"What are you waiting for? Get in there!!"
I shoot a glare at the potato attached to my portal device. Yeah, I know I've been sitting here in this corner for at least fifteen minutes, but I'm just not ready to face him yet. All I have left to do is run down the hallway and get into the funnel thing. Then I have to face the fact that Wheatley has turned against me. Is it really possible that only a few days ago I was helping him wire himself into that awful mainframe machine? It feels like it's been months.
I knew that machine was a mistake from the beginning.
I let the nagging voice coming from the potato drift away and closed my eyes to remember back to before any of this insanity with the potato GLaDOS and Wheatley going crazy.
"At least she can't touch us back here." Something inside me leaped at the sound of that. Finally, a place where SHE wasn't watching me constantly. I paused on the catwalk, just taking a moment now that I didn't have to run away from her. As I was standing there, the lights started going down. Something tightened around my heart as the darkness fell over where I stood, leaving me completely sightless.
It's not that I was afraid of the dark. It was more the helplessness of it. If I couldn't see, I couldn't do much of anything, considering the treacherous footing. I felt around for the railing on the catwalk, trying to find something for a bit more stability. It suddenly occurred to me that Wheatley was talking. I instinctively swiveled my body in the direction of his voice.
"Just hold on. Don't move." There was rustling fabric, like he was checking his pockets for something. "I have a plan. But it IS bloody dangerous. But here we go."
A yelp from Wheatley, accompanied by a click, and then I was being blinded by sudden light. I threw a hand up to shield my eyes. "Wheatley!"
He didn't seem to hear me.
"They told me… if I ever turned this flashlight on… I would die!" He lowered the flashlight from pointing directly in my eyes and shined it around the area. I shook my head; partly in disbelief that he actually thought that turning on a flashlight would kill him, partly in amusement at his tone.
He continued to ramble. I couldn't help but smile a bit at his need to fill the silence. I slid down to sit on the bottom of the catwalk, leaning my back against the railing, letting my head drop down. I wasn't sure why… but I found that tears were welling up in my eyes. Pretty soon I was actually crying, albeit quietly.
"Oh and over here! I can make the light go almost anywhere, wow! And—Forte?" I didn't look up.
He knelt next to me. "Are you alright, luv? Why are you crying?"
I shook my head. "I shouldn't be. We need to keep moving." I wiped the tears away. "We need to keep moving, I know." I tried to get up.
"It's alright, Forte. She can't see us. No one's watching… we're safe. Alone." Normally I wasn't much of an emotional person, but for some reason, right then? I lost it. I completely broke down. Before I knew what happened, he was hugging me, doing his best to comfort me despite his clear ineptness at that. Something about it worked anyway, if only because it was so funny.
Back in the moment, GLaDOS the Potato is chastising me again for my "idleness" and my "inability to perform a simple task". I just roll my eyes at her.
"I don't have to listen to you. You can't do anything to me anymore."
"I'll have you kn—fwshhh." The little yellow light on the potato dims, showing that she taxed her power resource too far. Good. At least now she's quiet.
I let my mind drift again, this time to a more recent memory.
"Wheatley, are you sure this is a good idea?" I whispered.
He finished attaching one of the sticky wire connectors to his temple before replying.
"Of course it is!" he said brightly. "This'll give my control of the whole place once we get it to recognize me!"
He tapped the connector he had just attached and winced as the mechanics took hold. I still had my doubts about the plan.
"Of course there is still the chance this could just fry all the circuits in my brain, but the chances are really not that…" I tuned him out then. Sometimes I really wished he didn't always feel the need to fill every second of silence. Failing that, some duct tape would have been nice. He continued to ramble while I just stood there, frozen.
Something in the completely nonchalant way he was listing off all the worst case situations that could come of that brilliant plan of his aggravated me. In that moment, something in me just snapped. I completely forgot that I was supped to be stealthy and whispering.
"Wheatley, stop it!" I nearly shouted.
He jumped, nearly dropping the cable he had been fidgeting with. He was silent though, which I was glad of even though his shocked expression hurt a little to see.
"How can you be so calm about it?" That time I really was shouting. "You're going on and on about all the ways this could kill you! Electrocution, liquefaction of your brain, heaven only knows what else, and you expect me to just be okay with it?"
I was full on ranting and raving like the town crazy by that point, complete with the pacing and wild gesturing. "If this completely insane plan doesn't work and it kills you, I'm next! I don't know how to get out of here! She will vaporize me! And never mind me! What about you? You could—could—" my voice was beginning to break. Frustrated angry tears spilled down my cheeks. I was completely out of control.
"I don't… don't want you to die…" My voice was soft again, and the tears will still flowing.
I wasn't sure how Wheatley would react to my outburst, so I looked down and away and just let the tears run themselves out.
"Forte…" Clearly there was far more in that word than should have been able to fit. I made myself look up, and as I did so, I realized I had never yelled like that before. When I finally looked him in the face, I was slightly surprised by his expression, but only slightly.
It was a mixture of disbelief, uncertainty and a touch of hurt. He made like he was going to talk a couple of times, but when he opened his mouth nothing came out.
Maybe it was just residual hysteria in my system, but something about the way the expression combined on his face made me start laughing. Before I could even think to stop it, I was laughing harder than I had in a long time.
