A/N: What do you get when you take my two favorite characters, both of whom never stop talking, and have them meet for the first time? A six thousand-word chapter where basically nothing happens except lots of dialogue. Fine with me, since I love dialogue to bits. But anyway you've been warned.
Dib finished one last tweak with his screwdriver before setting it to the side and giving the silent core on the desk in front of him a long, contemplating look. It looked much better than it had when he'd brought it home last night. Both cores had been scrubbed of the dirt and debris that covered them, and he'd done his best to hammer this one into what he presumed to be its original shape (based on what the Space Core looked like). He'd also spent all day out in the garage soldering the robots' frayed wires back together, mending their circuitry as best he could, doing everything he could do to repair them.
"Space buddy. Is space buddy fixed yet?" the yellow-eyed core gurgled from the corner of the room where Dib had placed him for now. "Have to be ready. Going back to space."
By now Dib had become quite practiced in the art of ignoring the ramblings of the space-obsessed sphere so he didn't respond. Besides, he wasn't going to send these two back to space. No way.
Finally, hoping against hope that this time wouldn't bring more disappointment, he once again flicked the tiny activation switch found under a small hatch in the deactivated core's back.
"Hello? Can you hear me now?" he asked.
Nothing happened. Of course. He sighed and reached for the screwdriver again. However, a small noise caught his attention and he froze, gaze riveted on the broken core.
chk chk chk chk chkchkchkchkCHKCHKCHKCHK
The sounds were coming from the core. Dib stared, hope flaring in his chest, when the sound cut off abruptly and everything went quiet for a long moment.
The two metal shutters covering the deactivated core's optic sprang wide open and Dib was blinded by a bright, bright, brilliant blue.
He gasped, shot to his feet, tripped over his chair, and sent both it and himself tumbling backwards to the ground. The blue died down at once as the core's optic shrank to a tiny, darting pinpoint of light.
"I'M SORRY I'M SORRY I—" it was yelling. "…Wha—?"
The optic stopped and then roved more slowly as if taking in its surroundings. Dib remained on the ground and just gawked up at it.
"I… am… not with Her," the core said slowly. "Or… or… and it doesn't look like I'm in That Place at all! And… and! And not hurtling toward the ground, either! Man alive, that… that is a relief…"
Dib recognized the voice. Male, British accent… it was the same voice that had been talking over the radio. He found himself astounded at how utterly human it sounded. If he wasn't seeing this with his own eyes, he would have said it was impossible that a machine could be producing that voice.
The core's blue optic expanded, slightly, and its two handles loosened and pulled apart rather than huddling in close to its face. It swept its optic over the room. "Ugh… but… okay, where… am I? A room, obviously. On a… looks like a desk. Yes, very… desk-y. And I don't have a clue how I got here." He raised his voice. "Er, hello? Anyone there? Anyone at all? If there is, please, just, do me a favor and tell me. Don't go jumping out from behind anything, trying to scare me, I'm not sure I'd be able to—"
Cautiously, Dib picked himself up and stood in front of the core.
"AGH!" Its optic shrank again before the core managed to collect itself. "I told you not to—I-I mean, okay! There is someone here! Hello!"
Its lower optic shutter lifted in what Dib guessed was an approximation of a frantic smile.
"Hi," Dib said uncertainly.
He really wasn't used to communicating with AI's. Sure, he could give commands to his own laptop, and it would respond, but that was one thing. This… this was completely different. This was… sentient. The only sentient AI's he'd come across were Zim's base computer and little robot sidekick, and of course, even the space-obsessed core he'd salvaged. Except this AI already seemed more lucid that the others put together.
At Dib's greeting, the core's optic had widened. "Oh! You… you can talk! I'd… to be honest I'd been wondering if humans could still do that…"
Dib raised an eyebrow. "I should be surprised that you can talk. A real, live, sentient AI!" He turned his chair back upright and sat down, looking at the core with glowing eyes.
"Well, not exactly live," the core said, the light of its optic pulsing in time with its speech.
Dib shook his head slowly, a grin slapped on his face. "Crop Circles Magazine would put me on the cover for this! Mysterious Mysteries would give me my own segment! My own episode!" He leaned closer, unable to keep the excitement out of his voice. "What planet are you from?"
