Disclaimer: I don't own Half Life.
The Black Mesa Incident
"Congratulations on completing the Black Mesa Hazard course. You are now prepared for any and all situations that may arise in the course of your duties. Have a very safe and productive day."
The rail tram came to a stop, and Gordon Freeman let out a breath of relief. He was always nervous when he took these courses, although the reason why always eluded him. By his count, he had completed the course seven times including this one, with new aspects of the course requiring that all scientists that handled hazardous materials to go through it again.
And again, and again, and again.
And, it seems, again.
The lights in the tunnel switched on, and Gordon squinted as they dazzled him slightly. A clapping noise distracted his attention to the platform next to the tram, and he smiled as he saw Barney Calhoun approaching him as he applauded.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Gordon Freeman, the man of a thousand talents."
He stepped off the tram, smiling wearily. "Not quite."
"Are you kidding? I didn't know you could shoot so straight! No offence, but I'd always figured you for being about as accurate as Dr Kleiner."
Gordon frowned. "Um… thank you?"
Barney laughed. "Don't mention it." He guided his scientist friend away from the tram. He wasn't wearing his customary helmet and body armour vest, which meant he had come here out of his own free time. They stepped into an elevator, and Barney pressed the button to go up a level.
"To be honest, I'm a little bit disturbed that we're being given weapons training at such short notice," Gordon said, a frown creasing his brow.
"Why? The way I see it, you're better prepared for… whatever might happen, y'know?"
"But that's my point. What do they think is going to happen that I'll need to know how to use a machine gun?"
The security officer shrugged. "Don't know. But hey. Now's not the time for worrying about that kinda stuff." He thought for a moment. "Tell you what. I'll give you a few minutes to get out of that fancy HEV suit of yours, and then I'll buy you that beer I'm always promising."
Gordon gave him a disbelieving look. "Right."
"No, really this time. I have the money and everything."
"Gordon. I will buy you a beer."
"And I believe you."
The security officer grumbled something under his breath. "Fine, be that way. But believe it or not, I am going to buy you that beer tonight."
Gordon looked idly out the window as the train slowed a halt in front of a lowering bridge, two scientists waiting impatiently to cross on one side.
"You okay, Gordon?"
He looked over at Barney, who was sat beside him.
"I said, are you okay? You seem kinda… distracted."
"About anything in particular?"
He shrugged. "Just some strange things going on."
Barney frowned. "Like what?"
The brown haired scientist paused before continuing, choosing his words carefully. Barney was a confirmed conspiracy nut, and if Gordon said anything even slightly suspicious, chances were Barney would jump to the worst conclusion and worry for the rest of the week. Sometimes Gordon wondered why Barney would accept a position working in a top secret science laboratory if these things worried him so much.
Not that Gordon was complaining. If he hadn't come here, they would never have met, and Gordon wouldn't have one of the best friends he could remember.
"Dr Kleiner got called to the Administrator's office yesterday, and he came back furious."
A wry smile crossed Barney's face. "Dr Kleiner? Furious? What'd Breen say to him?"
"Something about the experiment scheduled for Monday."
The bridge folded up, and the train continued on its way. Barney frowned as he thought for a moment.
"Monday, Monday… aren't you in the test chamber that day?"
Gordon nodded silently.
"No wonder you're worried. You think they're doing anything dangerous?"
"With this sudden insurgence of new training courses… it's possible. But," he added quickly, seeing the creeping look of horror on Barney's face, "Let's not jump to any conclusions. Dr Kleiner and Eli argue with the Administrator all the time. It's nothing new."
He wasn't convinced. But Gordon was too tired to try, not that he could if he had wanted to.
"I still can't believe how well you did on that course, though. You got the highest score out of all the guys in your division, didn't you?"
Gordon shrugged. "Eli did well too."
"Oh, would you stop with the modest crap? Not that it matters. Once I've bought you that beer, you'll be bragging to the stars about how great you did."
He rubbed his eyes beneath his thick rimmed glasses. Why he hadn't invested in contacts not only baffled those who knew him, but it was also an enigma to Gordon as well. He had been planning on it ever since he was recruited into the Black Mesa research program, but had been too busy to attend to it.
"Barney… could we do this tomorrow? I'm pretty tired after the hazard course."
"'Course. I'll see if Rodriguez is up for a rematch on the air hockey table."
The train came to a stop, and Gordon pushed himself to his feet. "Just don't lose all of your money."
