acts_of_gord: (down for the count)
Time passes, and the medics do their work, and so does the bug juice. Gordon's dimly aware of all of that, at best. He's had a long day. He's not trying particularly hard to wake up.

It happens eventually, though. It always happens. When it does, he notices a few things in no particular order: that the bed under him feels unfamiliar, that he's got a whole new set of aches and pains on top of the ones he's carried since Black Mesa, that he can smell the medications and antiseptics of the infirmary. That he's got what feels like Ace bandages, or some kind of bandages, anyway, wrapped around several still-raw-and-painful place.

That attempting to blink and open both eyes doesn't seem to be working quite as well as one might expect.

Well, he's awake, at least. Even if moving around seems like an utter waste of time and effort, he can at least try to get a better look around, and see who else is here.
acts_of_gord: (right man wrong place)
Ten.

It all hits at once: the light, the heat, the pressure, the sense of every kind of impending doom there is. It's blinding, the way a sledgehammer to the skull is blinding: when every receptor lights up at once, when every nerve simultaneously screams, there is no way to see. It hits without warning and when his vision clears- as far as it can be said to clear- he has both hands and one knee on the ground and he's gasping like a freshly landed fish.

Nine.

He pushes himself to his feet. The relentless surging thunder of the Overmind is still there, pounding away at his brainstem with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. He still has a little strength from Alyx left to hold him up against it, but it won't last long, and he has Work to do. So he steps forward.

Eight.

It's every bit the nightmare of metal and flesh and who knows what else the thing in the suit showed him. If David Cronenberg could see it, he'd never lack for material again. Every atrocity the Combine have ever perpetrated against the people of Earth under their rule is writ both large and small here, in the bodies and brains of every species they've ever conquered. Every kind of crude, bestial jury-rigging, every kind of finely tuned, microscopically adjusted unification, is part of this thing and laid out to see for any who somehow make it this far alive. Gordon vaguely recalls that in medieval times it wasn't uncommon for someone about to be tortured to be shown the implements that were going to be used on him, that this was part of their sentence. He can't help but wonder what the entities that were integrated into this place saw, before- this.

Seven.

Probably doesn't matter. The Combine aren't torturers. That'd require them to care. They did this because it was workable, because it was efficient- because it makes it possible for them to calculate, down to the last quantum vibration, every datum necessary for their other creations to force open portals that go exactly where they want to go. This holds the Combine Empire together and tears everything in its path apart.

Six.

It's going to have to go.

Five.

If this place has a center he doubts he'll get to reach it before his body gives out. It doesn't matter, though. Not here. Not with what this monstrosity does. The thing in the grey suit pointed it out to him: the Overmind exerts an indescribable amount of pressure on reality here. Very, very precisely calculated and controlled pressure, balanced and counterbalanced in every possible direction, so that absolutely nothing has the chance to escape its control. So that there's no possibility of event momentum becoming self-propagating.

Four.

Gordon's carrying a gun that punches uncontrolled holes in local spacetime, another that's been supercharged with Combine energies to the point of constituting a counter-resonant singularity waiting to discharge, and a personal teleporter of a kind the powers that built this monstrosity have never been able to bend to their own wills.

Three.

This is gonna hurt. There's a very real possibility that it's gonna take him down with it, considering what he's about to do with an already freakishly reworked teleporter. But he's seen the math. He's seen its application in reality. The resonance cascade and the portal storms that followed it very nearly destroyed human civilization, in a reality with solid, established physical laws. Here, where everything is wrong and space is not so much a continuum as an oh-so-carefully maintained series of noncontiguous junctures? There won't be anything capable of stopping it until it's entirely too late. To break the Universal Union forever? That's an acceptable price to pay.

Two.

He's got the displacer cannon already; he's pulling the trigger, again and again and again, and the portals it's making are migrating towards the nearest available concentrations of mass. The air's ionizing around them. He can hear space shrieking- or maybe that's the Overmind. Doesn't matter. It's working-

One.

The cannon doesn't fire any more. It's dropped, it's forgotten, it doesn't exist. But the zero point energy field manipulator, the Gravity Gun, the Force lightning in a can- that does.

The first energy bolt from the Gun intersects with one of the portals.

Ignition. Resonance cascade initiated.

And then the explosion, blue-white and green nightmare energies slicing together through everything, forever-
acts_of_gord: (Default)
The thing in the suit is watching him. Time is passing.
( And the night got deathly quiet )
So he thinks.
( And his face lost all expression )
He's tempted. God knows he's tempted. He's only a man; he wouldn't be human if he weren't tempted.
( Said, “If you're going to play the game, boy," )
But then it comes to him, and it's almost enough to make him laugh. He looks up at the thing-
( “You've got to learn to play it right." )
Maybe you can do what you say, I don't know. Maybe you can undo all those deaths. Maybe I can keep the experiment from happening. Maybe I can keep anyone else from ever trying it again. Maybe I can bring down Dr. Breen before he can arrange anything else. Maybe I can spend the rest of my life doing all of that, for people who'll never know and who'll never care. Maybe the human race will be safe forever. I don't know.
( You've got to know when to hold 'em )
But when a being that told me to my face it was taking my choices away when we brought down Dr. Breen steps forward to
offer me one, I can't help but wonder why. Especially when the only other option is infinitely worse than death.
( Know when to fold 'em )
You steer me into doing what you want. You present people with the thing they need, or the worst thing in the world, and you call it a choice. You did it to Eli. You did it to me. You use me because I can do what you can't. Right now, all your plans, all your employers' plans, everything that ever mattered depends on me being able to do the one thing you can't. So you set it up so I only see the possibilities you want me to. . .
( Know when to walk away )
And as long as I accept that I'm limited to one option or the other as dealt by your hands, I'm still playing your game.

