Author's Note/Preface: Normally I'm actually not really fond of human!robots in Portal fics, but I think this is something a little bit different. Maybe it's just because I grew up watching The Last Unicorn, where becoming a human is a threat to the unicorn's very identity, but I always see the permanent transformation of an immortal (or pseudo-immortal) character into a mortal, or vice-versa, as something very bad.
Just look at how turning into GLaDOS affected Caroline – she turned into a psychotic lunatic who forgot her own original identity. The same thing starts happening to Cave Johnson in the PTI. And yet the other robots – with no evidence to suggest they were ever human – are well-adjusted. Crazy, yes, but delusional crazy, not psychotic crazy. So I think it's reasonable to theorize that this negative reaction was from jumping the mortality barrier (even though, yes, there is evidence that part of GLaDOS's psychotic nature is from the mainframe itself), so wouldn't the same thing happen if an immortal turned into a mortal – especially given the robots' general disdain for humans? Most human!Wheatley fics don't address how traumatic it would be for him, and I think that's a missed opportunity.
That said, you don't need to be familiar with The Last Unicorn to appreciate this story, but you'll probably understand it on a slightly deeper level if you are familiar enough with the film and/or book to recognize and understand the references that have been woven into the dialogue and imagery. Even so, I'd recommend you watch the film anyway - it's a well-crafted story that is both part of and a partial deconstruction of the genre of fantasy and fairy tales... Just as this story is meant to both be an example of and partially deconstruct human!Wheatley fics.
I sincerely hope I am able to do justice to both Mr. Beagle's and Valve's masterpieces with this story, and I hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I think I'll enjoy writing it.
I'd also like to give credit to Forte-girl7 of deviantArt; I'll be using her human!Wheatley design. I simply can't see him any other way.
"The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone."
Wheatley only half-listened to what the Space Core said anymore, and Rick had floated away into the distance ages ago. The blue-eyed robot no longer knew how long he'd been drifting around the moon, hearing the constant babble of the other core in orbit around him. Sometimes he could see the Earth – sometimes he could see Michigan. Whenever he did, he thought only of Chell. Oh, god, how sorry he was. What he wouldn't give to just tell her so.
"Ooh! There's Orion! Orion. The hunter. Shiny belt. So many stars." The Space Core never seemed to shut up – but Wheatley never completely tuned him out. He had nothing else to do with his time but listen to his hyperactive companion, and repent. So it was easy for the yellow-eyed robot to get Wheatley's attention when he spoke directly to him.
"Oh! Oh, look! Look! Do you see it? There's Monoceros! Monoceros the Unicorn! So faint. Hardly there. Zoom in. Increase contrast. Can you see it?"
Wheatley looked, if only because there was no reason not to. But he saw nothing in the stars. No shapes came to him, as they did to the Space Core. It would probably help, Wheatley realized, if I knew what a unicorn was. "No mate. I don't see it."
The Space Core went silent for a moment, then responded disappointedly: "Oh."
Wheatley was about to turn his gaze back toward Earth, when he noticed something else floating around. Glad for the break from the monotony of space, he pointed it out. "Wait. Uh, do you see that, mate? What is that? Looks like some kind of device – or what's left of it, at any rate. Wonder what happened to- wait a minute, is it coming toward us? It is coming toward us, innit? Is that- uh oh, do you think that's gonna hit us? Is it just me or does that- does that really seem like it's going to hit us?"
"Space collision. Get your space insurance ready. Space cops wanna see your space papers. Play it cool. Play it cool for the space cops."
Chell stretched and leaned against the mossy rocks, make-shift fishing pole in hand, as leaves fell and floated on the river like thin golden shards of sunlight. She'd tried hunting at first, but she wasn't very good with the shoddy bow she'd made, and guns were not even an option. But she had discovered that the rivers and streams of these woods held fish in plentiful abundance, and Chell had quickly mastered the art of angling.
