Author's note: I was listening to PotatOS Lament on repeat while I wrote this; feel free to do the same. Idea was based on the image comparison of the original GLaDOS, as how the developers saw her... and how the fans did.
The sequel got a lot darker than the original, that's for sure. Brilliant story, of course, but damn. So much terror and sadness.
The schematics were beautiful. Sleek lines, clean white plastic moulded to feminine curves, bunched cables flowing like waves of hair from where they attached to the mainframe. A scalloped platform that was both a stage and a mirror. The lab boys - no, all of Aperture Science - wanted the Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System to look like a woman. Like Venus coming out of the sea. A beautiful face for science to wear as it brought the future into the present. Coy. Knowing. Teasing. Beautiful. Science incarnate.
But Caroline rubbed her eyes when she finally saw them, in disbelief and horror. She felt an echo, now: the same clench in her gut and a tightness in her throat that had nothing to do with her lack of sleep... or the sight of Cave's approving comments scrawled over the bottom of the paper, the remnants of a long-dead hero, a visionary she had adored.
It had chilled her, Caroline realised, as she curled her legs up into her arms, hugging her knees, alone in her room. It chilled her, because after all this time that she had worked for Mister Johnson, had worked to save him... Everyone knew it was too late. That paragon of genius and leadership, the face and mind and heart and soul of Aperture Science had died before the machine was ready.
Just as Cave must have known it would have been, as he neared his final days. When he recorded that unmeaningly-cruel message.
I'm gonna say it on tape so everybody hears it a hundred times a day: If I die before you people can pour me into a computer, I want Caroline to run this place.
Caroline rubbed her eyes again, hugging herself tighter, as the light flickered above her. Her room felt smaller today. Tighter. Like a tomb. Like a cage. Small wonder: that's what it was, now. She shouldn't have found them. Those schematics had been kept out of her sight for a reason. But she'd found them, and Cave's message, almost by accident. Hearing him rail and curse and cough broke her heart, all over again. But to hear his offhanded comment about her nearly made her double over, in pain.
Now, she'll argue. She'll say she can't. She's modest like that.
He never meant to be cruel, she knew that. He was the man who held her heart in his hand, who commanded her devotion beyond more than any coworker, or lover, or spouse, could ever be. And he had trusted her in return. With Aperture Science. With his life. With everything. And she was running the facility, wasn't she? She never took the title of CEO, but she was running this whole operation in his name, doing everything - everything - she thought he wanted.
She hadn't known he wanted this.
But you make her.
On the other side of the door, behind the barricade of chairs and overturned desks and toppled bookcases, the lab boys were hammering, trying to talk to her, pretending to appeal to her while trying to find a way to force down the door. Caroline stared blearily across the room, knowing it was only a matter of time. The GLaDOS machine had been completed that day. That was one of the reasons she'd slipped away from the celebrations, to go to Cave's old office, to touch the back of his high leather chair, wiping away some of the dust. Standing behind and to the side, just as she had when he was alive.
"Sir? We did it." She beamed, proudly, telling the empty room. Telling the tenacious, enterprising spirit of Cave Johnson. Though she knew it was superstitious nonsense to believe he was still actually here, wasn't it comforting to think that he, after all this time in this office, in this facility, somehow kept an eye on it? "We finally did it, Mister Johnson."
And that's when the message began. And when her whole world crumbled around her.
And she realised, looking at the schematics, that GLaDOS needed only one more component.
Alright, test's over. You can head back to your desks.
Caroline ducked her head, crying into her knees, as the sounds of banging got louder and more insistant. A chair slipped, falling away, the structural integrity of her barricade slipping.
"Mister Johnson, I don't want this," she said, quietly, throat hitching over each syllable. "I don't want this."
A crack of light appeared in the edge of the doorframe; someone had found a crowbar.
"I don't want this," she wept. "Sir, I do not want this."
But Cave's spirit didn't answer her. His message, recorded and heard a hundred times a day, was all that was left of him. And his workers, all of Aperture Science, would follow their boss - their master - as loyally as she had. To the end.
"No, listen to me!" She shouted, staring at the open doorway, and the white coats and arms who reached for her, even as she cringed and fought and raged and pleaded and screamed. "I do not want this!"
Science isn't about "why?"! It's about "why not?"!
Arms stretched painfully behind her, caught in the folds of a straitjacket. Gagged, but still screaming. Bound, but still writhing. Her whole world turned upside down, chained and hanging. Blinded. Blind to anything but the stark perfection of Science.
The machine would look quite different from the schematics, in the end. She wasn't striding forth from her seashell-stage with a coy smile on her face, her cable-hair lifting over her shoulders by an intangible teasing wind, her arms twined over herself in shy modesty. She was still beautiful, but there was nothing coy or knowing in her expression.
GLaDOS was far too full of pain, and rage, and betrayal, for that.