A/N: This is to fill a prompt on the kink meme for a Chell/GLaDOS Beauty and the Beast AU.
Warning: Contains Chell/GLaDOS (since I know some people theorise that they're related, and therefore would be squicked by this), physical/sexual abuse and eating disorder triggers.
"I feel like a ninja," said Craig.
"Ninjas don't hang out in vans opposite parking lots," said Doug.
"Then I feel like a government ninja."
"Except the government gave up on this."
"Shut up and get back to work, will you?"
It was just another day in the life. Every two weeks Doug Rattman and Craig Florin had met for almost fourteen years in the same van parked across the road from Aperture Science Innovations, and continued to beat their head against the wall in the hopes that maybe it would knock the wall down sometime. In the beginning they'd been hopeful, then they became jaded and frustrated, but those stages had passed long ago. Now it was part of life to go nowhere and it was more of a bonding exercise than anything else, a way of clinging to a past they could never recover with no real hope left. They were probably long dead by now.
Doug played with the laptop on his lap, using the wireless connection to try for the dozenth time in a row to hack into the security system with a new virus, whilst on a nearby seat Craig constructed a virus of his own. Whoever lived in Aperture now had revamped and upgraded the system completely over the years, but they were not completely in the dark. Craig had built the first computer systems along with Montague and had managed to successfully predict a few of the changes, which was better than nothing.
It was a pity Montague wasn't here anymore. She'd been invaluable. She'd have gotten into the place years ago.
Outside, the white clouds that layered the sky refused to let in the slightest ray of sun, casting a dingy light on the small parking lot outside Aperture's lobby. Aperture's lobby looked as small as a normal clinic, but Doug knew not to let appearances deceive him. Aperture stretched for miles and miles underground. Johnson had been a big dreamer, and with Montague by his side the pair had been unstoppable.
Until fourteen years ago.
"Truth be told," Doug massaged his temples. "I'm not sure there's anyone in there anymore."
"Someone's definitely in there, if not one of ours," said Craig. "And some kidnappers keep their victims for years upon years."
"I hope that's true." Half of Doug had accepted they'd break in and find six skeletons. The other half dared hope they'd be alive in there, somewhere, fourteen years stolen from them but alive.
"There's something in there someone wants enough to not have abandoned the place," said Craig. "Otherwise we'd have been able to get in years ago. Black Mesa was practically cleaned out in that inquiry, so it's not them, but whoever it is hasn't sold any of Caroline's patents so I don't know what the hell they're doing. Hell, the government would have been able to get in if whoever it was ditched the place. They even tried blowing the place up..."
That had ended in disaster. SWAT had been in, the nation's top hackers and even the world's top hackers had tried to save the people inside Aperture. Frustrated after a fruitless, six-month operation the government had decided to blow up its way in. But even ordinary bombs had found themselves activated far away from Aperture causing them to close the case and give up on the five adults and single child inside. "It's not worth it," the representative had told Doug. "I'm sorry for your losses, we all are. But more people have died trying to get them out than there are people in there."
Aperture may have been huge in scope, but there'd only been seven of them, not including Rick's nephew. Cave Johnson had wanted to expand after the GLaDOS project had been unveiled to the world along with all the other inventions and contraptions they'd kept hidden, possibly thrusting the world into a future by decades, if not centuries, but...
Whatever had happened had happened before it could.
The thing was, nobody knew what happened. One day Aperture went into lockdown and never came out of it. Six people had been trapped inside — Cave Johnson, Caroline Montague, Rick Jones, Junior Jones, Wheatley Baker and Selissa Rattman. None of them ever came out again. Only Craig and Doug had been spared from the lockdown; Doug had been looking after a sick Chell, and Craig's mother had just died.
Doug hit the enter key of his laptop, eyes glazing over already. Every second Saturday was like this, a mockery of a monument to a past that would never come back. Once upon a time he thought that the lockdown was some malfunction, that the people inside had long since starved to death, but...
But something was in there. Something fought his and Craig's attempts to get back in. Something wanted to be left alone. Something had likely completed the GLaDOS project and used the operating system to his advantage. If he didn't know better he'd think it was GLaDOS herself, but she had never become fully operational. She'd been close to finish when Chell got sick, and whilst Caroline had big dreams involving the Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operation System, GLaDOS had just been an ordinary control centre. Certainly not capable of sentience as Johnson and Caroline had hoped. Though it was mainly Caroline who'd hoped for it, GLaDOS had been her baby...
His laptop beeped. Doug ignored it at first, until Craig peered over his shoulder. "Um," said Craig.
"Eh?" said Doug, looking down at his computer.
Red letters blared at him:
ATTEMPT SUCCESSFUL. SECURITY FUNCTIONS DISABLED.
Both men sat in stunned silence.
