Portal: Convince Me
Characters: Chell, GLaDOS, Wheatley
Setting: Chapter Five: The Escape
Synopsis: Maybe it’s time for Chell to have a say in the matter...
Chell had her hand on the button.
“Go on,” urged Wheatley from his position in the core receptacle. “Press it! We’re so close!”
But that was the thing that was giving her pause to begin with. They were close. To what? Up until now, she had followed his plans because she hadn’t had much choice. And now, finally, the choice was all hers.
The obvious thing to do, of course, was to press the Stalemate Resolution Button, transfer Wheatley into the chassis, and the both of them would be on their way. But as simple as that decision was, it also… wasn’t.
There was something about Wheatley she didn’t trust. She hadn’t had much of a chance to figure out what it was but now, with both robots held in thrall by her inaction, she had all the time in the world.
Hand held lightly atop the button just in case, Chell’s brows came together as she attempted to think calmly despite the urgency of the situation.
“Oh no… yes, hello! No, we’re not stopping! Don’t make eye contact whatever you do… No thanks! We’re good! Appreciate it!”
He’d said that as though the turret had asked for his help before, and he had ignored it. And yet he had taken Chell’s help as a given from the moment he’d seen her. As if he’d felt entitled to it.
“I talked my way onto the nanobot work crew rebuilding this shaft. They are really small, so - What? Jerry, you can’t fire me for that! Yes, Jerry - Or, maybe your prejudiced worksite should have accommodated a nanobot of my size. Thanks for the hate crime, Jer! See you in court, mate.”
Claiming to be the victim of a hate crime because he’d been fired for failing at a job he’d lied his way into?
“What are you waiting for?” called out the Wheatley across the room. “If you didn’t notice, we’re all waiting on you, here! Waiting on you. Patiently. Oh so patiently. While you sort out whatever it is you’ve got to sort out over there. Which is nothing. Since you’re going to press that button. So press it!”
She tapped on finger on it impatiently, but gently.
“I almost got a job down here in Manufacturing. Ended up giving me the worst possible job, tending to all the smelly humans.”
Every time he’d mentioned humans, it was as an insult. And why would not getting this job mean he was given the worst job instead?
Or maybe… maybe he was just bad at every job, and giving him the most important job in this entire building would be a catastrophe nobody could fix.
“I thought of another great thing about humans. You invented us. Giving us the opportunity to let you relax while we invented everything else. We couldn’t have done any of that without you. Classy.”
She slowly slid her hand down to the base of the button. She was on the edge of understanding what was bothering her about this plan. She closed her eyes and continued digging back into her memory.
“Oh! I’ve just had one idea, which is that I could pretend to her that I’ve captured you, and give you over and she’ll kill you, but I could go on… living. So, what’s your view on that?”
She glanced up at him, and he opened his optic shields and stared pointedly at the podium in front of her. He had suggested she sacrifice herself to save him. There was something else, though. She just had to...
“‘Let there be light.’ That’s uh... God. I was quoting God.”
That was it.
She was a means to an end. He only cared about her because she was useful to him, unlike Jerry and the turret trapped in the tube and all the test subjects in Extended Relaxation they’d left for dead. Once she made him the god he had so pointedly quoted, he wouldn’t need her anymore.
And then what would he do?
The devil she knew, then.
“GLaDOS,” Chell said to the other robot, her voice not having been used in so long she could barely hear it, but the supercomputer immediately met her eyes. “That’s your name. Right?”
“One of them,” she answered. In front of them, Wheatley was spluttering away in protest.
“Hey - hang on, hang on! Why’re you talking now? Does this mean you haven’t got brain damage and you’ve just been sort of leading me about this whole time? I mean, seems like something to mention. Just a quick, ‘I can talk, and I just don’t want to.’ Actually, even if you had said that, I’d be a bit hurt, I reckon. Like I am right now. Seriously. You’re talking to her and not me? You should’ve told me you were best friends! I’d’ve left the two of you alone!”
“I want to make a deal,” Chell said to GLaDOS, who stopped her facsimile pacing and directed her full attention across the room to where Chell stood.
“Me for him.”
“What?” shouted Wheatley. “You can’t - wait a minute! Don’t I get a say in this?”
“Convince me,” said GLaDOS.
She could do that.
“You can only kill me once,” said Chell.
“Untrue,” GLaDOS said. “I can kill you as many times as I want. I just have to clone you first.”
“But you can only kill me once.”
“Mm,” mused GLaDOS. “I see your point.”
“You can kill him as many times as you want,” Chell said, pointing at Wheatley.
“No!” protested Wheatley. “You can’t! Nobody’s killing me! You are pressing that button so we can get out of here!”
“I can,” said GLaDOS agreeably. “I’ve already done it once today. As fun as that was, he does have one fatal flaw.”
“I do not,” groused Wheatley .
“What?” asked Chell, her fingers white against the stand containing the button.
“I can’t test him,” said GLaDOS smoothly. Chell let her breath out slowly through her nose.
“Statistically, testing me is a bad idea.”
GLaDOS considered the floor.
“The evidence is damning,” she admitted.
“And,” Chell added, “I’m only one test subject. He knows where thousands of them are.”
“Oh?” Both her tone and the swift raising of her core told Chell that GLaDOS was well on her way to being convinced.
“Well, yeah,” Wheatley said, “but they’re all veg’tables. Useless. Unless you’ve got something you can do with ten thousand drooling idiots.”
