A/N: Set before the events of Portal 2. Wheatley's POV only
For Wheatley, the loneliness was unbearable. There was no one else around for him to engage with; no humans, no other personality cores (though he knew they were there), nothing.
Aperture Science was a wasteland of technology and sterility.
Even if he wanted to, he could not have a companion to ease his negative emotion. What was he to do? Speak with the turrets? All they ever seemed to enjoy was shooting at him… Awaken the test subjects under his charge? His job was to keep them stable and alive so future Aperture Science workers could sort them out later.
For right now, that was the only thing keeping him going. After all, there would be people coming, right? He wouldn't be stuck with thousands of live bodies unable to communicate with them forever, would he? He wasn't destined to live out the rest of his output time alone…was he?
So Wheatley would spend his days, guarding these helpless beings, keeping them from dying. He would be set free one day…he was sure of it. He had to be. Otherwise there was nothing…
He knew he was different. When he awoke for the first time, he thought of nothing but his programming. If it wasn't there, he would not perform a task. If programming allowed, he would do it with the synthetic joy he was built to feel and that was all. Those were the simple days.
For how long had he been like that, the poster boy of a machine? Time was meaningless to him here, so memory would not perceive the answer.
However, as the days slid by, he began to think more. Wheatley would go outside the bounds of simple programming and think of things he knew he was not meant to. Where were the people who programmed him? Why was he alone? Why were these humans in refrigeration so important that they had to be kept asleep for so long?
His wandering thoughts evolved into emotions, and then desires for something more.
Wheatley was able to access the facility's video files. He would watch them, captivated as he saw humans interact with each other. It was fascinating to him; these creatures were so irrational, so bizarre, and yet somehow they survived. Wheatley was amazed at the complexities of the human body. It was a disgusting liquid factory, and yet it could create life from within or destroy itself. And while Wheatley would never go as far to wish he was a human, he certainly wished he could become something more…
Was it perhaps the fact that he was created as an AI? A computer program that was made with the ability to learn. Sure, he had his definite programming, and only through sheer will of force could he ignore it, but it seemed like he could write his own. He could make himself what he wanted.
Wheatley was not made for speech. He was capable of a series of computerized squeaks and whistles, but he loved the way humans spoke; so much variety, even in different languages! He set it upon himself to learn the ways of speech.
Many days later, he was able to. He had adapted a human male's speech pattern, and chose an accent that he liked the most. He would then talk to himself, over and over again; anything he could think of. His voice filled the everlasting silence and eased his loneliness.
Wheatley learned the hard way that a voice and ability to speak was better suited to be used in quantity. He wanted something to talk and listen to. He felt the overwhelming desire to wake up one of the test subject—just for five minutes, that was all he would need.
But his hardwired "brain" made it impossible. He wasn't supposed to wake them, only watch. Forever, until someone came for him.
They never did, though. And Wheatley began to feel anger for the first time. How dare they leave him down here with all of these empty shells? Why did no one care that he was lonely? Why did he have to watch the bloody test subjects? They never did anything for him!
So Wheatley felt a new emotion; indifference. It was great at first; the power to choose overwhelmed him. He held lives, real lives that were unlike his simulated one, under his mercy. It was enough to let him ignore his programming, and effectively, his duties.
As the humans began to die, he felt something painful seep into his core. Guilt. These people DIDN'T do anything for him. They couldn't! They were in stasis! They couldn't even think or breathe for themselves!
Wheatley immediately sprung into action. He had to save the ones that could be. It was his fault they were dying. It was because of him that he was losing the meaning of his life.
When Wheatley finally fixed the stasis chambers, he had lost more than half of his charge. He was absolutely devastated by what he had done. He felt everything inside of him seize up.
For some amount of uncalculatable time, Wheatley fell back into his old regime. He spent all his time tending to the humans who survived his fault. It would be some time later that he would repress his memory and become lively again.
The facility had grown old and withered. Parts of the vast walls had fallen off and into the dark abyss that Aperture seemed steeped in. Decay was everywhere, and Wheatley was too busy struggling with the life support systems to try and repair the facility.
