acts_of_gord: (Default)
( The scientist who places his mind in the service of destructive force is the lowest form of life on Earth )
Say- just for example's sake- that you've spent your life striving with all your might to reach scientific enlightenment. Through observation, analysis, experimentation, trial, error, and above all else reason, to reach an understanding- however small, however limited- of the rules of the world and the larger universe. Say you believe that this is the most important thing you can do, this understanding. It's what you're good at. It's what you're suited for. This has been as much a part of you as breathing since the day your fumbling mind first understood that the noise you were hearing over and over referred to the noisemaker, and what had been babbling resolved itself into Mama.

You have been doing this for twenty-seven years now. This has been your very life. There've been other parts to it, to be sure- family, hobbies, the occasional friend, the occasional girl- but ever and always, this is the point it comes back to.

( happiness is that state achieved by the fullest expression of our values )

Now. It goes wrong.

It's one accident. Only one. Built on a hundred lesser accidents- the overloaded system, the unusual sample, the expectations imposed- but in the end it's all expressed in a single accident. But that accident made the world scream, and it brought in that which should not be. It happened because of observation and analysis and experimentation, and oh, yes, trial and error. So very much error. If there's reason in it anywhere, it's drowned in the flood, put aside in the name of survival, and maybe of trying to put things right...

Later come the questions. What happened and why and what now. And, on the heels of that, what have I done and what do I do now. Because when you saw that whether you meant it to or not, your very life had unforeseen consequences, you put everything aside and struck out at the world around you. The living signs of the universe's betrayal, the proofs that what you and others like you had done was too great a burden for the world to bear- those had to be destroyed. The men sent to put an end to the horrors and put you down at the same time- they had to be stopped. You might not have had it in you to put everything right, but you knew this much: you knew what was wrong, and you knew it couldn't be allowed to go any more wrong.

( morality ends where the gun begins )

That's what's held you up ever since. It may be the only thing that's held you up. Some nights you're not sure if you didn't die in the shadows underground after all, or in the black place of stone and winds from nowhere to nowhere. Even if you did, it doesn't matter, does it? You have too much to do for that to matter any more. One day your world will let you back in, and you'll have one last chance to fix the grand and terrible mistake that Science made. Someone has to. Maybe you can, if you're ready. Maybe you'll finally get to stop after that.

Problem: that's a grand, powerful, overarching goal. You're only human. You can't keep that in mind all the time. There are twenty-four hours in a day, and sixty minutes in an hour, and you still need to live from minute to minute and hour to hour, not in the overarching time of abstract goals and concepts. You have to eat, drink, act, sleep, talk, think. You make agreements, you take lessons, you learn from people, you act on their behalf. And sometimes the little things are enough to make you think: today I killed people, again- and then to know, on the heels of that thought, that you'll do it again if you have to, as often as you have to, if that's what it takes to see one more horrible wrong put right. Science has to redeem itself somehow. Where you come from, it tore the world apart and let the monsters in. Where Fury comes from, the monsters were already there. They're the ones using science to destroy everything else, one name and one bloodline at a time.

You might have died at Black Mesa, or in the black places of Xen, but science was your life and your love once. Whatever else it might cost you, you'll be damned if you let these bastards corrupt it any further.

( we will now see what happens when brute force meets force with a mind behind it )
acts_of_gord: (tired)
To say the sun is hot today would be like saying the river was wet; the solar rays are pounding down through ninety-three million miles of space and sixty-two miles of atmosphere to laugh in tolerant amusement at the presumption that a thin cotton shirt could keep them from burning into his back. It's damned hot, sweltering, bone-melting heat. You get that in New Mexico, or at least that's what he's been told. He's only seen the first few months of the year here. If this is what the summers are like, it's a mercy he works underground-

wait.