( Know when to run )
-and he says, "You decide."
( You never count your money )
It stares at him. It opens its mouth a moment, but nothing comes out; it straightens its tie, an utterly baffled look cross crossing its features.
( When you're sitting at the table )
Called your bluff, Greyface. Your game's over.
( There'll be time enough for counting )
Another man might tell the thing to leave and never return, or deal out some grand denunciatory speech- but this is Gordon Freeman. The corners of Gordon's mouth twitch briefly upward as he takes one last moment to offer the pale grey figure in the pinstriped grey suit his middle finger in salute, then steps away into the light of the Combine's hell before it can say so much as one word more.
( When the dealing's done. . . )
acts_of_gord: (contemplating)
Just like that, there's no more effort to make. Everything is happening without him. For one brief and shining moment in the darkness Gordon is certain- absolutely certain- that something must have happened and that he's stepped into death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon eyes the thing sharply at that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a silence that follows, the sort so absolutely thick that deep in the bottom of it and high at the top of it Gordon can hear his own blood rumbling, his own nervous system singing. Only those, and nothing more.
acts_of_gord: (contemplating)
There's something about what's become of space and time and physics here that's affecting their guns, their suits. It should take more energy than this to squeeze off a bolt from the pulse rifle. More D38 should be going into every pull of the displacer cannon's trigger. They should've run out of power long ago, should've been stranded somewhere miles away-

But that's the thing, isn't it. Space is wrong here, time is wrong here, everything is wrong here, and if it weren't for the intervention of trollish alchemy, there wouldn't be enough rightness left to keep their bodies functioning properly. They would have been dead forever ago.

But they're not.

And their guns are still working.

They don't complain.



There was a time, Gordon vaguely remembers, when Floyd Mason was an idiot who could just barely be trusted to operate a radio without winding up with the handset up his nose.

The sound of pulse rifle fire fills what passes for air, and the stream of molecule-dissociating flame spat at Gordon by one of the flame-jellyfish synths dissipates in an instant. The thing spasms and blows apart in a dozen directions.

As Gordon fires a bolt of zero-point energy at a Synth that looks like the unholy offspring of an Erector set and a Vortigaunt's nightmares, and latches onto one of the self-shattering crystalline things to punt it into a third Combine horror as hard as the Gravity Gun will allow, he wonders – just for a moment – if there's anything left of that idiot in the man fighting next to him now.



There is no warning. There's just-

FOMP.

It's not pressure from outside. It's that there's nothing in the world but pressure. Everything is crushing, unspeakable pressure, all at once, to the point where there's no room for thought-

FOMP.

He's not breathing. It's not happening. That's all there is to it. His body's forgotten how.

FOMP.

It takes everything he's got to convince his diaphragm to move, to haul in air handful by strained handful. To force it out again in the next moment, because his body can't remember how.

FOMP.

Another breath. He's pretty sure-

FOMP.

"MASON! Mason, are you breathing?"

FOMP.

The other man, despite the space-proof vest he wears, was turning blue. Was. He's remembered now, he's coming back to himself-

FOMP.

"It's the damn Overmind! We're close enough to get affected-"

FOMP.

Floyd swallows. Nods. Tries to raise his gun.

FOMP.

It falls from his fingers. Without the Gravity Gun's intervention it would've hit the ground and shattered.

FOMP.

"They're pressing on our brain stems." The words are each a supreme effort. "Trying to kill us. Directly."

FOMP.

"I dunno, Doc," Floyd forces out. "I don't know about trying."

FOMP.

"On your feet," Gordon says, and moves to brace the other man. "Keep breathing. I'll walk. We can get there-"

FOMP.

One step. Two. Three.

FOMP.

"Hey, uh, Doc? Just me, or have we got company?"

Gordon pales, because Floyd's right. The sky's not dark here because of oxygen loss or atmospheric phenomenon or spatial distortion, it's dark because the enemy is here.

FOMP.


"Doc. Tell you what." Floyd tears his eyes from the sky. "Lemme go."

"What?"

FOMP.

A huge, labored breath. "Still got my teleporter. I can blink some of them out with me. That's gotta screw this thing up."

FOMP.

"Take the pressure off you."

He doesn't wait for Gordon's approval. He draws another breath, pushes himself away, starts running.

FOMP.

The last thing Gordon sees as the Overmind's psychic pressure starts to distort his vision is Floyd flailing his arms, and the last thing he hears is a series of profanities that would do Adrian Shephard proud.

FOMP.

He doesn't need to see to know which way he has to go, though. It's the one that makes every cell in his body try to shut down operation at once. The more wrong, the more right, until he's at the heart of the sickness-

FOMP.

But it's getting harder to keep both lungs and legs moving, the closer he gets. Every function, every least little thing his body ever did on its own, it's going out of autonomic mode and into voluntary, and he's got to pilot them all one after another. And there's only so much of him to go around-

(there is no distance between us )

Space is wrong here. Space is not one-

( no false veil of time or space may intervene )

( we weave the Freeman's life with hers )

No.

This isn't how it ends.

Get up.

Gordon, get up.

You can do this. I know you can.

You are stronger than this. We are stronger than this.

We have fought gods and monsters, and won.

We have stared death in the face until it blinked.

We have stood back up every time we have been knocked down, and this will be no exception.


Somewhere in between the sound of her words and the sound of his own breath, he finds enough brain to think, I'm going to need a little help with that...

Something that feels almost like a smile ripples through his thoughts. I think we can manage that, some part of him thinks.

When the next FOMP comes from the Overmind, it's not the black of incipient unconsciousness that washes over him, but the blazing blue-white of Alyx's sustaining rage.

