Black Mesa

By Patrick Williams

Based on the storyline from Half-Life, a game from Valve Software and Sierra Studios. The Half-Life franchise is the property of Sierra Studios. All rights are reserved to Sierra Studios.

Chapter 1 – Black Mesa Inbound

Santego Military Base - Santego, Arizona

Containment Failure -02:30:00

The reveille sounded out across the expanse of low, concrete structures. In the barracks, troops arose from their heavy slumber to the dawn of a new day of "being all they could be" in the Army. The troops were well-disciplined and required no further motivation than the sound of the distant bugle to jump out of bed and prepare for duty. They moved with determination and poise, as they had been training for weeks to prepare for this day. The day would bring the first genuine combat operation on America's soil since the Civil War.

From the command bunker, Major General Robert J. Thompson supervised the troops going about their morning routines. From his office atop the command bunker he could oversee most of the compound. He watched, approvingly, as his troops prepared for what promised to be a monumental day.

His intercom buzzed, and the voice of a lieutenant from the front desk announced, "Sir, the visitor you expected is coming up."

Thompson nodded, deep in thought. Things were about to get interesting.

He heard two crisp knocks at his door as the M.P. outside opened the door without further announcement. The M.P. would think nothing of the pale man in the black suit meeting with his commanding officer on the day of a major military operation. He was trained not to notice what went on right under his nose, while being constantly alert in case anything unforeseen happened.

"Hello, Mister Thompson," the visitor spoke, his slick voice sending shivers up Thompson's spine. The visitor had a speech impediment that drew his "S" syllables out, making him sound even more like the snake that he was. His immaculate gray suit reflected the personality of the individual wearing it.

"I didn't earn these stars to be called 'Mister' by the likes of you, sir." Thompson retorted. He had taken an intense disliking to the man long before this meeting. He had no choice but to tolerate him, however. This man was the government representative appointed to supervise today's operation.

"Very well, General. I came to discuss some last minute details about today's operation. I sincerely hope, for your sake, that your men are prepared to do their duty."

Thompson couldn't put a finger on it, but he suddenly had a very bad feeling about this operation.

Black Mesa Research Facility - Black Mesa, New Mexico

Subterranean Helipad - Containment Failure -01:15:00

The man in the suit hopped off of the V-22 Osprey. The escorting AH-64 Apache attack helicopters continued to orbit the surrounding area as if they expected an attack upon the already heavily secured facility. Several soldiers fanned out around the helipad to secure the site.

He made his way through the maze-like passages leading towards Black Mesa Central Command, the beating heart of Black Mesa. From there, one could see anything going on in the complex. He had a brief appointment before the day's events unfolded. Satisfied that General Thompson's men were prepared to fulfill their mission, the man would be able to supervise every aspect of the operation from Central Command.

Black Mesa Central Command - Containment Failure -01:00:00

The control room was bristling with security monitors and equipment for controlling the day-to-day operations of a facility as massive as Black Mesa. Dozens of workers manned the computer stations arrayed about the room, but few of them were paying much attention to their work. They were too distracted by the heated argument in the administrator's office adjacent to the control room. A few minutes earlier Dr. Rosenberg had barged in shouting about an inevitable disaster.

Rosenberg was one of a few select scientists at Black Mesa with the clearance to know everything that went on within its walls. Most of what went on was a mystery even to its own employees. Rosenberg, however, knew every dirty secret; knew of every skeleton hidden in its closets. He had noticed that the Anomalous Materials test chamber was scheduled to perform a laser analysis of a sample of Xenite, a crystalline substance not native to this planet. How they had obtained the sample was another of those secrets that only a select few knew.

The analysis laser was used to perform Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy. This technique required a high-powered laser to induce a bright spark, or plasma, on the surface of a material. The light from the plasma was analyzed by a spectrometer sensitive to a wide range of inorganic elements. From the spectrometer they could determine the elemental make-up of any material. The process allowed them to test new metals for use in armor-plating or weapons production. Occasionally, a sample of something unknown would pass through Anomalous Materials to determine if it could be useful. To all appearances, the Xenite analysis would be no different.

