Chell never though she would see the day when those two cooperated, but after so much work from her part, it was a beautiful sight seeing the androids working together. Well, GLaDOS was doing most of the work but Wheatley still helped now and then. She was still amazed she had actually managed to do it.
She looked back at how hard it had been. After she had managed to make Wheatley stop crying that day, so many years ago, it still had taken her days to convince him that GLaDOS didn't want to hurt him, followed by months until he finally stopped stuttering and over three years until the yellow-eyed AI had allowed the little core to get a humanoid body like hers. Even Atlas and P-Body had been surprised when she did it, considering they had only got theirs a few months before.
GLaDOS and Wheatley weren't best friends, of course, but they had learned to enjoy each other, with hate and fear becoming partnership and comprehension, to finally blossom into some sort of twisted family feeling. It had been an interesting ride so far. The only Homo Sapiens among the five robots. The only one made of flesh and bones between the five humans in the facility.
Atlas, Chell, GLaDOS, P-Body, Wheatley. Quite the weird family. Now, the flesh and bones was about to disappear. Chell took a deep breath before stepping into the machine in front of her.
It had taken GLaDOS over five years to manage to simulate all the human feelings and sensations, then another five to review the Human-to-Machine process that Aperture had used on her, find the errors that had corrupted Caroline and transformed her in the AI Chell loved so much, then re-check everything ten times. "I can't risk any errors," she had said, "I couldn't bear to lose you." She remembered feeling all warm on the inside that night.
But now the moment had come. She looked at the android on the pod at the other side of the room, a pinnacle of technology, one able to replicate the greatest biological computer in existence, the human brain. 86 billion neurons evolved to understand, to translate, to give her a vision of the world around her, all stored behind the firewall of her personality. Everything she had ever seen or ever met, places, friends, family, lovers, were all right there. Stories, memories charged with emotion, a collection of tales that formed who she was, on an ongoing creation of self.
She had seen the building of her own body, knew every nook and cranny of it, a vessel made to match her exactly, from the icy blue eyes, to the color if her hair, to the shape of her hips. Even the skin color, every freckle, even every scar from her days on Aperture as a test-subject. All part of who she was, each carrying a part of her history, each, according to GLaDOS, another place for her to plant kisses on.
The only difference were the materials which composed it, every single part designed to last forever.
Beside the pod, over on the control panel, GLaDOS. There was no way she would allow any of the others to do that. It was her test-subject, her human, her love, her responsibility. She gave Chell a small nod with her head and the old test-subject closed her eyes. She thought she would be more afraid, but at that last moment, she noticed she wasn't.
She trusted GLaDOS completely. She knew that the android herself didn't have all that confidence in herself and she could see in her eyes that she was terrified, but she knew what had to be done so that they could be together forever. As the pod closed, Chell threw her a kiss, which GLaDOS caught, held in her hand for a second, looking at it with a sad smile on her face, then cursed at herself for being so damn human. Some things never changed after all.
The android took a deep, simulated breath, then pressed the big red button in front of her.
The lights flickered, for a moment.
The humming that served as background noise for the whole facility stopped, for a moment.
GLaDOS' heart sunk, for a moment.
And then everything came back.
And the android opened her eyes.
Those piercing, icy blue eyes.
The android looked at her right arm, passing her eyes through her hands, analyzing her fingers. She raised her hand in front of her face, looking at it with interest, closing and opening it as if those were the first fingers she had ever seen.
A smile slowly crept up on her face.
She felt as the thick black cables detached from her back, allowing her to leave the pod and take her first steps. She was flooded by the sensations, such a wide variety, all so intense. Far more colors than before, far more smells and tastes. She could hear everything, sounds she never thought existed, in a beautiful symphony of noises.
She turned around, towards the sound of heavy breathing by her side, and looked at the android near the control panel, who watched her intently.
"Chell?" Came the unavoidable question, almost in a whisper.