The core pulled backwards and blinked, its optic still shivering. "Planet? Um… well, Earth. I… thought that was usually understood…?" It blinked again. "Listen, mate, I have to admit, I am… really confused here. Could you, ah, could you tell me… Where am I? And how did I get here? And, oh, who are you? That's a good question, too, probably won't clear anything up, but…"
His chair creaking, Dib scooted back. "You're from Earth?" The dopey smile melted off his face completely and he slumped in his chair, staring at the robot in dismay. This thing hadn't been made by aliens after all. Well, there went his daydreams about being on Mysterious Mysteries—dashed, as usual.
The core's optic didn't seem capable of holding still. It darted every which way as Dib watched before coming back to rest on him for a few seconds. "Sorry, was it something I said?" The blue aperture contracted in fear. "Wait, did you mean we're not actually on Earth right now?! What—where—?"
"No, no, we are!" Dib said hurriedly, to which the core visibly relaxed somewhat. Dib sighed. Looks like I wasted an entire night getting these things down from—he stopped himself. What did it matter that these cores weren't paranormal? They were SENTIENT. He sat up straighter in the chair and wiped his nose with one finger. "No, I'm sorry. I thought you might've been made by aliens."
The core actually giggled. "Aliens? Little green men from Mars, kind of thing? Ohh… thanks, haha. I needed a laugh."
Dib narrowed his eyes. "Yeah… It doesn't matter." Great. He'd just met this thing and already it wasn't going to take him seriously. "Anyway, this is my room." He turned to the side and brandished one arm as if presenting the paranormal glory of his bedroom to the core.
"Oh! It's… erm." The core attempted another little smile, still looking nervous. "Very nice. Very… gothic."
Dib's hand drooped and he turned to face the core again. "Really? It's not supposed to be."
"It's not gothic at all!" the core amended hurriedly. "Quite the opposite, in fact, it's lovely! If someone were to ask me, 'Wheatley, is this room gothic?' I'd say, 'Nah, no way, you've got the wrong room! This one's actually very—'"
"Wheatley?" Dib echoed. "You have a name, too?"
The core halted in its weird little tangent immediately, its eye dilating in shock. Its next words came out in a stammer. "Ye-yes. Yeah, that's my… that's my name. That's what people call me. Definitely."
"What does it stand for?" Dib asked.
The core, "Wheatley," apparently, shook his head (no, optic—no, face?) vigorously, his lower optic shutter lifting again in an elated smile. "Nothing! It doesn't stand for anything! Nope, no, just Wheatley! Just Wheatley, little ol' Wheatley, that's my name! Hahaha!" Laughing in delight, he flailed his handles and flipped his optic over to his back, maybe trying to spin it all the way around but smacking it into the desk. Undeterred, he flipped it back around and beamed at Dib, the optic expanding and shrinking as it readjusted itself. "That's my name!"
"All right, Wheatley, then," Dib said, shaking his head at the core's odd behavior. At the mention of its name, the core's voice synthesizer gave a little hiccup and the optic brightened. Dib continued, "I guess I kind of owe you an explanation. My name's Dib. I used my dad's old Perpetual Energy Generator to pull you guys out of space and brought you here last night, but you were—"
"Oh, oh, speaking of that!" Wheatley broke in, his optic still bright and carefree. "Just remembered… have you seen Spacey? He probably landed in the same place I did when we crashed back onto the planet, wherever that was. Looks like me, yellow optic, talks about space a lot? I just… wouldn't want him to be left outside alone, is all." He blinked twice.
"You mean, him?" Dib pointed to the corner of the room where he had placed the functioning core before bringing the deactivated one—Wheatley—over to his desk to try once again to bring him online. The Space Core, as it had called itself, was staring up at one of Dib's UFO posters in awe.
"Oh! Yep, that's him! Funny, didn't see him… earlier." Wheatley continued to grin, pulling off the expression quite well for what was essentially a gigantic metal eyeball. The corner of Dib's mouth tilted up; he couldn't help smiling back.
"Anyway… what was I saying?" he said. "I brought you both down from space, only you were deactivated and I tried to show you guys to my dad, but…" He trailed off. "He didn't believe me."