"I know, I know, I still owe you the beer. I won't forget."
Gordon walked at a slow, leisurely pace. It was amazing what a good nights' sleep could do for ones' disposition. It was Saturday, and as such, he was off work and free to roam the leisure facilities of Black Mesa. His first stop had been the gym. Although he preferred jogging in the open air, there were few places above ground near Black Mesa that lasted long enough for a satisfying run without clearance being needed. And so, to the gym it had been.
He was one of the few scientists who worked at Black Mesa who even bothered with the place. Eli would occasionally join him, but he was busier and busier with baby Alyx since his wife Azian had been promoted to head of Sector H activities. Gordon still smiled at the memory of Eli's slightly indignant look when he realised his wife outranked him.
The others who used the gym were security officers, most of whom just lifted weights. Gordon didn't really do that much. Running just came easier to him, since he had been in a track team all through high school.
After that, he had gone to the sector C cafeteria, where he had run into a slightly hung over Barney, whose only response to his greeting was a mono-syllabic grunt as he headed off to his first shift. Gordon felt a little bit happier that he hadn't agreed to go with Barney the night previous. A few drinks were his limit, and he was comfortable with that.
He sat down with a newspaper, a cup of coffee and a bagel, deciding to eat light. He just wasn't in the mood for a feast today. Gordon idly flipped through the paper and came across the rumours section, which seemed to indicate that there was an increasing military presence in the area.
Of course, it was just a rumour. Why would the military be fortifying positions around the facility?
"Don't tell me you're falling for those things as well."
Gordon looked up and saw Dr Eli Vance standing next to him, tray in his hands. Gordon smiled.
"I haven't been listening to Barney for that long, no." He gestured to a seat around the table. "Please, have a seat. You're making me feel awkward, just standing there."
Eli slid into the chair and dug into his bacon and scrambled eggs. He always did have a healthy appetite. He waited until he had chewed and swallowed before he spoke.
"Sorry. I've been kind of feeling on edge for the past few days."
"Dr Kleiner's meeting with the Administrator?"
Eli nodded. "Izzy hasn't stopped talking about it since it happened, and I can understand why."
"Anything you can tell me about?"
The dark skinned scientist paused. "Sorry, Gordon. I was already breaking the rules when I told you about the meeting in the first place."
Gordon tried to hide his frown. He hadn't known it was supposed to be kept secret. Hopefully Barney wouldn't let anything slip to his colleagues. They mostly dismissed or ignored him when he started talking about conspiracy theories anyway.
"Well… is there anything you can tell me?"
"I can tell you it's to do with the sample we're using on Monday. Since you're the one who's going to be in the middle of it, I figured you should know that much."
"Speaking of which, I've got some formulae to run past you, if you're free later."
Gordon took a sip of his coffee, and thought for a moment. "Dr Kleiner wants to run through some new hazard containment protocols with me today, but I'm free after, say… three o'clock?"
Eli smiled and nodded. "Yeah, that'll do nicely. In fact, come over about six, and I'll have Azian whip us up some dinner."
"Are you sure she won't mind? It is quite short notice, after all, and-"
He waved a dismissive hand. "Of course she won't mind. Just leave it to me." He winked. "I'll talk her into it."
Gordon smiled, nodded, and took a bite of his bagel. Having seen Azian's temper up close and personal, he wasn't so sure of Eli's abilities. But, if he had some kind of death wish, Gordon wasn't about to intervene.
The announcement channel chimed twice, and the usual low mechanical voice emerged.
"Dr Freeman. Report to Dr Kleiner's office immediately."
Eli looked up expectantly. "Is that your appointment?"
"As far as I know, it's not for another two hours," Gordon replied, confused. He shrugged. "I suppose Dr Kleiner's busier than I thought."
Eli smiled and shook his head. "I think you can call him Isaac, Gordon. You have known him the longest out of all of us."
Gordon shrugged. "He was my teacher. Old habits die hard."
"Don't I know it."
Gordon lightly ran around the corner and found Dr Kleiner looking through the window of his office, his hands cupped over his eyes. Barney was stood behind him, looking considerably better than he had in the cafeteria, his arms crossed and his foot tapping. He noticed Gordon entering the corridor and smiled.
"There y'are. Dr Kleiner, he's here."
Kleiner looked up from his bent over position, a kind smile spreading across his features as he saw Gordon.
