AN: I give up on excuses, because now I'm just being lazy.
Chapter Twelve: Programming
Karr was, to say the least, a little freaked out at Sarah's remark, and finding out that he had no way to protect himself only made him feel worse. He started looking into the gimble while the humans talked, listening absently for anything important. He'd checked the gimble when he first arrived and couldn't find any way into it, but now that he knew it had gotten through his firewalls, maybe he could trace that back into its CPU. Maybe. Hopefully he could slip through unnoticed without it alerting anyone. If this didn't work, he had no idea what else to do… but he didn't think about that. He couldn't.
No one was paying such close attention to him now that everyone else was waking up and coming downstairs, so when he felt he was safe to investigate he went to it. KITT was only monitoring his communication systems since, frankly, Karr didn't pose much of a threat at the moment. The other Kitt seemed to be having nothing more to do with him for the time being. Karr didn't have many good things to say about his successor, but at least Kitt was smart enough to mind his own business.
"What's for breakfast?" Billy asked sleepily as he stretched. Karr heard his joints crack from where he stood on the stairs, and noticed his hair was disheveled.
Sarah didn't even look up from what she was scribbling in her notebook. "Whatever you make."
"Can you make me a sandwich?" Melody asked hopefully from one of the chairs. She was leaning in it lazily, and didn't seem inclined to get up even to change out of her nightwear like everyone else – instead she wore black basketball shorts and a tank top. Billy walked down and stood by the railing.
"Get in there and make it yourself, woman."
Zoe, lying on the couch, glared at him, while Melody smiled and leaned forward.
"What did you say to me?"
Billy walked toward the kitchen in defeat, "Yes ma'am."
"That's what I thought."
"Make that two!" Zoe yelled after him. There was no response. Zoe rolled her eyes, "If he knows what's good for him he'll make two."
Karr did his best to ignore them and continued his work on the gimble. He was annoyed with the fact that they could be happy and even play around while he was in the middle of the room, trapped with them, and in such a state of turmoil. Even so, during this time, he was surprised to have found a way into the gimble's CPU; he wasn't expecting it to be that easy. In a matter of seconds he was able to locate what was keeping his systems at bay, but it was protected. Strange though; he'd assume KITT would be able manipulate the gimble if needed, but it didn't appear so. Not unless he knew the password, too.
He set his decoder to work and continued to explore more of the gimble's functions until, several minutes later, he almost literally stumbled upon what he was looking for. He was sifting through everything so fast he hardly had time to think about what he was going through, and for a supercomputer that was saying something. But he found what he needed, and nothing else mattered. The main control system, also currently out of reach, would allow him to release himself. If he could somehow find a way to open the metal doors behind him through this contraption as well, he'd be set. Mostly. There was still the matter of his cracked and useless radiator, and the fact that he would need several hours to unlock everything, which meant that he was still defenseless until then. The thought was gnawing at his processor, and he couldn't help but conjure images of himself, his parts, scattered around and recycled, his microchips planted in children's toys and mobile phones…
It was a disturbing thought.
"Hey, Michael, Mel," Sarah suddenly gathered her notebook and motioned for them to follow her down the hall. She still never looked at anything but the paper, and was even making some more notes in it as she walked. The two in question hesitated, and followed somewhat reluctantly down the hall and around a corner where Karr could no longer see. He heard a door open and close before Zoe asked:
"What's that about?"
"I don't know." Mike replied. He looked down the hallway in interest.
Karr was even a bit curious about that notebook, but he didn't care quite enough for it to distract him too long.
Billy came back into the room carrying a bowl of cereal in one hand and two sandwiches in the other. He was focused intently on the bowl, the milk sloshing dangerously close to the edge.
"Here." He tossed the top sandwich in Zoe's general direction and set his cereal down to throw the other at Melody. He hardly had time to ask where she went before the door down the hall clicked open and Melody ran toward him, grabbed the sandwich, and jogged back without a word.
"You're welcome!" Billy yelled after her.
Melody walked back to the room, breakfast in hand, and was surprised when Sarah didn't look as annoyed with her as she assumed she'd be. She had finally closed the notebook and was leaning on the edge of a table, Michael standing across from her with his arms crossed. Why Sarah decided to bring them into the unused office space she had no idea, but she didn't have to wait long for an answer.
"I've been thinking. About Karr."
Michael looked skeptical, and Melody stopped eating mid-bite. If Sarah was going to say Karr was as good as scrap metal, Melody was going to be ticked. She still believed strongly in what she said, and it wasn't fair to Karr to just… to kill him, for something he really had no control over. Well, not much control, anyway. None of what ever happened was really his own fault. The power their programming had over them was amazing. After all, Kitt could obviously make his own decisions, but whenever he was unsure about the danger involved for any human, he was severely restricted. Her father once told her of a case where he was suspended from FLAG to catch a guy… LaSalle, or something. Kitt refused to assist him when he found out they were to steal a canister of a deadly gas for LaSalle to use, even though Kitt knew he could trust Michael with anything. He couldn't help him go through with it because it went against his primary function. It had to work the same way with Karr, didn't it?
