WHO'RE YOU GONNA CALL?
After breakfast, GLaDOS convened a meeting between the various residents of Aperture Science, or at least those who could talk in anything other than binary. Or shoot bullets, otherwise, she'd have to invite the Turrets. Or were an overt and intentional threat to life, other than herself, so Potatomort was out. That meant Harry, Chell, Sirius, Remus, Rattmann, Gordon Freeman, Wheatley, and Myrtle. They were seated around a desk, with GLaDOS' main body hovering above, her gynoid proxy having gone to recharge.
"So, lemme get this straight," Gordon said. A neurotic, lab-coated man with a neat, fussy beard, he had gotten used to life in Aperture, dividing his time between research, Test Chambers, and being GLaDOS' lover. He had gotten used to the first and third roles. "Some magical servant thing that looks like the mutant offspring of Yoda and one of Santa's helpers has been stealing Harry's mail and making vague warnings about some dastardly plot of doom."
"Yes, that is what I got through explaining, Doctor Freeman. Clearly, those years of education at MIT have not gone to waste," GLaDOS said wearily, not bothering to hide her sarcasm.
"Well, summarising the situation aside, I've got a really important question: where can I get a House Elf? They sound really neat and all, and maybe it could be a good lab assistant, as well as all-round servant. I deserve the pampered life!"
"House Elf sales are highly regulated," Remus Lupin, a tired-looking man with scars, explained. "They are also expensive. I know Aperture could potentially afford several, but they almost always only sell them to Pureblood families."
Rattmann, who had a scraggly beard and nervously dancing eyes, said, "It sounds like slavery, even with this whole magical symbiosis thing."
"House Elves are generally treated well enough," Remus said. "And their very culture, what there is of it, takes offence at payment and freedom, unless they have been badly treated. And even then, if they're still loyal, they still take offence. House Elves are considered the drudges of Fey society, and the Fey are said to use them as servants too, so they're partly to blame for it. I don't like it either, but the best thing to do is, if you have a House Elf, to treat them well."
Sirius snorted. "I can't do that with Kreacher," the dark-haired man with grey eyes snorted. His time away from Azkaban had been kind, and the madness once dancing in his eyes was gone. So too was his haggard demeanour. "He treated me badly, on my dearest mother's orders, and when I was staying at my old home before coming here, he was reluctant to follow my orders."
"We are straying from the point," GLaDOS said. "Do not make me bang a gavel…that came out wrong. In any case, Rattmann, it is somewhat hypocritical of you to complain about slavery, given that I have robots tending to your needs."
"I never accept them!" the schizophrenic scientist exclaimed.
An electronic sigh emanated from the supercomputer. "Anyway, the point is, Dobby has warned us about a plot. He could not tell us of who is directing it, or who it involves. I asked him, shortly before showing him Voldemort, whether it was Voldemort. He claimed no, but he seemed to indicate that wasn't the whole answer. As you pointed out, Mr Lupin, it is rich Purebloods who tend to own House Elves, and Dobby did confirm his master is a Death Eater, presumably one of those who escaped imprisonment in Azkaban."
"Bet you any money it's Malfoy," Sirius muttered darkly.
"While that is a possibility, there are plenty of Death Eaters who managed to escape imprisonment by claiming to be under the Imperius Curse," GLaDOS said. "The Carrows, Crabbe, Goyle, Macnair…and there may be Death Eaters who may not have been caught in the first place, with Pettigrew being a particular case in point. Malfoy will be still on the list of suspects, but we cannot rule out any others. Also, keep in mind that while the wizards brag about how inescapable Azkaban is, I do not believe this to be the case."
Sirius nodded. "I never really thought about it at the time, but now, I think I could have used my Animagus form to slip by the Dementors. If I ever found out Pettigrew was at Hogwarts, I would have done just that. But you're right. Moody wouldn't forgive me for not looking at all the suspects. Assuming it's a Death Eater behind this, what do you think they intend to do at the school?"
