Standard Operating Procedure
"Ah, Reginald. Thank you for joining us. Please, sit down."
Since both Devon and Bonnie were smiling, RC gathered whatever they'd called him in for couldn't be too horrible and took the indicated seat.
"Is this about Michael? He's okay, isn't he? I saw the Doc leaving his room earlier and he didn't look too worried."
Devon smiled reassuringly. "Yes, yes... Michael is going to be fine. He's just picked up a slight case of pneumonia from his fall into the river a few days ago. The good doctor has him on antibiotics and plenty of bed rest for the time being." He steepled his fingers on the antique desk, his face taking on a serious expression. "But that is partly the reason why we've asked you to join us this morning."
Bonnie took up the explanation. "As you know, Michael was working on a very important case when he started to get sick. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to finish because of his illness. While he managed to rescue Dr. Clevar himself, his pulse rifle design notes are still locked down in one of Starlite's labs."
"Yes, exactly. And with Michael incapacitated due to his malady, we are rather short one field operative to retrieve the stolen data," Devon continued. "I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this."
Indeed he could, and RC puffed up in pride as he volunteered for the job. "I'll get 'em back for you, no problem." I mean, it was just a bunch of scientists. How hard could it be?
"Excellent! Kitt will be going with you. You'll need his assistance to circumvent Starlite Labs security system. He'll guide you to the information, and your job will be to connect him to the separate mainframe so he can download the designs and purge them from the computer's memory."
"While Kitt's taking care of that though, you'll have to look around for any backups of Dr. Clevar's research," Bonnie added. "They've probably made copies, including disks and print-outs. We'll need every scrap back if we're to prevent them from engineering their own prototype weapon."
"Got ya," RC nodded. "Don't worry guys, I can do this. I'll be in and out in no time!"
Hours later, crawling through the sweltering heating ducts, RC was beginning to regret his hasty agreement to do this job. Geez, he thought to himself as he wiped the sweat from his eyes, how does Michael do this kind of thing all the time?
Getting past the building security actually turned out to be simpler than supposed. Kitt had been able to tap into the building's environmental controls and create a diversion for the security guards. Then he'd opened a window in the electronic surveillance and RC had just strolled right in. Easy.
Getting into the lab itself was proving a lot harder. The laboratories were housed underground, operated by entirely self-contained separate systems from the main building Starlite used as a cover. The scientists who worked there had only a single elevator, which was highly guarded at all times, by which to access the labs. Under no circumstances would RC have been able to use that route, so here he was... stuck inching his ways through twisting tunnels of narrow over-heated metal.
"Man, I so owe Michael an apology for teasing him about having it easy if this is the kind of thing he has to put with every time he goes out on a case," he whispered to himself as he followed Kitt's text-messaged directions.
_I told you it wasn't just girls and fast cars, RC. It's not my fault you didn't listen to me._
Reginald Cornelius the Third glanced at the borrowed watch on wrist, read the chastisement that scrolled by, and scowled. "Oh shut up, Kitt," he muttered, and kept crawling.
Finally, after an interminable time baking to death, he finally emerged from the heating ducts into a quiet part of the lab.
"Okay, Kitt. I'm in. Now what?"
Kitt sent him his next set of directions. _The mainframe should be approximately 43 feet to the west._
RC headed off to the left. "You know, there's no danger of anyone overhearing you anymore. You can just talk to me now."
"I thought you told me to, and I quote, 'shut up'?" Kitt responded, a smirk audible in his synthesized voice. "And west, by the way, is to your right -- not left."
RC froze and resisted the urge to groan. "Man, I think I was right the first time. Kitt, shut up!" But he turned on his heel and stalked back the way he'd come.
Things went more to plan after that. RCIII found the mainframe and hooked the wristwatch/commlink up to it. Leaving Kitt to do his computer-to-computer thing, RC then went on a hunt for any copies of the pulse rifle's data. He found the hardcopies easily enough, conveniently stuffed in a file drawer under 'E' for Electromagnetic. Of course, he'd checked 'W' for Weapons, 'P' for Pulse, 'D' for Designs, and even 'C' for Clevar first with no luck. Figures a bunch of scientists would use a filing system that made no sense to an ordinary person.
