Nihilanth

May. 12th, 2008 11:33 am
acts_of_gord: (right man wrong place)
"FREEEEEMAAAAAANNN!!!!!" it bellowed aloud, and its rage thundered through every nerve and cell and bone in his body. You'll know it when you see it, Dr. Kleiner had said…

Gordon plummeted towards the ground, falling past a creature so huge that on Earth it could only ever have existed in the ocean. Here it merely bobbed in midair in a great walled cavern with a domed ceiling high overhead in the darkness. The gravity of Xen was a mercy; the fall merely jarred every bone in his body, rather than breaking them. Above him, the thing brought skeletal hands together, and swirling balls of energy trailed the gesture before breaking loose and hurtling his way. He dived for the nearest cover- a spike of something stony, he didn't get much of a look- and felt the thing's malice embedding itself over and over in the other side of the spike.

Oh, yeah. He was screwed.

He peeked out around the spike and saw the creature bobbing in midair, its vastly swollen cranium surrounded by orbiting whirls of light. My God, it's as big as the Lambda rocket! he thought. Did he even have the capacity to damage the thing? Firearms sure as hell weren't going to do-

Wait. The gluon gun. The weapon that made things cease to exist when it hit them. He allowed himself a small, grim smile and unhooked the nozzle from its shoulder harness.

The creature let out a telepathic scream as the purple-white swirling energies struck it, but stretched out one clawed hand towards a glowing yellow crystal on the wall. (It looked, Gordon thought, very like the one he'd shoved into the anti-mass spectrometer back when this had all begun.) A streak of light arced from the crystal to the hand, and the creature grew more visibly solid. Gordon hesitated, glanced around-

Hm. There were three of those crystals on the cavern walls that he could see. He drew his revolver.

Two crystals. The creature unleashed a mental bellow again.

One crystal. The energy orbs spun and roiled around the being's hands as they drew together.

The last crystal shattered, and Gordon ran. None too soon, either, as a huge sphere of green displacement energy smacked into the ground behind him. Where the thing intended to teleport him, he didn't know, but it couldn't be anywhere good. He couldn't run forever, not here, not now-he just couldn't get hit.

Did it count as making a last stand if you did it from behind a rock?

He turned the gluon gun on the thing again, and a part of him had to admit: it was pretty. There was nothing in the world quite like knowing that you had command of your very own source of pure nuclear fire, unless it was the knowledge that it was tearing apart matter on the subatomic level. True, the floating creature wasn't ceasing to exist, but its telepathic howls of rage were growing louder and more insistent. The spiraling energy orbs that whizzed around its head grew fewer and fewer with every passing second-

"Warning," said Gordon's suit computer. "Ammunition depleted."

"Oh fuck no!" Gordon cried aloud- and then screamed, as the creature pulled itself together enough to slam him with an electrical discharge that probably could've felled a rhino. It overwhelmed the suit's efforts at damage mitigation and went straight to now would be an excellent time to go spasmodic orders for his nervous system. Everything felt like it was burning, if it wasn't trying to tear itself apart; the cavern walls swam…

But there are such things in the world as very small mercies, and two of them came to pass in that moment. One was that the last massive involuntary heave of his muscles threw him out of the path of another teleportation sphere. The other was that he heard the cry of two levitating horrors as they teleported into the chamber, before they could find him. His right arm didn't want to obey him, but it was at least responding, which was more than he would've expected from a shock like that. Fumbling, trembling, he found where his revolver had fallen and turned it on the beasts. One went down- the monstrous being brought its hands together again- the other plummeted as Gordon's last bullet slammed into its brain, falling into the path of the monster's electrical discharge.

Gordon had no time for relief. His arm was still too slow to trust. But he did have two rounds left, and the monster was in his sights. (It was too big not to be.) He clenched his jaw against the fire in his nerves and pulled the trigger twice.

The creature screamed- aloud this time, not just telepathically- and the last of the energy orbs that had circled it evaporated. And its head… Its head peeled open, skin and muscle and who knew what else falling away like orange rind, exposing a great glowing energy mass where the brain ought to have been.

Gordon stared, jaw falling open. But the creature was still alive, and angrier than ever before. It raised its hands again.

One does not quickly or casually draw a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, even under life or death circumstances. One rips that sucker loose from its moorings, thanks one's lucky stars that it stayed loaded all that time, and fires it as fast as a munged-up nervous system will allow. And, if one is Gordon, one remembers the sentiment that saved one's life during a battle with the Marines: No such thing as overkill. Only 'open fire' and 'time to reload'. The second grenade didn't do it, but the third…

The third slammed into the energy mass like the fist of an angry Cyberman.

The energy mass shattered, spewing light and electricity and God only knew what else in all directions. Green displacement energy flew from the creature's convulsing fingertips, streaking through the cavern and bouncing off the walls. Gordon cringed behind the rock, arms protectively over his head, and tried to block out the shrieks. He could feel the thing dying, it was there in his head, it was trying to drag him down with it…

And then, the world went green.

After

May. 12th, 2008 02:42 am
acts_of_gord: (sequel)
Because some things are best conveyed by the original:

Interloper

May. 12th, 2008 01:22 am
acts_of_gord: (crowbar)
The displacement energies from the teleporter in the spider-thing's lair flooded Gordon's vision with green.
"Done...what have you done..."
He found himself plummeting to the surface of another asteroid, its skies thronging with manta-like beasts and the same skinny-limbed, huge-headed flying things that had manifested in the teleport room at the very end. In places, pillars thrust themselves violently skywards; in others the ground irised open and shut, revealing gaping tunnels of darkness. A ridge up ahead gave the only sign of shelter he could make out. The instant his feet touched the ground he was off for the ridge like a shot, green lightning and seething balls of energy crackling at his heels. In the shadows, a pool shimmered with faint lavender-blue light: not water, but some kind of slippery substance that induced rapid healing in anything that waded out into it. He'd encountered a couple of them already. They'd saved his life during the spider fight. This one was big, and occupied by one of the red-eyed slaves, but even its healing powers weren't enough to repair two Magnum shots to the creature's head. He watched it fall, then scooped up a handful of the stuff and let it run through his fingers. The suit's self-repair mechanisms hadn't kicked in yet. There were still plenty of holes for the healing liquid to seep through, and he didn't dare go any further until it took effect. There'd been dead Lambda men and women scattered around the spider's lair.



"Their slaves...we are their slaves...we are..."
Gordon clung to the pillar with all his might as it lifted him skyward from the depths of the cave. The skies were thick with levitating horrors and silently rotating islands of stone; blue manta-beasts materialized in places, soared across the asteroid's surface on slow, leisurely courses, and vanished into who knew where. The only thing not moving in relation to the asteroid was a distant stone island, where a flame of blue-white energy gleamed. It had the same look as the device that had teleported him off the first asteroid and into the spider's lair. There was no doubt in Gordon's mind that it was his only way out. He just had to survive the trip.

He readied his crossbow and trained the sniper scope on the nearest of the levitating horrors.


"You are man...he is not man...for you he waits...for you..."
Gordon shook his head rapidly to clear it as he squinted through the shadows. The walls were almost organic in design here, more like something out of Giger than anything he'd been led to expect so far. Columns rose and fell in places, and vast barrels crossed the open space overhead on what he could only assume were conveyor belts. Where he was in relation to the main asteroid he didn't know; he'd been teleported straight into the place-

A low clucking noise caught his attention. Gordon whirled to face the source: one of the red-eyed slave aliens, not more than a foot away. It stared at him, its five eyes wide and unblinking, and silently raised its hands. Gordon had seen that gesture before- not here in Xen, or even at Black Mesa, but on a cashier in Espanola.

He couldn't bring himself to pull the shotgun trigger.

The creature's central eye blinked, a quick gesture of what would constitute terror in a human; Gordon shivered. "Listen," he said tensely. "I'm not here for you. I don't care about you. I've got a target, and you're not it. If you don't give me trouble, I won't give you trouble, all right? I've done enough killing today."

Whether it understood him or not Gordon didn't know, but it certainly didn't move to attack. Gordon nodded, and gave a brief, grateful salute before turning to make a run across the factory floor.



"The truth...you can never know...the truth..."
The levitating horrors made a noise like a red-tailed hawk when they died. It was starting to get unnerving. Every time he won a few more inches of ground- every time he pulled himself one level further up, or around one more corner- there they were, new ones, popping in out of nowhere and hurling their energy spheres at him, screaming. The slave creatures had started attacking on sight after Gordon spotted the first horror inside the building, a fact he almost regretted.

Almost. He didn't have the energy to spare for regrets just now. Above him, suspended in the center of a spinning, levitating ring, there crackled a vast green portal orb...



"The last...I am the last..."
... which dropped him onto a rock platform in a void of black skies and dead winds that blew from nowhere to nowhere. Nothing else moved here. Stone islands floated in that void, a disjointed, shattered path that led to only one place: a minor asteroid crowned in spikes, lit by the glow of a portal as red as the slave aliens' eyes.

It occurred to him, not for the first time, that nothing was trying to kill him here; he could stay where he was...

"Alone... not you alone... not you alone..."

There. There, he heard it that time, it wasn't just his imagination, it was real. Something was trying to reach him, trying to push his thoughts around. Something...

Something immense. Something powerful. Something angry and terrified and desperate all at once, pressing on his mind with the inexorable insistence of a broken-legged racehorse toppling to the ground. It wanted him to stop, to give up, to leave it in its last sanctuary. To put down his weapons, sit down on the rock, and-

"Die...you all die...you all die..."

He'd wondered about some of the corpses that he'd found. They hadn't looked fatally injured, or been in areas where a Houndeye attack could have harmed them inside their armor. They'd simply died on the spot, for no reason at all... save, perhaps, the voice in their heads, and the order from afar.

Willing himself to ignore it, Gordon fixed his gaze on the red-lit altar and started leaping from rock to rock. As his last leap brought him to the spike-crowned asteroid, he thought he could hear other voices through the thundering telepathic haze: voices from Black Mesa, the voices of the scientists he'd spoken to since everything began. Chattering, pleading, cajoling, cowering- oh, yes, he could hear them all, clearer than memory. Right down to Eli Vance's desperate plea for help, not for himself, but for his colleague...

"I'm coming," he said through gritted teeth. "Do you hear me, wherever you are? I'm coming, And this is going to end."

There was silence in his head for an instant. He leapt for the red portal.

And something vaster than his senses could comprehend bellowed his name in a voice dreadful enough to shake the heavens asunder.
acts_of_gord: (OMGWTFBBQ)
The inaudible voice sang out in his head again: "Win... you cannot win..."
He was fighting a twenty-foot-tall armored alien venom-spitting spider with a testicle the size of a Buick.

Yep. Gordon was pretty sure he was in Hell.

Xen

May. 12th, 2008 12:12 am
acts_of_gord: (crowbar)
... and landed, somewhere other.
"Comes... another...", rumbled a voice that he heard with his brain, and not with his ears; he scarcely noticed....
There was nothing like it in the world, and nothing like it in space as Gordon knew it, either; the roiling purple of the sky stretching off in all directions, the rocks that orbited one another in patterns Newton never classified, the impossible creatures drifting through the sky and blinking in and out of existence. Even the rock under his feet felt wrong, written for another set of rules than the ones that governed everything sane. He crept, half-step by half-step, towards the edge of the rock and peered over. There was nothing below, nothing at all, only the sense of down. If he were to fall here, he would fall forever.

