I have failed my deadline of getting it all done by Christmas! But I DID survive the holidays, but if life were an RPG, I survived only by the grace of every phoenix down in my inventory and chain-chugging potions. And NEVER EVER will I attempt such a gift making scheme again, even starting back in November I finished ON THE DAY I went to visit family. The procrastination God has named me his avatar. Quake in fear, mortals at my power of... meh, I'll think up a good threat later.

My laptop has finally died, the last gasp before the computer apocalypse (which apparently is me) has ended it's life. For all my attempts, I seem to have only killed it faster. My new lappy should have all my massive collection of STUFF moved onto it by now, and I'd promise a faster return on the next chapter – but I have learned my lesson. Sparky16, you returned my chapter on time, sorry for this delay!

And now... MORE DELAYS!... just kidding.

Sarcasm Still Valid

1/5/12 (I CANNOT COUNT derp)

There was a skill to cheating that most people never really have the chance to try out, and Chell was quickly on her way to becoming a master-level cheater. With the test chamber missing panels where they had fallen out of the walls in critical spots, lasers with no receiving couplers, too many cubes/not enough buttons, and a broken Excursion Funnel, this was the motherload of tests to be cheated on.

Stretching before this epic cheat-fest was probably required. One could easily hurt oneself by overexerting themselves with the amount of cheating that was about to get it's cheat on. That, and it would burn yet more time for Orange and Blue to rescue the facility while Chell stretched – Wheatley's full attention on his test subject.

With a wide blue optic, Wheatley watched her stretch with an interest that quite obviously went beyond science. Chell felt she was going to permanently be a slightly pinkish color from then on as she felt every camera rotate to record her movements. It was beyond unsettling to have a five foot tall eye following her every movement, a reminder that he was at one point her tiny friend who always tried to be so 'stealthy' in his human-watching exploits.

Halfway through the stretching, she couldn't put off the wave of embarrassment and fury that always went together like peanut butter and jelly. Interrupting her stretches, Chell lifted her index finger to point at the screen, then made a loopy spinning motion with her other hand.

Slightly dazed, Wheatley blinked at the gesture. "Wot? You want me … spin?"

Holding up a flat hand this time and touching it to the bottom most edge of the monitor, Chell then covered her eyes and turned her back on the screen.

This time Wheatley got the gesture. "Oh, y-you want me turn around while you do your manual override on your body?"

'Oh god, that is the most awkward way possible he could have phrased that.' Chell's head sunk until her chin met her chest, but she bobbed her head in a nod.

"But, I'm kind of supposed to watch you. For science, while you test." Wheatley protested.

Science be damned! This was just creepy now! Trying a pantomime again, Chell covered her eyes with both hands. Then she made a few half-hearted stretches, all exaggerated. Finally she raised two fingers to her mouth and let out a sharp whistle upon which she opened her eyes.

Perking up, Wheatley caught the intention behind these actions. "Oh! You'll tell me when you are done? That's very nice... and I guess you do need some privacy." He mulled it over, then he very reluctantly agreed, "Aw'right, but no solving the test until I'm watching, yeh?"

Chell nodded slowly, her head too dizzy to agree any faster.

The sound of the heavy hydraulics flipped the monitor over, glossy black portal-proof panels sliding down to protect the delicate monitor connections behind the screen. Three red-eye'd cameras were still spaced out among the room, all still watching her though. However without Wheatley's obvious stare on her, Chell was accustom to dealing with the unblinking gaze of the cameras. Besides, the cameras just meant Wheatley was probably focusing through their smaller range of vision at her, and hopefully not looking around the lab and spotting two robots who lacked any sort of stealth.

Rolling her shoulders back until her spine popped and cracked, Chell commenced stretching like a marathon runner. Sore muscles clicked and snapped as they began to forcefully loosen up. It was a painful stretch session, but afterward her body felt a wash of relief as there was no accompanying pain.

'I suppose if there are two things I'm good at, one is definitely breaking all the things. The other is wasting time. Orange, you better be keeping Blue on task while I do BOTH of those.' Chell winced as her muscles twinged with pain.

