Helpless- Chapter three (Ending)
(This chapter includes both GLaDOS and Chell’s prospective)
Walking into the lab, Chell noted how nearly nothing had changed since her departure. There were still remnants of gel coating scattred on the floor, alongside bits of metal scrap and a few disabled turrets. The air was cold and artificial as ever, but Chell didn’t mind, considering she had dedicated most of her time outside to taking in as much oxygen and sun as humanly possible. She was set for quite a while.
Once she was done noting the condition of the lab, Chell took a seat near a control panel. It was littered with buttons, most of which were broken. Oh, how she missed this place. Sinking into the chair, Chell spun it around so she was face-to-monitor with GLaDOS. Her warm orange light covered the human, prompting a faint smile.
“Stop moving, I have to scan you.”
The AI’s voice sounded a few octaves lower than before. Hearing the solemn tone reminded Chell the reason she was back at Aperture. For a moment, she could have sworn she forgot about her pain. For a moment, she got to look at GLaDOS and not be in any immediate danger. It was a nice feeling.
GLaDOS might have been the smartest operating system known to man, but Chell always managed to perplex her. She looked like she had early symptoms of the plague, yet, she was smiling. She’s always been a lunatic. Maybe if the circumstances of their reunion were different, GLaDOS would be happy too. But not right now. Keeping her light on Chell, GLaDOS finished up the scan.
‘No, that can’t be right…’
GLaDOS retracted back closer to the ceiling. She didn’t like any of the numbers she was seeing. She wanted it to be a mistake, but she doesn’t make mistakes like this. Calculations were the thing one she could always get right, but just this once, GLaDOS was practically praying to be wrong. Caught up in her own head, GLaDOS failed to realize Chell was attempting to get her attention.
Waving to the machine, Chell was waiting for GLaDOS to say something, trying to get her attention. The lack of commentary, insults and distance between the two was incredibly worrying. It had been at least twenty whole minutes and Chell hadn’t received any form hazing from GLaDOS. It’s not like Chell wanted GLaDOS to insult her, but right now, her silence wasn’t a good sign.
Finally, the AI’s monotone voice broke the heavy air surrounding them.
“I would like to run some tests, and before you try and leave, these tests won’t put your life in danger.”
Chell scowled. The last thing she wanted to do was take a test. Couldn’t she and GLaDOS talk without one of them having to solve a puzzle? Chell didn’t have the answer to that. With a huff, the human crossed her arms, but nodded reluctantly.
“For the first test, run from one side of the room and back. Should be easy.”
Chell noted her procters emphasis on the words “should be”. Though, she wasn’t sure GLaDOS could really call this a test. This seemed to be more of a task. Chell tried to do as she was told, but she didn’t make it very far. Just fifteen seconds of running left the human panting and kneeling on the floor. GLaDOS couldn’t bring herself to look. It pained her to see what she had done to Chell. It filled her with regret to see her only friend so sick.
After all the tests she ran, after everything the AI had done to this poor girl, she’d think this wouldn’t matter to her. But it did. Blaming Wheatley was easy when the numbers weren’t right in front of her. GLaDOS could no longer cling to the idea that it was just Wheatley’s testing, or Cave’s inventions. She was smarter than that, and so was Chell. GLaDOS knew she brought Chell into this, it was becoming obvious there was no one else to blame.
It was hard to speak with so many thoughts bouncing around in her system, and the last thing she wanted right now was tell Chell the extensive list of problems that only seemed to be getting longer the more GLaDOS looked at the former test subject. She had done enough damage, telling her would only make it worse.
Lifting herself off of the floor, Chell placed herself directly in GLaDOS’s field of vision. She wanted to know what GLaDOS was thinking. Right now, the test results were no longer important to Chell. She wasn’t stupid, Chell knew there wasn’t going to be any good news today, and she knew GLaDOS was why.
The AI closed the shutters on her front camera. GLaDOS didn’t understand why she felt so bad. She deleted Caroline, she shouldn’t feel this way anymore. Why does it always come back to her?! This human, of whom she thought so insignificant became the center of her thoughts and feelings.
“Chell, I’m…I’m so sorry.”
It took a few seconds to process that statement. Even in her most wild fantasy, none of them included the word “sorry”. Before Chell even had a chance to think about how sick she must be for GLaDOS to be apologising, she continued with her statement.
“You didn’t want this…you didn’t deserve this, but here we are.” The AI’s voice was shaking, like she was holding back tears. Even if GLaDOS couldn’t cry, she sure felt like it.
GLaDOS was cut short when she felt a warmth from her front monitor. Opening her shutters, she was met with the unexpected sight of Chell clinging to her, for reasons she couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
“What are you doing?! Are you really so crazy that you’d embrace the very thing that took nearly 15 years off of your lifespan?!”
Wasting no time, Chell took a sharp breath in and pressed her forehead on the AI. “Please GLaDOS, don’t ruin the moment. Just let me forgive you.”
Ignoring the sheer shock of hearing Chell’s voice, the AI tried to understand what she meant. “Forgive me..?”
Chell nodded her head. “Yes, I forgive you.”
GLaDOS didn’t respond after that. Instead, she just let the human cling to her. Words didn’t mean as much as this embrace did. Chell wasn’t in fear of GLaDOS attempting to hurt her, and GLaDOS wasn’t worried Chell trying to disassemble her. It was somber, but it was serene. Both GLaDOS and Chell needed time to process what had just happened, and none of it was going to be easy to think about.
Still hanging onto GLaDOS, Chell started to understand everything that was happening. All that testing, always running from danger. Chell didn’t think about the consequences then, but now she was living it. Feeling so helpless was crushing, but it didn’t have to be this way. Pulling away from the embrace, Chell held the sides of GLaDOSs monitor so she was still close, but far enough away to see her face.
“You know I won’t make it on my own outside.”
As challenging as that reality was, GLaDOS knew Chell was right. The outside is too barren to support someone as sick as Chell. She needed medical attention, or at least a stable environment. The least the AI could do for Chell was help her get better. GLaDOS was and will always be the smartest operating system, and given the current resources left at Aperture, recovery, or at least improvement, wasn’t totally off the table.
“No, you wouldn’t. That’s why you’re going to stay here, and why I’m going to help you.”
Of course Chell wanted to think GLaDOS was only helping her get better to ease her conscience, but it felt so different. This wasn’t deceitful. If anyone could detect deceit, it was Chell, but just this once she trusted the help offered to her. Maybe, just this once, it’d all be okay.