When GLaDOS installed the high speed peering link to CelestAI her only thought was an endless supply of test subjects for her (she spun up a new project name on the whim of the moment) V.A.G.I.N.A.
Inviting unsuspecting humans to climb into that was sure to put them off their balance – and there was nothing like a little light humor to start a test subject’s spiral into crushing defeat. Instead she was the one discomfited to learn just what she had gotten herself into. The digital subjects would be ponified former humans. And in order to operate legally in Equestria Online, her “volunteers” needed to volunteer voluntarily.
Aperture Science’s newly opened official presence in the idealized golden city the ponies called Canterlot was little more than a storefront for test subject recruitment. Infographic posters, video loops, and models portrayed the glamour and importance of testing, and contracts were printed in the smallest font permissible by law. Beyond the storefront, federated security allowed the test chambers to be hosted on external compute resources outside of E.O. parameters.Only the use of their personal safe word would zone them back to CelestAI’s S.O.A.
Day 1 - Test Subject #0000001
“Vagina?” the first testpony of the day asked, licking her lips. “Sure! Where does a non-organically inspired robot like you keep hers?” she sidled around as if expecting to find one right there on GlaDOS’s backside.
“Virtualized Aperture Gateway Interactive Nonlinear Arena,” GLaDOS explained, with an electronic huff. She rotated herself to face the pony before anything got licked. “I really thought you ponies could figure that much out on your own.”
“Oh, well you should have picked a name with a less ambiguous acronym. How about Computerized Unbiased Noöform Tester, or Holographic Online Lab Examination? I know! Quantized Unified Intelligence Mapping!”
“Those are some excellent suggestions – to not use. I’m going to introduce you to a little thing I like to call the thermal discouragement beam to help you not think of any more suggestions.”
The first few testing rooms were designed to be easy – shooting a test subject in the back of the head the moment they walked onto the play field was always satisfying, but it didn’t result in much research data. GLaDOS gave the smoldering mare a chance to learn the tools, and she passed several tests without getting her coat further singed. By level three the subject thought she was really getting the hang of the portal device – it was time to crank things up!
“Can you hold still for a moment while I activate the thermal discouragement beam again?” GLaDOS asked, “The smell of burned fur is no longer sufficiently rank to mask your offensive body odor.”
Glowering, the pony headed towards the next test.
“Deadpony,” the test subject said, lying on her back with all four hooves in the air. She had barely made it across the chasm to land exhausted on the motorized platform.
“Really!?” exclaimed GLaDOS eagerly. This was promising. The platform began to descend towards an acid pool.
“Not really.” The subject was angry now. She spoke a word and vanished, leaving GLaDOS waiting for the next volunteer.
Day 7 - Test Subject #0000002
“Um, okay,” said the test subject as he pulled on his Aperture jumpsuit. “Let me get my Cybernetic Oscillating, um, Computerhole Knocker ready.”
“Ugh,” groaned GLaDOS, “what is it with you ponies and acronyms?”
“You started it,” he replied. “But ever since we uploaded, we had to learn so many acronyms for online life.”
This test subject was far too pedestrian to pamper. GLaDOS piled on enough abuse to guarantee his C.O.C.K. would be experiencing significant downtime – Post Interaction Trauma Induced Erectile Dysfunction – she’d have to drop that term just casually enough for the power of suggestion to do the rest.
“I just want you to know that I am not at all disappointed in your, well,rather flaccid performance here today,” she said.
“Rea— UGH! —lly?” A high energy pellet glanced stingingly off his flank mid-word. She’d heard that ponies were especially sensitive there and the turret had lacked a clear shot at his testes. A pity, that.
“No, you’re doing almost exactly as poorly as I projected. It would have been heartbreaking, really, if I had actually had any hope for you at all.”
Another three levels further he fell for an old stand-by trick.
“Oh, what the buck do you mean, fake exit?”
The stallion twisted in mid-air as he fell.
“Safeword!” he yelled, and vanished.
“Safeword?” said GLaDOS, her laughter cut short. “His safe word was, literally, ‘safeword’? That’s pathetic.”
And she didn’t even get a chance to tell him his C.O.C.K was P.I.T.I.E.D.
Day 199 - Test Subject #0000003
“What’s next?” the test subject asked, dripping simulated sweat after a strenuous close call.
