Neo-Citadel 2191 CE
On the citadel, Elias found himself escorted to his newly rented apartment by Chask and Markanis, the two bodyguards who’d been with him since winning the tv show. Chask was a Krogan who did most of the talking, and Markanis spoke so little that Elias had wondered at first if the Turian was mute.
“Go on in Mr Elias,” Chask said when the elevator opened. “Our crew has already checked the place over and it’s impressive, I’ll give you that.”
Stepping into the apartment, Elias walked past the a glass divider that separated the corridor from an indoor garden and stepped down into a lounge complete with leather sofas, a grand piano, and a wrap around fireplace. And above the fireplace was a large picture and a simple brass plaque: ‘Clive Shepard and the crew of the Normandy SSRII, 2186 CE’.
“Are you seeing this, Pi?” Elias asked softly.
The blue light in his helmet flickered on slowly. “I’m sorry, Creator Elias, I was hibernating. Have I seen what?”
“That appears to be a photograph of Commander Sheppard and his team,” Pi said.
“This is his apartment, isn’t it?”
There was a slight pause. “Yes, records indicate that this apartment briefly belonged to Commander Sheppard in 2186 after being gifted to him by Admiral David Anderson of the Alliance.”
“This is the home of a war hero, Pi. I’m just an entertainer. Keelah, what am I doing here? And what am I meant to do with all this space?”
“You could always ask your agent for more modest quarters.”
“I can see that going down very well,” Elias said as he set out to explore. There was the large kitchen with its centre island, study nook, bar, reading room and two downstairs bedrooms, balcony gallery, master bedroom, hot tub and upstairs lounge.
A buzz at the apartment’s security screen brought him back to downstairs and to the front door. Bringing the intercom video up, he called Chask rather than use the outdoor broadcast. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“There’s a group of Elia’solor nar Ashru’s fans here, sir,” Chask said carefully. “They’re asking to see him.”
He should have gone out. He really should have gone out and signed some autographs and made nice, but there were so many of them. About twenty had crammed themselves into the small space at the front of the apartment doors and there were more beyond. He could see banners with “We love you Elias!” and two saying “Elias, please marry me,” which was slightly frightening given that one was being held by a quarian girl who couldn’t have been more than fourteen, and a human male who Elias guessed was somewhere around sixteen or seventeen years of age. “Pi?” he asked.
“Mr Elias is currently in a recording session and cannot be disturbed right now,” Pi’s smooth, melodic tones said calmly, his voice clearly audible through the apartment intercom. “I’m sure he’ll be down later though.”
“Very good, Sir,” Chask said. The Krogan was used to the game by now. Elias wouldn’t be coming down. He hadn’t been able to walk alone in public since the semi-final round of the show last year. At least, not officially. Elias had been very careful to include a good number of male quarians in his staff, more than would otherwise be called for, sometimes even creating superficial roles in order to hire more people. It was accepted for purposes of celebrity ego—or for a quarian looking to help his people stay employed—and Javak had been most accommodating, but the real reason he hired them was as decoys. All of them were given nondescript suits to wear, slightly better in features than was standard for most pilgrims, but outwardly looking like a standard off the rack suit.
“I don’t want any of you mobbed by tweens mistaking you for me,” Elias told every single one of them. I’m not sure what would happen if they stampeded.”
At first, reporters had pounced upon any quarian leaving the tour ship or any hotel he was known to be staying in, but soon it became clear that Elia’solor nar Ashru was only ever seen with his performance gear on. So they watched for that and clamoured for attention at scheduled press conferences and outings.
Elia’solor nar Ashru was fast becoming known as a very private person and rarely seen out in public without his minders. Psychologists were wondering how he managed with the isolation, and speculated that the high number of quarians on his staff were there as much for social interaction as anything else. And they were right, up to a point. Elias had found that all he needed for a private outing was to take off his performance jacket, change the colours and patterns of the hard panels of his suit, affecting an accent and if he was feeling particularly paranoid, use a voice modulator. Then he was a completely different and quite unremarkable quarian. Sometimes he was on the staff of Elia’solor nar Ashru. Sometimes he was just a passing pilgrim, seeing the sights and occasionally going to other gigs when Elias himself wasn’t required on stage. He was sure Javak knew what he was up to. He was sure his security detail knew where he went. But for now, they let him have his freedom. It was more than what celebrities of most other species ever got.
Retiring to the study he turned on the television for noise—anything was better than the silence—and sat down to go through his fan mail. Or rather, Pi went through his fan mail, sending ‘fill in the blank’ responses to most of them, and adding their senders and scans of their letters to the database they were keeping of Elias’ fans. That way if he actually ended up speaking to any of them, Elias would be able to ‘remember’ anything they sent to him via a quick search in his suit’s database. It had already proved to be a career booster, and there were a few fans that Elias genuinely remembered, but most of the time, it was the combined efforts of himself and Pi, filtering most letters automatically, and marking others for Elias’ personal attention.
“Up next: profiles in courage with Liam Vathanil Musie as he interviews Lieutenant Commander Ashley Williams.”
Elias looked up at the screen. “He was the host on Citadel’s Got Talent last year,” he said. “Looks like he got a new job.”
