A/N: Welcome to the last chapter of WSC everyone. It's been quite a journey, hasn't it? Reviews are much appreciated, as always.
Chell was growing tired from the repetitive clambering over railings and dropping to the walkways. The long fall boots kept her from hurting herself, but a few times she had misjudged the landings hit her arms on the catwalk handrails below. Her skin was covered with bruises by the time she decided to take a short break. She sat on the ground and tried to recall how far she had descended. Quickly giving up on any estimate, she switched to zoning out. As Chell stared down the length of the metal flooring, she saw something silvery gleaming in the distance.
"Wheatley?" she said aloud. Whatever it was wasn't moving, and looked to be dangling off the rails. Chell stood and approached it. Her blood turned to ice as she realized it was one of Wheatley's handles. She detached it from the bars. It looked like it had been ripped right off him. While it was rather ominous, and Chell was sure that it was a painful experience for the core, at least it was a good sign. Maybe. Either the collision with the rail had slowed him down and allowed him to hit another catwalk unharmed, or it knocked him down into the abyss for good...
Operating under the assumption he was alive, Chell took the handle continued her rather slow progression. She would love to just take a swan dive and hope she got lucky, but she was no use to anyone dead. After what felt like ages Chell came across a patch of liquid which, upon close examination, appeared to be oil. She stared at it, shocked. Surely it belonged to Wheatley, how many other robots had sustained massive injuries in this area? But if that was the case, where was he? Wheatley wasn't very capable of motility in the first place, but being as badly hurt as he was it was a pipe dream.
Chell let her gaze wander down the catwalk, observing a trail of oil that led to a smaller puddle further down. She stood by the smaller puddle, from which another thin line of oil led. She frowned slightly. I guess that if I'm going to find him, this would be the place to start... she thought, and began to follow the trail.
Wheatley had seen better days, that was certain. He felt in a daze as he listened to ATLAS and P-body chatter back and forth. He barely paid any attention to their banter as they trekked toward the testing chamber. His vocal processors were shot, and he could no longer speak, which was a terrifyingly unfamiliar thing for him. Even all those years he'd spent alone, watching over the humans in stasis, he'd always had the sound of his own voice to comfort him through the loneliness. He was scared, and the two robots accompanying him were completely oblivious to his despair. Wheatley doubted they even understood what was going to happen to him.
The moment the trio stepped into the test chamber, the entrance sealed behind them. "Ahh. Well done, you two." GLaDOS said, dimming the lights. Wheatley's iris shrunk in fear, and P-Body detached him from the gun in favor of actually holding him, and he was infinitely grateful for the small comfort she provided, whether or not she was aware of it. "Place the core in the core reception annex, please." she said calmly, and from the far side of the room a floor panel slid aside and a small Wheatley-size receptacle took it's place.
P-Body hesitated, holding Wheatley out slightly in front of her and eying the receptacle. ATLAS nudged her roughly and pointedly nodded toward the device. The sleek android gave an uncertain warble. The other retorted with insistence, snatching Wheatley out of P-Body's hands before she could react and stuffed him roughly into the receptacle.
"Good work." GLaDOS purred, and the receptacle slid back into the floor. Once beneath it activated, sending the quivering core shooting through a delivery system and straight to GLaDOS's main chamber, the place he'd once called his Lair. It seemed strangely fitting, in an ironic way, that this would be where his life would come to an end. He tumbled out of the delivery chute and landed with a crack, his vision spiderwebbing as the glass of his optic shattered.
"Ahh. There you are." GLaDOS said silkily, scooping him up with a claw. His optic shrank and his shutters were forced wide with terror. "What? No begging for your life?" she said. "I'm disappointed. And a little hurt, really." she admitted. "The first time I nearly killed you—and I should have made sure you were dead then, by the way—you were whimpering like a pathetic child. I expected at least a little pleading. Sniveling. Something." she said, glaring suspiciously at him and drawing him up closer. She placed him sharply on a port and if he could have he would have cried out in pain.
"Oh. I see." GLaDOS sounded rather pleased. "You can't speak. What a nice change" she added, and there was a pregnant silence between the two of them, GLaDOS clearly relishing the fear and regret apparent in his expression. "Hm, the psychological aspect might be worse for you than the physical. I'll have to fix that." And suddenly every circuit in his chassis was filled with a horrible pain. It was worse than burning, worse than bullet, worse than crushing, worse than bombs, worse than the response to helping the test subjects. It seemed to last forever, gaining intensity, shutting out his vision, his aural processors, everything gone but the pain. This was android hell, it had to be.
And suddenly, there was a sound like a lightbulb blowing out, a split second flash of an error screen across his vision, and then he knew no more.
The trail had come to an end. Chell felt her heart sink slightly. The trail of oil she'd been following just...stopped. Right within a test chamber. She frowned, leaning against the door of the chamber, staring into space. Now what could she do?
A flash of movement caught the corner of her eye. A blinking blue light. She was on her guard in an instant. There was the tapping of heavy footsteps from the darkness and suddenly one of the testing bots came into view. The shorter one, with the blue eye. He raised a hand...and waved. Chell's brow furrowed and she reciprocated the gesture. He bounced with excitement and made a beckoning gesture to the area behind him. The other bot made her presence known, orange eye watching Chell uncertainly.
