“Why do you feel you’re qualified for the position?”
“My father was the last driver for the old car, back in the nineties.”
The woman in nice dress clothes looked over the application again, tapping her pen on the desk. Her name was Sarah Graiman, head of the Foundation for Law and Government, and she had only skimmed over the paperwork earlier that morning. It was a pile the size of an old school phone book and contained every recorded minute of this applicant’s life thus far. She’d only gotten as far as the front page before she’d been called away to check in with Mike and KI3T. She was always being pulled in multiple directions. It was starting to take a toll on her and Mike’s relationship.
Sarah read the front page again and saw that the applicant’s full name was Vivian Marta Quinn.
Every Knight Industries driver had taken ‘Knight’ as a surname so far, so Sarah would have to fact check Vivian’s relation to the previous driver. Legacy drivers were preferred thanks to the succession from Michael Knight, to Michael Knight Jr.
“Aaaaand-” Sarah read further down over the paper. Vivian was born in 1989, and just turned thirty last month. Likely present for her father’s funeral when it happened in ‘92. “You feel some pull for the job because of that?”
“Something like that,” Vivian said flatly.
Sarah just couldn’t read her. She was very… Leveled. Bland. Didn’t seem nervous for this interview, didn’t seem excited either.
Though the levelheadedness might have been a good thing. If there was anything Sarah had learned by now, it was that emotions could get tied into the job. And then things could become disastrous. If Vivian was this leveled now, she may also be good in a crisis and make careful risk assessments.
“Do you go by Vivian or Viv?”
“I go by Marta,” the woman answered. “Just feels like it fits better.”
The comlink on her wrist was firmly buried under her pillow thanks to the position she slept in.
"Marta." KITT tried to wake her for the fourth time that morning, since 6:30 AM on the dot, in fifteen minute intervals.
She was inside of her bedroom, under a heap of blankets and sleeping off copious amounts of liquor. A frequent occurrence.
This wouldn't be an issue if Michael had never retired.
KITT remotely raised the volume of her comlink.
"Jesus-!" The woman woke with a start and quickly sat up in her bed. Head pounding from her hangover. "I was asleep! "
"I'm aware," KITT told her, volume decreasing. "I was having trouble waking you. Another late night?"
Marta Knight slowly left her bed and picked her discarded clothing up to dress herself. "I don't need a lecture, KITT."
KITT had never been driven by someone with such an aggressive drinking habit… Good thing he could drive himself or else she'd have crashed him a dozen times on the way home from the bar. "Very well, I won't lecture you."
"Thank you . "
"But I will suggest that you be more gentle on your organs. Alcohol consumption is damaging to every single one of them-"
Marta laid a hand over the microphone on the comlink so KITT wouldn't hear her sigh in annoyance. She went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth just as he fell silent.
"Is there work today?"
"There’s always work, Marta," he told her.
Marta laced up her boots and put on her jacket. She went to her kitchen sink and poured herself a glass of water. First of many to recover. "Of course there is. No rest for the wicked... What's Graiman want now?"
KITT started his engine when he saw Marta appear outside of her house and lock up. " Sarah's tasked us with looking into an alleged falsification of medical documents."
“Of course she did,” Marta strode toward KITT and pulled the hood of her jacket over her head to keep dry in the morning rain. She got in behind the wheel and removed her dampened jacket to carelessly toss it into the back seat.
Two months into partnership and she still seemed to think of him as just a car.
Or rather, a tool. A digital assistant built into a vehicle, much like the voice on her cellphone.
Though Sarah still wasn’t completely sold on Marta, she figured a psychological evaluation wouldn’t hurt. It was the next step in the screening process, and would weed out anyone who wasn’t emotionally right for the job.
After that was a physical course- where the applicant was under fire with paintball guns. FLAG didn’t permit their drivers to use firearms. Michael Knight had never needed one, so it became the standard- as all things in his run had.
The criteria to be a driver were as follows: Minimum of twenty four years old, unmarried, no children, military experience, physical readiness, and adaptability.
Marta met all standards but one , but that could be waived as long as it was closely monitored.
What was very surprising was that Marta passed the physical with ease and came out of the course without a single paint mark after disarming and apprehending her simulated assailant.
Cool, calm, and collected. The photo definition of the Three C’s.
Then came the part that got every other applicant thus far shut down:
“So, I’m not sure if you’re aware,” Sarah said, ready to move on to her next task for the day. This had taken hours- and frankly she wanted to check on Mike and KI3T again. “The Knight Industries Two Thousand isn’t just a fancy car, he’s one of the most advanced AI in the world, built into an auto body. Just as his newer counterpart, the Knight Industries Three Thousand. The current active model.”
“I’m aware,” Marta said, again neither looking excited nor nervous as they walked toward the garage. “I heard about it growing up. My mom and my dad’s friends had a lot of stories.” There was even an old Polaroid picture of her father holding her as an infant in the Two Thousand’s driver seat. The car wasn’t likely to remember her. She hadn’t laid eyes on it since she was a toddler. Didn’t remember much of it. Just the red optical scanner on the front, moving back and forth and making gentle swishing noises.
Marta saw the vehicle undergoing maintenance as they entered the oversized garage space- practically the size of a hangar. The red LEDs on the front end swept slowly from side to side, and quickened when Marta and Sarah approached.
Marta understood that it was sizing her up just as much as she was for it.
Next to the vintage Trans Am was an early 2000’s Mustang- caved in on the driver’s side and undergoing heavy maintenance by a set of robotic armatures; the vehicle suspended on a gimbal.
Again: a scanner on the front. Split into two separate lights, slowly sweeping from side to side.
That was the out of commission model she was to work parallel to.
