AN: "They must have picked up my sonar… damn." –Karr, KITT vs. KARR
Sorry, just watched it for probably the billionth time, and I had nothing else to put here. It's one of my favorite quotes, so… yeah. Read on! ;)
Chapter Twenty One: Heart-to-Heart
Mike had rejoined the group after his discussion with Wren, and when Billy asked where he went, he filled them all in on his discussion with their prisoner. There was a moment of silence as they all stared at him, five pairs of eyes he could see and two AI's scanners he swore he could feel. Michael was the first to break the silence.
"Mike, it isn't your fault," he started, but Mike cut him off.
"Yes, it is. If I hadn't killed her brother, none of this would have happened."
"You said it yourself, Mike. He was a bad man, and someone had to stop him," Bonnie said, "It's not your fault Wren can't see that."
Sarah looked confused, and said, "So all of this was really for revenge? But she wanted our money, didn't she?"
"I don't think she could pass it up. Revenge was the main goal, but she wanted to get as much out of this as possible. Taking the money would ruin FLAG, ultimately ruining me," Mike said, and sighed, "She really has no part in Karr kidnapping Melody, though. That's all him."
Michael frowned, looking disgusted. The room was quiet again as Michael approached his son.
"How did you get away from Wren in the field, anyway?" he asked.
"I didn't. She could have killed me, but Melody took her out. Wren had a gun, Michael," he laughed a little and shook his head in disbelief, "but you know what she did?"
Michael a little worried, but his eyes were curious.
"Come here," Mike lead him to the Grand Am and popped the trunk. He pulled out a black and green tennis racquet and a tennis ball.
"Don't tell me she used this," Bonnie said as she approached them, overhearing the conversation, and took the racquet. She looked at it in amazement.
"I guess those tennis lessons paid off," Michael said. He smiled proudly, picking up the ball and rolling it in his hands. Bonnie smiled at him, her eyes shining.
"Oh, Michael," she cried, and buried her face in his shirt, still clutching the racquet, "What if we can't get her back?"
Michael held her close and swallowed hard, blinking to keep tears from his own eyes, "Don't say that, Bon. I'll get her back. If it's the last thing I do, I'll get her back."
Mike, feeling a bit awkward, placed a hand on Bonnie's shoulder, "We'll get her back, Bonnie. She's your daughter, but she's my sister, too. And I'm not going to let Karr break apart my family when I just got them back."
Michael smiled fondly and threw an arm around Mike's shoulders, bringing him into the circle. Neither of the men were big on hugging, he knew, but it seemed right to him at the moment. Then, looking between Bonnie and Michael into the trunk, he noticed something strange.
"Hey, what's this?" he asked, carefully parting the two and picking out a black box.
"It can't be Melody's," Bonnie said, examining it. The tears were gone from her eyes, now that she had a distraction.
The object was a small, shining black box, with two small buttons on the front. Mike flipped the clear cover open to expose the green and red circles. The green one was dully lit, and out of curiosity, he pushed it once.
Nothing happened. He pushed the red one, which blinked several times before it remained lit. The green one shut off.
"Mike, what did you do?" KITT asked.
"What do you mean?" he said, and approached the Mustang with Bonnie and Michael behind him. He placed the box on KITT's hood and watched as windows began popping up around it.
"There was a signal emanating from the device, but it was too brief to trace."
"Any idea what it is?" he asked.
"I believe it may be what Wren used to activate Karr remotely while I was towing him."
"Really?" Sarah said, joining them, "But it's red now."
"I just pushed that," Mike said, "Did I shut him off?"
"It is possible," KITT replied.
Kitt, who had been silent the whole time, suddenly called, "Michael, come here!"
"What?" he said, nervously trotting around KITT to the Trans Am's door, "Is something wrong?"
"I'm receiving a signal from one of our comlinks. It's Melody!"
Everyone ran to gather around the cars now, and Michael sat inside Kitt with the door open.
"Melody? Can you hear me?" Kitt asked, sounding as hopeful as everyone felt.
"Kitt!" came the reply, and Mike released the breath he didn't realize he was holding. The largest monitor in the front of the room changed as KITT traced the signal from the comlink, "Oh my god, you'll never guess what happened!"
"Are you alright? Where is Karr?"
"I'm fine, believe it or not. And Karr's right here, but something's wrong with him. We were driving, and he just… out of nowhere he shut down on me. Can you believe it? "
A few faces turned to Mike, who decided to examine his shoes… and the ceiling… and the watch he didn't have… "Okay, yeah, that was my fault," he finally said, flustered, "Can we move on now?"
