"It's her. Forget the skintone, the hair - it even looks like an asari crest - it's her. The voice, the face, the smirk. Liara T'Soni... Or Lara Tasoni? What kind of a name is that, anyway?"
"Interesting name. Greek?" he ventured out loud, hoping his shocked expression at hearing her name wasn't too surprising.
"Georgian, actually, but thanks anyway. Most people assume it's Italian for some reason," the doctor replied, turning her attention back to the datapad. He noticed it wasn't that dissimilar from the datapads he was used to - except it wasn't transparent, and the back plate had an image of a bitten apple on it - probably the manufacturer's logo.
Another attack of willpower against misbehaving muscles finally produced a result, as one of his arms managed to emerge from under the covers - pale, slightly saggy skin looking unsavory in the dying light of the ending day as the emaciated arm reached out to touch his face. Tracing the oh-so-familiar pattern of the scars on his cheeks, he cocked an eyebrow quizzically (or, at least, hoped that he managed to do it, his entire body felt like a rusty mechanism being restarted again after a few centuries of disuse - and if this was really 2012, the centuries were literal).
"What exactly happened to me?" he asked finally, tapping the scars as she looked up at him from whatever she was writing down.
"You don't remember?" she asked earnestly. It wasn't a personal question, he realized after a moment's thought - she was still taking notes on his health.
"Would I have asked if I did?" he asked instead of replying, "I remember some sort of battle, and a blinding light -- and then dreaming an endless dream without waking, until I finally did wake - here and now," he added slowly, trying to determine what was going on. Was this a simulation? Was this how Reaper indoctrination worked? Twisting your memories around you, shifting the context so that your mind would be unprepared to deal with it? They were in for a rough ride, then.
"A dream? Lasting all this time?" she asked, seemingly not intending to satisfy his initial question.
"Yes. It's a little fuzzy now, but... Yeah, I think I remember it far better than whatever came before it."
"Before you awoke, what happened in the dream?"
"I died," he replied somberly, finally letting go of his face and letting the arm drop back onto the bed. It didn't even seem to make much of an indentation on the sheets, a stark change from what he remembered it to be like the last time he saw it - but was that actually his arm he saw before? Or the one he was seeing now? He was shaken from his reverie by the doctor's words.
"I see. To answer your earlier question - you were in a battle. It's classified, and I am privy only to minor details, but at some point in a combat situation, a streetlight collapsed on top of you, cracking your skull and uniting you with a high-voltage cable, delivering an electric shock straight to your head. The scars you felt are from the electric burns, that's why they're so geometrically orderly.
He felt the back of his head gingerly, as if expecting to find an open wound or touch his exposed brain.
"Cracked my skull?" he repeated slowly. So did he dream it all - the Reapers, the Normandy? Or was this the simulation trying to justify itself?
"Yes. Don't bother looking for a hole - this was almost five years ago, after all," the doctor replied with a small smile, as if speaking to a child, "We did the best we could with your body, but the brain we didn't dare touch, not until you woke up, at least."
"Which brings me to my second major question," he went on, nodding at her reply, filing the information away. So far, outside of the creepy resemblance to Liara, everything that she said or did made sense within the context of this hospital, and he had no reason to tip his hand. If this was reality, and Normandy the dream, then appearing insane was not in his interests, and the amnesia played into his hand. If this was a dream, or a hallucination or whatever else it may or may not have been, and the Normandy was real, then he had to conceal the fact that he was onto them. Whoever they were that put him here. And these two mutually exclusive situations both meant he had to act cautiously.
"Shoot," she replied with another familiar smile. He shuddered, or tried to, but his body didn't respond too well to the instinctual reaction.
"Why is my body all wasted away?" he asked with a mix of dejection and genuine loss. While he did sometimes act neglectful of his well-being, he did enjoy having a well-toned body that swiftly responded to his every whim, both in battle... and outside of it.
"Muscles deteriorate if not given regular exercise," she replied in a lecturing tone, "And so a fit person becomes a regular person, and a regular person becomes a frail person, and a frail person becomes a comatose patient that hadn't had to use any of his muscles that weren't his heart or lungs for a good portion of the last five years," she paused to take a breath, and continued, "Which leads us to the current situation. Don't worry, Commander, you're not the first man to end up in this situation, and there are special recuperation programs for getting you back into whatever shape you were before," she finished with a knowing smile. Apparently, she was here for when he was signed in, he concluded.
