Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me. Just the general idea, and even then, I might deny everything.
Summary: Frank Martin walked on the very thin line separating Light from Dark, but enemies from his past found a way for him to cross the line… permanently.
Warning: Crossovers ahead. Yes, Plural.
Rating: Mature; for mild cursing and violence.
Author`s Note: Once again unto the breach, my friends. I’m really glad for being part of another Journey, this time from the very beginning. Thanks once again to He Who Creates Wonders, Tenhawk.
Feedback: Most certainly welcome.
The only sounds in the room were the nearly imperceptible hum of the overhead lights, the gentle flow of the AC cycle and the occasional flip of a page. The man reading the small dossier was Dr. Anthony Anthros, a certified genius with an IQ off the charts, completely opposed to his non-existent morals. However, the balancing point was his curiosity, which brought him to this point and place in the grand scheme of things.
After the last page was read, he turned to the other man in the room, who was looking out of his office`s window.
“Why him?” were the two words who escaped the scientist`s mouth.
It was a valid question. The dossier was concise and very precise on the information needed for Dr. Anthros’ evaluation of availability, but nowhere in it was a hint of ‘why’. And knowing ‘why’ was one of his motivational forces.
The man in the five thousand dollars suit didn’t change expressions, except maybe for a small contraction of the corners of his mouth. It reminded Anthros of a shark, if one knew how to smile.
“It all boils down to a few factors, my dear doctor, and I ask you to forgive me if I go a bit theatrical,” the suit said, finally turning to the sitting doctor. “You see, this project, while useful, is just a small cog in a very big machine, with the potential to be a very important cog in said machine, if the results go according to our expectations. However, at this particular point in time, it’s all mostly theoretical, and while obedient rats do prove that the technology works, they’re just that, rats. You must agree with me that a human being is far different from a rat, even when sometimes the rat proves smarter. But I’m digressing, and I ask once again for forgiveness. I used to do a bit of drama school back in college, and some of it stayed behind.”
The man came closer, his blue eyes showing very little hint of any emotion whatsoever. It made the comparison with a shark even more appropriate, Anthros though silently.
“Back to topic, this subject has some characteristics that we deem appropriate to our plans. He has a lot of abilities already ingrained due to his military background, and our observation of him, added to our psych profile, puts him in the proper frame of mind for our needs. If your technology does indeed work as advertised, we’d have very little work to do to rewire his brain. Add to that the fact that the man is a ghost and a sort of urban legend, his disappearance wouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, no one knows who he even is.”
Anthros smiled, and he’d be surprised how his own smile at that particular moment could be compared to the suit’s.
“That’s all very nice and dandy, but it still doesn’t answer the why. What you just told me could fit about a hundred thousand other people. All I want to know is why *him*.”
The shark smiled thinly, and to any other man, the smile would mean a summary execution. Anthros simply rested his elbows at his desk, resting his head against his hands, while waiting for an answer.
“Well, Dr. Anthros, you do deserve some sort of truth. This particular man has been a thorn in some of our operations in the past. He never knew of our involvement, so we let him live. When this situation presented itself, added to the fact that the man has the perfect set of abilities needed, making him our guinea pig was, shall we say, poetic justice. And if the experiment fails, we won’t have any problems putting a bullet in the back of his head. There are a few more reasons than those, but if I tell you, I’d have to kill you.”
Anthros nodded. That would do, and he was smart enough to know that the last bit of theatrics was no theatrics at all.
“So, when can we begin?” the suit asked.
“Immediately,” the scientist answered. “When do you think you’ll be able to grab the subject?”
“Grab? Why would we do something so crass? Didn’t you read about what this man does for a living? All we need is the right set of tools, and he’ll come knocking right at our door. Tool number one is a simple telephone…” he said, and with a bit of his so called ‘theatrics’, produced a cell phone from one of his pockets, using some showmanship. “Tools number two and three is knowing which number to call and what to say…” he continued with the impromptu show, and dialed a number from memory, “…and he’ll be exactly where we want him,” he completed in a stage whisper. When the line started to ring in the other side, the suit put a finger to his lips, as if to silence an already mute doctor. Anthros shook his head, amused. When the other side picked up, the suit straightened and turned serious.
“I’m in need of a Transporter.”