I love you, Gordon. Make them pay.

And he does.

There is no one left to hear him laughing, only ashes; and when even those have fallen and he takes a step forward, it is into a different kind of darkness.
acts_of_gord: (bloodletting)
Everything here is wrong.

Space is supposed to be contiguous. A sheet, a surface- a solid, if one is thinking in enough dimensions- a thing where each part touches the next, leads to the next. Space is one.

Space is not one here. And not in the way of the resonance cascade, torn full of holes, some self-healing and some ripping to hugeness before destabilizing and vanishing. This is space under pressure, folded, compressed, wrinkled, smashed forever from every direction. This is the weight of the brains and thoughts and minds of a thousand thousand dimensions, all the worlds the Combine has ever conquered, pushing space into submission all at once. This is the work of the Universal Union.

And everything here is wrong.




The thing is shadow-gray crystal, where it isn't Combine tech, and it's the size of a horse. Easy enough. Barney takes aim, fires-

It shatters before the energy pulses even strike it, shards hanging in air, gleaming under the light of a bile-colored sky. Barney's gunfire passes through the place where it was and thuds harmlessly into the ground.

The crystal shards swirl in a pattern Gordon almost thinks he can read before the swarm reforms itself, locking together in a swift-forming lattice that promises not dissipation but a suit-shredding explosion next time.




"What the hell are these?" says Floyd, as he dives for cover. Overhead a bundle of tentacles wreathed in fire streaks by, the antennas of its Combine masters visible here and there amidst the flames.

"Old Synths," answers Barney, his back pressed against what he prays is a wall and not something larger and more horrid. "From older conquests. Combine's been around a long time- you don't think they sent everything they had in store at Earth, do you?"

"Jesus." Floyd shakes his head, aims at the next fire-jellyfish-thing. "They wouldn't've needed seven hours if they sent a couple of these-"

"Assuming they could," says Gordon, as Floyd's bullets pass through the circling Synth without being noticed. "I don't know if these things can interact with Earth matter as we know it."

"Well, shit! How're we supposed to kill 'em, then?"

Gordon gives a very, very faint smile. "Same way the Combine did," he says. "Dark energy. And they need a lot of it to run this place."

He reaches over his shoulder. He's just charged the Gravity Gun. It's glowing blue.




Dr. Breen had spoken of vast meteorological intelligences, once, to Eli Vance. Gordon remembers-

-where form does not exist, but where glowing gases study the secrets of existence. And a violet-coloured gas told him that this part of space was outside what he had called infinity. The gas had not heard of planets and organisms before, but identified him merely as one from the infinity where matter, energy, and gravitation exist-

-he'll never be sure, after, whether what just happened was anything even close to real. The look on Barney's face tells him that whatever it was, it isn't anything either of them wants to think about ever again.

He's just glad the displacer cannon tore whatever it was apart.




Floyd is praying. Gordon kind of expected that from Barney. He didn't think Floyd was a praying kind of man.

Floyd's never been to Xen. He's fought, yes, he's been in war, but it's always been on Earth. It's always been foes of meat and metal and bone and tech. The rules have always been the rules. This is beyond Xen, beyond borderworlds; this is a place where nothing is what the rules of Earth say it should be, and it's getting to him.

The fire-jellyfish-things and the crystal things are not alone here among their enemies. Something howls in the distance, in a register like teeth streaking over a piece of slate. A shadow that staggers like a Strider in a rage is making its way towards them.

Two shadows.

Five.

They are anything but alone, and there is no time left for anything but lightning-




There are, Gordon notices, his thoughts as thready and thin as his pulse, shards of shadow-gray crystal stuck in his HEV suit. He waves one hand with an unsteady sort of curiosity. A trail of flakes falls away, the shards thinning. Most of them remain.

"Status," he says hoarsely. He's sitting down; his legs won't hold him up.

"Not good, Gord," says Barney from somewhere behind him. "I mean, I’m holding up, but that last wave took a lot out of me."

"I'm in one piece," says Floyd tersely. He ran out of prayers long ago.

Neither of them say what they're all thinking: it's you they're going after, Gordon, they don't care about us enough to bother trying to kill us.

"There's another wave coming," Gordon says. Barney moves forward, starts doing his best to get those shard things out of the HEV suit so it can seal up properly again. "I can hear them."

"I dunno how much good hearing is around here, Gord," says Barney, although he's looking at Floyd with a go and check it out RIGHT NOW expression. "Plays tricks on you. That wave could be miles away and sound like it's on top of us."

"Or vice versa," Floyd calls back from where he's perched atop a half-wrecked black cylinder, gleaming with lights of blue and green and nameless colors. "We've got a BIG problem."

Barney swears. Gordon stares at him. It's not a thing his oldest friend does lightly.

"Uh. Sir? What do you want me to do?"

Barney looks at Gordon a moment. Then, without turning away, he says, "Not you. We. Get Dr. Freeman's displacer cannon off his back. We're buying some time."

"What?"

It came from both men. Barney's deliberately not looking at Gordon as he says, "He's the one they're afraid of. Not us. None of what we've done means anything at all if Gordon doesn't get to the Overmind and put it down. So we're gonna make sure we get him there. Now get that displacer cannon, Mason."

To Gordon he says, "Gord, you owe me the beer this time."

And that's the last Gordon ever sees of him.
acts_of_gord: (bloodletting)
It's gone, all of it. All of them. Greenbrier, Rowlesburg, all of it, as gone as White Forest. They fought their way through the Overworld and they all died but for Gordon, and all for nothing, it's all gone-

A sudden CRACK! of pain so intense it seared his optic nerves blew Gordon's thoughts apart. When he caught his breath next he realized it had been a distinctly physical pain. That it still was- his head was throbbing all down the right-hand side, where it'd smashed into the inside of his helmet.