There was a pop as a red portal opened above a section of catwalk, and Blue came tumbling out, ramming into the railing. Orange hopped through more gracefully, adjusting her yellow portal to another section of wall further ahead and dodging back through the open portal behind her. The slender bot had adopted Chell's highly efficient portal method of always trying to reuse the portal nearest to you. Blue had adopted Chell's method of collecting head trauma – stumbling after Orange he gave an unsteady rumble.

Faded metal signs were placed randomly throughout the damaged catwalk system. 'Warning! Turbine Generator ahead! Radiation HVEC suits required to entry.' The signs all warned of radioactive waste, fallout, and radioactive monsters that may or may not be wandering the halls. At the last warning, Orange's courage began to falter and Blue took the lead from her.

The lights were kept dim in this section, already a warning that the turbines were badly damaged, probably at less than 50% efficiency. Blue was equip with the entire database of schematics and how to repair them, but Orange was not. They were simply woken up too soon by GLaDOS to fully upload all the data into both of them. Before the turbine system could be taken from Wheatley's control, Blue was going to have to figure out how to repair most of the damage first.

Catch-22 : Grand Edition. Chell could not leave testing for risk Orange and Blue being discovered and destroyed. But the robots couldn't stop their repairs or the facility would blow up – and neither had the security clearance simply remove Wheatley's control. Everyone was stuck in stalemate.

There was an undesirable alternative option though, one that was granted by the override code that GLaDOS had hit them with earlier. The override had issued them earlier was quite unusual, designed especially for the co-op pair. EnCen-04 gave the two robots permission to completely disregard any orders the DOS system (Wheatley OR GLaDOS at the moment) were to try to give them and to ignore all standard Aperture Protocol programmed into them. By removing part of their programming, it essentially gave them both free-will on par with a human. If they wanted to ignore their orders, they could – though neither bot could even tolerate that idea. Buggering off would only leave Chell and GLaDOS trapped endlessly in testing – until everything exploded.

The override command also meant neither bot would feel any regret at damaging any crucial Aperture apparatus. So far, Blue had his hopes on planting one heavy metal foot right between Wheatley's handle. Orange had plans to cheer madly. Then they were all going to go outside and roll around in the grass.

… Chell would have been so very pleased with them.

With a final pop, the testing pair bypassed a huge airlock mechanism and portaled through into the turbine room itself. The turbines were nuclear powered, using the heat produced by the atomic reaction to vaporize the water of a naturally occurring aquifer. It was that radioactive steam that powered the turbines, and the steam condensed back into water and trapped in the system in an never-ending loop.

With the facility falling steadily back into ruin, it had taken much longer than estimated to reach the turbine center, but the co-op pair had finally made it. Blue raised his open palm to Orange, who eagerly returned the high-five. Can't leave a bot hanging. Giving Orange an ping order to locate a console and try to hack security, Blue hopped into the turbine room to begin repairs. The second his white armored shell entered the room, he gave a sudden cry of alarm as his optic was instantly fogged over. Super heated mist condensed on Blue's cool metal shell, and he went from comfortable and dry to blind and soaked in a single second. The bot stumbled forward, wiping one hand to scrub away the moisture. Orange's hand shot through the portal, grabbing Blue by the back of the chassis and preventing him from going head-first down into the boiling vat of radioactive water. Disaster averted! Bring on the next disaster!

...so then the lights went out.

"… I was totally not serious on that." Orange grumbled in their own private language.

Blue was still suspended halfway over the boiling aquifer by Orange, who was carefully NOT leaning into the turbine chamber to prevent her own optic from fogging up. The round bot said nothing, but meanwhile his database storage on 'unique and acceptable curses and their also acceptable uses' was quickly filling up as he invented new words to describe his situation.

Chell was likely to be proud of him at this too.

The Aperture scientists had needed a way to keep GLaDOS in line and on task for testing instead of murdering the subjects during the highly controlled beta tests of her first year. Typical methods of 'No No, Bad Computer *rolled virtual newspaper to the nose*' were a complete failure in stopping the murderous tendencies. Any sort of punishment used on GLaDOS would also knock all Aperture systems offline when they tried to punish the system. Instead they opted for a positive reinforcement option.

The solution euphoria was quite possibly their best idea ever in that regard.

