The Half Life games and the characters within don't belong to me. No infringement is intended, no profit is to be made and I'm just not worth the hassle of suing anyway unless you want a share of the wages of an underpaid Civil Servant.

"There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion." - Gen. William Thornson

"I give the Combine a lot of credit, though. They're tough competitors, a real class act! " - Resistance Fighter, 2029

White Forest Resistance Base – Eastern Europe – Earth under the Combine

'We've never encountered anything like this "Shockroach" of yours before' Leon, the self-identified Resistance Officer stated as he stood over Adrian Shephard, the marine seated on a low stool in the middle of a small, otherwise empty room with concrete walls, no windows and a rusty steel door that was propped open. The marine's hands were tied behind his back which along with his dripping wet clothes was not improving either his mood or that of the alien clamped on his right forearm. Shephard was still wearing his Powered Combat Vest as it had proven impossible to take the PCV off with the shockroach in place and after debating whether to cut the alien off or not the resistance members had simply opted to stick him in the shower fully clothed and kept it running long after the hot water ran out.

'Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?' Shephard asked sarcastically. 'I already told you that the big bug on my arm wasn't originally from Xen' he said yet again for the benefit of the cretin with the lambda armband on.

'He's correct' another man's voice interrupted from the doorway, Shephard looking over to see a man in perhaps his early sixties with greying brown hair and a powder blue jacket on. 'The creature is likely a Race X weapon according to descriptions I've heard of them' he told the Resistance Officer while glaring at the HECU Marine with barely concealed contempt.

'Never heard of them' Leon responded.

'Doctor Rosenberg mentioned them once, apparently they also attempted to invade Earth via the Border World' the newcomer replied. 'We never encountered them again after the Black Mesa Incident despite the influx of aliens we experienced consequently due to the Portal Storms' he said. 'I've no idea why they stopped' he admitted.

'They stopped because I stopped them' Shephard stated. 'There was this big ugly mother which I guess was in charge and I kicked its ass' he said proudly. 'Had to kick the ass of a lot of its grunts first though' he added.

'The Black Mesa Incident was twenty years ago' Leon the Resistance Officer noted doubtfully. 'You couldn't have been long out of diapers' he told Shephard.

'Which brings me back to asking if IQ's dropped while I was away because I also already told you that some portal-opening weirdo with an agenda yanked my ass out of Black Mesa back in 2009 and the next thing I knew I was on the other side of the world and it was 2029' Shephard responded, rolling his eyes. 'Maybe it was time travel or maybe he froze me or something?' the marine suggested, 'Fact is, I really don't have a fucking clue' he admitted.

'Time travel' Leon repeated with a snort of derision. 'You're not buying this are you Doctor Magnusson?' he asked the other man.

The older man, "Magnusson", frowned. 'If it wasn't for the fact we have experienced temporal dislocation during our teleporter experiments I'd be more dismissive' he said. 'For that matter our guest's mysterious reappearance after two decades, during which he hasn't seemed to have aged, does dovetail intriguingly with the return of Doctor Freeman.'

Leon looked at Shephard again. 'Sounds like bullshit to me' he said. 'Did you take a look at the other gear he had with him?' he asked.

'I did and along with his uniform the equipment does tally with his story' Magnusson said. 'Although I must confess the memories thrown up by seeing a Powered Combat Vest again are distasteful.'

Shephard frowned now himself. 'You've seen a PCV before?' he queried, it was top-secret military technology after all. 'When?'

'Originally when I helped design it' Magnusson replied. 'Or to be more precise I was brought in as a consultant to the team that was assigned the task of producing the PCV based upon technology developed by me for the HEV Mark III project' he said. 'I might be more proud of my accomplishments in helping them perfect the design if I hadn't later witnessed a murderous bunch of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals wearing them slaughter my friends and colleagues' he snarled at Shephard.

'You were there in New Mexico when everything went to hell' Shephard realised. He might have been more surprised if his life recently had been less strange but as it was he took the news in his stride.

