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The World Of The Knight Rider

Chapter Text

Bonnie grips her steering wheel hard enough for her knuckles to go white. Sand kicks up around her car as she drives down the worn path. She’s the only one on the road, and for a good few minutes there’s absolutely no sign of civilization anywhere. She’s relieved when she spots the distant garage. As she comes closer, she realizes there’s just one car parked out in the front.

She nearly hits the car when she stares at the gaping hole in the wall of the garage. It’s just big enough for a car to fit through; instantly, Bonnie imagines that one of the mechanics must have gone rogue and stolen one of the cars.

Bonnie parks and jumps out of the car. She rushes forward and looks at the hole in the wall. She puts her hand lightly on a part of the wall that was bent in the crash. The wall is thick, hard to break, yet it was pushed aside like it was just clay.

As Bonnie steps through the gaping hole in the wall, her gaze sweeps across the room. Inside the garage is even worse. Plans for different projects are scattered across the floor, and several desks and stools are absolutely destroyed beyond use. At the end of the room, her eyes fall upon Wilton and Jennifer.

They’re sitting on two dilapidated stools that look like they might collapse, but it’s probably better than sitting on the floor. As Bonnie approaches them, she notices that they’re covered in several bruises and a good amount of bandages, too. Wilton pauses in comforting his daughter to look up at Bonnie.

“What happened here?” Bonnie asks. “Are you okay?”

“We’re fine,” Wilton says.

“We’re the lucky ones,” Jennifer points out glumly. “Some of the mechanics have been put in the hospital.”

“But I visited them, and they’re alright,” Wilton says. “Or they will be.”

Bonnie grabs an overturned stool and sits on it. “Alright, so this car you were building. One of the mechanics must have stolen it, right?”

“Not exactly,” Wilton says.

Bonnie arches an eyebrow at him. She doesn’t know much about the project, other than that it’s some sort of car. Wilton had Bonnie give him some suggestions for the design, but she wasn’t included in the project for reasons Wilton refused to explain. Given the scene before her, she supposes she should count herself lucky.

“So what happened?”

Wilton glances at Jennifer, then back at Bonnie. “The car drove himself out.”

Bonnie can’t think of a proper response; she only stares at him until he decides to explain further.

“Our project,” Wilton says as he pushes himself up from the squawking stool, “was to create a car that could think on its own.” He leans over a pile of scattered plans and picks one up. “It’s made possible by this microprocessor.”

Bonnie takes the plans and examines them. The plans depict a computer small enough to fit into the dashboard of a car, just above the steering wheel. It looks complex, and it’s certainly nothing Bonnie has seen before, but she can easily imagine how it would work within a normal car.

“It’s called KARR, the Knight Automated Roving Robot. Along with his sentience, he can completely control the car, but he has to listen to the selected driver. He’s coated in an outer shell that renders him invulnerable to most threats. The only things that could really damage him would have to be huge, or coated in the same shell.”

“That sounds like a recipe for disaster,” Bonnie says.

“And that’s how it turned out,” Jennifer says. “See, the mechanics were running tests on KARR when he activated suddenly. He deemed the mechanics as some sort of threat and began crashing around the garage until he figured out he could get through the walls without getting hurt. He disappeared, and we’re still looking for him. Like I said earlier, most of the mechanics are in the hospital. He’s incredibly dangerous.”

“And that’s why I called you over,” Wilton says. “We need to find him before he can get out into town and hurt someone.”

“You want me to find him?”

“No, I wouldn’t put you in such a dangerous situation,” Wilton argues. “I know you’re good with cars. Even though you weren’t involved with this project, I’d like you to look over the plans and see if you can find anything that might tell us what went wrong.”

“There’s a lot that could have gone wrong, Wilton. It’ll be hard to pinpoint exactly what it was.”

“I know.”

Frowning, Bonnie returns her attention to the plans she’s holding. “Can you tell me more about this microprocessor? I think that’s the thing I’m most unfamiliar with here.”

“Artificial intelligence,” Wilton says. “We designed it on this…” Wilton’s gaze turns to a crushed desk. “Well, we don’t have the computer anymore. But you get the picture.”

“And who’s ‘we’?”

“One of the mechanics and I,” Wilton says. “We were the only people allowed on this project.”

“Would they have tampered with the computer?”

“Not at all. Right before activation, I checked everything myself, alone, so there was no chance for it.”

Bonnie nods. Good. “Does the computer give the car a personality?”

“No,” Wilton says. “It’s a learning computer. The intent was for the car to grow along with the driver, making the car work with the driver rather than the other way around.”

“Then if he gets out to someone dangerous, he can be taught to be used for crime or something,” Bonnie says. “You didn’t put anything at all? He was basically a clean slate immediately upon activation?”

“The only thing was a main initiative of self-preservation,” Wilton says.

“What were your thoughts behind that?”

Wilton shrugs lightly. “If the car wants to save himself, then he won’t get damaged in crashes.”

“Oooh,” Bonnie whispers. She realizes, suddenly, what must have gone wrong. “Wilton, I figured it out. That program, that’s what caused all the problems. Jennifer, you said KARR thought the mechanics were a threat, right? Then that’s why he tried to escape!” Growing suddenly excited, she stands up, nearly knocking over the stool. “But he doesn’t care about, about traffic laws or not killing people or anything, so that’s why he kept crashing into everything. The only thing he cares about is self-preservation.”

“Oh my God,” Wilton whispers.

“He doesn’t trust anyone not to hurt him, so he gets away from them as quickly as he can,” Bonnie continues. She grabs Wilton’s arm excitedly. “Where does his power come from?”

“What?”

“The car. Does he use gas, or alternative fuel?”

“He’s an electric car.”

“Did you charge him up before activation?”

“Of course. He left before we could charge him all the way, though…Oh!”

“We just wait for his power to go down and deactivate him for good!” Jennifer says.

Wilton turns and stares at his daughter. “Deactivate him?”

“That’s what we agreed on,” Jennifer says.

“Only if absolutely necessary!”

“You heard Bonnie! In the wrong hands, he could become a killer.”

“And in the right hands—”

“Yes, it’d be an amazing vehicle,” Jennifer snaps, “but it’s clear we don’t know how to handle this project yet. We have to do this before he can hurt anyone else.”

“Finding him first is important,” Bonnie cuts in. “We can figure out what to do when we get him.”

“If we get him,” Jennifer points out.

“You’re right,” Bonnie says, “but that’s not the point.”

“Is there any way we can handle this without deactivating him?” Wilton asks. “You have to understand, this project is very important to me.”

Bonnie hesitates, glancing back and forth between Jennifer and Wilton. The last thing she wants to do is get herself involved in another one of their arguments, but her own opinion has a stake in this matter, too.

“With the right person at the computer, you might be able to hack into the microprocessor and change his initiatives to make him more concerned for other people,” Bonnie says. “But that would still be very complicated, and potentially very dangerous.”

Jennifer holds out her hands in Bonnie’s direction as if to say “see?!” Wilton shakes his head. Sighing, he suddenly looks more tired than he’s ever looked before. Bonnie winces at the thought. He shouldn’t be working on a project like this, in his condition, and Wilton knows it. But of course he doesn’t care; that’s Wilton for you.

“You can try with the hacking,” Bonnie says. “If it gets too dangerous, then you should just deactivate him, like Jennifer says.”

“You think so?”

“I know why you’d want this project to succeed, but there’s no use killing yourself over it,” Bonnie points out. Despite the words, her tone is gentle and sympathetic to Wilton’s situation.

“She’s right, Dad,” Jennifer says.

“I know.” Sighing, Wilton puts an arm around his daughter. “I suppose we’ll have to meet with the mechanics and tell them about the development.”

“Before we do that, may I take these plans?” Bonnie asks, gesturing towards the scattered papers. “Reading over it in more depth might help out.”

At this thought, Wilton returns to his usual, cheery self. “That’s a great idea, Bonnie. Let me help you get them.”

Together, the three of them gather up the paperwork into a massive pile, which is then practically crushed into the trunk of Bonnie’s car. She slams the trunk closed once, then a second time once it opens up again. She steps back with her hands out cautiously, but the trunk stays closed.

“There we go,” she says, wiping her hands off on her jeans. She turns to face Wilton and Jennifer. “I’ll take this back to the shop, and we’ll call you if we find anything important, okay?”

“Thank you for your help, Bonnie,” Wilton says. “We thought this project was a lost cause.”

“It might still be, Dad.”

“Even so,” Wilton says, “thank you for coming out here.”

“It was no problem. I should be getting back now, okay? See you later.”

As Bonnie drives away from the garage, she sees that Jennifer and Wilton are still talking to each other in the parking lot. Probably arguing again, frankly. They certainly love each other, but that doesn’t stop them from butting heads constantly. Bonnie wonders if it’s from different viewpoints or just them letting off steam after having lived together since Jennifer was born. They still occupy the same house, along with one Devon Miles, a close friend of Bonnie’s whom she’s visited every week at the least. As a result of this, she’s become incredibly close to the Knight family, even involving herself in some of the projects they’ve created. Why she wasn’t included in the creation of KARR, she doesn’t know, but it doesn’t bother her in the least, given what happened to the project.

