That beautiful field, where the golden wheat seemed to stretch to the ends of the earth, meeting the skyline. That brilliant blue sky, the home of the downy white clouds drifting calmly through, lied so stunningly above her head. Chell knew at that exact moment that her life made a 180, that she would never see another test, another A.I.; Chell knew she was free.
That was thirty minutes ago.
Chell now sat in an office room, gazing at the chalkboard in the back which was dusted in white and marked with foreign inscription. Her ears throbbed as she listened to the bickering men before her, most certainly arguing about her.
"Is she even recognized?" questioned one of the not-so-gentlemen.
"'Is she even recognized?'" mimicked another scathingly, soon adding, "Look at her, you idiot. I think we would know if she was recognized, and the answer is 'no'."
"Now don't be so heated. You found her in first place. I was just asking question-aru."
"By zhe looks of 'er," said one of the men, his thick European accent making it rather difficult to interpret his words, "she zeems to be… quite impoverished. We're lucky to 'ave found 'er before she–"
"Dude, of course she's poor! Just look at those clothes!"
Chell glanced down at her orange jumpsuit pants, which frayed at the ends and were speckled with tiny black-rimmed holes, but she didn't care. Shifting once more in her rigid seat, she shook off those insensitive comments with a sharp, irritated intake of breath.
"And those boots!" the loud-mouth added, stuffing more of those 'meat-sandwiches' (as Chell called them) into his face. "What the heck are those braces on 'em for?"
"Would you stop that?" snapped the Englishman, his peculiarly bushy eyebrows narrowing in disgust.
"Stop what?" asked the glutton, mocking innocence laced in his voice.
"Being a bloody arse!"
Chell noticed as the loud man let out a soft, girlish huff, pretending to act slighted. "Wha–well sorry, bro. It's not my fault my total awesomeness is too intimidating for you."
Chell wondered how anyone could act so vain, so full of themselves as he did–well, not as much as the two A.I.s she so desperately made an effort to get away from, but his sense of self still was too enormous to comprehend. He always dubbed himself a hero, boasting about his many, albeit inflated victories. His benevolence was almost nonexistent, like how proper safety procedures were nonexistent back in the facility.
Muttering vulgarities, the bushy-eyebrowed gentleman clutched the plate on which the sandwiches sat, flinging it across the room, out the open window, before a faint smashing of cheap soda-lime glass against a sidewalk was heard.
Chell, oddly curious, watched as the two engaged in a full-on slap-fight war to-the-death. The others also appeared quite captivated in the unexpected entertainment, snickering childishly into their cupped hands. One, who bore silver tinged hair and purplish eyes, smiled joyously beneath the thick winter scarf draped around his neck. Another, whose lengthy blond hair lied limp to the frame of his face, smirked at the sight, at some points glimpsing his blue eyes back to Chell, winking flirtatiously. Uninterested, Chell mouthed a simple 'no, thank you' and budged her seat a little farther back away from the frilly-dressed fellow.
"Enough!" shouted the stunted man, swathed in a silk robe, flicking the brunette pony-tail off his shoulder. "We have more important matter to discuss. Stop breaking each other's neck and shut your mouth!"
The slap-happy quarrel now over, both the arrogant hero and the bushy-eyebrowed Englishman slumped into their seats with a pout, both mumbling, 'he started it'.
Glancing humbly at Chell, the stunted man held a silk sheathed hand out. His Asian accented voice somewhat calmer and more approachable, he asked, "Your name-aru?"
Chell glared up at him, her typical silence overcoming the atmosphere of the room. Everyone else waited eagerly for an answer, while the Asian withdrew his hand slowly, confusion overwhelming him.
"I'm sorry–can you not understand? Name–we need a name."
At last, the frilly one reached over and plucked one of the many pens from the cup in the center of the table, also grabbing the pad of paper beside it. Courteously, he handed both of them to Chell.
"Mon cher, 'ere you go."
Once she held the fragile pen in her hands, she began to write, handing it to the Asian afterwards.
His face twisted in confusion, clearly troubled by the shaky letters on the paper. He soon gave up, claiming that he couldn't comprehend her language.
"Lemme' see!" cried the arrogant hero, snatching the paper from the Asian's hands. Adjusting the thin-rimmed glasses on his face, he gave the response,
"Her name's 'Chell'."
"How can you understand writing, and I can't?" Skeptic, the Asian peered over the arrogant hero's shoulder, squinting his amber eyes at the paper.
"Pffft! It's easy! Well, it is–if you're a hero–like me!"
"Well, why can't you ask where she's from?"
"Or if she's zeeing zomeone…?"
"Or snow–does little mouse have snow where she is?"
The paper now in her possession, Chell wrote another sentence, but as the arrogant hero reached out for it, the bushy-eyebrowed Englishman swiftly grasped it out of his reach.
The Englishman only rolled his green eyes, stating rather curtly, "Don't be such a brat, America. It's. Plain. Bloody. ENGLISH. You're as much as a professional translator as you are a 'hero'. I think it's time you step away from spotlight while you're still the slightest bit favorable."
America? Chell questioned to herself, bothered by how his name was somehow akin to the nation.
"Way to crush my spirit, England," whined America, gruff and sarcastic.
