A/N: Sorry for the long wait again! School is just terrible and this chapter was being difficult. On the bright side, I have completely mapped out this story. There will be a total of forty-five chapters. Hopefully they will be coming your way much quicker than this…
In this chapter, the meeting with Lanski starts out as strained as Michael predicted and has surprising results. Then, Karr experiences more dreadfully human events that cause him to have very unorthodox thoughts…
Also, as a side note here…um…if you've been watching the new Knight Rider series, I'm sure you've seen the latest episode. What have they done to Karr? I'm not sure if I like this change or not. It definitely makes this story un-canon now, but hey, I really don't care.
Warnings and Disclaimer at the beginning.
"How do I look?"
"You look well, Michael. Do you not feel alright?"
"I meant, do I look professional, wise guy, not healthy."
Michael Knight was sitting inside Kitt as they made the slow winding turns around the Knight Estate. He was leaning toward the steering wheel, leaving the actually driving to his mechanical friend, and trying to look over his outfit in the tiny mirror overhead. Devon had warned him that Lanski was a lofty guy, but still valued professional attitude and attire. While Michael was in no real mood to humor Lanski now, he knew bringing out his dusty suit from the back of the closet would probably be his best bet to escape the day with his job.
Kitt was not a very good choice to ask an opinion of, of course. "You weren't specific, Michael," replied the AI, subtly cheeky. "In that matter, you look professional enough."
"Enough?" repeated Michael, half-listening as he adjusted his tie. A tie. He hadn't worn one since his own funeral.
"I would not recommend asking Bonnie for an opinion," said the AI.
Michael scoffed. "Sometimes I hate your sense of humor, Kitt," grouched the man, sitting back. He sighed heavily at his reflection. "Well, I didn't sign up for the job to look fancy, so this is as good as I get."
"Nicely put," said Kitt, wryly.
They drove up a small hill where a small cement drive way curled around a fountain. As they slowly went around the circle, Michael saw just a few yards away from the drive way was a separate cement circle, smaller and filled with a table, two chairs and a person. The beautiful array of trees and flowers around them were pleasing to observe, but Michael was focused solely on the tall man waiting at the separate circle.
The man wore a white suit with a red ascot tucked into his breast pocket. His yellow hair was combed over to one side, giving him a clean cut and a fresh look. His eyes were dark and his lips were thin. He was frail looking and pale, with an almost sick, fake complexion. Nevertheless, he smiled broadly as the TransAm slowed to a stop in front of him and the table. No one else was around.
"Mr. Knight!" exclaimed the man, who Michael knew was Lanski, spreading his arms as though welcoming an old friend. "And KITT! I am so pleased both of you were able to come."
Michael sighed once more before subtly patting the steering wheel and exiting the vehicle. Kitt turned off his engines cautiously.
"Come, sit," said Lanski, moving toward the table and chairs. He smiled and motioned toward the seat on the left side. "I've ordered us some tea and shortbread. Is there anything you would like?"
"Nah, that's all good," replied Michael coolly. He walked over and sat down in the chair. He watched as Lanski did the same. The latter still looked friendly and open.
"Now then," said Lanski, brisk but bright. He smiled at Michael across the table. "Devon has told me he's explain the situation to you, but I feel a one-on-one meeting may be more appropriate. The situation is delicate, so I don't want any misunderstandings between the two of us, Michael. Oh, may I call you Michael?"
"I like that better than Mr. Knight, so sure," replied Michael. He sat back in his chair, trying to appear as much at ease as possible. He had always found it easier to intimidate the business folk that way.
Lanski, however, did not seem put off by Michael's behavior. They chatted aimlessly for a few minutes until their food arrived with one of the waiters. It surprised Michael and Kitt both when Lanski included Kitt into the conversations, as though the AI were sitting with them at the table. The gesture, perhaps during a less bizarre place and time, would have been nice. Now, it was remotely creepy.
