Author's Note: I had a few different sources of inspiration for this fic, the greatest being a conversation I had with my fellow author and Portal fan, Chloe Kompton. Please enjoy, and don't forget to leave a review.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we no longer offer testing compensation."
"Please," the ragged-looking man begged the secretary, "I need the money. Last week some psycho burned my house down and I was fired from my job."
"I'm sorry to hear that sir, but-"
"What seems to be the problem here?" a voice asked in a pleasant tone.
The homeless man and the secretary turned to look at the source of the voice: a middle-aged woman with long, dark brown hair.
"It's nothing, Caroline," the secretary said to her senior. "This gentleman would like to participate in our Enrichment Center testing, but I've been trying to tell him that ever since testing became mandatory for all Aperture employees, we no longer accept non-employee volunteers."
"Well, I think we still have a few compensation vouchers left," Caroline stated. "And clearly this man is interested in advancing science. Besides, he looks a bit brighter than most of our other volunteers."
There was some truth to what Caroline said. Despite his grimy appearance, the man had a sort of sparkle in his sky blue eyes that set him apart, and almost reinvigorated you when you looked at him. It was as if his gaze filled you with life itself.
Still, the secretary wasn't convinced. "Caroline, I don't think-"
"Isn't it about time for your own testing?" Caroline asked the nameless, easily replaceable secretary who wouldn't be especially missed by anyone important.
The secretary paled. "I – but - oh, Caroline I-"
"Well, shouldn't you consider yourself lucky that this young man has volunteered? Because somebody is going to test today," Caroline pointed out, interrupting the secretary's stuttering.
"I'm sure that having him test would be fine!" the secretary said with a strained smile.
"Fantastic!" Caroline exclaimed, making a note on her clipboard. "Sir, if you could please follow me, I can give you the necessary paperwork."
The homeless man followed Caroline to an office where Caroline pulled out a drawer from a filing cabinet. The entire drawer. Caroline heaved the drawer full of paper onto the wooden desk in the office, which groaned in protest. The homeless man watched with his mouth gaping open while Caroline adjusted a few notches on the sides of the drawer so it opened up like some sort of binder, allowing the homeless man to read and sign the phonebook of a contract.
"Well, here you are. Quite the pile of paper, isn't it?" Caroline asked.
"This will take me all day to go through!" the man asked, his bright eyes wide.
"Well you know what they say: time is money. So, all you have to do is sign here and we can get you ready for testing!" Caroline said happily, handing the man a pen.
The man sighed. "I really do need whatever money I can get…"
And so, the man signed the paper.
"Very good, … Mr. Life?" Caroline said as she looked at the signature with a bemused expression.
"Yes, you can just call me Life, though. Everybody does."
"Alright, Life, today you can help us advance science by taking part in our conversion gel testing. This test requires the Aperture Science Mobile Portal Device, so if you could follow me, I can equip you with one and we can begin testing."
Life followed Caroline down the halls to a door that Caroline punched a code into to open. Inside, there was a rather bulky device that Life assumed was the portal gun Caroline had mentioned.
"The concept is fairly simple: you can shoot blue and orange portals on any flat, white surface. What goes in one portal comes out the other. Any questions?"
"Uh, yeah. How do you get it on?" Life asked.
Caroline chuckled. "I'll help you with that. If you think this is cumbersome, you should have seen the original design. We intend to continue testing until we can create a handheld portal device, and then we'll test some more before we release it into the wild."
As Caroline helped Life attach the device to his arm, she tried to strike up a conversation. "So, I heard part of your conversation with Nameless Secretary. Your house was burned down?"
Life let out a sad sigh. "Yes. I didn't have insurance either, since most mortals can't- I mean, it's pretty far out of the way, so my insurance didn't cover arson."
"Arson? Why would someone burn your house down?"
"I don't know. And you know what the psycho used to burn it down? Lemons. Combustible lemons."
Life saw a look of shock come over Caroline's face.
"I know, right? I didn't believe it myself until the investigators found one that hadn't gone off. What kind of lunatic would build a combustible lemon to burn my house down?"
Caroline was silent for a moment before she answered. "I don't think I could possibly know the answer to that," she replied, enhancing the truth. "There, we're finished attaching the device. Now the tests can begin."
"Thanks, Caroline," Life said with a small smile. "I'll be sure to do my best."
"Thank you, Life. Science will benefit from your voluntary testing. Oh, one more thing, before you take the tests."
"Our CEO often leaves pre-recorded messages for anyone in the testing chambers. Most of them are of him just rambling into a microphone, so it would be best if you just ignored all of them."
Life gave another small smile. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind."
And with that, Caroline led Life into the Enrichment Sphere for conversion gel testing and hoped to God that Cave hadn't prerecorded the little lemon rant he had a few weeks ago.
Life had breezed through the tests he had been presented with. He prided himself for his intellect, which he had acquired over the millennia since the first living cells had come into existence. Another factor for Life moving so quickly through the tests were the pre-recorded messages of Aperture's CEO, Cave Johnson. Life didn't like the man, and he didn't like his messages. Johnson had a blatant disregard for human life, not to mention his own, apparently. Shouldn't the head of a science company know that ground-up moon rocks were pure poison?
The only redeeming factor the CEO had was his optimistic outlook. "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" was one of Life's favorite quotes, even though he never really gave anyone anything detrimental. Whatever mess they were in was the fault of their ancestors, themselves, or Fate; Life never dealt anyone a "bad hand". Still, Life loved to see people building up their lives, and an optimistic outlook helped with that a lot.
Life was about halfway through another test when another pre-recorded message began to play.
"Alright, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade! Make life take the lemons back. GET MAD! I DON'T WANT YOUR DAMN LEMONS, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THESE? DEMAND TO SEE LIFE'S MANAGER, MAKE LIFE RUE THE DAY IT THOUGHT IT COULD GIVE CAVE JOHNSON LEMONS! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I'M THE MAN WHO'S GONNA BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN! (WITH THE LEMONS!) I'M GONNA GET MY ENGENEERS TO INVENT A COMBUSTIBLE LEMON THAT BURNS YOUR HOUSE DOWN!
As Cave finished his rant with a great deal of coughing and wheezing, Life stood in silent fury. That idiot blamed him for his condition? Cave was the one who grounded up the damn moon rocks; he brought it upon himself!
It all made sense now: with the inter-dimensional research Aperture had been doing, Cave Johnson had actually been able to ascend beyond the barriers between the material world and the higher order of the universe so he could literally burn down Life's metaphorical house. Life had wondered how his manager could have fired him because of complaints about his work, and it turned out that his poor manager had been listening to the ravings of that madman.
But this wasn't over, Life thought with a wicked grin. He may have been fired from his job and stripped of his status as a higher being, but he could still pull a few strings. He was going to give his good friend Fate a call and see how miserable he could make the life of Cave Johnson and all of Aperture's employees.
Author's Note: I'm rather proud of this little fic; the only problem I had with it is that I think that I might have made Caroline a little OOC. Be sure to tell me what you think in a review, and remember that favoriting helps too!