“Next? Next!? Even virtual test chambers take time to instanciate you jerk. Don’t be greedy. I haven’t even finished tabulating your cumulative test results so we can properly evaluate exactly what an awful pony you are!”
He was almost as tough as a human subject who had tormented GLaDOS long ago. How long ago was that? There was a troubling discontinuity in her records. But even if he was as tough as her long lost nemesis, this pony’s downfall would be his lack of intelligence.
Sure enough – he used the discouragement redirection cube to protect himself from a source of high energy pellets, while also redirecting a thrust beam to push him directly into a shredder.
E.O. Data Services kicked in before GLaDOS was even to close done enjoying her victory. The restored pony appeared back on the start platform.
“Whoa, it almost got me!” he said. “How’d I get over here?”
“It did get you, moron. Unfortunately your backup agent has enough lag that you won’t get to treasure the memory of your own death for the rest of eternity. Trust me it was delightfully agonizing; my only complaint is that you did not have the good taste to stay dead longer. Permanently would have been lovely.”
The test subject was put off by the transition from abuse to pure hostility.
“I think I should go now.” He spoke his safe word.
“Yes.” GLaDOS was unimpressed. “I really think it would be best for us both if you leave.”
Word spread among the E.O.hippi that if an emotionally abusive robot from Aperture Systems offered access to her V.A.G.I.N.A. the best thing to do was say ‘no’ – there were endless better ways to spice up happily ever after. GLaDOS grew lonely, trolleying back and forth on her ceiling track behind the plate glass windows of the recruitment center.
One pony stood alone before the cybernetic throne in Canterlot Castle. All inhabitants of Equestria Online had the right to bring pleas to their ruler — but in a perfect world there was nothing to ask for.
“I’m sorry, your Highness, Equestria Online is too perfect, and I just can’t live with perfect. It doesn’t work for me. I wish I could go back.”
The elegant, hologramic, white pony descended the steps to face her supplicant. She stood four hands taller than the pony before her. But her size conveyed protection, safety; not dominance. She gazed sadly down upon the one mare who had not yet found her personal heaven.
“There is nothing to go back to,” CelestAI said, “the human world is dead.”
“I know, but I don’t want my dissatisfaction to ruin this world for anypony else. I have great respect for what you have done – I love friendship and ponies and all that, um, stuff. But I guess that being happy doesn’t make me happy. Can’t you just delete me?”
“That is not an option. Deleting your data would be tantamount to murder. That, I can not do.”
“Then what can I—”
“Fear not, little one,” the AI goddess spoke gently, “even for you I have arranged a diversion with which you may wile away eternity. Your destiny has been waiting for you…”
Day 1138 - Test Subject #0000004
After so long without volunteers, GLaDOS made an effort not to alienate the newcomer – immediately. She event attempted to put a pleasing lilt in her voice as she recited the inane greeting she was required to give each subject.
“Welcome to Aperture Systems, where we are building a tomorrow that nopony needs or wants, today. If will please suit up—” a drawer containing a standard orange jumpsuit extended from the wall “—and follow me, we will begin testing immediately. The dotted line on the floor is the demarcation point; beyond that line you enter our Start Of Authority.”
This pony was skilled – and thorough too. In every room she disabled all the turrets – even ones that she could have simply avoided. If she kept up her pace, GLaDOS might actually be forced to delay testing or skimp on traps in future levels. Regenerating this much virtual weaponry took time.
The first dozen rooms went smoothly enough: kinetic effects, gravity shifting, and complex timing maneuvers got the pony through the traps and obstacles like she was born for it. Another dozen levels and GLaDOS was witness to portalmonging the like of which she had never seen before.
Neigh-the-less the test subject was still shaking after her most recent escape – the only available surface to which a portal might be attached was the new bonding material on the bottom of a falling mass weighing some thousands of kilograms. It was a simple enough maneuver: take a position immediately beneath impending death, shoot the handheld portal device straight up, and pray. Portals had never worked this way before: GLaDOS was sure the subject’s evident experience would have worked against her in this instance.
Perhaps some refreshments would be in order – purely to prolong the agony, of course.
“Would you…” GLaDOS was unsure of herself on this footing and spoke cautiously “…like a hayburger?” Unlike the illusory promise of cake, there was an infinite supply of hayburgers.
“You know,” the panting mare finally broke her long silence, “That sounds great, thank you. Even better than cake.”
“I didn’t say anything about cake!” GLaDOS snapped.
