Thursday May 1, 2003:
So that was yesterday. Thank god there turned out to be a today.
I woke up with a start to find myself lying in a bed the infirmary. A middle-aged nurse was dabbing my brow and telling me that I’d had a bad scare. For a second, I couldn’t work out why I was there.
Then I remembered the night before: Ivan, the Lambda labs, the flash of light.
For a second I started panicking again, before I realised that the fact that that the calendar on the wall said Thursday and the clock at my bedside read 12.43.
That meant that good old Black Mesa was still standing.
I was just about to let out a sigh of relief before the nurse told me I had a visitor. I was expecting Gordon or Lauren or even old Chico with some flowers. But instead, my stomach started doing somersaults when Dr Been was ushered into the room.
The nurse left us and I felt my nerves begin to give way. I imagined that Breen had questions. Questions that were less: ‘How are you feeling?’ and more ‘What were you doing in the restricted labs at 4am?’
“Afternoon Barney,” he said in a rich voice, “I trust you’re on the mend?”
“Umm yes sir,” I said.
“Excellent!” he said. “I thought I might have a one-on-one with you regarding the events of the previous night.”
“Now sir,” I began babbling, “I can explain-“
“Oh come now Barney,” he said, patting my shoulder paternally. “There’s no need for that. Hunter told me that he called you just before losing consciousness after he was assaulted. He said you rushed to his aid immediately. Very impressive.”
That sonuvabitch Hunter actually went and covered for me! I wanted to kiss him, but I was trying not to let anything slip, so I just said: “Yes sir.”
Breen’s smile widened.
“I merely wanted to thank you personally for going above and beyond the call of duty. Thanks to your quick response and fortitude, the Lambda team was able to engage the emergency coolant system and prevent a reactor meltdown.”
Too overwhelmed to say anything, I just nodded at him.
“It goes without saying that such dedication merits career progression,” Breen continued. “And I believe your brief stint in Waste Processing has lasted long enough.”
“What, um … what do you mean sir?” I asked.
“I’m willing to transfer you to any security detail of your choosing. Oh, what the hell? I’ll even throw in a hefty bonus for you,” Breen said, picking lint of the sleeve of his jacket.
I stared at him, trying to force my sluggish brain to work properly.
“You mean,” I said slowly, “I could work anywhere I want?”
“Certainly,” nodded Breen. “A man of you skills deserves a higher salary packet and more responsibilities. I could arrange for you to take Hunter’s job in the Lambda Complex. You’d have full access: a privilege very few staff here can afford.”
I thought about it, I really did. The idea of seeing all the secret stuff in the Lambda labs was tempting. But on the other hand, I wasn’t sure I wanted to ever go back there, after last night.
“I think I’d prefer to go back to Anomalous Materials sir,” I said. “I liked it there.”
Dr Breen eyeballed me for a few seconds, but then he winked and said: “Of course. I’ll make all the arrangements right away.”
He stood up and made to leave.
“Um …sir?” I asked him. “What happened to Ivan? Is he alright? The last I remember he-“
“Dr Olegovich is beyond all harm,” Dr Breen said, not looking at me. “It would be best if you put him from your mind.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Oh, and Barney,” Dr Breen flashed me one last car-salesman smile. “I need hardly remind you to keep the events of last night clandestine. We don’t want people to gossip, do we?”
“No sir,” I said. “No we do not…”