Frank Martin closed the door to his BMW and straightened himself. Transporting unknown things for nameless people had its risks, but none greater than the delivery time. All it would need was a hot head, or a hint of deceit of any kind for things to go to hell, quick. So, he had to play cool and stay alert for everything. Waiting for him were two men wearing suits, and he was right in the middle of Nowhere, US of A. The place didn’t even have a name, just a set of coordinates on his car’s GPS. It was strange, but it wasn’t the strangest job he had done, so he just did what he almost always did - he popped the trunk open and retrieved the briefcase. He walked to the two men, checking his surroundings discreetly. No one in sight for miles, and even a lizard would have a lot of trouble to find a hidey-hole in a five mile radius. Neither of the men seemed armed, but that wasn’t saying much. Worst thing Frank could see was that they didn’t have a car nearby.
That was a bit odd, and he hoped they didn’t ask for a ride back wherever. That wasn’t part of the deal. Rule Number One.
“I see you brought the package,” the one to the right said. “And you’re right on time,” he completed, checking his watch.
“It pays to be punctual,” Frank replied, by way of conversation. “Your package,” he said, giving the briefcase to the man who had spoken.
“Yes, thank you,” the man on the left said, while the other opened the briefcase to check the contents. Leftie removed a bundle of cash from one of his pockets and gave it to the transporter, who checked it quickly.
“Is it ok?” Leftie asked to Rightie, who nodded affirmatively, still looking inside the case.
“And that concludes our deal. Gentlemen,” Frank said, and turned around, while pocketing the cash.
He hadn’t walked two steps, when Rightie said. “The deal isn’t finished yet.”
Here we go, Frank thought. “Rule Number One, never change ...” he turned around, and he promptly noted the odd gun in Rightie’s hand. Before he had a chance to do something, he felt an impact on his leg. Looking down, instead of the bullet wound he was expecting, there was a dart sticking out of it. His vision began to swim and go dark, and the last thing he heard was Rightie.
“Now the deal is concluded.”
Darkness…then light, murky…senseless…voices…
“The right hand and the left arm... be careful with the measures…”
Pinpricks… Lots of pinpricks… eyes don’t work… can’t hear a thing…no…a beep…another…steady… his?
Light again…left eye opens…someone watching…
“You wait now, my friend. Phase one is completed, now…”
A horn blares in the background. The voice stiffens and turns.
Roughness…cold. Lying down…smelled like a hospital…consciousness waned…but held. Eyes were painful...but he could open them. So he did.
“He’s awake, sir,” the sensuous voice echoed over his PA system.
“Warn the others, but keep them out of the room for the moment. I’m on my way.”
Consciousness gave way to confusion. He had no idea where or why he was here, but one thing was certain, he wasn’t wherever he was of his own free will.Frank was still drowsy from whatever they had injected him with, but he was feeling well enough to try something - meaning escape - as his SAS training demanded nothing less. After a quick check to see if everything was more or less in place, he tried to sit up, but his head spun wildly. He aborted the attempt for the moment, and checked his surroundings while his head stopped spinning. A door and a large window were two good escape venues, but he’d have to check if the window was too high. A broken leg would do him no good, and woozy as he was, he knew his landing from anything higher than a foot would be very painful. Clothes were something to check for as well, since hospital gowns were way too conspicuous. His head cleaned a bit more, so he attempted to sit up, this time with success. He sat at the edge of the bed, and he was almost standing up when the door to the room opened. The transporter tried to stand up quickly, but his legs were still shaky and failed him, and he landed painfully on the hardwood floor.
"Hey," the newcomer said with worry reflected in his voice, and Frank looked at him with a calculating glare. "Look, I know you don't know me and don't trust me, and you have no reason to, but if I give you my word that I don't want to harm you in any shape or form, would you let me help you?"
The man who spoke was tall, about six foot two, his salt and pepper hair showing some age, but the muscular arms showed that he could be a threat, depending on his abilities. He was being careful, keeping his distance from him, which denoted that he had an inkling of what Frank was capable of. Frank was, in his own very rough estimate, weaker than a newborn kitten, and as woozy as a sailor in a week-long bender, so he had very little choice. Either he'd let the guy help him or he'd have a very hard time standing up on his own. Decision made, he nodded slightly, and the guy came closer.
"I'm going to help you sit back at your bed, then I'm going to explain what happened to you, to the best of my abilities, all right?"
Frank nodded again, and the tall man finally came closer. The ex-SAS weighted his options. This close, even as weak as he was, he could try to subdue the man, but then what? He had no idea where he was or how he'd gotten there, and one thing one of his old trainers had taught him was that you didn't act if you didn't know that the end result would be beneficial to the mission or yourself. So, he'd wait, for the moment. The guy helped him sit back down, trying to be the least threatening as possible, given the circumstances.
