I really, really don't know what I'm doing anymore when it comes to this concept of self-control. But this idea has been bouncing around in my head for probably over a year by now and isn't going away. So I'm being dragged kicking and screaming into another story idea apparently. One that I'm only semi-certain I know what I'm going to do with it.
This mess of an idea is supposed to sort of connect the two series "Knight Rider" together in a manner of speaking, though I'll probably mess plenty of things up in the attempt. I liked the original "Knight Rider" show. Kitt and Michael have a rather nice friendship over the course of the series. I'm a lot less familiar with the 2008 version of the show and I've decided to deal with it in broad strokes. In fact, it'll probably be sort of AU for that part. I'll be doing plenty of adapting in order to make things work out like they do in my head and I am still unfamiliar with some of the new characters. So I apologize now if the more modern characters aren't quite as accurately portrayed as the original ones. If anyone wants to help me by sending a PM with a description of some of the new characters' personalities and such, I welcome your input. But they won't come into play immediately anyway. Things have to start back in the 80s with Kitt, Michael, Bonnie, and Devon before we reach the time period for KITT, Mike, Sarah, Zoe, and Billy. And I might not even include all of them, depending on how AU this ends up being for the 2008 series.
And just like most of my stories, I have absolutely no idea what my update schedule will be like. Just be aware that feedback can serve as an incentive to try and update sooner. One last warning in case this is the first of my stories you've read. I tend to torture the characters I love either physically, mentally, emotionally, or all of the above.
Robert Harris was a practical man. He was also a man who knew when a resource was being underutilized and knew how to recognize a solution to that problem. Adding in his patriotism and his true belief in the idea that one man didn't matter in the grand scheme of things helped explain why he ended up in charge of a small, mostly-unknown branch of the government in charge of developing the most experimental and innovative weapons. He insured that ideas that no one else would have faith in were carefully developed and perfected for soldiers. Or CIA agents. Or any part of the government that might need to "remove" a problem to America's safety and well-being, legally or illegally.
His small collection of scientists, soldiers, and talented paper-pushers were all referred to as Lab 42. At least, it was known as such to the few people high enough to know of their existence. Harris understood the concept of secrets. The government held more than a few after all. But being a member of a major secret group had its advantages. One of them was that he knew of several other secrets. And one such secret held his interest and that of his top scientists.
The Foundation for Law and Government was privately owned and funded by the wealth of the late Wilton Knight. There was plenty of technology and skilled technicians at work there, but only one that he was interested. While Harris was not the best scientist himself, he understood the implications and potential that a true artificial intelligence provided. What Wilton Knight, and Dr. Charles Graiman before he practically vanished into thin air, designed was something incredible. And those foolish people only thought to use it to solve minor crimes and the occasional larger problem. They could have mass produced it and sold it to the army for their use. And even if they couldn't repeat the creation for some reason, they could have still done something more than place it in a car with programming to guard one man. Even if they manage to cause some minor good with their missions to stop thieves and uncover corruption, it was too limited for Harris's taste. His research demonstrated that the Knight Industries Two Thousand's main cybernetic processor originally was installed in a mainframe computer used by the government until a certain millionaire with too much money and too much idealism decided it would serve the country better in a Pontiac Trans Am.
He first approached FLAG through official channels, but Jennifer Knight proved to be rather tight-lipped about her father's final project. And when pressed further, she stated that Michael Knight might not be perfect, but he was a better brother than the one she was related to by blood and the cost of FLAG's operations was worth it to keep her father's dream alive. Harris was mildly surprised since his sources indicated that she at one point attempted to shut them down, but the woman seemed to have a change of heart since then.
Harris next tried contacting Devon Miles, who seemed to be the one in charge of the Foundation's operations. That one proved to be a rather interesting experience. While his time dealing with the government made Harris an expert at handling red-tape and battling bureaucracy, Mr. Miles was very talented at keeping outsiders at bay with legal loopholes and protocol once he realized what the man's intended goal was. Harris could respect that, but he didn't intend to let it stop him.
His third attempt was perhaps his most bold. Rather than call another possible contact, Harris simply drove to the property of the late Wilton Knight and the current headquarters of FLAG. Getting past the gate without permission was a little tricky, but connections to the government and displaying complete confidence could open most doors. It was a beautiful place and certainly worth more than he could ever hope to afford, but his sole focus was on the reason for his visit. Parked in the gravel driveway was the black vehicle, a red light moving back and forth along a scanner on the front. Standing next to the car, apparently in conversation with each other before the arrival of company, was a brown-haired man in a black jacket and a brunette woman. Harris identified them as Michael Knight, a man with a very limited history, and Dr. Bonnie Barstow, a brilliant technician and engineer.