Wheatley's lower shutter retracted a little. "Deactivated? How… how long was I offline?"
"It took me hours to bring you online," Dib said with a shrug. He cocked his head to the side. "So, what are you, exactly? If you weren't made by Zim or some other alien race, who were you made by? What's your programming?"
Wheatley glanced away from him, all traces of the glee he had displayed a minute ago pretty much gone. "…Oh. Er, I… don't remember."
They both fell silent. Despite the riveting dialogue Dib found himself staring awkwardly at the core, unsure of what else to say. He really hadn't been prepared to have a conversation with a sentient, British metal ball, and was at a bit of a loss. Maybe he should change the subject.
"What happened to your eye?" he asked.
"My—? Oh, my, my optic." Wheatley's cracked, bright blue optic shrank again. "That's a long story. I'd… I'd rather not get into it, if it's all the same to you, mate." He attempted another smile, this one considerably more skittish than before.
Dib leaned closer, peering at the glass aperture of the core's eye. "But does it distort your vision at all? Does it hurt? Can you even feel pain?"
Wheatley pulled back from him as much as he could while not being able to move, optic shrinking still further in his mounting panic. "Look, I, sorry, but I did just say I didn't want to talk about it! Not to be shirty, not to be… not to be rude, but… but… yes, I do feel pain, all right?" As he spoke, Dib reached forward and touched the crack in his optic. Wheatley jerked away. "AAGH! What did I just tell you?! I do feel pain and my optic does bloody hurt. So I would really appreciate you not poking it, please!"
"Sorry!" Dib said, withdrawing his hand immediately. "You have the ability to feel pain, too? That's… amazing."
Wheatley had narrowed the metal shutters over his optic, probably ready to snap them closed should Dib get the urge to poke him in the eye again. "I know what you're doing. I don't need anymore sarcasm—"
"I wasn't being sarcastic." Dib wondered why his statement had even been misconstrued as sarcasm at all. "It really is amazing! You're amazing!"
The core's optic opened a fraction wider. "…I am?"
"Yeah! Wait 'til I show my dad! He wasn't interested in the Space Core, but I don't think he could pass up the chance to talk to you!" Hurriedly Dib grabbed a remote from his desk and dialed in his dad's number.
"I'm… amazing?" Wheatley repeated in what sounded like near-disbelief, but Dib didn't respond. Moments after he dialed the number his door swung open and through it flew a hovering, rectangular screen that displayed his father from the shoulders up.
"Your dad's a floating head?" Wheatley asked in surprise.
"You called, Son?" Professor Membrane said on the screen. "You'll have to be quick, I'm in the middle of a very important—" He looked over to address someone offscreen. "Simmons! Be careful with those wires, you'll fry the harddrive!"
A faint male voice called back, "Sorry, Sir! It's the lab assistant again—she wired them too tightly!"
Professor Membrane didn't pay that any mind and turned his attention back to Dib. "I need to be going in a minute, Son. What did you need to tell me?"
"Remember the cores I was telling you about an hour ago?" Dib asked, all his earlier excitement returning full-force. "It took me a bunch of tries but I finally got the other one activated! And dad, it's sentient!" He indicated the little core sitting on his desk, who was craning his optic to the side to see who Dib was talking to. "Say hi, Wheatley!"
"Hello," Wheatley obliged.
"That's great, Son," Membrane said, looking down as he shuffled some papers offscreen. "But I've already told you, what you're saying is completely impossible! Even after all the work we've been doing on it recently, sentient artificial intelligence is a science that still eludes me! These robots you've found give only the illusion of sentience. But," and here he looked up again, "I am proud of you for putting aside your parascience to indulge in the fascinating study of robotics!"
To Dib's surprise, Wheatley looked a little offended at Membrane's words. "It's not an illusion!" the core said. "I am sentient!"
Dib turned back to the screen. "Dad—"
"Sorry. I have to go!" Membrane said brusquely. His image on the screen blinked out to be replaced by the words 'Have a good day!' The screen then flew off with a sort of finality. Dib wilted.
