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  • “What are we gonna do Cave?”
    “I have no idea......” He stared at the ground, looking up occasionally at his wife. He wanted to comfort her, but forced himself away. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
    “I’m so sorry.....” Caroline was holding back tears.
    “I’m to blame as well. We have no control over these things.” They both sat there in silence. She was leaning over the sink, staring at the pregnancy tests. All of them read positive. There was no mistaking that there would be a new member of the Johnson family. In different circumstances, this would be a happy moment. But a child would be a distraction from their work, something neither Cave or his wife could afford.
    The CEO of Aperature Laboratories was known for his dedication to his work. He was respected for it, and never did anything that wasn’t relevant to his studies. However, he had another commitment in his life. He loved his wife and planned that one day - after he had discovered all he could, of course - they’d move into the country and settle down. One night, he came back from work feeling extremely stressed. She always did seem to make him smile. He never thought that it was a bad attribute until this moment.
    Unable to look into Caroline’s eyes, he put his arm around her shoulders and tried to comfort her. He had no idea what they were going to do. Neither of them wanted the child, but also couldn’t bear to - he couldn’t even think about it. All he knew was he had to comfort her in that moment. Caroline had tears dripping down her face, and Cave struggled to hold back his own.
    “What are we going to do?” Caroline repeated, this time sounding even more helpless. There was no response. Mrs. Johnson threw her face into Cave’s shoulder and embraced him in a hug. He slowly, nervously wrapped his arms around her back. For the first time in his life, Cave Johnson had no idea what he was going to do.

    “Maybe, we could find a way.........” Caroline said one day. It was about 4 months into her pregnancy and it was noticeable to anyone who saw. This didn’t mean, however, that anyone knew. Cave took every precaution he could to keep his wife’s secret safe. The only one who knew was his old friend Ratman. He was the one who had counseled him the day after the truth was revealed to the unsuspecting couple.
    “What do you mean?” Cave responded, looking up from his papers.
    “To keep the baby. Raise her to be yo - your successor. She would be our finest creation.” She stared at her husband, waiting for a response. He just sat there, as if trying to calculate ever reason why they wouldn’t be able the pull it off. In reality, he was doing the exact opposite. Maybe it was time to retire. He’d been in the business long enough, and Ratman would be perfect to take over the job. He could finally live a normal life, with a family. And nothing else. No science. No experiments.
    But something inside of him just wouldn’t allow it. Science was part of him, his creations were like his children. But he would soon have a real, living offspring. It was one of the hardest decisions he had ever made.
    “Well?” his wife prompted somewhat aggressively.
    “I just don’t know what to say, Honey. It’s just, I mean, we’re on the verge of creating the perfect AI program. I shipped the blueprints to R&D just this morning. The process of perfecting the machine would take months. You know I have to see things through to the end. I fear a baby would interfere with my, erm, our plans.”
    Caroline knew he was right. She knew that the dedication needed to raise and nurture a child couldn’t be done in the environment they were in. And she knew that both her and Cave were to dedicated to their jobs to ever quit this early into the process. She sighed, and looked away from her husband. He acted as if nothing had happened and returned to his work.

    “Gentlemen, this program will revolutionize AI systems and the robotics industry for generations to come!”
    Caroline could hear her husband’s words echoing out of the sound systems. He was presenting his new invention to the world. Cave had left for the press conference the night before. So, naturally, he had no idea that his wife was in labor at that very moment. The Aperture Laboratories med-bay was full of both medical staff and newly manufactured Nurse-bots, scrambling to make sure nothing happened to their boss’s wife or child.
    “As many of you know, I have been working on this project for many months, and it took up many of my vacation hours to complete. And believe me, it is far from complete.”
    “Just keep breathing,” the attending doctor advised Caroline. She looked around, trying to find a friendly face. Something deep inside of her despised her husband for not being there to comfort her. She immediately spotted Ratman, Cave’s good friend that rushed to her aid as soon as her water broke.
    “However, the prototype is far proceeding our original predictions. Conversations. Emotional responses. I mean it when I say it’ll give those Black Mesa bastards a run for their money.”
    “Please,” Caroline managed through gritted teeth, reaching for her friend. He ran to her bedside and took her hand. After a series of groans and gasps, the room was silent.
    “And now, Ladies and Gentlemen of the science community-”
    After a few moments, a loud noise broke the silence. The sound that could be heard were the cries of a young newborn that had just been brought into the world. Caroline held her new daughter in her arms as joyful tears streamed down her face.
    “I present to you-”
    “What will you name her?” Ratman asked.
    “A first look at the newest invention from Aperture Science-”
    Caroline thought for a moment, then decided on a name that she had admired since she was a child. “Michelle.”