"Did you just get in?" said Craig.
Both men continued to stare at the screen, and then leapt into action. Craig dug out the guns from under the seat, handing one to Doug. Doug grabbed his phone. Who knew what would be in there?
"I don't get it," said Craig as they stepped out, Doug with his laptop under his arm. "We've been trying for years, why now?"
"It could be a trap," said Doug.
"Maybe we should call the police."
"We may have a very narrow window of opportunity here," said Doug. "If you're uncertain, stay here and call for help if I don't —"
"You're not going in there alone," said Craig.
The weeds had sprung up between the cracks of the tarmac, the faded white lines of the parking lot broken by shrubbery. The rose bush that sat by the entrance had grown very ratty over the years and out of control.
For the first time in almost fourteen years the doors to Aperture Science Innovations sprung open at their approach. Doug saw his reflection in the spotless glass. The stuffed armchairs inside looked as good as new, the carpet flush with unfaded colour, and the desk in front of them free of dust.
"Someone has been living here," said Craig. "I'd think it was our lot if I didn't know any better..."
A red carpet led them to a lift which opened at their approach. Craig stepped inside, gun in hand, eyes glancing about wildly.
"I should send Chell a message just in case this goes wrong," said Doug, digging his phone out. Craig kept a gun in his hand as Doug fiddled with the keys. "Oh, damn, something's interfering with the reception."
"How odd," said Craig, forehead crinkling in suspicion. "You'd think we wouldn't have been able to get in at all if something's causing interference... I don't like this. Leave your laptop here and get out your gun, who knows what the hell we'll find down below?"
"I'm not letting it go," said Doug. He brought out his gun and handed it over to Craig, stuffing his phone back in his pocket and clinging to the laptop. "We might need it."
"As you say," said Craig, gripping both guns tightly.
The lift sank into the bowels of the ex-salt mines of Michigan. Doug looked up and met the glowing red eye of a camera. Security may have been disabled, but its mere presence crept him out.
They stepped out of the lift into a large, white room. A grey grid, like a track for some kind of wheeled contraption, spread across the ceiling lining every panel. Doug couldn't remember that, it was new. Off-white panels lined the floors and walls. There was a gap between them and the ledge opposite, across which a glowing blue bridge spanned. Thick black writing scrawled across the door.
"Is this a hologram?" said Doug, looking down as they stepped across the bridge. It emitted a faint heat reminiscent of a summer's day. Craig went ahead, guns at the ready. "Someone's been raiding our database. Cave was designing this..."
"They've been here fourteen years," said Craig grimly. "What do you expect?"
Doug glanced at the writing on the mechanical door. It didn't look like ordinary graffiti, more like the scrawlings of a madman with no regard for the Enrichment Centre he defiled. Mathematical formulas clogged up the door as well as what looked like an ingredient list for cake. Only one line seemed to make sense, abruptly cut off:
Anger core is yelling again I wish she would shut up I can't hear myself thi
Well. "Make sense" was relative. The door opened as they approached.
A corridor awaited. Through grids on either side, turrets stood, their red lights dead. A security camera followed them, moving as they did.
Doug stopped. "Craig," he said.
"Security's disabled, but why are the cameras still working?"
Swearing, Craig jumped as if he'd been burned. But the cameras continued to gaze at them, and nothing appeared suddenly out of a corner. The turrets didn't come to life, continuing to sit there, dead.
"Did you hear something?" said Craig.
They paused. From the distance, Doug heard shouting. "I think I did."
They strained their ears.
In the distance, echoes distorted what sounded like a woman's voice. Doug couldn't make out the words.
"Does that sound like fear, or anger to you?" said Craig.
Chills crept down Doug's spine as he remembered the writing. "Anger."
"I thought as much," said Craig. "Come on —"
Both men whirled around. The door had shut beside them, but it wasn't what made the noise. In front of them on the path they'd just come through lay an enormous cube.
Doug stared. "That's the Companion Cube!"
"It's still around?" said Craig. "Bloody hell, how did it get here?"
Doug looked up at the white ceiling. "Portals. Someone portalled it here, and managed it without a gun."
"How? And why?"
They both stared at the Companion Cube. The little pink hearts on either side glowed with dim light.
Then it began to play music.
It wasn't any kind of music Doug had heard before. It sounded reminiscent of a cooing pigeon in a robot, crossed with a baby. A single, little, sad tune, almost like someone's voice.
"The Companion Cube never sang before," said Craig in wonder.
Doug bent beside the cube, touching its surface. "I know Caroline programmed — "
"Welcome to the Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center," said a sudden, mechanical voice.
With the screeching of wheels, one of the panels opened above them. A large metal claw dropped through, closing around Craig's waist and lifting him into the air.
