|The God in the Machine
Author: Twistanturnu PM
Caroline and Douglas' lives have revolved around Aperture for as long as they can remember. Their attempts to cope within the facility and protect both themselves and their loved ones will shape Aperture's future - and seal their own fates.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi - D. Rattmann & Caroline - Chapters: 30 - Words: 57,120 - Reviews: 26 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 20 - Updated: 01-25-13 - Published: 05-07-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8094101
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Nobody Else Left
Doug thanked his luck that it was midday as he entered the cafeteria and saw Wheatley sitting at one of the tables.
"Mr. Pendleton, do you have a moment?" he asked as he reached him.
Wheatley looked up from his cup of tea, guilt etched across his face.
Doug opened his mouth, but Wheatley interrupted before he could say a word.
"I'm really sorry, by the way. About the thing with Miss Rand. I don't know what I was thinking, it was mad. It's not like the guards where being even remotely threatening! They were just standing there! Sincerely, I'm sorry."
"Yes, yes, it's fine. I need…"
"I haven't stopped thinking about it! Actually, sometimes I do stop, but then I start thinking about it again and it's even worse. I'll be doing something, then I think of it and I'm like 'rrrrr, why did I do that?'"
"Sorry, what were you saying?"
"I need you to help me find a test chamber. It might have been put off-limits temporarily, you see. I've clean forgotten where it is."
"Off-limits? Um, Mr. Fane told us we should stay away from chambers one to seven in shaft ten, new section. There's some sort of fault with the panels, they're knocking people out like flies. Unless you were talking about all those vitrified tests?"
"No, actually. Why would I… Never mind. Chambers one to seven, then? Thanks."
Doug walked back out, planning to get out of sight before he made a run for the chambers. He had wasted too much time already, and was desperately hoping that Caroline had gotten out by now.
"Hey, hold on!"
Doug dug his fingernails into his palms as Wheatley jogged up alongside him.
"This wouldn't be about Chell, would it?" he asked quietly.
"It has nothing to do with her. Please, I'm very busy."
"You're not helping them hurt her, are you? Oh, then again maybe you're going to rescue her - yes, that's it. I can tell by your face. All determination. Man on a mission."
Doug ignored him and continued, although he had only a faint idea of where shaft ten was located. Wheatley stepped ahead of him.
"Look, I know what I said is probably going to result in something rather nasty. Rather acutely aware of it, in fact. If that something is already happening, I want to help you stop it."
"What if the guards find you and decide to actually use some force to get information from you?"
"I didn't have time to register how serious it was! Come on, I promise I won't say anything to anyone. It'll be easier for me to stay quiet if I know someone else is in really bad trouble."
"…You can accompany me. And that's simply because I have no idea where to find the chamber she's in."
"She's in a chamber? Chell or Miss Rand?"
"Chell. They've surrounded her with turrets in the hopes Rand will be scared into agreeing to the brain-mapping."
"So we'll be getting rid of the turrets?"
"Well, I was hoping to let Chell out too."
"'Course! Here, shaft ten's control centre isn't far away, I'll show you."
"What do they do in this place?" said Doug, his voice low. Wheatley had led him to a vast open room, poorly lit and made from an ugly grey rock unfamiliar to the scientist. Despite its relatively recent construction, thick black stains had managed to infiltrate the area, creeping down the walls like shadows of ivy.
"Well, the place where they control the chambers in shaft ten is over there," Wheatley said, pointing to a cantilevered protrusion halfway up the wall. It looked somewhat unnerving, precariously hanging there. Through the windows on the side - the light pouring through these was the only thing illuminating the place - Doug could see the top of someone's head silhouetted against the peeling yellow wallpaper of the room inside.
"I see. What's the rest of this place for?"
"Um, keeping the control room in?"
"Never mind. Wait here," Doug said, as he scaled the unstable metal stairs which led to the control centre. He jiggled the door-handle and, finding it locked, knocked on the window, doing so lightly so as not to betray his agitation. Through the glass, he saw Mr. Fane wheeling his chair away from his desk and squinting at him from across the room. A look of relief passed over his face, and he opened the door, holding out an arm.
"Just you, Rattmann? Shouldn't you be preparing for the brain mapping? I'm on edge as it is, without you popping up and scaring the hell out of me."
"You're alone?" Doug asked, glancing at the cabinets which lined the walls.
"Yes, and not happy about it, either. 'Lock the door,' they said, 'that'll keep 'em out.' Yeah, like no-one's ever heard of breaking a door down. The least they could have done is post a few guards, but no - apparently that would arose suspicion! Never heard of beating the hell out of intruders either, I suppose."
"Madness," Doug said idly, eyes passing over the live feed from Chell's chamber.
"So, what do you want?" Fane asked.
"Oh, right. I don't suppose you know if they have Rand yet?"
"As far as I know, no. They've clogged up all the phones bar this one and about five others, haven't they? Impossible to keep track of everyone! More trouble then it's worth; it's not like Rand knows what's happening. And as soon as she does find out, she won't be able to get to a phone anyway. Common sense, that's all it takes."
"Ah, alright," Doug said, moving over to the cabinets. A few thick plastic folders had been dumped carelessly into the cracks between them, and he picked up the heftiest-looking one.
"I was also wondering if the turrets are the only thing we're using on Chell."
"No, Tremblay's got some neurotoxin dispensers behind the panels," Fane said. "If the turrets don't scare Rand, he'll give me a signal to turn them on."
Fane turned to the screen, arms folded.
"A charade, really. No organization."
"It's a disgrace, isn't it?" Doug said as he brought the spine of the folder down onto Fane's skull. The man fell forward over the table before sliding to the floor, dragging a keyboard and cup down with him. Doug propped Fane's limp body up in the corner before leaning out the doorway.
