Half-Life Series: Chapter 3, Part 1

Dr. Kliner's lab

[This is part of an ongoing series. See my ‘Half-Life Story‘ page for more information.]


I needed proof of what could have happened to Elliott. He was not even a resistance member; just a simple civilian. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time; sadly, that is all the enemy needs. If he could only see the horrendous figures of past victims who became stalkers, then he would surely abandon the notions that held him so unequivocally close to Dr. Breen’s mentality. How ignorant was he of this new reality of destruction and vice?

My attention was drawn back to reality when the familiar two large knocks and four small echoed on my heavy office door. I was about to call for my guest to enter, but checked myself. The door is barred shut–from the inside. One of the perks of being a fugitive leader. It also meant I had a wide variety of guests. Which also meant I had to get up and open the door each and every time. “Common Winston,” I thought to myself, “Don’t start getting lazy now.”

I got up, peeked through the circular window, and opened the heavy door with a slight bow, “Dr. Judith Mossman, it is an honor to have your acquaintance as always. Please, step in.”

“Colonel, your charm is a pleasant surprise. It is often forsaken in the mood of the times. I really am quite glad to stop by on my way back to City 17. We have several important developments.”

“Indeed I have heard. But please, won’t you sit down? One of my crews managed to salvage a Victorian sofa virtually undamaged from the wreckage of a legal office. They insisted I have it.”

“I suppose such luxuries are easily overlooked by the Overwatch. They have little use for such things–apart from target practice I suppose. Thank you.”

“How is the science facility? I hope they haven’t had to relocate again.”

“No, no. They are fine right now. Black Mesa East is still secure. Eli and the others are working around the clock.” She paused before saying with a sigh, “just as they did at the old Black Mesa facility.”

“I’m sure it doesn’t beat Nevada does it?”

“Nevada. That feels like a lifetime ago. At least here the only fresh air isn’t from dusty, desert wind.”

We chuckled. But there was hurt. I could see it, tightly wound up in dimples that were much deeper than in the years of her youth, the faint wrinkles beneath her ears, and the way her eyes had a shadow beneath them. She hid it well, but underneath she still held onto the disappointment of a lost life, a lost opportunity.

“At least we still have fresh air. I understand one of your fellow employees had a large role in preventing a hazardous environ from engulfing the world.”

“This is true.” She paused and assumed a forlorn, distant look. “Gordon Freeman. Dr. Gordon Freeman. He wouldn’t stand down. He wouldn’t give up. He pressed through all the odds to save the few of those who lived. Not many survived through the Black Mesa incident you realize.”

“I gathered.”

Her jaw clenched. “If only I was down there. If only I had been there. Perhaps I -”

“No. No. No. Don’t go down that road. It’s not worth it. I don’t like to go into ‘What ifs,’ no matter what may have went wrong back then. Besides, Gordon did pretty well, didn’t he?”

“You weren’t there, I’m afraid you don’t understand. It was supposed to be me. I was supposed to be in that chamber where it all started.”

“Where it started?” My heart thumped. Where it started? What could that mean? I knew that Judith and the Black Mesa science team were well educated in much of the current phenomena, as the rift occurred in their facility. But they had been involved? She anticipated my further questions.

“Yes Winston. Our whole team was there. Eli Vance, Issac Kliner, Wallace Breen, not to mention some others who didn’t make it. It was the very experiment they worked on in Black Mesa which opened the portal through which all hell broke loose. And I was supposed to be the one suited up in that test chamber to secure a new artifact we had received. Once secured, we were going to pass the specimen through an anti-mass spectrometer for analysis. This was an exceptionally pure sample from the other world. This was going to be our great breakthrough! But Gordon, having just graduated from MIT with a PhD in theoretical physics, was chosen for the job instead. His time with Dr. Kleiner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave him the edge, and he was chosen over me to to work in the anomalous materials testing lab.”

“I’m not sure I follow some of that jargon Judith.”

She smiled with large dimples, though not large because of the smile, but because her age was starting to show through her beauty from the stress of the last decade.

“I’m sorry Winston. I forget myself sometimes. You see, since Black Mesa was a research facility on theoretical physics it was only a matter of time before we stumbled into the existence of another dimension,” at this she grew even more animated. “This opened up myriads of opportunity. There was a new word to discover, abiding by what seemed to be entirely new laws of physics. There were strange creatures to study. There was the analysis of new technology. And most exciting for Black Mesa was the whole concept of teleportation.”

