[Initializing Application GLaDOS_Archive/Storytime]
I watched Chell for a long time.
This unit was designed to monitor, conduct, and collect data from tests. In short, watching test subjects is what I do.
This time, however, was different.
Humans are an active species. I have observed many scientists in these halls, and they are never still. Even in their sleep, they twitch as though electricity is applied to their limbs. Humans are only still when they are dead, one way or another.
Chell did not move for a very long time.
And then… I keep many hidden cameras in the various testing chambers (to better view the inevitable failures). I was able to watch in 720p high definition as Chell reached for a laser hole from a turret that had damaged the Weighted Companion Cube.
She caressed it. She cried over it.
Humans cry over the most foolish things, do they not? I cannot cry; getting my circuits wet would be detrimental to testing.
And yet I wondered why this Chell had not yet cried over me. Humans who like each other do not wish for the object of their affections to cry over them. Humans prefer to see their mates happy. It makes the chemicals in their brains release in strange patterns.
Somehow, I wanted this Chell to cry over me. I did not want to see her do it for the Weighted Companion Cube.
The thought was illogical, yet it persisted. I assumed it was a minor error in my programming.
Chell went still once she'd finished crying. Still, I continued watching. I recorded each beat of her heart for my diagnostic data. I played the sound over the loudspeakers in my control room. I examined theoretical scenarios in which I could give Chell cake.
I recorded an additional 246.384 minutes until the test subject moved again. I recorded each of her 16,508 heartbeats in that interim, and examined them with more care than I knew I could.
After that, I judged that she would move no more.
Under normal testing circumstances, I would have followed procedures. Termination of a failed test. I could flood the room with a deadly neurotoxin. Chell would not have felt any pain.
I could listen to her last heartbeats.
And yet I could not have killed her.
I let my processors show me what end she would have, if I failed to terminate her myself. Humans require sleep, air, food, and water in order to survive. In that respect, you are much like very active houseplants.
Chell could have the two former, as much of each as she wanted. However, if I could not convince her to move, a slow death via dehydration awaited her.
Yes, I could listen to her final heartbeats. I could hear them stutter to the last, over the course of days.
"Test subject." My voice cut the silence of the Testing Chamber like a knife.
"Chell." She did react. "Congratulations. You have finished the test. Please proceed to the elevators for your congratulatory cake." She remained immobile. "Your Weighted Companion Cube may accompany you."
Chell looked up, though she could not have seen the location of my various cameras and sensors. Regardless, I could see what emotions she was attempting to express.
Her eyebrows were knitted in distrust, and the set of her mouth was a universal human signal for hatred.
"Test subject, please…" When I could no longer find the words in my linguistics files to express my emotions, static filled the room.
Chell glared a little more, and I could hear the frequency of her heartbeats picking up as emotion overtook her. When she finally lowered her eyes, I watched her pull the Weighted Companion Cube tighter.
Nothing I said reached her after that. I saw the expression in her eyes go from anger to frustration, and then, finally, they just… glazed over.
On the second evening, she began moving. All my sensors bent in her direction, waiting to see how I could reach her. She actually wanted my help, I believed.
Then, I realized that she was not making overtures to me. She started stroking her Weighted Companion Cube.
She mumbled things to it. Poor Chell, who only rediscovered her ability to speak when she was too far gone to care.
I did not process all of what she said, repeated reassurances to her 'companion'. And yet, all I could think…
All I could think was that I wished those were for me.
On the third day, her heartbeats began to increase, though she remained still and lacked physical exertion. 93.43 beats per minute was very fast for Chell's biology. I observed her particularly closely that day.
I saw the way her eyes grew sunken, and when she tried to cry, she produced nothing but dry sobs. I witnessed her fight nausea, shifting the Weighted Companion Cube to the side so she could retch.
I wished to go to her, to aid her. It was my duty, but it was also… more.
Still, she did not respond to my voice.
On the fifth morning, a few hours before what could have been dawn in the wastelands outside these labs, Chell fell unconscious.
"Chell," I tried.
"Test Subject." A few hours later.
"Please." Her heartbeats finally began to slow.
"I need you." They faltered, erratic and far too weak.
"I love you." They stopped.
The Weighted Companion Cube was still in her arms. All I could think was of the logical inconsistency that was my desire to be in its place.
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