Rosenberg knew the truth, however. He knew that the Xenite sample was like no sample ever analyzed by the laser. Xenite reacted differently than any material of this planet. When exposed to high amounts of heat or energy, the sample would cause a series of unimaginable events. The results would be catastrophic, and felt far beyond the armored gates of Black Mesa.

Rosenberg had quickly explained the situation to Dr. Breen, the facility's administrator. Breen had hardly been receptive. The two had argued back and forth for several minutes by the time the visitor arrived. The man in the gray suit cleared his throat from the doorway to the office and stepped in, closing the door behind him. The workers manning their stations in the adjacent room shrugged and returned to their work.

Breen glanced nervously at the visitor and returned his attention to Rosenberg. "Who else have you told about your theory?"

"I came straight to you, Wallace. But it's not a theory; I've seen it happen before! We have to stop this analysis before it's too late."

"I suppose we could delay the analysis until we can verify your findings," Breen sighed resignedly. "You've done the right thing, of course, Dr. Rosenberg."

Rosenberg hadn't noticed the man in the suit slowly approaching him from behind. With a swift movement, the man swung his heavy suitcase in an arc that intersected with Rosenberg's head. The scientist fell to the ground, unconscious.

That should put him under long enough to prevent him from interfering, Breen thought approvingly.

"Are your arrangements complete?" Breen asked the visitor.

"You have nothing to worry about, Mister Breen. So long as you stay here, you will not be harmed. Everything will go according to plan."

Without another word, the man in the gray suit turned and left the office.

Breen pressed a button on his desk and spoke. "Please send a doctor to my office at once. Dr. Rosenberg has taken a terrible fall."

Area 8 Topside Dormitories - Containment Failure -01:00:00

Barney Calhoun wasn't your every day hero type.

He was a simple man living a simple life. At 23, he was trying to settle into a steady job to make a living. He had once hoped to join the Army. His father had convinced him, instead, to go to college and get a degree. After a few miserable months at a community college, Calhoun had realized that college was not for him. He had dropped out without a degree and taken the first job he could find.

Calhoun was a security guard at Black Mesa. His job was to protect and serve the employees of the research facility, using any means necessary. He enjoyed his work for the most part. The facility provided him not only a job and decent pay, but a place to live. All Black Mesa personnel were required to live on site, for security reasons. The land surrounding the base was a "shoot on sight" region and comings and goings were rare.

The Black Mesa Research Facility was buried deep below the New Mexico desert. The facility was an expansive series of subterranean laboratories and offices deep below the surface. It had once been a Cold War missile complex but was now used primarily for weapon research and development. What went on behind closed doors in the facility was extremely classified. The research facility required an experienced team of guards to protect its security and secrecy. Every laboratory and office had a series of security checkpoints to prevent unauthorized personnel from gaining access to privileged information or materials. Level 3 Security was one of many such checkpoints within the facility. Calhoun was due to report in for duty there. He checked his tie in the mirror on his way out the door and exited the dormitory.

The desert heat hit Calhoun like a wall of bricks. It was over 90 degrees outside already. His dormitory was on the surface, but it was kept at a comfortable 68 degrees at all times, like the rest of the facility. Calhoun still hadn't gotten used to the temperature differences. It would grow to well over 100 degrees before the day was done. Such was life at Black Mesa. Fortunately, Calhoun spent most of his day working inside the underground facility.

The dormitory complex was relatively quiet. Most employees were already down below, hard at work. The only sounds came from the warm desert wind and a helicopter hovering in the distance. Calhoun walked towards the transit station, where a tram was waiting. The tram left the station with a slight jolt and traveled down the line towards the gaping entrance to the underground facility.