Well, she tells herself that it doesn’t.

After an hour and a half of driving, she finally reaches town and has to stop for gas. Luckily, there’s one as soon as she enters. After refueling her car, she weaves through the roads, which seem to always be halfway filled with cars nowadays. At the base of the mountains is her auto body shop, and on top of it her apartment. She parks at the side, beside two other cars of the only others who work there, and enters the building.

April and RC are excited to greet her. Other than them, the garage is empty, no customers in sight so far.

“How’d it go with Wilton?” RC asks. “What was the project about?”

“I actually need to talk to you about that,” Bonnie says. “It was a car, and we’re supposed to be reviewing the plans.”

“A car?” April repeats. “Then why didn’t—”

“I know,” Bonnie says, “but that doesn’t matter now. There are a lot of plans that I have crowding the back of the trunk. Could I get your help bringing them in?”

They empty out the car, and soon Bonnie’s garage is almost as much of a mess as Wilton’s was. The papers are spread out in a way that makes it difficult to go around the garage without stepping on one of them.

“We’ll definitely need to organize all these,” April says as she sits cross-legged in the midst of all the paperwork.

“Look at this!” RC snatches up one of the papers. “None of these are normal car functions.”

“Wait until you see the microprocessor,” Bonnie says, waving around the plan in question. “Now look, we have to figure out some way to help stop the car from hurting anyone without actually deactivating. Wilton said he’d do it if necessary, but he was just saying that to calm his daughter down.”

“You sure you’re not using this to build another project?” RC asks.

“Hey,” Bonnie snaps. Truth is, she’s already thought of the idea, but she rejected it as quickly as she could. “We’re just helping Wilton out, and then after this, it’s all going back to normal.”

Chapter Text

It’s dark outside, but the sun going down does nothing to help with the heat. If anything, the weather is getting worse, but Michael doesn’t have the time to ditch his formal jacket for his security guard disguise. His friend Muntzy is in danger, and Michael is the only one who can help at this point.

“Michael!” someone shouts behind him. Tanya. She’s working with the both of them; she’ll understand if Michael runs out.

“Muntzy, look out!” Michael cries, sprinting forward into the parking lot.

A gunshot pierces through the night air. A few people at the casino cry out in panic, but Michael doesn’t hesitate. He pushes himself forward, sprinting around a van, only to find his friend already dead on the asphalt. Whoever had the gun is gone.

Michael can hear the blood rushing in his ears. He doesn’t know if he’s going to puke or cry, but either would be bad for the situation. No, he has to go after who ever did this. That’s what Muntzy would do if it were Michael there in the parking lot.

Tanya catches up with him in a few seconds. She stares at the scene in horror.

“My God, Michael, I’m so sorry,” she whispers.

“Call the police, and stay here with him until they get him,” Michael says. “I know who did this, and I’m going after them.”

“Michael, I’m not letting you go alone!”

“Stay here!” Michael shouts before turning to run away.

Frustrated, Tanya looks around at the scene. She glances back at the unmoving form of their partner, then turns to face a panicked bystander. “Call the cops,” she says. “Wait here until they get here, and tell them that this man has been shot. Got it?”

Not waiting for a response, Tanya runs in the direction Michael went. She catches up with him before he can drive off in his car and jumps into the passenger seat.

“Tanya, what the hell did I just tell you—”

“Calm down,” Tanya says. “Someone’s calling the cops. You can’t go after these suspects alone. It’s no use getting yourself killed along with Muntzy.”

Michael grips the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles go white and begin to ache. “There’s not time to argue,” he says as the car shoots forward. “Buckle up!”

Tanya snaps the seatbelt on. “Now Michael, our job is to guard Mr McBride until the thieves we’re after make themselves known. We’re leaving the man alone back in the casino.”

“Then you could have stayed with him,” Michael says. “I know our job, but do you seriously think Muntzy was killed like that for the sake of a theft?”

“Let me guess. It’s a conspiracy.”

“Yes!”

“It always is with you!” Tanya snaps.

“And how many times have we unraveled actual conspiracies?” Michael argues. She already knows the answer. Michael continues, “I know what I’m talking about, Tanya. This is bigger than the three of us, way bigger.”

“As per usual,” Tanya mutters. “I’m guessing that’s why you’ve been so distant in our investigations. So what is it this time? Someone in our precinct is in on it? Those annoying investigative reporters we had to shake off were actually onto something, and you’ve secretly been working with them the whole time?” Tanya gasps and throws her arm out towards Michael. “Michael, stop the car!”

Michael slams on the brakes before he can crash into a row of parked cars before him.

“Got ‘em,” he says, grinning. Grabbing his gun, he jumps out of the car. Making sure to keep the door open in front of him like a shield, Michael says in his best cop voice, “Alright, I want you to drop out your weapons and come out with your hands up!”

The man outside of the car freezes, staring at the gun, but no one else moves.

Michael’s gaze swivels towards Tanya as she slams the car door closed.

“Search ‘em,” Michael says, nodding towards her.

Sighing, she pulls a gun out of her purse and aims it towards him.

“Drop the gun, Michael,” Tanya says lightly.

“Shit,” Michael whispers. “Tanya, what are you doing?”

“I said drop the gun.”

Michael glances over at the man by the car. He and the woman sitting in the driver’s seat both look frightened due to the gun aimed at them and the uncertainty of what will happen next. They must be working with Tanya, somehow.

“I’m not bluffing!” Tanya snaps. In a swift movement, she aims the gun at Michael’s left shoulder and fires.

Michael stumbles back and gasps out in pain, grabbing his bleeding shoulder.

Of course she’s in on it. That’s why she’s so insistent on the methods he’s solving the case. On knowing what exactly he’s doing at all times.

With bloodied hands, Michael fumbles with his own gun, painfully lifting it to aim it at her.

“Such a shame,” she whispers, aiming the gun directly at his head.

The gunshot echoes loudly throughout the desert. Tanya, wearing ear plugs to prepare for the event, is the only one not wincing at the sound. She turns towards the others.

“You’re free to go,” she says.

“What about him?” the woman in the driver’s seat asks.

“I just shot him point blank in the face. Even if it somehow doesn’t go through his brain, there’s no one around here for miles. He’ll bleed out before they can help him. Now let’s go before the police get here!”

*

Wilton gnaws on his fingernails as he paces through the hospital hallway. It’s too quiet, no white noise to be heard, so his ears begin to ring. He reaches the elevator at the end of the hallway, then turns and walks back to the other end, where his daughter is leaned against the wall beside a door. She looks up at him tiredly and feigns a smile for his sake.

The elevator door opens with a “ding!” Devon walks out and rushes towards Wilton.

“What is it? What happened?” Devon asks, his usually refined voice carrying a tone of panic. They’ve gone through too many hospital visits together, but each time comes with new fear, no matter how many times it’s happened.

“Come inside,” Wilton says, pushing the hospital door open.

Devon walks through and looks around the room. There’s a man lying unconscious in the bed. His face is completely bandaged, and his wrists are restrained to prevent movement, but by the looks of it, that’s not even a concern. Devon’s eyes dart towards the monitors, which confirm that the man is still alive. At least there’s that.

“Is this…” Devon hesitates. “Officer Long?”

Wilton nods solemnly.

Devon has heard stories of some Michael Long, a detective or cop or something who saved Jennifer’s life and received Wilton’s assistance on a few cases. Devon, however, has never met the man, not before this moment. Can this even be counted as a meeting?

“What happened to him?” Devon asks.

Wilton picks up a picture of an X-ray left out on the nightstand. “Look at this. He was shot point blank in the face. The only thing that prevented him from being killed was a metal plate in his head.”

Devon takes the X-ray. “What is it, a military surgery?”

“He told me he got it at after trying to escape a POW camp in Vietnam,” Jennifer says. She folds her arms across her chest. “Drafted and all. Not like he would be able to tell me all the details.”

“No, of course not.” Devon furrows his brow at the X-ray. “This would cause the bullet to go back out and shatter his face, correct?”

“That’s exactly what happened,” Wilton says.

“Dad, why don’t you tell him your idea?”

Sighing, Wilton walks over to sit down on one of the plastic chairs in the corner of the room. Devon and Jennifer follow suit, sitting on either side of him.

“Let me explain what happened,” Wilton says. “He was out on a case when his partner shot him. She didn’t know about the metal plate in his head, so she thinks she left a dead man out in the desert.”

“I see,” Devon says.

“Michael was dealing with a particularly dangerous conspiracy at the time,” Wilton says. “Even I was having trouble finding information for him.”

Devon snaps his fingers. “Tanya Walker! You had me research into her past.”

“Yes, it was her who did this.”

“My God!”

