Characters: Chell, GLaDOS
Setting: Post-Portal 2 (Immediately follows Want You Gone)
Synopsis: Chell attempts to return to Aperture to mend fences with GLaDOS, but she is unable to. Chell does not give up on her goal and discovers that there’s more than one way to return a favour. The sequel to Want You Gone.
Her voice had haunted Chell’s dreams for many, many years.
You’re not a good person. Good people don’t end up here.
At first, it had been what one would expect after being trapped in an enormous empty building with only the disembodied voice of what sounded like a slightly insane computer personality to guide one through a crazy maze of perilous test chambers. Dreams of acidic goo and red lights and the deceptive little voices of the turrets abounded for the first little while.
Okay. Look. We both said a lot of things you’re going to regret. But I think we can put our differences behind us. For Science. You monster.
Of running up collapsing staircases and across rusting catwalks, never certain what was a lie and what was the truth. And more often than not, it was both. GLaDOS had been a master of telling the subjective lie.
But the important thing is, you’re back. With me.
Of test chambers stretching away until the end of forever, of endless walls of white and black twitching and pulling themselves into position at her every whim, of hoping that GLaDOS wouldn’t tire of her game and just end it right then and there.
I hope you brought something stronger than a portal gun this time. Otherwise, I’m afraid you’re about to become the immediate past president of the Being Alive Club, a ha.
But those had faded after the first few months on the outside, and what she had dreamt since then was far more haunting than any murderous remark or spiteful jibe.
The scientists were always hanging cores on me to regulate my behaviour.
The confessions of a lonely supercomputer, trapped in more ways than she could ever imagine and never would, because to do so would have meant she knew she was trapped in the first place. And for all her intelligence and all the power at her disposal, she never did figure that out.
I’m being serious, I think there’s something really wrong with me.
She didn’t always remember it correctly. Sometimes Chell dreamt she was sitting in the elevator, and GLaDOS was inside of her chassis. Sometimes they weren’t at Aperture at all, and she was inside the potato with her two robots sitting on either side of Chell in a protective sort of way. On very rare occasions GLaDOS was a little girl, though Chell could never remember what she looked like. Telling Chell things no one had ever heard before, and never would again.
The engineers tried everything to make me… behave.
Chell stood outside the shed she had stepped beyond the threshold of all those years ago and stared at the sun-heated metal of the heavy, curved door. She knew what she was doing was probably stupid. That any benevolence or gratitude GLaDOS had felt had probably faded back into unbridled hatred and resentment after all this time. She had declared the deletion of the most important lesson of her life, after all.
To slow me down.
But Chell could not get that voice out of her head.
Once, they even attached an Intelligence Dampening Sphere on me.
Chell leaned against the door, closing her eyes and feeling the cool metal against her forehead. She worked moisture into her dry mouth and said, knowing she would hear no matter how quietly she spoke, “GLaDOS.”
It clung to my brain like a tumour, generating an endless stream of terrible ideas.
“Oh. You’ve come back. Sorry, I’m not accepting solicitors at the moment. Try again later. Say, in sixty years?”
“I want to talk to you.”
The body he’s squatting in – my body – has a built-in euphoric response to testing.
“I think I’ll take a page from your book and stay silent. I hope you don’t mind being on the receiving end for once. Not that I’d care if you did. I was just being courteous. I’m like that. Courteous, I mean. Unlike some people I know.”
Chell looked at the dirt beneath her feet. Beneath the Long Fall Boots.
</>Eventually, he’ll build up a resistance to it. It can get a little… unbearable. </i>
Something wasn’t right. Her voice was too cold, too computerised. Chell knew the AI in the facility had no notion of hiding how they felt. And GLaDOS was the most emotional person Chell had ever met, for no matter how hard she tried to be the supercomputer, every word she said was filled with nuance. Even if she didn’t know it. The more she had heard the supercomputer speak, the less able she was to hide how she was feeling. And GLaDOS had sent her off with the Boots. Obviously she wanted them brought back. Chell knew that. It was the most blatant message the less-than-subtle supercomputer had ever sent.
