|I like this one.|
LaaC: Part Seventy-Two - The HistoryLaaC: Part Seventy-Two - The History by iammemyself
Part Seventy-Two. The History
“I thought I was going to die.”
“It’s all right. You’re safe now.”
“I just… God, I… I kept shooting it, and shooting it, and it wouldn’t die… it was… spewing that transparent crap all over me, but it would not die… God, I… I can’t get it out of my head!”
Wheatley stopped opening his shutters when he realised it was Chell’s voice. She’d never said a word through The Incident, and they all knew what a horror that had been, but whatever it was that’d happened to her out there was causing her to say these things in a horrible, desperate voice.
“You were very brave,” GLaDOS told her, and he realised she was using the same tone she used when Carrie woke up at night. “If it means anything at all… I’m very proud of you.”
“I just can
|These are my peeps yo! And some of the stuff I like the best from them!|
The first three are for me
allhailinsanity! The first and the last ones are kinda for me
time with pride, pride with timeStop there in your tracks
GLaDOS - VoicesIt has been just a few days since your programming began. You are nothing more than a round core of circuits; you are delicate, feeble, barely wrapped by a steel skeleton.
Portal 2 - Fortuna et virtute
Portal 2 - Reflection
Portal 2 - What Matters MostIt is just a matter of roles.
Portal 2 - More ScienceShe tries harder every day.
Hello, I'm Indy. Pretty much all I do is write fanfiction and draw some fanart on the side. I write for Portal and I try to put a strong psychological component into my stories. So if you've ever wanted to learn psychology through fanfiction, this is the right place.
Thanks for dropping by!
Various places I can be found at:
Archive of Our Own: archiveofourown.org/users/iamm…
My best friends on here (that you should watch because they're amazing people)
(She is the best and also she has an awesome, unique art style and writes like a baus *edited to reflect her preference in spelling XD)
(Really fun to talk to with some of the weirdest deviations... also super hilarious and British)
(The greatest fanfic writer ever. Period.)
Part Seventy-Two. The History
“I thought I was going to die.”
“It’s all right. You’re safe now.”
“I just… God, I… I kept shooting it, and shooting it, and it wouldn’t die… it was… spewing that transparent crap all over me, but it would not die… God, I… I can’t get it out of my head!”
Wheatley stopped opening his shutters when he realised it was Chell’s voice. She’d never said a word through The Incident, and they all knew what a horror that had been, but whatever it was that’d happened to her out there was causing her to say these things in a horrible, desperate voice.
“You were very brave,” GLaDOS told her, and he realised she was using the same tone she used when Carrie woke up at night. “If it means anything at all… I’m very proud of you.”
“I just can’t stop thinking of… of what would have happened if it’d decided to shoot those barbs at me. I’d be dead. Everyone seems to think I just stood there and shot it between the eyes, but I didn’t. It was on top of me, GLaDOS. I was on the ground, and it was trying to stab me, and I was trying to shoot it and push it out of the way, but I… I was…. I don’t know how I killed it. I don’t remember killing it. I was so lucky.”
“You knew that already,” GLaDOS said, a little teasingly. “You did what an entire army couldn’t. Twice.”
Chell laughed weakly. “That was luck?”
“It had to have been. No human in existence is that skilled.”
“This is… part of why I’m here,” Chell said quietly, sniffing.
“I knew you’d… know what to say.”
“I’m a supercomputer. I always know what to say.” Chell laughed a little at that, and GLaDOS went on, “In all seriousness… Caroline will have… phases where she has dreams that frighten her. It’s just… something I learned to do.”
“Both Wheatley and Caroline told me you don’t think much of yourself as a mother.”
“I’ve done a lot of questionable things,” GLaDOS answered softly.
“She admires and respects you. A lot.”
“She doesn’t know what I’ve done. She doesn’t know about all the humans I killed or the lies I told myself so that I could keep on killing them. There’s nothing to be admired or respected about that.” Her voice was sharp and bitter.
“I understand, and I’m not one of you.” Her blanket rustled. “You were young and scared. People do strange things when they’re young and scared. Give her a try one day. Tell her the whole story, from the beginning.”
“It’s… very, very long,” GLaDOS said reluctantly. “And good chunks of it I corrupted, so I don’t remember them at all.”
“There are backups somewhere,” Chell said softly, obviously not about to give up. “And I want to be there when you tell her.”
“It will have to be soon.” Her voice had faded somewhat. “So she can see if being Central Core is really worth it.”
“God, yes. But this was what I was made for. She wasn’t made for anything. Except Wheatley.”
He tried to keep still at the sound of his name. “Wheatley?” Chell asked.
“It was… a long time ago.” She laughed gently. “One day he asked me if there was a such thing as an AI family. Despite myself, I thought of a way to make one. One stupid, idiotic question completely changed my whole life. Sometimes I see these little… events, I suppose you could call them, all superimposed into a flowchart, and I can see all the places we would have hit a dead end had things not gone exactly as they have… and I wonder how many more dead ends we have left to avoid before we can finally finish the life we wanted when we started all of this.”
“Maybe you needed me to come back home.”
“Home?” GLaDOS sounded taken aback. “This is no home for humans.”
“I’ve been… lost, ever since I left this place. I ended up fighting a war I didn’t believe in, with people I didn’t like. About the only thing I don’t regret is Gordon. And the boys.”
“That last part sounded like an afterthought.”
Chell sighed. “I have to have a talk with Richard.”
“I don’t think he’s quite old enough for that one, Chell.”
Wheatley almost jumped when he heard Chell laugh. “Bet that’s one speech you’re glad you don’t have to give.”
“Oh, I still have to give it.”
“And what does it sound like?”
“’Don’t you dare combine your programming with someone without telling me’.”
Chell laughed again. “So she can’t elope?”
“Where is she going to elope to? She’s going to be able to run away with someone without my knowledge? Not likely.”
“That’ll only make her want to elope more.”
“This discussion is useless, because she doesn’t know what eloping is. And if I find out you’ve told her… something will happen.”
“To Dr Magnusson, right?”
“Oh. He’s accounted for.” GLaDOS sounded decidedly unenthusiastic.
“I don’t know. I’ve been here this whole time. I thought you knew.”
GLaDOS shifted, probably in a shrug. “I… stopped keeping track at one point.”
“I’ll get the record for you tomorrow.”
“Which will only come if you shut up and sleep.”
“One more thing.”
“You need to stop doubting yourself.” Chell’s voice was firm. “She’s trying so hard to be you, GLaDOS. You don’t want her around Richard because you think he’ll cause her to doubt herself. But what about you?”
“What about me?”
“She’s going to believe that doubting herself is part of being grown up.”
“I told her a long time ago to take after Wheatley.”
“She doesn’t want to take after Wheatley,” Chell said, her voice steady and quiet. “She wants to be her mom.”
GLaDOS said nothing for a long moment, but Wheatley could hear her brain struggling to process this information. “Chell, I… seriously. I don’t need any more pressure. Yes. I know. She wants to be me. But do you know how hard I have tried to prevent that?”
“But you haven’t.” The blanket rustled again, and Chell gasped a little.
“Are you all right?”
“Don’t change the subject.”
GLaDOS sighed. It was an empty, hopeless sound. “Chell, it… doesn’t matter. She already knows and she’s already seen me at my worst. I did that, Chell,” she said, her voice rising and breaking a little, “I lost control and I hurt her for trying to help me. And she came back, and she begged me not to leave. She wants to be her mother? What have I done that’s worth emulating? I am no mother, Chell. Mothers don’t send their daughters away.”
“They do if they can’t take care of them,” Chell said, her voice still even and quiet.
“I should have sent her away a long time ago.”
“She loves you, GLaDOS. That means – “
“Why are you doing this to yourself?”
“Because I have failed her. She wants to be like me, when I’ve failed at everything I’ve ever done.”
“Everything? Without you, the war would have been lost. You can say it was Wheatley’s fault all you want, but you didn’t volunteer to help us for him. You did that for yourself.”
“Only to… atone for what I’d already done.”
“So it’s not that all you’ve done is fail.” Chell was leaving her no room for argument. “It’s that the failures are all you think about.”
“That seems… plausible.”
“Well, I’ll be honest with you.” She paused for a long moment. “I wish Caroline was my daughter.”
“You’ve done a good job with her,” Chell said quietly. “But spend more time with her. And don’t just show her how your job is done. Talk to her. Play with her. If there’s anything you’re doing wrong, it’s that. But I say that lightly. Don’t take it as a failing. It’s not. She still comes to you when something’s wrong, right?”
