Chell

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Chell p2 portrait.jpg
Chell
Biographical information
Homeworld

Earth

Function(s) / Belongings
Rank / Occupation

Test Subject (formerly)

Weapons

Handheld Portal Device

Equipment
Physical description
Species

Human

Gender

Female

Hair color
  • Black turning grey (Portal)
  • Brown (Portal 2)
Eye color
Chronological and political information
Era(s)
Faction

Independent

Game information
Voiced by

Mary Kae Irvin (Half-Life 2 Citizen voice reused as hurt sounds in Portal)

Modeled over

Alésia Glidewell[1]

Designer(s)
"You've been wrong about every single thing you've ever done, including this thing. You're not smart. You're not a scientist. You're not a doctor. You're not even a full-time employee. Where did your life go so wrong?"
GLaDOS[src][listen]

Chell is the silent protagonist of Portal and the single-player campaign of Portal 2, and was an Aperture Science Test Subject (Subject #1, Formerly Subject #1498).

Contents

[edit] Biography

[edit] Background

Although Chell's origins are unknown, she was definitely among the people present during GLaDOS' activation in 200-, as GLaDOS took over the facility immediately afterward; information revealed in Portal 2 implies that Chell was the child of an Aperture scientist and was touring the facility on Bring Your Daughter To Work Day when GLaDOS took over. For her Science Fair project, she made a potato battery similar to one she had made in school one year prior to that. According to the psychological profile in her personnel file, Chell is "abnormally stubborn" and refuses to ever give up, no matter how daunting the challenge. Originally, she was rejected as a test subject, but Doug Rattmann altered the testing order, having correctly guessed that Chell's extreme tenacity might allow her to defeat GLaDOS.[4]

[edit] Appearances

Inside Chell's Relaxation Vault.

[edit] Portal

Some time after GLaDOS' takeover of Enrichment Center and shortly after the Combine invasion of Earth,[5] Chell is awakened from some sort of stasis pod in a Relaxation Vault by GLaDOS. Chell is released from the Vault through a portal, and begins to progress through a series of Test Chambers that require her to solve puzzles revolving around the use of the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (ASHPD). Throughout the tests, GLaDOS guides Chell with what sound like pre-recorded scripted instructions; however, her comments are strikingly bizarre, and often seem to malfunction at ominous points in mid-sentence.

Introducing the Companion Cube in Test Chamber 17.

When Chell eventually makes it to Test Chamber 16, she discovers a hidden alcove where desperate messages were scribbled on the walls by mentally unstable former Aperture employee Doug Rattmann while he was trapped in the facility and hiding from GLaDOS. The most prominent message, "the cake is a lie," is repeated several times. In the next chamber, GLaDOS introduces her to the Companion Cube, which Chell must carry through the chamber. Here she once again finds messages from Rattmann, who seems to have become emotionally attached to his Companion Cube and grieved over its "death." At the end of the chamber, Chell's Companion Cube meets the same fate when she is forced to incinerate it in order to proceed.

At the conclusion of the test, Chell travels on an Aperture Science Unstationary Scaffold away from the final Test Chamber. Instead of the promised cake, she is met with an incinerator. To GLaDOS' surprise, Chell narrowly escapes certain death through clever use of the ASHPD, and begins traveling through abandoned maintenance areas despite continued verbal discouragement from GLaDOS. Throughout the decaying and neglected maintenance areas, Chell finds that Rattmann has been roaming around the facility for some time, leaving graffiti on the walls to guide her along the right path. After constant admonishment from GLaDOS and a massive Sentry Turret ambush, Chell finds herself in GLaDOS' main control room. GLaDOS attempts to deploy a "surprise" to eliminate Chell, but ends up "accidentally" detaching her Morality Core, claiming she's never seen it and doesn't know what it is. Chell promptly incinerates the core.

GLaDOS' remains on the parking lot, shortly before Chell is dragged away by the Party Escort Bot.

GLaDOS, now unrestrained by the Morality Core, begins to flood the Enrichment Center with neurotoxin. She notes that the Morality Core must have had some ancillary responsibilities, and that she cannot shut off the Rocket Turret in her control room. Chell takes advantage of this and uses portals to redirect the rockets back at GLaDOS, detaching and incinerating her Personality Cores one by one. Before the neurotoxin can kill her, Chell destroys GLaDOS, who is apparently sucked through a portal to the outside with parts of her generator. Chell is dragged with her, and ends up among GLaDOS' remains on the parking lot in front of the Aperture Labs entrance, only to be dragged back inside and placed in stasis by the Party Escort Bot.