"Probably cause chaos and havoc," Wheatley said. His proxy android looked like a tall, thin young man with blonde hair and glasses, and sky-blue eyes(1). "I mean, these guys are basically terrorists, right? So maybe it's a series of bombings or something?"
"Thank you, Wheatley, for stating the obvious," GLaDOS sighed. He did have a point. She doubted it would be anything as mundane as bombings. Hell, she doubted most of the British wizards knew about the September 11 attacks, which had happened ten months ago.
"Or maybe it's like the Chamber of Secrets," Myrtle muttered, the formerly-glum ghost girl looking somewhat more cheerier now she had a body. "When I was alive, there were all these attacks, and there was a message about the Chamber of Secrets being opened. I think I was the last one killed in those attacks."
"What is the Chamber of Secrets?" Harry asked.
It was Remus who answered. "Well, it's not something you'd find in Hogwarts: A History. I don't think I even heard anything more than rumour. I only stumbled across a few references to it by accident last year while I was looking through the library at 12 Grimmauld Place. You know about how Hogwarts was founded by the Four Founders, right?"
Harry nodded. "Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin. I also heard that a rift developed when Slytherin apparently got shirty about allowing Muggleborns into Hogwarts. Then again, history is written by the winners. The books claimed he was obsessed with Blood Purity, but it could be he was worried about witch-hunters learning about Hogwarts through Muggleborns blabbing by accident."
Remus nodded in his turn. "That could be possible, Harry, though too many Slytherins hold to Blood Purity ideals. The legend of the Chamber of Secrets holds that Slytherin made a hidden chamber that couldn't be opened by anyone save for a true heir. Said chamber holds a horrific creature that the heir would use to purge the school of anyone with impure blood. So the legends claim. We never found the Chamber ourselves, but despite our knowledge of Hogwarts, the Marauders didn't know all of its secrets."
"We will notify Dumbledore about this. At the very least, forewarned is forearmed, to use the cliché," GLaDOS declared. "In any case, I may yet be in a position to be on the scene, so to speak, if something does happen. As you are aware, I have found a means to emulate Will-based Transmogrification Force. And as I bought a number of books on magic, I have spent time practising spells and abilities. I am at NEWT level, I believe, in many subjects, and have an unofficial Mastery in Charms, Transfiguration, and Defence Against the Dark Arts. I am going to enter into negotiations with Dumbledore to apply for the DADA teaching role, or at least assist the next victim…I mean, applicant. Failing that, I will apply for the Muggle Studies position. I read the assigned text, and whoever wrote that has a very poor working knowledge of Muggle achievements since the 1940s. The writer does not list nuclear weapons, space flight, computers, or breast implants amongst Muggle technology."
"I think the current teacher is Charity Burbage," Sirius mused. "She was married to a Muggle for a time, she probably knows about technology. The problem is, it's the Board of Governors who assign texts most of the time, and Malfoy's top of the tree. However, from what I know, DADA teachers assign their own texts, and they get replaced every year. I wonder who the poor berk who's volunteered will be?"
"Why do the DADA teachers get replaced every year?" GLaDOS asked. "It seems inefficient for such a vital subject to have a new teacher every year. It would disrupt students' education, not that an imbecile with a stammer who turns out to have a neoplasic growth in the form of a Dark Lord growing from his head would help matters."
"I heard rumours. Supposedly, the position is cursed," Sirius said. "How it happens depends. Sometimes, they die, like Quirrell did. Sometimes, they just have an accident. Other times, well, some dark secret gets let out, ranging from an embarrassing birthmark all the way to being caught in a broom cupboard with a student."
"Knowing my luck, if I ever got asked for the position, someone would out me being a werewolf," Remus said bitterly.
"Yes…remind me to find a way of capturing Fenrir Greyback," GLaDOS mused. "As enlightening as the tests you have allowed me to perform have been, Mr Lupin, I feel a vivisection is needed in the interests of science. I am sure there are many who would rejoice if I vivisected Mr Greyback. I could even sell tickets. You would have complimentary entry, of course, Mr Lupin. In any case, we know of a plot, one that will affect Hogwarts, and that it is the work of a Death Eater rich or old enough to have a House Elf. Is there a registry of House Elves in the Ministry of Magic?"