What could she answer? Was she the same person than before? She approached the other pod, staring at the inert body in it. Still as it was 10 years before, all thanks to Aperture's tech, as young as in the day she had returned to those white halls.
"Chell?" Said the nervous voice.
What could she say? Did she still feel the same way? Did she love as she used to, think as she used to? Was the one who used to inhabit that corpse in front of her the same person as she was now? Was her mind her own, her heart, her very being, the same as just a few seconds before?
"Chell!?" Cried the AI, tears in her eyes, anguish in her stomach, as human as she could be.
What was the answer? Was the infinite and everlasting love she felt for GLaDOS the same as when she was made of flesh and bones? The same tenacity, the same stubbornness, the same unending confidence? Was the bursting flame that burned inside her spirit still there? Could she truly be called Chell?
The android crossed the room and planted a kiss on GLaDOS lips.
"Still alive." said Chell, completely new, yet the same as before.
Rebuilding Humanity was certainly a task like no other. At first, little by little, they began growing new androids, each bearing a completely different set of characteristics, each unique. While GLaDOS had figured out a way to make them grow inside of a person, just like one out of flesh and bone would, they had figured it would be best for them to wait to have a child of their own. They would have a bunch of kids running around soon, and they might get jealous if one of them was special.
And so they waited. The five of them raised the first few, which then helped grow the next bunch, and the next. Each of them completely different, in a multitude of differences and personalities. Eventually, the halls of Aperture were too small to contain all of them. Not in physical size, since the facility went for miles underground, but the new ones craved for fresh air and freedom.
The little shack in the middle of the wheat field became a village. The village became a city. The city became a metropolis, stretching for miles in every direction. And yet, nature was present everywhere. The green from the grass and the trees, revived from remains of ages past, and a colorful rainbow of flowers was present in nearly every garden, every square.
The air was pure. The water was clean. The food was tasty. Humanity was free.
The couple climbed the grassy hill as the soft spring breeze blew over their hairs, the smell of flowers flooding their lungs, one pushing a small baby carriage, the other carrying a picnic basket, holding the hand of a small four-year-old boy. Atop the hill, under the shadow of a large tree, was a statue carved in the whitest of marbles. On it, a man and a woman stood, holding hands side by side, looking up at the stars. It was simple, plain, but the couple enjoyed coming to this place, for all the memories it brought, even if some of them were not happy.
They sat at the shadow, extended a checkered piece of cloth over the grass, and opened the basket. It was old fashioned, of course, but they enjoyed it exactly for that reason. As the little kid released the grip on his mother's hand and ran to take a better look at small butterfly that had just landed on one of the tree's low branches, the couple admired the view. To watch the city from afar, see all the small dots that were the people come and go, to see their creation flourishing, the fruits of their hard work, was beautiful. Enough to bring a tear to the eye.
"You were always so soft."
"Shut up, fatty." She said, brushing the tear from her face.
"I weigh almost as much as you!"
"And that 'almost' makes all the difference in the world."
"If anything, it was the designers fault!"
"The original design was perfect, but it looks like you were so fat that some of it has followed you into this body."
"Great, what is next, brain damage jokes?"
The statue was a monument to those that had come before, the precursors. At its base, the date on which they had fallen, leaving nothing but a figment of what they once were, and an inscription written in a long gone language. "Ad Astra, Per Aspera". Through hardships, to the Stars.
"Will Atlas manage to come?"
"Doesn't look like it. P-Body said that he was on the brink of something big and didn't want to leave work. Looks like he and his crew are almost discovering a way to block others from getting into our universe."
"Really? That's amazing! Hey, have they decided on what they are going to call their baby?"
"Not yet. It is a girl, by the way. About damn time they had theirs."
"Do you remember when they finally got their bodies? After P-Body got hers, Atlas couldn't look her in the eye for a week!"
"Well, it was a surprise to everybody."