“What happened there?” Marta asked. She grew up hearing about how bullets and other cars bounced off of the Knight Industries cars like rubber. But this was definitely not an invulnerable machine as she believed.
“It all happened very quickly, we’re still figuring out the details,” Sarah answered, ushering Marta toward the Trans Am. “This is the Knight Industries Two Thousand-”
“K.I.T.T., or KITT, if you prefer,” the vehicle stated.
“KITT,” Marta nodded, offering a thin smile at the mention. She’d heard the name many times. Impossible to forget. “I’m Marta. My dad was Andrew Knight.”
Ah, now the name made sense to Sarah. Andy Knight, formerly known as Andrew Quinn. Killed in action and left behind a widow and a baby. He was the reason the program was shut down for so long. FLAG simply couldn’t handle the weight of losing a driver during the rapid transition of leadership, from Devon Miles to Russel Maddock to Charles Graiman. On top of this, KITT couldn’t bear the thought of having failed his partner. He had blamed himself for the ordeal, and even agreed to deactivation when the time came.
“Andrew...” KITT began. “I believe we’ve met before then. Did your name change? Wasn’t it Vivian before?”
“I use my middle name now,” Marta nodded.
KITT remembered her mother calling her Vivian as clearly as if it were just minutes ago. Yet here she was now. An adult. “How long has it been since then?”
“‘Bout twenty eight years,” Marta answered.
Sarah noted that Marta spoke casually to KITT as though he were on speakerphone, rather than a marvel of machinery right in front of her. Maybe she didn't believe it.
“Why not apply sooner?”
Their attention turned to Mike, who entered the garage with a stiff, sore walk. Arm in a sling, face badly bruised.
“Didn’t I tell you to rest? ” Sarah chided, moving over to him and trying to turn him back the way he came.
“I wanted to see who we got this time!” Mike placated, unmovable despite Sarah’s efforts to pull him along. He sized up Marta in an instant. “Mike Knight, driver for that guy right over there, if you couldn’t tell by the matching battle scars,” he motioned to the Mustang.
It was unresponsive, possibly at rest- if circuitry had the capability to rest.
“Marta.” She replied. She would shake his hand but she wondered if everything on him hurt.
“I heard,” Mike said. “Your old man drove too? Mine was the first.” He motioned to KITT with his free arm. “Apparently they were the Dream Team in the 80's.”
“That’s kind of you to say, Michael,” KITT said.
Mike grimaced at the name- clearly not his first choice. Apparently the Two Thousand was blind to sarcasm.
KITT had only been restored a few weeks ago, and was catching up with twenty-eight years of what must've felt like time travel to him.
“So it’s a legacy thing for every driver,” Marta said.
“Every driver so far, ” Mike corrected.
Marta nodded. “Well--- at least you made it out alive.”
His left arm, the Three Thousand's left side.
What the hell happened there? Were these cars really so flimsy?
“Just barely,” Sarah cut in. “And that’s why we’re looking for a second driver. If we double our number of operators, we double safety and effectiveness.”
“And how am I doing on this application so far?” Marta asked. “Am I coming back for a second interview?”
She was doing very well, actually. But the final say so wasn’t up to her, or Mike even.
“That’s for KITT to decide,” Sarah answered.
Marta turned to KITT. “Whaddya say? Am I getting behind the wheel anytime soon?”
“I think we should settle on getting to know each other first,” KITT answered.
Another thing KITT didn’t quite understand was that Marta seemed to have a base level of disdain for FLAG’s leadership. Particularly Russell Maddock and Charles Graiman. And because they were both gone, it had fallen on Sarah.
“ Hi, ” Marta blandly greeted Sarah Graiman. Hands in her pockets and striding right past her in the Foundation’s garage to head for the command center.
Sarah had been used to Marta snubbing her by then. And while she didn’t like it, Marta was a legacy driver. Not easy to replace, should termination be an option. The anti-theft biometrics installed into the steering columns of both vehicles took hours to calibrate for legacy drivers- and months for those who weren’t genetically similar to previous drivers. “Hi Marta. How’s the hangover?”
Marta didn’t like that Sarah knew the details of her life outside of work. KITT was essentially her informant. He told Sarah all about any and all mistakes Marta made. “Wonderful, thank you for asking.” She reached the computers that made up the center of FLAG’s hub- where Zoe Chae and Billy Morgan were situated beside each other at the command center. Where they’d remained for the last eleven years. Ever faithful to their posts. “How are the techs doing today?”
Billy and Zoe didn’t register as issues on Marta’s radar. And neither did Mike. Something Sarah didn’t understand.
Whatever the reason for default-state resentment, Marta was still subordinate to Sarah. She followed orders, that was what mattered.
“The techs are good, ” Zoe brightly replied, setting her phone down after scrolling Instagram for the fifth time in the span of three minutes. Her favorite celebrities posted constantly and it was all gold to her.
“How’s the hangover?” Billy asked, getting a swat to the back of the shoulder from Zoe.
“Don’t be mean,” she warned.
Marta snickered at the two. “The hangover’s fine, how’s the latest season of Torchwood? Still canceled?”
“Y’know, Zoe did say not to be mean,” Mike said as he approached from behind Marta. She glanced back at him to see that his bruises had healed up since she last saw him. Arm still in the sling. But according to KITT, he had been going to physical therapy to strengthen it. “That means you too, Marta.”
“When have you known me to be nice, Mike?”
“I haven’t but there’s always time to start.”