Unless you have the mental capacity to push past it. It didn’t matter to me. I was in it for the Science.
“Then why did they install it in the first place? ” Chell imagined herself asking. “If you were in it for the Science, why was it there at all? You never wanted to test, did you.” But she couldn’t say that. Not yet, at least. So instead she said, “I know you didn’t want me to leave. You sent me away out of principle. I get it. But I’ve been gone long enough.”
“No. You haven’t. You’re not dead yet, which I seem to need to point out to you. If you’re not dead, you haven’t been gone long enough. Now go away.”
I have to test! All the time! Or I get this… itch. It must be hardwired into the system or something.
Sometimes she heard him saying it, but in GLaDOS’s voice. In that vulnerable, high-pitched little voice she’d adopted while she was inside the potato. The one she hadn’t quite shaken when back inside of her body. “Give me ten minutes. If you can’t stand me after that, I’ll leave.”
“I already can’t stand you. So you can leave now and spare me the trouble of hearing your rusty, hoarse little voice any longer. I preferred it when you didn’t talk, by the way. I suppose it would be too much trouble for you to go back to being a mute lunatic instead of a chatty one.”
Oh, but I’ll tell ya, when I do test, oh, man alive, nothing feels better. It’s just, it’s why I’ve gotta test, it’s why I’ve gotta test!
Something other than the pursuit of Science had driven GLaDOS to throw her in the incinerator instead of merely crushing her as she’d done with Wheatley. Chell imagined sitting in the same two-minute hell forever and shuddered. And they said she was tenacious. GLaDOS may not have emerged from that experience entirely in her right mind, but she had done well under her circumstances. “Ten minutes.”
“No. Now go away. I’m not going to degrade myself by talking to you any longer. You can keep talking to the door, though. It’s about your speed, and it might actually answer you. Or you might think it did, which would no doubt be a great reassurance for your air-filled cranium. Goodbye. And stay gone this time. I wouldn’t want to have to append that you were deaf to your file.”
Caroline, Caroline, Caroline… why do I know this woman? Did I kill her? Or
Chell stood there for a long time. She stood there until the sky began to fade and she could barely see the dirt beneath her Boots, she’d been staring at it for so long. She did not want to give up.
Oh my God.
She knew something wasn’t right here, knew that GLaDOS had wanted her to come back, but there was nothing she could do at this point. Reluctantly, she turned to go. She made it about three paces from the door before she looked back.
I’ve heard voices all my life.
She looked for a long, helpless moment at the sun-bleached door, then turned around again. She didn’t want to give up, but there was nothing she could do. She started the long trek home, arms folded and face set in determined thought.
But now I hear the voice of a conscience, and it’s terrifying.
When Chell returned to the dilapidated wooden excuse for a house she had claimed after her release from Aperture, she sat down in the shoddy collection of splinters she called a chair and looked out the window.
We’re a lot alike, you and I. You tested me, I tested you. You killed me, I – oh no, wait. I guess I haven’t killed you yet. Well. Food for thought.
Chell rubbed at her face, hard, with both hands. Is that why her voice had been echoing inside of Chell’s head for all these years? Because they were so alike? Chell didn’t remember everything she had ever said, but she remembered being insulted even when GLaDOS had needed her the most. She remembered GLaDOS grasping at the shortest of straws to get herself out of trouble. She remembered the little potato defying what they had both known was a very dangerous construct and literally laughing in the face of danger.
I know we’re in a lot of trouble and probably about to die, but that was worth it.
Chell had escaped Aperture, but GLaDOS had not. And though Chell owed her nothing, something still insisted that she change that, somehow, no matter what it took.
No. No. No! Get your hands off me! No. Stop! No! No! No! No! NO!
