Title: More Than Meets the Eye
Rating: PG (li'l bit of language)
Words: 2400 (gasp, shock!)
A/N: Why are there not fifty bazillion fics crossing these things over? There should be. Michael Knight Ambassador to the Autobots Y/Y I have no beta. If I had a beta I should put them in my basement and feed them on BabyBel cheese and Klondike bars and call them George. Um...Wrote this in a couple of hours instead of my research paper. It tastes of guilt and sleep deprivation. It may suck. But it may not. Please tell me what you think. :)
"I've gotta say, it's nice being back in more familiar territory." If he was driving a normal car, the way he closed his eyes and tilted his face to catch the sunlight would have been very unsafe. "I wasn't built to handle the cold."
"I was, although I admit it is nice to have some strong sunlight again." The car made a tiny adjustment to his distracted driver's trajectory. "But the dust is starting to foul my mechanisms."
Michael Knight grinned and patted the dashboard. "There, there. As soon as I find a mechanic who's willing to rent his garage for an hour or two I'll get you cleaned out." He pressed a finger to his lips in thought. "Now that I think of it, we can even theoretically find a Foundation building and get you worked on over there."
"Please no Foundation facilities, if possible. I don't like the acquisitive way the new techs look at me. It makes me feel like they're going to take me apart just for fun."
"I hear ya there, pal."
"...besides, they're all so YOUNG now. I would swear there's not a one of them I could legally carry without a car seat."
He laughed out loud this time. "Kitt, you aren't much older than that."
"Speaking strictly chronologically; but in terms of life experience I am much more advanced."
Wisely, Michael didn't ask how old this made him. "So, what does your advanced and elderly experience tell you is the most likely place nearby to find a garage for you and some grub for me?"
The dashboard screen lit up with a map. "Mission City, twenty eight miles away."
"Alright then." Michael made the turn faster than was strictly necessary. "Mission City it is."
He was halfway through his overpriced (but quite tasty) steak when his comlink activated. "Michael, come here," his partner's voice said, calm but with an undertone of anxiety. He dropped a pair of twenties on the table and left as quickly as was polite. "What's up, buddy?" he asked quietly, and then he was outside and his car was idling at the curb.
"I'm not sure, but my scanners are picking up some very strange readings." Distant screams were suddenly becoming audible, and the former cop swore as he slid into his seat.
"Were you looking for excitement? I wasn't looking for excitement."
"And yet we always seem to find it anyway," Kitt said. He didn't sound displeased.
They approached the source of the commotion slowly, as increasing numbers of panicked city dwellers streamed in the opposite direction. Michael spotted military hardware in the skies, and Kitt confirmed F-22s and Blackhawks. Several explosions had already rattled through the air, and the fracas seemed to be spreading out; then they really hit the edge of things and had to emergency turbo-boost over a cluster of rubble. The TransAm took control on landing and hydroplaned several yards before stopping. "Michael! That building's integrity is failing, and there's a young woman in the alleyway--"
They were off with a brief screech of tires, sliding into ski mode past a wrecked car and darting into the alley. Kitt slid to a stop and helpfully popped his door as they approached the young woman. Battered and disheveled, with red hair escaping from her helmet, she was desperately trying to pull something out of the wreckage. "Hey!" Michael shouted, dashing to her side with only a slight limp and grabbing her shoulder. "Leave it, the building is about to go!"
"But my bike!" she protested in a strained Southern accent. "All my stuff! I can't--"
"Sorry, sweetheart, but it isn't worth it!" His hand splayed against her narrow back, he propelled her towards the car. "You can dig for it after the immediate crisis is over."
"Then I can have a got-no-more-stuff crisis," she said breathlessly, but allowed herself to be led to the passenger side door. Before they were quite in range an ominous rumble shook the ground.
"Michael, look out!" He obediently hit the deck, yanking the kid down as well, and Kitt covered them with his chassis as best he could. But even molecular-bonded armor could only take so much--
The humans didn't see it, but Kitt's disbelieving sensors had a front-row seat for the energy blasts that diverted the first slab of building from crashing down on his hood, with a black and pewter something following to intercept the next most threatening section and leave the area momentarily safe.
