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 10: Homecoming

Peter and KARL dropped Mikayla off a short distance from the place where KITT was thought to be hiding. "If anyone can bring him back, it's you," Peter said in encouragement. "Right now, I don't want to think about any other possibility."

Wordlessly she activated her phone's flashlight and picked her way along the rutted dirt road. After a few dozen yards she came to a clearing that overlooked a small valley below. The black Camaro was sitting there, looking completely dark.

She hurried forward as best she could. Was it already too late? "KITT, I'm here." She reached for the door handle, but it wouldn't open. The fingerprint reader didn't light up and there was no telltale beep. "Wake up, buddy." Nothing. His main scanner was off but there were a few lights on the dashboard, indicating that the AI was still active. What a relief!

But why wasn't he even acknowledging her?

It occurred to her that he might be so grief-stricken and withdrawn into himself that he couldn't. Such was a very human response to an emotional situation.

Wishing that she could hug him, she limped to the front of the car and knelt down, reaching her arms across the hood and resting her head on the metal. "I came back for you," she said, her voice breaking. "For my whole life I've felt that I've had something to prove, that I've been chasing an ideal that was worth any sacrifice. I'm sorry that it took me so long to realize that I'd lost sight of what was important." Tears began to fall. "I don't want to lose you. You're too special to a lot of people, and you've made a difference in so many ways. Most of all, to me." Raising herself up, she looked straight at the dark scanner bar and caressed it with a trembling hand. "I came back for you," she repeated in a whisper. "Please come back to me. KITT, I need you."

For a long moment there was nothing other than the sounds of insects chirping.

A single light in the scanner track illuminated and then went out.

"Please," she breathed, hope dawning.

The scanner burst into activity and she could hear the car's systems power up. Joyfully she sprang to her feet. "KITT?" The driver's door opened and she practically threw herself into the seat, wrapping her arms around the steering wheel.

"Mikayla, I'm so glad to see you," he said in an uncharacteristically yearning tone. "I received your message and waited in the hope that you would find me."

"Oh, KITT!" A crazy idea came into her mind and before she could think better of it, she half-rose from the seat, leaned over the steering column toward the voice modulator and gently laid her lips on the plastic.

Warmth. That was the first thing that the astounded AI registered. The slight pressure of her skin and heat of her breath, the increase in her endorphins and heartbeat. She was kissing him. A wave of emotions passed through his CPU as he accepted the gift that she was offering. In the next second, he fervently wished he could return the gesture, to enable her to feel a response, but the materials that made up the dashboard were rigid and unyielding. So instead he focused on that small area of contact, reveling in her presence. It sufficed.

She sat back slowly and took a deep breath, feeling somewhat more at ease. He was alive. That's what mattered right now.

"Mikayla…" KITT said slowly. "That was…" He was at a loss for words. An artificial intelligence in control of one of the most advanced pieces of machinery in existence, and he could not form words for what had just happened. He activated his self-diagnostic but it gave him information that defied the norms, so he defaulted to instinct. Given such a situation, the most common phrase that humans would say was… "I–"

She reached out and brushed her fingertips on the modulator to stop him. "That's nothing I need to know." A flash of melancholy crossed her features. From the beginning she'd recognized that KITT was more than just an AI in a car: he was a sentient being, even a friend. It was when Michael Knight had re-entered the picture that she'd recognized how intense her feelings had become, and she repeatedly tried to deny or ignore them by throwing herself into her work. The idea of falling for an AI was ludicrous. And yet… "Your actions speak for themselves. Besides, to say it would make it real."

He said hurriedly, "Which is exactly why I've wanted to say it for months, but only today I realized just how strongly I… feel." The word came out in a tone that was both awestruck and sincere. Finally, he voiced aloud what he'd denied for so long: he could feel, he could–

"KITT…" Mikayla whispered, half in warning, half in anticipation.

"Please," he implored her. "It's why I wouldn't obey Charles, why I brought Peter to you, why I thought it best to leave you to make your own choice. Mikayla, I love you."

Her heart hammered in her chest. Part of her was jubilant that KITT had evolved to the point where he could experience the full range of human emotion, but the more logical part of her was trying to cope with the implications. KITT was a computer, a supremely intelligent one, but a computer nonetheless. How could they have what was considered to be a normal relationship? He couldn't even touch her, not in the way a human could. Not to mention, she thought wryly, in many works of science fiction, an AI that developed true emotions couldn't handle such complexities, and it either went insane or overloaded.

A cold tremor raced down her spine as she realized that KITT was despondently waiting for an answer. Tears leaked from her eyes again as she knew that there was only one thing she could say. Anything else would be a lie. And she'd promised to never lie to him.

"KITT, I love you."