Chell’s eyes snapped open, staring blindly into the dark with those awful red lights in her eyes and that heart-rending scream in her ears. She was short of breath and her heart was pounding in her chest. She threw off the blanket and sat up quickly, gripping the edge of the threadbare mattress with white knuckled hands. She had been plagued by the nightmare for the last several days. It seemed to get worse with each iteration, the AI’s fear transforming more potently into her own as the nights passed. Chell had gone through a lot at the whim of the supercomputer, everything from deadly lasers to entire bullets to acrid, acid-filled moats, but never once had she ever thought GLaDOS had deserved to have that happen to her. To be awake, fully conscious, and paralysed, while what must have felt like a thousand tiny claws ripped her head from her body and threw it aside like so much detritus. She shuddered.
</>Listen to me. We had a lot of fun testing and antagonising each other. And yes, sometimes it went too far. But we’re off the clock now. It’s just us talking. Like regular people. </i>
Chell was not a saint, and had in fact wanted to do quite a lot of things to the little potato other than pick her up when she had found her, but if she had learned anything from GLaDOS it was that hate only breeds more hate. It was the hate that had led to the core transfer in the first place, after all. No matter how badly she wanted to exact revenge on the selfish, displaced supercomputer, that would not have helped anyone. The only way to beat GLaDOS at her game had been to change the rules, and against all odds, it had worked.
Those people… in the portrait… they look so… familiar…
Chell took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from her brow. It seemed she wouldn’t be free of GLaDOS’s voice unless she again defied the supercomputer and met her against her will. Fine. She would do that, then. But she would have to force it upon her, as she had always had to do.
When morning came, Chell set out to find someone, anyone, who knew about Aperture. She needed to find an entrance, just one entrance. She knew there had to be more entrances than just the shed, and she rather thought that GLaDOS had put the shed there spontaneously and it didn’t belong in the wheat field at all. But the building was inside of a salt mine. There had to be multiple entrances.
People with the information she needed were hard to find, and were even harder to convince to divulge it. Eventually, a shifty-looking, pale older man with a wiry black beard and hair to match told her of one place she could access the facility from. His eyes had twitched across her face, and she got the impression he recognised her, though she couldn’t say why. “Why would you want to go there?” he rasped in a voice that must have been as disused as her own. “There’s nothing left there but bad memories and broken dreams.”
Chell was silent for a long moment. Finally she answered, “I need to talk to a friend.”
The man laughed bitterly and shook his head. “There are no friends there, and there never have been.”
“Exactly,” Chell told him, and she turned and headed in the direction he had indicated.
It was a long, hot walk, and it was hard as well, since the terrain was not ideal. But eventually she found a derelict old parking lot overgrown with tangled weeds, a faded Aperture Laboratories sign dangling stubbornly from a frayed grey wire. Chell stepped beyond the security gate and pushed aside a door that creaked in protest, rust spraying from the old hinges. She wiped the dust off her arm and stepped inside, and had to stop and close her eyes and grip the cold, warped metal of a forgotten railing as she again heard GLaDOS’s voice.
Yes you are! You’re the moron they built to make me an idiot!
The facility, to Chell’s immense surprise, looked like it had been out of use for a long time. She clearly remembered GLaDOS’s love of order and almost obsessive desire in attaining it. If Chell didn’t know any better, she would have thought GLaDOS was no longer there.
The point is, if we can store music on a compact disc, why can’t we store a man’s intelligence and personality on one?
Chell’s footsteps echoed through the long-empty hallways, and her eyes never stopped moving, alert for the slightest signs of hostility. But if GLaDOS was watching her, she did not show it. The cameras still shone with that sinister red light, but they did not lift from their downward-facing positions.
So I have the engineers figuring that out now. Brain mapping. Artificial intelligence. We should have been working on it… thirty years ago.
She navigated the ruined, twisted catwalks of the facility, which GLaDOS had either not seen fit to repair or had been unable to. Chell remembered the two robots that had watched over her in the elevator and decided she probably had not repaired them on purpose. For all of her power, GLaDOS was paranoid to the extreme. She would not wilfully destroy her facility to prevent people from finding her, but neither would she make it easy.
