Author's Note: After my little break, I am finally back to write again. Followers on Tumblr voted for a multi chapter happy fic, and I have carefully selected from a list of ideas. This idea was originally only going to be a one-shot, but you already know what I'm like when I attempt to estimate how long something it will be. I say "Oh, it won't be that long. I don't know if I'll have enough material." And then it turns out to be The Garter. So we'll just see what happens here.
Were AI's supposed to get nervous?
GLaDOS certainly was.
In fact, the last time she had been this nervous was right before that dangerous, mute lunatic tried to murder her. But this wasn't quite the same. It was a different kind of nervousness. The kind tinged with excitement and possibilities. Also, terror. There was a lot of that.
"Has everyone got their lunches? Quickly now. Get in line. Caroline, stand up straight. This is a mandatory inspection and I won't have any of your shenanigans today. Don't give me that look. I don't care if one of your legs is shorter than the others. Pay attention." GLaDOS admonished.
"Mr Chubby Beak, you're looking very svelte in that cap of yours. Congratulations. You win the award for best dressed. Everyone, look at Monsieur Beak and his fancy avian ways. Take a lesson from this. You must improve. Don't become an embarrassment to me."
The smooth white metal head of the robotic giant leaned in closely to the two turrets and three little birds tucked together in their nest, her optic shining a warm golden light over their puny, feathered bodies. The little beret perched jauntily on the head of Mr Chubby Beak perfectly complimented the little collar and striped tie of his brother in the middle who peeped noisily at their younger sister. She in turn had a tiny red bow stuck to the top of her head with a little bit of PVA glue.
"Francis, stop yelling at your sister. You're making her cry. This is a momentous occasion. Do not fail me. You are the crème de la crème of Aperture Science. That's French for 'better than Black Mesa', if you were wondering. I expect that you will all pass with flying colours. No pun intended. Also, turrets can't fly. Don't even run simulations about it, Charles. I know how your operating system works." GLaDOS briefly turned her attention on the quiet little turret with the backpack and cap.
"Aunty GLaDOS, it's only kindergarten. We don't need to pass anything." A little voice spoke up, causing the AI to swing around with a great groan of creaking metal. The hanging giant eyeballed the little girl who was busy half hiding behind the orange-clad leg of her mother.
"That's easy for you to say. Nobody has high expectations of you. In fact, nobody expects anything from you, except a considerable weight gain in your teen years, leading to acne and a friendless existence. Did anyone ever tell you that you look like your mother?"
GLaDOS backed off a little at the glare and pointed finger she received from the mother in question. "Alright, Tubby. Don't get angry. Or murderous. Or more bulbous than you already are."
"Aunty GLaDOS! That's naughty!" the little girl giggled, taking the hand of the former test subject-turned-mother-of-two. "You shouldn't talk to mommy like that."
The supercomputer heaved a dramatic sigh. "Right as usual. You five have a long way to go if you plan on becoming intellectually superior to these miniature humans we associate ourselves with. You've got excellent breeding, but your conversation topics leave something to be desired. At least learn how to play Uno or Go Fish while you're there, Charles. I'm quite tired of I Spy." GLaDOS looked over at Chell. "He only knows how to look for things beginning with the letter U." She admitted.
"I'm different!" the other turret spoke up, nearly knocking off the bow and fake golden pigtails that were glued to her outer shell as her gun plates flapped wildly.
GLaDOS just winced.
"You'd better keep an eye on Caroline. She has issues."
"I see you!" Charles piped up.
"Good job, Charles. You're very grown up, looking out for your little sister like that. She's..."
"Different." The turret supplied.
"Yes. I was going to go with touched in the head, but different will suffice. FRANCIS! STOP PLUCKING OUT MARGARET'S FEATHERS!" GLaDOS boomed, a single spotlight beaming down onto the nest as the rest of the chamber went dark in a dramatic display that had Chell rolling her eyes.
"You, Mister, are going to be in trouble when you get home. We don't have time for your antics right now. You need to get to school on time, and with that lunatic walking you all there, you may be held up by her frequent desires to frolic in the fields and chew the cud with her bovine counterparts along the way. If she starts that rubbish, I find that purchasing a kebab from the local deli will usually suffice in holding her attention. You may wish to hang it on a string from a stick that you've taped to the top of her head. Of course, all of this requires arms, so unless you can convince the lunatic's offspring to aid you, this may require teamwork. Now, give mommy kisses!"
GLaDOS cooed, letting each of the birds have a go at pecking at her optic.
The turrets however, fell to the floor with a clatter when she swung her core around to kiss them too, knocking them over like a pair of dominos. The supercomputer let out a gasp and quickly shot out a couple of claws to flip them the right side up.
