"Warning. Core corruption at eighty percent."
"That's funny. I don't feel corrupt. In fact, I feel pretty good."
"Alternate core detected."
"Oh! That's ME they're talking about!"
Chell looked between the two of them, the psychotic supercomputer and the friendly little blue-eyed sphere, and a wonderful, wild hope began to take hold.
She listened closely as the ever-cheerful recorded voice of the Announcer continued. "To initiate a core transfer, please deposit substitute core in receptacle."
A small, circular core dock rose innocently out of the floor.
"Core transfer?" GLaDOS had lost her air of nonchalant serenity; this was obviously something she hadn't planned for. "Oh, you are kidding me."
Chell could hardly believe what she was hearing. Was it really that simple? After all she had been through, all the turrets, lasers, fire, rockets, lies, and thinly-veiled fat jokes, all that she had to do was plug a personality sphere into an innocuous little device, and GLaDOS was done? Freedom was finally hers?
Ignoring the protests of both the malevolent AI and her aching feet, Chell took off at a sprint across the control chamber floor. So many things were uncertain, but for the moment, nothing mattered except getting to that receptacle.
Suddenly, she was flying backwards through the air.
"Oh, boy," GLaDOS sighed. "It's a good thing I decided to put that Aperture Science Aerial Faith Plate right there. Otherwise…well, who knows what might have happened."
Chell screamed inwardly.
A pair of robotic arms descended from the ceiling, lifting both the orange-jumpsuited woman and the personality core into the air.
Wheatley began to babble nervously. "G-good things! Good things might have happened, and still can! But only if you just let her put me in that little plug thing right there."
"I'm afraid I can't do that." GLaDOS replied darkly. "Though to be perfectly honest, I'm not afraid at all. I'm more disappointed."
"Disappointed?" asked Wheatley.
GLaDOS nodded slowly, clearly reveling in her regained control of the situation. "Yes. After all we've been through together, you'd think I would be more important to her than some metal ball she found lying around on the ground. But maybe I was reading too much into things."
Chell tried to focus all of her hatred for the AI into a fiery beam of destruction, but nothing happened.
"And it's not even an interesting metal ball, either. It's annoying, and dirty, and far above the weight average for its model."
Wheatley narrowed his eye. "I should be offended by that, I really should. Getting a strong feeling of deliberate offensiveness from that."
"Oh, but he's smart. You didn't tell me he was smart."
"Ha, no! Indeed she didn't!" shouted Wheatley, then whispered quickly, "She's talking about me, right?"
"Of course. Moron."
"Oh." The sphere blinked. "Oh, I get it. She's using sarcasm."
"Hesitation detected." beeped the Announcer. "Please deposit alternate core into receptacle."
Wheatley spun back around to face GLaDOS. "You heard him! Deposit alternate core! Which, if anyone needs reminding, is me!"
GLaDOS stared steadily back for a few moments, as if trying to determine whether the core was serious. "As difficult as it is for me to say this...no."
She swiveled Wheatley around to face Chell.
"Ohh, I don't like this. I'm not a fan of this at all," stammered the metal sphere. "Stop it! Put me down! Help!"
GLaDOS chuckled emotionlessly. "I'm sorry. I lied again. In the interest of full honesty, saying that thing I said just now wasn't actually difficult in the least. Few things are. Except crushing you, apparently."
Wheatley began to writhe frantically in his socket. "Oh no! Oh no no no no no!"
"Since the first time clearly didn't work, I guess this time I'll just have to crush harder.
"No crushing necessary! Let's…let's talk through this! I happen to like talking, actually. It's the best! Solves all my problems!"
"What do you think?" GLaDOS asked, turning towards Chell. "Should I kill him? If the answer is no, please just say something."
Chell desperately tried to shake her head, or make any sort of noise, but wires pinned her arms and covered her mouth. By this point, she knew whatever she did was hopeless, but kept trying anyway. No matter the circumstances, Aperture's favorite test subject was nothing if not determined.
"Oh." GLaDOS turned back to Wheatley. "That's depressing."