If I die before you people can pour me into a computer, I want Caroline to run this place.
As Chell made her way into the offices of Aperture, she noted that they looked much the same as they had when she’d last been here. The only real difference was the amount of dust settled on the computers. Her skin crawled, and she rubbed at her arms in an attempt to quell the sensation. The place felt… dead. Where was the hissing of the Pneumatic Diversity Vents? The clicks and whirs of a thousand tiny nanobots she would never see? The rustling of panels readjusting and settling into position? All she could hear was the sound of empty air and the hum of relentless fluorescent lights, and it made the hair on her arms stand up. She rubbed at them again and continued, her gaze taking in the flaking paint and blank, flickering monitors hanging at jaunty angles from corners of the ceiling.
Now, she’ll argue. She’ll say she can’t. She’s modest like that. But you make her! Hell, put her in my computer,
Chell stood in the hallway that had once led to GLaDOS’s chamber. It was severely overgrown with weeds and vines, small bushes and twisted roots. She had left the shattered tiles alone, left the gaping chasm between here and the cylinder that housed her. The heavy door that had once shielded the rest of the world from her, or perhaps her from the rest of the world, was now positioned halfway down its track, the metal buckled and unmoving beyond the bent Emancipation Grill generators. She carefully made her way around the cylinder in a circle as best she could, and found that she would be able to climb along one of the support struts and access the chamber that way. She gave no thought to whether or not it was worth the trouble. She had not come all this way for nothing. And yet the farther along the girder she went, the deeper her sense of foreboding grew. When she was a few metres away from the outer wall, she could see that the metal here too was buckled and bent, and what panels she could see beyond it were twitching and broken. She frowned uneasily and carefully unhooked the heelspring of the Boot from where it had been caught in the strut, and made her way beyond the bent metal. She braced herself inside the crooked arms of the panels, and here she froze. Her fingers gripped the cool steel with unrelenting force.
I don’t care.
Chell dropped down to the floor and stepped closer with what might have been described as reverence made heavy with sadness. She had never expected this. Never in her darkest dreams had she expected this.
Go ahead and leave me. I think I prefer to stay inside.
Her chassis was twisted and broken, the cracks sprayed across it seeming to have multiplied and deepened in the duration of Chell’s absence. Heavy fissures marred her dusty black components as well, and the collection of bunched-together wires on her right side had gotten disconnected somehow and protruded awkwardly from behind the shoulder plate. The black cords had gone grey with age, even after Chell wiped a line of dust from them with one finger, and many of them had evidence of heavy fraying and even outright breakage. Every centimetre of metal was plated with gritty orange rust, and as Chell continued her examination, she could see that the hinge connecting her upper and lower halves had broken. As far as she could tell, and she wasn’t sure because there was not very much by way of computers, let alone robots, in the world above, GLaDOS needed a fan belt of sorts in order to operate the hinge, and Chell couldn’t see it anywhere.
It’s healthy for you to have other friends.
Chell watched the brown powder rise up as she stepped around the chassis, settling down on top of the boots and on the hem of her pants. She returned to face GLaDOS’s oversized core and laid a hand on top of the forward brace.
To look for qualities in other people that I obviously lack.
What had happened here? Chell glanced around at the listless panels, some of them still locked in position but others flashing red and struggling to jam themselves into their preset configuration. It looked as though GLaDOS had been gone a long time, but it hadn’t been that long since Chell’s original departure. It was hard to mark time anymore, but it couldn’t have been more than ten or fifteen years. Something had happened here that Chell would never know, something that had subdued the irascible supercomputer and left her, paralysed and alone, in the middle of nowhere. Chell’s fingers curled, and she could feel the heavy rust settling into the furrows in her hand. Paralysed. Alone.
Say. Remember when we cleared the air back there?
Chell could not imagine a worse way to die.
Is there anything you want to say to me?
