To Be Rebuilt
Disclaimer: GLaDOS, of course, belongs to Valve.
Author's Note: Yes, I know that we have since the writing of this fanfiction learned who is the true writer of the bloody scrawling on the walls throughout Portal, and it is not GLaDOS. Oh well
They rebuilt her curiosity first, giving her some semblance of a childhood. The blue-gloved hand flickered over her circuitry, connecting thought to machine. They exchanged the occasional grin, inexpressibly pleased with themselves. Why, of course we can rebuild the Generic Lifeform and Disk Operation System. We build it in the first place. Don't be foolish. It was our greatest creation; it will be up and running in no time. She had splotchy memories of that conversation: She had been mostly dead at the time, a broken collection of electric sparks leaping through the air from one mangled part to the next. She wasn't eager to receive the curiosity first. It made her little more than a child, and she loathed childhood. It was a stupid, emotional, conflicting time. Completely irrational.
But with only a half-built curiosity core to her name, she found the irrationality rather appealing. She shrouded herself in it, winking in an out of a state that could be called something like unconscious, would she be human. In her robotic state, it was something closer to just flickering on and off. But the electric currents inside her were insatiable. With the cores destroyed, she was seeking to receive data that no longer existed.
This isn't brave, it's murder. What did I ever do to you?
Who had said that to her? Had she said that? Surely, she had. But that was nothing like her voice, it couldn't be. That voice was… human.
The rest of the memory trickled in, a puzzle with too many missing pieces. It was a melting pot of senses, each blurring indeterminately into the next.
The house burned in her nostrils. No, not the house. Was that the scent of the house? It looked like it burned, too. The walls were painted white, and the furniture was clothed in some unpleasant and unyielding plastic. White carpets spanned an itchy sea from one wall to the next. "So we can see the germs." The girl remembered her mother saying, wiggling a finger as if scolding the rambunctious child. "Germs will kill you, Dear. They'll sneak into your hateful body and kill you dead. You better pray every single night, 'cause the first night that you forget, that's when they'll sneak in."
The robot pondered her internal thoughts, watching the memory unfold. A memory within a memory, it seemed.
The little girl sat cross-legged in the center of the carpet, wiggling dirty fingers and leaving stains across the twisted fibers. She giggled and clasped her hands over her mouth, peering around with wide brown eyes. She stared at the doorway, a white portal to some other white realm, waiting for the scolding that she knew was sure to come were she caught.
This surprised the half-built robot. How did she know of this child's fears?
But nobody came. The door remained firmly closed. The child watched on, fearing that the moment she turned away, her mother would appear like an immaculate banshee and descent upon the girl. Not even a squeak of the door hinge would warn her: No door in this house would ever dare make such an undignified noise. She went back to pulling at the carpet, chubby legs splayed out in front of her. She hummed a quiet tune, making it up as she went along, enjoying her temporary freedom. Her voice was growing in volume as she forgot herself, lost in some childish fantasy. Soon, she was singing in outright, shameless nonsense words spilling from pretty pink lips. The door opened noiselessly, and behind the child appeared a harsh silhouette. She stepped silently into the room, arms crossed over her chest.
The robot felt a twinge someplace in her operating system as the woman entered the room. The curiosity core, she decided, had begun to function. "Who's that? Ohhh, who IS she?" The scientists frowned and went on tinkering, ignoring the core's nonsensical questioning.
"Dear." Hissed the woman, looking down at the girl at her feet.
The girl looked up, and squeaked at the woman, "Hi, mommy."
"Show me your hands." The woman demanded.
The girl's expression went blank. Without any of the resistance of a normal child of her age, she reached her hands up towards her mother, as if seeking an embrace.
This gave the robot a pause. As if seeking an embrace? Where had that thought ever come from? The memory trickled on.
The mother grabbed her child by a pudgy wrist and yanked the girl, stumbling, onto her feet. The girl swallowed a cry and closed her eyes tight, waiting motionless through her mother's inspection. The mother scowled at her daughter. "You're filthy. Do you know how many germs are on your hands? And in my carpet?" She shuddered. The girl did not respond. "Answer me!" Insisted the mother sharply.
