep an eye on the rooms in use by the conference delegates, as well as what they deemed pertinent corridors and the hotel lobby. KITT was also keeping an electronic 'ear' tuned for any phone calls their suspect might make or receive. If there was one thing computers were well-suited for, Sam reflected gratefully, it was multi-tasking. "Anything suspicious?"
"Nothing, yet." The car's cabin was hushed except for the quiet hum of KITT's systems. "Sam…?"
"Is Michael really all right?"
Touched by the genuine worry in the artificial voice, Sam reached out to pat the dashboard in front of him. "I'm sure he's okay. Don't worry. My friend Al will take good care of Michael - and he'll be home before you know it."
"I hope so. No offense, but I would like my real partner back."
"I understand. I'm sure he's just as anxious to get back to you." Sam gave the dash a final pat and leaned back in the driver's seat. It fit his borrowed body as if it made for him. It occurred to him that such might be the case. "How did the two of you end up as partners, anyway?"
"It's a long story."
"I'm not going anywhere for awhile."
KITT was silent, as if thinking it over. Then, "All right. It all began with a man named Wilton Knight..."
After KITT had related the story of his creation and partnering with Michael, Sam had a few more questions, this time about the Knight family and Michael's relationship to it. "Tell me about Jennifer Knight. What's her relationship with Michael?"
"It is complicated," KITT said. As he spoke, the screens on the dash came to life. On one side was a photo of Jennifer, on the other a picture of Michael - only, in the photo, Michael sported a mustache and neatly trimmed goatee. There was a hardness to his features, as if that potential for coldness and cruelty had been emphasized to the exclusion of all else. "That's Garthe Knight, Jennifer's brother. Their father was Wilton Knight, the founder of Knight Industries and my creator."
Sam stared at the picture of Garthe. "Why does he look like Michael?"
"It is the other way around, actually. Michael's face was surgically reconstructed to look like Garthe's." There was a brief pause, during which the lights on the dash jumped erratically, before KITT continued. "It was my creator's choice. I do not understand why he felt it necessary to make Michael into a replica of his son, especially given the estranged relationship between them."
"I do not have a great deal of data on the interpersonal dynamics of the Knight family. I came online shortly before my creator's death, and by that point, Garthe was serving what everyone expected would be a life-sentence in an African prison, and Jennifer Knight was in Washington DC, acting as a lobbyist for the Foundation's interests. I never actually saw any of them together."
"She seems to have a lot of anger toward Michael... or, maybe, it's directed at Garthe," Sam said, carding his fingers through his hair as he thought it through.
"That is highly probable. It is my understanding that Garthe was much closer to their mother, Elizabeth, while Ms. Knight had a stronger relationship with their father. Such a division is likely to have caused problems between brother and sister."
"Yes. Divided family loyalties..." Sam huffed wearily, and slouched back in the driver's seat. "She told me that Michael's resemblance to Garthe is a major source of the friction between them. The two of them really need to sit down and talk about that. Among other things."
"It was not Michael's decision to take on Garthe Knight's appearance," KITT said, sounding defensive on Michael's behalf. "He was not even aware of Garthe's existence until much later, when Garthe tried to kill him."
Sam's eyebrows shot up. "This Garthe sounds like a real piece of work. No wonder Jennifer doesn't get along with him." Something else occurred to him. "KITT, could Garthe be somehow involved with Devon's disappearance? If he resented his father - and Jennifer - that much..."
"To the best of my knowledge, Garthe Knight is dead."
Oh. So much for that idea, then. Sam slumped lower in his seat, but that put too much pressure on his bruised ribs, so he straightened almost immediately with a pained grimace. "Ow."
One segment of the dash flickered, as KITT actively scanned him. "You should have let Dr. Alpert tape your ribs. They are still troubling you."
"Yeah, a bit." Sam pressed a hand to his ribcage until the muscles ceased to spasm. "When Michael gets back, you make sure he really does take that vacation. The man needs time to heal."
"I'll make certain of it," KITT said, and while his voice was artificial, the resolve in it was not.
September 24, 1986
Jennifer woke with a gasp, pulling a deep breath into her lungs and then coughing as she choked on it. Her head ached, her eyelids felt gummy, and her mouth tasted as if something small and furry had crawled into it and set up housekeeping. Her stomach did a slow roll as she struggled upright and she had to still, waiting for the nausea to pass. She panted, willing her body to co-operate and, when her insides had settled, took a look at her new surroundings.