Once he was comfortable again, resting against the headboard, the man spoke.
"My name is Michael Knight, Mr. Martin. You're currently at Knight Foundation's HQ, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. I must stress, first thing, that you can leave any time that you want, you're not our prisoner and we have no intention of keeping you against your will. I'd suggest, though, that you stay with us for a while for two main reasons: one is that you rest and recuperate until you feel well enough to go out on your own, and the second is that we have some explanations to give to you."
Frank nodded, and when he tried to talk, what he wanted to say came out as a croak. He shook his head, and tried again. "Water," he asked, and while he barely understood himself, the man, Michael Knight, apparently did.
"I have some people outside who want to check on you, and I'm once again giving you my word none of them want to harm you. They're a doctor, a nurse and a couple specialists that have a very big interest on your situation. Will you let them come in?"
Frank sighed, thinking about it. Seeing no other immediate options, he nodded again.
Michael walked to the door and spoke briefly with someone outside, and in seconds four people joined them, two women and two men. One of the women, the nurse, came closer and helped him get better situated in bed, while the doctor provided a plastic cup filled with ice cubes.
“Easy now, Mr. Martin. Suck on them, they’ll help your throat and mouth, and then we can give you some water afterward. I believe you must be quite hungry as well. Being fed from a tube isn’t what I’d call fulfilling,” the doctor said, and Frank finally noticed that he was indeed ravenously hungry. “Some soup and if you can keep it in, maybe later we can give you something solid. Agreed?”
Frank nodded, and tried his voice again. “Yeah,” he said, and while still raw, it was understandable this time. The doctor nodded to the nurse, and she left the room.
“I’d like to know how you’re feeling, Mr. Martin. Are you feeling pain anywhere, discomfort of any kind? Anything at all?”
The man made an inner inventory and found nothing odd about himself. Actually, not even the muscular sensation of being bed ridden for a while, and he’d been in quite a few hospitals for very different periods of time to know he wasn’t supposed to be felling all that…good.
“No. Actually, I’m feeling quite well. What the hell happened with me?”
“What do you remember, Mr. Martin?” Michael asked.
That put Frank in a quandary. What could he explain that wouldn’t come to bite him in the ass?
“What should I remember?” he replied instead.
“Places? Faces? Anything that could give us more hints of what happened to you, or why it happened to you, specifically.”
He shook his head. “Sorry, can’t. And what happened to me?”
“My father did,” the other man in the room finally said, and the transporter focused on him. There was some deep sadness in the man’s face, and if Frank wasn’t mistaken, it was because of him.
“And he would be? Matter of fact, who are you?”
“My name is Will Anthros. My father is Anthony Anthros, Dr. Anthony Anthros. He was the man who operated on you.”
“Operated? Operated what? Took a kidney? 'Cause unless I’m completely out of it, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been operated on, and I do know how that is supposed to feel,” he said, growing angered.
“Actually, yes. He took a kidney. And quite a few other things,” Will said, and Michael turned to him.
“You have to learn tact, Will,” the tall man said, and turned back to Frank. “You have to forgive Will, he’s not much of a people’s person,” he said, trying to bring some humor to a situation ready to explode.
“I don’t bloody well care. What the fuck did you mean when you say he took a kidney and a few other things?” Frank asked, angered.
Will came closer to bed, looking Frank straight in the eye. “He took your left kidney, your vocal chords, left arm, both of your legs, right hand, right eye and your right ear.”
Frank nearly jumped out of bed. “What is this, some kind of sick joke? 'Cause I can fucking well see with both eyes, and they tell me that I still have my legs, my arm and my hands, and I can fucking well touch my right ear,” he screamed. “And I can bloody well speak.”
Michael sighed. “This is not how I wanted it to go. Look, can you please calm down while I try to explain? Will here can fill in the blanks of the story, all right?”
The Englishman fumed, but nodded. “Be quick about it.”
“I’ll try. As far as we know, the United States government had, in the past, researched ways to rebuild people who'd suffered severe traumas and loss of limbs with bionic replacements. They had some success, but the costs to do so were prohibitive, and there were complications that stemmed from the procedure. So, the research was mostly shelved, at least from the government’s perspective. Sure, they kept it moving, but at a snail’s pace, until the technology would be safe and cheap enough to allow for mass usage. However, private companies all around the world used a lot of resources and money to try to create the ideal solution to bionic replacements. The technology evolved enough, but no one had found this ideal solution, until Dr. Anthros and his son came along. They developed a technology that they called anthrocites…”
“Original,” Frank snorted, which brought a slight smile to Michael’s face, and he continued the explanation.
