Test Chamber 19
"I wonder what we'll be put through in the next test," Chell mused as the elevator rose. "I suppose there's no point in hoping there won't be any turrets or disgusting water." The elevator reached its destination and the doors whirred open. "Here we are, let's see what we're up against."
"Welcome to the final test. When you are done, you will drop the device in the Equipment Recovery Annex," the voice instructed.
"Enrichment Center regulations require both hands to be empty before any cake…" the word echoed around tantalizingly due to some strange glitch which might not have been an accident.
"I suppose that makes sense, but…" Chell shrugged. All the talk of cake was becoming rather tedious. While she was admittedly hungry, she would prefer a more substantial and healthy meal. "Okay, what do we have here? An energy pellet, a receiver, and some angled bits it's bouncing off. Fairly simple. If I time it right…" As soon as the pellet had bounced off the angled piece towards the wall, she rapidly fired both portals. The pellet bounced back, and glided through the portal and up to the receiver. "Too easy. Now it looks like another unstationary platform through a twisty passage."
After picking up Companion Cube, she found that the platform had left without her. This was not a problem, as it was simple to portal through the nearest wall to a ledge at the corner of the passage. From there, she could easily fire another portal and step into the alcove further down the passage. Here she found a small button on a pedestal. Pressing this raised a barrier for only long enough for her to fire another portal through. With this portal in place, it was time to wait for the platform to advance until it reached the position at which she could step onto it.
Now standing on the moving platform, Chell saw an energy pellet bouncing between the walls of the passage. "This is where I'm particularly glad I brought you along," she told her friend as she used him to bat the ball of energy away. "That wasn't so difficult. I wonder what's around the next corner." Not wanting to wait, Chell put down Cube so she could fire a portal into the distance and one on the wall beside her. This allowed her to see around the corner. "Hmm, a wall blocking the way, with a gap to shoot a portal through. This will be a little more tricky."
It was not easy to get the timing right, but Chell succeeded in jumping through her carefully placed portals without missing the platform or dropping her cube. Due to the size and weight of her companion the jump was a little awkward, but she managed. Up ahead, a tile boldly painted with the icon of cake stared at her. "That looks promising."
Sure enough, the voice cut in with the words, "Congratulations, the test is now over."
"About time!" Chell had worried whether she would ever hear those words. Sweet beautiful freedom!
"All Aperture technologies remain safely operational up to 4000 degrees Kelvin."
Huh? What was that supposed to mean? She turned to look where the platform was heading, and saw... flames? "Hey, what's going on?"
"Rest assured that there is absolutely no chance of a dangerous equipment malfunction prior to your victory candescence."
Chell blinked as her mind raced to process that sentence. "You can't be serious!"
"Thank you for participating in this Aperture Science computer-aided enrichment activity. Goodbye."
"What?" Chell yelled, her voice cracking. "You... you're baking me! What kind of twisted 'thanks' is this supposed to be? And how can you spout nonsense about 'no chance of a dangerous equipment malfunction' when you're killing me???"
There was no reply. The platform was now passing the end of the passage. Chell could feel the heat of the fire on her face, and could see that the platform would obviously descend into the pit of flames. The passage walls were made of the brown tiles which prevented portals from forming, and there was no way to make the platform go in reverse. She was trapped. "Cube, do you have any ideas?" The cube didn't answer either.
"Okay, think, think," she mused aloud. "Nothing to protect me against fire... nothing to grab onto. No buttons to press or gas lines to block or sprinklers to activate. There's a safe area past the fire... but there's no way I can jump that high." Palming her forehead she chided herdself, "Stupid, you need to think with portals!" She fired one portal onto the far wall and looked around for a place to put the other end. The furnace wall looked close enough to jump to. Barely close enough when she considered the cube. "I've only got one shot at this. If I miss, I'm dead." A bolt of panic shot through her, but she quelled it with the thought, "It's no different to jumping over the 'water'. Just a bit hotter."
A lot hotter, actually. Even with the platform blocking some of the heat, it was becoming extremely uncomfortable. She fired the portal, picked up her cube and readied herself to jump. "On three. One... two... three!" She sailed over the inferno, neatly passed through the quantum hole, and landed neatly on a solid – and relatively cold – piece of floor. "Phew, that was a close one. We almost didn't make it!"
Apparently the computer was displeased at their escape. "What are you doing? Stop it! I-i-i-i-i-..."
I? It had never said 'I' before, only 'we'. She must have upset it for it to make such a mistake.
"Weeee are pleased..."
"Nice save," Chell commented over the top of the voice.
"...that you made it through the final challenge where we pretended we were going to murder you."
"Yeah, and I was 'pretending' I was scared of being burned alive. And now I'm pretending I'm mad at you!"
The voice ignored her outburst. "We are very, very happy for your success. We are throwing a party in honor of your tremendous success. Place the device on the ground, then lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides. A party associate will arrive shortly to collect you for your party. Make no further attempt to leave the testing area. Assume the 'Party Escort Submission Position' or you will miss the party."
"Riiight. More likely a wall panel will pop out and push me into the fire. Sorry, I'm not in the mood for a party." She set down the cube and looked around for an escape route. She found a door, but it was solidly locked. Back over the furnace was an area she might be able to jump to, if she could gain enough momentum. And she had the perfect way to gain momentum. "Stay here, Cube. I'll be back for you in a moment.
A fall from the highest point of the furnace-viewing-area was easily turned into a launch through the warm air over the still-burning furnace. She landed rather hard on the other side, and despite the heel-springs she stumbled rather hard into a solid metal tank. Up a few stairs she found a wall she could place a portal on, which let her step back into the previous area to collect her companion. "See, I told you I'd be back. I've found a way forward. Let's see if it's a way out of this place."
Notes: I fell into the water and the fire a few times trying this. Jumping from a moving platform into a portal on a wall while holding a cube is a little tricky.
Tip: for the ability to make companion cubes on demand, bind it to a key. For instance, to have a companion cube created every time you press the l key, enter the following into the command window:
bind l "ent_create_portal_weight_box ; ent_fire !picker skin 1"
Have fun! (But be careful, creating too many will either kill your frame rate or kill you if one falls on you hard enough!)
[Edit: more typos fixed on this and one in the previous chapter, thanks again Urak] [edit again: and again Urak :D]