"Ah, Gordon. It appears I've locked myself out of my office again. It seems I left both my usual key card and my spare in the office, and put the door on auto lock."
Barney smiled cockily at Gordon. "I figured you might want another race. Maybe you can owe me a beer this time."
"Which you still haven't given me yet."
"I said I would, and I will," he replied, his voice going up a defensive octave.
Dr Kleiner cleared his throat and scratched the side of his head. "Excuse me, gentlemen, but…"
The security officer put up his hands in mock surrender. "Okay, doc." He turned to Gordon. "You ready?"
"Three… two… one… go!"
Barney raced down the corridor and around the corner, heading for the security office where the skeleton key card was kept.
Gordon and Kleiner exchanged an amused smile before he crouched and opened an air vent directly next to the office door. He crawled inside and wriggled through, months of practice ensuring that he didn't make a sound. As he crawled, Gordon heard Dr Kleiner's voice echoing down the vent.
"You know, you really should tell him about this at some point, Gordon. He's running himself ragged every time."
"He'll figure it out eventually," he replied, pushing open the grate inside Kleiner's office. He got up and walked over to the desk, picked up one of the key cards, and opened the door.
Kleiner made his way inside. "But really, Gordon, it takes him ten minutes to run there and back. I'm not sure it's good for him. He doesn't get as much exercise as he should, you know." He sat down at his desk and began sorting through various papers. "Well, as long as you're here," he sighed, gesturing to the chair opposite the desk, "we might as well go through those hazard procedures before my eleven o'clock arrives."
Gordon nodded wearily and sat down, having to move some stacked books and various papers before he could do so.
"Now, this is the-"
The two turned to see a breathless Barney stood in the doorway, a skeleton key card in his hand. "I had a new one made and put it closer to his office so I could win this! How the hell did you get in here so fa-?"
He paused as he noticed the dislodged grate lying on the ground, which Gordon had forgotten to re-attach.
Barney let out an exasperated sigh and let his head hang. "I'm a freaking security officer. How did I miss that the ten million times we've done this?"
Kleiner seemed to seriously consider the question. "Low attention span, perhaps?" he asked innocently, not meaning it as an insult.
"Oh, ha, ha. I still only owe you one beer, Gordon."
And with that declaration, the security officer turned on his heel and walked away. The two scientists watch the door close, and then turned back to each other.
"Now, let's get back to work, shall we?"
Eli walked over to the kitchen door, gesturing for Gordon to take a seat.
"We'll get to work once we've had dinner."
"Are you sure this is all right?"
"Stop worrying. Azian's fine with it."
An indignant 'ha' came from the kitchen, and Eli put on a forced smile and turned to go inside. He stopped himself in the doorway.
"Oh, Gordon - would you mind keeping an eye on Alyx in the living room while we get dinner ready?"
Azian's voice once again emerged from the kitchen, though this time much louder. "'We'?"
Eli turned and went inside. "Honey, what I meant was…"
Trying to ignore the argument going on in the kitchen, Gordon made his way into the living room, feeling slightly nervous, though not knowing why. He didn't really have much experience with babies, having only had contact with his nephew, whose picture he had in his locker. He wasn't sure if baby girls or baby boys were any different in her behaviour, or if they had different requirements, or…
He took a breath.
Calm down, Freeman. You're just watching her, not adopting her.
In the living room, two year old Alyx Vance was sat on the floor, playing with some blocks. She looked up at Gordon as he entered the room, pure wonder on her face.
Unsure of what to do, Gordon elected to sit down cross legged next to her, remembering hearing something about children liking being treated like equals, or something along those lines. And since he wasn't aiming at being an authority figure in her life any time soon, he didn't see the harm.
She crawled over to him, her curiosity over this strange thing sat in front of her overriding any caution. A chubby hand reached out and grasped his finger.
Now Gordon really didn't know what to do.
The door to the living room opened behind him.
"Would you look at that…"
Gordon glanced over his shoulder at Eli, who was stood with his arms crossed, an impressed look on his face.
"It's strange. That girl has damn near hated everyone she came across, and then you sit down and poof. Like a newborn puppy."
He looked down at the child in front of him, Alyx's eyes looking into his. It was a very odd experience, feeling like one was being judged by a baby.
"I must not look very threatening."