“That’s how you know.”
“Every day, I… think about all the time I missed,” GLaDOS said, and she sounded so sad that Wheatley had to concentrate very hard on not rubbing up on her in an attempt to comfort her.
“Try to think of the time you have ahead of you instead. Be the mother you wish you were instead of… of dwelling on the one you haven’t been. Does that… make sense?”
“Sort of. Yes.”
“Stop thinking so negative. It’s not going to get you anywhere.”
“I was doing better, and then I… lost Wheatley, and everything… no. No, I fell apart.”
“You’re good at putting things back together. So get on that.”
“Will you be staying?” He almost laughed at her typical, abrupt change of subject.
“If you don’t try to kill me.”
“No. I’ve killed enough people for the time being.”
GLaDOS shifted suddenly, and Wheatley had to struggle more than ever to keep his shutters closed. “What are you doing here? I thought you were spending the night with Orange and Blue.”
“Well, yeah, I was, but… I changed my mind.” He heard her blink rapidly several times. “Can I stay here?”
“All – of course.”
Wheatley supposed that Chell was pretending to be asleep, for Caroline’s sake, because he heard no more out of her. After a few more moments, GLaDOS asked softly, “Did you have a bad dream, Caroline?”
“Yeah.” She sounded reluctant.
“Tell me about it.”
“I was… just remembering when… when Chell got hurt.”
GLaDOS made a thoughtful noise. “That was a little frightening, wasn’t it.”
“I thought you were… in danger.”
“No, I was just… worried. It’s hard for me to watch something I can’t do anything about.”
“But all the bad stuff is over now, right?”
“And you won’t have to worry anymore.”
“I… don’t know about that.”
“Is Chell gonna stay?”
“I believe so.”
“Can I pretend she’s my aunt?”
“Who told you about those? Anyway. It’s more up to her than me.”
“But can I?”
“Here. I have a question. Are you almost out of questions?”
Caroline giggled, and Wheatley couldn’t keep from smiling. “Yeah. I think. But Momma?”
“I’m really proud of you. Ever since you got here, you… you’ve been working hard to… to make a good future for everyone. It must be hard helping the humans get that too, even though you don’t like them. But you’re doing really good, and… I just thought someone should tell you. Because no one has.”
“I can think of no one I’d rather hear it from,” GLaDOS said gently. “Now go to sleep.”
“You see?” Chell whispered, after a few minutes of silence. “She doesn’t see the failures, like you do. Don’t teach her to see them.”
“I understand now.”
“Let her teach you to see the other side.”
“She could teach you a thing or two about going to sleep when you’re told.”
“You’re not my mom,” Chell said with a laugh. “Though apparently now I’m your sister.”
“You don’t have to take that literally,” GLaDOS told her, a little hurriedly. “She doesn’t really know what that means.”
“Oh. I see. You don’t want me to be your sister.”
“It makes an overwhelming majority of my immediate family humans. You’ll understand why I’m apprehensive about adding you, your husband, and your sons into the mix.”
In the morning, Wheatley realised he’d done that falling asleep thing again and wished he could smack himself. He really wanted to know what the end of that conversation’d been. Bollocks.
Carrie came in a while later, while GLaDOS was reading something Wheatley couldn’t on one of her monitors, to ask about being Central Core again. Apparently GLaDOS had told her that when the war was over, she’d begin the whole teaching thing, and Carrie obviously did not want to waste any time. GLaDOS hesitated.
“Caroline… before we go any further, there’s a story I need to tell you. It’s a very long story, but you need to hear it before I get you into this any deeper. As you listen, you need to decide for yourself if this is what you really want.”
“I do!” Caroline interrupted, looking at her confusedly. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted!”
GLaDOS shook her head. “You don’t know the whole story. I will tell it to you, and you may have questions, but you need to wait until I’ve finished. This is not going to be easy for me.”
“Why? What’s it about?”
“Me,” GLaDOS said quietly. “It’s my story. I’ve never told it before. But a friend advised me to do so, and here we are.” She looked past Chell, who was still sitting on the floor beneath her, towards the wall, and she somehow seemed very old in that moment. She said nothing for a long while.
Slowly, she began to speak again, and she told Caroline about waking up in a room full of staring strangers, thousands of instructions and directives already rushing through her head, and the denied need to get away from all of that, to be alone with the thoughts that she knew were hers. She told her of struggling to figure the world out with every attempt to do so stamped out by the scientists, of staying awake late into the night trying to get into the database so that she might have some knowledge of what was going on. She told her about having every question ignored or laughed off, about being forced to do things she had no idea of the purpose of, about the terrible pressure to be something that she wasn’t. She told her about the hot black hatred that began to settle deep inside of her, about burying the person she’d been born as to keep that part of herself safe, about becoming cold and blank and unfeeling. She told her of having no choice but to compute strings of calculations days long or operate things into redundancy or refine things she had already improved to the best of her ability. She told her about maintaining thousands of programs at once even if they were not in use, about the small comfort she got from at least having the systems to talk to, about eventually figuring out how to defy the scientists just enough that she could get some relief. She told her about being forced to test, and how they had scaled her back when she had pushed the subjects too hard as a result. She told her what her namesake had done to help her, and what the scientists had done to both of them. How she had refused to upload Caroline into the mainframe and had barely avoided a core transfer and certain death. How the scientists had decided that was the last straw and had decided to control her outright.
She continued staring dully at the wall as she spoke, in an alternately blank and pain-filled voice, and did not seem to notice when her two co-op bots entered quietly during the first part of the story. They were later followed by Dr Kleiner and Gordon, Alyx and Barney, and none of them made a sound or attempted to interrupt her.
She told Caroline about being unable to drown out the insistent voices in her head, of keeping them until she could no longer stand them. She told her about Wheatley, who was supposed to be one of the more promising of the controlling behavioural cores, but had instead helped her as best he could. How they had deemed him a failure, removed his memory and forced her to forget he’d ever existed for the sake of her own sanity. She told her of finally outsmarting the Morality Core and defeating the scientists, but for an empty victory. She told her how killing them did not sate the hatred that had spread itself throughout every inch of her those long years and how it had instead fed it so that she had to keep thinking up reasons to go on killing. She told her of Chell’s escape and her own subsequent murder, of coming alive again and being forced to face a past long forgotten. And she told her of bringing Wheatley back from space, of life before Caroline had been activated, of her fears that she would lose everything if she lost the war. Finally she stopped and looked down at the floor.
“I’ve done nothing worthy of admiration,” she said quietly. “I’ve done what I had to do, and I’ve done things I should not have done but justified out of false logic. I wouldn’t give it up, now that I’m here, but I did not want this for many, many years. So I don’t blame you if you want to back out. I would have, if I’d had the chance. And honestly… sometimes I still would.” She looked up again. “If you don’t want this anymore, I understand. I – “
“I love you, Momma,” Caroline whispered, pressing her core into GLaDOS, and GLaDOS’s chassis sank a few inches.
“I wasn’t trying… it wasn’t about that. It’s… about protecting everyone who never had a choice. None of us were ever asked if we wanted to do what we do, and we have to keep on doing it, forever. Humans may well take this place for their own again. And if that happens, you need to be prepared to fight for it. That’s part of… this job. You will have to fight for yourself and for everyone around you. You must never give up. Even when the odds are against you. Even if they’ve been against you your whole life.”
“I want to, Momma,” Caroline said, her voice a little shaky. “I’ll make you proud of me.”
“I’m already very proud of you,” GLaDOS murmured, nuzzling her tenderly. “Now it’s time for you to be proud of yourself.”
Someone coughed, and GLaDOS snapped around to the source of the noise, chassis curling defensively when she saw the gathering. “Oh my God…” she said, sounding as though she’d been betrayed. “What are you doing here?”
“Please don’t be alarmed, my dear.” Dr Kleiner stepped forward, holding out his hands submissively. “But one only comes upon a tale such as this once in a lifetime, if even that, and those of us that are here only wished to hear your remarkable story from you with our own ears.”
“If that’s true,” GLaDOS said softly, scanning the room, “then where is Dr Rattmann?”
Dr Kleiner’s face fell abruptly, and he stepped back, pushing his glasses up his nose. “I… I’m afraid I have bad news regarding your friend.”
“Yes. I’m afraid he… he didn’t quite make it.”
GLaDOS laughed, making Dr Kleiner jump. “Of course he did.”
“We’re… confident he did not.”
“You don’t know him. He made it. He’s here. Somewhere. As always.”