Even better than the time one of the lab boys mixed a slurry of all the gels into one 'super gel' in order to save space. It ended up being explosive as hell... Aperture was sure they could find a use for it.

All tests released a small amount of euphoria as the test subject progressed. Solving the landmark points of a test released continuously more and more of the electronic impulse to the AI until the test was finally solved. Upon solving the test, a comparatively large dose of the impulse jabbed through the system as a reward for not indiscriminately murdering things (again). In another attempt to make sure there would be no meddling in order to reap the benefit of more euphoria, the 'anti-spoiler' program was built into the mainframe's core DOS components. This was a redundant system though, as it was that GLaDOS was more likely to award cake on a whim than she was to tell test subjects how to solve a chamber. … as a note, the Aperture staff put red flagged warnings in every memo, email, and database to NEVER accept cake from the DOS system. Unless you happen to be immune to arsenic. Lesson learned the hard way, via unfortunate Aperture Employee #10032. Issues with the staff forgetting this rule an accepting cake were vastly lessened once the entire staff was DEAD – so the point was moot.

In order to keep the DOS system innovating on its own, the scientists had another brilliant idea to award different amounts of the euphoria, based on how difficult the tests were and how the subject solved them. There were two typically administered doses of euphoria. One way was the 'typical' way reward, or the way the system assumed the human test subject would take first – almost 90% of test subjects fell into this method. The other optional solution was 'the hard way', which was more efficient and faster method of testing. The fewer portals placed and the faster the test subject moved, the larger this dose of euphoria would be.

Chell was most definitely a 'hard way' tester, even with all her caution and paranoia keeping her moving at a slow and steady pace, her average test center time was half of what the vast majority of the previous test subjects could manage.

Not to mention her life expectancy as a test subject was through the roof.

However, even with all these guidelines on the DOS system in place to keep test subjects 'safe' (in a completely relative term that has nothing to do with 'safety' and more to do with 'unable to press charges should something occur'), the scientists kept on making more rules built into the processor system – such as 'What to do when your lab rat cheats – besides releasing neurotoxin'. When the subject of cheating was addressed in the beta days of the DOS system, the scientists had no clue what to do about it. The early tests that GLaDOS was forced to run in the beta trial were all designed by humans, and thus flawed or basic enough that cheating was a valid testing solution. GLaDOS was driven by science, retrieving data, and observations on the tests were a part of her core coding – the very act of cheating enraged the system into a murderous frenzy. Trying to prevent the loss of test subjects, the scientists were forced to award what was scientifically classified as 'a whole metric shit-tonne' of solution euphoria if a test subject managed to find a way to cheat in the Enrichment Center.

(On a side note: The metric system had mostly just pissed off Cave Johnson, and somehow the technical method of adding various 'colorful' terms to the measurements had stuck. It was advised you didn't get Mr Johnson started on how many 'metric ass-hat centimeters' an object measured.)

Cheating became less of an issue as new testing components were developed. Cheating became damn near impossible anyway with the addition of the Emancipation Grills. By the time GLaDOS's beta days were done, the euphoria release amount for cheating was simply cached and forgotten data.

The only subject to have ever successfully managed to cheat after the beta test days was Chell herself with Wheatley's help. Even immune to almost the full effects of the solution after years of exposure, GLaDOS had been broadsided by the release while she repaired the systems and nearly was knocked off-line. When Chell had assumed GLaDOS was furious about the cheating incident, she forgot to take in to account just how much euphoria the AI had been hit with.

It is hard to be murderous when you suddenly feel better than you have for years.

All this information came as a rush to Wheatley, seated in the core housing unit on the DOS system. 'Yeh, that's nice, but quiet now, I'm trying to watch.' He hushed the system, as well as all alerts, emergency beacons, and a few security systems asking for updates. The system had made an attempt to warn Wheatley what the effects of cheating would have, but instead of putting the core onto high alert and trying to stop Chell, it only made him anxious and he started to babble to the test subject.

When Chell finally completed cheating on the broken test she hopped off the pyramid of 'deer'-cubes built to lean heavily into the button on the wall, and placed herself in front of the door. Wheatley's response to the cheating was to drop completely off-line in an overload of unexplained joy. And then the entire system shut down immediately afterward, throwing everything into darkness. The human would never know why, either.