"In any matter," Lanski continued after the waiter left, lifting his teacup and waiting for it to cool slightly. "Without beating around the bush any longer; I've come to learn you have found my plans for the AI project to be distasteful. I'm sorry to hear that, Michael."
While the man remained outwardly friendly, Michael tensed at the sudden business-like attitude Lanski emitted. "Oh, you mean the project that would lend Kitt's AI science to the military?" asked Michael, feeling defensive. Yeah. He had been a bit put off by the idea. So had Kitt.
"If you'd prefer to say it that way," said Lanski with apparent disappointment. "All I mean to do is adapt the AI to suit the needs of the army—for defensive purposes only!" he added quickly, smiling as though he had caught Michael before he had a chance to complain. "I am well aware of my uncle's wishes, Michael. I would never wish to use his technology as offensive weaponry in the military. That would be a waste of his genius."
Michael's frown darkened. "I'm sure you've thought it out in your neat little planning, but did you remember to include the possibility that the Wilton's technology can be hacked and altered?" he asked, sitting up properly.
Lanski paused only minutely over his tea. "As you and Kitt have found out from experience, I'm told," he said conversationally before taking a sip.
Michael hesitated and instantly felt angry. Lanski was referring to several occasions. Kitt's CPU was a complicated thing, but some advanced science geeks like , could use it against them both. Those moments weren't the highlights of he and Kitt's relationship, but they certainly made their bond stronger. It pained Michael, however, to realize that there were some things he couldn't help his buddy in—or protect him from.
"Those were rare instances," Michael replied stiffly. "But it does support my point. This is intense technology, but it's not infallible to tampering."
"That I am well aware of. We will have multiple fail-safes in place just on the off chance someone does tamper with the AIs." Lanski laughed and wave his hand in a dismissive gesture at the younger man. "Please, Michael, I am no fool! I've calculated all those little factors and more and frankly, this project still looks very bright. The Board is very supportive of it. We need to iron out the finer details in our next meeting with the CSA."
So, it was a definite, yet. Relief momentarily filled Michael's gut. Maybe they could get out it. "So you're going to use Kitt's brain to make a new line of defensive-weapons," he said, assuming the role of offense instead of defense. He leaned closer to the table, meeting Lanski's gaze. "Don't you think you're overstepping your bounds a bit, Mr. Lanski?"
"How so, Michael?" asked Lanski, sounding honestly confused.
"Wilton never wanted a military program," snapped Michael, motioning angrily with his hand. "It beats everything he ever said about violence."
"My uncle was a hypocrite in that area," replied Lanski coolly. He glanced over at Kitt and then back at Michael. "He vouched for non-violence and yet sent a lone man with a very much dangerous weapon on the streets to physically catch criminals. That, my dear sir, is violence and not truly even legal at that!"
Michael hesitated, insulted as well as shocked. "Kitt and I save people's lives!" he said, pointing at Kitt. He leaned closer to the table, his voice lowering, but his glare never wavering. "I'm sorry if we don't just sit around eating cake and tea all day while the bad guys get away. We'd rather we out there saving lives and stopping criminals from getting away with the things the cops can't always stop!"
"A man with that sort of agenda is something the police consider a vigilante," replied Lanski calmly. His eyes grew darker, however, as they met Michael's glare with ease. "And that, my boy, is not a legal enterprise."
Now, Michael felt threatened. He stared at Lanski, ready to throttle the man. "FLAG has a contract with the government," he began.
"Nothing that includes sending a legally-dead ex-police officer after possibly-innocent-until-proven-guilty citizens, I assure you," countered Lanski.
"Mr. Lanski," began Kitt suddenly. The two humans jumped and looked at him, surprised. He sounded calm. "As much as your observation makes sense in legal terms, Michael and I are well aware of Wilton Knight's wishes to avoid violence. We use the least amount of violence as possible while apprehending criminals and by moving as efficiently as we do, we avoid the causalities that may have resulted if we had not stepped in when we did."