She caught a glimpse of my face and stopped, sitting back with an apologetic grin, “Let me back up even more. Black Mesa was not the only secret facility in America. We had to compete for private funding with Aperture Science, whose focus was on portal technology. They had already developed a handheld portal device. It could be used to designate both the x and y coordinates, and therefore the wielder could transport from the primary portal to the secondary instantaneously. I’ve even heard the portals maintained momentum as a body passes through. But, for lack of better terms, they could only be located against solid materials within sight range and of certain densities. Though highly useful and a breakthrough of astronomical proportions, the prototypes were unsafe without a hazard suit, and they were made at a steep expense. During testing they had a mechanical problem and the majority of their facility was destroyed. At this point, we were both desperate. Aperture needed a breakthrough that could be used on a larger scale to recover from their own disaster, and Black Mesa needed to show they could produce equally momentous innovations. That’s when we found Xen. As far as we knew, it was a world from another dimension!”

Her motions revealed greater excitement still. I remained quiet, determined to soak this in. This was the most explanation I have received since it all started, and I was considered more knowledgeable than most when it came to lay resistance leaders.

“Of course, the generator required to create a beam powerful enough to bridge the gap consistently, even if for a brief few minutes, was larger than a football field. This could not compare with a handheld teleportation device, and that is why many were skeptical. But we had discovered the unknown! While their portals were merely transforming the chassis of two given surfaces in close proximity into a permeable passage, we could go where no amount of distance can reach! And so it was constructed within the deepest sectors of Black Mesa, both for security and secrecy. The model was based on the one which created the first breach into the opposite world, though vastly more controlled. While the discovery of this place was a mistake, we wanted to bridge the gap again, and on purpose. However, the sample they had used to tune the portal to intersect with Xen was either transported to the other world or destroyed during testing, so we had a bear of a time trying to rediscover the elements necessary to test the experiment a second time. They did determine the proper element, a rare one that was newly discovered and still scattered around the globe. Yet even these samples were not very pure, containing many inclusions. Even so, the experiment was reproduced successfully. And even though the scientific method would not be compatible with the physics of the other world, it was enough for us to configure a reproducible test on our end. We were eager to analyze the properties of this other world further, eventually sending teams in.”

“Wait. You sent people into that crazy place?”

“Well, of course. That was our only way to procure quantifiable evidence and return with more samples. That is the price of all exploration into unknown territory. Think of all the early American explorers.”

“Yeah, at a reckless cost.”

“Unfortunately, there was. We could not predict what would happen. We tried to send in robotics, but they were constantly trapped or destroyed by the terrain. As I said, the laws of physics do not behave the same as here. Therefore we could not build a reliable machine, as it would always be based on a limited protocol that relied on the physics of this world.”


“And, so, we sent out teams. And,” she paused, speaking so softly she was barely audible, “most teams never returned.” My eyebrows nearly penetrated my hairline at this news.

She spoke again, still soft, “Including Gordon Freeman.”

I whistled. The fate of our absent hero revealed. At the mention of his name again Dr. Mossman failed to conceal her hurt. Pain hung on her face like overgrown moss.

“Desperate times, desperate measures I suppose. I am sure you all did what you had to do. Including Freeman,” I offered.

She rested her face on her palms. “I should have been there,” was all she could say.

Then she shook her head. “We should have known,” she whispered.

“Excuse me?”

“We successfully computed what was required to bridge the gap from our end. But like I said before, the scientific method was unreliable concerning the other world. When they tested the pure sample in the anomalous materials lab they created the most cogent connection ever made with the other world. The connection was so strong that the physics of the other world took over, instantly taking the experiment into dangerously unknown territory. The sample ruptured, yet the physics of the other world somehow maintained the connection, even expanding it. What we know beyond this is based on witness accounts from the few surviving members of Black Mesa. Creatures poured through the temporal fissure. Our guess is that some were pulled through by chance, such as headcrabs, while others were sent though like soldiers, such as Vortigant slaves.”

There it was. The single most traumatic event of human history. History books long discussed the effect of the shot heard around the world. It was nothing compared to this.

“The rest is history I suppose,” was all I could say.

Chapter 3, Pt. 2 > >

< < Chapter 2, Pt. 2


Half-Life Series: Chapter 2, Part 2


[This is part of an ongoing series. See my ‘Half-Life Story‘ page for more information.]