“It would appear so,” Pi said politely. It was what Elias had come to know as his disinterested response. Once the information had been filed away, Pi didn’t find things like acquaintances job changes to be relevant to his existence. The interview with Ashley Williams was mostly a ‘how did it feel about being the one not to die on Virmire,” the infamous battle with at Saren’s cloning facility where Commander Sheppard destroyed Saren’s genophage cure and fought alongside the Salarian Captain Kirrahe. It wasn’t particularly enlightening, and Elias tuned out after a little while. He was nearing the end of the current batch of fan mail when there was a ping from the computer in the corner.
“You have a vid call,” Pi announced quietly.
“Who is it?” Elias asked.
“Is it? How did he… never mind, I’m getting it!” Elias all but ran to the computer and tapped the ‘accept call’ icon that appeared on screen.
Corbin looked just like Elias remembered, his hair short at the sides and longer and unruly on top, one lock consistently curling down over his forehead. He wore a familiar white shirt and he looked a bit surprised when the call dropped in. Elias’ stomach tightened. It had been over a year since they talked. They hadn’t so much as messaged each other since Elias had left New Orleans-Laffayette to film what turned out to be the webisodes where the judges culled the top five hundred to the top hundred, when official program filming began.
“Hey Doc,” Elias said. “Long time no see.”
“Yeah, it is,” Corbin said, “I ah…heard you were coming back to the Citadel so I thought I’d, you know, say ‘welcome home’.”
“Thank you,” Elias said. “I don’t know if this is home though. Do you know where I am right now?”
“On the Citadel?” Corbin asked with a grin.
“Well, yes, but I’m in Commander Sheppard’s apartment.”
Corbin blinked “What? Really? The Commander Sheppard?”
“Yes, I mean, look!” Elias said, and synced up his his omni-tool camera to the video link and stepped out into the main lounge, aiming the camera up at the framed photo.
“Oh wow,” Corbin breathed. “That’s really him.”
“I know,” Elias said. “I mean, how do I rate this? All I did was sing a few songs!”
“More than a few,” Corbin said, the old playfulness returning to his voice.
“Still,” Elias said. “It’s a bit odd.”
“I’d give my eye teeth to be there, you know,” Corbin said.
Elias turned and headed back into the study, turning off the video link on his omni-tool once he got back to the screen. “Well, if you make it to the the Citadel and if I’m still in this place, you’re more than welcome to drop by.”
“Oh? Well, I might just take you up on that,” Corbin said. “Seriously though, how’ve you been?”
“Crazy,” Elias said. “I’ve been all over council space and welcomed everywhere with, well… roaring crowds.” Leaning in, Elias whispered into the microphone. “There’s a horde of screaming tweens outside the apartment. It’s surreal.”
“Any new songs?”
“Always,” Elias said happily. “I’ll have to go record some soon, I guess. How about you, Doc, what have you been up to?”
“Nothing as glam as you,” Corbin said. “I joined the Alliance as a war doc though. I’m going through N7 training now as a matter of fact.”
“Oh, not doing anything special he says. Just Alliance Special Forces training. That must be intense. Are you allowed to talk about it, or is it ‘classified’?”
“Well it’s tough,” Corbin said. “But I’m loving it. Halfway through at the moment.”
“Can I ask where you are?”
“Yeah, but that is classified,” Corbin said, pushing his glasses up his nose.
It was a reflexive action that Elias was familiar with. The human only really did that when something was bothering him. “What’s wrong, Doc?” he asked.
“Nothing, I just…I still find it hard to believe that one of my patients is living the high life.”
Elias shrugged. “It’s weird. I’m just enjoying it while I can before the fickle spotlight of celebrity moves on to someone else. And anyway, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here right now, so…thanks again.”
Corbin grinned. “So you’re not forgetting the little people, huh?”
A blue light blinked in Elias’ helmet. “He’s not that little,” Pi commented.
“Shut up,” Elias muttered.
“I’m sorry?” Corbin asked.
“Nothing, just thinking,” Elias said. “You were never little people, Doc. I mean you’re a good foot taller than me for starters.”
Corbin’s smile was genuine and warm. “Good to know. Well, I should let you go. I mean, I know you have a concert to prepare for.”
Elias looked towards the door of the apartment. “Yeah, I do,” he said. “You know I was serious though. If you’re in the area, drop by. I’m sure I can get you a ticket into my own concert. You know…if you want to come.”
“I would, but I’m not going to make it to the Citadel before your run’s over. Not unless you really extend it by a few months. But I’ll be back home once training is over and I’ll be at Clinic for a bit before they ship me out again. So if you have some time to kill after you’re done being Mr. Famous, you can find me there.”
“Okay,” Elias said. “I think I can afford a holiday. I’ll see if I can drop by.”
“Great! Um, well. It’s been really good to talk to you again. Bye for now.”
“Bye Corbin,” Elias said. “Don’t be a stranger, okay?”
Corbin smiled again before the call disconnected. For a moment, Elias sat at the desk, staring at the blank screen. Then he got up, tested the showers for their acoustic properties, and turned the water on full. Showers with water were one of the things Elias occasionally indulged in when he was sure he wasn’t being watched. They involved taking off his suit for one, but well. It was worth it. As the hot water cascaded over his body and he warmed his voice with a series of vocal exercises he felt the tension in his muscles drain from his body. Definitely worth it.