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Summary: Wake up Corporal Shephard. Wake up and smell the ashes.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Sci-Fi > Half-Life Universe(Current Donor)HotpointFR18415,9421153,98127 Jun 113 Jul 11No

Chapter Two

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.

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a marine and his rifle.” - General John Pershing, United States Army, 1918

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a marine and his... um... shockroach.” - Colonel Odessa Cubbage, City 17 Resistance, 2029

The White Forest Inn - Eastern Europe – Earth under the Combine

Shephard instinctively pulled the trigger of his Desert Eagle but the shot went wide as the creature leaping up at him knocked his pistol out of his hand and then secured itself firmly to his right forearm. It was gripping on for dear life with its multiple limbs and seemed to be responding to Shephard's involuntary cry of alarm with a series of loud clicks of its own.

‘Jesus Christ!’ Shephard exclaimed. ‘You nearly gave me a fucking heart attack’ he told the large and extremely unattractive insectoid alien which had once again taken up its former residence, clearly having no intention of leaving again.

The bug looked around as best it could and then relaxed its hold long enough to move into a more comfortable position before settling. Its six legs secured it to the arm of its human host but as before it didn't hinder Shephard's movements too much once it found the appropriate spot to set up home.

The marine looked at his passenger, chuckled and then bent down to pick up his pistol. ‘You alone in there?’ Shephard asked it, not expecting a reply as he checked to see if the refrigerator contained either of the other alien companions he had picked up at Black Mesa. ‘Just you then’ he continued, finding nothing else in there except a few bags of ice which had kept the insectoid alien chilled and relatively dormant despite the lack of electricity.

‘You're freezing, you know that’ Shephard informed the alien which he guessed was probably enjoying his body heat after its chilly incarceration. ‘I guess you can live a little longer on your own if you're kept cool’ he theorised having seen the things brethren previously die quite quickly before once they detached themselves from a dead host.

The first time that Shephard had ended up with the bug stubbornly insisting on adopting him as a new residence the marine had understandably freaked. Until the thing detached itself from the corpse of the large bipedal alien it had previously belonged to the marine hadn't even realised it wasn't actually part of the same animal but then it had leaped at him and held on tightly, failing to let go despite Shephard’s frantic attempts to dislodge it or pull it off with his other hand.

Just as he was about to start hacking at the bug with his combat knife Shephard had somehow accidentally managed to induce it to perform the task that it had presumably been biologically engineered to carry out. The alien had by reflex fired one of the bolts of electrical energy its former master had previously been shooting at Adrian before a burst of bullets from an MP5 going the other way had ended the firefight and this revelation caused the marine to pause before going ahead with his plan to jam in the blade.

It wasn't actually hurting him Shephard had realised as he tried to get it to fire again and soon succeeded, firing three rapid bolts of the miniature ball-lightning this time. After a little experimentation it became apparent it could fire ten times in quick succession but then it needed to rest while it... “recharged” Adrian had guessed was the right word.

Knife still in his left hand Shephard had stared bemusedly at the bug, and then to his near amazement the bug's head turned towards him a little and seemed to regard the face of its replacement dwelling with mild interest for a moment before going back to looking around the room they were in instead. To be honest Shephard might have still cut the thing off if a headcrab with poor timing hadn’t chosen that moment to leap out at him, only to be shot out of the air by reflex by a Marine Corporal and his newly acquired combination pet and sci-fi style energy blaster. The alien earned itself an instant reprieve as pieces of headcrab splattered the floor as Shephard, shrugged, thought “what the hell” and put his knife away.

A very intrigued scientist Adrian had encountered shortly afterwards had insisted on examining the creature and informed him that the xenobiologists involved in studying the various races encountered during portal travel had been calling the species a “Shockroach”. They were thought to have been created by the larger aliens with two legs, four arms and one eye that carried them and which had been trying to kill Shephard most of that day. The fact a shockroach could only survive a short time without a live host was considered likely a failsafe of sorts that had been genetically-engineered into the weaponised bug.

Several hours later and after racking up an impressive body-count between them the marine had decided to name the shockroach “Shannon” realising he had already been talking to it, albeit in a series of distinctly one-way conversations. It’s surprising how fast you can get used to just about anything in the right circumstances, even having a plasma-shooting alien insect clamped to your arm, and Shephard had become quite fond of the thing to be honest. This might have been in part because pretty much all the humans he had encountered in Black Mesa tended to die shortly afterwards and having company, any kind of company, was good for morale. For that matter Shannon had a lot more personality and a better temperament than that damn barnacle which kept trying to bite Shephard’s fingers too which also helped establish a rapport.

Closing the refrigerator Shephard holstered his Desert Eagle. ‘Just so you know, we’re not in Kansas any more Toto’ he told the alien. ‘Of course anywhere has to be a step up from that shithole we were in’ he continued, heading towards the stairs.

