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Some Important Moments Of Cave Johnson's Life

"Some important moments of Cave Johnson's life"

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Author's Notes

"This story is based on Portal series."

1943- Cave Johnson was a successful businessman. His company, Aperture Fixtures, was making a fortune selling shower curtains, particularly to the U.S. armed forces, during the world war.

He was chosen as the Shower Curtain Salesman of 1943, but as he was holding his shower curtain shaped trophy, he felt incomplete. He thought about the huge world out there and the small scale of his victory.

He thought: "Who will remember this? Who will even care in a few years? This trophy, despite all the work I have done to get it, is bound to become a useless and stupid house decoration after a few years."

Small shower curtain producers were popping up everywhere, and his business was doomed to lose markets soon. The war wasn’t going to last forever. After it, soldiers would have been dismissed, and the armed forces weren’t going to need all those shower curtains.

Cave thought about the ways to improve his shower curtains, but the options were few. The quality of shower curtains was the same. No breakthrough was possible. Everyone could have added a little color or picture to a shower curtain. He had no upper hand over his competitors there.

Suddenly he came up with an idea. "The whole point of showering is to get clean. So, why not use a name which immediately brings up the concept of cleanness in minds? What can give people such an image? Science! Scientific equipment and laboratories are known for being clean and neat. A scientific name will give my company prestige and promotes the idea that my merchandise is more hygienic."

1945- Cave Johnson was now the CEO of Aperture Science Innovators. No one could tell whether it was because of the scientific name or something else, but his company was doing relatively well. Of course, the profit wasn’t as high as before, but it was still a reasonable amount.

The other shower curtain producers were looking for new markets in the liberated Europe and developing countries, but Cave had other plans. His ambitions had no limit.

The shower curtain shaped trophy was still on his desk, not to remind him of his achievement, but to remind him of how small he still is. He thought about becoming the greatest again. But the greatest among who? Shower curtain producers?!

He realized that he needed to expand the scope of his thought. What field was so impressive and had unlimited potential to grow that becoming the greatest in it was truly remarkable?

"Science! That’s it! What am I doing? I’m the CEO of a science company, yet I’m wasting my time with stupid shower curtains! The world is changing fast. Science isn’t going to wait for anyone to catch up, so instead of running after science, why not lead the science and have the others run after me?" he thought to himself.

1946- Cave read the newspaper editorial: "Local Entrepreneur buys salt mine."

The abandoned salt mine in upper Michigan was huge. It consisted of 9 big vertical holes, so deep that the bottom was out of sight. Underground water was running at the bottom. In order to use all that empty space, laboratories and offices had to be built vertically, on top of each other. There was no settlement nearby. The staff had nowhere to live. There was no utility and no means of communication or transportation.

But where others only saw problems, Cave saw opportunities. "I’ll have engineers built floating spheres, a whole city, modern communications, roads and railroads, and turn that underground current into a source of energy."

Although the accountants (or "bean counters", as he liked to call them), had advised him to start smaller, it was his father’s theories about farming which shaped his decisions. The father’s theories were:

1) Do it from scratch.
2) Spare no expense.
3) Never cut corners.

Of course, his father never farmed a day in his life, but his theories were guiding the science company.

1951- Cave was going down in an elevator. As the elevator was moving in the shaft, he witnessed the engineers, technicians and workers building huge steel pillars to hold the science spheres in the air. The spheres were being built to create room for testing chambers.

Scientific tests were about to begin. Cave had made it clear to his staff that only the best of the best was good enough as test subjects. A large group of Olympians and war heroes were selected and were about to arrive.

The first chambers were completed and the first tests were about to begin. Cave was eager to greet and guide every test subject, but that took too much time. He couldn’t be at several test chambers and manage his company simultaneously. So, he had found a solution: prerecorded tapes.

As the elevator reached the bottom of the shaft the head of the company’s engineering staff and several employees greeted him. He had a quick tour of the facility. The employees knew they shouldn’t question his decisions, no matter how irrational the decisions were. Cave wasn’t known for his tolerance or rational thought but for his determination and ambition. Those who made insignificant mistakes or doubted his decisions were fired. So, being a good yes-man was the key to success for every employee.

After the tour, he went to a quiet room to record his message.