Marta scoffed and tried to hide a smirk. “Yeah, ooookaaaaay. ”
KITT observed the conversation. Marta seemed to want to fit in with the FLAG crew. After all, she was granted the Knight name upon entry and therefore belonged. Yet she had the habit of keeping others at arm’s length. Everyone . Outside of the Foundation, her social life was minimal. She turned down invitations to get together outside of work. She never spoke of family or friends to KITT, and didn’t meet up with anyone- yet he had listened through her comlink more than once and knew that she memorized the names of regulars at her favorite bar.
The closest thing to a glimpse of her social life that KITT had before she took her comlink off every night at home.
“This isn’t a social call,” Sarah said as she approached. She didn’t like to have to be the one to break up the fun. But this was an important job. And being the head of the organization meant she had to be more than just everyone’s friend. She had to be their boss, first and foremost. “Zoe, please bring up the file.”
“On it,” Zoe replied, bringing up a photo of a man on the screen.
Mid-thirties, white collar, clean cut. A model citizen.
“This is Lloyd Hill,” Sarah continued. “He’s been forging documents out of a hospital in order to get patients’ family members to agree to pulling the plug-”
Okay, not a model citizen.
“-and then harvesting and selling off their organs.”
“O-Ohh…” Billy looked uneasy at the mention of organs. Ever squeamish.
“Took the words right outta my mouth,” Mike muttered.
“Better than taking your tongue, right?” Marta asked, wincing at the thought. “Great. So. Am I just going in after this guy where he works? Where he lives? Did we prove he’s even doing it?”
“He’s already been indicted on the charges,” Sarah replied. “He was awaiting sentencing and escaped from holding. Now he’s in hiding.”
“Oh. Wonderful.” Marta muttered. “Do we have any ideas of where he went?”
“Well- we have one person in mind who might know.”
“ Fuck me ,” Marta muttered under her breath as she, KITT, and Mike approached the club called The Velvet.
Sarah sent Mike along with to make sure she didn’t get ‘distracted’, given the alcohol-filled environment.
“What’s wrong?” Mike asked, following as she got out and led them up the walkway.
“You’ll figure it out soon enough,” she replied, hands in her pockets as she skipped the line to get in. Hood up over her head again. Not thrilled to be back.
“The line starts back there, ” the bouncer at the door barred her entrance with an arm across the doorway. Mike didn’t want to throw down with him if they could avoid it. He was taller, more buff. Shaved head. Typical tough guy aesthetic.
Marta sighed and looked up at the bouncer. And his expression shifted into a look of surprise when he saw her.
“Marta,” he greeted. “Didn’t think I’d be seeing you back here. How’s it been, girl?”
“Hey Cassius,” Marta offered a mirthless smile and they shook hands and bumped fists. “I gotta get in to talk to Gavin. Is he in yet?”
“Every fuckin’ night, as usual,” Cassius replied and moved aside to let her in, hand at her back. “You might wanna introduce yourself again. He might not recognize you with clothes on.”
Marta offered a short laugh as she entered the club. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Mike began to follow her in- but was blocked. “Dude!”
“He’s with me, Cass,” Marta said. “We’re both here to talk.”
Cassius eyed Mike, but stepped aside to let him in.
Marta wasn’t sure if Mike would be of any use with his arm still being iffy. But he insisted on doing as Sarah ordered, and essentially babysitting Marta to make sure she didn’t drink.
“So you know that guy?” Mike asked as he followed, having to shout to be heard over the music. “Did you go out or something?” He felt himself blush. He didn’t know this was a gentleman’s club. He hadn’t anticipated walking in to see women barely dressed or on full display. And even if he had, it wasn’t exactly ideal to be there with Marta . If he was gonna be there, he’d rather be there by himself.
“Nope!” Marta said back, pulling him along by the sleeve on his good arm.
Mike noted that she knew where she was going as she led him along to the very back of the building. He could barely see. It was dark inside and lit only by blue and purple stage lighting along with constantly moving effects from track lights overhead.
“Marta!” A busty girl in a corset carrying a tray of shot glasses grinned when she saw the woman. “It’s been so long, how you doin’!?”
“Great, how about you?” Marta greeted her casually as they passed her up, not stopping for conversation.
“Did you work here?” Mike gaped. He simply couldn’t picture Marta in a skimpy outfit- despite wanting to.
Marta turned back to look him in the face, and he nearly bumped chests with her when he had to suddenly stop. “Say anything about this to anyone and your arm is never gonna heal. Got it?”
Marta never made threats, only promises.
“... Got it.” Mike nodded and continued following her through the busy club and weaving between patrons and employees alike.
They reached a section separated off by a red velvet rope. A gold sign reading ‘The Velvet VIP Lounge’ and another bouncer being the only things left in their path. This one being a woman. Short, tattooed heavily from the middle of her neck, down to where her chest disappeared under her shirt, and out from her cutoff sleeves, down to her fingers.
“Marta?” The bouncer recognized her immediately, demeanor shifting from bored to an incredulous smirk. “Did you start up again? I thought you said you weren’t coming back this time.”
“I didn’t ,” Marta said pointedly with a sarcastic smile, hands resting atop a gold stanchion that blocked her and Mike from passing. “I’m working somewhere else now. In fact, I’m here on business. I gotta go talk to Gavin. Cass says he’s back here, I’ll just let myself in-” She unhooked the velvet rope from the stanchion and took a step inside the area.
“Noooonononono,” the bouncer blocked her path, taking the rope out of her hand and clipping it back into its respective loop. “If you’re not here as an employee , you’re not getting in t here without the cover charge. Did you even pay the one at the door?”
Marta let out a sigh through her nose and glanced back at Mike.