“The anthrocites are molecular machines, they were developed as the bridge between the organic body and the bionic components that would replace the lost limbs. You are the very first human being to receive the new bionic implants and the anthrocites, and that’s the reason why you can feel your legs and everything else. They interfaced your nervous system with the sensors built into the components. Am I correct, Will?”
“Pretty much. And sorry for my lack of tact, Mr. Martin, I usually think the direct approach is the best approach.”
Frank looked between the two men for several seconds, and then he started to chuckle. The chuckle soon turned into a belly laugh, one that he kept for a while. Michael and Will kept silent, but serious.
“This is one mighty fine joke,” Frank said still laughing, but the laughter and the humor died a sudden death and he turned deathly serious. “Now cut the shit out and tell me the truth, not this crazy science fiction bullshit.”
“It’s not bullshit, I assure you,” Michael said, while Will walked out of the room. He returned a few moments later, pushing an ultrasonic scanner back with him.
“Now you’re going to tell me I’m three months pregnant with Michael Jackson’s baby?” Frank said humorlessly.
Will remained silent and turned the machine on, and he brought the tip of the scanner close to Frank’s leg.
“Keep still for a moment,” Will said, while he spread a bit of gel over the man’s upper leg. “Take a look at the monitor,” he said, and touched the tip over the leg.
Frank did. Suddenly, the joke wasn’t funny anymore.
“What the fuck??”
It took some time for Frank to accept it. Will used the scanner on every limb his father had replaced, and Frank didn’t need to be a doctor to know that what he was seeing weren’t his bones and muscles. They looked a bit like it, in general function, but they couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.
“I guess the technology got cheaper,” Frank finally said, after a while. In the meantime, the nurse had come back with his soup, and he started eating.
“Not exactly,” Will said, turning the machine off. “So far, this research, in my rough estimate, is going at six billion dollars, and around ten percent of that value is currently grafted to your body, Mr. Martin.”
Frank did a spit take, and luckily for Will, he wasn’t eating soup at that moment. After a long stretch of silence, Frank turned to Michael and Will.
“Why me? Why this?”
“Those, Mr. Martin, are the questions we have no answer for,” Knight said, and continued. “You see, the story is far more complicated than what I’ve explained. Anthros senior’s work was being funded by some private party unknown to us. Will here was the one who got skittish on his father’s dealings, and by the way of a friend, he came in contact with us.”
“Us? What does a private foundation, if I understand this right, has to do with all that?” Frank asked.
“Knight Foundation is the main backer of FLAG, which stands for Foundation for Law and Government. We’re usually called to solve problems that the government can’t handle on their own.”
“So, you’re spooks?”
“No, not exactly. We’re mostly free agents, not associated with any of the alphabet soup out there, but we lend a hand to them once in a while. As we speak, our people, plus the NSA and FBI are scrubbing the place where you were operated on from top to bottom, trying to find a clue of what happened and why.”
“If you were on in your father’s deals, why didn’t you stop him before they did that to me?” Frank asked to Will.
“I got a very bad fever and I’ve been hospitalized for almost two weeks,” Will said, shamed. “The moment I came back and learned what they had done to you, I called Michael, and he prepared an assault to the base. I wish that would serve as an apology, but it doesn’t. I should have had some sort of backup plan in place, if something happened to me.”
Frank remained silent on that one, everything was too raw yet to pass judgment.
“Anthony is under arrest now, and he isn’t saying a thing. We’re putting on pressure in hopes of him cracking, but with no such luck so far. What we know is that no one has claimed responsibility on that particular mess, and the entire project is closed down, being nitpicked by the government and us. We have tons of files to go over, but nothing immediate on why you specifically were picked, and for what reason,” Michael said.
The transporter nodded and looked around. There was one person, a woman, who so far hadn’t said a word. “And who are you, silent lady?” he asked her.
“Sorry, I forgot my manners. Bonnie Barstow,” the woman said and came real close, offering her hand for shaking, which Frank did. It showed a level of trust that no one else did, so far.
“Bonnie here is our main egghead, and my second in command,” Knight said.
“So, you run this op?” Frank asked him.
“He likes to think so, and I let him,” Bonnie replied instead, with a hint of humor.