Calhoun was greeted by a sultry female voice from the tram's speakers. He didn't know who did the voiceovers, but he wouldn't have minded buying her a drink or two.

"Good morning and welcome to the Black Mesa Transit System. This automated train is provided for the comfort and convenience of Black Mesa residents and visitors to the Black Mesa facility..."

Level 3 Dormitories - Containment Failure -00:50:00

Gordon Freeman awoke to the sudden realization that he had overslept. He didn't hear the distinctive sound of his alarm clock that normally accompanied his awakening. His alarm was supposed to have gone off at 7:30 so that he would have more than enough time to clock in before 8:30.

He hurriedly dressed, forgetting his tie on the rack. He wouldn't need it, anyway. He was going to be in the test chamber today – ten minutes ago, to be exact.

Gordon was an egghead at heart. He had gotten his PhD from M.I.T. in theoretical physics. The job at Black Mesa had appealed to him as it had offered the best salary of all his potential employers. On top of that, he had been promised a chance to work on some of the most revolutionary developments in physics. He saw his work at Black Mesa as his best chance to make a mark on the world. The work they were doing would change the world – if it ever saw the light of day. Freeman worked in the Anomalous Materials branch of the facility. His job was to use an elaborate and somewhat dangerous analysis laser to determine the atomic makeup of compounds. It wasn't the most exciting job in the world; certainly not work worthy of a PhD scientist. It was a start, however, and the future promised to be more exciting. His work was only the tip of the work done at the facility. Freeman didn't have enough clearance to know what the materials they analyzed were used for. It didn't take a PhD to realize that most of them would probably be used for classified weapons projects.

Gordon lived in the Level 3 dormitories, located three stories below the surface. His destination was the Anomalous Materials lab, many stories below that. The lab was one of the deepest points in the facility, located hundreds of feet below the surface just in case the elaborate laser should malfunction and cause a dangerous reaction. It somehow didn't comfort Gordon to think that should he mess up an analysis only he would be atomized by the explosion.

Gordon left his room and raced through the subterranean hallways towards the transit hub, hoping that there was a tram waiting for him. He was late enough as it was, and didn't have time to wait for a tram to come up from down below.

Fate had smiled on Gordon, as there was an empty tram waiting at the station. He stepped on board, and waited for the tram to leave the station. Something farther down the line was holding up the tram. Gordon looked down the tunnel and saw a security guard exiting the tram farther down the line. Incompetent oafs, Gordon grunted to himself. All security ever did was get in the way.

Finally, the tram started moving towards Sector C and the Anomalous Materials laboratories within.

"Good morning and welcome to the Black Mesa Transit System..."

Sector C – Anomalous Materials Control Room - Containment Failure -00:45:00

"Why hasn't the analysis begun?"

Dr. Breen's voice echoed throughout the control room. The voice held very little emotion, but the anger behind it was tangible, nonetheless. The administrator was speaking to them over the control room's intercom. The scientists present looked at each other nervously. Walter Bennett finally stepped forward to speak.

Walter Bennett was your stereotypical chemistry nerd. He had blown his eyebrows off while playing with a chemistry set at the age of 12 and had been hooked ever since. He had breezed through Berkeley and had become one of the world's premier chemists. Shortly after Black Mesa had been established, many years earlier, he had accepted an entry level position in materials analysis. He was now the head scientist at Anomalous Materials, and the oldest and most experienced to boot. He felt it was natural that he should speak for the assembled mass of scientists.

"Freeman was supposed to be in the chamber fifteen minutes ago. We don't know where he is. I'm sure that he's on his way down now."

"He had better be, if he values his job. It's vital that this experiment be completed according to our timetable. A conclusive analysis of this sample must be obtained as soon as possible."

"The analysis will proceed as planned as soon as Freeman gets here."

"Good. Contact me when the analysis begins."

The intercom switched off before anyone could reply.

Bennett wiped away the bead of sweat that had collected on his forehead. If anything went wrong with today's experiment, heads would roll.