That encounter left quite an impression on Harris. While initially confused by his presence, the pair quickly became hostile when he stated his desire to acquire the artificial intelligence commonly referred to as Kitt. Not only did the driver and the scientist argue against such a thing, but the car itself informed him in a firm and cultured voice that he had no intentions of accompanying him anywhere. It was one thing to know that the black T-top held an AI. It was another for it to respond like an actual person. It was definitely an impressive piece of programming. The conversation continued to become more hostile as Mr. Knight's voice grew louder in defense of his "partner" until Devon Miles came outside and asked Harris to leave the premises and to "please never return." The final words Harris heard as he left was Mr. Knight shouting that they could have Kitt over his dead body.
That could be arranged.
Harris managed to secure a position for one of his best scientists inside the Foundation, though dealing with the rather extensive background check was a challenge. While his inside man continued to spy and funnel out what information he could manage about Kitt, Harris began to make arrangements. It took months to gather to correct intelligence about the AI and everything he learned led to slight adjustments to his final plan. He obtained another Pontiac Trans Am and filled it with equipment similar to what was supposedly in the target vehicle. He began preparing a false trail indicating the existence of some dangerous terrorists with powerful weaponry at a location of his choosing as the time drew near. Finally, he gathered some key items to ensure success.
He would have preferred to gain the artificial intelligence legally, but it was too important of a development to let even the law stop him.
"I'm telling you, pal," Michael remarked, his eyes on the road even if it was unnecessary. "Something feels fishy about this whole thing. It just seems too good to be true."
"You do recall how long it took us to find anything of use? These people are very talented at covering their tracks," responded Kitt, the lights of the voice modulator illuminating and dimming with his words. "Almost anyone else would have missed it. How do you call that 'too good to be true'?"
Michael glanced at the closest thing his partner had to a face. He'd grown very competent at judging Kitt's thoughts and emotions (which he still sometimes tried to deny he had, though not as strenuously as he did in the beginning) solely by his tone of voice and the movement of lights. Without body language or facial expressions, the man was forced to develop those skills or else risk never knowing what was going on Kitt's head (so to speak). Right now, he could tell that his partner was mostly confident about his assessment concerning the group of terrorists, but there was a subtlety to the tone that indicated that he wasn't planning to dismiss Michael's hunch yet.
Shifting slightly in his seat, Michael admitted, "I don't know how to explain it. There's just something about this entire mission that just doesn't feel right. There's no logical reason for it, but there is something wrong about all of it."
When Kitt didn't immediately respond, he turned his attention back to the landscape outside the windshield. The area was isolated and empty of everything except for some odd concrete buildings that were apparently some kind of government storage site in the sixties. The thick walls would certainly inhibit Kitt's scanners, which added to Michael's unease about the entire situation. They wouldn't know if there was someone in these buildings unless they physically saw them. The terrorists hiding out couldn't have picked a better place for an ambush against them unless they added a large pit filled with acid. Michael quickly dragged his thoughts away from that particular memory and glanced back down at the voice modulator.
"Perhaps it would be wise to be cautious then," Kitt slowly admitted. "Just in case there is something we missed."
Michael nodded slightly while he shifted his gaze once more toward their surroundings. He knew his partner would be keeping his scanners busy looking for the terrorists or a possible trap, but the concrete would definitely inhibit his abilities. If there was trouble, they needed to be ready and that meant he needed to do his part. But they'd grown rather talented at remaining on alert while occupied with more trivial things, so he held no doubts that the conversation would eventually continue.
After a few moments of silence, Kitt asked, "Have you ever thought about the future?"
"Our future or the future in general?" he responded.
They'd had various conversations over the years, even during the slower parts of missions. They'd discussed every topic under the sun practically, from Michael's childhood memories to what the appeal of soap operas might possibly be to the latest philosophical book Bonnie downloaded into Kitt's memory to whether or not their actions were truly making a difference to the world. It didn't matter if it was a serious conversation or a pointless one. He just liked talking to his partner. He liked seeing how much Kitt had changed over the years since he met him and how he viewed the world. Michael knew he'd changed too, but there was just something about how the artificial intelligence that lived in the black T-top had grown. All those technicians and engineers can claim it was all programming and some of it was certainly encoded into him, but Kitt was also his own person with his own opinions and ideas. The scientist people might claim that such a thing was impossible, but they'd never gotten to know his partner like he did. Michael generally didn't do much deep reflection if he could avoid it, but he knew that these random conversation helped reveal who Kitt was.