"Great. And how do I go to the bathroom until I can walk on my own?" he asked in an annoyed tone.
"The same way you did while you were out, I'm afraid. Catheter for urination, sponge baths for hygiene," she responded in a consoling tone, or what passed for a consoling tone with her manner of speech - human or asari, she still retained the same edge of emotionlessness in everything she said. Except that in an asari, this was a lot less unnerving. This made him wonder...
"If I may ask a personal question, doctor?"
"Yes, you may, and the answer is "no", because I am not interested in men," she replied matter-of-factly, as if this was a question she was frequently asked and frequently had to answer.
"Thanks for the warning, although that was not my question," he admitted, wishing that this particular TMI did not just happen for real, as his question was far more embarassing and uncomfortable.
"Oh. Sorry about that, I--" she tried to apologize, but he cut her short inasmuch as that was possible for his stunted speaking ability.
"Yeah, you probably get that a lot from patients, but certainly not from comatose ones?" he offered in a comforting tone, before manning up to ask her, "It's just that in my dream... I saw someone who looked - and spoke - very much like you. Please, I have to ascertain something -- how is your mother's health?"
The question hung in silence for quite a while as he saw colour rise in her cheeks, and it was not shame. It was fury. She stood up sharply, almost overturning the chair.
"H-how dare-- how did you--"
"Easy, doctor," he interjected quickly before this got out of hand, "I just woke up from a coma, remember? I'm trying to make heads or tails of whether it's something I dreamt or maybe just overheard while I was out," he explained, "And I certainly did not mean to offend you. You don't have to answer if this is painful for you--"
"No, it's alright," she interrupted, raising her palm in the universal sign of interruption and offering peace (interesting, how these things often went hand-in-hand in human communication, he mused to himself), before visibly composing herself to reply, "She died a little under four years ago, Commander. Murdered by terrorists that tried to protest the arrest of some major comrade or something like that - they took over the building where she worked and she was one of those executed by them to prove their point."
"Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--" he tried to say, but was cut off with another gesture.
"Don't worry, it's in the past and it's certainly not your fault," she said slowly, as if thinking each word over carefully, "But what intrigues me, is why did you ask that? Did you-- dream something?"
"Well--" he hesitantly began, "--the you in my dream, or whoever looked like you, her mother died before her eyes. Tall, coldly beautiful, dressed mostly in black, always covering her... head," he congratulated himself inwardly for dancing around the word crest, "and also an only parent," he added almost as an afterthought. Judging by the narrowing of the doctor's eyes, he hit bullseye. Unless he had psychic abilities, this probably meant that somehow one world did bleed into the other. The question, naturally, being which one was the reality and which the dream? The simplest explanation, of course, was that he heard something while he was comatose and his mind integrated it into the fantasy... but was this really the case?
"I... will have to think this over," she finally replied, her face an expression of anguish at the memories mixed with the confusion of a suddenly no-longer comatose man knowing her family history and the cold clinical interest of a doctor tasked with studying a hitherto-unseen phenomenon, "While you have to get some rest, I'm sure you've had more than enough excitement for today, Commander. I will return in the morning and we will have to formulate your recovery plan, if that's alright with you?"
"Sure. I'm not going anywhere without that, am I?" he replied with what he tried to make a smile. It seemed as though only speech returned to him readily, while the rest of his body was intent on staying as dormant and as unresponsive as possible for as long as it could.
"Indeed. Good night, Commander," she said, opening the door.
"Good night, doctor Tasoni."
Dark Space (Chapter Two)
Blog entry posted by Noelemahc, Jun 12, 2012.
About the Author
A Russian Econ major with a minor in graphomania. Used to write for a Russian gaming magazine a while back, apparently wasn't very good or they wouldn't've cancelled his column to replace it with one devoted to listing erotic fanservice moments in videogames and anime series. Has a penchant for long-winded distracted rants and a bizarre affection for very old videogames.