Chell was completely confused. Wheatley had gone from goading Chell into halting her cheating to quite suddenly slumped in the chassis and all the power suddenly flickered into the emergency reserve grid – all red-colored safety lights and dull sodium yellowed glow bulbs. For a terrible moment the woman thought the turbines had been destroyed and Wheatley had suffered a critical power failure. However, there had been no explosion of turbines reaching meltdown, and unless Chell had been hearing things Wheatley's last words before slumping over were, "oh god yes."

'… way to be creepy, Wheatley.'

Still, whatever had happened had most definitely knocked the core completely offline and put the entire Enrichment Center on some kind of backup system. Doing so had shut down the elevators too, leaving Chell trapped in a test chamber. Stuck in a defunct test, Chell sat cross-legged on the ground to wait out the DOS system reboot. She told herself a consolation prize to being stuck in here was at least the co-op pair could work freely now.

The more sarcastic portion of her mind – which quite obviously sounded like GLaDOS in full sarcasm mode – instead spat out that the whole situation taking first place in a contest and the reward was just a pair of socks. Joy. Socks.

Speakers gave a hiss of static for a few moments, sounding like rain or blowing hail in the cavernous test chamber. Looking upwards at the ceiling, Chell wondered if Wheatley had left the connection to the speaker system open when he blue-screened, or crashed, or whatever had happened. The woman gave a wane smile at one thought, 'At least Cave Johnson isn't here to rob me of my sanity.'

So it was with great surprise that someone DID start talking to Chell right after that thought. "I will say, you are by far my favorite test subject." The PA was suddenly chattering to life with the satisfied voice of GLaDOS. "If only because you are a terrible little monster."

Chell performed a rare triple-take (the over-achieving cousin to the double-take), jerking her head up once, twice, and then three times as if she wasn't sure if the sky was falling or the ground was collapsing.

"Oh, no. I'm not back in my mainframe just yet. I was in the backup system. You know the one... takes care of technical difficulties, system-wide failure, usually activates after you do something to my poor facility... yes, that one." Between GLaDOS's words, silence ruled over the once noisy facility. No pipes churning, no vents clattering their contents along, the whole building was in sleep mode. Except for GlaDOS. Some people operated by the power of coffee, some people operated by the power of pissy. To each their own.

"The moron still has me locked out of everything. However the backup system is an automated feature. I just replaced it with myself. It's only meant to control the bare necessities to keep my facility running, but I'm afraid despite the automated systems exemplary work, … I had to let him go."

'I really hope computers get severance packages/pay when they are fired... oh wait... Enrichment Center, that's right. The system was probably fired – IN the incinerator.' Chell sighed, a bit ashamed that Aperture brand logic was now making sense to her.

"Unfortunately, your massive overdose of euphoria is only going to keep the moron off-line for 1.4 hours. Approximately – I don't have the actual data values in front of me. He doesn't seem to have much resistance to it yet. We're going to have to work fast. I only have control of door locks and lights in the auto-system. It seems you are in need of an exit." There was a whirring noise of a section of the test chamber trying to power up and the heavy door barring the way to the elevator hissed open.

Chell hesitated, shifting pushing herself off the ground. She pointed to the far off distance and then gestured at Blue's height and another at Orange's taller size. If she had pointed in the right direction to the turbine generator system, she had no clue. It hardly mattered though. GLaDOS was fast becoming the queen of charades.

"No, Blue and Orange don't have the systems reprogrammed yet. They only just got there not two minutes ago, and proceeded to high-five and hug like idiots until the power went into reserve mode. Then Blue decided he was tired of living and nearly fed himself into an incinerator chute while he panicked," GLaDOS sighed. "Why did I even build night vision into their sensors... they forget half of the time, and the other half they blind themselves."

If the turbine repair squad hadn't completed their job yet, then it was still a catch-22 situation all around. Chell couldn't leave the tests lest the co-op pair be found, and she had the most perfect opportunity right in front of her to flee. This chance would honestly not come around again – not with Wheatley building up immunity to the solution euphoria.

