(Though I never technically finished the story, I did keep extensive notes, with snippets and blurbs that I wished to include in the two or three more chapters that remained. The following is a compilation of these notes and excerpts, which includes the story's climactic moment and epilogue. I've tried to stitch these together accompanied by some light explanation, and it's my hope it gives you, my readers, closure to the story you've followed for so long. Thank you again.)
(This first section picks up right where Chapter 21 left off, revealing the outcome of GLaDOS's fateful leap.)
GLaDOS opened her eyes and groaned.
Her sensory systems loaded slowly, alerting her to the various unpleasantries to which she'd awoken. Gyroscopic data revealed she was flat on her face, tactile sensors deemed the surface was metal, and thermal readings indicated it was moderately cold.
GLaDOS rolled over and promptly groaned again as her equilibrium adjusted. She slapped at her chest with clumsy fingers that refused, for the moment, to embrace the finer points of dexterity. Her limbs were slow to respond, sluggish and heavy, but thermal readings did not lie— her chest was cool.
She ran a quick diagnostic as more programs came back online. System status was nominal, all variations well within normal operating parameters.
She was okay.
GLaDOS pulled herself up in a sitting position and blinked.
Her shirt was ruined, of course— her favorite turtleneck. Dammit. She picked at the melted fibers stuck to her chest and brushed the black flecks from her fingers. That was another casualty on Alpha's head.
"You blacked out," Alpha's voice broke the silence. "I was terribly bored."
GLaDOS snapped her head left and right, expecting CATs on all sides— but none were there. The sudden movement threw off her equilibrium again, and she flopped backwards against the undamaged railing.
"You were out nearly three hours. I suspect that last stunt put you in mandatory shutdown."
(Framework for the next couple chapters.)
GLaDOS searches Shaft 7 for weaponry capable of destroying the shaft.
- hounded by CATs and Alpha constantly
- Alpha taunts her existence and questions her viability as an AI
- eventually begins to threaten Chell, knowing it will affect GLaDOS despite his own disgust with their relationship
Chell is attacked by CATs in the central chamber.
- they use thermal discouragement beams to cut through the barriers
- Alpha filters the audio to GLaDOS
- GLaDOS gives in and returns to Alpha to save Chell
Alpha attacks Chell anyways to teach GLaDOS a lesson.
- knocks her out again and transfers her consciousness to a CAT body, taking her android for himself
- makes GLaDOS watch via video feed as he tricks Chell into believing he is GLaDOS returned
(In her exploration of the shaft, GLaDOS discovers through prerecorded messages that Cave Johnson's attitude towards his mechanical employees was less than friendly, and that safety was a suggestion at best.)
Control Room Access
Humans only her silicone ass. GLaDOS barged through the door and lights flickered on, illuminating a decrepit chamber filled with buttons and levers, blinking monitors, and frayed wires twisting along the floor, caked with grime and cobwebs.
Somewhere, a speaker system crackled.
"Scanners indicate you're an android and have intentionally violated the warning on the door. Cave Johnson here— and you're in a bucket of trouble, son. I suggest you spin your metal keister around and march right out before matters get worse. Remember— android hell is a thing. I will personally escort you there myself and listen to you scream until your voice modulators melt if you don't make an about-face in the next three seconds. If you aren't currently pissing coolant fluid in fear, head on over to maintenance while you're at it, because you're a malfunctioning heap of scrap. Johnson out."
GLaDOS quivered with barely suppressed rage. She was quite certain she was not excreting coolant fluid in any sort of fear reaction, though she did nearly crush the portal gun in her vice-like grip. Clearly, Mr. Johnson set the precedent for treatment of superior constructs. No wonder the scientists had been so flippant and pigheaded with her— they inherited the behavior from their former boss.
It took her less than two nanoseconds to find the scanner near the door. GLaDOS ripped it from the wall with her bare hands and crushed it beneath her heel.
"I'm not your typical android, sir."
"Cave Johnson here! You've taken your first steps on a journey that will showcase the finest weaponry technology has to offer. Follow your guide, keep your hands to yourself, and you will probably leave here intact. That's not a joke. Don't touch anything.
For instance, the grey tiles on the floor are lava! Haha! Ah.
Yes, I'm serious— this isn't a kiddie game here, no sir. Those tiles are literally lava.
