Stranger in Town

For once, Raven was not with Jess, Heather, KITT, or the computer program KARR had been reduced to. She wasn't at the garage, or even at the small duplex the girls were renting. She was sitting in a café fifteen miles from the town they called home and the city where Borden and Drake worked, nursing a Coke and thinking.

There was a lot of thinking to do. She didn't particularly like the idea of moving, but it was something she had grown accustomed to. Even when her family had finally made a home in the sleepy little town she lived in, they still moved from address to address, making it difficult to think of any one building as a home. Still, Raven was reasonably established in this town. She had a job, she took art classes at the local studio whenever she could afford it – heck, she even had good friends. That was rare for her, a luxury.

She would give it up in a heartbeat to protect KITT and KARR. Whether everyone else knew it or not, KARR was involved. Sooner or later, FLAG would learn about KARR's existence. Then the game would change, and if FLAG couldn't have KITT, what would stop them from coming after KARR?

Despite how caustic the AI had been to her the past week, Raven had grown rather fond of him. Then again, they made a good match.

Raven took a long drink of Coke. It was hardest on Jess. She loved her job, had more friends than Raven cared to count, and absolutely could not stand moving, even when it was simply switching addresses. The girl had been getting more snippy as the days passed, but at least this morning she had been in a decent mood when she went to work. It wouldn't last very long – it usually didn't when a move was imminent – but it was something at the very least. Still, even Jess couldn't take her aggravation out on KITT. As much as it could have been argued that the whole thing was his fault, he was still their friend.

Things were rough, which was part of the reason Raven was holed up here. She usually didn't care for this place, but it was a good place to go when you didn't particularly want to be found. Not that both KITT and KARR didn't know exactly where she was. A few days after Raven had started talking to KARR on the laptop, he had insisted she have a tracking beacon just like what they used with KITT. So Raven threatened Drake into helping her adjust her cell phone to both KITT and KARR. Drake had griped about it the entire time. KITT had viewed it as a sort of step forward – progress made to win KARR over to their side, whatever their side was.

As for Borden, Jess, and Heather – well, they trusted her. If she trusted KARR, then so did they.

As of right now, Raven was humoring the AI. She wasn't sure if his desire to keep tabs on her was out of affection or absolute paranoia, but she chose to think it was a bit of both. After all, they could have killed him.

Her cell phone rang. "Hey."

Jess's voice answered her. "Hey. Where are you?"

"You know that little café on 13th street?" Raven asked.

Jess muttered something under her breath. "There's a café on 13th?"

Raven rolled her eyes. "Who wants to know?"

"Heather and KITT. They're out on the road and apparently there's a lot of power lines where you are or something. They can't tell exactly where you are, and neither can KARR." Jess sounded extremely amused.

"Let me guess – KARR's freaking out?" Raven couldn't keep the amusement from her own voice.

"That's what it amounts to." Jess laughed. "So I'll tell Heather where you are so everyone can stop panicking."

"That would be nice." Raven said dryly. "Tell Heather to come get me around 4, if they don't mind."

"You know they don't." Jess said simply. "Later girl."

"Later." Raven hung up and looked at the phone for a moment before shaking her head in exasperated amusement. So KARR really did care. How sweet.

Not that she'd tell him that. Or maybe she would. It was funny watching him get mad.

"Can I talk to you for a second?"

Raven looked up. The man standing beside her was considerably older than her, his brown curls turning grey with age and the hints of stubble on his chin. He was dressed in regular street clothes, but the leather jacket he wore with the collar turned up seemed to come from a different time period. Like that was a trademark he didn't want to get rid of. She shrugged and took another drink of Coke. "Sure."

"Thanks." He sat down across from her. "I was wondering if you knew this girl I'm trying to track down. She's about your age – name is Raven McDell."

Raven had to hold herself tight to keep from flinching. "Depends on why you want to know." she shot back. "Raven's not in trouble, is she?"

The man laughed. "No. Far from it. See, I think Raven knows a friend of mine, and I really want to talk to him again. He drives a black Trans-Am."

Raven almost choked. What did he want with KITT? "I'll ask her next time I see her. Who should I tell her is looking for him?"

He smiled again. "Tell her Michael Long is looking for a friend of his." With that he stood up and left.

Raven checked her watch. 3:30. 4 o'clock was a long ways away.

/---/

Jess sat down in front of the laptop and began typing. She's all right, KARR. There's just a lot of static in the comm. links.

The response was almost immediate. She still wasn't entirely sure how KARR knew who was typing without introductions, but it was almost creepy. Something is wrong. Her vitals have jumped.

Jess rolled her eyes. Chill. Someone probably snuck up on her. Not hard to do.

Are we talking about the same person?

There's nothing worse than a smart-ass computer program.

There was a brief pause, which could mean a number of things. Unfortunately, this wasn't a chat room. KARR saw what was being typed as it was typed. Backspace was not used for these conversations.

Just as bad as a smart-ass car, but you tolerate KITT just the same.

Jess laughed at that. We tolerate you too.

When will the comm. links be fixed?

All business now. Unless we get some better technology, maybe never. This is the best we can do with what we got.

Another long pause. Then this will suffice. Although I will be more at ease when Raven is safely back here.

You and me both, KARR.