He blinked, and looked up. An incredibly haggard-looking Barney Calhoun was standing to his left, Gordon's own crowbar in his hand.

"What-"

"Those Combine things're way too good at getting inside our heads," Barney said, his voice muffled by his protective gear. He held Gordon's crowbar out to him. "This was the only thing that'd break through whatever mojo they got going."

"... you hit me with my own crowbar, Barney," Gordon felt obliged to point out.

"Wasn't my idea. Professor Nimnul there-" Barney jerked a thumb over his shoulder; Gordon squinted through the smoke and shadow, and caught sight of Floyd Mason's form crouched nearby. "-did the same thing to me. Everyone else's gone- activated their teleporters, far as I can tell."

"Even the-" Gordon gestured, indicating something shorter than adult height.

"Those gray kids? Yeah, them too. And Shephard." Barney's tone was grave. "It's just you, me, and Mason left."

Gordon grimaced. "Help me up," he said. Barney nodded and reached out a hand to pull him to his feet. "What happened to the Adepts?"

"They fell back, Doc," said Floyd, not turning away from his watch for a moment. "Can't say how far, but they didn't look like they were going towards the Overmind. Guess that's a little good news."

"It's something," Gordon admitted. "We should get moving, before they change their minds."

"Give it a second," said Floyd. "No offense, Doc, but Mr. Calhoun here kinda put a dent in your helmet."

"Had to, Gordon," said Barney with a trace of embarrassment. "You weren't coming out of it any other way."

Gordon thought for a moment of the crushing, absolute certainty of failure that'd flooded every atom of his being, and shook himself off like a wet dog. "It's okay," he murmured. "It worked."

"Figured you'd say that."

He held up a finger, looked to Mason. "Question," he said. "You. You hit Barney, he hit me- how'd you break free of them?"

"Uh-"

"Yeah, Floyd," said Barney. "Considering what we're going through, it could be important."

Floyd fidgeted. "It's stupid. It doesn't matter. Let's just-"

"Floyd," said Gordon, and fixed him with a Look.

"Okay! Okay! The Combine things were trying to flood our minds with everything we were afraid of and I tend to try and kill things that scare me, all right? Have you ever tried killing seven thousand identical copies of Sister Mary Katherine? After about the first thirty or forty of them it's just not scary any more, okay?"

"... you're afraid of nuns, Mason?" said Barney incredulously.

"One nun. Just that one. My high school principal." Floyd scowled. "Look, she was really scary, okay?"

Barney snorted, and Gordon rolled his eyes, but it was enough. Without a word the three of them picked up their weapons and kept moving.

Malebolge

Sep. 29th, 2012 10:57 am
acts_of_gord: (civvies (profile))
Gordon has seen this place before. Once, briefly, long ago, a portal opened at the top of the Citadel, the better to bring Dr. Wallace Breen across. The sky Gordon glimpsed then was a vile, lurid shade of red, the vista punctuated by the looming skyward spines of Combine architecture. It was a moment's glance buried swiftly by the need for battle then.

There will be no burying this now.

The sky- what can be seen of it- is just this side of fire, and Gordon has no doubt that it looks the same from horizon to horizon, forever. But there are things slipping through it, tiny specks seen from ground level that resolve to things much, much bigger, skywhale synths and mockeries of birds and other vessels and half-living things he can't name. And on the ground there are the roots of Citadels and smaller buildings- oh, yes, mile-high towers, more than one, some half-opened as the one in City 17 had been, some fully.

And there are things among them that he almost recognizes, striding through the endless shadows.

"We've 'ported in as close as we can," he says tersely.

(There are only humans and trolls here. The Vortigaunts declined to participate. One of them said to Gordon that they would be taking measures at home against 'unforeseen interference'.)

(Gordon appreciates the thought.)

"We're aiming for the direction of greatest spatiotemporal distortion, since that's what the Overmind exists for. Current bearing from this location is two o'clock. Let's move."

Before the things making the electrical crackling sounds that almost resemble speech come this way.
acts_of_gord: (knackered)
Stone underfoot, purple and orange streaked overhead, an eye-sucking void of nothing to be seen in between, and a chill dry wind that blows from nowhere to nowhere. He knows this place.

Something in the distance cries out, a screeling sound like the gulls dipping low over Puget Sound. There's nothing there when he turns, of course-

sssso... good of you to join... ussss, Doctor Freeman.

He's still. He's absolutely still.

how... long has it... been? And not one word... from you, in all that... time. one WONders what'sssss... on your mind, hm?

Blank, colorless empty from horizon to horizon; the void gives way to phantoms of Mongolia, to the great dead Worm slumped in Chapada dos Guimarães, to smoke and ash in White Forest-

(The Emperor's gone. The fleet remains.)

-to maggot-monsters, gas-masked, ghosting through shadow and through shafts of blue light untouched by Earthly dust.

sensible thought, Doctor Freeman. I musssst congRATulate you on your... persisssstence... of memory.

There's so many of them.

but one hopes you've done more... than reMEMber. afffffffter all...

They're swarming, like the dime-priced feeder fish in the ninety gallon tank, swirling furiously around each other and over and under and- no, there's an order to it, clumping here, separating there-

The Worm had been the size of buildings. The swarm is sweeping around a building the size of mountains. It glitters black and bright against the eyeless void, pulsing with energies with no human name. Slowly at first, and then faster.

...yoursssss is not the… only stake in this... matter.

The air tastes like ozone, like chewing on tinfoil, as the monstrous machine surges.

sssssomeone's knocking at your DOOR, Doctor Freeman. I assure you... they won't wait for YOU... to open it.