Lanski stared at Kitt blankly, who sat in similar silence. Michael glanced between the two, internally wary.
"Kitt, I must ask you," began Lanski, staring the AI straightly. His eyes seemed pinned on Kitt's scanner. "How do you feel about the purpose you are currently serving for FLAG?"
Michael frowned and Kitt probably would have too if he had a face. "I'm sorry," said the AI, sounding perplexed. "I am afraid I don't understand. What do you mean, Mr. Lanski?"
"I mean, how you like being used as a weapon against crime," replied Lanski, chuckling. "It is in your programming to avoid harming human life and yet you are used in a manner that contradicts that."
If Kitt could shrug, Michael imagined him doing it now. "As I mentioned before, we attempt to limit our actions against the criminals we face," he said simply.
"Still. Your technology in the hands of a child could prove deadly. That's quite a risk," said Lanski, a friendly-like warning coloring his voice.
"Frankly, sir, I'm a car," replied Kitt without a hitch, though still polite. "All vehicles are deadly weapons in the hands of any person."
Michael smirked. "And a radio would not be a good choice as a partner for me in the long run," he said, remembering the one time his friend had lost his vehicle body.
Kitt sighed. "Right, Michael," he said.
Lanski stared at Kitt, continuing to ignore Michael entirely, with a thoughtful expression. Michael settled back in his seat, watching the scene unfold, but knowing it wasn't his place to interrupt now. Kitt could obviously handle this on the same eloquent level Lanski put out.
Lanski tapped on the table top with two fingers absently. "How do you like working with humans?" he asked after a moment.
"I find them quite pleasant," replied the AI. "Especially Michael." The said human beamed at his partner, happy and smug.
"So, you find no issues with your driver?" asked Lanski directly, almost business-like.
"Of course not," said Kitt. "Michael is an excellent partner and I enjoy the fact we are able to work together. I could not imagine myself working with anyone else. We are…partners."
Lanski nodded. "I see."
Michael, despite his previous feelings of dread, felt immensely happy. He had known Kitt would have defended his character before, but to hear it was nice. Kitt was the closest thing he had to a brother and a definite best friend. Kitt, as he could gauge over the years, felt the same. The two were a family when it was too dangerous for either to attempt to have one.
Lanski, after pouring himself another cup of tea, looked thoughtful as he stirred two sugar cubes into the dark liquid.
"How do you feel about your current purpose?" asked the chairman.
"My purpose?" repeated Kitt, unsure. Michael turned and gave the other man a similar look of uncertainty.
"To serve FLAG, assist Michael to catch criminals…you know," he said lightly, taking another sip from his tea.
"I enjoy very much helping FLAG and Michael," replied Kitt calmly. "To so was my original purpose, and even now, I am content continuing to do so."
Lanski paused minutely. "That's…very good, Kitt," he said. He sounded stiff.
Michael eyed him before looking back over at Kitt, seemingly at ease. This conversation was strange, considering he wasn't even really included in it, but he wasn't complaining. Whatever Lanski had been planning to do with this conversation, whether to butter them both up to agreeing with him, wasn't working. Kitt sat in his spot, inanimate to unknowing eyes, but Michael could see from the scanner on the front of his grill that the AI was intend well aware of the situation and the conversation. Yeah, he had this in the bag.
"Kitt, how do you feel about my idea?" Lanski asked abruptly. "To create defensive military drones?"
Kitt hesitated, taken by surprise as much as Michael was by the question. "I…am uncomfortable with the idea that the technology inside me could be used in a potentially dangerous manner," he replied carefully. "However, as you said, if fail safes are put in place and constant monitoring of these devices are held, I don't think the idea is too obscene."
Michael stared at his partner in surprise. He had thought the AI was opposed to the idea completely. Then again, Kitt followed logic. Logic did dictate that this could work…Michael frowned. He would have rather not risked it, though.