“You know, I’m not going to comment on that,” Michael replied, which got a chuckle from all of them.
“Now comes the six hundred million dollars question. What now?” Frank finally asked.
“Now we have to wait a bit, until your implants come fully online, which can take from twelve to forty eight hours, depending on a number of factors. After that, I think you have to learn how to use them and not kill or harm anyone in the process,” Will replied.
“Aren’t they online already?”
“Not exactly. They’re in what I call ‘learning’ stage. They’re fully integrating themselves with your nervous system, and until that process is complete, the anthrocites are keeping the servomotors locked into their lowest settings.”
“Which means?” Frank asked.
“Right now, you could perhaps throw Mr. Knight here to the other side of the room with your left arm, and outrun an Olympic athlete. Once the servomotors are fully enabled…well, let’s just say that the baseline of the implants put any user within ten to twelve times above human baseline.”
“In English, please.”
“You will probably be ten to twelve times stronger and faster than an ordinary human being.”
That got a long whistle from Frank. “So, Bonnie here risked having her hand crushed? That shows some backbone, Mrs. Barstow.”
“It’s Ms. Barstow. And I knew the implants were offline,” she said. Her answer got Frank a glower from Michael.
“Even so. So, in forty eight hours I go back to learn how to walk and pick up things without making mashed potatoes of them, right?”
“Pretty much. However, I believe the learning curve will be quite steep, we’ve designed the anthrocites to learn very quickly and to control the input given by the brain, so, let’s say, once you learn how to grab an egg without it exploding, the information will be retained by your brain and the anthrocites, so afterward you can pick any egg that you want without breaking it,” Will replied.
“That is good, I think. And then what?”
“Let’s keep things as they are now,” Michael said. “While you re-learn how to do things, you’ll see how we work around here, and if you want to, I might have a proposition for you. Either way, you’re free to go whenever you want, no strings.”
“Absolutely none. That’s not how I work, and not how my people work. I'll just ask you to be careful, there are six hundred million reasons inside your body that I believe a lot of people would like to put their hands on.”
“We’ll leave you alone now. If you need anything, or if you want to talk with any of us, just hit the buzzer and ask the nurse to fetch us.”
“All right,” Frank said, and reclined back.
“Don’t worry, Frank, you’re safe with us.”
Frank didn’t know if he should snort or be glad at the moment.
He slept for a while, and when he woke up, night had already fallen. He felt better, overall, and decidedly awake, so he tried to stand up again, this time with great care. His feet touched the ground, and he could feel the texture of the polished hardwood floor with his soles, as if he still had his biological legs.
It still sounded too incredible, and he was having a hard time believing why someone would do that to him. An old client with a grudge would try to kill him, not turn him into a six hundred million dollar toaster. There’s got to be a reason for all that.
“Be careful now,” a voice echoed in his right ear, surprising him and making him stumble. Thankfully, he still hadn’t committed any weight to his legs, so he managed to keep erect.
“Who said that?” he asked, turning his head around and trying to find whoever had spoken to him.
“Don’t bother looking for me, I’m not nearby,” the voice repeated, and Frank finally noticed it was a very sensuous female voice, one that would probably cause a hard on on him without even trying hard. “I’m using your implants to communicate with you.”
“Who the hell are you?” he asked, still looking futilely for the source.
“You can call me KITTEN, Mr. Martin. I’m an…asset from Knight Foundation.”
“Kitten, huh? What the hell do you want?”
“Right now, just to talk to you. I’m curious.”
“Curious? About what?”
“You, mostly,” the voice said over his ear. Frank tried to stand up once again, and his bionic legs finally let him. They didn’t feel any different from his old ones, he gathered. “That’s very good, Mr. Martin.”
“You can see me?”
“I have a patch to the house’s security cameras, so yes, I can see you. If you want to, I can leave you in peace.”
Frank thought about it for a moment. “Nah, I was getting bored anyway. So, you’re curious about me. Why?”
“I’ve read your file, Mr. Martin. You have quite an impressive record, even from an SAS standpoint. Why did you quit?”
“I have some authority issues,” he muttered darkly.
“I believe having an ‘idiotic asshole who has no idea on how to lead a team to cross the street’ as a team leader has something to do with it,” she recited verbatim from his file, with a hint of humor in her voice.
“That might be true, Kitten,” he said, reflecting her good mood. While they talked, Frank tried to walk around the large room, with slow but sure steps.
“So, how do you feel?” she asked.
