Is This Madness?

Ryan stumbled across another one of those strange glowing corridors of Aperture, his feet almost slipping at each step. The corners of the ceiling, the changes in the lighting, all of it fascinated him though he had no idea why. However hard he tried, he couldn't get the obsessive thoughts about Aperture out of his mind, it haunted and intruded on every one of his thoughts.

"Get… out of… my head!" Ryan yelled as he almost pulled his hair out to relieve the growing pressure in his head. He was now self-conscious of what was affecting him; fully aware but still completely changed.

He wasn't supposed to be down in these levels, but he knew this was where the machine must have been.

He knew this was where it would end, Aperture would leave his mind, or he would leave Aperture for good. He wanted nothing more than to sever his relation to the company and forget about his miserable experiences. Come to think of it, all this was because of Aperture, it was what brought all the pain and confusion.

Before he'd ever heard of the esoteric science company his life was completely normal! He never had to think about converting machines to match a certain set of function peripherals or worry constantly about anything and everything going wrong and wasting billions of important dollars. His life was so easy before Aperture! Why did he ever join?

His entire life had been so thoroughly changed that he had not time for anything else. Relaxing was next to nonexistent as every second of his life had been clouded with fears and convulsions related to the machines. He almost hated Dr. Morrison for bringing him in that day; if he had done nothing and viewed Ryan as just another student he wouldn't be in this mess!

And what a mess he was in. Not only was he, an average run of the mill, mall avoidant, theoretical physics nerd employed by an almost mythical organization of what seemed to be overworked, over competent scientists, but he also had been mysteriously attained by the C.I.A., sought out ominously by Black Mesa, and now conditionally 'employed' by Aperture Science?

What had led to this? What small minute changes in his life could he have chosen to avoid this strange path he was now sliding down? He thought back to the days when his life was free and open, he remembered when the future was a purveyor of hope, and not a stream of dangerous possibilities. It was then that Ryan slipped into a thin psychosis where neither the grip of reality nor the dark sea of sub consciousness dwelled, it was then that Ryan could see himself, away and detached from his own senses. As he slowly fell to the floor, backing into the wall and looking up at the white glow of the ceiling lights, it came to him quick and unrelenting…

"You need to do better!" The stack of ink weighed paper fell to the table as his father looked away from him, a look of disappointment undoubtedly strewn across his unseen face.

"But dad… I… it was an A…" Ryan sat stiff in his chair, afraid of every move his father made.

"I don't care whether it was a good grade; it could've been an F for all I care." His father spoke in a cold, harsh voice which pounded on Ryan's regretfully alert ears. "The point is that you'll never be successful if it does not become your life, how long did you spend writing this?"

Ryan almost forgot he was supposed to answer. But he finally replied in a voice carrying no significant emotion in its undertones. "…Five hours."

"Five hours? Five hours!" Ryan's father picked up the stack of written reports and threw it to the ground. "You do not understand what this is here! This is your life! If you cannot produce something which can be scientifically tested and proven and boiled down at the basest of levels to mimic a mathematical principle, what use is it? What can you apply it to?"

Ryan looked away; he had heard the answer many times before.

"Nothing! Useless! Words without meaning! What horrible, deceptive things those are. Application is of the most important principles of science! There is nothing here other than what is locked inside of your own mind! How can you apply this… this drivel?" He said, shoving the crumpled paper with his foot. "Useless, useless!"

His father's ranting produced a unique moment for Ryan. Not a moment where he was overcome by emotions or feelings, but by intense thought and attribution. He stared down at the reports, all jumbled and messed up. He couldn't help noticing how without his own incredibly complex and fluent understanding of that single language written on that paper, it too would be completely meaningless. The paper itself was more of a theoretical work; it dealt with things so deep that it could not be understood by merely one passing over his sentences. The problem his father had with such a paper however, was on a different level.

"Ryan, I know you have the potential to do amazing things, create incredible, unimaginable creations. But the only way you can do that is if you can apply it to the real world; that's what mathematics brings to the table. Whatever you may say about… psychology may be all fine and true for use in social situations, but at the same time you must remember such things are absolutely useless for science!" His father had rambled on and on about this dozens of times before. Being such a strict realist, abstract concepts didn't often sit well with him.

Ryan stayed silent as his father continued. His father's black and white approach stemmed from his years isolated in a field where rocket scientist was another term for 'unsophisticated simpleton'.

"There's a new age of science which is approaching fast I fear; it is evidently inevitable we've reached this point. When you have approached the age where the time comes to join with those who discover and create, know that it will be difficult to find a home where science remains a study of the universe we live in rather than a petty social tool used to advance a shaky agenda. The age of great advancements and achievements may be over; I believe it is to be replaced with a constant focus on the next convenience and tomorrow's cheap products. Nothing useful, nothing productive, all based around theoretical concepts which bear no connection to our physical world. This is the 'science' I don't want you to be a part of."

Ryan's shoulders began to tremble, his body sunk back into the hard chair. He was sinking away from the depth of his memory, approaching a fuzzy reality he had not yet recognized again.