He turned away from that awful void and looked around him. Ahead- if there were any such thing as direction in this place- another island of rock held steady in the boiling skies. A smudge of orange draped one edge: the suited, helmeted body of a Lambda field researcher. Someone who died trying to do what I'm trying to do now, Gordon realized with a bit of a shock. He wasn't the first, and he wasn't the only... he was just the last.

The long-jump module functioned perfectly, he noted with almost clinical surprise as his jump described a perfect arc that planted him precisely on the middle of the hovering island shared by the dead researcher. In the distance he could see a much, much larger asteroid, the only thing of any size within any kind of reach. He'd have to make several more long jumps until he reached the asteroid, but after the insanity that was the Lambda reactor system, he figured he could probably do it. The dead researcher might've been able to manage, but the HEV suit was scorched down one side beyond all recognition.

A hiss of displacement energy rang through the ether. Gordon glanced over at one of the smaller islands and spotted one of the red-eyed slave creatures, drawing itself up for an electrical attack. That explained the scorching, Gordon guessed. Well, he was prepared for that, assuming that his weapons worked the same here-

Hm.

The Magnum did, that was for sure.

He glanced down at the researcher's inert form again. You poor bastard, he thought. All this way to put a stop to the nightmares and what did it get you? Did the others who came with you make it any further, or are they still falling somewhere in the black?

Does anyone remember your name?


Gordon wasn't a religious man- hadn't ever been, even as a kid- but when you ran across the death of someone who could just as easily have been you under different circumstances, it left a mark. He felt like he ought to say something; he'd done it for Paskey, after all, and for the other dying Marine...

Oh, yes. It wasn't much, but it would have to do- and if the Lambda researcher had been anything at all like Gordon, then the sentiment would probably be appreciated. Gordon backed away from the corpse and held his fist briefly to his chest. "By Grabthar's hammer," he said, "by the... sons of Worvan? I think that's it... by the sons of Worvan, you shall be avenged."

He felt a little bit of a fool, but he still felt the better for having said it, so he turned towards the rock with the dead alien on it and readied himself to leap.
acts_of_gord: (thoughtful)
He was pretty sure the ninjas were real, this time. Either that or he'd died and gone to some kind of combat-specialist Valhalla where the Valkyries put you through one last test before letting you into the feasting-halls. If that were the case, he'd probably passed, since all four of his assailants were dead. He considered the weapons of the one he'd just taken down, but rejected the idea. He was already carrying enough ordinance and ammo to fell an action movie hero. This black ops stuff was too small and too weird to be worth adding to the mix.

Straightening up, he stepped over the woman's corpse and moved on.



The door slid aside with barely a whisper of sound. A bespectacled, balding man who bore a powerful resemblance to Dr. Kleiner blinked up at Gordon from the other side. "I apologize, Mr. Freeman," he said, "but I couldn't risk opening that door until I was sure you'd scoured the area."

Gordon's shoulder was still bleeding from where one of the grey-skinned horrors had shot him with some kind of buzzing homing thing (the health dispenser had run out of its payload before that cut had quite closed up), so he just nodded.

"This is the last entrance to the Lambda complex," the man continued. "Every other has been sealed off to contain the invasion. When we realized that you might actually make it here-"

Someone else might have been insulted. Gordon, for his part, was more than a little surprised he'd survived this far at all.

"-we drew straws to see who should stay behind to let you through. Obviously, I drew the short one. My colleagues are waiting at the tip of the Lambda reactor- waiting for you, I mean. The reactor is-"

"Wait," said Gordon. "Reactor?"

"Well, yes. Lambda complex's energy needs are considerably more serious than those of the rest of Black Mesa combined. We operate primarily on the power generated by our own experimental reactor. It's shut down right now, but if this is going to end, it'll have to be reactivated on your way back up. You'll have to flood the core anyway to get into the teleportation labs."

So you acknowledge it, Gordon thought, and nodded. Congratulations, you're the first.

"You're not authorized to know about those, but-" The balding scientist hesitated, and in a sympathetic tone added, "I can see you already know a great deal more than any one man is supposed to."

Before Gordon could speak, the man turned away and lowered his face to a retinal scanner on the nearby wall.

"Good luck, Mr. Freeman."



The sign on the door said Weapons Development. Gordon's stomach clenched in an old, half-remembered sort of disquiet; it had been a while since he was last made ill by the thought of combat, but there was something here that put him on edge...

"Oh!" came a cry of surprise as Gordon opened the door. The lab-coated scientist stepped out from behind his instrument console. "Were you in weapons research, too?" he asked. "I built the gluon gun-"

It was a backpack the size of a man's torso, connected to a nozzle meant to be wielded two-handed by a length of reinforced hose. LEDs blinked everywhere, and a faint, ominous hum came from somewhere near the bottom, where a number of universal symbols indicated areas not to breach if you were interested in ever reproducing again as long as you lived.

"-but I just couldn't bring myself to use it on another living creature," the scientist continued. Gordon looked up sharply, but the man appeared to be quite serious. As Gordon started to draw breath, the man added, "You don't look as if you have any trouble killing things."

Never in his life had Gordon wanted so much to put a fist through another man's face. Science had enough crimes heaped up at its feet after all he'd seen today; to add hypocrisy to the mix...

Be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth; I have not come through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man until the lightning falls, he thought, but aloud he only said, "At least I admit the blood on my hands is there."

"What?" said the weapons developer, but Gordon was too busy detaching weapons and adjusting the duct-tape equipment harness he'd rigged up to make it possible to get that backpack on. He knew an advantage when he saw it.



He rounded a corner and glanced sidelong at a change in the area light; the fluorescents overhead weren't golden-

Him again! The blue-suit, looking at him just as blandly and calmly as ever despite being surrounded by headcrabs. Gordon fairly snarled as he swapped his crowbar for his revolver, but when he turned back to the other room, all he saw was the man disappearing into a glowing ball of golden orange light.

At least the headcrabs went down quickly. That was some consolation.


"WHOEVER DESIGNED THE REACTOR ACCESS SYSTEM SHOULD DIE," bellowed Gordon as he leapt away from the second access button, across the outer ring of rotating platforms that spun through the toxic waste, onto the rising and falling middle ring and then onto the inner ring of rotating platforms.

There was nobody there to hear, but it made him feel better, if nothing else. He held onto that as he flung himself into the teleportation sphere at the center of the whole sorry mess. When the displacement energies faded from his vision, he was standing in a room he'd only caught glimpses of before, nearly at the very top of the Lambda complex. There were no signs, though, and no people around to advise him what came next. With a sigh and a shrug, he picked a door at random and started looking for any clues at all. The corridors were clear of corpses here, for the most part, though rubble and wreckage was strewn in more than a few places. He picked his way over the worst of it, ducked under a few girders, and found a ladder leading even further, up to the yellow-painted walls of level A. At the end of the only remaining passable corridor, there were a pair of sliding glass doors; he leaned forward and squinted through them, shielding his eyes with one hand. Was that a security guard in there?

... holy crap, was that Dr. Kleiner??

"Gordon Freeman," said Isaac Kleiner as the doors slid open, "you've finally found us."

It wasn't often that Gordon found himself at a loss for words. Usually his silences were the result of deliberate choice. But this-

"So this is the guy. We thought you'd never make it," said the guard. "Neither one of us'd be up here if Barney Calhoun hadn't saved both our asses."

"I, uh, I-"

"I'm told that this is the supply depot for our first survey team. Quite a few handsome specimens were apparently collected from the borderworld and brought back this way. Uh... before the survey members started being collected themselves, that is," said Kleiner. "Why, even the health dispensers here in Black Mesa were being supplied with material from the other dimension, Xen- at any rate. We suspect there is an immense portal over there, created by the intense concentration of a single powerful being. You will know it when you see it. I hate to say this, Gordon, but you must kill it."

The guard nodded silently in response. Dr. Kleiner hesitated a moment, then noted, "Of course, you owe us nothing. I know how much you've been through, and how many times you've risked your life already. But you've come this far. You know as much about these creatures as anyone alive."

"Enough to know that if you don't wipe it out, there won't be much for you to come home to," the guard said soberly.

Dr. Kleiner nodded. "Yes, so if you're willing, my colleague is waiting for you at the main portal controls. He will open the gates for you, Gordon. If you intend to go- do hurry."

It had been bad enough when the fate of a handful of scientists in Anomalous Materials rested on his shoulders. When it became a matter of the whole facility, it had been almost too much to bear. He'd come to terms with his own death short of the goal long ago, and now they were asking this of him...

But Dr. Kleiner was asking him, not ordering him, and that was more than anyone here had done since all the hell began. And a thought occurred to Gordon in that moment as he drew breath to speak: My pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year. But eventually it will subside, and something else will take its place. If I quit, however... if I quit, it lasts forever.

He squared his shoulders. "Show me what I have to do," he said.

"Excellent!" said Dr. Kleiner. "I know I could count on you, my boy- ah, yes, here we are. This is a long jump module for your suit, created expressly for navigation in the world beyond. I certainly hope you've received long jump training because once you're in Xen, you're going to need it. I'm told the gravity over there is best described as 'interesting'. Do practice a bit before crossing over..."

Gordon wasn't sure how the module was being fastened on, but he didn't ask, since he figured he really didn't need to know. It was more important to get his suit charged up and as much ammunition as he could carry; when he ran out of duct tape, he regretfully set the last box of shotgun shells aside and saluted both of the other men.

"Godspeed, Gordon," said Dr. Kleiner, and the door slid shut.

The other room was practically a hangar. It took a moment for Gordon to find the colleague of whom Dr. Kleiner had spoken. "Hello, Freeman. I'm up here," called the man. "I can open the portal now. The process is complicated, and once it is begun I must not be interrupted or I'll have to start all over again. Don't enter the beam until I give the OK. Understood?" He didn't wait for a reply. "I will begin."

It occurred to Gordon as the energy streams started to flow among the equipment that he was looking at the end goal of all his own scientific hopes and dreams. He'd come to this company in the first place to study the possibility of teleportation being made real, and here it was, in very possibly its highest form-

"Almost there, Freeman. Get yourself in position."

Gordon nodded and made his way over to an extended ramp in the floor that rose to the stream of teleportation energies like the run-up to a bicycle jump. "Say the word," he answered, and took a deep breath.

"Not yet...."

Something in the air tensed. Gordon reached over his shoulder for the gauss cannon, more out of instinct than anything else.

"It's ready!" the scientist cried, and the beam at the center of the room erupted in coruscating light. Unfortunately, the rest of the room erupted in founts of green as flying creatures the likes of which even Gordon had never seen began teleporting in. "You must go! Now!"

"But those things-"

"Never mind those things! Run, Freeman! Run!"

