Rise and shine, Mr. Freeman. Rise and…shine."

And there he was again: the government man.

His voice was deeply nasal, almost apneic, as though he were speaking through the papery husk of a beehive. He wielded it with an unbearable self-assurance, yet his emphases were oddly placed, like an old train stuttering and lurching forward. And he was very, very close to Freeman; close enough to reveal every dimple and pore in his aged face; a skull stretched over with flesh-toned latex, fitted with insidious eyes that glowered with ill-intent.

There was a sudden, painful flash of light and the distorted scream of a train braking. Then everything was a negative, insanely posturized in Freeman's eyes. Then he blinked, and things were normal again.

"Not that I wish to imply you have been…sleeping on…the job…" continued the G-man, "No one is more deserving of a rest, and all the effort in the world would have gone to waste, until…"

The G-man hesitated for a moment.

"Well," he continued with a smirk, "let's just say your hour has…come again."

Visions began to dance within the G-man like reflections in glass. Freeman saw the old test chamber, where this all started: the Anti-Mass Chamber in the Anomalous Materials Lab of the Black Mesa Research Facility. Within the G-man, Freeman watched the terrible incident all over again. There: the honeycomb-yellow crystal, donated by a government man in a dark suit and tie: a rare sample, rich with new discoveries, new science, new recognition and grants. Yes, put it in the Anti-Mass Spectrometer, Dr. Freeman. The administrator needs us to analyze it, and quick. The administrator wants to please the G-man, for the sake of our future funding.

Freeman saw the Spectrometer's ray crackle and spark uncertainly. He saw himself, donned in orange and grey armor: the specialized Hazardous Environment Suit. He was pushing the crystal into the beam by means of a metal trolley. He saw the moment that the ray brushed the crystal. He saw bolts of green lightning splaying out through the barrel chamber like it was a plasma lamp. One discharge shattered the six inches of reinforced glass that protected his colleagues in the control room. A second surge sent their bodies flying. And far worse things came from the G-man's crystal than lightning bolts. Far worse things were unleashed into the world. The first domino in the G-man's long train; and Gordon Freeman knew that he was next in line.

The G-man spoke again: "The right man in the wrong place…can make all the difference…in the world…"

The visions had become unfamiliar now: frightening, alien, surreal. Freeman saw sheer and narrow canyons of metal. Their sides were lined with hundreds of spindly robotic arms like a bacterium's cilia. They were handling steel, industrial sarcophagi, snatching them from conveyor rails through the winding iron trench.

"So wake up, Mr. Freeman."

Freeman blinked, and the rails were now train tracks. He blinked again, and there was only one pair of tracks, part of a different scene, one that blossomed outside of the G-man as well as within. Regular train tracks: they skated away into nothingness. And now Gordon was on a train car, and the G-man was gliding away from him, fading along with the shadows and the nothingness.

There was a malicious smile on his face. "Wake up and…smell the ashes."