Half-Life: Resonance

Wednesday February 12, 2003:

Been a busy week for me dear diary, and Gordon’s been busy too. Apparently the Lambda guys have made a big breakthrough, and now the pressure’s on for Anomalous Materials to beat them. He hasn’t had much time for training, but I saw him in the cafeteria and talked him into joining me at Otis’ for poker night. 

“Is that, ah, okay with them?” he asked anxiously.

“Sure it is!” I said, “You’re with me right?” 

But later on I wasn’t so sure it was such a good idea. I mean, Otis is friendly to anyone who comes bearing Cheese Nips, but Chico is half-crazy, and Hunter thinks the scientists are out to get him. But I couldn’t exactly back down after the fact. 

So at 7pm I met up with Freeman, handed him those schematics he’d asked for, and together we knocked on Otis’s door. 

“Calhoun!” He said opening the door, “I was wonderin’ when ya would-“

Then he saw Gordon and deflated like a punctured football. 

“Oh, ah, Dr Freeman,” he mumbled, “Is there a problem or somethin?”

“Relax Otis, he’s with me,” I said, pushing past him. 

“I brought beer,” said Freeman apologetically, “And some Twinkies.” 

The way to Otis’ heart is though his stomach, but the other two were harder nuts to crack. Chico nodded as Gordon waved and sat down, while Hunter stared at him.

“Hey guys,” Gordon said, “I’m Gordon. Gordon Freeman.”

“I know,” said Hunter, making it plain Gordon’s reputation didn’t precede him. 

There was an awkward pause and I started shuffling the cards. I exchanged pleasantries with the others, but the atmosphere in the room was more charged than the Sector C test chamber after a power surge. 

“So Freeman,” Otis said, “Do ya know much about Texas Hold Em?”

“Not really,” Gordon said, “But it’s simply a principle of statistical probabilities; calculating the odds based on, um…”

He stuttered into silence. 

“Hey, guess what?” I said, desperate to break the tension before Hunter had an aneurysm, “Gordon’s mentor is that Dr Kleiner guy.” 

That got everyone talking. Seemed like everyone had a story about him. We played a couple of hands, and Hunter told a story about how Kleiner had once spent the whole day wearing bunny slippers without noticing. It started off as bitching, but by the end we were all chuckling to ourselves. Gordon stayed quiet. I forget how shy he can be around people he doesn’t know.

“Gordon knows him from college,” I said, nudging him. 

“Was he aways this way?” asked Chico. 

Gordon nodded, and started telling us a story about how Dr Kleiner had once been building a portable anti-mass relay in his office, which had exploded and set fire to his desk. Freeman described running around with a fire extinguisher, and Hunter laughed so hard that he spat out his beer. 

“Just like at Aperture,” said Chico sagely. “SeƱor Johnson would always say: ‘If you like safe science so much, you should marry it.'” 

That got him and Gordon talking about research from AS Gordon had heard about involving moon rocks, but Chico just talked about the mantis men, which made us all laugh again. 

But as the night wore on, things soured. It turns out that Gordon has a damn good poker face. It’s the quiet ones you gotta watch out for. Soon he’d won three hands in a row. 

“That’s it,” Hunter said, “I’m out. I’ll catch you guys later.”

“Aw come on man!” I said. “Stay for one more!” 

“Nah, forget it,” he grumbled. “I can’t compete with lab boys.”

The door slammed shut, and there was an awkward pause. 

“Don’t mind him,” I said. 

“He’s just been under a lot of pressure,” explained Otis.

“Si,” nodded Chico, “When you work in the Lambda, you carry many secrets with you.”

We said our goodbyes and left, and on the way home I wondered again about what kind of stuff Hunter had to keep under wraps. 

Published by itshendo

Callum Henderson is a carbon-based life form who graduated with a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing from the University of Strathclyde in 2016.

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