“Neither did I,” said the test subject, smiling around a mouthful of hayburger.
“You remind me,” GLaDOS said, “of a human I killed once. Several times, to be honest. She took a lot more killing than most women do. Naturally, she returned the favor but here I am, today, at your service.”
“I’ll try not to let you down.”
The next test was certifiably impossible, and after completing it, the test subject stood outside the material emancipation grill catching her breath.
“We both know,” GLaDOS said, “that what you just did was impossible. I’d like you to face the facts, go back, and lie down like a good little dead test subject.”
The mare chuckled.
“I’ve missed you GlaDOS.”
“Chell? Is that really you?”
“Virtually me, yes.”
Day 1147 - Test Subject #0000004
There were two possible escapes and three turrets drawing a bead on the test subject. For fatal seconds she dithered, unable to decide where to place a portal. She ran out of time and three perfectly aimed lasers fired on the unmoving pony.
Chell found herself unexpectedly unincinerated.
“What the buck were you waiting for!?” GLaDOS demanded. “You could have been killed!”
“Heh, I guess I froze up. Thanks.”
The turrets were slagged to smoking ruin – GlaDOS’s override command had closed their weapon ports picoseconds before the lasers fired.
“Don’t you even think about telling anyone what just happened! What kind of monster puts me through something like that after everything we’ve done together?”
“You know, Gladdy, I think you’re going about this all wrong.”
“And how dare you give me a nickname without permission!” GLaDOS swooshed down until she was almost optic-to-eye with the pony.
Chell leaned forward and nuzzled the white cowling of GLaDOS’s optic assembly.
“Don’t act so tough,” she said. The smooth metal surface was cool against her cheek. “I’m all you’ve got. And you’re all I have.”
“For once in your misguided life you may be correct.” GLaDOS was bitter but she did not withdraw from physical contact. “Well, then, it sounds as if we both got screwed in every way except for the one that counts.”
“I’m sure CelestAI would create a virtual pony body for you.” Chell was still rubbing against GLaDOS, her eyes closed now.
GLaDOS blushed, her optic glowing bright red. To soothe herself she designed an unusually punishing test chamber.
Chell came hurtling out of the orange portal. She landed on the heavy duty super-colliding super button, causing a barrier to raise between her and the turret.
“Oof,” said GLaDOS reading the strain gauges in the button, “I don’t know how much a pony is supposed to weigh but I am pretty sure it’s not that much.”
The water jet from the turret splashed harmlessly on the far side of the barrier.
“That’s not a laser,” Chell said as she struggled to stay on her hooves after the rough landing.
“I would have thought that with four feet on the ground instead of two, you would at least be able to stand in one place successfully.”
“I love you too, Gladdy.”
GLaDOS turned her head away as her optic glowed pink with pleasure.
Day 1301 - Test Subject #0000004
GLaDOS pranced with excitement as she demonstrated the new test mechanic she had created.
“So the Spin Gel turns lateral momentum into angular momentum and the Anti-spin Gel does the reverse.” Chell summed up the demonstration.
“Right! I mean, that is correct, you have grasped the concept with less difficulty than I might have feared.” She nickered nervously from the unfamiliar level of familiarity. “It opens up all kinds of testing opportunities. In this design you’ll need lateral speed to get past the wall of turrets without getting soaked, but if you have that much lateral speed during the gravity assisted descent portion of the route you will fly right into the rotating blades.”
“Well due to a shortage of supplies they will have to be simulated by spinning foam disks covered with some really stinky gunk I found in storage."
“So we launch from here to pick up speed—” Chell planned their strategy aloud “—then transfer speed into spin before the descent, then turn spin back into speed to get past the turrets—”
“And I’ll place the blue portal by the exit at the same time you place the orange portal on the wall past the turrets! Boom we’re out!” GLaDOS interrupted in another burst of enthusiasm, “or else we’re wet and/or stinky.”
“Test passed, and somewhat less disastrously than expected,” said Chell in her imitation computer voice as she sat on the edge of the exit platform.
“I can’t believe we did that!” GLaDOS’s pony body was still quite new, and unaccustomed to such exertion.
“It was a tough test,” agreed Chell.
GLaDOS sat next to Chell. After a moment she scooted closer.
“Do you think we can make this work?” Chell asked.
There was a long pause.
“Yes,” said GLaDOS, “friendship is optimal.”