Level 3 Security Facilities - Containment Failure -0:43:00

Calhoun's tram had finally reached Level 3 Security. Its rear entrance was an unceremonious metal doorway in the middle of a transit tunnel. He had disembarked from the tram which departed a few seconds later, leaving him stranded on the short metal walkway leading to Level 3 Security's back door. The walkway was poorly lit, and Calhoun needed his flashlight to find the security pass reader. He inserted his security pass and waited patiently for the reader to accept his ID. Nothing happened. He pounded on the door for all the good it would do him.

A voice came through the door from the other side. "Hold on a minute, the door's not responding to your pass ID."

Calhoun sighed in annoyance. Behind him, another tram passed by with a tie-less, haggard looking scientist onboard. The scientist glared at Calhoun, no doubt angry that he had held up his tram when he had arrived. Calhoun waved back, hoping the scientist would get in trouble for violating the facility's dress code.

"Okay, I think I got it!"

The metal door slid open, and Calhoun quickly walked through, lest it lock him out again. A fellow security guard stood there, pleased with himself for triumphing over the door.

"Sorry about that, Calhoun. We've been having problems all over the facility this morning; system crashes, security malfunctions. It's a wonder this whole place hasn't shut down yet."

"I'm just glad the tram line is working," Calhoun replied. "That's all I need; to be stuck in some tunnel."

"Just be glad you're not headed over to Sector C. There's a hazardous chemical spill in the transit tunnel, and the trams are backing up."

"I need to go check in. Thanks for getting me in. Catch me later and I'll buy you a beer."

Calhoun turned and walked towards the lobby's front desk. He needed to check in with the duty officer and find out where he would be posted today. In the process, he almost ran over an antsy scientist who obviously had somewhere to be in a hurry. Papers fluttered from the scientist's grasp.

"Watch where you're going, you nincompoop!" the scientist shouted angrily as he bent down to pick up the paper. Calhoun glanced at the scientist's I.D. and noted the scientist's name. Dr. Graham had a reputation as a prima donna, even by Black Mesa standards.

"Excuse me, sir." Calhoun apologized as he tried to help pick up the papers.

"Why do you security guards always insist on bothering us? Shouldn't you be guarding some donuts and coffee right about now?"

"I'll just be on my way, sir."

Calhoun had gotten used to the lack of respect shown to the security guards at Black Mesa. The scientists didn't appreciate the importance of security.

If something bad ever happens to this place, Calhoun thought to himself, these scientists might finally appreciate having us around.

Sector C Tram Line - Containment Failure -0:37:00

This was all Gordon needed. The chemical spill had blocked the transit line and the maintenance bots were slow to get it out of the way. He had no choice but to wait while the bots patched the chemical leak.

He glanced around the tunnel and noticed another tram stopped by the maintenance bots. Its sole occupant was a pale-faced man in a slick-looking gray suit. The man was speaking into a phone and held a heavy-looking briefcase. He noticed Gordon's curious stare and for an eerie moment their glances met. Black Mesa's management was shrouded in secrecy and mystique. Since this was a government facility, most of them were government operatives. Gordon wasn't cleared to know much about what went on at that level.

Gordon had Level 3 clearance. That cleared him for all of the medium security areas of the facility. He had heard rumors of what went on in the high security areas. There were tales of strange experiments on unnatural creatures, tales of top secret weapons that make our military's arsenal look like rocks and sticks, and tales of fantastic technologies never before seen anywhere else. Gordon hoped to one day work his way up to Level 5, where the real science was done. For now, Gordon would be satisfied with getting to the laboratory as quickly as possible.

The maintenance bots seemed to mock him by slowing down further.

Level 3 Security Facilities - Containment Failure -0:35:00

"Nice of you to show up this morning, Calhoun," the duty officer chided from behind his expansive desk.

"Sorry, sir. There were some problems with the back door."

"Well, I hope you're ready for a long shift. Today is going to be a busy day."