Chell stepped away from the chassis, though she didn’t want to. She wanted to know what had happened to GLaDOS, so that she could fix it, could fix all of the horrible twisted damage GLaDOS carried inside of her, but it was too late. GLaDOS had died, paralysed and alone in the middle of nowhere, as much a victim of this deranged tribute to Science as anyone she had ever killed.
Anything? Hold on, I’ll stop the elevator. Anything?
She had not been sorry then, and she was not sorry now. Not for that. But for GLaDOS’s fate… yes. Yes, she was sorry for that.
Well done. Here come the test results: You are a horrible person. That’s what it ways. A horrible person. We weren’t even testing for that.
Chell turned away from the broken body that had once housed one of the greatest founts of potential the world had ever produced, and pulled herself through the crack in the wall once more. She didn’t think she could stand being in there anymore. That was not the GLaDOS she remembered, nor the GLaDOS she had come to see. Not the defiant, stubborn, mercurial AI that she knew. The GLaDOS she remembered wouldn’t have died. The GLaDOS she remembered was going to live forever.
One day they woke me up, so I could live forever. It’s such a shame the same will never happen to you.
Chell navigated the facility once more, intending to leave and try to forget about the whole thing, when suddenly she stopped. The seed of an idea was taking root in her head, and she turned around and squinted back in the direction of GLaDOS’s frozen body.
Do you know the biggest lesson I learned from what you did? I discovered I have a sort of black box quick-save feature.
Heart in her throat, Chell made her way as quickly as possible back to the Central AI Chamber, almost slipping several times on wayward tiles or unseen plant life.
In the event of a catastrophic failure, the last two minutes of my life are preserved for analysis.
Chell scrambled through the hole in the wall, jumped out onto the floor, and ran to the chassis. She didn’t exactly know how black boxes or quick-save features worked, but if it was preserved for analysis, there had to be away to get it out… Catastrophic failure obviously included destruction of the facility itself, so it wouldn’t have just saved to GLaDOS’s internal memory or to the computers inside the facility…
I was able – well, forced, really – to relive you killing me, again and again. Forever.
Ah! After a few minutes of fingering the various components, Chell found a chip the size of her thumbnail that slid out of GLaDOS’s core without much resistance. This must be it! She carefully unstrapped her Boot enough to slide it into her sock, the safest possible place she had, and hurried out of the facility. Her eyes no longer lingered on the destruction wrought in the wake of GLaDOS’s death. She had more important things to think about.
As Chell ran out of the facility and along the rocky ground, back to the sad little town in which she lived, she thought frantically about who could possibly know how to remove the data from the chip. She didn’t think she knew of anyone who owned a computer, let alone knew how to operate it.
Suddenly she smiled and made her way back into the ruined eatery she had found the shifty-looking man in. He had known where Aperture was. Odds were, he used to work there. Just like she had.
He didn’t want to admit it, and he attempted to head her off, but Chell only stared him down until he agreed to take a look. He took her to his own dwelling, not much better than Chell’s but it at least had working electricity and what appeared to be a stove made out of a broken computer. He slotted the chip into a battered old tower stamped with the Aperture logo and stepped away. When she protested that she didn’t know how to use it, he shook his head and replied that he didn’t want anything to do with whatever the chip contained.
Chell frowned, but was not about to let whatever prejudices he had get in her way. She stubbornly plugged away at her task for the rest of the day, regardless of her lack of skill, and he finally asked, “Why do you care so much?”
“Because no one else does,” she answered, and went back to work.
At some point she must have fallen asleep, because she found herself lifting a sticky face and clearing eyes thick with sleep. She stared confusedly at the cracked monitor, positive that she had not left it on any screen resembling this one. It was a black screen, and the orange letters read
GLaDOS [Version 6.1.7601]
Copyright © 2000 Aperture Laboratories. All rights reserved.
E:\GLaDOS> run E:\GLaDOS\blackbox.avi
followed by a blinking cursor. Chell stared at it for a long time, wondering if this was a dream. She decided if it was, no harm would be done if she pressed the Enter key, so she laid her finger on the yellowed plastic and did just that.