There were a few locked bedrooms on the top floor of the two-story building but after kicking in the doors Shephard found nothing of interest except a few discarded towels, one of which being in not too poor a condition so he decided to keep it. Shephard then also found an old newspaper printed in what he guessed was Russian from the Cyrillic lettering. ‘Tourist left it behind?’ he wondered aloud, stuffing it into a pocket in case he needed it to light a fire with, or perhaps use as toilet paper.

Other than more brass casings, and plenty more bullet holes to see, there were also broken crates marked as having contained supplies which looked new but for the most part the building held no clues as to where he was or what had been happening there shortly before he arrived. Expanding his search to the other buildings nearby did result in Shephard finding something intriguing in the extreme as he came across both an automated medical aid station and a charging outlet mounted on the wall of a small structure that was similar to the types used in Black Mesa, or at least it had a compatible power socket.

‘Guess we weren’t dropped off here at random then?’ Adrian Shephard wryly observed as he checked the outlet and found it still had a little charge left that he and his PCV could benefit from.

The HECU had given Black Mesa a design requirement for their Powered Combat Vest to take a charge from just about anything that could output electrical energy (regardless of voltage) so plugging in his PCV and draining the unit completely dry wasn't a problem. This took Shephard's already partially charged PCV up beyond sixty percent of maximum power which he knew from experience was enough to get him through a fair deal of high-intensity combat alive.

Now well-armed and decently armoured to boot Shephard decided to check out the last few structures in the vicinity and he began making his way up a road that snaked around towards some buildings which overlooked what he now knew from the sign outside was the “White Forest Inn”. Passing several abandoned cars which were missing their tyres as well as their engines he frowned at their number plates. They certainly weren’t American cars and the writing on the gas pumps he found outside a small garage that was one of the buildings wasn’t in English either. ‘Where the fuck are we anyway?’ he asked rhetorically, poking his head inside another building and finding the remains of some new-looking, though unidentifiable equipment that had been mostly stripped out.

Smoke was rising from what might have been a city in the distance and Shephard sighed as he realised he might have to walk there to find some answers. ‘No point in standing around here hoping someone will turn up and offer me a ride I guess’ he said to himself before raising his right arm to bring the shockroach to his level. ‘I wish someone was going to carry me to where we’re going you lazy bastard’ he said to it before lowering his arm again.

Just as he was about to set off towards the city Shephard heard something in the distance and stopped to listen, it was getting louder and he soon identified it as a engine doing too many revs judging by the whine. ‘Maybe we are going to get a ride’ Shephard said brightly. ‘Let me do the talking okay?’ he instructed the alien on his arm and taking out the towel he had found in the Inn he threw it over his right arm to sensibly hide Shannon from sight. ‘Stop moving and keep quiet’ he hissed at the shockroach which clearly objected to the situation.

Noriko Chijimatsu was grinning as she hurtled along the highway towards White Forest. Ten or so kilometres back she had crashed through a flimsy combine roadblock manned by CP’s and then her Scout Car had easily outpaced the Combine APC that had attempted to give chase, its driver abandoning the pursuit once she hit the turbo demonstrating he had no chance in hell of catching up.

Until very recently the mechanic at Shorepoint Base, Noriko had received orders to deliver the new buggy she had only just finished putting together to the main resistance camp at White Forest and she had gleefully decided to put the car through its paces en-route. Normally she would have been worried about attracting the attention of a Hunter-Killer Chopper, or even worse a Synth Gunship, but ever since the famously unstoppable Gordon Freeman had managed to shut down the super-portal to the other Combine worlds the enemy had been carefully husbanding their resources. If you're not expecting reinforcements you don't waste the assets you've got left chasing jerry-built beach-buggies across the countryside, you keep them back for the big push.

Passing a sign that said she was nearing the White Forest Inn Noriko slowed down because she knew from the map that there was a fairly nasty bend or two in the road coming up. She also knew that Freeman himself and Vance's daughter had taken on and beaten a Combine Patrol at the Inn only a couple of days before but she didn't plan to stop and look around for discarded weapons or ammo. There really was no point in stopping, she wanted to get to where she was going before dark and resistance fighters from the nearby base would have already recovered anything worth having anyway she reasoned. The corpses of the defeated Overwatch grunts would have been most likely thrown off the nearest cliff or dragged into the woods as a lucky find for the next carrion eater that passed by.

Looking down at her map again for a moment Noriko nearly swerved off the road when she saw the man in the unusual uniform and armour standing there holding his left arm out with his thumb up, like hitchhiking was something anybody had done in twenty years. More by reflex than as a result of thinking the situation through clearly she jammed on the brakes and came skidding past him to a halt stopping fifteen or twenty metres further on.