So he did, and closed his eyes as he leapt...
acts_of_gord: (crowbar)
Gordon crouched beside the parked tank, eyes on the remains of the door in front of him.
once I rose above the noise and confusion

( Tanks. They had tanks. The Marines were bad enough but they had to bring in the friggin' tanks. )
just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion

The room was empty now of anything alive. A few minutes ago there'd been teleportation energies everywhere, and shouting.
I was soaring ever higher

( The sign had proclaimed it an ordinance storage facility. The scientist Gordon had found in the storage room had been too terrified to try to cross it. Gordon honestly couldn't blame him; the phrase 'Madman Omar's House of Tripmines' came to mind when he stepped inside. )
but I flew too high

He'd had a hell of a time clearing the bodies out of his way when the fighting ended, but he'd managed. He was going to need a clear path very, very soon.
though my eyes could see I still was a blind man

( "Hi, Mr. Freeman!" the guard had sung out as he fled for his life from the two armored alien horrors. )
though my mind could think I still was a madman

The tank, alas, had refused to start its engines; but the main gun, now, that had been another story...
I hear the voices when I'm dreaming

( The thing had been four meters of blue and black malice, laying waste to Marine and machine alike in the parking garage. When it had turned Gordon's way he'd fled for his life. )
I can hear them say:

What an absolutely glorious explosion that had been. If he made it through this alive he was going to have to give some serious consideration to getting an education in demolitions. It was oddly satisfying.

( "Forget about Freeman! We are cutting our losses and pulling out! Anyone left down there now is on his own! Repeat: if you are not out already, you are-" )

The gun wouldn't help him now, though. There were things waiting in the hallway out there, he was sure of it; he'd heard a noise too like the ones the grey-skinned horrors made not to be wary.

( Tiny little alien cockroach things erupted from pod after pod after pod at the slightest touch, leaping at his ankles as he ran, literally exploding when he least expected it. Dr. Khan had warned him about the snarks, but words couldn't adequately convey the nature of the beasts. )
carry on my wayward son

He was out of explosives, and the RPG launcher took too long to load. It took too many bullets from the MP5 to drop the horrors. The crossbow could drop one in two shots, but if there was more than one of the horrors there, he'd never get the chance to load another bolt after the first. Only one gun would do.
there'll be peace when you are done

( He didn't expect to live through this. He fully expected to die before he ever saw the Lambda complex, let alone walked under the open sky again. But at least if he did it this way, it would be a death he could be proud of. )
lay your weary head to rest

Prototype gauss cannon at the ready, Gordon Freeman ran like hell.
don't you cry no more
acts_of_gord: (damaged)
( I see life and it's passing right before my eyes )
The storm drain through which Gordon was crawling stank of past indignities, but it had this going for it: there were no helicopters in it trying to kill him. He considered that a very definite plus. There was also the part where there were no Marines in it trying to kill him, either. Not to mention the fact that there were no headcrabs, or houndeyes, or alien slaves, or really anything else whatsoever trying to kill him. His suit's Geiger counter wasn't going off. The temperature wasn't excessively high or low. Nothing was descending from the ceiling with homicidal intent. Add in the fact that a faint breath of fresh air was wafting in from the other end and it was practically paradisical. He clambered forward eagerly, feeling his way along-
( and the past is the past, don't regret it, try to realize )
Light! There was light! Even better-
( I need to walk on the wire just to catch my breath )
FWOOOM.
( I don't know how or where, but I'm going- it's all that I have left )
That... was a fighter jet. He was somewhere that freaking fighter jets could fly...
( It don't matter where it takes me, long as I can keep this feeling running through my soul... )
Funny. He wouldn't have thought he was still capable of feeling that much dread, but honestly? There was just something about looking out of the end of his nice, cozy little storm drain and seeing several hundred feet of empty air that really did it to him. If he squinted, he could just about make out the thin little trickle of blue allllll the way down below. Pull yourself together, Freeman, he thought. You've been higher than this before, out with the Mongol.
( never took this road before )
He swallowed and crept the rest of the way out of the storm drain, sliding from the pipe's lip onto solid stone. Immediately he had cause to regret it, as bullets started whanging all around him- two Marines' worth, and a mounted, automated chaingun's. He didn't remember screaming, but after it was all over and the weapons fire quieted, his throat was as raw as he'd ever felt it- and he was on another ledge at least fifteen or twenty feet down from the mouth of the drain. Frankly, he felt he had a right to scream under the circumstances. And he'd probably do it again, considering that his only options from here were a rickety wooden bridge to nowhere particularly promising off to his left and a snaking trail of stone to his right that wended around the cliff face and out of sight. The bridge, frankly, looked like pure death. The trail was almost as bad, but it had one thing going for it: the Marines had fired on him from that direction. That implied that there was some form of access to somewhere a little more sane, or at least a little less instantly lethal.
( destination unknown )
It wasn't as bad as he'd thought, once he started moving. As long as he didn't look to his left and the hundred-foot drop to the river below, it wasn't all that different from taking the Mongol on some of the area trails. The big challege was to avoid catching any of his weapons on the rockface. If he lost one of them now, he'd never see it again. And he-
( won't be coming back this way )
Was that radio static up ahead? He drew his scavenged revolver. Then he thought better of it, remembering the thing's recoil, and reached for his pistol instead. If there was a Marine up ahead, and the first shot didn't kill him, Gordon wasn't going to give him any advantages.
( gotta go it alone... )
The fight was protracted and ugly. The Marine was young and clearly inexperienced, but he was well dug-in and clearly terrified. He had a kind of nervous agility that meant he did more damage by ricochet and flying rock chips than by direct hits. Even his rifle seemed to partake of that, letting off a last three-round burst when it finally fell from his hands. Gordon found that he was clinging to the rock wall behind him with one hand, and that neither that hand nor his feet seemed particularly willing to move. If he just stayed here, things wouldn't get any better, but they couldn't possibly get any worse.
( see a chance- )
It was a surprisingly tempting thought.
( got to take it- )
Still, some measure of common sense- or possibly just bloody-minded stubbornness; Gordon wasn't so sure he could claim to have common sense any more- provoked him into moving forward. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, one round of fresh aches and newly inspired bleeding after another. Don't look down. Don't look sideways. Don't look anywhere but exactly just ahead. Keep your ears open, listen, listen, listen, round the rock formation, pull the trigger twice and step past the dead man into the cliffside cave...
( Going to meet my fate )
It was an ammo depot. There were rounds for the Marines' combat rifles stacked neatly alongside shotgun shells, rifle grenades, and first aid kits. And there were other objects, olive green cylinders he didn't quite recognize- at least, not until he turned around and saw the massive weapon hanging on the wall with POINT THIS END AT ENEMY neatly printed on one end. Gordon picked up one of the cylinders and squinted at it; apparently they were rocket-propelled grenades. Outside, the sound of helicopter rotors started to echo in the cave, and it occurred to him that if he could just work out how to load the launcher it would probably be more than enough to take that damned gunship down.
( 'cos the last thing I ever wanted was to find out it's too late )
That was when it hit him. When it all hit him.
( no way out when you're in it )
I have been awake twenty-six hours now, went the realization. In that time, I've seen aliens unleashed on Earth with absolutely nothing to stop them. I've been shot at, poisoned, dunked in radioactive goo, bitten, clawed, and lied to. I've seen good men die, and bad ones, and I've killed more of both in less than one day than I used to teach in my introductory physics classes at Boston University. I've killed Marines, for God's sake- the hardest bastards this hemisphere's got! I don't remember when I last ate, I don't remember when I last sat down, and I haven't got the slightest goddamn clue where I'm going now or what I'm doing. Except that I've got a freaking rocket launcher, and a whole bunch of ammo for it, and I'm squatting in a cave in the middle of the desert trying to work out how to destroy the Marines who're trying to kill me. I was a physicist when I got up yesterday morning, and now I'm the goddamn Taliban!
( deeper than the night )
It was more than he could take; he put down the grenade canister and started laughing, a high thin sound of hysterical desperation that echoed around the cave. Somewhere along the way it turned into tears, and then into gulping sobs that refused to stop even though he clutched at the cave floor with both hands.
( there's a light at the end of the tunnel, I see it burning bright... )
When the heaves finally subsided, he was still trembling, but at least the worst of it was past. The little sensible streak that remained to him noted that he was probably crashing again; he'd bonked enough times during particularly long trail rides to recognize the symptoms. He willed himself to get up and crack open one of the first aid kits for the glucose tube inside. It would be enough for a little while, at least. You didn't want to use a weapon like that launcher if you couldn't keep your hands steady.
( it don't matter where it takes me... )
acts_of_gord: (crowbar)
As he leapt from conveyor belt to conveyor belt-

As he ducked under the jets of incinerator flame that spat out from both sides-

As he leapt out of the garbage rollers' way and ran like a rabbit for the end of the room-

As he narrowly missed being caught in the teeth of the biggest trash cutting device he'd ever seen, only to have to fling himself through the air and grab at the rungs of the ladder that was the only thing between him and certain death in a vile, oily pool of unmistakably radioactive waste-

Gordon Freeman thought to himself: Why, oh, WHY didn't I take the job at Aperture Science???




At the end of the red-lit hallway there was a vertical shaft with a ladder in it. Gordon approached cautiously, gun drawn- he'd found a security guard's corpse back in the room full of tongue things on the ceiling, poor bastard. It didn't sound as if there were Marines up there, so he holstered the gun and started to climb. About halfway up, though, he heard a faint yip! and froze.

There had been alien dog things in a few of the places he'd passed through. He remembered them pretty well. They were shaped like... well, like blue-and-green large hams: big and round in the front, small and almost conical in the back. The front end was covered in eyes, and the mouth was on the bottom, between the two forelegs. They only had one leg in the back. They certainly acted like Earth dogs, yipping and barking and running in packs, but given a few seconds to build up enough energy, they could let off a hell of a sonic blast. It got worse if they acted in concert. If there was one up top-

No, there were two. Maybe more. He could hear the paws scrabbling around, now that he knew what he was listening for.

He sighed and edged back down the ladder. The room of the toxic waste mashers (he didn't want to know, he didn't want to know) had given way to an access corridor of pipes and, eventually, somebody's stash of general supplies and things that went boom. Why anyone would bother to conceal that many explosive charges in the waste processing units he didn't know, but he hadn't bothered to criticize them for it. He'd just grabbed as much as he could and found a roll of duct tape in the ordinary supply crates, the better to improvise an equipment harness of his own. One satchel full of boom coming right up, puppies, he thought, and pitched the stuff up the shaft in the general direction of the dog things.

When the BRRAABOOM! died away, he started up the ladder again. Carefully, of course. With his luck there'd still be a sonic dog alive, and for all that he could cling to the ladder and fire one-handed, he really didn't want to. But there were no sound dogs forthcoming, only the crackle of indignation from broken electrical cabling, so he pulled himself out of the shaft and shoved one of the corpse chunks aside. It slid to a stop in front of a dog carrier.

It took a moment for Gordon's exhausted brain to parse that properly: a dog carrier. Blinking, he turned to look around the room. There were... There were five of them, in various stages of melt- but definitely five of them. With a growing sensation of I don't want to know this, please don't make me know this crawling upwards along his spine, he turned to count the corpses. It was hard to say for sure- explosives did, after all, tend to leave chunks more than actual corpses- but unless he missed his guess there were five of those, too...

No. Oh, no, he thought. Please, no.

He approached the most intact of the carriers warily, crowbar in hand in case of any unpleasant surprises. But the only surprise waiting for him was the kind that no violence could match: a single white card, neatly typed up, identifying the carrier as belonging to Specimen J-1334 (Houndeye, male, adult, pack 4).

Gordon didn't remember sitting down; his legs might have dropped out from under him for all he knew. He was too busy staring at that label. They...

They knew. They knew. The company had known about these things for long enough to capture at least five of them- more, if this was pack 4. They'd been in contact with wherever these things came from. They'd had them for long enough to study them. They knew.

