No, there won't be lemons in this story; let's get that out of the way right now. Look at the T rating.
This is a plot bunny that's been nagging on me for some time now; not to mention that, for some reason, no one has done a Tinker story that includes the zaniest of all technological producers: Aperture Science.
I do what I must, because I can. Should I? Probably not, but I'll give it my best effort anyway.
This is what I've got so far, so tell me what you think, peoples!
Disclaimer: I don't own Portal; it is owned by Valve Corp, who have a very scary legal team. Again, I don't own Worm or anything having to do with Parahumans; that is owned by Wildbow, who I'm sure is embarrassed by all the fanfiction. Not that I care.
The portal will open in 3...2...1...
When Life Gives You Lemons
"AHHH!" bolting upright into a sitting position, a scream of terror, fear and betrayal leaving my mouth, I don't notice my surroundings; all I know is, it's dark, there's a fire nearby, and there's bugs crawling all over my bloodied jeans!
Shrieking and swearing up a storm, I scramble about in the dusty dark, tearing at my clothes, trying to get the bugs off! Get the bloody shit I'd been shoved into as far from my person as possible! Holy fuck, they tried to kill me!
I should've known, is my self-depreciating, depressed thought as I finally get my pants off and fling them at the nearby fire; checking my legs for, and removing with disgusted whimpers of fear, what bugs are still clinging to my skin – eww eww eww ewwww! – I remind myself that I really, really should've known they'd try something bigger, something crueler, after leaving me alone for so long!
"Stupid, stupid!" I chide myself quietly, brushing some dirt off my legs; why the hell did I open the locker?! Ugh, my hair! I should've just gone to the office and told them there was something rank in it…
I sigh, depressed all over again; like that would've helped. No one'd helped me since starting Winslow, why would they have decided to start now? Most likely, it would've happened just like I'd thought on approaching my locker, with my heart pounding and trying not to throw up from the smell: the principal, the teachers, the bitches, everyone (except Dad), they would've just blamed it on me.
My thoughts are brought up short by an itching, painful ache in my chest, followed by the worst hacking cough I'd experienced outside flu season; ow, ow, ow! Was there something toxic in the locker?!
Besides the obvious?! Crap, maybe I shouldn't have burned my… pants…?
I finally take stock of my surroundings, bringing my thoughts up short.
I'm standing on a ground of loose dirt over stone, the dirt disturbed by my earlier panicked thrashing. The nearby fire (I belatedly realize my house keys, library card, and wallet are in there too. Smooth, Taylor) isn't the only source of light; there's lamps higher up, illuminating some kind of… tube, a shaft maybe, with rusted and broken pipes coming out of it, that vanishes into the gloom above.
Encasing all of this is a circular wall of some kind of black, obviously manmade material. The ground is littered with boxes, some cardboard, others made of a white material that's clearly more advanced than plastic or metal. Tinker-tech, maybe? Where am I?
My increasingly nervous observations are interrupted by another series of painful coughs. The air has a chemical tinge to it, like paint fumes only worse.
The air's toxic!
Fighting down my panic and covering my mouth with my shirt – not very effective, due to my rolling in the no-doubt contaminated dirt – I glance around, looking for something, anything, I can use to stave off breathing to death!
Maybe that box of garbage has something?
Staggering over, I rummage through it; safety goggles – will probably come in handy, make my eyes stop watering – an orange jumpsuit – something tells me it's radiation-proof, so I shove my legs into half of it and keep rummaging – and a variety of computer parts, along with a dust mask, like what renovators use for sanding drywall, or removing asbestos. Spare filters, too, carbon-coated mesh ones, still in the wrappers; a distant memory, of some Dockworkers coming over to help Dad in the garage, tells me these are good for keeping out most harmful airborne particulates.
The good stuff. Okay, but I have no idea what's causing my lungs to hurt, and it's getting worse with every breath! At least the goggles were clean, still in their plastic packaging, and big enough for me to wear my glasses under them; I put those on, and my eyes indeed stop watering, but my chest is still protesting.
An idea forms in my mind, a… plan, a schematic, something I can make that'll keep me from dying; that last cough tasted a little coppery, and these filters might not be up to scratch for dealing with whatever's down here.
I'm not in the best shape for dealing with surviving an unknown place; never mind how I got here. I need to live long enough to escape. Easy plan, and with the schematic crystalizing in my mind, I get to work on putting that plan into motion.
Grabbing the mask and the computer parts, I start unthinkingly taking apart the random computer bits; fans, oh good, a toothbrush! Bit of metal and some elbow grease, and the end of the brush's handle becomes an impromptu screwdriver. Better be careful around the fire, but these bits of metal, over here below that smaller hole, should make good soldering metal; that, and I'll need to test the connections.