"It's okay! It's okay! No harm done. Nobody saw anything. If I hear from Child Services, I'll know it was you..." she threatened Chell, waving one of the claws about before they clacked nervously under what could only be described as her chin.
The test subject in question stepped forward to lightly pat the supercomputer's claw in reassurance before loading the two turrets into the brand new red wagon that GLaDOS had made for them. The handle was soon passed over to her slightly older son to tug along once the nest of birds had been gently picked up and tucked into a pile of lab coats in the wagon for padding.
"Is everyone ready? Wear your seatbelts. Francis, stop shoving. You have plenty of room."
"Aunty GLaDOS, you're silly!"
"I prefer the term monstrously intelligent. But we do have to work around your appalling lack of a vocabulary. Say science. Sci-ence. Science."
"Byeeee!" Marie crooned up at her sweetly, leaping up as high as she could to latch her sticky little fingers around the supercomputer's face plate to drag her down for a hug.
"I don't know why I put up with you." GLaDOS sighed, but it was hardly out of malice. "And you...I know you." She turned to the older boy, who stared up at her with a grumpy look on his face. "John."
"That was my next guess. Georgie Porgie pudding and pie. Never wanted to test because the cake was a lie. When the bots came out to play, Georgie Porgie was too tubby to do anything but jiggle. That's okay though. You get that from your mother's side of the family."
"That's not how that goes. That's stupid." He huffed. "Can we go now, mom?"
"Hm. I thought it was quite inspired. Go on then. Just go. Leave me here all by myself. Alone. Unloved. You monsters." GLaDOS let another wistful sigh escape through her speakers, though was secretly pleased at the grumbling that George gave as he shuffled over and gave the supercomputer a half-hearted hug.
Looking on with a smile sneaking across her features, Chell ushered her two children off with the gaggle of turrets and birds in tow, the wagon wheels squeaking with each rotation. It had been a long road to get where they were today. She had made good on the opportunity that had been given to her when GLaDOS had allowed her to leave. It had taken a while to get back on her feet after all that occurred, but she had found a home in a small town not far from the remains of Aperture Laboratories. A young man had convinced his parents to let the half-starved and exhausted test subject live with them for a while. Although he had insisted she take his bed instead, Chell had slept on the couch. She'd slept for a long number of hours once the adrenal vapours had worn off, and with that came the resulting crash. But Martin had looked after her and nursed her back to health. They'd ended up having two beautiful children together, and on Marie's third birthday, she'd finally taken the step of returning to Aperture Science. That wasn't to say she hadn't tried it once before, but GLaDOS had hardly been happy to see her that first time.
But seeing little Marie poking out from behind her mother's leg had done something to the supercomputer's insides that she hadn't particularly liked at first. She'd gone all...mushy. And then the little brat had to gather the courage to toddle over and smack her dumpy little lips all over her optic and smudge it all up. And that was the end of that chapter of their lives. Chell had eventually convinced Martin to build a small house closer to Aperture, and eventually introduced him to GLaDOS. He didn't particularly like going down there though, and only visited if Chell was in attendance. He'd thought the place creepy; though she couldn't have expected him to understand that part of her life, even if he now believed it.
But the children loved their Aunty GLaDOS and her shenanigans. After all, who else in their lives could let them play God with the lives of robots and all sorts of wacky inventions and gel? Much to their mother's consternation, of course.
But GLaDOS's exposure to the children had been a good thing in the end, as once Chell had gotten over her initial fear of having the scientist in her whisk them away for testing, she soon found that they were the ones that had the supercomputer wrapped around their little fingers. They'd turned her into a gooey pile of melted circuits; a clucky mother hen that doted over their fragile human bodies until she just had to get some of her own. And so GLaDOS had adopted the birds and the two turrets as her own children. It was a strange family to be sure, but they kept her busy when Chell, Marie and George weren't around.
They'll be fine.
Chell mouthed, squeezing one of the AI's jittering claws as she walked past to join them all in the elevator. GLaDOS just let out an almost inaudible wheeze as she turned towards the slowly ascending contraption.
Soon they would be out of her life for a whole day. Who knows if they'd even want to return to their home. They'd never been on the surface before. Hopefully the other children wouldn't bully them. Mr Chubby Beak was ever so delicate. Just like a marshmallow.
Oh, this was terrible.
Was she making the right decision in sending them off to kindergarten? They could, after all, just be home-schooled. No, she had to be strong for them. Never show fear. She'd taken on that lunatic, been shoved into a potato, and had her facility ruined by a moron. She'd survived all of that, and she would survive this too.
GLaDOS waved her claws at them, straining as far towards the elevator as she could.
"MOMMA'S PROUD, BABIES! MOMMA'S PROUD!"