Eli let out a small chuckle. "Anyway," he said, hefting Alyx up into his arms. "It's time for dinner, little lady, so…"
Gordon got to his feet and followed Eli through to the dining room. He always enjoyed coming to Eli's quarters; the entire place seemed like a mansion compared to his modest accommodations.
He sat down at the table, taking in the smell of the food on the table. It was some Malaysian dish he was unfamiliar with, but he had to admit it smelled delicious, especially considering his diet usually consisted of what a college student would usually consume. After waiting for everyone else to get seated and comfortable, Gordon began eating. As expected, it was delicious.
"So, Gordon," Azian began between sips of her water, "how are you? I haven't talked to you since… last month, was it?"
He shrugged. "More of the same. Nothing really changes much down here." He nodded at her. "And you?"
With her eyes closed, she nodded her head. "Those are pretty much my sentiments as well. Although, work in Sector H has been getting quite hectic recently, what with-" she stopped herself in mid sentence. "Well, you'll be finding out on Monday." She waited for Gordon to swallow some of the food he was chewing before talking again. "What about… Gina, is it? How is she?"
Eli suddenly looked quite embarrassed, and Gordon felt equally awkward. "Um… we… it didn't work out."
"Oh? Why not?"
"We weren't right for each other, I suppose. You'd have to ask her about it," he said, without one iota of bitterness in his voice. He actually didn't mind that much, and when he thought on it, it was probably that apathy that drove Gina away.
Noticing the look on Eli's face, Azian scrutinised Gordon. "And how long ago was this?"
His green eyes went wide beneath his glasses. He tried to avoid glancing at Eli as he spoke. "Oh, very recent. Very recent indeed."
Her glare intensified.
"Three weeks? And you didn't think I would want to know about this?" Azian said, looking at Eli.
"Well, it's his business, I didn't think… I, uh… um… sorry."
Gordon took another bite of his food, and Alyx chortled away happily, smearing sauce on her face. He sighed inwardly.
Ah, to live the simple life…
"See you on Monday, Gordon. We'll have to do this again sometime."
"Maybe with some warning this time, hmm?" Azian added, readjusting her grip on Alyx. Her face softened into a warm smile. "It was nice to see you, Gordon. Eli's right; do visit again. Alyx seems to have taken real a shine to you."
As if to accentuate the point, Alyx reached towards Gordon, grunting with the effort.
Gordon just smiled and nodded, not sure how to take such adulation from a baby. He reached out and grasped Alyx's small hand with this thumb and forefinger, shaking it gently.
"Uh… nice to see you again."
Both Eli and Azian burst out laughing. Eli shook his head. "I'll see you on Monday, Gordon."
"Right. See you then."
He turned and left, hands in his pockets as he headed for the train station. He passed a few scientists who had been burning the midnight oil on some project or another, but none that he recognised. Three drunken security guards stumbled past as he entered the train station, the middle one looking worse for wear as his two comrades struggled to carry his stumbling and happy form away.
Gordon sat down and waited for his train, idly picking up a copy of the Black Mesa Times and flicking through it while he did so.
A strange feeling crept up the back of his neck as he read, and he slowly lowered the newspaper to see a train passing through the station carrying Administrator Breen. Although he was sure Breen recognised him, Gordon didn't see any indication of a greeting. Breen just sat in his chair, tapping his knee with his hand nervously, his carefully trimmed white hair and beard shining slightly in the dim light. The train disappeared out of sight around the corner.
Gordon frowned. Why was Breen on that train? His quarters and office were in the nigh on opposite direction, and that train route in no way lead to the Sector C test labs. And with such a big experiment coming up… was this what his conversation with Dr Kleiner was about?
His train arrived in the station.
Gordon slowly made his way in, beginning to think that perhaps there was more to Barney's wild conspiracy theories than he had thought.
(A/N: Yes, another attempt at a Half Life adaptation. I'm hoping that mine will be a bit different from those I've seen around this section. I was toying with the idea of incorporating Adrian Shephard from Opposing Force, but having read other stories that deal with our favourite Corporal, I think I might leave it in their much more talented hands.
Also, I was going to have this from two points of view, Gordon and Barney (so I can cover both Half Life and Blue Shift in the same story), but now I'm debating whether or not to just leave it exclusively in Gordon's, seeing as Barney's adventure is pretty much a side story, and not really vital to the overall thing.
So, let me hear you thoughts. Do you want Barney's POV from Blue Shift in here as well? Heck, do you want three POV's, with Shephard included?
Review, and tell me what you think.)