"Hey! That's not fair at all! Even if you weren't holding her back with those wire things, she can't talk! Or at least, I think she can't…"
"You thought wrong," replied GLaDOS, with sadistic glee. "You should cut back on that. It seems to be becoming a habit."
"You're really full of yourself, aren't you?" Wheatley glared indignantly at the larger robot. "That's why you push her around. You think you're better than her, but you're not!"
Chell felt an intense rush of affection for the sphere.
"Now you're hurting my feelings."
"Well, good!" the core shouted, gaining confidence as he spoke. "You're just a boss, is what you are! An enormous, hulking boss of a robot, with nothing better to do than torment innocent test subjects! And metal spheres, too. That's another thing you shouldn't torment. Metal spheres. And, oh, and another thing -
"I don't think I will!" retorted Wheatley "Personally, I think I'm on a bit of a roll here, and considering I probably only have a few seconds to live, that's definitely saying somethi—"
"No. Your voice." GLaDOS moved the core as close to her optic as was possible without touching him, more focused on him now than Chell. "I know that voice."
Wheatley seemed caught off guard. "Sorry, er…what?"
"That horrible, idiotic voice."
"I…I have no idea what you're getting at, but frankly, I'm insulted."
"I know who you are."
Wheatley's eye widened. It was hard to make out expressions on a face made up entirely of a single blue eye, but it seemed to Chell that that single sentence induced more terror in the personality construct than all the rest of GLaDOS's words combined.
Then he blinked quickly, as if nothing had happened.
"I mean, oh, you do? Well that's great, because OH GOD WHAT IS THAT?"
GLaDOS narrowed her eye. "That's not going to work. For God's sake, you moron, you can't even move.
Ignoring the pain it caused to her neck, Chell turned her head to focus on where the personality sphere was looking. A stream of silver wires was snaking its way out of the core transfer receptacle, headed straight for Wheatley.
The supercomputer echoed Chell's thoughts perfectly.
"Corruption level of central core at maximum," said the Announcer, its polite tone completely at odds with the mechanical monstrosity making its way out of the floor. "Alternate core detected. As a result of your hesitation, drastic measures must be taken. Please do not be alarmed."
"I am alarmed! I am very much alarmed!" Wheatley yelled, looking as if he was barely holding back the robotic equivalent of a seizure.
GLaDOS whipped back to face the core, and seemed to concentrate every ounce of loathing she possessed into one syllable. "Good."
With a single swift motion, she rent Wheatley in two.
Chell felt as though she had been stabbed. GLaDOS turned back to face her, clearly savoring the look on her face.
The wires paused their ascent, as if considering the events that had just taken place. "Target core has been incapacitated. Current core transfer protocol canceled."
"Yes," GLaDOS purred, her electronic voice resonating with satisfaction.
"However, central core is actively attempting to prevent core transfer. All evidence points to full corruption."
"What? No. I feel fine."
"Ignoring blatant lies of central core. In event of catastrophic central core –corruption – and Aperture Science would like to remind you that this example of excessive alliteration is entirely unintentional…"
"Stop it." GLaDOS ordered sharply. "Stop talking."
"…A third option must be taken. A new human intelligence must take the place of the artificial core in the mainframe."
The AI was panicking now. "No. No no no no no."
"Searching for human intelligence."
Abandoning all pretext of calm, GLaDOS dropped Chell unceremoniously to the ground.
"All right, forget what I said. Everything is forgiven. Just leave. I don't care what else you do, as long as you get out of here. Now. Run.
Chell picked herself up and started to run, but the wires quickly caught up to her.
"Initiating human-core substitution."
A red glow filled the room, and tiny robotic claws began to detach GLaDOS's head from her chassis.
"Get your hands off me! No! STOP! NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOOAOAAOAOAOAOAAAAAAAA - "
The wires encircled Chell's body, ignoring her throes of protest. One by one, they stabbed tiny needles into her skin, shooting streams of flame through her veins. An unimaginable pain filled every inch of her body. Her blood was on fire. Her mind was on fire. Everything was on fire fire fire fire fire fire fire
Hello, and welcome to the Aperture Science Mainframe. What would you like to do?