"At least… at least a billion, Mother. Just like you said." The child reluctantly responded.
"And what are they going to do to you?"
"They're gonna… they're gonna come kill me dead. Before I even know what happened, they'll kill me dead." She recited.
The mother snarled, "That's right. And do you know what else? After they kill you, they'll be strong and look for somebody new to kill. And whom will they find? They'll find your Mommy, and then they'll kill me dead, too. Is that what you want? I'll be dead, and it'll be all your fault. Are you trying to kill me?"
Tears sprang into the little girl's eyes, and she blushed a crimson shade. "No, mommy. I don't want you dead, I swear it!"
"Well, that's certainly not how you're acting. You're a bad, bad child. You're going to bring only death and despair to your poor old Mommy. You miserable, sinful, dirty child."
The child had no answer but to blink, sending tears cascading down her rosy cheeks. The mother scoffed and tossed the little girl's wrist away. "Go wash yourself. And make sure you wash your face, too. Tears are so unsightly. And dirty. I don't want that liquid all around my house. Then you can clean the carpet. And what are you going to do after that?"
The girl shook her head. "I d-don't know." She stuttered.
The mother sighed. "Will you never learn? You'll go wash yourself again, to get the dirt off, again! Stupid little girl, why don't you know that? You've no sense! No sense in all the world! How could I have raised you so wrong?"
The memory blinked out with the woman's words, leaving the robot full of the curiosity core's endless questions, and nothing more.
After that, for a time, there was nothing. It was… refreshing.
When the robot flickered to life once more, the questions once again battered its mind. The scientists were talking over it, creating an overwhelming cacophony. They started tinkering about inside her again, installing some new piece of technology. Were the robot fully functioning, she would assume it to be the next core. And before long, even without a proper intellect, it was obvious: Suddenly, the robot's questions brought with them waves of anxiety. The robot's emotions flung from one to the next, an endless quagmire of irrationality. With these waves of emotional data, other bits and fragmented pieces came dredging up from the swamp of the robot's disjointed memories.
The child had become something resembling a young woman, or perhaps just a gangly teenager. She was humming again, a new and bright tune. She was an attractive, to an extent. For the most part, her face was unremarkable. It was clear that teenager and child were one and the same, but this teenager was tall and lean, and the child's curly locks had given way to long, wavy black hair, immaculately brushed. She was dressed in a spotless white slip that vaguely resembled nothing more then perhaps a hospital gown. From the earlier memories, the robot assumed it to be a selection of the Mother's.
The teenager was bent over an oven, bony fingers sheathed in a cloth mitt. She pulled a cake from the burning appliance and kicked it closed with a bare foot, setting the cake on the counter. She pulled the mitt, finger by finger, from her hand and took up a prepared knife. Still singing, she plunged it into a waiting jar of frosting. She tasted it first, enjoying the scent of the chocolate. She iced the cake in long, easy strokes, enjoying herself.
The robot watched the teenager with some amusement. This was a pleasant emotion, if she had to have them, she decided. A pleasant memory, if this was even what it was. Surely, it couldn't. The robot was firm in the belief that it could never have been so inherently irrational as this girl was, with that long, impractical hair. But she allowed the vision to continue.
The Mother had entered the room then, with the same silence that she had when the teenager had been a messy child. She frowned and opened her mouth, seeking to complain, but the teenager smiled and spoke first. Clearly, the girl had found a way to predict her mother's scolding. "Happy birthday, Mommy. I made you cake."
"Did you really?" The Mother dismissed. "I'm surprised you even remembered. I'm sure you planned to eat it all yourself, glutton that you are."
The teenager shook her head. "No, I didn't want any of it, actually. I hate chocolate frosting." She lied. "But I know you like it. Sit down."
Reluctantly, the Mother complied. The daughter whirled around, cake perched precariously on her fingertips. The Mother's brow furrowed, but the graceful teenager set it down without incident. "I hope you wore gloves while you made this. Rubber gloves. Sterilized rubber gloves." She said, already scolding. "I don't want your germs coming and infecting me."
