-Shephard's Story-

-Black Mesa Insertion-

Private First Class George Tower shifted uncomfortably in the hard metal seating of the Osprey. With the millions of dollars spent on these birds, the Brass couldn't spring for some cushions? He thought sarcastically. He gripped the M16A2 in his hands and checked the action for what seemed like the hundredth time. The long ride from Santiago Marine Base seemed to be marching on into eternity, with no end in sight. Their unit, the 501st Marine Force Reconnaissance Battalion, was reserved normally for active duty reconnaissance and hazardous environment combat, but in the middle of advanced training they had been rounded up and given orders to grab their gear and board the troop carriers.

"No questions asked, soldier". That's what Drill Instructor Barnes had said.

Naturally, the barracks were buzzing with rumors. Tower emptied his storage locker, frantically looking for his gas mask, an expensive piece of hardware and a mainstay of the 501st. Throwing boots and camo fatigues left and right, he was surprised when he came across his high school graduation picture. Tower took a moment to look it over, his sense of urgency replaced by longing. The corp. had been his university, he hadn't had the money to continue on with school, but the marines had educated him in every way that counted. Honor, Duty, Country, they were his principles, and what he lived by. Slowly, he put the picture on the top rack. He was by no means an uneducated man, but he sometimes wondered what the other road would have offered him.

Tower's neighbor next to him shouted across the room, breaking his reverie. "Eh Mac, what 'choo think da brass got cookin' for us dis time?" The marine was a tall piece of work, his skin a deep brown from years working in the hot sun of the Caribbean. His companion, in stark contrast, was a short pale boy that didn't look much older than twenty. The boy was carefully packaging a pair of night vision goggles when he turned to respond.

"Beats me, but maybe it's got something to do with all this special training." He went back to wrapping the goggles. The soldier had a point; their unit had been undergoing specialized "urban warfare" training the past three weeks. Tower had had urban warfare training before, and it wasn't like this. Urban warfare took place in cities, among buildings. Usually there was a four-man team that swept from building to building cleaning out hostiles and securing the city block by block. But the training they were getting now wasn't urban at all. They were training in teams of eight, inside the derelict underground silos of the military base. The objective in each exercise was simply "search and destroy", not to secure or rescue, as was the case in urban warfare. Tower had gone over it in his mind more than a few times, and couldn't kick up any kind of scenario where this type of training applied.

Another marine, busy assembling his M-249 SAW, Squad Assault Weapon, spoke up. "I got a buddy at the Comms center says the boys upstairs got some sorta top secret base they been usin' for all their dirty little projects. The skinny is that the base has got itself in a load of trouble, terrorists or somethin', anyways they need us to go in and clean up the mess." The buzzing chatter of the room quickly fell still. Government cover-ups weren't in their job description, but it was only a matter of time before the brass handed them this kind of assignment. Realizing he might have said too much, the private quietly returned to assembling his weapon, eyes downcast. "But you know those Comms boys, anything for a little attention…" The rest of the men went back to getting ready, silently wondering what was in store for them.

The doors of the barracks burst open, and a fully geared marine marched in, his M4 Carbine attached to his chest by a three-point restraint. Tower knew the man as his Captain, Percy Johnson; his appearance meant the birds were ready to lift off. The rest of the marines snapped to attention as one signaled his arrival.

"Cap'n on deck!"

The captain, a tall white man in his late thirties, took out a cigar and lit the end. Taking a drag, he let the smoke fume out his nose like a medieval dragon. "Alright men, the birds are fueled and ready for departure, report to the Helo pads in ten." The captain preformed an about-face and was about to leave.

"Sir! What's our mission objective?" Tower heard himself spout out, almost involuntarily. He couldn't take the anticipation anymore, the mystery was grating on everyone's nerves.

The captain turned and tapped his cigar on the doorframe, dislodging excess ash. "Wish I knew, Private Tower." And with that, he turned to leave.


And now here they were, shrouded in the red light of the cabin, all wondering if maybe they were in for more than they had bargained for.

Captain Johnson, who had been sitting next to him on the bench, unbuckled his harness and slid open the door to the cockpit. Air rushed in and the sky became visible, washing out the red light of the interior. The captain, normally an informal, friendly man, was tight lipped and tense. Back at the base Tower had seen the captain pulled aside by two MPs and taken to the Strategy and Comms center. At the door he was met by a government looking type, blue drab suit, pale complexion; an FBI paper-pusher who hadn't seen a field assignment in awhile. The captain met the men as they were boarding the bird, looking almost as pale as the government man. What's wrong cap'n? Tower asked. Percy looked at Tower, fear showing brightly in his eyes, but it was soon replaced, or repressed, Tower wasn't sure which, by enthusiasm. Come on, ladies! These Birds aren't paid to wait for your grab-assing! Ooorah?