"I've also had a talk with the security system. I was unable to take over that role as well, but I know where it is located." GLaDOS's tone had changed subtly. Chell was still listening with growing interest. "This is a chance we can not pass up. Right now I can open any door that isn't a security risk gate, but opening doors does me no good as I am. You have to do this. Go where I say, activate and enter over-ride codes in manually that I tell you and, if we are lucky, we won't die in a fire. All we have to do is make a few changes to the security system," GLaDOS finished.

Chell found she was considering it. She was honest-to-god considering doing what GLaDOS was telling her. It was then that the tone GLaDOS had been using struck a memory in Chell's jumbled memories. It was the same style and tone Wheatley used when trying to convince her of his ideas – 'Oh! I have an idea!' – in which Chell always found she had no clue why she was listening to him. Now that GLaDOS was trying out the tone herself, Chell found she was being compelled again, this time by the seemingly sound logic behind it rather than the oddly nonsensical reason she had gone along with Wheatley's plans.

'God dammit... you've mastered the art of being convincing... now I have no choice, my free will is sapped.' Chell sighed, her breath puffing a stray lock of hair out of her face, a sarcastic half smirk on her lips. 'Lead on, O my computer overlord.'

"That really should not have worked." There was a murmur of awe from the speakers as Chell made her way into the elevator GLaDOS had opened up. The human felt a sound plan was slightly better than leaping blindly into danger and then changing your mind mid-leap realizing the danger really wanted to kick your ass for unspecified reasons.

Or in Chell's case, for really really specific reasons that were illogical and petty.

Pausing outside the elevator, Chell withdrew the pad of paper and tore off one of the last few sheets. Dropping to one knee and writing against the floor, she wrote a message that would be read in about an hour's time. Yeah, the reader would not be happy, and Bad Things were probably scheduled to happen later, but it needed to be said/written.

"Going to look around. BRB. Or if not – please go find my body and give a beautiful eulogy at my funeral. If you mention cake during it, I will haunt you from beyond the grave" it read. The note was left on the floor and in place of a signature, Chell left one of the two potatoes on the piece of paper as a weight to keep it from blowing away. In the chance Wheatley woke up before Chell could return, this should at least keep him convinced the human was just bored and wandering around – not destroying vital Enrichment Center Security Devices.

Chell almost stumbled entering the elevator, the transport jerking upwards even as she stepped into it. GLaDOS was in no mood to wait for Chell patiently, time was wasting away. The human settled into her normal elevator riding position sitting on the floor, at least grateful the AI hadn't closed the door on the seat of her pants in her spite. 'I think I'm going to have to resolve to stop pissing off all the dangerous things I meet. I'm getting tired of things trying to kill me.'

Of course, that was a lie. … At least the bit about pissing off things. That NEVER got old.

The elevator systems had been automated by various other systems not because GlaDOS didn't have the ability to multi-task and manually send the elevators off – but because it was as basic as breathing. No need to clog the AI processor with hundreds of requests a minute on the contents of elevators – that was grunt work, even for computers. The auto-system GLaDOS had invaded had just enough security clearance to get Chell out of the vast pit of modular tests and cart her back upwards into the research and development section of the lab. GLaDOS had full control of the facilities doors as well, baring the floors that were locked for security purposes. Which – unfortunately – also happened to be the floors that GLaDOS wanted to send the human guinea pig to.

The situation had only changed from being stuck in a test chamber to stuck in an elevator now. Fate was still pissed at Chell for various and undisclosed reasons. This would be fate giving the human the bird.

Said human didn't think it was funny.

The elevator stopped at a floor a level up from the security annex. The door barely obeyed GlaDOS's 'open' command, groaning and creaking on half-fused hydraulics and the dusty and decaying room beyond hadn't been touched by any of GLaDOS's repair efforts yet. "Since we all know how well your last plan turned out – back into testing with no escape, like you enjoy springing obvious traps on yourself – now it's my turn." GLaDOS spoke over the mounted speaker in the elevator. "Welcome to the employee dormitories. Please note that only employees of the Enrichment Center are to be using any of the amenities – not that you would want to use any after what has happened to them. There was a bit of a Ratt infestation long ago... I think that will prove most useful."

