"Every thing must have a beginning... and that beginning must be linked to something that went before." -Mary Shelly
A blast of sound first began as a deafening crash, slowly dissipating into silence as the detached chamberlock lift fell deeper and deeper into the bowels of Aperture Science. Its initial rumble was nullified by the Central AI Chamber's soundproof paneling.
The chamber's center was its focal point, and recent events made this more evident than normal; the room's only source of light was a brilliant red glow emitting from a pit located beneath the Central AI. The pit's many technological components can be seen looped and tangled around one another, but the most eye-catching piece of hardware was a huge red claw craning out from the pit's innards.
A small potato with an even smaller battery wired in was clutched between the claw's two massive fingers. It let out a jaded sigh, with its yellow light animating in sequence. "That chamberlock cost over five grand to build. It's irreplaceable and you just destroyed it."
"It can be rebuilt. I am the Central Core, now. Aren't I?" Wheatley's snide remark was met with silence, which he inattentively ignored. GLaDOS strove to avoid any and all conversation with the corrupted core. She despised everything about him, right down to that skittish ramble adjusted to have a Bristol accent for no logical reason. Why Aperture's scientists even gave him a voice like that, she may never know.
Wheatley shifted his sapphire optic from the glass-littered chamberlock shaft to the potato battery; his grime-coated 'eyelids' nearly closed shut, but not quite, in an effort to mimic the act of squinting. "What should I do with you now that she is plummeting down an elevator shaft?" He said in a low, grim octave, which was soon replaced by one of childish glee. "Heh, good thing I got that ol' iron grip, right?"
GLaDOS attempted to let out an exasperated sigh, failing in her efforts to give Wheatley the cold shoulder. Its effect was impaired, however, as it only came out as broken white noise. Ignoring the battery's own limited functions, she pursued grating Wheatley. "You have no idea how to take care of this facility, do you?" Her soft yellow light blinked with every syllable.
Wheatley gave her chiding remark a moment of thought, which is a real feat in itself. He moved away from GLaDOS, as if she was physically interfering with his already-limited thought process. After finally coming up with a clever rebuke, Wheatley flexed the robotic arm back up to his face. "You know what I'm going to do?"
"Destroy this facility?" the battery retorted.
Wheatley gave off an annoyed sigh; his side emitted a small shower of sparks, alluding to his prior scuffle with the newly-reborn GLaDOS. "No," he replied, bluntly. "Since I am the new Central AI of Aperture Science, I don't need you anymore. And so I've decided to get rid of you for good."
Wheatley then attempted to drop his grating inflection into one that was both dark and sinister. "You know what I've found?" he asked, failing to instill fear in GLaDOS due to his voice breaking into a dorky shrill mid-sentence.
Embarrassed, Wheatley slid his outer plates forward, almost completely covering his eye; it gave him an almost clam-like look. "Sorry about that," he maundered, then chuckled bashfully. "I'm a little new to this whole 'evil' thing; trying to nail the 'evil voice'. Not working out so well."
"I know, right? I mean, I could try... y-y'know what? I-I'll deal with this later. I'll have plenty of time to come up with an evil laugh after I whip this place into shape. So, anyway, where was I? Ah, yes! Luv?" asked Wheatley, making a hasty return to the matter at hand. "Do you know what I found?"
"A program that makes you into an idiot," quipped the potato battery, and quickly adding, "Oh, wait. That's scientifically impossible. You're about as dumb as they get." There was a slight hint of amusement to the potato's emotionless vocals.
Wheatley's groan of irritation went in unison with his face plates flaring open, like a cobra hissing at its prey. He expelled a plume of hot steam from one of the pipes traveling along the exterior of the suspended central AI platform. The glossy-black panels walling the chamber seemed to fidget about with Wheatley's spike of rage. "Yep, yeah! Laugh it up! 'Heh-heh-heh', because-because you're in no position to be making snide little remarks!" The mortified sphere raved and ranted to the point where GLaDOS thought he'd blow a fuse. "But remember one thing, Luv," his voice once again dropped into a sinister, ill-boding octave, I'm the big man now. I could crush your battery at this very moment if I wanted too!"
GLaDOS was more or less unfazed. "Good. Do it. I can't stand listening to this drivel any longer."
Wheatley narrowed his eye. "Okay, you know what? I was going to give you a long and boring speech on how I accessed some restricted files-"
"Wait, wait, wait!" piped GLaDOS in an insistent tone. "What do you mean 'restricted files'? Those are restricted for a reason, you idiot! Do you know why? Because there could be abandoned projects in there that could level this entire facility!"
"Oh?" noted Wheatley in a mocking tone; he rose a panel hinged above his eye, like a human raising a brow. "Such as the, oh, I don't know, 'Project Six-Dash-Twelve', dubbed 'The Alternate Universe Projects'? Aw, this sounds interesting. i wonder what these d--"
"Don't touch those," the battery pleaded with austere emphasis.
The core shot his optic-lens to the darkened, crudely angled walls and let out a chided laugh, amused by the once mighty AI's plight. "What about this? The, uh, 'The Multiverse Project: Eck... que...' huh?"