Despite GLaDOS' apparent destruction, only a part of her was destroyed. GLaDOS reactivates a room full of Personality Cores and re-captures Aperture Laboratories, filing a letter to Chell, informing her that she is still alive and "not even angry" about Chell's actions—but not before extinguishing a candle on the cake, which was not a lie after all.

[edit] Portal 2: Lab Rat

The comic reveals that Aperture scientist Doug Rattmann, the last employee remaining alive and free after the Bring Your Daughter To Work Day massacre, had made Chell a test subject as part of a gambit to defeat GLaDOS. Chell had been rejected as a candidate for testing due to her psychological profile, which showed her to be an extreme outlier in terms of tenacity. Rattmann, having correctly guessed that such stubborn will to survive might be the key to escaping, hacked the system to make her test subject number one.

While unconscious after the explosion that destroyed GLaDOS, Chell was placed in a "Long Term Relaxation Chamber," a large stasis chamber designed to look like a cheap motel room. However, the main power for the facility failed when GLaDOS was destroyed, and the chamber's life support systems were compromised.

Rattmann, who had managed to leave the facility in the chaos, was overcome with guilt at the thought that Chell would die after he had used her as a pawn in his own escape. At the cost of his own life, he re-entered the facility and restored power to the chamber by hooking it to the reserve grid, saving Chell's life but placing her in a semi-permanent state of stasis. The reserve grid was not programmed to wake her.

[edit] Portal 2

Concept art of Chell and GLaDOS meeting again in a ruined Central AI Chamber.

Many years after GLaDOS' partial destruction, Chell is awakened from stasis by Wheatley, a Personality Core who has become concerned with the deteriorating state of the facility, and convinces Chell to escape with him. Chell agrees, and they set out through the maintenance areas, which (like the rest of the facility) are in a state of decaying ruin, overrun with nature. The pair accidentally find themselves in the remains of GLaDOS' chamber. GLaDOS awakens, and is quick to accuse Chell of having "murdered" her years ago. Chell is then forced back into the testing area, where she must complete more tests.[6]

Wheatley eventually breaks her out of the test chambers, and the two narrowly escape GLaDOS. Wheatley persuades Chell to help him neutralize GLaDOS' defenses by cutting off her turret production and neurotoxin supply. He is unable to figure out how to actually accomplish this, but Chell cleverly manages to handle it without him. She first sets up a defective turret as the template for the scanner that approves new turrets, resulting in the functional ones being culled, and then uses portals to redirect lasers to sever the supply tubing to the neurotoxin generator.

GLaDOS eventually manages to trap Chell and bring her into her lair. Her attempts to kill Chell with turrets and neurotoxin fail, allowing Chell to complete a core transfer. This results in GLaDOS' "head," which apparently houses her personality, being detached from her "body" and replaced with Wheatley. Now in control of Aperture, Wheatley summons an elevator to take Chell to the surface and celebrates his victory over GLaDOS. As the elevator begins to rise, Wheatley seems to go mad with power and brings Chell back down to him. Gloating over the defeated GLaDOS, Wheatley attaches her to a potato battery. She goads him into a rage by pointing out that Chell did all the work in escaping and defeating her and claiming that Wheatley was originally designed as an "intelligence dampener" whose sole function was to render GLaDOS less dangerous by constantly generating stupid ideas. Furious at both GLaDOS and Chell, Wheatley smashes them into the bowels of the facility.

Both Chell and GLaDOS wake up in the deepest part of the Aperture Science, containing the old facility from as far back as the 1950s. Pre-recorded messages from Cave Johnson, with occasional input from his assistant Caroline, guide Chell through the tests. She makes her way upward, through progressively more recent parts of the Aperture facility. Partway through, Chell reunites with GLaDOS and agrees to ally with her against Wheatley, stabbing the potato onto a prong of the ASHPD. As GLaDOS listens to the recordings, she comes to realize her own origins: Caroline's consciousness was eventually uploaded into an A.I. network, creating GLaDOS. As she regains conscious access to Caroline's memories and personality, her attitude toward Chell begins to soften slightly.