Woe to the English language, unable to differentiate the pronunciation between a small member of the rodent family and a human with schizophrenia (though GLaDOS would clearly state there was no difference – continue testing). Chell was peering into the dull mass of the dormitory, wondering just why the AI was sending her after rodents when the time they had to creep beneath Wheatley's sensors was quickly draining away. The floor was a mess of crumbled cubicle style partitions revealing beds, dressers, personal sized closets, most of these items ruined with the 400 years of age that had trashed the facility.

"There should be some sort of path from this floor down three levels to the security office for the directories. I had issues keeping vermin out of it. Since you excelled at locating most of those pest nests in your testing, perhaps you can use your excellent sense of ruining everything for a practical purpose." While GLaDOS's normal tone would be blatant and unamused sarcasm, the AI said this with a gleeful teasing chuckle.

Chell finally caught on, with a macabre sense of understanding of 'the Way Things Work Around Here'. Long ago, some human had reached the security console despite the daunting security program and GLaDOS never found out how. It was probably the same human who had left all the murals and directions scribbled on walls. The woman felt an instant kinship and respect to this unknown human, like two veterans of two different wars nodding as they passed by. If this rogue human hadn't changed his tactics since he started leaving murals, Chell had no doubt she would find signs of him.

'… probably a 'him'... could be a woman.' Chell found her mind trying to wander. 'Age of freaking equality! Women can break stuff just as well as men can!' Gearing herself up to the task, Chell was fully prepared for some gender-equality destruction!

"Marshmallow... please refrain from breaking all the things. There will still be science to do once the moron is removed from my system" GLaDOS called out of the elevator as Chell made her way cautiously forward. The response to the AI's statement was a careless wave and a sheepish grin.

The dormitories were never grand by any standards when they were new. By the Lower Aperture's standards, these employee sleeping quarters were a joke of interior decorating, something probably on par to a closet. Many an Aperture Interior Decorator of the older facility probably would have started crying into their manicured hands to see this place. Chell found she was disgusted with the compacted cube style bedrooms, barely large enough for the smallest damn twin beds to ever have existed, a nightstand that was having delusions of grandeur believing it was a dresser, and a drape covered nook that acted as a closet. The beds were all neatly made, though the fabric of the blankets was reduced to a bare waste of threads.

Several times Chell had to stop her forward progress and shove things out of her path. There had been an aisle down the cube-style bedrooms at one point, but the particle board walls had started losing the ability to fight gravity a couple hundred years ago. If the unknown Aperture survivor (who Chell was going to start calling 'Bob' for lack of a better name) had hidden his entrance to the floors below, it was probably located near a wall somewhere. Chell walked along side of the wall, giving the debris a swift kick with her boots to shove it out of the way and running a palm over the cold wall as she advanced forward.

Tossing the remains of one of the miniature night stands out of the way, Chell hopped over a fallen closet while scanning the wall for tell-tale signs of paint and chalk. She was now positive this Bob-guy would have marked his entrance somehow. A charcoal palm print, the rather creepy tally marks that ticked off each day he was trapped in here... something! Yet the walls were all bare, and a full circuit around the room lead Chell almost in a full circle.

'Maybe GLaDOS is wrong. Maybe the entrance isn't here. Bob has been almost everywhere in the facility, but it doesn't look like he was here.' Licking her dry lips, Chell's eyes darted around the room for any signs of the Aperture survivor. Doubt began to cloud her hope like an overcast cloud ruining a perfectly good parade.

When Chell's foot broke through the particle board remains of dividers and kept going she suddenly had some second thoughts. Mostly about the fact there was a hole in the floor, and gravity might still be existing.

'Oh Bob, you have outdone yourself this time. A hole in the floor? I thought I knew you, traitorous Bob.'

This thought was followed by yet more falling.

The longfall boots internal gyros were the only reason Chell didn't land on her head. The fall was only about ten feet but staying on her feet after the unexpected tumble was more difficult than Chell anticipated. Stumbling down the new corridor like a drunk, the woman fell against the wall and wobbled as her senses tried to figure out which way was up and how it got there. It took a moment of dizzy swaying before Chell realized she had fallen right into one of the murals that 'Bob' had left behind, this one covering the entire wall floor to ceiling in chalk.