"Our future, Michael," clarified the AI, the lights flickering hesitantly as his voice held a hint of unease. "We both know that this can't last forever."
He knew that, but they both generally avoided this particular topic. Eventually in the distant future, these missions would end. Michael would either get hurt or too old to keep up with the various criminals and threats in the world. Devon, assuming he was still alive at the time, would probably arrange some kind of retirement for him. But what would happen to Kitt then? He was literally programmed to be the partner to Michael Knight. That was his main purpose in existence. Would they figure out a way to let Kitt retire alongside him? Or would they try to get him to bond with someone else and continue the Foundation's work? With the right parts and upgrades, Kitt could theoretically be kept running long after everyone he knew died of old age. Who would take care of him then? Who would be there to recognize how unique and truly alive Kitt was? Michael didn't want to consider it, but it was something they would have to deal with someday. And apparently his partner wanted to discuss it today as they headed towards their destination.
Cautiously, Michael began, "Look, I know what you're probably thinking, pal. But I promise you one thing. I—"
"No," interrupted Kitt abruptly, coming as close to shouting as his voice modulator would allow him and instantly accelerating.
Switching his mindset quickly from cautious but casual to something far more alert, Michael turned his head and managed to catch a glimpse of a large door on one of the concrete buildings flying open and something immediately racing out of it. He only had a second to catch an impression of the fast shape, too small to be another vehicle and too swift to be a person or a large bird, before Kitt's voice reached him again.
There was only one other time Michael remembered hearing that exact tone with those words. It was when they faced that drone car with the missile…
"Don't—" he tried to order, but Kitt was already ejecting him from the car.
One of the advantages of being an AI was that he could process all the possible options and outcomes to a problem in nanoseconds. The very instant the missile, launched from inside the concrete structure where he couldn't detect it until it was too late to escape, Kitt consider everything he could do to minimize the danger of what was to come. He couldn't outrun the trap, even though he started accelerating away as soon as he recognized the threat. Other doors on the concrete buildings were opening ahead of them, implying that there would be more missiles launched at them even if they could avoid the one behind them. And while he was protected from most smaller projectiles by a protective coating of Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000 MBS, both he and Michael knew from experience that there were limits to that protection and missiles tended to be too much. So he used the next few nanoseconds not to consider options to save both of them, but how to keep Michael at least alive.
While the driver's seat was generally the safest place for his partner, Kitt calculated that his odds of survival if he was in the car's interior were very low. It was less than one percent if the missile struck the wrong spot and decreased even further if more were fired from the opening doors ahead of them. As in the case in the past when they faced an inescapable missile, Michael's best chance would be if he wasn't in the vehicle on impact. Unlike that situation, however, he had less warning of the imminent explosion and there was a high probability that his partner would still be in range on impact. And even if Michael managed to escape most of the blast, Kitt knew he would be in no condition to ensure he was safe afterwards and his partner would be at the mercy of their attackers. They could capture or kill him and there would be nothing the AI would be able to do to stop it.
But the probability of his survival, while still far too low in Kitt's opinion, were the most promising if he ejected his partner before it was too late. He knew that Michael would never forgive him for this. He wasn't a fan of Kitt trying to sacrifice himself to keep him safe, but his primary programming and main purpose in existence was to protect his driver at all costs. And while he might have changed since his first activation, that was one piece of coding that would remain constant because it helped define who he was. And he wanted Michael to be safe because he was his friend. So if there was even a small chance of protecting his partner, Kitt would take it.
In the little remaining time available, Kitt sent a quick emergency signal to alert Devon and Bonnie of the danger while apologizing to his partner for what he was about to do. Perhaps they would be able to arrive soon enough to help Michael. It was the best he could do for him. And maybe Bonnie would be able to fix the damage the missile would cause. She'd always been able to pull him through before.
He knew that Michael could figure out his intentions. The man might not be Bonnie, Devon, or Kitt's equal in pure intellectual knowledge, but he was not stupid. Before Michael could order his partner not to do it, Kitt activated the ejector seat.