“I don’t think you heard me, Jackie, ” Marta leaned over the rope to speak to the bouncer more directly, reaching back to Mike and snapped her fingers. Signaling him to give her money. Her contingency plan to get in- even if Mike, Sarah, and KITT didn’t like her using FLAG’s money for bribery. But if it worked, it worked. And it always worked. Mike placed a fifty dollar bill in her hand. “I’m here on business. ” She brandished the bill and folded it twice, then slipped it behind Jackie’s ear. She hid the gesture with a brush of Jackie’s fire engine red hair.
Jackie’s arms crossed and she shifted her weight onto one hip to stare Marta down.
Then she cracked a smile.
“You are such an asshole, Marta,” Jackie opened up the velvet rope and stepped back for them to enter.
“You know it, Sweet Tits,” Marta winked and entered, hands back to their usual spot in her pockets.
Impressed, Mike followed after her- only to be blocked by Jackie. “Where do you think you’re goin, Bright Eyes?”
Mike frowned and motioned after Marta. “She- She just paid for us.”
“She paid for herself, ” Jackie clarified. “So unless you got another fifty on you- or something bigger , you’re waitin’ right here with me.”
“I’ll make this quick.” Marta gave Mike an apologetic shrug and went on her way toward the lounge.
Mike’s expression dropped as he watched Marta disappear. “But that was my fifty...”
“Is it wise to go on your own from here?”
“Do you have another fifty for Mike?” Marta asked KITT as she made her way through the black light illuminated hallway to the VIP lounge. It was quieter back there, so she had no problems hearing him through her earpiece. “‘Cause Sarah wouldn’t give me any cash for this job.”
“I do, actually-”
“Let’s pretend you don’t. This might go smoother if Gavin doesn’t think there’s more than one person here for him.”
When she reached the lounge, Marta pushed the swinging door open with her shoulder as she entered.
Inside the red-lit lounge was the huge, half-circle sectional beside a round, single-pole stage. In the center, Gavin Hardy kept himself comfortable with the same two girls on either side of him as any other time Marta had seen him there. A small group of his lackeys with him as well- as always. Not bodyguards or partners- just his lame-brained friends he shared his paydays with. Laughing at some dim-witted thing she hadn't heard before entering.
The girl on Gavin’s left was Christi, a petite blonde who was only working here until she got her degree for nursing. On the left, Cherry. A tall, skinny redhead who had been there longer than Marta. She refused to quit because it paid better than her old job as a receptionist- and only had half of the work involved.
“As I live and breathe, is that Moody Marta I see?” Gavin asked, removing his arm from where it was wrapped around Christi's hips to slouch forward in his seat. “How’s it going, baby? I didn’t recognize you with clothes on.”
Gavin’s drunk guy friends laughed in time with his shitty punchline.
Marta would have to tell Cassius he was right on her way out.
She was very glad Mike didn’t make it into the VIP lounge for this specific conversation.
“I thought you moved away or something,” Gavin continued. “We haven’t been in this room together since I got you alone in it…” He smirked. Cocky motherfucker. “What brings you crawling back? Business or-” his tongue glided over his bared teeth as his eyes drifted away from her face. “- pleasure? ”
Marta’s expression didn’t shift. She didn’t so much as blink in response to his lewd references. “Business,” she told him. “I don’t have the three and a half minutes to spare for ‘pleasure’.”
Gavin’s smile dropped when some of his friends snickered at that.
"Give us the room," she told his friends without breaking eye contact with the man himself.
"Do it," Gavin repeated the order. His buddies and the other women saw themselves out.
"I heard you know something about a doctor," Marta began, once the room was vacated.
Gavin didn't like that her hands were in her pockets. A mark of someone who was armed. "There's lots of doctors. If you want, I can hook you up with episodes of Dr. Phil so you learn to deal with your emotions better than drinking 'em away."
Marta let out a sharp sigh and her lips were pulled into a tight smile when she decided to change her approach.
Another thing he didn't like.
She took a few steps towards him and he kept as still as a statue. What was she doing?
She knelt in front of him, between his knees, face level with his and so very close.
"I know you can tell me something ," she said in a low, breathy tone. Lips close to his. Eyes on his. Hands on his shoulders. "I know you want to… I can do something for you if you do..."
KITT spoke into her ear. "Marta, I don't see how this will get him to-"
"Can't do it, baby," Gavin's tone matched hers. Only his was genuine. "Not unless I can name my price. Make it worth my while..."
Marta smirked at him and slowly got back up to her feet. Hands still on his shoulders and moving up to either side of his face…
Then she grabbed him by either side of his head and smashed his face into her knee.
Gavin slid off the couch and onto his knees when his nose gushed blood. Marta felt the blood from the impact seep in through the bottom half of her pant leg as she let him go and took a few steps back in case he lashed out.
But Gavin wasn't much of a fighter.
"FUCK! " Gavin gasped, hands over his nose. Still seeing stars from the pain.
"I'm naming the price here."
"Calm down, it's not broken ," Marta said flatly, hands on her hips. "You didn't hear a pop, did you?"
"Not broken," she confirmed and took a few relaxed steps around him. "Is that worth your while? Keeping your face looking pretty so the girls keep coming?"
"Fuck, Marta! " He was stunned, to say the least. He knew she had a short fuse, but not a violent streak. She didn't seem bothered by this. What else was she willing to do? "What do you wanna know?"
"Dr. Lloyd Hill," she began, glancing at the time on her comlink's screen as she came to a stop at his side. It had only been about two minutes since she left Mike. "Where's he at?"
"You could've led with that!" Gavin spat blood out of his mouth after it had leaked between his lips.
"You could've avoided being an asshole when I came in. We all make mistakes." She wasn't a stripper anymore and she wasn't sleeping with him again. Nobody, not even Gavin, had a free pass to be a creep to her anymore. "So ," she moved past him to sit on the couch and cross her legs, arms outstretched over either side of the backrest. "Where's Dr. Hill?"