And the skies, what skies there are, are torn asunder-

There's a ceiling overhead. The sheets are stuck to his skin, cold with sweat. There's a pillow under his head. This is Milliways. He's awake.

He's just... going to watch the ceiling for a while, and try to ignore the rushing of his heartbeat in his ears.
acts_of_gord: (Default)
I Am A: Neutral Good Human Wizard (5th Level)


Ability Scores:

Strength-17

Dexterity-18

Constitution-18

Intelligence-18

Wisdom-15

Charisma-13


Alignment:
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.


Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.


Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.


Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)





Detailed Results:

Alignment:
Lawful Good ----- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (26)
Neutral Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (27)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (22)
Lawful Neutral -- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (21)
True Neutral ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (22)
Chaotic Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXXX (9)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXX (5)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXXXX (9)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaos --- XXXXX (5)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Evil ---- (0)

Race:
Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf ---- XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Elf ------ XXXXXX (6)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
Halfling - XXXXXX (6)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXX (7)
Half-Orc - XX (2)

Class:
Barbarian - (-2)
Bard ------ (-4)
Cleric ---- (-6)
Druid ----- (-8)
Fighter --- (0)
Monk ------ (-19)
Paladin --- (-19)
Ranger ---- XX (2)
Rogue ----- (0)
Sorcerer -- XXXXXX (6)
Wizard ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
acts_of_gord: (yes well)
According to tradition, the best man at a wedding is supposed to be the groom's closest male friend, or else his brother. The position, from what Gordon remembers from the anthro types he hung out with at MIT, is a relic of medieval European weddings that might not always have been approved of by the bride's family. The best man's supposed to be keeping an eye out for anyone who might show up to forcibly disagree with the bride's part in affairs.

Gordon's brother's been dead for years, and his closest male friend is Barney Calhoun, who's already agreed to perform the wedding. Dr. Kleiner's too prone to bursting into sentimental tears for the part, and he's serving a parental position for the duration of the ceremony anyway. That leaves only two real possibilities, and try though he might Gordon can't tell the Vortigaunt who helped him get the stuff they needed to save Alyx's life apart from the others on sight, so he's going to go look for the human one.

"Dr. Magnusson?"

"Hmmm?"

"Have you seen where Sergeant-Major Shephard went this morning?"
acts_of_gord: (bloodletting)
"Barney?"

"Yeah, Gordon?"

"What're you going to do if I die out there?"

"You're not gonna die, Gordon."

"I'm serious, Barney. What are you going to do?"

"Gordon... the sun will fall out of the sky, the Earth break into a million pieces, and fire's gonna lose its heat before anything out there's going to kill you, okay? If you get killed, that's pretty much the end of the world."

"...."

"But if it helps at all, I'm gonna go find Breen and kill him with my bare hands, Advisor or not."

"... actually, yes. That does help. Thank you, Barney."


( Do your duty, Arjun, as your nature dictates. )
There are other Gordons today. So many other Gordons. There's Floyd with the good fake HEV suit and there's two guys with moderately acceptable fakes and there's about five or six more with fakes that only fool the eye as long as they're intact. They're all going to be targets, more than anybody else. The Combine knows
( All work fetters, as all fire gives smoke. Only selfless duty saves. )
( "The Combine's reckoning has come." )
( Pride will lead only to your moral ruin. )
what's coming for them. They know it's in Gordon's hands. It doesn't make sense for it to be in anyone else's.
( If, filled with pride, you say, 'I will not fight,' it is all in vain. )
( "How could one man have slipped through your force's fingers time and time again?" )
( You are foolish. Fight you will, your nature will make you fight. )
Maybe he should've given it to Barney. Maybe Shephard. For security's sake. Give it to someone else, let the Combine target him, give it more of a chance-
( Your karma will make you fight. )
No. Target or not, he is the best chance the vermifuge has. The best chance all the Resistance's plans has. It gets to the Worm with him or it doesn't get there at all.
( You will fight in spite of yourself. )


In North Dakota, the Gene Worm complex was pipes and wires and plastic- lots of plastic, everywhere. In Chapada dos Guimarães and Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa it wasn't much better, all metal fencing and hastily erected structures on their way to becoming permanent ones. The pipes that fed the monster in Poland were still visible under the open sky, surrounded by prefab mazework.

This is not like that. This place is different. The Combine have been here from the beginning and they meant to make this place permanent from day one. The buildings here are reinforced to kingdom come, the wires doubly and triply redundant. There are pipes, there's got to be, but they're buried too far down to reach. There's a few walls here and there to herd foot traffic away from the feeder railroads that come in from all over Asia but there's no maze. There's just the little buildings full of Overwatch and Synths and manhacks, there's the generators, there's the charnel-houses (can't mistake those for anything else, not ever, ever).

The ground here is desert, and barren. And soaked, with each passing moment, with more colors of blood- gray from the Hunters, spattery thick pinkish-gray from the Striders, unknowable unnamed colors from the crab things with their back-cannons, and red and red and so damned much red everywhere-

( you don't look as if you have any trouble killing things )

The skies overhead are screaming. Kreyu the dragon's tearing the mega-gunships apart, and what she's not getting, Ben's Veritech is destroying, and everything else up there, everything, is dying in a hail of lasers and energy bolts and lightning. There's flying Synths the likes of which Gordon hasn't ever even imagined being flung to the ground in smoking, shriveled bits because they crossed the Black Lion's path.