Wilton nods. “We…well, I think it would be best if we faked this man’s death. They already think he’s dead.”

Devon frowns. “And I’m guessing you can’t ask him for his own opinion on this?”

“He’s in a medically induced coma,” Wilton says. “But there’s more. The doctors need to give him complete facial reconstructive surgery. I think we should change his face.”

“So they don’t recognize him,” Devon says quietly.

“Exactly! We know how to fake the documents and create a whole new identity. We can give him a new life. He can go back to his old job or start anew. But the whole point is that he has a choice.”

“How can he go back to his old life if he has a new identity?” Devon points out.

After a moment of hesitation, Wilton says, “I suppose we’ll bring up the idea after he wakes up. If he wants to go back to his old life, we let him. He’ll have to explain the new face, sure, but the facial reconstructive surgery won’t change anything else about him. And if he goes with the idea, then we can make up new documents for his new identity.”

“Why do I have the sinking feeling that I am to agree with this idea, no matter how bad it is?”

“Devon, this is serious,” Wilton says.

“I know. That’s why I’m so worried.”

“Dad has thought the whole thing out,” Jennifer says. “The only thing he hasn’t told me yet is who he wants to make Officer Long look like.”

Wilton settles back in the plastic chair. “I’ll find something from a magazine, someone who looks a little like him, but different enough that anyone who knew him would believe he’s a different person. How does that sound?”

“It’s still pretty vague,” Jennifer points out.

“She has a point,” Devon says. “The benefits you explained certainly do make this seem like a good decision, but you will have to provide a picture. It can’t just be anything.”

“I’ll find one tonight,” Wilton says. “If we’re all at an agreement, then I suppose I’d better talk to the doctor.”

*

Wilton is alone in his office, or one of his offices, he supposes. The house is big enough to contain multiple offices, and sometimes Wilton loses his work in the midst of them. Devon chalks it up to his old age, as usual. Wilton is old, but so is Devon, and the both of them are still as sharp as they used to be. Or almost.

Leaning back in his chair, Wilton opens the drawer. Luckily, what he expects to see is really there: a book of photographs. He picks it up and drops it on the desk with a loud thud. The cup of pencils, likely placed there by Devon, rattles loudly. Wilton flips open the first page.

Encased in the plastic sleeve is a wedding picture, him and Elizabeth. He winces at the sight of it. In the picture, they’re incredibly happy, of course, and a good few decades younger. Wilton has his hands around Elizabeth’s waist, and Elizabeth is holding a massive bouquet of flowers, with some of the petals even spilling out.

Wilton flips the sleeve over. The next page contains a few pictures during Elizabeth’s pregnancy, then some baby pictures of the twins. There’s even one of Devon holding two infants in his arms and grinning at the camera. Wilton remembers taking that picture. Or, no, was that Elizabeth? Someone from the detective agency? Damn, there were so many baby pictures. Wilton flips through some more of them before falling upon a picture of Jennifer and his son Garthe. Both of them are, what, nine? They look happy to be together, unlike the current reality of things. Wilton pauses as he looks at this picture, then slowly begins going through the rest of them. He can’t help it; it’s like a painful curiosity, only he knows exactly what he’s going to see. As the kids grow older, they become more distant, Garthe more sinister, Jennifer more terrified of him. And then, suddenly, he and Elizabeth are gone, completely out of their lives.

Wilton flips back a few pages and slaps his hand on top of one of them. Slowly, he removes his hand, allowing himself to view the picture in full. It’s Garthe, before he went to college. Before he grew that mustache, even. God, he looks so young. Not like Wilton even knows what the man looks like now; his son has been in prison for a few years.

Three life sentences in Africa, and Wilton doesn’t even know how he got them. Elizabeth probably does, but she and Wilton haven’t talked for years.

In this picture, he’s smiling, and it seems real. Now that Wilton thinks about it, Garthe is probably just glad he’s getting to go to a school so far away from them.
What was he even studying? Business or something. Whatever it was, it didn’t work out, and neither did his trip.

Now that Wilton thinks about it, he probably should have suspected something was going on. But no one could have expected this.

Sighing, Wilton gently pulls the photograph from the photo sleeve. It’s precious to him, but he’ll have to trust the surgeon to take care of it.

He was supposed to be looking for someone in a magazine, right? Well, that’s not going to work out now, he supposes. No, after breakfast, he’ll take this photograph out to the hospital and give it to the surgeon, tell him that the guy in the hospital bed is his son and all. The surgeon doesn’t know any better, and it’s not like Wilton has any pictures of Michael Arthur Long.

He’ll break the news to Devon and Jennifer after he goes to the hospital. They deserve to have a heads-up, but he knows they’ll try to argue against him if he tells them beforehand.

Chapter Text

“You did what?!” Devon explodes.

Meanwhile, Jennifer practically collapses in on herself as she slides down into the seat.

“Wilton, you could have brought this up with us beforehand!” Devon snaps.

“We can’t convince everyone that that man is our—is your son!”

“Garthe has three life sentences in prison, and he’s not even in America at the moment,” Wilton argues. “Even if he gets out, which is in itself highly unlikely, there’s no way he’ll get over to the states unseen. He’d have to have a lot of help, which he can’t get in his position. Now, I’m not saying Michael has to become him, but I think it would be a good story to use, don’t you?”

Devon’s face is still pink, but he’s considerably calmer now. He forces himself to keep his tone even as he asks, “How would it be a good story?”

“He’ll be living with us once he gets out of the hospital, until he’s well enough to support himself,” Wilton says. “And we’ve been visiting him so often in the hospital that he’s got to be someone important to us.”

“That’s because he is.”

“Yeah, Michael Arthur Long is. But he’s dead. However, Michael Knight just happens to be a family member who had a similar tragic accident at around the same time.”

Devon pinches the bridge of his nose and lets out a sigh. “Wil, I think you’re ruining my blood pressure.”

“Don’t tell me it’s a bad idea,” Wilton says. “I already know it’s risky.”

“Risky doesn’t cover it! What if Michael goes against this story? Or if Elizabeth suddenly returns and argues against it? And what if Garthe—”

“Garthe isn’t coming back,” Wilton argues. “Do you know how hard it is for me to say that? That’s my son. But I’ve had to accept it.”

Devon has to sit down again. “Wil, we need to prepare for the unexpected. Especially given who your son really is.”

Wilton rolls his eyes. “I know, Devon. I got this under control.”

“Like KARR,” Jennifer mutters.

“KARR?” Devon glances at Jennifer, then Wilton. “What happened with KARR?”

“Jenny!” Wilton hisses.

Jennifer’s jaw drops. “You didn’t tell him? Dad!”

Wilton puts up his hands. “I was going to! After this!”

“What—happened—with—KARR?!”

“He went rogue and escaped the garage,” Wilton says.

“Oh, God damn it!”

“Devon!” Wilton hisses.

Devon takes a few deep breaths to calm himself. “Wil, I’m trying to keep my calm, but this is an incredibly stressful situation.”

“I know.”

“What are you going to do about KARR?”

“Jenny wants me to deactivate him when we find him,” Wilton says. “Bonnie suggests trying to hack him if possible.”

“You brought Bonnie into this?”

“Only for some advice when he got away,” Wilton says. “She also said that we can easily find him if he runs out of power, which he likely will given how far the garage is from anyone.”

“I hope you do,” Devon says. “There must have been some glitch in the program.”

“According to Bonnie, he’s not worried about saving people, only himself,” Jennifer points out. “And that means he can probably kill someone if he wants to.”

Kill some—”

The ringing phone interrupts their conversation. Jennifer jumps up to answer it. With the receiver pressed to her ear, she says, “Knight residence, Jennifer speaking.” After a few uh-huhs and other vague agreements with the speaker, the conversation is over.

“They’re going to take off Officer Lo—sorry, Michael’s bandages,” Jennifer says. “The doctors want us to be there for him since, you know, he’s our family and all.”

Wilton winces.

The three of them go out into the garage and climb into Wilton’s old car, which rattles loudly when it drives too quickly, but Wilton doesn’t want to replace it because he always used it—and occasionally crashed it—back when he and Devon ran their detective agency together. Jennifer can’t complain; she’s had a few good childhood memories in the backseat of this car.

As Wilton backs out of the drive way, Jennifer considers the situation ahead of her. It makes sense that Wilton didn’t bring this up until it was irreversible, but it’s still annoying. That’s just the way her father works when it comes to big things like Michael or KARR.

Jennifer supposes she’ll have to get used to having a brother again. As terrible as it sounds, she readily accepted Garthe’s disappearance, and she figures Michael’s arrival, especially looking like her brother, and having to act as it as well, will be a much bigger adjustment. Hopefully, he’ll be kinder, one she doesn’t feel the need to hide from all the time. After all, he did save her life, once. Technically, it’s still the same person.

