Devon wasn't too thrilled with having Special Agent in Charge Daryl Rich in the garage, and he really didn't think it was a good idea to have Michael, Bonnie, and Kitt in there with them. Rich may have been a short, squat, balding man – not much of a physical threat – but he held power with the FBI. More importantly, he had been John Clay's mentor. Rich had taken up the center of the room, and had to be the only person in the world that could make a suit look even more imposing than Devon could. Bonnie was by her computers looking something up for Devon. Kitt was parked closest to the exit, engine idling. Michael was leaning against Kitt's hood, a dark look on his face. Devon himself was standing just in front of Rich, in between the SAC and his operatives.
"I trust your investigation of John's betrayal is going well?" Devon asked stiffly.
Rich grimaced. "This isn't about what John may or may not have done." he said. "Just because my boss believes he was guilty doesn't mean I do. John was a good kid."
"Yeah, so was Ted Bundy." Michael muttered.
Devon shot him a filthy look. Michael simply crossed his arms and glared at Rich. So he knew what was going on. That made Devon's job just that much harder. "So what brings you here?" he mused. "Surely not your investigation."
"Only indirectly." Rich smirked. "I'm here investigating John Clay's murder."
It was remarkable the effect those words had on the three people in that garage. Bonnie turned around in her seat, her eyes wide with shock and fear. Devon drew himself up straight and infinitely more imposing than he had been. Michael adjusted his stance, almost like he was getting ready to run, but Devon recognized the fight in Michael's eyes. If Rich decided he was going to take away Kitt, he was going to have to get through Kitt's driver first.
"Oh? What have you turned up so far?" Devon said coldly.
"That car was involved." Rich snapped, pointing at Kitt. "It's supposed to be programmed not to take human life, right?"
"I can override him."
Bonnie gasped. "Michael, don't –"
"I can override Kitt." Michael said evenly. "He doesn't have any control when I do that. It's all me."
Rich gave him a look. "Are you saying that you were driving the car when it hit John?" His voice was sickeningly sweet. "I'm sorry – I don't quite believe that."
"Unless you can charge any of my operatives with a crime, I suggest you leave." Devon snapped, but Michael overrode him.
"Not necessarily me, but someone else." he said evenly. "You don't know who all was there. Zerek and Coltrane were planning on killing John anyway. Maybe one of Zerek's assassins got inside and overrode him. The button is clearly labeled." He spread his hands wide. "Anything is possible."
"This isn't the Twilight Zone." Rich bit out in exasperation.
"No, Michael likes watching Dark Realm." Kitt pointed out. He was rewarded with Michael flashing a smile at him over his shoulder.
"Kitt's a bit of a smart-aleck." Michael said with a wry grin. "You get used to it after a while."
"A computer personality." Rich said, completely thrown off. "That's unnatural, Mr. Miles. What kind of operation are you running here?"
"My operation." Devon said pointedly. "I'd like it if you left now, Mr. Rich."
"You are trying my patience, Rich. Go."
They watched as Rich turned and stalked out of the garage. Michael finally relaxed. He turned to face Kitt with a grin. "How did you know I prefer Dark Realm to the Twilight Zone?"
"I listened in on one of your marathon sessions." Kitt said dryly.
"Eavesdropping is bad you know."
"I paid for it, trust me. That show is worth about as much as used motor oil."
Michael laughed. "Harsh, Kitt."
"Michael's taste in TV shows is the least of our concerns." Devon said with a sigh. "Unfortunately, Mr. Rich's opinion of Kitt's actions is echoed by others in the Foundation. There's talk that we might have made a mistake in Kitt's programming."
"I made no mistake." Bonnie spat out angrily.
"What do you mean, a mistake?" Michael asked slowly. "You mean, like what happened to Karr?"
"Exactly." Devon replied grimly. "They think putting the driver's life above humanity in general was a poor idea that was paid for with John's death." Michael opened his mouth to protest, but Kitt cut him off.
"Devon, my programming had nothing to do with my choice." Kitt sounded rather calm despite everything. Which was fine, Devon figured – Michael was panicked enough for both of them. "Even if that's what my programming told me to do, I still would have killed John."
"You wouldn't have had that option with this new code sequence they want to try." Bonnie said darkly.
"I would." Kitt shot back. "No matter what this code sequence tells me, I still place Michael higher than humanity in general." Michael leaned against Kitt's hood, and Devon had the distinct impression something was passing between them that Bonnie and he couldn't hear. He glanced at Bonnie, and nodded slightly when she mouthed, later.
"The others won't see it that way easily." Devon admitted. "I'm going to do what I can to stop them, but there's not much I can do. It's going to be up to them to see the truth."
"And what truth is that, Devon?" Kitt asked calmly.
"That you are more than your programming." Devon replied quietly. He nodded to Michael and left the room, motioning for Bonnie to follow him. She flashed Kitt and Michael a smile and left with him. Michael sighed and slumped against the hood of the Trans-Am, his eyes closing in tired exasperation.
"This is ridiculous." he muttered. "What did they expect you to do? Let me die?"
"I don't think they were expecting me to kill." Kitt said.
Michael shifted slightly. "That was a miscalculation."
"A very welcome miscalculation." Kitt said darkly. "You lived. He got what he deserved."
Michael grinned. "You know it and I know it. Now let's just hope the FBI and Foundation does. Besides, if you hadn't, I would have."
"I know." There was silence for a moment. "You need to sit down." Kitt opened his driver's door in invitation. Michael gratefully moved so he could rest more easily. Despite being completely healed, his leg bothered him from where John shot him. The pain tended to get unbearable right before Michael was ready to go to sleep and when he moved around too much. Which meant that every time he started to walk with a limp, Kitt went into what he had affectionately termed "mother bear mode".
Michael rubbed at his leg. "Pity they can't do much for residual pain." he muttered.
"If it's of any consolation, the pain isn't all residual." Kitt said gently. "You were shot. There's still damage that may never heal."
"That just means you'll have more chances to go into mother bear mode." Michael said cheekily.
"Lovely." Another pause, this time more charged. "Michael – you aren't really-"
"Push comes to shove, Kitt, I was driving, and you were in manual override." Michael said calmly. He seemed to be entirely focused on massaging the ache from his leg, but Kitt could feel the tension in his body. He was worried, and very scared. "I'm not going to let you take the fall for something you couldn't control."
"I'd rather neither of us took the fall." Kitt shot back.
"Push comes to shove." Michael assured him. "In the meantime, I'm sure we can think of other ways to get out of this. Right now, let's get some rest."
AN: This is the setup chapter. Look out for more action, more characters, and a revelation for Kitt and Michael. Review, please!