Chalase I Tileorasi (The Television is Broken)
It’s a crappy place to live in for 10 months. Damp, wet, all words describing things moist. And moldy. I pulled the heavy collar of my salvaged Combine Vest over my nose and dragged the can of kerosene to the side of our main shack in the canal.
The base is scrappy. Broken wooden pallets all over, barrels everywhere, our shabby buildings barely standing up with how cracked their concrete structures were. I stopped dragging the can long enough to rest Maggie on a wooden pallet. She didn’t deserve the stench of kerosene on her metal…
“Can’t wait to get the hell outta here… eh Forakis?” Lauhin’s boots thunked against the floor as he jumped off the ladder.
“Yeah, it’ll be nice to see a mirror and take a hot shower…” I grunted as I pulled the kerosene over a pit in the concrete floor.
“That’s all you ever crab about.”
“I’ve actually got hair to care about.” I shoved the can against the shack wall and threw my back against it. God, I was too tired for this. A hot shower, a real meal… it would be ouranos right about now. I sighed heavily and slid against the wall until I sat on the floor.
“You don’t need that hair in battle.” My human comrade crouched before me. He flipped a hank of colorless, lifeless hair from my shoulder in front of my face. I frowned reluctantly. It was a little too long. My dirty blonde hair fell down my shoulders and almost into the crook of my elbow. Scratch that, it was entirely too long.
“Okay, I’ll just shave it with Maggie.” I glared at him from under the cowl of my woolen cap. Lauhin laughed, a single syllable accompanied with him flicking the lock of hair back in my face. I kept my glare on him. The man leaned his elbows on his knees, and his nose on the tops of his fingers.
“That would be a bad say on your part, m’darling.” He chuckled behind his gloved hand, hazel eyes narrowed in a naïve sort of mirth. I sucked my lower lip into my mouth in exasperation. He was a nice person and all… but his attitude was furiously carefree. Maybe it was the fact that I’d been in the rebellion from I was fifteen, or maybe it was the fact that I’ve never been one for spontaneity and useless conversation. Whatever the reason, ten months was enough.
“And you continuing to shoot your mouth off would be a bad say, too, Alcander.” I deadpanned. Lauhin’s cheeks puffed out gently.
“Oh, don’t call me that, Eileen.” He blew the air in his expanded cheeks back out at my face, and I wrinkled my nose. “Alan. Not Alcander. I hate that.”
“…. you’ve got rebel breath.”
Rebel Breath, (descriptive noun): term used to describe a rebel’s breath while they are in hiding and without ways to brush their teeth or clean their mouth. Also see Rebel Sweat, Rebel Hair, Rebel Stank Foot, and Rebel “Case of the Munchies”.
“And probably about ten cavities.” Lauhin shrugged his broad shoulders and prodded my nose with a finger. “Your breath isn’t much better.”
“You’re never close enough to smell my breath.” I arched an eyebrow up into my beanie cowl. I like my personal space. The vort respected my space. Lauhin… not so much. He’s younger than me, by a few years, but he treats me like I’m his quiet younger sister.
“I can smell it from across the base. Try eating a headcrab, it’ll make you smell better.” Yeah, definitely like a younger sister. What /choli/. What plain, utter gall.
“Listen, just because you’re one of the youngest people on the planet right now doesn’t mean you can act five.” I told him patiently. I pushed against Lauhin’s shoulder in a weak attempt to repel him. Damn these malnourished muscles. Rebel rations weren’t exactly full of vitamins. And I wasn’t exactly an imposing figure, standing only 5’3” next to the better nourished, though still neglected city folk.
“Hey, I don’t fight like I’m five.” Lauhin grinned, his teeth surprisingly straight and white for coming from City 17. He probably had a tube of generic, Combine issued toothpaste under his cot… that’s probably the reason his breath smelt worse than rotten eggs.
“How do you know, city-boy?” I pushed harder against his shoulder. For a jelly-bag civilian, the man was strong; my efforts to move him didn’t even make him blink. “No, never mind. You need to get that turret. Doctor Freeman should be on his way.”
“I don’t think he’ll get here that quickly.”
“Well fine.” I stood up, joints creaking their complaints at my sudden movement. “We should check the radio, or at least any Breencasts that fool has going…”
“You go do that.” Lauhin stood next to me and stretched his long arms over his head. He let them fall with a loud, relieved sigh. “I’ll get me airboat running and snatch the turret before Civil Protection finds us.”
“Mmm. /Diaskedazo/.” Have fun.
“Stop spewing Greek at me. You could be insulting me, for all I know.”
“If I wanted to insult you, I would have said it in Basic.”
“Meh.” Lauhin shrugged. He turned on the heel of his boot and walked purposefully towards his scrapped together airboat. “Be back soon. Get the gate, will ya?” The airboat’s engine coughed expectantly before purring lowly. I rolled the back of my head against the concrete wall. Oh, did I have to get up?
