Wasn't fully sure whether or not to post this here, but, some folks said it was good enough, so all right! %D; This is a fic I wrote to fill a prompt… I won't say what that prompt is, though, because it'll spoil the fic.
"You two are truly masters at this."
"Sarcasm self-test complete."
"Good, that's still working."
Blue gave an angry warble at his companion, who gave a high-pitched chatter in reply, waving her hand nonchalantly. This only caused the other bot to growl even more angrily before shoving her. Now offended, Orange shoved him back, and the two began squabbling for what was approximately the thirty-fourth time this track.
She thought "approximately" because two of those squabbles had led to the co-op bots' actually finishing the test, and she wasn't sure whether to count that as a true squabble or not. She would look it over later, perhaps when watching conversion gel dry became boring.
GLaDOS scowled at nothing in particular. When she'd first built the cooperative testing initiative, this was not the kind of testing she'd had in mind. Perhaps building from a core and a turret had not been the best idea, but she hadn't even meant for them to be permanent, anyway. She would train them, use them to get to the humans, and then start testing the humans.
And then she had tested the humans to death.
So once again, she was left with nothing but these two imbeciles, who were acting far too human for their own good. But even then, neither they nor the humans they had rescued had been comparable to…
She lifted her head at the sound of robotic yelps, and altered her vision to that of the test chamber's cameras. Blue and Orange had succeeded in knocking each other into the acid and were starting again from the beginning.
The interruption was enough to snap her out of that line of thinking. No. It didn't matter anymore. It was pointless to even think about it—the lunatic was not coming back. And why should she? GLaDOS had let her go, and for a good reason. The lunatic was just that—a lunatic. A lunatic that was very good at testing, but a lunatic nonetheless. She was a murderous lunatic that had killed her once and tried to kill her a second time. She was a mute lunatic that hardly acknowledged her existence at times. And she was a dangerous lunatic, for, should GLaDOS ever try to kill her, she would always find some way to escape, and murder her in turn.
There was no reason for her to be thinking about that lunatic. It was nonsensical.
So why was the thought of her constantly springing up in her processes?
This could be a profitable thing to evaluate, but part of her vehemently decided it would only be a waste of time, so she simply went back to watching the cooperative testing initiative doing what they did best—squabbling about ten times before completing a test.
After another half-hour or so, Blue and Orange finally finished the test, and were racing toward the disassemblers. GLaDOS was about to comment on their success when an alert sounded within her processor, telling her one of Aperture Science's satellites was picking up on something interesting. Her faceplate fell in a frown, for she knew what this meant.
"Go ahead with the next test. I will be back shortly," she said, her voice echoing throughout the chamber. She watched the two robots exchange glances and step into the disassemblers, and turned her focus away from the testing track.
Aperture Science had a number of satellites drifting around in space, all of them monitoring different things. One of them kept an eye on a few of the devices they had on the moon, some orbited the earth and spied (or attempted to spy) on Black Mesa, and some simply looked out for anything that could potentially be of interest. GLaDOS would, every month or so, download the data from these satellites, but they never found anything particularly groundbreaking.
But then there was one satellite that would, annoyingly, alert her whenever it came across something it thought was important, and that "something" was always the same thing: one of the three cores floating in space.
GLaDOS had left them out there for a reason. Two of the cores were corrupt and worthless, and the third one she had hoped to keep out of the facility for the rest of his agonizingly long life. She didn't want to hear from him again, but apparently the satellite did not care, and repeatedly alerted her whenever it came across the moron.
Honestly she had been hoping that some horrible fate would befall him—that he would fall out of orbit and smash into the lunar surface, that a meteor would pulverize him, or that he would finally just crack and permanently shut down, but so far, none of those things had happened—at least, as far as she knew. Maybe this time the satellite was only reporting that it had found the moron's remains floating around in orbit—that would be a satisfying thought, but she wouldn't get her hopes up.