Mikayla drove KITT back to the mansion in silence. No further words were needed. They were met in the forecourt by KARL and Peter; she nodded her thanks to them as she exited KITT. Then she steeled herself and went up to the office, with Brenda and Peter behind her.

Alex and Kathy were already there, standing discreetly to one side, both looking quite uncomfortable. The heated argument between the two older men paused as Mikayla walked in. Michael gave her a concerned look, but she responded with a slight smile and nod. At once his entire demeanour changed: his stance relaxed and his eyes grew softer.

Charles, on the other hand, turned his temper upon her, heaping on accusations of insubordination, negligence, and theft of company property among other things. She waited until he shouted himself out before responding evenly. "One: I'm not currently a Foundation employee. Two: I was never negligent, and the experiment that I spearheaded created new opportunities for Knight Industries. Three: at the next Board meeting, the entity known as KITT will be defined as a person, not property." She'd known that because a smug Takumi had told her that very morning. KITT had more than earned it.

"In other words," Michael said with a glare, not surprised at this development, "he works here by choice. Now, if the primary field asset is unwilling or unable to work due to the conditions, a review must be done, isn't that right? I seem to remember that from back when I was that asset." When Charles nodded reluctantly, Michael continued, "Then I'm sure the Board will be very interested in why you've all but suspended operations for the last five months without performing said review."

Charles drew himself up and tried to keep his anger under control. "Who are you to just barge in here and tell me how to do my job?"

"Because, unless you've forgotten, I did your job for two months while you were recovering from your injuries," Michael reminded him.

"After disappearing for 30 years!" the Director bellowed, startling Mikayla who'd had no inkling that Charles had become so jealous over that. "You're hardly qualified to–"

Michael hissed, "Don't talk to me about qualifications. I might not have a PhD but I know the Foundation after devoting eight years of my life to it. And I know KITT. You might have helped put his body together, but I know him, far better than anyone. If he's not happy, you can be sure there's a damn good reason for it."

"KITT refused to perform his duties and would not follow my orders," Charles said stubbornly. "He's programmed to obey, and the fact that he didn't indicates that something is wrong with him. Are you aware of what happened with the AI that reprogrammed itself?"

He'd been told about the KARR-E project that had almost killed his son, but wasn't going to be baited by that. "Every AI is capable of self-determination," he insisted. "KITT was originally programmed to protect and obey me, but he chose to place Shawn, Mikayla, and Peter in that category because he judged them worthy of his trust. If he wasn't listening to you, that means he doesn't trust you, and I want you to tell me why. That's the one question that you've been avoiding since I got here."

Charles scowled for a few moments and then finally blurted, "I fired Mikayla because she was fixated on an unattainable goal, namely the attempted rehabilitation of the AI known as KARR. I believed it to be dangerous and destroyed it."

Both Mikayla and Peter winced as KITT and KARL loudly voiced their displeasure through their respective earpieces. They'd known it, but to hear it said was still infuriating.

Michael walked up to the desk and smacked his hands down on it. "KITT phoned me and told me what happened that day. He was also concerned about the KARR copy, but after thinking about it he decided to trust that Mikayla knew what she was doing. And he was right." He smiled ironically before continuing, "Are you aware that there's a second AI parked outside right now? A functional and stable one?" His voice hardened. "The one you tried to kill?"

The other man shuddered as his jaw dropped. He whirled and went to the window to see the two black cars parked one behind the other in the forecourt.

Crossing his arms on his chest, Michael said, "If that were KARR, he would've likely destroyed this place by now to get to you, as revenge. But he's not any more, mostly thanks to Mikayla. Oh, I'm sure he's angry and won't forgive you any time soon, but he's not a threat. However, I do suggest you keep your distance from him."

Wide-eyed, Charles whispered, "How?"

Now Mikayla spoke. "With a lot of work and a bit of luck. But he trusts me now, and he's learning to trust KITT, because we've treated him like the family that he's always wanted."

Michael's sea-blue eyes turned icy. "The Foundation was a family: Devon, me, Bonnie, RC, and KITT. You, Charles, had the opportunity to make it so again with KITT and these great people." He indicated the others with a sweep of his arm. "But you blew it. You made the same mistake that Wilton Knight did with KARR all those years ago, because you let your prejudice influence you." He then pointed accusingly. "You don't deserve that chair."

The Director glared daggers at him. "How dare you!"

He shrugged. "I'm just calling it like I see it." Then he turned toward the door, leaving Charles fuming. "I've said my bit. I want to talk to KITT and Mikayla, and then I'm out of here." He marched from the room.

Obeying the implied order, Mikayla followed, leaving a shocked and discouraged team in her wake. She had to jog to catch up to him, but he didn't speak until they got outside.