He'd always wondered why the security chief seemed so insistent that anybody with an HEV certification had to know how to use an automatic rifle. Was this why? In case these things got out? In case- oh, he wished he hadn't thought of it- in case other things got out? What else had they captured, what else did they know? ("Because we study aquatic exotic species as well as the land-based ones," the scientist had said...) What was this company doing with these things?

What kind of people am I working for?

Gordon tore his eyes away from the damning little card and got to his feet. Screw Lambda. He was going to find someone alive here, and he was going to get some damn answers.



There was a grey-skinned thing taller than Gordon floating in a tank full of yellowish fluid. Something clawed and organic-looking had grown over its right hand; the arm growing out of its chest and the left arm looked fairly ordinary. It was armored in places, the metal apparently integrated into its skin.

Gordon stared at it for a while. It didn't move, but there was a weird malevolence to its stillness. He backed out of the room, rather than turn his back on that thing. When he hit the corridor he ran for all he was worth, only to come up short in the next room as much-too-familiar screeching filled the air: the sound of the chicken-things giving vent to all the malevolence their fleshy little bodies could muster. They'd been penned up in an enclosure in the center of the room, its mesh-like walls too slick to climb and too high to jump. Gordon stared at the things as he circled the pen, but there was no indication of what it was for, or indeed, what the chicken things were. There was, however, a nearby control booth. As he stepped into it in search of information, the door locked behind him and a button on the instrumentation console before him lit up. Dreading the reaction it'd get, Gordon pressed the button.

Oh, he thought dazedly a few moments later as the actinic blue faded away and his vision returned. Electricity makes them die, too. Good to know. He edged out of the booth and made for the opening door. It revealed a Marine.

The Marine stared. Gordon stared. Gordon shot first.

The corridors started slanting upwards after that. They were wide and convenient, exactly the sort of thing you'd want if you were moving heavy equipment- or creatures like that thing in the tank!- but they provided no cover at all once the Marines started turning up. Gordon scarcely remembered those fights afterwards. They were smoke and blood and bang, nothing more. The suit was enough to keep him on his feet, even without enough power to dispense painkillers- and he was getting used to doing everything through a haze of jangled nerves and pain by now. He scavenged what supplies and ammunition he could from the dead when it was all done and moved on.

There was a room with a table in it, two cages, and an electrical discharger on the ceiling. A card on the wall indicated that the chicken-things in the cages were called headcrabs and that they were being stored along with something called 'snark sacs'. Gordon stared at them a while, watching them bounce fruitlessly off the cage's gridded front, then went to push the discharge unit's button. It was probably a bad sign that they were getting to be positively familiar by now.

Or that in the next room, when the Marines arrived and the grey-skinned armored things started teleporting in, he just let them fight it out amongst themselves before making a break for it and shooting the last three-armed monster to ensure his own escape.

Or that his only response to the hallway full of headcrab pairs in miniature habitats was to point his pistol at each of the tanks in turn and blow the little monsters away one after another, just in case they managed to get out when his back was turned.

He'd think about it later.



There were voices up ahead; he froze, shotgun at the ready.

"What is this thing? Is it some kinda weapon?"

"Put that down, it's a prototype..."

"Man, that's pretty. Why aren't we usin' it?"

"It's much too unpredictable." A soft whine began to build in the air. "Don't let it overcharge!"

"W-what do you mean overchar-"

Gordon closed his eyes and covered his ears. It wasn't enough.

At least the prototype was still there after his ears stopped ringing. Who knew. He might need it as a bargaining chip if he was going to get any answers.




All of his joints were throbbing and his head was beginning to feel like it might come loose from its moorings as he dropped from the ledge down to the floor of the next room. Leaning heavily on the doorknob, he pushed the door open and found three men in lab coats, cowering in the corners. For a moment it occurred to him that he must surely look like a horseman of the Apocalypse by now, covered in blood, stinking of gunfire, bristling with weapons- but one of them looked up and smiled. "A scientist!" the man said. "Thank God! Get us out of here before those military drones figure out where we're hiding."

Gordon thought of the dog crates, and the armored thing in the tank. The urge to say you don't have a lot of room to talk, mister must've shown on his face, because one of the others hastily said, "We all have retinal scanner access. Escort us to the lobby, and we can get you out of the lab."

The third one nodded. Pointing to the exit door he said, "You'll have to shut down the surgical unit first. Peters switched it on but I'm afraid he never made it back."

Gordon opened the exit door. He stared. He slammed the door shut. "What the HELL is that?" he demanded.

"Ah- that would be the surgical unit-"

"That's not a surgical unit, that's a blender the size of a room! Why do we even have a blender the size of a room?"

"Certain analytical processes require cadavers to be reduced to a homogenate for-"

"You know what? Shut it. I don't want to know what you biology people get up to."

"Xenobiology, actually-"

"I said shut it!" Gordon glared at the man. "Unless you have something useful to tell me I don't want any of you to open your mouths again. I'll switch it off, but then you're going to come with me and let me out of here. I saw the retinal scanners on the exit doors in the lobby. Nice, real nice."

The scientists looked at one another helplessly. Gordon didn't stop to listen; he was too busy evading the whirling blades and making his way to the button near all that remained of Peters. "Okay," he called over his shoulder as the blades whined to a stop, "it's off. Why'd he turn it on in the first place?"

"In case of soldiers," said the third scientist, a Pakistani fellow with grey at his temples. "It's hell out there. It's completely under military control. You'll have to sneak and fight your way from one end to the other."

"What makes you think I'm not just going to make for the nearest way out?"

"Lambda Complex is the nearest way out," was the answer. "It's also where the rest of the science team has taken shelter. I wouldn't venture there myself, but I will let them know that you are coming."

"Thanks," said Gordon dryly. "Come on. Let's go."
acts_of_gord: (lambda team)
The room was littered with the corpses of the chicken-things and at least one zombie's remains. Bullet holes pockmarked the walls. Long, vaguely obscene reddish things dangled and swayed in the room's corners, leading up to fanged, bloody horrors that pulsed and shifted as if they were chewing on something of considerable size. A vat bigger than three swimming pools poured together churned some kind of oily iridescent mess that left the Geiger counter in Gordon's suit screaming. And the only viable way out that he could see was a single broken pipe on the far side of the vat... leading even further into the vast, industrial nightmare part of the Black Mesa complex known only by the euphemism of 'Residue Processing'.

"Oh hell no."
acts_of_gord: (crowbar)
Everything hurt. That wasn't anything new. Everything had been hurting for hours now, individual injuries blurring together into one great blazing ache from head to toes. What was new, as light started to make its way through Gordon's closed eyelids, was the smell. Chemical stinks mingled with other, more organic odors in the still air.

( "Body? What body?" )

The memory of the last several minutes came back to him in a cloud of the Marines' laughter. Gordon opened his eyes and sat up. Everything around him spun, and a mighty urge to be sick rose in his throat, but he forced it back down. Infinitely more important was this: he was, in fact, surrounded by garbage. Shipping containers, mostly, some whole and some broken, but garbage nonetheless. Overhead, a grating separated the trash from the morning sky. And on either side...

On either side were ten-foot-high grey metallic walls, featureless save for the inevitable pitting of age. He reached up to touch one hesitantly, realizing as he did so that there was something wrong. Even with his head throbbing, he was moving too easily. The suit wasn't that light, was it?

Oh, no. Oh, no no no HELL no.

In the moment that Gordon realized the Marines had taken all his equipment and left him with nothing but his suit and his glasses- not even his crowbar!- the walls began to move. He stared stupidly at the nearer wall for a moment before some spark of instinct spurred him to scramble for the nearest part of the trash pile. The suit was a lot of things, but it couldn't turn him into a high jumper. As the boxes and other, slicker garbage shifted and slid beneath him, a thought flickered through his head: "Threepio! Shut down all the garbage mashers on the detention level!" Alas, he had neither droids nor a commlink with which to reach one; all he could do was force burning, worn-out muscles to make one more supreme effort- ah! There! A niche at the top of the heap, just barely deep enough to crouch in-

Gordon's feet swung up and out of the mashers' way mere moments before the metal plates clanged together and ground to a stop. For several seconds he did nothing at all, only huddled, staring.

He was... somewhere. He didn't know where. Probably not too far from the surface access area, but still he didn't know where. He was alone, and incommunicado. He was in pain and feeling very, very unwell indeed. And he was unarmed: completely, totally, and utterly without any kind of weapon whatsoever. Even the belt he'd taken from the security guard back when all the hell began was gone. It was him, his suit, and... nothing else.

The only thing that stirred him to move was the thought that he'd like to be somewhere he could at least see the sky properly when he died. There was another niche on the far side of the room, running along the far wall, and the slanting rays of the early morning sun were puddling in it. It seemed like a better place to be than where he was now. The masher plates themselves were wide enough to walk on, if he'd had room to stand up. Gordon leaned forward instead and made his way over, slowly but surely, on his hands and knees. It hurt like anything, but the patch of sun was calling to him like a promise. It would be worth it. It had to be. It couldn't be any worse.

As he made it off the masher plates and into the little niche, the sun crept just a hair further along its way. Something gleamed redly in its beam. Gordon froze, one hand half-raised... and then, with the greatest of care and the most terrible of fear (hadn't he been hallucinating ninjas just a few minutes ago, after all?), he reached out that hand to touch it.

Metal. Real metal. Somehow, some way, someone had left a crowbar down here.

It is very, very difficult to cuddle a three-foot-long piece of metal, but Gordon Freeman surely tried.
acts_of_gord: (down for the count)
He wouldn't realize it until a long time after, but as he watched the Lambda rocket tear itself free of its moorings and lift into the darkest upper reaches of the sky, the only thing Gordon felt was a vague, dull sense of 'good, it's done, I can go home now'.
( Doctor, my eyes / Cannot see the sky )
Looking back on it, that seemed like one of the greatest slights of all.
( Is this the prize / For having learned how not to cry? )


Home, it happened, was a long way away. Unless he wanted to climb over the local rock formations- a thought that made his entire body quail, healed or not- there was no way out on the surface. The best he could manage was a set of blast doors that hadn't been willing to open before, and more tunnels, more down. There was even another damned cart. God, if he never saw one of those things again it'd be too soon! Not that there was much of a choice, unless he wanted to walk, but still...

He was still smarting a little over the idea when he got to the flooded vertical shaft. That wouldn't have been such a problem, since swimming took the weight off horribly aching bones, but the water was full of vile, wriggly things that resembled lampreys. All of them had a powerful hankering for the taste of human face, too. And they were persistent as hell. One of them managed to get past the neck seal on his suit. Gordon couldn't get rid of that one until he was out of the water, but it hit the wall with a thoroughly satisfying schplercht. It was almost enough to make him smile.

It was definitely enough to distract him- at least, until the all-too-human scream as the water in the next room erupted in a tower of froth and red. Gordon instinctively flattened himself against the nearest wall. He just barely caught sight of something fanged and scaly disappearing beneath the surface, part of a human form being dragged down with it.

If the thing's back hadn't crested the surface again a few moments later, sliding past with all the careless ease of the croc that'd eaten the hunter, Gordon might have stayed there staring at the water forever. The sight of that orange-red back fairly slithering past jarred him into motion, and he bolted. Where he was going, he didn't know, but he knew this much: it didn't have the sea monster in it.