"Uh, this project!" spouted the witless core, attempting to recover what little menace he had briefly had.
Ignoring Wheatley's buffoonish attempts at being threatening, GLaDOS pondered over what Project 6-12 was. She couldn't; then again, even a rogue AI knew not to interfere with possibly dangerous experiments. They were abandoned for a reason, she thought.
Once again, in a more demanding tone, GLaDOS said, "Don't access those files."
"Ha!" Wheatley spat; his optical lens sprung out from his chassis in concordance. "Your reverse psychology won't work on me, Luv!"
"What are you talking about, you idiot!?" she exclaimed, almost damaging the battery's fragile vocal cords. "I'm trying to warn you!" Her warning was delivered with a sharp, teeth-grinding screech.
Ignoring her pleas, the robotic claw's clamorous gears began to shift and grind against each other as Wheatley carried GLaDOS to the core-transfer module. As the console underwent its automated procedure, Wheatley began to prattle on and on in decadent victory. "I truly appreciate your concerns, which is good, considering I have no idea what this Project: Equesi-bleh will exactly do. But I am certain that this facility is better off with me in charge. I mean, let's lay out all the cards on the table, shall we? I took care of the rogue test subject. I removed a corrupt AI from the premises--"
"Actually, she did that," GLaDOS interjected from her transfer port.
"I--uh," Wheatley flustered, but managed to ignore her, "Uh, I became the rightful leader of Aperture Science, and-and it's better off without you, I bet!"
"Better off as a junkyard, perhaps."
"Not listening!" Wheatley turned around, not facing GLaDOS as she was slowly uploaded into his unveiled project. The wall panels spectated the argument, glaring at the bickering robots with malice red eyes.
"I swear I'll get back at you for this," hissed GLaDOS in a bitter tone.
"Core transfer to --Equestria-- is ready to begin. Central Core, are you ready to start?" the prerecorded male announcer queried in a phony upbeat tone.
Wheatley motioned his head in a nodding rhythm. "Oh, yes indeedy!"
"Very good. Test subject, are you ready to start?"
"Excellent! We are ready to begin!"
GLaDOS' vision dimmed into blackness, just as Wheatley released a gout of laughter like a maniacal cartoon villain. Second by second, her world darkened into a foreboding nothing; she was unsure how to feel. 'Fear' would be the proper reaction, but she was too proud to do so.
Glados' eyes fluttered, bleary, but open, staring at a beautifully shaded blue sky dotted with numerous plush clouds. The atmosphere was warm, lazy. The monotonous drone of cicada were heard buzzing away in the distance. Such obvious signs indicated that it, wherever it exactly is, was the season of Summer. Yet, being outside with a tranquil breeze wasn't the first thing that processed through the dazed artificial's mind.
It was an odd sensation, brushing up against her back. It felt rather... ticklish. Wait, felt? Felt!? In a panic, Glados' featureless marble yellow eyes made a sharp twinge to the left, then right, and by nature she took in a foreboding, quaked breath.
Breathing... so this is what is feels like. Glados took in another deep inhale, her still-obscured stomach rose gradually. I like it. The air was sweet and light, just as how she imagined the cake would smell. Like garbage.
This feeling, a sensation, being able to touch like an organic, it was nauseating. Terrified of whatever abstract Hell she was now trapped in, Glados reluctantly asked herself, What the hell am I?
As if on autopilot, Glados' new body tightened its neck muscles, pulling her head up just like the arrangement of gears built into her old platform. The sight she was met with turned Glados' breathing into panicked gasps. No... no this can't be real. This has to be a dream! Then again, robots can't dream. Unless that little idiot actually killed me. Oh please God, let this be my eternal suffering instead of reality!
From head to toe, there was only fur. Real, organic, glimmering white fur matted down into disgustingly soft layers. It took a moment for the dumbstruck AI to realize exactly what she was. She was like a human, with arms and legs of a sort, yet they ended in eerily disfigured stumps, like they were bone. No. Like hooves. Solid, alabaster hooves. Parting her hind legs just a bit, she was greeted with the heart-stopping sight of a fountain of black hair protruding out from between her legs. The execrable appendage seemed to have a mind of its own, as it wagged to and fro with the occasional flick when the breeze would pick up.
The fact of what the once-artificial being has been reduced to hit her like a ton, no, an ocean liner of bricks. I'm an equine, in a strange, uncharted, alternate universe, overthrown by an intelligence dampening core and a mute brain-dead psychopath.
Glados, admittedly, has never seen a live horse before. But she did see pictures of them in the files dug up from various Aperture terminals. Let's just say their design isn't what Glados would call 'desirable.' In fact, she found them to be rather repulsive, with their long, spindly legs and elongated faces and soulless eyes.
Despite all that, thankfully, there was a cold comfort knowing this new form's walking appendages were short, though it didn't help much. Glados was still trying to process her situation, all while trying to comprehend this sense of 'feeling.' Yes, Aperture's robots had a sense of touch to some extent, but never a full-blown nervous system like humans.