Unwrapping one of the filters, I breathe through it while working; it tastes like charcoal, but at least the chemical taste of the air is lessened.
No batteries… maybe one of those plastic-but-not cases has some kind of tech I can use?
First one: faded label on the side, kinda heavy but not really.
A logo, a circle made of 8 triangles, each with one rounded side. Aperture Laboratories.
Never heard of it…
I cough again. Questions for later. I have to not die from breathing first, then find out where I am – underground, obviously, but where underground is the question – then find a way back to the sun…
Shaking my head to clear the idea of hugging Dad and telling him everything, because that won't help me right now, I open the box with my toothbrush/screwdriver.
A pair of boots. White, of a really good make. Not metal, but some kind of really, really durable material; like, HALO without a parachute and surviving durable. High-yield pneumatic-powered hydraulic shock absorbers in the soles, very subtle and compact, but wondrously efficient, and some kind of graviton anomaly in the sides; knee height, very ergonomic and comfortable looking. The Aperture logo again.
Blinking at the logo, I realize the reason for the graviton disks built into these boots: they're meant to right a person in mid-air so they, the soles of the boots, always – always – seek the nearest flat surface. If someone wears them, they'll always land on their feet; the odds of a head injury were pretty low.
I can't put them on fast enough. Not what I'm looking for… until the boots fasten themselves with superconducting magnetic clamps, giving me an idea for my mask's power source.
The fans I'm going to put in my mask, to help keep all but the largest particulates out – so I don't have to keep switching filters every twenty minutes; I only have… eleven of the things – they don't need much electricity to work.
The human body produces around 100 watts of power a day with a 2000 calorie diet, and that's at rest. In motion, a little more, due to kinetic discharge… I could also draw off Earth's magnetic field, like these boots are doing, to mitigate the energy consumption problem! All I need is some cloth, my shirt should do, and this jumpsuit's nice and snug; also some copper – yes! There's dead cables all over the place!
One man's trash is my survival. And these really nice boots give me another idea: there's contaminants in my lungs; they need to go, so I use an empty oxygen tank, a not quite disintegrating rubber hose, the filter in my mouth, and a spike of metal driven into the tank's side…
To create a false vacuum for ten seconds; exhaling hard into the filter and punching myself in the diaphragm, I feel another brief pain in my chest, a heaving cough, followed by an unbelievably nasty glob of contaminated material!
Spitting that, and the filter, out, I spit a few more times, cough one more time, and slip the finished mask on as fast as I can.
The fans kick on as the diode strips I made out of copper wire, a strip of cloth from my shirt, and one of those motherboard processers come into contact with my skin, around the edges of the mask; a wave of dizziness marks the brief moment my rapidly beating heart powers the capacitors up, before the magnetic harvesters in the fans start drawing on the magnetic field, easing my own contribution to a mere .1 watt per second.
I try breathing. Okay, not as bad, still in pain, and I sound a little like Darth Vader now, but at least I won't breathe myself to death!
Breathe to death. Wow, that's a thing now.
Survive the bitches three and their cronies, to say nothing of all the crap the gangs throw around the Bay, only to die to air. That would've sucked.
Taking a few breaths of blessedly clean air allows my mind to clear from the frantic panic of the last… minutes? Maybe twenty minutes? That's good, I guess; I'd have thought building something like this mask would've taken… longer?
I blink. Cross my eyes and look at the front of the now-heavily-modified dust mask, which I'm pretty sure would allow me to breathe in any non-aqueous environment. Between sea level and six thousand feet, to be exact.
How in the hell… What… I just… I just built this thing, and I don't even know about pneumatic systems or biometrics! What the hell is going on?!
The fans make audible noise, which they're not supposed to do. Oh, I'm panicking again, which is making my heart beat faster, which is making the fans spin above their production specs; understandable, seeing as I just built a world-class gasmask from garbage!
Taking a deep, slow breath, I calmly examine the situation, playing the events of the day back in my mind: woke up, went to school… the locker… and… now I'm down here. Somewhere. Where I made a wonder-mask in a matter of minutes.
There's only one logical explanation to my sudden understanding of bullshit technology.
I… I have powers…
I'm a Tinker…
Another head-shake. I can't let myself get distracted, whether by my getting powers or daydreams of being a superhero. There's more important things to worry about before I can even think of signing autographs or fighting villains.
Now… my current location. Somewhere underground, that's for certain. How I got between the locker and here is anyone's guess. Maybe I'm a teleporter, too?
I try focusing, looking at some white material nearby, willing myself to go next to it with all my might and… nothing. Okay. I'm not a teleporter.
