"No!" Bonnie said. "Out of the question. Forget about it, Devon."
Her boss looked up at her from behind his desk with just perhaps a bit of humor hiding behind his civilized, patient front. "It's the perfect solution, Bonnie. You need to get cross country to your reunion, but your car is out of commission and is going to need a complete rebuild of the transmission. All spare Foundation vehicles are in use at the moment. Michael also needs to get cross country to a location only 100 miles from yours. You refuse to fly. Therefore, the logical explanation is for you to ride along with him."
Bonnie cringed and wondered again just how much she valued enforcing the warranty at the car dealership. The tow truck had only left the Foundation a few minutes ago; she could still call it back. She could repair her car herself from its early transmission demise, but that would take time, time that she didn't have to spare and still make her class reunion, and the car was far too low mileage for that to be needed anyway. No, the dealership was going to fix her car, free.
"I could rent a car," she insisted. "In fact, I can bill it to the car lot."
Devon's posture stiffened slightly. "I'd take it as a personal favor, Bonnie, if you would do this."
"Why?" She paced a tight circle in Devon's office. "Devon, would you want to drive 1000 miles cross country with him?"
"We are all part of a team," Devon replied, neatly dodging her question. "We will function better as a team the better we get to know each other."
"But why can't we get to know each other at Foundation functions or something? 1000 miles, Devon?"
At that moment, Michael burst into the office behind them. That was how she always thought of it. Brash, bold, and forward, not to mention tall, he always seemed to her to claim a room rather than just enter it, changing the whole atmosphere the second he arrived. "What about 1000 miles?" he asked, overhearing the last comment.
"Bonnie is having some transportation difficulty," Devon replied. "As your next destination is only 100 miles beyond hers and she needs to be there by Monday, she'd appreciate a ride."
"Great!" Michael said with enthusiasm. "KITT and I would love to have her along for the trip." He hit the button on his watch. "KITT, buddy, Bonnie's riding along with us almost all the way to our next stop."
"That will be very pleasant," KITT replied.
"When do we leave?" Michael asked.
Bonnie sighed mentally. She hated this, but she couldn't give an absolute refusal somehow in front of both Michael and Devon, plus the car. "Give me half an hour." She had already been packed already when she had discovered the demise of her car this morning. She just needed to grab a few final things, such as her composure and a good, thick book. Maybe he would let her ignore him for the next few days. Fat chance. With another sigh, she left the office, letting Devon deal with him for a while, and wondered how she was going to survive this trip.
Michael backed KITT out of the parked semi, then deliberately spun into a tight 180 to line them up to head out the Foundation drive. Bonnie cringed and broke her own "just ignore him" strategy in the first seconds of their 1000-mile trip. "Do you have to do that?" she snarled.
Michael grinned over at her, looking like a six-foot-four six-year-old kid. "Saves time. Just think, Bonnie, I probably cut ten seconds off our trip there. So you're that much closer to your goal."
She sighed, then wondered how often she would be doing that this weekend on their road trip. She might well break her lifetime record. "You know, KITT's functions are supposed to be used in emergencies. You don't have to drive like a maniac all the time."
"And KITT and I do use them in emergencies," Michael returned.
"We really do, Bonnie," KITT put in. "Almost all of our use of capabilities beyond a normal car is directly applied on a case."
"Right." She remained skeptical. The car was programmed to serve Michael, after all, and she had noted already that KITT was growing increasingly defensive at any perceived slight of his driver. Just in months, they had bonded so well. She knew the program specifics - she had designed several of them herself. But still, part of her was surprised at how KITT had taken to his driver. The Knight 2000 was designed to obey and protect Michael, not to like him. The liking had to be voluntary.
Voluntary. KITT more and more blurred the bounds between a computer and a sentient being. She was proud and awestruck at the same time, thinking about this car, her greatest lifetime achievement.
An achievement that the nut beside her routinely abused and brought back damaged. "Take the turbo boost, for instance," she said. "KITT's body is designed to withstand the force, but still, repeated turbo boosting can help contribute to some of the slightly misaligned circuits you bring him back with so often."
KITT answered before Michael could start. "Bonnie, my analysis shows that 96% of the times we apply the turbo boost are not frivolous."
Michael shook his head. "Frivolous. Thanks a lot, buddy."
Bonnie wondered briefly if KITT's calculating circuits might be misaligned, though she had gone over him - and fixed a few things - stem to stern just this morning, spending over an hour on it. Still, she seized on the car's answer. "That leaves 4% that are. What do you have to say about those, Michael?"
He grinned at her again, unrepentant. "KITT likes to turbo boost."