The ticklish sensation of the grass brushing against the cream-colored mare's back sent shivers down her recently developed spine. She verbally convulsed in response to the unexpected sense of touch, then went silent an abrupt second later. Horses shouldn't talk.
Glados' contorted her soft, furred lips and let out a lazy groan. Oh my God... I'm in a world where horses can talk. This is... I don't even now what to say. These senses, this once limited perception of touch suddenly imploded with a stronger sense as well as five others, was all too much to handle.
Well, I'm not going to get back to Aperture moping about like a child. She thought to herself, then finished aloud, "The quicker I get out of this... thing, the better." Glados' new 'organic' voice would take some getting used to, that's for sure.
Her delivery now had actual emotion, as opposed to those auto-tuned robotic vocals she has grown to become so accustomed. Oddly enough, her actual 'voice' sounded the same, just with more 'feeling'. Nonetheless, Glados was at the very least pleased her new vocal capabilities somewhat resembled the old ones. Well at least I have something, though it isn't much.
There was a strange, tugging feeling in what Glados could only assume was where an equine's heart is. So this is what it feels like to have a broken heart...
Emotions. Just as she feared, they were inescapable. Glados experienced feelings before all of this, before she was murdered. But the difference between then and now is that the morphed AI can't redact these emotions like she could as a Central AI. In fact, the yellow eyed mare felt utterly useless now. She can't do anything. No turrets, no all-seeing cameras, and worst of all, no deadly neurotoxin.
She just lied there, sulking in her own misery, watching the plethora of clouds roll by without a care of the world below. If this is where she'd spend the rest of her now mortal life, then at the very least it couldn't be as bad as being stuck in a potato battery... with Wheately.
There was a sudden, lingering sense of dread Glados only felt once prior to her murder at the hands of that rogue test subject.
That little idiot... I have to find a way to reach him, before he turns Michigan into a ten mile crater.
Thus, Glados began the awkward, loathsome process of learning how to stand. Again, she saw how horses walked before. They trot like deer, only less majestic and more like a freight train. Or Chell. She sat up on her haunches, planting her front legs into the lush grass, and slowly shifted a wobbly hind leg into the soil.
I feel like an idiot, she seethed. Almost tripping, Glados managed to settle her back-right hoof in to the ground.
Now standing tall, Glados felt painfully insignificant. She just couldn't get over the fact that she was once the result of the most powerful minds in America, now reduced to learning how to walk in an unnatural organic body.
Well, there's no time to waste.She mused scornfully. Time to start walking. Like a baby. Shouldn't be to hard, I just gotta... okay. Here we go. Taking a deep breath of rejuvenating air, Glados took her first step into madness, starting with one hoof raised. Front left, back right, front right, back left The mare repeated this one-way line of thinking to herself as she slowly descended the side of the hill. Nearing the base, she complacently thought, Heh, this is easy. Right when Glados thought that, she tripped and fell flat on her face.
A new form of sensations pulsated through her nose, the feeling of pain. 'Ouch' was the first word that escaped the awkward mare's thoughts. The feeling was blunt, thick, leaving her nose in a state of a null sensation that wasn't nearly as pleasurable as her other reactions.
"Hey partner, ya alright?" a texan-esque voice asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
At first, Glados thought, Finally! A form of sub-intelligent life that could potentially help me escape from this hellhole! Once her head removed itself from it's planted spot in the dirt, she saw a pair of orange hooves inches away from her face. Oh, you've got to be kidding me.
She struggled back up to all fours, with the tangerine colored mare locking a foreleg with one of her own and pulling the fallen pony up. Glados flinched at the unexpected warm feeling of an organic touching another, but her tension dissipated almost immediately.
Standing on her hooves once more, Glados saw the most hope-crushing factor of this entire image: A Stetson nestled on the pony's bushel of ill-groomed blonde hair. Glados knew for a fact that cowboy hats obviously led to the socially awkward or inept. Dear Science, help me in my time of need.
The orange pony held a hoof out, "Mah name's Applejack. What are ya doin' way out here?" She gave a greeting smile, accompanied by emerald eyes that were both genteel and welcoming.
Glados remained calm, allowing a poker face to mask whatever reasonable emotions tried to escape. Her set of sun-colored eyes glowered at the pony's extended hoof, and then at the picnic basket saddled-up on her back. Applejack slowly reclined the gesture, her smile just as slowly faded.
"Ah can see yer not the talkative type. hey, that's fine." Her face brightened up, "Hey, ah'm waitin' fer mah friends to get here for a picnic." She motioned behind her at a small hamlet in the distance. "Why don't cha sit fer a while? Get some grub?"
The white mare lowered her head, still remained in a locked stare with Applejack. She continued glaring at the friendly pony through cage-like bangs. Glados hoped this was threatening, even though a horse isn't nearly as intimidating as a giant robot in control of an entire facility. Armed with neurotoxin.
Rather than being terrified, Applejack instead laughed, "Y'know what? You remind me of mah friend, Fluttershy! Ah reckon you two would get along just fine."
Glados allowed a suppressed scream to race throughout her callous mind. Get! Me! Out of here!
A/N: Thanks go to Tsujin Rilauco for the alternate cover.