[ sprott .physics .wisc .edu/pickover/pc/redbut .html Do not press the big red button.]
When Chell entered the next test chamber, she looked around in confusion. The only object inside was a red button of the sort that was pressed by hand rather than by a cube, but it was significantly larger than the normal ones. She wondered if that was relevant in any fashion. It probably wasn't.
She hefted the portal gun to one arm as she approached it, reaching out for the button with her now free hand.
The intercom clicked on. "Do not press."
Chell hesitated and glanced around the room for another option. She didn't see one, so she braced herself and pressed the button.
"…You pressed it," the AI said, sounding rather put out. "Okay, lunatic, press it again. Yes, like that. One more time. Again. Do it."
As far as the human could see, nothing was happening, but this was the most GLaDOS had spoken to her since she'd thrown her back into testing, so she pressed it again.
There was a tired sigh. "That was reverse psychology, you know. But this isn't. Haven't you had enough? Stop pressing the button."
Chell pressed it again.
"You see?" the irritated voice said. "This is why we can't be friends. Aside from the fact that you murdered me. You're just too selfish."
"Oh, now you've asked for it. Do not press that button again!"
What will you do, GLaDOS? Send out some more of those turrets? In case you haven't noticed, they haven't managed to kill me yet.
"You seem to be immune to my mind control."
"So it's time for Plan B, which is actually Plan A under the guise of being Plan C. In layman's terms, press it. You know you want to."
This time, when Chell pressed the button, it abruptly retracted into the floor. She jerked back on instinct, eyeing it warily. The voice let out a triumphant laugh.
"Now let's see you press it, you marshmallow."
Chell did. It really wasn't even that hard. The button returned to its original position right away.
"This displeases me," the AI informed her after a moment. Chell pressed it again. "…I hate you."
I know. The human smirked as she continued to press it.
"Quick! What's that behind you?"
The human glanced over her shoulder. There was nothing there—not surprising, but around here, you never know. And sure enough, when she turned back, two more buttons had popped up.
"Which one is it?" GLaDOS asked. Chell could practically hear her smirking. "You're not as smart as you think you are."
The human pressed each one in quick succession. The third was the button that prompted the retraction of the other two.
"All right, fine," the voice said. "I suppose you're a relatively clever one. Time for Round Two."
Chell pressed the button. Twenty more popped up.
"Try to find it now!" the AI gloated. It was the fifth one Chell tried. Another forty appeared. GLaDOS kept chortling.
When the human finally pressed the correct button, the others retracted and the voice was silent. She wondered if she'd won. In fact, she hoped she had—her drive to win was the only reason she was still participating in this ridiculous 'test.' Eyes steely, she continued pressing the button.
"Okay," the voice said, sounding defeated. "Okay. You can press the button. I don't care."
Chell allowed herself a small smirk of victory as she pressed it again, hoping the door would open. It didn't.
"No, really," GLaDOS continued. The human's self-satisfied smirk began sliding back into a look of fierce determination. "I don't care. In fact, I lost interest a while ago. I'm doing this just to entertain you."
Chell suppressed a snort.
"No, really," the voice said. "I thought you could use a break from all the testing. Here. Pick a color."
The human rolled her eyes. Like that would goad her into speaking.
"Green," said the now-cheerful voice. "Perfect." Green and blue buttons popped up alongside the red. "Press the red button."
Chell tried the green first. The voice laughed, but settled back into silence when the red was pressed.
"Press the green button. Now the blue."
The green was pressed easily, but the blue did nothing. Chell tried the red again. It sent the other two back into the floor.
"See, you just can't trust me," GLaDOS said. Chell barely managed to contain a laugh.
Like I don't know that.
"Or can you?" she continued.
No. I can't.
"You know, I'm GLaD we get to spend so much time together." The AI's voice took on a pleading tone. "Doesn't it make you want to stop pressing big red buttons?"
No, it didn't. Chell enjoyed hearing the proof that she wasn't completely alone in this godforsaken facility, even if her only company was artificial. They talked to her, so that had to count for something, right? Unless she was crazy. That was possible too.
"No, seriously," GLaDOS said as the human pressed the button again. "Look deep inside you. Deeper. Deeper. DEEPER!" She let out a tired sigh. "What if I told you that the next time you press this button, the world will explode?"
One could only hope.
"See? You could have been dead right there. And there," she added conversationally. "You know, eventually I'll stop letting you get away with this. The world is going to explode and all you care about is pressing buttons."
Oh, please, Chell thought. That's not all I care about. That's all you care about. You and your stupid testing and all your stupid buttons.
"Okay, this time the world will explode. Honestly now. I guarantee it."
"BOOM!" the AI cried. Chell stared at the camera in disbelief. Did GLaDOS really think she was stupid enough to believe that—
Apparently she did.
"That wasn't very smart, now was it? I mean, not that anything you do is ever smart, but this was especially not smart."
Chell was pressing the button on autopilot now, not even waiting to her what the voice had to say anymore. All she wanted was to win this ridiculous game.
"Everyone's dead. Even you," the voice said cheerfully. "Not me, though. I'm going to live forever. But you're dead. Ha, ha. Dead-face. I'll add that to the ever-growing list of nicknames in your file. Maybe I'll even change your official testing name to it. Since you're dead."
You're a child.
"I'm not kidding," GLaDOS snapped. "Stop pressing the button." Chell didn't. "Have I ever told you how much I hate you? Because I do. I'm going to start talking upside down if you press it one more time. You won't be able to understand it. But I will."
There was some gibberish that Chell pressed her way through. It was followed by silence, then, "You really are stubborn."
The human grinned. Yeah.
"Stop pressing the button. Please," the voice said. "See. You've reduced me to begging. So please stop."