"Oh, please. I don't think it's spirit that's filling up your fat head. I–"
"Zomeone please just read zhe paper already! Liztening to zhis incezzant chatter iz like liztening to dying parrots!" complained the frilly one, rubbing his temples.
"Fine–fine, alright… Where she's from…" said England, before clearing his throat and reciting from the paper.
"'It would be best if you didn't know'…" He re-studied the paper carefully, checking front and back for any missing sentences he might've missed. Everyone glanced back at Chell once again, eyebrows narrowed in misunderstanding, wordlessly asking for an explanation for this ambiguous statement.
Then a massive grin formed on America's face, before he finally cracked, bursting out laughing, like some madcap hyena with a smoking problem.
"She's not gonna' tell you!" he cackled, gasping uncontrollably between words. "She doesn't want to, because you're such a smart as–"
"Keep laughing like that and you're going to suffer a stroke." England cut off America's loony behavior. "Please… Chell, is that it? You can tell us where you're from."
Chell only noticed now how clueless they actually were, since the facility's logo was printed across her shirt, underneath her folded arms. After figuring it all out, she kept her arms that way, covering the name, promising to never let it be disclosed to the public.
The rest of the group soon joined in, coaxing Chell to release the name of where she lived prior to this. Stubborn as she always was, she firmly declined, keeping her arms folded to the point of numbness. Luckily, they didn't notice this tactic, as they continued the futile encouragement for about another half-hour.
The scarf bearing Russian (as understood from his way of articulating) quietly appeared by Chell's side. It's unknown how he executed this sneaky attempt without her or anyone else taking notice. Gently raising his gloved hand, he lightly poked her on the shoulder.
In an act of instinct, Chell whipped her head fearfully towards the source of contact, raising her arms to attack.
Chell was paralyzed at the sound of that name, her arms frozen in mid-swing, ruining her method of keeping that location to herself.
"Ap-er-ture… Ahh… per… ture. Aperture is that it?" the group sounded out the strange word, enunciating the vowels slowly, until the spelt out the entire name.
"Aperture Science… I've never heard of that before… Is it in the middle of the ocean?"
In her head, Chell panicked, cursing herself for enabling this to happen. She shivered violently, gritting her teeth as they continued the discussion over the mysterious Aperture Science. It wouldn't be difficult for them to discover it, since they stood a mere mile above the place upon finding the wandering stranger. She feared of this more than anything else.
"Ya' know… it sound's kind of cool if you take the 'Science' part out. Maybe we can visit there, if we–"
They stared at her, so astounded, they couldn't form responses. Chell, standing up with her fists against the table, replayed that word over and over and over again in her head, astonished how she even had the ability to express it, let alone scream it out to the world. So many years of silence took a toll on her voice, rendered it useless–well, that's what she initially thought, right before she acted impulsively to hush the crowd. She slipped into her chair, stressing to whisper out another phrase.
America then spoke up, his tone a tad weaker, "Is it really that bad? I mean... no place can be that–"
The stubbornness to hold her tears back, a tactic she perfected long ago, kicked into effect as she stared at the circular logo on the strap of her boots and made a conscious effort not to let her shallow breathing become loud mixture of sobbing and hiccups.
England took the opportunity to leave his seat and stand by the grieving woman. He extended a hand out to pat her gently on the back, until he spotted the tears in the back of her shirt, where a few fresh scars were exposed through, the lesser torn areas of the cloth caked with soot.
"… If it upsets you that much," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, "we won't mention it. We're sorry… we didn't know how much that place troubled you."
"You alright?" asked the Asian.
"... I'm fine." Chell raised her head up.
"And if someone squeals," the Russian gleefully stated, "we crush them, free of charge." He looked at America, still retaining a merry expression.
"Oh, c'mon, don't look at me." America feigned a lighthearted laugh, nudging the eerie Russian away from his side with the pen.
"Thanks," said Chell, somewhat chuckling as she stood on her feet.
The Asian then slightly flinched, smacking himself on the head in realization. "I can't believe I forgot." He hurried to Chell, his back straight, his chin up, on his toes to match her height.
"I'm China, by the way. If there's something you don't know, all you have to do is ask me."
"I am Russia," said the scarf-bearing man, poking her in the shoulder.
"Zhey call me by 'France'." The frilly one strolled past the table, taking a hold of Chell's hand. As stated before, Chell wasn't interested, leaning back to gain space. "But zuch a charmante petit chou-fleur can call me–" As he tried to kiss her hand, England smacked him upside the head, giving some distance between Chell and France.
"I'm sure you heard my name a little earlier back. It's a pleasure to meet you." He shook her hand, stepping aside for America to introduce himself.
"Well, dudette, I am the her–" Both England and France smacked America upside the head, hissing at him to be a little more realistic. Shrugging it off, he continued with, "I'm Amurica'!"
"Aren't you forgetting something?" questioned China.
"What–oh, yeah, now I remember." America gave a devious chuckle, whipping around to face the table, before slamming his feet on the surface. He slapped a hand over his heart, standing tall and proud on the top of the old, rickety table.
"No, you idiot, get down!" spat England. "You're going to ruin the–"
"WE'RE THE ALLIED FORCES!"