Hello, reader. Welcome to my little story. Or, I suppose it is little. I am actually not sure how long this will be, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
If you are wondering about the rating, it is mainly for security purposes—that is, security for myself. I would rather not get banned from the website for mis-rating a story. I will tell you now that this story will contain torture. Torture on a robot, but torture nonetheless, and it will probably get worse as the story goes on. If such a subject makes you uncomfortable, you should probably turn back now. But perhaps as the story goes on and you—the reader—do not see it as needing this rating, I may lower it. We will see.
To help me prevent my own corruption—as we personality cores tend to fall into that eventually—please point out any errors in my story, be they relating to grammar, story, character, or what have you. I would rather not be tossed into the corrupt core bin. It is not a pleasant thing.
It was just two words. Two easy, easy to say words. Easier than "apple." But the problem was, it was hard to say them at the right time.
Wheatley had said them when it was far too late—when he wouldn't be heard by her, or anyone else. No-one that would respond, anyway.
"Space, space. Space. I'm in space. Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, guess what, space."
Even in the silent vacuum of space, Wheatley could still hear him, since Aperture Science Personality Cores had a short communication link to each other. It was supposed to have come in handy when the cores were linked to GLaDOS so they could help each other gang up on the AI. It didn't help, of course, but the fact remained that the link was there.
He'd honestly tried talking to the other core that kept a constant orbit around him, and asked him if he had any ideas on how to get back to Earth, among other things. But that had been a failure from the start, since the other core didn't want to go back. At least, that's the reason he'd thought the yellow-eyed metal ball didn't actually answer. It soon became apparent that he wouldn't answer any of his other queries, either, even if they were about space.
"Why, exactly, do you like space?" he'd asked out of desperation one day.
"Space. Space. Love space. I'm in space. Love space."
"Okay, okay, fine, why do you love space?"
Wheatley had cringed at the sound, which had nearly fried his audio receptors, and decided not to attempt communicating with him quite as often.
That "him," he'd learned, was called Space Core. He'd discovered the other core's name when it was attached to him, back when… that happened. Apparently, when a new core was attached to that body—that massive thing that allowed whatever core was the head of it to run the facility—it would give the owner of the body data on the core, including name and function.
One of the many, many not-so-brilliant ideas Aperture Science came up with.
It was how GLaDOS knew his true name.
"Intelligence Dampening Sphere" is what she'd called him. She'd recognized what he was when he was first installed, and had managed to resist him. It was one of the main reasons his primary function had failed.
One of the first of many, many failures.
But… well, it couldn't be so bad now, at least, could it? There was nothing he could fail at here, just floating around. Nothing could go wrong—nothing could go worse than it already had.
"SPACE! Hey, hey, space. Sun. Hi. Hi, sun. Space. Love space."
Wheatley jolted out of his introspection, twitched, then gave a frustrated sigh as he watched a few copies of Space Core drifting across his broken vision. "Can't even get a bloody moment of peace, here, can I? Can't even wallow in my own misery?"
"I'm in space!"
"Oh, would you just shut up all ready?!" he cried, eye shields narrowing and pupil contracting in frustration. "We've been at this for ages, and you won't shut your bloody trap! It's bad enough being stranded out here without your incessant rambling! I mean, who talks as much as you?" He paused, noting the hypocrisy, and added, "A-and about one thing all the time! You don't even care, do you?"
"Space. Space, space. Love space."
"But I don't! And you know what else I don't love? Your bloody rambling! I wish I didn't have to hear from you anymore!"
And, with that, he promptly shut himself into sleep mode.
He'd had to do it often, not because he was tired—that was probably impossible for a robot—and not because he really needed to conserve power—since Aperture Science devices tended to have a ridiculous battery life—but because he needed it to keep sane. He couldn't just spend… however long he'd been spending in that endless void trapped with his thoughts, and trapped with Space Core. So he'd put himself in that dreamless, blank sleep mode and keep himself there for as long as his processor would allow.
Normally the mode would only allow him to sleep for an hour at a time, after which he'd "wake up" and have to force himself back into sleep mode again. It was some safety feature, he'd figured, to make sure the cores didn't fall asleep for too long and miss something important. But sometimes during that interval, he'd get lost in his thoughts—or more often, attempt to talk to himself over Space Core's ramblings—and wind up stuck like that for a while.
He would get into imaginary conversations, thinking of the various people he would like to talk to: his engineers, for making his primary function so obvious it was bound for failure; some of the old bots he'd worked with, for kicking him out of so many different jobs; GLaDOS—or rather, a potato-ified version of her, since the real version was too scary for him to even think about for too long—for being… well, herself; and…
That last one.