"Very good, Kitt," replied Lanski, beaming at the car. He turned and gave Michael the same cheerful look. "See, Michael? Even Kitt agrees with me."
"I severely hope that you keep to your word, Mr. Lanski," added Kitt, his scanner moving slower than before. "Michael is very right about the threats that would follow your plans."
Lanski turned and gave the AI a small smile. "I'm true to my word, Kitt. We won't be heading into this blind."
That was supposed to be reassuring, but Michael felt nothing but apprehension as he looked at Lanski, who was pleasantly ignoring him. After nearly ten years of working with the world's most dangerous criminals, Michael had picked up the talent of reading people extraordinarily well. Lanski…he seemed fake. But there was no way to bring it up or prove it. Lanski had constructed a well thought image of himself that demanded trust. Michael and Kitt, however, weren't buying it.
"Well, I must say, it's been a lot of fun meeting with you gentlemen, but I have much to get to back in the office," announced Lanski suddenly. He smiled up at Michael. "I thank you both again for stopping up here. I hope to run into you two again at some point."
Something was off. "Wait, so, when do you want to have this inspection?" Michael asked, forcing himself not to sound as edgy as he was feeling. Kitt sat silently, also anticipating an answer.
Lanski took a final sip of his tea, pausing. He lowered the cup and smiled at the other man, quite amused. "Why, that was it, Mr. Knight," he said.
Micahel froze. He looked at Kitt, who was as still and silent as any regular car, and then back at Lanski. He could not hide the wary and suspicious expression on his face. "What?" he demanded.
"We're finished with the inspection," Lanski replied calmly.
"That was it?" Michael asked. He sat up, angry. "You call us down for some tea and sandwiches and call that an inspection? What are you playing at?"
"I'm not playing any type of game, Mr. Knight," Lanski sighed. He placed his porcelain cup on its saucer and smiled wanly at Michael. "You've answered all my questions and that's all I needed. After all, I wanted to inspect Kitt's mind."
"His CPU," Michael said, blunt.
"All the same," Lanski replied cheerfully. "In any case, one does not need to dismantle a brain in order to figure out how someone thinks. Talking works just fine, don't you think?"
Michael stared at the richly dressed man, at his white suit, black shiny shoes and red paisley tie, thoroughly disgusted. He didn't even bother to hide it in his expression. A tense minute passed and Michael felt his blood boil as he gazed hard at the blatantly cheerful man.
Then, abruptly, Michael stood up, pushing his chair back, which screeched in protest on the cement floor, while Michael himself said nothing. He marched to Kitt's side, where the door was already open. He got in and before the door was even shut, they backed up onto the grass, turned around sharply and picked up speed as they shot down the path towards the parking lot.
The car was beginning to look like a car. That was a noteworthy achievement, Karr acknowledged, considering it had only been a stripped block of metal on wheels only a week earlier.
Micky was a quick but meticulous worker. Within the first two weeks, after getting the most important parts from Karr's original wreckage, he and Bridget had started to strip the new body completely of not working or unnecessary pieces. They had kept Karr's original engine, which surprisingly still worked, because it was more suited to handle the AI's needs.
Now came the interesting challenge of putting his old body together with the new one.
Bridget's sole function there was to do what Micky told her to do and to keep Karr in high spirits (or to attempt to do so, anyway.) She had limited knowledge of mechanics, and as much as that drove Karr crazy over her worthlessness there, he was content with the knowledge that she wasn't the one putting him together.
It was the end of May now and Bridget and Micky were almost finished with school. That was a good thing. That meant that they wouldn't waste eight hours every day elsewhere when they could be in that garage. Every morning, Bridget walked all the way up to Micky's house, just to check in on Karr. She had to hitch a ride with Micky into school with his parents, but she claimed it was worth it.
