Knight Rider and all associated characters (except mine) are owned by National Broadcasting Company and Universal Studios. All persons described herein are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. Copyright infringement is not intended.
Chapter 7: Reverse Card
KITT used satellite and infrared imagery to find where Halston was making his way along a ridge line toward the dirt road that Alex had mentioned. With his modified suspension KITT was easily able to navigate to the area. As both Michael and Peter got out of the car, they could see Jared Halston walking purposefully toward them.
"Give it up, Halston!" Michael called. "It's over. You've nowhere to hide now!"
Halston stopped and gaped in recognition. "So, you're the famous Michael Knight!" He began to laugh. "You've gotten old!"
"With age comes wisdom, Halston," Michael said, unfazed. "Something your father clearly didn't learn during all those years in prison."
"Shut up!" the other man bellowed. "You took him away from us! You're the reason that our family suffered. You and your Foundation!" He suddenly pivoted to point at Peter, who'd been surreptitiously moving to one side in an attempt to flank him. "Don't even think about it! I know who you are, too. If you're here, that must be the super-car."
"That's not your concern," Peter said dismissively in an attempt to divert him from KITT. "You hurt our friends and messed up our house. Now we're going to make you pay for it."
"Oh, I don't think so," Halston said with a Cheshire-cat grin. He pulled a device out of his back pocket that looked like two smartphones stuck together. "My father was a genius when it came to electronics and he taught me all he knew. Then I built on that knowledge. Among the things he told me was that the super-car could drive itself. That makes it effectively a drone – a very sophisticated one – but a drone all the same." He tapped the device's screen. "And as I'm sure you're aware, I'm a master at controlling drones."
"Michael!" KITT cried. "He's using that device to try to hack my systems!" KITT's engine fired and he began to reverse at high speed in an attempt to escape the signal.
"Impossible!" Peter said. "Mikayla and Alex swore that he wasn't hackable!"
Halston laughed again. "Any computer is hackable, even an advanced one. All it takes is one weak spot!" He tapped the screen a few more times and KITT came to an abrupt halt.
"Oh no, you don't!" Peter charged him.
After pressing another combination, Halston evaded Peter's furious attack and ran off to one side of the road. "Accelerate forward!" he commanded into the device.
An electronic shriek of protest was emitted from KITT's voice modulator as he helplessly lunged toward them. Michael and Peter dove in opposite directions to get out of the way of the oncoming car. "He's taken control of my drive system! I can't stop!" KITT shouted.
Peter frantically tried to remember the commands that he'd been taught for such a situation. "KITT! Manual override Alpha Seventeen!" he yelled. The car skidded and kicked up a cloud of dust as KITT attempted to reassert himself.
Halston actually looked impressed. "Vocal override? Easily remedied." He started to press more buttons.
Michael leaped at him but wasn't quite fast enough. The older man measured his length in the dirt as Halston twisted aside. But the distraction was sufficient for Peter to successfully bull rush him, and the impact caused the device to fly out of Halston's hand as the two men slammed into the ground.
"That won't help you now," Halston said with a breathless laugh. "The car is mine! Turn 180, forward!" he called.
"NO!" KITT screamed as the car shot ahead, executed a 180 degree turn and then accelerated toward the spot where Michael lay.
By some miracle Michael was able to scramble up and avoid the onrushing car by inches. "Buddy, stop! Please!" he cried.
The distraught AI wailed, "I'm sorry pal, I'm trying!"
Peter pinned Halston down, then grabbed his shirt and shook him violently. "Give him back! Don't you realize you're torturing him?!" He knew how much KITT enjoyed his independence, so to have that agency removed would be mortifying.
The man coughed but refused to surrender. "You can't torture a drone." He whipped his hand into the side of Peter's head, and the agent yelped. That one second was enough to enable him to push his assailant off, get to his hands and knees, and crawl away. Although Peter managed to reorient and grab him by the ankles, the device was in Halston's hand again. "Kill Michael Knight," he growled into it.
This time there was no utterance. The AI was disconcertingly silent as his engine revved loudly and his body vibrated.
Michael stood in front of the car, panting, more old memories resurfacing. Graham Deauville, Adrianne Margeaux, Marco Berio, all the times that KITT had been turned against him. But they'd overcome the control every time, and he was certain that they could beat this. "KITT, buddy, I know you can't obey that order." He reached out with one hand in supplication. "We've been friends for too long to let this guy stop us."