When the two re-enter the modern section of the facility, they are captured by Wheatley, who puts them through his own poorly designed Test Chambers. His incompetence clearly poses a threat to the entire Enrichment Center, as he ignores warnings about an imminent reactor meltdown. Chell and GLaDOS manage to escape Wheatley's attempts to kill them and enter his lair. Working together, Chell uses portals to redirect Wheatley's bombs against him, and GLaDOS provides corrupted cores for Chell to attach to him, hoping to trigger another core transfer. When Chell attempts to press the Stalemate Resolution Button, bombs drop around it, a trap devised by Wheatley. As the facility begins to fall apart due to the long-ignored meltdown, the ceiling splits open, revealing the night sky. Injured but still alive, Chell grabs the ASHPD and shoots a portal onto the Moon. She and Wheatley are both sucked out into the vacuum of space, clinging desperately to the straining wires of GLaDOS' mainframe. Surprisingly, GLaDOS drags Chell back through the portal. Wheatley is left in lunar orbit.

Chell falls unconscious and awakens sometime later to see GLaDOS, ATLAS, and P-body. GLaDOS, showing what seems like genuine concern for Chell's welfare, talks about what she learned from their experiences together and says she now realizes Chell has been her best friend all along. She then adds that feeling this surge of emotion has allowed her to figure out where its source - Caroline - is located, and promptly states that she has deleted it. Despite being apparently back to her old, amoral self, GLaDOS says that she intends to release Chell, claiming that attempts to kill her simply have proven to cause too much trouble. An elevator takes Chell upward, and a chorus of turrets sing her a farewell song. Arriving on the surface, Chell opens the door to find herself exiting what appears to be a small tool shed in a sunlit field of wheat. The door slams shut behind her, then briefly opens again to spit out the scorched Companion Cube from the first game.

[edit] Appearance

Chell is a fairly thin young woman in her early or mid 20's. Her ethnic background is somewhat ambiguous; she appears to be of Latin or multiracial descent, and Valve concept artist Matt Charlesworth described her as having "a hint of Japanese ethnicity."[2] (Chell's face and body model, Alésia Glidewell, has a Brazilian-American father and a Japanese mother.) She has light brown skin, dark hair with streaks of gray that are visible in the first game, and gray eyes. Her split earlobes suggest that she once wore earrings that were violently ripped out.

Throughout the first game she wears a worn-out orange jumpsuit and has bare feet, with Advanced Knee Replacement prostheses surgically attached to her legs. She has a ponytail and mild "bed hair" from sleeping in a stasis pod for an unknown period of time.

In Portal 2, Chell appears much better groomed and rested. Her knee replacements have been replaced with Long Fall Boots. She wears the same jumpsuit, but with the upper part folded down and tied around her waist, revealing a white tank top bearing the Aperture logo and tight-fitting pale blue shorts or pants. She also wears a white wrap up past the wrist on her right hand, presumably for joint support on the wrist that holds the ASHPD.

[edit] Personality and skills

Chell crouched, holding her ASHPD.
"You dangerous, mute lunatic."
GLaDOS[src]

As with her fellow silent protagonist Gordon Freeman, relatively little is known about Chell's personality. The clearest information about her comes from the Lab Rat comic, which shows portions of her personnel file. According to the file, psychological testing showed that Chell scored well into the 99th percentile on the trait of tenacity. A note on these test results characterized Chell as "abnormally stubborn," adding that "she never gives up. Ever." Because she was so much an outlier in this respect, she was initially rejected for testing until Rattman altered the records.

Rattman's comments imply that Chell's profile was not particularly remarkable in other respects. She was not the fastest or most athletic of the test subjects GLaDOS captured, and some of the others had higher IQs, although Rattman implies that Chell's IQ was above the average. Based on her accomplishments in the games, it can be surmised that Chell is highly resourceful, quick-thinking, good at creative problem-solving, and does not panic easily.

Chell never speaks to GLaDOS; in the first game, GLaDOS asks "Are you even listening to me?" and in the second, she calls Chell "a dangerous, mute lunatic." However, Eric Wolpaw has stated that Chell probably can speak, but refuses to do so in order to avoid giving GLaDOS the satisfaction of a response. The Lab Rat comic showed that Chell declined to answer at least part of her test subject questionnaire, suggesting that her defiant refusal to answer GLaDOS may be a long-standing habit. At the beginning of Portal 2, when Wheatley asks her to speak, she jumps instead, which Wheatley interprets as a sign of brain damage.