Not underground. Underground was-

Underground was before. Underground was in the quiet time when things made sense and the desert was the place you went between the end of work and the start of meals, where you went to sort your head out before lying down to sleep. This isn't-

This isn't like that. This is something else. This is still the desert, but it's still something else-

The towers of stone rise in the distance, massive bluffs and cliffs and mesas carved in the landscape by water long gone and wind that echoes down to the present day. They're supposed to be closer, he remembers walking out to them, they're supposed to be closer-

He takes a step forward and the ground under his foot goes tink. When he looks down, it's... glass. Green, mottled glass. Lumpy and bubbly like the site of a lightning strike, but a fulgurite would be in one place and this stuff stretches out, it reaches out as far as the eye can see, it's covering how much of the landscape-

tck

The sun isn't burning through his shirt onto his back any more. The sun can't burn through his suit. But the suit's no comfort because-

tck

-other things can make their presence felt when he's got the suit on, things he wouldn't even notice otherwise, things that-

tck tck tck tck

He's looking out over a field of ... not just green glass. Fused sand. Sand melted into glass like (if the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky) all the heat and light and BANG in the world (that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One) had been unleashed at once-

tckatckatckatcka

The twisted, scorched, half-melted remnants of a metal sign are sticking out of the glass. The words are unreadable. The logo isn't.

The shadow of a human being burned into the rock wall close at hand isn't, either.


tckatckatckatcka

(I am become the shatterer of worlds)
acts_of_gord: (thoughtful)
The first time Gordon tried to sleep in Milliways, he was out before his head hit the pillow. Total exhaustion held the dreams at bay.

The second time was different.

He was back in Black Mesa, seventy feet above the floor, holding onto a railing for dear life as he crouched for the same hopeless jump that had killed him twenty times already. And was going to kill him again, as he felt the lift-off go wrong, exactly the same as every other time.

He was clinging to a pipe that snaked its way over a river of oily, vile stuff, his Geiger counter so frantic the ticking sounds blurred together into one long cry. He was going to fall. He always fell, and felt the burning eating into his bones, but the darkness never lasted long enough for mercy; his last struggle ended with him clinging to the pipe again, looking down at the bubbling waste.

He was leaning against a wall with his rifle in hand, closing his eyes and counting the moments between the last bullet and the first grenade. He always got it wrong, and he knew that, but he stepped out just in time to be caught anyway-

They snapped him awake, one after another, and he stared at the ceiling in silence each time. But he'd been through worse (hadn't he?), so he tried to put it aside, tried to sleep again...

Eventually, though, even the dog noticed. Raisa put her head over the edge of the bed and stared at him with worried big-dog eyes. He mustered a smile for her sake and reached over to run one gauntleted hand over her head. "It's okay," he murmured, "I'm all right."

It was a miserable lie and they both knew it.

The room itself had no window, but when Gordon went to splash water on his face, he caught sight of the one in the bathroom. It was small, and more meant for ventilation than a view, but he undid the lock and pried it open anyway. Outside it was cool, and a drizzling sense of greyness filled the darkness. A sudden sense of homesickness beyond belief squeezed his heart; he closed the window and looked over to the dog, who was keeping her obedient vigil in the next room. "Hey," he called. "Wanna go-"

He almost said outside, but stopped. You didn't say that word in front of a big dog unless you were ready to go out right then. He was going to need some time to work up the nerve for that, not because he was afraid of going out, but because... well, because he wanted to see if he could take the chance of doing it without the HEV suit. Even his cycling armor had mesh points and gaps in it; what good was it walking under the open sky again if you couldn't feel the damp on your skin?

He never told anyone just how long it took, sitting on the edge of the bed staring at the first of the catches in the HEV suit removal sequence, before he finally mustered the will to start prying it off. He didn't remember until his hand was on the dresser drawer that he didn't have any other clothing here. There were clothes in the drawer anyway. The T-shirt was from the MIT bookstore, and the jeans were his size-

Gordon looked around for some sign that he'd fallen asleep after all and started dreaming again, but nothing was forthcoming. In the end he pulled the stuff on regardless, and tried not to think how ridiculously naked he felt without the suit. He could walk outside without it. He could.

But if anyone tried to take his crowbar away from him, they were in for a very bad time. That, he wasn't going to give up 'til the day he died.

Nobody noticed one man and one big dog slipping through the Bar out to the back door, or if they did, they didn't say. The sky was clouded over; somehow, that seemed appropriate. He wasn't sure what he'd think of the sight of stars tonight. Not after- after everything. But there was a little moonlight through the clouds and drizzle and grey, enough to navigate at least a little by; so that was how Gordon spent the rest of the night until dawn, following the shoreline of the lake, one foot in front of the other until whatever was waiting in the day ahead came to claim him.

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Gordon Freeman

December 2012

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