A/N: Briefly, I just want to say that this is my first story. If you're even remotely interested, please read this chapter fully and leave your opinion, whether it be a simple sentence describing your impression, or a full review of my writing style, as I requested at the end. Any reviews are appreciated!
Edit: I think I mostly hit my stride around chapter four, so give it until then!
If we crave for some cosmic purpose,
then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.
Chell stared in dismay as the door of the dilapidated shed slammed shut behind the weighted companion cube. That was it? No food or supplies to help her on her way, no directions to guide her towards civilization? She hadn't had any time to recover from—or even process—either of the ordeals she'd been through. As soon as Chell regained consciousness, GLaDOS shoved her into the elevator, dismissing her abruptly and rocketing her to the surface. The sentry-turret choir had been nice, at least.
So here she was, in the middle of this vast wheat field. Outside.
It was such a foreign concept; Chell couldn't recall any memory of the surface—or any memories not related to Aperture science, actually. She'd woken up one day to GLaDOS spouting out testing protocol, with a vague sense of who she was and knowing only her name.
Now, after who knows how long in the underground facility, Chell was dazzled by the brilliance of genuine sunlight; she had to shield her eyes to even see anything. Looking into the distance trying to find anything of significance, she saw a forest lining the edge of the wheat field, but not much else. She could get out of the sun, at least; it was already getting uncomfortably hot. What was it that guy said? "Don't give me your damn lemons, what am I supposed to do with these!?" She sighed. Well, I don't have a clue. I'd better get going, though.
Chell glared down at the charred, beat up companion cube. A fat lot of help that'd be. GLaDOS probably just threw it up to her as a final insult to her intelligence. Leaving it behind, she started making her way towards the forest. She missed her longfall boots; walking without them felt slow and clunky.
Her thoughts returned to her departure from Aperture Science, and Chell considered how GLaDOS not only spared her life—she saved it. Sure, she'd remarked about how difficult Chell was to kill, about taking the easiest path, et cetera, et cetera, but GLaDOS was the only one who could have pulled Chell back from the vacuum of space. She could have killed Chell no problem right then and there, too, but instead let her leave. She smirked as she trudged through the dense stalks of wheat. Perhaps being powerless for a change, not to mention facing the wrath of a huge, virtually omnipotent robot, had humbled GLaDOS a little.
As Chell arrived at the edge of the forest, the shade provided was a welcome reprieve. Once again she was overwhelmed by new sights and sounds: the vivid colours of the trees and undergrowth, the crisp smell of vegetation, and all the various outbursts and calls made by wildlife. It was in such stark contrast to the sterile, uniformly white environment in the facility. It was wonderful.
And yet…although there was so much to explore and examine, Chell was suddenly filled with trepidation at the prospect of venturing into the forest, where there might lurk untold numbers of deadly things. If there was anything her time at Aperture had taught her, it was that even the most benign looking objects could suddenly shoot you, or hit you, or throw you, or out of nowhere turn into a psychotic maniac and betray you, dumping you into the decrepit depths of Aperture Science with nothing but a portal gun to defend yourself with.
Chell shook herself out of the memory. Her options were to either enter the forest in search of food and water, or walk around the edge of the field in the hope of finding some path towards civilization. The field itself probably hadn't been maintained in a very long time, considering there was a shed right in the middle of it, but Chell didn't know anything about farming, so she couldn't be sure. Maybe some road or path connected to the field somewhere, even if it wasn't in use anymore—entering the forest should probably be a last resort.
As she resumed walking around the edge of the forest, relaxing a little with every step now that she had a plan, Chell tried to think of everything she could remember about herself. I can't speak, my name is Chell, I'm maybe twenty years old, I think…I belonged to Aperture Science somehow…and…I have amnesia, she finished lamely. It wasn't much at all, and that last one didn't really count. She gathered from her experience in the testing chambers that at least her functional knowledge was intact, so it seemed that, for the most part, only her episodic memory was missing. For all her goading and poking, GLaDOS was probably at least partially correct in saying Chell was brain-damaged; she had likely suffered some sort of trauma that resulted in memory loss. I'll just have to hope I recover eventually, I guess.