Little else is known about Chell; all further information about her comes from comments by GLaDOS, who is by no means a reliable source of information. GLaDOS claims that Chell is "a bitter, unlikable loner," "pointlessly cruel," and that test results show that she is "a horrible person." As GLaDOS lies habitually about many subjects and has a particular interest in trying to make Chell feel uncomfortable, guilty, or worthless, none of her comments can be assumed to be fact.

[edit] Backstory

Players exploring the Aperture facility in Portal 2 can discover a presentation from the Bring Your Daughter to Work Day science fair signed with the name Chell. Several girls seem to have made potato batteries; none of them have rotted over the years, and Chell's potato has actually grown out of control, sprouting through the ceiling. One of the steps described in her experimental procedure is using a "special ingredient from Dad's work." This strongly implies that Chell was the daughter of a male Aperture employee, was trapped in the facility during GLaDOS' takeover on Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, and spent her entire adolescence as one of GLaDOS' prisoners. The handwriting and content of the experiment seem to indicate that Chell was of grade school age during the science fair, which took place in either 1998 or 200X (comments by Valve employees have been contradictory on this point). This would indicate that Chell was born sometime in the 1990s and was probably in her 20's during the events of the first Portal. Virtually no other reliable direct evidence about Chell's background appears in the games. In the Lab Rat comic, Chell's surname is redacted on the list of test subjects, while no other information is missing.

GLaDOS often drops hints about Chell's background, but since her comments are obviously intended to manipulate Chell or damage her self-esteem, they may not have any basis in fact. In the first game, GLaDOS said that she possessed a backup of Chell's brain, which she later claimed to have deleted in a fit of rage. Although the comment may have been a complete fabrication, some players speculated that Chell might be a clone or an android (although the game's writers have now confirmed that this theory was not intended). GLaDOS also asserts once in the first game and repeatedly in the second that Chell was abandoned by her birth parents and subsequently adopted. In context, GLaDOS' intent is clearly for Chell to find this information upsetting - even when fighting on Chell's side, she not only repeats the allegation but adds, "and that's terrible."