“Fine.” I stood up as reluctantly as I could and walked towards the gate valve. “Get back before Freeman gets right, okay?” Lauhin gave a two-fingered wave in acknowledgment and revved the Mudskipper’s engine again. I rolled my eyes and took hold of the crank. The crank sucked, just like everything else in this damn station. Turning it was hard and laborious, and the squeal of the scrap metal on the gate scratching together wasn’t exactly helping.
“Thanks.” Lauhin shouted over the engine’s rumble. I nodded and pulled against the crank to keep the gate from falling as the Mudskipper raced past it. I let the crank go with a sigh, and the gate hit the water with a loud ‘splosh’.
“The For-kas wishes to hear the television?” I jumped slightly at the vortigaunt’s question.
“/O mi genoito/, you scared me!” I felt my neck crack as I craned it over my shoulder to look at the reptilian creature. His slight shoulders hunched, and his claws rested in between his knees. “Hey, don’t worry.” I raised a hand in front of me apologetically. The vort straightened slightly and dipped his head in a deep nod.
“You humans are so very skittish.” He laughed throatily. I smiled weakly. Vortigaunts. “My previous question still stands.”
“Sure, I’d like to see what Breen is trying to do to keep the human population ignorant today.” The vort nodded and shuffled to a pile of wooden planks, with an unplugged TV resting on top. He rested his two-clawed hand on top, and a blue glow lit the screen up. My ears started ringing with the vortessence in the air, but I could still hear Breen’s disgustingly calm and reassuring voice, and see his hideously familiar, white haired face on the screen:
“…of magical thinking. We have scarcely begun to climb from the dark pit of our the evolution of our species. Let us not slide backward into oblivion, just as we have finally
begun to see the light.” Breen’s talking head moved waywardly on the screen, simplistic smile on his face. “If you see this so called free-man, report him. Civic deeds do not go un-rewarded and likewise complicity with his cause will not go un-punished.” Breen grinned ever widely before delivering his last lines: “Be wise. Be safe. Be aware.”
The vort laughed harshly. “If only this world was merely about being safe and aware.” I nodded in grave agreement.
“He’s really after Freeman, isn’t he…”
“Naturally.” The vort drew out the ‘ee’ sound of the word until it died in a low rumble. “It is the Free Man, after all, who thwarted the Nilhilanth and saved my kind from further eons of slavery.” I nodded again. So many brave tales to one man.
“I’ll bet that-” I stopped talking to listen to Breen’s message loop over.
“We now have direct confirmation of a disruptor in our midst, one who has acquired an almost messianic reputation in the minds of certain citizens. His figure is synonymous with the darkest urges of instinct, ignorance, and decay.”
I scoffed. There goes Breen again with his talk of instinct being our enemy…
“Some of the worst excesses of the Black Mesa incident have been laid directly at his feet.”
Yes. Because he actually lived through it. And did something about it. Unlike you, Wallace Breen.
“And yet unsophisticated minds continue to imbue him with romantic power. Giving him such labels as, the one free man, or the opener of the way. Let me remind all citizens of the dangers of magical thinking. We have scarcely begun to…”
The vort flicked his wrist and the TV snapped off. I shook my head, shaking the crackles out of my ears. The vort reacted immediately and touched the side of my head with a pointed claw. The crackles seemed to suck out of my mind, and there was only a light ‘pop!’ that told me anything had happened.
“It’s For-ra-kis.” I turned to the vort and put my hands on my hips. “You can call me Eileen, if that’s easier for you. It’s a tricky Greek name.”
“It’s a nationality… or used to be a nationality of humans. People who used to live in the country of Greece are called ‘Greek’.” I brushed my thumb on the bottom of my jaw. “Each nationality had it’s own culture, food, and language… before the Combine.”
“Mmm…” A deep rumble emitted from the vort. “How interesssting….” He drew the ‘s’ out thoughtfully. “You often say words I do not understand. Is this your ‘Greek’ language?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I was 15 by the time of the Cascade. I’ve been using little words here and there so I won’t forget the language.” I shrugged. “Because culture is, as the wondrous Breen would say…” I raised two fingers on each hand and flexed them “‘Dangerous thinking.’”
“Dangerous thinking, indeed…” The vort remarked sarcastically. “So dangerous, they have seen fit to send the large majority of Civil Protection after the Free Man because he elicits such thinking.” I hit the palm of my hand against my head and looked down.
“Egh. We’re really gonna have to desert this place.”
“Indeed.” The vort stood straighter and turned to the docks. “The Lauhin returns.” The choke of an airboat echoed off the walls of the canal. Yeah, that was him alright.
“Oh, must’ve gotten the turret.” I jumped up the stairs three at a time and leaned over the railing. Lauhin waved a metallic object at me, and killed the engine.
“Lemme in, Forakis you bugger!”
“What’s the password?”
“If you’re not gonna let me in, then you can go play hide-and-go-get-killed-by-the-Combine, without this turret to help you!”
“Heheh… c’mon in.” I smirked and tugged on the crank. Lauhin sped in, and I let the gate drop again. Lauhin was already halfway up the dock stairs when I turned around. He thrust a long, black object at me.