"Please, move aside," KITT begged. He could feel the struggle that was being waged within his circuits as his prime directive conflicted with the kill order, but it was only a matter of time before the violating signal won out. "His device has hacked my control subroutines. It's not I that he's commanding, it's the car. I'm just a passenger at this point."
Michael gazed evenly at his friend. "You are stronger than that," he insisted. That car is your home. Are you really going to allow him to invade your space, your sanctity?"
Peter had regained his feet and kicked Halston savagely in the ribs, eliciting a grunt of pain from the man, and he once again lost his hold on the device as he collapsed. The agent scooped it up, but its screen was blank. "Deactivate," he said to it, but it gave no indication that the command was successful. KITT's engine still rumbled. "How does this thing work?" he demanded, glaring down at the prone man.
"I've locked it," Halston boasted, "so it'll respond only to my voice now."
"Well then," Peter said grimly, "I'll just have to make you talk!" He reached down with his free hand and hauled Halston to his feet.
"Fine," Halston said in a tired voice, "this is getting boring anyway." He craned his neck around to look at Michael. "You took something precious from me, so I'll take something precious from you."
With a sudden realization, Peter dropped the device and tried to clamp his hand over Halston's mouth to prevent him from issuing another command, but Halston was ready with a vicious bite that left deep tooth indentations in his skin and gave the needed opportunity.
"Execute macro 'slash oasis'."
The car's tires spun. Michael bounded to one side as the Camaro swept past him and sped away, KITT's mournful cry of "I'm sorry, Michael!" fading into the distance.
The Cheshire-cat grin was back on Halston's face as an incensed Peter yanked his shirt again. "Where did you send him?!"
"You know," the villain said conversationally, "electronics and water don't mix. But at this time of year, most of the collection basins and reservoirs around here are dry. Except one."
Both Michael and Peter froze in their tracks. "Lake Mead," they said simultaneously.
"Smart cookies," he taunted. "Your pretty car is going to take a dive off the end of the Hemenway Harbor boat ramp. I figure at average speeds it'll take about forty-five minutes for it to get there."
In a fury, Michael planted his fist in Halston's face.
KITT's thoughts raced, his anger and despondency rising as he tried every conceivable way to stop the car or divert it from its course. However, Halston's device had completely overridden his connection to the drive train and a number of other systems as well, including outgoing communications so he couldn't call for help. Even if the car outdistanced the signal, the order it had been given was irrevocable. He knew exactly where he was headed, but he didn't know if his shell was watertight because it had never been tested for such an eventuality.
What made it worse was that any attempts by the authorities to stop him would very easily result in large-scale destruction and possible injury to citizens.
It couldn't end this way. To be reunited with Michael after so long, only to be lost once more, maybe permanently. And there was Mikayla, still lying in a hospital bed, unaware of what was about to happen to him. He might never see either of them again.
A storm of emotions welled up in his CPU and he cried out in anguish.
"Mikayla, I need you!"
Mikayla woke suddenly. Early morning light was streaming in a window, and the first thing she perceived was that her eyes seemed to be much better than they had been. Her vision was still fragmented around the edges but the central area was reasonably clear. That was a godsend. The tinnitus was almost gone, although her head still ached and her chest felt like a heavy weight was resting on it. She remembered nothing after the nurse Bryan had given her something to drink. How long had she been unconscious?
As she took stock of herself, she began to get the impression that something was very wrong. She'd heard nothing from her colleagues; the nurses hadn't mentioned any messages during the brief times she'd been awake. Not even KITT had tried to contact her, and he would have. Were they busy with an investigation? Had something happened to them all?
She reached for the call button, noticing that it was easier now to move her extremities. A few moments later the door to the room opened; she caught a brief glimpse of a pair of security guards flanking the doorway as two people bustled in. Immediately she recognized the Foundation's doctor, although she couldn't remember his name offhand, and a slender nurse with curly snow-white hair whose name tag read Dorothy.
"It's good to see you awake, Miss Knight," the doctor said with a smile. "You're quite the fighter."
"Please," she croaked before he could continue. "Has there been any word from the Foundation?" She worked her tongue to get some moisture into her mouth.
The two glanced at each other quizzically before Dorothy replied, "I spoke to Ms. Cunningham late last night to inform her of your condition. She didn't say anything other than to send her well wishes."
Her sense of wrongness increased. "I need to make a call. Can I borrow a phone?"
