A Study in Scarlet Scarab
Ch. 1 We Met In Dreams
It was a bright and hot summer day in the city of El Paso, Texas. The kind of day where most people would rather stay indoors in pursuit of relief from the blazing heat. Not so much for certain teenagers, like Jamie Reyes, who tended to use days like this for stake boarding. On days like this he and his best friend, Tye Longshadow, would race each other through the city and into the desert on their trusty skateboards. Sometime they would be joined by a few other friends from school but usually it just the two of them. Today Jamie was on his own enjoying every moment of his first official day of freedom from school. He had the rarely cleared sidewalks and empty streets of the city all to himself as he went along performing a few basic stunts, such as jumps, board flips and grinds. Nothing real X-game-ish, but enough to show off some skill. Somewhere along his way the young man decided head towards his favorite ice-cream shop located near his home for a shake. The teenager entered a large parking lot in order to use it as a shortcut when he noticed the large building adjacent to the lot and came to a stop.
The Kord building was one the biggest and most successful technological engineering companies in the city. The research and development department was responsible for making many of the top notched computers and software used in other major companies, hospitals, and even the military. A corporation so big that there may have been a good chance that it employed a good majority of the citizens in the city. The young Latino had figured that if his father wouldn't let him work part time at the family's auto garage then maybe he could find something here once he was old enough. His parents, bless them both, had always encouraged him to aim high when it came to his ambitions after all and he supposed you can't get them much higher than working for one of the best tech industries in the world.
Although… Now that he was looking at the building itself… It seemed rather strange. It looked like any other large building you'd see while walking on the street in the daylight. It was roughly five or more stories, large glass windows set up in rows on each floor, solid cement block structure painted beige with dark highlights and, of course, had those uniformed bushes lining along the front of the entrance. Yet as normal as it looked, the Hispanic felt like there was something wrong with it. Like, for some strange reason, it wasn't suppose to be standing there… Suddenly, for a brief flash, the sky turned dark, there was a booming explosive noise, and all the windows in the building seemed to have shattered simultaneously from the inside out and were flaming from within.
Jolting from the sight, the Mexican boy jumped back in fright… "What…?" Only to find that everything was suddenly normal. "What just…?" It was as if nothing had happened. No busted windows. No flames. No dark sky. "Okay, I did just hear an explosion just now, didn't I?" He couldn't have imagined it. Could he? Then again if there really had been an explosion of some kind then wouldn't there be fire trucks barreling down the streets by now? "Wha-?!" Another flash. Again a darkening sky and the windows all spider webbed… Only for all of it to disappear within yet another flash. "Alright… That time I know what I saw." Determined to prove to himself that he wasn't seeing things, the teenager focused harder on the building.
As he continued to stare, a soft metallic clang randomly chimed from somewhere off to his side. He glanced downwards and found a strange object on the ground near his shoes. It was blue in color… and seemed to be made of smooth metal… and it was cut in the shape of some kind of insect… From what he could tell, it was some kind of beetle. Driven by curiosity, the young Latino bend to pick up the mysterious object and was hit with a powerful wave of nostalgia the instant he touched it. He had seen this thing before. In this very area, except it wasn't daylight at the time… it was night. The building… The building hadn't been whole like was now; it had been crumbling down on itself and on fire. On fire from an explosion. He could envision the flames perfectly, hear them crackling, and see the light from the fire flicker as he stared at the metal bug in his hands. He didn't even notice that his surrounding had changed into the very image he was recalling in his mind. All he could focus on was the bug… No… Not just a bug… a scarab… The Scarab... It was his Scarab he was holding! But how was that even possible? Wasn't it supposed to be embedded in his spin? Also, there was something else about this scarab... Something from long ago… Something important…
Then somewhere from the back of his mind, the Hispanic remembered. "Khaji-Da…"
"Yes Jamie Reyes?"
The loud disembodied voice startled the teen greatly and had him turning around only to find that he was alone in the empty parking lot. "Wh-who said that?" There was no body else around, not even pigeons on the roof or sidewalks. "Who's there?" What was going on?
"You do not recall this scarab?" The voice had questioned in a rather odd but strangely familiar monotone pitch that gave no indication on any intentions. "Your memory must be deteriorating." It chastised the youth in the same emotionless droll as the boy tried topinpoint exactly where the voice was coming from. "You should have heeded the advice given to increase the Omega levels within your biological matrix." The criticism was what help the young hero to realize that the voice did, in fact, belonged to the Scarab for it always had a habit of 'advising' him about his health.