[edit] Behind the scenes

Chell's placeholder following himself through his portals.
  • The heel springs were originally created for the Combine Assassin, cut from Half-Life 2.[7] They were reused as the Advanced Knee Replacement for Portal due to disbelief by playtesters that Chell could survive the drops she was subject to, particularly those that involved falling recursively through portals.[8]
  • Chell's real life reference model is Alésia Glidewell. Contrary to the popular belief, she was never the face model for the original Zoey model in Left 4 Dead.[9]
  • It has been stated by Gabe Newell in an October 2007 interview that Chell has importance in the overall Half-Life and Portal universe, and will eventually have a fairly significant relationship with some of the other characters that we are already familiar with.[10] However, this was before they even had plans for Portal 2, and now they have decided to keep the two series' apart, so it's likely that this statement is now retconned.
  • In the original Portal trailer, a balding male Test Subject is used as a placeholder for Chell.[11] While it cannot be clearly seen, it may be the Half-Life 2 "male 7" Citizen.
  • As seen in a very early Portal screenshot, the hands and forearms of the ASHPD user were to be featured in the viewmodel. Chell's right hand and forearm are still present in the final viewmodel, although the texture is broken. However the texture file can still be found in the game files, revealing what may be an early Aperture Science logo, followed by the number "122-7605," possibly an early Test Subject ID. These are not featured in Chell's model, which probably did not (at least fully) exist at that time of the game's development.
  • As seen in the texture folder for Chell's model, it appears that she was at some point to wear a fancy hairclip (as the texture "chell_hairclip.vtf"), replaced in the final game by a simple ring / elastic.
  • As with all the playable characters in the Half-Life and Portal universe, Chell is silent. However female Citizen sounds (by Mary Kae Irvin) are reused when she is hurt in the first game.
Views of Chell's Portal 2 concept model.
  • As stated by Matt Charlesworth, designer of the Portal 2 Chell, she was really successful in the first Portal. She fit into the world really well and complemented it without the distractions that a more flashy character would bring, and served well her utilitarian purpose. However when the team started working on Portal 2, they were not sure whether they would bring her back or not, and explored a few other characters before returning to Chell, when they realized removing her would not benefit the game.[2]
  • In Portal, Chell's orange jumpsuit is similar to the common American prison outfit. According to Bay Raitt, the team put Chell in an orange jumpsuit to reinforce the fact that she is a Test Subject. Visually, the warmer orange colors help her pop out against the colder tones of the environment.[8] For Portal 2, her outfit was redesigned to reflect her "lab rat" status.[6]
    • That new outfit went through many concepts before the final one was chosen: as stated by Matt Charlesworth, some of the concepts started with a sporty, motorcycle gear like look, which was very different from the original orange outfit, even though they were still going for clean and simple. They played around with proportion as well, trying to play a lot more with extreme feminine proportions and a totally different color scheme. They also explored changing Chell's nationality for a little bit, since her true nationality has never been explored nor revealed.[2][12]
    • The constraints the team had were that Chell was supposed to be dressed by machines, so any markings on the suit would have been on there for readability by a computer. That includes machine-read imagery, and what extra things might be on that kind of suit, but they eventually leaned away from the bar code design, because they reckoned it has been done quite a bit before, and originality is something Charlesworth really associates with Portal. She was never to look as if she had been designed, something the team fought with – to make her still appealing to the player, but not look over designed (the team tends to cut anything that does not serve a real purpose on their characters).[2]
    • Concept art for different outfits.
      In the end, the things the team considered successful were the more minimal, clean, utilitarian looks (nothing was on there for fashion), leading to the final design of a purposely and constantly dehumanized Test Subject, considered by the team as making her look physically capable, but at the same time showing some vulnerability about her (what Charlesworth considers attractive in every person), which they thought to really seem like it belongs in the Portal world.[2]
    • That new design is not supposed to "look like a sexy Marvel superhero suit", as Charlesworth states. It is supposed to look like it was designed without any thought of making her look attractive. The team does not want to make her unattractive, but still wants to balance that out, and have Chell look like what she is - a Test Subject, not a prisoner, a janitor, or something else. They also want people to remember that version of the character better than the first one. Before he started working on Portal 2, Charlesworth admits he barely remembered the first Chell.[2]
    • Concept art for another outfit Chell would have worn in Portal 2.
      The hat featured in that new design came up around halfway through the conception phase, and it seemed to strike a chord with the whole team. Charlesworth states that this is something that always reminds him of test pilots – people who were subjected to testing and extreme conditions. It also serves a second purpose, because if there is a graphic on it, it is constantly readable from all angles, making it trackable by any computer found in the Enrichment Center. That serves the fiction of her being tested by GLaDOS, and keeps the hair out of her eyes.[2]
    • The team was not sure whether to keep the Advanced Knee Replacement for Portal 2. He states that some team members were attached to it, and that some are not, so they had experimented what to do with them, or how to replace them.[2] It was replaced by the Long Fall Boot.
  • Chell's early jumpsuit design for Portal 2 was revealed as two ASCII art images given by the BBS during the Portal ARG.
  • In the end, the outfit chosen for Chell in the final, retail version of Portal 2 had her wearing her jumpsuit from the first game, though her upper body is disrobed and the upper half of the jumpsuit is tied around her waist, revealing a white tank top with the Aperture logo on it. She also wears a white band around part of her right forearm.
  • Originally, Chell was to be one half of the two Portal 2 co-op characters, the other being another woman named Mel. When they were replaced by ATLAS and P-body, Chell was kept for the singleplayer mode only, and Mel was removed from the storyline.[13]
  • "Chell" may be derived from "Chelle," which is the diminutive of "Michelle."[14] However, the staff commentaries on Portal 2 pronounce her name as in church rather than Michelle. "Chell" is never given in-game, but is mentioned in the Portal end credits and can be found in the game files for both Portal and Portal 2. The name becomes more personal when the writers begin to mention her name often in interviews prior to the release of Portal 2.
  • Originally, Chell was not mute: she was to say a single word, "Yes", in the end of Portal 2.[15]