He let his rifle rest in his lap as he strained his vision to make out the bottom of the canyon floor that was framed in the doorway of the Osprey. "Where the hell are we?" He said aloud.

"The pilot thought we were headed to your mother's house, so far this all looks familiar." Staff Sergeant Jackson cracked, followed by his 'gufahing' horselaugh. At forty, some of the men thought Jackson was a little past his military prime. But he was the most experienced engineer the Marine Corp had to offer and had proven himself an expert shot with a Desert Eagle sidearm. He strikingly resembled a father figure, the meticulously trimmed beard, and slightly graying at the temples, but he still possessed the humor of a sixteen year old.

"Yeah that one's real cute Jackson…" He said, chuckling, he had known Jackson since Desert Storm, when they were part of the special operations that set the laser designators on important Iraqi military installations, which made the precision bombing so successful.

Mitch Jackson looked up to the front of the cabin, and saw the captain engrossed in a hushed conversation with the co-pilot of the Osprey. He reached into his front pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Choosing one, he lit and held the smoke in, slowing releasing it. "Anytime, anywhere, you know me."

Wilkes, the team medic, raised his eyes from checking the safety on his 9mm. "Jackson, you know those things will kill you."

"Kid when you been in this line of work as long as I have, you begin to pray that it's these," he said shaking the packet of cigarettes, "that kill you." Adding yet again his annoying horselaugh. The medic simply rolled his eyes.

Michael Wilkes had joined the unit after Desert Storm, promoted from the regular infantry. Tower and Jackson had taken him under their collective wing and shown him the ropes. Together they were a team of their own, them and of course Tower couldn't forget…

"Hey Shephard, what d'ya think the brass got set for us this time?" Jackson said, unharnessing himself and leaning across the aisle. He pulled the black welder's goggles from over his eyes, revealing prominently blue eyes. Corporal Adrian Shephard sat near stone still in his seat, only moving with the rocking motion of the plane, his tactical shotgun sitting between his legs, and his M-40 sniper rifle firmly secured in an overhead storage locker. In his hand was a copy of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

Adrian, though a close friend to the three Marines, was also the unit's one enigma. He'd been transferred to the 501st following the victory in the Middle East. The Major in charge had introduced him one morning at chow and said he would be taking the place of their sniper, who had mysterious been discharged for contracting a bad case of malaria, malaria in the desert. From that morning on rumors swept the unit about the origins of their new comrade. Some said he was transferred from another recon team because he had fragged an officer. One of the more wild rumors had him pegged as a psychotic killing machine and the government was using their unit as a guinea pig for their war game research. But Shephard himself didn't seem violent or psychotic, quite the opposite, the confident looking twenty two year old was rather content and quiet. He kept mostly to himself when he wasn't talking to Tower, Jackson or Wilkes. He was very intelligent, any effort to get Adrian to divulge a detail about his family or service record was met with a shrug. He spent most of his free time around the base working out, talking with the three marines, or reading. He read all the time; Tower had never seen him without a book in his hand. Shephard and Tower would commonly trade novels they had enjoyed, everything from H.G. Wells to Clive Cussler. But other than their own interactions with Shephard, they had given him his privacy, and he had rewarded them with rare and valuable friendship

Tower elbowed Jackson trying to lighten the mood, "Hey Shephard, I think Jackson here's got the hots fer ya."

Without turning back, Jackson flipped him the bird. "Hey screw you, Tower." He waited for Shephard's answer.

Adrian flipped a page in his book, and without looking up, replied to Jackson. "Wish I knew, Sarge. I heard the rumors though, but," he said raising his gaze from the book revealing his amber eyes, accentuated by highly defined cheek bones, small stubble, and his mysterious three inch scar along the left side of his face, "I find it a little suspicious that we've spent the last three weeks training for solely indoor urban combat, and after a decidedly quick and quiet call to arms and a five hour flight later, we're still without our orders. And remember we're a hazardous environment combat ready unit, so…" He raised an eyebrow at Jackson as if to say you connect the dots.

Tower sniffed loudly and cracked a smile from ear to ear. "Smells like another babysitting job to me." He elbowed Jackson and thought that a babysitting job sounded more relaxing than another three weeks of training.

Jackson leaned back in his seat, and took another drag on his cigarette. He obviously preferred Tower's suggestion to Shephard's vague allusion. "Yeah, no shit…"

Wilkes holstered his pistol, "Babysitting job my ass! This has training mission written all over it. Why else would they train us so long and keep our orders from us?" The four marines collectively frowned at the thought of what the brass had in store for them.

"Yeah what the hell is that all about? Throwing us in this hunk of junk, not even telling us what we're going in for!" Tower spat.