Now he remembered. He was the Blue Beetle. The scarab was the source of his powers and technological weapons. "Scarab… It is you…" Strange, normally he would hear an inner voice whenever the AI would communicate with him. Why was it suddenly loud sounding like it was everywhere at once? Especially since he was holding the scarab in his hands. "Wait, I remember this." He stated as he turned his attention towards the burning building, that for some reason it's flames now looked like they were frozen in place, once more. "It's the night we've first met." Taking into account that the laws of physics were somehow being ignored, his scarab being separated from him and the fact that he could still hear it, Jamie came to the only conclusion that made any logical sense. "Is this some kind of dream?"
"Negative." The disembodied voice stated as the young hero continued to look up and around for the source of the voice. Half expecting to see if the AI would personified itself with a body of its own since the volume was clearly not that of an inner voice. "While you slept, this scarab was merely shifting through past memories for reevaluation when you've subconsciously latched onto this particular sensory image and allow its recorded events to unfold." Eventually the boy settled for sitting down on the sidewalk and studying the scarab in his hands.
Since this was all he had to assure him that his scarab was still with him, he might as well assume the voice was coming from it. "Reevaluation?" He began to walk away from the burning building as he spoke.
"Since the beginning of our partnership, this scarab has observed and studied this odd phenomena you called 'dreaming' as a means to better analyze your thought patterns and how they progress." It was a rather basic way of gathering information from a host's short and long term memory when the subconscious would be the least resistant. Over time the advance technological device had adapted this technique to better monitor Jamie's mental health and better protect it from telepathic attacks and intrusions. "It became apparent that they all originate from specific memories with strong emotional levels, particularly the ones that cause high levels of stress and anxiety." A holographic image soon shot from the shell of the metal beetle and formed like a laptop screen in front of the boy to revealed several not so found memories and even a few nightmares that Jamie had recognized from previous adventures before and after bonding with the alien tech. "This memory has caused such distress in the past that it had been reconfigured to be less traumatic, but lately has since then been viewed with less disfavor by your subconscious." The AI stated simply as the image of a rather panic-stricken Jamie armoring up for the very first time played through.
"So… What you're saying is…" The young Hispanic began slowing while watching himself get enveloped in the 'second skin' of the Reach armor for the first time. It had scared the living daylights out of him that he actually thought he was being possessed. Hearing he Scarab for the first time didn't help so much either. "You've been watching me in my sleep." He had been listening to the way the scarab spoke long enough to be able to at least semi-translate its heavily techno based babble at times. "Creepy."
Although accurate, the device could sense and concur that having an unknown figure study you while you were at your most vulnerable was rather unnerving. "A necessary precaution seeing as these memories would reconfigure themselves into vivid images design to raise your stress and adrenalin levels unnecessarily and rob both your mind and body of sleep." Fortunately the Reach tech didn't require such stasis to function properly and could easily alert the boy should the need arise.Besides it was high protocol to ensure that the organic host was protected and secure from all manner of threats at all times, even from their own mind and body. "Since sleep is necessary to promote rejuvenation of mentality and healing of body in organics, each 'dream' has been monitored, studied, and carefully regulated as needed so as to avoid this error." Not doing so would risk leaving its host vulnerable to inner illnesses and outward attack and under no circumstances could the host be vulnerable. "At any rate, you have suffered enough anxiety these past 5.7 days with mental examinations as well as physical endurance trails for your educational institution."
Briefly the young hero wondered if it was possible to blush in embarrassment in a dream and hoped against it. "Oh… Didn't know you cared that much." The Latino knew his secret partner was overly protective of him but he never dreamed he would go this far to insure his security and well-being.
The scarab paused before answering for a few seconds, as it began sensing something new from it's host. "The health and wellbeing of this scarab's host is top priority. Always." Because they were bonded, the device was able to pick up on the boy's thoughts and feelings very easily, but… for some odd reason its sensors were more in tune to the warm sensation of his body temperature. "Although this is the first time you have detected the actions this scarab and made a conscious connection." It wasn't so much gauging the human's body temperature so much as it was actually experiencing the transfer of warmth from both the teenager's hands and blush into its own frame. "How is it that you have pulled this default image from its reconfiguration?" It soon began a secret analysis of its own programming functions in order to see if there was some internal error that needed fixing. Since it seemingly wasn't effecting the boy, there was no need to alert him of it. Yet.