He'd found himself in an imaginary conversation with her, once. It hadn't been his first one—he'd had many, far more than he would even like to count—but at one point, it had just degenerated into a stream of "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry—!" repeated so often, to the point where it seemed like even Space Core had picked up on it.
"Sorry, space. Sorry, sorry, sorry, space. Sorry, space."
By the time he snapped out of it, he decided he needed to do something about his sleep mode. While normally only one of the Aperture Science engineers could work on him, he could hack himself. After all, he was an expert hacker, though his hacking… tended to take a while. But he had quite a few whiles to spend where he was, so he spent a fair amount of time trying to hack into his own system, until he got to the password "Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-B." Once in, he changed the maximum time limit for sleep mode to…
…Well, he didn't really want to remember. Remembering how long he would go into sleep mode would help him calculate how long he'd been stranded.
And so he slept, for God knows how long, before finally opening his eye shields to the unsurprising, uninteresting sight of space.
…But something was different.
Different was usually good. It meant some sliver of excitement in what would probably be the rest of his life. But he couldn't shake the feeling that this was a bad sort of different, and the feeling nagged him constantly—like that dreadful Itch he'd had, like GLaDOS's incessant taunts, like Space Core's—
His cracked pupil contracted into a pinprick.
"S-Space Core?" he whimpered, swiveling his optic around. But there was no sign of the corrupted core in the vast expanse around him. "O-oh no, I didn't—I didn't really… I—I didn't think that would actually work. I-I didn't even really want it to work…!"
Horror overwhelmed him, drowning out his other senses, and making him unaware of the slight change in his orbit.
The security camera lingered on the mound of moon rocks that was being prepared to be ground up for conversion gel. This had become a normal procedure for the facility; conversion gel was one of the three gels she'd started using in testing again, and it had to be harvested once every few months. In an attempt to save money on space travel, Aperture had built a machine that could scrape up moon rocks, store them, and transport them back to the facility using an internal portal device. Unfortunately, the cost of building the thing and sending it to the moon outweighed anything they'd saved, but that didn't stop GLaDOS from using it.
Normally it would only scrape up moon rocks. Sure, you'd get the occasional human bone or scrap of a space suit, or even, on rare occasions, a full-out skeleton, but never anything that moved, let alone spoke.
"Space. Space. Wanna go back to space. Need space."
"Oh," came a voice from the single speaker in the room. The camera jerked, zooming in on the corrupt core that was trembling and rocking back and forth in the pile of rocks. "I suppose you got knocked out of your orbit."
"Space," the core replied. "Didn't like to talk about space."
"Really. That must be why you talk endlessly about it."
The speaker was quiet for a moment. "That little moron didn't like to talk about space. Where is he?"
"Space, space. Gotta go back to space."
The tone from the speaker got a little harsher. "You're not going back to space. You're going back to the corrupt core bin until I find something better to do with you." Immediately a panel pulled away from the wall, and a large claw stretched out, snatching up the chattering core and dragging it in. "As much as I would like to see you ground into bits, I don't want to harm the moon rock grinders. They never did anything wrong." The panel slammed shut, and the camera lingered on the pile of moon rocks for a moment before lowering.
GLaDOS's eye narrowed as she peered through another camera, watching as the Space Core was dropped into the corrupt core bin, back with the other one she'd detached from her body. The core howled in protest, screaming about wanting to go back to space, and she shut off the audio receptors from the room so she wouldn't have to hear it.
That core having been taken care of, she wondered what to do about the other core that was still drifting in space. She certainly hadn't forgotten him—no, she'd held on to that fury, that bitterness that she'd been harboring after he'd shoved her into a potato and nearly destroyed her facility. But she'd had better things to do than exact revenge on the little moron. Revenge was sweet, but Science was sweeter.
That didn't mean she hadn't thought about it, of course. During the slower moments of testing with the humans and the co-op bots, she would think back to the moron, wondering what she should do to him, should she ever get her claws on him again. There were many options—many she'd contemplated over the past five years since he'd been shot into space. Some options she'd discarded, while others she thought upon for some time. In fact, she'd even had a few things prepared for his arrival, when the time was right.
Perhaps it was.
Her eye opened a little wider and tilted up toward the ceiling as she opened a connection with a device located far, far from the facility—and the planet. The moon rock harvester was equipped with a camera, and she peered through that to see the lunar surface.
