Author's Notes: Apparently, the site decided to crap out on me and cause this chapter to be posted a day late. Awesome sauce.
All right, for the ones who haven't seen my journal on DeviantArt, I plan on doing stories revolving around certain Half-Life 2 mods. Sure-to-be stories include Nightmare House 2, Minerva: Metastasis, and maybe even Underhell. Of course, that won't mean I won't divert from Portal entirely, as there will be some side stories and even a sequel to Stalemate Unresolved involved. I hope you guys look forward to it. I certainly am!
Now that the news is out of the way, it's time to move onto this final chapter! Enjoy, read, review, and subscribe! (Though maybe not in that exact order).
There was a tense moment of silence between the two AI as they stared at each other. Then Morality spoke first. "Oh, don't worry." She re-assured GLaDOS, giving a nod to emphasize. "I have no reason to hide anything. But, before I do that..." She swung her optic backwards in a glancing look towards Chell, who was observing the scene quietly. "I would like you to give that woman over there some medical attention. I can't really explain, knowing that there's someone injured on the premises."
This caused GLaDOS to look up at the test subject, causing the latter to tense up involuntarily. It was clear that the AI would rather be destroyed than help someone that was considered a bitter adversary to the end. As a matter of fact, it would be better for the human to just wither and die right where she was. Even she could admit that Chell was a tool for science to the very end. There were many more where she had come from, ready to be tested and then thrown aside when their usefulness had run out. Chell was a human, after all... and humans were ultimately expendable.
Two things were stopping her from following through with her plan.
One was the fact that it was Morality who had told her to do so. Somehow, this mere Personality Construct knew more than she did about the situation, and that was sparking an agitated envy within the master AI. If she allowed Chell to die, Morality would withhold the vital information that would ease her own situation, even when threatened with death. Despite her status, GLaDOS was powerless to go against the demands that she was faced with. These thoughts were simply increasing the loathing feelings that she had towards one of her former tumors.
The second was what she had more difficulty explaining. It was as if she had Morality hooked onto her, plaguing her with words of how immoral her actions were. Every time she thought as her test protocol would allow for it, there would be a sudden feeling of discomfort. It didn't cause her physical pain, and it was quick to pass, but it was certainly not one of a good feeling. The closest thing she could describe it as was...
Had she teeth, she would've gritted them at that very moment. Yes, that was what she was feeling, but she knew the emotions weren't hers. Caroline was using these feelings to inhibit her, and that made her feel so restricted. It was as if the scientists of Aperture were still alive and treating her like their very own pet! That alone made her want to flood the entire facility with neurotoxin out of instinct. But she knew better – that wouldn't solve her problems. If she wanted any chance of getting rid of the plaguing conscience, she would have to humor Morality and listen to the words that were spoken. It was a detour she never would've taken under normal circumstances... but for the moment, this was out of her control.
So, against her own wishes, Chell would be spared.
The test subject visibly relaxed, hearing the sound of the elevator.
"Huh? Wait, what was-" Wheatley began to say again, but stopped immediately. "...oh, wait! I can just turn my eye around, can't I?" From his face-down position, he swiveled his eye optic towards the direction in which the sound came from just in time to discover the elevator rising up from the surface.
GLaDOS directed a glance towards him, then towards Morality once more. "...the moron goes, too."
That made Wheatley jerk back towards his former position. "I'm not a moron!" He protested, though his tone sounded more complaining than indignant. "Seriously, how many times am I going to get called that in one day? Just spam the bloody word, why don't you? It's not like I have any feelings or anything- ah!" His rant was cut off as he found himself being lifted in the air once again, terror once again shaking his frame. "Wait nononono-!"
"Quiet." GLaDOS snapped. "As much as I'd really love to... I'm not going to kill you." She focused once more, and another pincer hovered over Chell. Knowing what was to come, the test subject didn't resist as the pincer closed around her mid-section and lifted her into the air. She did wince a little, the wounds still sensitive to the touch. "I just don't want you interrupting this...talk." She brought the pincers to the open doors of the lift, depositing them both. "You both will be taken to the Aperture Science Medical Bays, where you will receive proper treatment. Take care as to keep your violent behavior in check... otherwise..." Her last words seemed to carry themselves in a rather satisfied manner. "Forceful ejection will be necessary."
It was all too clear what she meant by "forceful ejection".
The lift shut before they could express their reactions to the threat, and the lift descended back downward into another part of the facility, leaving the two AI to themselves. Morality let out a sigh, directing her gaze back into the yellow optic of GLaDOS. "Have I ever told you that you act like a total sociopath?" She asked, slightly disappointed.
"I blame the scientists." GLaDOS retorted blandly. "Now, let's get to business..."