'I was at Black Mesa' Magnusson confirmed with a nod. 'Did you have fun gunning down innocent civilians?' he asked rhetorically, his expression one of obvious hatred for the marine.

Shephard looked the scientist directly in the eyes. 'The only civilians I killed had fucking aliens clamped on their heads' he replied coldly, angered by the accusation he was a murderer. 'The HECU was sent to Black Mesa to help the security teams there bring the situation under control as per our standing orders.'

'Containment, what a wonderful euphemism for a government cover-up based upon massacring all the witnesses' Magnusson responded. 'I suppose you're going to claim that I didn't see what the military did with my own two eyes too?' he asked, sneering.

'That was Black Ops not the HECU' Shephard replied firmly, certain he was correct. 'Those sons-of-bitches didn't just kill your friends they killed mine too' he informed Magnusson. 'Look, the situation on the ground was already well on its way to being a total clusterfuck by the time I came to, and I'll admit a few of my guys might have maybe gotten a little trigger-happy what with all the alien monsters running around' he conceded, remembering how things had been in Fallujah where civilians had been killed occasionally by accident during the heat of battle, 'but the United States Marine Corps are not murderers' he vehemently denied.

'What do you mean by "came to"?' Leon queried.

'My Osprey was shot down just as my platoon was about to arrive at Black Mesa as part of the second wave of troops' Shephard explained. 'Someone dragged me out of the wreckage unconscious and a civilian doctor patched me up' he said. 'I was out for a few hours and by the time I was back on my feet the situation was already way beyond FUBAR' he said. 'When I got to a radio and tried to find out what was going on I was told we were pulling out.'

'And then what?' Leon asked.

'After that I fought my way through Black Mesa, killed hundreds of aliens, a few dozen Black ops, travelled back and forth to another dimension a few times and I saved the world' Shephard told him. 'I guess from the state it's in now, someone else must have dropped the ball after I was taken out of the game' he couldn't resist adding.

Magnusson turned to Leon. 'I've heard enough of this' he said. 'Just keep him locked up while we decide what to do with him and his pet' he said, turning to leave.

'I won't bother asking for an attorney but could you at least untie me so I can get the circulation back in my hands?' Shephard requested.

'Not with that thing on your arm' Leon replied as Magnusson walked out.

'Okay but when I need to take a leak whoever has to help me with that might not like getting the assignment' the Marine Corporal warned him as the Resistance Officer followed the scientist out of the room and closed the door behind him. 'I guess I'm sleeping on the floor then' he said getting up off the stool to stretch his legs.

From what Shephard had seen of it when they marched him inside, disarmed him, took the rest of his stuff and then insisted he took a long shower White Forest Base had originally been a Cold War bunker complex. There were indications of recent fighting in some of the corridors, with a large number of bullet holes and scorch-marks on the walls, but for the most part the dilapidated condition of the place could be mostly put down to age and lack of maintenance rather than combat.

After pacing around the improvised cell for a while in order to try and warm up Shephard eventually sat back down on the stool. 'You know eventually I guess they'll want to take my PCV which means either you get cut off or my arm does Shan' he told the shockroach. 'Seems like you're one-of-a-kind so I guess I'm going to end up a south-paw by default' he supposed fatalistically.

Five minutes later and with nothing else to do than think the reality of the situation began to sink in. He had no idea if his parents or his little sister were still alive, and if she was his kid sister would look more than fifteen years older than him by now he realised. For a moment he wondered if she had gotten married in the meantime and if he was now possibly an uncle but then he recalled Noriko mentioning that the Combine had done something to stop women getting pregnant.

The door opened again and a man and a woman entered, both wearing similar garb and green woollen hats. The man had an MP7 which he pointed at Shephard and the woman had a tray with a steaming bowl of something on it. 'Don't try anything or I'll blow your head off' the man warned.

'If that's my dinner you'll need to untie me' Shephard told them.