    “I came as soon as I heard!” Mr. Johnson shouted as he bounded into the hospital wing. Moments after he stepped off the stage, every one of his secretaries rushed to him with the news. He couldn’t find any early flights and had to stay in D.C. for a few weeks. His daughter was perfectly healthy and playing with her mother. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t here. If I had known, I would’ve cancelled the press conference. That sort of thing can wait. I just feel so bad that I-”
    “Cave,” his wife cut him off. “It’s fine. I know that there was nothing you could do. I’m just glad you’re here.”
    “What’s her name?”
    “Where is she?” Cave asked, looking around.
    “Right here,” Ratman answered from across the room. He was with a doctor and two nurse-bots. He ran to meet his friend, shaking his hand and thanking him for being there to watch over his wife. “How is she, my little girl?”
    “She’s perfectly fine. She has your wife’s eyes.” The new father reached down to lift up the small child wrapped in a blanket. Tears started to form in his eyes as he cradled the tiny creature in his arms. She was beautiful. And she was his own. Just as he fell in love with her, he realized he could never give up his flesh and blood.
    The tears started dripping down his face as he tried to figure out a way to balance his life with his family. It couldn’t be done. Ratman reached out his hand to pat Cave on the shoulder. As his friend comforted him, Mr. Johnson developed an idea. Ratman had been with him for as long as he could remember. He helped to create the GLaDOS project, and made sure his wife was safe during childbirth. Maybe there was a way he could watch young michelle grow up without it getting in the way of work.
    “So, you like little Chell?” Ratman asked.
    “Chell?” Cave inquired of his friend.
    “Oh, well that’s what I call her. Short for Michelle.”
    “I like the sound of that.......” Cave was commenting on the name as well as the new idea that was brewing in his brain. It could work, he thought. I should at least spend some time with her first.

    “Caroline, can I talk to you about something now?” Cave shouted from the other room.
    “What is it dear?”
    “Could you just come in here.”
    “Okay, just let me lay Chell down for her nap.” Michelle Johnson was now a year old. She could pull herself up onto things and has attempted walking. Over that year, the Johnsons learned both the blessings and hardships of being parents. Cave had been concocting a plan all that time and was finally ready to present the plan.
    “Honey, I want you to know that I’ve fallen behind on work recently.”
    “Well.......” It was so hard to say out loud. “I want you to know I love Chell just as much as you do.”
    “Just spit it out Cave,” Caroline snapped, feeling a bit anxious as if knowing what were to follow.
    “We predicted that she’d be a distraction to my job, and we were right.”
    “Cave, are you saying-”
    “Just hear me out honey. I don’t want to give her up. She’s my daughter and I only want the best for her. I can’t be the father she needs with all my work on GLaDOS. But I still need to be there for her. I was thinking.....what if.....we were to-”
    “Cave, I don’t think I want to hear what you’re about to say.”
    “Caroline, please. I think we should give her to Ratman.”
    “Think about it. He was there when Chell was born. That makes him a better father than I ever could be. We also would never be calling her Chell without him. He basically named our child. He’s always been there for me - for us.”
    “Cave, everything you’re saying makes sense, but I just don’t think I can give up our daughter.”
    “I know how hard it is. But I’ve been talking to Ratman about it recently, and-”
    “So you told him about this and not me!” Caroline said this a bit louder than she meant to, but felt no regrets.
    “Of course not. But he loves Chell just as much as we do. He says he thinks of her as if she were his own child. Who would be better to care for her? Plus, we’d still be able to be there in her life. Watching over her, making sure she’s alright.”
    “I just-I don’t know Cave......”
    “I know, sweetie,” he responded, wrapping his arms around her. She hugged him back and started to sob. “I know.”

