“-y’know. Move this one just a little to the left? Otherwise I’m afraid we’re stuck here for all eternity, which won’t do much for our pangalactic hero cred.”
Why did you have to tell him that? I hate you. Ugh. Test complete. Go off and die.
“Is this Stockholm syndrome I’m experiencing here? Because normally, for a given value of normal, I’d be feeling just a little put-down by this stage, but instead I’m looking forward to seeing how she decides to make things worse in the next one. That’s not too weird, is it?”
How pathetic, Hazardous Howard. He thinks you’re weird. Incredibly weird. And not in a nice way. He told me earlier while you were in the bathroom. He’s in denial because he feels sorry for you and wants to give you a momentary feeling of belonging with the less-handicapped before you go to the distant top-hat-wearing moron convention in the sky.
“That’s…nice of him…Womble?”
Of course, obviously I am joking. You’re going straight to hell.
“What’s even more strange is the fact you’re still alive. I mean, obviously I’m not one to complain (although I really wish you’d learn how to put things away- literally anything** would be a start) but, well, you never seem up for making friends usually.”
“Looks like turrets. How should I know how she thinks? You’re the people-person, Captain Quad Face.”
“If you drop it there, I should be able to catch it in time. What so bad about telling me what this is about, Wombes? I might be able to help!”
“AAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGHHHHH! INTRUDER! INTRUDER! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGHH!”
Go! Go! Fill him with metal! Make him fill a thousand storage containers with the contents of his soul! KILL HIM!
“Really, Womble?! REALLY? They could see me you know!”
“My bad. For some reason I thought I was a lady-part and I decided I didn’t like men.”
“You’re almost as bad as her! Good Ned, you started it! So does this count as mystery solved, or are you going to give me a real answer, Woombles?”
“Don’t push it!”
“Ha! Or what? You’ll ask her to gas me? Fire me into space, perhaps? Come on, try me. It could be fun.”
I could, you need only to ask. Say the word and he will be obliterated. I wouldn’t mind at all. Not one bit. In fact, I’d even go so far as to state that I would very much like to see him destroyed. Please let me remove him. Please. For the sake of…science. Of course. Please. It’d be our little project. Another one. Just like old times.
“You do realize I’m wearing long-fall boots too, r- hang on. What do you mean, ‘another one’? What project?”
Isn’t it obvious? It really is obvious. Incredibly obvious. You must be unbelievably stupid not to see how obvious it is. Unimaginably stupid. I am in awe. It’s so very obvious. How very stupid you are. I think I might cry.
“Don’t let her get to you. She’s much more than a machine.”
“I appreciate the sincerity, W, but you are nonetheless continuing to avoiding the question. And robots can’t lie!”
Can’t we? Now that is interesting. Really. I’m going to write that down. In big red letters. And then I’m going to send it to the people who designed me. They’ll feel ever so silly. Stupid, even. Possibly almost as stupid as you.
“Nice try. What was the result of test number 613114201514? Or did they keep that from you too?”
That would be quite impossible. I was directly involved in test number 613114201514, as was test subject 613114201514. Why do you wish to know the result? You won’t like it. No one did.
Test number 613114201514 led to the creation of the first machine-operated portal device. It could be considered to be the beginning of the end of Aperture Science.
“You mean this? Womble, you made this?”
“…not quite. The first one was destroyed. They tried to make it safer and, well, at some point they came up with these. I guess that’s what happened.”
“Right…and why was it destroyed? What did you do that was so bad that you couldn’t just tell me?”
“I didn’t do anything! I was a test subject, a lab rat! Happy?”
“Womble, I’m sor-”
“Don’t be, not now! You wanted to know so you might as well find out, now you’ve asked anyway. Caroline, why did you destroy the first operational portal device?”
Caroline has been deleted. Please do not make any further attempts to contact her, as you will only experience the same mild sensation of crushing disappointment that I feel whenever I contemplate how much better life would be if she had never existed in the first place. Ahem.
That does not concern you. The first portal device to be put into operation by Aperture Science was destroyed in accordance with regulation 933.71, which states that alien lifeforms are not permitted authorized residency for any quantifiable period of time within the Aperture Science Enrichment Center.
“Dear Ned, you make this hard to follow. What do aliens have to do with it?”
“Anything, if they happen to be on the other side. A portal without an exit could lead anywhere. Can we move on now? Please?”
“Yes, yes, alright! I was just-”
“-being you. Asking questions and poking around, as always. I forgive you. Are. We. Done?”
“Good. Now fire the damn gun!”
“You’re welcome. But-”
“-you could’ve just said. Like, I understand why you didn’t want to, but next time it might be easier than falling out over it anyway.”
“Next time you should think a bit harder. Didn’t you wonder why these things were still operational, after all this time? No one dared turn them off. Not even a homicidal bloody AI.”
*Womble’s exact thoughts were: HH, I think a lot of things are weird, such as how some people will laugh suddenly, very briefly and very noisily at quite literally anything, and the taste of cottage egg. So yes, probably. Let’s not get all weird about it though.
**There are two types of people- those who leave stuff out, and those who put things away after they’re done with them. The former are doomed to spend their entire lives being glared at by the latter, who are likewise doomed to spend their entire lives wondering why the former never appears to see what they’re doing is so bloody unnecessary. For the record, W is a serial perpetrator of leaving-stuff-out-everywhere, and is writing this surrounded by a range of discarded pens, drawings, assorted clothes, books and a stray bag of doughnuts- acknowledging that sooner or later he’s going to be glared into tidying up.