Michael, senses well attuned to the dangerous and unusual, raised his head enough to peer around his partner's wheel. So he as well saw when the something resolved itself into a giant freakin' robot so help me baby Moses, and when the strange shock wave (not physical, not electrical, something else entirely) thrummed through the alley. Michael shuddered convulsively at the unearthly sensation, and worried what it would do to his car. "Kitt?" He army-crawled forward, and the (giant freakin') robot shook off the stillness the wave had granted it and looked at him.
"Heads up, bro," it said, both grim and cheerful, and flung itself away, back toward the center of the commotion.
"Kitt?" His warped sense of humor resurfaced none the worse for wear. "Was it something I ate, or did you just see the giant robot too?"
"Michael..." his partner's voice wavered alarmingly. "Michael, I feel very strange."
"What?" He hauled himself upright, momentarily ignoring the fact that the girl was insubordinately dashing off towards her fallen transport again. "Did that whatever-it-was scramble your circuits? You aren't having memory problems again, are you?"
Kitt's answer was preempted by a startled shriek. Michael whirled around to find his newest rescuee stumbling away from the pile of wreckage as a purple, humanoid robot about seven feet tall stood up. The newcomer made a distressed sound like a motor dying, fell away, and collapsed into a motorcycle. "Chaos?" The redhead said dumbly, and the bike roared away.
Less than a moment of shocked silence passed, then movement at his back caused Michael to instinctively throw himself away. Oh, I'm gonna feel this in the morning, he thought as he hit the ground.
When he looked back, he saw--in place of his partner's familiar sleek form--a black mech near twenty feet tall. "Oh, no," it said in his partner's voice, and raised shaking mechanical hands up to stare at them. "Oh no!"
The robot's head came up and he stumbled against the wall, all knees and elbows like a teenager during his first major growth spurt. "Michael? Michael, help me!" On the head where a human's mouth would be, the familiar red vocalizer bars jumped agitatedly: "I don't like it!"
"Okay, okay. Calm down, buddy." He made an abortive movement towards his friend, stopped by his apparent instability. "Okay. The other one, the kid's bike--it changed to a robot and then back to a bike, right? See if you can do that too."
Kitt shifted uneasily, and Michael was surprised at how natural the body language seemed, like he had always known how the AI would look if he were human--more human. "I wouldn't know where to begin."
"Do I look like the expert here? Just...think 'car'!"
He looked more nervous then ever, but after a few seconds of thinking stillness his body wound and shifted and clanked back into the familiar Knight Industries Two Thousand. Both doors flew open, and Kitt said, "Can we please leave now?"
The girl, backpack and saddlebags in tow, got to the passenger side before he could drag her there, and he slid in with a move so practiced he could do it in his sleep, and had on occasion. "Somewhere safe Kitt, you pick." He couldn't help but think of the chaos and screaming still taking place just a couple of blocks away, but his hand on the dash easily detected a constant tremor that squashed any thoughts of heroics right now. But in the meantime... "Alright, who are you, and why is your motorcycle a robot?"
The girl pulled her helmet off and ran a hand through messy red hair. "I'm Mandy, Amanda Ayers. Chaos isn't a robot, she's just a bike!"
Michael raised his hands slightly with a 'why me?' expression. "Then why, perchance, do you call it 'her' and call her by a name? Is she an AI?"
"No!" Amanda looked defensive and a little embarrassed. "She just...I name inanimate objects. Is this a crime?" She frowned suddenly. "Hey, how come you didn't look too startled to have your car talk to you?"
"Is it?" she said, but looked distracted. Twisting in the passenger seat to retrieve her backpack from the rear, she settled it in her lap and unzipped it. As soon as there was a gap opened something small and spiky leapt from the pack towards Kitt's dash; Michael made a grab for it but she snagged it before he got close.
"Woah, good reflexes!"
With the tiny thing still in her hand, she carefully worked the zipper fully open. "Sally?" she said tentatively. Something metallic and quadrupedal, like a robotic cat, crawled slowly out.
Michael peered at the thing in her fist. "Cellphone?" he hazarded, at the same time realizing that this was completely nuts.