"Here at Aperture, we are always trying to push the boundaries of science a little bit more. That’s why we are taking on this new project. When bean counters told me not to buy a salt mine to do all this science, the first thing they said was 'No! There is too much space! You can’t suspend something over nothing and pray that test can happen in the thin air!'

Well, thanks to some use of the old calculator between the ears and the old 'You’re fired' stamp, I came with the final solution to that. If you can’t anchor something in thin air, why bother trying to make it in the air in the first place! I came up with these …"

Cave waited for a few seconds. This part of the recorded tape was timed to coincide with the elevator’s passage in front of the first testing sphere under construction.

"Introducing the Aperture Science Innovators Suspended Testing Sphere. Each sphere is suspended in the air anchored to the walls concrete and steel lattice rebar. They seem like they float in the air, but in fact, they don’t! Plus, we can keep building above them. Onward and upward! This salt mine here can take at least 10 of these spheres... per shaft! Nine shafts, 90 tests! We can test whatever we want to, and beat out that other company … anyway, the bean counters cried at the cost of something like these big babies, but they wet their pants when I threw them out the door! I pay the bills, I make the decisions around here, and I hire and fire as I please!"

1952- Aperture Science Innovators was chosen as the second largest contractor by the Department of Defense. This was a good start and showed everyone that Cave’s company was headed to the top.

Cave's insistence about choosing the best test subjects had now extended to his employees. A regular worker, engineer, accountant, or scientist couldn’t do. Only the best of the best could do. And who could judge them except himself?

He didn’t want merely a workforce. He wanted dedication; An entire culture and lifestyle dedicated to his goal. That’s why he decided to train a handpicked group of enthusiastic and promising students to form the future of his company. A certain girl had stood out and got his attention: Caroline. She was not only promising but dedicated to science.

Caroline was not only a girl, but the type of personality he was searching for in his life. He wasn’t about to let anyone take her away. So, it was time to make that clear. He sat behind a recorder, with no one in the room, except his assistant, Caroline.

He turned on the recorder and began his speech:

"Welcome, gentlemen, to Aperture Science. Astronauts, war heroes, Olympians - you're here because we want the best, and you are it. So: Who is ready to make some science?"

"I am!" Caroline eagerly responded.

"Now, you already met one another on the limo ride over, so let me introduce myself. I'm Cave Johnson. I own the place.That eager voice you heard is the lovely Caroline, my assistant. Rest assured, she has transferred your honorarium to the charitable organization of your choice. Isn't that right, Caroline?"

"Yes, sir mister Johnson!"

"She's the backbone of this facility. Pretty as a postcard, too. Sorry, fellas. She's married. To science!"

1953- Aperture Science Innovators was chosen as the second largest contractor by the Department of Defense again. Cave was a little disappointed.

There were a few setbacks. Some of his company’s products were taken off the shelves. A German Olympian couldn’t be awoken after testing the Aperture Innovators Short-Term Relaxation Vault. Some test subjects were showing worrying symptoms as a result of their participation in the tests.

"The price of doing something right," he thought. "If no one would have taken risks or paid a price for going forward, we were still living on trees."

1954- Cave asked Caroline to prepare the tape recorder and started recording his messages as usual:

"If you've cut yourself at all in the course of these tests, you might have noticed that your blood is pure gasoline. That's normal. We've been shooting you with an invisible laser that's supposed to turn blood into gasoline, so all that means is, it's working."

He changed the tape and recorded another message:

"Just a heads up, we're gonna have a superconductor turned up full blast and pointed at you for the duration of this next test. I'll be honest, we're throwing science at the wall here to see what sticks. No idea what it'll do. Probably nothing. Best-case scenario, you might get some superpowers. Worst case, some tumors, which we'll cut out."

And this went on for a while.

1957- Some health concerns were voiced by the test subjects. Perhaps a little explanation was needed in order to address their concerns. Cave pushed the start button on the tape recorder:

"All these science spheres are made of asbestos, by the way. Keeps out the rats. Let us know if you feel shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough or your heart stopping. Because that's not part of the test. That's asbestos.

Good news is, the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show a median latency of forty-four point six years, so if you're thirty or older, you're laughing. Worst case scenario, you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face."

1961- An inspection was made by the government. It revealed some facts which an ordinary man would have found terrifying. But Cave was no ordinary man.