There was a narrow corridor (good! The giant fish thing was probably too wide to fit!), and a ladder to climb (even better! Fish couldn't climb ladders! Other than walking catfish OH GOD WHY DID HE THINK THAT), and then he was in a room that looked as if the disaster hadn't affected it at all. The lights were fine, the computers functional, the-

"Did you see it? They said it was hauled from the Challenger Deep-"

Gordon whirled, crowbar raised, but it was only a thin, older man in the lab coat and trousers of Science Team. Oblivious of the new arrival's mental state, the man continued. "I'm positive that beast never swam in terrestrial waters until a week ago."

Oh, THAT was reassuring.

"There's a tranquilizer gun in the shark cage, but I'm not sure it would work on this species," the man noted. He gave Gordon a considering look. "You're welcome to try," he added.

There was silence then, as several responses fought their way to the surface. Finally, one of them won out: "Why the hell do we even HAVE a shark cage?"

"Because we study aquatic exotic species as well as the land-based ones," the scientist answered, in what he obviously thought was a very reasonable tone. "Wouldn't you want a shark cage between you and a maw like that? Really, think before you ask these questions."

It would have been so easy to smack some sense into the man's skull with that crowbar, but Gordon settled for flipping him off before striding out to pick up that tranquilizer-

Tranquilizer crossbow, he saw as the cage started to lower itself into the water. Not even a gun. Great, just great.



There was a high-ceilinged room full of giant pistons. They must've served some purpose, surely, but as far as Gordon was concerned they were there to make that damned briefcase-carrying blue-suit-wearing bastard look that much smugger just before he turned and walked away.

Next time, Gordon promised himself, he'd shoot the son of a bitch first and try to catch up with him later.



The wounds from the lamprey worm things had mostly stopped bleeding and started trying to seal up after Gordon found a first aid kit, but dammit, he had to go and run into a clutch of the chicken things. About the only mercy there was that only one of them could start trying to rip his face to pieces at a time. Throw in the presence of a couple of those mutterclucking red-eyed aliens, who saw no problems in attacking the human with all the electricity they could muster even as the chicken beast tried to scalp him, and Gordon was in a towering rage by the time things finally went quiet. He leaned his forehead against the nearest wall, panting, trying to gather the strength to will the pain to dissipate-

"Gordon Freeman. It is you, isn't it?"

Gordon looked up, blinking the... well, he hoped it was just blood... out of his eyes.

The scientist peering around a nearby door gave a quick, cautious smile. "I thought as much," he said. "The science team's been tracking your progress with the Black Mesa security system. Unfortunately, so is the military. That suit of yours is full of tracking devices."

Tell me something I don't know, thought Gordon, but the man had a point. He just gave a single, weary nod in acknowledgment.

"Still, it's better than going naked in this place. It's cold in there." The scientist indicated a security door behind him. "That's the computing equipment cooling facility. If you want to see this thing through, you'll have to hurry. It could sap your suit power in a matter of moments. If you're bent on reaching the Lambda complex-"

All Gordon was bent on reaching was the way out. Wasn't the satellite supposed to have put this thing right? What was this about Lambda again?

"-then you'll want to keep to the older industrial areas where the security system is full of holes. It's worked for me, so far."

Gordon suppressed the urge to whimper, did his best to clean his glasses off, and straightened up. What the hell. Why not try for Lambda? It didn't matter where he was going. He knew where he'd been. Lambda couldn't be any worse.

He dropped into the best sprinter's crouch his tortured muscles would let him manage. The scientist bent over a retinal scanner. "Good luck," he said, as the first fingers of deadly frost crept into the room.



"Freeman, right?" said the security guard as the lift came to a stop. "I've got a message for you. Make sure you don't--augh!"

Gordon was diving for the relative shelter of a nearby stack of boxes before the guard's lifeless body even hit the floor. His eyes scanned the vicinity for aliens, but none were-

Something black and quiet flickered in the darkness at the edge of Gordon's vision. He turned towards it, revolver in hand. There was a zizz! noise just past his ear, and something metallic lodged in the wall nearby. Some kind of flechette, or- there! There, a human figure all in black, dipping silently behind the shipping crates that filled the whole room. It spat another of the metal things towards him; Gordon only barely avoided that one laying his face open. Ninjas! came the sudden, irrational thought. They gave up on Marines and now they're sending ninjas after me! What the hell!

He was hallucinating, he decided. He had to be. By now it was probably almost daylight. He'd been awake twenty-four hours or more, he'd run out of glucose ages ago, he'd lost and replaced more blood than three men and a slaughtered sheep, and now he was hallucinating ninjas trying to kill him. It was a good working hypothesis, and the only one that made any sense. Not that it stopped him from fighting back, of course, but he didn't bother trying to scavenge the ninjas' weapons once the last one was finally dead. Hallucinatory throwing knives wouldn't do him much good. Especially not with the surface access doors so close by, and a health dispenser on the other side, waiting for-

"Get him!" came the voice, in the instant that the world went white with pain, and then black.



"Where are we takin' this Freeman guy?"

Gordon blinked. The world was swimming too much for him to clear his vision. But he was being held up on both sides, being dragged-

"Topside for questioning."

"What the hell for? We got 'im. Let's kill him now."

"Uh... and if they find the body?"

"Body? What body?"

There was laughter on both sides. Gordon would have groaned, but the unconsciousness reclaimed him first.
acts_of_gord: (fogging up)
( Well won't you lend your lungs to me )
It occurred to Gordon, not for the first time, that the Marines had established themselves insanely well in a very small amount of time. The fortifications they'd managed to throw up in the half-forgotten subterranean railway system had been a nightmare. The dual fortifications and sniper emplacement they'd made for themselves on the other side of the blast doors were nothing short of a meat grinder for anyone trying to reach the launch facility's control room. The guard had said the military aborted Lambda Team's satellite launch; what were they trying to accomplish, anyway? Wiping out the witnesses to the dimensional disaster he could sort of understand, in a very sick way. It made no sense from a rational point of view, since any halfway sane policy would call for at least a few interrogations first, but he could sort of see it. Any witnesses who made it out might wind up spreading the knowledge of what had happened and how to make it happen again. In the minds of some, that might be enough to call for a total facility kill. Black Mesa was too well entrenched to destroy by non-nuclear means, so it had to be done with soldiers instead of bombs. That made its own kind of sense as well.
( Mine are collapsing )
But what, exactly, was at stake with the-
( Plant my feet and bitterly breathe )
Oh. Right. A satellite launch would make half the civilized world witnesses.
( Up the time that's passing )
Well, fine. Let them be witnesses. Gordon remembered the equations he'd found in Dr. Kleiner's office a seeming lifetime ago. Resonance cascades didn't stop on their own; the theory was that they spread like fractures in glass, the rips growing wider and more exponentially frequent across a greater geographic area. If a private satellite was what it took to isolate the affected area and impose the necessary Hilbert effects to shut this thing down, then that was what it took, and the Marines be damned.
( And breath I'll take and breath I'll give )
Some dim part of Gordon's mind noted that there was a time not all that long ago- a day? A few hours? He couldn't tell any more- when a prospect like that would have been quite literally unthinkable for him. Oh, he'd been stubborn all his life and competitive for as long as he could remember, but a calculus involving his own private war... Grimly, Gordon shoved the thought away. He could deal with what it all meant later. If there was a later.
( And pray the day's not poison )
His hands were starting to shake, he realized. When had he last slept, or eaten? He couldn't say. He didn't feel like he needed to sleep. He wasn't even sure he could remember what being tired felt like. He didn't exactly feel wired, either, and he'd pulled enough all-nighters at MIT to know where his caffeine limits were. Probably that meant a blood sugar plunge was in the works. He'd have to find another first-aid kit somewhere. He'd run out of energy gel packets somewhere in the tunnels, but the kits all had glucose tubes in them in case of diabetic emergency. There'd probably be one in the launch center. Thankfully, it wasn't far away- on the other side of a couple of explosive traps the Marines had rigged up (when had he learned not to care about those any more?), but not far away. As steadily as he could, Gordon eased the next door open.
( Stand among the ones that live in lonely indecision )
They were there. He could feel them. The corridor was too innocent, too quiet- the Marines were there, just out of sight, waiting. He knew. With the paranoid resolve of a man who wasn't looking beyond the very next goal, he froze in place. Let them show themselves first...
( Fingers walk the darkness down )
And then, one of the Marines spoke up. "I didn't sign on for this shit," the unseen man said. "Monsters, sure, but civilians? Who ordered this operation, anyway?"
( Mind is on the midnight )
Crap.
( Gather up the goldyou've found )
Crap.
( You fool it's only moonlight )
That one had a conscience. That one was human again. That one wasn't just a target to-
( And if you try to take it home )
"Hey, did you hear that?"
( Your hands will turn to butter )
Crap! Gordon flung himself headlong to the floor as the canister grenade flew his way. The blast was deafening, the smoke almost blinding. He had nothing to go on but a handful of barely-visible muzzle flashes and a vague sense of direction. There's no such thing as overkill, he remembered from somewhere as he fought back, only 'open fire' and 'time to reload'-
( You better leave this dream alone, try to find another )
It came to him, somewhere in all of that, that the gunfire other than his own had stopped. Panting, he lifted his finger from the trigger. Nothing was moving. The explosive stink curled and hung in the air, twisting around the by-now too-familiar stench of blood. There wasn't a Marine left standing, conscience or no. Gordon swallowed, feeling the trembling in his hands starting to spread.
( Salvation sat and crossed herself )
A faint groan caught his attention; one of the men was still alive. Gordon stepped gingerly over one of the corpses and knelt down beside him. "Are you there?" he asked, ignoring how uselessly inane the question felt. "Can you hear me?"
( Called the Devil partner )
The Marine- a man of middle years, his gas mask's lenses shattered to the point of uselessness- rolled his head towards Gordon's voice a little. He didn't speak.
( Wisdom burned upon a shelf )
Gordon glanced over the silent man's form. He'd been hit a lot, and not all of the bullets had been Gordon's, by the look of things. Friendly fire, one of the more revolting Gulf War euphemisms, had left him as pockmarked as a teenager's face. At least one of the wounds was still pumping. It wouldn't be long.
( Who'll kill the raging cancer )
It could have been him. It probably would be, soon.
( Seal the river at its mouth )
"I can get you morphine," Gordon said. It was all he could think to say.
( Take the water prisoner )
The Marine merely blinked, and rolled his head a little farther. For a moment Gordon thought he'd died- but no, his chest was still rising and falling shallowly. The man was staring at Gordon's hand- or, rather, at Corporal Paskey's dog tags, which were still wrapped around his wrist. After a moment, he mutely lifted his eyes to Gordon's.
( Fill the sky with screams and cries )
"I don't-" Gordon stopped, swallowed. "I don't want them. You can-"
( Bathe in fiery answers )
He couldn't speak then, any more than the Marine could've. All he could do was fumble with the tags until the chain came undone and press Paskey's tags into the dying man's upturned hand. "Take them," he said. "Please."
( Jesus was an only son )
The Marine exhaled, a wet, bubbling sound almost too low to hear. Gordon imagined he could hear some kind of gratitude in it; the thought made him suddenly angry, almost too angry to bear. It was all so damned stupid-
( And love his only concept )
"Sir?" Gordon said suddenly. "Are you a religious man at all?"
( Strangers cry in foreign tongues )
There might have been surprise in the Marine's eyes, but who could say? Gordon was only barely convinced that he'd even nodded.
( And dirty up the doorstep )
"All right. Then I need you to do something for me. Please."
( And I for one and you for two )
They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Mostly they're thinking of people looking for aid or comfort. But there are exceptions, and this was one of them.
( Ain't got the time for outside )
"Tell your God that Gordon Freeman sent you."
( Just keep your injured looks to you )
Sometimes, the atheists just need someone to threaten.
( We'll tell the world that we tried )
acts_of_gord: (fogging up)
Gordon probably shouldn't have been quite so taken aback by the fact that the Marines had misspelled it, but "Freeman" was, he thought, a pretty simple name.

