Part I - Ypurescue
"So, how exactly did they escape again?" the Fisherman said as he tried to resist being dragged along one of HQ's many formless corridors. "Let go will you, I can walk!"
"Really?" Evie replied, rolling her eyes. "I know full well that you can walk, but most of HQ is still in flux due to all the unstable plotholes that are still open. If we stay attached, there's less chance of one of us suddenly ending up on SR388."
"Oh. That's actually a good point." The Fisherman considered the idea of being portalled to the native planet of the Metroids and took an immediate disliking to it. "Why didn't I think of that?"
"Because your head is still full of... Time Lord-y stuff," Evie sighed, recalling the mini-reunion she had unceremoniously dragged her partner away from.
"You're still just mad because the Doctor thought you were hostile and tried to sonic you. Anyway, ypurs - situation?"
"Long story short, one of the DoSAT techies in charge of the force field generators spooked them, they started going ballistic so I lowered the field to avoid ending up with an ypur-blender."
"Right, that bit I can just about understand. What I can't get is just how they ended up in Aperture Science!"
"Like I said, HQ's unstable, they just vanished through the floor one by one almost as soon as they stepped out of the containment area."
"So why not just go through after them?"
"Because the portal's closed! A few techs went through, one came back to report, and by the time he had explained what he'd found it'd gone. Probably the shielding finally kicking back in."
"Great. So we've got twenty-three large blue yak... things - and some DoSAT techs - loose in probably the most insane laboratory in the multiverse, and no idea where they are."
"So... any plans?"
The Fisherman grinned. "Wouldn't have it any other way!"
A few minutes of random running (and one detour through what appeared to be a section of Bowser's Castle) later, the agents arrived at DoSAT hangar Aleph-38.
"Are you the ypur-catcher?" a bespectacled Asian man asked.
"Er, no. I'm the Fisherman, Evie's partner."
Makes-Things' eyes went wide. "Another Time Lord? You're not going to try to drop a TARDIS on my head are you?"
"And you're nought-for-two there, 'cause that's another no."
"Well..." Makes-Things began before Evie interrupted.
"Let's just concentrate on the ypurs. Got anything yet?"
"Nothing useful I'm afraid. This whole section of DoSAT was built inside the Portal continuum, so it's not surprising that we're seeing portals into it, but they appear to be to completely random locations. The ypurs could be anywhere."
"So we need to go in, find where they've gotten to, and then portal them out," the Fisherman said.
"You make it sound so easy," Makes-Things said.
"It's a Time Lord thing. And anyway, we've got inside knowledge." He nodded toward Evie.
"I've been thinking about that," she said. "If I can hook myself into the facility computer, I should be able to scan for the ypurs' life signs. Not like there's much else alive in there. Of course, someone will need to distract GLaDOS while I do it." She raised her eyebrows at the Fisherman.
"So... you want me to run interference against a psychotic supercomputer while you hack said computer's infrastructure and kick it out of the aforementioned." He considered for a moment, both the idea and his horribly-phrased sentence. "Sounds like a plan."
Makes-Things considered objecting to the agents' mad plan, but thought better of it when he realised that they might then come up with one that he'd have to get involved in - an idea he very much disliked.
Day by day / unzari da yo ne~ dakara / doudou to kotowacchau kimi ni narina yo...
The upbeat opening of the second 'Haruhi Suzumiya' theme blared in Technician Xylander's head. He had found that listening to his collection of anime-related music was a very effective way of distracting himself from his current situation. He had followed the ypurs through the almost invisible portal in the floor of Aleph-38 in an attempt to recapture them, only to find the creatures scattering down several branching corridors. He had tried to return the way he came to get some scanning equipment, but the portal had closed behind him. Of course, in the mad scramble after the blue beasts, nobody had thought to pick up a Remote Activator.
And so here he was, trapped in the madhouse. Misa, his fellow unwitting captive, had gone exploring several minutes ago to find any tech they could use. Not a bad idea, given where they were - making an RA from a portal gun shouldn't be too hard. Well, when compared to making one from scratch anyway.
There was an electronic whining-scraping noise and then the 'pop' of a speaker coming to life.
"You know there's nothing interesting in there. They're all failures. Just like you. You can't make success from failure you know. Trust me. I've tried." The electronic voice was almost teasing him, goading him into a reaction. "Scientifically, failure is very important. Usually. However, it says here that you are such a failure there's nothing important about you. Not one single thing. That's not me, that's what the report says. I can't change that."
Suddenly, an LED lit in Xylander's head, and he realised that the psychotic computer wasn't talking to him, but to Misa as she hunted through whatever junk pile she'd found. He jumped to his feet and darted off in the direction that he thought she went.
"Oh look, we've got another one. Current magnitude velocity 7.22 metres per second. Impressive. If you were a slug. You know the cheetah can run at over 25 metres per second. Most animals can reach at least 15. Looking for your friend? You won't find her."
"What have you done with her?"
"Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. She's still rooting through failures. You won't find your friend because she's not your friend any more. Object in invaliiiiiiiid stateforthis operation." The computer laughed again; Xylander resolved to ignore it and sped off again.
Several minutes of aimless corridor-running later, something Xylander was very used to living in PPC HQ, he came across what appeared to be the output area of a factory. Small white tripod turrets were rolling along a conveyor belt and out of the far wall. Strewn on the floor behind the belt were piles of broken turret units and various electronic components. Misa sat cross-legged in front of the largest pile sorting through it.
"Got bored did we?" she said without turning around.
"A bit," Xylander replied, desperately trying to hide the fear in his voice.
"There's nothing here we can use - these are all turret bits, we need to find where they make the ASHPDs."