'No, I'm supposed to feed you' the woman said nervously, putting the tray down in front of him picking up a spoon. 'It's Antlion broth' she said.

'I've no idea what that is so I'll just ask if that's what you eat' Shephard checked he wasn't being given pet food or something.

'Yes, it's not too bad' the woman replied. 'Better than headcrab stew anyway' she told him.

Shephard grimaced. 'You people eat those things?' he asked with distaste. 'I wouldn't feed one to my bug' he said. 'Talking of which you'll also need to feed Shannon too at some point' he told her. 'The only thing I know he eats for certain are Snickers Bars' he said. 'There were a few in my pack.'

'I haven't seen a Snickers Bar in twenty years!' the woman exclaimed, she looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties and would have been a kid when the world went to hell Shephard surmised, and if she'd been eating zombie-creating aliens since he could understand her enthusiasm for a fondly remembered piece of her childhood.

'He only usually eats half so you can split it with him if you like' Shephard offered, turning around on the stool so they could see the shockroach. 'The mouth is the hole that has teeth' he told her. 'You don't want to get that wrong' he advised seriously.

'It's watching me' the woman said in wonderment as the shockroach looked her over with mild interest.

'Shan's always on the lookout for a pretty girl' Shephard replied. 'Bug after my own heart.'

'This is my wife' the man told him in a manner that indicated he didn't appreciate any continued flirting going on.

'Then I guess you were too' Shephard responded, turning around on the stool again. 'Doesn't smell too bad at least' he said of the broth as the woman spooned some up and lifted it to his mouth. 'Damn that's hot' he said, sticking out his tongue after swallowing the first spoonful. The broth was absolutely scalding.

'I'm sorry' the woman apologised. 'Um... I could blow on it' she offered.

Shephard tried to keep a straight face. 'Best offer I've had in years but not with your husband standing there holding a machine-pistol' he replied causing her to blush bright red as she realised what she'd said. 'Come on dude that was funny, lighten up' he told the man who had glared at Shephard for a moment. 'Just spoon it from the edge it'll be fine' he told the woman.

'Get a move on Josephine' the man told his wife impatiently.

'I'm sorry, he's not usually so stern' the woman, Josephine, apologised to Shephard as she resumed feeding him the broth.

'That's okay' Shephard replied after swallowing the second spoonful, at least it was better than some of the crap the Corps had fed him on in the field on occasion he decided, getting used to the strange taste.

Shephard had nearly finished the broth when his meal was interrupted by the sudden wail of sirens echoing down the corridor outside. 'Oh My God' the woman gasped, dropping the spoon. 'They're attacking again' she said in horror.

'Maybe I should have warned you about what tends to happen to people shortly after I meet them recently' Shephard said apologetically. 'Also if you know a girl named Noriko tell her to keep her head down' he requested.

'What the hell are you talking about?' the man hissed at the marine.

'Just giving you fair warning' Shephard told him.

Another man, this one wearing a bandana appeared at the doorway and stuck his head inside the room. 'Combine troops spotted moving towards us' he said. 'Get to your stations' he ordered.

'But we haven't seen any aircraft' Josephine responded, clearly starting to panic.

'We think they're from the City 16 Garrison' the man with the bandana told her. 'They probably travelled by train to near St Olga and marched the rest of the way' he said. 'No Striders so far but they've got Hunters with them and there's a couple of hundred Overwatch backed by at least that many CP's' he said. 'Sneaky bastards drew off most of our perimeter defence with a feint, sent a couple of platoons towards White Forest from another direction and then retreated after a short firefight' he said. 'Half our guys decided we had them on the run, broke ranks and went after them, falling straight into an ambush.'

'Well so far I'm more impressed by their grasp of tactics than I am your discipline' Shephard commented disparagingly. Getting suckered by a feigned retreat was an amateur mistake and so was falling for a diversionary attack.