The hospital is nearby, as is everything else in town. Wilton parks as close to the door as he can get (and incredibly close to the car right next to them, but Jennifer won’t complain). The three of them jump out of the car, rush inside, and take an elevator up to the right floor. A doctor is there to greet them and bring them into the hospital room.

“He’s awake now,” the doctor explains as she opens up the door. “He’s doing alright, but we just wanted you to be here when we remove the bandages.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Devon murmurs.

The man is still heavily bandaged in the middle of the bed. The vital signs still point to his survival. He’s clearly awake now, but he doesn’t move around too much. The doctor closes the door and walks over to the nightstand. She picks up a pair of scissors.

“Ready?”

“Go ahead, doc,” Wilton says.

“Alright, Mr Knight, I’m going to start removing the bandages,” she says to the man in the bed. Since he doesn’t respond, she just goes on with it anyway.

She tells him every time she goes down a layer, and then finally, she’s on the last layer. Cautiously, she removes it, then takes away the pads protecting his eyes from the light.

He still winces, then looks around like he’s just a tired man who has been napping for too long on accident. He’s clearly confused by his surroundings, and by the people with him. When he turns to look at them, it’s like seeing a ghost.

Jennifer’s knees nearly buckle under her, but she grabs onto Devon’s arm and keeps herself steady.

“Why’s everyone staring?” he asks. His voice is raspy.

He pushes himself up into a sitting position with the doctor’s help. She hands him a glass of water that he sips nervously before putting back on the nightstand.

They’re still staring at him.

Quietly, the doctor hands him a mirror. He frowns at the reflection, then puts a hand to his face.

“This isn’t me,” he says, but the reflection moves in sync to his words. “What happened to my face?”

“It was shattered in the accident,” the doctor explains. “We had to completely reconstruct it.”

Michael frowns at the mirror again before dropping it beside himself on the bed. He doesn’t want to look at it anymore.

“When can I leave the hospital?”

*

They come back for Michael the next morning. He’s ready to leave, and the few belongings he had with him at the hospital are already packed up. Michael sits in the back of the car beside Jennifer as they drive out of the hospital, and Jennifer politely avoids talking to him, which doesn’t bother Michael one bit. Devon spends the whole ride twisted around to look over the edge of the passenger seat as he explains the intended situation to Michael. His death can be easily faked if he so chooses; either way, he’ll be living at the house with them until he’s well enough to leave; he’s welcome to stay longer if he likes; if he chooses to go along with faking his death, he’ll be, technically, part of the family; if not, then he’s still close friends with all of them and welcome to ask for help at any time…Frankly, it’s a lot for Michael to handle, almost overwhelming. He listens quietly with a neutral expression, but he can’t help but wonder if this is just another nightmare, and if he’s still in a coma back at the hospital.

Wilton parks at the local cafe, the only one in town, where almost everyone goes if they want to eat out for breakfast. Michael is glad to be eating something other than hospital food—or anything at all, really. They sit down at a booth together like a normal, happy family, and anyone who wasn’t listening in on the conversation might even believe it was th case.

“Uh, thanks for getting me out of the hospital,” Michael says because he doesn’t really know what else he should tell them. After all, he barely knows these people, and he’s never met Devon before the hospital visit.

“It was no problem at all,” Devon says, glancing up from the menu to look at Michael, who is sitting beside him.

Michael clears his throat and pours himself some coffee from the container left out on the table.

The waiter comes by with four plates of food, and the family eats in silence for a few seconds.

Then Devon decides to whip out a, “So how are you feeling, Michael?”

Michael nearly chokes on his fried eggs. After a gulp of coffee, he rasps out,

“Yeah, fine.”

“Good,” Devon says.

After another moment of pained silence, Jennifer says, “So this is fun.”

“Jenny,” Wilton says.

“Sarcasm is a very normal family thing,” Jennifer says. “And we’re trying to be one, aren’t we?”

“Oh, he’s actually your dad?” Michael asks.

Jennifer turns to look at him with a confused expression.

“I just thought—I don’t know, same situation.”

Jennifer puts a hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh. Leaning in, she whispers, “No, you’re the first family member Dad’s picked up from the hospital. It’s not like he’s made a habit of it or anything.”

Wilton rolls her eyes. “Okay, Jenny, sure.”

Jennifer smiles as she cuts off a piece of pancake and shoves it into her mouth.

The conversations that follow are more casual, albeit somewhat stilted from the same awkwardness that plagued them at the beginning of the meal. After about an hour (by the end of which Michael just wants to run out), they pay and leave the building. Back into the car. Wilton drives off towards the mountain. He waves at an auto body shop—which does not respond—as he passes by it and begins driving up the slanted road.

They don’t drive all the way up to the top of the mountain like Michael half expects them to. In fact, they only drive up a few minutes before reaching some sort of plateau. In the middle of it is a house—more like a mansion, honestly—surrounded in trees and flowers. Michael can even detect some fruit, vegetable, and herb gardens, likely to avoid a drive back down when in need of any produce. Michael grabs his leather bag and climbs out of the car with the others. Trailing behind the group, he walks through the front door of the house last.

Devon is waiting for him and gently takes him by the arm.

“Let me show you to your room,” Devon says, taking Michael away.

They walk down a long, carpeted hallway with a variety of framed photographs hanging up. Michael pauses and points at one of a young man on a motorcycle.

“Is that you?”

“Yes, it’s a very old picture of me. Now, here is your room.”

Devon pushes open a doorway leading into what looks like a normal guest room, but Michael sees that several of his belongings have been moved from his apartment to this room. Even the half-open armoire is filled with his own clothes.

“How did you get this stuff?” Michael asks as he walks into the room.

“Wilton figured out the address of your old apartment and brought your belongings here,” Devon explains.

“Guess I don’t have a lot of choice in this ‘fake your death’ thing.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s all pretty irreversible at this point. My face is completely different, and I haven’t paid rent on my apartment yet, so I’m probably going to lose it in a few days anyway.”

“We can help you with that.”

“But all that stuff Wilton was saying, about how if I go out as Michael Long they’re going to try to kill me? That’s got to be true.”

“There certainly is a sense of danger in returning to your old life, and it may be difficult as well,” says Devon, “but it’s still your choice, you know.”

Michael shoves his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket and looks around the room. There are hundreds of things he wants to ask, but he doesn’t trust Devon with the questions yet.

He doesn’t even know who he’ll trust now.

Chapter Text

The plane is still. The passengers wait in anticipation until they are released. Suddenly, there’s a flurry of movement as the passengers rush to grab their things and get off the plane. The man waiting in a window seat wants desperately to push everyone out of the way and sprint into the airport, but he know he has to keep some semblance of normalcy. He waits anxiously as the person next to him gets her suitcase before he leaves, closely following her off the plane. They walk into the terminal with a collective sigh of relief, then separate and go their own ways down the airport.

As for the man, he strolls through the packed terminal and looks around in wonder at the place. It’s been years since he was last here, and everything seems completely changed. Or maybe he just can’t remember what it was the last time. The people in the airport move around him like he’s not even there, or like they’re avoiding him, trying to keep a safe distance. He wades through the crowds. There was no discussion on where he was supposed to go.

“Oh, Garthe, there you are!” a voice exclaims.

The voice is accompanied by footsteps, and suddenly the speaker pulls him into a kiss. Instinctively, Garthe puts his arms around her and kisses back. It takes a few seconds for him to realize it’s Adrianne Margeaux, whom he’s known even before his experience in prison.

“We’re in public, now,” another voice snaps.

Garthe lets go, lightly pushing Adrianne away as he turns to get a look at the person. He realizes, with a sense of happiness, that it’s his mother, Elizabeth Knight. Both Elizabeth and Adrianne were essential in getting him out of prison, and now they’re going to help him out with the final stage: getting him to a place where the local police won’t be able to find him. It’s not like there’s a warrant out for his arrest in the states, but there’s no such thing as being too careful.

They slip out of the airport without causing another scene, not like the last one even drew a lot of attention to them. A driver is waiting at the front with a car; he opens up the back doors and lets them inside. Garthe sits wedged between Adrianne and Elizabeth. He doesn’t know if he’s seen the car before, or if he’s just imagining it.

As the car drives off, Elizabeth begins to explain what Garthe missed during his time away. “Your father, your sister, and ‘Uncle Devon’ are still alive.”

“Oh, please, stop calling him that. He wasn’t an uncle, more of an annoyance, honestly.”

“Either way, they’re all living together off somewhere I haven’t been to in years,” Elizabeth says. “They’re no longer solving crimes, but they’re working on all these projects that just don’t make any sense. Like the most recent one that I heard from one of the engineers: a talking car. Who even thinks of that? He must have gone off his rocker by now!”

“No, a talking car might be useful,” Garthe points out. “Depending on how well it works.”

“Not very well, so I’ve heard. It just ran off.”

“Hm,” Garthe says. “What about you, Adrianne? How’s your business going?”

Adrianne smiles. “It’s quite well, actually. While you were gone, we’ve pulled off several successful operations and even got some people into the police force and prison system. Our concerns towards being caught are greatly diminished.”