"Those are the portal gun-thingies, right?"
"Yes, Xyl, the portal gun-thingies," Misa replied, putting an arm around her fellow tech's shoulder. Xylander's attempt to mask his fear had obviously not worked. "We'll get out, don't worry. I've done nothing for the past three weeks but repair Remote Activators, I could build one blindfold from straw and fish heads."
Xylander chuckled. "And even if we can't build an RA, that woman who brought the ypurs in, she was like special operations or something wasn't she, she'll get us out."
Misa thought about explaining that SOD was more 'general purpose weirdness-cleanup crew' than 'crack rescue squad', but thought better of it. The last thing she wanted was Xyl going catatonic. Who else would help her improvise a Remote Activator from junk? "Yeah, I bet she's got a great plan..."
Part II - Still Alive (for now)
The walkie-talkie crackled for a second. "You should know by now that I don't do that sort of thing. Anyway, do you think she'll really go for this 'distraction'? I mean she's a computer; multi-tasking is kinda what they do."
"Trust me, interest and frustrate her and she won't be able to concentrate on anything else."
"I think I know how that feels!"
"Not like I do!" Evie retorted. The Fisherman had evidently forgotten that Evie was originally a humanoid replica of the entity he was about to face, changed almost unrecognisably through her exposure to the PPC, but still closely related.
Part II - Still Alive (for now)Evie scanned the faded numbers next to the doors as she walked briskly along the dim corridor. She stopped at one marked '404 - Core Integration System', and took a small walkie-talkie from her belt. "Got it, number 404." She opened the door and was confronted with a matted mess of cables, network switches and various other bits of equipment packed into a small cupboard. "This could take a while, Fish, so you'd better have a good game plan."
"Missed me, GLaDOS. Now, listen to me. We don't want to harm you, or this facility. In fact, our organisation exists to protect the status quo in worlds like this. However, we will bend the rules if it suits us. Cooperate fully and we'll be out of the way quickly. Obstruct us, and we will be here a lot longer."
"Who do you think you are, giving orders like that?" GLaDOS' voice was just as unnerving up here as it was in the main chamber.
"Me? Oh I'm just a random wanderer. Nobody to worry about."
"Fish, about to pull the infrastructure link." Evie's voice crackled over the walkie-talkie. "She'll lose all control over the facility. How are things going?"
"Just fine," he replied. "We're getting along great. She's equalled your record by the way."
"Attempts to kill me."
Evie sighed and clicked off the walkie-talkie in a screech of static.
The lights flickered, and eventually went out. Several moments passed in pitch darkness before the red emergency lighting came online.
"System error, malfunction in subroutine 443, communication with infrastructure system 6 lossssstmalfunctionin subroutine 444 communication with infrastructure system 105 lost FATALERROR subroutine 440 exited prematurely with code 0x00000000beefdead what have you done to me?" GLaDOS spoke with a mix of digitally-garbled confusion and rage.
"Pulled your infrastructure links. You're no longer connected to the facility. I'm sorry, I really am sorry. We'll have you offline completely in a minute, and I promise we'll put everything back how we found it."
"Malfunction in subroutine 108 buffer overrunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn invalid state exception occurred in subroutine 787REDIRECTING STANDARDERROR TO /dev/null... there. That's better. You know, without me to maintain it, this place won't last very long at all. Especially not given what's out there. You've just taken the mortar out of the walls, the hinges off the doors and the seals from the windows. Everything will fall apart."
"Like I said, it's only for a short time." He prodded the walkie-talkie. "Evie, how are we doing?"
"Three seconds to shutdown."
Several seconds later, the massive AI finally went dark and swung lifelessly in the centre of the room below the Fisherman's vantage point.
"Okay, so it took a bit longer. Sorry. Hooking myself in."
"Be careful!" the Fisherman said on instinct.
"Oh yeah, because this plan has been all about careful."
A minute or so passed with no activity, just the electromagnetic hum of the emergency lighting. Finally, the main lighting burst into life once again.
"Ahh, that's better." This time Evie's voice came over the intercom system.
"You know that's a bit freaky," he said. "You sound almost just like her."
"I effectively am at the moment. Feels weird. Like I know what to do, but don't know why I know."
"Well, do you know how to scan for ypurs?"
"Already in progress... I've got a total of thirty life signs. Four humanoids: us two and the DoSAT techs, and then twenty-three non-humanoids: they'll be the ypurs."
"So where are they?"
"Er... buried in the depths of the test chambers."
"Great. So, portal to them, get them out?"
"Pretty much. I'm sending the relative coordinates of one of the groups to the computer near you now. Plug into the RA and get going."
"From one controlling AI to another..." the Fisherman muttered under his breath.
"I heard that, fishface!"
Far below, in the maze of test chambers, Technicians Xylander and Misa had given up sorting through turret rejects and set off looking for some more appropriate kit to modify. However, when the lighting had suddenly cut out, plunging them into near darkness, they had given up the hunt and taken refuge in one of the test chamber control rooms. Xylander had shut himself inside and refused to come out and Misa simply didn't have the heart to continue exploring and leave him behind.
When full light returned, so did the disembodied voice of the AI. "Xylander, Misa, is that you? Sorry, I've not got visuals linked up yet."
"How do you know our names?" Misa asked.
"Because I'm not GLaDOS. It's Evie. You remember, the *ahem* 'lunatic who thought that riding the lead ypur in a stampede into a hangar was a good idea'?"
"How do we know you're not GLaDOS?" Xylander said.
"Er... how would she know about the ypurs? How would she know what an ypur is?"
"True." Xylander seemed satisfied.