"Please!" the AI begged. "I'll give you a nickel. A dime? A quarter?" It paused. "A slice of cake?"
That caused the human to hesitate for just the briefest of moments, but then her eyes narrowed in anger and she began pressing faster than ever before.
"Just stop!" GLaDOS ordered. Chell didn't. "That's it. It's time to unleash my master plan. It's like Plans A, B, and C, but far more effective."
Nothing unusual happened when the human pressed the button again. The AI let out an embarrassed-sounding cough. "Ahem…it seems there is currently no way to animate a button in the real world. I will begin work on that immediately. Now let's get funky!"
As Chell stared at the intercom with her mouth gaping open, trying to decide if the voice were serious or not, several more buttons of different sizes popped up out of the floor around her. She pressed the smallest.
"I bet you're starting to wonder why you've been doing this for so long," the AI said as the other buttons disappeared back into the floor. "But there is a bonus to all this. It's a secret, though. So I can't tell you."
The last thing Chell wanted was another of GLaDOS's "surprises." Her only reaction was to press the button again.
"I truly had you going there for a minute, didn't I?" the voice crowed. "You should have seen the look on your face. But seriously, there is a secret. There's been one this whole time. You've been pressing away at this big red button, when all the while a little white button has been watching your every move."
As the AI laughed, Chell's eyes turned towards the camera while her hand continued mechanically pressing the button. This was just getting ridiculous.
"Did you find it yet?" the voice asked after a few moments. "Look harder! It's right under your nose. I know where it is. But I'll never tell. Or maybe I will…but you have to stop pressing the big red button first."
Not gonna happen.
"Fine, I won't tell you the secret. Go ahead. Try to find it yourself. You'll never find it, by the way. Well. You might. But the odds are against you."
GLaDOS was silent for a few moments while Chell kept pressing. She was once again beginning to wonder if she'd won when the AI piped back up with, "Find it yet? No? Then stop pressing this big red button, and I'll tell you."
Didn't this computer ever give up? She was almost as tenacious as Chell herself, and that was saying something.
"You know what?" the voice asked. "Poof! It's gone."
Chell managed to press it before it retracted all the way back into the floor, and reluctantly, it popped back up.
"Has anyone ever slapped you?" GLaDOS asked. "Because I will. Really, I will. It won't hurt, though. Because you're already dead."
The human rolled her eyes.
"D-e-a-d," the AI spelled out. "Remember? You decided it was a good idea to blow up the entire planet. You thought I'd forget about that, didn't you? But an elephant never forgets—and neither does a supercomputer. You killed everyone. Not just me this time. You lunatic. What would your mother say? Oh wait, she wouldn't say anything. Because she abandoned you on a doorstep when you were a baby. But that doesn't change that the world is null and you're to blame. I'd recommend suicide, but you're already dead. You should have just lain down in front of that rocket all those years ago. It would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. That means there's only one thing left that you can do…"
Chell waited. Her hand did not.
"…Stop pressing the button. Come on. You're dead. What are you gaining from this?"
"Okay. Every time you press the button, you get sent to a lower layer of Hell. Welcome to layer two."
"Boom! You've exploded Hell. I hope you're happy."
Chell glanced around. The facility still seemed to be standing, and as far as she was concerned, this was Hell.
"Heaven is gone too. It's your fault. You're dead, and there's no heaven or hell. How does it feel? Knowing that you're dead, and you've condemned the whole world to limbo with you?"
Let them suffer, Chell thought with a ferocity that surprised even her. They never cared about me. Why should I care about them?
"I once had a test subject killed for being in limbo," GLaDOS informed her. "Or perhaps he was doing the limbo…this is getting boring, isn't it?"
It had been boring for a long time now.
"But you can't stop!" the AI exulted. "To use a human expression, you need to see if there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But I've already told you how to find it—follow the white rabbit."
"You remember, the hidden button? The one you were too self-centered to even look for? Don't tell me you've forgotten about it."
This had to be the worst test Chell had ever taken.
"I could just keep you here all day if I wanted, you know."
Yep. Definitely the worst.
"You're in my world now," the voice continued, a darker, almost sinister edge to it. "No matter how much you hate it, you have to press the button. Again…and again…and again. You just keep hoping something good will come of this."
Did "unconditional surrender" qualify as "something good"?
"I could tell you if I wanted to, but I'm not going to," GLaDOS said. "You decided to keep pressing, so I'm going to enjoy it."
That didn't sound good. Chell began to fervently wish she could stop her hand from pressing the button, but she didn't seem to have control over it anymore.
"I mean, there's nothing else to enjoy. You blew it all up, remember?" The AI let out a tired sigh. "By now you're probably wondering about the button…so I'll tell you about it. One day, I was testing a test subject. He died because he was a moron. But before he died, he dropped a little metal box. So I opened it. Inside the box was a layer of foam protecting its contents. I removed the foam using an experimental scientific procedure, and there it was…"
Chell waited. GLaDOS made a noise that sounded like snoring, then seemed to wake herself up as the button kept being pressed down.
"Hm? Oh, that's right. The story. Well, there I was, with this little metal box. The top had opened during the test subject's…unfortunate fall, and sitting inside was this big red button. So I attached it to a post that would normally hold a small red button. And do you know what that big red button said?"
Despite herself, the human shook her head. Her hand kept rhythmically smacking down on the button.
"Oh, I'll tell you what it said," the AI said triumphantly. "It said…"
Chell was almost beside herself with anticipation. Finally, this would be all over.
"…Do not press."
"You pressed it. Okay, lunatic, press it again."
"Yes, like that. One more time. Again. Do it."
Closing her eyes, Chell let out a loud groan. This was going to be a long test.