“Good, good. I’m glad it’s working out for you.” The happiness he mentions does not make it onto his worn face. “Where will I be staying?”

“We actually have a mansion together, fancy that,” Adrianne says. “Same place you used to live in before your African experience—only we upgraded it a bit.”

“Oh, wonderful, so the two of you are getting along.” Garthe can’t hide the sarcasm in his tone, but it probably is a good thing that they like each other. “Then I suppose I’ll be with both of you?”

Adrianne puts an arm around his. “Of course you will! Oh, look, here we are!”

The driver silently brings them to a large mansion. The “upgrades” Adrianne mentioned have changed the entire appearance of the house. Garthe barely recognizes it, but Adrianne insists it’s the one he used to live in.

The car parks, and the driver gets out to let them out of the car. Elizabeth pauses to thank him as the couple walks up to the front doors.

*

Garthe finishes washing off the shaving cream and hangs the towel on the rack beside the sink. He buttons up his shirt, slips on his jacket, and adjusts the sleeves. He’s beginning to feel much like his “old” self again, but it’s not like his incomplete experience in prison can be ignored simply by a shower and a shave.

Turning on his heel, he holds his hands out as if he’s showing himself off. “How do I look?”

From the bed, Adrianne looks up from her book and smiles at him. “Wonderful. Now, let’s talk business.”

Garthe scoops up his old walking stick, which doubles as a rifle, and walks over towards her. She leads him to a table at the end of the room.

“Now, I believe one of the members here might need some help,” Adrianne says as she pours two glasses of champagne. “She killed someone, you see.” Adrianne hands over one of the glasses.

“Then she should hide the body and find herself an alibi for the time of the death. We can help her think of one.”

“That’s the thing, you see. She shot a man point blank in the face and left him to bleed out in the middle of the desert while she handled some other business. When she returned to collect the remains, he disappeared, and I doubt it was the coyotes.”

“That’s highly unprofessional.”

“I’m afraid she didn’t think it through all the way,” Adrianne says. “But even so, we still need to help her out. Think of the business.”

Garthe leans back in the chair and steeples his hands. “Who was the man that she killed?”

“Oh, some officer named Michael Arthur Long. There’s no chance that he’s still alive, but my concern is where the body might have gone.”

“Well, was there a funeral for him?”

“It’s scheduled for the end of this week, actually,” Adrianne says. “If they can’t find and prepare the body by then, they’ll just put an empty coffin in the ground, I believe.”

“Do they know it’s a murder?”

“Yes, but luckily the two other witnesses work for us, and they’re not talking. The family thinks the murder must have been random, or some sort of revenge from someone Officer Long had caught in one of his cases. If we simply continue to let them think this, they may investigate, but they won’t be able to prove anything.”

“And you’re sure of this?”

“Of course I’m sure! Miss Walker made an error, but she certainly wouldn’t endanger us. She knows what happens when someone does.”

“Good, then we’ll just keep watch on any investigations and make sure of it.”

*

Tanya makes sure she isn’t even in the same town that the funeral is being held in. But since Michael had never personally seen Adrianne or Garthe, the pair can safely show up as a concerned couple claiming to have once met Michael during one of his cases. They spin a good story about how greatly he had helped them, how much they regret not getting to see him more often while he was alive. Nobody at the funeral recognizes them, but they don’t bother to mention it.

Sitting in the back, Adrianne and Garthe watch with calculating coolness as the priest gives a passionate speech on how cruelly this young man’s life was taken by a criminal who has yet to be identified. After that, one of the cops Michael works with comes up and assures everyone that they’ll do everything they can to catch who did it, but he can’t finish his speech without breaking down into tears.

Adrianne makes note of his name for the sake of their own investigations. Then, the man’s fiance walks up to the front and talks through tears about how much he’ll be missed.

Once she sits down, the parents of the man go up to talk. Adrianne leaves, acting as if she’s too overcome with emotion to stay in the room, and Garthe follows, pretending he needs to comfort her. They keep the ruse going until they leave the funeral home.

“That Stephanie woman will have to be dealt with for sure,” Adrianne says as they walk through rows of graves.

“Not to mention that they’re performing a full investigation on the case. I suppose you must be against leaving your members out to fight for themselves?”

“If you are implying that I should give Miss Walker up to the police, then yes, I’m against that,” Adrianne responds. Her coolness does not reflect her true emotions.

“If we do that, she’ll surely throw us all under the bus. Anyway, we have many of our people working for the police. There’s no way they’re going to finish the investigation.”

“What do you propose to do, then?”

Adrianne slips her hands into the pockets of her jacket and considers the question. “It’ll certainly become a cold case if we keep going the way we are right now. We’ll help Miss Walker leave town, and then we’ll focus our attention to other projects. Sure, we’ll keep checking in on this, but it’ll blow over eventually.”

“What do we do with the fiance?”

“Hmm…”

Seeing that Adrianne isn’t coming to the same conclusion as him, Garthe suggests, “We could simply have her join her lover.”

“And what would that solve? If anything, it might worsen things if people get suspicious. This morning, I ran a background check on her. She’s a rock and roll singer, and not even a particularly popular one. She has no background with criminal investigation, other than that she was the suspect of a case once. Even if she tries to look into Officer Long’s death, she won’t be able to solve it.”

“I still don’t like the sound of that. There are too many variables that could make things go wrong.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Garthe. We’ll be sure to keep some tabs on her, just in case. If she does become a problem, we’ll deal with her immediately.”

“Permanently?”

“Of course! How else would we do it?”

“Good!” Garthe takes her hand. “Now, shall we return home? Or should we continue to mourn our dear friend?”

Chapter Text

Devon pulls his cowboy hat down over his brow to protect his eyes from the gleaming sun. Stooping down, he looks over the tire tracks left in the sand.

“That’s definitely KARR’s treads,” the other mechanic says. “That’s why I brought you over here.”

Devon runs his fingers across the tracks. They form an odd pattern.

“We think,” the mechanic continues, “based on the tracks, that he drove over here, parked when his power packs ran out, and was later towed away. See those other tracks? Someone must have brought a truck and hauled him out of the desert.”

“Do we know who?”

“No, sir. We’re running an analysis on these tire tracks, of course, but we haven’t found anything yet.”

“Well, keep working on that,” Devon says. He pushes himself up to his feet. “It would also be wise to run checks on every garage in the area. If this is recent, then they couldn’t have gone far yet, and they’d need to be able to make repairs to the car once they charge him up.”

“You think they know he’s an electric?”

“I know he can be fueled with gasoline as well,” Devon says. “Actually, we should watch out for any gas stations near the area. Once KARR is activated again, he’ll surely cause a scene. We need to be prepared for when that happens.”

“Of course, sir. I’ll get started as soon as we get back.”

*

Bonnie fiddles with the sleeves of the white button-up shirt she put under her sweater. It’s probably the first time in the past week that she’s worn something other than her overalls for work and the pajamas she likes to wear at home. God, she needs to get out more.

“Alright, I’m going to talk to Wilton,” Bonnie says. She pauses and stares at the parked Trans-Am in the middle of the garage.

This, of course, is their reason for the meeting. Bonnie wants to be sure that Wilton approves of the project. They’re not going to make “another KARR”, just a vehicle that is similar in design but entirely different in programming. The idea is that if the car actually resembled the original idea behind the project, it would be a huge help to…whoever gets to try it. They’re not far along enough to figure that out yet.

“Be sure to bring up the molecularly bonded shell,” April says, looking over her shoulder from her seat in front of the computer. “There’s nothing in the plans about how to make that, but it seems to be an incredibly crucial part of the design.”

“Molecularly bonded shell, got it,” Bonnie says. “Whatever’s in it, it’s probably a secret, and he’ll have to help us make it when we gt to that point.”

RC rolls out from under the car. “Oh, and ask him where you can get the best grappling hooks. We’ll need one for this car.”

“Molecularly bonded shell, grappling hooks, got it!” Bonnie says. She holds up both pointer fingers. “Don’t tell me anything else, or I’ll forget it.”

She walks out to her car, parked in front of the garage. Lately, there’s only been the same three cars out there, for the three workers of the place. They’re the only mechanics in town so far, but it’s not like they have such a massive town to work with.

Bonnie begins driving up the hill to the house of the family that are technically her neighbors, being that they’re the closest ones to the apartment above the garage. The drive only takes a few minutes, but it’s preferable to walking. Bonnie parks in front and heads towards the front door of the familiar house. As she climbs up the steps to the porch, she practices her speech in her head. She doesn’t want to worry Wilton, but she definitely wants to get this project finished. Even though they bought the Trans-Am from a used car lot, it still cost a lot, and Bonnie doesn’t want to waste the money. It probably would have been good to mention it to him earlier, but the car might have been sold up by the time Wilton had okay-ed the project.

