The scientists who’d been trying to save Carly walked back out solemnly. Greg didn’t even need to hear it. He just knew. He didn’t even know their names, they never spoke in the hall, but they wouldn’t look so apologetic if his daughter had made it.
Greg stood up, staggering his way back to the labs alone. Going to his section, he sat in silence. It was a few more minutes before the tears actually came. His daughter had spent most of her sixteen years around these labs so she knew what to avoid. She shouldn’t have even been there. When Greg became a single father he had wanted to give her the best life he could. He learned how to be a father as his daughter grew. Carly would probably be growing up outside the laboratories, safe, alive, if he’d never had to bring her in on that fateful ‘bring your daughter to work’ day.
Greg slouched over his desk, fingers gripping his hair. For the first time in years, he was alone.
The speaker in the room crackled and buzzed to life. Greg stood up taking his chair with him. With an angry grunt he threw it at the small intercom, knocking it to the floor. He didn’t want to hear anything from her. She was the reason his daughter was running those tests in the first place. GLaDOS. The supercomputer that went rogue and took over the facility. She always wanted people to run tests... Greg wasn’t even sure why, probably left over thoughts from before, before she’d even been built and the personality of the CEO’s wife was uploaded into it.
Greg paused mid-thought. That’s right. There wasn’t anything human left of her by now (certainly no human sympathy remained) but GLaDOS had the personality of Caroline Johnson. That was why the supercomputer was always called a SHE. True, the acronym ‘GLaDOS’ could be female, but from the very start it was always a ‘she’, never an ‘it’.
All test subjects were scanned by GLaDOS, and a copy of their personalities was stored. If he could access that, there might be a way to keep his daughter from being gone. Greg ran a shaky hand through his hair and straightened his glasses. He’d have to be careful. Go into her programming while she was busy with other unfortunate test subjects and distracted. In any other situation he would have laughed this away as being completely insane. It was. But in his current situation he had to try.
Before he downloaded his daughter’s personality, he would need a place for it to go. Greg lay awake, staring at the ceiling in what once was a ‘family’ room, and waited until the labs shut down for the night. He crept silently down the barren hallways, avoiding security cameras as he made his way to where robots in the facility were built.
Creeping into the manufacturing section, Greg locked the door behind him and flipped on one light. “I’m here, Carly," he whispered into the darkness. It was gloomy but he didn’t care. “Don’t want…don’t want HER to see us,” he added. “How’s about we give you some spring-heeled testing boots, honey? For your new feet?” He started on the legs.
The scientist carefully lifted and nudged through a set of separate android leg units. He grabbed two and said “Look, Carly! Green and purple! Your favourite colours.” Next, he took down some curved metal plates. Greg pulled a chair out from a work table and sagged into it. Setting the parts down, the forlorn scientist picked up screws, a screwdriver, and started attaching the plates to the sides of the skinny pole-like legs; building them out so they would be closer to human thickness.
He worked without thinking.
Setting the legs aside, Greg stretched before standing, then plodded back over to the tubs and shelves of spare components. He shoved parts aside, picked up and stared at others and set them back down. Somehow he didn’t throw them. He wanted to throw them. “Quiet. We need to stay as silent as possible,” he muttered over his shoulder to the legs. Rummaging through the towering shelves, he heaved down the torso of a testing robot. “Finally.”
Setting the body on the desk, Greg began screwing and assembling the legs onto the bottom.
He worked tirelessly into the night, taking very few breaks. The only times he did manage to leave the lab were quick trips to the staff room to make himself some coffee or to dart to the bathroom. As he worked he found paints and mixed some white and brown together to make more of a human flesh colour. Every time the paint would brush on too clumpy he’d curse, wipe it off, and paint the whole limb from scratch.
The hours passed and before long the artificial sun simulating a new morning started lighting up in the windows. Carly was almost finished, almost back. All he needed now was to hide the mixture of shiny and dull silvery metals and plastics. And she still needed her hair. Her bright red hair. Greg didn’t know what he was going to use for his daughter’s beautiful bright red hair.
Greg rubbed the purple bags under his eyes and pulled his glasses back down from his forehead. The room tilted a little and he reached for a chair to hold while the room straightened out. He needed some coffee, and to walk around a bit. He pulled a dust cover over the robot, and started for the door.
As Greg was about to leave, someone came in. Greg blinked and tried to bring his brain to coherent thought. "Hey?" he finally started with, “can you just leave that pile of work alone? I'm -- I've got a --- that’s a project I’m working on. I gotta get some coffee...”
"Sure." The other scientist raised his eyebrows. "Um, and, maybe you need some sleep too? ... Were you here all night?"
"Uh, no, um, maybe. Is it morning already? Look, I’ll be right back." Without waiting for an answer, Greg stumbled to the door.
Rubbing his head, Greg entered the break room to find two others in there who met him with careful expressions. He didn’t greet them and instead just bee-lined for the coffee machine.