Josephine turned to her husband. 'What are we going to do Steve?' she asked him, increasingly distraught. 'The only thing that stopped the last two attacks was Doctor Freeman and you know he left in that helicopter yesterday' she said. 'We're all going to die' she said, starting to cry.

Shephard coughed to attract everyone's attention. 'I won't say anything about the defeatist attitude, other than to drop it right now because it'll get you killed,' he began once they were looking at him again, 'but if someone wants to untie me then I can probably help' he said. 'If some geek in an orange suit of armour can kick their asses then I sure as hell can' he said confidently.

'Freeman is a one man army' the resistance fighter with the bandana on replied dismissively.

Adrian Shephard stood up. 'Which would make me a one-man-and-his-bug-army' he said. 'Which do you think is more dangerous?'

'Ignore him, lock him up and get to your posts' the man with the bandana told the married couple before disappearing.

'It's your funeral' Shephard responded, shrugging as best he could with his hands tied behind his back and sitting back down. 'I'll be here if you change your minds.'

Josephine blinked and wiped the tears from her eyes. 'Uriah talked about him like he was special right' she remarked to her husband, 'that he'd bleed the Combine or something?'

'The Vortigaunts don't always get things right' her husband Steve replied, shooing her out of the door. 'If they did the Combine wouldn't have conquered them in the first place' he reasoned logically as they left the room together and locked the door behind them.

'You're keeping your MVP out of the game' Shephard called out loudly before sighing. 'We just don't get the respect or recognition we deserve Shannon' he addressed his shockroach sadly, the insectoid alien appearing to respond with a series of clicks. 'Yep, there ain't no justice' Shephard agreed.

Before too long the marine started to hear explosions in the distance which got gradually louder as the fighting got closer to the base. Then the sound of gunfire and shouting became mixed in, the volume of the shooting climbing rapidly as the attacking force closed in likely using their superior numbers to overwhelm the defenders.

Shephard looked up at the door when he heard the scrape of a rusty bolt being pulled back, he jumped to his feet and prepared to shoulder charge whoever it was on the other side because he had no intention of dying in this damn cell but as the door swung open and he saw two familiar faces he held back on barging them aside. 'Is this a rescue?' he asked.

'Kinda, we're really hoping you can rescue us' Noriko replied dropping Shephard's equipment harness and gear onto the floor. 'I thought you might need this' she said. 'Found it all in the armoury, the guard got sent to help defend Silo 2 so I just walked in and took it.'

'Steve is fighting, he told me to hide' Josephine told Shephard, voice trembling 'but I went to find Noriko instead' she continued. 'Please help my husband' she begged.

'Combat knife attached to the harness there' Shephard indicated with a nod towards it before turning around. 'Just cut the rope not me or the bug okay?'

Josephine took the knife and cut him free. 'They've already managed to get inside' she told the marine. 'I heard someone screaming about Hunters in the upper levels' she said. 'You can kill them right?' she checked.

'Sure' Shephard replied confidently, turning around and rubbing his wrists. 'But while I put on my gear could one of you explain what a Hunter is' he requested, bending down to pick up his ammunition harness. 'Also how do I recognise the bad guys generally?' he queried, putting the LC-2 webbing gear on.

Josephine and Noriko looked at each other. 'Why is he so sure he can kill a Hunter if he doesn't even know what one is?' the former asked, nonplussed.

'Because I've never met an alien I couldn't kill yet' Shephard said brightly, starting to check his weapons were loaded, starting with his Desert Eagle. 'It's like some kind of talent I never knew I had until I really needed it' he told them, returning his magnum automatic to its holster and moving onto his HECU-Issue MP5 submachine-gun.

'Please let this not be ego or insanity' Noriko pleaded to the heavens. 'Okay, to start with a Hunter is this cyborg thing with three legs that's about yay high...' she began, holding out her hand to indicate the size of the creature.