The company’s legal team had done its work. They had collected enough signatures on enough papers before sending the test subjects to the test chambers to make sure anything which might have happened during or after the tests was the test subject’s problem.

The inspectors couldn’t find a legal basis for suing the company. A few dangerous test chambers were sealed, but the work continued.

The inspection had a side effect: No Olympian, war hero, or astronaut was willing to work as a test subject anymore. Not only that, but no one who had a little mind and a slight desire to live would volunteer anymore.

What was the solution this time? Cave was angry to even hear that question. Wasn’t the answer obvious? "Find those who have no mind or will to live. Just go to a park at night, find a bunch of homeless or drunk, and offer them 60 dollars for each test."

1969- Cave had changed the company’s name. Now, it was just Aperture Science. Who were these fictional innovators he had shared his success with all these years? Everyone was working for him, not with him. There was no reason to create the illusion that someone shares the credit with him.

Although by that time there were much fewer tests taking place in the facility and he had more than enough time to greet and guide every participant, he preferred not to see them. Yet, he was eager to make his presence felt. So, he sat behind a desk and asked Caroline to prepare the tape recorder for him.

"Greetings, friend. I'm Cave Johnson, CEO of Aperture Science - you might know us as a vital participant in the 1968 Senate Hearings on missing astronauts. And you've most likely used one of the many products we invented. But that other people have somehow managed to steal from us … Right. Now, you might be asking yourself, 'Cave, just how difficult are these tests? What was in that phone book of a contract I signed? Am I in danger?' Let me answer those questions with a question: Who wants to make sixty dollars? Cash. You can also feel free to relax for up to 20 minutes in the waiting room, which is a damn sight more comfortable than the park benches most of you were sleeping on when we found you."

1972- Cameras were installed in the test spheres. Cave could monitor the test subjects and speak live. Of course, it only worked one way. He sat behind a microphone, looked at the monitors and said,

"The testing area's just up ahead. The quicker you get through, the quicker you'll get your sixty bucks."

The test subject wasn’t reacting to what he said.

"Is this on?"

He thumped the microphone a couple of times, then looked at the monitor again and shouted:

"Hey. Listen up down there. That thing's called an elevator, not a bathroom!"

Again, the test subject didn’t react to what he said.

Cave decided that speaking live was a bad idea, and asked Caroline to bring back the tape recorder.

1976- Cave recorded another guidance tape:

"If you're interested in an additional sixty dollars, flag down a test associate and let 'em know. You could walk out of here with a hundred and twenty weighing down your bundle if you let us take you apart, put some science stuff in you, then put you back together good as new."

Then he remembered he hadn’t recorded the greeting tape, so he changed the tape and started recording. "So. Welcome to Aperture. You're here because we want the best, and you're it. Nope. Couldn't keep a straight face … Anyway, don't smudge up the glass down there. In fact, why don't you just go ahead and not touch anything unless it's test related? The testing area's just up ahead. The quicker you get through, the quicker you'll get your sixty bucks.”

Then he remembered he hadn’t completed the guidance tape. He put it back in the recorded and continued:

"In case you're interested, there's still some positions available for that bonus opportunity I mentioned earlier. Again: all you gotta do is let us disassemble you. We're not banging rocks together here. We know how to put a man back together … So that's a complete reassembly. New vitals. Spit-shine on the old ones. Plus we're scooping out tumors. Frankly, you oughtta be paying us. For many of you, I realize 60 dollars is an unprecedented windfall, so don't go spending it all on... I don't know. Caroline, what do these people buy? Tattered hats? Beard dirt?"

1981- Cave sat behind a tape recorder.

"Welcome to …"

Severe coughing stopped him from finishing his sentence. After a few seconds, he continued:

"Since making test participation mandatory for all employees, the quality of our test subjects has risen dramatically. Employee retention, however, has not. As a result, you may have heard we're gonna phase out human testing. There are still a few things left to wrap up, though. First up, conversion gel …"

Severe coughing stopped him again. He hardly pulled himself together and continued:

"The bean counters told me we literally could not afford to buy seven dollars worth of moon rocks, much less seventy million. Bought 'em anyway. Ground 'em up, mixed 'em into a gel, and guess what? Ground up moon rocks are pure poison. I am deathly ill. Still, it turns out they're a great portal conductor. So now we're gonna see if jumping in and out of these new portals can somehow leech the lunar poison out of a man's bloodstream. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Let's all stay positive and do some science."

