Chell's fingers clickety-clack-clacked over the keyboard in a slow but steady rhythm. She was a decent typist, but this was mind-numbing. Manual data entry had to be among the top three deadliest Aperture Science devices she ever encountered— a step above turrets, but just below skeleton-eating repulsion gel. After five hours, Chell's eyes burned and was that her brain leaking out? Oh. No— just a few stray hairs tickling her ear.

It was her own fault, really. After a successful round of testing, Chell had loitered in GLaDOS's chamber and pronounced, with blissful disregard for her fate, that she was bored. Could she help GLaDOS with anything besides tests? An enormous facility like this— surely there was something useful she could do.

Looking back, Chell supposed she should have worried at the disturbing gleefulness in GLaDOS's voice when the supercomputer replied, yes— there was something her stubby little fingers were good for.

Just because she'd taken to living in the laboratories at GLaDOS's grudging welcome, it did not mean the AI had lost her sharp tongue. At all.

In fact, she'd gained one— quite literally. Chell looked across the room, where a tall, lithe android was seated at a computer console, thick cables stretching from the back of her head to the chassis dangling limp in the center of the chamber. Synthetic hair framed her angular face in a short, white bob, her yellow eyes a striking contrast against skin nearly as pale as her hair.

In the months since Wheatley's ousting, GLaDOS had built herself a body.

It was a mobile construct used to perform tasks she did not trust Chell or the cooperative bots to do themselves, exchanging clunky metal claws for the dexterity of human fingers. Chell suspected the AI simply wanted to experiment with a portal gun herself after her misadventure in the potato— though GLaDOS denied it. Watching the android flip, fling, and fly her way through portals, however, gained Chell a glimpse or two at the rumor of a smile on GLaDOS's face. Chell had to smile too. For an AI confined to immobility her whole life, GLaDOS was breathtakingly graceful, her movement like leaves in the wind.

Some of Chell's favorite moments were spent exploring old Aperture with GLaDOS and the cooperative bots, collecting useful items and important data. They were a family— a bizarre and perhaps dysfunctional family, but one she loved nonetheless.

Chell's current workload of data entry was the unfortunate outcome of their forays into the bowels of Aperture. GLaDOS wanted everything on file in her mainframe, readily accessible, and the sealed test shafts offered a forgotten trove of data the AI could not resist. Thus far, their missions were limited to Test Shaft 9, but GLaDOS was confident she could breach shafts one through eight as well. The sheer enormity of such a venture overwhelmed Chell, but once GLaDOS set her sights, she was immovable.

Modified jump-drives were their arsenal of choice, making quick work of the 1980s and 70s data harvest. As the motley team plunged deeper into the past, however, they hit a daunting impasse.

No computers.

No computers meant no easy data transfer, and no easy data transfer meant…

Hundreds of thousands of boxes crammed with files and records— nearly three decades worth, from the founding of Aperture Science to the arrival of early computers in the sixties. A clever system of portals made transporting the papers to the modern labs a breeze. Transferring them to GLaDOS's database, on the other hand…

Chell's fingers cramped at the thought.

Pausing to rub the stiffness from said digits, Chell snuck another glance at GLaDOS. The android's fingers flashed across the keyboard in a blur, her eyes casting the faintest yellow glow over her workspace. She seemed in such a trance, Chell wondered if she'd somehow managed to put herself on autopilot and wished she could do the same.

The young woman finished transcribing an inventory of materials for— very specifically— Lab 22A, Sector Delta, Chemistry Experimentation wing. 23 June 1948. If every single laboratory kept an inventory every single day and GLaDOS expected her to type every single one, Chell decided she might try gargling neurotoxin. How was that for chemistry experimentation?

Plucking the next sheet of paper from the box at her feet, Chell inspected the title. Birthdays on the Bioengineering Team. Under the heading, a note read: Be sure to wish these fellas a happy birthday! In celebration, enjoy the chocolate cake provided in the break room. Ice cream is located in the freezer: please do not confuse it with any experimental cultures— 'ebola swirl' is not a flavor. Remember, Aperture Science cares about your safety and that of the general populace, and wrongful death suits are costly.