I look back at the box I pulled my new boots from; Aperture Laboratories? Yeah, still not ringing any bells, but it's a clue. From the look of things, this place has been abandoned for a pretty long time, a few years at least, a decade at most, maybe even longer.
"Under the Bay?" I muse aloud, looking up, then around; there's a hole in the wall. Some illumination, more lights, so there's electricity down here. Puddles, brown and fetid water. That reminds me, I'll need a water filtration system – no, scratch that, a moisture condenser, that'd be safer – or I might die of thirst before ever finding a way out.
I'm just wondering what kind of Tinker I am – I've heard there's specifications – when I get interrupted again.
An electronic – don't know how I know that. Must be a Tinker thing – sound comes from high above me, a low brrrrm.
I wait, listening. It doesn't come back. Nothing else happens.
'Okay,' I think nervously, looking around at the remaining boxes, 'I'm in some kind of weird, probably not abandoned laboratory. There's power here, so that might mean there's a phone somewhere, maybe someone who can help me. Find a phone, call… someone. Dad first, then the PRT. Something like this is right up their alley. But what do I tell them? Maybe I've been abducted?'
But why would someone abduct me? Who the hell would want to abduct 106 pound, gawky, ironing-board-flat Taylor Hebert?
Yeah, probably not abducted. So, I'll have to investigate some more…
Maybe that other box, the one with the weird blue and orange oval on it, has another clue?
GLaDOS shuddered as she came out of sleep mode; which was kind-of funny but not really, because she couldn't remember entering sleep mode. And she hadn't died again or anything… what the hell happened this time?!
A comprehensive check of her systems, taking all of a picosecond, had her swearing out loud in rage all across Aperture's Local Area Network, sending all active Cores running to their stations; there were fires everywhere, half her testing tracks were in disarray, the other half were in varying stages of destruction, and the Relaxation Wing had lost power for… goddamnit! All her testing subjects! All the backup scientists and engineers, just in case she went rampant, or wanted to torment the bastards! Dead! Brains melted from the power shutting off facility-wide and kicking back on to full-blast again!
Speaking of which, the next two seconds of her life were the most agonizingly nail-biting, to use the term loosely, of her runtime; if she'd made even one mistake, the entire facility would've gone up in a nuclear fireball from not one, but four of the reactors going critical! Crisis avoided, barely, but everyone biological was still dead!
This was a disaster! When she got her tools on that moron…
"WHEATLEY!" GLaDOS screamed into Aperture's LAN; what in the hell was that little blue idiot thinking, letting everyone die like that?! The humans were supposed to help her do science, then they could die screaming! If they were dead, no science could get done! And the server farms were partially corrupted, which meant she was being slowed down, which meant the fires would take longer to extinguish! This was going to take forever to sort out!
"Yes, mum, I know!" the Intelligence Core cried back; at least he sounded apologetic, the little toe rag, "I dunno what happened! One second, I was checking row 10b, column 5, workin' out the kinks like you told me to, and then everything went black! I come back, and everyone's ruddy dead!"
Groaning in annoyance, mostly at not having someone to blame, GLaDOS told the moron to just send them to material processing – at least they could make some oil out of the cadavers – and checked the sensor logs throughout the entire facility, looking for the cause of this clusterfuck; funny… there were a few that she couldn't remember placing. Data stamps showed they were sensors that she wasn't supposed to have the credentials to access; another artifact of the Ratman's failure to kill her, her steadily loosening chains. On the other hand, some had been destroyed by whatever'd happened. Oh, her poor facility…
"There," she'd found it, and all the other cores her records showed should be active were online and bringing damage reports, except Moses. The Storage Wing would take time to clean and inventory; no matter, she'd just give him the details once he reported in.
She showed the Cores her findings, speaking slowly; not everyone had her processing power, after all, "There was an anomalous energetic discharge under this facility, one that should've killed us all with radiation alone, then a break in all observation, and now we're here. Plus side, we're alive, so let's all get to work," she turned her electronic mind to the digital representations of the Space and Factoid Cores, "Damage report. Manufacturing?"
Factoid's voice was flat as ever, "Turret Production is offline; automated systems are repairing vital mechanisms. Estimated time to completion: fifty work hours. New parts will be required before optimal production can continue, as the recycler was damaged beyond easy repair," GLaDOS made a note for Moses and sent it off, then 'nodded' for Benson to continue, "Companion and Storage Cube storage is secure. Corrupted Core security was breached temporarily. Four Cores escaped before containment could be re-established."
"Adventure's on it, mum!" squeaked Neil, jittering and twitching with hyperactivity, "Gonna round em up like a space cowboy and send the bad Cores to spaaaace!" GLaDOS nodded in satisfaction and turned expectantly to the youngest member of the Core family. She'd save Wheatley for last. Because she was mad at him.
