Change (Mass Effect Collision Chapter 4)


When Elias reached the door, he found it ajar, and a flicking yellow glow spilling out into the corridor. Pausing, he stopped, and listened, but only heard the TV playing a movie in the background. It sounded like a… Corbin had called them ‘chick flicks’ if the giggles and soundtrack was anything to go by. And Corbin hated chick flicks.
Activating his omni-tool’s camera, Elias slipped the semi translucent device under the door, and then around the side, and then stared at the images on the heads up display in his helmet. Then he pushed open the door and stepped into the room.
“Get out,” he said as he entered, moving around to the left past the kitchenette as a flickering white drone moved silently around to the right. “How did you even get in?”
On the couch, Paula sat, a glass of wine in one hand and Corbin’s head lying in her lap. His eyes were closed and his breath shallow, and a there was a smear of crusted brownish something around his mouth.
“I brought him something to eat, darl. Given that you left him all alone.”
“His lips are turning blue,” Elias said. “I think you need to leave. Now.”
Paula put down her wine on the floor. “I don’t think so dear. I think the police are going to wonder how it was that poor Doc Corbin was done in by his housemate’s food so soon after being treated for it. Tsk, tsk. You really should have waited for him to recover before striking again dear.”
“Great, call them,” Elias said. “I’ll do it myself while you explain the red baking dish that neither Corbin nor myself own that’s sitting on the kitchen counter, or what you’re doing here, or the fact that your DNA is all over the wineglass you just put on the table.”
Paula stood, dumping Corbin on the couch, and turning to face Elias. Her eyes were wild, pupils dialated and her hair was coming free from the bun she typically wore it in. “It’s called bleach, darl,” she said.
“And the part where I’ve been recording everything you’ve been saying?” Elias asked. “You really don’t know much about quarians do you?”
Darting her hand into her handbag she pulled out a pistol, which she pointed at him with shaking fingers. “I know enough to know that all I need to do is puncture your suit in enough places and it doesn’t really matter, thief.”
“Okay, so I’m just going to assume you’re officially crazy and-”
A bolt of electricity sent Paula tumbling to the floor. “-you really should look behind you.” Elias muttered as he kicked the gun away and dragged her into the corner, tying her hands swiftly with rope. “Pi if she wakes up, jolt her again.”
“With pleasure, Creator Elias.”
Pleasure. It was an odd word for the geth, but right now Elias had more pressing concerns. It was 1AM, he’d left at 9PM, so there was only a small window of time. Dashing into the bathroom, he found Corbin’s oversized first aid kit, and started rummaging through it for an emetic. He knew enough to know what sort of drug he was after, but he also knew his lack of knowledge of human medicine would be his downfall. In his helmet his comm unit was already dialling.
“911 please state your emergency.”
“My housemate’s been poisoned and he’s unconscious, I need a systemic emetic and my knowledge of human medicine sucks,” he said, scrabbling with his left hand for a datapad to run an extranet search. His own suit’s systems were stretched rather thinly with Pi controlling the drone across the room.
“Do you know what poisoned him, sir?”
“No, but I’m betting it was dextro-protein in the casserole that bitch gave him. He’s known to have an…allergic reaction to it.”
“Are you Turian sir?”
“Quarian. Look, get the cops and an ambulance please? I don’t know if I can get him to the clinic in time.”
“Where are you sir?”
“Apartment three hundred and twelve, forty seven Eunice Street, Old Town. Third floor.”
“I’ve got the police and an ambulance on their way sir. What’s your name?”
“Elias, my name’s Elias, my housemate’s Corbin and the crazy lady in the corner is Paula. Keelah, he’s got apomorphine. I don’t know why he as it, but tell the paramedics I’m giving it to him. His lips have gone blue.”