It was just as of late, the life support systems seemed to fail more often. It wasn't his fault this time, but it hurt a lot to know he couldn't help all the humans sleeping peacefully under his charge. One by one, another human would slip away.
Wheatley felt helpless in his endeavors to try and save as many as he could.
But by that time, his programming had been completely forgotten; no longer did he toil with the humans out of his computerized actions, but by the overwhelming sense of dread he felt when each one would slip away.
When Wheatley decided there was no use in trying to keep the humans alive anymore (they kept dying no matter what he did), he did the unthinkable and woke one up.
Wheatley imagined that the human and him could team up and escape; after all, Wheatley had watched the videos of human teamwork and social activities, he had been amazed by the dedication each had for the next.
For the first time in his meager little existence, Wheatley got to speak to another.
His voice oozed out, much unlike his original intentions, "H-hello…"
The human, a male, had turned to look at him with what appeared to Wheatley as an expression of bewilderment and confusion. He tried to form words, but only succeeded in passing air through his mouth.
The man, aged 37, Wheatley had researched, was what he had hoped to be the perfect match for him; the man was a top athlete, in good health and condition, was genetically sound (whatever that meant) and was "a headstrong and capable individual; takes great pride in his abilities."
To the little core, this was the right human that could lead them both away from this awful decaying mess and someone he could talk to.
As panic set into the man, Wheatley tried his best to calm him.
"Now, l-look. You're been asleep for, uh, quite a long time. You may need to reorient yourself as best you can—This is because I need your help. But rest assured, you are in…great condition…. But I do hope you are physically sound; you see, this facility is about to fall apart—literally implode on itself, and we need to, hmmm, escape."
The man stared at the core with a blank look. For a moment Wheatley was certain he was talking to a vegetable. Until the man began to scream profanities at Wheatley and attack him with the lamp that set next to where he had just slept for hundreds of years.
Alarm shot through Wheatley's small body. Then confusion, as Wheatley tried his best to evade the hits and calm the man down.
"I can help you!" Wheatley pleaded, retracted to far enough away so the crazed thing couldn't reach him. "We need to work together! Ah, but first, we need—" he was cut off as the lamp connected to his optic, nearly cracking it.
He didn't understand the man's fit. Sure, he had been asleep for longer than he would care to remember, but he was alive, wasn't he? Wheatley had come to help him out, right? Shouldn't he be grateful to Wheatley for rescuing him?
The human continued to scream profanities at the computerized sphere, leaving him and Wheatley at an impasse. He would not listen to Wheatley, and Wheatley by default, could not help him.
The stasis chambers must have greatly weakened over time, because as the man grew more destructive and angry, his foot hit a weak spot on the floor. Quicker than a flash, he fell through the floor and disappeared from sight, much to the shock of Wheatley.
Gone. Just like that. There was silence once again.
Disillusioned with his perception of humans, Wheatley felt himself slip into depression. The man had surely brought it on himself; he refused to listen to Wheatley, even though all he wanted to do was help. Were all humans like that? If he woke the rest, would they all try to inflict harm on him?
Wheatley was terrified to find out, but either way, he felt he faced death: by the facility's deadly collapse (or by this point, it was so neglected that explosions were beginning to threaten), or be killed by the humans he so painstakingly looked after for however long he had been doing so.
Nonetheless, Wheatley hardened himself for the next human. Hopefully this one would have different results.
Each human, had in fact, one way or another, were led to the same demise as the first. A few attacked him, and he left them to their own vices. A couple didn't respond at all, merely curling back up on their beds and crying. He thought given time they would recover—to his great horror, they had done the opposite and destroyed themselves. Still, others followed Wheatley reluctantly. But they were terrible company, Wheatley noted. Each chose to ignore Wheatley's warnings or suggestions, brushing them off rudely with a "moron" and "idiot." They treated Wheatley like he was their footstool. They didn't care about him or any teamwork of the sort. They were cold and brutally indifferent to Wheatley's plight and long-lived pain. Their selfishness drove them to find their own path which led ultimately to their death; not a one made it far enough to reach the portal gun, something that Wheatley felt if they had, escape was in their grasp.