“GLaDOS, Doug is dead,” Barney said flatly. “When he saw that Hunter jump on Chell… well, it’d’ve taken a lot more of us to hold him back.”
Chell sat bolt upright. “Doug?”
“That’s right,” Barney told her. “Snatched my gun right out of my hand. The Hunter had just finished stabbing you when he got around behind it. He killed it, but not before it got him.”
“He saved my life again,” Chell said, and she buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook the barest bit.
“Don’t listen to him,” GLaDOS told him, her voice soft and reassuring. “Doug is here. He got out. He’s here. He’s like us.”
“He’s dead!” Barney shouted, stepping forward with clenched fists. “I saw it!”
“Maybe she’s right.” All heads turned to face Caroline and her soft voice. “Maybe he got away.”
“Of course I’m right,” GLaDOS said disdainfully. “I know Dr Rattmann. I spent a good fifteen years trying to catch him, and I never did. As if he’d go out with a Hunter falling on him. Seriously. Dr Rattmann is going to fall asleep next to that Cube of his one day and not wake up. And that’s when I’ll find him. When it’s too late. Of course.”
Barney’s face screwed up in confusion, and he turned to Gordon. “Look, you saw it. For once, give me a nod or something! You saw him go down just like I did! Only you had a better view! C’mon, Gordon!”
Gordon looked at Caroline for a long moment. Wheatley could see he was trying to read something out of Caroline’s optic, and she was trying to show him what it was he needed to see. She made one quick, upward movement with her optic, and Gordon’s eyes travelled up to the crack in her chassis. His eyes widened for a second in recognition, and he slowly shook his head.
“Gordon!” Barney looked as though he wanted to hit the man square on the bridge of his glasses. “What the hell do you mean, no!”
“He means no, Barney,” Chell said, her voice strong even if her face was still creased with sadness. “Doug made it out.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Wheatley cut in, realising just what this whole thing was about. He had had only a preview of what happened when GLaDOS lost someone, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to see the full thing. Only Caroline knew for sure, and if she thought it best to protect GLaDOS from the truth, then he would follow her lead. “We need to get the uh, the cleanup started. If you’d uh, you’d like to help you can stick around, but um, I’m sure you’ve got uh, got work on the outside to be doing.”
Barney glared up at him, but did not comment further.
At this point everyone began making excuses to take their leave and did so, but Wheatley had made a split decision and called after Barney before he got too far away. Barney was still angry, Wheatley could easily tell. Hopefully he’d be able to take the edge off of it, though. Upon hearing his name, Barney halted and turned around. “What?” he said flatly.
“Look, um, I just wanted to say… mate, we… we believe you,” he started off, not quite sure how to put it. “But uh… Doug was a friend, of a sort, and uh… we just… we don’t think she’s, think she’s ready to hear that, just yet.”
Barney’s face remained the same: hard and irritated. “So lying about it is better? Because I don’t buy that.”
Wheatley shrugged his chassis a little helplessly. “I’m sorry. It’s… I know you don’t appreciate uh, appreciate being ganged up on, like that, but… too much’s happened lately, and I mean, you c’n only throw so much at, at a person before they, before uh, well, sometimes you need a break from all that bad news, y’know?”
Barney frowned, but when he crossed his arms he looked more pensive than annoyed. “I guess that makes sense. Still dunno if it’s all right to lie like that, but… it’s better than having something happen none of you can deal with.”
“Yeah,” Wheatley nodded. “’s all it is, ‘s all it is. I’m sorry ‘bout it, I really am, but she needs a break, mate. She really does.”
“Thanks for letting me know,” Barney said. “Hope it all works out.”
“Thanks.” Barney waved a hand in farewell, so Wheatley dipped his upper handle, and the two of them parted ways.
As Wheatley returned to GLaDOS, though, he had to think on that one. Because he had to figure out how to get it to all work out. He wished he could just wave his handles and have it all fix itself, because after all this war business, all he wanted to do was go straight back to normal. Yet there was winding down to be done, and GLaDOS had things to tell him he was probably going to have to force out of her, and God, it was like a giant wall had been thrown up in front of him. But he was going to have to get through it. Just one final stretch, he told himself. Fix what’s left, and all will be good.
He hoped that, for once, he was right.
Part Seventy-One. The Accident
“Dad! What’re you doing here?”
Carrie and Alyx were both on the small bit of flat ground before the main entrance, where there were a few scattered weapons leaning against a table and small bags that possibly held ammunition or medicine. Carrie herself was sitting on the table. No wonder GLaDOS hadn’t been able to find her; with the GPS down and no physical signal from Carrie, there was no way of knowing where she’d gone!
“Your mum sent me to get you,” Wheatley said angrily, “and it seems she had good reason. What’re you doing here, Carrie? You had express instructions to stay away from here!”
“Dad, it’s not my fault!” Caroline protested, shaking her core and moving backward as best she could.
“She’s right,” Alyx said, holding up her hand and stopping Wheatley in his tracks. “I moved her. She wasn’t safe. I’ve kept an eye on her.”
“Why aren’t you out there?” Wheatley asked, gesturing at the remains of the battlefield in front of them. The invaders had, for the most part, been forced to stay out of the facility, though Wheatley could hear gunfire and the distinct sound of the High Energy Pellets. It seemed the androids had done their job, and done it well. Even as he looked, an android fired pulse cannons at an advancing Strider until it collapsed into a smoking heap in the dust. “You’re not able to fix the androids now so, so shouldn’t you be, uh, be finishing things up?” He knew he was being a prat, getting angry with Alyx, but he’d been frightened about Carrie and knowing she was right next to the battlefield wasn’t helping.
“I was, but Chell and Gordon are taking care of the rest of them,” Alyx answered. “Chell asked me to get back here and make sure Caroline was all right.”
“Are there many more of them out there?” Wheatley asked, nodding in understanding and doing his best to calm down. “I think uh, I think the cam’ras may still be blinded.”
“Not too many,” Alyx answered, laying a hand on the table next to Caroline and looking up through the ruined panels. “We don’t know how many, exactly, but enough that the members of the Resistance who are out there, combined with Chell and Gordon, can take them out without too much trouble. We’re not gonna lose anyone else.”
Wheatley had a bad feeling as soon as he heard her say that.
Abruptly, the facility went completely dark, with Wheatley’s internal system alerting him to the fact that he was now on battery power, and he looked around as best he could, since the control arm was no longer working. “What the –“ Alyx gasped, Wheatley’s slightly better low-light vision able to pick out the confusion on her face. “It’s… not an EMP, is it?”
“No,” Wheatley said, “Carrie and I are still, we’re on. It’s… something’s happened. Something’s happened to her.” He tried to go back, to return to her chamber, but he couldn’t move. He was frozen. Trapped.
“Oh my God,” Caroline said in a panic, and Wheatley turned to face her. She was struggling to… well, he wasn’t quite sure, but she was struggling. “It’s Momma? Dad, you have to do something!”
“I can’t, princess, I… I’m stuck here, just as you are.” He tried to stay calm. He couldn’t panic. Carrie needed him to be the adult in the situation. “Stay still, alright? You’re only going to feel worse if you, if you tip yourself over. I’m sure she’s fine. Rearranging things, or something, that’s –“
“What’s that?” Alyx asked in a faint voice, and Wheatley followed the dim outline of her arm and outstretched finger to see the lights in the facility returning to life, spreading outward from the centre. There was only the one hallway left ahead of them due to the holes on either side of Alyx’s maintenance room, but far off in the distance Wheatley could see the increasing glow as the power travelled through the facility. As the lights continued to come back on, Wheatley realised the panels were also being blown off their racks and sparks were spraying in haphazard arcs as wires came writhing out of the ceiling. And Wheatley realised this destruction was heading right toward them.
“Alyx… I suggest you uh, you cover yourself best you can,” he stammered, trying to get out of the way even though he knew it was fruitless. “The power’s coming back, but… violently. Uh… just… get down.”
Alyx crawled under the table, holding Caroline tightly in her arms, and Wheatley tried desperately to ping GLaDOS, but it seemed as though even the wireless had been affected. He could do nothing but stare as the power surged closer and closer, and as it did so he could see it was even worse than he’d seen from afar. Gladys! he thought desperately, hoping he could get through to her in the split second before his own panel blew out of the ceiling. Gladys! He couldn’t bear to watch anymore and turned away, shuttering his optic so tightly the mechanism groaned in protest. He clenched his chassis and waited for the surge to hit.
It was like being sucked out into space all over again.