"What the hell, Mike!" Melody said through the link, "You could've gotten me killed!"
"How was I supposed to know?"
"Children, behave," Michael shushed them, "You're sure you're okay? Karr didn't hurt you, did he?"
"No, he didn't. We were having a good time, actually. Until Mike interrupted one of my favorite songs and put Karr to sleep."
"A good time…? You know what, never mind. Where are you now?"
"Actually, Michael, I've just located Melody and Karr via GPS," KITT said, "It should only take a few hours to reach their location."
"A few hours?" Sarah said, "How can the comlink transmit that far?"
Bonnie smiled, "Trade secret."
"That's great guys, but uh… what am I supposed to do?" Melody asked, "It looks like the whole car is dead without Karr online."
"Just stay there," Michael ordered and fired Kitt's engine, "We're on our way, don't touch anything; we don't want Karr starting back up if we can help it."
"That I can do," she said. Less than a minute later both vehicles were on the road, racing to the comlink's location.
A man in a Chevy had stopped on the side of the little-traveled road to ask if she was okay. She politely smiled from her seat in the Trans Am and assured him that she was alright, the car was fine, and that she was just waiting for a friend who had gotten lost. The man in the Chevy was concerned about the temperature, asking why she was sitting in a black car in 80 degree heat without the A/C going. She told him it didn't work, but that she had plenty of bottled water and would be back on the road soon anyway. He looked skeptical as he turned back to his truck, but didn't question her further. There's a fine line between being helpful and being nosy, she thought.
But the man had a point; the heat was becoming unbearable. And of course she lied about the water, so as the temperature climbed to 90, heat stroke was becoming a real possibility. She got out and sat on Karr's hood, playing with her comlink and hoping no one else would stop to see if she was alright. Admittedly that was why she never got out in the first place, but curious passerby had stopped anyway.
It had been an hour and forty five minutes since her father and brother left the hangar. They said they would be there soon the last time she spoke with them. She asked if everyone was alright. They were, but no one but KITT was close to top shape. She asked what Sarah was going to do with Karr. They didn't give her an answer.
If they try to hurt him, I swear to god… but they won't. I won't let them take him from me.
She brought the watch closer to her face, "Yeah, Kitt?"
"We're almost to your location."
"Okay. I'm still here."
"Don't you mean 'we'?"
Melody jumped up and whipped around, staring at Karr's scanner. The familiar yellow lights blazed back and forth, looking menacing. Maybe Melody just imagined it that way.
"I seem to have forgotten about those comlinks," he said, but his voice was monotone, detached, and not like Karr at all. Melody stared at him, keeping a neutral expression while inside she panicked, "I was never programmed for one, you know," he continued, "They were developed after Wilton Knight betrayed me. They were designed for that production line copy."
"Karr, you have to understand," she said. Something about his voice, the eerie calm that Karr was, was more frightening than his outright anger. It was wrong… "Wilton never betrayed you. He was doing what he thought was best for Knight Industries-"
"He did betray me," he said, and started the engine. The car slowly rolled forward, and Melody backed up, "He betrayed me by shutting me down and locking me away. Rev betrayed me by disobeying Tony, by trying to take me back to the Foundation. Wren did, by abandoning me when I was vulnerable. And now, you have betrayed me, by calling in the cavalry - Knight and his precious sidekick, that sad excuse of an artificial intelligence, Kitt," by the end he was back to his familiar self, all his anger and frustration spilling out.
"Just listen to me!" she yelled as he forced her to keep walking backwards, "I haven't betrayed you! But we are going to take you back to FLAG and look at our options here."
Two cars approached from behind Karr, side by side in the two lane highway. No other cars had gone by since the man in the Chevy, and she knew that it was the 'cavalry' that was ahead. They stopped a hundred feet behind Karr and waited, assessing the situation without agitating the AI further. But clearly he knew they were there, and he didn't stop pushing her along the road. The cars followed behind him, and she could see her father's face through the windshield, apparently arguing with either Kitt or Mike.
"There are no options," Karr said. Melody's heart sunk, and she understood; for Karr, revenge was now or never. It would take too long for her to make him believe that what happened in the past, during the Foundation's first incarnation, meant nothing now. She couldn't talk him down that way, but there was still something she could try…
"Please, Karr. You have to stop this. Revenge is not going to solve anything, and it's not going to save you." She stopped backing up. Karr's bumper hit her legs, and when it did he stopped, but gunned the engine to intimidate her. She knelt down in front of him to place a hand by his scanner, undeterred by the loud, powerful force threatening to run her down. She touched the protective shield over the scanner carefully, watching as the light threw itself from edge to edge. The car was shaking under her hand, partly because of the engine, and partly due to the same force that drove the scanner wild, "If you hurt us you're sealing your fate. You will die Karr, if you try to kill me."