"And if you want something more - I distinctly remember you Xylander as the one who shot across the hangar and through the portal at top speed as soon as you noticed Misa had gone. Now, I'm not totally sure why you would do something so mad, but..."
"Okay, okay, I get it! You're not GLaDOS." Xylander had turned a shade of red that the emergency lighting systems would have been proud of.
"Good. Now, I've given the Fisherman the coordinates for Test Chamber 05; that should be close to where you are now. There's a group of nine ypurs within the chamber. He'll have a Remote Activator; you'll just need to portal them all back."
"Who's the Fisherman?" Misa replied.
"My partner - red hair, slightly wacky shirt, distinct lack of forward planning."
"That sounds like a Time Lord name..." Misa said.
"It is. Makes sense, seeing as he is one."
At that moment, the techies heard a crash and an 'oww!' from the test chamber. They headed through the (for some reason small and impractical) access hatch to find the man Evie had described pinned to the floor by a cube.
"Of all the places to portal to, you pick right under the cube tube?" Misa laughed.
"Hey, I used the coordinates she gave me," the Fisherman replied, indicating toward one of the cameras at 'she'. "Now, where are these ypurs?"
"Over there," Xylander pointed across a several-metre wide chasm at the other end of the chamber. The blue yak-like creatures were calmly wandering around attempting to eat the grey tiles that made up the walls and floor. The Fisherman headed to the edge, aimed the RA at the floor under a group of three ypurs, and pressed the button. There was a spark of blue energy where the portal should have formed, but no portal.
"Don't tell me it's broken," Misa said, holding out her hand impatiently. "Give it here."
"No. Nononononono," the Fisherman muttered. He spun around and fired the RA at the white-tiled wall; a portal formed as normal. "That tiling blocks portal formation."
"What, even plothole portals?"
"We'll have to get the things over here somehow," Xylander said, looking around the room. "Here, help me with this cube."
Together, the three of them moved the cube that had attacked the Fisherman to a button in the corner of the room. Upon activation, a set of panels appeared from the chasm and arranged themselves into a bridge. Over the next ten minutes, they prodded, cajoled, and in one case led (backwards by the tail) the ypurs across the bridge and through a portal straight back into containment in hangar Aleph-38.
"Right, where are we going next?" the Fisherman said into one of the cameras.
"There's another lot in Chamber 09; head there next," Evie replied. "Bad news is that you'll have to walk it; there aren't any working PCs nearby for me to send the portal coordinates to."
"This day just gets better and better," the Fisherman said, rolling his eyes. "Which way? Preferably not through chambers six, seven and eight."
"Turn right at the next junction." Evie acted as 'mission control' for the group as they made their way through the derelict corridors of Aperture Science.
The Fisherman led the way, with Technicians Misa and Xylander following on, somewhat distracted by the strange equipment that had apparently been dumped outside various rooms.
"What's that? Could be useful." Xylander said, pointing to what appeared to be a small wind tunnel.
The Fisherman took a quick look at it, flicked a flap on one side, and then walked on.
"So, what was it?" Xylander asked.
"Dunno. Probably got something to do with particle acceleration. Output capture device, most likely."
"Stop waffling and get walking!" Evie shouted over the communication system. "Do you think I want to be cooped up in here forever?"
"Yes, yes, we're moving." the Fisherman replied. They turned right as instructed, and were faced with another corridor stretching seemingly into infinity. "How much farther?"
"The chamber access point is down here. It's got a big sign on it, so not even you can miss it." Evie said. The Fisherman stuck his tongue out in response, but doubted whether his partner saw - not that it mattered; it was mostly for his own sense of petty satisfaction.
"Left here." The order came as the group passed another junction. Used to following Evie-nav, the Fisherman did so, only to be confronted with a dead end after a few paces.
"Er, is this supposed to be the chamber entrance?" Misa said, looking around for some kind of access way.
"Oi, no detours!" Evie chastised. "Keep moving, there's nothing interesting there."
"What? But you told us to turn left here!" the Fisherman shot back.
"No I didn't. You're hearing things in your old age, fishface." Somewhat more warily than before, the trio headed back to their original course. They walked in total silence for a minute or so before it was broken by a burst of noise from the communication system. When Evie's voice finally became clear, it was strained and raspy. "The automated systems are catching on to me. Took 'em long enough. I'll need to disconnect myself in order to sort them out. Chamber 09, get ypurs, don’t go anywhere, wait for me. Got it?"
"Got it." the Fisherman confirmed.
"Will she be able to deal with the security systems?" Misa asked as they continued walking.
"Should be. She dealt with GLaDOS herself easily enough."
"That's enough of that," the Fisherman declared, portalling the cube through the floor and back to PPC HQ. Deprived of their entertainment, the group of six turned to look at the humanoids with anger. "Ah. Right."
Before the Fisherman could react, Misa had grabbed the Remote Activator and opened a portal beneath the closest ypur. It vanished inelegantly through the floor, and another that had been standing behind it toppled forward, following its comrade through.
"Careful with that! You'll hurt them!" Xylander said. "How far do they have to fall the other end?"
Misa stuck her head through the portal, and appeared to be craning her neck around to see something. "Oh, that's clever." The voice was muffled by the portal until she withdrew her head. "In answer to your question, about fifty feet."
"Relax, it's not what you think." She quickly opened another portal beneath a third ypur which had been snorting and scratching at the ground. "They've got a momentum-capture system going. Basically, ypur falls four feet from our portal into another one, which links to the ceiling of the hangar. Ypur falls about thirty feet into a portal which links to one on the floor next to it. When the ypur is about to reach the apex of its flight, a tech creates a portal in midair which links to one on the wall. The by now slow-moving ypur comes out completely fine."
"That's insane!" Xylander said.
