Alyx was incredibly bored. She frowned at the Rubik's cube in her hands. She was only a child, and being dragged around her parents' workplace was perhaps the dullest thing she could have imagined at such a young age. So, Eli had given her a Rubik's cube to play with, hoping that the bright colours would distract her for just long enough, so that he could get some work done.
Alyx tugged on her mother's sleeve. "Can we see Uncle Kleiner now, Mommy?" She peered up hopefully into her mother's distracted eyes.
"In a little while, dear," she said, in an effort to placate her boisterous daughter. Alyx huffed and sat herself down in the middle of the floor, folding her arms. The Rubik's cube fell to her side, forgotten. She wanted to play with the other children in the Black Mesa children's crèche. But the hastily promised chance of seeing Uncle Kleiner had excited the little girl so much, that Eli and Azian had had no choice but to bring her along. But from how it seemed now, they would never get to see the bumbling yet brilliant scientist. They had been in this room for hours – or, so it seemed to the young Alyx Vance.
Eli glanced down at his daughter, smiling and picking her up, placing her on the office chair to his side. He placed the Rubik's cube in her hands, with a murmured, "There you go," before resuming whatever it was he had been doing. Alyx huffed again, picking up the Rubik's cube and staring at it angrily. She just couldn't figure out how to match up all the colours on every face of the cube, and as a small child, it frustrated her to no end. It felt like she was playing a game she had no hopes of winning, like when the older boys who were much faster than her wanted to play 'Tag.' She would later go on to outrun all of them, even those much older than she, but Alyx didn't know this yet. So she frowned at the Rubik's Cube, twisting it every now and then to see if randomly moving things around would work. It didn't. She thought about hitting it against the desk to see if it was broken, and that would fix it.
Then, the door to the side-room they were in opened, and Alyx heard her Daddy greet the person who walked in.
"Ah! Dr Freeman! You have kept us waiting," Something about Eli's tone of voice made him sound mischievous, almost as if he had expected to be kept waiting, but Alyx was too young to appreciate this kind of humour. She just sat, staring and staring at the Rubik's cube. The grown-ups talked for a while behind her, and then one of them moved towards her, but Alyx's back was facing them, so she couldn't tell who it was. She didn't really care. She was bored, tired and a little bit hungry. She wanted to go home, or play with someone else.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Gordon. I put Alyx on your chair. She couldn't stand listening to our grown-up talk," Eli's tone was yet again humorous. Alyx turned around at the sound of her name, thinking maybe she had done something wrong. She dropped the Rubik's cube by accident, and saw that the man who was behind her wasn't anyone she'd ever seen before. He had dark brown hair, green eyes that peered from behind black-rimmed glasses, and wore a white lab coat, like her Mommy and Daddy did. Alyx stared up at him, and the man smiled, picking up her Rubik's cube. He looked at it carefully for a second, and then knelt by Alyx's side so that she could she. Alyx kicked her legs against the chair, waiting for the man to say anything, something. She had been taught it was rude not to say hello to someone you'd just met, to this 'Dr Gordon Freeman.'
Then, it happened. The man started twisting the cube, moving the lines and arranging them in a way that – to Alyx – appeared to be just random. She stared, fascinated, by the man's movements. In no time at all, he had completed one side, and showed it to an astonished Alyx. She stared at him. How could he just pick something up like that and get further than she had, when she'd been playing with it for hours? It was unfair. Then, the man started twisting the rows again, the cube becoming a blur of colour, a small smile on his face as he saw Alyx's puzzled look. He made one final twist, and tossed the cube in the air, catching it in his hands. He offered the completed Rubik's cube to the child, and she took it, marvelling at how he had managed to get all of one colour on just one side of the cube. She turned the cube over and over in her hands, seeing the perfect sides of the cube in amazement. Alyx stared up at the man. He smiled at her, seemingly not sure what more to do with children, and got to his feet.
"Well, Alyx, I think it's time we left Dr Freeman on his own now. He needs to get on with some very important work," Eli said gently, lifting Alyx off the seat and holding her in his arms for a few moments in a tight hug, before letting her down to the floor. All the while, Alyx stared between the Rubik's cube and the man who was now sitting where she had been just moments before.
"Say 'bye-bye' to Dr Freeman, Alyx," Azian said gently, taking Alyx's hand as they moved towards the door. The man was watching them with that same polite, but almost awkward smile he had had as he'd completed the Rubik's cube for Alyx.
"Bye-bye Dr Freeman," Alyx said in a sing-song voice, waving furiously with her other hand, the one that clutched the Rubik's cube tightly. Dr Freeman's smile widened, and waved back to the little girl, nodding respectfully to her parents as they left the room. Alyx kept staring back behind even as the door to the room fell quietly shut, and admired the Rubik's cube, turning it over again and again, as if trying to find a mistake in Dr Freeman's handiwork.