Sep. 22nd, 2011

acts_of_gord: (Resistance)
When Janusz Prohaska was a boy, he like everybody else he knew prayed and wished and hoped that something would happen that would break the Combine’s back. ‘Something’ was of course supposed to be the return of Gordon Freeman; Janusz didn’t like being specific in wishes, in case his wishing turned out to be wishing for the wrong thing. He would have settled for a plague that struck at their Synths, or a sunspot-storm killing electronics everywhere lasting a hundred years so long as it took the Combine technology down along with the human. But mostly, he like everybody else he knew was hoping for Gordon Freeman.

There were days when he wondered whether perhaps he should have hoped for something else.

Not that the man didn’t know his business- he did. Oh, God Almighty, how he did! For how long now had he been with them, keeping them in shadows and out of the Combine’s sight? How many times had he taken them into battle and cost the alien overlords dearly? With a few dozen more fighters, another truckload or two of better weapons, Janusz was sure the man would see them all through another year of independence here….

And yet- and yet there was so much about the man that Janusz could not bring himself to like. His attitude, his assumptions, the way he treated people- particular people- there was an air about him when you spoke to him that suggested he had made up his mind already and was only listening because you would give him trouble if he didn’t. At least, there was when Janusz spoke to him. It was different to watch him with the others, with the women-

Well. That would have to wait. He was going to have to listen now, whatever he had made up his mind about. Janusz steeled himself for the conversation coming and rapped at the man’s door.

“Who’s there?”

“Prohaska, Dr. Freeman.”

There was silence, and then Janusz thought he heard an ‘mm’ sort of sound. It was the most acknowledgment he could reasonably respect, and so he opened the door.

How the man operated in a space this size Janusz would never know. The little room beyond was stuffed with maps and papers and weapons on every flat surface, and more hanging from the ceiling besides. There was a light somewhere in all that, because something besides the one dingy window up near the join of wall and ceiling had to be casting the shadows, but hell if Janusz knew where it was. He stepped around a chair stacked with things that would probably explode horribly at the slightest provocation and waited for Dr. Freeman to look up.

The man, he thought, looked tired. Oh, yes, he was the hardest working human being Janusz had ever met; but even for that he looked tired. The glasses he wore did him no favors, only making the lines around and dark circles below his eyes that much more obvious. This was a man who hadn’t seen coffee in twenty years, and for whom no amount of tea would ever be enough. Janusz didn’t have to like him to pity him in that regard. Or in regard to the news he had to deliver.

“Dr. Freeman,” said Janusz, “there are two dozen human fighters, maybe more, who’ve smashed their way through the antlion warrens outside Gdansk. They’re headed this way; I don’t know how long before they reach our position, but they leave nothing alive behind them.”

“Hm,” was all Dr. Freeman said. The man leaned back in his chair, fingers interlaced save for the steepled index and thumb. After a while he said, “Backup?”

“At sea, from what anyone can tell. A ship- it seems to be named Borealis.” Janusz had some trouble with the name. Latin and its descendants were never his strong suit.

“Hm.”

Janusz waited. It wasn’t a good idea to disturb Dr. Freeman while he was thinking. He took it badly.

Eventually, Dr. Freeman sat forward again, one hand under the desk. Any other man would have been reaching for a flask, but Janusz was pretty sure that was where the crowbar got kept. “There’s more news, isn’t there,” he said.

“Dr. Freeman, their leader claims to be you.”

”Hm,” said Dr. Freeman, and scowled. “Well. We’ll see about that, won’t we.”

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Gordon Freeman

December 2012

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