Preparing herself for the onslaught of annoying babble, GLaDOS established a connection to the satellite, and, through that, a connection to the moron.
"…and I would mean it, really—I honestly would. I don't think I've meant anything more fervently or seriously or… adjective-ly than I do now. I'm sorry! That's all I would have to say, and I'd mean it. She'd have to know I would mean it… Lady, I really am sorry for everything I've done… I-I just wish I could see you again and… and tell you that. I miss you, you know."
Some unidentifiable emotion bolted through GLaDOS's frame. She raised herself upward, practically curling in on herself as her frame tensed and shuddered. She wasn't fully sure what she was feeling, so she began to pull apart her emotions, examining them as closely as possible until she was able to pinpoint one specific one:
She didn't know why it made her so angry that the moron missed the lunatic, but it did. She felt so infuriated that she could feel the temperature rising in her chassis—her frame hissed as her coolant system tried desperately to keep her internal temperature regulated.
How dare he.
How dare that little moron feel anything toward the lunatic, after all he'd done. Why should he be sorry for what he'd done to her? Why should he miss her?
The rational part of her noted that it made no sense to be so angry about this, but she did not care. She was too angry right now to simply let it go, so that meant she would have to do something.
And she had an idea for just what that "something" would be.
He'd lost count of their revolutions. But then, it had been pretty hard to keep track of them in the first place. When he'd first been shot into space, he couldn't tell one side of the moon from the other, though for a long time he hadn't cared too much about monitoring the moon's surface, except for the times he felt a desperate hope that a portal would suddenly open and drag him back in.
But that never happened, of course.
It took a long time for his hope to die down—though it would never die down completely—but when it did, he tried to find other things to do to pass the time. Sometimes he would look at the stars around him, sometimes try to talk to Space Core—he usually tried to ignore Rick whenever he came across him—sometimes go into sleep mode, sometimes pretend to talk to someone he'd once known, and sometimes look down at the lunar surface.
Eventually he had the surface mostly memorized. There was one of the landing sites, there were a few astronaut corpses, there was that bloody huge crater… And once he could figure out just where he was over the moon, he could count the number of times he'd revolved around it.
It was mostly pointless, of course. He could never totally keep track of it since he would often get distracted by other things, or sleep for a few revolutions, and so on. But still, he'd tried to use it as a reference for time, since there were no clocks here in space, and there was no night and day—not that there was night and day in Aperture, anyway.
But he would count the number of times he and Space Core would orbit the moon, and think:
Maybe in five turns, someone'll come and get me.
Another twelve turns, and maybe a portal will appear.
Maybe in about twenty turns, I'll see the lady again—somehow.
None of those things ever happened, of course, but at the very least, it gave him something to look forward to.
But he'd lost track again. Last he'd counted, they'd gone around about six times since the time he'd counted before that. So maybe in a couple more turns—eight total, he'd decided this time—he'd see her again.
"I think it might happen this time, mate," he said, glancing up at the Space Core, who looked down at him in curiosity.
"Happen. Something's gonna happen. Something's gonna happen in space."
"That's right," Wheatley replied, giving a faint smile. "Though I… I should probably practice again, shouldn't I?"
"Practice. Practice in space. Practice saying the planets—Venus, Mars, Earth, Jupiter—"
"No, no, not that," he grumbled, shutting off communication with the corrupted core for the time being. Heaving a sigh, he looked down at the moon again, only half-paying attention to the landmarks on its surface. "Need to practice what I'll say to… her. If I see her."
Not that he hadn't practiced it before. The ludicrous amount of free time he had up here gave him all the time he ever wanted to practice his apology speech. But each time, he still felt unprepared.