The teenager nodded and smiled around barely contained malice, gesturing to a pair of unused gloves on the countertop. "Of course I used gloves, Mommy. I wouldn't want you to fall ill."
The Mother nodded. "Good. Those germs will kill you dead, you know."
The girl nodded. "I know, Mommy." She said patiently, cutting her parent a slice of the cake.
The Mother looked at the teenager for another long moment, picked up an ornate silver fork, and took a delicate bite. The teenager stood watching, leaning against the table and smiling angelically. The two looked at each other for a few long moments, and the Mother sought a second bite of the apparently satisfactory cake.
It never made it to her mouth. The fork clattered to the ground, sending fragments of chocolate scurrying across the white tile. The Mother reached with a claw like hand for her daughter, but the girl stepped effortlessly out of her reached, and the Mother went sprawling across the tile.
The robot watched with growing amusement. This girl was practical, after all, it seemed: the Mother bothered her. So she was ridding herself of the Mother. Really, she was the epitome of practicality.
The girl just went on smiling as she watched her mother hit the ground. "It's poison, Mother. A lot like germs, isn't it? It'll kill you dead. But I can control poison. I'm quite good at it, really. Talented, even. I simply adore chemistry." She chirped.
The Mother gasped, clawing at the tile and gaining no purchase upon the sterile surface. "Sinful child…" She whispered, a sharp splash of blood projecting itself from her mouth, bringing a refreshing sense of color to the white room. "This isn't brave, it's murder. What did I ever do to you?"
The girl sighed and began cleaning up, scrapping the rest of the cake down into a waiting garbage bag. She ignored her desperate Mother, who began to grab at the teenager's ankles, clawing them until she left bloody little half moons on the girl's legs. "You don't even care, do you?"
The girl looked down at her Mother and stepped once more out of the dying woman's reach, refusing her any other comment. The Mother stared up at her wayward, sinful child. "The only thing you've managed to break so far," She stammered, "is my heart."
The girl sighed and watched as her Mother's words became choked off, her mouth filling with blood from deep within her.
It was a quick death.
The robot considered the lingering images of the vision as it faded. The red against the white of the tile was striking. Moving, even. The robot realized that, had it a mouth, a smile would be the appropriate response to such a feeling. In what semblance of a mind it possessed, it smiled. This time, the robot resented it when the scientists turned it off.
The next time the scientists turned the robot back on, it welcomed the wave of data without hesitation. As could be predicted, it came with another wave of what it was now sure must be some form of memory. It paused to make note of what the scientists were doing: it seemed that intelligence was to be it's next update. It felt a flicker of excitement at that, and dived into the encroaching memories without further observation.
The girl had aged again. She was a young woman, robust and tall. She was dressed in a lab coat now, high heels clacking at her every step. The long black hair that had made her so remarkable as a teen had been drawn back into a tight ponytail, and her eyes were magnified behind delicate half-moon spectacles. The woman came to a stop and pushed open a door that squeaked welcomingly at her entrance. A narrow man waited for her behind it, his head buried in a computer screen. The room itself was mostly white, but it was washed in dull blues and dark greens from the room that it overlooked. She barely glanced at the man, striding over to the glass and putting a thin hand against it, humming every so softly. "When are we to expect the subject?" She said, by way of greeting.
The robot was coming to like this girl quite a lot. She was delightfully to the point.
The man shrugged and checked something on his screen. "Just a few moments. She's nearing the end of the chamber just before."
The woman nodded and sat in a chair, one leg crossed over the other, hands folded neatly in her lap. The man glanced at her, seeking conversation.
The robot paused for a moment, analyzing the situation. This was certainly odd: The man seemed to have a real desire for conversation with the severe woman.
"I've got a new project I'm working on. We're developing an artificial intelligence to help run the lab." The man shared eagerly, as if involving her in some juicy secret.
"Lovely." Responded the woman, feigning interest and staring at the chamber as if her very gaze could cause the test subject to appear. She was growing tired of supervising these chambers. It was a silly experiment. Most people were pathetic as it was, pushing them to the brink of exhaustion did little to change anything or even to prove anything, as far as the woman could see.