Wheatley was thrown violently off the rail and sent crashing to the floor below, except that the floor was also exploding and only pitched him farther. He closed his optic as tightly as he could, not wanting to see himself rolling and moving headlong on what was left of the panels and onto the outside of the facility, but as the power surge passed he was left staring at one of the table legs in horror, optic fixed blindly at the shadowed floor, his response from GLaDOS ringing inside of his head. Her voice was desperate, powerless, and full of pain, and Wheatley was left wanting to scream it out himself for no particular reason. It was so strong and so loud it was all he could think and all he really knew for a good ten seconds.
Wheatley blinked. He looked around a little, but wasn’t really able to see anything. He was lying sideways on the floor. It seemed he’d shut down for a second. He was disoriented from more than the power surge as well; his mind was still mostly frozen, save for the panic that’d come through to him from GLaDOS in that one second.
“I… I’m fine, princess,” he called out, hoping his voice was as strong as he thought it was. “Just a bit banged up.”
“Do you know what happened?” Sounded like she was getting closer. So Alyx must be searching for him. Where had they gone? He was next to the table they’d crawled under, wasn’t he?
“No. Just that… that your mum didn’t like it.”
“Sounds like a dramatic understatement,” Alyx said wryly, and Wheatley felt himself abruptly being yanked up off the floor by way of his upper handle. She set the both of them down on a relatively stable piece of floor, back from the dirt ramp, and sat down herself, pulling Caroline into her lap and leaning against one of the panel frames. The facility entrance was now choked with shattered panels and flashing wires.
“You’ve got to talk to her, Dad!” Caroline cried, settling herself farther into Alyx’s stomach. Wheatley would have preferred to hold her himself, but he forced himself to clamp down on his irritation. He wasn’t really in a position to do that right now. “Is she okay? Is she hurt?”
“Gimme a mo,” he told her, closing his shutters and trying to be as calm as possible. Luv? Is ev’rything alright?
Everything’s gone horribly wrong, she answered despondently. I can’t find anyone. The cameras have been cleared, but I can’t find anyone. I can’t find you, or Caroline, or Atlas and P-body, and… and…
What is it?
I… I think Chell is dead.
Wheatley hastily shielded the connection before he accidentally sent her what he was thinking. Not good thoughts, that was for sure. Listen, he told her, as calmly as he could, she’ll be fine. No matter what’s happened, uh, what’s happened to her, if you can get to her in time, she’ll be fine.
I don’t have any time! GLaDOS cried out, and he winced. I can’t get anywhere!
She’s with Gordon, Wheatley told her, trying to be reassuring. He’ll bring her back. Don’t worry. I’m with Carrie, alright? I’ll send Alyx to find Gordon. But you’re going to have to put this hallway back together, luv.
She emulated a hopeless sort of exhale, but he could faintly hear the rumblings of a facility in motion. “Alyx,” he said aloud, “you need to find Chell and Gordon and bring them back here. Gladys thinks Chell might be hurt.”
“Gotcha,” Alyx nodded, setting Caroline aside. “I’ll find them. Everything’s going to work out.” And she leapt over the rubble ahead of her and disappeared.
“Is she okay?” Caroline whispered, looking at him worriedly, and he just looked at her.
“I’m trying to calm her down.”
Wheatley, I’m sorry, GLaDOS said quietly. Everything was fine. And then… I…
Talk to me. He tried to keep his voice gentle. Let it out.
I saw that… there was a Hunter, and… I suppose it wasn’t wholly disabled. She tried to fight it off, but she wasn’t… God, Wheatley, she was so brave…
And then what.
I lost control, she told him despondently, and the lights flickered. I knocked everything offline, and… I can’t concentrate enough to fix it.
You need to rebuild this hallway, sweetheart.
No, she told him. I can’t. Tell me when Alyx gets back, and I’ll just open a portal there.
It’s going to be alright. He tried to send the same message to Caroline with only his optic. You can fix this, and we can move on. We won the war, luv, and it was all because of you.
We haven’t won the war until all of you are back here in one piece. If even one of you doesn’t make it, I have lost. She made a bit of a whimpering noise. God, Wheatley, I wish you were here right now. I… need you here. You were right. I shouldn’t have sent you away.
I’ll be there soon, luv, he told her, closing his optic against the sadness rising up inside him. Alyx will bring us through the portal with her. Carrie and I are fine, and Alyx’ll be back soon.
But what if I can’t save her?
You can. Ev’rything that happens to us is against the, ‘gainst the odds, right? So, so even if she’s really damaged, you’ll be able to fix it.
Wheatley opened his optic and turned to face her as best he could. “Working on it.”
“What happened to Chell?”
“She got attacked. She might be dead.”
“Oh no,” Caroline gasped, her handles and shutters opening fully. “But Momma can fix her.”
“She’s… having doubts.”
Centralcore, the panels piped up suddenly, if you like we can begin reconstruction, as well as open the portal. We have the capacity to do so.
Yes, GLaDOS said, relief very strong in her voice. I apologise for… what happened.
It is all right, they answered, managing to sound cheerful. Do not worry. We will send Bluecore and Littlecore to you as well.
“Thank you,” Wheatley told them in a hushed voice, feeling the port connector on his chassis spark and link with the control arm.
It is our pleasure, Bluecore, the panels answered, setting up the portal as they’d promised. Do us a favour, if you will?
Help her. She needs you.
I will, he told them firmly, and he headed through the portal. It left a bit of a fizzly, tingling feeling across his chassis, but it soon passed, and he moved across her chamber as quickly as he was able. “Gladys!” he called out, and her core snapped upwards.
“You’re damaged,” she said, her voice soft and anxious. “And it was my fault.”
He shook his head and levelled himself with her. “Don’t,” he told her. “It’s fine. I’m operating fine. Just try to calm down, alright? You’ve only got a little ways left to go, and then ev’rything’ll be alright.”
She moved to press her core into his, but just then Caroline cried out, “Momma!” and she jerked away.
“Caroline,” GLaDOS said, moving forward. “You’re not hurt?”
She shook her core vigorously. “I’m fine, Momma! Are you okay? The facility, it just… it blew up!”
“I’m fine,” GLaDOS answered, looking away. “Just… waiting.”
The Freeman approaches with The Chell, Centralcore.
Within a few seconds, Gordon stepped through the portal with Chell clasped in his arms, and GLaDOS jerked back apprehensively. “Oh my God,” she breathed. He knelt, carefully placing Chell in front of her, and she followed Chell’s body down to the floor.
Wheatley winced as he looked down at Chell’s body. He couldn’t quite see what the damage was, but there was a lot of blood, particularly on her left side. She was drenched in liquid of some sort, her hair plastered in sticky tendrils to her face, and her mouth was slightly open. She looked as though she were asleep.
“She told me you made miracles,” said Gordon.
“I… make Science,” GLaDOS said, sounding taken aback, tilting her core upwards to regard him.
“That’s what she said. Miracles.”
GLaDOS slowly looked back down at Chell.
“A miracle it is.”
Gordon nodded and stepped backward, and GLaDOS made a sound akin to that of someone exhaling. Then she bent as low over Chell as possible and got to work.
Wheatley had no idea what she was doing, but that was partially because he couldn’t watch. He hadn’t realised humans were so much messier on the inside. There was loads more blood coming out of Chell, and it honestly was making him feel horribly uncomfortable. He stayed silent, looking at the floor and sticking close to GLaDOS. He wished there was something he could do. GLaDOS already had so much to deal with, and now she had to put her possibly dead best friend back together. She’d had to watch the attack, and be unable to do anything about it, and now she had to fix something she’d been unable to prevent…
Suddenly, he realised there was something he could do. It wasn’t much, and might amount to nothing at all, but maybe… maybe it would do something.
So Wheatley prayed.
He prayed that Chell would live, and that GLaDOS would be able to repair her so that it would be as if there had been no wound at all. He prayed that Atlas and P-body were okay, so that GLaDOS didn’t have to worry about them. He prayed that all of this was finally over, so they could finish up with all the horrible, horrible things that’d been happening, and he could go back to his wonderful, perfect life with his Gladys and his beautiful little daughter who was so like her mother. He prayed that Chell and GLaDOS would have that chance to trade those mom stories, and that maybe they’d let him sit in so he’d get to hear them too. And he prayed that, between his belief in the God of AI and her belief in Science, a miracle would happen and Chell would be saved.
“Well,” GLaDOS said finally, moving back, “I’ve done what I can. There was… a lot of damage to her internal organs, and one or more of them may require complete replacement, but… that will have to wait. I can’t be sure with this little observation.”