"Do you have a problem soldier? I will give you your orders when we have reached the LZ!" Captain Johnson yelled from the open door, his hand grasping the bars overhead for support. Tower straightened up and Jackson suppressed another laugh.

"Yes sir! Affirmative sir!" Shephard shook his head and continued reading his book. Over the loud speaker, the ramblings of the pilots radioing back and forth broke the ensuing silence.

"Watch your vector goose three, it's getting a little tight in here." The planes must be flying deeper into the canyons; Tower snuck another peek out the window and saw another troop carrier not three hundred yards away flying dangerous close to the canyon wall. Looking down he could see traces of humanity; huge pipes bringing in water, or pumping out waste, and the beginnings of small dirt roads, was there some kind of settlement out here? Was there really some sort of secret government research facility located out here in this god-forsaken desert?

Tower leaned over to Jackson, conscious not to let the Captain hear him. "Man this better not be another search and rescue mission or I'm going to be pissed." Jackson took another puff of his cigarette and blew smoke back in his face.

"Yeah I'm gonna be pissed when I have to search out and rescue your sorry ass." Tower sneered at Jackson and leaned back in his seat, rubbing his eyes to force the sleep from them.

Captain Johnson stepped into the cabin and stood in front of Jackson, his eyes narrowing to slits. "Staff Sergeant Jackson!" He bellowed over the roar of the engines. "Smoking is restricted on all government and commercial flights!" And with that he grabbed the cigarette out of Jackson's mouth.

"Sorry sir! Wont happen again, sir!" The captain brought the still smoldering bud to his mouth and took a deep drag, before dropping it to the floor of the cabin and smashing it with his foot.

"See that it doesn't." He said, smoke ejecting from his mouth with each word as he made his way to the front of the cabin. Tower smiled and looked to Jackson, reveling in his sore pride.

Jackson mumbled and rubbed his beard, "Fucker's ass is as tight as a snare drum today."

"Anyone got a good view of the LZ yet?" Came another androgynous voice over the loudspeaker. Captain Johnson was again talking in hushed tones to the pilot, this time he seemed more frantic and several times he lost his cool and began shouting, but nothing that could be heard over the roar of the wind and other planes.

"Negative goose seven, I can see some activity up ahead, but I can't tell what it is." The other pilot answered back. Jackson heard this and rubbed his gloved hands together.

"I don't care what we're goin' in for, 'long as I get to kill me somethin'." he said with a mock southern accent. Soon Captain Johnson was at the door again, with a commotion going on outside. The sound of something like a jet liner flew overhead. All the men stretched to look out the door, but Shephard had the best view.

"What'dya see Shephard?" Tower asked anxiously. Shephard didn't respond, he couldn't. The creature hovering above the adjacent Osprey was like nothing he'd ever seen. Like a levitating blue manta ray, some crazy artists wet dream, or the hallucination of a heroine junkie. Wilkes, seated next to Shephard, craned his neck and got his own view of the creature.

"What the fuck is that, captain! Is that in the mission briefing!" The creature trembled slightly and a beam of yellow light shot from its body and cascaded over the ship beneath. Almost immediately the Osprey exploded, killing its entire crew.

"Oh shit! Goose three's down! Goose three is down!" The men screamed and began unharnessing themselves as the sound of the manta ray creatures could be heard above their own Osprey.

"Jesus Shephard, we're fucked man, we're doomed! Game over man!" Wilkes screamed frantically trying to unharness himself. Shephard, scared shitless himself, grabbed his shotgun and looked to the captain.

"Jesus, I did not sign up for this shit." Jackson grunted into Tower's ear. Tower was already unharnessed and was about to get up when Captain Johnson kicked him back in his seat.

"Now listen up men! We have an extremely hostile situation! We're going in hot with heavy opposition so lets keep this tight!" The humming sound above grew louder and Tower searched the interior of the ship fruitlessly for parachutes, knowing full well there wouldn't be time to equip one. This sure as hell wasn't a training mission, this was all out war. The sound seemed to dull, though, much the same as someone slowly turning the volume dial on a radio. In slow motion he swiveled his head in the direction of the door, quietly contemplating how far the drop was, and if he could survive it. He looked to Jackson, another lit cigarette firmly held between two tense lips. Shephard had his hand on Wilkes' shoulder, trying to calm the terrified medic, all in utter silence.

But the sound quickly came rushing back; the humming, the chaotic radio chatter, the screams of the frightened marines, and the psychotic captain, having his own little mental breakdown.

"Your mission objective is to get…" But he was cut off by an explosion to the right of the plane. The vehicle dipped sharply to the left and the men who weren't harnessed, Tower and Jackson included, went tumbling into the wall on the other side. "Shit!" The captain said as he fell out the open door and into the canyon below.