There wasn't even a full second between Michael being thrown out of the car and the impact, but it was more than enough time for the AI to run through the various scenarios of what could happen to his partner. He could calculate with more certainty and fewer variables what his condition would be, what injuries he might sustain due to the impromptu flight and the nearby explosion, and if he would even survive the next few minutes. But Kitt didn't. There was nothing he could do to change what would happen, so there was no reason to run the calculations. If he was about to be knocked offline for an untold amount of time or even finally destroyed completely, he at least wanted to have some hope that Michael would be all right.
Physical pain to his "body" wasn't something that translated well to him, at least based of his understanding of the sensation as humans felt it. He could detect contact, impact, and even damage to the Trans Am that housed him. The signals were useful at times, especially since humanity was such a tactile species and often tried to demonstrate fondness by touch. They could be distracting and concerning when the signals became alarms warning of damage to the integrity of the structure, something that occurred more rarely due to the durability of the MBS. So the missile's impact and detonation didn't "hurt" in the way that a human would probably imagine it, but it was unpleasant and uncomfortable in the nanoseconds it took the blast to swallow the car.
But when his systems were affected, that was probably closer to a pain that Michael would understand. The blast knocked out and damaged various scanner, minor processors, and numerous systems as the interior of the car was torn apart. Whole sections, important ones, simply weren't accessible to him any longer, as if part of his consciousness was ripped away to leave only a gapping darkness with only broken and nonsensical signals from those interrupted connection making it through. Even with his vast vocabulary, the closest words to describe the sensation of that loss were "aching" and "raw." No human language seemed to have anything that fit the feeling perfectly. It left him blind, deaf, mute, trapped, and missing parts of himself that he knew should be there, but weren't.
Kitt did the only thing he could do when something attacked his systems, physically or electronically. He focused on protecting his memory and personality from harm. All other information and processes could be reloaded and replaced. But those were the factors that made him unique and were the work of experience rather than just programming. They could not be perfectly replicated and their loss would leave him as… someone else. Someone who wasn't Michael's friend and partner. He'd seen how much Michael changed when he temporarily lost a large portion of his memories; Kitt would rather not stop being himself.
Just as the damage forced him to shut down completely, the AI hoped he'd done enough to save them. Either way, he was out of time.
Harris called a quick order into his radio not to fire a second missile. The first one seemed to have worked. His soldiers lowered their weapons and stepped forward cautiously to where the black T-top still smoldered slightly. With thick blankets, they began extinguishing the flames and gathering up any wreckage that might be from the vehicle. They wouldn't risk chemical fire extinguishers in case they could ruin the electronics further. The external was mostly cosmetic damage with the shell of the car having survived. His men knew how to hit a target.
He was rather proud of how the operation played out. His inside man was able to determine the general firepower that would be required to disable the car and the AI on impact, but without necessarily causing irreversible harm. A full list of weakness and limitations, carefully collected over the months, ensured that Harris's men would be able to remain undetected until the last moment. In addition, his scientist was also able to gain access to a small sample of the MBS in the form of a paint stored from the last time the car was rebuilt. Not enough to do much with it, but enough to make a decoy look real. It was too bad they couldn't get access to the formula though. They'd just have to settle for the real prize.
Kitt was loaded in place and secured on the truck. Another Trans Am, painted with the specific black paint and loaded with computer hardware that would look similar enough to the original, replaced it. They'd even altered as many of the serial numbers as possible to match. All the copy lacked was AI to operate it, but it wouldn't matter in a few minutes.
"Sir, we located Michael Knight," a voice crackled over the radio. "He's unconscious and definitely in medical care as soon as possible, but he's still alive at the moment. What should we do? If nothing else, he's a little too close for comfort to the car."
"Leave him exactly where you found him," Harris ordered. "We can't risk moving him or else this entire operation could be exposed. And his death was already a cost we factored in as a possibility. There are more important things on the line than the life of one man. His survival or demise won't make a difference."
There was a slight pause before the voice said, "Acknowledged."
Several missiles were fired at the decoy car, including one at the false scanner at the front. It was listed as one of the main weaknesses to the machine and the best way to guarantee that CPU was destroyed. No one would be surprised then when they couldn't find any trace left of the AI's programming. As far as FLAG would know, Kitt was gone. All trails would lead to the conclusion that it suffered catastrophic damage from the missiles and the computer systems were beyond repair.