"Just the way I like it, sir."

"Let's see where you're stationed today." The officer began typing on his computer, pulling up the day's duty roster. "Looks like you're stationed down in the Anomalous Materials laboratory in Sector C. But first, there's a problem with the main access lift in Sector G. We need you to go over there and see what you can do."

"I always knew we were nothing but armed gophers."

"You'd better believe it, Calhoun. See you later."

Calhoun made his way to the locker room and opened his personal locker. With the greatest care and respect he removed his starched uniform and sidearm. His sidearm was a lovingly maintained .357 Magnum. He checked the cylinder and verified that it was loaded. He holstered it and donned his body armor. He attached his security badge to his armor and headed off towards Sector G. He was off to save the world, one helpless scientist at a time.

Sector C Test Labs and Control Facilities - Containment Failure -0:30:00

"Please stand back from the automated door and wait for the security officer to verify your identity. Before exiting the train, be sure to check your area for personal belongings. Thank you, and have a safe and productive day."

Gordon's tram had finally arrived, as the female voice had so helpfully announced. The tram pulled alongside a long metal walkway suspended across the cavernous tunnel. The opposite end of the walkway led to a huge metal gate. This was the entrance to Sector C. As a security measure, Gordon's tram door remained shut until security could verify his identification. The guard on duty, Geoffrey Douglas, checked his ID badge and opened the tram door for him.

"Good morning, Mister Freeman. Looks like you're running a bit late today."

"You're observant as always." Freeman couldn't stand it when people forgot to call him by his proper title, 'Doctor.'

"Let's get you inside before I make you even later."

They walked down the metal walkway towards the tremendous gate. The guard typed in the appropriate access code into the keypad and the heavy metal gate unlocked with a deep mechanical groaning. Sector C was only a medium security zone, but it was still protected by two sets of explosion-proof metal gates; each of them foot-thick solid steel slabs. No one could get into Sector C without the security guard's authorization. Even if the guard on duty was forced to give up the code, there were more armed guards waiting beyond the doors. Black Mesa was about as secure as a research facility could get.

As the second metal gate slowly slid open, Gordon stepped into the lobby of Sector C. There was a single desk in the center of the room, with a guard monitoring the various cameras around the sector.

"Hey Mister Freeman, I had a bunch of messages for you but we had a system crash about twenty minutes ago and I'm still trying to find my files."

"Just one of those days, I guess," Gordon said glumly. He wasn't the only one having a bad day, apparently.

"They were having some problems in the test chamber, too, but I think that's all straightened out. They told me to have you head down there as soon as you got into your hazard suit."

A few scientists wandered and loitered throughout the lobby and the halls of Sector C. Most of them were chatting about the day's experiments. The first test was supposed to be an important one. Some new material had been given to them by the Level 5 laboratories to analyze. If the Level 5 laboratories were working on it, it had to be important.

From the speakers throughout the facility, the public address computer chimed in to make an announcement. "Doctor Freeman, report to the Anomalous Materials test lab immediately."

I must have really ticked someone off for them to use the public address system, Gordon mused.

Gordon moved a bit faster now and soon arrived at the employee locker room. Behind the locker room was the H.E.V. storage room. The Hazardous Environment Vehicle was the suit used to conduct experiments in the test chamber. It protected one from any potential dangers that might arise. Needless to say, one wouldn't want to step into the test chamber without one.

There were three H.E.V. suit lockers in the storage room. Two of them were empty, probably being used by the scientists prepping the sample for experimentation. Gordon quickly put on the remaining suit and powered it up. The system ran through its normal preoperational checklists.

The Heads-Up Display switched on and displayed a status report in front of him. The H.U.D. would report any potential dangers to him as he worked. A female voice accompanied the status report.

"Welcome to the H.E.V. mark four protective system, for use in hazardous environment conditions… High Impact Reactive Armor – Online… Atmospheric Contaminant Sensors – Online… Vital Sign Monitoring – Online… Automatic Medical Systems – Online… Defensive Weapon Selection System – Online… Munitions Level Monitoring – Online… Communications Interface – Online… Have a very safe day."