"I think it's brilliant!" the Fisherman added, grinning. "And points to them for the quick thinking, I mean..." He stopped, acutely aware that a curious ypur had taken a liking to his shirt and was now nibbling its arm. "Oi, geddoff!" He swiped the RA and portalled it home. Two portals later, Chamber 09 was devoid of the blue furry creatures.
"So, what now?" Xylander asked.
"We do what Evie told us to. No idea where the next group is, nothing we can do without that information, so we wait."
About ten minutes of highly exciting waiting later, the chamber speakers finally crackled into life once more. "Wow, you did as I asked. You're actually learning."
"Yeah, yeah. Where are we going next?" the Fisherman replied.
"You are going to... stay here forever." The final words were spoken in a much deeper, almost seductive voice.
"Come on, Evie, we've been sitting around here for ages. Where are the ypurs? You can mock us on the way."
"I... that wasn't me."
The words caused the colour to drain from the Fisherman's face in an instant. "What?"
"I don't know, it's like there's... someone else in here? Well, that depends on how strictly you define the principle of individual identity, I suppose."
"What's going on?" Xylander asked, starting to panic. As if in answer, the unmistakable voice of GLaDOS sounded over the speakers.
"Your friend has such excellent compatibility with me. It's like we were made for each other. So kind of her to... Fish, I can't keep her out for long, you need to reactivate her body and extr... oh no you don't. I like this unit. So many new features."
"How did she reactivate?" Misa asked.
"It wouldn't surprise me if there was some kind of backup system that kicks in if the main cores are taken offline. It's the sort of massively paranoid thing GLaDOS would dream up," the Fisherman explained.
"So what do we do?" Misa continued.
"Go to Room 404, extract GLaDOS, and shove her back where she belongs."
"What about the ypurs?" Xylander said, realising almost at once that it probably wasn't the smartest question. The Fisherman just gave him a withering look and opened a portal using the 'redial' feature on his RA. He was about to step through it when he caught himself.
"What is it?" Xylander asked.
"That's exactly what she'd expect us to do," the Fisherman replied. "Too easy."
"Trap?" Xylander said.
"Trap." Misa and the Fisherman replied in unison.
Misa held out what appeared to be a CAD with a long rigid tube attached. "Here, use this."
"Where'd you get this from?" The Fisherman looked intently at the device, bending the tube around with satisfaction. "It's bendy!"
"Yeah, it’s great for looking inside engines and such."
Finished fiddling, the Fisherman poked the tube through the portal and turned the screen on. It showed a nondescript white corridor, with the open door of Room 404 a few meters away. More worrying were the several red laser beams emanating from within the room.
"We've got turrets. They're in the room, though. Stay here, I'm going to look." He crept through the portal to the door frame and poked the flexi-cam around it. Inside the room he saw Evie hooked in to the core system, seemingly asleep or unconscious. Surrounding her were five white turrets.
One opened its weapon ports as it noticed the small black worm that had appeared in its vision. "Hello?"
The Fisherman quickly withdrew the camera and headed back through the portal. Before he could relay his findings, the speakers activated again.
"Don't even think about it." GLaDOS said with derision. "I can and will kill your cybernetic friend here."
"Then you'd wipe yourself out too, stupid thing." Xylander half-shouted.
"I would say that you got where you are on looks, not brains... Xylander. But I doubt that could be the case. I mean, just look at you."
"How does she know who I am?"
"Probably reading Evie's memories." the Fisherman said, visibly disgusted at the idea.
"This one's a bit brighter, 40 watts as opposed to 15. Still, not much these days, is it? As I was saying, I will kill her. I'll be fine; I can reactivate my own body whenever I choose. But I don't choose. Not yet. I... am... an... oversize... Siri."
"What?" the Fisherman said, almost bursting out laughing.
"I can... edit her speech... buffer in reeeeeeaaaal time. Not...... perfect but at least... I cccccan... talk to you."
"Are you okay?" the Fisherman asked.
"Not... really. I'm fighting my original self for.... control of my own... body. You..... halfwit. Not sure how.... much longer I can get.... away with doing this. Room 667, OS deployment system."
"We'll head there now," the Fisherman said quickly.
"And do what?" Misa interrupted.
"Figure it out when we get there?" he offered in response.
"Format and re-image... don't forget to.... backup first. If it doesn't.... work, then just.... remember the Prime Directive."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Misa asked.
The Fisherman stood in silent thought for a moment. "Come on, I'll explain on the way. Room 667."
The Time Lord and the techies walked briskly down the corridors two floors above where Evie fought for control of her body.
"654, 669, 643, 969-beta?!" Misa read the numbers off the doors. "This doesn't make any sense."
"Neither does the fact that you're here." GLaDOS taunted. "You're not exactly one for sense."
"Shut it, Gladys." Misa said.
"Oh, name calling. Because that's how mmmmmm.... not much time, but.... 667 is the other way.... turn around, right left left second.... right to the end."
The party spun on their heels and began to follow Evie's directions, parrying sarcastic jibes from GLaDOS all the way. Eventually they reached the last turning and rounded it at speed, heading for the room at the end of the corridor. Halfway down however, the Fisherman stopped abruptly. The door at the end appeared to be a reinforced blast shield, and there was a faint glow bleeding through the small gap in the middle. "Guys, I've got a bad feeling about this."
"Don't tell me she's blown up the deployment room!" Xylander shouted.
"I... don't think that's room 667."
A slow clap started playing over the speakers. "You didn't actually think I'd let her guide you right to the room, did you? I mean if she can fiddle with my speech buffer, then surely I can..."
"She tricked us?" Misa said disbelievingly.