It wasn't as though Karr minded being alone in the garage for the majority of the day. It wasn't too unlike Bridget's room. After seven years of the same four walls, the change was welcome. Even then, Karr felt more at ease when one of the two children were there. Micky's father had already cast a wary eye the AI's way earlier in the week, so it was mildly reassuring to have the two humans Karr did theoretically trust watching his back.
Not that he'd ever tell them that, of course.
Micky worked, as usual, without pay or thanks. Even after Bridget went home, some nights the boy would spend an extra hour or two peering over the blueprints. He too had gotten into the habit of bidding the AI goodnight. He wasn't as insistent as Bridget, so Karr didn't mind it. It reminded him of his days trapped in Bridget's room, so when the garage lights were turned off, Karr simply went into stasis and ignored the boy.
It was just a few days before Bridget and Micky's junior year ended—a Saturday. The two were over bright and early, getting to work. Bridget was handling the cosmetics, which was the only thing she was suited to do, according to Karr. She was re-upholstering the new seats with faux-leather. She had already washed down the new vehicle body and windows. She had borrowed the Lealand's portable vacuum and swept up all the dirt and debris inside until Karr was satisfied. He was more focused on what Micky was doing with his engine and carburetor, but was still a little interested in how his appearance would hold up.
"I can't wait 'til I get out of school," sang Bridget as she worked in front of the car and Karr. "And get to drive my awesome new car!"
"I'm not yours," grumbled Karr. No matter how many times he said it, she ignored him. He had a feeling she was just being silly, but it was still irksome.
The kids worked the rest of the day, as usual, without much conversation in between. Bridget transformed the seats into rather clean and elegant looking things. Micky was almost done hooking the engine up with the new car, though nothing would be functional for a long time. There were many little things that had to be included. Karr gave his input when necessary, but felt overly tired that day. It was difficult to stay focused as well as add the conversations, if any arrose. Bridget seemed to pick up on that easily and kept quiet; Karr enjoyed every moment of that.
At seven, the kids called it quits. Bridget's mother would be just arriving home to cook dinner and Bridget had pushed her luck enough with her disappearing acts not to miss greeting her mother. Micky had his own family to handle and Karr would be left alone in the dark. He didn't mind it in the least; he needed all the rest he could get lately.
As Micky covered the new car and the remains of the old one up with the blue tarp, Bridget was gathering her things. She stood in front of Karr as she did so, humming quietly. Karr didn't pay her much attention. She would generally just walk off and leave through the garage doors. Micky would turn off the lights and enter the house through the door on the side wall.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Bridget said, adjusting her jacket.
Karr said nothing, as usual. It was how they communicated. Karr did not have to say anything back to that comment. Bridget was used to it as well. She bore the brunt of verbal communications between the two of them. He didn't need to do anything except lis—
Something touched the table he was resting on. Karr's sensors flared to life, having just been turned down in anticipation for stasis. Instead of some stranger, Karr was surprised to see his owner standing over him. Hadn't she just said goodbye? What did she want now? Before Karr could ask her or snap at her for lingering, Bridget leaned forward and did something that caused his processor to skip.
She kissed the top of his CPU.
She pulled away slowly and smiled. Karr's responses were frozen with shock.
"Goodnight, Karr," Bridget said softly. She smiled.
Karr only stared back. He was not sure about the various emotions humans could experience, but he was quite certain he was feeling one of them: absolute horror.
Taking no note of his silence, Bridget picked up her purse and with her back to the worktable, she walked out of the garage. She pulled down the heavy door and that was the last of Bridget that Karr saw for the night.
He stared at door without really thinking anything.
What, he began mentally, feeling cold all over his circuits, was that?
He knew what it literally was; it was a kiss, a symbol of physical affection displayed between friends, family and mates. He had seen Bridget kiss her mother and brother before, often before going to bed, or if they were going on a trip of some sort.
But he wasn't her mother, or her brother.
He was Karr.