The doctor scowled. "You've only just woken up after almost dying. You're certainly in no condition to–"
She gave the most powerful glare that she could muster. "It's important. Please!"
Reluctantly he slipped a phone out of his pocket, unlocked it, and handed it to her. With trembling fingers, she punched in KITT's direct number.
Surprisingly, he picked up at once. "Doctor Forester?"
It was so wonderful to hear him! "KITT, it's me," she said earnestly.
"Mikayla!" he exclaimed, his relief almost palpable. "My motor functions have been hacked and I'm being forced to drive myself into Lake Mead. All my attempts to stop the car have failed. Is there anything you can do to help? I don't want to die!"
It took a few seconds for her still-sleepy brain to make sense out of what the desperate AI was telling her. Hacked, how? "Have you re-routed through the secondary processors?"
"Yes, without result. The override has been extremely thorough. I'm surprised I could even accept this call. All outgoing communication links have been disabled."
"But not incoming ones," she noted. Otherwise KITT wouldn't have been able to answer. "Did anyone try a manual override?"
"Peter tried, but the hacker locked out all external vocal access except for his own."
"What about data commands?" she asked.
He paused. "Unknown."
She could potentially send him remote data requests, but this wasn't her phone and it didn't have the application on it that she normally would've used. "How long do you have?"
"Thirty-two minutes, fifteen seconds."
"Listen, buddy, I'll do my best. I won't let you die if I can help it." She glanced up at Dr. Forester. "I'm sorry, but I might be about to max out your data plan. I'll pay you back, I promise. I have to try to save KITT." She opened a browser window and logged in to the Foundation's network, inwardly cursing at how slowly her fingers moved. Then she navigated to her personal server and initiated the download of her remote uplink application. She'd rarely needed it after KITT's testing phase, but she'd kept it just in case. The wait for the app to download and install was agonizing even though it took less than five minutes.
The moment the app was ready, she opened it and typed in the executive passwords to access the Knight Industries communication satellite. She was one of the very few people in the company that could, and she blessed Takumi for allowing her to keep the privilege. "Okay, tell me if you receive this." She held her breath as she entered a command.
call function test_response
One second later the word _received appeared on the screen, along with KITT's excited reply, "Yes!"
She huffed her breath out. It worked! "Great, now let's do it." Feverishly she tried a number of remote functions only for KITT to tell her that they had been disabled. Whoever had done this to him was a master. "KITT, time?"
"Twenty-one minutes, four seconds."
A cold shiver filtered down her spine. At this point, she felt there was no sense in wasting more time by going through all the system commands one by one, especially if they might not work. There was no choice but to use the last resort. She loathed it, but there was no way she was going to let some upstart hacker destroy her beautiful creation and best friend. "KITT, can you hear me?"
"Yes." His voice was a bit less agitated than before, but still very much worried. "Have you any other ideas?"
"Just one. I hate to do this to you, buddy, but it might be the only way." Lowering her voice, she continued, "Only Alex and I know about this. It's a remote kill switch. All your systems will be shut off except for your CPU battery." She closed her eyes as her chest tightened. "You'll be trapped in there with no sensory input until your functions can be restored manually."
He knew too well what that was like: he'd be deaf, dumb, and blind, aware only of himself. "How long would it take to restore me?" Panic edged his tone.
"I don't know. The only other way to solve this is to remove your CPU from the car, and right now that's impossible. I'm so sorry, but you'll have to trust me."
He was silent for a few seconds. "I do trust you, Mikayla, with my life. But if this doesn't work, I want you to know that you are special to me. It's been a beautiful friendship."
She blinked tears away and pursed her lips together. "The feeling is mutual, KITT. Be strong for me. Alex and Brenda will take care of you until I get better. Ready?"
Taking a shuddering breath, she switched to the uplink app and keyed a final command.
call function process_kill
A second later the word _received appeared, and both the call and the link disconnected.
She let her weary head fall back onto the pillow, and stared listlessly at the white ceiling as Dr. Forester retrieved his phone from her slack hands. "Please call the Foundation," she urged. "Tell them that KITT has been deactivated and they can pick him up at the last coordinates on the satellite tracker." Inside she felt bleak, alone. "And delete that app."
Dorothy gave her a compassionate look but didn't say anything as she checked the various monitors to ensure that Mikayla hadn't stressed herself too much. Dr. Forester moved away to make the requested phone call.