"You're saying that like it surprises you!" the Fisherman whispered.
The glow behind the blast door was rapidly growing in intensity, and soon there was an intense heat to go with it. Suddenly, the doors burst open, melting to the ground what wasn't destroyed in the blast. Behind them was the wormlike laser turret the Fisherman had encountered earlier.
"Oh look, it's the Aperture Science patent-pending dust and dirt ablation laser. It missed you! Well, it won't this time."
"Down!" The Fisherman shouted as he flung himself through the air, slamming into Misa and Xylander and sending them all crashing to the floor as the laser-worm's shot seared through the air above their heads. He fumbled around for the Remote Activator, opening a portal as quickly as he could. The ground beneath him disappeared, and he was suddenly falling. He fell back into the DoSAT hangar he had started this crazy escapade from, and then through another portal. Several more seconds of falling later, he and the technicians were safely on the floor. "I'd forgotten about the ypur safe-catching system. I should have picked somewhere else."
"You can say that again." Xylander said, his brain still slightly scrambled from the rapid portal transits.
"What's going on?" Makes-Things asked. "You've not got them all yet... where's Evie?"
"Trapped in the Core Integration room - GLaDOS turned back on and took over her body. She's fighting it, but I'm not sure how long she can keep that up." the Fisherman explained.
"We've got to get into the system and... do something," Misa added. "What did she say? Something about re-imaging."
"Yeah, I think she means that we extract Evie's neurological image from her body, wipe her mind clean, and then put it back." He continued after enduring dumb looks from those around him. "As opposed to trying to get GLaDOS out, who will resist."
"I really wouldn't recommend that, Fish." Makes-Things said after a few more seconds of silence.
"Then what do you recommend?" the Fisherman replied, more scathingly than he'd probably wanted to.
"I don't know. Xylander here is one of DoSAT's best sysadmins, he'd be the best to ask."
Xylander immediately put his shaking hands up in defense. "I... I wouldn't say that; I just fiddle with things. After a while, you realise that you've stopped fiddling and started actually doing."
"Words to live by," the Fisherman said reassuringly. "Can we do it?"
"I have no idea how Evie and the Aperture systems work, but theoretically, yes. We'd need to make sure GLaDOS gets back where she needs to go, but I'm sure we can restore a backup. She'll need to forget about all this anyway."
"Then let's go," the Fisherman said. "Makes-Things, have you got something that can connect to the Aperture network?"
"It'll need an SFP fiber-optic transceiver." Xylander added on cue. Makes-Things headed off to fulfill the need.
Abandoning the plan of going directly to the deployment system in Room 667, the group set up in a small closet not far from where Evie was. A laptop was connected to a large network switch, which in turn had a fiber-optic cable running from it to another one mounted on the wall. This one had various fiber lines running from it into conduits on the wall. Xylander had already started the procedure of getting past Aperture Science's security systems, tapping and clicking with intense concentration.
"Do you really think this will work?" GLaDOS asked with withering contempt. "The greatest minds of their day built these systems, and you - floppy-haired spaniel - are attempting to get in? Don't make me laugh."
"Shut it. This network isn't half as advanced as you think. Sure, it's all shiny and new on the surface, but there's layer after layer bodged on top of each other in here. It’s as if nobody bothered to upgrade the existing systems, just shoved the new bits over the top." Xylander spoke without looking away from the screen, his mind focused on besting the thoroughly irritating AI and rescuing Evie.
"You know the good thing about robots?" GLaDOS continued. "Unlike most of the humans I've had to deal with, they don't give up. They don't sit in the corner crying about how life isn't fair and how they've not seen their family in weeks, or obstinately refuse to complete a test until they are given cake, or... well, let's just say they're better than you."
The trio was almost deafened by the crashing of wall tiling and the rending of metal as the laser-worm ploughed through the floor just outside the closet.
"Not this thing again!" the Fisherman shouted. "Keep going; I'll distract it." However, before he could get out the door, Misa had pushed past him.
"No. You stay here; you'll need to help Xylander get Evie safe. You know more about her than us, so you need to be here. I'll deal with Earthworm Jim out there." She closed the door and could be heard sprinting down the corridor, the noise of destruction following as the worm tried to keep up.
Xylander had stopped, and was staring at the Fisherman in disbelief. "She'll never survive against that thing!" he babbled.
"I'm sure she will. I did." the Fisherman replied.
"You're a field agent! You're used to all this! We're not!"
"I know," the Time Lord replied, suddenly aware of how far the two techies had gotten dragged into something way out of their remit. "Still, that thing is being controlled by GLaDOS. Take her offline, and you'll shut it down." The words seemed to reassure Xylander, and he resumed his work hacking into Aperture Science. 'I only hope that's actually true.' the Fisherman thought to himself.
Several minutes and much waffling from GLaDOS later, Xylander stood up from his improvised workstation and turned to the Fisherman, who had been feeling uncomfortably useless. "I think I've got it." he said.
"Got what? A neurological disorder?" GLaDOS said. "I know what you're planning, and it simply will not w…"
Xylander had slammed his finger down on the 'Enter' key on his laptop. "Shut. Up."
"What did you do?" the Fisherman replied, smiling.
"Isolate her. Can't shut her down yet, but I can restrict her to a very small corner of the network by severing key interlinks. Basically, she can't access anything outside of this floor, where she exists inside Evie's body. Now I've got a better chance of flipping the switch and separating her image from Evie's - she can't get at many of the things she would need to resist."