‘Thanks for stopping’ Shephard called out in a friendly manner to the little asian chick in the buggy. ‘You don't speak English by any chance do you?’ he asked hopefully.

Noriko hit the release clip on her seatbelt and reaching for her MP7 she partially stood up in her seat and turned around to face the stranger. ‘Who the hell are you?’ she responded before she noticed the respirator hanging from his gear. ‘Drop the guns you CP asshole’ she ordered bringing up her own weapon and levelling it at him. He must be wearing some new Civil Protection uniform she decided, getting ready to put a burst of 4.6mm rounds into his head.

‘I would but it would take too long to pick them all back up again’ Shephard replied, forcing himself to smile, and look as little of a threat as he could, while his instincts screamed at him to do something violent in response to having a machine-pistol pointed at him. ‘I'm not going to hurt you, I'm just trying to find out where I am and ideally hitch a lift to somewhere I can report in’ he told her. The remainder of the HECU would likely be overjoyed to see him, he thought, only a small minority of his unit had managed to get back out of Black Mesa alive before the last V22 Osprey left.

‘Do I look like I'm someone that’s going to help one of you traitorous bastards get back to your friends?’ Noriko replied sarcastically.

Shephard narrowed his eyes. ‘I'm not a traitor’ he responded curtly. ‘I'm a United States Marine, Semper Fi, Always Faithful’ he declared proudly.

Noriko couldn't help but laugh. ‘Don't they teach you pricks from Civil Protection to make up more convincing stories when you're captured?’ she asked rhetorically. ‘There hasn't been a US Military, or a United States for that matter since before you were out of diapers and all the aliens started showing up’ she told him, accurately estimating his age at early twenties.

Adrian Shephard opened his mouth to reply then stopped when her words sank in, having fought off an alien invasion and visited other dimensions he was fully prepared to accept just about anything was possible. ‘Okay this is going to sound like a really odd question’ he began slowly after deciding she sounded like she was telling the truth, ‘but what year is this?’ he queried.

The resistance mechanic looked at him incredulously. ‘You're kidding?’ she replied.

‘Just humour me okay sweetheart’ Shephard requested impatiently.

‘It’s 2029’ Noriko informed him, frowning.

‘YOU LOUSY, ROTTEN, STINKING, SUIT-WEARING, BRIEFCASE CARRYING BASTARD’ Shephard bellowed into the sky before redirecting his attention on the girl. ‘Sorry, had to get that off my chest’ he apologised to the now shocked Noriko. ‘Right, so you say there’s aliens everywhere?’ he asked in what was now an inexplicably calm tone of voice. The Corps drummed into you the manta “Improvise, adapt and overcome” and so he did. HECU Drill Instructor Barnes would have been proud.

‘Yes’ Noriko replied, now staring at him, nonplussed by his behavior.

‘You mean just a few or some kind of full-scale invasion?’ Shephard wanted to know.

‘Um, at first it was just a few’ Noriko told him, ‘I mean that would have been back when I was in kindergarten, but then just after the portals started opening everywhere the Combine arrived and we lost the Seven Hours War.’

‘The Seven Hours War?’ the marine queried.

‘It's how long it took them to pretty much conquer the world, or at least how long it was until most of our armies were wiped out and that prick Breen negotiated our surrender’ Noriko explained. ‘The Combine took over the planet and a few of us in the Resistance have been trying to get rid of them ever since’ she said, wondering if this guy was nuts.

Shephard raised his eyebrows. ‘I know this is a real long-shot’ he said, ‘but that wasn't Wallace Breen was it?’ he asked. It wasn't really that common a name and he didn't believe much in coincidences.

‘Yeah, the guy that ran Black Mesa West’ Noriko confirmed.

‘I know what he did’ Shephard responded, shaking his head. ‘That fucking place is out to get me I swear’ he muttered to himself. ‘Crap, sorry Shan’ he said, ‘I guess I don't need to hide you any more if people are actually used to seeing aliens’ he said, removing the towel from his right arm.

‘What the fuck is that?’ Noriko cried out in alarm, seeing the alien insect on the strangers arm for the first time. She had been wondering what the bulge was was under the towel but thought it was probably just another gun or knife. He was certainly carrying enough of the things.

‘Never seen a shockroach before then?’ Shephard assumed correctly based on her reaction. ‘Don't worry, it's not hurting me or controlling my mind or anything, it just shoots things when I want it to’ he told her. ‘I call it Shannon because it's a gender-neutral name and I've got no idea if Shan is a boy-bug or a girl-bug’ he added, holding up his arm to let her get a better look at his passenger.

‘Shoots things?’ Noriko repeated, increasingly doubting the guy’s sanity and now attributing that problem to the alien as she stared at it.

