AN: On a side note, the name of this chapter has nothing to do with how fast I updated this time...
Chapter Eighteen: Progress
Back at FLAG headquarters, Bonnie and Sarah were steadily making progress with Kitt's repairs. Most of what they needed was already at their disposal, and what they didn't have, they upgraded. They worked through the night, trading off with Billy and Zoe, while Michael and his son were upstairs sleeping in their respective pods. It was agreed that the drivers should get all the rest they could before they went back into the field. They did try to help a few times, but while they were decent mechanics, they weren't as good computer technicians. Regardless, the four had made so much progress during the night that when Michael came to investigate he could barely recognize Kitt's dashboard.
The shape of the dash was the same, but where the monitor had been there was now a very sleek touch-screen. The steering wheel resembled the one that was there only yesterday, but was also updated. The old red and black Knight insignia was now backlit, and the gullwing shape of the wheel remained, but it wasn't the original wheel. Many buttons and gauges were removed, especially from the center console and overhead, but those that remained were now black, backlit in red, and flush with the rest of the dash. He could tell from the lack of these buttons though that there would be more to this new dash than what he saw at first glance. It would certainly take some getting used to.
"Michael, do you like it?" Kitt asked eagerly, even before his driver had a chance to process the changes.
"Do I like it? Kitt, it looks amazing."
"You're not just saying that, are you?"
Michael smiled. He knew his partner trusted him and his word more than he sometimes trusted himself, but Kitt could be so self-conscious that he forgot who he was talking to.
"Of course not. You really needed that upgrade Kitt, and it's perfect."
"Oh, we're not done yet," Bonnie said, and carefully ushered Michael into the driver's seat. She crouched by the car and gave him a rundown of the new design.
"Many of Kitt's physical capabilities, like turbo boost, microjam, smoke release, oil slick, grappling hook, winch, the EBS, the auto roof, and eject, are on the right of the steering column. On the left under the speedometer are your luxuries," she drug the word out like the following didn't matter one bit, "like the windows, radio, air conditioning… I'm sure you'll have that side memorized before anything else."
"No, there is still no coffee maker."
"It's like you knew I was going to ask."
"Now, Kitt's different drive modes are still up here around the voice modulator – see?"
Indeed they were, but now instead of just Auto, Normal, and Pursuit, Super Pursuit, Silent, Ski, and Convert. (presumably short for convertible) were also on either side of Kitt's 'voice box'. The rectangles above the voice modulator that always indicated Kitt's launch sequence were gone, and the dash was smooth there now. He noticed that the voice modulator itself was still the same, which was actually a bit of a relief. It had been the familiar shape that it was now for so long, Michael couldn't picture Kitt with anything but the short-long-short pattern. It was as close to a face as Kitt had, and it seemed wrong to change that. He even missed the old dash a bit, but knew it was too outdated to have been repaired.
"The monitor on the far right has a touch screen." Bonnie continued, "It controls some of the lesser used functions, like the laser, interior oxygenator, high-traction drop downs, flame thrower, tear gas, ultra-magnesium charges – you get the point, right?"
"Yeah, I think so," he replied hesitantly. Hopefully he would be able to adjust to the changes before they needed to use them for real. He had the old dash memorized so well he could send Kitt into a turbo boost with his eyes closed. Well, at least that was roughly in the same place. The last thing he needed was to go flying through the air when all he wanted to do was turn the radio up. "Where is everything else, then? There's hardly anything left on the console, between the t-tops…"
"Allow me to demonstrate," Kitt said with a conceited tone thick in his voice.
Michael looked around nervously, "And just what are we demonstrating?"
Suddenly Kitt's launch sequence –Power, Min. RPM, Fuel On, Ignition – flashed blue on the leftmost side of the windshield. A second set of gauges appeared directly in front of Michael, on the bottom of the glass. Several windows opened up in the remaining space; one displayed everything he didn't want to know about the condition of Kitt's CPU, one displayed a complete list of Kitt's functions, a third was playing the YouTube video of Keyboard Cat, and a fourth was apparently what Kitt was seeing right now. It was focused on Michael, which made him to wonder exactly where all of Kitt's microscopic cameras were. Again, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"Behold my new Heads Up Display. It functions exactly like KITT's does, but a few of my systems are still inoperable, so I wouldn't bother accessing them from here. What you can access will be on the monitor for now."
"So the monitor and this display are interchangeable?"
"You're mostly correct. They are interchangeable, save for any synthesizer or analyzer. Those will appear only on the HUD."
Bonnie sat on the edge of the seat by Michael, almost in his lap, and began a crash course on how to use the HUD. Michael was mostly focused on the lesson, but couldn't help thinking about how long it had been since they did this sort of thing. Kitt getting excited over new equipment, Bonnie impatiently giving Michael directions on how to use the new equipment, Michael ignoring the lesson and getting lost in his thoughts of the mechanic…
"Michael, you're not listening, are you? If you're going to use this anytime soon, you'll have to pay attention. I can't sit here all day, you know."
Oops. Some things never change.
"Just one question…" he said, eying the still-running video of Keyboard Cat, "Kitt, do you get Wi-Fi now?"
"Wi-Fi? Please, Michael, you're insulting me. I now have unlimited internet access anywhere in the world via satellite. As long as I can receive a signal, that is."
Billy sighed from behind the open door, "Story of my life."
"So can we head out soon?" Michael asked when Bonnie got out of the car. He stepped out next and looked expectantly at Bonnie and Sarah, who seemed to be the unofficial co-captains of the cars' repairs.
"Kitt still isn't 100%, but this as good as he's going to get until we have more time to repair the body. You'll have to take it easy on him; we didn't get much done on the outside, just the major problem areas. We were more concerned about getting the software back up and running so you could fight against Karr without contacting him. For Melody's sake."