    “Hello there Mr. Johnson! How are you doing today?”
    “Just great. And how are you my friend?”
    “I’m doing well. Where’s your wife?”
    “Well, Caroline’s a bit preoccupied right now. But I’ll tell her you said ‘Hi’.”
    “Thanks. And I have a question to ask you actually.”
    “Why did I have to do my project about potatoes? Bring your daughter to work day is supposed to be fun, but we all did the same topic.”
    Cave chuckled and smiled at the young child. “Oh, my young Chell. You’re so smart, I bet you came up with a completely different idea than anyone else did.” All of the sudden, a beeping sound emanated from a device strapped to Cave’s belt.
    “What’s that?”
    “Oh, nothing. Just a little alarm. Letting me know it’s almost time to judge the projects. Why don’t you go find your father?”
    “Okay. Goodbye Mr. Johnson!”
    “Goodbye Chell.” Not more than an hour later, that very thought was running through Cave’s head. He lay on the ground, gasping for air as gas filled his office. Had he done the right thing to Caroline? Would his decision to upload her really save her life. He did not know. For now, he lay on the floor, suffocating. Goodbye my sweet, sweet Chell. Farewell my amazing daughter. Forever.

    Chell could not believe her eyes. The outside world was right in front of her face. She had made it through the terrors of Aperature Laboratories and defeated GLaDOS. But for some reason she could not explain, that thought left her feeling empty and alone. As if she had some sort of connection to the computer program.
    She shook the thought away, forcing it out of her mind for good. She was safe and free. All that she had done was behind her. Her mysterious past left a mystery. And she couldn’t much care. All she knew was that she was a woman named Chell. A hero named Chell. and that was good enough for her. As she ran through the field, it occurred to her that GLaDOS had chosen to spare her life.
    Wait a minute, she thought. She could have killed me right there. The turrets were ready. They could have lit me up at any moment. Why didn’t they? Soundbites played through her mind. Little lines she heard down in that hell hole she never really not of before. “No, Mr. Johnson, I don't want this!” “Get me out of here!” That didn’t sound like GLaDOS. But who? That picture of Cave and Carolyn appeared in her mind.
    WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER?! It pained her. She knew something. Deep inside her thoughts, some knowledge was buried, trying desperately to dig itself up. As she slowly walked through the valley, she nearly tripped on a book. What is this? She picked it up. It was labeled Remember. It said nothing else. She opened to the front page. It was dirty and crumpled. There were pen marks scribbled all over, but could hardly make any out.
    “.....Michelle Johnson.......never forget.......Your father uploaded Caroline.....GLaDOS.......” None of it made sense in her mind. None of the pieces she had fit together. Signed at the bottom of the page was a sloppy signature reading “Ratman”. She flipped to the next page. It was a photo album of Cave Johnson, the mysterious Carolyn and some baby. So Cave and Carolyn were parents. Maybe this is Michelle?
    She flipped through all the pages and stopped on the picture of a young girl and a scientist. Nothing too out of the ordinary, except the man much too familiar. She knew him from somewhere. Then she saw that the girl was holding a potato. There were piles of them everywhere. Immediately, all the memories came pouring back into her mind. Ratman was her father. He worked for Aperature. But why was she in a picture book that begun with Cave and Carolyn’s daughter.....
    The book dropped out of her hands.
    “What’s wrong?” The Companion Cube asked. She just stared. Chell. Mi-chell. Michelle. Michelle Johnson. I am their child. It all hit her like a bag of bricks. How could she be? She picked the album back up and flipped to the end. Ratman had left a note. The writing had been better preserved being at the back of the book. It said:
    I am so sorry for what you’ve had to go through. I know this must all be a shock to you. By the time you are reading this I’ll most likely be dead. I created this for you just in case you ever made it out of there. I knew you would. I always had faith in you. I love you so much. Cave loved you. And most importantly, Carolyn loved you. Never forget who you are.
    With Great Love and Respect,
    Tears streamed down her face. She would never forget, and would always keep these experiences in her heart. She wasn’t just a woman named Chell. She was Michelle Johnson, daughter of Cave and Carolyn Johnson. And she would forever honor their names.
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