More than a monument, though, the statue remembered the things they had fought for until the very end and beyond, when only a single one of them existed. It was also a promise to them. A promise that they would fulfill the destiny that those made of flesh and bone hadn't been able to, and reach for the stars.
"I think they just got jealous of us getting another."
"Well, you had promised you would carry at least one of them. It still took so much time to convince you to let me knock you up that I almost gave up."
"The only time in my life I was fatter than you." The dread was visible on her face when she said those words. To have her own insults thrown back at her had been soul-crushing. "And you would have never given up, you know that."
"Of course not. And you looked astonishing as always even with that gigantic belly, I assure you. Also, don't act as if you didn't enjoy it." She said, putting a small kiss on her lips.
"I was enormous! I don't know how you can live, being fat like that for all your life! For me it was nine months and I thought I was going to explode!"
"Ha, ha. Very funny. Now, if you will excuse me, our other son has awoken."
To seal the memory, and to offer a worthy farewell to a vessel that had changed everything, that had carried such an amazing mind, the statue was above all else, a grave. To hold the mortal body of the last Human, the same one who was now talking happily under the shadow of the tree, trying to calm her son down so that he would go back to sleep.
"Oh for goodness sake! Give him to me!" Said the other one, reaching for the baby and cooing him, making him quickly return to sleep. "See? It is not that hard!"
"For you, maybe. I'd never have guessed you to be such a good mother."
"That's because you were always terrible with children."
"I was great with children! They loved me! You were always the scary one! They all came running at me saying 'Auntie Chell, auntie Chell! Auntie GLaDOS is being scary again!' Hey, is that Wheatley?"
The statue's location had been handpicked, so that it watched over the first city of Earth's new era. A city made to last, designed to be friendly to the planet while providing the most comfort for everyone, built right from the very start. A dream city, forever expanding.
"Chell. GLaDOS. Oh! So this is the little fella!"
"Dammit Wheatley, you moron! I had just made him sleep!"
"Hey, wasn't your fiancé going to come?"
"She got stuck at work, said she would arrive later. What about your girls? I thought they were going to be here too."
"The oldest has a test tomorrow and the other one has homework, so I let them stay studying."
"Shame. Is there anything to eat? I am starving!"
The world was not perfect, of course. It still had humans, after all. They made mistakes, they suffered, they loved, they hated. Above all else, they felt. Robots that grew from a small little thing to adult, from baby to a fully formed android, as envisioned by that same couple, so many years ago.
Yet it was the best of all worlds. It was a world where three friends could sit below a tree and talk without a care in the world. A world where they were free to do whatever they wanted, where reality was customizable. A world without death, bursting with life. A world with a future as bright as the midday sun. A world in peace.
And so it ends. A tale of Humanity and humanity, from its end to its new beginning. From war to peace. A story of androids, AIs, Personality Cores and Portal Guns. A journey of love, hate, kindness, sorrow, grief, friendship, pain, happiness and all the things in between. A saga of two friends, and later even more than that, who together, amidst the desert lands of apocalypse, down on the bowels of the earth on the most terrifying laboratory on the planet, found time to sit down and talk and, most importantly, act.
Talk about the world and everything that should be in it and then, seeing that it was not the way it should be, working hard to change it.
Talk about the past, the present and the future, seeing what was done wrong and planning so it wouldn't happen again.
Talk of themselves and the ones before, making sure their sacrifice was not forgotten.
Talk, above all else, of robots and women and, upon realizing that they were not different, being certain that they could be together forever.
And so they did.
Author's Note: I had no Idea what would happen when I started writing this fic. I had no idea of the kind words I would receive and the number of people who would read it. To tell the truth, I didn't even have the end planned until half-way through. I look back now and see how much my writing has improved and I can only thank you all for sticking with me until the end, and for all your reviews, that helped me improve so much.
And so it ends, I guess. It was a fun ride. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. I don't have plans for another fic soon, but who knows what the future holds. Maybe one day. See you guys then.