“The cube does not love you, you know. All Aperture technologies are completely incapable of emotions such as love.” GLaDOS’s tone of voice could only be described as bitter.
At that, Chell looked up to see the AI’s narrowed yellow optic. She’d been washing the soot off of the Companion Cube she’d brought with her, and this was the first time GLaDOS had spoken to her since she’d arrived. “What?”
“I know you are not deaf,” the AI replied.
“Yeah, I heard you,” Chell said. “And I know the cube doesn’t love me. But I love it.” Wrapping her arms around it, she gave it an affectionate pat, never taking her eyes off the AI, whose optic narrowed even more.
When GLaDOS didn’t respond, Chell let go of the cube with a shrug and picked up the wet rag she was using to clean it. She’d intended to go back to washing it, but all of a sudden, a claw extended from the ceiling and picked it up so fast that Chell didn’t have any time to react. “Hey!” She scrambled up and jumped, trying to grab it, but it was no use. The cube was now dangling just out of her reach, and she folded her arms, glaring at GLaDOS in a silent demand.
“I want to know why you brought this here,” the AI said by way of explanation. “Is my company not good enough for you? You have to bring the thing you love along?”
“You spend half the time I’m here completely ignoring me,” Chell argued. “I just wanted to have something to do to pass the time. Give it back!”
“No,” GLaDOS replied simply. “I won’t.” The claw moved upwards, disappearing into the ceiling along with the cube. Chell continued to glare, beginning to feel panicked. What did the AI want?
“Oh, don’t look at me like that,” the AI sighed. “You can have it back when you leave, so long as you swear that you will never bring it again. I’m just going to clean it for you, because the way you’ve been doing it is highly inefficient. I promise.”
Chell knew better than to take the AI at her word, but she sounded so sincere that the human relaxed slightly. “…All right. Fine.”
“Good,” GLaDOS said. “In that case, we can get back to doing science. It’s been a long time since you’ve tested.” A panel slid over, revealing a portal gun. Chell was tempted, if only to get some of the anger and aggression she was feeling towards the AI out, but she shook her head.
“Tell me why you care if I bring the cube again or not.”
“It will be clean, and there will be no need for you to,” GLaDOS explained.
“And why do you care so much about if I love it?” Chell asked, a half-smirk on her face as she realized what was going on.
“I don’t,” the AI said, too quickly. “It was a mere statement. You should only attempt to think while testing, because judging by the look on your face, you are jumping to conclusions.”
“I think it’s because you’re jealous,” Chell said, ignoring the insult. “You’re jealous because you think I like the cube more than I like you.”
“I most certainly am not,” GLaDOS snapped. There was a beat of silence, and then a very quiet, uncharacteristic, “…Do you?”
“Do I what?” Chell asked. Her smirk grew wider.
There was a long, suffering sigh. “Must I spell it out for you? The question is ‘Do you like the cube more than you like me?’ Think carefully before you answer. Remember that one of us has deadly neurotoxin emitters, and it isn’t you, and it’s certainly not the cube.”
Chell had to laugh. “You don’t need to threaten me.” She stepped over to the AI, who eyed her warily, but didn’t recoil. “I have the same answer either way.”
“And what might that be?” GLaDOS didn’t sound like she cared, but Chell thought she could detect a glimmer of anxiety in her voice.
“I like you both,” Chell said, reaching out to pat GLaDOS’s casings. “About the same.”
“You said you loved the cube,” GLaDOS reminded her, even as she recoiled from the human’s touch. “And now you are saying you only like it?”
Chell rolled her eyes. “If you’re looking for me to say I love you—”
“Of course not,” the AI interrupted, sounding disgusted. “I don’t need validation from you, of all people. But you should not love the cube either. It’s inanimate. It can’t talk to you. If anything, you should love me. I can actually respond to you.”
“With insults,” Chell pointed out, trying to ignore the fact that GLaDOS had just said in her usual roundabout way that she did want the human to tell her she loved her.
“It’s better than silence,” GLaDOS said, and Chell shrugged.
“The Companion Cube lets me pat it.”
The AI’s optic narrowed, and she didn’t respond. For a few tense seconds, Chell was afraid she might release some neurotoxin and be done with it, but instead she edged closer to the human. When she spoke, her voice was filled with venom. “Fine. You may pat me.”
Chell blinked. She’d been expecting GLaDOS to decide she didn’t really care enough to continue the discussion. “Really?”
“Yes,” GLaDOS said. “I am far superior to a Companion Cube in every way.”
The human reached out a tentative hand and gave the AI a quick pat. “All right. Fine. I like you more. Are you happy now?”
“May I incinerate the cube?” the AI asked. Chell’s eyes narrowed.
GLaDOS let out a tortured sigh. “Then no, I am not happy. But I suppose I will survive. Just remember that you promised never to bring that…thing…here again.”
The human laughed as she patted GLaDOS’s casings again. “I did. And I keep my promises.”
“Good,” the AI said, her voice filled with venomous glee again. “Because next time, the incineration will not be optional. Consider that your only warning.”
Chell just kept laughing.