It amazed Wheatley, the brash nature of these people. They were nothing like the video files he had watched! They felt no compassion, no pity, no emotions other than self-serving ones. Wheatley wondered blindly if maybe they only acted like in the images with other humans. Did they act differently to him because Wheatley was only a machine? And yet, Wheatley felt a strong sense that he had been more human than they ever were.
But it mattered not. His image of how the human race was shattered completely.
Or so he thought.
He approached the last chamber with caution. This human, a female named Chell (no last name, odd…), was his last hope for freedom. He had nothing to go on but the level of tenacity she had displayed, and the large scribble that declared she was not to be tested. Wheatley wondered, then why was she put with all the other test subjects?
He turned her chamber off, which initiated her wake up. Wheatley did not expect much. Honestly, his outlook was grim. The facility was falling apart by the second, he had no test subjects left as they all had died one way or another, and now for some reason, he could not get her door to open.
None of the other chambers were locked in such a way. Wheatley panicked. There was still a chance this human was not like the rest and could help him. But in order for her to do so, she could not be stuck in that room.
He beat the front of his core on the door. It was called 'knocking' as he remembered from the files, and it usually got another person to open a door.
"Hello? Are you there? Are you going to open the door?" Wheatley called out, straining his voice not to let out any of the terror he felt.
It was what seemed like hours before the door opened. Wheatley shot inside, not allowing the human to object to his presence. He turned to face her and speak but stopped as he locked eyes with her.
This one…She was different; different from the other humans. Like how Wheatley was different from the other machines.
Something inside of him fluttered, and for a moment, he felt hope. An emotion he hadn't felt in a long time.
She didn't look kempt (but none of the humans were); her clothes were wrinkled and worn, her hair was in a mess, and she looked deathly pale for a human. But her eyes drew Wheatley in. Determination set solidly in each one. He felt as though she was about to go with whatever he said, even working as a team.
Her gaze directed Wheatley to speak, and he did. She listened to him, and it was satisfying. If their lives hadn't have been in mortal danger, he would have relished the feeling a little longer.
As Wheatley spilled everything about the current situation, he noticed an…oddness… to Chell. She was the perfect listener, he'd give her that, but she never said anything in response to what he said. It hurt. Maybe she wasn't listening to him in the first place? Or…
She was mute, Wheatley decided. He felt a certain kinship with her now. Where Wheatley could talk all he wanted and never be heard, Chell was destined to never speak a word, only ever listening.
But everything was going smoothly so far. Until they had to "prepare." Wheatley bade her to hold onto something, which she obliged (well, good, Wheatley thought, amazed by her obedience), while he attempted to navigate his way through the bowels of Aperture (poorly, one might add) so he and his new comrade could escape.
They had to separate when Wheatley bust through a test chamber. His track didn't connect that way, but he promised they'd meet up soon in another chamber.
It felt amazing to be acknowledged. Chell had smiled softly and nodded, then turning and setting herself upon the task Wheatley had given her. He felt he could trust her, and he felt the overwhelming sensation that she trusted him. It slowly eased his doubts of humankind. For once, Wheatley felt at ease. They could do this. And they would, together.
A/N: well, at first I was gonna label this story as "Complete," so I could stop feeling guilty about not writing anything else for it. But while I was working on an essay for class, I got really inspired about Wheatley's backstory. Especially how his first attempts at rousing the other people still asleep would go. Since Chell was the last person for him to use, I imagined they'd suck. So I worked on this instead of the other stories I should be updating. (Lol. Soon…)
Anyway, I sorta changed how this fic would be. I didn't want to create a separate fic for it, so I stuck it here. Most likely this is a collection of short stories from the POV's of Chell and Wheatley. I'd call it a drabble, but I read that Drabbles are only 100 words long. This is certainly more than 100 words. I counted. Anyway, they'll come as I get inspired.
So yeah. If you want, request something of me for this ficlet, and I'll do my best with it here.
Thanks for reading! I 'ppreciate it!