Gordon had always felt that the suit was somewhat overkill. It seemed like it had been designed to go to war with, not to study chemical reactions. He had yet to use most of the suit's features, although he was fully trained in all of the suit's functions.

He hustled across Sector C towards the Anomalous Materials laboratory.

Sector G – Main Access Lift - Containment Failure -0:25:00

Calhoun approached the access lift, where a familiar face was waiting. It was the scientist from the Level 3 Security lobby, Dr. Graham.

"Well, it's about time," Graham grunted. "We don't pay you people to mosey around at your own convenience. Make this thing work, so I can get on with this miserable day."

Calhoun pried open the control panel, and the problem became apparent almost immediately. One of the panel's fuses had blown. It must have been one of those frequent power surges the facility experienced. Calhoun fumbled around in his toolkit for a spare fuse, and began working on the panel. Normally, it would have only taken a few seconds. For this scientist, he was willing to make an exception.

Sector C – Anomalous Materials Control Room - Containment Failure -00:20:00

Gordon entered the control room, where the scientists were impatiently waiting for him. The control room was full of computers and other equipment used to monitor the experiments carried out in the test chamber. One wall of the room featured a thick pane of glass that looked down upon the test chamber itself.

"Where the hell have you been, Gordon?" Dr. Bennett snapped at him.

"My alarm didn't go off. It won't happen again."

"It had better not. The administrator is personally interested in the results of this experiment. We just sent the sample down to the test chamber."

Another scientist chimed in, "I'm afraid we'll be deviating a bit from standard analysis procedures today, Gordon. We've boosted the anti-mass spectrometer to 105. It's a bit of a gamble, but for an experiment this important, we need the extra resolution."

"What's so important about this sample?" Gordon asked.

"They don't tell us Level 3 eggheads much of anything, Gordon." Walter spoke. "You know that. All I know for certain is that this is the purest sample of Xenite we've seen yet. I suppose they went to a lot of trouble to get this sample. We only get one shot at this."

From one side of the room, a scientist shouted, "It's about to go critical!"

One of their computers exploded in a shower of sparks. The scientist grabbed a fire extinguisher and doused the smoking computer in foam.

"What the hell is going on with our equipment?" Bennett growled at no one in particular.

"It wasn't meant to do this in the first place!" a shocked scientist replied.

"If we follow standard insertion procedure, everything should be fine." Bennett said, always the voice of reason when things went to hell. He was trying to reassure himself as much as the others present.

"I don't know how you can say that. Although, I must admit that while the chance of a resonance cascade scenario is extremely unlikely, I remain uncomfortable with the--"

"Gordon doesn't need to hear all this," Bennett interjected. "He's a highly trained professional. We've assured the administrator that nothing will go wrong."

"Ah yes, you're right. Gordon, we have complete confidence in you."

Gordon nodded at the collective scientists present, swallowed nervously, and used the lift at the opposite side of the control room to get into the test chamber.

Black Mesa Central Command - Containment Failure -00:15:00

Breen's mobile phone vibrated in its pocket. He took it out and listened. It was Walter Bennett, calling from Anomalous Materials.

"Freeman is entering the test chamber now, sir. We're beginning the analysis."

Breen returned the phone to its pocket and rested his chin on steepled fingers, deep in thought. His time here was almost done. Part of the agreement had been his safe passage out of Black Mesa as soon as the operation began.

Sector C - Anomalous Materials Test Chamber - Containment Failure -0:10:00

"Testing… testing… Everything seems to be in order."

Gordon looked about the cavernous test chamber as Bennett tested the chamber's intercom. His breathing echoed in his own ears through the suit's helmet. He hated working in this room and in this suit. The chamber was a huge hollowed-out missile silo full of laser equipment. The tremendous analysis laser dominated the chamber, dangling precariously from the ceiling like a gigantic stalactite in a cavern.

