Title: Night of the Living Wheatley (Part 1/?)
Warnings/Pairings: None, FOC and potential gore/horror type stuff for down the road.
Summary: Based on rubitinmyeyes' evil Wheatley picture…a contrite Wheatley makes it back to earth, where he finds a hostile Chell and an outcast Scientist willing to help him. Of course, the results were disastrous the first time Wheatley got a little agency and power…you can bet the little moron's learned nothing.
He crashed to Earth with a thud. He could feel himself skid through the dirt, see the haze of dust kicking up around him and feel it settling in his gears and motors. He was on the planet's surface, but precisely where on the face of it was the real question. His body was still molten to the touch from the re-entry, most of his energy directed towards making his cooling fans work overtime, no room to fire up his global positioning network.
Wheatley was not terribly optimistic. He could have landed in Australia for all he knew. In the Sahara desert or a garbage barge at sea.
Miraculously, there was a scuffling sound from behind him and a penumbra of light fell across him. "Here! Here, I'm over here!" he called. Was it too much to hope that it was his lady?
A soft gasp from the direction of the light source. "My stars! I'm…I'm coming fast as I can!" No, it was not her. This one spoke. A female it seemed, but not the one he was seeking.
It seemed an eternity, but eventually a shadow fell across him and he turned his optic upward, only to have it reduce to pinprick of light as he stared directly into a torch beam. She seemed to realize he was unable to see and moved the light. With his cracked optic, she was blurred to him but the silhouette was not hers and enough to dampen his spirits of a bit of luck coming his way.
"It's alright. I've got you." He saw her turn her head from side to side, as though looking around, then scooped him up under one arm and groaned as she straightened up. They moved jerkily and slowly.
She took him into a place filled haphazardly with cogs, wires, motors and other machinery – things Wheatley didn't need full working vision to see. She moved in that funny jerking motion, retrieving tools and lighting some soft glowing lamps; candles, he realized.
"Wait Lady, what are you doing!" he asked in a panic as she approached him with these implements in hand.
"Not to worry." She murmured. "I'm going to fix this."
Things went dark for a moment. "No no, I can't see! Lady, I can not see! You've broken me, don't hurt me, I didn't come all the way here to get broken now, put me back!"
"Shhh…" she murmured.
The world suddenly came back into full, clear focus and for the first time he was able to get a good look at his rescuer. He was right, it was a 'she'. She was older than Chell or any of the test subjects he'd seen. Perhaps not a lot older but her hair was, what at one point must have been brown and was now liberally streaked with grey. She looked as though she'd never cut it all her life, it hung in her face like a shaggy curtain. She had big, brown eyes and were it not for her unkempt appearance plus the fact that she was rail thin and had a somewhat long nose, she would have been somewhat attractive. He could also see the reason for the jerkiness of their journey; she leaned heavily on a stick on her left side in order to support herself.
"Better?" she asked.
"Yes, thank you. You look, ah…lovely. Yes. Lovely." He knew human females liked to hear that kind of a thing.
She chuckled, retrieved the rag and moved on to scrubbing at his damaged and dirtied hull. He rocked back and forth in pleasure at the sensation and she paused, staring at him wonderingly.
"You can feel that?"
"Yes. It's brilliant, please don't stop!"
She shook her head in amazement. "I've never met an A.I. who can feel. Do you have a number? A name, you know? ID?"
"The Scientists just called me Wheatley." He looked down in embarrassment. He knew he was also the Intelligence Dampening Sphere, but he didn't feel like telling this woman that, even if he did know he was a moron.
"You can call me Matilda. What were you doing in my garden, Wheatley?"
"I had to come back. I have to find someone! Find them and apologize. Say mate, you don't happen to know any humans? Um, sort of short, dark hair, good test subjects, little case of serious brain damage?"
Matilda blinked. "You'll have to do better than that. I mean, I used to have dark hair." She grabbed a hank of it and held it up to show him the deep brown colour beneath the gray. "I'm short by human standards and as for the serious brain damage, well…let's just say it's under debate by the rest of the community."
Matilda paused at that, her movements against his hull stopping and her mouth puckering into an 'o' of surprise. "Surely you wouldn't be talking about Chell? Though, I sincerely doubt Chell has brain damage. Very smart that one but mostly keeps to herself. Sort of what you might call a hermit."
Wheatley nodded. "Chell. It sounds familiar."
"Maybe you had better tell me your story."
Wheatley began, detailing every moment of their time in Aperture. Matilda said nothing as he spoke, not even a blink or a change of expression to show she was shocked or surprised. "So that's why I need to apologize. I regret everything I've done and if I ever got to come back to Earth, I'd find a way to say that I was sorry for being beastly and rude and bossy."