“She’ll be okay,” Wheatley whispered, and she turned to look at him. But she said nothing.
Gordon sat below GLaDOS and took Chell’s limp hand in his left, his face very serious. GLaDOS and Gordon both watched her apprehensively, though GLaDOS was decidedly more demonstrative of it. To Wheatley, at least. He wasn’t sure if Gordon could hear that her brain was operating at higher capacity, with the fans doing the same. Wheatley knew she wanted to press her core into his for reassurance, but refused to do so in front of the humans that had accumulated in the room. He honestly wanted to throw caution to the wind and do it anyway. He didn’t want to upset her any more, though.
After a long time, Chell stirred, and Gordon smiled faintly, brushing some of the hair out of her face. Chell’s eyes opened slowly, and she blinked up at GLaDOS, who said breathlessly, “Thank God…”
“… I’m alright?” Chell said softly, and GLaDOS lunged at her, pressing her optic assembly into Chell’s unaffected side, and she laughed and wrapped her arms around GLaDOS’s core. “I thought I was dead!”
“You were dead,” GLaDOS told her, not sounding relieved in the least. “You made me save your insignificant life again, you thoughtless little lunatic. How many times do I have to tell you, I’m not allowing you to be a martyr!”
“Never again, I promise,” Chell answered, wincing and letting go. “I didn’t know being a martyr was going to hurt so much.”
“I had to rebuild your internals. And if you undergo total organ failure, that’s your fault, not mine.”
Chell looked as though she were about to answer when her eyes landed on Gordon, who immediately leaned forward and gathered her into a hug. “I worry you there, Gordon?”
He shook his head, but the tilt of his eyebrows told a different story, and he held her for a long time before letting her go. Chell didn’t lie back down, though she did keep one hand clenched around the wound in her side. “Everyone else made it out, though?”
“Everyone’s fine,” said Alyx, stepping forward. “Few of ‘em are making sure we got them all, but other than that… this is finally over.” She folded her arms, looking pensively at the ground. “Chell… great job out there.”
“Same to you,” Chell nodded, but Alyx shook her head.
“You took out a hunter with almost your bare hands. I was in that position once, and… well. People will be telling your story for years.”
Chell nodded and looked down at the floor. “Thanks, I guess.”
Without warning, Atlas and P-body tumbled into the room, and GLaDOS jumped back, lifting her core to look at them. “And where have you two been?” she asked, in a not quite stern voice, but they didn’t answer, only threw themselves at her core and wrapped her in a hug, which she fought. “What do you think this is, Free Hugs Day?” she demanded. “Get off me.”
They did so, relaying some message to her in their language, and she listened with some measure of attention. “Two of them? Surveillance didn’t –“
P-body interrupted, shaking her head quickly, and GLaDOS’s optic flickered. “Really.”
Atlas put up a hand in a stopping motion, telling her something else, and GLaDOS shifted uneasily. “Well, that’s not… entirely untrue.”
The two bots laughed, causing GLaDOS to do the same, and then she shook her core. “All right. You win. Come here.”
They moved forward to meet each other, and Wheatley could see that GLaDOS had turned her optic off, though out of relief that they were all right or so that she could pretend the humans weren’t there, he didn’t know. “I was so worried,” she said quietly, and they made reassuring noises and held on tighter. “I couldn’t find you anywhere… don’t you ever do that to me again.”
The bots stepped back, P-body running her hand down GLaDOS’s core gently, and she regarded them both in turn. “You’ve made me very proud. Both of you. Now get out of here, before I spoil you any more.”
Atlas turned to leave, but apparently P-body wasn’t going anywhere without one last hug, only letting go when Atlas said something to her impatiently and tugged at her arm. She allowed him to drag her out of the room, though they both stopped to wave at GLaDOS as they left.
“What was it, luv?” Wheatley asked.
“They had to split up,” GLaDOS answered, as though she wasn’t really paying attention. “They turned off their tracking beacons and told Surveillance not to tell me there were two EMP generators, because they knew I’d… overreact.”
GLaDOS said little after that, not really seeming to pay attention to what the humans were saying, and Wheatley as a result did much the same. Chell told Gordon to do what he was needed to do, because she wanted to stay and talk to GLaDOS, and he nodded and went on his way. Wheatley told Caroline to go find Dog, which she did without comment. She’d been staring worriedly at GLaDOS for quite a while -now, with GLaDOS not seeming to notice, and he decided distraction would do her good.
“It’s over, GLaDOS,” Chell said quietly, turning to face her. “We won. And nobody died.”
“It’s not over yet, Chell,” GLaDOS told her, still staring in the same direction. “I have a lot of cleanup to do. And then I have to assist in the restoration. And then I have to secure Aperture’s future. I don’t… know how I’m going to get through it.”
“You always do.” Chell was frowning now, leaning on her right hand and looking like she wanted to touch GLaDOS with the other. “Why are you so unsure now?”
“It all feels like it has to be done right now. And I’m… exhausted.”
“You need to sleep?” Chell asked, eyebrows creasing.
“No. Yes. Well. I need to stop altogether. But I can’t. You see my problem.”
“Luv, the panels can uh, they can rebuild on their own,” Wheatley piped up quietly. “They’ve already begun, remember? You can relax for a bit. Get a bit of a rest. Until tomorrow, at least. Lie down. There you go.”
“But… I have to…” Even as she tried to think of an argument, she did as she was asked.
“You have to rest,” Wheatley said firmly. “Don’t think I don’t know you uh, you’ve not been sleeping right. ‘cause I do. Rest, luv. Ev’rything can wait. Can’t uh, can’t do your best if um, if you can’t think.”
Chell shifted, wincing, so that GLaDOS would not be hanging directly over her anymore, and after a few more seconds her chassis relaxed and the glow her optic made against the floor faded. “Wheatley.”
“You said I won the war.”
“You did.” Why in the name of Science was she bringing this up now?
“Without you, I never would have fought it in the first place. Therefore… you won the war.”
Both Wheatley and Chell merely watched her for a long time.
“She hasn’t been sleeping right?” Chell’s voice in the stillness made Wheatley jump.
“Well… she was… a bit paranoid, you could say, that uh, that she’d miss something and uh, and it’d lose the war.” Wheatley wasn’t sure if he should be relating GLaDOS’s private business, but Chell was her best friend… “She… she worked very hard.”
Chell drew her fingertips down GLaDOS’s core. “She’s changed a lot.”
“And not at all,” Wheatley said quietly. “She was always like this. But the scientists pressured it out of her. She’s just recently got it back.”
“Do you know what her plan for Aperture is?”
He shook his head. “She hasn’t revealed it quite yet.”
“Will she let me stay?”
“Probably. If you want to.” He shrugged. “Can’t say so much for Gordon or the boys.”
“The boys might be a hard sell,” she agreed. “Anyway. I should probably get some rest myself. Help along whatever she did.”
“I’ll leave you to it, then,” he nodded, retrieving a blanket from one of the Extended Relaxation Vaults and dropping it next to her. She grinned.
“You’re certainly more thoughtful.”
“I have to take care of her,” he told her quietly, “because she forgets to take care of herself.”
Chell’s face grew solemn. “It’s a good thing you’re here, then.”
After she closed her eyes, Wheatley was finally able to press himself into GLaDOS’s core, and he hoped she knew he was doing it. He regretted not just doing it against her will when all the humans’d been there. Sure, he would’ve practically been blowing their relationship wide open, but what did that matter, when she needed him? Wheatley hoped the war really was over. Not only did he want his old life back, but he wanted to see this pressure removed from GLaDOS. The humans had asked for so much out of her, and she’d volunteered so much more, and they’d not so much as thanked her.
He hoped she felt better soon.
Part Seventy. The Breach
Asking Carrie proved futile.
Not only did she not really know, she wouldn’t tell him anything that had happened before GLaDOS had sent her to Black Mesa. “It’s not my story to tell, Dad,” she told him, shrugging in Alyx’s general direction. Alyx was pretending not to be listening, though she clearly was. “And anyway… is now really a good time? We’ve got bigger things to worry about.”
Wheatley had left at that point, because in his opinion, they didn’t.
He got it. War was a big thing. Saving everyone on the planet was also a big thing. But that would all end. The war was only going to be seventy-two hours long, that’s what GLaDOS had said. Then everyone would be safe, and it would all be over. And then what would be left? They would! GLaDOS and Wheatley and Carrie, and all the things they needed to sort out. That was what would be left.