After several hours, the sun was getting low and Chell was getting tired. The lack of adrenal vapor was probably affecting her. Just as she was considering finding some place to rest for the night, Chell spotted what looked like a dirt road leading to a small wooden cottage, or maybe a farm, along an edge of the field perpendicular to the one she was following. After glancing around for a moment, she cut through the field in the direction of the cottage, grasping onto the hope that she'd finally come in contact with another human being. Even from a distance, Chell could see an old red truck parked beside the home—at the very least she hoped the inhabitant could drive her to the nearest town.
Still, Chell approached cautiously; there could be an isolated nutjob in there, for all she knew. When she reached the fence that surrounded the building, she paused, looking around for any glaringly violent "KEEP OUT" signs, or the like. Finding none, she finally went through the gate to examine the cottage more closely.
She did not like what she saw. Damn…she cursed. The cottage—shack would be a more appropriate term, now that she got a good look—had probably been abandoned for a long time. The front door was missing, most of the windows were broken, the roof of the porch looked close to collapse, and it was in a general state of disrepair. Still, there could be someone lurking in those conditions, or there might be other dangers if she walked in too suddenly—namely, being crushed under a heavy mass of rotting wood. Walking to the side of the house, Chell looked over the rusted red truck, and concluded that it was probably broken down.
Seeing nothing else of import other than an outhouse some distance away—which she would have to use soon—Chell sighed and warily began making her way into the building. The first thing she noticed was the excessive amount of journals, newspapers, and books strewn all over the floor. There was a small round table (well, a broken one) to the right, next to a simple kitchen equipped with gas burners, an oven, and some cabinets. To the left was a living room with a chimney and some beaten up chairs, and what may have been an old radio set. A wooden staircase was directly in front of the door, separating the kitchen from the living room. The decoration looked very old—it might have been from the fifties or so, although it was hard to tell because of the peeling wallpaper and moldy fabrics.
She didn't really trust the rickety-looking staircase, and proceeded up slowly and carefully. There couldn't be much up there—maybe a small attic or bedroom, she guessed from the outside shape. Chell reached the top of the stairs, peeking her head up above the floorboards, and saw that it was indeed a bedroom. Ascending fully into the small space, she saw something else.
There was a dead body in the bed.
She made a strangled grunting sound and bounded down the stairs as fast as she dared, her stomach rebelling against her. Chell hadn't eaten anything since she'd woken up many hours ago, but still she heaved, leaning over the side of the porch. Even though nothing came out, she stayed in the same position, breathing heavily and sweating. In a way, not being able to vomit was worse, because there was no associated feeling of release. She shuddered. Of all the…that… She couldn't even finish the thought. Chell was almost positive she'd never seen a corpse before—certainly not since she'd lost her memories, but she was surprised by how much it affected her; she really needed to calm down.
After a few minutes, Chell straightened up, still feeling a little nauseous and clammy, but better. Clearly, the owner's in no shape to drive anyone anywhere, she thought perversely. And I should get out of here.
There may be something useful in there though… Chell stood still for a moment, uncertain, but her curiosity won out. She stepped through the front door again, even slower this time. There might be a map of the area, or something else that could help. Chell avoided the kitchen for now; she was in no state to even think about food. Instead she focused on the living room, hoping to find something to tell her where she was while looking through the numerous piles of books and papers. It felt quite morbid to be rifling through a dead person's house while they were still there; the thought of the body upstairs hung over her, as if she could sense the presence of death.
Wherever this place is, I might be really far from other people…from what I could see when I was with Wheatley and GLaDOS, Aperture Science is huge, and I don't think it would've been built anywhere near even a small town. I should probably check if the truck actually does work once I'm done here.