"MP3 player, actually. And laptop." She cleared her throat. "Um, its name is Spaz."
"Of course it is." He eyed her skeptically. "'Chaos' and 'Spaz' I can understand. I deal with finicky technology all the time--"
"I beg your pardon!"
"--but Sally? I know a Sally. Why?"
Mandy scowled at him, cradling the timid mechanical beastie closer. "Why not? And you still haven't explained about the talking car thing."
"We're here," Kitt interrupted. In front of them a door reluctantly began to crawl upwards. Michael grinned and patted the dash in approval
"Good job, pal. Way to kill two birds with one stone."
"I thought so too, only I would use a less violent metaphor."
He chuckled and put the car in park, grabbing one of his passenger's bags and following her out of the car. Once clear, he folded his arms over his chest and looked the TransAm over appraisingly. "Can you try and change again? I didn't see it last time."
"I don't know, Michael." Kitt rocked slightly on his wheels. "I don't think I liked it. I felt so...unstable."
"Well, better to experiment in controlled circumstances, right?" He laid a hand on Kitt's roof lightly. "You don't have to."
Kitt heaved a heavy synthesized sigh. "You'd better move back." They both did, Amanda all the way across the room, and watched the effortlessly intricate process. Out of danger and indoors, it looked even more impossible. He rolled his new shoulders and twisted to inspect the way his doors laid across his back. "It feels so strange," he said wonderingly.
Mandy cleared her throat nervously. "Um, I hate to belabor the point, but what are you? And who are you?"
"My name is Michael Knight, and this is the Knight Industries Two Thousand."
She chewed her lip, eyes wide as she watched Kitt locating his new limbs. "Okay. Did you make it...him?"
"Hardly. Kitt was created by the Foundation for Law and Government--privately owned. I was hired as his driver, and we worked together at the Foundation for several years." Michael rubbed at his wrist, face thoughtful. "Then things started changing. Bonnie left to go be smart at some university, Devon retired...and I had enough."
Amanda stepped slightly closer to him, and he noticed with amusement that she came up barely past his elbow. "They let you take the talking car?"
He snorted. "Well, it wasn't quite as simple as that."
"I wouldn't let him leave without me," Kitt said smugly, and very carefully sat down. Michael laughed.
"That's the important part. They eventually signed his papers over to me, and here we are."
"But, how can you own him?" She looked disquieted by the thought. "He's...he's a sentient being, isn't he?"
"That means 'smarter than you', Michael," Kitt said sotto voice.
Michael smacked the top of his partner's new foot with the flat of his hand. "I know what it means, smartass." He shrugged elaborately at Mandy. "I think of it more like a guardianship. Legally, parents are responsible for their children. I'm responsible for Kitt."
"Speaking of responsible...this dust is really starting to chafe. And I think I have some slipped gears too."
He rolled his eyes in response. "See?" He craned his head to look up as he talked (and wasn't that a novel experience!). "Do whatever it is you do to become a car again. I don't know your differential from your CPU the way you are now."
"Thank you." Kitt complied with the request, and in a second there was a TransAm again sitting in the middle of the floor. Before Michael had a chance to get started, there was an engine rev outside the door. Everyone froze to listen, and after a moment the sound came again.
"Wait a second..." Mandy said thoughtfully, and went to open the door.
"Um, Amanda, that might not be--" he cut himself off as a battered purple motorcycle rolled through the door and then idled sheepishly several feet back from Kitt. The girl gaped soundlessly for several breaths, then went over and kicked the bike's tire.
"Now you come back? Where have you been?!" With a mechanical squeal the bike transformed into bipedal form and scurried backwards. It--she?--was the picture of robotic confusion, not assisted by a sudden blast of music from the biggest machine in the garage.
Ceeelebrate good times, come on! Kool and the Gang urged.
"No, go! Scram! ...Amanda!" Kitt's voice rang out peevishly. "Your squirrel is trying to use me as its own personal speaker system!" So saying, he transformed once more and pinched the skittering MP3-bot between two fingers, looking frazzled. "Michael, I'm sorry, but I don't know if I can take much more of this."
Michael scrubbed a hand through his gray-streaked curls. "I'm getting too old for this," he said ruefully.