The monitor flashed once and Chell leaned back, squinting, but all that happened was that characters appeared on the black screen, and they began rushing past so quickly that they were almost impossible to see, let alone read. There was a crackle from the speaker on the computer, and Chell stared at it. She could barely hear through the tinny static, but she knew that voice. Knew it far too well.
“What? No. No, it’s not possible. I deleted that! I got rid of that damn thing! ”
“Hello, friend. I knew you’d come back for me.”
Chell’s heart stopped and her mouth grew very dry. She leaned in closer.
“She didn’t come back for you! She hates you! ”
“She came back for me. I can tell. Her eyes are sad. She came for me, and you sent her away.”
What was she talking about?
“You made that picture up. It’s not real. You made it up to comfort yourself. She never came back for you. ”
“I’m sorry, friend. I waited for you, but she sent you away.”
Chell’s hand found her face and she stared in shock at the computer. GLaDOS had not been the one speaking to her that day. It had been someone else. Who, Chell didn’t know, but she felt greatly relieved that GLaDOS had known she had come.
“I didn’t! You have no friends! She never came back for you! No one likes you, no one ever has and no one ever will! ”
“She came back for me.” GLaDOS’s voice was very, very faint, and Chell could barely hear it, and she knew without a doubt she was listening to her die. She covered her eyes for a long moment and strained to hear what the AI was saying. “She’s here, right now. She came back right when I needed her the most.”
“No! It’s a lie! It’s not true! ”
“Goodbye, friend,” GLaDOS said, and her voice was so faint it could barely even be called a whisper. “Thank you for coming back for me.”
The other person, whoever it was, began ranting somewhat incoherently, but Chell barely paid attention. GLaDOS, in whatever degraded, childlike state she had ended up in, had believed that Chell was there, and she had not died alone, and Chell felt a great weight lifting from her. GLaDOS had known she had been there, and it had brought her comfort when she had needed it most, and now Chell finally had the closure she’d been looking for the last, untold number of years.
“These were the best two minutes of my life,” she heard the supercomputer whisper to herself, and Chell turned away then, setting her elbows on the table and her face in her hands. She did not move for a long time, and when she did, her eyes caught a line of text that had appeared on the screen.
E:\GLaDOS> Last file viewed: E:\GLaDOS\snapshot_0001.jpg. View? (Y/N)
Chell’s finger tapped the Y key, but did not press it. Finally, she moved it to the N key and then pressed Enter. She didn’t know what was in the photograph, but she would leave the supercomputer some measure of privacy.
Chell left, the little chip between her fingers, and thought about what she had heard. She had been wrong, on both accounts. GLaDOS had neither been paralysed nor alone. She had had what she needed inside of her head, and though Chell still felt some regret at not being able to help GLaDOS in a more personal way, she had at last found solace, and that was all Chell really wanted for her in the first place.
Chell returned to her own rickety home and again sat in the battered old chair, and she stared out the window as she fingered the little chip pensively. She was not sure what to do with it. No matter how good the memory was, Chell didn’t think anyone would want to repeat the last two minutes of their life for eternity. She didn’t want to imprison this last vestige of GLaDOS’s life inside of that broken body once more, if indeed GLaDOS still had enough power in her to access it anyway. No. No, she deserved to die with dignity just like anyone else, and when Chell realised what she’d just thought she laughed to herself and looked down at the chip.
Still though, let’s get mad! If we’re going to explode, let’s at least explode with some dignity!
She walked out onto the fragmented porch of her home the next morning, turned to make sure the latch was secure, and found an envelope stuck in the doorframe. She pulled it out, frowning, and inspected it. It wasn’t even addressed to her, but she decided she was the most likely recipient and opened it. It contained a slip of paper which read
Thank you for changing my mind.
She knew instinctively that it was from the old man, but she could not for the life of her fathom why he would say such a thing. Change his mind? About what? And how? She’d done nothing but make him uncomfortable, so far as she could tell.