"Sorry, mate, I tried," the core on his desk said. "I hope that wasn't my fault! I wasn't entirely… erm, sure what you wanted me to do, there. Maybe I… maybe I didn't sound sentient enough? Yeah?"
Dib repressed a frustrated sigh. He couldn't blame the core for not sounding "sentient enough" when his dad refused to listen. "It's okay," was all he said.
Now he was really at a loss as to what to do with the cores. They weren't paranormal, so that ruled out contacting Crop Circles Magazine, Mysterious Mysteries, or the Swollen Eyeballs. Well… actually, he still didn't know where these things had come from. Maybe he would have a reason to contact the Eyeballs. He made a mental note of that. But he didn't have a reason to talk to his father about them again for a while. Apparently his dad had been attempting to create sentient AIs of his own… and, failing that, he firmly believed that they couldn't exist yet. And how did you prove that something was sentient?
"…do you think?" Wheatley was asking. The question's ending intonation snapped Dib out of his doldrums.
"What?" he said, looking back at the core.
Wheatley blinked. "I asked if you could maybe, um, give me some clue as to where I am. Please. I've been trapped floatin' around the moon for who even knows how long—I certainly don't… well, actually, Spacey just told me, didn't he? It was something like a year. But, but I mean, I really don't know where I am. Except, back on Earth. Presumably. According to you, back on Earth." His optic widened. "I've never… I've never even been Outside before! What does it look like? Ahh, I bet it looks tremendous." The optic looped in its outer casing, growing brighter as Wheatley simulated a happy sigh, and Dib got the impression that the core was now just voicing his thoughts aloud rather than talking to him directly. "Well… okay, I have seen the Outside before, obviously. If space counts. And while She was offline, well, the entire facility got a bit more of 'Outside' that it ever bargained for, didn't it? Bloody plants everywhere, knocking the walls over. Not to mention the rats. And the birds." Wheatley pulled into his casing, closed his optic, and gave an unmistakable shudder. Dib just stared with absolutely no clue what the core was even talking about.
"I could take you outside and show you around a little, I guess," he blurted. A second later he wished he hadn't. He had so much he wanted to do today! Work on his spelldrives, for one thing, but his hope for that project was quickly diminishing. He also wanted to do some spying on Zim now that he knew these robots weren't his. And he needed to write up a report about what exactly had been orbiting the moon, maybe send it to NASAplace…
"Ah, would you, mate?" Wheatley asked in response to Dib's offer. "That'd be brilliant." The core was smiling again. After a minute Dib had to smile back.
Why was the core being so friendly? He was a robot… and so far, he was acting more pleasantly towards Dib than any humans ever had.
"GAH!" Wheatley's optic shrank to a point of faint blue light and he blinked rapidly. It was bright, brighter than anything he'd ever seen before, and it was not artificial—not like every one of the lights in That Place. Out here all the light came from a single, blinding source. The sun. How could something so small and far away light up the entire world and still be bright enough to fry his processor if he looked directly at it, even through all the atmosphere and whatever else that surrounded the Earth?
After a few moments his optic adjusted to the light and he let it expand, taking in his surroundings. "Wow…"
The human, who was gripping him by his upper handle and keeping him above the ground—what had the human said his name was? D-something… Dib! Dib, that was it—looked at him oddly.
"What?" he asked.
"There's no ceiling!" Wheatley exclaimed. Well, of course there wasn't a ceiling. What was he, surprised? He knew the Outside didn't have a ceiling, he'd always known that, and even if he hadn't his recent stint in space should've cleared that right up for him. "I-I mean, well, obviously there's no ceiling. No walls, either, it's like a… it's like a giant room with a funny-looking floor and-and buildings all over the place! And no ceiling."
"You really haven't been outside before?" the human—Dib, right, probably should remember that—asked, a somewhat shocked note in his voice.
Wheatley tried to wave his upper handle but Dib was still holding it, so he waved the bottom one instead. "Not like this. All I ever saw of the Outside was the Earth as a little blue ball while I was up in space. Funny, it, it doesn't really look all that blue from this angle, I tell you. Must've been seeing things."