He was rifling through the many piles stacked on and around various desks and workstations for any incriminating floppy disks when the alarms started sounding.
"Kitt! What's happening?!" RC's head shot up as the loud noise blared into his ears. The flashing emergency strobe light cast an eerie slant across the previously benign room. RC scrambled out from the desk he was searching and bolted toward the mainframe where he'd left the comlink.
In his haste, he didn't notice that his foot had gotten tangled in a knot of electrical cords. He'd barely traveled five feet before the cords pulled tight and he tripped face first into the floor. One of his flailing arms whacked into a shelving unit, which he tried to grab on to for support. But the shelves couldn't handle his weight and came crashing down on top of him. He laid on the floor, surrounded and partially buried by a mess of papers, folders and disks, winded from the impact.
"Ugh," he groaned as pushed himself back up. "That'll leave a bruise."
"RC! RC, are you all right? Reginald!" Kitt's tinny voice called to him through the watch. "You to have to hurry! The guards are coming, they'll be here any moment. RC? RC, where are you?"
"Coming, C-3PO," he mumbled dazedly, "keep your phasers set on stun." He sat back on his heels, rubbing his head where something particularly hard had hit him. A small shower of floppy disks rained down as he moved. One landed right on his lap, and RC couldn't help chuckling when he saw what was written on the label: Top-Secret -- Clevar's Pusle Rifle Designs.
Mission accomplished, the slightly dented substitute field operative for the Foundation of Law and Government gathered up his spoils, retrieved the commlink from the mainframe, and just managed to get himself ensconsed back in the heating ducts before the lab was overrun by Starlite security forces.
_And here I was worried that I'd be missing Michael's presence during this escapade._ Kitt texted to him as crawled back through the maze of aluminium tunnels. _But incoming enemies, potential disaster, and a narrow escape in the nick of time? It's like he never left! Now just add a traitorous female and a stay over at the local constabulary, and it'll feel just like home._
_Yes, yes. I know. 'Shut up'._
"You know, you didn't have to take me so literally, RC." Kitt said an hour later, sounding entirely too cheerful for their current circumstances. "I was merely joking about the getting arrested part."
Lying on his back on the top bunk of his prison cell, RC rolled his eyes and whimpered. He spare a moment to glare at the watch on his wrist. The Sheriff had missed the innocuous-looking piece of jewelry when he was striped of all his other personal effects. The Clevar design notes, at least, were safely locked away in Kitt's glove compartment.
And Kitt was safely locked away in the police impound lot. Unfortunately, unlike Reginald himself, Kitt was not too put out by it. In fact, the AI was finding the whole situation far more amusing than it deserved. He was driving him crazy!
"This is all your fault, you overgrown bucket of bolts! It was your idea to pull over and help that stranded motorist. Heck, it was your idea to take that route back to the Foundation in the first place! If you'd just listened to me, we'd have been home by now without ever having run into her."
Kitt snorted, obviously suppressing a laugh. "To be quite fair, Reginald, you agreed with me that it would have been ungentlemanly to leave the young lady stranded on a deserted road-side at night. It was completely unforeseeable that she would be the Sheriff's daughter attempting to run away, or that he would end up charging us for kidnapping her."
"I am never... never... going out on a case with you again," RCIII vowed, burying his head under a pillow.
"Oh come now, it wasn't that bad," Kitt coaxed brightly. "You weren't even shot at!"
The answering groan came out muffled by down feathers.
"What was that?" Kitt asked, chuckling.
RC tossed the pillow, sat up, and brought the commlink to his face for a serious discussion. "Kitt?"
"Yes, RC?" the AI responded immediately.
A heavy moment of silence followed while RC contemplated the perfect choice of wording for what he wanted to say.