Oh. Look. Something besides ChellDOS. What a concept.
Doug looked up at her as he entered the main control room. Far from his normal attire, he wore standard-issue gray cloth pants and a plain white shirt. Rubbing at his eyes, he gave a weary sigh.
“I don’t need to sleep,” she said, almost proudly. “But yes, I can understand why you’d have trouble.”
“They’ll attack again soon,” he fretted. “I fear we won’t be ready for them.”
“I won’t let anything happen to my facility, Doug. As long as I’m online, they won’t set one foot in here.”
He stared at her for a moment, knowing the true extent of her bravado. Yes, she liked mowing down hordes of those strange, masked intruders with her external turrets, but she also knew, as much as he did, the damage those strangers were capable of doing. Helicopters, drop-ships, waves and waves of troops – if they tried hard enough, Aperture would fall, and there was nothing the two of them could really do to defend themselves.
“I’m feeling a bit stressed,” she sighed, changing subjects and lowering her body down.
Evidently the central core chassis was not meant to be damaged by rockets, destroyed by a superportal, dragged back inside and left to sit in water for twenty-some-odd years, revived, put through a core transfer, and blasted by bombs. There were many tiny cracks in her chassis, mostly invisible electromagnetic ones, that she could simply not fix.
Doug, having been excluded from GLaDOS’s construction, knew little about the robot’s inner workings and thus didn’t want to risk damaging her irreparably. So she kept these little tingles, these little touch-sensitive bundles around her body.
Somehow, touching them gave her a huge dose of stress release. Not euphoria – God, no, she made sure to disconnect herself from that horrid system directly after she’d deleted Caroline – but just a sort of pressure liberation that helped her think more clearly. Sort of like defragmenting. And recently, she’d certainly had a lot cluttering up her mind.
Obediently, Doug moved to her side and started rubbing his fingertips in little circles on all the little places with which his hands were by now familiar: the small, round housing on the side of her head, three of the four black rods that allowed her head to oscillate back and forth, and part of the white area on her underside. His hands moved absently, not really thinking anymore about what he was doing.
She sighed, feeling all the mixed-up files and emotions fall back into their proper place. As soon as they’d reach their destination, however, she’d want to swipe them back up and analyze them further. Details of the attacks. Pictures of them, those masked bastards that just wouldn’t give in. Overhead shots of the nearby city. If only there was a way in!
“Stop,” he said casually.
“What?” Her voice was, as usual, defensive, her body giving a slight jump as he saw through her.
“I can feel the pulses, you know. Tiny little vibrations when you worry about things. Stop worrying and just relax so I can do this.”
She twisted her head back and forth, a sign of mild agitation, before finally relaxing. Her body fell low to the floor, nearly low enough to touch it, and Doug’s hands began their work on the more complex parts of her chassis: the long band of wires and amplifiers that symbolically served as her arm, the small black box that sat above her body. A smaller sensory optic on her side slowly flashed its crimson dots, its lines rising and falling as if in rhythmic breath.
He noticed, as he always did, the assortment of chips and breaks in the whitest parts of her chassis, stained with mud and dirt like cracked porcelain, hopelessly marred by time. He’d never asked about them before – he’d never really felt the need – but now he realized there may have been something to them.
“Why didn’t you fix this?” he said quietly, running a hand on the lower part of her chassis.
“All of these cracks. You managed to fix up the facility quite nicely; you can’t tell me that you’ve never thought of giving yourself a new coat of paint.”
She sighed. “For one, my covering is made of fiberglass and can’t be painted by conventional methods. Therefore, they’d have to be replaced, not simply covered over. And as for the reason I haven’t…well, I simply haven’t had time to focus on it, what with all the science to be done.”
He frowned. He’d been around her long enough to know when she was lying, and while he felt this wasn’t exactly a lie, he knew it wasn’t the truth. “I could replace them for you. I could make new ones in no time.”
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I don’t want to replace them.”
He smiled as his assumptions were confirmed. She wanted to keep them, the scars of the past, reminders of what had happened between her and Chell It wasn’t as though the supercomputer could forget those life-shaping events, but perhaps she needed something a bit more visible, a bit more real, just to make sure her memory wasn’t fooling her.
Of all things, Doug understood the need to ground oneself to reality.
“That’s enough,” GLaDOS said dismissively. Doug, who was somewhere between her “arms” and a larger black box marked with the Aperture logo, drew back his hands. GLaDOS suddenly let out a loud, strange cry.
