acts_of_gord: (contemplating)
[personal profile] acts_of_gord
Just like that, there's no more effort to make. Everything is happening without him. For one brief and shining moment in the darkness Gordon is certain- absolutely certain- that something must have happened and that he's stepped into death.

But then he hears a voice he knows to the marrow of his bones saying "There you are, Dr. Freeman," and that puts the lie to that notion.

The pale grey figure in the pinstriped suit smiles, a thin lipless thing that might or might not actually reach its eyes. "What a very long way you've come," it says, casting its eyes over him. "You've. . . put in the sort of effort most men can only. . . dream of."

The thing in the grey suit doesn't look all that far away. An idea of leaping for its throat flashes across Gordon's mind; he shoves it aside. Too easy. It'd go wrong.

"No. . . reaction?" it says, canting its head to one side. After just a hair too long it shrugs. "Modesty, perhapssss. Or. . . realism. A man ought to know the length of his luck- although I, for one, don't give fortune credit for existence. Call it a . . . preference for . . . honest assessments."

It glances over its shoulder. The darkness of nothing-at-all gives way to a scene of seething flesh and tech and other things, all spikes and lights and angles not to be described. As the thing in the grey suit looks back to Gordon, it observes, "You know what's. . . waiting. I wish I could say that it did not know you."

Gordon swallows, or at least he thinks he does. Here, it's hard to say.

"The Universal Union forges its empire by a processsss. . . of accretion," the thing says, as the Overmind complex looms up to encircle them both. "Each world they find, each. . . dimension accessed, is remembered forever. Added, in memory and in . . .the flesh. The links they forge are as much the fruit of their targets as of their own technology. . . and they are all the sssstronger for it."

Flickering images, alien for the most part- beings of sheer power, of ordinary stature, of everything in between. All of them overwhelmed, after moments, by Synths; then each flanked by Advisors, floated one by one into that tangled metal hell.

"They place great stock in those most loved, and most loathed." A sound like a faint chuckle rises from the thing in the suit. "Faith and. . . hope, or rage at betrayal- coming from. . . enough sources. Say, a species or two's worth. Either will do, in their eyes. Not that eyes are what they have, but. . . I think you take my meaning."

There's a space in the unfolding fractal nightmare that a little imagination suggests would fit a human form perfectly. It's only there for a moment before everything vanishes and Gordon is alone with the gray-suited figure again.

"This is why I felt it. . . necessary. . . to intervene. I have never been one to waste my assets. What lies ahead is nothing less. . . than the end of all your struggle. And it has been a hard-fought struggle indeed."

He can see Barney and Floyd, running at that line of Synths. Eli, in the Advisors' telekinetic grip. The scorched black smoke-smeared ground where White Forest had been. Black Mesa scientists in their HEV suits, flung across the rocks of Xen like lumpy ragdolls.

"How much did it cost you to take so much as a single step, just before this? You called on. . . outside assistance, and it bore you up. For a time. But here, and beyond here. . . I'm afraid you'll be quite alone. And you and I both know just how much you have left."

There's a look of what Gordon would almost swear is genuine concern in its eyes.

"Which brings us. . . to the . . . sssssssituation at hand." The nightmare images around it fade. "When you and I part ways. . . you know what's at stake. Your fffffailure will mean the . . . undoing. . . of two entire races. Everything that has ever mattered to you will cease to exist- at least, in any form you would recognize. Death, or- reworking-"

He doesn't need the images around him to remember what the Combine do to their formerly human soldiers. Or to imagine what they could keep doing, if the urge struck them.

"That. . .is the price of failure. And given the nature of your enemies, I think . . .it's safe to say they would be sure that all of it would happen through your agency. Right . . .down . . . to the bitter end."

"Needless to say, neither I, nor you, nor my employers consider this an optimal outcome. Thus-"

Gordon eyes the thing sharply at that.

"-well. The pressure theā€¦ Overmind. . . has exercised on the fabric of this place. . . affects many dimensions. Distorts, stretches, twissssts. . . you've seen for yourself. It would not take very much more distortion to. . . make a slight. . . alteration."

The blackness all around is shimmering with the sight of white-painted walls, fluorescent lights. . . is that a drop ceiling?

"It would be the work of a moment to ssssee to it that your next. . . step is into . . .your own shoes. To return to Black Mesa, before any of this. It's true, all your battles, all your victories, would be no more than tales you told yourself in the darkness of your own thoughts. . . but. So would a good six billion deaths, and fates worse by far."

Gordon's not sure if he can actually feel anything real here, if there's any such thing as temperature, but he's fighting a sudden, unspeakable chill.

"We'll . . . call on you eventually, quite naturally. When. . . the time comes. But you'll have plenty of time to prepare, before that. Certainly . . . more than. . . you had for anything else that's befallen you."

"And certainly less. . . than the eternity your enemies would give you, when you fell."

There is a silence that follows, the sort so absolutely thick that deep in the bottom of it and high at the top of it Gordon can hear his own blood rumbling, his own nervous system singing. Only those, and nothing more.
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Gordon Freeman

December 2012


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