This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!
It might spoil your gaming experience when first playing the related games.
- "You can always ignore your conscience."
- ―Doug Rattmann[src]
Portal 2: Lab Rat is a comic made to bridge the gap between Portal and Portal 2. Expanding the history of Aperture Science, its main protagonist is Doug Rattmann, also known as "the Ratman" or "Rat Man". This is his first formal appearance after indirectly appearing in Portal and the Portal ARG.
The first part of the comic was published April 8, 2011; the second part was released April 11, 2011.
Lab Rat is a full in-house production that was entirely supervised by Valve. It was drawn by Andrea Wicklund (main story) and project leader Michael Avon Oeming (layouts and flashbacks), while Portal 2 writers Erik Wolpaw, Chet Faliszek, Jay Pinkerton, and Ted Kosmatka were in charge of the story.
- Doug Rattmann
- The Weighted Companion Cube
- Two unidentified Aperture employees
- Cave Johnson (Prerecorded message only)
- The Party Escort Bot
- Sentry Turrets
- Dead Aperture employees
- Charles Cardoze (name only)
- Phil Konig (name only)
- Christopher M. Pham (name only)
- Arsenio Navarro (name only)
- William D. Kent (name only)
- Al Anderson (name only)
- Emily Naransky (name only)
- David C. Self (name only)
- Doug Hopper (name only)
- Marc Meaux (name only)
- Brenda Bogenschutz (name only)
- James Murray (name only)
- S.J. Nye (name only)
- Lazarus Grey (name only)
- Leve Rage (name only)
- Robert C. Knoll (name only)
Part 1 follows a clearly disheveled Doug Rattmann during the events of Portal. While painting a mural of Chell and having a monologue about reality, he notices Chell awake and completing a test in the Enrichment Center. At first, he believes she is just a figment of his mind and that Chell is still asleep in her chamber, hinting at his involvement with her, but immediately runs away once he realizes she is real. Running to an 'Employees Only' door, he opens a locker within and reveals a pill bottle labelled "For the end times." During which, the Companion Cube strapped to his back begins to speak to him, objecting to him taking the pills. In a brief flashback, it is shown the locker and pills belonged to Rattmann during his time working at Aperture Science, where he hints at his distrust with his coworkers and later Aperture as a whole. The pills are shown to be ziprasidone [sic], an antipsychotic. In the present, the Companion Cube continues to object, but Rattmann takes the pills regardless, saying he needs them for "what is to come."
While running through test chambers, Rattmann continues another monologue, detailing the cursed and terrible nature of the building itself, describing it as immortal, before stopping to paint a final mural of Chell. During his run, the Companion Cube speaks to him and also starts a conversation with him, consisting of Rattmann telling the Companion Cube that Chell is on her way to the final chamber, Test Chamber 19, and will eventually reach GLaDOS' chamber. While Rattmann describes how he has faith in Chell, the room they're in suddenly shakes and an explosion is heard, prompting Rattmann to run towards GLaDOS' chamber, where he comes across the destroyed remains.
Another flashback set in GLaDOS' chamber is shown. There, Rattmann arrives to meet his colleague Henry, who mentions that they had to "hit the kill switch again" in regards to GLaDOS. Noticing Rattmann's lack of confidence in the project, Henry compares their breakthrough regarding GLaDOS' development to Einstein discovering relativity and NASA reaching the Moon. The flashbacks ends with Rattmann saying he'd rather have went to the moon instead.
Back to reality, Rattmann is still in GLaDOS' chamber, eager to make it to the surface. The Companion Cube notes that the facility is still functional in reference to a line of turrets still activated, hinting at the status of the Party Escort Bot. Once on the surface, Rattmann basks in his freedom before hearing a noise, causing him to hide. While hiding behind scraps of GLaDOS, he watches as the Party Escort Bot drags Chell into the facility.
A third flashback depicts Henry as he shows Rattmann a newly designed Morality Core made to tame GLaDOS' urge to kill. Henry asks him to turn the core on by reaching into it before interrupting him and advising he use his nondominant hand "just in case". Henry explains the core as the latest in "inhibition technology", and describes it akin to a conscience. Rattmann expresses his disapproval of the core, saying that they'll need more than the core to stop her since "you can always ignore your conscience."
Again back to reality, Rattmann makes his way back into the facility, to which the Cube objects. The Cube explains running and hiding is what kept Rattmann alive but he ignores the Cube, saying he's tired of running and that it is his fault Chell is still inside the facility. Rattmann says he would have been trapped forever without her, and that even if he dies, he must at least try to save her.