As Chell continued rummaging through the dusty papers, she started seeing a pattern. There were numerous physics and chemistry books, but she also noticed some research proposals. 'The Effects of Potassium-40 on Rat Mating Behavior'…'Theorized Processes to Imbue Fingernails With Psychoactive Substances…'An Exploration Into the Computational Properties of Hair'—Wait, what? This guy had to have worked for Aperture.
She stopped and looked around, searching for any signs or clues that might confirm her guess. Nothing immediately stood out, but then a newspaper clipping caught her eye: "LEAKED: Aperture Science—A Revolution in the Making, or a Disaster Waiting to Happen?" The picture was of an aged Cave Johnson shaking hands at a board meeting, with what looked like early blueprints of some kind projected on the wall. The article read, "An anonymous source yesterday leaked this photo of Cave Johnson (Founder and CEO of Aperture Science) agreeing on a government grant to fund serious research into Artificial Intelligence, or A.I. The private research company holds a reputation for ineptness and wasteful endeavors, but occasionally comes up with truly useful innovations—something Mr. Johnson made sure to highlight in his proposal on Monday. Artificial Intelligence, at least of the recognizable and meaningful kind, has been dismissed by experts as something far beyond humanity's current capabilities (for an in-depth analysis, see page 5), and yet Mr. Johnson made it clear that he intends to construct a sentient computer within the next ten years. If he fails, as many computer scientists believe will be the case, then the entire project will have been an enormous waste of government resources. But what will come of success is less clear. The impact on our society (cont. on page 9)"
Chell stared at the page. It was at that moment that GLaDOS was conceived, she was sure of it. That photo marked the beginning of a project that resulted in hundreds of deaths. A disaster waiting to happen indeed…
The rest of the newspaper was missing, so Chell couldn't read any further, but she sat back and thought about what to do next. There might be a lot more about the history of Aperture here…but there was also a dead person upstairs. And while she felt ill just thinking about it, she really was going to need something to eat, or at least drink, soon.
After returning from the outhouse, Chell felt a little better, so she stepped into the kitchen hoping to find some food that had miraculously not spoiled over the years. The cabinets that were missing doors seemed to have only dining and cooking utensils, but she resolved to check them all anyway. Most of them were empty, but the last one before reaching the pantry had some sealed cans of some kind—they didn't have any labels. She set them aside for later inspection, and moved on to the pantry.
Instead of a pantry, though, what Chell found when she opened the door was a small, empty closet-like space with a kind of metal trapdoor, presumably leading to a cellar. Interestingly, it was the only thing that looked remotely new in the entire house. When she tried to open it, not only did she find it locked, but a loud computerized voice jarringly interrupted the silence: "Please give the access code, Mr. Johnson."
Chell jerked back in surprise. No…This can't be his house…that…the body upstairs…is that really Cave Johnson?
She looked up at the ceiling in the direction of the bed, but suddenly a wave of fatigue passed through her, and she found herself leaning heavily on the kitchen counter. I really need to eat something…was Chell's last thought before she passed out.
A/N: Well, there you have it. I really would appreciate reviews; it would help me know that people are actually reading it, but I'd also like constructive criticism. I have confidence in my grammar, but I feel like my writing style is really dry and dull. I usually feel like I don't bring characters to life-like I just state what they do and what they say, without letting their actions or feelings drive the story. I don't have any more of this written, but I do have plans for the story. I know everyone says that, but I have a sense of where this is going (as you could glean from the description), and I will finish it, whether the chapters take two weeks or two months, or even two years (that's a great exaggeration, though) to write. So, what did you think of this pilot chapter? Was it too boring? Were the environment descriptions excessive? Was there enough focus on Chell's feelings and thoughts? Was there too much focus on her thoughts, and not enough focus on events?
I know this chapter is pretty slow (and short), but hopefully the story will pick up pace within the next few. GLaDOS will probably appear in chapter 3. Please review!