"Please Ryan… I cannot allow my son to become part of a community which serves solely to promote social matters or reinforce a politician's standing. You need to find a connection to a strong scientific group in which you can use your talents properly; that's why I'm sending you to Michigan for future studies. There are professors there, good professors; they'll know how to treat you. More importantly, they'll show you where to go and aid you in finding your future path. Is that not what you want?"

Ryan nodded in complete silence.

Ryan's father initiated a rare gesture. He moved close to his son and asked him, "Ryan, promise to me you'll listen to them, promise me you'll follow your professor's guidance!" His son took more than a simple moment to respond. "Promise me!"

"I promise!" Ryan yelled, pain laying a nest inside of his innermost conscious.

"What?!"

"I promise!"

"You what!" The voice inside of Ryan grew softer and softer, and an effect equivalent to a vocal blurriness clouded his mind. There was no more prompting which came from his father, but Ryan still continued.

"I promise, I promise!"

He was fading back from the space between memory and reality.

"I promise, I promise I…"

He fell silent, unable to remember what he was going on about in the first place. He found himself to be moved, as if artificially, to a dark rounded room. He was lying down in the same position he was before, but in someplace different. Not once did it cross his mind the question how or when he got there.

No the only thing which held onto him then in there was a machine, a large machine, similar in shape to GLaDOS but much bulkier. Under the machine was where Ryan could instantly visualize horrible, despicable things being connected with one's mind through the machine. This was where he lay only weeks ago, this was where the memory came back to him albeit clouded and mysterious…

It was then when Ryan realized that this is where Mitigation truly began.

Another clustered headache surged through Ryan's pain induced mind.

"GET… OUT!" Ryan's focus was disrupted or perhaps directed by this clustered pain. His thoughts converged into one single metonymy of a recollection. This was the same room he had seen Dr. Morrison work in that video.

"No, no!" Ryan's obsessive and intrusive thought were all leading to this, all trying to return Ryan to its place of origin, where it all began. "No!" Ryan clutched the sides of his head as his mind was losing control; he lost his balance and collided into an assortment of control panels and instruments.

As soon as it had begun, it was over. Ryan sank to the floor with his back to the wall, breathing heavily. The panic attack was over, and whatever had affected him only moments before had now departed. He sat staring at the strange machine, unable to comprehend what it had done.

Ryan's head nodded down as he began to cry. Just then, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Ryan… Ryan…" Ryan looked up, his eyes still in tears. It was his father speaking to him from above.

He couldn't believe it was actually him. "…dad?" A sense of restrained hope overcame him. He wanted to cry even harder, produce any sign of physical reaction.

"You did well Ryan…" The image of his father said, comforting him. "You did well."

"D… is that you?" Ryan couldn't trust his own eyes. The unconscious presentation of joy overrode his own logical reasoning.

"I knew you'd reach this point one day…" His father laid his hand out towards the bulky machine. "Look at this, here in this room is the bridge between one's own abstract concepts and the concrete data presented in the format of an artificial intelligence. This is where one's unimaginably complex thoughts are formatted into a computer. It's… beautiful."

Ryan looked back at the large device. "Is this… what you wanted me to do?"

"Of course Ryan, Aperture's not a curse; it's the greatest thing that's happened to you. This is not where the trouble in your life originates from, it's where you belong. This is where you can use your talents to create, build, you know, 'do science'."

"But… not like this, not like this…" Ryan repeated, remembering what horrors such a machine had created.

His father moved away from him slightly, his direction unknown. "I'm proud of you Ryan, what you've done here at Aperture is what most people dream of dreaming. You have an incredible mind, and you've finally found a place where you can use it in the best way possible." His father once more started to become a fading memory. "Remember your promise Ryan."

His father began to motion away from Ryan, as if moving in a way fleeting and unnatural.

"No wait… come back!" Ryan yelled for his father to stay. "Don't go away… not again, please! The last time I saw you things… didn't go well… just… please don't leave me again, come back." He begged for his father to stay.

"Ryan, you can't hold on to these things. They linger in your heart and strike you every single day. You can't live the way you're supposed to worrying about it clouding your mind and obsessively controlling every detail. You need to let go, be at peace with yourself."

His father's word's correlated with the slipping of Ryan's tears. "I'm gone, but that doesn't mean I'm not proud of you… never think that."

Ryan's eyes swelled with more tears. "Please, stay here! I don't want you to go, I don't want you to leave, I don't want you to go on the plane and I don't want you to…" He couldn't hold back the river of tears with the concrete dam of his will. It was too much, too overwhelming; he burst into an emotional state, letting everything go and sparing no painful memory. "Why? Why!"

"It's time for me to go son…" His father said, as he approached the door for the last time.

"But… Why?" Ryan asked, his eyes swelling up with regretful tears.

"I need to think… I need to be alone and think."

"But why so far away? Why go all the way to Alaska? Can't you just stay here and…"

"No… I need to go somewhere far, where I can remember the days of my childhood in solitude. I need to get away from society and spend some time completely isolated; then and only then will I be able to return in peace. Perhaps my absence will teach you something as well; personal responsibility and self-motivation…"

"Dad… please." Ryan pleaded as his father stepped outside of the door. He followed him outside to where the car was parked at a perfect ninety degree angle from the road to the driveway.