"Right..." Pausing for a moment to gather her words, Morality closed her optic again. "I'll start from the very beginning, back to where Aperture Science had first formed itself. Keep in mind though; this information was very vague in the logs that were given, so not all information will be coming from me. It started back in 1951, where Aperture's economic status was high and in the billions. The CEO Cave Johnson had acquired the skills of a young man named Stephen Martius. He was a rather nice guy, cooperative in his work and making a friend out of his workmates. But he had this awful drinking problem, getting drunk almost every weekend of the month." At this, she let out a sigh of resentment. "Sad that humans have to succumb to such dangerous desires, isn't it?"
"What was he in charge of?" GLaDOS asked immediately. She wasn't interested in the man's personality, but rather what influence did he have and what connection did he possess with the virus.
"He was one of the heads responsible for overseeing the designs of the Aperture Test Chambers." There was something the master AI would've immediately assumed to be a hint of disgust in her voice, but she didn't note it out loud. "He was particularly involved in the development of the hazards that tests subjects had to endure. The reasoning for it was to push them to their limit, to see how far their minds would go when put under stress. Some were able to cope. But others, as we both know, failed and lost their lives."
Morality opened her eye again, staring at even level with the yellow optic. "He was also pretty devoted to Johnson. He followed whatever order given to him by the CEO without question, berating and scolding others who had doubts against him. You couldn't blame him, either; Cave knew what he was doing, and despite his methods, he was one of the legs that kept Aperture standing tall and strong. It's only a shame that the business itself lasted only twenty years before it began to decline."
"You're telling me things that I already know." GLaDOS did not bother to hide the bitter annoyance she held towards the Core. "Stop wasting my time, or I may just be tempted to find another source to get the desired results from."
"I'm getting to that!" Morality snapped, glaring at the master AI for a moment. "Jeez, don't blow a circuit. Anyway, Aperture's decline had its various effects on the employees and staff. But the most notable ones, the ones completely devoted to this practice called science, had suffered the most out of it. Stephen was one of those fanatics. His drinking started to increase, and it wasn't long after that he began to contract a disease called Korsakoff's Psychosis because of his actions. When it came to his job, he was fighting on a thin line to stay in his position, as he was suffering from bouts of amnesia, mood swings, and surfacing blindness. But as much as he could fight for his right to stay in the game, he was slowly losing his own sanity as well."
She closed her optic again, closing her eye and taking in what seemed like a deep breath. "This next part's pretty heavy...maybe not for you, but I found it somewhat disturbing..." She muttered. "As the disease progressed, there was the symptom of using made up events to fill in blanks in his memory that progressed the most. With this, he "conditioned" himself to believe that Cave was somehow communicating with him via a mental link. This persona of Cave was starting to influence his actions, increasing the devotion he had to the real Cave into an obsession. In turn, this caused him to grow a deep animosity towards Caroline, Cave's personal assistant at the time."
"Let me guess..." GLaDOS remarked dryly. "Stephen attacked Caroline."
"Mhm. Managed to trap her in Cave's office when he wasn't around. Would've killed her too, had it not been for security hearing the noise and stopping Stephen in time. But by this time, Aperture was getting into trouble with the law because of its unethical experimentation, and despite his insanity, Cave feared turning Stephen into the police due to the risk of leaking the truth out. So he had the guy locked up in his very own personal cell. No treatment for his illness, no sympathy... nothing. They just locked him up and let his mind rot away..."
Was GLaDOS actually hearing venom within Morality's usually kind demeanor?
"You sound as if you care for this complete stranger." She remarked.
"Well, maybe I do!"
The vicious, condemning reply actually made the master AI re-coil out of shock. But Morality continued, clearly indignant at GLaDOS's cold statement. "They treated this man like an animal! Locked him in a cell, threw away the key, and left him to die! Doesn't that mean anything to you?" This was followed by a sharp glare, and for a machine, the frustration was very clear. However, GLaDOS was quick to return it, staring just as intensely as Morality was.
"Why should it? They're all dead, aren't they?"
For a moment more, Morality continue to glare at the AI before turning her eye away. "...no. At that moment, there was nothing for him than death. And they even had to take that away from him..." She said bitterly. "When Cave Johnson had given the order for storing him onto a computer, they immediately began experimentation. He was the first guinea pig to go through the testing phases. As such, he was the first to go through the torture of being physically ripped away from his body and into a machine, the first Personality Construct. His particular function was that of an automaton hacker, designed to destroy and absorb vital data, override control of other machines, and cause extensive damage to electronic systems. It was a method that was originally planned to be used against Black Mesa, but it was later used on you to keep you pacified."