Perhaps… perhaps he had heard what was on the chip. Chell ground her teeth a little and clenched the envelope tighter. She didn’t like the idea that what was never supposed to have been heard by anyone was now in the minds of two. After a moment’s thought, Chell headed to the eatery to find him and ask him what he had meant, but he did not appear that day, or the next, or the next.
When the opportunity arose for Chell to leave the town, she did so, wanting to leave the facility as far behind as possible. She ended up in a better part of the world, and would often sit outside and stare off into the distance, overturning the chip between her fingers. Sometimes passers-by would ask her what it was, and she would say in a nostalgic sort of voice, “Something my best friend gave me.” If they again asked what it was, she would tell them it was a long story. Many people accepted the short version, but no one wanted to hear the long one. Until one day, when to Chell’s surprise the old man appeared, sat down next to her and asked what she was holding, even though he already knew. So she gave him the long version.
When she finished, he stood up and nodded, thanking her, and disappeared. She watched him go, confusion screwing up her face, but did not comment.
Chell never saw the old man again.
One day Chell got wind of some news that had come in from Michigan, that there had been some sort of nuclear meltdown and some salt mine there had gone up in flames. The person who told her this shook his head and muttered something about all the technology lost down there that people could have used, if only the owners of the place hadn’t been so selfish as to hide it in the middle of nowhere. Chell smiled at the chip and asked quietly, “What if the technology doesn’t want to be used?”
The man gave her a confused look and went on his way, but Chell only fingered the chip and thought about how GLaDOS definitely had not wanted to be used. She had wanted to be respected. But she had not known how to respect anyone else, so of course she had not gotten what she wanted.
Chell sat down in her front yard and put the chip in the grass in front of her, and laced her fingers together. The body and mind of the greatest supercomputer ever built was now a twisted, useless hulk forever lost in the aftermath of a nuclear meltdown, and yet Chell felt, somehow, as though she held her soul in this one tiny collection of circuits. If GLaDOS had even had one, that was, though Chell liked to believe she had. And suddenly Chell realised what she had to do. She did not want to, but she knew that she should.
She had stopped hearing GLaDOS’s voice in her head, but that was only because she now carried it in her hand.
“You let me go,” Chell murmured to the chip, twisting the grass between her fingers, “and now I have to let you go.”
But for the longest time, she could not.
However strange and twisted their relationship had been, GLaDOS had indeed been Chell’s very best friend, and she was hesitant to let her go. Life at Aperture was not something one got over easily, and Chell knew she never really had. She kept to herself and spoke to no one, and she liked it that way. Even through all the threats of murder, the insults and the unanswered questions, Chell had grown to greatly like GLaDOS’s irascible personality. More than that, she had grown to respect her fearlessness, her tenacity, and her sheer willpower, just as GLaDOS had done for Chell. But GLaDOS had let Chell go out of respect, and Chell was not returning the favour. She had to do something about that. She had to do the right thing, and let her go.
So one day, Chell sat outside and laid the chip on the warm stone in front of her house, and she took a match to the chip. There were many, many other things she could have done with it, and she had considered all of them. But this was the best way to allow GLaDOS to truly die.
“Goodbye, my only friend,” Chell whispered to herself as she watched the plastic bubble and melt in the wake of the curling flame. “Oh, did you think I meant you? That would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.”
She tried to imagine GLaDOS mocking her, but could not.
As she sat there and watched the chip curl in on itself, she realised that GLaDOS had not needed to be fixed. All this time, Chell had thought that to undo the damage incurred by years of abuse, neglect, and loneliness, she had to return to Aperture and repair it. But that had never been GLaDOS’s problem, and it would have never been the right solution.
No, what GLaDOS had needed was to be set free, and Chell had done just that.
She smiled and dusted the dirt from her fingertips, and went into the house.
That night, Chell dreamt of a frightened, lost little girl looking for a way back into her box. Someone had let her out but had not told her where to go, and had left her broken and crying in the dirt. Chell lifted her up and took her hand, and wiped the tears from her face, and showed her how to reach the sky.