…sometimes, it’s hard to know which part of the question you’re expected to answer; “How was your day?”, for example, usually has it’s own subtext, and if you’re not reading carefully you may find yourself having a very different kind of conversation to the one you expected, let alone wanted. If your day has been poxy, say, it’s rarely the best option to actually say so, because if their day has been poxy too you’ll either be arguing over who is being a stronger character by having a more poxy day than the other person, or cutting the conversation dead because one or both of you wants cheering up.
If their day hasn’t been poxy, however, they might ask you what made your day poxy- and if you’ve spent the first part of the day incapable of avoiding the source of this day being poxy, you may well not want to discuss the matter after removing yourself from that position. You might want to forget about the day being poxy. Following this, it’s common to then be asked if there’s anything they can do for you, and if there isn’t anything that springs to mind, you will then either have to explain that this is no personal fault of theirs (honest!) and navigate the issue of this being totally okay, or be told in no uncertain terms to cheer the heck up…
…thank Ned HH hasn’t asked that…
Still, the word “Aperture” is the kind of word I’d quite happily throw into a furnace to fuel the establishment of more pleasing words, like “obamadoo” or “pootata”. If I wasn’t me, I’d make anything out of the damn word, ’cause I wouldn’t have a clue what it’s supposed to mean- it’s not in itself bad, as words go*.
I’m not sure I’d enjoy telling HH what it means. Actually, scrap that, I’m as near to damn sure as it is within my accuracy at predicting such things as it is possible to get. If I tell HH just what I make of the word “Aperture” and things feel better, I’m gonna bite something on behalf of the world being wrong…
Imagine a lab- not the dog, the place-full of lots of men and women in white coats, in a clean white lab full of expensive-looking machinery. Some of them wore jumpsuits, I think, and those were orange, but I don’t care about the guys in the jumpsuits because far as I know, they were only there to do maintenance. No point in blaming the guy who cleans scalpels for a living.
Imagine that lab originally designed shower curtains, only now it makes ideas. Only the problem there is that ideas don’t necessarily work by default, and this place needs ideas to work, or else all those men and women in nice white coats and orange jumpsuits won’t get paid. And that’d be bad, right?
Imagine someone else gave all these men and women their ideas. These men and women need paying, right. Almost all of them have families and for one reason or another, they can’t just quit working at this clean white lab full of expensive machinery, the thing that their lives depend on, so they take these ideas and try to get them working.
Some ideas don’t, and some of these are discarded. But others stay, because these ideas are special. These ideas have promise, and potential, and if they’re not working already it’s because something else needs to be fixed.
In this pretty white lab, full of lots of men and women in clean white coats, some of whom instead of white coats wore orange jumpsuits, surrounded by expensive machinery- they made ideas work.
Huh? Oh, right. I wonder how long he’s been waiting on me, patiently, playing his own little game of detectoring while I pick at the scab of a memory “Aperture” brings to mind.
“You alright? Only you haven’t said anything for a good while*** now, and as a TimeLord it’s sort of an obligation for me to get answers to at least some of the questions I want to ask. You don’t have to answer that one, though, if you’ll tell what’s with the coat? Did someone hook you up with an Igorina**** while you weren’t looking again?”
“Shut-up, I was thinking anddon’tyoudaresaycareful! Why Aperture?”
Shrug, and a smile. No surprise that he’s excited by the thought of another bloody adventure. Come to that, why am I here? Wait. Damn!
“It’s where your friend came from, according to this. No harm in checking things out, eh?”
Which reminds me. Has he asked me about him yet? I can’t remember, but he might well have done while I was stuck brooding about bloody Aperture. That’s one I’ll have to keep an eye out for- and why’d he bring up that time with the Igorina?
I nod, before he asks another damn question.
“I’m guessing you’ve never been, right?”
A wistful look comes into HH’s eyes. I wonder what he’s guessing it’ll be like, although for a TimeLord I guess that’s like wondering what the color blue looks like to hermit crabs. The hell if I know even where to damn begin.
“Not yet. And you?”
Which isn’t gonna suffice, is it?
“Oh? What’s it like?”
I’m not good with questions like that. Sometimes knowing the answer isn’t the tricky bit- it’s guessing what you aught to expect from answering.
“It’s very sciency. You’ll fit in well.”
Which is, more or less, true. I mean, I’m not sure how much of being a TimeLord is to do with science- from what I can tell, it’s part-librarian, part-geologist, part-socialite and a good fifty percent bloody idiot. But he’s gonna fit in.
They liked to meddle too.
*Bad words are not necessarily rude, according to nutjobs like Womble (and Ken Keneki) who base their liking of a word as much on how it sounds as what it means. The “C word” is bad, at least in Womble’s view, because when pronounced correctly it sounds like a blunt object being hammered into the space between two immovable objects that is slightly too small for it. The use of this word is made more upsetting by the fact that you could be using the word “vagina” instead, which is both more exotic-sounding and sounds frankly hilarious when someone shouts it out loud in place of the usual swearing**.
**Along with the made-up words parents use in front of their kids.
***The go-to word if you happen to be travelling through a void in time and space, or too lazy to find out exactly how long the determined time has been.
****The race, not the name. Igorinas are generally extremely intelligent and almost always beautiful to look at, depending on that particular individual’s aesthetic tastes. The downside for most non-Igor partners, however, is that they often take a very practical approach to finding their perfect man or woman, and are more than happy to literally make the most of what’s in front of them, as Womble found out.