He didn't want to think about what could happen to his daughter in what could become a demolition derby. So instead he continued: "So what are we limited to here?"
"Just don't push anything if you don't have to. The engine should be alright, but the impacts the body took compromised the strength of the molecular bonded shell."
That didn't sound good, "I thought only a chemical could destroy the MBS."
"It isn't destroyed, it's just weak in spots. He took a beating, Michael, I'm surprised he turned out as well as he did."
"Tell me about it. Where are the weak spots?"
She guided him around the Trans Am, the body of which still looked to be in poor condition. They managed to repair some of the smaller areas, but apparently the shell was as difficult to un-dent as it was to dent in the first place. The worse dents indicated more damage beneath, and since the body was already misshapen, it would be easy to cause irreparable destruction to the sensitive components behind the metal body.
"Karr is likely going to target the front fenders. They're not too badly damaged, yet, and most of Kitt's vital systems aren't in a dangerous spot. But…"
"Kitt's CPU is on the passenger side, behind the engine, next to the fender. If Karr were to hit him hard enough the housing could be destroyed, and so could the computer."
Michael took a deep breath in response to the severity of the statement. The CPU was Kitt. If it was destroyed, so was his partner. There was no rebuilding the small black box. If it was gone, there would be no saving Kitt. Not this time.
Kitt didn't seem happy about that fact, either. His scanner, which was as close to an expression of his feelings as he would ever get, flashed once and paced faster. He was worried, and Michael was worried for him.
"Can't we just move his CPU?"
"It's not that simple," Sarah said, "We thought about it, but there's not enough time. We had a lot of the parts for the dash available, but to move the CPU we would have to disconnect Kitt from the car, move it into the cabin, and rebuild all the connections from scratch."
"You don't have any spare parts from your KITT that would work?"
"They're all too new. Bonnie may have done upgrades over the years, but he still doesn't have the same hookups as the Three Thousand."
"I'm afraid I'll have to play hurt, Michael," Kitt said.
"Don't worry, pal. I won't let anything happen to you."
Kitt didn't say anything.
"So you're good to go then, KITT?" Michael asked the other car.
"Everything is functioning as it should be. Thank you for your concern."
"What about you, Mike?" Sarah asked. Mike was sitting on the couch nearby, still looking drained from yesterday. He must have gotten a concussion, but still insisted that he was 'better than ever'.
"Only one problem..." Zoe said. She was sitting beside Mike, and sounded just as tired as she looked, "we still don't know where Karr is. We tried tracking him all night, but couldn't get a hit."
Billy agreed. He sounded frustrated and more than a little angry when he said: "He vanished. I don't even know where he could be going, so as long as he stays incognito, we have no way of finding him."
"And Melody didn't take her cell, so we can't track that, either."
Michael could feel his own anger rising, crushing the hope he gained from Kitt's repairs. Despite the progress they made through the night, the truth was Kitt was still vulnerable, the two drivers were still in bad shape themselves, Karr was still nowhere to be found, and Melody was still in danger. Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing.
So Billy and both AI's resumed the desperate hunt for Karr. Sarah and Zoe went to bed. Mike, after taking a handful of pain killers, disappeared down the left hall. Michael helped Bonnie repair what they could on Kitt, and no one said a word for hours. They all had their duties, and they could carry them out well. But as time went on, their fears only grew worse.
Yesterday she was ripped from the trunk of a car, blindfolded, and lead down some stairs to a cell. It was quite large for a cell, actually. The ceiling was high, but unfortunately too high for her to reach the camera perched in the corner. It was dark and damp, probably in the lower levels of the hangar FLAG used as their base. A single light illuminated her cage, but again it was too high to reach. Outside the black bars that made up one wall of the room was a cell identical to hers. There appeared to be four cells in all, but she was the only occupant.
After an hour or so she was lead upstairs to an interrogation room by Sarah Graiman, but she did not give anything away. Nothing of importance, at least. She informed her of her superficial plan to rob the Foundation and use their technology and funds to create her own fleet of artificially intelligent supercars that she would sell to the military. She told Sarah that she didn't anticipate Karr to be as independent and stubborn as he was, and that she was going to destroy him once his mission was complete. His mission, she explained, was to locate the SSC and be a fully functioning example for her technicians to build off of. If she had been able to use him further she would have, but he couldn't follow someone else's orders. He was too highly developed for that.
But she had no idea what Karr wanted with Knight's daughter. Hell, she didn't even know he had a daughter. The SSC didn't keep extensive records on Michael Knight Sr. after 1990, and there was no mention of her birth in his file or Bonnie Barstow's. There was mention of a successor to Mike Knight in the KARR Project, but everything involving KARR was heavily protected, even more so than the employees. She didn't bother to look into what was left of the KARR Project. She already had what she needed on that, anyway.
She thought the interrogation was over, that she was waiting to be arrested, until she heard footsteps approaching her cell. It was Mike.
"Here," he said, and pushed a plastic sandwich container under the lowest bar, followed by a water bottle. Wren didn't move to take either of them. Mike stared at her through the bars and leaned against the door to the cell behind him. His arms were crossed, but he was unnervingly calm.
"What do you want with me?" she finally asked, "I don't know what Karr has planned with the girl."
"That girl is my sister," he said flatly. "But I believe you. No one knows what Karr wants with her."
She pushed her blonde hair behind her ears impatiently, "Then what are you doing down here? I really don't know anything else."
"Don't lie to me, Nicole."
Wren smiled broadly, genuinely pleased with Mike. She was determined to let him figure it out for himself, once she learned of his memory loss. It would hit him hard, or so she hoped, harder than it would have if she simply told him. After all, if he didn't remember, it wouldn't be worth it.
"It's a pleasure to finally meet you in person, Michael Knight."