Wheatley was rightly even more confused, but apparently the laughter was contagious, because he slowly because to nervously laugh along with me. Pretty soon both of us were laughing so hard we couldn't breathe.
I got a hold on myself finally, and found that I wasn't scared anymore. I smiled at Wheatley and picked up the wires that had fallen to the floor…
"Okay, I'm back." GLaDOS' voice jerks me out of my mind. I look at her, annoyance faded since she shorted out. "If we don't get in there the whole place is going to explode! Do I really need to remind you?"
"Alright, alright, I'm going." I stand up slowly. Despite the very true fact that we would most certainly die if I did nothing, I really don't want to go in there. But I steel myself and set up the portals. It takes me a moment of hesitation and a deep breath before I can force myself to get going. Amazingly, GLaDOS has said nothing through all this. I step onto the slick orange surface, gather myself, tighten my grip on the portal gun, and run.
GLaDOS rambles about putting her back in her body while we float along, but I'm not really listening. I'm staring into the bottomless abyss that is Aperture, but I'm not really seeing. I jump out of the funnel carrying us easily once we've reached the other side of the room and start walking again.
I see the corrupt cores before GLaDOS says anything, but her explanation is what tells me what they are. We find the way to the elevator, and I can't help thinking of how Wheatley kept looking down when I'd walked a similar way with him. Again I'm struck by how little time has really passed since then, but how long it feels to have been.
The final fight with the bombs (God, the bombs, I hate them so much) passes in a blur of concentration. I'm crying, yet somehow calm by the time the computer is telling me I have to press the button. I don't want to do it, but I also don't want to die in a fiery explosion. I drop a portal on the only remaining spot of gel and run to the stalemate resolution annex. I aim and shoot the other portal above the button and charge back to the first portal. I drop in and slam my hand down on the button…
The next thing I know I'm flying through the air. I crash hard into the unforgiving floor and lay there for a moment, my vision blurred and my hearing turned into an echo. I stagger to my feet, fumbling for the portal gun. I look up, for some reason, staring the man in the moon full in the face.
"Oh you are kidding…" I say to myself. But then I remember the gel. It's made of moon rocks! I don't know what has seized control of me, but I aim the portal gun upwards and pull the orange portal trigger.
There is horrible sound like the universe itself is being rent in two and I hear Wheatley shouting. I get dragged along the floor and fall through the portal, catching hold of him at the last second.
"We're in space!" he shouts. As if I couldn't tell. That space-obsessed core crashes into him and I almost lose my grip on him. By some miracle I grab on again, tighter this time.
"Let go!" Wheatley says. I'm not sure how I'm able to hear him. Must be the air rushing by us. "I'm still connected! I can pull myself in! I can still fix this!"
Dread fills me when I hear GLaDOS. "I already fixed it, and you are not coming back!"
A scream tears from me as Wheatley is wrenched away from me. "Grab me, grab me! GRAB ME!" But I can't. He is soaring away through the stars. GLaDOS begins to pull me back in through the portal. I look at the claw holding me, my emotions raw.
Suddenly the rushing air and my own thoughts go silent, fading into the background. All I can hear is my heartbeat, pounding like mad in my ears. It just gets louder and louder and only one thought remains in my head. I'm not letting him go. This world means nothing to me without him.
My fingers rush to scrabble at the claw GLaDOS is holding me with. I struggle, trying desperately to get loose. 'Hang on, Wheatley'. I think. 'I'm coming for you.'
If anything, her grip just gets tighter, and I'm starting to lose feeling in my arm. But maybe that's just from oxygen deprivation. With a burst of adrenaline and determination, I find sudden strength and finally manage to wrench myself away from the robotic claw. I'm flying back through the vacuum of air. The oxygen dissipates around me faster than I expected, and I know I've just committed suicide even if I'm not dead yet.
By some miracle however, I am flung by the force of the air being pulled from Aperture a fair distance, crashing into Wheatley. I know I won't have more than a few seconds, and I can't speak in the vacuum, so I just grab onto his arm so I don't float away from him, hoping he knows I let go for him.
Seconds pass. Then several more… Wait a minute.
"How are we… not dead?"
He smiles sheepishly. "Something else they told me would kill me if I turned it on."
I look at him curiously and he holds up a small box with two switches on it. "It's, uh… well I don't know what it's called to be honest. Makes a field thing and fills it with air."
I stare at it, but not in disbelief. By this point it would take a lot for me not to believe something.
Wheatley takes my silence as… well, I'm not sure what he takes it as, but as is his pattern, he feels the need to fill that silence. He points at one switch.
"This one is the main power. Takes a minute to warm up so it's different from actually making it run. And then this one—" He points at the other switch and accidently flicks it off, the air disappearing in a split second. I cling to his arm, suffocating in the vacuum. He fumbles with the device for a moment and flicks it on, the field and the air returning quickly.
I glare at him, trying to catch a full breath of air.
"Sorry about that, luv! Silly me! Gotta remember… turning off the air: bad."
I can't really stay mad at him. I hug him tightly. He makes a surprised noise.
"I'm so sorry. I was bossy… and monstrous… and I'm sorry. Genuinely, I am."
"Shut up, I forgive you." Finally he hugs me in return and we stay floating there in comfortable silence for a change.
"Uh… Forte. There is one more problem... we're still stuck… in space."