Not long after they left Aperture Laboratories, there was an emergency.
Sirens blared as all of the base’s alarms went off at once. Security cameras were swinging wildly, computer screens were scrolling through long lines of code, and even common appliances were going haywire.
“Engie! Engie! ” Scout called out.
“I know there’s a problem, stringbean, you don’t have to holler,” Engie called back.
“Oh.” Scout said. “Well, have you seen this?” Scout jabbed his thumb at the bank of computer monitors.
“No, I was gettin’ to that,” Engie said, his steps slowing as he read the large warning on the screens: DATA BREACH .
“Aw, hell,” he said, quickly taking a seat in front of the keyboard, fingers flying.
A voice with a distinct English accent came into the room. “What’s all the commotion about?” Wheatley asked, being carried by P-Body, the orange robot that they’d rescued/taken from Aperture Laboratories.
“Dammit, boy, what’re they doin’ here? Didn’t someone lock them in the shed?” Engie scowled.
“The lock failed. Good thing, too, I was getting bored in there, though I don’t know about the other two.”
“We left you a radio!” Scout protested.
“Still, I much preferred when I was housed in your quarters,” Wheatley said.
“Scout, that robot was filling your head right up with garbage,” Demo chimed in.
“It made you more annoying and arrogant than usual.” Spy commented. By this point, the whole team was crowded in the computer room.
“Hey!” Both Scout and the robot cried out at the same time.
“I don’t know, Scout having a friend of his own got him off of our backs. And the other two entertained Pyro,” said Medic, playing devil’s advocate.
“But he gave terrible advice,” Sniper said, “Or do ye not remember the fried chicken incident?”
Scout’s ears went red. That incident was the crowning jewel in a series of unfortunate accidents and the reason why it was decided in a five to four vote that the robots would only come out when the control room for the base was locked and guarded.
Which it wasn’t now, but Wheatley and P-Body— and now, Atlas too— were present anyway.
“Uh-oh,” said Wheatley, mechanical blue eye looking over the screen. “ She’s messing with your systems right here.” Everyone knew what Wheatley meant when he said ‘she’.
“What are you talking about, she’s dead,” Scout commented. “Pulled the cable myself.”
“You pulled out one cable. One cable. That’s not dead, that’s just unplugged. And she has redundancy systems ready. You couldn’t have taken her down for more than forty-eight hours. Probably less than twenty-four.”
Silence. Then everybody in the room turned to face the core-turned-sapper.
“And why didn’t you mention this before?” Medic arched an eyebrow.
“Didn’t come up!” Wheatley cheerily replied, unaware how much the humans in the room wanted to smash him. “You didn’t really think you could defeat a core that easily, could you? We’re very hard to contain. Exhibit A, right in front of you.”
Just then, Miss Pauling came striding into the room. She could feel the thick tension in the air. “What’s going on?” She said, commanding voice cutting clear on the sirens, which were slowly winding down as Engie shut them off one by one.
“That she-bot from the labs is still alive,” Sniper said.
“No she’s not, I saw Scout—” Miss Pauling began.
“He didn’t do anything except hinder her for a few hours until she could get a service bot to plug her back in,” Wheatley said. “I can’t believe you all thought it was that easy.”
“Oh, no .” She said. It had been three weeks since they had disabled the robot— and if it was really only temporary, she must have been lying in wait.
“What do we do?” Demo wondered aloud, quiet and serious.
“We stop her, again .” Pauling was quite firm. “She’s obviously trying something.”
“But if we go back there, we’re just giving her what she wants! She probably expects this.” Scout said
Pauling bit her lip. “You’re right.” She said. “We have to stop her, but I can’t think of any way that we’re not walking straight into her trap.”
“You could always call in an expert,” Wheatley said. “There was a woman, a little brain-damaged, who took her down almost for good, until I… never mind that,” he said.
“Brain damaged?” Medic asked, quirking an eyebrow.
“Well she didn’t talk,” Wheatley said.
“Well, neither does Heavy, most of the time, but he’s fine. I mean, I guess,” Scout said, and everyone turned to look at their Heavy Weapons Guy, who shuffled awkwardly against the wall.
“Anyway, you said she defeated this woman before?” Spy said. He decided to not prod at what the extenuating circumstances were that allowed GLaDOS to come back to life again.
“Yeah,” said Wheatley. “The first test subject to walk out alive. And I’ll admit, I did give her a few problems of my own.”
“How so?” Engie asked.
“Well, you see, I managed to slip into the giant mainframe that our current opponent is occupying at this moment. It makes you go a bit power-hungry. Man, it was a rush, I miss it.”
“Then what happened? Asked Demo, warily.
“Then, well…” Wheatley began.
“Don’t bother,” said Spy. “You tried to kill her, didn’t you?”
“Well, yes.” Wheatley said. “But I’m sure she’ll still help us! Just… maybe don’t send me in as the face of diplomacy.”
Looks were exchanged. “We’re going to need someone who knows their way around,” Sniper pointed out. “And I don’t trust the box or those other two bots to try and do it.”
“Maybe we can locate her.” Miss Pauling said. “What was her name?”
“Erm. Chell. It was Chell.” Wheatley said.
“And her last name?
“That’s a weird last name,” Scout commented.
“No, it was actually redacted. Crossed out. I don’t know what it was.” Wheatley said.
More looks were exchanged.
“It don’t matter, ‘Chell’ ain’t a very common last name anyways.” Engie said. Suddenly, he started typing very fast.
“You got an idea, Engie?” Miss Pauling asked.
“Yeah. I’m digging through her files— well, the ones I could pull from what I salvaged before we left, anyway. Lots of places still aren’t rigged with computers, but I have facial recognition software. So take the photo, let the machine do its work, and… bingo.” He said. The words ONE MATCH were emblazoned above a still image of Chell checking into:
“The Teufort Motel,” Demo said, recognizing the place.
“This was a week ago, maybe she’s still there.” Engie said.
Miss Pauling clapped her hands. “Alright, uniforms on and firearms in their holsters, we leave in thirty minutes. We’re on a diplomacy mission, and then we’re going on the offensive.”
“More like a suicide mission, at that point.” Spy, ever the pessimist, whispered in what he thought was under his breath, until Pauling turned around and glared at him.
“Come on, guys,” she said. “Let’s do this.”