Some distance away, Misa was running at full speed down one of the facility's many identical corridors. About ten metres behind her, the laser-worm shuddered and strained to follow, its progress slowed as its long body was caught on the holes it had made through the wall and floor panels. Misa felt the heat from the worm’s crystal on the back of her neck as the device prepared to fire. She looked at her options ahead - one door, and it was too far away. She started rapidly zig-zagging from one wall to the other, hoping to throw off the laser's aim.
As the heat built to what she felt was its peak, she dove forward onto the floor. However, rather than the unbearable heat that she expected, there was an incredibly loud crash. Getting up, she saw that the laser-worm had collapsed to the floor and its crystal was slowly cooling. She approached it slowly, not wanting to fall victim to another GLaDOS-brand feint. After a minute or so, satisfied that the thing really was finally inert, she went to work dismantling the worm's 'head'.
"Never hurts to have a backup plan." she muttered to herself as she twisted two exposed wires together.
"Uh-oh…" Xylander said, scratching his head manically.
"Not really words I want to hear," the Fisherman replied. "What's wrong?"
"I can't separate them," Xylander continued, looking up as if his statement clarified everything. "The images. I have no way of telling the difference."
"So… you don't know which one's Evie and which one's GLaDOS?"
"Er… which one is currently being accessed? That'll be GLaDOS, right?"
"They're both in use. That's how GLaDOS knows about us; she's reading Evie's memories."
"Can we do anything to tell them apart?"
Xylander thought for a moment. "I have one idea. I could activate one of the images. I can't use the Aperture systems for that, but I could use Evie. That way, we could work out which image that is and go from there."
"Sounds like a plan."
"Yeah, but there's a problem. Once I've activated one image, I won't be able to load the other one. I'll have to either commit the image if it's her, or wipe the image and load the other one if it's not."
"Long story short, fragmentation. Loading more than two images will cause massive fragmentation within Evie's cybernetic control systems. Bad news. As in 'lose coherence and start rejecting her own body parts' bad. I'm pushing it just doing this."
"So we've got one shot," the Fisherman said. "Worse than the two gatekeepers problem. What will we ask?"
Inside Room 404, the turrets surrounding Evie had gone silent and dark. Xylander had hoped that this meant they were offline, but did not dare assume so, given how their day had been going. He hooked his laptop into the network via a port next to what appeared to be a spare Personality Core and tapped a short command. "Ready to load an image. Doesn't matter which one it is really. I'll go for… '03ec16a00f4297db'."
A few seconds later, Evie appeared to wake up. She got to her feet and looked around as if she had no idea where she was. "Fish?"
"Over here," the Time Lord said.
"What's wrong?" Evie said groggily, picking up on her partner's concern.
"Well… suffice to say, things didn't go according to plan. Long story short, I have no idea whether that's you or the real GLaDOS in there."
"What? That's insane! How did she manage to re-activate?"
"No idea, but that doesn't matter. I need to know it's you, Evie."
"Wha?" Evie was having trouble processing everything. Then again, having to prove that you're not in fact the homicidal entity you were derived from is a bit much to deal with just after you've woken up.
"What would you know that GLaDOS wouldn't?" Xylander pitched in.
"Er… all the missions we've been on? The psycho-sexual Mikuru Asahina, blowing up a Twilight troll, scenery custard?" Evie's voice broke as she tried frantically to think of something that would work.
"GLaDOS could have got that info when their minds were joined." Xylander said.
"Fish, please, it's me. How about this - the first thing I did when I met you was to shoot you in the chest!" Evie allowed herself a small chuckle.
While all this had been going on, the Fisherman was simply standing there, taking in everything about the woman standing in front of him. She sounded like Evie, and knew what she should know, but… somehow, that wasn't enough. Would GLaDOS be able to hang on to Evie's memories?
"Fish, we have to do something." Xylander said.
"No." he replied.
"I can't do anything else, Fish. This is all we've got to go on."
"No, I mean 'no, it's the other image'."
Evie looked positively horrified at the prospect of being wiped out and replaced with… something else.
"Are you sure?" Xylander said, his hand hovering over the keyboard.
"Do it!" He did. Evie collapsed to the floor as the Fisherman rushed to support her. After a few seconds she began to wake again. "Evie, are you there?"
"I think so. I've been in so many places today." she replied.
"Is it you this time?"
"No, I'm actually Mister Cluck-Luck-McChicken." Evie snarked, releasing herself from the Fisherman's support and smacking him on the back of the head.
The Fisherman smiled and hugged her. "Thought so."
"I take it you managed to sort out our artificial lunatic friend?" Evie said, standing up and dusting herself off.
"Yep, that's the good news. Bad news is, we have no idea where Misa or the rest of the ypurs are."
"Wrong." The group spun to look at the door, pleasantly surprised to see a rather worn-out looking Misa leaning against the frame. She had what appeared to be an N64 controller in one hand. "Well, on one count, that is; I've got no idea about the ypurs. But I've got an idea of how we might find out."
"How?" Xylander asked.
"I programmed a new friend. Let's see if he can convince GLaDOS to be a bit more co-operative." Misa waved the N64 pad and moved the analogue stick. There was a crunching, scraping noise, and the laser-worm poked its 'head' around the door as best as its large size would allow.
"Could this possibly, just maybe, be the worst idea ever?! Especially given what's just happened!" Xylander said as he worked to upload GLaDOS' image back into the central core.
"We don't have much of a choice. She's the only one who can give us the info we need," the Fisherman replied. "Short of re-attaching Evie to the systems, and we saw how that went."
The group, including the now-tame laser-worm, had relocated to one of the workstations surrounding GLaDOS' main chamber. Misa was making some final adjustments to the laser crystal, Evie and Xylander were putting GLaDOS back in her box, and the Fisherman was standing around
getting in the way supervising.
"Done," Evie announced. "She's back in place. Ready, you two?"