“What? Walking? No problem so far,” he replied, and it was the truth.
“That is very good. If you want to be dressed in something less revealing than that oversized napkin, I’d suggest that you look in the dresser to your right. Mr. Knight has ordered some clothing that matches your size.”
“Why, you’re seeing something you don’t like?” he asked with a smirk.
"Actually, Mr. Martin, with the cold draft that I know runs in your room, I'm almost certain I won't see a thing," she replied in kind.
That brought a smile from the transporter. “Touché, Kitten. But I’m thinking about taking a shower first.”
“We can talk there if you want to, I just won’t have visual, there are no cameras in the bathroom.”
“Okay, so no peeking at the bathroom. So what else can you tell me about this place?” he asked, while fetching some clothes from the dresser.
“You mean the manor or the Foundation?”
“I don’t know. Either, both.”
“Well, the Knight Foundation was founded by a man named Wilton Knight. He was a man with an ideal, and he brought that ideal to fruition by creating the Knight Foundation and using it as the backing for FLAG. Wilton was dying, but before he passed away he managed to bring Mr. Knight, Michael, into the fold.”
“Wait, Michael isn’t Knight’s son?” he asked, curious, while entering the bathroom.
“Adopted. Michael was the very first free agent of the Foundation, and together with my older - brother, KITT, they managed to bring a lot of evil people to justice. Back then, Devon Miles assumed the Foundation’s handling, but he passed away a few years ago. Michael was getting old for field work, so he retired from it, and now works behind the scenes to keep us going.”
“What about your brother?” he asked, while turning the shower head on.
“KITT is right beside me now, listening in on us. I think you’d call him a ‘curious little bugger’.”
“Can he talk with me?” Frank asked, while smirking internally. Either these people were too stupid to give him that much intel, or they were a sad bunch of way too trusty little fellas.
“Yes, I can, Mr. Martin,” came another voice into his ear, male this time with a slight British accent.
“Mind if I ask you a question or two?” he asked, in hopes his lucky trend so far held.
“If I can answer them,” KITT said noncommittally.
“What do you do nowadays? I believe you’re retired as well,” Frank asked, and he was very surprised with the quality of the comm unit that was part of his ear package. Even under the near-waterfall shower, he could listen to them perfectly, and so could they to him.
“Not exactly. I’m a bit - younger - than Michael is, and I still have some miles to go. However, I still see him as my partner, so I try to keep ‘in house’ as the expression goes. However, that might change.”
“Since we’re in share mode here, care to share some stories of what you and Michael used to do? I wanna know the man who is helping me.”
“Sure, and that is one of Michael’s most amazing characteristics, the ability to help people in need. You see, one time we…”
The two soft knocks at the door’s frame were almost useless to call Will's attention from the computer screen he was studying attentively, but he turned around to see Michael Knight standing there in waiting.
“Am I interrupting?” the older man asked, entering the large room.
“No, not exactly. Matter of fact, you being here might give me some ideas on what my father wanted with Frank, and why.”
“You’ve got some new info?” Michael asked, looking over Will’s shoulder to the large LCD screen, which had a complete schematics of Frank’s bionic components.
“No, but I’ve been studying what he did, and then started making assumptions. Frank did not suffer an accident, as far as we know, since he doesn’t have any trauma-related repairs, so whatever was done to him was done with a purpose. Tell me, what do you see here?” Will asked, pointing to the screen.
“You’ll have to explain it to me, Will. Even after all this time, techno babble still puts me to sleep, only this time faster than before,” Michael said with humor.
“Ok, briefly. My father implanted his legs, left arm, right hand, right eye, right ear and vocal chords. The kidney as well. But what for? I mean, if this was only a test, one leg, maybe the arm would make sense, but not the entire thing. We’re talking about six hundred million dollars worth of equipment, on a complete stranger? Then we have the man’s file. We’re lucky enough to have his DNA on a federal database, because even his fingerprints have been altered. Do you remember it?”
“Mostly. Ex-SAS, honorable discharge, due to luck and some maneuvering from his team. Disappeared for a good while to parts unknown, then we have a ping on the Mediterranean, where he helped a cop to uncover a slave cartel. Then he moves to Miami, where he works as Senator’s Billings chauffeur for a while, and helps the senator out of that virus mess. Disappears again only to appear at your father’s operating table. That’s it. Lots of blanks, but the non-blanks make him seem like a nice guy.”
