Disclaimer: Half-Life (c) to Valve.
The alleyway was covered in grime and dust, and she kicked a little of it up each time she moved. Behind her, she could hear the Combine officer approaching. Her breath was a fog of white in front of her face, completely unable to control her terrified panting. The gun in her hand was slippery. Her palms were sweating again.
Alyx blinked, her eyes watering although the dust had not clouded up into her face. Tilting her head left and right, she deducted the best way out of the alley. To her right was a dumpster standing next to a rotting wooden fence. To her left, a brick wall.
Taking a deep breath, she made her choice. Holding her gun in a death grip with her right hand, she bolted towards the dumpster. She sprang upon it like a cat, her feet much steadier than her head. With nary a moment to spare before the officer would spot her, Alyx leapt out to the fence. The wood was damp under her hand, and as she planted her feet on the boards, the entire thing collapsed beneath her.
She fell, painfully, with a whumph of escaping air. Her eyes pricked with tears and she felt the cold grip of fear overtake her. Stunned, she looked ahead, barely able to see past the watering of her eyes. The alleyway continued here, around the corner of an abandoned warehouse. Past the sound of creaking, snapping wood, she thought she could hear the gravelly voice of the officer.
Alyx scrambled to her feet, gasping erratically as she tried to catch her breath. Her feet were moving before she could piece together another route, pealing around the corner of the warehouse as if Breen himself were on her heels.
She stopped around the corner of the warehouse, facing an empty street and a field beyond. Leaning over her knees, she wheezed.
A tickle was forming in her nose. Inwardly, she cursed the dust but before she could stop herself, she sneezed.
Something cold and hard was at her neck. Alyx hissed.
"Goddamnit, Barney. I almost had it this time!"
Barney's chocolate eyes swam with mirth and he laughed. "Well, try not to sneeze when you're running away from Civil Protection!"
Alyx gave him a tired glare. "Could you point that thing somewhere else?" She glanced to the gun.
"It's not even loaded. It doesn't even work. See, it's taped together."
With a groan, the eighteen-year-old girl slid down the wall of the warehouse until she was sitting on her rump, leaning her arms over her knees. "Am I getting better, at least?"
Barney sat down next to her, giving her a glance before looking around ahead of them. "I think you are, kiddo. Although, really, you should look before you leap. I almost thought you'd broken something falling on that fence over there."
Alyx's soft laugh was quickly drowned out with a cough.
"You have a cold?"
"Something. It doesn't matter. Let's go again."
Ten minutes later, they were darting through the abandoned mill again, a game of cat-and-mouse they'd practiced at since Alyx was twelve. In a few more years, he would never be able to catch her.
Alyx leaned her arms against the wooden board, raising her pistol with steady hands. She gazed through the sight for a small moment, then fired. The modified gun reported rapidly and loudly, but the sound was more comforting than irritating. About fifteen seconds later, the magazine was emptied. With a soft sigh that could have been interpreted as disappointment, Alyx rose to her feet.
Twenty meters away, pinned to a terribly pockmarked concrete wall, was a sheet of paper with a circle on it. Shoving her gun in its holster, she crossed the space and took the paper down, examining her aim. Either her gun had to be repaired or she was going blind.
Another sigh, this one definitely disappointed.
On the other side of the firing range, the door squealed open. Glancing back, she saw Gordon in his hoodie sweater and loose jeans. He gave her a little wave.
"Hey," she called, pinning a new sheet of paper up and turning to cross the firing range again.
Gordon shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket and smiled. "Hi, Alyx."
"What brings you down here? I thought you were scouting."
"I'm... I'm done," he murmured in his soft voice. "I was... um, I was wondering... if you were busy."
Alyx stopped at the table where she had fired from earlier, letting a bemused expression cross her face as Gordon suddenly looked away.
"I am kind of busy, Gordon," she said apologetically. "I'm trying to get my gun fixed. It doesn't want to fire straight."
"Oh, uh, okay," he said, turning to leave.
Alyx crossed the space between them before he could reach the door. "Hey... what's wrong?" she asked, placing a hand on his lower arm.