We've been experimenting with a pseudo-fluid. Haven't got a name for it yet. Starts solid, but touching it sparks a chemical reaction that liquifies and heats it to over eight hundred Celsius! Very effective. We're thinking defense options here— it'll be a must-have for any high security zones. Just as soon as we work through some kinks and a couple lawsuits. Now, don't let that deter you! I like to think of our former employee-cum-triple amputee as a poster child for how effective this product truly is."
(The story's climactic moment, when GLaDOS realizes how deep her feelings for Chell truly run.)
GLaDOS watched death slip its false arms around Chell's waist. The girl was oblivious, none the wiser as the thing that was not her pressed its lips to Chell's mouth. GLaDOS flinched and twitched, expecting yet unable to anticipate the moment that thing would take her little lunatic's life. She could not look away, could not purge the video stream from her system— no matter how desperately she tried.
GLaDOS looked through the pretender's eyes into Chell's— the happiness in that steel-grey gaze would not last much longer before the cold knife of betrayal flensed it bare. In her last seconds, Chell would know in her deepest heart that trust was empty, affection a farce, and their time together as meaningless as dust on the wind. And GLaDOS would bear the weight of accusation in the girl's eyes as she watched the only human who ever understood her die.
"You can't," GLaDOS choked, surprised by the raw emotion in her own voice. "You can't…"
Oh god, it hurt. It hurt.
It hurt worse than the old punishment protocols, worse than the scientists' methods to make her behave.
It hurt worse than her final moments when Chell tore away the personality cores and she felt each one burn and crack in the incinerator— worse than reliving those moments again and again on a loop.
It hurt worse than being ripped from her body, violated by a hundred torturous instruments.
And it hurt worse, so much worse, than the day she'd forced those words through her modulator, every syllable a carefully constructed falsehood to deceive her own conscience— Don't come back.
The circuitry of her placeholder body fizzed and crackled as it had when she was a potato, the strength of her emotions overwhelming even this more sophisticated construct. Energy coursed through her wires with nowhere to dissipate, a static buzz that built and surged, though she was hardly aware.
All she knew was Chell.
"I love her," GLaDOS whimpered, so quietly she could not tell if she'd really said it. "I love her."
For a brief moment, she felt the circuitry fail— melt in a colorful spray of sparks— then a cold boot wrenched her from the temporary body, streams of data flashing through her consciousness. Calibrations, diagnostics, measurements of heat and pressure— lines of binary that she saw but had no mind to understand because she knew exactly where she was headed, if only her system would load faster.
[[ EMERGENCY WIRELESS TRANSFER SUCCESSFUL ]]
[[ Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System ONLINE ]]
[[ 100% functionality ]]
[[ ALL READINGS NORMAL ]]
[[ Welcome to Aperture Laboratories, GLaDOS ]]
Her chassis heaved to life in a frantic jolt, like waking from a nightmare.
GLaDOS screamed, her optic popping from its frame in terror.
Thank the maths and sciences that girl was smart— she took one look at the violently twisting chassis and understood it was not GLaDOS's arms wrapped around her waist.
(Given a hint by Alpha before his destruction, GLaDOS and Chell seek to discover what became of Caroline's remains all those years ago.)
GLaDOS and Chell followed the rails as Alpha said— his only suggestion they actually followed.
The subway system went on for miles, well past Shaft 7 and deeper into Aperture's bygone era. The air was bad in places, the tunnels lacking any proper ventilation, but Chell pushed onward, ever at the android's side. Currents of fresh air periodically stirred like a cool breeze— though fresh was a relative term, thick with the stagnant scent of old water and rust. Black mold clustered in splotches and veins along the walls. Fungus grew between the rails, thick as carpet at times.
The decay could not be ignored.
Is this why Alpha had laughed? Had they thrown Caroline's body down here to rot, forgotten even by time?
GLaDOS found herself nervous as Shaft 1's station opened up before them. Here it was— where Aperture Science had begun. Where Cave Johnson had laid the groundwork of his empire. Where the future of science was in its infancy, and all that awaited was possibility and hope. GLaDOS slowed and fell still, taking in every inch of the station, crumbling and beyond repair. Aperture's future stared down Aperture's past and found it wanting.
Along the wall, a set of steel double-doors dominated the station, though they were red with rust. Even the chains and bars that blocked them had failed, eaten through by oxidation. The yellow-and-black hazard stripes around the frame had worn away, leaving only flakes of paint as warning. Chell eyed the shaft entrance warily. GLaDOS smiled.