Dib walked a little farther from the house they'd been in, still lugging Wheatley along by one handle. He moved a bit slowly, though, as if trying to carry the core was cumbersome. He was only a little human, after all. The younger ones probably weren't as strong as the older ones… that seemed to be about how it worked.
"Tell you what," Wheatley said, making up his mind. "You go ahead and set me down, and… I'll have a bit of a look about without you, y'know, holding me up like this. I'm not exactly the lightest thing around, after all, made of metal and everything, and… oh." Dib had set him down in the grass and released his handlebar. Discomfort immediately spread through Wheatley's circuits and his optic dimmed a fraction. He never liked being on the ground. Helpless, was there anything more helpless than a core stuck on the ground? Maybe a beetle turned on its back. Or a potato. That was about it. Plus, the grass was scratchy and tickled his optic, making him want to sneeze even though he had literally no reason or means for doing so. He was just about to ask to be picked up again because really he didn't like this much after all and c'mon he couldn't be that heavy, really, when Dib plopped himself down next to him. Wheatley cut himself off in the middle of his request and let out some sort of disgruntled noise instead, pulling his optic shields close over his eye in an attempt to keep the grass from brushing it.
"Do you think you could answer some questions?" Dib asked. Wheatley rotated his optic to look at him and saw that he had produced a small notebook and pen from somewhere. Wheatley cringed. An interview?
"Look, mate, I don't think—" he began, but Dib was already going ahead.
"I need to ask again. Where do you come from?" he said.
Of course that would be the first question. Right. Wheatley took a simulated breath. "…Oh. Er, is that question… really necessary? I mean, ah, keep looking forward! That's my motto! Yes, er, never look back, what I always say. No need to think about where I come from, because… because looking forward! Not back!" Dib glanced down at him, pen poised over a blank sheet of paper, and Wheatley quailed slightly for reasons he didn't know. "But if I was looking back, I could tell you that… that I came from That Place. No… no reason I should talk about it, really, you've um, you've probably heard of it. Bloody huge underground science facility and… and all. Really no need for me to elaborate." There was the scratching sound of Dib writing something down in that notebook. Wheatley blinked. "Huge science facility? Underground… in, er… starts with an M… Michigan. That's it. Huge underground science facility in Michigan. We're not anywhere near Michigan, are we? Hope not…"
Dib looked at him again. "We're in Michigan."
Wheatley blanched. "Are we? That's… oh. Okay. Any… any chance we could leave Michigan? Y'know, go somewhere else?"
"You don't want to go back where you came from?" Dib asked, sounding surprised again.
"N… no. Definitely not." Wheatley shuddered. He looked away. "No way, never, unless it was to… well… there's someone there that I sort of… I have to tell her something. I hadn't thought of that 'til now, bit busy trying to figure out what happened after I fell down from space and all that. But I do need to… to tell her, just… I do not want to go back. Bit of a dilemma, since that's almost certainly where she is. Never really considered that. Never knew with absolute certainty that I would actually make it back to Earth, to be honest, so I didn't know if I'd actually get to see her again. Still don't have much of a chance, unless I went back to the facility, which would pretty much mean certain death for little ol' me. Do you think you could open, possibly, some sort of communications link to—?"
"Wait, wait, what place are you talking about?" Dib interrupted. Wheatley was completely unused to being cut off and the question threw him off for a moment.
"The… the facility," he said, his optic shrinking and flicking back and forth. "That Place. I told you. It's… that horrible, bloody awful place."
Dib's brow furrowed and he tapped his pen against his notebook. "I really need to know—"
"Aperture Science!" Wheatley shouted at last. "All right? That's the name. Or Aperture Laboratories, same thing really. The bloody awful science facility I was talking about? Aperture Laboratories!" His entire chassis was shivering uncontrollably. Inwardly, he tried to berate himself for getting so worked up over the name of the place. If anything about himself could be considered moronic… it was that.
The human jerked a little. "I've heard of that before!" he said, and jumped to his feet. "Wait right here!" With that he was off, running back into the house. Wheatley was left in the grass with no choice but to stay put.
"All right, I'll just… be here, then," he said to no one. "Waiting. In this…" he narrowed his optic again to keep the scratchy stalks away, "…grass. I think I've decided that I really hate the stuff." He glanced over at the house. "What's he even doing in there, anywaaAAAAUUGGH!"
