Jaime thought he was alone. So when he turned a corner to find Conner blocking his path, arms crossed, glaring at him, he almost ran right into him.
"Conner! What are you – "
"What have you done to Sphere?"
"She's been all mopey and listless ever since Monday. Ever since she went out to fight Dr Desmond with you. What happened?"
"Nothing! Nothing happened."
-It is not complicated. The Conner is an obstruction. Eliminate him.-
Great. Being caught in the middle of an argument between his murderous AI symbiote and an angry half-Kryptonian. That was exactly what Jaime needed. "I'm not sure... exactly... what happened, but..."
"Not sure?" Conner stepped forward. "You're going to have to do better than that."
-The Conner is hostile. Recommended tactic: red solar energy plasma blast.-
"Both of you just... just calm down!" Jaime snapped.
Conner frowned. "Both of...?"
"Look, your SuperCycle and my Scarab seemed to have... bonded."
Conner raised a brow. "Bonded?"
"They... uh... they're friends. I think. It's a little hard to tell with the Scarab."
-Tell him it's none of his business who she spends her time with.-
"I think they... want to see more of each other."
"She's been distracted because..." Conner's eyes flew open. He stepped back. "You don't mean..."
"I don't know!"
"Are you saying you want to date..."
"Not me! This AI!"
"I've heard you talk to that Scarab. If you think I'm going to let that thing anywhere near Sphere..."
"I'm on your side, believe me."
-Diplomacy will not sway the Conner. We must eliminate him.-
"No eliminating," Jaime muttered.
Conner, whom Jaime had forgotten had super hearing, frowned. "Is he threatening me?"
"Is your artificial pal threatening me?"
"No, it's... uhm..."
Conner pressed a finger against Jaime's chest. Jaime resisted the Scarab's attempt to armour up. "Tell your Scarab friend that no crazy killer robot bug is getting anywhere near Sphere. For all I know he'll flip out and hurt her." Conner turned on his heel and strode off.
"Great. Just great." Not that Jaime wanted the Scarab anywhere near Sphere. But now he'd have to deal with not only the Scarab's obsession, but its constant desire to kill Conner. As if supervillains weren't trouble enough.
-Jaime Reyes, wake up.-
Jaime jolted awake and sat bolt upright. His heart was racing and his arms shook. "Did I have a nightmare?"
-No. I woke you.-
He rubbed his arms. "Did you drug me?"
-Only with your own hormones. The adrenalin will wear off. We must go.-
"Why? Where? Are we under attack?"
-We must contact the Sphere while the Conner is sleeping.-
Jaime took a moment to process that. "You drugged me awake so that you could sneak out in the middle of the night to see your girlfriend."
-My data files suggest that such behaviour is considered romantic.-
"I have school in the morning!"
-Then we should not waste time arguing.-
"Great, I'm caught in the crossfire of Romeo and Juliet."
-Incorrect. Romeo and Juliet's plan was tactically unwise. They should not have used a plan that so easily resulted in their own deaths. It would have been safer to kill their families instead.-
"You know, I can see why Conner doesn't want you anywhere near Sphere."
-Observation: if Romeo and Juliet's families had not tried to keep them apart, their deaths would not be necessary. Any such concern from the Conner would therefore be a self-fufilling prophecy.-
Jaime gave up. "Let's just go."
Sphere woke at Jaime's touch and trilled quietly.
"Hush, don't wake Conner," Jaime whispered. Sphere whistled in apparent acknowledgement and shifted into her cycle form. Jaime got in.
They were well over the water before the Scarab spoke again. -Ask her what her favourite weather effect is.-
"Really? That's what you're going with?"
-Taking an interest in preferences is romantic.-
Jaime sighed. "What's your favourite weather effect?"
The sphere trilled.
-Interesting. I prefer thermohaline circulation forces in the ocean. Ocean weather is often underrated by air-breathing humans.-
Jaime relayed the message. After a few exchanges he stopped even listening to what the Scarab was saying, content to merely repeat the words. He'd thought he'd lost control over his life when he first became Blue Beetle but he was beginning to realise that he was wrong; this moment was when he truly surrendered any semblance of control over his life. He was the translator between the AI of a robot fused to his spine and a mechanical alien teammate. Why not?
They were well over the ocean when, suddenly, the Sphere picked up speed.
"What? What is it?"
-The Superboy is approaching!- the Scarab said urgently, armouring up. -We must prepare for battle!-
-Flee? Where too?-
It was too late. Superboy dropped from the Bioship to land on the front of the SuperCycle. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Nothing! I mean – "
"Uh-huh. Nothing. Sphere, get home. Now. As for you..." Conner glared at Jaime, who shrank back and tried to block out the tactical projections the Scarab was screaming in his head. "I don't want to start anything out here, but I'm watching you, understand? Last warning."
"I didn't even want to be here!" Jaime muttered as he flew home. "Why couldn't you get a crush on the toaster or something?"
-You enquiry it too fallacious to be worthy of response,- the Scarab shot back.
"Can I sleep now?"
-Yes. You may now sleep.-
The next day, Conner called on Jaime's Team communicator. "Blue Beetle, can you get to base immediately?" He sounded upset.
Conner was pacing when Jaime arrived. Behind him sat Sphere. She wasn't moving. Jaime peered at her. "Is she..."
"She's alive but she won't listen to anything I say," Conner said in some distress. "I can't tell if she's hurt or throwing a tantrum or..."
Jaime reached forward to touch the Sphere with one armoured hand. "Sphere?" At his touch, she roared to life and started whistling in what sounded to Jaime like a happy manner.
-Tell her that I agree,- the Scarab said. Jaime ignored him.
Conner frowned at the pair for a couple of seconds before grabbing Jaime's elbow and physically pulling him away. Jaime let him. "Jaime, you know I'm not happy about this whole... thing."
"You're not the only one, believe me."
Conner waved Jaime's words away with an impatient hand. "Look, Sphere's not normally this... well, if she wants this this much, if she's sure... your Scarab makes her happy, alright? And I want her to be happy."
"Wait a minute, you can't seriously be saying..."
"I won't stand in your way."
"No. No, you don't understand. The Scarab's crazy. You don't want him near Sphere."
"I trust you and I trust her judgement. Of course, if he ever does hurt her, I'll rip him out of your spine and crush him with my bare hands." There was a dangerous glimmer in Conner's eyes. "But so long as we're clear on that..."
-The Conner bluffs. In a fight, we could dispatch him before he had the opportunity to attempt such a tactic.-
"He says he understands," Jaime sighed, resigned.
"Good." Conner clapped Jaime on the shoulder and left.
-Ask the Sphere what her favourite human-visible wavelength is,- the Scarab suggested.
Jaime sighed again. Somehow, he hadn't quite expected being a hero to turn out like this.