During this highly political week the aliens spread quickly across the globe.  There were sentient and insentient creatures roaming about, devastating the global population.  From our perspective, however, there was no discernible distinction, as they all rolled together as one massive alien army for all we could tell.

In lieu of a universal threat that needed to be met with a unified force, all branches of the U.S. military were merged, accepting the standing armies of surrounding countries as well.  Since this was a combination of special forces, the new military was named the Universal Union.  Thus there was without distinction between privately owned and public business, nor between the Army or the Navy, nor the United States or Canada.  In one fell swoop, in a single dire grasp, a North American totalitarian state was born.  Many aliens were hunted down and eradicated.

Unfortunately, even this part of Dr. Breen’s promise was incomplete.  While he did establish barriers around the cities, and did his best to weed out any wild aliens there, he largely ignored the rural areas. This had the similar effect of ignoring raiding Vikings.  Many people were panic stricken and traveled to the cities for protection, still convinced Dr. Breen merely lacked the resources to conquer those wide regions as of yet; it was nothing more than a ploy to gather the remaining population into contained zones where they could be controlled. That’s when advertisements asking for more recruits with evangelistic zeal were produced.  This proved too good an opportunity to neglect.  Men and women flooded to recruiting stations, for the sake of the human race, if not for the country.

It was only toward the end of the Seven Day War that we discovered the intelligence of these intruders.  A large horde of the aliens waltzed right up to Dr. Breen’s doorstep, as if by appointment, unperturbed by any military resistance.  They had one clear message to give Dr. Breen: surrender.  Surrender he did, though advertised as a compromise.  As if on cue, the alien attacks stopped.  Or rather, attacks from the sentient creatures stopped.  There were still innumerable wild things roaming about the globe.

In a matter of weeks the government launched a new private campaign, with drastic consequences throughout the world.  A new technology was introduced and implemented.  Strange technology far beyond anything known to man.  It felt like science fiction when citizens found their paths in the street were limited by force fields and thick metal gates.  The internet disappeared.  Whether it was taken down by the new government or rendered inoperative by the war no one could tell.  This alone struck a heavy blow to world economies.  Stock markets became ghost towns.  Banks were ineffective.  All said, currency as the world knew it became obsolete and useless.  Even factories were overtaken, and production switched solely to the  purposes of the Universal Union.  Military presence grew heavily in the cities; typified by black jump suits and gas mask helmets. To give their presence in the cities a positive spin, the name Civil Protection was coined.

A town was attacked every now and then and military presence swept in to save the day.  Government news, as it was the only news now, reported these incidental victories with pomp and favor.  They would praise the military’s success, also thanking the citizens for helping make this beneficial system a success.  The widespread destruction and high death toll caused by the fighting were never reported.  Rumors spread of disappearances.  Many who spoke out against the Universal Union were never heard from again.  Those who refused to obey Civil Protection were beaten.  Morale diminished at an alarming rate, stricken by this instant totalitarian situation.

Things had changed so drastically, so quickly, that living everyday life was out of the question.  Most of the surviving population was jobless, trapped within the cities, and often homeless.  People had stocked up on essentials because of doomsday chatter, but it did little to mitigate the desperation of a defeated populace now controlled by a prevailing and unfriendly government.

When other countries noticed that America successfully reestablished its government and incorporated new advanced technology that was somehow obtained from the alien world, they pleaded with America to help, to be the world’s ally and leader. What commenced from that point forward is nothing less than global domination.  The Times, one of the last American newspapers in circulation, published the famous ‘Earth Surrenders!’ headline.  An alien force, from who knows where, had invaded and conquered North America within a week, and had the entire world within another, Dr. Breen presiding as the Combine’s interim administrator over the Earth.  For the first time in history, the entire Earth was a conquered colony.

Dr. Breen: He is known as a traitor of the world by the Resistance.  The Resistance knew that Dr. Breen and his newfound militia were not to be trusted.  From day one I fought alongside those who resisted, confident in whose side I was on.  Yet an itch nagged at me as we fought against the Universal Union and their rural Civil Protection police forces. Something that bothered me to no end.  How did Dr. Breen convince an entire hodgepodge of disciplined military personnel to betray freedom and country to serve him without question?  How could they carry out such brutal tactics?  It took five years before I found out.