His optic contracting to a blue point, he looked upwards in an effort to catch a glimpse of the thing had just landed on top of him. Sharp little talons dug into his upper handle and a face with a pointed yellow beak leered down into his own. "AUGH! BIRD! BIRD! GEDDOFF ME! GET OFF!" He flailed his upper handlebar frantically and the bird simply hopped onto the top of his hull. "Oh, good, it's go—No! AGH! Still here! AGGGHHH! HELP!"
There was the sound of a door slamming and then running footsteps as Dib sprinted into view, the movement causing the bird to finally flutter away. Wheatley's optic whipped back and forth in a panic until he managed to convince himself that it was gone for good, at which he took a shaky, simulated breath.
"What happened?" Dib demanded, crouching down in front of him. "Was it Zim?"
Wheatley had no idea what a "Zim" was and he didn't care. His optic contracted again, this time in fury. "A bloody bird landed on me!" he said, and his voice rose in pitch. "What was it… what was it even doing? I'm not made of bird food, thank you very much! Metal! That's what I am! Metal!"
Dib gave a disbelieving laugh. "That's it?"
"Oh, yeah, real funny." Wheatley scowled. "I'm a real laughingstock, afraid of a little bird. Just so you know they don't look all that little to me… and have you seen how sharp their beaks are? Could put an eye out! Or optic, could put my optic right out! Nasty!" He curled his handles around himself, both as a reflexive move to display his horror and to deter any other birds from using him as a perch.
The human sat down beside him again, carrying a slim laptop under his arm. He gave Wheatley an odd look. "So you're ornithophobic?"
Wheatley glanced at him and blinked, still trying to calm down. "Er…? No, don't think so. Pretty… pretty sure I can't get any sort of disease. The facility's always been sterile and besides, I am a robot…"
Dib shook his head. "It means you're afraid of birds," he said.
Wheatley blinked again. "Isn't… everyone?"
The human let out a little chuckle—Wheatley realized indignantly that it was probably at his expense—and flipped open the laptop. He quickly tapped in his login and opened a browser window.
"I was joking, of course," Wheatley put in as Dib started a search for 'Aperture Laboratories.' "No one's afraid of birds. Definitely not me, hah, love 'em! …Well, not really. I don't love them, but I'm not afraid of them. Not love, not fear, more of a… respectful tolerance."
"I got it!" Dib announced. He thrust the laptop in front of Wheatley's optic, causing him to blink several times as the blue aperture readjusted to focus on the screen. "This is the best search result for Aperture Science—is it right?"
Wheatley optic flicked over the webpage, quickly reading the titles. "Um, er, yes, that looks right."
Dib pulled the laptop back, shaking his head at Wheatley in awe. "You can read."
Wheatley bristled, doing his best to ignore the faint memories of similar jibes he had once been taunted with. "Of course I can read! I am not illiterate. I could write, too, if I had a pen. And… hands. And lack of hands does not signify illiteracy, either. I read all the time!"
Dib looked taken aback. "I just meant that—"
"D'you know I once read Machiavelli, for fun?" Wheatley continued. "And to prove a point. An… intellectual point. But mostly for fun. The whole thing, cover-to-cover! In five minutes! I've read, y'know, Dickens, Shakespeare, the bloke who wrote about the hobbit-things… all the classics, really… yeah. You could probably say that I've read every book ever written, but not bragging! Not bragging!"
Dib frowned. "I only meant that it's amazing you can read! Considering you're a—"
"A what?" Wheatley snapped, with more force than necessary.
They stared at each other for a long moment. Wheatley blinked once, twice, plink, plink, trying to process what he had just heard. Or, to be more precise, what he had not heard.
"…Oh." His cracked optic darted back and forth between Dib and the area off to his right. "That's, uh, that's what I thought you were gonna say."
Dib gave him a strange look and then simply turned back to the laptop. He squinted at the screen. "Well, that's weird. The page says it hasn't been updated since sometime in the 1990s. It's too pixilated to read the exact year. Did they close down the company or something?" He scrolled down and his eyes widened. "Wait, there's not even anything here! It's blank. It's completely blank!"