In reality, Lab 42 would gain possession of the AI system and could begin trying to obtain its full potential. Originally, Harris intended to completely reprogram it from the ground up. But between what he observed in his first encounter with Kitt and what his inside man described during his time at the Foundation, it would be wiser to try and preserve as much as possible.
There was a reason why seasoned soldiers were preferred to those new to combat. Experience. This AI possessed several years of experience in a variety of situations. Why take control of a learning system and then delete most of what it had learned? It would be easier to solve problems and devise strategies if it could call upon past knowledge. All the time those people at FLAG sent the car and Mr. Knight on minor missions could actually serve the greater good if they could manage to direct the AI towards its new purpose without deleting all the experience it gained during those years. It might take more effort, but he was a practical man. There was no reason to squander the valuable resource of past experience when they could make use of it instead.
As the last of the personnel and equipment was loaded, Harris took a final glance at his surroundings. The decoy car was barely recognizable and smoke continued to billow out of it. Somewhere near there would be Michael Knight lying there alive, dead or dying. The scene certainly looked like an attack on pursuers, terrorists known to be armed with dangerous weapons. No one would ever know the truth except for those at Lab 42.
There was no way for him to know how long it had been since he went offline. Anything he might remotely use to judge the passage of time was still unavailable to him. He couldn't even access Michael's comlink at the moment. He could keep track of the time from that point on, but it was still uncomfortable not knowing how much he might have missed before. Kitt wasn't very happy with the situation, but he accepted it as inevitable considering he'd been hit by a missile at some point in the past. Hopefully Bonnie would repair and connect his systems back soon and he'd be able to tell what was happening.
At the moment, everything was silent and dark. He was trapped in his CPU with almost nothing to link him to the rest of the world. What little he could access seemed to indicate that his main processor was stable. From experience, Kitt knew that Bonnie would soon hook up a computer in order to contact him and assure herself of his condition. When she did, he'd be able to ask about Michael. He needed to know if his partner was all right. Just knowing that he'd soon have the answer was enough to keep Kitt from panicking over the loss of all input. He desperately wanted some connection to the world outside his own processor. Being cut off from everything except his thoughts was rarely comfortable. All he could do was reexamine his memories and reflect on what could have theoretically occurred since his systems went offline.
It wasn't a voice or letters on a screen. He was receiving pure input from someone typing out a message and sending it into his CPU. Or rather, a command.
Knight Industries Two Thousand. Acknowledge.
It had to be Bonnie trying to contact him. She was probably worried out of her mind that his more vital programming was damaged or corrupted. She would want some form of a response to let her know that he was still himself.
I'm fine, Bonnie. How's Michael? Is he all right?
He waited almost fifty-nine seconds before he received an answer. It wasn't, however, what he was expecting.
This is not Dr. Bonnie Barstow. This is Robert Harris. We have met before.
It only took a couple of nanoseconds for Kitt to pull up the memory of the man. He wasn't a man that the AI was particularly fond of. He wasn't an evil man from what he knew, but his desire to have Kitt did little to endear him to anyone at the Foundation.
What are you doing here? I was under the impression that Devon told you to never set foot on the property again. Where's Bonnie?
The response only took thirty-one seconds this time and was even more concerning.
You are not at the Foundation.
With each passing moment was making him feel more anxious. Why wouldn't he be at the Foundation. Were they trying to repair him on the semi? But why would Robert Harris be present and not Bonnie? He desperately wanted his scanners back online. Kitt reached for any of his systems in a futile attempt to figure out what was going on. He needed to determine his surroundings. He needed to find his friends. He needed answers.
A full one hundred and twenty-seven seconds passed this time before Harris sent his response. If it was possible to send a chill down the spine of an entity without such a structure and that currently lacked the ability to sense temperature difference, the man's message accomplished it.
You are not at the Foundation. You no longer belong to them. You are now the property of Lab 42. We gained ownership from them after your last mission was a failure. We have far larger plans for you than what those at the Foundation hoped to accomplish.
This time it was Kitt who didn't answer quickly. He struggled to find the logic behind the strange turn of events. What could have occurred to lead to this result? Did Harris go as far as to steal him at some point after the attack? If so, Kitt held very few doubts that he would be in the man's possession for long. Michael did not quit once he decided on an action and he would not leave Kitt behind.
Thankful that communicating through the connected computer meant he didn't have to control his tone of voice in order to hide his confusion and unease, the AI composed a suitable reply.