“Pulse Cannon. Got it off the chopper ‘fore the CP’s found me.” He let loose a triumphant laugh. The vort spoke quietly to himself in vortigese and took the cannon from Lauhin’s hands.
“Our congratulations, Lauhin.” He turned the turret over in his two-clawed hands. “The Free Man is approaching rapidly. No doubt Combine and more hunter-choppers follow him… this weapon will be of great use to him.”
I whistled. “Wow, he’s breaking every record we have!”
“And he’s bringing the Combine here just was fast.” Lauhin reminded me with his arms crossed. I dropped my jaw slightly and nodded.
“Very true. What will we need…” I paused thoughtfully. “And on that manner… where are we going?” The vort thunked the end of the turret on the ground and raised a claw.
“The Underground Railroad is closing. We should find any refugees or remaining citizens and bring them to safety in Black Mesa East.”
“Right, Freeman’s the last man through.” Lauhin nodded with a wry smile. “As for what to bring? Weapons, ammo, some of those crappy rations…. Enough gas to get us to Station 6.…” He counted each choice off on his fingers.
“Station 6? What about Station 7?” I furrowed my brow. Lauhin’s eyes softened, and he looked down. The vort was also silent.
“Shelled.” Lauhin’s voice was off-color and harsh. “Every last one of them killed by headcrabs.”
“/Gamisi/.” I scuffed the bottom of my boot against the ground. “Overwatch got them…”
“And they flooded the drain ways with man hacks. Stations 8 and 12 were also raided.” Lauhin added gravely.
“It won’t be long before Station 6 falls.” The vort thumped the turret against the floor again. “As soon as Freeman leaves, so do we.”
“Mmm.” Lauhin murmured lowly. He cast low-lidded eyes over our cement home. “I’m gonna miss this disgusting place.
“I’m not.” I tilted my head towards him and looked at Lauhin’s pensive face through my brow. “This place smells like /mykitas/… makes my nose run.” I sniffed in demonstration. Lauhin’s quiet face cracked into his usual smile.
“Plus the fact I’ve been living with a child for the past 10 months.” I leaned towards him with my hands on my hips and inhaled deeply. “And you smell like one, too.” Lauhin pushed against my forehead with a thumb.
“Oh, ‘cause I can really take a shower in this dump.” He knocked my shoulder with a knuckle and walked past me to the center of the base. “And jumping into the canal seems like such a mighty fine idea.” He laughed heartily and shoved an SMG onto his belt.
“That would be more hazardous to you, my human companion.” The vort chuckled darkly. Lauhin kept laughing to himself and filled a satchel on his lower back with ammo. I shook my head and clasped my hands behind my back. “Ah, Eileen. Do not forgot your beloved launcher.” The vort reminded me gently. I gasped lightly and looked towards the pallet I left Maggie on.
Oh, Maggie… saved my life more than once. Once a prototype, and now a heavily modified launcher. That’s what this 10 months was. Me picking off CP’s to get scrap parts for her.
“Hey.. I hear an airboat…” Lauhin called towards me. I looked up from Maggie and towards the tunnel that led to City 17. Things were silent, until an engine could be heard coming down the tunnel.
“I’ll check.” I walked briskly to the gate crank and squinted at the dark shape coming into view. Yeah, it was an airboat. CPs never used them, they had actual technology. Rebels had debris and trash to work with.
The airboat came into full view, and there was the faint outline of a figure in the boat leaning over the handles to look at the bridge.
I felt a small jolt of excitement. It really was him.
I leaned over the rail of the bridge to peer at the new airboat to get a better look. Heh, Freeman-mania was contagious, yes... But still, to get a glimpse…
“Hey, you’re Freeman, aren’t you?” I yelled down to him. The figure behind the stark frame of the airboat leaned forward to look back at me.
Well, at least to try to look at me. The man wiped a gloved finger across his glasses and squinted at me through the streaks of sludge. His hair was brown and messy, but dried bits of canal gunk discolored it to a ruddy tan. He was wearing the same orange and black suit that saved him from sure death in the resonance cascade; no doubt it keep the radioactive waste in the canal from killing him.
He looked, overall, quite average. With those thick-rimmed glasses, he didn’t even look like he should’ve been outside. He looked like he’d be happier in front of a computer somewhere.
I pushed myself off the railing, feeling a warm sense of comfort into my stomach. The /dorean andras/, the free-man… at last.
A/N: Oh noes, here comes the ever challanging part of most any Half-life fic: characterizing the speechless / emotionless Gordon Freeman! That's okay, because he's such a blank slate it can make things interesting.
Now you know why there are random, italicized words in this story. I'm trying to put in meanings for the words as often as I can, so bear with me! I hope this story puts a different spin on the story. rather than being told from the hero's point of view, I like to think this shows what was going on behind the lines. At least, my random speculation and train of thought while I played the game.
Okay, next chapter is "Lostos Cheiristis" Later.
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