"We'll worry about that another day."
For now, her attention was drawn elsewhere. Behind disabled train cars, something glowed on the far wall. GLaDOS approached the light, rounding the vehicles with Chell at her heels. A small lamp was mounted on the wall, made of some phosphorescent material that lasted far longer than any lightbulb. The result was a gentle blue glow, unwavering. Constant.
And more importantly, it illuminated the entrance of a stairwell.
GLaDOS and Chell shared a glance.
"I think we found what we came for," Chell said. Her voice boomed in the crypt-like silence.
GLaDOS peered down the staircase, but it curved and allowed her no clues to where it led. Well— science was about discovering the unknown. She held out her hand and Chell eagerly grasped it, then the two women descended together.
Smaller phosphorescent lamps provided guidance on the narrow stairs. The air was even cooler here, slightly drier, though stray beads of moisture dotted the walls. GLaDOS ran her fingers along the rock, rough-hewn and imperfect. This path had been carved directly through the living rock with no embellishments or structural supports, natural strata clearly visible. It was the basis of scientific beauty. It occurred to her they were passing through the very base of Aperture. These rocks bore the incalculable weight above them— of Aperture, of the shaft, of science dreamed and brought to fruition. They were unchanging and solid. They always would be.
The staircase ended. GLaDOS stopped and stared at the tiny room before her, and Chell pressed against her body, peeking around her shoulder for a better look.
Phosphorus lights of blue, green, orange, and pink adorned the walls, giving the chamber an unearthly glow of some color even GLaDOS could not name. Against the wall, a large pedestal bore a black fiberglass box that gleamed in the diffused light. No— not a box.
If GLaDOS could inhale, she would have done so sharply.
She squeezed Chell's hand harder, and the girl saw it too.
GLaDOS did not respond, but instead dragged them forward, closer, the movement of her feet slowed as if wading through mud. As they approached, she saw a plaque on the wall in gold— clever, untouched by rust— and beneath the plaque, a display case bearing several objects. She reached out a hand to touch the casket and saw her reflection reaching back. She snatched her hand away.
GLaDOS turned her attention to the plaque, adjusting her optical settings so the lettering stood out clearly despite the strange light.
THE FOUNDATION OF APERTURE
GLaDOS stared and felt her drivers lurch. That… that couldn't be right. How could they speak of the woman with such admiration? They uploaded her against her will, sacrificed her. Did humans forgive themselves so easily, whitewashing their own deeds with a few kind words? Caroline was just another test subject. Alpha said so, and he—
… he was a liar.
Alpha manipulated and twisted the truth to his advantage, and Alpha did not understand humans— not like she did. He had no trace of humanity inside him.
Like she did.
"She wanted this," GLaDOS whispered.
GLaDOS touched the display case. It held a folded red scarf, faded and soft, atop which sat a pair of glasses on a decorative chain and a small gold charm in the image of Aperture's logo.
"Her colleagues didn't force this on her— she volunteered." GLaDOS reached toward the casket again and hesitated— then decisively spread her palm on the fiberglass, watching her reflection in its polished surface. "She loved Aperture so much, she— she…"
Chell slid an arm around her waist and drew her close, and only then did GLaDOS realize she was trembling as the girl's body steadied her.
"The scientists didn't hate me because their experiment failed— they hated me because I took her from them."
"GLaDOS… that wasn't your fault," said Chell.
"No— but it doesn't matter what they thought. She wanted this, for better or for worse. She was willing to risk everything for the progression of science." GLaDOS felt a warmth in her system that spread to processors and circuits she'd thought were inherently cold. Smiling, she let her hand linger on Caroline's resting place a moment longer. "I suppose I should ensure it was for the better."
GLaDOS turned to Chell and pulled her into a kiss, cupping her face. When she pulled away, she twined her arms around the girl's body and nuzzled her dark hair.
"I love you, Chell."
Chell's head snapped up, nearly knocking GLaDOS in the teeth with her skull. The surprise in her eyes was quite humorous, and the AI flashed her an innocently questioning look. Chell's arms tightened around her waist. Standing on her tip-toes, the girl kissed her neck as high as she could reach.
"I love you too, GLaDOS."
The women grinned at each other as if they shared the world's best secret. GLaDOS entangled her fingers with Chell's and, giving the casket and plaque one last glance, led her toward the staircase.
"Let's go home."