The two others shared hesitant glances before the older male stepped closer and cleared his throat, trying to get Greg’s attention. Greg ignored him. Sighing, the man tried again. “Hey, Greg? Um, how ya doing?” He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Really sorry about Carly…” He hesitated before glancing back at his colleague, who nodded for him to continue. Haltingly he turned back to Greg who’d by now poured himself a mug of coffee and was still not acknowledging the others. “Um. Well, she’s um, Carly is still in the infirmary... Maybe you should go and spend a few minutes with her.…Um, soon. We need to do something with her…” He drifted off there, and looked to the other for help.
The younger man hastily continued on. “GLaDOS is starting to get bitchy about it all, says we got to get r--- um, take care of Carly soon, so maybe you can go and spend a little....time..." He trailed off into an awkward silence.
Greg shot the two of them with a fixed glare. He started to finally respond then the thought suddenly hit him. It had hair. It wasn’t Carly and it had hair for Carly. He could use that to give his daughter her red hair. Greg instead patted the other on the shoulder, ignoring how he flinched.
“You know what, Spence? That’s a great idea. Yeah." Greg dropped his cup with a loud bang onto the table. Coffee splashed out. "Yeah. Yeah, I like that. Yes. Thanks." Greg strode to the door, yanked it open, and walked out leaving the two men in the break room, staring as the door drifted to a close.
Greg made his way to the infirmary, searching it a little before he finally found the body. He hesitated but then shook his head. “No, no it’s not Carly, I’m making Carly, she’s almost back, and this isn’t her.”
Greg climbed up onto the counter so that he could easily peer into the cabinets without having to move things aside to find what he wanted. Opening and closing doors, tossing bandages, creams and arm casts over his shoulder as he went, Greg soon found a pair of surgical scissors.
Hopping back down, Greg took the scissors to the body, lifting the hair and cutting as close to the scalp as he could. “Easy… easy does it…”
Soon the hair separated from the body. Carelessly tossing the scissors on the counter, Greg made his way swiftly towards the door. Once out, he stumbled into a fellow scientist which knocked him off his feet.
“Woah! Sorry Greg, you alright?” He offered a hand to help him stand. Greg ignored the hand, stumbling to his shaking legs on his own. The other man’s eyes fell on the hair still clutched in Greg’s hands. “Greg … What did you do?”
“I’m making Carly better, she’s unwell right now,” he replied as if it was completely reasonable.
The other just stared, eyes holding a soft pity. “Greg, Carly’s … dead.”
“No she’s not!” he countered, voice rising and cracking slightly. He shoved roughly past the other man, marching down the hall back to his lab.
The other gawked after him, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. This wasn’t good. Not wasting a moment, he rushed to find the others. If GLaDOS found out one of her scientists had lost his mind … There had been too many deaths already, there couldn’t be another so soon.
Greg forcefully yanked open the door and slammed it shut, no longer caring about being quiet anymore. Rushing to the table, Greg set the hair down, and picked up a screwdriver. Quickly unscrewing and pulling back a few panels from the head, he started to jam the cut end of the hair between the plating. He then pushed the plates back down, screwing them tightly. Looking the robot up and down before nodding in approval, he brushed the hair around, to give it a more natural drape.
“Welcome back, Carly. Dad missed you.” He frowned momentarily when she didn’t respond before shaking his head. “Oh, right, silly me. I forgot.” Grabbing a few cables from the desk and shoving them in the pocket of his dirty lab coat, he lifted the lifeless robot carefully. Greg carried it out of the lab and down the hall, checking a few rooms before he found one that was both empty and had a computer. Entering the room, he set the robot down and after fumbling with the cables and almost dropping them, Greg plugged the new Carly into the computer.
Freezing briefly, Greg rolled his sleeve up checking his watch. “Nine a.m. It’s nine already?” He’d spend a lot of time building Carly. Oh well. GLaDOS was bound to have started her testing by now. She permitted test subjects to sleep but just long enough to keep them from dying.
Turning the computer on, Greg clicked on file after file, entering bypass code after bypass code. He growled. “Let me, in you bitch. I want my daughter to wake up.”
Finally a green access sign flashed on screen making him grin. “Finally.” He clicked through the data, skimming it with squinting eyes over the rim of his glasses. “Gotcha!” Selecting a backup, he exported it to the robot, following the cables with his eyes, imagining he was watching the life flow back into his little girl. She may be 16 but she’d always be his little girl.
The robot, no, Carly beeped and buzzed as the green lidless doll eyes flickered to life. She sat up stiffly.
“Welcome Back, Carly. How do you feel?”
“I feel… tired. What has happened, father?” The mechanical voice would take some getting used to but it would be fine. Everything would be fine now. No one could take Carly from him again.
The door opened as the scientist Greg bumped into earlier, as well as a few others rushed into the room. Three pairs of wide eyes fell on the patchwork of mechanical parts as the glowing green eyes fell on them as well.
“Oh, Greg. … What have you done?”