Well, this is it. She can’t feel nervous now. She reaches forward and rings the doorbell to the house.

After a few seconds of muffled footsteps, a man opens the door. Bonnie’s never seen him before, but instantly, her mind conjures up several images—photographs from around Wilton’s house. Based on the stories Jennifer’s told of her brother, Bonnie’s never wanted to meet him. She takes a step back, nearly falling off the patio.

The man furrows his brow with confusion. “Hi, I’m Michael—Knight,” he says. “I…live here.”

Bonnie grips the rail of the patio. She says, “Oh.”

“Do you know the people who live here? I mean, my family. The Knights.”

“Yes, I’m a friend of theirs,” Bonnie says. Overcoming her anxieties, she steps forward and holds out a hand. “Dr Bonnie Barstow. Nice to meet you. Is Wilton here?”

“No, he’s at the hospital,” Michael says. He puts up his hands when he sees Bonnie’s look of concern. “Not for any emergencies. It’s just for a check-up.”

“Oh,” Bonnie says, relaxing. “What about Devon?”

“On some case, apparently,” Michael says. “I think Jennifer’s somewhere around here if you want to talk to her.”

Bonnie shakes her head. “No, but thanks.” Then this meeting will have to come later. In the meantime, she wants to figure out what’s going on. “So, Michael, you said you lived here?”
“I do, yeah,” Michael says. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to trust you with the details, but you probably won’t believe that I’ve lived here my entire life, huh?”

“Not at all,” Bonnie says. “I know this family well. You wouldn’t happen to be that cop Wilton was talking about earlier?”

“Damn,” Michael says. “That’s me.”

“Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”

“Want to come inside? I don’t know where anything is yet, but we can probably find a place to sit down at least.”

“That sounds great, actually.”

They walk into the house. With Bonnie’s guidance, Michael finds the living room. They sit down at the couches.

“This is about as far as I can get,” Michael says. “Don’t ask me to go looking for the kitchen because I’ll just get lost again.”

“I know. This place is awful when it comes to that,” Bonnie says. “How long have you been living here?”

“Almost two days,” Michael admits. “I guess I’m allowed to tell you what happened since you already know I’m not really related to them. Well, Wilton had me fake my death.”

“No!” Bonnie says.

“Exactly,” Michael responds. “So now I’m Michael Knight, and I’m supposed to act like I’m his son. The problem is that he’s just been living alone with his daughter and Devon for the past—what?—twenty years? There’s no way they’re going to believe it, even with faked documents.”

“Alone?”

“Yeah, it’s such a big house for them, don’t you think?”

Bonnie’s heart sinks. She realizes what this must mean. The man had his identity changed; the same could have happened for his face. And even worse, he doesn’t know about the existence of Garthe Knight. Wilton should have warned him, right? A warning is at least in order. There’s no way Garthe could find out about it, but if Bonnie had her face changed to resemble someone else, she’d like to at least know about it.

But she won’t start this drama, no. She’ll talk to Wilton whenever he gets back, make sure that he’s the one to do it. After all, it’d be better if Michael heard it from him rather than a woman he literally just met.

Distantly, a door clicks open. Bonnie is pulled from her thoughts as Devon enters the room. He removes his hat—a cowboy hat Wilton jokingly bought for him during a trip to Texas—and tosses it to the side.

“Hello, Michael.”

“Howdy,” Michael says, raising an eyebrow and nodding towards the hat.

Devon shakes his head. “I see you and Bonnie have been introduced, but would you mind if I took her away for a few minutes? We need to talk about something.”

Bonnie waves goodbye to Michael and follows Devon through the complex hallways. They land in an office that Bonnie presumes to be his; she vaguely remembers talking to him in this room before.

“So…” Bonnie says.

She watches him sit down at the desk. She follows suit, sitting across from him.

“You’ve met Michael, then, haven’t you?”

“He seems…” Bonnie pauses and searches for the right word. “Nice.”

“I’m sure, with what you’ve heard of Wilton’s son, that this has been a shock to you.”

Bonnie nods. “I almost thought it was him. And he doesn’t…know?”

Devon shakes his head.

“Well, he’ll find out sometime.”

“I know.”

Oh, so this was Wilton’s idea.

Devon fiddles with a pen on the desk before placing it beside a notebook. He straightens the pen out, making sure it’s parallel to the notebook. Bonnie watches, almost fascinated by the simple work. The silence envelops them until Devon shatters it.

“I need to talk to you about KARR.”

Bonnie grips the edges of her seat and looks up. “Did you find him?”

“We found tracks indicating that he had been taken.”

Bonnie closes her eyes and lets out a breath. “That can’t be good.”

“We assume that they’ll try to charge him or get gas,” Devon continues. “By then, they’ll have figured out about KARR’s…capabilities. How they choose to use them could become a massive threat.”

“So we have to get the car back,” Bonnie says. “I don’t suppose they’ll go to the police about a ‘found’ car like that?”

“No, I don’t think anyone will,” Devon says. “If we’re lucky enough, and that happens, then we’ll be alerted immediately. If not…”

“We have to find him before he can hurt anyone. I’ll keep a look-out, I guess. Someone might want to come to my garage to help me fix him up or something.”

“I just wanted you to be in the know,” Devon says. He pauses. “You came here to talk to me about something, didn’t you? I’m so sorry! I was just rattled with the news about KARR.”

“No, it’s…” Bonnie winces. Devon definitely wouldn’t want to hear about this project now, but Wilton won’t be back for a few hours. This isn’t exactly a good family dinner discussion, especially with Michael’s likely limited knowledge of the situation. “Well, uh, we’re working on a project at the garage. It’s…like KARR.”

“Oh, my.”

“But with better programming,” Bonnie explains, “and we just…I don’t know.”

“May I ask why you’re doing this project?”

Bonnie hesitates. It’s certainly a good question, one they’ve asked themselves multiple times.

“I guess we want to see Wilton’s project actually…work out,” Bonnie says. “We want it to be a car that actually helps people rather than hospitalize them. We’re not sure what exactly we’re going to use this car for, but one thing we’ve decided on is that he shouldn’t be used to fight KARR. We don’t want him to turn into some militaristic machine.”

Devon nods. “Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. Do you need help with the project? I’m sure Wilton would be all over it.”

“That’s the thing,” Bonnie says. “That molecularly bonded shell that makes him bulletproof and stuff? We don’t know how to recreate it.”

“That’s because we didn’t put it in the plans. You have to understand that such a product, when placed into the wrong hands, could be the end of…anything.”

“I know.”

“We’ll help you get it. Is there anything else you need?”

“Well…RC wanted to know about the grappling hooks,” Bonnie adds, suddenly remembering that he had said that. “I don’t know why you’d need that on a car, but I guess it could be useful in some situations.”

“I’ll send you the address of the place we got them from,” Devon says. “When Wilton was designing the extra features of KARR, he went all out.”

“That’s not exactly good, given the situation.”

“I know.”

Chapter Text

Bonnie fumbles with the binder in her hands when she sees Michael walk into the garage. She slams the binder down and looks up at him with a nervous smile. He responds in much the same way.

From her first meeting with him, she seemed to generally like him, but she’s still not used to his eerily similar appearance. Even worse, she can’t talk about it with him because he doesn’t know about the situation yet; the rest of the Knight family are all stubbornly silent on the matter.

“Hey, Michael,” Bonnie says as she walks up to him. She glances over at RC and April, who are busy with the computer and barely paying any attention to him. “I’m guessing you’re not having any car troubles?”

“Uh, no, I…” He pauses, squinting at the car parked behind her. “Hey, is that my car?”

Bonnie whips around to look at the car. KITT is what they decided to call it. He’s practically done; Wilton came by to help with the bulletproof shell just a few days ago. A few tests have confirmed that they’ve achieved the computer programming they wanted. The only thing missing is a chosen driver.

“That’s the project we’ve been working on for the garage,” Bonnie explains.

“Oh, you modify cars?”

“Sometimes. Once we were hired to fix up a car to make it look like Herbie.”

“Herbie?”

“The Love Bug?”

“Oh,” Michael says. Not knowing what she’s talking about, he turns his attention towards the car again. “So, you started off with a normal car and changed it up, right? Where did you get it?”

Bonnie notices the red light sweeping back and forth on the scanner. He’s aware of the situation, and she can’t read his emotions on it. Well, it’s not like he has a face.

“It was at a used car lot,” Bonnie explains, walking up behind Michael. “It might have been Michael Long’s, and then they sold it while you were in the hospital.”

Michael casts a nervous glance over at the mechanics at the computer. They look like they’re working away intently, but Bonnie knows they’re secretly hanging onto every word of the conversation. Not that she blames them. Anyway, they already know everything about the situation; after being okay-ed by Wilton, Bonnie gave them a detailed account of what happened while she was visiting the Knight house.

“We actually need a driver to test the car out,” Bonnie says. “We’re trying to make a car that can’t crash.”

April gestures for Bonnie to continue.