Matilda put down the rag she'd been holding, retrieved her cane and stomped around the table, coming back with a dry towel and a spray bottle. "Pressurized air." She gestured to the can, blasting a long stream to clear the dust from his internal workings. "Well. If Chell is who you need to see, you've got a hard sell. Oh trust me, I believe you. I even think Chell's your 'lady'. However I'll have to explain a few things. I'm your only friend here Wheatley. You couldn't have been luckier to land where you did, not if you wanted to remain intact and you mustn't let anyone know you're here. I'm under strict surveillance as it is. Second, I will have as hard a time convincing Chell to even speak to you as you will to get her to accept your apology. She doesn't like me very much."
"Why? What did you do to her?"
"Oh I've done nothing. It's what I do for a living." Matilda smiled ruefully. "I fix machinery. Specifically, robots. A lot of people here don't trust robots and that means they don't trust or like me very much."
"Why do you stay?"
"They need me."
"You mean the other humans, do you?"
"Yes. They need me to fix the robots they rely upon. Your cashiers, your bank tellers even their bedside clock radios. They resent me deeply for it, but it wouldn't be so bad if not for, my ideas."
"Ideas, huh?" Wheatley was rather sympathetic. "Make bad ones, do you mate? Yeah, I know something about that."
Matilda chuckled. "Well, from what you've told me you've not been brushing up on your Laws of Robotics, but yes, I would suppose my ideas are 'bad' to them. I really think though that we'd have a lot less rogue A.I's around if we gave them more human qualities. I mean, you can feel for example and now you can see what it would be like to hurt or experience a kind touch." She reached out and ran her thumb across the robot's hull. "Like that."
Wheatley nodded, giving another little mechanical hum of grateful pleasure at the gesture. "Do you think you could talk to the Lady…I mean, Chell. You know, to see if she'll at least hear me out?" The optic turned on Matilda, pleading.
"I can try little fellow."
She blew out the candles and picked him up. "Let's get to bed. They may not like me much but there's always a something that needs fixing. I need to get up in the morning for work."
With no need for sleep, Wheatley watched this frail human from his spot on the other pillow of her bed. Even her house was littered with spare parts. There was no evidence on the walls of friends or family. The bedroom was painted a rather ugly faded puce colour with some peeling wallpaper here and there. Every surface was cluttered but devoid of dust. It was organized chaos. GLaDOS would have hated her. Somehow that gave him hope.
"I'm going to go over to see Chell today, about half-noon." Matilda tucked a few more blankets around Wheatley in his new spot on the floor of her kitchen. and turned on the radio. "There's some rather nice radio dramas on during the afternoon. I'd put on the television but it would seem weird. You should be safe in here. Remember, if anyone knocks on the door, ignore it, don't call to them or you will be in trouble, and so will I. I haven't got another excuse up my sleeve and…" she trailed off.
Wheatley looked at her. "What do you mean, excuses?"
She glanced at him and pulled up her dressing gown to her knees. Wheatley could see the awkward way her left knee was positioned. He didn't know much about human anatomy but he could tell it didn't look right, especially compared to the opposite half
"See, I was caught you know, trying to build a human-like robot. This was how I was punished. I couldn't reset the bone on my own. Wheatley, I can't stress it enough. The penalty if I'm caught with you – if there's one more thing they can put against me, it's lights out permanently for both of us."
"What? You mean, other humans did this to you? Because…because you help robots? They'd shut you down? That's monstrous! She was right, wasn't She? She was right about…some of you…"
"Not a thing to be thinking about Wheatley. Now do as I say, PLEASE and be quiet you little chatterbox. If you want to see Chell, you will."
"Absolutely, not a word, I'll be quiet as a…quiet thing. Not a peep out of me!"
She smiled and then, pulled the door to her garage to behind her. Wheatley turned his attention to the radio and the song emanating from it. It sounded like something he'd heard before.
Matilda wasn't expecting much. She and Chell weren't bitter enemies but they had conflicting opinions and stayed peacefully well out of one another's way. Matilda had tried once when Chell had arrived but had made no progress and eventually had come to accept that extending the glove of friendship was not a possibility with the other woman. They co-existed peacefully enough otherwise,
"Matilda?" Chell's voice was as stiff as it was surprised.
"May I come in?"
The very fact that the other woman was asking at all was likely what made Chell decide to open her door.
Not a moment later, Matilda found herself very firmly on her behind in the dust outside Chell's small cottage, the other woman giving her a truly hateful look right before closing the door in her face.
Even as Matilda struggled to her feet, she was getting an idea, a way to help Wheatley out. A dangerous, risky idea, but maybe one that could change the way people viewed robots.