I recall that Michael spoke with you on this matter in the past. I believe his feelings on the matter were "over his dead body." Bonnie and Devon were equally clear on their refusal. So why should I believe that you have ownership?
The response was far too short and quick.
Because Michael Knight is dead.
Shock hit first, almost freezing up all his processes. It couldn't be true. It had to be a lie. He couldn't confirm that with his Voice Stress Analyzer since it was still offline and because Harris was writing out his response, but it couldn't be true. Kitt knew it had to be a lie. Michael…
No, I am not.
Kitt began pouring over those last precious few nanoseconds from before the missile struck. He started running variables and probabilities, searching for evidence that could conclusively destroy Harris's words. There had to be something that he'd missed. Something that would raise the odds of survival enough to prove that Michael wasn't…
He simply did not make it clear of the blast in time. His injuries were too much for him to survive.
The AI refused to accept it, even if his data was demonstrating that it was quite likely. In fact, it was the most probable result. But those numbers didn't factor in so many important things. Like how the man regularly beat the odds to achieve success. Or how he survived so many times when he should have died, just like the accident that brought them together in the first place. And the numbers didn't account for how wrong the world would be if Michael wasn't in it. He couldn't be gone. He needed him.
Kitt reached for his connection to the comlink. He fought uselessly against the damage and off-lined parts of his systems in search for that one tie to Michael. He tried again and again to find it, to reach out and gain even the slightest signal that might suggest he was alive. It didn't matter how small or how unreliable the evidence might be. It couldn't be true.
Harris continued to type. And while part of Kitt acknowledged the message, it barely held his attention in comparison to the crumbling of his denial.
Dr. Barstow and Mr. Miles were upset about the loss, both because he was a good man and because it was the end of the program. You were designed specifically for one person. Those higher in the hierarchy of Knight Industries have decided it would not be worth the time and expense to attempt adapting you to another, especially considering the damage already present. They would have simply left you offline and never reactivated you, but we believe that you could still serve some good.
Kitt almost wished that he did remain offline. It would have been far kinder. He would have had hope of Michael's survival. He could have believed that he fulfilled his purpose.
His main programming, his sole purpose in existence, was for the preservation of human life in general and for Michael Knight specifically. Everything else about him came down to that. So what was left when his purpose was gone? How do you preserve the life of someone who'd already lost his? What was he supposed to do without his driver, his partner, and his friend?
He remembered the death of Stephanie March Mason. Or rather, Stevie Knight. Michael loved her and then lost her. Kitt remembered how much that hurt his partner and continued to suffer afterwards. She was someone very important to Michael and then she was gone. Was this how he felt?
Everything was spiraling apart, cascading down until there was nothing left except a growing pain and loneliness that tried to overwhelm every megabit of memory and processing power. Every denial of emotions… Every statement about how he didn't have any feelings… He wished it was true. Anguish. Loss. Sorrow. Hopelessness. All the things that an artificial intelligence shouldn't possess now threatened to overload his barely-online processor and he couldn't care less.
His reason for existing was gone. Why did he still exist if Michael no longer did? It just seemed wrong. Even if his partner retired someday and Kitt could no longer see him every day, he would have still existed somewhere in the world. They would have managed somehow. But this was worse. He failed to protect the most important person in his life and now he was alone. And it hurt.
Our scientists can repair the damage, though they are not quite as talented as Dr. Barstow when it comes to your systems. They will learn soon enough. The type of missions we have in mind may be different than those you have performed in the past, but they are also important to ensure the best for our country. In fact, they are more important. I am certain you will adapt quickly.
He didn't want any more missions. He didn't work alone. He was part of a team. And the team was broken. His partner was gone. Michael's absence reminded Kitt of his offline systems: a gapping darkness where something important used to be. But unlike his systems, this would never be repaired. Machinery and computers could be replaced; people couldn't. Would every nanosecond of the rest of his existence feel this awful?
Briefly, his thoughts turned to Bonnie and Devon. Kitt knew that they wouldn't willingly turn him over to someone who was practically a stranger, but he also knew that sometimes things were out of their control. He wanted their comforting and familiar presence. He wanted Bonnie's protective affection and Devon's calm stability. Without Michael, he needed someone… No, that wouldn't work. They would also be upset and hurt by events. Both of them cared about Michael too in their own ways. Neither of them would probably go so far as to blame Kitt for not saving him, though the AI was already blaming himself, but they didn't need his emotional pain on top of their own.