"Was all of that necessary?"
"Nope, just felt really good to put him in his place for once," Marta told KITT as she passed Gavin's friends in the hallway- not even a full three and a half minutes after they left.
"That was quick," Mike said when he saw her. "What did you ask him? Did he spill?"
"I suppose you could say that," KITT told him.
“What’s that mean?” Mike asked, just as Marta grabbed him by his good arm and led him back out of The Velvet and to KITT in the parking lot. “Is that blood? ” He asked when they were side-by-side in the vehicle. “What the hell did you do? ”
“My job,” Marta breezily replied and buckled up. Driving on manual mode to the location Gavin had so graciously surrendered.
'Gavin Hardy' and more soon-to-appear characters belong to JetravenEx. Love ya fam <3
Power supplies on.
KITT's startup scripts came online, just as they did after every previous bout of maintenance when Bonnie or April had woken him with software updates.
His motherboard and real time clock picked up the difference in time just as they were meant to.
During the time of his previous shutdown- his deactivation- it was October 17th, 1992. 3:28 PM. Three weeks, two days, seventeen hours, fifteen minutes, and thirty two seconds after Andrew Knight's death.
His operating system now read February 5th, 2019. 9:05 AM.
GPS no longer reading California coordinates, but Washington D.C.
He could sense new components attached to him. Internally, in the cabin, and externally- hooked up via wiring configurations under his hood. Presumably for system diagnostics after a twenty seven year null period.
Twenty seven years of nothingness that he hadn't even felt or been aware of.
The equivalent of a blink, if he had to describe it.
All systems, both computerized and vehicular were online.
Good, they didn't remove his CPU from the auto body. He hated when that happened.
His ocular scanner was the final component to startup.
When he could see, he found that he was in an enormous garage, filled with people at work.
Aside from two, who stood by in observation as technicians poked and prodded at him with various leads connecting go megohmmeters and standard oscilloscopes.
"Is that you, Michael?" KITT recognized him from across a room even in his old age.
The man smiled at the sound of his old friend's voice, and seemed to try not to get choked up. "Yeah."
Twenty seven years later, Michael was in his sixties. And from what he could tell, KITT was still in his immaculately kept original body. Ageless in comparison. "You look like crap..."
The young woman beside Michael turned her head to hide that she was trying not to laugh.
Michael, however, didn’t bother to hide his mirth. “Well, at least it’s just me.”
It took hours for the technicians reconfiguring him to return KITT to factory default settings.
The last time this had happened was 1990. When Michael had been retired and Andrew Knight had filled the position.
“Michael, am I being primed for a new driver?”
“You are, buddy,” Michael leaned against KITT’s side and folded his arms.
“We don’t know who it’s gonna be yet.”
KITT thought back on Andrew Knight and the circumstances of his passing.
One moment he was fine.
The next, he was gone. KITT had been unable to save him from a bullet, and unable to help him as he lay dying on the ground. He didn't even know who shot the man.
“Why was I reactivated? Something must be wrong.”
KITT wouldn’t have believed anyone before if they’d told him he would be partnered with such an aggressive, seemingly amoral person as Marta Knight after a four month search for the perfect driver.
In the two months he'd known her, she'd: bloodied a man's nose for insulting her, punched out five people, pulled a knife on two, told ten police officers (all at once) to 'go fuck each other', and instigated a bar fight where three people where carted away in ambulances and four others were arrested… Most of these occurrences happening in the same evening.
Marta had to ask KITT not to tell Sarah about that.
Much like how she would probably ask the same favor tonight.
Marta parked outside the motel and let herself out to go to Dr. Hill's door.
Mike opened his door to follow.
"I think you should hang back and leave this to me," she told him.
"What if he puts up a fight?" Mike asked. Again, she was set on doing things her way: alone.
"What's he gonna do, give me a lollipop?" Marta scoffed. "He's just a doctor . I'd be concerned if he were a surgeon."
"You still shouldn't go alone," KITT warned. "He may be armed."
Marta sighed and shook her head as Mike left the car. "Okay. We'll do it as a team." Mike reached her side and they continued on together. "But as soon as your arm hurts, go back to the car."
"Aww. You hear that, KITT? Marta cares about me." Mike said in a teasing sing-song voice.
"Before you say anything else, know that I would be the one one answering to Sarah if you get hurt,” Marta elbowed Mike’s side. “And KITT’s kind of a snitch.”
"I'm not a snitch." KITT disagreed. "I just don't lie when Sarah asks for a full report."
"KITT, for future reference: if things turn out fine, just tell Sarah 'it went fine' and leave it there." Marta said.
She doubted he had to narc on Michael Knight for every mission.
But then, Devon Miles had trusted Michael Knight.
When they neared Dr. Hill's room, Marta motioned for Mike to hang back for a moment so she could try to handle it alone first.
If Hill saw two people at his door, he would know they were coming for him.
"What are you going to do?"
Marta didn't answer KITT, instead creeping toward the door and putting her ear against it to listen.
The curtains were closed.
This was the best way to know what was going on inside the room.
Eyes closed and keeping low to stay out of sight from the peephole, Marta listened in carefully.
The TV was on. She recognized Kevin Hart's voice. Then she heard a laugh.
Dr. Hill was alone in the room watching a movie. Nice and cozy despite being a fugitive.
Marta looked back to Mike and motioned for him to go to the far end of the building- in case Dr. Hill made a break for it.
KITT would cover any area Marta and Mike couldn't.
When Mike was in position, Marta came to Dr. Hill's door and knocked firmly.
The TV silenced immediately.