"Goose seven is hit! Right wing… gone… emergency landing…distress beacon activated." The pilot screamed over his radio. But Tower wasn't listening any more. Lying on top of Shephard and Wilkes, he had lost consciousness.


The world came back into focus with a hard lurch. Tower found himself reclined on dust and asphalt. The blue sky high above filled his vision, but he was alive. Alive. He squeezed his hand, straining to feel something other than the hot asphalt.

"Come on Tower, stay with me, man." A tired and bloodied Wilkes appeared above him, a worried frown plastered on his face. His white camouflage fatigues were stained with blood and dirt, his PCV, though, seemed brand new.

"He awake?" The gruff voice had to be Jackson. Tower blinked several times, he reached up, signaling he needed help. Wilkes helped him sit upright and Tower immediately began a hacking cough. A rough hand pounded his back, helping his get the dust out of his lungs. "There you go, you're lucky to be alive, y'know, that crash damn near killed everyone. You can thank me though for saving your black ass."

Tower looked around and saw that the Osprey, or what was left of it, was now lodged in some kind of electrical fence, sparks shot out of exposed wires. "How long was I out?"

Wilkes pulled a syringe from his med pack and jammed it into his bicep, releasing a cool and relaxing sedative to numb some of the pain. "Long enough to miss the fire fight." He said quietly. Tower looked to Jackson, his expression masked by those black welder's glasses, and simply nodded. Jackson leaned down and grabbed hold of Tower's arm, as did Wilkes. Lifting him up, they stood still for several seconds, letting Tower get his bearings back.

"I'm okay, really." The two let go and stood back. Jackson picked up the rifle lying at his feet and handed it to him.

"Think you dropped this." Tower shouldered it and bent down to pick up stray ammo clips, but they were covered in a yellow film, sticky and warm to the touch.

"What the fuck?" Tower rubbed the mucus between his fingers. Wilkes grabbed his arm and pointed to his left Tower suppressed a gasp.

The creature would have been at least six feet tall, were it standing. The skin was a light brown, covered in what looked lke sores. The head was like an insect's, with several eyes, all a deep red. Around it's neck and waist were what looked like green shackles, or armor, he wasn't sure. The fangs the mouth bore were sharp as a razor, and out of the chest there seemed to grow a third arm, but it was obviously mangled by a shotgun blast to the chest. The same yellow mucus oozed from the wound and pooled around the nightmare creature.

"After the Osprey landed, the few of us left alive bailed out and salvaged what supplies we could. But we weren't here more than twenty minutes before these things began appearing out of nowhere, and boy, were they coming out of the wood work." Jackson pulled out his Desert Eagle and slapped another clip into it, hearing the satisfying click, he continued. "From that third little arm there," He said pointing to the mangled appendage. "They seemed to discharge some kind of electricity, could fry a marine in his tracks."

Wilkes interrupted. "They seem to be vulnerable to regular firearms though, so we were eventually able to fend them off. The ones that weren't killed just disappeared in the same green light they'd appeared in."

Tower surveyed the rest of the carnage; a few of the Marines in his Osprey lay dead, their skin charred and black. He hoped Shephard wasn't among them, but first things first. "Where the hell are we?"

Wilkes grabbed his M4 carbine and began walking towards the entrance to a tunnel, the door slightly ajar. "Black Mesa Research Facility, at least that's what the brass said over the radio we had set up before it all went to hell. They were tight lipped about what those things are," He said pointing to another dead creature. "But apparently there are more of them, a lot more. If you ask me, they're some sort of government experiment gone ridiculously wrong. We were sent in as a clean up crew. But the mission has gone totally south, FUBAR," marine lingo for 'fucked up beyond all recognition', "And our only objective now is to make it to the nearest extraction point and get the fuck out. This is the air force's problem now."

Jackson sneered, "Wonderful fucking planning. None of the birds reached their LZ's, we're scattered all over the base! Let the fly boys and their nukes deal with this."

"What about Adrian?" Tower said, following the two into the dimly lit interior of the tunnel. Wilkes and Jackson slowed their pace and looked at each other, frowning.

"The kid took a nasty blow to the head when we landed. We had you two all ready for med-evac when the creatures came, some how he got lost in the fray, I haven't seen him since." Tower couldn't see it, but he knew behind the black goggles, Jackson's eye's registered concern.

"He's a good Marine, he'll know we have to be pulling out, lets just hope he can make it to an extraction point in time." From somewhere in the tunnel the thumping of shuffling footsteps sounded. The three marines trained their weapons on the darkness and Tower began to feel that maybe this nightmare was just beginning.

A/N: So what do you think? I wanted to use as much of the beginning dialogue of the game as possible to better tie in the story, but with a little more added to make it funnier. Please read and review. I write for the reviews, the good and the constructive reviews!