Sirius shook his head. "Some countries in the ICW do, but Magical Britain has a wholly voluntary system. I'd bet that Death Eaters would keep their House Elves off the list, in case they wanted them to do some dirty work. Not that most of them would do so. House Elves are generally beneath their notice."
Chell rolled her eyes. The athletic young woman, the sole human woman here (GLaDOS and Myrtle didn't count, being formerly human), looked to be of Asiatic descent, dressed in the orange jumpsuit of Aperture test subjects, though she kept the top open, revealing a singlet. And her athletic figure, which GLaDOS frequently mocked as being overweight, at best, which was obviously far from true. Chell's figure was quite attractive, and GLaDOS mocked merely out of routine than even any spite anymore. Taking her electrolarynx to her throat, Chell intoned in her buzzing tone, "Death Eaters consider Muggles beneath notice, despite the fact that we have some pretty scary technology, even outside Aperture. It must be the inbreeding. I'm surprised you don't have webbed toes and a Hapsburg Lip, Sirius."
Sirius roared with laughter, or rather, he howled, befitting his canine Animagus form. Since coming to Aperture, he had a crash course in various scientific subjects, and genetics had proved enlightening. While he didn't understand it as much as his godson, never mind most of Aperture's inhabitants, he did understand enough to find the inbreeding prevalent in Pureblood bigots in general, and his own family in particular, hilarious, albeit darkly so.
Chell had also found herself in a friendship with the two surviving Marauders. Sirius was a bit more of an overt lech, but he was a decent man beneath it, more often than not. But she felt more of a kinship with Remus. It was born out of sympathy for his plight: Sirius had swiftly regained his self-confidence after being freed from Azkaban, but Remus had to live with his lycanthropy for much of his life, and had little self-confidence. And being the daughter of scientists, she actually preferred a more intelligent man, as long as he had compassion to match. And while Sirius did have the hots for her, once he realised she had more eyes for Remus, he subtly encouraged her. He probably recognised that he could have the pick of almost any woman he wanted, but few would want to be with Remus because of his lycanthropy.
The fact that she called his lycanthropy a more overt form of PMS helped break the ice. Quite by coincidence, Lily Potter had called it that too.
"As much as I'd love to mock the incestuous tangled web that is the Black family tree, or rather, the Black family kudzu, we have strayed off track. Then again, we have nothing more to discuss on the vague evil plot of doom," GLaDOS said. "Although I may have convinced Dobby to leave Harry alone, we should still be on guard lest he tries to prevent Harry from going back to Hogwarts in spite of my showing him Potatomort. His fear of what his master may do may override his fear of my and Harry's prowess. Admittedly, we caught Voldemort by luck, but we caught him."
"So, Constant Vigilance, like Mad-Eye used to say?" Sirius asked.
"Yes. Maybe I should meet this Mad-Eye Moody of which you speak, Mr Black," GLaDOS said. "He sounds like he rivals Rattmann in the paranoia stakes, only without the schizophrenia."
Rattmann scowled. He had taken his medication today, he wasn't that bad. And none present actually laughed at GLaDOS' joke, save for Wheatley, but he was an idiot anyway. Even Myrtle knew better than to laugh at the misfortune of a schizophrenic.
The meeting broke up shortly afterwards, and Gordon Freeman was walking to his new laboratories. That he got his own personal laboratory was a big boost to his already Brobdingnagian ego, and he considered that just compensation for being fired from Black Mesa. He might even forgive that pale spook in the suit GLaDOS called John Smith, and Rattmann called the 'G-Man'. For some weird reason, the latter name seemed more appropriate to Gordon, even though GLaDOS had admitted that it was unlikely that the G-Man was actually human.