After a long few seconds (she assumed he looked through the peephole to see her), the door opened about a foot and she saw him. He matched the picture perfectly- though his white collar was replaced now with a crummy old Aerosmith T-shirt.
Marta put on an exaggerated frown and looked at him as though she weren't expecting to see him. "Hi, sorry to bother you. I guess I got the wrong room."
"Guess you did," Dr. Hill started to close the door.
"Did you see a guy in a leather jacket?" Marta quickly asked, making him stop. "Friend of mine. Gavin. "
Dr. Hill looked surprised at the mention of the name.
Marta gave him a knowing look. Playing the encounter off as: 'Gavin sent me'.
Gavin was the one who set him up with a hiding spot. Not for the sake of protecting Dr. Hill from the law, but to get paid. And because the cash was securely in his pocket (and because Marta happily bloodied his nose), he gave the doctor up without further struggle.
A neat little trick he frequently performed as a source of income.
"Gavin Hardy?" Dr. Hill asked to confirm.
"Yeah, he wanted me to pass something on to you." Marta said.
Dr. Hill opened the gap in the door further. Clearly new to being a fugitive… And therefore unaware of how to properly guard himself. “What?”
Marta leaned closer as if preparing to tell him something, then grabbed him by the shoulder and jerked him forward. She jerked her knee into his abdomen and took the breath out of him before he could catch himself- then moved aside to drag him to the ground.
The side of Dr. Hill’s face hit the concrete and he wheezed in place of a pained grunt as Marta caught his arms and pulled them behind his back.
Damnit, she left the zip ties with KITT.
Dr. Hill threw his elbow back at Marta and threw her off of him. Recovering enough to try to hold her down.
“Oh crap-” Mike abandoned his hiding spot when he saw the skirmish, rushing in to help.
With his good arm, he hooked around Dr. Hill's neck and pulled him off of his partner and kept him in a choke hold.
"KITT!" Mike called for the AI, and they heard the squealing of rubber against pavement as KITT hauled around the corner of the building to help.
Meanwhile, Marta got back to her feet and threw her fist into Dr. Hill's face hard enough for Mike to feel the man go limp in his grip. Unconscious, but only for the moment.
Dead weight much heavier, Mike had little choice but to drop him.
Marta nursed her now sore and bruising knuckles while she and Mike caught their breaths.
KITT pulled up beside them, relieved that the struggle was short. "I suppose that's one way to handle this."
"A little messy but we've had worse," Marta huffed, then moved to retrieve the zip ties to apprehend Dr. Hill.
Mike helped to hold the man's wrists in place as Marta fastened the plastic cuffs on him. "You said you wanted to do this as a team and still somehow found a way to go in alone."
"Just help me get him in the back seat," Marta retorted and tested the tensile strength of the cuffs. "This is where the teamwork comes in."
"We're supposed to be a team."
Vivian kept her eyes down as her mother lectured her. As she always did when she was in trouble.
Sitting in her chair, not tall enough yet for her feet to reach the floor when she sat all the way back.
Eleven years old and already getting into physical altercations at school.
Her mom, Francine Quinn, paced the kitchen floor behind her as she read over the report from Vivian's principal.
The hastily written note stated that Vivian had been caught by a teacher- having brought a boy to the ground and punching him repeatedly in the face.
But what it didn't say was that it was because he told her 'your dad didn't die, he left because you were born too ugly to stay for'. And it set her off faster than a grenade.
Vivian didn't see the point in defending herself from discipline. Francine always said that hitting people was wrong no matter what. Even if they were to hit you first. You were supposed to tell a teacher first.
Vivian didn't like that. It sounded like her mom wanted her to be helpless instead of self-sufficient. A doormat.
"A team," Francine reiterated, leaning against the table next to her daughter "That means I'm supposed to do my best just as much as you're supposed to do your best. This isn't your best. This is just- ugh!"
Vivian just kept quiet and let Francine grill her. There wasn't anything she could say for it to be justified. But she knew she was right. She had to be strong- and if it meant getting flack for defending herself, that was fine. But she wouldn't be weak. Andy Knight didn't have a weak kid. She had big shoes to fill someday if she wanted to be worth anything in comparison someday.
At least the jerk at school learned a lesson.
"I'll do better." Vivian told her mother. "It won't happen again."
But it did happen again.
Marta was fifteen when she was detained for beating a girl bloody in defense of someone else.
It was a fight in the school hallway and this bitch was wailing on Marta's friend just to be a bully- what was Marta gonna do if not help?
'To champion the cause of the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless.' Those words had meant something to her the first time she heard Devon Miles say them.
That time, Francine wasn't able to take the call about the incident.
The only reason Marta was let go was because her mom was in the hospital and she had no one else to claim her.
Francine was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that afternoon. And Marta was soon to be on her own.
"We're supposed to be a team."
The memory of her mother's words played through her mind on repeat as she drove back to FLAG HQ.
Mike frequently tried to start a conversation, but she was too far into her own head to answer him- let alone hear him.
KITT wanted to ask her what was wrong- but he knew that would be like talking to a brick wall. Her answer was always the same.
'I'm fine, drive me to the bar'.
"Jeez…" Billy muttered as Mike and Marta managed to drag the doctor out of KITT's back seat. His lips were swollen and bloody. Likely Marta's work. Mike rarely brought anybody in who looked this miserable. "Don't suppose this guy still has all his teeth?"
"Well if he doesn't there's a chance he knows an equally screwed up orthodontist," Marta cheekily replied as she walked him to Sarah. "I believe you ordered one doctor?"