“Ok, now, let’s pick this nice guy of yours and dissect him, in a manner of speaking. First, the background that we know of. Frank has extensive military training by one of the world’s foremost Special Forces. This gives him, at least, an impressive knowledge of martial arts and firearms, probably explosives and infiltration. Then he quits, and God only knows what he does during his blanks, but he helped to crush a slave cartel, an impressive feat no matter what, then he blanks again only to help save the life of an American Senator and several international VIPs, which is, again, one impressive feat. Then my father picks him and does that. Why? I believe I have an answer. It might not be the right one, not even close, but it might be one venue to research.”
“I think he was trying to create the world’s most deadly and unstoppable assassin,” Will said, turning to Michael. The seriousness in his face was enough to make Knight pause.
“How did you get there?” he asked, surprised.
“I started studying his implants, based on my father’s files, when I stumbled upon this,” Will continued, pressing a few keys on the keyboard, and an overlay in light green colors appeared over the schematics. “What we’re seeing here are some - extras - my father added to the original implants, plus some extra stuff I hadn’t thought on. First of all is this,” he said, and the image zoomed over Frank’s thorax. His ribs seemed covered by a very thin web of nearly invisible wires. “This is a mesh formed by a type of metal we’ve recently discovered called trinium. It’s far lighter than steel, and about thirty to forty times more resistant. In this particular configuration, and in the way the mesh is spread and fixed, I believe that Frank has the world’s best bulletproof vest, at least protecting his heart and lungs. Best of all, he doesn’t need or have to take it off, and no one knows it’s there.”
“You’re going to whistle a lot, because it gets better,” Will said, and after a couple more keystrokes, Frank’s fingernails were in focus. “Know what this is?”
“Yeah. He doesn’t have his real hands anymore, so my father did some small changes to these so far very cosmetical appendages. This very thin line under them, you see?”
“Huh, yeah,” Michael said, looking at the screen. He really needed glasses now, but he trusted that Will wasn’t yanking his chain.
“Carbon-based blades. He has diamond fingernails, able to carve out glass with ease, not to say someone’s skin.”
“Built-in scalpels,” Michael replied. “Why hasn’t he injured himself with them already?”
“They’re built under his real nails, they come out based on some sort of impulse that he has yet to learn, I think.”
“Oo-kay. Scare me a bit more, will ya?” Michael added.
“You asked for, you shall have it,” two more keystrokes, and his right hand’s trigger finger was shown, with a straight line jutting out the front. “Needle, connected to a pouch inside his palm, activated by pressure. So far, the pouch is empty, but you don’t need to be a genius to figure out what can be held inside of it. Add this plus the strength and speed he shall have, allied with his martial arts knowledge and military training, the ability to change his voice at will due to his vocal chords and - if I’m understanding this right, and with my IQ I’d like to think so - some of his appearance, and if you have a competent enough intel source to back him up, you’d have the world’s most deadly man at your service.”
Michael blanched. “What have I brought into my home?” he asked in a low voice. “KITTEN, what is he doing now?”
“Taking a shower, Mr. Knight. Should I alert security? I’d like to point out, thought, that he has been talking with me and KITT, and so far hasn’t said anything that might make us consider him a threat.”
“No, keep things as they are, but if he does say or do something that might be considered strange or suspicious, warn me. Who knows about what you've told me so far?” Michael asked Will.
“You, me, the AIs and my father. I don’t think the feds know about it, I just knew what to search for because I know some of the ways my father thinks, and that is something exactly his style.”
“Ok. Will, keep a copy of these for your studies. KITTEN and KITT, I’d like you both to kill whatever references might exist of those files on the federal databases, and then take every damn CPU cycle you can spare to search more about our Mr. Martin. In the meantime, I’m going to talk to him again.”
“You think this is wise?” Will asked.
“No, but no one's ever called me wise before,” Michael said, and vanished out the door.
“What did you do for a living?” Michael asked, as soon as he entered Frank’s room. The Transporter was putting a t-shirt on, being already dressed in some sweatpants and running shoes.
The question brought the Englishman up short.
Time to either talk or run but, to be very honest, he was tired of running. He had started transporting things for nameless people as a means of income, doing the merc thing with a twist, like a lot of his fellow military friends. However, he didn’t want to go to an unknown jungle in the middle of a God-forsaken nowhere, to fight and be shot at for some cash. Transporting was safer, and as far as he knew, he was the only one doing it, or the only one competent and professional enough doing it. Besides, he loved to drive, it was the main reason why he still did it; after all this time, his bank managers were very happy with him.