‘Yes, like this’ Shephard demonstrated, raising his arm some more, pointing it at a tree some distance off and then blowing a decently sized, charred smoking crater into the trunk with a single shot. He subsequently fired half a dozen more times off into the distance to demonstrate the range and rate-of-fire the shockroach was capable of.

Noriko blinked. ‘And I thought Vortigaunts were the most useful aliens you could have around’ she said, looking from the man to the thing on his arm and back again. It was sort-of like having a built-in AR2, she thought o herself. ‘Who are you?’ she wanted to know.

‘Corporal Adrian Shephard, Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, Marine Force Recon, USMC’ he replied, deciding not to add his serial number. ‘The thing that will probably freak you out as much as finding out the year did for me though is that from my perspective less than a couple of hours ago I was in Black Mesa and it was 2009’ he announced.

‘Holy Shit you're like Gordon Freeman’ Noriko exclaimed. ‘I'm Noriko by the way’ she introduced herself in return, ‘Noriko Chijimatsu.’

‘Freeman?’ Shephard responded, concentrating only on the beginning of what she had said. ‘Gordon Freeman?’ he said in shock. First Breen now Freeman he thought incredulously. Who next, he wondered, that fat Security Guard Otis?

‘He like appeared again from nowhere too a few weeks back’ Noriko replied, ‘still looking exactly like he did twenty years ago at Black Mesa according to the people that knew him back then’ she continued, frankly astonished by the situation she had found herself in. ‘I met him, he's amazing’ she stated enthusiastically, ‘he's the entire reason we've got the Combine on the run now’ she said with utter certainty. ‘The Vortigaunts always said he’d come back to us, that he was the “One Free Man” that would defeat the Combine and save the Earth and they were right!’

Shephard frowned. ‘Freeman is alive, he only just appeared after two decades and he's around here somewhere?’ he said to himself slowly, ignoring the girls gushing about the asshole who, from what the marine had been able to establish, had killed almost as many of Shephard's friends and fellow marines as the fucking aliens had managed. He was probably the son-of-a-bitch that caused the whole mess to begin with too.

‘Did you know him?’ Noriko asked. ‘I mean do you know him?’ she corrected her syntax.

‘I was in the same room as him once at Black Mesa’ Shephard replied carefully, almost caught him too before he escaped through that damn portal he thought to himself in annoyance. I think I might need that thing I left down there after all, he decided, looking back at the Inn and imagining the bastard’s expression when he saw a HECU Marine standing right in front of him wearing a shit-eating grin and holding a fucking great pipe-wrench. ‘Okay, Noriko take me to your leader, you can fill me in on the last twenty years on the way’ he told her, his mood suddenly a great deal better.

Note from the Author:

The Shockroach from Half Life: Opposing Force was an alien weapon/animal that was deployed by Shock Troopers, the grunts of Race X. When a shocktrooper was killed the shockroach bonded to it would go looking for a new host (it couldn't live long without one) and one chose to latch onto Adrian Shephard. Basically a large, very ugly insect that wouldn't let go the great redeeming feature of the shockroach was that it could rapid-fire charges of electrical energy (think ball-lightning/plasma) and never ran out of ammunition (though it had to recharge for a while if you fired it ten times in quick succession).

Noriko was the Resistance mechanic at Shorepoint Base who provides Gordon Freeman with the Scout Car he uses to make his way up along the coast. The Combine ends up capturing that vehicle (after Freeman doesn't need it any more) but I'm supposing that wasn't the only Scout Car the resistance has.

The Combine used Hunter-Choppers and Synth Gunships to patrol and as air-support but after the events of Episode 2 (where Freeman prevented the Combine opening a Superportal to bring through reinforcements) I'm making the assumption that they've shifted to the strategic defensive for now and they're not flying around patrolling as much for risk of losing more of the aircraft they still have in-theatre to resistance laser-guided RPG's. The Overwatch, who include the paramilitary Civil Protection (fascist Thought-Police of the Combine Occupation), also employ Armoured Personnel Carriers as transport.

Vortigaunts were a hostile alien race invading Earth in Half-Life 1. It later emerged that they were in fact being enslaved by a creature called the Nihilanth which Gordon Freeman destroyed. Unfortunately the Nihilanth and it's slave soldiers (which included the much more dangerous Alien Grunt) were themselves fleeing the Combine and with them knocked out of the fight and Earth beset by Portal Storms the road for the Combine Invasion was opened. With Nihilanth gone the Vortigaunts have allied themselves with the human Resistance.

Wallace Breen was the Administrator of Black Mesa back in 2009 and later negotiated the surrender of Earth to the Combine after the Seven Hour War. For his services and loyalty the Combine basically made him their puppet governor of Earth... he is not popular with the Resistance as a result!
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