That idiot! he hissed internally, anger filling his processor instantaneously. Bridget was obviously doing that on purpose, to short out his processor. It wasn't the first time. She once made him a stocking for that ridiculous human holiday, Christmas, and laughed about it when Karr yelled at her. She had decorated him for Halloween twice, earning similar reactions. She would laugh at his expense. It was all just a joke to her.
And it did frazzle his processor. He sat on the table, unable to express his frustration or drive after the brat to run her over. That would show her, after making a fool out of him. No one made a fool out of him—not Karr!
Then, to the right, he heard another noise: footsteps. Then he noticed human breathing. His sensors re-focused on the new entity and he realized Micky was standing by the door that led into the house. Karr was beginning to get angry. What was with these kids? Didn't they ever leave when they said they would?
Micky made no effort to see if Karr was noticing him. He stared at the AI, thoughtfully. For a moment, Karr wondered if the boy was simply in one of his "modes" where he was completely detached from reality and thrown into his own realm of thinking. That might be a good thing; perhaps he was figuring out some last minute problem.
Then, Micky smiled. Karr's hope of the boy working on his problems plummeted. Oh, how he hated humans…!
"You should have thanked her, Karr," said Micky suddenly, his voice echoing across the garage, surprisingly Karr a little. He sounded bemused.
Keeping his vocalizer shut, Karr pretended to be in stasis.
"She's going to miss you, you know," the boy said.
Karr said nothing.
Micky smiled and turned off the light. "Just thought you should know," he said calmly. "Well, goodnight." He shut the door and the room was filled with inky black night and troubled thoughts.
Emotion. So alien, but so common now. Ever since meeting Bridget, Karr had begun to feel things he never felt before and he didn't like it. It was too unlike his old self, too much like…like a human. He wasn't human. He wasn't even humane.
Hate was something he was comfortable with. He had first felt it after meeting his twin, that aggravating Knight Industries Two Thousand. He hated the other AI and all those who tried to attack Karr. They had caused everything, including his domestic prison with Bridget. He hated them. Oh, how he hated them. Hate felt right. It felt natural. It was the only emotion he could tolerate, so as he sat there trying to compute what had happened, it felt right to hate. Hate her, Bridget.
I hate her, he seethed to no one. If he had limbs, he would have been beating everything in sight. I hate her, I hate her, I hate her!
He didn't even know if it were true. She didn't do anything wrong, did she?
She's an annoyance! Karr snapped bitterly to himself. A weakling, a hindrance, a human!
But did that deserve hate?
His processor churned wildly as he tried to reason with himself. It didn't logically make sense to hate her. But he did. He felt a sensation that felt like hate. It had to be hate. He hated her.
Emotion did not compute with any of his core programming. He was a computer. Computers did not feel. That was logic he could get a grasp of. KITT never felt, KARR never felt. Whatever he "felt" was not real. A ghost in his programming. Perhaps a virus or a technical glitch. He felt nothing.
But what was that burning at the back of his processor, that constantly re-routed his focuses back to it every time Bridget did something stupid or get herself into pathetic situations? He was not programmed like his brother, who had the program that insisted the protection of human life. Karr had nothing like that. So what was it?
Or something else?
"I don't know," he said quietly out loud. To speak even though no one was there was calming. To hear his own voice made his processor slow slightly.
He didn't know.
1. Isn't Lanski such a creep? :D He'll get worse, I swear. Ironically, he raised a good point, I just realized. Um. Does FLAG have special connections to the FBI or something? Because if not, Michael is totally a vigilante. XD Whoops.
2. CSA stands for "Chief of Staff of the United States Army" - an administrative position and has no operational command authority over United States army forces. Wikipedia it for more information.
kissing Karr is NOT supposed to signify anything romantic. XD Dear God, no. Bridget just cares a lot about him. It's no different than her kissing a sibling or a close relative. As for poor Karr, he has no idea what to make of that. LOL.