Soon. He's going to release the drone and it's going to take off. Soon. It's going to thread through the falling chunks of helicopter and Synth and gunship and shrapnel and it's going to slide right on past all the Combine defenses and snake its way around the charnel houses and the defense grids and soon it's going to dump everything it has where the Worm can breathe it in, and the Worm will scream the way nothing else in human history has screamed, and there won't be an explosion because there's nothing to explode but it's going to flail and spasm and vomit and die, and the stink it leaves will drift away until there's nothing left but Earth air.

Soon.

So very soon.

But a lot of other things have to die first and they're all between Gordon and the limit of the region where they can chance releasing the drone and so he's got Work to do. There's blood on the ground. There needs to be more.
( I am the beginning and ending of all things )
He can make that happen.
( I am the tip of God's arrow fallen to Earth )
The Resistance is behind him one hundred per cent in this. Because everything that's in front of him is dying in waves.



"Hello, you've never met me before. I'm really very sorry about that, it would've made things happening today so much easier..."
Gordon isn't listening. There's a cloud of manhacks coming his way, and a squad of Elites behind them, and not even enough cover to shelter a mouse. Fight and win, or die.
The weirdo in the moon-marked outfit, Janny had to admit, knew his stuff. She'd been extremely suspicious of the idea of being copilot on a giant robot thing out of some kind of weird pre-Combine Japanese entertainment expo, but damn her if the the robowhatsis wasn't working, and working better than any actual military tech she'd ever seen.
One day he's going to ask Alyx what powers the Gravity Gun, exactly.
That calm, clear rasping voice, not a hint of anger or rage...yet. It was there, oh yes, and carefully leashed up, and waiting patiently.
It uses zero point energy, yes, but he'd like to know the mechanism that allows it to siphon that energy off and snatch the beastly little viscerators out of the air.
"Someone here told me about...someone you've taken in. Used really. I do so hope you're hearing this Breen...because right now someone's found the bad news."
The Elites don't die right away, of course. Their armor's thick enough to protect them from the manhack blades to some degree.
They weren't attacking Synths, so much. The Synths were throwing themselves at the ... robot thing, really, she should've gotten its name out of that Moon Shadow guy... and splattering to pieces on the drills that popped out of its surface. Drills. Seriously. All over the place. Not that she objected, since it meant she got to smash drill-covered fists and sunglass-shaped blades into things that oh so very desperately deserved it, but Lord Almighty, it was weird.
But they stagger, and that's all the time Gordon needs to snatch up the remains of a hunterchopper rotor with the Gravity Gun and fling it at them, edge first.
"That's right. Lesson one: Humans can gain immunity to psychic attacks." Then there was a growling laughter, long and low and nasty."Lesson two: we can fight back..."
He jumps over the corpses before they've even stopped moving. There's no time for raiding the bodies.
Janny didn't like the sound of that. And she was the co-pilot, for Pete's sake.
They're closing on the border of the drone release zone. He's not sure he has time to waste on killing, at this point.
"And Lesson Three....I AM THE PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE MASCOT."
He has to get closer and let the vermifuge drone go before any more of his people die.
The whole damn robot thing erupted in drills and thrust one hand skyward. Janny just shook her head and wondered, Who the hell does he think he is?, and concentrated on plotting a path to tear the Combine buildings a couple of new ones.
Somebody else can do the shooting now. Somebody else is going to have to. He has to run like hell.



The Hunter splattered across five yards of landscape behind him didn't kill him. Came close. Didn't. Won't kill anyone ever again.

Standing hurts. Moving's better. Keep moving, forward, forward, fast as you can barrel, head down, gunbarrel glowing orange. Throw what you can. Shoot what you can't. And move, move, move, move.

Until you can't. Until you stumble, look around. Until you see they've lost track of you. Things, in the sky, there's things flying, small little things. Too big for manhacks. Too small for choppers. Must be drones, but they're not over you, they're not seeing you. The suit's gray and orange but it's mottled in alien bloods. All the colors scattered all over the landscape. That's your camo, your salvation- their blood.

You'd laugh if you could. Maybe later. You have a thing to do now. A load to take off. A drone of your own to let go. Looks like Combine make. Was. Isn't any more. Human work inside there now, and alien- salarian. The Gene Worm's death, the vermifuge. You're close enough now. The trip's short from here. The drone can make it to the tower. The Worm will breathe its death in, sure as that little drone rises, sure as it flies-

It's raining, you realize distantly. Not water. Metal.

Not scrap metal. Drones. Whole ones. Not yours. Theirs. Not destroyed. Intact. Just- shut down, switched off-

They saw you this whole time. Saw you coming. Knew what you carried. Waited for you to let it go and shut off all of theirs so the only thing left in the sky was yours, so every last one of their fliers can concentrate its fire on that blessed little bundle of death-

( now we are all sons of bitches )

It's a foul and awesome display of firepower and you can't be bothered to watch it. No time left to start again, just to switch gears and move to the alternative-

Of course there's an alternative. There was always an alternative. You're just gonna need a little help getting it to the target now.

Cue up the headset. Find the signal, make the call. They saw where the drone went down. They know where you are.

"Drone is down, I'm going in. I'm going to need cover."

And if you know them at all, so do your own people.
acts_of_gord: (blood)
This place is not the first patch of Polish earth that has seen this many deaths. But the others were done by humans, and were driven by human hatred. The Combine have no such drive spurring them onward; quite simply, they do not care who learns about this place, or about what they've done here, only that the job of making this world their own gets done with as little interference from the local population as possible.

So there is nothing deliberately intimidating or sinister about the complex of plastic and steel and energy fields surrounding the European geneworm's spire. It's just one more blotch of alien architecture designed for funneling fuel into the alien monster's mouth, for inhaling everything Earth has to give and expelling the winds of an alien dimension in its stead. It could be anywhere. It has been anywhere, as ruins in North Dakota and Chapada dos Guimarães and Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and the forests of central Africa will attest.