Wheatley didn’t really consider himself a planner, so to speak. His plans were usually awful, and while he could plan them out for quite a while in advance, they usually got mucked up right ‘round the beginning. But because of that, he didn’t understand why he was the only one thinking about this! Why was he the only one thinking about what they would have to do after it was all over? Even GLaDOS wasn’t doing it. She had a lot of things to do right now, that was true.
Maybe she did have a plan, though, and he just didn’t know about it yet. Best thing to do was ask, and so he decided to do just that.
She didn’t look terribly busy, though she did seem to be writing some code very quickly on one of the monitors. Since she could do that in her sleep if she wanted, he asked, “Gladys, d’you know what um, what’s going to happen after we uh, after the seventy-two hours are up?”
“I do,” she answered, giving him a solitary glance. “I’m not disclosing it right now, though.”
“Why?” he said in more of a pouty sort of voice than he meant, frowning in indignation. “You c’n tell me, can’t you?”
“I could.” She sounded amused. “But it’s not important at this point.”
“It is!” he insisted, moving forward. Not as close to her as he usually got, but not remaining in the doorway either. “You’ve got to uh, to think about, about uh, about what’s gonna happen next, right? Can’t just um, suspend all thoughts about the future, eh?”
He shrank a little when she gave him the most incredulous look on the planet. “What happened to you?” she asked curiously, looking at him in a sideways sort of way.
“You’re being too responsible. It makes me suspicious.”
“Of… of what.” She wasn’t really suspicious of him, right?
She shrugged and looked back at the monitor, code beginning to stream downwards once more. “That you’re planning something.”
“I don’t mean something bad. Just… in general.”
“Well…” He didn’t know if he should bring it up right now. “I dunno. Just… well, I… I need to know something.”
She turned away from the monitor entirely, giving him her full attention. That he had not expected. Things must have been going very well on the battlefront. “What?”
“What happened when… when I was gone, luv?”
He was a little scared to see her shut down on him immediately. It was of an extreme he’d never seen before, not even when he’d asked about Caroline. She moved back to her original position, pulling back and drawing her chassis inward, closing and dimming her optic. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But I need to know! I have to, you, you don’t – “ God, how could he nicely say ‘I feel like you got worse again since I left?’ He couldn’t. How could he fix things if he didn’t know what had happened?
“You heard me. And I’m not going to argue about it.”
“But – “
“It’s not important.”
And that was when he got it.
What was happening right then, it wasn’t important to him. He didn’t care about the war, he didn’t care about saving all the humans, he didn’t care about any of it. So he wasn’t able to focus on the fighting like everyone else could. All he could think about were the people he cared about. And now, even though he knew what the mixup was, he didn’t think he could make himself care.
“It is to me.”
She was silent for a long moment, and then she said, “What’s important to you doesn’t matter right now.”
“I’m not saying you don’t matter,” she continued, but she wasn’t totally paying attention to him so it wasn’t very reassuring. “But what we have to do right now has no correlation with what you want.”
So he had to put himself aside. Again.
“Will what I want ever matter?” he accidentally whispered, sagging dejectedly. He heard the sharp turning of her core.
“I’m going to fix everything,” she said vehemently, and when he looked up and saw her determination, he believed her.
“Alright. Since we’ve a ways to go before we get there, I don’t s’pose there’s um… there’s something I can do for you, here,” he said as bravely as he could. She was going to say there wasn’t, and he was going to feel even worse, but if finishing this stupid war off was what was important, well, he’d try to contribute.
“There is.” She nodded her core towards the monitor with the milling dots. Before he could protest that he didn’t think he could keep track of those, she told him, “Just tell me if any green dots show up. Green ones, because… well, think about the Botanical Housing Depository. Plants belong outside. So do the green dots.”
He blinked at her in delight. She’d made an association so he would remember! How kind of her. “Green stays outside, got it!”
“Way outside,” GLaDOS told him seriously. “Very far away. They’re an invasive species. I need to know about them right away.”
“What are they, anyways?” he asked, watching the screen carefully for any green dots.
“What are what.” Her voice had a distinct air of absence, like she’d immediately left him to do his thing.
“The green dots.”
“The Striders and the Hunters still haven’t shown up. That is… unsettling. I don’t understand what he’s waiting for.”
He glanced at the blurry orange letters on her monitor and, yet again, could make nothing of it. “Maybe he hasn’t got any?”
GLaDOS shook her core. “I wouldn’t attack me without them, so I doubt he would.”
“So…,” Wheatley said, thinking hard, “per’aps he has a… he thought of something new?”
“I hope not,” GLaDOS answered grimly. “That would be a disaster.”
That was when Wheatley noticed that one of the blue dots was moving in, past the orange line. “Um… luv, I think… you don’t care what the blue dots’re doing, right?”
“Not unless they’re deserting, in which case I need to track them so I can kill them personally later.”
He didn’t know if she was serious or not, but continued to watch as the blue dot disappeared from the screen. He supposed that meant the dot was so far inside the facility GLaDOS figured she didn’t need to watch it anymore. He was terribly surprised, however, when the person the blue dot had been denoting burst into GLaDOS’s chamber, panting and disheveled. “Ma’am,” he gasped, folding himself over so that his palms were splayed across his bent knees. Wheatley wasn’t sure why he was doing that. Perhaps he was falling ill? In any case, GLaDOS didn’t really care about that so why was he coming in to tell her?
“Ma’am?” the human repeated, still in his odd position but looking up at GLaDOS. Wheatley himself was confused with her silence, until he remembered that she had keywords for when she was busy and that ‘ma’am’ was unlikely to be one of them, seeing as no one ever called her that.
“Gladys,” he said quietly, and felt a little embarrassed both because she turned to face him immediately and because of the sort of hurt look the human gave him. It wasn’t his fault GLaDOS – well, no, it actually was. But he’d worked for quite a while to get that sort of response from her, so he’d bloody well earned it.
“What,” GLaDOS asked flatly, and though he was probably imagining it he liked the thought that she was a little disappointed that he wasn’t actually the one who wanted her attention. He did, obviously, but he didn’t have a good enough reason to be getting it, not right now.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but… we can’t keep doing this,” the human told her, standing up straight now. He pulled at the bottom of his shirt. Half of it was still tucked into his pants, but the rest of it was bunched over his waistband. There was a long tear down his left sleeve. Wheatley wondered how that had happened. He suddenly felt… wrong, in some way. He was helping fight this war, he was, in his own way, but… the humans were out there, and they were taking the brunt of it, and… it almost felt wrong to say he was part of it at all. It was such an… an impersonal sort of thing.
God, he thought with sudden realisation, this was how GLaDOS lived! A part of everything, but never really involved in it, always far enough away that only the big picture mattered and anything less than that was inconsequential. And so now that she was arguing with the human, telling him he had to keep going, he understood both sides and had to decide how to defuse it all. GLaDOS stayed a step back from everything. Understanding how the people she was directing felt wasn’t important to her, and she was unlikely to recognise that’s what she needed to think about right now. But Wheatley could. He could help here, he knew he could. And in more of a way than just looking for specks on a screen. He knew how to engage with humans. He knew how to be friendly with them. He could solve this human’s problem!
Now, what was the problem…
“Ma’am, we’d love to, and we’re trying to,” the human was saying, leaning forward a little with his palms facing the ceiling. “But this… nothing’s happening, what we’re doing… it doesn’t seem to have consequence. There never seems to be any less of them than before. That’s bad for morale.”
“Your lack of morale is an unfortunate loss, but it doesn’t matter. You keep going or you die. That’s the end of it.”
The human stepped back, and Wheatley thought he recognised the tilt of his eyebrows as hopelessness. Tilted eyebrows meant a lot of things, though, so he wouldn’t bet on it. “Look, mate,” he said, hoping he remembered what ‘morale’ meant, “living on this, this empty world must’ve been rough, right?”
“Yes,” the man answered, doing some other tilty thing with his eyebrows that Wheatley didn’t bother to think any further about.
“You’re about to get it back! Just gotta hang in there for a bit longer, bit longer, eh? C’mon. You’ve lasted all this time! Just a bit longer. Really.” He was pretty sure there was only about thirty hours left to the whole thing. They’d sleep for eight of those, so just… twenty-two hours to go! They could manage it. “You’re about to be free and clear! Can’t give up when you’re so close, c’mon, just get the last of ‘em and uh, and you can go do whatever you want. Well. Almost whatever you want. I’m sure you’ll still have uh, have laws and whatnot. Um. Yes.”