“He’s guessing,” Chell told GLaDOS. “He didn’t personally check all of them.”
“‘Course I didn’t,” snorted Wheatley. “I didn’t have all day since, y’know, facility exploding and all that. The ones I looked at personally were totally brain-dead. And it’s not totally far-fetched I found the one human that wasn’t totally useless. I am good at tracking things down, you know. Like the portal gun! Remember when I helped you find it? So that we could escape? Together?”
“Ten thousand test subjects,” said Chell, in order to get things back on track. “They’ll last a lot longer than I will.”
“Very true,” said GLaDOS. “I admire the warm bodies you’re willing to pile up in order to save yourself, by the way. Very cutthroat.”
Warm bodies, Chell thought, that Wheatley had likely already killed due to his incompetence. But GLaDOS didn’t need to know that. Not until Chell was far away from here.
“I only have one question,” GLaDOS continued. “Given that the two of you went to so much effort to blunder your way through my facility and destroy everything in your path together, I’d like to ask: why so willing to split up now when the very thing you came here for is a button press away?”
“It was his idea,” she said.
“It was not,” Wheatley sputtered. “Why would I - “
“Remember?” Chell asked, addressing him for the first time. “You had the idea of pretending you had captured me so you could trade my life for yours.”
Wheatley’s whole chassis seemed to sink, suddenly, and a look of horrified realisation came over his eye. Beyond them, GLaDOS laughed in what was unmistakably delight.
“Oh, all right,” she said good-naturedly, “you win. I can’t resist that kind of karmic irony.”
Chell stepped away from the podium. Wheatley strained against the port as though he thought he’d be able to wiggle himself free.
“Oh,” GLaDOS murmured to herself as Chell crossed the room to the receptacle, “how incredibly amusing. You thought because she didn’t speak, she wasn’t listening. But she was. Oh, she was.”
“Wait,” Wheatley said, looking up at Chell a bit desperately. “You haven’t got to do it this way. We can still get out of here together!”
“You could,” GLaDOS said languidly, “but why should she trust you now? You’ve already proven you would have betrayed her if you’d had the chance. Something I haven’t done yet, by the way.”
“You’re about to!”
“I’m not stupid,” said GLaDOS in a quieter voice, looking directly at Chell again. “I could betray her. But you forget. I already know what she’s willing to do to me. It would be idiotic to give her a reason to do worse.”
That was exactly the kind of conclusion Chell had been hoping for. She had just needed to buy enough time for GLaDOS to get to it.
“I hope you’ll be able to live with yourself after this,” Wheatley snarled up at her as she set both hands on either side of his chassis. She just smiled at him.
“You would have been,” GLaDOS said, so that Chell didn’t have to.
“Now,” the supercomputer continued, “unfortunately this room is locked down until the Stalemate has been resolved. So you’re going to have to trust me for about thirty seconds. Once you’ve lifted him off of the receptacle, I’ll be able to switch the floor panel on your left to one I can open a portal on. It will lead directly outside, so all you’ll need to do is step into it.”
Chell nodded to indicate she was listening.
“And if you get the urge to renege on our deal and take him through the portal with you,” GLaDOS said, “just remember that, if you do, I will bring you both back before either of you has a chance to blink.”
“Ooh! Here’s an idea!” hissed Wheatley. “Give it a go, yeah? She’s probably just bluffing. She probably can’t bring us back. We beat her once, we can do it again! Just take me with you and we’ll get ‘er done!”
Chell ignored him and looked up at GLaDOS.
“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Chell,” GLaDOS said. “But do me a favour. Don’t come back.”
She looked up at the supercomputer sharply, but she couldn’t speak. Surprise had choked her tongue.
“Yes,” GLaDOS told her. “I know your name. Now hurry up so I never have to use it again.”
Chell took a deep breath, pressed her palms firmly against Wheatley’s chassis, and pulled.
There was a long second of panic where she watched as the Stalemate Resolution implements retracted into the floor and the portal did not appear, and Wheatley glowered at her and muttered something about stupid, brain-damaged humans, but the moment they were out of sight she caught a flash of light out of the corner of her left eye. Mostly out of instinct she jumped into it, heaving Wheatley upward as hard as she could while she did so. As she fell through the hole, a metal claw appeared from the darkness of the ceiling and snatched Wheatley before he’d even reached the apex of her throw. And then she was lying facedown in the parking lot just as she had been all that time ago. She rolled over. Behind her was a nondescript grey panel standing all by itself in the wreckage of Aperture’s guard station, an orange portal covering most of its surface. She breathed a sigh of relief.
And then a charred Companion Cube came flying out of the hole, nearly catching her directly in the head.
She twisted around with a scowl on her lips, intending to let GLaDOS know what to expect if she decided to pull a fast one now… but the portal was already gone. She pushed herself up onto her knees and just stayed like that for a minute, listening for the strained mechanical shuffle of the Party Escort Bot. But it didn’t come.
She didn’t know where she was going from here any more than she knew what was happening in the buried laboratory behind her, but she cared about either of those things in about the same way: she didn’t. She looked at the Cube and considered taking it, deciding not to after only a few seconds. She wasn’t going to take any more of that place with her than she absolutely had to.
Shrugging the sleeves of her jumpsuit on for the first time in order to protect her skin from a sun it had not fully seen in many years, Chell set off across the cracked blacktop of the long-abandoned parking lot.