But it still seems oddly appropriate, to Gordon, anyway, for the tiny scrambling band of humans to be flinging everything they have with all their might at a foe this far advanced here, of all countries. Maybe it's not mustering the cavalry for one screaming ride of explosive defiance straight into the teeth of the invading tanks, but... well, the battle here feels like something he thinks those men would approve of, even if it is only a distraction to allow their vermifuge-laden Combine scanner to slip through and poison the monster at the heart of it all.

He's pretty sure he'll be deaf for a good several hours by the time it's all over. But he'll accept that. Some prices, you pay.

The Star

Sep. 26th, 2011 08:34 pm
acts_of_gord: (Default)
The landing was as simple as a landing can get when there are enough sand-dwelling alien insects around to throw even the Combine off their pace. The slaughter of antlions was nothing short of amazing. There was a bull, too, but the less said about that the better- by the time it was dead they'd used up near all their medkits, and Sergeant-Major Shephard was quoting Milton through clenched teeth. Apparently he'd never seen a man finish off a fifteen-foot-long armored alien bug with the business end of a crowbar before.

Gordon will never in a million years admit that he caught himself enjoying that particular moment of insanity. At least, not to anyone else.

Anyway, the time of slaughtering bugs passed, and the time of sounding out the Combine presence in the area has also passed, because on the journey inland towards the location of the Gene Worm the advance force encountered a number of humans. None of them spoke much English, but they had enough German for Gordon to communicate with them. He didn't like the look he caught them exchanging with one another when he introduced himself. It wasn't quite the look he got in Seattle, but it was close enough...

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

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

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

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

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

“Who’s there?”

“Prohaska, Dr. Freeman.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hm.”

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

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

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

”Hm,” said Dr. Freeman, and scowled. “Well. We’ll see about that, won’t we.”
acts_of_gord: (I did not hear you say that.)
There's going to be a lot of swimming very soon. Gordon's good with that. Maybe not all that enthusiastic about it, though. He's read about Irukandji syndrome. It's almost enough to make him wish for Xen leeches instead.

Almost.

It's a night swim, is the thing. The only way they could reach the Combine desalination plant undetected during the day would involve Pi portaling the Borealis directly alongside the rig and dropping them off faster than the Combine could shoot them all down. Alyx has the machine up and running again, but nobody wants to take a chance on Pi's current stability. And for all that people in the Resistance occasionally seem to think he's the Messiah, walking on water is not in his portfolio. So... they have to get to the rig under cover of darkness, through jellyfish-infested waters, and creep aboard undetected. And then pretty much put an end to the existence of anything on board with a pulse. Alyx won't be there, and the stalkers won't have any other way out.

He'll handle that part himself, if he can.

For now they've driven here from the Borealis They've got a dark equipment shed near the shoreline ready so that the handful of them who'll be going can get their eyes used to what lies ahead. They're all in their dive gear, as far as he knows. He's got his HEV suit and his helmet on. Hopefully it'll stand up to the jellyfish like it's done to the Combine. This is going to be a very short trip otherwise.
acts_of_gord: (eyebrows up)
There was a knock at the door. Gordon carefully set his soldering iron down- it wouldn't do to mutilate the circuitry Alyx had asked him to work on as part of her attempt at distributed repairs on PIaDOS- and leaned over to flip the locking mechanism off. He didn't recognize the grey-haired, Southeast Asian-looking man peering in at him, but he didn't wear Resistance blues; Australian, then. "Dr. Freeman?" the man said. "Hope I'm not interrupting."

Gordon shook his head. "Nothing that can't wait," he said. "Can I help you?"

"Maybe," said the man. "My name's Trần Quang Binh. One of Beatrice's people?"

He raised his shaggy eyebrows; Gordon shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said. "If I'm supposed to remember you-"

"No, no, it's all right," the man said hastily. "I was afraid someone'd mentioned me, is all."

Afraid? That was new. Gordon gave the man an enquiring look.

"Got into a bit of a card game with your radio man the other day," Trần said. "Mason?"

Oh, hell, Floyd. Gordon winced- there really wasn't any way this could end well- but nodded.

"Right, well-" Trần straightened his shoulders. "Wanted to let somebody know- look, I know I shouldn't be taking up your time, but... someone important needed to know."

"Know what?"

Trần sucked a breath between his teeth. "Weeeeeell.... I won a lot of alcohol off your radio man. Most of it's not drinkable. It's turps, frankly."

That didn't sound like a complaint. Gordon made a 'go on' gesture.

"That's not to say it's not going to good use. See-" Trần offered a small smile. "I'm a chemist. Taught organic chemistry at Australian National University. What your radio man had, like I said, it'd do very bad things to anyone who drank it. If I get it back to Andamooka, though, we can use it."

There were really only so many things you could use undrinkable alcohol for. Gordon had a feeling this man wasn't talking about antiseptics. Which meant-

"We've got some old dune buggies and such. Used to use them all the time, only we ran out of fuel. They look like shit but they'll get you anywhere you can name, long as they've got something to burn," Trần said. "I've got the gear in Andamooka to put your man's turps to use, if Beatrice says all right about the buggies."

... transportation. Maybe not enough to make up for losing PIaDOS' ability to teleport the ship, but they'd at least have transportation. They could get somewhere!

"Dr. Binh," said Gordon, slowly, "that might just be the best news I've heard in weeks."