Still, "SURRENDER FREEMEN" wasn't the sort of thing he'd ever really expected to see painted on the wall. It's not every day that a theoretical physicist gets to see his name in graffiti. Even misspelled, next to a fortified gun emplacement staffed by a man trying to kill him.



As the pony-sized thing- (bipedal, with a squidlike forward end and a tail capable of cracking a man's ribs at the other, and chock full of poisonous spit) gurgled its last, Gordon let out the breath he'd been holding. The spitters were nasty. This one had been feasting on the remains of at least two Marines; Gordon had no desire to join them.

He glanced sideways, just in case anything unwholesome was waiting in the shadows. Nothing was there except a crudely scrawled message: "YORE DEAD FREEMAN".

For half a moment he almost considered scribbling in a correction.



"DIE FREEMAN": no more than that, no less, sprayed high enough on the tunnel wall that the reader would have to be on a cart or creeping along the opposite wall to read it properly.

He might've made a Simpsons reference out of it if he hadn't heard a radio somewhere not far away croak "Stay alert, people." That meant live Marines. Distraction now would only get him killed. The security guard back at the power station had said the Lambda Team thought they could undo the resonance cascade's worst effects before they spread if they could get a satellite up. If Gordon didn't get past the Marines alive, the satellite wasn't going anywhere.

He'd think about it later.



Sky. Sky. How long had it been since he'd seen it? It was a dark, musty blue- early evening? Early morning? He couldn't tell. It was cool enough for either out there, he could feel it on the breeze coming from the door-

"So, who is this guy, Freeman?"

Gordon froze. His eyes flickered down to the pair of camouflaged helmets only a handful of yards away from the door.

The second, younger Marine shrugged. "They say he was at ground zero."

"Science team..." There was a thoughtful sort of pause. "You think he was responsible? Sabotage, maybe?"

Oh, please, thought Gordon- but he was only half paying attention. The entrance to Lambda's launch control facilities was on the other side of a huge pair of blast doors. Did he have enough cover to get there unseen? It didn't look that way.

"Yeah, maybe," said the second Marine. "All I know for sure is he's been killing my buddies."

Gordon thought for a moment of Vance, down in Anomalous Materials, and of Barney Calhoun, wherever he was now. It was a little hard to blame the younger Marine for his attitude- but only a little. Gordon couldn't afford to think about that side of things just now.

"Oh yeah, he'll pay. He will definitely pay," said the older Marine.

Maybe, thought Gordon, hefting his revolver, but I won't be paying you.
acts_of_gord: (crowbar)
There were three of them, and they were forty feet long, if not more. Fifty, maybe, given what he'd seen the first one do. Tentacles: green, almost plant-like in body, but equipped with a fierce hunting instinct and a wicked sense of motion and hearing. And the beaks, of course. The beaks- claws? Talons? Whatever- were each as long as a man, the kind of thing Vlad the Impaler would have given his eyeteeth to hang on the castle wall. They gleamed a ruddy black in the dim light of the silo.
"Fire the... rocket engine. Destroy the damn thing before it grows any larger!"
How the original had taken root in the silo floor, Gordon didn't know. He assumed the thing had to have teleported in at close to this level of development. Otherwise, the amount of biomass it must've consumed-
"No! No, no! Get it off me! Get it off, get it off! Aaaaaagh!"
He glanced involuntarily at the bloodstains on the wall opposite the control panel, and shuddered at the memory.
"Be quiet. This thing hears us."
The control console in front of him was remarkably simple. There was a status light for Power; that had been a hell all its own to activate. The lights for Oxygen and Fuel, a different kind of hell, carved out of some architect's insanity.
"Hey, hey! Over here! Eat lead, you outer space octopus!"
Then there was the button. That was all: the button. It sat in the center of the console, inert. 'Test Fire', said the sign just above it. Given that this was a rocket silo once meant for the missiles that made the Cold War what it was, he'd expected more than that. Dual keys, at the very least-
"I hope no one expects me to go start up the generator. Smithers went down there and never came back."
Well. No point arguing his good fortune now.
"This is my hiding spot, and I'm not moving until the situation is drastically improved. Now go away, and don't tell anyone I'm here!"
In the silo outside, the beaked tentacles swung this way and that, striking blindly at metallic surfaces and waiting for the echoes that would speak of moving prey. There had been explosions before, and footfalls. There were bound to be more.
"Someone has restored all power. Was that you? Excellent! We'll have the engine up again in no time."
But no footfalls came; only the sound of thunder as all the rocket fuel that remained in Black Mesa's possession rained down the monstrosity's fiery death.

Interlude

May. 4th, 2008 07:52 pm
acts_of_gord: (grrr)
Staff Sergeant Robert McCloskey, USMC Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, swiped the back of his hand across his nose. What a day it'd been. What a day. "Hey, Kimble," he called. "Seen any aliens yet?"

"Nah," answered the other Marine, who was squinting into the fenced-off part of the room yet again. "Not since that. . . chicken-lookin' thing."

McCloskey grunted. "Shit," he said. "They promised us aliens. And what do we get instead?"

"Scientists," grumbled Kimble. "Nothin' but scientists."

"Tell me about it," McCloskey agreed. "I killed twelve dumb-ass scientists today, and not one of 'em fought back. This sucks."

Kimble shook his head. Then he froze, lifting his eyes to the ventilation duct in the ceiling. McCloskey hadn't made it to a staff sergeant's rank by being stupid; he readied his shotgun. The chicken things were just the right size to be crawling around in those ducts.

Unfortunately, the source of the sound had already passed their position and found another way down. The last thing either man heard was a half-growled, "This one's fighting back, gentlemen," just before the bullets.
acts_of_gord: (crowbar)
Somehow I expected that to be louder, Gordon thought, dazed. Not that that made any sense; he'd used the pistol on plenty of aliens along the way here, and he'd tripped a couple of the chainguns. He knew what gunfire sounded like by now. But still, there was a sort of expectation of more. He'd just killed a man on purpose, after all.

"Attention All Science Team Personnel," interrupted the synthesized announcer-voice. "Report To Topside Immediately For Questioning." It was enough to shake him out of his horrified reverie. Someone had to be told about this. Someone had to know more. Gordon darted forward, crouching to be sure both men were dead. There wasn't much left of the scientist's midsection; the Marine had been carrying some kind of combat shotgun. It looked like a remarkably useful weapon, considering how much further Gordon had to go to reach the surface and how many aliens there were likely to be. But carrying it...

Well, the Marine sure as hell wasn't going to need his equipment harness any more. Gordon did his best to ignore the fact that he was looting his would-be murderer's corpse and set to work. He'd deal with it all later.



Up ahead there were...

There were four of them. Four Marines, and one scientist.

Then there were four Marines.

Then there was only Gordon.



His nerves were still screaming in agony from the red-eyed alien's electricity; it hurt to so much as move, and his suit's power was too low for the morphine dispenser to work. Every step was an act of concentration, one foot in front of the other, listening for the next horror to drop out of the air.
( Long as I remember )
"Don't shoot! I'm with the science team!"
( rain's been comin' down )
Gordon jerked his head up and saw two men in lab coats, the darker-skinned man running away. He started to speak- and realized, with a sinking horror, that the man had been shouting not at him but at a red-beret Marine on the catwalk ringing the room full of shipping crates. As the gunfire erupted, the other one cried, "No! Not me! You want me alive- I'm the only man who knows everything that's going on!"
( Clouds of myst'ry pouring )
That was enough for the other Marines to break their concealment- and for Gordon to muster the will to act. He lunged at the man, shoving him behind one of the crates. "Stay down!" he ordered. He didn't bother waiting to see if the wide-eyed scientist would obey, but unslung the MP5 he'd taken from Paskey's corpse. If he was going to have any chance of finding out why the Marines were trying to kill them all, he needed to outlast their ammunition. The more they had to run around and take cover, the more likely their gunfire would go wide of the mark. He took a deep breath (I will think about all of this later) and stepped out from behind the crate.
( confusion on the ground )
There were five of them. If there hadn't been enough crates in the room to ship a disassembled small house from one end of the country to the other, Gordon wouldn't have stood a chance. Just outlast the ammo supply, he thought, dashing from behind a stack of rapidly disintegrating crates to the cover of a support column. Just keep them shooting until they can't shoot any more, and then ask. Just-
"Gotcha, fucker," growled a voice from much too close for Gordon's comfort. A gas-masked Marine had slipped around the column when Gordon wasn't looking. He hefted his rifle with a satisfied, low laugh, but Gordon wasn't paying attention; there was something red, slender, and weirdly organic-looking descending from the ceiling just behind the man's shoulder.
( Good men through the ages )
The Marine paused. "What the hell're you looking at?" he demanded.
( tryin' to find the sun, )
Gordon pointed.
and I wonder,
The red thing lashed itself around the Marine's neck before he could respond, and lifted him straight up into the air.
still I wonder,

Gordon had no time to watch what remained of the Marine's death-struggles. There were still other Marines, and the gasmasked one's death only left them angrier than before. It was everything Gordon could do to keep his rifle steady; there was nothing like this at all in the hazard course! That was targets on a controlled range, not live fire from all sides. Not active self-defense, and trying to keep armed men from getting a clear line of fire on the surviving scientist's position. In the end, he was the last one standing- if you could call it standing. He had to lean heavily on the wall to keep moving, and he didn't like to think of how many steps remained between him and his goal.
who'll stop the rain?

"Oh my God," said the scientist when Gordon finally made it back to the box. "Are you- here, you'd better sit down."

Gordon didn't argue. If the other man wanted to shove one of the smaller crates under him, so be it. "Blood loss detected," announced the suit; Gordon rolled his eyes and wondered how you went about flipping off your own power armor.

"That's a bit of an understatement," said the scientist. "Here, let me give you something for the pain."
( I went down Virginia )
"What?" asked Gordon, or tried to. He wasn't sure the words made it out. But a moment later there was a pricking almost too tiny to feel in his arm, and blessed, blessed relief swept through him in its wake. "... wow."
( seekin' shelter from the storm. )
"Can you hear me now, young man?" The scientist was peering at him in concern. "Here, give me those glasses of yours. I'm surprised you can see at all with this much muck on them... good heavens, what is this stuff?"
( Caught up in the fable, )
"Alien blood," said Gordon, rolling his arm around in wonder. He still hurt like hell, but the blatant awareness of just how many bullets he'd been hit with had faded far enough to ignore. "What was in that needle, anyway?"
( I watched the tower grow. )
"The same medicinal cocktail that's in the health dispensers," said the scientist. "Not enough to do you much real good, though. I'd suggest you get up to the dispenser on the top level of that room and use it as soon as you can; it's as good as an emergency room visit, if not better."
( Five year plans and new deals, )
"Thanks," said Gordon. As he put his glasses back on he said, "What's going on?"
( wrapped in golden chains, )
"Hmm?"