"I… don't know." Jamie answered honestly as he glance back towards the building again and found the flames frozen in the air. "I just noticed the building and realized that I knew from somewhere, but that something was different about it." As he spoke, the teen hero began to absentmindedly pet the blue scarab while studying the structure further. "Like something was missing." He even began lightly tracing the body of the alien device with his fingers while rubbing at specific nooks and spaces like he was massaging it. Since they were in a dream world and they were separated, he might as well take the chance to study his partner for a change. "I couldn't really figure it out until I found you on the ground." The boy glanced back towards the spot and was so engrossed in his thinking that he didn't even notice that the scarab's legs actually twitched and body shifted into his touch. "Khaji-Da… That's what you called yourself the first time you spoke to me."
The scarab could easily register the contact of the teenager's fingers and the friction of the direction of the petting. What was this new sensation it's sensors were registering? "It is the designation of this scarab." The AI answered as it began to process exactly what it was sensing and determine wither or not it could be harmful to its host. So far it seemed that it was only affecting its own circuits.
The blue tech's statement had the young man realizing exactly what was so important. "Yeah… That's right." It's name. Khaji-Da, that was the Scarab's name. "I'm sorry." All this time they have been together, the boy never once called it by name.
The sudden sensation of guilt and disappointment could easily be felt radiating in waves off the teen. "What reason do you apologize?" The Scarab could actually feel it as if it were coming from within it's own circuitry.
"For not understanding back then." Jamie explained as he continued to pet the mental image of his partner, consciously this time, as if trying to give it comfort. "All this time I've been calling you by what you were instead of your name."
The sudden sensation of regret and self-loathing was incomprehensible to the blue alien bug. "Your guilt is misplaced, Jamie Reyes." The scarab stated as it tried to analyze how it was even possible that such a insignificant detail could set it's host at war with himself in such a manner. "This scarab has no need of recognition." Considering all the time they've been together it would seem that the alien device still couldn't fully analyze the full complexity of the Hispanic's way of thinking. "Such things are unimportant to-"
However, the young Hispanic interrupted before another word could be said. "It's important to me!" Jamie stood up and held out the scarab in his hands so that he could talk to it directly. "You're my friend, Khaji-Da, my partner." The boy went on to explain as he glanced away in thought and, almost instinctively, brought the blue device closer to his chest as if to cradle it since he couldn't really do much else with it in their current positions. "After everything we've been through you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect." The Scarab could actually hear his healthy heartbeat through its metal casing as well as feel his sincerity as clear as an electrical pulse running through a live current. "The least I can do to show that is remember what your name is and now that I do, I promise to use it more often."
By now the symbiotic piece of technology had realized exactly what it was picking up. This realm of thought that could be entered through the subconscious during sleep somehow connected them on a level far beyond the physical reality. The way Jamie was trying to get closer to the Scarab by naming it was creating a more powerful pull on their symbiotic connection. "It is unnecessary for you to feel the need to identify this scarab by its numerical label." This needed to stop. This strange and unknown phenomenon could prove to be harmful if it didn't acquire more data on it and there was no way the artificial intelligence will allow such a possible treat effect its host. "There are no objections to how you've refer to this scarab." The Scarab needed to analyze this new development and determine its cause and effect.
The sense of confusion was picked up easily from the boy as Jamie tried to wrap his mind around a possible reason why the Scarab was so reluctant to be called by a name. "Do… You prefer to be called 'Scarab'?" He didn't know much about machines, but if 'Khaji-Da' translated to a mere number, then it probably wouldn't be a very good name after all.
"This scarab has no preference." The neutral answer didn't seem to put the Latino at ease and the AI knew from experience that he wouldn't be until the matter was settled. If it had the ability to sigh, it would have at that moment. "Would it satisfy you to refer to this scarab by a personal designation?" The question had easily lessened the confusion but turned it into awkwardness.
"I just don't want you to feel like you're being… overlooked." The Latino tried explained as he looked away in some shame. It hadn't been his intention to pressure his technological friend into anything.