The Hunter Combat Synth was one of the most effective and justifiably feared creations of Combine Military Science. With armour optimised against pulse fire or high-velocity projectiles it was tough enough that even a direct hit from weaponry that could stop a APC wasn't always enough to kill one, moreover it was far more intelligent than opponents tended to think being able to follow orders and seek out and destroy specific targets.

Once the Overwatch was able to breach the top of Silo 2 using explosives they had sent in a few elite troops to secure their forced entryway and then a larger force of regular infantry and Civil Protection was sent in to start taking the building floor by floor. Ahead of them however a pair of Hunters with orders to track down and kill or disable the two resistance scientists known to be at White Forest were dispatched into the bunker complex and they ruthlessly slew their way through the rebels, most of whom were now only rear-echelon personnel armed with near-ineffectual pistols or MP7's.

'I shouldn't be here' a resistance member wearing a beige shirt and holding a CP issue USP Match automatic in his hands nervously told the man next to him behind the improvised barricade they had set up in a corridor while waiting for the Combine to penetrate this far into the facility. 'I'm only a radio operator' he complained. 'I wish I had an AR3 not this thing' he added, waving the handgun about.

'For the last time there is no such thing as an AR3' the other resistance fighter replied through gritted teeth. He was the base weapons instructor and had been trying to train the latest batch of recruits drifting in from City 17 when the attack started. 'Anyhow I thought you could tear Hunters apart with your bare hands so what are you worried about?' he asked sarcastically.

'Those were City Hunters' the radio operator responded. 'I haven't learned the moves of Countryside Hunters yet' he persisted with his extremely dubious claims. 'But once I've seen a few of them in action I'll be tearing ten or twenty apart every day again like before' he lied.

The instructor groaned, why couldn't I have ended up stuck with someone else he wondered? 'I've only got the one dark-energy round so you'd better figure out their moves fast because after I take out the first Hunter they'll be all over our ass' he said, taking aim with his AR2 Pulse Rifle. The pulses themselves would be of little help against the synths, they weren't much more dangerous or effective than conventional bullets, but the built-in dark-energy ball launcher on the alien-tech assault rifle was a different matter. It was only a pity the ammunition for the launchers was always in such short supply because the Resistance mainly relied on captured weaponry and only Elite Overwatch soldiers carried launcher ammo.

With a screech of what might be challenge or anger the first Hunter appeared down the corridor and spotted the two resistance fighters behind their flimsy barricade. Before it could launch a salvo of the vicious charged fléchettes which it carried as long-range armament the weapons instructor demonstrated why he had been given that assignment and fired the launcher on his AR2 first.

The sphere of dark-energy streaked through the air and impacted the Hunter right in the centre of its combination torso and head. For a moment with energy crackling around it the Hunter seemed to lift into the air but then it disintegrated, leaving nothing behind. 'Gottcha' the weapon instructor said with satisfaction although his elation was short-lived as a second Hunter appeared. 'Shit' he swore, 'open fire' he ordered, holding down the trigger of his AR2.

Able to soak up several thirty-round magazines of pulse-rounds before going down the Hunter shrugged off the onslaught of fire and fired its fléchette launchers back at the resistance fighters who managed to duck just before the things ploughed into their barricade and practically tore it apart. 'The bullets just bounce off!' the radio operator shrieked as he realised just how useless his pistol was against something like this.

'No shit' the instructor replied as his AR2 ejected the first thirty-round power-pack he had already expended and automatically loaded another.

Fixated on the enemies in front of it the Hunter failed to register another threat until it was too late but the instructor and the radio operator got an excellent view of some lunatic jumping out from nowhere wearing bulky body-armour and holding something high above his head that they realised was a old red-painted pipe-wrench when he brought it crashing down on the Hunter's head.

Although extremely tough and resilient to gunfire, inside the Hunter was still organic and the jarring blow rattled its brain around its skull like a boxer receiving a full-strength punch to head. Totally dazed it staggered to the left before a second swinging blow from the pipe-wrench hit it squarely in the face where its eyes and sensors were located, disorientating the synth even more. 'Ooh-rah!' the maniac with the wrench yelled in triumph as the Hunter collapsed.