She found herself in a dingy room little bigger than one of her walk-in closets, furnished with a narrow cot, dusty drapes the color of mildew, and nothing else. The single window, when she staggered over and tried to open it, refused to budge. A hasty inspection revealed that decades of paint had glued the window to its frame. Fresh nails, heads still shiny, were a recent addition. There was nothing in the room that she could use to break the glass. Whoever her captors were, they had made certain she couldn't use the window as an escape route.
Giving up on the window, she slumped against the sill and peered out at the landscape barely visible through the smudged glass. Darkness shrouded a barren stretch of sand, rock, and straggly scrub. It didn't appear promising, even if she could find a way to get outside. She could only hope that Michael and KITT would find her soon. A part of her, the part not occupied with keeping her panic at bay, hated how easily she accepted that Michael would find her. Without realizing it, she had come to trust him more than she would have ever believed possible a year realization made her pause. How much of her remaining antagonism toward him was really about Michael and how much was left over resentment over her father's actions? How much was more about Garthe than Michael?
Turning from the window, she next tried the door. As expected, it was locked from the outside. The closet held nothing, not even a stray clothes hanger and the wooden pole was wedged in too tightly for her to break loose. The only thing under the cot was a dustbunny the size of a small dog. Housekeeping was obviously not a priority for whoever owned the house. Discouraged, she sank back onto the cot's thin mattress and massaged her throbbing temples as she tried to think past the pain and disorientation.
Who had taken her? Why? What did they want from her? Was this a kidnapping for ransom or leverage with the Foundation? Maybe it really was all about the conference, after all. But if they, whoever 'they' were, only wanted her out of the way, why kidnap Devon as well? And why lure her back to Las Vegas when she was already safely out of the way in LA?
So many questions and she had the answers to none of them. Frustration added itself to the uneasy mix of discomfort and anxiety roiling inside her stomach. She was worried sick about Devon and, if she were honest, terrified for her own safety. This time, she had only herself to blame and she knew it. She should never have left Los Angeles without at least telling Michael her plans. Had anyone missed her by now? Bonnie Barstow knew that Jennifer planned to rejoin the conference at the Crystal Swan. Surely, she would have informed Michael. And if they had called the hotel, as they would, then they would know that Jennifer had never checked back into her suite. Right? Jeremy would tell them-
But, wait. Jeremy had betrayed her. He was aiding whoever had kidnapped her. If Michael questioned him, what would Jeremy tell him? Nothing that would help her, she was sure.
Feeling closer to tears than she had when she had first awakened, Jennifer pulled her knees to her chest and hugged them tight. All she could do now was pray for a miracle.
Crystal Swan Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada
September 24, 1986
"I believe I may have something."
KITT's quiet announcement startled Sam out of a light doze. He jumped guiltily in his seat, ashamed that he had literally fallen asleep at the wheel, even if the car wasn't in motion. But he hadn't had a decent night's sleep since Leaping in, and it was only natural that his fatigue should be catching up with him. He winced as he straightened in the driver's seat. As comfortable as it was, the seat was still no substitute for a real bed, and Michael's body was still feeling the effects of the beating he had taken on his previous assignment.
"What is it, KITT?" he asked around a yawn that dissolved into a groan as every muscle in his torso objected to leaving the reclined position.
"Are you all right, Sam?"
"Yeah. Just a little stiff and sore. Sitting like this isn't helping. I could use some aspirin."
"Here." A black dispenser tray slid out of a hitherto unnoticed slot on the dash. In it rested a air of familiar white pills, which Sam retrieved with a relieved sigh.
"Thanks." He dry-swallowed the aspirin, pulling a face at the taste. "Now, you said you found something?"
"Ms. Knight's personal assistant just received a telephone call. I recorded it and am attempting to run a trace. Also, he appears to be leaving the hotel in something of a rush." As the computer spoke, it displayed the relevant video, snagged from the hotel's closed-circuit security cameras, on one of the dashboard monitors. The other monitor showed an image of Jeremy's rental car in its slot in the hotel's parking garage.
