Disclaimer: I don't own anything Portal related.
Chapter One: The Dream Job
I remember when I first met him.
It had been difficult to net an invitation to this party, but it had been worth it. After earning my masters degree in physics at the early age of twenty, an orphan with no living relatives who'd been pushed around through foster care, and being a woman to boot, there were many people interested in my future. Most of the jobs I'd been offered were not of the caliber I'd expecting, however. It was growing apparent that despite my intelligence, my gender was pushing me back. Besides, there was only one company I was interested in, and its owner was a little too busy for me.
Cave Johnson of Aperture Science Innovators.
He was so rich, the man who made shower curtains. With his wealth he had bought an entire salt mine in Michigan to conduct scientific experiments. Nobody had any concrete idea what he was doing down there, but he had access to anyone he wanted as test subjects. It was a little strange that so few of them ever left the facility after volunteering, but I was pretty sure it was because of how intensive the experiments were.
Cave rarely left the confines of Aperture except on official business, but for whatever reason he was attending a party my university was hosting in honor of a research breakthrough some graduate students had. I knew one of them from one of my classes, and managed to convince him to get me an invitation after I had fixed a sign error on his calculations. It was only fair, I'd told him, since that equation wouldn't have worked out with an incorrect sign and the breakthrough would've never happened. He had still been hesitant, but then I noted that he would have to admit a girl corrected his math, and he gave in.
So there I was, in the university's grand ballroom, in my best dress, which really wasn't saying much. It was old and worn, and probably sported a few holes, but it's not like I could buy anything better. I didn't have much money, because although my last foster parent had donated his immense wealth to putting me through school, that was about it. I'd exhausted his generosity after graduate school. This was my last chance at my dream job.
You could hear him boasting about his riches from clear across the room. The crowd was too thick to go straight through, so I cautiously wound my way over to where he had attracted quite a crowd talking about some of the new projects he planned for the company. He had everyone gathered around him mesmerized, myself included as I approached. He was quite the speaker, after all. It was admirable, listening to him talk about science. And I was all about science.
I stayed at the edge of the group, listening to his every word for as long as he spoke. Eventually, the crowd broke up, but I hung around, following him as he strode to the punch bowl. I really didn't expect such a powerful and wealthy man to notice me, but he did, as he ladled punch into his glass.
"So," he said easily, "any reason you've been following me?"
I froze, and he turned to me. His face was amused, not angry as I'd expected.
"I'm very interested in science," I stammered. "Working at your company would be... my dream job."
He raised an eyebrow. "A girl interested in science?" he laughed.
"I have a masters degree from this university," I said quickly. "In physics. I'm very interested in science."
"You said that already," he pointed out, and I blushed.
"I'm sorry," I muttered, looking at my feet. "I shouldn't have bothered you."
"I spoke first," he said. "But that doesn't matter. Listen, I'm actually looking for a new assistant. My old one turned tail and thought he could get a better salary at... at... well, not at the number two best applied science company. I haven't started looking at replacements, haven't even posted a job opening in the papers yet even, but if you're interested, I wouldn't have to."
I looked back up at him, not daring to believe what he just said. His face was still jovial. "I'm more interested in the actual science of the facility..." I started.
"You're still reeling from shock. That's okay. But think... Think of all the things that might go on scientifically underground. Think as ridiculous as you can."
I thought about it, just for a moment. My passion for science gave me some pretty crazy ideas.
"Everything you thought of? I've done all of those things. Probably more," he added, shrugging. "And when you take this job, you'll get to see all those things... and more."
"Do you mean that?" I asked, still skeptical and still shocked.
It was my dream job.
"I'd be honored, sir," I told him, blushing again.
"Excellent." He held out his hand. "Now we can do some formal introductions, although you already know who I am. Cave Johnson, founder and CEO of Aperture Science Innovators. And yours?"
"Caroline," I said, taking his hand. His grip was comforting and firm. "Science enthusiast."
"Well, Caroline," he said, beaming, "I think we're going to get along swell."