Part 2 opens with Doug Rattmann traversing the innards of the facility. The Companion Cube informs him that the antipsychotic he took in Part 1 is starting to take effect as it says it is "not feeling so good" as it slowly grows silent. Rattmann is shocked to find Chell in her Cryo-Chamber in the Relaxation Center, causing him to rush towards Cryo-Control. Locating a nearby panel in the wall, he quickly realizes that the explosion Chell caused blew the main power grid putting every single Cryo-Chamber off-line as a result, leaving Rattmann in disbelief. While trying to reach Cryo-Control, Rattmann comes across a squad of turrets, to which he asks the Companion Cube for advice to no avail. While running across the room, he dives out of the turret fire but is struck in the process.
While crawling away, a fourth flashback takes place. After GLaDOS has flooded the Enrichment Center with her neurotoxin, Rattmann, apparently the sole survivor, is taunted by GLaDOS. Wondering what makes him special, she brings up his file in regards to his schizophrenia, all the while as he escapes from the main testing facility. GLaDOS continues to taunt and manipulate him, trying to make him believe that the scenario makes no sense and that a "homicidal computer out to get you" is the result of his delusions, telling him to come out and see it is all fake. While continuing her rant, the mention of his file sparks an idea in Rattmann, causing him to head for the file room. Meanwhile overhead, GLaDOS makes a reference to Schrödinger's cat and explains she's tested it herself before. Rattmann manages to reach the file room where he locates Chell's file, declaring that she is "the one". He then makes his way to the computer where he opens a digital spreadsheet of the test subjects, moving Chell from #1498 on the spreadsheet to the top of the Test Subject list, making her #1.
Back to the present, Rattmann is seen lying on the floor, wounded by the Turrets, reaching out to his Companion Cube before he loses consciousness and another flashback begins.
In the fifth flashback, Henry is having a conversation with GLaDOS. During the conversation, she tells him she has lost all interest in killing after the installation of the Morality Core and that she only craves science, detailing that she would like to perform a recreation of the Schrödinger's cat experiment during "Bring Your Cat to Work Day". She says that added to the boxes and the cats, she needs a little neurotoxin. Henry, unaware of her malicious intentions, accepts, "as long as it's for science", sealing the fate of the Aperture employees.
Rattmann regains consciousness, and the antipsychotics have worn off as the Cube begins to talk again. It inquires about Chell being "the one" and to how Rattmann knew she was, to which he admits it was her file and that he was going off of a hunch. The Cube then tells Rattmann to patch Chell's Cryo-Unit in the reserve grid and restart her life support, saying he might not free her but that he can still save her. Rattmann realizes that if it works, there will be no wake up date set, leaving her in there indefinitely, and he wonders if the "long sleep" is better than the "long sleep" of death. The plan works but keeps Chell is left without a wake up date, Rattmann noting that she is "both alive and dead, until someone opens the box".
Claiming to be tired, Rattmann crawls into the bed of a Relaxation Vault, where the Cube tells him he's earned the rest. It is unknown whether or not Rattmann fell asleep or if he simply died from the turret wound. On the floor, Chell's file that Rattmann had been carrying around with him lay scattered. One sheet shows her test results for "tenacity", showing that she scored the highest, putting her in the 99th percentile & right next to the "abnormal" mark. The notes claim that she should not be tested as she is abnormally stubborn and "never ever" gives up.
- The binary code shown in panel 8 can be translated as "The cake is a lie".
- In panel 7, a book titled "Art Therapy - The Bennett Way" can be seen. This is possibly a reference to Walter Bennett.
- Panel 13 features the first visual appearance of the Party Escort Bot.
- Panel 13 also features several references to the Half-Life and Half-Life 2 story arcs: an HEV and Health Chargers from Black Mesa can be seen on a wall, a Gravity Gun can be seen on the table where Doug is working on an ASHPD, and a Combine Health Charger can be found on top of a shelf. These lead back to the story arc in which Black Mesa and Aperture Science are rivals. Black Mesa later steals these items.
- In panel 26, the "both alive and dead until someone opens the box" is a reference to Schrödinger's cat. This in itself is also a reference to Chell's cryogenic state while inside the Cryo-Chamber.
- While "Lab Rat" is originally a reference to animal testing, it is also a Portal achievement, requiring to acquire the fully powered ASHPD.
- The last line of page 10 is somewhat foreshadowing the events of Portal 2, as Chell and the Cores are sucked into space via a panel on the moon.
- In the ending of Portal, Chell is thanked for assuming the "party escort submission position" and is carried away. The party escort submission position instructions given by GLaDOS dictate lying on your stomach with your arms by your side until the "party associate" carries you away, however in Panel 13 of the comic, Chell is seen being carried away while lying on her back.
- The Party Escort Bot could have accepted Chell in either position so long as she was compliant, or flipped her onto her back to carry her easier.
- Portal 2: Lab Rat - Part 1 on IGN
- Portal 2: Lab Rat on the Official Portal 2 Website
- Expanding the World of Portal 2 (chat with project leader Mike Oeming) on IGN