Goodbye Aperture @antirepurp
Outskirts

Night had fallen a respectable while ago. The crescent moon and blinking stars shone light onto the concrete road, if only barely, requiring the assistance of streetlights in illuminating the whole thing. It was no real highway - there were only two lanes, after all - but it was by no means intended to be traversed on foot.

Not that it mattered to someone like Chell, and not that someone like Wheatley would’ve known it.

The core was still quite captivated by the sky. He had been blown away by the sunset earlier, and though he knew of space (hell, he had been IN space not that long ago) observing it from the surface of Earth was somehow... different. Perhaps it had to do with the environment he was in. Perhaps a concrete road with streetlights, surrounded by woods and fields, added something into the sight of the stars and the moon. Or perhaps he was able to appreciate the sight now that he wasn’t being threatened with an eternity of floating in nothingness. Alone. With no chance of rescue whatsoever.

Wheatley wondered how the space core was doing.

Without a warning a car zoomed by, snapping the core out of his thoughts. Cars! Of course, how could he have forgotten? Though in his defense there really weren’t that many cars back at Aperture.

“Hey, why are we still walking?” Wheatley asked. “We could just hitch a ride! Would definitely get to civilization a bit quicker than just, you know, walking.”

Chell adjusted the companion cube a bit, and freed her hands.

{{Bad idea.}}

“How so? I mean, sure it’s kind of dark out and we don’t exactly know where we are - for all we know this region could be SWARMED by all kinds of shady blokes at this hour - but really, what could go wrong?”

The woman let out a sigh, and shook her head. Wheatley blinked. Was that really such a terrible idea? Was he doing that thing again?

“I-I just figured...” he muttered out. “You’ve been walking for an awfully long time now. Aren’t you getting tired? Shouldn’t you get some rest?”

Chell didn’t respond. She adjusted the cube again, and kept walking. Wheatley frowned, as much as a core could frown. Chell couldn’t keep walking the whole night. Again, this wasn’t Aperture: there was no GLaDOS to pump adrenaline vapor into the air, and no relaxation vaults for that matter. Chell would crash eventually, and Wheatley would rather have that happen in a safer environment - or, even better, not have her crash at all. That would not have been ideal.

The core tried to move around in an attempt to see what was up ahead of the duo. From the corner of his eye Wheatley saw some lights. Not the streetlights, though; the lights of a building.

“What’s that?” he pondered out loud, mostly to himself. Chell kept moving on, and as she did the sight became clearer.

The building started taking shape. It was rather large in size, and had some led signs placed on it, advertising something that Wheatley couldn’t quite read from his angle or distance. What really caught his attention was the large number of cars parked in front of the building, as well as a large pole with some logo at the top. The scene felt familiar somehow, and Wheatley was certain he should’ve known what the place was. He was drawing a blank, though.

“Right, so I know you’re not feeling talkative right now - which is perfectly understandable, may I add - but what is that place? There’s awfully many cars there, all parked so neatly next to each other,” the core started rambling. “Is there a meeting of some kind? All major leaders of known nations gathering in the middle of nowhere to decide the fate of, erm, massive robots with murderous tendencies? Okay, yes, that actually isn’t all that plausible now that I think about it. So yeah, scrap that, there is very likely a better explanation for this, and I’m going to figure it out very soon. Veeeery soon. Watch out for it, it’s gonna be really good, just give me a second.”

Before Wheatley got the chance to come up with his explanation Chell took the cube off her back and placed it onto the concrete. Wheatley was broken out of his thoughts once again.

“Oh, wait, what’s going on?” he asked. Chell sat onto the ground next to the cube.

{{It’s a gas station.}}

“Oookay, you’re going to have to be a bit more specific on that,” Wheatley responded. Chell exhaled.

{{Gas station. You refuel cars, get food, most of them have motels too.}}

“Ooooh now that is actually pretty smart,” the core admitted. “Quite brilliant, really.”

Chell nodded. She stretched for a moment. Carrying both the cube and Wheatley was more straining than she had anticipated.

She turned to look at Wheatley, but didn’t say anything for a moment. Wheatley looked around a bit, finding the silence a bit awkward.

“So uh, should we go on in?” he suggested. “Get food, rest, erm, refuel the car we don’t have?”

Chell opened and closed her hand a few times. She wasn’t sure how to phrase her thoughts. She signed out the words slowly, one by one.

{{I don’t know how people will react.}}

Wheatley blinked.

{{It’s been a while. And I don’t think they know about you.}}

“Me?” the core asked. “I- Of course they wouldn’t know about me, they’ve never met me before.”