'It's not dead yet' the instructor yelled out a warning.

The man with the wrench dropped it and pulled a large handgun, bending down he pushed the gun-barrel right into the Hunter's face and pulled the trigger twice, the supersonic magnum rounds going straight through the now shattered plastic which had once protected the sensors and into the cyborgs brain. 'Bet it is now' the man wagered as the Hunter stopped moving.

Holstering his pistol again and reaching behind himself to yank free a SPAS-12 pump-action shotgun from where it had been secured to his backpack with Velcro the stranger pumped a shell into the chamber. 'Wait there for a minute' he told the resistance fighters after taking a look at the pistol one of them was carrying as his sole weapon before heading off in the direction the synth had come from.

'I forgot to mention that back in City 17 we always carried a pipe wrench when we fought hunters' the radio operator spoke up. 'I left mine there' he continued as the weapon instructor turned towards him. 'With my AR3' he added just before the sound of a shotgun going off followed by a high-pitched electronic tone informed the world that a Civil Protection Officer had just gotten his head blown off.

More shotgun blasts, yelling, screaming, automatic gunfire and a shouted plea for more backup abruptly ended by a single report of the magnum automatic was followed shortly thereafter by the guy with the body armour and helmet on walking back towards them. He was now carrying an AR2 in each hand and had a third hanging by a strap over his shoulder where it was bouncing up against a smaller SMG also hanging there. His armour was now scorch-marked by pulse-fire and what looked like tiny dents from bullets bouncing off it but the man himself looked unharmed and entirely too chipper. 'Try this instead' he suggested to the radio operator, throwing him one of the AR2's which the technician caught awkwardly, nearly dropping his pistol in the process. 'Come on guys, you know what they say; lead, follow or get out of the way' he told them, grinning before turning and heading off towards the sound of gunfire.

'Aren't you that guy Uriah made the fuss about?' the instructor asked, he had heard the story and the alien on the man's arm was a fairly big clue.

'Corporal Adrian Shephard, Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, United States Marine Corps' the man confirmed, breaking into double-time. 'So are you coming or not?' he asked.

The weapon instructor thought about it. 'Screw it' he said eventually. 'Follow Shephard' he told the radio operator, before running to catch up with the marine himself.

Note from the Author:

Leon was the Resistance Leader at Shorepoint Base. He's relocated to White Forest along with quite a lot of other resistance fighters now that City 17 has been destroyed.

Doctor Arne Magnusson is the leader of White Forest and another former member of the Black Mesa science team (more of them apparently survived than you might expect). The HECU were in fact involved in some fairly horrible actions regarding the Black Mesa civilians but Shephard never received those orders (their commanding officer was killed before it could be issued to Shephard's squad) and wasn't involved. He did see Black Ops soldiers killing civilians (and US Marines too) as part of their containment operation so Shephard assumes Magnusson is just blaming the wrong people.

Josephine and Steve are just names I've given the "Consoling Couple" who we see several times in Half-Life 2 including at White Forest by which time they've joined the resistance (she's the nervous, despairing sort).

The weapon instructor and the radio operator are involved in a very funny conversation/argument Gordon Freeman witnesses at White Forest Base regarding the mythical AR3 and hand-to-hand combat with Hunter Synths. I just had to include them in the story! The non-mythical AR2, otherwise known as the Overwatch Standard Issue Pulse Rifle (OSIPR) is a decent weapon and can fire dark-energy balls that are very useful against Hunters. The other hand-weapons used by the Combine (and Resistance) like the MP7 and the USP Match Pistol are really not much help against the combat synths.

While the signature weapon of Gordon Freeman (and the Half-Life series in general) is a Crowbar, Adrian Shephard carries two melee weapons. These are his USMC Combat Knife and a very large and heavy Pipe Wrench he picked up at Black Mesa. The wrench deals considerably more damage than a crowbar, especially if swung with full force.