By this time the Resistance had become an official entity, and an official nuisance to Dr. Breen and his Universal Union; though members of the Resistance called them the Combine. Partially because it made sense, being the combined forces of world military and alien technology, and partially out of rebellion because we refused to acknowledge their authority. We raided outposts, rescued citizens, destroyed production centers for their weaponry and technology, and were constantly on the lookout for information on weaknesses in the new government’s infrastructure.

One particular raid brought a small band of Resistance fighters to a hospital, with intel that hostages were inside.  Defenses were stronger than anticipated, but once inside the resistance fighters found an ugly scene.  Dozens of bodies lay on operating tables.  Some were alive, many were dead.  The hospital had apparently been converted to an alternate purpose.  There was no guessing that purpose.  It was where Combine soldiers were created.  That place was no longer a hospital, but a factory.  They found mechanisms for various implants.  Some mechanisms replaced eyes sockets with who knows what. Some played with the brain, erasing the conscience of the subject.  Some enhanced muscle tissue.  By the end of this cybernetic surgery these Combine soldiers were as alien as the invaders.  The hospital felt like a Borg ship.

We concluded that the standing armies of major world powers were secretly rounded up by the aliens and given these implants.  By the results I would say that these implants blocked all human inhibitions and controlled their loyalty.  These automated soldiers were the beginning of the Combine Trans-Human Overwatch, commandeered by the very aliens those armies were thought to be fighting against.  As we discovered more of these converted hospitals, it became apparent that they were initially experimental centers, to the detriment of the original occupants, while a successful assimilation of alien technology and human hosts was fervently sought.  All the while Dr. Breen lauded praise upon praise upon new discoveries made in science and human evolution.  His speeches were heard on every media source: televisions, radio, speakerphones, jumbo-trons, everything.  These speeches informed the newly captivated world about our new ‘guests’ in the most positive light possible.  He encouraged us not to think of them as our captors, but as our ‘Benefactors.’

As Dr. Breen’s praise of our new Benefactors echoed in every town square, kidnappings and beatings continued to be commonplace.  Everyone lived in fear and subjection.  Everyone still does.

I could tell Brice was simply watching me with a patience only he could muster.  I took a moment to glance at a map of Beacon Hill.  It was another resistance hideout, much bigger than this one.  Only the big ones are usually named, I thought.  The smaller underground groups are simply called Stations.  We were Station 08.  Beacon Hill was about 100 miles northeast.  Or is it kilometers?  I haven’t transitioned well to European measurements.  Nevertheless, its distance from the main city helps to seclude it from the Combine.  It is to this waypoint that refugees constantly escape when fleeing from City 14.  Our station is the eighth and last in that journey toward freedom.  Every remaining city has some sort of underground smuggling system.  None compare to City 17, however, the home base of the Combine on earth, and the headquarters of Dr. Breen himself; which also serves as the base of operations for the Resistance.  Then my thoughts flickered into wondering if I would ever have a need to go there.  I tossed the map on top of the others.

“I brought him to a vacant room.”

“Swell.  That’s good.”  I mumbled back while checking the radio.  Radio waves were one of the few fail-save methods to communicate. It was too outdated for the Combine to understand or care about. A fuzzy noise filled the room as I fiddled with the volume.

I think Brice said something, but I tried to focus on the radio instead.

“You should show him around some more.”

I stopped to look at him.  “You suppose it would help him feel like he belongs?”

He nodded.

“Our dorms are modest.  Hopefully to our addition’s liking.  Though this place could barely compete with a one star hotel.”  I turned back to the radio.

Then Brice reminded me that Elliott was not just some addition, as if he were a spare tire in the trunk. He was right, but I suppose I was a little bitter that Brice had rescued an inert slump of a man.  With the human population dwindling, I considered every individual who chose inactivity over resistance a waste. A darn waste.

I decided to turn off the radio, because Brice decided to keep talking.

“When you found me, I saw you as a hero.  Not that I would admit it at the time.  But you were also stressed, on edge.  The tension was strong.”

I turned around despite myself.  When Brice started talking this way, I have learned to do everything I can to encourage it, even if it meant criticism.

“You are not that way now.  You are calmer, for the most part.  You have gathered yourself together, decided on the way in which you should go, and are confident in it.”  He paused, looking at the gun on my desk, struggling to find the right words.  “Confidence is good.  But don’t let it disrupt your compassion.”

We sat there for a moment in silence. I didn’t feel like responding.

“Here is my report,” he said as he plopped a folder titled ‘Extradition 42’ on my desk.  He stood up straight, nodded, and left the room.  I turned the radio back on, mechanically dialing for any rebel station reports, deep in thought.