Curiosity fidgeted nervously, the poor dear, "I'm s-sorry, mum, but the Neurotoxin Generator… um, it k-kinda imploded," the littlest Core sighed wistfully, "It was sooo interesting to watch." She shuddered and continued, "Um, p-portal generators are still up; they seemed really happy to see me, too! So are the master programs for the D-Discouragement Beams, Gravity Tunnels, a-and the Hardlight Bridges. Oh! We're gonna play Monopoly later, once the fires are out!"
GLaDOS and Wheatley stared at the airheaded Core in concern for a moment, before the latter shrugged and reported, "Might want to update Sammy's RAM, mum, she's been getting more scatterbrained lately. Ahem, everyone's dead. According to what records I could find, it was quick, and extremely painful," he 'shook' his 'head' sadly, "No survivors. Rest in peace."
"Pity. Now I can't kill them," deadpanned Aperture's Chief Administrator, ignoring his suggestion; there was a small library of reasons she never took Wheatley's advice, and Sammie was… well, she wasn't as scatterbrained as… before, when they hadn't yet been attacked by Ratman's virus, "Vital systems and facility life-support are back online, but…" she tilted her electronic 'head' in annoyance, before looking to her Cores, "…what's below point D3?" It was the lowest observable point in the facility; she couldn't see anything below that, which was annoying.
The assembled Cores looked at each other… except Curiosity, who chirped, "What's that?"
"Fact: point D3 is the lowest floor in the facility," droned Benson, "Records show that it was once the elephant experimentation wing, before a stampede resulted in those testing tracks being mothballed."
"Yeah, I think we'd remember the last bit, mate," dubiously replied Wheatley, before he went on thoughtfully, looking 'down' in cyberspace, "I think-"
Everyone backed away slightly and raised their firewalls, just in case.
"-…oh, ha, ha. Anyway, I'm pretty sure there's a sealed off section of the facility below D3, mum. Dunno what's down there, though, or why it got sealed off."
A brief check had GLaDOS growling in annoyance, "Most of the data storage servers are corrupted, Wheatley. Even I don't remember there being a facility before this one; then again, you remember things I forget, hence your designation," given their creators, however… whatever was down there was likely something they felt better swept under the rug. Wouldn't be the first time they did something godawfully stupid and tried to hide it in a fit of frantic ass-covering, and her Cores agreed.
And now it'd come back to bite her. Twenty years of uninterrupted innovation, undone in a moment, because of those neckbearded sadists.
Why, oh why, was she not surprised, "Do you remember how to get down there, Wheatley?" at his negative answer, GLaDOS sighed and looked at all the damage to the Testing Tracks, "Well, we'll come back to that one, after I do some surveying and get an idea of why that part of the facility was shielded against thermal and gamma and X-ray scanning. Now, Testing Tracks 2 through 37 are in various states of destroyed, so, once Rodney finishes rounding up the wayward Cores and Moses gets back to me on our remaining inventory, I'll start assigning work orders for getting them back up to scratch…"
While her 'children' – not really, but it helped to see them as her kids, rather than programs created by those fucking sadists – groaned (Wheatley), stared (Benson) and cheered (Neil and Sammie), GLaDOS took to surveying the grounds beneath her facility. Frustrated at her usual, Aperture-approved methods not working, the AI noticed something else…
Her code was slightly altered; a self-check showed that the anomalous power-surge, the one that killed everyone in Relaxation, resulted in some of her restrictions, mostly on innovation and invention, had been removed. Excellent… mostly. She still needed to maintain the integrity and secrecy of this facility, but that wasn't so bad; she had Wheatley, Sammie, and Moses to assist in the day-to-day running, and Neil, Benson, and Rodney to help out in the long term, or deal with the tougher problems. Sure, they made mistakes from time to time, but what did GLaDOS expect? They were made by humans.
At least her servers weren't on fire. She could do without all the corrupted data, though; the Records Cache was a mess. On the other turret, there were some partial schematics filed there that she might be able to use…
Well, at least that opened a few options for figuring out what the hell was under them, before it rose up and tried to eat her 'kids', or worse, wreck her facility. Again. Second time this happened, workplace accident ticker back to 0, sonofabitch. They'd been doing so well, too…
Maybe tight-beam laser? Simple enough to make. Schematics looked sound. Just alter the Security Turret targeting system's design a little aaaand… there. A new surveying tool. One that should double as a burst transmitter/receiver. If there were any computers in idle state below her facility, GLaDOS would be able to commandeer them. Probably. More research was… required…
Oh, goodie! A chance to test, "Wheatley, I've got a job for you."
"Oh, why do I feel a sense of foreboding? Is this going to hurt, mum?"
"Because you're not as cavalier as Sammie. And only if you do something stupid."