[edit] Trivia

Zoomed, to see "By Chell".
  • It was previously speculated that Chell might be Test Subject 234, but this was disproved in Portal 2: Lab Rat, which stated that Chell was Test Subject 1438, until Doug Rattmann changed her to be Test Subject 1.
  • While it is kept ambiguous whether or not Gordon Freeman participates in conversations in the Half-Life series, according to Erik Wolpaw, Chell does not actually speak during the course of Portal. Wolpaw explained that this is because of Chell's annoyance at her situation, choosing not to give her surroundings the satisfaction of a response. Wolpaw further stated that Chell probably can talk.[16] Also in Portal 2, GLaDOS does call Chell a mute, though this could just be an observation, not a fact. Additionally, Wheatley attempts to get Chell to speak to check if she has brain damage after being in suspension; the speech prompts provided actually make Chell jump instead. This doesn't necessarily mean she actually has brain damage, as she is still cognitively capable in several other areas. The only known noises that Chell makes are rare grunts of pain in the course of the first game.
  • In the course of the games, Chell has left the Enrichment Center three times and has been to the surface twice. First was after she defeated GLaDOS at the end of Portal, however she was dragged back into the facility by the Party Escort Bot. Second was when she launched a portal on to the surface of the Moon to defeat Wheatley, she was sucked in to the vacuum of space but was saved by GLaDOS. Finally and currently, she was forced to leave the Aperture Laboratories and was sent to the surface by GLaDOS where she exited the lift near a shed in the middle of a wheat field with a burnt Companion Cube.
  • It is not exactly clear how much time Chell has spent in stasis between events of Portal and Portal 2. At the beginning of Portal 2, she is woken up for the first time after 50 days of sleep after the events of the Lab Rat comic, for a mandatory set of physical and mental exercises. Now beginning the events of Portal 2, she wakes up countless of years later, the Announcer fades out (or stutters) after uttering a nearly endless stream of the digit, nine - as the Annoucer has reached a maximum count. This is proven when the Announcer's soundfile suggests the "nines" repeated until the message has finished, making it about 50 "nines", which would imply a stasis of 2.74×1047 years (longhand this number is "274" followed by 45 zeros). Even with the many scientific and technological leaps and bounds made by Aperture, it is highly unlikely that a patient could be kept in stasis for such a long time, as normally patients must be awakened every 50 days to avoid psychological damage (albeit, Chell canonically endured decades of unabashed stasis). Therefore, it is highly unlikely that this enormous figure is correct. What seems more likely is that the Announcer's calendar-keeping program may have corrupted after much of the facility fell into disrepair after the destruction of GLaDOS at the end of Portal. However, if confirmed, that theory implies that Chell might have been asleep for any number of years, short or long, as the calendar-keeping program was corrupted all the while. However, judging from the amount of plant growth in the Testing track, it is likely that Chell has been asleep for quite a long time, long enough for the facility to become dilapidated and plant life to take root and flourish. Despite the fact that most people assume that Chell had been asleep for approximately 200 years, it is far more likely that she has been asleep for perhaps 20 years.
  • In the Lab Rat comic, one of the files Rattmann has on Chell states the question "Why should Aperture Science accept you as a research volunteer, and would anyone file a police report if you went missing?" Which HR notes: "Subject refused to answer." At the bottom of the file are lines of binary code that translates to The cake is a lie.
  • When visiting the Bring Your Daughter to Work Day Science Fair, there was a large overgrown potato plant with information on a large piece of cardboard. If the player looks closely at the project's information, "By Chell" is written on the side. Whether this means that Chell was a daughter of an Aperture Science employee before becoming a Test Subject, or if there was another girl with the same name is unknown.
  • Strangely, Chell's poster also makes mention of a Cave Johnson as if he was alive, however this is not possible as Cave Johnson's death occurred before the GLaDOS project was finished. Although, however unlikely, this mentioning could also be referring to any employee with the last name Johnson as Chell uses "Mr. Johnson" to describe him.
  • In the Co-op Campaign after completing the Hard Light Surfaces course, GLaDOS makes an indirect reference to her, pausing for a few seconds before saying that she'd rather not go through that again (referring to the events of the single player campaign). Later, in the Peer Review DLC, GLaDOS makes a more direct reference to her, saying that she will have to turn the robots into killing machines, like "you know who".
  • In the video "Michael" - Long Live Play, Chell makes a cameo appearance going through a blue portal.

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