"It is most exhilarating, Bonnie," KITT confirmed.
She sighed. Again.
She had to admit later, that first leg of their trip wasn't quite as bad as her worst fears. They had left the Foundation at mid morning, and they made good but not crazy or reckless time. Michael didn't insist on listening to obnoxious music. He did insist on an order that almost gave her sympathy indigestion when they stopped for lunch, and to her annoyance, he caught her look and blatantly, with extra relish, enjoyed his meal in front of her.
But he wasn't as bad a conversationalist as she had anticipated, and KITT was a regular third participant. The book on her lap hadn't yet been opened by the time that the sun was starting its dip toward the horizon. Of all unexpected things, they were currently discussing pets. Michael had asked if she had any when she was growing up, and that led into a joint reminisce of their animal companions when they were kids. She was actually smiling, remembering those days of childhood, which she hadn't spent time mentally revisiting in ages. Work consumed so much of her life these days.
Michael was speaking at the moment. "Then Mom and I had a Labrador-something cross that wandered up when I was 12. Mom used to joke about which one of us ate more."
KITT interrupted. "Michael, my scanners detect screams up ahead. A Jeep appears to have lost its brakes. There are a woman and a child within it."
Michael slammed the gas pedal down, pushing the pursuit button. "Let's go, pal," he urged.
Bonnie sat watching tensely at first as they shot down the road. Gradually, she began to relax at least partially. For the first time, she started to realize just how good of a driver the man in the left seat was in spite of his showiness. She knew that KITT provided some assistance as needed with maneuvering at pursuit speeds, but even so, Michael was handling this run far better than she would have - and furthermore, far better than techs back at Knight Industries had during development and testing. Michael's expression fascinated her. He had come alive. An odd way to think of it, because he normally was so alive already, even annoyingly so. He was never dull to be around. But now, his eyes were intent, focused, and there was a burning drive and purpose to him that she didn't usually see during her lectures to him in the semi.
They rounded a curve, and the Jeep came into view ahead. KITT was closing the ground between like a rocket. Bonnie could make out the forms of the terrified woman driving, fiercely battling the wheel, and the child, about six or seven, frozen into immobility in the rear seat, clinging desperately to the frame bars.
"We should be close enough to microjam their brakes now," Michael said.
"We are," KITT replied, "but my analysis indicates severely worn front tires, especially the right. I am afraid under the stress of a microjam, a tire would blow, and I doubt the driver has the strength to deal with that at this speed, resulting in a rollover. She appears to be quite petite."
"So we go to plan B," Michael said, not missing a beat. "Pop the sunroof."
"What?" Bonnie wasn't sure she'd heard that right. KITT popped the sunroof, and Michael punched auto cruise, then gripped KITT's frame and hoisted himself out. To Bonnie's amazement, he was soon out on KITT's hood, moving forward with careful balance. KITT accelerated slightly, putting his prow mere inches behind the Jeep's bumper.
Bonnie regained speech. "Does he do this often?" she asked incredulously.
"Quite regularly," KITT responded, his tone disapproving. "But I must say, he never does it frivolously."
Bonnie could believe that. Anyone doing this for thrills would have to be suicidal. She wouldn't try it herself for a million dollars, not even partnered with KITT, not even at merely 10 miles an hour, much less their current speed. Michael edged forward and gripped the back of the Jeep, then vaulted lightly in. He worked his way to the front past the stunned child, then held the wheel as the small woman released the controls, willingly accepting any help right now without question, even that appearing magically at her elbow. She slid into the passenger's front, and Bonnie saw Michael raise his left wrist as he settled into the driver's seat. "Now, KITT," he commanded.
KITT's display lit up, and the microjam came on. The Jeep slewed, and then, as predicted, the right front tire blew. For a moment, Bonnie thought they were going to flip, but Michael wrestled the wheel with both hands, defiantly refusing to let control be lost. After a wild and crazy course that KITT followed like an obedient but concerned dog, the Jeep finally came to a stop.
Bonnie let out a breath she hadn't been aware of holding. She opened KITT's door and got out, and as she approached the Jeep, she heard Michael turn to the petite woman next to him. "I'm Michael Knight," he said as if introducing himself at any social function.
The woman shook her head. "I think you must be an angel from heaven," she countered, and Bonnie, hearing the remark, couldn't even frame a mental sarcastic reply at this moment.
"Are you all right?" she said, coming up beside the Jeep.
The little girl in the back was starting to come back to life. "Where did you come from?" she asked Michael. "What happened?"
Michael got out himself, looking accusingly at the Jeep. "That," he said, "is what we're about to find out."