"..you mean to tell me..." GLaDOS now felt apprehension seep through her, the realization sending a chilling feeling through her.
"You couldn't remember the past life as Caroline..." Morality said solemnly. "...because he was stealing those memories and feeding them into himself. Through this, he had regained his own memories through you, as well as your memories of the staff. All of that was enough to drive him completely over the edge, and he developed a long-term hatred towards the staff and its works. The damage caused by Korsakoff's Syndrome was still there, the obsession with Cave growing even further until... he started to believe he was Cave Johnson, carrying out his wishes beyond the grave. The Malignancy Core, as what he was called, has developed a want for spreading Aperture's technological advancements beyond where it is... and he's attempting to control you in order to do so. Had I not stopped him and deleted the folder linking him to you, he would've went through with it..."
Infuriation swept through GLaDOS. This Core was attempting to control her? "Where is he now?" She asked nonchalantly, hidden anger tinting her tone.
"I...I don't know." Morality answered hesitantly. "But he's still within the confines of Aperture. For the moment, I don't know whether I managed to shut him down or not. But we all need to be ready for him by any means necessary. That might mean relying on your little..." Despite herself, she managed to chuckle. "...monster, if you will."
"I have no reason to." GLaDOS said coldly. "Maybe you took your death with a grain of salt. But I'm sure that you didn't have to relive yourself getting killed again and again for the duration of a comatose-induced sleep, did you?"
"But that's the very reason why you need her help!" Morality said earnestly, insistent on getting the point through to GLaDOS. "She was able to find a way to destroy you, the controller of this facility! If she was able to do that, then she could be useful in the event that Malignancy finds a way to override you again." She was nodding her optic up and down in excitement. "Look, if you find some way to convince her over to your side, I'm sure she'd understand! I mean, she trusted you enough to not resist when you were taking her over to the lift, right?"
That rendered GLaDOS silent. Now that she thought about it, Chell hadn't resisted at all, despite the fact that the AI had the chance to crush her right then and there. That confused her; she had hated her enough to kill her the first time. So why hadn't she held the same malevolence as before? Why had she allowed herself to fall into her potential killer's hands? Even now, the test subject was still in enemy territory, even as she was bandaging her wounds.
A sigh escaped Morality again. "I'm sure it's a lot to think about. Tell you what..." She motioned to the management rail she had unwittingly disengaged herself from. "Carry me up to the rail, and I'll let you alone to your thoughts."
She didn't have to say anything else. A pincer brought itself down, clasped Morality around it, and raised back up to the level of the rail. Then, it moved itself over, plugging Morality in before retracting back to the ceiling. "GLaDOS..." She muttered hesitantly. "Please be careful. I've had to save you twice from certain death, and I'm not going to be there forever. Don't be reckless about this, all right?"
If she had a mouth, she would've smiled at the annoyed glare GLaDOS gave her. "Don't talk to me as if I am your offspring." The master AI responded snidely, not bothering to look in her direction. "I am able to sustain myself against this parasite."
"I hope so. Goodbye, Caroline..."
Immediately, GLaDOS jerked up in order to face Morality once more. "What did you-"
But the Core was already gone.
Staring at where she had been for a moment, GLaDOS turned away to look back at the monitors. She flickered them back on, directing the camera feeds to the medical bay. She couldn't hear anything within, but she could clearly see Chell lying on her back on one of the surgical tables. Mechanical arms were hovering the ceiling, working in order to set the bones broken and wrap up any wounds that she sustained during Malignancy's brief take-over. At the rate, Chell would need some time to recover before being able to test once again. Of course, there was always the opportunity she could escape with the moron in tow and kill her... again. Logic demanded that they both be disposed of.
For some strange reason, Morality's voice was sticking in her head and preventing her from doing so.
She knew it was Caroline, having been fed Morality's words like a rat with cheese. However, this wasn't Morality she was dealing with anymore. She was dealing with a being that could adapt, someone that could feel all of the emotions that she herself felt and still be capable of defying her interests. Because of this, she was hesitant to simply discard it as she had done before. To kill both Chell and her friend would potentially be a risk move in the future – and with the things going on, it was something she needed to avoid.
For now, she would keep them.
For now, she would go against the wishes of science.
She flickered the monitor channels away from the surgery room and back to the testing chambers. She might as well keep a check on Blue and Orange to see what they were doing at the very moment. After all, they were supposed to be her substitutes. Despite the fact that they performed at standards less than what her expectations were used to, they weren't completely useless. Maybe in time, they would learn to adapt and evolve.
After all, Chell had evolved from a test subject to a murderer and monster in only a few hours.
So what was keeping them to be the perfect experiments that she ever had?