"You said you were the only man who knew everything," Gordon said slowly. "What, exactly, is..."
and I wonder,
The scientist looked at him mutely.
still I wonder,

"Oh, don't tell me."
who'll stop the rain?

"Er. I'm afraid-"

"You lied," said Gordon. "You were trying to save your skin, weren't you."
( Heard the singers playin' )
"Er. Yes. Yes, I was- wouldn't you, in my circumstances?"
( how we cheered for more. )
"Dammit..." Gordon shook his head. "Never mind. Just- never mind. Do you have any idea what's happening?"
( The crowd had rushed together, )
"No, not really," admitted the scientist. "Just that there's been some sort of dimensional breach- you'd know more about that than I- and that this place is swarming with soldiers who all seem to be out to kill us. I'm afraid I panicked at the thought and said the first thing that came to mind."
( tryin' to keep warm. )
Gordon slid a hand under his glasses again. "Fine. Whatever," he muttered. "Look, there's people trapped in Anomalous Materials. Eli Vance and a couple of others."
( Still the rain kept pourin', )
"If you think I'm going for the surface, you're mad," said the other man. "That's where the majority of the soldiers are! I'm going to find somewhere down here with a door that still locks and no aliens in it and stay behind it until all of this is over. You're welcome to try for the surface if you like."
( fallin' on my ears, )
He meant it, too. Gordon could see that in his face. The other man really did mean to lock himself in one of the storage rooms and wait out the horrors and the invasion. Are you even the same species as me? Gordon wondered briefly; but he said nothing. He only nodded. "Dispenser's upstairs, you said?"

"Third level, yes."
and I wonder,
"All right," said Gordon, pushing himself to his feet. "Thank you. Good luck finding a hideout."
still I wonder,

"Good luck yourself, young man."
who'll stop the rain?
acts_of_gord: (grrr)
Gordon leaned his head against the elevator wall and let his eyes sag shut for a moment. I have to keep going, he told himself. I can't stop now. I'll die down here if I do.

A still-fresh dopplering scream rippled through his memory; someone else from Science Team. He'd never seen the man's face, just his flailing form as he lost his grip and plummeted to his doom. If he'd been able to lean out six inches more....

It wouldn't have done any good. They'd both be splattered all over the bottom of the elevator shaft.

Gordon slid one gauntleted hand under his glasses and rubbed uselessly at his eyes, trying to block out the memory of that scream. The elevator ground to a halt just then, doors sliding open. It was a welcome distraction. Pistol in hand (a dead security guard's last legacy to the living: gun, ammo, belt to carry them all), he peered into the corridor. It looked all right. Certainly he didn't see the kind of destruction he'd just left behind. More importantly, he didn't hear the faintly clucking noises that the leaping little horrors made just before they went for his head, and he definitely didn't hear the soulless gorbling of the zombie things. He stepped out of the elevator.

There were footsteps. He spun about- and relaxed; it was yet another Science Team member, running pell-mell for Gordon's position. The lab-coated man ignored Gordon entirely, though, racing past him to pound desperately on a guardroom window with both fists. "For God's sake, open the silo doors!" the man shouted. "They're coming for us, it's our only way out! Oh my God, we're doomed!"

On the other side of the glass, the wide-eyed guard stood up swiftly. And fell, just as swiftly, as something clawed lunged out of a ventilation duct and grabbed him. By the time Gordon had the crowbar out, it was already too late. The length of metal clanged uselessly off the thickest bulletproof glass he'd seen yet. He stared, sickened, at the widening red streak on the wall.

BRRRABOOM!

Gordon spun to face the source of the sound: a smoking, blackened corridor, one wall scorched, the other spattered. Even at this distance, in this light, he knew what that meant. Silently, he returned the crowbar to its loop on the belt and readied his gun. Where there were explosions, there were explosives, and this was an old part of the complex. Whatever had killed that poor doomed fool was probably some kind of security measure gone horribly wrong. Something was bound to turn up and investigate.

Sure enough, the by-now far-too-familiar sound of one of the fleshy things teleporting in- they looked like plucked chickens, for all that they kept trying to tear off parts of his face and scalp- rang out up ahead. He froze, watching it orient itself. It made an almost cooing sound as it crept towards him, but not for long. A faint pling! sound, like an opened door breaking an infrared beam, was all the warning Gordon had before automatic gunfire from a half-concealed, mounted chaingun tore it to pieces. Better you than me, he thought, and considered his options.

Well, that one guard had given him a couple of grenades and said to use them in good health...

Five seconds later the mounted gun lay scattered across the room in ruins. Gordon smiled (when did that kind of destruction become something to smile about, he wondered) and kept going... only to stop again.

There was a body.
( if you take a life, do you know what you'll give? )
Human, definitely, and not zombified. The dead man still had his face and his hands, and his chest was almost certainly intact beneath the fatigues he wore. They identified him as a Marine, a member of the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit. Gordon knew about them; the employee handbook said they were the ones most likely to show up if anything really disastrous really happened at Black Mesa. All employees were to cooperate with them wherever possible. The HEV suit did nothing at all to suppress the prickling dread that crawled over his skin. Had he just killed one of his own rescuers?
( odds are, you won't like what it is )
As Gordon crouched down to look for the fatal injury, the heavily modulated synthesized voice that'd been giving status updates since the cascade began rang out over the room's speakers: "ATTENTION: BLACK MESA ANNOUNCEMENT SYSTEM NOW UNDER MILITARY COMMAND."

You're a little late letting me know, he thought bitterly. He looked down at the Marine and a thought occurred to him: the HECU commander was going to need to know about this.
( when the storm arrives, would you be seen with me )
"Sorry about this," Gordon murmured to the dead man, digging the dog tags out from under his shirt. "I didn't even know you were there... Corporal Edward Paskey, huh?" He shook his head. "I don't know what to say. I'll make it up to your family somehow... I'm sorry."
( by the merciless eyes I've deceived )
There weren't any more words for it than that, or if there were, they eluded Gordon pretty well. With a sigh he drew the man's eyelids closed with his fingertips and went on his way, Paskey's dog tags wrapped around one wrist and his assault rifle jammed through part of the belt. They'd be wanting that back.

( I've seen angels fall from blinding heights )
There. Up ahead, on the catwalk- him again. The man in the dark blue suit. How the hell had he gotten this far? Gordon had had to fight his way past at least three more of those damned chainguns, and the red-eyed aliens that hurled lightning at him- and here was this bureaucrat breezing through from one place to another, neat as you please! He'd been back at Anomalous Materials, too, but he'd disappeared before Gordon could call out to him. At least here Gordon had a chance to catch up. As the man vanished into the shadows Gordon scrambled up the ladder, hand over hand. He couldn't possibly get away this time.
( But you yourself are nothing so divine )
Oh, hell, he could. There was no sign of him anywhere. Gordon swore inwardly and drew his pistol at the sound of nearby footfalls. They turned out, alas, to be yet another lab-coated scientist. The older man was practically flying down the stairs at the end of the raised platform, and with good reason: there was a Marine downstairs. Alive, this time. "Rescued at last!" the scientist cried. "Thank God you're here!"
( just next in line )
And the Marine shot him. No warning, no words, just BANG.

As the scientist's lifeless form toppled over, the Marine looked up. His eyes met Gordon's. It would've been poetic to say time stopped, or that the moment played out in slow motion somehow, but the truth was far more stark. In that moment, Gordon knew he was going to die at this man's hands. So he pulled the trigger first.