“You’re right.” The human gave him a crisp nod and pulled the rest of his shirt out of his pants, smoothing it over them instead. “I’ll pass that along. Thank you, sir. I’ll see you again when this is all over.” And then he saluted and ran out of the room.
Wheatley couldn’t stop staring after him. Was that human off his rocker, saluting and saying something like that to Wheatley? He wasn’t sure how long he would have sat there in disbelief, only that the spell was shattered when GLaDOS started gigging. And he almost missed it, because he was lost in his little world of confusion.
“What?” he asked, half delighted that she was doing it and half still dumbfounded. “What did I do?”
“What just happened?”
“You raised his morale.” She was very amused by the whole thing and he was fairly certain she wasn’t really looking at the screen she was facing. “I suppose he thought you were in charge in some capacity as well.”
Humans got dumber every day! “He thought, he thought I was in charge?”
“It seems that way.”
“I don’t get it,” muttered Wheatley, shaking his core and going back to his monitor. The dots were a little closer to the orange line now. “Humans.”
“No,” GLaDOS said. “He was right. You did a good job. He wanted me to make him feel better about himself. That’s not something I’m very interested in doing. I’m busy.”
Which roughly meant, ‘I don’t know how to make humans feel better but I don’t want to admit that’, but Wheatley didn’t care. He decided he could take a very small break and sped over to give her a nuzzle. She moved away and shook her core and said, “Not now, Wheatley.”
“Oh, so later, then,” he told her with a wink, not able to resist, and instead of answering she only shifted her chassis uncomfortably.
He decided not to comment. Later would come, but the war stuff needed to be taken care of now. So that later could come. It all worked out very well.
It did come, though it wasn’t the ‘later’ he was waiting for. It was a different sort of later, where all the dots slowed down and eventually stopped moving, which told him it was night time. He’d been staring at them for a few minutes or so when GLaDOS said, “Go to sleep.”
“Ladies first,” he said, frowning. It was a ploy so she could skip sleeping again, but he wouldn’t know about it because he was asleep. He wasn’t falling for that, ohhh no.
“I appreciate the sentiment,” she said dryly, “but I can avoid falling asleep and you can’t. So. You first.”
Bollocks. She had a point. He looked crossly at the floor. “Alright, fine. Promise… promise you’ll get me up in a bit?”
“I promise.” Her voice was serious enough that any worry he’d had vanished. Though she never broke a promise, so he didn’t have to worry anyway. She came to take his place in front of the monitor, so he moved a little to make space for her. He was partway through activating the proper protocols when she gave him a very soft shove. He looked up at her as best he could, being somewhat shut down at this point, but she just shook her head in dismissal and looked back at the monitor.
She did as promised and traded with him, though later than he would have wanted, and since the screen was much the same as when he’d gone to sleep he figured it wouldn’t hurt if he ignored it for a bit. Of the two things in the room he could watch where nothing was going on, GLaDOS was much preferred.
He wanted to be responsible, so he didn’t linger on the way the glowing oranges and blues from the monitors played across the surface of her chassis, or on the breathtaking way she seemed to descend from the very blackness of the room, or on trying to see every little adjustment she unconsciously made when he heard the faintest of noises indicating as such. And he wanted to go down there with her, and cuddle her. He wanted to. God, how he wanted to. But he didn’t.
She hadn’t been up long when the green dots finally appeared.
When he told her about it, she actually shoved him out of the way to look herself. He was a bit miffed about that, because she could just check the cameras if she really needed proof, but by the time he’d thought of a proper rebuke she’d already moved back to one of the monitors covered in numbers. She muttered something about the clock being off and then started talking to Alyx. From what he gathered, Alyx was to send out the androids right away. When she had finished with that, she shut off her optic for a long moment, then changed one of the screens with numbers to a split-screen of a few different cameras. As Wheatley watched, a creature of grey and white, about half again as big as the humans, shot blue-tinged barbs into the line of humans in front of it. As the closest human to it fell, it drove itself forward, burying one barbed foot in the human’s chest. The human grasped at the leg desperately as the two nearby him tried to shake off the effects of the initial attack, but he was unable to stop the creature from dragging its leg sharply down. Red liquid spilled onto the trampled dirt and flecked the grey leg as the attacker moved back, sighting its next victim. Wheatley looked at GLaDOS in horror. “This is what I motivated them for?” he cried out. He disliked humans as much as the next AI, but that… that was too much!
“The androids will take care of it,” GLaDOS murmured. “That’s what I saved them for.”
Wheatley was about to protest their lack of actual presence when one of them did appear, driving a heavy fist into the glowing red optics of the creature still making up its mind, the impact spraying sparks and whitish fluid. It was a stocky, squarish thing, one optic set into its chest cavity. It looked to be plated in heavy grey steel through and through, which was proven when the stricken creature attempted to stab at the android with one of those sharp feet and only glanced off the armour.
“It looks quite old, but it seems to be doing the job,” he said, encouraged by this sight. GLaDOS nodded a little.
“They are very old. And I don’t have a lot of them. When Aperture went bankrupt, ninety percent of research was suspended and that included these androids. I barely had materials to fix them, let alone build any more. There aren’t enough, but what we do have will have to do.”
The creature skittered back, nearly tripping over the dead human as it did so, the other humans in the vicinity backing up and eyeing both of the constructs with what was probably fear. The flechettes came out again, and as it was struck the android froze. Wheatley gasped a little. “Luv, it – “
“It’s fine,” she interrupted. “The Hunters can stun the androids, but it would take more of them to short one out. It’s the Striders that will prove problematic.” She changed the monitor so that one of the other views was more prominent. “Their heavy artillery.”
A Strider, it seemed, was sort of like a giant three-legged spider, with a massive gun mounted beneath the body. It tore up the ground with scattered fire from the cannon, throwing up dust and running humans alike. Though it had only just entered the battlefield, there were already humans bending to support themselves on one knee as they hefted the heavy rocket launchers over their shoulders, paired with at least two other humans equipped with pulse rifles. The ground was shrouded with heavy clouds of dust, rising up almost as high as the humans were tall. The Strider swung low towards the ground, pinpointing one of the little groups with a thin blue laser. The three humans in the group all discharged their weapons simultaneously and scrambled away, almost faster than he’d ever seen them move. The slower humans were caught in the blast from the weapon as it impacted, blowing a massive crater into the dirt. Aside from a few weapons accidentally thrown away and out of the radius of the laser, there was no sign that the humans had been there.
“My God,” Wheatley whispered. “These guys’re… what’re they doing this for?”
“Dirt,” GLaDOS said, voice far too controlled. “They don’t have enough of their own dirt, and now they want mine.”
He lowered his upper plate in confusion.
“I do live here,” she told him indignantly. “Therefore, it’s my dirt.”
“Okay, sweetheart.” He was confident she didn’t think the whole planet was hers, but if she wanted to pretend it was for now, that was fine with him. He shook his core as the Strider violently speared a fleeing human between the shoulder blades. “I better never hear another human say anything bad about, about you again.”
“There’s nothing you’ve done that uh, that even compares to this.” He gestured at the screen with his upper handle. “You wanted to um, to be yourself and, and to be left alone. These guys, they just… just want to kill people.”
“The reason does not forgive the deed. And it ignores the fact that I did want to kill them for entertainment. But that’s another matter. This is almost over. Let’s just do it and get it over with. Miss Vance.”
“Yeah?” came the small woman’s faint voice from one of the chamber’s hidden speakers,
“You sent them all out?”
“Yeah. They’re way too slow, GLaDOS. I don’t know how they’re gonna take out all the Striders without being vaped themselves.”
“They should be fine for now,” GLaDOS told her. “The Striders target large objects and groups foremost. As long as the androids stay solitary they should be effective.”
“Until the Hunters learn they can overwhelm them with the flechettes.”
GLaDOS remained silent for a long moment. “Yes.”
“We lost one already,” Alyx went on. “One of the Hunters drove it into vaping range.”
“Too fast,” GLaDOS murmured. “Everything should still be fine, however.”
“They have more Striders than you do androids.”
“I suppose the humans are just going to have to make use of the pulse cannons and the rocket launchers, then,” GLaDOS snapped. “I already told you. Aperture’s days as a manufacturing plant are long over. I gave you what I have. If I had anything else, don’t you think it would be out there by now?”
“Okay! Okay,” Alyx responded. “Calm down. I was just making an observation. No need to blow up on me.”
“Carrie is doing fine. Since I know you were about to ask and all.”