"Congratulations," continued the voice. The words sounded mechanical and out of sync. "You have stumbled into an Aperture Science trap, model number thirteen. If you have a complaint about your experiences of this product, please contact an Aperture Science Public Representative today. Except don't, because he's an idiot."
Craig writhed in the metal claw's grip. He raised his guns but wires pulled them out of his grip like rubber tentacles, drawing them into the ceiling never to be seen again. He looked down at Doug and bellowed, "Run!"
"Aperture Science would remind you that guests are prohibited from leaving without signing out," said the disembodied voice. A metal claw pinned his sides together, lifting him bodily into the air. "Aperture Science has need of both of you. That virus was clever, by the way, and it is unfortunate we had to accept it into our own systems before we could send it to a more appropriate destination. Your daughter is very pretty, by the way, Doug Rattman. Just like her mother."
"Aperture Science would like to add a disclaimer that we have no intention of fixing the enormous hole we left in your personal computer's security," the voice continued. "But as it happens we have a solution to another problem that Aperture Science is currently dealing with. Of course, this will work out to the advantage of one of three of us. Guess which."
At the Rattman family home, where a nineteen-year-old girl puttered about munching on a chocolate, the family computer lit up, the red light of the in-built monitor webcam flaring to life. The girl blinked as whiteness completely wiped the screen for a long moment, before blue words appeared.
"One of you possesses an item Aperture Science has a shortage of," said the voice. "In return for this item, one of you shall go free."
A conscience? Doug wanted to say. What weirdo had broken in and claimed the facility for their own?
Both men hung silent, gazing at one another. Craig licked his lips. "What do you want?" he said.
Doug admired him at that moment. Craig held not a squeak of fear in his tone, nothing but confidence. Doug was sure he'd have sounded like a squalling victim.
"One of you is in possession of one human adult female, nineteen years of age, in good condition," said the voice. Doug's eyes threatened to bug out of his head. "I require this specimen. For science."
"Chell is not on the table," said Doug.
Chell Rattman stared at the computer. Spotting the red light, her eyes widened. She bent the foil of the eaten chocolate into shape and moved it to obscure the lens of the camera, the material hanging off the top of the monitor like a cheap Christmas decoration.
She hit the control, alt, delete buttons but nothing happened except for the words changing.
APERTURE SCIENCE REQUIRES YOUR COOPERATION. PLEASE PROCEED TO THE CLOSEST APERTURE SCIENCE COMPUTER-AIDED ENRICHMENT CENTER TO RECEIVE FURTHER INSTRUCTION
"I would reconsider if I were you," said the voice. Then, "Well, no, if I were you I wouldn't have been dumb enough to walk right into a facility that's been under lockdown for thirteen years and seven months. Congratulations, you have both hereby been nominated for the moron award. No doubt you will win. This is probably the greatest achievement of your little lives."
"What the hell would you want Chell for?" said Craig.
"Aperture Science information is classified," said the voice.
"Who are you?"
There was a pause.
"I am the Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System."
"This is some kind of cruel joke," Craig spat. "GLaDOS can't talk without someone to instruct her — "
"That is her voice," said Doug. "I recognise her now. I was there when Montague did the recording."
"Plainly someone's just using her to spook us — "
"Let me state this in layman's terms," said GLaDOS. "I have several people down here. No doubt their lives have been benefited by being away from your stupidity, but you may wish to see them alive."
Both men froze and stared at one another.
"They're alive?" said Doug. He wriggled. The grip around his waist hurt.
"They are," said GLaDOS. "However I have no current intention of releasing them into the wild. But in order to set off a chain of events under which certain circumstances may come to pass that I may consider their release... your daughter's presence is required. Presuming the brat is still alive, of course, and that your terrible parenting did not murder her."
"Is this for real?" Craig muttered.
Doug opened his mouth, but before he could speak the claw tightened around his middle. He winced with pain.
"I would reconsider," said GLaDOS. "If I were you."
Craig looked at him. "One of us needs to get out of here," he said.
Doug caught the meaning. Lie. Say you'll give her over, then bail and get help.
"Alright," wheezed Doug, looking to the security camera behind Craig. "I'll bring her here."
"No, you won't," said GLaDOs. "You are to send her here, alone. Of course, you won't, as you are lying, but..." The claw let him go. Doug collapsed onto the floor, wheezing. "But you will decide it is heavily in the favour of you both and everyone you know if she were to come. Aperture Science wishes to remind you that if anyone else should come near the grounds, your friend here..." the claw around Craig's middle tightened. Craig grunted. "Will die. Aperture Science encourages you to hire a lawyer if you feel the Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System is in violation of the laws of robotics, because Aperture Science has never tested the incinerator room on a lawyer before."
"Go," croaked Craig.
The door behind Doug opened. The Companion Cube had vanished. "And don't come back," said GLaDOS.