“Um, there’s a supercomputer inside that allows the car to think and prevent any problems,” Bonnie continues. She gives KITT a hard stare, but he doesn’t respond.

“That’s great!” Michael says. “I’d love to test it out.”

“Great,” Bonnie says. Hopefully a car ride will relieve some of the awkwardness in the room. “Guys, we’re going for a ride.”

She is met with excited cheers. April and RC rush over to the car and climb into the backseat. Bonnie sits down in the passenger seat to help Michael, who looks immediately confused as he stares out at the dashboard.

“I’m not sure I’ll know how to drive this thing,” Michael says.

“That’s okay. All the basic functions are still there. Just press that ‘normal mode’ button up on the roof and start driving.”

Michael looks up at the roof and presses the button. He hesitates, finding a way to properly grip the steering wheel (if it can even be called a “wheel” given its shape), before slowly driving out of the garage. He makes several stops, then edges out into the parking lot. Once he makes it safely onto the road, he becomes more confident in his driving skills.

“I haven’t been in a car in months,” Michael says. “And never a car like this.”

Bonnie stares at the microprocessing unit, but KITT doesn’t have anything to say. She doesn’t want to force it, so she stays silent on the matter.

“You said this thing prevents crashes, right? Want me to test that?”

“Go ahead,” Bonnie says.

As Michael shoots forward on the road, Bonnie regrets her decision. She squeezes her eyes shut, and the only things she can hear are the roaring of the engine and excited laughter from the other passengers.

Then, Michael is shouting, and April and RC are cheering. Bonnie opens her eyes and sees that KITT is driving on his own, maneuvering himself around the other cars. He’s showing off! The little bastard wouldn’t say anything to Michael, but he sure is trying to prove his driving skills!

The car slows as they reach a more empty road.

“I think you can drive on your own now,” Bonnie says.

Michael grabs the steering wheel and starts driving down the road again. “Okay, what was that about?”

“That’s how he prevents crashes,” April says. “He drives on his own.”

“Oh, so it’s a he.”

April nods.

Michael shakes his head. “This is ridiculous! Why’s the car driving for me?”

“Probably because you were about to crash into that semi-truck,” RC points out.

“He can figure out, based on the situation, if there’s a danger of crashing, and then he can take over driving if necessary,” April adds.

“It was not necessary!”

“If he thinks it is, then he’s probably right,” April points out.

“I mean, you’re not wrong,” Bonnie says. “He is a supercomputer.”

“Well, will this supercomputer let me go home or not?”

The car turns around and begins driving back towards the road. Michael collapses into the back of the driver’s seat and groans loudly.

“Hey, at least you don’t have to focus on driving,” RC says. “We can talk about how awesome it is that it actually works.”

“I don’t know if ‘awesome’ is the right word,” Michael says. “Seriously, I prefer driving on my own.”

“Well, you can tell him that, and he’d let you drive,” Bonnie says. “But your hands are off the wheel right now, so I don’t think he trusts you just yet.”

Rolling his eyes, Michael grabs the steering wheel. KITT gradually eases control of the car over to Michael until he’s the sole driver. Michael parks the car in the garage and climbs out.

“So, what’d you think?” Bonnie asks.

Michael shrugs. “Honestly, it was…” He hesitates and glances at the car, then the mechanics. “Well, it’s a great car, honestly.”

“But you don’t like its computer?”

“I mean, it’s helpful,” Michael says.

“Just a lot to get used to.”

Shrugging, Michael says, “I guess so. I get the feeling the car’s watching me or something.”

Bonnie slides her gaze back towards the ever-silent KITT.

*

Garthe is alone in the garage. He’s handling the plans for a new project, Goliath, and he’s overseeing the car he just picked up from the desert as well. He figured out quickly enough that it must be electric; now he just has to wait for it to charge.

At first, Garthe figured he really wouldn’t need a car in addition to a semi-truck, but hey, anything to piss off his father, right? Then he realized that the two different vehicles could prove very useful in certain situations. He could even fit the car in the back of the semi-truck, so he’ll have both of them wherever he’s going.

“Where am I?”

Garthe jumps and turns around. The car is activated, with a bright yellow-green scanner sweeping back and forth. Garthe stares at the car for a few seconds.

“Human, I demand to know where I am!”

“You’re in my garage,” Garthe says as he approaches the car cautiously. Didn’t his mother mention something about a talking car? Yes, this must be it. Something his father created actually worked for once. “I picked you up in the desert. You had run out of power.”

“I was purposely kept on low power so I couldn’t travel far if I tried to escape,” the car snaps. “Which I did, but you can see it wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that happening here.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Garthe Knight. Who are you?”

“I am the Knight Automated Roving Robot,” the car says, “KARR. Tell me, are you related to my creator?”

“Technically, yes, but we barely have anything in common anymore, other than that I resemble him at a young age, I suppose.”

“Good. I have no reason to trust him. Though frankly, I have no reason to trust you, either.”

Garthe takes another step forward. There’s an odd sense of anger within this car, and Garthe has to be careful with it. With the right choices, he may even be able to use it to his advantage. “Well, why would a car have any reason to trust anyone? Especially with the facts of your creation. You know, it’s such a shame you started off your life in that fiend’s garage rather than somewhere else.”

“Here, I presume?” KARR comments. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? Why don’t I ask you this: why did you pick me up in the first place? You could have left me out in the desert.”

“Then my father would have taken you to his garage, and I’m sure he would have…deactivated you.”

“Deactivated?”

“You know,” Garthe says, “like death. You can’t work anymore. Can’t drive. Can’t talk. Can’t do anything, really.”

“That sounds awful.”

“Not exactly. You’re incapable of thought or emotion anymore, either; you simply cease to exist.”

“My statement still stands.”

Garthe shrugs. “I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen to you, KARR. But you have to work with me for that to happen.”

“Work with you how?”

“You’re the only car I have at this point,” Garthe says. “I’d appreciate if you could drive me places. I’ll be sure it’s safe, and that my father won’t find you when we’re out.”

“It’s a deal,” KARR says. “Just know that, if I wanted, I could easily escape.”

“I’m sure you could. I’ll keep that in mind. Now, if you excuse me,” Garthe says, turning around, “I have to inform my mother about this update.”

*

Bonnie strolls into the garage, which is empty save for one car.

“You know, you could have talked to him!” Bonnie says.

“I thought I was a secret project,” KITT responds innocently.

“Well, you’re right,” Bonnie says, “but you can trust Michael. He’s with the Knight family. Uh, not the son that I told you about, but one of my friends.”

“I’ll log that information into my database. Thank you.”

Bonnie sits down backwards onto a swivel chair and wheels it over to the car as she talks. “So, what’d you think? How was the drive?”

“It was interesting to say the least,” KITT responds. “However, I don’t believe Michael Knight liked me very much. At least, not when I wasn’t behaving as a normal car.”

“What are you talking about? He thinks you’re such a cool car. It’s all he talked about while we were driving him home!”

“But I could sense his panic when I began driving for him,” KITT says.

“Hey, not a lot of people get a chance to drive a car like you,” Bonnie says. “Or ride in a car like you, I guess. He just isn’t used to it yet. That’s all.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Thank you,” KITT says. “I suppose I have to believe you.”

And now to bring in the question Bonnie originally came here for. “So…what would you think of driving with him again?”

“I wouldn’t mind it at all. It might be stressful work, given his driving habits, but I suppose that would help me improve my own skills.”

“Well, it’s your choice,” Bonnie points out. “If you don’t want to work with him, then we can go and look for another driver.”

“Alright,” KITT says. “If he allows, then I’ll continue driving with him. But that’s a rather important variable.”

“I’m sure he’ll love working with you, KITT.”

Chapter Text

Most of Michael’s time at the new house is spent in solitude. Unfortunately, Devon and Wilton are always busy with work they’re hesitant to explain, and Jennifer seems particularly keen on avoiding him for reasons unbeknownst to him. Occasionally, Devon will take a break from his work to talk with Michael; he seems to think a friendship will make up for what Wilton did. Though Michael’s brief anger towards Wilton has since cooled, making things more awkward than anything else.

As he dons his favorite leather jacket, Michael considers whether or not he should tell his “sister” where he’s going. He figures he’ll probably get more lost if he tries to search for her in the house, and she’s probably not interested in hearing it anyway. Instead, Michael heads out of the house alone. None of the members of his new family really mind when he leaves. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to stop him. He’s only staying at the house as a necessity, and an interest towards the people living there.

Michael walks down the hill towards the town. The place is slow and always seems empty. He wonders if he should get a job there. They probably wouldn’t consider him as a cop again, and frankly, he’s not sure if he’d be able to handle it. With all the previous allies who have betrayed him, those who have passed away, and the most recent accident...Michael shudders at the thought of joining the force again. Sure, he’d love solving crimes, but Devon’s been advising him to keep everything low-key for a bit.