As Sam watched, Jeremy hurried from the elevator onto the upper level of the parking structure and almost ran to his car. He fumbled the keys and had to kneel to fish them out from underneath the car. Sam didn't need to read lips to know that the man was cursing his clumsiness as he finally stabbed the key into the lock and got the car door open.
"He's not a happy camper, is he? I wonder why." Sam started his own car and put it into gear. "Any luck tracing that call?"
"No luck on the trace, I'm afraid. The call was too short. However, the caller's voice print is a match for the unknown female who phoned Ms. Knight. Even the electronic distortion is the same."
That raised Sam's eyebrows. "Why would she be using the distortion if Jeremy is working for her?"
"Perhaps he is unaware of her identity," KITT suggested. "Or it may be a precaution against eavesdroppers, like us."
"Either option points to a pretty high degree of paranoia. With any luck, Jeremy will lead us to Jennifer before whoever took her does something we'll all regret."
"Do you think this same person or persons may also have kidnapped Mr. Miles?"
In a way, Sam found himself hoping that was the case. That way, if they found one of their missing people, they would also find the other. He didn't like to think of either of them in the hands of someon who was so demonstrably unstable. It was worrying and the sooner they found both Devon and Jennifer, the better.
"We'll find out soon enough." He eased up on the brakes and let the sleek black car drift out of its hiding place, trailing a good distance behind the other vehicle. "Here's hoping he leads us to Jennifer and Devon."
"If I had fingers," KITT said, "I'd cross them all."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Sam laughed.
September 24, 1986
When the door creaked open without warning, Devon looked up from contemplating the dingy flooring beneath his bare feet. One of Elizabeth's goons lumbered into his cell. This was a henchman he had not seen before, a towering bear of a man with a linebacker's shoulders and a black uni-brow that stretched from one side of his broad forehead to the other. The heavy brow overshadowed beady eyes that fixed a look of bored disdain on Devon.
"You're wanted upstairs." The goon's voice was surprisingly refined, at odds with his brutish appearance. "Your trip can be pleasant or not. It's up to you."
Choosing the 'pleasant' option, Devon shoved himself to his feet and allowed the goon to escort him up to the living room. He was shocked to find that the woman awaiting him - under the watchful eyes of yet another gun-carrying thug - was not Elizabeth but another Knight entirely.
"Uncle Devon!" Ignoring the goons, Jennifer rushed into his arms. "Oh, I've been so worried about you. I was so afraid that- But you're alive!" Her arms tightened around him for a moment before she stepped back to eye him critically. "Are you all right?"
Devon scrubbed a palm over his cheeks, knowing what she saw when she looked at him: yellowing bruises beneath the beard stubble, unkempt hair and clothing. He managed a reassuring smile despite it all. "It looks worse than it is. But, my dear girl, what are you doing here? Didn't Michael return you to the estate as planned?"
"He did exactly what he was supposed to do. This is all my fault." She smoothed her hands over her rumpled skirt and sighed. "I... I just couldn't sit idly by and let all the Foundation's hard-won progress at the conference come to nothing. So I came back to Las Vegas without Michael." She grimaced. "You can see how well that worked out."
"You came back because of the conference? Jennifer, I told you, nothing is more important than your safety."
"I know, and I'm sorry! I was told that someone was maneuvering behind the scenes at the conference to undermine the Foundation's efforts. I just couldn't take the chance that more than a year's worth of effort would-" She sighed. "Of course, it may have all been nothing more than a ruse to get me back here."
"Perhaps not." Devon pondered the implications. "If your mother is determined to destroy everything that Wilton created, then anything the Foundation is involved in would be a target. The conference would be irresistible to her."
Jennifer paled at the mention of her parents' names. "My mother? Devon... Are you saying that my mother is behind everything that's happening?"
"You didn't know?" He felt a rush of guilt and sympathy. "Forgive me, my dear. I would have broken the news more gently had I realized."
There was, he reflected, no good way to tell someone that the person who had given birth to them was also the person who had terrorized them and now threatened that same life. Still, he would have tried.
Jennifer was shaking, so he drew her back into a fatherly embrace before leading her over to the battered sofa. "Don't worry, I'm certain that Michael will find us soon."
Biting her lower lip, Jennifer nodded and folded herself into the musty cushions, hugging her knees to her chest. "I hope you're right."
"He's never let me down before." Devon held her hand and prayed that Michael would maintain his unblemished record.