He didn't say anything, and his scanner never slowed as he debated this new conflict. She understood his programming enough know that he wanted to take his anger and revenge out on her, but if he did, he would die, too; therefore his programming would not allow that route. At the same time, if he did what she said and came back to the Foundation, how could he be sure he would be safe? Both decisions, in his mind, would lead to death. Now was her chance, while he was confused, to push him one way or the other. She sat cross-legged on the pavement, keeping her hand on his scanner, and spoke softly.
"You could do it now while I can't run, but I trust you enough not to plow me over. I just need you to trust me. I have no reason to lie to you, or to use you, and I didn't mean to hurt you. But I know you're suffering, Karr. I can, I don't know… I can feel that from you," his scanner droned quietly at that, "Maybe it's because I'm the only one on this planet that's grown up with an artificial intelligence for a kind of sibling, and I can sense these things better. But for whatever reason, I know for a fact it's true. I don't think you want to be bad, it's just how you've learned to survive. I know you can be good, but we need to get that program out of you first, because it's holding you back. Sarah can do that. That's why I want to bring you to FLAG."
She waited, her eyes burning with unshed tears. She was still afraid she wouldn't get through to him, and the thought of dying here and now was terrifying, but she wouldn't cry, not out of fear. She was too stubborn. Another moment passed in silence, but something changed. The loud engine quieted down and the car shook gently beneath her palm, but it was only the engine now. And when the yellow scanner finally slowed, she smiled.
"So, what do you say?" she asked.
"I'll go to FLAG," he said, "but I have requirements that must be met."
"Lay 'em on me."
"You are riding with me on the way back."
Melody glanced behind him at the others, "Done. What else?"
"I get to review the new programming beforehand. If I do not agree with it, I will not accept it."
"And you will be the one to reprogram me, or perform any maintenance, at all times. I will allow no one else to do so."
"But I've never-"
"Then you are going to learn. No one else, do you understand?"
She sighed and shrugged, "Yeah, I get it. Anything else?"
"Yes: destroy that damned device Wren created and remove it from my system."
Melody laughed and stood up, signaling the two cars to come over. They parked in front of Karr, facing him, and the two men got out. Melody ran over and hugged her father.
"I'm so glad you're okay," she said, "When you were following us Karr said you were hurt, and Kitt looked like hell. I felt so bad, but I didn't know what else to do."
"It's okay, Mel. I'm just glad you're alright."
"You're probably mad at me," she said into his shoulder. He let her go and smiled down at her.
"How can I be mad? Melody, I'm so proud of you. You saved Mike's life, for god sake."
She frowned in confusion, "I guess I did… but I left with Karr. I thought you'd be pissed."
"I was, but…" he looked at Kitt, then back at her, "…I had a feeling you would be alright." He looked over her shoulder now, at Karr. Melody walked over and hugged Mike carefully, minding his injuries.
"I'm proud of you too, kid," he said, "That was pretty badass, taking Wren out like that."
She laughed, "It was kind of badass, wasn't it?"
They too looked at Karr, who was watching the reunion in silence from a short distance away. The other AIs were keeping a close watch on him, but he made no effort to leave.
"So, what now?" Mike asked.
Michael approached Karr without a word. "Michael…?" Kitt warned, but the man waved him off lightly.
Michael knelt in front of Karr, farther away than Melody was, but still close enough to touch. Karr's scanner droned as he scanned him suspiciously, "Can I help you?" he asked, not politely, but not harshly, either.
He gazed intently at the scanner, noting that it was eerily similar to Kitt's, completely identical save for the color. He'd always wondered how the two cars could be so different when they were only separated by six months and a single program. They really were twins in every sense of the word; one good, one bad, but both created for the same reason. "Thank you," he finally said, feeling a little awkward with the crowd behind him, "for keeping Melody safe."
Michael noticed that Karr, with what little body language he had, seemed taken aback. Only years of practice with Kitt allowed him to sense the change in the atmosphere, the subtle shift in speed and intensity of the scanner, even the idling engine that seemed to slow down just a fraction in response.
"I suppose I should apologize for what I have done," he said, "since this seems to be an appropriate time to do so."
"You suppose, huh?"
"Yes. But I am not going to."
Michael arched an eyebrow, "Really."
"Another day, perhaps."
"Well," Michael stood, "I guess that's the best heart-to-heart we're going to get, isn't it?"
Behind him, Melody laughed.
"Can we go home now?" she asked, "I could really use a shower."