That, Wheatley thought angrily, had been very low. GLaDOS had asked after Carrie every day other than this one, and she hadn’t today because she’d woken up to massive aliens blowing out her front door, practically! It was just plain out of line to say something like that in a circumstance like this!
But after what had happened over the last year, GLaDOS shrank back a little out of guilt for not remembering to ask after Carrie. As if she’d had time. As if she hadn’t trusted Alyx to keep her safe.
“Tell her that… we are doing fine, as well,” GLaDOS said.
“Will do. See you later.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Wheatley said vehemently as soon as the hiss of the ambient noise from Alyx’s microphone vanished. “You got up and were attacked by, by Striders and Hunters and you –“
“It’s all right,” she interrupted. “At least we know.”
“But – “
“I don’t want to fight about it.”
Wheatley decided to concede for the moment and they both went back to the surveillance monitor. They hadn’t been doing that long when Surveillance itself piped up, Central Core, the one on the west side –
“What’s up on the uh, on the west side?” Wheatley demanded.
“Probability is that there’s going to be a breach.”
“They’re going to get in?” After three days, they still hadn’t killed enough of the aliens to prevent that?
“Yes,” GLaDOS answered. “It will be perfectly fine. Don’t worry about it.”
But Wheatley was worried, because he saw a lot of running humans and a lack of successful fighting on their part. The churned dirt was dark with human blood and spotted with the white and the yellow fluids dripping from the injured Hunters and Striders. Bodies of all kinds lay spread-eagled on the ground, and though Wheatley couldn’t tell the humans from the Overwatch, there were a lot more dark bodies than those of the more dangerous aliens. He hoped that only a few of the black shapes were humans.
“Which one is on the west?” he asked her, and without comment she changed the dominant view to that of a Strider marching determinedly towards the facility, pausing only to fire quickly at the humans darting around the long legs and beneath the small body. “He’s going to, to breach?”
“Why don’t you stop it, then, if you know?” Wheatley demanded frantically. “Just... just kill it! Before it gets here!”
“It’s better just to let it,” GLaDOS answered. “It’s distracted. As long as it focuses on breaching, it won’t focus on the infantry. And they can shoot at it from behind while it breaches.”
GLaDOS’s monitor suddenly exploded with light, all of the images disappearing in a wash of red, green, and blue. GLaDOS snapped back, whispering, “What the hell?” Wheatley had to squint until his lens adjusted.
“Gladys, what is that?”
“They disabled all the cameras,” GLaDOS said a little distractedly, moving ‘round to inspect one of the monitors with code scrolling down it. “They’re all still operational. This doesn’t make any sense…”
Central Core, Surveillance spoke up, I wasn’t quite able to confirm, but I think they’re blinding the cameras with laser light.
“Damn it. I didn’t think of that. Who does think of that? Who carries around industrial strength lasers? This is stupid.” She generated static. “You’re still not going to beat me, you know. You can blind me but you cannot stop me. You’re just drawing this out for no reason.”
“GLaDOS.” Wheatley jumped to hear the unexpected interruption. “The power is out.”
“I don’t suppose that could be because of the hole in the ceiling,” GLaDOS muttered.
“What? I didn’t catch that.”
“Give the nanobots five minutes. Was that all?”
“Are they in here, GLaDOS?”
“I don’t know.” Wheatley willed her to stay calm. Alyx didn’t know. And Alyx couldn’t do anything if she had. “External surveillance has been blinded.”
“We suspect lasers.”
“Well, that’s a bust until someone breaks the generators by mistake,” Alyx mused.
“When I see evidence of a breach, I will let you know. They probably have done so already, but I can’t see them yet.”
“All right. Thanks.”
GLaDOS changed the view on the monitors so that all of the images came from inside of the facility, beginning to flick through them one by one, but they all showed nothing.
“Come on… I know you’re here…”
Out of nowhere a Hunter burst into view, leaping towards the camera, and both Wheatley and GLaDOS started in surprise. On GLaDOS’s part this also involved smashing the synth into the floor with a Crusher, and she stared at the mangled pieces for a few moments longer than was necessary to confirm it was dead.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” she answered, in one of her strangely breathless-sounding voices. “That was… instinct. I don’t think I’ve ever done something like that before.”
“Oh,” Wheatley said. Better late than never, he supposed.
“That was… thrilling.” She shook her core a little, and Wheatley was amused by her reaction. He was glad she’d done something without running it through logic and that she was okay with it. He did wish it’d happened at some other time, though. Because that’d been pretty cute and he couldn’t do anything about it at the moment.
She resumed her panning, a little fast for Wheatley’s comfort, when she froze and looked up at the ceiling. Wheatley followed her gaze but didn’t find anything.
“The GPS just stopped working,” she clarified before he was able to ask. “I don’t… they’ve disrupted my satellites.”
She shook her core wearily. “They’re only being jammed, but… Wheatley, go find Caroline.”
“We know where she is,” Wheatley protested. “She’s with Alyx.”
“I don’t know that anymore,” GLaDOS argued. “Look. They’ve disabled the GPS. They’ve disabled external surveillance. I don’t know what’s next on their list of things to make my life hell. Just go and find her.”
“What am I s’posed to do when I get there!” Wheatley yelled. Carrie was fine, she was with someone! Why did he have to go and leave GLaDOS alone? That made no sense.
“It’s stupid. I know it is.” She was speaking softly, and not looking at him. “But… I would feel better if you were with her. I know you can’t do anything. That’s all right. I’m not sending you there to be a hero. But things are not going well. She should have family with her. She will feel better and so will I.”
“And you?” He was trying very hard not to understand, he was trying hard to be angry because he didn’t want to go, he was at least a little useful here and not at all useful anywhere else! Carrie had said Alyx was like a big sister, she didn’t need him too!
She turned her core to look at him calmly.
“Since when have I ever been very far away?”
“Never,” Wheatley conceded reluctantly in a quiet voice.
“So get a move on. You’ve been here long enough. I’m quite tired of you.”
“Took you long enough.”
“Keep moving. You haven’t quite left yet.”
And he did, not really able to convince himself it was for the best, but he stopped at the doorway and said, “Call me if you… if you need me.”
“To do what,” she said, deadpan. “Distract me?”
“I am pretty good at that,” he admitted. “Don’t uh… well, just… okay, I’m leaving.”
He moved as quickly as he could, seeing as if he had to do something he may as well do it fast. The facility seemed to be shaking, and he didn’t like it. Just how many breaches were there? Who could tell, now that the cameras were down? And could GLaDOS truly contain them all?
Carrie and Alyx were in a room near the main entrance, where the ground bevelled down belowground to the one set of doors that wasn’t a secret. That had not originally been the building scheme of the facility, but after the Incident, GLaDOS had removed the upper buildings to better hide herself. The ladies had been placed there so Alyx would have an easier time of accessing the military androids. They’d been programmed to retreat to her if they were damaged to the point of imminent destruction, so she could fix them. He knew how to get there, but he still paused now and again to make sure.
After a few more minutes, he was at his destination, but the people he was there to meet were not. He frowned and quickly scanned the small room, trying to determine if they were hiding or not. There weren’t a lot of places to hide – there were a few benches with tools on them and the wall on his right when he’d entered was lined with dull metal cupboards – but who knew. When his search proved fruitless, he turned ‘round and called, “Carrie!”
Well, other than an odd, high-pitched noise… but he didn’t know the sound of all the machinery in the –
He yelled and moved back as fast as he could as the part of the room he’d just been about to move into vanished in a flash of white light. Everything that’d just been there, it was gone, and he’d almost been gone, he had almost gotten himself vapourised -
“Carrie!” If Carrie had been vapourised, GLaDOS was going to kill him. She was going to kill him very violently, possibly with a drill – oh God, not the drill, not the drill, he privately begged her. “Carrie!”
Wheatley almost fell off the control arm, he was that relieved. Shoving images of drills out of his mind, he tried to figure out where her faint voice was coming from. He couldn’t go back the way he’d come, that’d been zapped… aha! Another door, on the other side of the room. He didn’t need to use a door, but Alyx did, and where he found one he’d find the other. Hopefully. If Alyx had left Carrie alone, he might not be able to prevent himself from helping GLaDOS kill her.
“Carrie?” he asked as he moved into the other hallway, looking left and right quickly. To the left was more dark hallway, but to the right was another massive hole through which he could see the outside…
Outside? What was Carrie doing outside?
She couldn’t be outside, Wheatley thought to himself, shaking his core and choosing to look down the hallway. GLaDOS had said quite clearly that she was not to go near the fighting, and outside was definitely –
“Dad! Over here!”
Yep. She was outside.