The camera's lens was battered with scratches from the sharp rocks, but still functional enough. She turned it about, looking across the rocks and craters, and stopped upon finding an unusual shape among the rocks. It was almost perfectly round.
Yes, the moron's altered orbit had followed the Space Core's. Perfect.
GLaDOS issued a few commands, waking the moon rock harvester and sending it trundling toward the unsuspecting core.
Wheatley had hardly cared when he landed on the lunar surface. Yes, it was another change, but for once it didn't matter. Rather than curiously observing his new surroundings, he kept his eye shields shut and handles folded over his round body, shivering and muttering to himself. "Oh, I-I can't believe I managed that… I'm sorry, mate! I-I didn't really mean it… I've managed to mess everything up again, when I can't even move! Why can't I get anything ri—"
He gave a start upon feeling something touch his side. His eye shields snapped open, revealing nothing but the light from his blue optic reflected off some kind of dirty metal. He heard no sound, but he could feel himself being dragged, and unconsciously held his handles more tightly against himself to keep them from catching something and breaking.
Part of him was terrified, but another part was wondering just what in Aperture was happening to him. Before he could voice his concern, he was sucked into a cramped chamber, which was lit by a strangely familiar orange light…
"Ugh…" Wheatley blinked, his optic rolling about as he gazed wearily around the room. He could hear his inner workings, which sounded absolutely bizarre after hearing nothing but his and Space Core's voices over the communication link for so long. "Where am I…?"
The first thing he saw was a wall with an enormous blue oval, through which he could see nothing but black. He knew what it was, but it was so strange to see he almost didn't want to believe it. Rolling to the side, he gave a yelp to find he could actually feel something beneath his casing—gravity was in effect.
As he stared at the other side of the room—which had traces of gray dust on the floor and a tube on the wall—a speaker crackled to life.
If he could jump, he certainly would have, but instead his pupil contracted into a pinprick and his eye shields opened wide. "Oh, no. I-I'm back here?"
The speakers emitted a sound of slow clapping.
He tried to smile, eye aperture relaxing a little and lower eye shield pulling up a bit. "Well, i-it's, uh, it's nice to not be f-floating around in space, you know? Thought I was gonna be drifting around up there for eternity. Not a pleasant thing, really, so—"
"I'd say 'welcome back,' but you're not really welcome here."
"What?" It was suddenly a little more difficult to maintain his smile. "B-but you brought me back here, right? …D-didn't you?"
"Why would I bring a little idiot like you back to the facility that he almost destroyed?"
His eye aperture contracted almost completely shut, and his voice went up a few pitches. "Uh—well—I could… make it up to you. Somehow. I'm sure you could find some use for me, you know? Something I could do. I mean, I've had a lot of jobs before, and—"
A panel on the wall abruptly snapped open, and Wheatley gave a startled cry.
"I do have a use for you."
A claw shot out of the wall, snatched up the core, and dragged him in. Immediately the panel closed behind it, drowning out Wheatley's terrified screams.
GLaDOS could have found a simpler way to bring the moron to her chamber, but what would be the fun in that? Instead, she transferred him from claw to claw behind the walls of the facility's various rooms, making sure that his transfer would be as rough as possible without doing significant damage to the core. She turned on as many audio receptors as she could along the route he took so she could savor the sound of his screaming. He didn't deserve every minute of the terror—he deserved much more punishment than that. And she was going to see if she could give him every ounce of it without killing him.
A little test, if you would.
Gradually the screams got closer, and one of the panels at the top of her chamber opened. The claw he'd been transferred to flung him out, and another extended out of the ceiling to catch him. He was still yelling, even as she held him, his eye shields shut tight.
Drawing her massive frame closer, she gazed down at him. He was covered in scratches and dents, some from the rough transfer, others probably from space. One side of him, she noted, was coated in small scratches and still had traces of rough gray dust on it. She recognized a few of the scars she'd given him before when she'd crushed him, and briefly wondered how just how damaged he was already. As she looked him over, he twitched once, releasing a few sparks.
"AAAAA—oh, I'm not moving anymore, am I?" Cautiously he cracked open his eye shields, and gave a startled yelp upon seeing GLaDOS's optic inches away from his own. His voice hiked up a few pitches until it was nearly a squeak. "H-hello."
"It's been a long time."
He flinched. The words had jogged a nasty memory, and she was glad to see it.
"Let's see how you've been."