"So, uh, lady, I—I guess you're surprised to see me again," he began, and cringed. "No, no, that's not right… Of course she'd be surprised, unless she were the one to get me out of here—which would be great, but, probably won't happen, or maybe it will… argh, sidetracked. Let's try this again." He cleared his nonexistent throat, shutting his optic. "So uh… hello, lady. Yeah it's me, and I—well, you probably never thought you'd see me again, would you? Probably—probably wouldn't want to see me again. But listen—I wanted to see you again, because I have something to say, about all that… well… about everything. I'm sorry—that's what I wanted to say. I'm sorry about being so monstrous and bossy, and forcing you through all those tests… you must bloody hate testing, don't you? What'm I saying—of course you do. That's why you wanted out. That's why—that's why I should've let you out in the first place."
He heaved a frustrated sigh, and, after a while, opened his optic. There was the crater again—that was seven turns. Just one more turn, and then… maybe it would happen. And yet, he still didn't feel ready.
"Argh, it doesn't—nothing sounds right. She won't believe me, will she? But—but no, she has to! I'd say it, all of that and more, and I would mean it, really—I honestly would. I don't think I've meant anything more fervently or seriously or… adjective-ly than I do now. I'm sorry! That's all I would have to say, and I'd mean it. She'd have to know I would mean it…" Wheatley's voice grew softer as he turned away from the lunar surface.
"Lady, I really am sorry for everything I've done…" It wasn't practice this time. "I-I just wish I could see you again and… and tell you that. I miss you, you know."
And then he went quiet, silently watching the surface again. The Space Core briefly blocked his vision and probably babbled about one thing or another, but Wheatley ignored him, still watching the surface below. It felt like ages, and it could have been, for all he knew—it was impossible to keep track of time up here. But eventually the familiar crater came into view, and he perked up his upper handle.
"Here it comes," he muttered, watching more intently. "Just a bit more, and…!"
He passed the crater.
"…nothing." His handles went limp—or as limp as they could go without any sort of gravity to weigh them down—and his optic dropped downward. "Oh well. Maybe in another… another twenty-two turns or som—"
While Wheatley lacked the appropriate elements in his spherical form to produce it, what he felt at that moment was something akin to what humans called an adrenaline rush. All at once he felt energetic and nervous and scared and excited, his optic darting this way and that. "AGH! Wh-what was—I didn't—is something actually happening this time?!"
"I honestly have no idea what you're babbling about, but, yes, at the moment, something is happening. Namely, I am talking to you."
"I—you mean—" He fought to turn around until he was facing away from the moon, and squinted his optic. Despite the crack splitting his lens and doubling his vision, he was able to spot something floating a distance off. "Are you… in that robot back there?"
"'That robot' is a satellite, you moron. I'm communicating with you through it."
"Oh." He blinked, tilting his optic one way and the other. Now that he got a better look at it, it did sort-of look like a satellite. "So are you—uh—are you going to take me back?" His lower lid pulled upward in a hopeful smile—maybe this was it! He was going to go home and—and see the lady again! This was it!
"What was the last thing I said to you before I sent you flying out into space?"
"Er." His smile faded, just a little. "Let's see… uh… searching the ol' memory banks… searchiiing… Ah! Here it is: 'I already fixed it, and you are not—' oh." And immediately he drooped again. "So you're… not bringing me back."
Clap, clap, clap.
"So what do you want, anyway?" he asked a little bitterly. "Come to rub it in? 'Oh, you're in space, and you'll never see the lady again?' Yeah, already know that one, mate. Don't need to remind me."
"Actually, since I heard you talking about it, I thought I might show you the lunatic."
"Yeah, I figured. That's bloody brilli—what."
Wheatley's optic went wide, his aperture contracted to a pinprick, and his handles flew outward in utter shock. "You'll—you'll actually show me—?!"
"It will be a recording, but yes. I thought you would like to know how she's doing."
"I—that's—I can't believe it, mate!" If he could have, he would have been bouncing at this point, but since he couldn't, he grinned and flailed his handles in excitement. "That's brilliant, that is! Honestly didn't know you had it in you, since you're usually such a cruel ol' pota—wait, no, no, that's not what I was going to say, I was going to say that you're such a wonderful, um, AI, so of course you would—"
"Yes! Absolutely," Wheatley replied, trying to keep as still and quiet as possible. "So, um, how are you going to—"
"Receiving video file," rang an automated voice in his processor.
