Half-Life: Resonance

Wednesday April 30, 2003:

My stomach was teeming with bumblebees when my alarm went off at 3.30. I hadn’t slept a wink, I’d been so nervous. The trains were empty when I got off. Sector F’s station is crawling with security cameras, but I’ve had more than enough time to review some of the CCTV tapes for the platform and work out where the blind spots are, and found a vent that I could climb into without getting spotted.

I tried to make as little sound as possible as I crawled through em, sure that alarms were going to go off at any moment. I felt like I was being squeezed through a steel colon. Eventually, I found a deserted laboratory and crawled out. I flinched as the lights blinked on when I dropped down, but I soon realised that the room was empty.

I looked around for any trace of anything suspicious: a pen full of chumtoads or an autopsy-in-progress. But there was nothing like that. What there was was a long string of equations on the blackboard, and a platform in the middle, with a weird greeny-orangey light hanging over it.

I gazed at it. The glowing whirlpool was behind these heavy barriers, but it still made you feel sick and calm all at once, and green arcs of electricity were flickering from its mouth. I wondered what it was: some kinda experimental disco light?

I edged my way along one wall and peeked around the door: the corridor was quiet. I stepped out and began to explore as softly as I could. I remembered that the Lambda Labs have this huge nuclear reactor to power their equipment, so there’s all these deep swimming pools of water there to pump cold liquid into the coolant system.

I figured my best bet would be to find an unused terminal, log in, and flick through the security feeds until I found something I could take a picture of. I just had to hope that nobody spotted me. I strode down the corridor, looking as confident as I possibly could, until I found a security room. I let myself in and was just about to babble some explanation to whoever was on duty when I saw something that made me freeze.

Hunter was sprawled on the floor, head bleeding. I rushed to him and checked his pulse. Steady. He was out cold, but not doing too bad. I grabbed a Medkit from the wall, bandaged his head, and put him in the recovery position. Thank god for that first aid training.

I glanced at the TV screens, but they only showed fizzling static. I had a scary thought: if Hunter was knocked out and the cameras had been switched off, then it meant that I wasn’t the only intruder in the Lambda Complex tonight, meaning that I was in even more trouble than I first thought.

I drew my pistol and did a quick sweep of the room. There was nobody hiding with me, so I switched the cameras back on and scrolled hastily through the feeds. All I could see were other security guards, standing at the posts and paying no attention to the disabled CCTVs.

Come on come on,” I muttered as I went through feed after feed.

Then I found what I was looking for, and I felt my blood run cold. There was a man in the control room of the reactor. A giant with a wrench, a beard, and a mk III HEV suit.

Ivan the frigging space biker.

I stared at the screen. I could see the bodies of two more scientists prone on the floor. Whether they were dead or unconscious, I couldn’t tell. Ivan wasn’t paying them any attention. He was too busy pressing buttons and flicking switches.

The fear almost overwhelmed me. It looked as though that mad Russian was trying to overload the reactor.

I had four options:

  • Run away and get as far from Black Mesa as I could before it blew up.
  • Go back to my dorm and hope that this was all a big misunderstanding.
  • Sound the alert, let backup take care of it, then later get asked what I was doing here.
  • Confront Ivan myself and ask him what the hell he was doing.

I didn’t like it, but option four seemed like the best one. After all, I was here illicitly, so was he. I had a gun, and he didn’t. Maybe I could intimidate him into giving up his suicide mission and convince him to leave quietly?

But I wasn’t counting on it.

I sprinted to the reactor control room, grateful for all those workouts in the Hazard Course for the first time. I had my finger curled around the trigger of my M9, and my heart was pounding against my chest. Every fibre of my being wanted to turn tail and head for the hills … but I knew I wouldn’t be able to outrun a fireball.

I found Ivan muttering to himself in Russian under his breath. For a second my throat closed up, and I honestly thought that I’d lost my voice, that I was going to stay rooted to the spot until the meltdown occurred. But then I heard a voice cry out: “GET AWAY FROM THOSE CONTROLS!”

And I realised the voice had been mine.

Ivan turned around slowly, eyes popping, to face me. He looked … haunted. There’s no other word for it. I knew he’d been through something, seen things there were no words for in his mother tongue, let alone in English, and that made him more dangerous than anything else in the facility.

He hadn’t put the heavy gasket wrench down, so I levelled my gun and pointed it right at his face, trying to stop myself from trembling.

Zloy rebenok,” he kept whispering under his breath. “Zloy rebenok.”

“Put the wrench down buddy,” I said, in the steadiest voice I could muster. “Come on. What the hell are you doing in here? You’re gonna blow us all to kingdom come!”

His stare pinned me against the wall.

“Stopping test,” he said, in a voice like a sleepwalker. “The child. Child from Borderworld. It showed me things. Fire. Chaos. Death.”

“You’ll get all that and more if this thing goes critical!” I shouted.

“A Tower. A war. A man.” Ivan continued as though he hadn’t heard me. “All this lies ahead, unless test is stopped …”

Shining tears slid down his cheeks.

“Unless Black Mesa is destroyed.”

“I-Ivan please” I coaxed, sweat running into my eyes, “You’re obviously going through some stuff. Just put the wrench down and we can get you to the infirmary-“

He shook his head.

“No friend. I was first to cross over, and first to come back. I have seen Xen, all its wonders and horrors. But the future? It scares me more.

He took a deep breath.

“Better we die than live to see Resonance Cascade-”

Then everything happened at once.

-a high pitched alarm sounded to my left and frightened me outta my wits and-

-Ivan drew back his arm and hurled his wrench at my head and-

-I twisted to the side and felt it bounce off my shoulder and-

-I squared my shoulders and squeezed the trigger twice and-

-Ivan was running, he pushed past me and I fell to the ground-

Winded, I wasted precious seconds getting my breath back, smelling piss and cordite. I staggered to my feet. Lambda scientists and guards were rushing down the corridor at me.

“IT’S GONNA BLOW!” I screamed. “I’LL HANDLE IVAN!”

Before I could give them an answer, I was running the opposite way, following the spatters of red on the floor. Adrenaline was flooding through me as I rounded the corner and came right back to the very room I’d started from.

Ivan was pressing buttons on another control panel. The barriers to the raised platform slid down, leaving the floating light exposed.

“Come on man!” I shouted, “You’re bleeding!”

I’d managed to hit him in the spongy midsection in the gut, between the armour plates. There’s a reason we phased out the mk III armour: not enough protection for centre mass.

“We need to get you to the sickbay!”

The swirling orange light crackled, fizzed, and turned green.

“It’s over!”

Ivan looked at me properly, just for a split-second, and laughed once.

“Yes friend,” he rumbled. “It is.”

He flung himself forward, towards the light. I cried out. There was a rush of pressure, a crescendo of energy, a violent flash, a peal of thunder-

And Ivan was gone.

I felt my legs give way. I sank to the ground, and the last thing I remember is backup reaching me.

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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