He didn't bother closing this one's eyes. He just swallowed, and watched him fall.
( arm yourself, because no one else here will save you... )
acts_of_gord: (headcrab zombie)
( when it's all mixed up / better break it down / in the world of secrets / in the world of sound )
The last time Gordon's head had felt like this, he'd wiped out on a record-breaking downhill run. An EMT had to use a hacksaw to get his helmet off. He opened one eye and saw that either the helmet or his glasses had shattered under impact. It took a few moments to work out that it was the helmet, under the impact of a chunk of metal that should have killed him. Grimacing, he shoved the metal aside and sat up. As he pried the now-useless helmet off, he got his first good look around the test chamber. It was the sort of sight that he associated with war zones and grim-faced CNN reporters: fallen concrete, twisted metal, and scorch marks as far as the eye could see. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath (the air stank of things he couldn't even begin to identify), and picked his way over the wreckage to the jarred-open chamber door.
( it's in the way you're always hiding from the light )
The destruction hadn't stopped with the spectrometer room. There wasn't a functioning computer panel left in the control area, and most of them- the emergency phone panel included- were arcing electricity. Gordon's stomach knotted at the sight of Dr. Sark's crumpled form- very crumpled. An exploding panel had thrown the man into the wall so hard that his neck must've snapped on impact. Dr. Rosen's corpse was in even worse condition. Gordon shuddered, fumbling for the communications controls in his suit, but the transmitter controls were useless without the helmet. He gritted his teeth and forced the door open. Someone had to be notified about what had just happened. Maybe Vance-
( see for yourself - you have been sitting on a time bomb )
Oh, hell no.
( no revolution- maybe someone somewhere else )
It was just as bad as the scene he'd left. What hadn't exploded or burst into flames had gone dark. The wobbly, strained electronic sounds of earlier had been replaced by all-too-regular squealing alarms. And in the corner, well out of the way of the cables that'd ripped loose from their ceiling moorings, were Vance and his companion from earlier. For half an instant Gordon thought Vance was arranging a corpse.
( can show you something new about you and your inner song )
"Never thought I'd- agh- see a resonance cascade," mumbled the man on the floor. "Let alone create one."
( and all the love and all the love in the world )
"We tried to warn them," Vance reassured him. Then he looked up and caught his breath. "Gordon! You're alive! Thank God for that hazard suit- listen, I'm afraid to move him, and all our phones are out."
( won't stop the rain from falling )
Damn, Gordon thought. It must have shown on his face, because Vance's tone went apologetic. "Please," he said, "get to the surface as soon as you can and let someone know we're stranded down here?"
( waste seeping underground )
Gordon glanced past Vance a moment; the man on the floor didn't look as if he'd last much longer. He nodded, and Vance ran for the retinal scanner that would unlock the lab door from the inside. "I'm sure the rest of the science team'll gladly help you," Vance said, waving him through. "We'll be here."
( I want to break it down )
Gordon had his doubts about that. Nevertheless, he raised a hand in farewell and started for the next-
( Break it down again )
A bolt of green energy crackled through the air overhead. Something pale and fleshy-looking dropped out of it, skinny limbs flailing wildly. Gordon bolted, the thing's mad wailing screeches dying away behind him. Or at least he no longer heard them any more; there was destruction everywhere. Lights flickered, electricity sputtered, computer banks lay smashed to pieces on the floor. Some weren't even smashed, but sliced, melted metal and still-smoking charred plastic evident. It must've been one or more of the particle labs' lasers, which were so potent they had to be run through routing tubes in the ceiling of multiple rooms. He didn't care to stay and find out. If the facility's lowest parts were tearing themselves apart that badly, he had to get out fast, or there'd be no one left alive to rescue. For Kirkendall, the security guard who'd let him into the labs, it was almost certainly already too late. Gordon crouched down to see if the man harbored any life signs at all-
( "No sleep for dreaming," say the architects of Life )
A flicker of red at the edge of his vision was all the warning he had- the lasers were still active! Gordon flattened himself against the nearest wall and watched in horror as a line of blackened soot crept across the corridor floor , straight for Kirkendall's body. . . and then through it, slicing the corpse neatly in half. He closed his eyes swiftly at that, fighting the urge to be sick, and fumbled for the door.
( Big bouncing babies, bread and butter, can I have a slice? )
And remembered as he did so that the damn thing was retinal scan locked. Only Kirkendall or a senior scientist could open it. A ghastly image of hefting the man's remains up to eye level swam into mind. Gordon gagged and opened his eyes, deliberately not looking in the corpse's direction. There had to be another way out. Maybe an air vent-
( They make no mention of the beauty of decay )
No, no air vents nearby, but there was a panel marked 'emergency access only' in the wall near the retinal scanner. Gordon thumped his fist against it and it fell away, but there was no escape tunnel. Only a fire extinguisher (not much use there) and a few tools- Phillips head screwdriver, flathead screwdriver, wire cutters- and a crowbar. First good news I've had all day, he thought.
( Blue, yellow, pink umbrellas- save it for a rainy day )
The glass door, even as heavy as it was, didn't stand a chance. Gordon clambered through and made for the main elevator, but paused as the lights flickered overhead. Some instinct told him to check first; he leaned forward, squinting through the glass of the door to the elevator shaft, and caught sight at the bottom of a heap of twisted metal that had once been the elevator itself.For one brief, wistful moment, he wondered if this kind of thing happened at MIT or Boston University. A return to academia was looking very, very appealing all of a sudden.
( And all the love and all the love in the world )
That kind of thinking wouldn't help Eli, though, or anyone else who might be trapped down here. The only way out was up.
( Won't stop the rain from falling )
A few rungs from the top, he heard the noise. It was a horrible gorbling sound from which all the meaning and sense had been drained. Some capering brainless atavistic thing of nightmares might make that noise in a gross parody of human speech. He found himself gripping the ladder even more tightly; maybe if he hunkered out of sight for a moment, whatever it was would pass.
( Waste seeping underground )
Spang! Spang! Spang! The sound of gunshots cut across the unspeakable noise. Someone was still alive- and fighting!
( I want to break it down. . . )
The next few moments were a blur afterwards. He remembered, dimly, the leap from the ladder to the broken doors. There was more gunfire, too, there was plenty of that. And there was the smell of blood and burning; he wouldn't forget that in a thousand years... but mostly what he remembered was the sight of what had once been a man lumbering towards him, its outstretched arms warped into long, gleaming claws, its ribcage split down the middle and opening and closing with every move like some kind of teratological mouth. Where its head ought to have been there was only something pale and pulsing, clinging with all its might-
( Break it down again )
He didn't even remember raising the crowbar over his head. He just remembered bringing it down, again and again and again, until the crunching noises of metal on bone were replaced by wet, sick squelches..
( No more sleepy dreaming )
Somewhere in the distance someone was speaking, he knew. "Gordon! Man, am I glad to see you! What the hell are these things? And why are they wearing science team uniforms?"
( No more building up )
“I,” said Gordon, and stopped. He tried again. “I don't. I. . . I'm sorry, just-” The thing had an ID badge clipped to its belt. His brain shied away from the knowledge of what that meant. “Sorry, Joe,” he finally managed, lifting his eyes to the guard. “I've never seen them before.”
( It is time to dissolve )
“Huh.” The guard shook his head. “I don't know what's going on here, but I sure don't- shit! Behind you!”
( Break it down again )
Gordon spun to face the horrors, crowbar raised. He'd think about it later.
( No more sleepy dreaming )
acts_of_gord: (black mesa)
"Go right on through, sir," said Tom Kirkendall. There was mild sympathy in the security guard's voice as he hunched over the retinal scanner. "Looks like you're in the barrel today."
( I went home with the waitress )
Gordon nodded; that was about the right term for it. The anti-mass spectrometer was an awe-inspiring sight, to be sure, but even in the face of so much sheer science it was all but impossible for him to maintain that awe from start to finish. And today promised to be an exceptionally long day. At least he had enough storage space in the suit's few available compartments to tuck away a few energy gel packets, but he had a feeling that by the time today's experiments were over, all he'd want would be a bowl of complex carbohydrates and as much Steinbeisser as his liver could tolerate.
( The way I always do )
He rounded the corner and the door to C-33/a hissed open at his approach. "Ah, Gordon," said Dr. Magdesian, his voice heartily cheerful. "Here you are. We just sent the sample down to the test chamber."

Dr. Kleiner, it appeared, was running late; the other two scientists were Ted Jones, who Gordon had never liked, and Tom Csordas, a man Gordon only barely recognized. Csordas cleared his throat a little. "We boosted the anti-mass spectrometer to 105 percent," he said. "Bit of a gamble, but we need the extra resolution."

"Dr. Breen is very concerned that we get a conclusive analysis of today's sample," Jones interjected, lifting his eyebrows meaningfully. "I gather they went to some length to get it."

The words were neutral enough, but Gordon knew the tone all too well: so you'd better not screw up with it, Freeman. He suppressed the urge to scowl and dropped a bare nod of acknowledgment instead. Perhaps sensing Gordon's impatience, Magdesian spoke up again. "They're waiting for you, Gordon- in the test chamber."

Never one to ignore a clue when he was clubbed over the head with it, Gordon stepped away from the senior scientists and waited for Magdesian to unlock the next door. He knew the sounds of the place by now, all the beeps and whirs and electronic hums almost too high to hear; that was as much a part of a normal day as the tram announcements. Today, though, the sounds were off- too high, maybe. Too thready, or something. Gordon couldn't quite put his finger on it; he closed his eyes as he waited for the elevator down-

The agonized squeal of a circuit board giving up the ghost snapped his eyes open half an instant before several computer panels on the wall went dark. "It's about to go critical!" a familiar voice cried- Eli Vance, one of the other research associates. Gordon knew the Harvard man quite well, and the sound of that kind of stress in his voice boded ill.

He half-turned to see what was going on, and saw Vance and another scientist struggling to extract the smoking board from the rest of the system. "What the hell is going on with our equipment?" the other man demanded.
( How was I to know )
Vance shook his head grimly. "It wasn't meant to do this in the first place," he muttered, and lifted his eyes to Gordon's.
( She was with the Russians, too? )
The elevator arrived before Gordon could say anything.



"I'm afraid we'll be deviating a bit from standard analysis procedures today, Gordon," said Dr. Rosen. He spoke as if he wanted to get away with an apology before Dr. Sark could stop him.
( I was gambling in Havana )
Sure enough, Sark spoke up immediately. "Yes," he said firmly, "but with good reason. This is a rare opportunity for us. This is the purest sample we've seen yet."
( I took a little risk )
"And potentially the most unstable," Rosen noted, his tone almost pleading; Sark waved him off.
( Send lawyers, guns, and money )
"Now, now, if you follow standard insertion procedure, everything will be fine..."
( They'll get me out of this )
Frankly, Gordon thought Rosen was probably the more sensible of the two. Before he could indicate the thought, Rosen burst out with, "I don't know how you can say that! ... although I will admit that the possibility of a resonance cascade scenario is extremely unlikely-"

Wait, thought Gordon, startled. What? Go back and say that again?

"Gordon doesn't need to hear all this," said Sark confidently. (No! No, Gordon does need to hear all this! Go back to that part!) "He's a highly trained professional. We've assured the Administrator that nothing will go wrong."

Gordon started to raise a finger in protest.

"Ah- yes, of course," said Rosen. "You're right. Gordon? We have complete confidence in you."
( I'm the innocent bystander )
Seldom had that phrase inspired such a feeling of dread, but it was already too late for Gordon to say anything. Sark and Rosen had already opened the test chamber door and were waiting expectantly to either side. With a sigh he made one last check of his HEV suit's helmet and stepped in.
( Somehow I got stuck )
The door clanging shut behind him did not inspire much extra confidence, either. Ah, well. No help for it now; he leaned back on his heels and turned his gaze upward. Overhead, the spectrometer's rotors loomed in the shadows like the roof-beams of another man's cathedral. It was a sight that never failed to stir him. The knowledge that this, here, was a place of discovering... that mattered more than all the other nonsense put together. Gordon couldn't really ask for more out of life than-
( Between the rock and the hard place )
"Testing, testing. Everything seems to be in order." That was Rosen's voice over the intercom. Gordon jerked his attention back to the task at hand.
( And I'm down on my luck... )
"All right, Gordon. your suit should keep you comfortable through all this," came Sark's voice. "The specimen will be delivered to you in a few moments. If you would be so good as to climb up and start the rotors, we can bring the anti-mass spectrometer to eighty percent and hold it there until the carrier arrives."

Gordon nodded, for all that they couldn't see him, and crossed the chamber floor. Why the activation controls for the spectrometer were positioned thirty feet off the floor he didn't know, but it allowed for a view all its own. He checked the status monitor on the auxiliary terminal and confirmed that nothing else was about to explode before jabbing the nearby button. A low thrumm began to wend its way through his bones as the spectrometer's rotors activated and began to whirl in the shadows.

"Very good," said Sark. "We'll take it from here."

The crystal sample would be arriving shortly; there was no point to staying up here beyond the view. With everything being pushed to its limits, there was no way to predict how long the system would be able to keep operating. The faster this was finished, the better- so Gordon was already on the ladder, making his way down, by the time the first phase arrays started to form in the energy trails of the stage one emitters. As the stage two emitters activated, he paused, looking upwards once more. It seemed all right-

"Overhead capacitors to one oh five percent," said Rosen, and then paused. "Uh, it's probably not a problem, probably, but I'm showing a small discrepancy in... well, no, it's well within acceptable bounds again."

It occurred to Gordon that NASA had probably said something similar back in late January of '86.
( I'm hiding in Honduras )
"Sustaining sequence."

Sark's voice broke in then. "I've just been informed that the sample is ready, Gordon. It should be coming up to you any moment now. Look to the delivery system hatch for your specimen."

Sure enough, a floor panel had slid aside to reveal a cart bearing a lone, perfect, gleaming purplish-yellow crystal the size of a man's head. Gordon glanced at the whirling energy beams of the anti-mass spectrometer, then down at the crystal. Everything's going wrong today, he thought. If this sample is so important, we can't take chances with it, can we?

"Soon, Gordon," Sark said. Gordon sighed, squared his shoulders, and started pushing the cart forward. "Very good-"

The first of the energy beams intersected the crystal with a flash of blinding light. Helmet or no, Gordon threw up an arm to protect his eyes.

"Gordon!" Sark's voice crackled. "Get away from the-"

"Shutting down- no, attempted shutdown-" Rosen's voice was frantic. "It's not- it's not shutting down!"
( I'm a desperate man )
And then the explosion, purple-white and green nightmare energies slicing together through everything-

darkness- nothing but the sound and the feel of his own breathing-

a place of glowing waters under rippling purple skies, and things the size of ponies tentacled at one end and tailed at the other, dashing on two legs through the blue luminescence-
( Send lawyers, guns, and money )
a terrible green flash, and then a circle of red-eyed beings in the darkness, their heads and hands ringed about by metal as their voices droned in incomprehensible alien harmonies-

another green flash, brief as a falling star, and Milliways-

and then darkness again and something hard and terrible smashing him to the ground, and unconsciousness.
( The shit has hit the fan... )
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