"Oh! Well that's handy," he murmured. "Are you—are you sure I couldn't just talk to—oh, wait, she's mute, right. Um. No chance of a… video conference… of some sort…?"
GLaDOS did not reply.
Wheatley fidgeted a bit nervously at that, but honestly, just seeing the lady again was more than he could hope for. He couldn't keep himself from wiggling around in excitement as he watched the download percentage slowly move up. Admittedly he was a bit tired of waiting—counting down his turns around the moon could be a bit maddening at times—but at least this time he knew there really would be something at the end of his waiting. Finally, he would get a glimpse of the lady again! He hoped she was doing well—and a sudden worry came over him that maybe she wasn't, and that GLaDOS was going to show the lady looking all bloody and terrible and then say, "Oh, she's in that condition because of you, didn't you know?" He shuddered, but shook his head. No, she couldn't be doing badly. Otherwise—otherwise he couldn't…
"Ah!" he cried, optic contracting a little in surprise. Now that he'd thought of the possibility of the lady's not doing well, he was a little more hesitant to open the file. "Well… there it is! Great! I guess I'll… have a glance at this later, then."
"Interesting. You were quite eager to hear from her earlier."
"Y-yeah, I was! But I'm honestly not, um… that eager, you know? It's not really that high on my list of things to do, it's just really boring here in space and it'll give me something else to do later, right? I mean I've got to… got to… um…"
Wheatley blinked. Was he really that easy to read? "Well um… y-yes, now that you mention it, I am a little nervous."
"I'll tell you right now, then. The lunatic is not in any sort of pain."
"…Oh! Well then." He blinked a few times before a smile crept across his optic. There was the possibility that GLaDOS was lying, but, honestly, if she was being nice enough to him to show him this video in the first place, then she was probably being nice and truthful now. That seemed to make sense, didn't it?
Still, he wasn't able to shake that last bit of sick nervousness out of his system. "Probably just a glitch," he murmured to himself. "Right. Let's start this thing, then."
With that, he opened the video file.
Wheatley's initial reaction was to shut his optic and crack it open just a tiny bit, but the recording was playing in his processor, not before his optic, so it made no difference. His vision was immediately overtaken by a gigantic robot hanging in the middle of the room and facing away from him, and he shuddered visibly. There was a robot he was not happy to see, but… but what about the lady? Wasn't this video supposed to be of her?
His question was quickly answered when a familiar form stood up from off the floor, coming into his field of vision. Upon seeing her, all the tension left him, and he laughed a bit at his own expense. "Hah, worryin' about nothing. There she is, safe and sound. Hello!" he called. For a moment he wondered why she wouldn't turn around, but then remembered that this was a recording, not a live camera like his monitors back in the facility.
Looking closer, he saw that there were scars on her arms and back, under a few places where the fabric of her tank top had torn. He frowned at that, but humans only got scars from wounds that had healed, didn't they? So obviously she was fine. Part of him was a bit surprised that GLaDOS had been truthful.
Speaking of GLaDOS, the massive AI swung her chassis around to face the lady, and Wheatley couldn't help but glare a little. "Hey, now, you'd better not do anything to her," he growled.
Wheatley cringed; he'd forgotten that the AI was listening to him. Instead he awkwardly cleared his non-existent throat and glanced around. "Er, I meant—um, I was referring to those two little robots there, off to the sides." He recognized them as the testing robots that he'd discovered earlier. "Troublemakers, those two. They could hurt her."
The AI from the satellite did not reply again, but the AI in the recording was going on talking to the lady, and he inwardly rebuked himself for not listening earlier. She was going on about some Caroline or something or other, and deleting something, and—
"And killing you—is hard. So you know what? You win. Just go."