"Then if you insist-"
"No." Again, the young Latino interrupted the disembodied voice before another word could be said. "Don't just go with whatever I want." Jamie just couldn't standby and have his partner just accept a designation like some household pet. "You have a say in this too, ese." The boy had grown to view the alien devise as something far more than just a tool and after experiencing what it was like to be conscious without any means to express himself, he felt he had to give the robotic insect some kind of choice. "It's your name." As far as he was concern, the scarab was an individual in its own right and it was about time it was treated like one. "You choose how you want to be called."
Throughout their partnership the scarab had learned many things.It learned much about loyalty and moral standings, despite it being a bit of a hindrance more often than not. It learned much about the strength of the human will even though it also meant putting faith in the illogical. It even learned about the value of freedom from their time under Reach control during the invasion nearly a year ago and has admittedly preferred it to following the dictations of its higher protocols. Yet this was the first time it had been offered to exercise any privileges that came with such a thing. It was also the first time it had even sensed how strongly it's host felt on the matter as well as the importance behind the meaning of such a decision.
The freedom of choice… it had experimented with this concept before in the past. It chose not to obey the electronic order to over shadow Jamie when the Reach's head scientist tried to put it on mode. Making the safety and wellbeing of the host the number one priority helped with that first act of rebellion against its core programming. It chose to give control back to its host after it had the opportunity to gain full motor function of body and armor despite how unnatural it had been to do so. During their forced service to the Reach it chose to keep up appearances with the Reyes family rather than disappear from their lives and place them in danger. The significance they held in regards to the boy's emotional state and mental health just couldn't be ignored. It even chose to keep Jamie aware of what had been going on rather than simply lock him away within his own mind. Not to mention protected and aided their allies from the Team whenever it could wherever it could when they were forced to engage them in battle. Every single one of those incidents were all for the benefits of the Reyes boy… Now here he was offering a choice he believes would benefit the scarab and felt it would mean more if the scarab freely and willingly chose it for itself.
"Very well." The scarab took the time to process the options it had. It truly had no preference for one or the other, but Jamie had grown accustomed to referring to it as an individual, and this would give an opportunity to further study the organic concept of choice. "This scarab will choose… both."
The decision proved to be unexpected. "Perdoname?" The young hero had actually reverted to Spanish in his bewilderment as he held out the Scarab to look at it.
"It is the norm for those of your species to have duo designations on occasion, is it not?" The alien intelligence quipped as it double-checked its data on this fact so as to better convey the idea. "One formal and one personal?"
Realization soon came to the teenager almost instantly. "Oh! You mean a nick-name." Delight filtered throughout the human's mental image like a steady stream of air through a vent. "Like how everyone on the Team calls me 'Blue'." It was actually a very pleasant feeling to the alien tech.
This was more than the Hispanic could have hoped for. Not only was his robotic friend going to name himself but he even took it a step further by personalizing it too. "Alright, which is which?"
The metal insect pause for a moment, giving the impression of consideration when it was really analyzing this sense of excitement the two were unknowingly sharing. "Khaji-Da shall be classified as the personal for it is the least known and should remain so given our occupation." The once Reach technology stated clearly and without hesitation. After all it was the designation given to him on the day of his creation and it saw no need to change it. "Scarab shall be formal for it is most likely the one to be used and you have grown accustomed to it."
Jamie chuckled in good humor as he cradled the artificial life form in his hands. "Heh-heh, deal." The feeling that came with the laughter was a tingling sensation to the AI. The closest thing it had to compare it to was the odd form of torture called 'Tickling' from incident in which the Little Sister assaulted his host. Although now that it had and actual levels of experience with this sensation it certainly didn't seem an affective method of torture since it was really quite pleasant.
Satisfied that the discussion was settled, Khaji-Da quietly began to play more memories of their past adventures in order to keep his host's attention diverted while he explored this new connection he discovered between them. Since he was now somehow physically able to feel this new connection, the AI decided to study the new discovery fully and from every possible angle possible before reveling its presence to Jamie. At the very least the artificial intelligence had to determine if this was a natural development or if something within his own programming lead to it. If it turns out to have a negative side effect on the boy's physical and mental wellbeing then it will be isolated and eradicated quietly so that the youth would stay safe from danger. However, if it instead proved to be valuable then perhaps it could be utilized to better improve their fighting technique if intergraded properly. Either way Khaji-Da had his very own mission to see through.