Pulling away, hands smudged with white and orange, Chell was blown away by the massive drawing. She retreated down the hall to find where it started or ended, but every scene seemed to be of the same things found in Aperture. Turrets firing in a blaze of orange and green chalk, heavy cubes piled one on top of another, the curling green smog of neurotoxin, and a familiar gleam of white of the pristine frame GLaDOS was once seated in – all scenes were depicted with an artists eye for showing terror and beauty at the same time. There were scribbled words too, added when the mural was long finished but before the artist had abandoned this hiding place for another set.

"She knows. But she doesn't know. Knows I am here. Doesn't know what I've done. This is the last time I can access the mainframe from here. Locked me out. I'm still in, though." The scrawl was even worse than Chell's own handwriting, the black charcoal dusting down the wall in a powdery haze. A password to something was written beneath this, with a stylized eye next to it as if trying to get her attention.

More scrawl covered nearly an entire mural, of what Chell was struck dumb to realize was herself dodging turrets.. "I've woken up Chell. Highest outlier percentages-," Upon here the scribbling descended back into a madness fueled drawing. The woman dragged her finger tip over the mural as she cautiously made her way down the hall, leaving a long streak in the art. Seeing her own name, known by whoever this 'Survivor Bob' was made her even more paranoid than GLaDOS using her name on rare occasion.

'What am I? Aperture's grand joke? Was there a memo sent out about me I missed?' Chell shivered, nothing to do with the recycled air in the security office.

Overturned metal filing cabinets with the paper that was fused together like one giant brick of pulped paper cluttered the path down in this section as well. Finding it all easier to climb over the obstructions rather than push them all aside, Chell moved in a crab-like scuttle over the junk spread about the room. There was a monitor ahead that still blinked with life, orange cursor on a black background. It had been powered onto the same scene for so long that Aperture's logo in the background of the screen had burned all the pixels to be a forever shade of cream in the middle of the black screen.

Licking her dry lips, Chell shoved a mess of folders and coffee cups off the desk to reach the keyboard. Pressing a few keys, she noted the monitor and keyboard both working as random letters flashed over the screen. Everything in seemed to be in relative working order.

Mission objection: Completed. Time to call for backup.

Wetting her lips again, Chell winced when she realized her bottom lip was becoming chapped. The air was annoyingly dry, and she had developed the nervous habit to lick her lips when frustrated. Which really only frustrated the human more to realize she had developed such a habit, which made her want to lick her lips, which reminded her that she was getting chapped lips, which- it was an endless circle of frustration.

A working compute console in the security station had been located – time to give the signal back up to GLaDOS, who was listening in on Aperture's high tech employee-spying speakers. Chell raised her index finger and thumb to her mouth and let out the shrill whistle that so resembled the ping command shared by Orange and Blue. Once the sharp noise died away, the woman caught the tail end of an echo caused by her whistling. Perhaps... it was just a little louder than she intended...

"Assuming that simple signal means 'I have reached the target' rather than 'I have fallen in a pit',... good job on completing this remedial task. If you have fallen in a pit, … I would not be surprised," GLaDOS spoke over the PA speakers, still in control of a basic function of the auto-system.

Pulling up a chair and tossing aside the stack of books that had been resting on it, Chell took a seat in front of the computer, waiting for instructions. GLaDOS had no access to cameras down here as long as the database designated the auto-system as needing only to send warnings to any employees via the speakers, keep life support systems on, and maintain basic lab functions. "Assuming your knowledge of basic administrator databases is limited to a volume approximate to 'nothing', I'm going to spell it all out for you. So Staph's Ironical paradox doesn't have itself a nice living example again." Chell set her hands on the keyboard, finding she was strangely comfortable with the typing position.

The flashing cursor danced with commands as GLaDOS listed them, spelling some of the terms out letter for letter for Chell to type

-SQL CONNECT SYS/PASSWORD AS SYSDBA -SQL STARTUP . . . Admin Drattman, last login date 176301 days, 4 hours, 44 minutes

The woman paused in typing. Drattman? That was the last user on this system, the mysterious 'Bob' was finally given part of a name. The thought hit her that the password scribbled on the wall might have been for this system, however apparently he had forgotten to log himself out. GLaDOS was already giving the next set of instructions over the intercom, Chell instead focused on typing the commands into the console prompt.

