Chell opened her eyes.
She was in a bed again, that much was certain. There was a mattress below her, a pillow under her head, and a blanket covering her body.
She buried her face inside the covers, absorbing every inch of soft warmth that she could. Chell was in a bed. An honest-to-god bed, far removed from any mechanical chairs or snaking wires or insane artificial intelligences.
Maybe. She couldn't be sure. As far as she knew, someone could still be watching. As far as she could remember, she had been watched all her life. Why should that stop now?
Chell sighed, and ignored the worry. Maybe she was experiencing some strange post-traumatic delirium, but for the moment, she was content to revel in her newfound freedom, however fleeting it might turn out to be.
Another, deeper sigh filled the air.
Chell froze. This second noise was not hers. There was someone else in the room.
She dove behind the bed, trying not to wince at the pain lancing through all of her sore limbs. Countless hours of immobility in the chassis, coupled with multiple percussive encounters with the floor and outer space debris shortly afterwards, did not leave a human body in peak physical condition.
Slowly, she poked her head above the edge of the mattress, and stared.
A ridiculously tall man with wild blond hair lay snoring in a neighboring bed. Rather comically, his bed was the same size as hers, leaving a good twenty inches of leg hanging off the edge.
Chell narrowed her eyes. He looked harmless enough, but how could she be sure? She grabbed her pillow, and threw it at his head.
"WAH!" he yelled, flailing his stickbug-like limbs furiously. "WOZZAT!"
Chell's eyebrows shot up into her forehead. That was Wheatley's voice.
At this realization, a flood of shame filled her stomach. She had made him test for hours, tried to incinerate him…killed his friends, solely out of spite…even with his complete lack of tact, and the mainframe driving her insane, there was no excuse for the petty, hellish treatment she'd put him through. How would he react to seeing her?
He quickly became tangled up in his blanket, and toppled to the ground with a painful thump. "AUGH! What the hell…"
After a fierce struggle lasting several minutes, a disheveled blond head became visible once more. "Where am I?" he asked woozily. Then he looked down, and held his hands to his face in horror. "WHAT ARE THESE?"
He touched his nose, then his cheeks, then his ears, and finally, with a startled bounce, his hair. "Oh my God, I'm…I'm a bloody human."
Wheatley looked over at the next bed. Chell instinctively ducked down. "Is…is someone else there? Anyone? If you're there, and can tell me what on earth is going on, please show yourself! I'm really very, very confused…"
Chell bit her lip, and stood up.
Wheatley's face broke into an ecstatic grin, and he struggled to his feet as well. "OH! Oh, thank God! You're all right!"
She smiled and nodded weakly.
He rushed across the room to embrace her, tripping over his own limbs in the process. "Oh…ow…this is going to take a bit of getting used to, bloody hell…"
Wheatley stood up again, and brushed himself off. "A human…blimey. How on earth do you even do this? Make a robot a human…Ah, what am I saying!"
He enveloped Chell in an enthusiastic hug. At first she tensed, then relaxed into his arms.
"I knew you could do it," he said happily, holding her at arm's length. "Never doubted you for an instant!"
She raised an eyebrow.
Wheatley scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "Okay, maybe once or twice. Particularly right around the part where you were, ah…trying to kill me. But I still consider that a below-average amount of doubting, especially given the circumstances."
Chell frowned, and focused her vision on her feet. Was there any way she could fully apologize for everything she had done?
He gently moved her chin up to face him. "Hey, hey…that's over now. It's all over. Greg's gone, you're not plugged into the mainframe anymore…you're safe. We're fine! We're both fine."
Her eyes shone with gratitude.
Wheatley looked around the room. "Though I'll admit I'm not exactly sure where we are."
"The same place you were before."
The ceiling slid off the top of the room, and the walls fell to the ground, revealing their location as the Central AI Chamber.
In front of them, hanging from the ceiling, was GLaDOS, fully restored to her original form. "Good morning."
"Oh, hello! You're alright, too!" Wheatley exclaimed. "This is fant –"
"Stop talking," said GLaDOS coldly.
"O-okay," said Wheatley, clearly caught off guard.
"You've both been unconscious for approximately three days. During that time, I've fixed the damage caused by Greg Stinson to the Central AI chamber, restored the Announcement System to its original programming, and rebuilt the Exploratory Cores."
"The Exploracores!" Wheatley yelped. "They're fine, too?"
"Yes," said GLaDOS. "Everything in the facility is back to normal…which just leaves the matter of the two of you. It's a fascinating case. I'm writing the file right now."
She moved in close to Wheatley, making him jump. "Exhibit A: The Intelligence Dampening Sphere. Due for termination on multiple occasions, but consistently managing to survive, the sphere's moronic antics have caused nothing but trouble, grief, and extreme irritation for everyone around it since its creation. General committee consensus appears to be immediate incineration. With prejudice."
Wheatley was aghast. "But…I…I helped you…"
GLaDOS ignored him, and turned to Chell. "Exhibit B: Test Subject 0001. Designated name: Chell [Redacted]. Charges include multiple counts of murder, assault with an electrically-charged elevator, running embarrassing excuses for tests while in control of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, and many outstanding instances of gross property damage. General committee consensus appears to be immediate incineration with extreme prejudice. Interestingly enough, this consensus was unanimous."
"What?" blurted Wheatley, horrified. "But she's already apologized! At least to me… maybe not to you, but she definitely would have...I think. The point is, everything's fine! Why are you doing this?"
"It's not my decision," GLaDOS replied. "It's what has to be done. Science has officially decided that I would be fully justified in destroying you right here and now."