"I remember you two." Chell said. The stout one bleeped excitedly, clearly indicating his familiarity with her. Hope soared in her chest and she relaxed. "I'm looking for someone. Do you think you could help me?" Chell asked patiently. The two exchanged a look and a brief discourse before they both nodded. Chell smiled.
GLaDOS stared at the core clutched in one of her claws. He was dead. It had only taken a few minutes, which was a little disappointing. She'd been hoping to draw it out. She turned him over, examining the outward damage. He was smoking slightly, from the blown optic, which hung slightly out of the rest of his chassis. All in all it was a gruesome sight. And just as she was deciding what to do with the desiccated corpse of her greatest enemy, the door to her chamber slid open. GLaDOS's chassis contracted up in surprise, spinning to the door to find her favorite test subject striding confidently in. Lingering behind here a guilty looking ATLAS and P-Body. I'll deal with them later, GLaDOS thought, focusing instead on Chell. "What are you doing here?" she demanded, trying to disguise her alarm with indignation. Instead she sounded like a child caught with her hands in the cookie jar.
"I came for Wheatley." Chell said simply, which added to GLaDOS's surprise. It was at this moment that the dead shell of the core decided to fall from her claws. That moron's even a nuisance to me dead, she thought bitterly. Chell's eyes snapped to Wheatley, or rather, the shell that he used to be, as he bounced loudly and rolled to a stop at the far edge of the room. The hard expression GLaDOS was used to faltered, and the human girl suddenly looked very small and very vulnerable. And rather than feeling smugly satisfied about it, as one would expect her to, she instead felt a twinge of guilt. She was certain she had Caroline to thank for that. She dashed over to the small, round robot and fell to her knees beside him. "Wheatley?" she prompted him, picking him up gingerly, placing him in her lap. His shutters were half-closed, and the blue of his iris was completely absent. "Wheatley." she repeated. No response. Tears prickled at the back of her eyes. "Please, Wheatley, say something!" Chell shook him, looking for some sign that he was okay. A flip of his handle, twitch of his shutters, slip of his plates. But there was nothing. Chell held him close, clutching him to her chest.
"No, no, you can't be dead. Not after everything we've been through. You can't do this to me. You can't! Wheatley please, don't leave me again, you're my best friend too!" she bit back the tears, just barely holding them in. When there was still no response she looked up at GLaDOS, who flinched a little at the unadulterated fury in her eyes.
"Fix him." Chell demanded, her voice wavering ever so slightly as her steely eyes bore into GLaDOS' optic.
"I can't." she responded rather helplessly. Chell didn't reply. She didn't need to. That look in her eyes said it all. Said that she would bring the facility down around them before she would leave without Wheatley. "I don't know what to say to you!" GLaDOS snapped defensively, unable to help the bit of panic she felt. The human set down the dead core and got to her feet.
"Say you'll fix him." Chell took several steps toward the massive robot, until their faces (rather, face and optic) were an inch away. "Say it." There was a pause.
"I'm sorry." GLaDOS said ever so quietly. This clearly wasn't good enough.
"There has to be something. There's always something." Chell replied, and GLaDOS had to admit, she admired that the young woman's gaze held not even a shred of doubt. A sigh blew through her speakers and she sank a little.
"No. There isn't." she said, and hardened her voice. "The Intelligence Dampening Sphere has been euthanized." GLaDOS told the human.
She wasn't prepared for her reaction.
She would have expected anger, violence, a blank stare, anything but what happened next. Chell looked down at her feet, looking completely and utterly defeated. GLaDOS had been certain nothing could shake the bold young woman's confidence, her tenacity, and yet here she was, eyes almost empty. Without another word, or a single glance at GLaDOS, she stooped over the core, picked it up, and held it close, the tears she'd held back slipping down her cheeks. Even the murderous robot couldn't help but glance away, feeling as if she were intruding on a private moment, most likely thanks to their friend Caroline. When she looked back, Chell was wiping tears from her eyes and, clutching Wheatley's dead shell to her chest, walked silently toward the door.
Caroline's influence kept pressing against her consciousness, filling her with thoughts of helping the pair, at least giving it a shot, after all the poor girl had went through. You will never give me peace until I agree, will you? she asked the voice in her head. In an instant GLaDOS scanned over her database files, looking, searching for something, anything she could do, because maybe if she could do something for the fat jumpsuited blimp of an orphan she could stop that stupid nagging voice in the back of her head. To her surprise, she found several files tucked away in some encrypted sectors. But if she told Chell about it, the human would probably stick around for a while yet. So it came down to a simple choice: deal with the human's presence, or deal with an eternity of nagging from the voice in her head. It was really no question at all.
"Wait." GLaDOS called out exasparatedly, reluctantly. Chell turned around, hugging the core still. "There is...one thing..."
A/N: Keep an eye out for the sequel, guys! :D
Special thanks to my bestie best Beth. 3
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Thanks so much, everyone, for sticking with this story all this time!