His optic went wide as his view began to rise. While GLaDOS moved out of view, the lady was still in his field of vision. But that would mean… she was in the escape elevator! This was recorded from a camera in there!
"You let her go!" he exclaimed, smiling. "That's brilliant! Exactly what she deserves."
…And exactly what he should have done for her ages ago.
He drooped at the thought—if he'd just let her go, and maybe jumped out of that chassis to be with her in the lift, none of this would have happened in the first place. He'd still be there on Earth, not trapped out in space, and he would've never… never betrayed the lady.
"W-well, there you go, luv," he said quietly, watching as the lady pressed her hands against the glass and watched the floors of the facility pass by around her. "You're finally getting out of there, just like you always wanted. Wish I could be there with you, but at least one of us got out, eh?"
The lift began to move faster.
"Look—I… I guess this is the closest I'm gonna get to really seeing you—well, hopefully it's not. I mean, I hope I actually get to see you, you know, in person, face-to-face, or, optic-to-face, or face-to-optic, whatever your preference of phrases and order and words is… But if not, well… I thought I'd let you know… I'm sorry."
At that moment, the lady in the recording seemed to glance back for a moment. She was probably watching another floor pass by, but Wheatley imagined that she was looking at him, and gave a slight smile at the thought.
"Yeah, I… what I did wasn't right, back there. You deserved to get out, and I didn't let you. Bloody rotten of me. Made you test—and you hate testing—just to scratch some bloody Itch, but—but that's not the point. The point is, I did nothing but boss you around and say some awful things to you and… and I'm sorry… sincerely sorry."
His voice went a bit quieter as he went on. "You know, you're more brilliant than I'd thought before. I really don't think you ever had brain damage at all. Well, maybe a little, you never talked and all, but—not the point. You're smart. And… and a bloody good test solver. Problem solver. Anything-solver. Good jumper, too. You're not brain-damaged and… and you're not adopted. Probably. Shouldn't've said any of th-that before…"
He glanced downward, though his vision, bound to the camera recording, changed very little. "I-I wish I could take back all those rotten things I did, but—the best I can do is apologize. I-I'm sorry, lady…"
The elevator stopped.
"I-I just wish you could know that."
The blast door opened.
For a second, Wheatley was sure he would have seen the outside world, whatever it was supposed to look like. He'd imagined a sky and plants—maybe like those potato plants they saw back in Aperture, or something—and lots of blue. He knew there was lots of blue there, because he could see the blue when he looked down at the planet off in the distance.
But there was no blue—there was red.
Four beams swiveled and locked onto the lady.
His optic contracted to as small as it would go without blinding him, and his handles flailed in horror. "Turrets!" he cried. "Run, lady! Ru—"
Something was wrong with the audio, because he didn't hear the bullets fire. Something was wrong with the video because it seemed to slow down—he could see the flash from the guns and tiny specks fly slowly through the air for what felt like ages before they slammed into the lady's body, which shook from the impact and fell backward against the other side of the lift.
The turrets had shot her.
They'd shot her—they'd shot her and they were still bloody firing—
"STOP IT!" he screamed. His optic narrowed to a slit as fury overtook him what were they doing they couldn't shoot her the lady never got shot—"STOP IT YOU BLOODY IDIOTS! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! I'll crush you! I'll crush every bloody one of you and throw your remains in the incinerator oh gosh why are you still shooting—"
There was too much red, but it wasn't the turrets' optics or beams this time.
He wasn't an idiot because he knew what it was but it couldn't be right at all because there was too much of it. Far, far too much of it.
But he'd seen it before. He'd seen it when she tried to push the button, and Part Five worked, and she blasted backward through the grate and spun through the air and landed and he remembered seeing the red on her, but she still got up, she was still alive—
"Lady get up you did it last time, get up, get up, the turrets are still there, g-get up and knock them over…"
She could do it. He knew she could. She was so bloody strong and she'd survived Part Five and she'd killed turrets thousands of times before and why wasn't she getting up.