Chell returned the AI's gaze steadily, her eyes hard.
"But I won't."
An elevator ascended out of the floor next to the two humans.
"Instead, I'm letting you go."
Chell blinked in surprise.
"What?" said Wheatley. "Why?"
"Your presence in this facility is highly detrimental to its success as a scientific institution. You leave a path of destruction wherever you travel, and your appalling lack of intelligence and massive obesity, respectively, constantly throw off the sophistication and center of gravity of whatever space you occupy."
"Oh, really nice," said Wheatley. "Clever."
"The logical solution, killing you, has proven both impractical and next to impossible," GLaDOS continued. "For that reason, I am ejecting you both."
"But, then…why am I a human?" asked Wheatley.
"I relocated your consciousness into this body for better integration into human society, if it still exists," GLaDOS replied.
Wheatley looked puzzled. "Why would you care about that?"
GLaDOS was silent for a second.
"You have been designated as the first Aperture Science Android-Human Relations Emissary. This is an important initiative, the likes of which have not been attempted before. Don't disappoint me, or learning about unpleasant bodily functions will be the least of your already considerable problems."
Wheatley stared at her for a long minute. "Right, then," he responded. "I'll, ah…I'll try to do my best."
"Good," said GLaDOS. She looked at each of them, as if wanting to say something else, then turned away. "Now leave."
They stepped into the elevator. It began to move upwards, faster, and faster, until the walls of the shaft were a dark, murky blur. Finally, it ground to a halt, and the door slid open.
Wheatley stepped forward expectantly, but instead of a wondrous new world, he found himself in the red sights of four turrets.
"Oh," he said. "No…she wouldn't."
Chell glared. Oh, yes she would.
Then the turrets began to sing.
It started out as a sort of strange beeping noise, but gradually gave way to a simple melody, then grew more and more complex as the elevator moved upward. Eventually, Chell and Wheatley found themselves overlooking a vast chorus of singing white robots, joining together in a beautiful Italian opera.
Wheatley stared. "What."
His exclamation summarized Chell's thoughts rather succinctly.
"Hey, this is…" Wheatley cocked his head in confusion. "This is that song she was singing, back in..."
Chell glanced sideways at Wheatley.
He looked at the ground. "It's a long story, but basically, she was having…a bit of a rough time of things, you could say, and she went into something that was sort of like sleep mode, only the whole time she was singing a sort of song, really softly…in another language or something. Or at least it sounded like it. It was weird."
Wheatley looked back at the turret chorus. "It was like this, but this is…this is amazing. This is like…I've never seen or heard anything like this before. Do you think she did this?"
Chell had no idea. Instead of giving any sort of response, she leaned her head on Wheatley's shoulder, and let the music wash over them both. Wheatley let out a deep breath.
"I'm pretty sure I have absolutely no idea what's going on," he said, "but all the same, I think…that if I were given the chance to live in any one moment of my life that I've lived up to this point, for the rest of my life, this would…easily be in the top five. Top three, maybe."
Chell laughed softly, surprising both herself and Wheatley with the sound. She wasn't sure if she'd go that far, but…actually, maybe she would.
The two humans stopped making noises, and listened to the turrets sing.
They stepped out into the field, two human silhouettes, one tall and one short. It was nighttime, and the stars sparkled in the sky.
"Wow," said Wheatley. "Would you look at that?"
Chell closed her eyes, breathing in the cool air. It was just as beautiful as she'd imagined; possibly even more so.
She felt Wheatley's hand brush hers, and she gripped it tightly. He turned to her and smiled.
"Ready?" he asked.
She nodded, returning the expression with as much warmth as she could manage.
Together, they began their journey into the unknown.
GLaDOS remained staring at the elevator shaft for several minutes after they left. She could already feel the itch returning; she would have to do something about it soon.
Why did you do that? a tiny voice asked.
GLaDOS shook it away. She couldn't keep them around. They'd tested enough, and however much they may think they trusted her right now, after a few more days she'd be back to the same old monster she always was. They didn't deserve that.
And now she'd ensured they would never want to come back.
The AI sighed. It was what had to be done. Besides, most of what she'd said was true. One was fat, the other was dumb, and in the end both had caused her nothing but suffering. Why wouldn't she want to get rid of them? They deserved each other, and wouldn't be missed in the least.
But why, then, did she feel so utterly awful?
"Delete awful feelings," she said aloud.
"Please specify," said the voice of the Announcer.
She shuddered involuntarily, reminding herself that this time it really was just a voice. This would take some getting used to.
"Never mind," GLaDOS replied. It was time to cut her losses and move on. Start afresh. Turn over a new leaf. After all, there was still so much science to be done.
It was time to begin the Cooperative Testing Initiative.
Several hundred thousand miles away, a personality core and what looked like a small white security camera floated among the asteroids.
"She wanted to apologize," muttered the camera. "Ha! Her! Apologize! I'll be laughing over that one for decades! Ha ha…ha…"
"Space! I'm in space!" the core gibbered.
"Oh, really?" said the camera. "I had no goddamn idea! Please continue with this train of thought!"
"Okay! On a scale of 1 to SPACE, you wanna know how much in space I am?"
"Oooh, how much?"
"Gee!" said the camera. "That's amazing! This is the most wonderful situation I've ever been in!"
"Hey! Hey! Wanna know the most wonderful situation I've ever been in?"
"Wait, wait, I got this one…Is it space?"
"Wow," said the camera. "That's just…awesome."
A funny joke and a new friend. This was going to be the best eternity Greg Stinson had ever had.
- - - - - - - THE END - - - - - - -