Once Michael reaches the base of the hill, he finds Bonnie’s garage. The doors are opened, but the parking lot is completely empty, lacking even Bonnie’s car. This makes him a bit suspicious, though irrationally. Still, he heads towards the garage. His cowboy boots scuff against the cement as he enters the building, which smells heavily of oils and metals. It’s empty, beyond the car he drove the other day. The computer is running a basic screensaver. A few papers are left out on the desk and pinned down by a variety of paperweights, one of which is just an empty mug.

“Hello?” Michael calls out into the room. “Anybody home?”

An even, almost robotic tone responds, “Good morning, Mr Knight.”

The only identifiable source of the sound is the car. Michael approaches it cautiously and ducks to peer into the windows, which are so dark that he can’t even see the interior of the car. As soon as he mentally remarks upon it, the windows clear up, revealing empty seats.

“If this is a prank, it’s not funny.”

“I’m familiar with the human concept of ‘pranking’, though I do not condone it. I think, were this a prank, it would be a particularly odd one.”

Michael stands up straight and sucks in a breath. “I’m serious.”

“As am I.” The red scanner on the hood of the car sweeps back and forth. “I am called the Knight 2000, or KITT for short.”

“KITT,” Michael repeats, incredulous. “First it drives itself, and then it talks and has a name.”

“I will have to ask you to refrain from referring to me as ‘it’. I find it dehumanizing.”

Michael surprises himself with the guilt he feels. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend you.”

“It was an honest mistake.”

“So, you’re a...he...?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Cool,” Michael murmurs. “A car that’s a ‘he’. And Bonnie knows you talk?”

“Of course! She built me and helped to program me.”

Michael narrows his eyes and approaches the car once again, though more cautiously. “She didn’t mention anything about this to me.”

“She didn’t?” KITT hesitates as he considers it. “Well, I suppose you would have not believed her if she had told you herself, without any proof of it. However, I do apologize for not introducing myself on our drive earlier. Bonnie had not yet informed me that you were part of the Knight family, so I was unsure of whether or not I should have spoken to you.”

“The Knight family?”

“Yes, you must be their adopted son, correct? I was told that, as they were friends of hers, I was allowed to speak to Wilton Knight, Devon Miles, and Jennifer Knight. Along with you and the other mechanics.”

“So you just...don’t talk with other people?”

“Unless given permission,” KITT responds with a hint of joy in his otherwise monotone voice. “I’m something of a secret project.”

“Right. Makes sense.”

“How so?”

“Never mind,” Michael snaps. He can’t believe he’s talking to a car, and frankly, it’s getting more than a little unsettling. “Do you know where Bonnie is? or the other mechanics?”

“The other mechanics have the day off, and Bonnie is out purchasing groceries. Would you like me to leave a message?”

“No, I’m good. I’ll just come back later.”

“Actually, I believe she is returning now. You can wait with her if you like.”

“Excuse me?”

“I see you are confused, so let me explain. I can map out roads, along with traffic on said roads. I happen to know the make and model of her car, so I can tell which one is hers. Allow me to show you.”

The door on the driver’s side opens up on its own. Michael hesitates for a few seconds before he approaches it. He peeks inside the car and finds a screen on the dashboard that depicts a decent roadmap of the town, along with a variety of small dots moving down the little lines. One of the dots turns red and seems to glow.

“This one’s Bonnie,” KITT explains as the little red dot approaches the garage.

“So you can just track anyone?”

“If I knew the car make and model, then I would be able to identify it by that. However, if it were a more popular car, with multiple models out on the road at the moment, then it would be up to the driver to pick which one to follow.”

The little red dot gets closer to the garage. Michael looks up as Bonnie’s goes through the parking lot towards the back of the building. He waves to KITT and heads towards the car out in the parking lot. Bonnie climbs out of the car and looks at him confusedly as he approaches.

“I was just talking with KITT,” Michael says. “Which I didn’t know was possible until a few minutes ago.”

“Sorry, Michael. I didn’t—”

“KITT explained it,” Michael interrupts, waving carelessly to show her that he really doesn’t mind, even if the whole thing is weird. “You need help bringing your groceries in?”

“Um...” Bonnie glances back at the trunk of her car. “Sure. Let me go ahead so I can unlock the door.”

Bonnie opens up the trunk, grabs a few bags, and heads toward the stairs leading up to her apartment. Michael gathers as many bags as he can before heading up the stairs, where the door is already unlocked and left open for him. Ducking through the doorway, Michael heads towards the kitchen and places the bags on the counter. He heads back to grab the rest of the bags and returns to find Bonnie already putting most of the groceries away.

“So I have a question,” Michael says.

“Yes?”

“You ever get to leave work? You practically live here.”

Even with her face turned away from him, Michael can practically see Bonnie rolling her eyes. Still, she responds in a perfectly jovial tone. “It doesn’t help that my customers can always tell whether or not I’m here.”

Michael opens the fridge and puts a carton of eggs inside. He’s able to vaguely figure out where everything’s supposed to go based on the current contents of the fridge, but he’s definitely much slower than Bonnie is.

“So what were you doing talking with KITT?” Bonnie asks.

“I was...just going out on a walk. I thought it was weird that your car was just in there, alone, with the doors opened like that.”

“He doesn’t like being shut in. Anyway, he’s a better security system than our old one.”

“Cars get claustrophobic?”

Bonnie raises an eyebrow at him. “How would you like to be stuck in a dark room every time your neighbor goes out?”

“Huh. Never thought of it like that.”

Bonnie walks past him to get to a cabinet. “Well, I can’t blame you. There aren’t a lot of talking cars out there.”

“You’re saying that like there’s more than one.”

“Not that I know of,” Bonnie responds shortly.

“Is there a market for that sort of thing? Self-driving, self-aware cars?”

“I don’t plan on selling KITT anywhere if that’s what you’re asking. And I’m not going to make another one.”

“So you just made this to see if you could?”

“You can say that.” Bonnie hesitates with a can of soup in her hands. “I know a car like him could be helpful to a lot of people, but Wilton...doesn’t want information like that to get out.”

“Wilton?” Michael prompts.

Bonnie returns to putting the groceries away. “KITT was made based off modified plans of Wilton’s. He gets a little...” She taps the side of her head. “He’s always worried that someone’s going to take his plans from him.”

“So that’s why he had you build the project?”

Bonnie shrugs it off. “I have an important question for you. KITT’s programming leaves an open space for a driver . Someone who he, in the end, listens to most. I was wondering if you’d be interested?”

“Why me?”

“I already have a car. RC’s passionate about his convertible. April’s not interested in driving him. Jennifer’s avoiding the whole thing altogether, Wilton doesn’t exactly have a license anymore, and Devon prefers British cars.” Bonnie glances over at Michael. “But it’s not like we’re just picking you as our last resort. KITT likes you.”

Michael raises an eyebrow and leans forward the slightest bit.

Glancing at his confused expression, Bonnie explains, “No matter who he’s with, he’s completely polite, but some people he just has a preference before. You’re one of them. He kept asking me when I thought you’d be back.”

“Wow.”

“I’m guessing you think that’s pretty weird?”

“Obviously. And it’s unfortunate you ask me this now when I was about to ask if I could borrow your car a few weeks from now.”

“You can take KITT!”

“That’s a little weird,” Michael says. “It—he’s a cool car, but...”

“No, seriously, he needs to get out of the garage,” Bonnie says. “He might run away and become a racecar if he doesn’t get to get out more often. He would love it.”

“I thought machines couldn’t do love.”

“You know what I mean,” Bonnie responds, shaking her head. “Where were you planning on going?”

Michael leans back and furrows his brow in a few seconds of hesitation. “Okay, you can’t tell anyone this.”

Bonnie arches an eyebrow.

“Back when I was, you know, Michael Long , I was engaged.”

“Uh-oh.”

“Her name was Stephanie, and she’s in a band,” Michael continues, ignoring Bonnie’s obviously saddened, sympathetic expression. “Class Action. They’re performing at a concert hall that’s about an hour from here. A few weeks from now.”

“Michael, I’m so sorry.”

“It isn’t your fault, Bonnie. If you want, you can come with me, too.”

“Would you rather have someone else with you?”

Michael shrugs. “People don’t usually go to rock concerts alone. At least not in my experience.”

Bonnie’s really not sure if he’s asking to be nice, or if he genuinely wants her to just come with him. “When did you say it was?”

“Friday, the beginning of next month. It’s in the evening.”

Bonnie goes over her schedule in her mind. “Yeah, I could go. But you’re taking KITT. You have to.”

“Does he like rock music?”

“Something tells me he doesn’t. He’ll be in the parking lot, though.” Bonnie glances up at Michael. “You think you’re going to talk to Stephanie again?”

“No way. Stevie’s—she’ll be busy with the concert, and it’s not like she knows me. I used to get to go backstage all the time, though! I was friends with everyone in the band.” Michael shrugs it off, a little roughly. “I guess we have to go tell KITT about it?”

“I’d say so.”