He began coughing again and asked Caroline to bring him more pain pills before he remembered he hadn’t pushed the stop button on the recorder. But he was too tired, so decided the message was good enough.

1982- Cave didn't sat behind a tape recorder. He was already sitting on a wheelchair, so he just moved his wheelchair to get to the tape recorder and pushed the start button.

"All right, 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 going to burn your house down! With the lemons! I'm going to get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!"

Caroline was cheering as Cave was speaking with enthusiasm and encouraged him. "Yeah! Burn his house down!"

She was happy to see her husband so energetic and determined after years as if his sickness was instantly cured and he had become young again. But her happiness only lasted a few seconds, until Cave continued in a lowered desperate voice:

"The point is: If we can store music on a compact disc, why can't we store a man's intelligence and personality on one? So, I have the engineers figuring that out now."

1983- Cave had ordered someone who he couldn't see or hear to prepare the tape recorder for him. He had no idea whether that had happened yet or not, so he just assumed that it had, and said:

"Brain Mapping. Artificial Intelligence. We should have been working on it thirty years ago. I will say this - and I'm gonna say it on tape so everybody hears it a hundred times a day: If I die before you people can pour me into a computer, I want Caroline to run this place. Now she'll argue. She'll say she can't. She's modest like that. But you make her. Hell, put her in my computer. I don't care. All right, test's over. You can head on back to your desk."

1991- Cave had been disassembled and reassembled many times by his scientists in order to be cured. Some of his organs had been replaced, some removed and some added. It was hard to tell what he was now. He wasn’t feeling bad anymore. In fact, he wasn’t feeling anything at all.

His eyesight had improved astonishingly. He was now able to see a grain of sand from a mile away. But he couldn’t move, hear, taste, or smell anymore. His robotic eye and arm were his only moving parts. He hadn’t eaten for years now. Instead, he had a wire, connected to a power plug.

He no longer understood what was going on around him, and no one bothered to explain. He was practically a test subject now. Maybe the scientists didn’t mean to make him one, but he had become one anyhow. Every time they disassembled and reassembled him and replaced his organs, new things were discovered, but he felt less human.

He lived alone in an isolated room in his science facility, deep under the ground. When they moved him there, Caroline brought his trophies, hung his pictures, and framed newspaper articles about his achievements on the wall. She was kind enough to write a few kind sentences for him to read, but that was it.

99999… a long time after the last entry - Caroline had stopped visiting him for a long time now. Scientists had also stopped visiting him shortly after. Cave had no idea why, but as time passed, he cared less and less. There was no clock in the room, so it was hard to tell how long he had been in that state.

The rest of his natural organs had been removed or replaced with artificial equipment before they left him. His robotic arm could only reach a meter away, but nothing useful was close enough for him to touch. Even if he could reach the door, he wasn’t sure he wanted to open it.

What could have waited for him outside? Bean counters waiting to explain the terrifying financial situation? Scientists waiting to explain the technical difficulties or impossibility of his plans? Human resources employees waiting to show him the statics of accidents and missing test subjects?

If there was only one positive thing about being locked up down there, it was getting rid of all that annoyance.

What about Caroline? Was she too busy? Was she not interested in him anymore? Was she even still alive? Cave preferred not to know. The answer could have been very saddening or merely justified his abandonment at best.

He had scanned the room over and over with his robotic eye. There was nothing interesting. He had virtually left comments and explanations for each object and even particle since he had nothing better to do. His eye’s computer was able to display them at his will. Different comments represented different moods.

The Shower Curtain Salesman trophy got his attention. He reread the first comment he had left for it. "This was my first trophy. I remember the day I got it. It was on that day that I realized it’s not worth a damn since I was destined to be greater …" He stopped there. What was the point of becoming greater? He had become greater, but at what price? And why? He had dedicated his life to that purpose, and now, he couldn’t even figure out why.

He thought to himself, "Alright, now I see this whole enterprise was a mistake. I just wasted my life and stepped on others to get here. But I don’t feel like pitying myself. What’s the point of that? The best solution to a problem is the easiest one, so I solve my problem that way."

He grabbed his wire with his robotic arm and pulled it out of its plug.

Written by Clara
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