"Nothing," he said, offering her a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. He hesitated. "Um... wait. Actually..."
He pulled something out of his hoodie pocket and placed it in her hand. It was a brown package wrapped in twine. "Here," he said. Before Alyx could stop him, he slipped out of the door and was gone.
Alyx stood looking at the package for a moment, perplexed. Her bemused expression returning, she went to the table and pulled the twine off the paper.
Inside, she found a semi-automatic pistol, much like her own. Alyx looked closer. It was her gun. A near-exact copy. Where had he found it?
It gleamed brightly in the artificial light, polished clean and in good condition. As she lifted it up to inspect closer, she saw that underneath there was a sheet of folded white paper.
Her face reddened a little as she put the gun down and picked up the paper. When she unfolded it, a small white flower fell out. She immediately recognized Gordon's slanted cursive, written in blue ink.
I don't know when your birthday is, so I don't know if this is early or late. Hope you like it.
Alyx picked up the little flower and felt her cheeks becoming even hotter. She glanced between it and the letter, her heart drumming in her chest. A smile built up across her face before breaking open, unable to remember how long it had been since she'd felt such exhilarating happiness. Leaving her old gun behind, she dashed out of the firing range.
She couldn't wait to learn when his birthday was.
The noise was horrendous, and he could see nothing. It was suffocating and terrifying, roaring and snarling all around him, closing in on every side. Gordon had passed being panicked a while ago, and now was just an automation, jerkily running his hands around beneath him for the flare he had dropped. Somewhere he could hear Alyx yelling. Her voice cut through the torrent of howls like a clear light cutting through still water.
Where was it? God, where was it? It was just in his hand a second ago, and he'd fumbled for an instant with his pistol and dropped it. As it slipped from his hands he could have sworn he felt his heart stop beating. As he searched, his flashlight died and then he was sure that he was dead.
Something collided with his arm, and he felt knives draw into his skin. The pain was sharp, but it dragged him to reality, and he took his crowbar and struck out blindly. It hit something and he swung again, and again, until he could no longer feel the heat of the creature before him and heard it collapse to the floor.
Find it. Find it. Gordon was searching again, hollering for Alyx to cover him. She was just as blind as he was.
His hand closed around something small and cylindrical and Gordon thought he would die. Gasping, he clutched it tightly in both hands and snapped it.
Light. Sharp, orange light like a sodium lamp, nearly blinding him in its intensity. Gordon stood quickly, holding the flare out in one hand and his pistol in the other.
God, they were everywhere. Shuffling and snarling, and the noise escalated as they saw his light.
"Here," he barked, and they were drawn to him.
Alyx fired with an accuracy he only wished to have. She sidled close to him as they made their way to the elevator. Hopefully by the time the flare died, the battery on his flashlight would have recharged.
Gordon slammed his foot onto the accelerator of his Charger, almost grinning with the power that the engine gave. The yellow beast leapt forward like a possessed thing, tearing through dirt and grass. Gordon could hear his pursuer behind him, gaining. His sure hands twisted the wheel and his feet let off the pedal so smoothly when he changed gears, it was like he was born for this.
The Charger slid around the corner and onto the road like a snake, only gaining speed as it went. It slipped through the trees and between rocks, tires kicking up the loam.
Ahead, he could see the guard towers of White Forest. He gunned it.
It didn't seem like the Charger could have gone any faster, but it did.
Gordon rocketed up the slope, turned the car slightly, and slid to a stop in front of the fence.
He climbed out of the car with a grin on his face and only a few leaves in his hair, turning to look back the way he came.
There was a low woo woo, and Dog came bounding up the road. He slowed a bit as he got closer, then stopped with a somersault in front of the physicist.
"Good boy," Gordon said, humor in his voice. "But I beat you this time."
In all honesty, Gordon wasn't too surprised that the mine cart he'd fallen into began to move. When he picked himself up he realized that he was stuck inside the damn thing, metal bars holding him in like a rat in a trap. By the time this information dawned, however, the cart was picking up speed, rocketing down an incline toward a mine shaft.