Chell wondered how badly her stay at Aperture had warped her sense of humor, as the idea of ebola virus confectionaries made her giggle. In a sane world, someone might have called her twisted. Here, GLaDOS paused her computations and shot her a disapproving glare.

"What, dare I ask, is so amusing?"

"Just a silly form."

"These documents are not silly— they're science. Science isn't funny." GLaDOS spun back towards her desk, stopped, and gave Chell a hint of a smile. "Except when you shot that little idiot into space," she conceded. "That was funny."

"You're welcome," said Chell, "but this is just a list of birthdays. Is it really necessary, or can I use it for kindling in my room?"

"Is your lung function really necessary, or can I fill them with nerve gas?"

"You don't have nerve gas."

"Would you care to make a wager?"

"Would you care to type all this up by yourself?"

Woman and android held a brief staring contest, until Chell grinned and stuck out her tongue, turning back to her computer. GLaDOS sighed in exasperation and continued typing, muttering something about humans and immaturity.

As Chell entered the list into the database, she was struck out of the blue with an unusual thought.

"GLaDOS, do you have a birthday?"

It was impressive how quickly GLaDOS picked up facial expressions and how well her android face displayed them. She bestowed Chell with a look of patronizing pity. "I had honestly thought you grasped this concept. Just because I look human doesn't mean I came out of one. Must I explain the android birds-and-bees to you? You see, when a silicone mold truly loves its biomechanical circuitry and titanium skeletal replica, they—"

She was cut short as a balled-up wad of paper bounced off her head. GLaDOS shot her companion a glare.

"That might have been something important."

"It was a cafeteria menu from February of 1949."

"Then I'm shocked you didn't eat it," GLaDOS said and returned to her work.

"Come on," Chell needled. "What about the first time you were powered on? That'd technically be your birthday, right?"

GLaDOS slumped back in her chair, looking to the paneled ceiling for patience. Finding none, and realizing she wouldn't complete any work until her little lunatic's curiosity was satiated, she turned to Chell. "I suppose you could say that, but I have no clear information on what that date may be."

"You're a computer— you record everything. How can you not know when you first woke up?"

GLaDOS eyed the woman impassively and let the seconds stretch in silence until Chell squirmed in her swivel chair. "I believe I confided in you about my early days— what they were like, how I was treated. Everything is quite foggy… Perhaps I like it that way."

Chell looked at her lap where she twiddled her thumbs, thoroughly rebuked. Clacking keys drew her eyes back to the android, whose attention had reverted to her work. "GLaDOS," she said softly, but the AI did not reply, either ignoring her or lost in the repetition of data entry.

Birthdays were supposed to be happy, celebrated with people who cared about you. It was the one day of the year you got special attention just for being you. Everyone should have a birthday, Chell decided. Even snarky computers. She didn't really need a specific date. She could give GLaDOS a new birthday— one the AI did not associate with fear and bad memories.

Chell continued transcribing her pile of documents as she thought, lest GLaDOS grow suspicious at her lack of productivity. The most important part of any birthday was presents, but here she hit a wall. What did you get an omnipotent AI for her birthday?

That sounded like the opening to a bad joke, and Chell had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. She suspected if she unduly distracted GLaDOS again today, the AI might banish her from the main chamber at best, or introduce her to that hidden stock of nerve gas at worst.

The question still remained: what could she do? What could GLaDOS possibly want or need? Chell stared intently at the back of the android's head, hoping to maybe bore a hole into her psyche and find inspiration there. Instead, her eyes followed the black cables that connected GLaDOS to her chassis, allowing the AI access to the mainframe while in her mobile form. Despite growing rather attached to the android, GLaDOS still used the chassis frequently. Test protocol, routine maintenance, and general facility operation were more easily overseen that way. Plus, Chell had the sneaking suspicion that GLaDOS held a sentimental fondness for the massive mechanical construct. She'd once seen the AI give the chassis an affectionate pat when she thought Chell wasn't looking.

Tiny gears began turning in Chell's head. The chassis looked a bit worse for wear— cobwebs draped in amongst the cables and wires, scuff marks and scratches in the metal, chipped and cracking paint on the faceplate. Chell wondered how magnificent it had looked brand new and broke into a grin.

Oh yes. She had an idea.