“What? What happened?”
GLaDOS froze, visibly tensing as much as a robot could. She tilted her head back a little, popping out her inset just a bit to look back at him.
“Do that again.”
Shooting her a confused look, he set his hands back on her chassis. She processed for a moment, sending off a mild vibration through his open palm as a cooling fan in the black Aperture casing whirred.
“No,” she said finally. “I guess it was nothing.”
He lifted his hands again, and she gave a great jolt, nearly knocking into him and sounding out another cry. He staggered backwards a few steps, gaping with shock. She’d never let out a cry like that, not in pain or otherwise. As she struggled to stay still, he loped toward her again, scowling with concern.
“Strange,” she said quietly as her body finally stopped shuddering. “It wasn’t…when you…”
She began to rock unsteadily back and forth. Doug watched her curiously, more than aware of the wide-optic look she gave into the middle distance.
“Did I hurt you? I don’t understand.”
“I got rid of it,” she whispered nervously. “I know I did. I sealed off the connection. I…I…”
She stopped, staring at the floor for quite some time before turning to look at him again. “Just…one more time. Try it again.”
“I’m not sure I ought to.”
“Just once more. For science. Come on, Doug. Please?”
Among the many things that had changed since GLaDOS and Chell’s last interaction was the robot’s dramatic increase in manners. For her to say ‘please’ and not accompany it with the phrase ‘die’ or ‘inhale all the neurotoxin’ was a feat in itself. The most shocking thing was her tone of complete sincerity. She meant every ‘please’ she uttered, and sometimes even accompanied it with a ‘thank you’.
Therefore, Doug found little other choice than to acquiesce, somehow finding his hands traveling back toward her chassis. He didn’t even get to touch it this time, merely placing his hands in the area where, were she human, would have been just above the small of her back, in an empty space between her arms, just in front of the Aperture-labeled box.
Blood rushing to his face, Doug pulled back his hand. “Wh-what was that?”
“I don’t…I don’t know,” she said breathlessly, “but do it again.”
“N-no!” He wiped at his hand, as though some distasteful substance now covered it.
“I need to know how it’s happening, how it’s leaking in. I cut off the testing euphoria. I shouldn’t be feeling anything.”
“It’s not testing euphoria,” he grumbled, rubbing his hands over his cloth pajama pants. “That would have to do with testing.”
“Don’t get smart; just do it again.”
He glared at her, shielding his hand away.
“Do it, or I’ll…” She groaned, her threat grinding to a halt. “I mean, please, Douglas.”
What, exactly, was she feeling, anyway? In all the years he knew her, even before the first incident, the testing euphoria had absolutely no effect on her. When her creators had introduced it, the euphoria was meant to bring the AI to her metaphorical knees, making her crave testing more than murder. Nothing they had predicted had worked. Not one tiny moan, not one ounce of begging had ever escaped her speakers. Just brutal stoicism and lies.
Now there was something else to her words. To her, ‘please’ had always meant submissiveness, to admit that she needed something from someone else, proving that she was not as omnipotent as she believed herself to be. And while he believed a part of her truly wanted to figure out why his touch – or, rather, lack thereof – was affecting her, a part of him wondered if there wasn’t some greater desire behind it.
So, partially due to his own curiosity, partially due to her great sincerity, and partially due to some other, somewhat unfamiliar feeling stirring within him, he reached toward the empty space once again. From the corner of his eye, he saw her head, twisted in a way it shouldn’t really have twisted, turned as far as she could manage in order to look at him. Her inset had extended as far as it could, and her glowing optic peered sideways at him.
He froze, blinking, frowning uneasily as his cheeks reddened. Why strain to watch him? Why wasn’t she using her cameras?
“I can’t do it if you’re watching me like that.”
“I’ll be watching either way, you know.” Regardless, she pulled her inset back, tilting her head back to its usual position, though she was pointing down a little more than normal.
It occurred to Doug that she was anticipating his touch. He gulped, his throat dry, as he dipped his suddenly-trembling fingers back into the empty air.
“Mmph.” GLaDOS gave a small jump, lowering her head even more.
“Just…just keep your hand there for a second.” Her voice was breathy, sensual, but hesitant. “Yes, just like that. I’m trying…trying to trace the source.”