-SQL GRANT SYSDBA TO sphereDOS; . . . Statement Rejected

Chell's hands flew off the keyboard once the system decided it didn't like that command. GLaDOS gave a few modulated sounds that might have been swearing in binary or something. The next line of code also gave the rejected command. As did the next, and the next...

GLaDOS was beginning to get frantic. Her own security system was locking her out, nothing at all to do with Wheatley and everything to do with her own defenses working against her. Wheatley had selected, quite randomly, almost every ID tag GLaDOS had assigned to her (and a few he probably made up just to cover his ass) to keep the angry little AI from getting back into her system. Time was running out, and GLaDOS was resorting to just one last idea, one that the AI hesitated for a long while before giving in and giving Chell the last instructions.

"We're trying something else. But don't read too much into this. If it works, … well... you won't want it to work" GLaDOS said grimly. Chell shivered again, and began to type the new code as GLaDOS spoke.

- create user Chell identified by Chell_sphere; . . . Chell_sphere is not accepted user. - create user Chell identified by Marshmallow_sphere; (Upon here, Chell gave a grunt of frustration, but typed the command GLaDOS gave her anyway.) . . . Marshmallow_sphere is accepted user.

And now Chell understood why GLaDOS warned her she wouldn't want it to work. Wheatley had already adjusted the database, making a space for her as a sphere! The shiver became a full body shudder.

- SQL connect Chell

The login worked and the screen went from brown and orange to a white and blue database packed with folders in massive alphanumeric names. It seemed a bit odd to Chell that Wheatley would refer to her as Marshallow_sphere though. It was mostly a nickname GLaDOS enjoyed calling the human, and Wheatley had never really picked up on it.. He had really only called her by her name, or smaller endearing terms that probably popped up in some giant database of 'things to call people when you start forgetting their names'. It was sadly ironic. The secondary wave of irony that usually followed Chell around decided to let itself be known by reminding her of 'Bob' D. Rattman.

Chell was very quick of the opinion that irony sucked and could go wander off to die in a fire.

"We're in!" GLaDOS gave a keen of delight. "Set your security to accept my ID tag as an accepted user now. The moron wouldn't have thought of me riding another user's log-in to access the system." Chell stared blankly at the screen, unsure what to do. "Oh, right... forgot I was dealing with a murderous lunatic and not someone more competitent for a minute. Issuing protocol on changing security clearance..." GLaDOS had the voice of a disgruntled IT associate who was about to ask – for the dozenth time – if the customer had tried turning the computer on-off, and checking the power cord. Chell would have flipped someone the bird, but at the moment she was in a blind zone and the gesture would go unappreciated.

GLaDOS calmly walked Chell through this portion as well, until finally the AI had access to to the system externally on her own. "Taking all security cameras off-line now. Oh... well that is just plain disturbing. Why would the moron even put cameras- nevermind."

This time Chell didn't even want to ask where cameras had been hiding. Probably IN the other cameras. She had long since learned her lesson against asking questions she didn't want the answers to. With GLaDOS piggy-backing on her log-in, the AI began shuffling through the folders like a deck of cards, the icons bouncing once as they were passed over and then vanishing into a minimized icon of folders. Chell watched with interest as GlaDOS set about on some task.

"There, done. I have altered all video logs to wipe Orange and Blue, as well as myself, from the system - and if the moron bothers to look you've been sitting in the elevator quite happily for the past two hours and not at all hacking into the database. All security doors are now accessible by the auto-system as well. Now lets get you back into the elevator before the moron notices the glaring obvious – such as you AREN'T there."

Chell pushed away from the desk, but stopped as there was another hiss of static from the PA. However, it WASN'T GLaDOS... "Ah, see now – that may have been a good idea there, if I weren't already online, luv." Wheatley's voice rolled like ice through Chell's veins and GLaDOS was completely silent. All the high spirits of testing and gentle persuasion was gone. Wheatley was PISSED.

'We... are so boned.' Chell was half stuck between slapping herself in the forehead or slumping on the floor in defeat.

Instead she swore to fate she was going to burn it's house down.

Fate took out a fire insurance policy, just to be safe.