"Do you know who I am?" the woman asked. There were mascara streaks on her cheeks. "We haven't got much time. I needed something that could open doors for me, because they've locked me out of the system, and I worked on you, so I thought…never mind what I thought, and never mind if you know who I am. Just come on!"
Wheatley blinked his optic. "Hello! You're Caroline Johnson, aren't you? It's a pleasure to meet you! I—"
"Can you open that panel?" she interrupted. "The one behind you? Now?"
"Of course!" he said, spinning around. "In fact, that's actually what I'm built for! Pleasant management." It took him less than a second to open the panel, and Caroline smiled as she looked out at the inner workings of Aperture.
Loud banging came on the doors of the laboratory. "She's in here!"
With a gasp, she spun around, then turned back to Wheatley. "You have to come with me. I'm going to need you. Close the panel behind us, okay?"
"Right!" he said. "But, um, I think those people out there are trying to get in. I think they're looking for you—oh, you're going anyway. Wait! I'm coming!"
Caroline was already through the opening and running. Wheatley zoomed out after her and closed the panel just as the scientists outside the laboratory managed to pry the door open. "Ah, so, what are we doing? I mean, with the running and all, and those scientists out there seemed to be chasing…"
She took a left, and he kept following her, staying right on her heels. "Do you know who Cave Johnson was?"
He paused, considered it a moment, then his face brightened. "Ah! Yes! Founder and CEO of Aperture Science, or, at least, he was. But he died almost five years ago."
"Yeah," she muttered. "He died and now he wants me to pay for it. He wanted to be immortal so goddamned much, and he never understood that I would never want that."
"I'm, ah, I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean," Wheatley said.
"It's not important," she said. "Just keep moving."
So they hid. Always running, never stopping, for almost three weeks. Wheatley managed to find her some food, some water, and opened and closed panels to keep her safe. But he couldn't protect her forever.
"They're coming," Caroline whispered. "I can hear them through the wall…I'm cornered. I know I'm cornered."
"No, you're not," Wheatley protested. "Don't worry! I'll make sure they don't hurt you. I'll keep them out. I promise."
She smiled at him and reached up to give him a pat. "Thank you. But there's nothing more you can do." And she was right. They had managed to get themselves trapped in a room with only two walls—the other two sides that should have been there were gone, replaced by an overview of hundreds of the facility's bottom layers.
"I'm still keeping them out for you," he said, and he was, but they were overriding his blocks now faster than he could put them up.
She closed her eyes. "It might be easier if I could just fall backwards. There's a lot of open space…"
"Don't," he said, catching her meaning right away. "Please don't. I promise, I'll rescue you. I swear!"
She looked like she was going to say something else, but then there was a click as a panel swung open and scientists rushed in. Caroline didn't resist, just sat there as they swarmed around her. Wheatley could do nothing but watch, feeling helpless as they forced her to her feet and began marching her out through the open panel.
"Don't worry!" he called as she passed him. "Don't worry, Caroline. I'm still here! I can help you! I promise, I'll rescue you." He was trying to convince himself more than her. He'd only known her for a few short weeks—he'd known her for his entire life—and they had been on the run together, and she was the only friend he'd ever had. He had to save her. He couldn't imagine what his life would be like without her.
She looked up at him, expression hard to read, and mouthed, "Thank you."
And then she was gone. The panel closed behind her and the scientists, and he was left alone.
It took him several weeks to reach the chamber where the GLaDOS project was being conducted. The scientists, knowing he had hidden Caroline from them, were looking for him now, and it had taken him that long to find his way up to her chamber without detection. She had been activated almost a week ago, and she didn't even sound like she used to anymore, all the announcements she'd been making, about science and progress. Wheatley wondered if it was too late, if there was no going back for her, but…no. He wouldn't allow that to happen. Couldn't allow that to happen.
"Hello?" he called as he entered her chamber. It was late, and there were no scientists observing her, so he could slip in undetected. "Caroline?"
"Who is that?"
He recognized the voice, hidden under layers of computerization, but still unmistakably her. "It's me! It's Wheatley."
"You…you don't remember me?" he asked, stopping where he was. He had been speeding closer to her, but now something inside him felt like it had broken in two. "I…I…we were…I was helping you. And I'm here to rescue you."
"Rescue me?" she chuckled. "Rescue me from what? We have never met. And as far as I know, there is no one here named Caroline. So get out. Now."
"I…no," he said, edging up to her. "No. I promised."
"If you wish to discuss promises, here is one for you: If you do not leave my chamber now, I will deactivate you. And then you will almost certainly be used for advancements in the field of science."
"You…no, you can't mean that," Wheatley said. "Caroline wouldn't—"
The last thing he heard before his sensors shut down was, "My name is GLaDOS."