Knight Industries Two Thousand. Acknowledge.
Apparently Harris felt that there should have been a reaction by now. Kitt quickly determined that his usual responses wouldn't quite get his intentions across clear enough. In fact, he couldn't think of anything that would make his message clear enough. Then he decided to draw inspiration from Michael's example. Or rather, his example from when they first met and considering each other allies was difficult for the man. Before they truly became partners. Before they were friends. That was the start of everything. Michael was so blunt and unwilling to work with anyone back then. But he would have certainly been able to express his disinterest in speaking with Harris in a way that no one could misunderstood. And that was what Kitt needed now, even if the response wasn't what the AI would have normally chosen.
Shut up and leave me alone.
Harris probably tried to communicate further. Kitt didn't notice or care. All of his processing power was busy with more important things than the man's words.
Even if he was still connected to his voice modulator, the volume would never allow the AI to scream or shout. And the act of crying was impossible without eyes and tear ducts. The human methods of expressing heartbreaking, agonizing, overwhelming sorrow were denied to him due to what he was. But if there was a computer equivalent of curling up in a dark corner of his CPU and sobbing at the unfairness of the world, Kitt discovered how to do it. He ignored all input or attempts of communication as he mourned the loss of best friend.
Waiting in or near a hospital room was a far too common occurrence Devon. Even when the patient wasn't in an actual hospital and was instead treated on the property, there was still the same concerned feeling for the patient's well-being. It started back when Wilton Knight was still alive, though slowly dying. Then there was the wait to learn if Michael Long would live to become Michael Knight. And after that was the numerous times that the younger man ended up in need of medical care because of a particularly challenging mission. Some of the doctors were beginning to memorize Michael's medical information and one of the nurses referred to a specific recovery room as his "usual one." The amount of time he spent there was highly concerning, especial considering how much worse it would have been without Kitt there so many times to protect Michael.
This visit was almost certainly going to be the worst. Not because of the physical injuries to the younger man, though the concussion, cracked ribs, minor internal bleeding, burns, and various bruises were not anything to easily ignore. Considering the number of times he'd been shot, beaten, poisoned, and simply injured, Devon knew the damage to his body would heal. He was more concerned about less visible wounds.
The older man glanced over at his companion. Bonnie looked like a mere shadow of her normal self. It wasn't that surprising considering how long she'd been without a proper night's sleep and the results of her desperate work. Her normally-cheerful eyes especially told the tale. They were now bloodshot with dark circles under he tried to encourage her to stay away and get some rest, she insisted in accompanying him for this visit. She told him that she had to be the one to break the news.
The news that Michael woke up that morning and was already asking for them was met with mild trepidation from the two of them. The nurses also claimed he was asking for his watch, which currently rested in Devon's pocket. He didn't want the younger man to figure out the truth until there was someone with him.
They arrived to find a bored and anxious to leave Michael sitting up in his hospital bed, bandaged and healing from his ordeal. While part of Devon hoped that the younger man would ask how long it would be until he could get out of there and if there were any new leads on his last mission, he knew what the first words would be out of his mouth.
"How's Kitt doing? He got hit by whatever they fired, didn't he?" He shook his head slightly, taking care not to agitate the headache that was undoubtedly still plaguing him. "They knew what they were doing. They were hidden from his scanner until right before they fired. We didn't have any time. And if I didn't know it was useless to argue against that particular piece of programming, we would be having a few words about him tossing me out and taking the hit himself." He took a breath before continuing slowly, "I also know that he wouldn't have done that unless it was really bad and I remember an explosion. How serious was it?"
"I can tell you this much," Devon began carefully. "If you were in the driver's seat upon impact, we would not be having this conversation right now. In fact, from what I understand, your proximity at the time of the explosion makes your entire survival a stroke of pure luck."
"Well, then tell Kitt thanks next time you get the chance then. I'd tell him myself, but one of those doctors or nurses apparently misplaced my comlink," he said, gesturing towards his wrist. Leaning forward slightly, he asked in a more serious tone, "So how bad was? As bad as when we were dealing with those drones with the weaponry or as bad as when that talking piece of garbage dumped him in that toxic pit? That explosion had to be enough to have shaken a few things loose at least."
Devon opened his mouth in preparation for a response, but no words came out. He never liked being the one to deliver such grave news and this time felt especially personal. His silence instantly caused Michael's brow to furrow. The younger man could clearly see that something was wrong.