Sarah looked to Dr. Hill, noting the blood from where Marta had hit him. then she looked to Mike and saw that his jacket was dusty from the fight- as was Marta's. Marta herself barely looked fazed- save for her hair being a little messy. "KITT, how'd it go?" She knew Mike always underplayed a struggle. But KITT was very honest about Marta's moves.
"It was-" KITT recalled what Marta told him earlier. "Fine. Things went fine. Our contact at The Velvet provided the information quickly. Dr. Hill put up a fight but Marta and Michael were able to apprehend him with relative ease. They work well as a team."
Both Marta and Mike looked to him, surprised that he would downplay the evening's events. From smashing Gavin's face to insisting she go on alone- KITT chose to cover for her just because she asked?
Sarah's brows raised with a look of surprise. Maybe Marta did to better this time. "Alright…" she nodded. "Good work."
"Yup," Marta quipped and handed Dr. Hill off to Mike before turning back to KITT. Passing the Three Thousand on the way. Still under heavy maintenance. Unable to speak thanks to his vocal processor needing to be fully rebuilt and reinstalled.
Still no answers on what caused the damage.
"Catch you guys later," Marta said brightly and got in behind KITT's wheel. "It's late and I'm calling it a night."
Losing a parent wasn't easy.
Marta had the benefit of not really knowing her father when he died. She was too young to remember him or his passing.
But when Francine died, Marta felt more alone than ever before. A sense she hadn't quite grasped until now.
FLAG had kept a distant watch on her since she was born- just to make sure she was taken care of. This brought them to the forefront to ensure she would be fine from then on. She was placed under care in one of their facilities. A house she lived in with a caretaker. Charles Graiman and Michael Knight frequently checked in on her. On a rare occasion, Graiman brought Sarah and Mike for the brief visits, but they were already in their early twenties by then.
Surrounded by nothing but adults as a teenager- save for when she went to school.
She snuck out a lot. Broke curfew. Picked up drinking. Had boyfriends FLAG didn't know about. Didn't need to know about.
But they did eventually find out when she popped positive on a pregnancy test.
Her boyfriend Ethan was the father. He was nineteen, she was seventeen.
They wanted to have their daughter together. So Marta convinced Graiman to emancipate her so she and Ethan could live together.
Tensions had always been present due to her ongoing drinking.
In 2006, Ellie Adams-Quinn was born.
In 2007, Marta and Ethan broke up.
That same year, Marta joined the military to better support her daughter.
In 2011, Marta left the Corps to try to be a more present parent- but that was difficult with substance abuse.
In 2013, Marta lost custody of Ellie because Ethan had caught Marta with a hangover when he dropped their daughter off for visitation.
Ever since then--
Marta's ringing phone woke her the following morning. She'd slept in again and KITT had left her alone to do so.
"Yeah?" Marta groggily answered the call without even looking to see who was reaching out. She assumed it was Sarah again.
"Are you drunk again?"
"Ellie!" Marta sat up at attention as quickly as she could blink. Her head was killing her. "Hey, no- I'm just waking up still." She rubbed sleep from her eyes. "I haven't had any coffee yet. What's up, sweetheart? Is everything okay?"
At thirteen years old, Ellie was old enough to know about her mother's flaws- and even resented her for them. For weeks- or like this time, months- Ellie would refuse to visit her mother because of said resentment.
"Dad told me I should see you this weekend. Can I?"
Marta knew KITT was listening in. She dreaded having to explain this situation. "Of course- my schedule's always free for you, you know that. When am I picking you up?"
"I'm gonna be getting on the train in like three hours. Last minute. Sorry."
"No worries!" Marta beamed and quickly got herself out of bed to start straightening up the house. "I can't wait to see you, you're gonna love the new house." FLAG had compensated her right off the bat with a home. Partially for employment, partially for being Andy Knight's last surviving family member.
"You got a new house," Ellie echoed. Sounding skeptical.
"Sure did!" Marta plugged her headphones in to free her hands and get the dishes out of the sink. "It's pretty nice. Two bed, one bath. Kinda old but I got it fixed up. East coast houses are kinda retro, but I did my best."
'This isn't your best.' The memory of Francine telling her that surfaced and made her feel sick with anxiety.
What even was her best anymore?
"Well… Can't wait to see it," Ellie sighed.
"Can't wait to see you ," Marta replied. "Let me know when you're on your way, alright? Text me what you wanna have for dinner, I'm gonna get the guest room ready." And clear the liquor bottles out of the house, and nurse her hangover, and get some food in the fridge, and-
"I love you."
Ellie didn't sound moved. She never did. "Love you too."
The two low beeps in Marta's headphones told her that the call had ended. She slumped against the kitchen counter with a sigh, hands still in the sink as she waited for the water to get hot.
"That was… Something…" KITT patched into her phone to communicate.
"Don't ask," Marta told him, resuming her flat-emotionless tone.
KITT had never seen her speak to anyone like that before. Let alone have any feeling other than anger or quiet depression. "You already know I'm going to."
Marta took a deep breath and exhaled it sharply through her nose as she continued cleaning the dishes. "My daughter. She's thirteen."
"You never mentioned any family except for your father."
"Yeah, well, my tragic backstory is kinda reserved for close friends."
"Do you have close friends?"
"Is that sarcasm?"
"Only partially," KITT answered. "I know nothing about you, Marta. I don't know a single thing about your private life other than that you really enjoy alcoholic beverages."
She paused, looking at her phone's screen to see his modulator idling. "I don't need to tell my life story to everyone I meet."
"Does anyone else know about her?"
"Graiman does. Nobody else. Keep this to yourself." She closed the dishwasher and started it up. "I'm gonna take a shower."
Five hours later, the house was clean and Marta was sufficiently hydrated to fight off her hangover. The remaining liquor in the house had been (shamefully) poured down the sink and the bottles had been recycled.