A smile visited Chell’s lips for a second.

{{Exactly.}}

Wheatley blinked a few times, before understanding what Chell meant. Yes, he was... a personality core. A robot, if you will. Might not be a common sight outside of Aperture now that he thought about it.

“Okay, okay, don’t worry, I have a plan,” he said. “We’ll just, um, pretend I’m not, uh, that I’m not - sentient. That I’m some kind of a, modern, thingamajig, that people have. OR - Or I’m your translation device! I mean, people are dumb, they don’t know ASL if it stared them right to the face! So I’ll just say out loud what you’re saying and it’ll all be fine! Right?”

Chell was thoughtful for a moment. She chuckled.

{{It’s a gas station.}}

“Okay, yes, I get it. Quiet time. Complete silence. Stealth mode. Shush.”

Chell walked across the parking lot, heading towards the building. Wheatley observed the cars they passed by them, though none of them really caught his attention. They were all the same, more or less, the only real difference seemed to be the color. Then again the same could be said for the personality cores. At least the cores had, well, personality! What did cars have? The ability to move around?

Actually that would’ve been quite nice now that Wheatley thought about it.

The doors of the station slid open, and Chell stepped inside, beginning her walk towards the register. Wheatley stuck to observing the place. It was massive! Well, not really when you compared it to Aperture, but it was quite big on human standards. A sorry-looking grocery store was on the left of the building. A couple of teens were stuck with the cashier, seemingly trying to buy energy drinks with little success. A couple of slot machines were located next to the store, and were occupied by a group of chatty older men. The right side of the building had a buffet, closed for the night unfortunately. There was also a sad burger place, coupled with a decently sized playground that also included a ball pit, though much like the buffet it was closed. Some tacky and touristy photos were framed on the walls, promoting what Wheatley could only assume to be a nearby town. None of them looked inviting.

“Hi, how may I help you?” a rather sleepy woman working at the register asked. Wheatley couldn’t see what was going on as he was still firmly on Chell’s back, but he already had an idea of how the conversation would go down.

Chell tried ASL.

“Oh, um, oh dear, um, you’re - can you hear me? Can you understand what I’m saying?” the cashier asked, taken off-guard by the situation. Wheatley sighed quietly. Of course Chell understood her! It was the cashier who had problems here!

“Let me, I’ll uh, here. Oh, and here’s a pen. So sorry ma’am,” the cashier stumbled. Wheatley rolled his eye. Humans really were stupid, weren’t they?

Despite the initial confusion Chell managed to book herself a room. She smiled and nodded at the cashier, adjusted the cube on her back again, and headed to the grocery store. Wheatley let out a groan as he and Chell walked through the fruit isle.

“Could you believe that? She didn’t know ASL! I mean, even I know ASL! What do humans even do in their spare time? Eat dirt?”

Chell chuckled as she scoured through the quick meals the store offered. She eventually landed on some sandwiches that looked reasonable enough, and snatched them from the shelf.

“Are you sure that’s enough? Don’t need more than that?” Wheatley butted in. “I mean, weight jokes aside, you did just do a hell of a lot of walking out there. And, I’ll be honest with you, humans aren’t sturdy. You just aren’t. You require a lot of maintenance, actually, and you have awfully many specific needs to fulfill. Just saying, two sandwiches won’t cut it. Get something extra.”

Chell rolled her eyes, and picked up a microwaveable pizza as well.

“Hold on, what is that? A pizza?” Wheatley squinted.

Chell placed the products on the shelf for a brief moment.

{{It’s very, VERY fucking good.}}

Wheatley blinked. Chell picked up the sandwiches and pizza, and continued the food run. She grabbed some bottled water before heading for the cash register.

“That’s it?” Wheatley asked. “So I’m not getting anything? I mean, that’s fine, I don’t really need to eat obviously, so I guess it wouldn’t make sense to get me anything, but-”

He was cut off as Chell dropped the cube on the floor again. She picked something up from another shelf, and placed it on Wheatley.

Sunglasses.

Chell smiled as Wheatley attempted to admire his new accessory.

“Oh. Oh that’s pretty cool actually. Very cool. I do look cool, right? Much cooler than Rick?”

1. Beauty in Dirt 1260 0 0 2. Outskirts 1798 0 0 3. Unknown 832 0 0 4. Apology 859 0 0 5. Retry 660 0 0 6. The Bike 1102 0 0 7. Aperture Instant Messaging System 1044 0 0 8. Aperture Science Patented Personality Core 1484 0 0 9. Self 471 0 0