Gordon clung to the Gravity Gun as the movement made his whole body vibrate, figuring the cart would land and stop on that very sturdy-looking series of wood planks that sat a few meters down into the mine shaft.
Of course, they broke like particleboard and the damn cart kept going down.
His stomach shot up to his throat as he fell, weightless, all the way to what he felt should have been the very core of the earth. Before he hit what looked to be solid ground, he heard splashing, and before he could put the information together in his mind he was in the water.
It was freezing. Gordon plunged, hoping that the cart would not drag him down. It was difficult to see in the murky water, but he kicked instinctively, clutching the Gravity Gun with one hand and paddling wildly with the other.
When he broke the surface, he cast his eyes around wildly. It didn't feel like he'd broken anything. That was a good sign. He still had the Gravity Gun and could feel his shotgun still strapped to his back.
Gordon blinked through the water droplets on his glasses and let out a shivering breath.
That could have been a lot worse.
Ahead of him, he could see a rickety ladder and pushed for it. He was half expecting it to crumble and collapse while he scaled it, which would have matched up with all of the other fantastic luck he'd been given so far in these damn mines.
Gordon ignored these thoughts and kept climbing, feeling his arms and legs burning with exertion. About halfway up, he heard an explosion and scrabbled to press himself closer to the wall as another cart came sailing over the edge. It hadn't come close to hitting him, but the fear was there all the same. After it hit the water with a resounding splash, Gordon took a deep breath and continued up.
When he was a few rungs from the top, the Vortigaunt's face appeared from the lip, stopping about an inch away from his own nose.
Gordon couldn't quite contain his shock and yelped, nearly dropping the Gravity Gun as his reflexes jerked him backwards.
"Ah," the Vortigaunt was speaking, while Gordon was trying not to let his heart explode, "no pit would be complete without a Freeman climbing out of it."
Gordon suppressed a shudder as he picked himself up over the lip of the pit.
Vortigaunts scared the crap out of him.
The hopper mine had been cleverly placed. It was stuck around the corner of an alley, with a trash can and a recycle bin partially covering it. Gordon had been leading his Resistance squad at a break-neck speed, and he came around the wall without even thinking. The shrill beeping of warning was the shriek of a falling guillotine.
It exploded, scattering them all into different directions. Gordon ended up tumbling into one wall, wind knocked from his lungs. He heard screaming and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will it away.
One of the members of his squad had taken most of the blast and now lay twisting facedown on the concrete. Gordon turned his head and saw him, saw the blood splattered all over like a child's finger painting. He set his shotgun on the ground and crawled to the young man, whose screaming had fallen into high-pitched, quieter keening.
The other, uninjured members of the squad shied back, terror etched on their faces.
Gordon gently turned the young man over, immediately wishing that he hadn't done so. There was so much blood. Parts in places where they shouldn't have been. He blinked slowly.
The young man looked up at him. "Doc... hey, Doc. Am I gonna be okay?"
Gordon forced a smile onto his face. "Yeah. Yeah, you're going to be fine."
A shuddering breath of blood, splattered on his face. The squad member returned the smile weakly, eyes growing distant. "Oh... okay..." A final, rattling cough. Silence.
Gordon reached over sluggishly and closed the young man's eyes. He hadn't even known the kid's name, for God's sake. A few moments passed where Gordon attempted to stave off his racing thoughts. Above all of them came repeatedly: I can't do this. Then, impossibly, he reached over and plucked his shotgun from the ground, climbing back to his feet.
He could see the steel edge of the Citadel peeking above the alleyway.
Turning his head back to his squad, he cocked the shotgun. "Let's go."
(A/N: My namesake actually comes into play in one of these. (It's the song that plays when you're fighting for the elevator in Episode One.) I've been working on some (read: a huge) fic for L4D2, which totally took me by surprise, and what I thought would be a simple few pages of zombie apocalypse drabbling soon became something a lot... more involved. If you're interested, I'll likely be posting it pretty soon here. As always, thanks for reading.)