Trần laughed. "Glad to be of use," he said.
acts_of_gord: (Default)
Meredith put her hands over her face and tried not to think about their situation. They'd gotten the GPS up and running, at least; that was the beginning and the end of their mercies. It said they were in Australia. Stranded in Australia, in a boat high and dry in what was once a lake and now was nothing but salt flats. Hell, the fact that it was Australia was bad enough! Before the Combine it'd been some kind of killer murder death world, as full of poisonous things with too many legs as Xen-

Oh, and while the GPS was working the radio wasn't, and with Ms. Vance busy working on the ship's computer it was her job to fix it. Of course. Just what she needed.

She pushed the heels of her hands against her eyes, half hoping to see sparks. It wasn't quite hard enough- but she did feel a hand on her shoulder. "Hey," said a male voice she couldn't quite place. "Let me help."

"Okay," she said tiredly, and settled back on her heels. "You need any tools or- oh..."

She might not have recognized his voice, but even without the HEV suit it would've taken a blind person not to recognize his face. What was Dr. Freeman doing here? Other than poking around in the ship's radio's innards, anyway... actually, why was he even doing that? There were plenty of people who could.... do...

Oh, who was she kidding. She couldn't do it. If she could've it would've been done by now. "Thanks," she murmured, and hunched her shoulders.

Dr. Freeman glanced up at that, eyebrows rising, green eyes peering curiously over the top of his glasses in a silent you okay?

"Sorry, Dr. Freeman," Meredith said. "I just-" But she couldn't say it. You couldn't look him of all people in the face and tell him you were overwhelmed, exhausted, scared. You just couldn't. You might as well ask an earthquake to go easy on you, or a tsunami to cut you slack because your feet were just too slow.

He glanced at the radio rig a moment. Then he glanced back at her, expression considering. Then- much to her surprise- he put down the tools. "Do you want to talk about it?" he said.

Meredith never really remembered what she said next. She would never in a million years have dreamed of Dr. Freeman even asking a question lie that, let alone spilling her guts to the man- about the radio, about the mission, about their situation, about everything. By the time she was done she was gulping and aware that she'd probably said way more than she ought've. It didn't seem to matter, though. Dr. Freeman was still listening, and nodding at her words. "I'm sorry," she said. "You were trying to work-"

"It's all right," Dr. Freeman said. "This was more important."

More important? Than getting their radio fixed? She gave him a disbelieving look.

"Really," he answered, and it might've been her imagination but she thought she caught the edges of a smile on his face. "Radios we can fix, or scavenge parts for. Somewhere. People are another story."

"Dr. Freeman..." Meredith shook her head. "I'm sorry. You took on half the Combine in City 17 by yourself. You don't need-" me, us "-this dragging you down. You could probably find those people who sent the signal and rescue them all by yourself if it was just you."

"Meredith, if it was just me, I would never have made it out of Black Mesa alive, never mind City 17," Dr. Freeman said. "If I didn't have people to fight for I'd have never gotten this far in the first place."

She eyed him again, but he seemed to be serious. "You have Ms. Vance," she said, "and your children-"

Dr. Freeman nodded. "They're important," he said. "Very important. But they're not the whole world. This fight is as much for you and every other human being alive as it is for them. You deserve to live and be free. You, everyone on this ship- everyone. And I don't plan on stopping, even for a minute until that finally comes to pass."

Meredith swallowed; she couldn't quite speak.

"Right now that means getting this radio fixed," Dr. Freeman went on, pointing to the rig with a screwdriver. "Or as close to it as we can manage. We're going to assemble a team to go out and scour the area for scroungeable parts if we can't get it working. Either we'll get the radio working and contact the people who sent the distress signal, or we'll find them ourselves on foot. One way or another, we'll find them and get this ship up and running again. And once we do, the Australian gene worm is as good as dead." He bumped her arm lightly with the butt end of the screwdriver. "We can do this. I know we can."

Coming from him, Meredith could believe it. She nodded, and managed a smile.

"There we go. Come on. Let's get this thing up and running."

Meredith might've heard the sound of eavesdroppers' footsteps pattering away on the other side of the door as she reached for the toolkit. She ignored it. There was work to do.
acts_of_gord: (Resistance)
When the Citadel in City 17 fell, everyone in the world knew it one way or another. Maybe they didn't know exactly what had happened, but they knew that something had gone down. Between the Suppression Field being gone and the sudden stir of activity among Combine military units, something enormous had happened. Oh, sure, Isaac Kleiner took advantage of the stir to hijack the communications broadcast network and put the word out about exactly what was going on, but... well. No offense to Kleiner, but he was a physicist. Not a broadcast technician. His range was limited at best, and his signal repetition and coverage was patchy at worst. It was something of a miracle that any of what he said was received outside of North America.

The broadcasts that started going up after that were a little better, as the Resistance grew more familiar with their equipment. When they finally took the Greenbrier, and all the equipment the United States Government had once planned to use to push its message of 'we're still here' should the Bomb ever fall, they hit a jackpot without realizing it. The Greenbrier equipment was designed to bounce signals off satellites, to reach Americans and their allies almost anywhere in the world. True, it was out of date and yes, many of the old satellites hadn't been tended to since the Combine came, but there were enough to push the word farther and clearer than had ever been done before. For the first time, news from the North American continent stood a chance of reaching Europe. True, it was in English, and even with the satellite equipment it was still a little patchy, but it got through.

At least, it got through enough for one man in a remote holding high in a mountain range out of the direct Combine line of fire to hear, and to stare at his radio, and then to swear copiously under his breath.
acts_of_gord: (you have no idea how angry I am)
"This is Gordon Freeman. You know who I am.

"Last year, the Combine did their best to wipe the Resistance off the face of the Earth. I am sending you this message today to tell you, and them, that their best wasn't good enough. It won't ever be.

"To any of the Combine or their agents who may be listening: all your effort in this world has gone to waste. We survived. I survived.

"And we are coming for you."

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Gordon Freeman

December 2012

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