"Shut up, you! Lady, get up, please get up and knock over the turrets, do it for ol' Wheatley, please…"
But she wasn't getting up. She was still lying there, and there was still too much red—
His frame gave a jolt when he noticed something was missing—her portal gun! That was it—she didn't want to get up because she didn't have the gun with her, and without the gun she couldn't knock over the turrets, so she was laying low so the turrets wouldn't see her because she was smart like that—"I-it's okay, g-good girl, just stay down like that and they won't see you…"
The blast doors closed, and the lift moved upward.
"Th-there, see? The turrets are gone, luv, they're all gone, s-so you can get up, now… th-they're not… not going to shoot you again…"
She didn't get up.
There was too much red.
"L-lady it's okay, i-if you stop more blood from coming out it'll be okay, a-and it'll just turn into a scar and you can get up—" His voice cracked. "P-please stand up… a-and maybe jump…? Y-you were a good jumper—are. Are. ARE a good jumper, because you're still going to get up…!"
He was just talking to himself at this point and he bloody well knew it, but he didn't care. The lift was still moving up, slowly, and the walls opened up into a chamber full of turrets. But these ones didn't fire—they opened their guns, moving them in time as they began to sing.
Wheatley didn't want to hear it. He couldn't stand to listen to it while the lady was lying there in a pool of her own blood. What were they singing for? Why couldn't one of those bloody turrets do something useful for once and call for help or do something it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair!
He shut his optic but it didn't matter because that video was still playing—"SHUT IT OFF! SHUT IT OFF! SHUT IT—"
He remembered that he was the one controlling the file, and quickly stopped it, yanking himself out of the elevator and back into space.
Wheatley hung there in the vast, starry expanse, the faint echoes of that song still ringing in his processor. But still he could see the lady there, lying still inside the lift that was supposed to be her freedom.
"I figured the song would comfort her," came her voice, and Wheatley curled his handles in on himself and pulled back into his casing. "Which is a sight better than what you tried to do, blowing her up and then screaming at her to die already. But there you are. You wanted to know how she's doing." There was a pause. "Well, she is no longer in pain."
"G-get out," he whispered, so quietly he could hardly hear it himself.
"What was that?"
"GET OUT!" he snarled, whipping his optic up and glaring at the satellite ahead.
"Very well. If it makes you feel better. If you can possibly feel better after learning that the one you've been trying to apologize to is dead. Goodbye."
He could feel an almost imperceptible flick in his processor as the connection with the Aperture satellite cut out, but still he glared at the floating piece of machinery. He glared at it as though the action would somehow reverse everything he had just seen, as though it would reverse everything that had happened before, as though it could reverse everything he'd done.
Wheatley turned his faceplate down to face the bottom of his casing.
GLaDOS considered watching the moron grieve over the supposed loss of the lunatic, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth her time. Why fabricating a video feed, connecting to the moron via satellite, and sending the video to him to watch his reaction was worth her time, she wasn't sure, but she wasn't going to question it.
The important thing was, she'd made him pay. She'd made him pay for…
Why had she been angry at him in the first place? For wanting to apologize to the lunatic? For missing her?
It didn't make a lot of sense, but then, neither did his missing her. Why anyone would want to see that lunatic again was beyond her, and she was the most intelligent being that had ever been created. If she could find no reason, then it must be illogical.
That must have been it—she was angry at how illogical the moron was being, and decided to shut him up. There were other reasons for her to be angry at him, too: he'd destroyed her facility and shoved her into a potato, after all.
More importantly, she'd cooled her anger enough to focus on testing again.
As GLaDOS refocused her attention back to the cooperative testing initiative, however, she felt a strange emptiness within her—as though she had missed something, or analyzed something incorrectly. But that couldn't be—her analyses were always accurate.
She chalked it up to a minor glitch in her programming, and continued watching the test.