Sarah half smiled at their reaction. "I mean I've been thinking about how we could use him to catch this woman. She claims she doesn't need him now, but he's here, isn't he? He's in the center of enemy territory. Karr could send her everything she'd need to know about this place to get in, and everything about our computer systems so she can use either him or one of her AIs to access everything we have. Why waste time and risk another vehicle when she can just use Karr? Of course FLAG is fairly safe against the outside, but she knows that already. Even if you got through the firewall, which isn't likely, it would take a few hours to break the security code. It sounds simple, but it works." Sarah must've realized she was rambling and stopped herself.
Michael, though, was shaking his head long before she'd finished, "Whatever she can or can't do, Karr should not be a part of any of this. He's near impossible to catch. We were lucky he happened to land wrong when he turbo boosted, or we probably wouldn't have him now!"
"And that's what I've been working on." She raised the red notebook, "I was up half the night trying to find a way to use him, and think I've almost got it. It still won't be done for a while, unless I do the bare minimum and get help from Billy."
"What is it?" Melody asked
Sarah held out the notebook and Melody took it. It looked like a bunch of coding, from the little she could recognize from past experience, but it was computer gibberish all the same. Michael, when she handed him the book, looked just as confused as she was.
"It's a copy of Karr's programming sequences." Sarah continued, "I found them along with other restricted files in FLAG's archives and printed them out last night. I've been tweaking things all night. I think if I can modify his old programming and introduce our own, he'll be more… willing. That is unless his grudge against FLAG, Kitt, and you, Michael, is too great. There's nothing we can do about his mindset unless we totally reprogram him, which is out of the question for now, at least."
Melody frowned, "Forever."
Sarah sighed and Michael rolled his eyes. Melody felt oddly like she was trying to save a feral pet no one else wanted around, but (much to Michael's dismay,) she'd found stubbornness and a need for justice common among Knights, even if their family tree wasn't exactly a large one.
"Well anyway," Michael said, "why are we the only ones you're telling about your little plan?"
Sarah looked a bit embarrassed, and was half focused on bending the wire on her notebook back into shape, "I don't usually ask for advice, and god knows I hate having to, but I think I need it this time. The only way to test out this programming change is to let Karr outside, at least out into the hangar, which shouldn't be too bad. I don't know how else we can get at Wren unless we have Karr on our side, and I want to catch her now, while she has those cars. They're powerful weapons in her hands. I'm asking you two specifically about this because Michael, you have personal experience with Karr. You and Kitt know him better than any of us. Melody at least sounds like she might understand him, if she was right. I want to know what you think of it."
"Except, no offence Mel, but you don't know him. You think you do, but none of us can be sure unless he says so."
"She's grown up with Kitt, though. She's the only one on earth who's been around an AI their entire life. I know you've known Kitt longer than she has, but wouldn't it make sense for her to be a bit more sensitive to their… their emotions, I guess, and for her to put herself in their position?"
"Well, I don't know about that." Melody said, feeling very self-conscious all of the sudden. She really hadn't ever known a time without Kitt in her life, and couldn't imagine it any differently. Maybe that unique experience on its own really did make her more… understanding toward the AIs, but then again, maybe it didn't. Maybe she was totally wrong about Karr, and all the decisions he's ever made have been those selected by a sober mind.
Michael too seemed to be weighing the situation, but he looked frustrated. He was looking away from them, one hand on the back of his neck. If Sarah's new installation didn't work, Karr could get away. If it did and Sarah was right about Wren, then they'd have everything going for them. But then again, what if Karr was lying? It was confusing.
"Sarah, I wish I could help, but… I shouldn't make your decision for you." Michael said, trying to sound kind. He looked like he wanted to continue to force his point about Karr, but instead he said: "This is your shot here."
Sarah laughed humorlessly, "Shot in the dark."
Michael sighed heavily. "Hey, whatever you decide, Kitt and I will be at your disposal."
"Thank you, Michael. I don't think we could do this alone."
She shifted her gaze to the third occupant in the room, who felt very uncomfortable all of the sudden.
"Oh please don't lay this on me." Melody held her hands up. "I can't even decide what to eat at McDonald's. I wouldn't trust me with big decisions involving murderous cars."
"Didn't you just convince me that Karr isn't… right?" Sarah countered.
She put her hands down. "That's different."
"Well, that's alright anyway. I think… I've made my decision. Thanks again, Michael." Sarah stood and led them to the door. "We'd better get started."