"Ryan, I need to do this…" His father reached for his keys. "Aunt Jennie will be coming over from Wisconsin, there's no need to worry. If she insists on asking, tell her I'll be arriving at Anchorage today, but also explain to her that the time zones are different so that it will technically be tomorrow." He opened the door and entered.

Neither of them said a word after that; there was no need. Instead his father departed, and his car was soon fading from view. The final moments in which Ryan saw the vehicle came back to him, wrapped up in a traumatic and painful correlation with the horrible discovery.

"no…. no…" He said to himself. "…no…"

Instantly, he became self-aware of his surroundings. He froze as his eyes took in the enclosed part of the world in front of him. But instead of a simple arrangement, there was another figure in front of him. At first Ryan thought it was his father.

"Ryan… Ryan?"

Dr. Morrison.

"Ryan! Are you ok?"

Ryan took a few moments to regain his senses. It was strange returning to his fully conscious state. His tears still drew from his eyes and his body still shook from the anxiety. "Taber… I don't feel so well…" Ryan never called his professor by his first name. "The world, everything… it's so strange, why is it so strange?"

Dr. Morrison pondered the answer. "What… exactly are a talking about Ryan?"

Ryan breathed fast and hard, only calming down at the sight of his professor's comforting closeness. "My… my dad… I saw him."

"You mean… here?"

Ryan nodded.

Dr. Morrison looked so deeply that he was almost looking inside of himself. "I see. You know Ryan, when my father died; I never knew how to react. At first I cried of course, but then came the difficult part of knowing why. Sometimes, the thought of him was so powerful it almost felt as if he were with me… I couldn't let him go even though he was gone… is that what you feel?"

Ryan nodded once more.

"Would you… care to tell me?"

"It was… the last time I saw him. He left for Alaska and never came back… he died in a plane crash… it was the worst day of my life."

"I understand…" Dr. Morrison put his hands on Ryan's shoulder in a similar fashion to the way his father always did. "I had to deal with similar problems, helpless and weak…"

Ryan's panicked and tear ridden eyes were drawn towards his professor's.

"Ryan, my father did some things many people would kill him for merely by his association. When he put his scientific knowledge to use, he looked back on himself and asked, 'why'? Was it worth all the pain and horror that it brought? It was the same fear instilled upon me when I became part of the Intelligent Systems project. And the same emotion I had when I… did some other things… One of the main purposes for the Intelligent Systems project was to make sure it could never be used… in warfare at least. But Aperture reserved many of the works for practical purposes. These practical purposes are of course where you may come in…"

"I know…" Ryan looked at the machine. "But why couldn't you tell me? Why keep it a secret? Why did you not allow me to willingly go through with something so dangerous?"

"That was the only way it would work? Do you think we told the soldiers in the Intelligent systems project that they were actually receiving orders from someone who doesn't exist? In the same way, we had to keep you in the dark so we… we really wanted you at Aperture."

"And you had to mind control me? Are you insane? I was about to accept the position anyways! Now I figure out my future employers were brainwashing me into joining them, how do you expect me to feel?"

"Ryan, you were our only true connection with all the three stages. You were part of Extraction, in selecting Wheatley for data procedures to be molded for the new core. You were part of Mitigation, the restriction of danger and hindrance of power. Finally, you were also part of the final stage of our work: Implementation."

Ryan's mind was wrought with anxiety and confusion. Why him? Why did he have to be the guinea pig in this crazy experiment?

"Ryan, we chose you because you were the only one capable of getting through such an intense change. Any normal person would've turned out incomprehensible and insane! You've done it! You've passed implementation! Do you know how amazing that is?"

"You think I turned out fine? Do you know how I got here? The C.I.A., Russian commandoes, Black Mesa, they're all after me! Don't you understand the danger I'm in? Do you know what I've gone through?"

Dr. Morrison unexpectedly smiled. "You managed to get through all that? Ryan, you're an amazing person, and an amazing scientist; can you imagine who else could've gone through such pressure? You've won! This is it! You've become self aware of your own implementation! You've passed the final stage!"

Ryan breathed heavily, still wondering about his own strange ailment. "Is it… will it go away?" Ryan asked, worried that the psychotic episodes would affect him for the rest of his life. The silence after such a question was almost deafening.

"It will Ryan, with my help it will…" Dr. Morrison leaned in and gave Ryan a hug. "There are ways we can suppress it; within a year it will be nothing but a bad memory… You can stay here a while, you'll be safe… I'll deal with the problems related to the neuroextraction device myself."

As Dr. Morrison lifted away from Ryan he walked towards the machine's control panel. "I… think it's time to let this thing go." He turned a couple knobs and activated at least a dozen switches. "Its outdated anyways…" Dr. Morrison released the final piece of the machines life as he unplugged another component.

Just then, someone came through the smooth sliding door, a look of anxiety was on his face.

"Yes? What is it?" Dr. Morrison asked.

"It's GLaDOS, she's acting weird…"

~X~X~X~X~X~

Author's Notes: Yes, yes, you will review the story, and you will review it now…

IT'S MANDATORY!