Elias half lay, half sat in an old sidechair, as the steady beep of Corbin’s heart monitor reassured him that his friend was, for the moment, alive. On the far wall a muted vidscreen was playing some late night horror flick, and a strange, tubelike monster appeared to be growing out of an old woman’s head. It looked a bit a like a penis actually.
“Visiting hours are over, you know,” Shelley said as she stepped into the dim light of the room. “It’s four AM. You should be in bed.”
Elias shrugged and tried to hide a yawn. “So turf me out,” he suggested. “The apartment’s a crime scene anyway and those cops took forever to take a statement.”
“Sweetpea, you’ve got an iron clad alibi. The whole bar saw you and I know exactly what time you left.”
“Why’d she do it?” Elias asked. “It didn’t make any sense.”
“Love makes people do strange things, child,” Shelley said, walking over and handing him a bottle of water.
“That’s love?”
“Sure,” Shelley said, leaning against the wall. “Twisted into strange crazy obsession over the most handsome, unattached and unavailable man in the clinic, but still love of sorts.”
“That’s crazy.”
“You sing about it every night you’re up on stage, child. You should know.”
Elias opened the bottle and took a drink. “Well, yes, I sing about it, but I don’t actually… I mean I haven’t… that’s what everyone sings about? That?”
“No, of course not. But it’s the same, ain’t it? Corbin taking you in, you not wanting to leave his side now. Paula getting crazy jealous of your friendship—all just notes in the same tune. We just like to pretend love’s some magic cure for all ills, but there’s light and dark in everything.”
Elias shook his head. “I’ll take your word for it.”
Shelley nodded and suddenly he was being hugged fiercely. “It’ll all work out fine, child. You’ll see. I’ll get a cot for you. It’s just me tonight and Harley’s on security. I don’t think either us will care if you make dodo here tonight.”

Even with a bed of sorts, Elias found it difficult to get to sleep and found himself staring up at the ceiling, the rough white tiles flickering with the light of the television. “Do you have emotions, Pi?”
“Not as you know them, Creator Elias.”
“Must be nice.”
“Analysis suggests you don’t really mean that, Creator Elias.”
“I’m just having a good wallow in self pity,” Elias said. “It’s highly counter-productive, but it seems to be a necessary custom amongst all organic races I’ve ever met.”
“Corbin’s vitals are strong, Creator Elias. You might find your time more constructive if you focused on what to do next, rather than what you might have done differently in the past.”
On the screen, a human juggled chainsaws to thunderous applause and then the vid cut to an asari singing something he couldn’t hear on account of the set being on mute.
“That’s really good advice, Pi, thank you.”
“You are most welcome.”