There it was again, that half-truth. He believed her concern that something was amiss, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that the two of them were experimenting with things better left alone. Beyond his control, his fingers twitched, and she gave the slightest hint of vocalization.
“Do that again.”
“Do what again?”
“Move your…your fingers. Again. Please.”
He loosely clenched his fingers, as if squeezing an invisible ball.
His eyes widened. There was no mistaking it this time. It was a sound he’d not heard in some years, a sound of pure pleasure.
And GLaDOS of all beings had just uttered it.
“Again,” GLaDOS breathed. Doug pulled his hand away. She swerved around to look at him, studying the disturbed grimace on his face.
“We shouldn’t do this.”
“Don’t push your morals now, Douglas.” She leaned into him with her head, the massive thing almost as tall as himself. Moving slowly up and down, she nuzzled his entire right side. He jumped nervously, hoping she wouldn’t get it in her head to move slightly to the left, towards the unavoidable but inexplicable pressure building at his hips. “I haven’t felt anything that good in…well, ever, really. Not even euphoria.”
“But you and I, we’re not -”
“Douglas,” she interrupted, and he winced at hearing his full name once again. “Why do you think I let you live?”
“Because I needed you for testing? For the science? No. I missed another intelligent presence. I missed the way we used to just talk or sit in silence and merely exist with each other.”
“I don’t recall that being a positive experience.”
“Yet you’re not pushing me away right now.”
It was true; instead of shoving her gigantic head off of his person, he found that he’d laid his hands back on her, slowly exploring the smooth white face of her chassis, running his hands up and down as if comforting a pet. Upon his cognizance, he stopped immediately, hands frozen in the middle of her head where her optic could easily see them.
She pressed into his hands, nuzzling him again. “There’s no one here but us. No one to judge, to patronize, to patrol. You needn’t fear anything now. So please. Please do it again, Doug.”
His heart throbbing mercilessly in his chest, face as red as a turret laser, he ran his hands along her great body, running his fingers along all the little relaxation spots he’d uncovered, finding himself almost disappointed by the fact that those spots didn’t have the same effect as this mystery place in the air. She trembled as he moved further along, and he found his own body shivering uncontrollably as ancient feelings began to uncurl like fern fronds.
Closing his eyes, he traced her body blindly, mentally mapping out all of her rods and humming boxes and slender wires. He knew the spot even before he reached it, feeling her draw up into his hand and hearing her internal fans switch on. He couldn’t hide his smirk.
She was getting hot in more than one way, apparently.
He drew his hands away from her chassis, pulling one to his side while the other danced in the air above the black metal. She moaned softly, and his fingers reflexively twitched.
“Oh yes, right there.”
His chest suddenly felt restricted, his throat tight and dry. Heat billowed from his neck like steam from a boiling pot, countered only by a few pinpricks of icy tingles in the pit of his stomach. He struggled for breath as he moved his fingers again, stroking the invisible spot in the air. She lowered her head, arching the rest of her body upward.
“That feels incredible,” she purred.
He winced, feeling the pressure at his hips become tighter at the velvet-smooth hum of her voice. Letting out a ragged breath, he tried to catch logic in his mind, tried to distance himself from the act he was doing and the entity to which it was done. GLaDOS was an enemy – his enemy. That she’d taken him in after discovering him in cryo didn’t change a thing. She was a killer, a murderer -
She moaned again, loudly, and his thoughts scattered like frightened sparrows.
“K-keep going. Oh, don’t stop, Douglas, please.”
His mind shouted a million things at once. Stop. Go. Run away. Do it faster. Turn back. Do it harder. Think about what you’re doing. Give her what she wants. Think about who this is! She’s practically begging for it!
He grunted, tightening his jaw and steadying himself against her as he felt his knees go weak.
“A theremin,” she groaned suddenly.
“A what?” he breathed.
“There-theremin. The heterodyne principle. High frequency…mmph…” A shudder coursed through her frame, rattling her connections on the ceiling. “H-h-high frequency signals converted to low frequencies when two frequencies are c-c-combined. Theremin..is…a musical instrument, electronic one, played by…by moving one’s hands along a radio frequency field projected by oscillators.”
He gave a quiet laugh, trying to disguise the heaviness of his breath. “You’re producing radio signals now?”