Aperture was a nuthouse, sure, and he was discovering things that shouldn't exist by his knowledge of science. After all, three of the current inhabitants, not counting the two ghosts who were now AIs, were bloody wizards! Wizards! Magic existed, and while GLaDOS had done her best to try and find the mechanism involved (her best working hypothesis at the moment had something to do with virtual particles), it was still hard to pin down scientifically. It was no wonder she called it Will-based Transmogrification Force, with the succinct acronym of WTF.
And yet, once he got over the shock of magic being real, he realised, like GLaDOS had done, that this was a whole new frontier of science. Okay, given how anal retentive the wizards and witches were about maintaining secrecy, he couldn't exactly expect fame, fortune, and a Nobel Prize in his future, but Gordon, while rather disappointed, was still able to cope. The joy of discovery and working things out were reward enough. And at least here in Aperture, he was doing things, well, whenever GLaDOS wasn't roping him into going through Test Chambers. Whereas at Black Mesa, due to his junior status, he was stuck shoving specimens on trolleys into the Anti-Mass Spectrometer and other glamorous jobs. The one time he was let into the Lambda Complex, that creepy G-Man sabotaged the place, and blamed it on him.
Here, he had interesting subjects to research, cutting-edge equipment, and his boss was a three quarters-insane supercomputer whose gynoid body was smoking hot. What was more, recently, they entered into a more physical relationship, and he had to say, given his admittedly paltry experience with sex, it was actually pretty damn good.
Plus, the rest of the company wasn't so bad. Though he wasn't fond of Wheatley, Chell was all right, once she had made sure they could remain just friends. The mute woman was a bit of a looker, but she was also one of the sanest people in the place. The same couldn't be said about Rattmann, but Gordon was now used to the schizophrenic. He found replacement drinking buddies in Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. He found it hard to believe that he had two wizards, one of whom was also a werewolf, as drinking buddies, but that's the way the world went. He missed drinks and card games with Barney Calhoun.
Ironically enough, Barney's niece went to that Hogwarts place with Harry. The kid was a bundle of energy, scarily smart for his age…and yet, Gordon, despite his not being fond of kids, actually liked Harry. When they finally met face to face, the boy actually asked some pretty smart physics questions of Gordon, at a level that even some postgrad students would struggle with, and yet, the kid asked them seriously. Gordon also agreed to send emails to that niece of Barney's, who had, thanks to her parents, the pretentious Shakespearean name of Hermione. She was easily as smart, if not more so, than Harry. Looks like the little kid might have a girlfriend who'd be a match.
Still, the kid had a nemesis, had done since he was just one year old, who had the even more pretentious name of Lord Voldemort. Said nemesis, thanks to a series of events, was now an AI core attached to a potato, which Gordon, along with virtually everyone else in Aperture, found hilarious. Bastard was basically the wizarding equivalent of Hitler, so nobody really gave a damn, barring Voldemort himself.
Still, the biggest shock came in the last little while, when GLaDOS began to use magic herself. How can a computer do magic? Well, Gordon didn't know the hows, save for that GLaDOS managed to emulate the energy used for magic in her gynoid body…but he was willing to chalk it up to yet another surreal experience at Aperture…
CHAPTER 2 ANNOTATIONS:
So, there you have it. GLaDOS and company have a plan, and Gordon's reflected on his time at Aperture. For those of you who skipped Is Your Great-Aunt an AI?!, or the explanation in that story, this Gordon Freeman is the one from the spoof video series Freeman's Mind. If you haven't seen it, and you're a Half-Life fan, watch it. Imagine Half-Life where you could hear a semi-deranged, neurotic version of Gordon Freeman. The maker, Ross Scott, may be doing a version with Half-Life 2, but he intends to finish other projects first.
Now, fans of the book will notice that the people involved do know some of the facts that get revealed later in the book. But they can't knit them together yet. The events will go off the rails PDQ, though…
1. I based Wheatley's human appearance roughly on his voice actor, Stephan Merchant. Of course, just about everyone else does.