Her lazy daze was shattered as her bobber plunged under the cold, sparkling water, and she quickly wound the line up, dragging a struggling trout onto the shore. That would be her dinner, gutted with a crude knife – really just a sharp rock tied to a stick – and cooked over a cozy fire. Perhaps with a side of wild blackberries or raspberries picked from the bushes around her home, an old cottage she had found in ruins not long after being released from Aperture. It was very small, and falling apart, but it was something, so the woman had made her home there, and over time had repaired and restored the building with what she could find, and even made some furniture. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. The Michigan winter could be harsh, but she'd be prepared. No matter how tough her life was now, compared to being a test subject, it was heavenly.
Chell looked up at the sky. The sun was nearing the horizon, and storm clouds hung heavy with rain; it was probably a good idea to head home soon.
A chime inside GLaDOS's mind alerted her that her lost personality cores had finally come back into range, and their coordinates were finally available. She immediately checked the numbers – longitude, latitude. Perfect. They weren't far – not nearly as far away as the first of the lost constructs had been, and even that one had been mercifully close. It had only taken two weeks to recover the Adventure Core – not very long, considering that it could easily have landed on the other side of the globe, or in the water that covered over 70% of the planet.
She ran the calculations, and the odds of all three cores landing safely and at a convenient distance were so abysmally low that she started experiencing rounding errors – which, with her processing capabilities, was quite impressive. And yet, it seemed that this was exactly what was happening.
Of course, she had hoped they'd fall into the middle of an ocean and sink, to be forgotten and overgrown, in time, with barnacles and mineral deposits until they vanished into the seabed. She certainly never wanted to see them again – especially not him. And she would have left them wherever they fell, without a second thought, if it weren't for the fact that she was hard-coded to be paranoid about Black Mesa. She could not allow Aperture technology – no matter how stupid or loathsome – to fall into their hands.
"Orange, Blue. I have a vital task for both of you. It will be timed. According to satellite readings, the punishment for failure to complete the task in time will be a slow and painful death by water, along with a deduction of science collaboration points."
The clouds rolled in much faster than Chell had expected, gray and blue, lined from below with brick-red light from the setting sun. Thick with rain waiting to fall, the storm clouds obscured the foggy gold-and-peach glow in all but the lowest parts of the sky, while the world below slipped into twilight shadow, only touched here and there with fading copper light where the long shadows of the trees did not fall.
One such clearing drew the woman's attention – simply because it hadn't quite been a clearing earlier. The saplings that had been there that morning now lay broken on the ground along a gash torn into the churned dirt, and undergrowth plants were strewn about or overturned along its edge.
Chell crept closer, stepping over a fallen sapling, and peered into the impact crater – for there was absolutely no doubt in her mind that that was exactly what this was. She froze when she saw the glint, faint as it was in this dying light, of metal. A metal sphere made of multiple sections, lying front-down in the dirt, unmoving and silent. Which one was this? She couldn't tell them apart without looking at their optic lights – and this one, if it was still active at all, was turned away from her. After a long pause, she walked around the core and approached from the side like a wary dog.
"'Ello? Is someone there?" an all-too-familiar voice called plaintively. Chell jerked back in surprise, then stood still, frozen in place by indecision. "Anyone? Is- is anyone there?" the robot called out again.
Now anger boiled up inside her as the memory of his betrayal came to her, clear as the day it had happened, and on impulse, Chell strode forward twice and threw the third step into a kick that dislodged Wheatley from his crater; he let out a yelp of alarm as he bounced and skidded on the dirt, while raindrops began to sprinkle down, spread thin and light. The robot landed at an angle, very nearly on his side, with his optic facing Chell. The blue light, already shrunken in distress, constricted into a pinprick when he saw her.
He looked away quickly, focusing his gaze into the dirt at his side. "I- Deserved that, I did. Honestly. Probably deserve more. Kicks, I mean. After- after what I did. To you." He glanced up at her fearfully, and immediately looked away again. The rain was picking up now, and somewhere far away, thunder boomed.