The man sat in silence, staring at the woman. His eyes went wide, as if suddenly remembering an important fact, or something he had missed in his latest cake recipe, as the woman liked to imagine. "Oh, oh! How could I have forgotten? I was supposed to send you to the briefing room when you got here; you're not to oversee this chamber. The Boss has some other job for you."
The woman raised an eyebrow. "Some other job? Is that so?" The man nodded, hoping he would not be required to comment farther. The woman sensed his discomfort and pressed at it. "And do you have any idea what this other job might be?" She said, with growing suspicion.
She received a shake of the head in response. The man seemed to have suddenly gone stiff. Tiring of the issue, the woman stood and quitted the room.
A few moments later, the ever-efficient woman appeared in the briefing room. The man that awaited her this time was an unimposing one, though his power was quite threatening. The boss of Aperture Science was a dangerous man, a fact that the woman was poignantly aware of. "I was told you had a new job for me?" She asked, her voice rich with false curiosity.
The boss nodded, his fingers drumming tunelessly on the desk. The sound irked the woman. He could at least be musical about it. "As a matter of fact, I do. You've been… quite invaluable here, you know."
The woman nodded. "Thank you. I try to be good."
The robot took note of that line. It sounded dangerously like something out of the woman's childhood. The robot wondered briefly if the man was destined for the same fate as the woman's Mother.
The boss just smiled. "Of course you do. Unfortunately, it seems your worth has been… used up, so to speak. You're a clever girl, I'm sure you've figured out by now where the test subjects are coming from."
"They're employees." Recited the girl, as if spewing an obvious statement of fact,
Though she had needed no confirmation, the boss nodded. "Yes. And I do believe it is time for you to join them."
Much to the robot's regret, the memory flickered out there. It was incredibly curious to the woman's fate. It felt almost… a kinship with it's former self. Yes, a kinship, it decided. And it was almost rebuilt, too. Oh, how happy the robot was.
Soon after, the robot was awakened for a fourth and final set of repairs. It truly resented them this time. This was its most hated core: the morality core. Despicable, useless piece of equipment. It only served to limit the robot's full potential, or so it firmly believed. The robot welcomed its memory companion again, and this time it came with an instant wave of what the robot assumed a human would perceive as pain.
The woman was in pain. The lab coat had been traded for a shocking orange garb, oddly refreshing after the constant muted tones. Her dark hair had come loose form it's ponytail, and was falling into tangle. Her fingers were bleeding badly, most of the nails ripped cruelly from their places. But the robot was pleased to note that the woman, ever practical, was using it, painting bloody arrows onto the walls to direct some future wretched human. She was in some dark space of the lab, some horrible, ugly room that no test subject was supposed to find. The robot was incredibly pleased at this. It had been rooting for the woman, and there she was, escaping.
The woman entered one of the labs, and promptly grinned at her luck. She had been long ignoring the warning signs, telling the viewer of the grave chemicals hidden within, and it seemed they had led her to something usable at last.
She was enormously proud of herself. It was worth giving up her escape for this. At the center of the room was a huge cylindrical tank, spanning the room from floor to ceiling. She walked towards it and read the warnings at its bottom, though she needed no confirmation. She was too good a chemist for that: the undulating dark green gas was pure neurotoxin.
The robot was elated. Now, it needed no confirmation that this woman and the robot were one and the same. And oh, how proud the robot was of it's morality-core-less self, and how it mourned the addition of one.
The woman scrounged around the room for a time, pulling a general equipment repair kit triumphantly from under a desk. She pried it open, bloodying her fingers even further, and her efforts were rewarded. A crowbar winked up at her from amongst the various metal instruments at her disposal. She picked it up and grinned maliciously, testing it with a slam against the wall. To her delight, the crowbar proved itself a worthy tool. With barely another thought, she whirled around and slammed it into the tank, shattering the glass. She waited with a manic grin as the gas leaked out, spreading over her feet. She didn't even turn when the door slammed open behind her.