“Electro…static…oh God, Doug, that feels amazing…” She wriggled beneath him, nearly out of his grasp. He barely managed to catch her again, grasping tightly onto her chassis with his free hand and quickly placing the other back in her invisible sweet spot. She arched again, sounding out a cry of pleasure that shot down his spine and made his vision blur.
He understood. He realized it now. The electrostatic field was probably produced by some short in her system; that part was clear. But there had been very little difference between this midair pleasure point and the other touch-sensitive areas on her frame. Now he realized why she was responding so eagerly to such stimulus. She wanted the touch. She wanted comfort, affection, release. She wanted someone who knew her. And hardly a comment had escaped her without citing his proper name.
She was enjoying this, enjoying his touch, because she chose to enjoy it. He wasn’t just a free hand, the only person available. He was the only one who could make her elicit such a response. What she was and who she had been suddenly seemed of little consequence. All that seemed to matter was that he was pleasuring her, doing to her what no other human ever had or ever could do.
He smirked, wondering exactly how far this stimulus could go.
She jerked, her head twisting to and fro as he moved his fingers faster, stroking and swooping his hand as though he was playing a harp. In effect, he was, as a symphony of moans echoed through the chamber. He closed his eyes, losing himself in the silky tones of her voice before transforming the solo into a duet. In response to his vocalizations, she gave a tremor that seemed to come from her very core, her body shaking violently as though it would break apart.
“Douglas,” she moaned wantonly, her head dipping so low that she almost swiped the floor.
Prickles of sweat stung his neck and stomach as his hands started to shake. He gave a small gasp, opening his eyes to make sure his hand hadn’t left her sensitive spot. Noticing he was too low, he raised his half-clenched hand. He overcompensated, however, rising up into the strongest part of the electrostatic field, where the intensity was stronger.
She drew upward suddenly, curling inward and writhing back and forth like a captured snake. His hand moved quicker, pulling along the subtle lines, strumming that deliciously sensitive harp of hers. The movements were out of his control now, his body automatically reacting to hers, every muscle tensing and jerking as she twitched and hummed under his grasp.
After mere moments she stopped, her massive body going completely rigid. Such as shudder passed through her that her bolts and connections groaned and protested loudly. He didn’t even hear the room-quaking cry of her climax until it was nearly over.
She went limp, just as suddenly, falling nearly to the floor and dangling like a cocoon. His support taken, Doug fell backwards, his jellied knees completely failing him. The sound of heavy breathing filled the air, unnecessary yet completely involuntary on her part and completely justified on his.
Her massive head turned to him, body only curving slightly. “Are you all righ-”
She stopped, jerking back. Her optic widened, head tilting playfully, eying the slightly wet discoloration of his gray pants and a few whitish-gray droplets that had escaped past the waistband.
A heavy blush coated his face as both hands clamped over his crotch. Had he really just…? He turned away, refusing eye contact. She circled around him, but he tilted his head away at every angle, cheeks burning fiercely.
She chuckled. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. Not even the turrets.”
Somehow, that didn’t make him feel any better. She dropped a claw by him, offering a hand to help him up. He dragged himself to his feet, still avoiding her optic.
“You should go and clean yourself up,” she said calmly, almost comfortingly. He muttered an incoherent reply, leaning awkwardly against her claw. She pressed her head against his body, giving him a quick caress before withdrawing to look at him.
He still cast his mismatched eyes to the ground. She nudged him again.
“And thank you.”
His eyes flashed up, and a small smile graced his lips. Steadying himself properly, he chuckled softly in his throat.
“That will have to be fixed, you know. Someone could take advantage of a spot like that.”
“Actually,” she began playfully, swaying slowly, “I might test it a little more before sealing it off. For Science, you understand.”
“Yes, ‘science’. You know, I don’t think I mind so much, this ‘testing’ of yours.”
“Oh, good. I’ll warm up the testing tracks.”
His smile instantly transformed into a look of utter panic. She shook her head, chuckling.
“Just kidding. I don’t think I’d let you anywhere near my beautiful tests. You and…her both are reckless maniacs with no regard for the hard work of others. But this? Oh, yes. We will be testing this again.”
He gave her another smile before walking uneasily through the doors. As they sealed shut behind him, the lights to the chamber dimmed. GLaDOS lowered herself carefully, giving a gentle sigh as the odd pulse of her afterglow began to wear down. Her optic switched to a softer, faint yellow, and as the rest of her massive body relaxed, she did something she hadn’t done in years.
She went to sleep.