Author's Note: I am moving Beyond Aperture as well as my other stories to Archive of Our Own. You can find me on there under ChocolateCoveredPortals.
If Chell hadn't found the portal gun, she wouldn't have been able to get through the narrow grating-a tiny airway in the office wall, a part of the ventilation system that she could never have squeezed into, even without the bulk of the hazard suit in the way. With the portal gun, though, the impossible became a simple matter.
She fired one portal through the grate, another one on the wall next to her, and stepped through. The room was circular, dim, and smelled of fried electronics. In the centre was a large, blocky bit of machinery hanging from the ceiling. It looked like an older version of Her, Chell thought. She frowned for a moment, but then thought of something.
Just maybe she wouldn't have to face GLaDOS. If this-thing was somehow an older version of the chassis, just maybe...
She approached it. The screen on the front remained blank, and on the flat bit was the remains of what was once a bird's nest. With one hand, Chell swept it onto the floor, then used her fingertips to pick out any remaining twigs from the innards of the keyboard.
Something pecked her. She spun around, cursing herself for being inattentive, and was faced with a large bird. It was humongous- its wingspan was easily three feet across, its glossy black feathers shined blue and purple in some places, and it was right in her face. Before she could think, her hand shot out and smacked the bird right across one of its wings. It screeched in pain, drifting down to the floor before lifting itself back up and diving for her again.
The second time, Chell hit it with the butt of the portal gun. This time, it'd had enough. With a last angry screech of pain, it flew out a nearby window.
She took a few moments to recompose herself, eyes searching every corner of the room to make sure that there wasn't another bird hiding in the shadows, ready to dive-bomb her for whatever reason.
And then she turned back to the computer. To the blinking amber cursor on the screen. Enter Password.
She struggled for a few moments, trying to force her brain to connect with something that she had seen nearly five hundred years ago. The dull throbbing behind her eyes started up again, and grinding her teeth just made the pain worse. She closed her eyes, imagining herself back then, angry at Aperture and angry at the world and wanting nothing more than to escape. The scribblings on the wall...
Chell jerked her head upward as the synapses in her brain connected, and she began to type: tier3.
It had been a month since Chell had left.
Wheatley raised his optic, staring at the screen hanging on the wall in front of him. The television was huge - far larger than the one Chell had. Still, he wished he was home. He'd give up television entirely if it meant she'd come home.
A three-legged, yellow-green creature with a single compound eye walked into the room, jumping up on the sofa beside the sphere and whining softly.
"Ah, bloody-" But Wheatley couldn't bring himself to actually be upset. The houndeye only wanted to be friends.
Over and over, he remembered it clearly. "But for me, lady, I'm never setting foot- rail, rail, I sometimes use human metaphors for no reason- in that place again."
And now Chell was gone, and he didn't know if she was going to return.
He shuddered, squeezing his optic shut, wishing once more that he wasn't such a bloody coward. Not like that bloke that was on the TV show he was watching-Gordon Freeman. Now there was somebody he could look up to. A proper hero, him. Like Chell, almost-well, except that Gordon had a beard and glasses and Chell didn't. And of course Gordon didn't have anything on his lady, Wheatley thought with a touch of pride.
But still, those two were brave. Proper heroes, them. And he wasn't.
On the small CRT monitor, lines and lines of scrolling text flashed past Chell's eyes, far too quick for her to even attempt to read. She doubted she'd be able to understand it anyways. Working with computers wasn't exactly one of her greatest talents; she didn't even have one at home.
Maybe, after this was over, she'd get one.
After this was over. If she survived. At the moment, it seemed the odds were stacked against her, and a nearly-overwhelming sense of hopelessness washed over her. It didn't last long though; she shoved it out of her mind, telling herself that she'd survived Aperture before and that she could do it once more.
She rocked back on her heels to stretch her calves as she waited for the computer to do something. She still didn't have an idea what it was doing, but then the scrolling text ground to a halt, a small, tinny beep coming from it. Chell leaned forward, reading it.
Error: Successful operation.
Chell paused, staring at the monitor. Then her lower lip began to tremble, and suddenly she burst into laughter. It was the type of laughter that left her sides aching and tears rolling down her cheeks.
She might not know much about computers, but the computer successfully completing its tasks wasn't the sort of error she'd have expected.
When she managed to regain her breath, the sense of futility hanging over her head had faded. She didn't even have to look at the keyboard to press Y.
For a long, few seconds, nothing happened.
Chell's elation washed away, only to be replaced once more with a nearly tangible sense of dread. She had to force herself to take calm, even breaths; her heart felt like it would jump out of her chest any moment.
Still, there was no reason to think that anything was wrong, Chell tried to tell the more emotional side of her brain. She was just nervous using computers and this carried over to giant mainframes. Especially giant mainframes from Aperture Science which not only did she not know the purpose of, but that she didn't even know how to operate.
And then, in her mind, a small, childlike voice: "Pandora was delivered as a gift from the gods, and terrible evils were unleashed into the world."
Once again struggling to ignore the painful throbbing behind her eyes, she leaned close to the display on the mainframe:
But before she could finish reading it, the ground lurched under her. She planted her feet apart to keep her balance, willing herself not to fall. She didn't fall, but then she realized that it was not the ground that was moving but the mainframe. Pushing her closer and closer to the wall. It had been stationary just a moment ago-
Chell looked up at the ceiling. She had failed to notice the grooves running along it, allowing this thing to move around the room, but she hadn't exactly expected this mainframe to come to life and try to kill her by crushing her against the wall.
Par for the course in Aperture Science-the grim thought ran through her mind just before her brain snapped into action. She whipped out the portal gun. One portal across the room, another one directly under her, and for a moment she was out of danger.
But for a moment only, because the mainframe stopped. It rotated to face her, almost excruciatingly slow; whether because it had been inactive for a long time or just because it was so old, Chell wasn't sure. She wouldn't risk it either ways. Shoving the portal gun back away, she took a running leap at the mainframe, scrambling up it.
Even with the thing spinning as it was, it wasn't exactly difficult for her to keep her balance on it. She steadied herself, waiting, waiting...there!
She flung herself at the nearby window. It didn't break. Her fingertips scrabbled at the ledge, and she pulled herself up, crouching precariously on the narrow ledge. Without missing a beat, she pulled out the gravity gun and punted the glass, shattering it. She looked down, into the blackness, and then back at the room with the homicidal mainframe.
She took a deep breath and let herself fall.
A bird swooped into GLaDOS's chamber, perching itself on her head, tucking its head under its wing to clean itself.
"Yes, Mr. Chubby Beak. I give you a score of 3.4 for style and 10 for being annoying," GLaDOS said, but she didn't make any move to shoo the bird off.
She was worried because the lunatic had disappeared. She hadn't left the facility, because she was nowhere near an exit. She hadn't taken off the suit-otherwise it would've shown up on the display. No, she had simply vanished. Something nagged the corner of her processors, but she pushed it aside, determined to solve the mystery of the missing lunatic. The nagging became more insistent though, and she finally turned her attention to it. And then, once she saw what she was, she didn't like it.
It was the prototype chassis, the one that she thought she had deactivated so long ago. A tranquil fury fell over her as she realized who had done it. The lunatic had no idea what she was messing with, and she was going to destroy them all.
And then GLaDOS was plunged into darkness.