Now, at the train station, Marta waited at KITT’s side as Ellie’s train pulled up and came to a halt.
Marta wasn’t very tall, so she stood on her toes and craned her neck to try to spot her daughter- ending up catching her just as she was dismounting the train’s step with her backpack on her shoulders.
“El!” She called.
Ellie looked right at her when she heard her nickname, and made her way through the other passengers.
"Hey sweetheart," Marta pulled her into a tight hug and kissed the top of her head when she was close enough. "Glad you made it safe."
Ellie allowed her mother to hug her- and only loosely reciprocated.
KITT noted how much Ellie looked like a mini-Marta. The exception being a livelier look in her eyes.
"Is that your car?" Ellie looked at KITT.
He would remain silent in her presence, as Marta had instructed.
"Sure is. Hop in," Marta headed for KITT's driver side as Ellie got into the passenger seat.
KITT's interior had been altered since his deactivation. Before his reboot, FLAG had updated his systems to be more efficient for the time.
His monitor was now larger and was a touchscreen with improved graphics capabilities. His many lights and buttons had been reorganized and simplified for operator use. He now had his own connection to high speed internet and what was known as a 'hotspot'.
Someone was even gracious enough to upgrade his speakers- though Marta listened to much more appalling music than Michael ever had.
"This car's crazy," Ellie openly admired the upgraded dash. "I can't tell if it's vintage or brand new. How'd you afford this?"
"I work somewhere really good now," Marta answered as she started them on the drive back to her house. "I can't really talk about it much- I'm under contract to keep it on the DL. You wanna stop and get something to eat?"
Ellie looked over at her. "I thought you were gonna cook?"
Marta wasn't much of a chef. "I was, but I spent all day cleaning house. We can get groceries and stuff tomorrow… There's a place out here with really good fried fish. You still like that right?"
KITT noted disinterest in Ellie's expression, despite Marta's efforts to show she wanted to be a good mother.
Whatever the reason, it made KITT wish he had the blissful ignorance of not knowing Marta's life again.
This was just hard to watch.
“How’s school been?”
Ellie glanced up from her phone at her mother- straw between her lips and leaned over to her soda on the table. They were almost done with their dinner, and Marta just wanted to catch up. “It’s been fine.”
“Vague,” Marta nodded and put the tip for their bill on the table. “Still like science best?”
“I’m more into computers now,” Ellie replied and blacked out the screen on her phone to put it in her pocket.
“Smart girl,” KITT quietly said into Marta’s earpiece as the two left the table.
“That’s really cool,” Marta nodded. “Do you wanna get into programming?”
“Building,” Ellie said.
Marta passed up a familiar face on the way out and hoped he didn’t notice her.
But he did.
She saw his head turn to her in her periphery as she and Ellie stepped outside of the diner.
Marta refused to look over her shoulder- but she could feel that he followed them out the door.
Instead her eyes were on Ellie. If Ellie got into KITT before he noticed her , nothing else mattered.
Ellie safely got into KITT’s passenger seat and buckled up. Marta got in behind the wheel and did the same- stealing a glance at the man who followed them out.
Gavin Hardy, nose bruised a dark purple from her interrogation the night before, stood at the door and watched her with his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket.
Maybe she did break his nose?
“Is that him again?” KITT asked. “Did you know he was here?”
Marta shook her head subtly so Ellie wouldn’t notice, then drove home.
It was 3 PM in Los Angeles. A three hour time difference from the east coast..
Friday afternoon, work was soon to be over.
The clack of the keyboard under her well manicured fingers seemed rhythmic with how deep in flow she was. Sending out emails to subordinates about upcoming meetings scheduled for Monday morning. A board meeting. A conference call. A Skype call.
Her job seemed to primarily be talking.
Repeating the same information over and over again to different people. It all got annoying, but it was a necessary evil.
Her father was proud of her work.
That alone motivated her to keep at it so diligently.
Upholding his legacy was something he had stressed so many times in the past; so she felt a lot of pride in doing so successfully.
The face-down cellphone on her desk vibrated rhythmically.
A phone call.
With a deep sigh, she picked the device up and read the name. ‘Junior’.
“What is it now? ” She asked right off the bat. Already annoyed for her brother to be bothering her. He knew damn well how busy she was.
Junior had moved to D.C. a year or two ago with a chunk of their family’s money. More concerned with partying than doing anything productive. Their father considered him a disappointment. She had to agree with him.
Junior had even abandoned the name their mother gave him when he left. He claimed it was to keep a low profile. ‘Gavin Hardy’. An atrociously childish sounding alias. It didn’t have half of the notoriety as their father’s. His namesake.
“Let me guess, you want money again.” She wondered what he spent it all on this time. Drinks? Drugs? Women?
“I saw the car.”
“What car?” She asked, turning in her chair and getting up to meander to the floor-length windows. The view outside was nothing but traffic down below.
“The Two Thousand,” Gavin continued. “It was just here.”
She felt goosebumps on her arms at the mention. Their father had scornfully referenced the car many times throughout their lives. The car and its driver. “Did you see the driver? Was it Michael Knight?”
“It’s a woman this time. And I know her personally.” Gavin said. “I can pretty much lead you and Dad right to her.”
“Finally you’ve made yourself useful,” she smirked. “I’ll let Dad know. He’ll reach out to you soon.”
“Right,” he said. “Talk to you soon, Andrea.”
Andrea Knight pulled the phone from her ear to tap the red icon at the bottom of the screen. “You certainly will, Garthe.”
Garthe 'Gavin' Knight Jr and Andrea Knight both belong to JetravenEx