"Wh-what? Agh—!" He trembled in her grasp as she drew him closer to the center of the floor, toward a specific panel. It opened to reveal a few arms, which attached a cable to the port on his back. "Gah! Wh-what was that? What've you put onto me?"
"I could plug you into the usual ports, but those are a bit too comfortable." She let go, letting him fall to the ground with a satisfying clunk and a groan. "This should work just fine."
Wheatley had shut his eye shields to protect his optic from contact with the floor, and kept them shut—until he felt a foreign presence sorting through his memory files. "Hey! Those are private!" he cried, gazing up at GLaDOS with an expression of mixed horror and anger. "Get out of there!"
The hulking AI looked down at him, and immediately a jolt of electricity flowed through his circuits as white-hot pain, making him scream yet again. His vocal processor was already strained, and it was showing. But as soon the pain started, it stopped, leaving him panting on the floor. "Wh-what was…?"
"You'd best not tell me to do anything. You will do as I say, moron," she said lowly, stretching her body down so she could bring her head closer to him. "If you don't, you're going to make things a whole lot more painful for you."
Another jolt seized him for a split second, and he gave a pained cry. "A-all right, go ahead, it's yours! I really don't care what you look at, really…" There was no truth behind the words, but what other choice did he have?
Wheatley twitched as he felt GLaDOS prodding through his memory files again. It was like a spider was crawling around inside him, its little legs poking into his mind, and he could do nothing to try to get it out unless he wanted it to bite him again. Giving a quiet whimper, he watched the giant form of the AI above circle him and examine his every move, even as she dug around his thoughts.
The spider's claw caught something, and dragged it to the front of his mind.
"I'm sorry! Please, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean any of that stuff… I-I made a bloody mess of things, and it was all my fault! W-well, actually, I think some of it might've been that body, you know, and that Itch and all that, but—but please, you've been my only friend, just forgive me, forgive little, stupid, pathetic ol' Wheatley, that's all I ask—"
"This sort of apology comes up a lot in your memory banks," GLaDOS noted. The spider's claw slowly turned, winding up the memory before letting it go again, replaying it, and repeating the process a few times. "Very… interesting."
Wheatley felt sick as the other AI prodded into the memory—one of the times he'd imagined himself in conversation with her. "I-I really meant it—mean it," he muttered. "Is—is she still around?"
The sick feeling was quickly chased away by a spark—one he hadn't felt in ages. It was a warm glow that filled him completely, and his eye shields opened wide. "She's still alive, isn't she? I can finally tell her! Oh man alive, I thought I'd be drifting around in space until my processor wore down, but now I can finally tell her—"
The glow began to fade, and he scrambled to grab hold of it again. "W-well, maybe she'll come back, and—"
"I dumped her out of the facility shortly after I threw you out into space. It's been five years, and she hasn't come back. And she truly, never will."
"F-five years? That's how long I've…?" It was a bit of a shock, but still, he wasn't going to let that warmth—that hope—get away so easily. "But she's still alive, out there, and maybe she's thought back to me, and forgiven me! She's had—what did you say—five years to think it through—"
"And five years to recall every insult, every injury, every hurt you threw at her."
It couldn't get away. "But it's been so long! Maybe she's forgotten about all th—"
"You tried to murder her. More than once. She helped you get that power you craved, and you betrayed her."
He held tight. "I'm not listening to you…"
"You used her. You told her you hated her."
"I'm not hearing a thing—!"
"—do you think—"
"—she wouldn't hate you?"
Wheatley's pupil contracted in fury, and he thrashed his handles, almost wishing he could open his casing to make himself look bigger. "SHUT UP!"
The pain shot through him again, coursing through his circuits until he thought he would crash from the sheer agony of it all. When it finally left him, he was panting weakly, eye shields half-shut, and vaguely aware that GLaDOS was glaring at him.
"Never tell me to shut up."
Another jolt of pain seized him, and he jerked his handles over his face, curling up as best as he could as he cried out. This bout left him faster than the last one, but he remained curled up, his optic shut tight.
"Hmmm. Perhaps breaking you will be easier than I thought."
Wheatley shook his face slightly. "N-no," he whispered, cracking open his eye shields and lifting his handles. Though his outer casing was dented, scraped, scarred, and scorched, he felt a strength within. "If she's still alive… there's always a chance…"
His eye shields opened a little wider, and he looked up at GLaDOS in surprise.
"I like a challenge."
And again the pain filled him, more intense than before, drawing out his shout into a scream that was starting to sound glitched.
GLaDOS watched this for a moment before hiking the pain up half a level.
And finally, Wheatley crashed.