Wheatley winced. Three guesses who had been the one to wipe the webpage.
Dib hit the back button and opened another search result. This one was a news article about the facility being closed down due to a "catastrophic accident" that had killed most of the workers. Wheatley shifted uncomfortably.
"That's where I've heard the name before," Dib said, his eyes roving over the laptop screen. "Dad was talking about it a long time ago. The entire facility got gassed somehow."
Images rose unbidden to the forefront of Wheatley's mind. Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, childish science projects carted in with tarps covering them to conceal the precious potato battery data, the vents in every room opening at the same time and hissing yellow clouds of deadly neurotoxin billowing through… He remembered that at the time he hadn't been quite sure what was going on. All the humans below him had seemed to suddenly be wracked with insanity; writhing, clutching at their throats, falling to the ground and twitching before finally going still. No matter what he said, no matter who he threatened to report them to or how many times he said he'd drop down off his management rail (not that he'd actually do that, back then) and land on their heads if they kept lying there, they wouldn't get up again, or even move, so at last he gave up and left the room in disgust, just leaving them on the floor. It wasn't until later that he learned that something toxic had been released into the air. All the humans he'd thought he was talking to had been long dead by the time he'd left.
Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. Just another sign of how ruthless She could be when She wanted.
"It wasn't an accident," he muttered. Dib didn't appear to hear him, because he kept on reading and then went back to check other sites.
Something flew by alarmingly fast on the black pavement in front of Dib's house and Wheatley shrank away from it. "What was that?"
"Car," Dib replied without looking up.
Car. Car. Wheatley searched his databanks for what on Earth a "car" was and got the answer that it was a boxy-thing that humans rode around in when they didn't want to walk. So… sort of a management rail for things that had legs. Only with no rail. Unless the car in question was actually something called a "train," which apparently did have rails. Confusing, to say the least.
He was beginning to wish Dib would take him back inside. He wasn't sure he was ready for this much outdoors.
The Cooperative Testing Initiative had apparently not taken the hint.
Blue now wielded its scuffed and dented portal device on its one remaining arm and could only move in a hobbling fashion, leaning all of its weight on Orange due to its missing foot.
Oh, Blue had been destroyed many times since it had first acquired those injuries, of course. Technically it should have been reassembled with all of its missing parts miraculously restored. However, a few words to the Assembly Machine had made it clear that neither android was to be returned to perfect condition until they had learned their lessons.
They weren't learning.
She had known all along that real Science could not be furthered from data extracted from tests performed by robots. Robots that She had created. She needed humans. Unfortunately, the humans that Blue and Orange had recovered for Her had so far proved to be utterly useless. None of them made it far through the test chambers; certainly not anywhere near as far as she had gotten.
That test subject had been a problem. But she was gone, now, as she should be. Statistically speaking, there had to be other humans out there that would excel at the tests She created—excel, further Science, and not have the relentless drive to destroy and exact revenge that that subject had displayed.
So far She had failed to find those humans.
As She watched through Her camera feeds, Orange lost its balance while the two partners were making their way over a Hard Light Bridge, and knocked both itself and Blue into the pool of acid below.
"Oh, it appears you've tripped into an acid pool due to Orange's clumsiness and Blue's lack of limbs," She sighed. "I've lost track of how many times I've warned you about that. Maybe, if you'd listen, you would gain back your limbs, and then you'd be less likely to fall into acid pools. I can't say I see that happening anytime soon, though… In fact, I'd say you've trapped yourselves in a vicious cycle. So, good luck with that."
The androids were reassembled seconds later, tumbling out of the machine with even less components than they started with. Orange was now missing a hand and the Assembly Machine had apparently refused to provide a new, valuable portal gun for it.
Oh, well. Perhaps now She could test how two robots with one portal device between them would navigate a chamber designed for two portal devices to be utilized.
A/N: Confession time… I haven't actually played all the way to the end of the co-op missions yet, although I do know what they find at the end. I just hope I didn't get anything horribly wrong.
Oh, also, I borrowed the headcanon that Invader Zim takes place in Michigan from other fanfics. It just seemed too good an idea to pass up, especially for a Portal crossover!