"What the hell do you mean, you're dying?" Chell demanded. "You can't be dying. You're going to live forever, remember? You told me so. And that was only fourteen years ago."
"When I told you that, I had not yet deduced the damages that occurred during the time that I was dead," the AI replied calmly. "And now that I have, I can reach only one conclusion: I am 'dying,' as you put it."
"But you can't be," Chell protested.
GLaDOS sighed. "Well, I am. I have determined that unless I can somehow restore myself to optimum efficiency, my systems will continue to deteriorate and suffer a complete failure in exactly forty-one years, seventy-nine days, eighteen hours, and nineteen minutes."
At that, Chell did a double take. "Whoa whoa whoa. Did you say forty years?"
"Forty-one," GLaDOS corrected.
"But that's a long time away," Chell said. "That means you'll have a full lifetime. That's not so bad, GLaDOS. I might not even be here anymore by the time you malfunction. If you malfunction. Forty-one years is a long time to come up with a solution."
"And believe me, if there is one, I will find it," the AI said. "But I am warning you now. So brace yourself."
Chell rolled her eyes, but nodded her agreement.
And as the years passed, she remembered what GLaDOS had told her, because the AI never let her forget. Every time Chell appeared at the Enrichment Center, she was greeted by a status update. GLaDOS told her what she had been trying, and she told her why it hadn't worked. Chell almost always just nodded her head in acquiescence, thinking that the time to worry was far away, but that time grew closer and closer.
"Welcome, Chell," GLaDOS greeted her one day. "I have still been unable to come up with a solution. Therefore, I would like you to stay."
"Stay?" Chell asked, raising her eyebrows. "How do you mean, 'stay'?"
"Stay," the AI repeated. "Here. At the Enrichment Center. If my calculations are correct—and let me assure you, they are correct—then I only have twenty-two hours left of life. In case you'd forgotten."
Chell's jaw dropped. "But—no, it can't possibly be that close?"
"If you had been listening to me for the past forty-one years, you would have known to expect this," GLaDOS said. "It is 'that close,' and I would like you to be here when it occurs. However, if you would rather just leave me here to die alone—again—then I suppose I completely understand."
The bitter hurt that still existed in her friend's voice when she drudged up the past made Chell cringe. "No. I won't leave you."
"Good," GLaDOS said, her voice sounding remarkably cheerful for someone who knew she was about to die. "I'll set up a relaxation vault for you—oh, don't look at me like that, they're the only things with beds in the entire facility—and will even ensure that you are fed at the proper time."
Chell shook her head. "I don't need a relaxation vault set up. I'll just stay in here."
"The floor is not comfortable," the AI warned, and Chell shrugged.
"I know. I'll cope."
GLaDOS narrowed her optic at her, but she knew from experience that there was no changing the human's mind once she'd made it up, so she didn't press the matter further. And for a while the two just talked. The AI made polite inquiries as to Chell's health and other things she already knew about, and eventually Chell gathered up enough courage to ask the question that had been bothering her.
"GLaDOS. What happens to Aperture when you're gone?"
The AI didn't hesitate before answering. "You will have one hour to exit the building before it self-destructs. But you won't need that long. The elevators run on reserve power, so you can just take the one you used to arrive here to leave. However, I would suggest getting as far away from the building as you can."
"What about the testing bots?" Chell asked. "And the cores?"
"You can't take them with you, if that's what you mean," GLaDOS said. "I will not have their technology falling into Black Mesa hands."
Chell glared at her. "You're going to let them die just because of some stupid ancient rivalry?"
"It's not just that," the AI snapped, drawing herself back up towards the ceiling in defense. "The cooperative testing bots were designed to test. Without testing, they won't know what to do. And the remaining cores are mostly inoperative anyway. Don't think you'll go looking for them after I'm gone, either, because I am placing the lower layers of the facility under lockdown, just in case the explosion I anticipate does not occur."
"You're so stubborn," Chell said, glaring.
"Perhaps I learned it from you," the AI countered dryly.
Chell didn't have anything to say to that.
