A/N: This will be a collection of Chell/Wheatley oneshots. What if they had gone through the majority of the testing together? Also, for the sake of this particular ficlet, let's pretend that GLaDOS forgot to mention that the emancipation grill wasn't working because she's a sadistic bitch.
"Though Earth and Man are gone,
I thought the Cube would last forever.
Clearly I was wrong..."
- Poem scrawled on the walls of Aperture Science
He finds Chell sitting on the floor, or what's left of the floor anyway, next to one of those weighted storage cubes with the hearts on it. Companion cubes, a sick experiment She came up with to test humans' ability to cope with extreme isolation and loneliness. Give them a cube and tell them it's their only friend in the world, then force them to destory it.
This isn't that kind of test though, not exactly. Besides, the incinerators are no longer operational. But the emancipation grills are. What twisted little game is the AI playing this time?
Chell is crying. He can see the tears on her face. She has forged an emotional connection with the companion cube. Perhaps she was made to destroy it a century ago, when she ran this bloody maze for the thousandth time for Her amusement, and the cube really was Chell's only friend in the world. Before the world ended, of course. Luckily, the clever blokes at Aperture Science designed everything here to be able to withstand even apocalyptic scenarios.
This test subject may very well be the last human alive on Earth. The other test subjects certainly weren't so lucky, if you can call it luck.
And she thinks she loves a cube.
Wheatley has seen this before. It's not a rare reaction, just a side effect of the lack of human contact. The brain desperately searches for anyone - or anything - that could fulfill its need for social interaction.
Objectophilia: the emotional and sometimes physical attraction toward objects.
"Hey now," Wheatley says softly. "What did She tell you to do?"
Chell just looks at him for a moment, uncomprehending. Then she stands up slowly and walks through the emancipation grill, beckoning for the cube. Ah. That damn AI told her to leave it behind.
"Don't cry, okay? Just...look on the bright side. Maybe it's broken."
She gives him a questioning look.
"Right. How would we know...? I've got it! I'll try to go through, and if it...uh. Well, if I...die you'll know it's not broken. Otherwise we can take the cube with us."
Chell doesn't seem so certain about this plan, and neither is he to be quite honest, but Wheatley can't bear to watch her cry anymore.
So he prepares to be obliterated, closes his singular glowing blue eye, and goes forward. Nothing happens.
"I'm alive!" Wheatley cheers. "Go on, it's safe. Bring the cube through. It'll be all right. I swear."
She doesn't seem to believe him. It's times like these that the test subject reminds him of a stray cat, wary of strangers and promises. He's encountered a lot of stray cats ever since the facility fell into despair and nature started to claim it, along with several fascinating creatures. It wasn't officially his job to look after the test subject either, not at first anyway, but it had to be done.
Chell carries the cube over to him and sets it down, at which point She decides to make the poor lady's existence even more miserable. The companion cube fizzles away before their eyes. The human starts to cry again, and there's nothing he can say or do now to make it any better.
"Look here, you don't need that cube." Wheatley says. "It didn't love you. It's not special. It's just like any ordinary cube. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but you have to understand. This is exactly what She wants. You're falling for Her tricks."
"Now we have to stick together, yeah?" he continues. "If we're gonna get out of here, I mean. She won't let either of us go without a fight. It would wound Her pride. Anyway, the next test chamber awaits, assuming you're ready, of course."
Chell stands up, and they take the elevator together. Onward to whatever obstacle is next.