"Come up, Pendleton!" he said. Wheatley started up the stairs.
"What happened?" He looked into the room, jaw dropping at the sight of blood running through Fane's wispy hair and staining his pale face. Doug glanced at the unconscious man, a feeling of queasiness starting to rise in his stomach. Normally, the sight of blood wouldn't faze him; a scientist can't afford to be squeamish. But this was different - he was the cause of the injury.
"I know it looks bad, but we can sort him out later," Doug said, refusing to be swayed.
"Y-You're sure? He might have some massive brain damage by now!"
"I didn't hit him that hard. I know... I didn't intend... Sorry, I... Look, we need to do this now. How do we manipulate the chamber?"
Wheatley pushed past Doug and pulled the keyboard up, his face as stiff and gray as a statue. A small box popped up on the screen, requesting a password.
"Ack, problem," he said, taking a step back.
Doug placed a hand over the keys. A few years ago, during a visit to Cave's house, he had found a strip of paper with 'Tier 3' in barcode buried inside a chest of draws. The following days, after deciphering it and experimentally typing it into one of the office machines, he had discovered it was Cave's password, one that gave him access to otherwise restricted information and let him pass through any barrier. Doug had gleefully started using it to track his uncle's activities.
Doug typed out the phrase with some trepidation. After all, it was possible that Tremblay was aware of the all-powerful code and, in the fear that Caroline knew of it, taken measures to block it.
He entered it and bit his tongue, feeling his heart leap as the computer accepted it.
"What was that, then?" Wheatley asked, as he resumed his work.
"Nothing. Can we hurry?" he said impatiently.
"Sure, sure." For a minute, he worked in silence. "Panels, they're the hardest thing to move. Lots of safety things to do, making sure no-one gets mashed up. I'll be done in a second. Seriously, I do know what I'm doing. You know when the password thing came up and I said it was a problem? Never was, really. I'm quite a dab hand at hacking, we would have managed and… Oh, there we go."
The screen was now displaying a three-dimensional view of the chamber, with details on the machinery's inner workings surrounding it. Doug could see where tubes had been connected to the wall behind the panels, and guessed they were the inlet for the neurotoxin. In the left corner was the image from the chamber's camera; Chell was continuing her examination of the room.
"Right, what are we going to do?" Wheatley asked.
"Can you contact Chell?"
He nodded and, reaching beneath the desk, flicked a few switches. He pulled out a microphone concealed behind the computer, which Doug had not previously noted.
"Take it away," Wheatley said, edging the microphone towards Doug.
On the screen, they saw Chell's head snap up.
"Mr. Pendleton, is that you?" she said, excitement evident in her voice.
"Yup! Don't worry; we're going to get you out of there! Hopefully. No, forget I said that; definitely!" he said, cheerful once again. Doug leaned forward and snatched the microphone away.
"Chell, are you alright?"
"Fine, sir. A bit bored, though. By the way, I don't think your turrets are working."
Doug paused, debating whether or not to alert her to the situation.
"We'll send someone to inspect the construction line later," he said finally, deciding to leave her in the dark. Keeping her calm was important; she didn't suspect anything was amiss, and it would be easier if it stayed that way. His experience with Rand had also taught him that dealing with distraught women was no easy task. He indicated to Wheatley to turn off the microphone, which he did.
"Pendleton, can you open the doors?"
"There aren't any doors, just a big old box. From what I can see, the lift to the next chamber is non-existent. If there is a room right next to the chamber, we might be able to move the panels aside, let her squeeze through. That might take a while, though. That or let her back into the testing track she came from."
"First we should clear the chamber of danger, in case Tremblay manages to find Rand. Then we can get her out."
He flicked the microphone back on.
"Now, we're going to get rid of these turrets first," he said, trying to imitate the calming tone of a public service announcer.
"I don't think they're really all that dangerous," Chell said, with a hint of sulkiness. Doug sighed, hoping the robots' sweet words hadn't won her over.
"If they really are broken, we can't be too sure. Don't want them to suddenly open fire, do we? Pendleton, could we crush them with the panels?"
"Probably, but you'll have to answer to the company."
"Get on it. Make Chell a barricade with the panels; we don't want any shrapnel hitting her. And the neurotoxin…"
"No problem. The panels in front of the tubes are all loose right now, so I'll just tighten them, make a toxin-lock."
"Right. Handle that, and then try to let her out. I'm going to shaft ten."
"What? But what if someone comes to check on him?" he said, pointing to Fane.
Doug gestured to the folder with which he had knocked him out.
"I - I can't wallop people!" Wheatley said.
"What's going on? You've gone muffled," Chell said.
"Nothing!" Wheatley said, hurriedly turning off the microphone. He swiveled back.
"Okay, give me the folder. I can do this. Maybe no one will even come, right?"
"We can hope."
Doug gave him the heavy papers and stepped back out onto the catwalk.
"Which way is it, again?" Doug asked.
"Turn left when you leave this place, straight ahead at the four-way branch. After that there a few signs. On the walls. Yep. What are you going to do?"
"I want to be nearby when you get Chell out. We'll have to leave, fast."
"Got it, I'll get to work. I promise I won't mess it up."
Doug nodded and left. After he had travelled a few yards, he felt a hint of doubt, wondering if it had been a wise decision to leave Wheatley at the controls. Without faltering, however, he continued towards the chambers. It was Wheatley's job to manage chambers, and besides, it would take too long to return. Caroline's face had held a look of determination as she had departed, and he couldn't shake the nagging feeling that she had plans of her own.
"Alea iacta est," he said.