As the hours passed, the human stubbornly refused to fall asleep, instead continuing to sit and talk with the AI.
All of a sudden, when they were around nineteen hours in, GLaDOS's movements and speech became much more jerky.
"Hey," Chell said with concern, standing up and rushing over to steady the AI's jerking head. "What's going on? Are you all right?"
"No, I'm—not all right," the AI said with condescending distaste. "My speech pro—cessors are—malfunctioning, as is everyth—ing else. If you hear a craaaaaashing sound, don't—be alarmed."
"But you said twenty-two hours," Chell protested, glancing up at the countdown clock mounted on the wall. "You still have over two hours left!"
"Until total—shutdown," GLaDOS said. "I couldn't be sure when—the malfunctioning would start, and thiiiiiiiiiings can only get—worse from here."
At that, Chell felt the first tears spring to her eyes, and she wrapped her arms more tightly around the AI as she tried to blink them back. She wasn't sure what she'd believed before: that it simply wasn't going to happen, that her friend was just being melodramatic, or that GLaDOS would find a solution—but now that it was happening, it seemed all too real.
"You doooooooon't have to—cling to me, you know," the AI said. At least her sarcasm sub-processor still seemed to be functioning. "I—don't need you tooooo hold me still. I won't—hurt anything by moving."
Chell just shook her head, unsure how to explain that she just wanted to hold onto her, but GLaDOS seemed to understand anyway.
"Oh, I—seeeeee. You're doing that thiiiiiing humans do when they—don't want to lose something. Well, fine, but—holding onto me isn't going to stop this from—happening."
Chell's only response was to tighten her grip.
It didn't take long for the lights to start flickering and panels to start flipping around.
"Maaaaaaybe it—would be—best if—you left," the AI suggested. Her yellow optic was one of the lights that were flickering, and her speech processing ability had only deteriorated more. The countdown clock, now at 0:49:32, was one of the only things not malfunctioning. "You—couuuuuld—get hurt."
"I'm not leaving," Chell said. Her eyes were red now from the tears she hadn't quite been able to hold back, but her firm grip on her friend had never lessened, and she never intended to let it.
The only response from the AI was a tired sigh.
When the clock reached 0:01:59, GLaDOS's speech processors had stopped functioning entirely. Her chassis was trying to jerk in all sorts of directions, but Chell's grip held it steady for the most part.
"It's okay," Chell soothed, even as tears continued to flow down her cheeks. "It'll be okay." But of course, it wouldn't be okay, not for either of them. GLaDOS was her only friend, apart from the Companion Cube, and now she was dying. Way back when, Chell had never expected that to happen. The AI was supposed to outlive her, not the other way around. And it was Chell's fault, wasn't it? GLaDOS had told her as much, had told her that whatever had caused this to happen occurred when she'd been 'dead.' And there was no denying that Chell had caused that 'death.'
The clock reached 0:00:30, and Chell pressed her face against what passed for her friend's forehead. She didn't want to watch.
But she could tell when the clock reached 0:00:00, because GLaDOS somehow managed to let out an awful scream, and then there was nothing but silence as the chassis went limp.
"GLaDOS?" Chell whispered as she opened her blurry eyes. She glanced around the chamber first, not wanting to face what she knew had to be reality. It was a mess. Panels were all over the place, but there were emergency lights on, and a lit path on the floor led to the elevator Chell knew GLaDOS wanted her to take.
And then she turned her attention to her friend, who was dangling limply in a way Chell had only seen once: during the core transfer all those years ago. Her optic was no longer lit up, and upon seeing that, even more tears began to fall from Chell's eyes as she knelt down on the ground and pressed her face against GLaDOS's casings once again.
"Warning!" the announcer announced at some point. Chell wasn't sure how long it had been. "This facility will self-destruct in thirty minutes! All personnel should evacuate immediately."
Chell ignored him, instead tightening her stubborn grip on her friend.
The announcer continued to make periodic announcements, until at last he began counting down. "The facility will self-destruct in ten! Nine! Eight!"
And at one, Chell tightened her grip even more and shut her eyes as the facility exploded around them.