"Hello, and thank you once again for participating in this Aperture Science enrichment course."
Richard groaned loudly, rubbing his eyes and staggering to his feet from the sleeping capsule. Another day, another test. Same thing, over and over again, for almost an entire year.
Sixty seconds till the portal opened. Just long enough to take care of toiletries, splash some water on his face, and try to stretch. They still hadn't provided him with a razor, like he had requested, and the month old beard was starting to really bother him. Oh well, he thought tiredly, at least it was almost over, right?
45 seconds. He looked up at the observation deck, hoping to actually see someone this time. Once again, no dice. Richard frowned a little. It had been entirely too long since he'd actually seen another human being up there. They had announced switching over to a mostly automated system about two weeks ago, but he wasn't a fan of the cold, robotic voice that was droning on and on about safety protocol at the moment. Too sterile. He'd kill to hear a real lady.
10 seconds now, and he'd begin. It was a different test every time, for which Richard was very grateful. Really, he didn't mind being a test subject. It wasn't too hard to stay alive, and the pay was good. Besides, it was almost over. That promise of freedom always tasted sweetest at the end of a long day dodging turrets and leaping over pits of killer sludge. One more day….one more day…
WHOOSH. The portal opened up in front of him, and with a grin, Richard bolted out towards the first test.
Was it his imagination, or were the tests getting more difficult?
Oh sure, Richard had survived the turret onslaught like he usually did, but it was starting to become just the slightest bit ridiculous.
Panting heavily, he heaved his body against the wall, holding the weighted cube in front of him like a shield. The barrage of bullets made sickening ripping noises as they bounced and penetrated the block and everything around him, but he couldn't think about that. Not even as he cried out in pain as a stray bullet pierced his leg.
CLANG! "Whyyyyyyy… I don't hate you." The turret powered down as it hit the ground, eye turning black and shutting off. Richard coughed slightly, grinning. "HA!" He gave a cocky grin to the ever watchful security cameras, celebrating a little. He placed the block on the waiting button, expecting the exit to be behind the d—
"I see you!" RATATATATATATATA.
Barely having enough time to leap out of the way, Richard somersaulted into the wall with a thud. What the… That had been a trap! A deliberate trap! He turned back to the camera, grin gone. "What is your PROBLEM?" His voice was raspy, and out of breath. "What are you trying to do, kill me?"
The camera turned to him as it always did, focusing on his ragged form. "Is there a complaint, [SUBJECT NAME HERE]?"
He really hated this robotic lady. "Yes there's a problem! I almost died in your little test!"
"We would like to apologize for your discomfort." A hint of amusement crept into her voice. "At the end of today's testing, you will be able to file a formal complaint. Please bear with us."
For the first time, Richard's blood ran cold. He wasn't sure, but something about all this made him uneasy.
Richard must've been going crazy. The cube was actually talking to him.
The whisper got more insistent. "Please, listen to me. Come over here."
Whirling around, he caught a glimpse of someone's forearm before it disappeared behind a strangely out of place panel. Prying it open, Richard gasped in shock. There sat a disheveled, mumbling mess of a man, scribbling furiously on the wall, looking over his shoulder every few minutes or so. "Woah, where did you come from?"
The man looked up and shushed him. "She'll hear you. Have a seat." He craned his neck to get a better view at the man's drawings. All of them filled him with a sense of dread: she's watching you, beware the green gas, there is no escape. How long had he been here? The man coughed slightly. "Richard, right?" He nodded. "I'm glad I got you when I did. I've been trying all week to save test subjects, and…" The man trailed off, sighing. "I just haven't been fast enough."
Richard backed away slightly. "You mean…they're dead?" The man nodded. "Oh my lord…she IS trying to kill me…" he fell against the wall, sinking down and holding his knees to his chest. "WHY? Why would they make tests that intentionally kill people? What are the scientists THINKING?"
"Rattmann." The man extended his worn and slightly scarred hand. "I'm Rattmann. And I'm one of only ten scientists who are still alive."
Rattmann didn't have much of a plan, but it was something at least, and it beat running around tests and waiting to die.
Richard was dying to know what had happened to Aperture since the last time he'd been awake, why everyone who wasn't in cryosleep was dead, and how he was going to get out of here to see his wife again. Rattmann was going on and on about "brain transference" and artificial intelligence and some other such nonsense, and he wasn't pretending that he understood, but the basic plan was this: attatch something called a personality core to the robotic lady voice, gain freedom. Simple enough.
"We're almost there, Richard." Rattmann smiled, cautiously optimistic, and snuck into a fairly dusty room labeled "CONTROL ROOM". Everything seemed to be in perfect working order, as if abandoned at the peak of efficiency. Richard shuddered again. What had HAPPENED? Rattmann dug through a cabinet before reappearing with a strange metal ball, grinning wildly. "Here we are. A core. And it doesn't look corrupted either."
He ran a wary hand over it. For a brief instant, Richard got a sickening feeling of dread in his stomach. "What does it do?"
"That robotic lady you've been hearing is named GLaDOS." He busied himself reconnecting wires to a metal headset, eyes darting back and forth. "These were made to add dimension to her personality at first, but then were used to try and stop her from killing people. She's the one who murdered most of the men, women and children-" Richard must've gasped audibly, because Rattmann simply nodded sadly and continued, "—yes, children too. No one got away, except me, nine of my colleagues, and the people in cryogenic storage like yourself." Rattmann furrowed his brow, dusting off the mechanical chair and tightening the loose restraints. "This is a last ditch effort, and I frankly don't know what will happen if it doesn't work. I…I'm going to need you to put me in this core, Richard. Once I'm in, you need to attach me, somehow, to GLaDOS and I'll stop her from there. Alright?"
"What?" Richard's eyes widened, his panicked voice echoing against the sterile walls. "How? I don't know anything about how to do this!"
Rattmann shushed him, but it was too late. Off in the bowels of the facility, something clicked and whirred to life.
"Oh NO…she heard you…"
Rattmann had done what he thought was right.
Richard was too panicked, too scared, to help or think straight once the bullets started flying. He was hit immediately, and was dying .
The Cube, his ever faithful companion, had looked on and whispered to him as Doug hooked the unconscious man to the sphere. "Do you think I'm doing the right thing, Cube?" His hands shook, even though he was on autopilot. He'd done too many of these. "He wanted to escape so badly…"
She (for it was a she) simply smiled as much as a cube could. "I trust you, Doug."
The machine sputtered and sprang to life, a faint red glow emanating from the sphere as Richard twitched and struggled weakly. Doug looked away. The transfer process had always been painful. At least he wasn't completely awake. He patted his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Richard. It was all I could think of."
The core didn't awaken until after it was attached to GLaDOS.
It blinked its red optic, confused. Where was it? WHAT was it? And what were these other voices in its head?
The large machine turned around, straining to see what had changed. "Who are you?" it asked, curious. "What is your function for me?"
Function? The core couldn't say. Something in the back of its mind was screaming.
Something had been taken from him.
Weeks passed. Weeks of watching the large machine run the humans through tests and kill them at the end. The something hadn't stopped screaming, and it was starting to become a problem. What was it about the test subjects that made the core uneasy? The way their faces drained of color and the tears running down their faces as they slowly burned to death, begging and pleading for freedom-
And suddenly, with a sudden rush of clarity so painful it made the core scream, it came back to him. Everything. Everything he had been, everything he'd fought for, everything he'd lost.
The large machine, GLaDOS, jerked up suddenly in surprise at the rush of emotions. "What is this?"
His sorrow turned to rage.
But he couldn't stop screaming.