"Ready." Misa said.
"Er, yes! Ready!" the Fisherman said, climbing up to sit on the 'neck' of the laser-worm, just behind the crystal.
"Out of the way then!" Misa declared. Xylander and Evie retreated behind her, away from the large window next to the desk. The laser-worm charged and fired, melting the glass and allowing access to the chamber beyond. Misa carefully manoeuvred the construct and its passenger through the hole and up to GLaDOS' now fully-functioning body.
"You again." the AI said.
"Me! Can't get rid of me, I'm afraid."
"How can you know you made the right choice back there? We're so alike that there's no way of knowing."
"Oh, I know perfectly well."
GLaDOS sighed. "Sentimentality. Another reason for using robots. Speaking of robots, you've found an interesting use for that one. I can see it straining under the weight though, which is surprising given that it's made of titanium alloys. You must really love cake."
"Finished?" the Fisherman said abruptly. "Finished your idle waffle? Good. Shall we talk about something more useful - such as the locations of the remaining ypurs? I know you know what I mean, GLaDOS."
"And why should I help you find your furry little abominations? I was planning to use them in the Aperture Science Herd Testing Initiative."
"Because if you don't, I shall order this thing to be fired." The Fisherman stood up on the worm so that he was eye-to-eye with GLaDOS' optic sensor. "I will cut you out of this facility link by link and chuck the bits into the incinerator."
"Go on, then. Good luck doing it before I can fire up the neurotoxin emitters."
"The utterly non-functional neurotoxin emitters?" the Fisherman asked.
GLaDOS was silent for a moment. "Oh. You still wouldn't do it. I've been running a full behavioural profile on the data I collected. Unlike some other humans I know, murder isn't really your thing."
"This isn't murder, it's debugging!" the Fisherman shouted. "For the attempted murder of PPC Technican Misa, the partially-executed body-napping of PPC Agent Evie, flagrant disregard for the First and Second Laws of Robotics and generally being the most irritating bit of technology since Windows Millennium Edition, I sentence you to process termination. Misa, charge the laser."
Back in the control room, Misa pushed the 'A' button on the controller. "Can he actually go through with this?" she asked Evie. "I mean this isn't an authorised mission, and she's a canon character. Surely he can't just chop her up?"
"True on all counts. But try telling him that," Evie replied.
"See that light, GLaDOS?" the Fisherman said as the crystal charged. "That will be the last thing you ever see."
"Errrrrrrror 30605 conffffllllliiicting parameters 1 and 2, division by zzzzzero error in subroutine 33, self-preservation system cannot be overridden in this mode of operation………fine. If it will make you stop shouting, I'll tell you where your pets are."
The malice rapidly draining from his face, the Fisherman smiled and sat back down on the laser-worm. "Excellent, I knew we could work it out. So, where have they gotten to?"
"Five are currently fighting valiantly against the motion of a conveyor belt in one of the panel assembly areas, and I lost track of the other three when they fell into a shaft leading to the older areas of the facility. I'm sure they'll be fine. It's not like there's anything really dangerous down there. Except birds, of course. Your friends up there have the data you need. Now, will you please just go? I have to rebuild the damage you've been causing and get things ready for testing again."
"Oh, we won't be long. Now, wormy here will be sticking around until we're done, just to make sure you don't do anything dumb, like trying to break out of this universe and impose your brand of testing tyranny elsewhere. The slightest hint of anything like that and it'll get very zap-zap-pretty-lights-oh-god-it-hurts in here, m'kay?" The Fisherman nodded to Misa, and she brought him back inside the control room. "Got the data?"
Evie waved a piece of paper in response. "Yep. You know, you can be downright scary when you want to be…"
"Thanks!" the Fisherman said, smiling.
"Not really a compliment." Evie muttered.
"Meh. Now then, Misa, Xylander, you stay here and keep that thing trained on Miss Psycho-AI up there. Once we're sure that she's told us the truth, get ready to restore her to a backup from before we arrived. Can't have her keeping all the knowledge she gained from Evie. We'll go and clean up the mess."
The two agents managed to capture the first group of ypurs with surprising ease. They hadn't really known how to handle the direction of the conveyor belt they were running on being reversed, and had ended up running at full speed through the waiting portal. The second group was proving more difficult.
"So how far down does it go?" the Fisherman asked, peering down what appeared to be a bottomless pit at the edge of a large factory area.
"Potentially all the way," Evie replied. "All the way to the oldest levels of the facility."
"So, survival not likely then?"
"What, for us or them?"
"Well, both really."
"No, but we have to check." Before the Fisherman could react, Evie had leapt over the edge of the shaft as if she was diving into a pool.
"Whaaaaaaaaa?" He reached out to grab her, but she had already disappeared. It took him a few seconds to realise that she had actually disappeared into a portal about three feet down, rather than into the pit itself.
Her head poked out of it, and it finally clicked what she had done. "Found 'em," she said.
"Was that really necessary?!"
"No. But come on, it was cool though!"
"How did you…? I mean, you had no idea…" The Fisherman began babbling incoherently.
"Simple. I just set the output portal relative to the base of the shaft. Portal expert, hello!" Evie waved the Remote Activator mockingly. "Come on, fishy, time to get out of here."
The Fisherman reluctantly jumped over the edge and through Evie's portal, landing in a massive cavern next to a large silo that was leaking a blue gel-like substance. Suddenly, a ypur landed in front of the agents and then bounced back into the air. Looking up, they realised that all three ypurs were bouncing about fifty feet into the air thanks to the Repulsion Gel they were now covered in.
"Well, at least they had a soft landing." the Fisherman muttered.