"Did you make your peace with KITT?" he asked in a much quieter voice, although his stress was still evident.

She smiled warmly. "We came to an understanding."

"Good." He stopped and faced her as his features softened. "He and I were very close back in the day. But the person he needs now is you. I believe that you can help him grow in ways that I never could. And I'm counting on you both to take care of each other."

"That I can promise you, Michael," KITT said fervently.

He cast a sentimental glance at his old friend. "I'm glad to hear it, pal. Any time either of you needs me, you can give me a call." With a smile he turned to saunter toward his Chevy, pausing only briefly to give a nod of acknowledgement in KARL's direction.

Mikayla wanted to say something else but was interrupted by the door opening behind her. The rest of the Foundation team, sans Charles, crowded through. They all had anxious expressions on their faces, and she was certain that they had to be entertaining the same idea that she was. "Michael," she called, and walked a few steps forward.

He looked back at her, with one hand on the Chevy's door handle.

"I do need you," she said soberly, and then indicated the others, who had ranged themselves behind her. "We all need you. You've proven to us that you have the experience and judgment to lead this team to where it should be."

Kathy spoke up. "How would you like to be Director again – for real?"

Michael dropped his hand as he stared at them in disbelief. "I'm honoured, but… that's asking far too much. You all know that I'm a straight-shooter and I hate anything to do with bureaucracy and corporate affairs."

"I've spent my entire career dealing with that," Kathy said. "As your exec, I can take that on so you can focus on what's more important: helping people and taking care of the team." She smiled proudly. "Last August, when you came to us during our time of need and sat down at that desk, I knew that was where you belonged."

Her statement was echoed by murmurs of assent from her colleagues.

Michael was visibly touched. It seemed that no matter how hard he'd tried to convince himself otherwise, his true place was with the Foundation. Long ago, Wilton Knight had bequeathed him with his name, and Devon Miles had cared for him like a son. He'd been the one man who made a difference. Now, he had an opportunity to show others how they could make a difference, and it felt wrong to squander it. "On one condition," he said.

"Name it," said Mikayla expectantly. "Anything you need."

His eyes twinkled as his mouth widened in a grin. "I get to drive KITT once in a while."

They all burst out laughing.

KITT said fondly, "Michael, you know you have only to ask."

A cascade of changes swept through FLAG over the next week, all to the good.

In light of his conduct concerning the KARL affair, Charles Davis was offered a "voluntary retirement" package by the Board, after which Michael Knight was officially installed as Director of the Las Vegas branch. With the help of executive assistant Kathy Cunningham, its operation became much smoother than it had been for months. If anyone noticed how close KITT and his chief mechanic had become, they wisely kept their opinions to themselves.

KARL had ultimately chosen Mikayla's brother Devante as his partner, to the immense pride of all. The pair were to be based primarily out of the L.A. location, giving assistance to the Vegas team as needed. They were assigned new support staff who included, notably, Mike Knight's best friend Dylan Fass, and the young genius Danny Clark whom the L.A. team had rescued from drug dealers back in 2009.

Both Mikayla and KITT accepted that they might not see each other for long stretches at a time due to cases, but that was part of the job, and every moment they did spend together was cherished. Despite their unorthodox relationship, they knew how they felt, and both of them embraced it completely. Which, in the end, was as bright an outcome as any.

Sailor Chronos
June 2020

Thank you to the following people:
My husband, as always, for his support.
My beta-readers Doc0517, VINAI, and |||Bluebird|||
Glen A. Larson for creating the Knight Rider universe to play in.

Chapter 1: KARR's serial number is the hexadecimal format of 09041982, his activation date
Chapter 1: FLAG operative Ken Franklyn was discussed in S3E1 Knight of the Drones
Chapter 2: The "hero of their own story" speech references Person of Interest S5E02 SNAFU
Chapter 3: "Do you think I care for you so little" refers to Doctor Who S8E11 Dark Water
Chapter 4: KITT was told he couldn't sing in S4E11 Knight Song
Chapter 5: The mention of KITT's ideal match occurred in S4E15 Deadly Knightshade
Chapter 6: In the 2008 series, KI3T's CPU was taken in S1E12 Knight to King's Pawn
Chapter 6: Michael Knight's wife was killed in S4E12 The Scent of Roses
Chapter 9: The title refers to the song of the same name by Def Leppard
Chapter 10: The KARR-E project was shown in the 2008 series S1E06 Knight of the Living Dead and S1E12 Knight to King's Pawn
Chapter 10: Dylan Fass is Mike Traceur/Knight's friend in the Knight Rider 2008 pilot movie
Chapter 10: In the 2008 series, young Danny Clark was featured in S1E15 Fly By Knight