What he'd hated for a while now is that after the slave ring fiasco, he had started listening to a voice that had been mute for a very long time in his head: his conscience. His conscience was making him think a lot about what he had been transporting after all those years, and how many people had suffered because of what he did, indirectly.
Frank knew that no one honest enough would hire him to do what he did. Okay, he might have transported some innocuous things during it, but he figured they would be less than one percent of all of his jobs, and that included being a driver for Billings.
So, he now had a big problem, a mess probably caused by his own actions: he was part-machine, worth more than half a billion dollars, under the roof of a Foundation of annoying do-gooders, with very little hope of finding out who did this to him because of fucking rule number two.
Talk or run?
“Depends on what you can offer me,” Frank replied, evenly, sitting against the bed in a relaxed position.
“Because if I talk, I have a very good idea on what can happen to me. One, I do the dumb thing and let myself be arrested, which will last for as long as I want because I already know a thing or two about escaping prison, and with the strength and speed I’ll have, it would be even more of a piece of cake than before. That has the consequence of you guys wasting the best part of a billion dollars, never to be seen again. Two, I do the slightly smarter thing and vanish, and I might contact you guys eventually, if I’m in need of a repair shop, which I believe will be unlikely, since I’d be falling into the dumb thing I just mentioned. Three, I do a deal with you, and I know enough about you to know you’ll stand for the deal, and we might all end up gaining something out of it.”
Michael cringed and ground up his teeth, but spoke out. “What do you want?”
“Your word I won’t be arrested as soon as I tell you what I did, and the freedom I had before you learned whatever you learned to bring you here. Plus, no one else knows what will be discussed here.”
“Did you kill anyone?” Knight asked.
“What sort of dumb question is that? Of course I killed someone. I killed several someones in fact, both in the military and out, but you just have to read my file to know that. However, and that I believe is your real question, if you want to know if I did kill for a living, as a hired assassin of some sort, the answer is no.”
“He’s telling the truth, Mr. Knight,” KITTEN voiced out to the room.
“How can you tell?” Frank asked out loud.
“The voice can lie, but not human reactions while telling a lie. Your body is the biggest lie detector there is, we just need to know what to look for, and I was looking, with some help from my brother.”
“Thank you, KITTEN. I’m reserving judgment on you, Mr. Martin, but I promise I’ll listen to what you have to say and you have my word that IF we call the cops, I’ll do my best to give you every chance you might have on a fair trial. It’s the best that I can do.”
“Not what I really wanted, but I always have option number two. Okay, talk it is, Mr. Knight. Pull up a chair, and let me start by saying three simple rules - rules I lived by until waking up an extremely changed man, right in this room. Rule number one, never change the deal. Rule number two, no names. Rule number three, never open the package. You wanted to know what I did for a living, Mr. Knight? I transported unknown things to nameless people. I did that because I got kicked out of SAS, nicely, and being a penniless bastard, I had no other option than turning into a mercenary. While killing people for Queen and Country is one thing, killing unknowns for a wad of cash isn’t really my style. I always liked to drive cars, so I got into this gig and did well for a long while, until my conscience caught up with me, and started ranting and raving in my ear.”
“So, you’re a transporter, right? And if I understand these rules of yours, arresting you would be pretty much impossible, since you don’t know what you transported, and to whom. Building a case over it would be fruitless,” Michael said, thinking it through.
“Pretty much. And I believe that these microwave oven parts installed all over me are the consequence of one of those transports, although I have no idea which. My own rules came back to bite me in the ass once again.”
“I opened a package once, and it got me in a whole lot of trouble,” Frank said, crossing his arms. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll stretch myself out a little bit and go out for a little run.”
“Away?” Michael asked.
“Do I need to consider it?” Frank threw back.
“If you answer me a question honestly, then no. Why did you still do it?”
“Transporting?” Frank asked, and answered with a shrug. “At first, because of the money, then later because I became fairly well-known and was good at it. But I guess the main reasons are that it brought me the sense of - order, I guess you'd say - that I craved since I got kicked out of SAS, along with with some adrenalin to it. Second, I always loved to ride; it’s my main passion, and always has been, since I was very little.”
Michael smiled. “What if I say that I can give it all back to you, Frank? The order, the adrenalin, the love of riding, this time in one of the world’s most advanced vehicles? And with the added benefit of being on the right side of the fence?”
The Transporter was dumbstruck. “Why?”
“Because, as a wise man once said to me, one man can make a difference.”