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This is a great question! And a really big one too. Probably one of the most important questions about the game… I give some sort of an answer for myself under the cut. It’s my own set of headcanons, though, and not necessarily what I think definitely happened prior to the game!
Also, I put it in the Portal Fandom Appreciation Challenge tag because it’s about Caroline and she deserves more attention.
Feel free to reblog and add your own answer to this question if you want!
I don’t know if I will have a chance to write or draw anything for the Portal Fandom Appreciation Challenge before the weekend is over, but in case anyone is looking for something to read, here are two of my more recent fics that have absolutely nothing to do with that one core:
Characters: Caroline, Cave Johnson
Description: After weeks of scheduling meetings and fetching coffee at Aperture, Caroline finally has the chance to see science up close, but she isn’t sure if she’s right for the job.
Characters: Chell, Doug Rattmann
Description: He was both alive and dead until someone opened the box.
Protocol (GLaDOS activation fic) Part 1
Okay, this is actually a part of a different fic I’m in the middle of writing, but I thought I’d post these bits separately for Portal fans to enjoy as part of the Fandom Challenge!
It’s a bit of a different take on GLaDOS’s activation! Very Caroline/GLaDOS-centric, hinted Caveline! Pre-Portal 1, pre-Lab Rat.
A few miles below an extensive wheat field, resting just beyond the furthest outskirts of a city full of ordinary, happy humans, was the once-mighty company, Aperture Science. Inside, a team of seven scientists and one current-CEO had gathered to perform a dangerous procedure, and most of the scientists displayed an air of unease, though their leader showed the definition of confidence. Caroline appeared calm, cool and collect, opposed to her sweaty-handed and nervously twitching employees.
George, a tall, sturdy man with clear eyes—head of Aperture Science Artificial Intelligence Development—coughed dryly into his sleeve. Today was the day. The day they had all been waiting for, for months on end.
Touch (A Chell/Peabody genfic)
This is for the Portal Fandom Appreciation Challenge. I’m probably way late to the game, but… oh well.
Protocol (GLaDOS activation fic) Part 2
Part 2 of my fic for the Fandom Challenge!
A bit of a different take on GLaDOS’s activation! Very Caroline/GLaDOS-centric, hinted Caveline! Pre-Portal 1, pre-Lab Rat.
Night had fallen over Aperture. Despite the hour, its Central AI Chamber was currently a buzzing hive of activity. No, there would be no sleep for its employees tonight, as precious time could not be wasted on something like curling up into a warm, cozy bed; not when they had finally managed the biggest scientific breakthrough of the century.
The GLaDOS project had been successful.
It was successful. Successful, but not without a small hitch—there had been a catastrophic power failure as George had hit the button. It had taken a full ten minutes to reboot GLaDOS and the surrounding facility. During that ten minutes, the facility had been running on backup only.