"All right, Gordon. Your suit should keep you comfortable through all of this." Right, Gordon scoffed to himself. Bennett's voice continued briefing him. "If you would be so good as to start the rotors, we can get started."

Gordon crossed the test chamber to the central analysis computer. He fired up the computer and ran the rotor program.

The immense laser generator in the center of the chamber began rotating, ready to fire.

"Power to stage-one emitters in 3… 2… 1…"

The rotating laser fired down into the heart of the chamber. When the sample arrived, it would be placed in the center of the laser beam to begin the analysis.

Gordon looked down at the computer in front of him. "I'm seeing predictable phase arrays."

"Stage two emitters activating now."

Three more lasers joined the first, forming a highly focused beam of photons.

"Uh, it's probably not a problem – probably," a worried voice announced over the intercom, "But, I'm showing a slight discrepancy in – well, no, it's well within acceptable boundaries. Sustaining sequence."

That didn't sound very comforting to Gordon, but he trusted that the men upstairs knew what they were doing.

Below the test chamber, Gina Cross and Colette Green worked furiously to get the sample ready. They were fortunate that Freeman had showed up late. If he hadn't, it would be their necks on the line right now. The two hazard suits they wore had supposedly protected them from any potential dangers, but it had also slowed them down in their delicate laboring to mount the sample on the delivery cart. The delivery cart was an elaborate table designed to position the sample for optimal scan resolution. A bad mount would ruin the analysis and destroy the sample.

"Done!" Gina announced triumphantly.

The sample was ready to be analyzed.

Sector G – Main Access Lift - Containment Failure -00:07:00

"That should do it," Calhoun announced as he finished his work on the elevator's control panel. He had actually been done for about ten minutes.

"It's about time," Graham grunted. "I was supposed to be down below fifteen minutes ago."

Graham pushed past Calhoun and pressed a button on the panel. The elevator began a slow descent. A few seconds later, the elevator slowed to a stop, and the lights faded. They were suddenly plunged into darkness.

"What did you do now?" Graham growled at Calhoun.

"Warning! Main power failure on Levels 3, 5, and 8," the facility's automated public address system announced.

"Oh, no," the other scientist groaned. "It's probably those Anomalous Materials people again; always pushing their equipment too hard, gambling in who knows what. I'd be surprised if there's one good brain among them."

Sector C – Anomalous Materials Test Chamber - Containment Failure -00:04:00

"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 for your specimen."

A few seconds later, the delivery cart rose from the ground. The cart held the sample of Xenite. Gordon had never seen such a fantastic crystal. The fragment reflected the light of the chamber with a strange luminance more beautiful than a diamond. Where does this stuff come from?, Gordon wondered. He supposed they would find out momentarily.

He slowly pushed the delivery cart across the floor towards the waiting analysis beam.

Black Mesa Central Command - Containment Failure -00:01:00

Breen glanced at his watch. It would happen any second now.

Sector C – Anomalous Materials Test Chamber - Containment Failure -00:00:30

Gina Cross and Colette Green watched the monitors from below the test chamber. If they had screwed up the mounting of the crystal, the sample would be ruined. This was the moment of truth.

Sector C – Anomalous Materials Control Room - Containment Failure -00:00:15

The assembled mass of scientists in the control room collectively held their breaths as they watched the sample move towards the beam.

Suddenly, the door opened and Dr. Rosenberg burst in, screaming.

"Stop the sequence! You've got to shut the laser down!"

Bennett knew Dr. Rosenberg well, and trusted him like a mentor. He had no idea why Rosenberg would want to shut the sequence down, but he didn't question the man for a second. Without a second thought, he pounded the emergency shutdown button. Nothing happened. He pounded it again. The button had been disabled.

All eyes returned to the window as the sample entered the analysis beam. They were too late.

That was when it all went to hell.