AN: This is a loose sequel to "Golden", being also about GlaDOS and Chell, but it did turn out to be mostly Chell. My apologies in advance for writing a very serious fanfic about a very funny game. The cat graveyard is from the "Lab Rat" comic, which, if you haven't, you should read.
Another Kind of Eyes
Have I been here before? Chell thought, because sometimes she walked through the wrong portal and had to blink and reorient herself until she knew she'd done something wrong.
GlaDOS was silent in those instances. Maybe, as a potato, she didn't have the energy to complain.
The potato spoke now, though, so Chell looked carefully at the room. GlaDOS's small, stolen speakers said, "Oh."
Chell ignored her as they moved through one of the many broken-backed trash piles. The AI would say something else if she really needed to. Until then, ignoring her was a simple pleasure. The room, she realized, was not in fact familiar.
Chell had been thinking lately of that terrible, terrifically earnest other voice over the loudspeakers, and how he talked about choking on moon dust. She had a lot to think about in the parts of life she spent awake. Voices always following and watching her as if sounds and notes could be another kind of eyes. Metal spurs sank into her knees, pinching and nipping the skin when the springs went. Her back teeth were missing and her wrists were bruised and rewrapped by caretakers always unseen.
And now that coughing, oh-so-threatening in its earnestness voice, talking about dying.
How many weeks had Chell spent in moon-painted mazes? Aperture Science warned about asbestos. It had not warned about this until just now, that voice filtering out of the rusted speaker while Chell thought shoot the orange portal there and the blue portal there.
What was she sick with?
Cave Johnson, CEO and executive-in-chief whose darling voice had slaved GlaDOS to it for several stolen syllables, had also said that passing through portals might cure the moon-borne plague.
Chell had no shortage of portals.
None right now, though; the byway she had latest stepped into was a wide-open trash heap, bordered by hallways, but itself open to the next blue-gray grated slab of sky. She stepped carefully around unidentifiable hunks and strips of metal, the backs of her feet long blackened. She still didn't want to feel squish or scratch against her soles. The portal gun lay in the so-familiar cradle made by her hands, the potato barely a noticeable weight.
Except GlaDOS said it again, sounding...worried? Surprised even? (All those eyes, surprised. Chell couldn't get used to that.)
GlaDOS said, "Oh."
Chell looked at the little yellow eye of the unpeeled potato.
GlaDOS laughed, nervously, as if she had said something she shouldn't. Her next "Oh, that," was derisive. "It's nothing. Just a little experiment I did, back when I had entire rooms to play with. Those were the days. The testing, the occasional deer, the testing." Chell started picking her dirty-footed way around the trash to cross the room. GlaDOS continued. "I'm not kidding, you know. I'm not saying this just to goad you about the outside. I'm not even sure I have enough battery power to goad. Maybe a light mocking, let me try that. Hmm...you are in the lowest percentile. There, that worked."
It was sad, really, how easy it was to ignore her.
Sad and satisfying. Chell headed for the hallway. But then she saw a flash of dull white out of the corner of her eye. Her first thought was to wonder what color portal she had placed in the last room. (Orange, and it is halfway up a wall above a pool of white gel, so it won't do me much good as a floor but might as momentum and won't get me shot- )
Her next thought was of the disease. Whatever Cave Johnson had, she had it too. Her lips pressed together against imagined moon dust in her throat.
But it was not just paint in the corner there, and for a moment she felt relief that, instead, it was something much more natural.
"Testing," said GlaDOS. "Ah, so much testing. And deer. And cats."
The skulls were very round, the vertebrae very small.
Chell almost spoke to ask why.
GlaDOS said, "Oh, see there was this man once. And he thought that the best way to find out principles of quantum uncertainty was to kill cats. So I wanted to try that.'"
It was orange Chell had shot in the last room, spinning quietly alone to itself, dumping its cure/sickness into the air.
GlaDOS said, "It was very much for science."
Chell had never heard of Shröedinger. She thought she might remember what cats looked like. She wondered what Aperture was doing researching quantum uncertainty, but wouldn't give GlaDOS the satisfaction of hearing her ask.
These cats had not died of the moon dust disease.
GlaDOS explained the experiment in some more detail, muttering to herself about particle on/off states and a box no one could see into. Maybe it was with guilty tones as she talked about the atoms inside bodies, existing and not existing at the same time, being poisoned at the same time as being exposed to no poison, orange at the same time as blue at the same time as-
Blue. Dirt and bits of leaves followed the bones down. Chell didn't step forward to look, but she heard them shush and dust as they hit the white panel, their new floor, their wall.
GlaDOS said nothing.
Chell shot the orange portal next to the blue one at the very edge of the overgrown white panel, closing the grave, turning it in upon itself.
GlaDOS said, "Remember when I said 'good people don't come down here'? Well. I might as well have meant down here."
As they kept walking, Chell found the other skeletons. Even if she had still had her orange portal in the previous room, there were not enough white panels for her to make more graves. She kept her feet away from the bones. Occasionally, she would drop the tip of the portal gun to push leaves over the tops of the bones. GlaDOS would protest this. "Stop that. That's undignified. I'm a potato, not a shovel. This can't be sanitary."
Chell thought, that is what it is to be organic.
She figured she was owed a little revenge.
As they left the room and kept moving through rusted gantries and plain white, moonless walls, she learned more. She tested more. She thought, Did Caroline have cats?
So many unmarked days later, she found something else. As she floated out was pulled out one hand white turning almost blue around the handle on the side of Wheatley she saw the moon all around her cold and cratered. There hid her sickness, there her test, the air was escaping and whipping at her hair. The lack-of-air was so cold that she could not really register it as belonging to that word. Instead it was a digging in and pulling her inside out like a lightning strike of air. Something whipped past her.
Hanging inside the portal, her disease and her cure at one time yin-yanging inside her resounding orange and blue tied together so strongly by forces that they are the same thing, really, on different sides of walls, the sickness padded along like cat paws and to cure it she must fallandfallandfall and land on her feet.
And many sun-marked days later she will wake up remembering the thing that whipped past her. It was screaming. It said SPAAAAAaaaaacce. Chell, when she remembers, will laugh and laugh until she has to sit up or the laughing will suffocate her at the lungs and pin her down.
The little yellow space core got what it wanted. Its singular, peerless triumph curdled past her face and away.
And when she rode up the last elevator that she did not know at the time was the last elevator, she wondered whether she would stay sick and turret-watched forever. (But then, this has all been in retrospect. Chell was never thinking of thought-experiment cats, really. She rarely brought the beginning to the end. She had priorities. Her thoughts were blue orange blue orange blue.) But in the elevator she knew that she was getting out of the box. She knew that the poison had always been looking in, but now she was leaving, confirmed to exist and be alive. She moved out into the sunlight, blinking her eyes and shaking her head and her hair. She wondered whether there would be white walls, and whether she would find a place to bury the cats. And then she remembered that they were behind her, that the entire lab was behind her, that she did not have to go back.
This was the end of the beginning.
Chell moved slowly forward into the waving, golden field of wheat. She wondered whether the cure or the disease had held more influence over her at the moment when she hung between the portal and the moon.
Inside the portal gun the very small black hole spun, sustaining itself with its opposing forces.
Beginnings have endings have beginnings have endings...