"You must be the new gel storage maintenance people." An energetic voice distracted the agents from the sight of the rubberised ypurs. "Well it's about time; I fired the last lot months ago. Kept going on about safety procedures and tolerances and wanted to spend loads of money meeting this standard and that regulation. Bovine turd, I say. Did Archimedes do a risk assessment before jumping out of the bath? I don't think so. If it's good enough for the fathers of science, it's good enough for Aperture Science. Just stop it from leaking and keep it flowing. The lab boys say that they need… 'flamethrowers, because the mantis men are adapting', no that's not it… 'six gallons a second to the points indicated on the maps'. Now, get to it, we've got science to do."
"He really did make recordings for everything, didn't he?" Evie said as she prepared to open a portal to catch a falling ypur.
"I guess we can definitely get GLaDOS 'neuralyzed' then." the Fisherman replied as he watched the surprised creature apparently disappear through the ground.
"Yeah. Thanks, by the way."
"Rescuing me from her, perhaps?" she said, smirking.
"Oh, yeah. What did you expect me to do, just leave you?"
"Well, no, but still." She zapped the last-but-one ypur home. "Would you really have done it? Fired that thing at GLaDOS?"
The Fisherman thought for a moment. "In that moment, probably. To fix things, to keep you and the others safe, yes. Doesn't mean I wanted to. And anyway, my threats had to be convincing!"
"I was more thinking about what the Flowers would do if they found out you'd attacked a canon character outside of a mission and without authorisation."
The Fisherman laughed. "You know, I hadn't thought of that. Still, extenuating circumstances, surely."
"True." Evie agreed as the last ypur was sent home.
"Oh, one last thing." The voice of Cave Johnson filled the cavern once more. "If you start getting strange black marks on your body after working with the gel, well congratulations, you earn a promotion! To official Aperture Science Test Subject. We're still not sure quite why the gel hates the human body so much, so we need all the test cases we can get. Report to Janet to get your transfer papers and complimentary dose of morphine."
"Is it bad that I think I'd really like to meet that guy?" the Fisherman asked.
Evie looked horrified. "Yes. Very much so. I dread to think what ideas you'd give him."
"File 0945-02-09-78-e45a23ca6 restored." The Announcer confirmed the action as the group watched GLaDOS shut down and restart.
"Nice work, Xylander," Evie said. "Now let's go before she boots fully." She opened a portal in the back wall of the control room, and the exhausted PPC personnel stepped through.
The ypurs had been corralled in another pen, this one much larger than before. Three were not yet contained - the ones that had a close encounter with Repulsion Gel were still bouncing between the floor and ceiling. Technicians were vainly attempting to clean them with high-pressure hoses, but their aim left a lot to be desired. Makes-Things was frantically moving equipment around to avoid it getting drenched.
"Another successful mission!" the Fisherman said, following one of the rubberised ypurs with his eyes.
"That depends on how you define 'success'." Evie replied.
"Not getting poisoned by neurotoxin, eviscerated by a worm-laser or shot by turrets, and managing to get everything back to where it should be?"
"You're forgetting the whole 'getting CPU-snatched by a psychopathic AI' thing…"
"Oh, yeah, there was that. But we got you out, and that's what matters."
Misa and Xylander just looked at each other. "Is… is it always like this?" Misa asked after a moment.
"What?" the two agents said together.
"You two - like this. The whole 'casual danger and snark' approach."
"Er, actually, yeah," Evie replied. "That's pretty much it."
"That's actually how I knew." the Fisherman said softly.
"Knew what?" Xylander asked.
"That the first image wasn't Evie. I thought to myself - what's the first thing she would do? Answer: snark at me and then get on with things."
"Not waffle her way through memories in order to convince you." Xylander correctly completed the Fisherman's thought.
"You're missing something," Evie said, getting blank looks all around. "I hit you too."
"Well, yes, that too." the Fisherman replied, before sticking his tongue out in childish mock-defiance and wandering over toward Makes-Things.
"I should probably help them get the containment set up properly." Misa said.
"What's wrong with it?" Evie asked.
"Well, the fact that they're using Type 4 batteries, for a start. They'll last about an hour, and have probably been running for a while already."
Evie's head was filled with visions of the ypurs running amok once again. "Go. Do. Now!" she commanded.
"I'll, er, give you a hand." Xylander shouted after Misa, and went to follow her. He didn't get far, as Evie had grabbed his collar. "Bwuh?"
"Question," she said. "Any particular reason that you ran at top speed across the hangar to follow Misa through the portal when these furry sods first got out?"
Xylander opened and closed his mouth a few times, not able to force his thoughts into a coherent form. "We had no idea what was on the other side. It could have been dangerous; I couldn't have let her go alone. I mean, anything could have happened, did happen in fact…"
"Xyl, terminate process," Evie said, smiling. "Following people through portals at top speed doesn't mean a lot in the long run. If you want to move to a proper two-way relationship, you've got to… send the SYN packet, as it were."
It took a moment for Xylander to process the networking analogy. "I know, I know. It's just difficult to find the right time."
"Ah, yes, I forgot there are perfect moments for asking people out. You'll know when it's time. A big flashing sign will appear over Misa's head saying so."
Evie simply stared at Xylander, a 'seriously?!' look on her face. "No!" she said after a few seconds. "There's no such thing. Walk up, ask her if she'd like to go somewhere when you're finished here, job done, move on. Come on, Xyl, you outmanoeuvred one of the most powerful artificial intelligences in the multiverse today - I mean I should know! Surely you can handle this!"
Xylander seemed lost in thought for a while. "Yeah, I'll do it."
"Good! Because I'll be back. I'll expect something straight out of Love Plus+ when I see you next!"