The sun was peeking through the clinic window, adding its light to the electronic glow of the vidscreen, which was now playing a cartoon about N7 Operatives facing off against a rogue reaper, one hidden out in darkspace that the change hadn’t touched.
“I think they’re running out of villains,” Corbin’s hoarse voice came from the bed. “I mean, you can’t hate aliens anymore and half our DNA is synthetic composite now anyway. “The Reapers are like us too…in a big, skyscraper, flying lobster kind of way. What’s left to fear?”
“Ourselves?” Elias said, rolling off the cot, his spine cracking in a few places.
“That doesn’t sound good,” Corbin said, blinking slowly.
“You should see your face,” Elias said.
“That’s not really fair when I can’t see yours,” Corbin said. “Is there any water?”
Elias grinned behind his mask and reached over for the rolling table that seemed to be a staple of all hospital rooms. “You know there’s going to be water here and where it’s going to be,” he said, pouring out a cup and picking up a straw from the packet that had been thoughtfully left there.
Corbin went to sit up, and then collapsed flat onto his back. “I don’t think I can get up,” he said, and fumbled for the remote that would move the bed into a sitting position. “I feel weak as the proverbial kitten,” he said, as Elias brought the water over to him, and their hands touched when Corbin reached up to take hold of the cup. “Thanks,” Corbin said softly.
“Welcome,” Elias said, “Doc, I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“If I hadn’t been around, Paula would never have thought to poison you with dextro-protein.”
“Then she might have picked something more lethal like botulinum toxin,” Corbin said, taking a long drink. “Oh that’s better.”
“Well, I did make you throw up the better part of a rather large serving of lasagna,” Elias said.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat Italian food again,” Corbin groaned. “Hey come now, that was funny,” he added when Elias didn’t respond.
“Sorry,” Elias said, letting Corbin take the cup and sitting back into the chair.
“You know everything thinks we’re together?” Elias said.
Corbin looked down towards the end of the bed where his feet made small hills under the white sheets. “Yeah. I noticed. Is um…that a bad thing?”
“It nearly got you killed.”
“But it didn’t.”
“And next time?”
“What next time? I hardly think people are going to queue up to attack because they think I’m off the market. Wait, are we actually fighting about this?”
“No! Yes! I don’t know!”
Corbin sighed and scooted across the bed slightly. “Sit down,” he said. “You’re making my head hurt jumping around like that.”
Elias stared hard at the clear patch on the bed. Then he stared at the trundle he’d been sleeping in, just next to the hospital visiting chair. Then he turned back and stared at Corbin. The man’s glasses were on the side table next to the water jug and his hair was bed mussed and pointing off in all directions. His eyes were…uncertain, and Elias thought he could see a slight tremble in his hands that he hadn’t noticed a few minutes ago.
“Keelah…” Elias breathed. “You do like me.”
Corbin sighed. “All right, yes. Fine. I do. And I get it. Sorry, I knew I—”
“You don’t even know what I really look like.”
Corbin stopped and looked up at him, a familiar glint coming into his eyes. “You have blue skin,” he said. “And I know your hair is dark, and you’re slender underneath the bulk of that suit.”
And my face?”
“You have eyes, a fairly straight nose and a mouth,” Corbin said. “You’re talented, resourceful and have a killer voice. Come on, I’ve seen Fleet and Flotilla, I know you don’t have fangs or anything under there.”
Elias laughed, and then he sighed, sitting down next to Corbin on the bed. “I have to leave eventually you know.”
“But eventually’s later,” Corbin pointed out. “For all I know we could find out that we’re great flatmates, but anything more and we start bickerin’ about finding restaurants we can both eat at. Or your snoring.”
“I do not snore!” Elias protested. “Although I can hear you through the walls if you’ve been drinking.”
Corbin laughed and reached out to give Elias a sideways hug, just like he’d done in the past. “Wait really?” he asked suddenly.
“Sort of, yes,” Elias said. “But I just use the noise dampening setting on my helmet and it works fine. How do you think I made it through your porn sessions?”
“I wore headphones!”
Elias grinned and relaxed into Cobrin’s embrace. “Gotcha.”
Corbin rolled his eyes. “Want me to share links?”
“Dunno. I have no idea if you have good taste in porn.”
“Well I… this is a really strange thing to be talking about, you know.”
“I can change the topic to something even more awkward if you like,” Elias said.
Corbin looked at him askance. “Oh?”
“I uh, sent in an audition video for Citadel’s Got Talent last night.”
“Don’t you have to be living on the Citadel for that?”
“Or be residing on a current council world and be willing to relocate at your own expense, clause eighty five subsection six,” Elias said. “And the quarian living on Earth gets in by the back door.”
Corbin’s face froze.
“What?” Elias asked.
“Nothing,” Corbin said, swallowing hard. “Um. How… how long until you leave?”
“I have to get in first, Doc.”
“You’ll get in,” Corbin said. “So…how long?”
“Four to six weeks. Depends on how long they take to pick their top one hundred. I mean, how do you pick a top one hundred out of several million entrants?”
Corbin pulled Elias closer. “They give you the winner’s trophy. Wait, is there a trophy?”
“No, just a performance contract.”
“Oh right, just a performance contract, he says.”
Elias sighed and closed his eyes. “Which may never happen,” he said. “Can we talk about something else?”
“Like what?”
“What happens now?”

Go To Chapter 5