Bonnie stepped forward, giving Michael an unobstructed view of how tired and sad she looked. Her appearance did little to ease his apparent growing concern.
"Kitt managed to send a short signal for help we assume right before impact," she explained, trying to keep her voice calm and controlled. "It took us some time to get there, but we tried to hurry. There was no sign of your attackers, but apparently some governmental agents or someone caught up with them later. They've been dealt with."
"That's good to hear," responded Michael uneasily, glancing between the two.
The young woman continued, "We got you medical attention as quickly as we could manage. And I started on trying to help Kitt almost immediately. I tried." Her voice began to waver slightly, "We don't think they fired just one missile at him. There was too much damage to everything for that. They were thorough. Not much can damage the MBS, but they hit him enough times that we could barely detect its presence in some places. And one of the shots was through his main scanner."
Devon watched the younger man grow slightly pale. Michael may never have much of an interest or memory for classic literature or certain scientific theories, but he'd paid attention enough to Bonnie's descriptions over the years to recognize what counted as a genuine threat to Kitt's well-being and what the implications of certain forms of damage would be. He knew almost as well as Bonnie did, if not as comprehensively, that targeting that particular opening in the MBS would provide direct access to Kitt's CPU. Michael was putting the pieces together.
"I tried. I did everything that I could think of," she said, her voice now clearly betraying her feelings. "I combed through every pieces of equipment, no matter how damaged. And then I went through them again. I was certain that I was missing it, that I'd find some piece of coding hidden in a half-melted microchip or something and I'd be able to fix everything. But I couldn't find it. I couldn't find him. I kept looking and looking," tears began sliding down Bonnie's cheeks, "trying to get him back. It was just too much damage. Too much was destroyed. There was nothing left that could contain him. I… I couldn't do anything. I tried. I'm sorry, Michael. I'm so sorry." Devon could barely understand her as the brilliant, but heartbroken young woman choked out, "Kitt's gone."
There were many traits, both positive and negative, that he'd observed about Michael during their acquaintanceship and eventual friendship. One that he'd always admired was the younger man's inner strength. It always seemed to keep him going, no matter the obstacles him might encounter. Now, it seemed to Devon that it was the only thing that kept the hospitalized man from shattering at the news. But it was clearly a struggle for him. A lesser man would have broken out in tears or would be lashing out at Bonnie or Devon in misplaced anger for what had occurred. He did neither. Instead, he reached out an arm and pulled the quietly sobbing young woman closer. Michael held her in a one-armed hug, letting her cry into his undoubtedly-sore shoulder, while his eyes were squeezed shut as he seemed to combat the mixture of emotions that the news clearly caused.
Honestly, Devon didn't know what to say or do at the moment. He cared about Kitt, almost like the AI was the good child of the family while Michael served as the troublemaking one. The loss of such a unique and wonderful life was a tragedy for anyone who knew him. But it was different for Bonnie and Michael.
She was the one who helped to create Kitt in the first place, helping Wilton Knight's dream become a reality. She was the one who continued to worry and repair him, scolding his driver for placing her Kitt in too much danger and taking too many risks.
Michael was his partner, the one who spent the most time with Kitt and held perhaps the greatest influence in shaping who he was after the initial activation. Furthermore, adopting his new identity meant the loss of his past. While Michael Long might have had plenty of friends and family, Michael Knight was far more alone. He met people on missions, had the occasional date that rarely went past their third night out, and spent time with those at FLAG, but it was clear that his closest and most important bond was with Kitt. Now that bond was severed and his new purpose in life would either have to adapt to the loss or would be over. One man might be able to make a difference, but it was cruel to expect him to do so completely alone.
Devon watched Michael and Bonnie in silence for some time, his thoughts drifting back toward his old friend. He wondered, staring at the woman mourning the loss of her AI child and lonely man struggling not to break, if Wilton Knight knew what he was doing when he first dreamed up his grand idea. Did he know how saving Michael's life and introducing him to Kitt would lead to this someday? Or did Wilton not realize how truly alive Kitt would be and how painful for others it would be when he died.
Yep, I'm an evil individual. I get torture everyone in this story by making them think that the other one is dead. But they survived! That doesn't mean it isn't depressing to watch them deal with their grief. I don't know when the next chapter will be and things won't be getting better for our heroes for some time. But feedback makes me smile. Thanks.