Chapter 3, Pt. 1 > >

< < Chapter 2, Pt. 1

Half-Life Series: Chapter 2, Part 1


[This is part of an ongoing series. See my ‘Half-Life Story‘ page for more information.]


I shuffled about my office, shifting papers and organizing miscellany, when Brice walked in.

“Your door is open,” he commented.

“Yeah,” was all I replied.  I continued rummaging around, apparently keen to avoid conversation, though not really sure why.  I tossed a crude map of City 14 onto a pile of other maps.  Then I penciled in the last remaining details of Brice’s rescue excursion into a log.  Each section of the Resistance tries to maintain a precise log of activities carried out against the Combine.  This way, leaders can compare notes and share what they may have learned about the enemy or what progress may have been made in a particular area.  Once finished, these were placed into a locking briefcase.

My gun lay on the far corner of the desk; a COP .357 Derringer.  Sure, there are plenty of other guns in ready supply.  This one, however, is my personal weapon of choice.  It is always on my person when I am outside the office.  Always.  I have it for the same reason I have a piece of submarine for a door: security.  And this piece of security is my favorite.  We found this gun in a leveled police station somewhere in the outskirts of town.  Since it takes both .357 and .38 Special type ammunition, common in handguns and hunting rifles, I never have to worry about running low.  Imagine a gun one can conceal in his palm, but instead of one barrel, it has four, with two on top and two on the bottom.

For legal reasons it was originally constructed to fire one barrel at a time. Yet in this day and age there are no rules.  With our enemy the Combine ravaging the earth, all bets are off. My customized COP can fire all four rounds at once if I wanted.  Just flip a little switch above the handle grip and the main firing pin inside the gun will lock with three others that were added in so that all four bullets can be triggered at once.  If I choose to use a single shot, then the main firing pin will automatically rotate to the next round.  Once all four rounds are spent, the small gun easily cracks open like a shotgun to dump the empty rounds out and thumb the new ones in.  Whether I fire one round or four, this gun is good for defense if I have nothing else on-hand.

I later found out that COP stood for Compact Off-Duty Police, as it was a handy backup for off-duty policemen.  It was for a time when service men felt it their duty to serve the people of their country, whether on duty or off-duty.  It was a role fit for a civilized society; where the government was benevolent and maintained a policing force that cared about the protection and safety of its citizens. Civil Protection was a name derived from that original notion. In reality, it was nothing more than a ploy of propaganda. I now played the part of a service man against all odds; against the reign of a tyrannical dictator. It is the least I can do to keep the memory of our past heroes alive.

I recall the time I preferred a simple Heckler and Koch USP Match semi-automatic pistol.  A basic hand gun.  This was my first gun, easy to wield – just point and shoot – and it emptied rounds as fast as I could squeeze the trigger.  In all honesty, people are easy to kill.  One round from any gun can kill if aimed right.  This is why I felt it sufficient to use a simple pistol at first.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t sufficient once the monsters started showing up. That’s when I knew I needed more.

Anyway, when I had the pistol, I only used it for self-defense of course, though it was no consolation for how horrible it felt to fire upon a human being.  What else could be done?  People went crazy.  Chaos ensued during the Seven Day War. The invading Combine challenged the world’s best military.  That war marked the beginning of an anarchy that ended in the Combine’s victory.  That was a horrible few weeks.  If you’ve heard how quickly a normal group of sane citizens could revert into frenzied rioters and looters when a mere power outage occurs, then you might have a slight picture of the carnage I witnessed during the first few weeks of this new dark age.  Next door neighbors even tried to break into my apartment with kitchen knives and a sawzall.

Do understand, the world received battle damage astronomically beyond any combination of wars in earth’s history, and in the shortest duration.  There wasn’t a single large city unaffected.  With the failure of all world governments during the course of this war everyone was fending for themselves.  Hence, anarchy ruled for several months until the Combine established its army on earth.  And such an army it became.  At first, however, it was all-out war.

Most believed the earth still had a chance to kill the invasion off.  But it was Dr. Breen, the administrating physicist of Black Mesa, who pacified the world at this crucial junction, and by his campaigning he guided popular vote to eventually accept a new reality, even as wild aliens swept through the countryside.  Word of a disaster at the Black Mesa research facility spread quickly, but knowledge of what actually happened that frightful day was pure speculation. It is said that an otherworldly portal was ripped open, invisible to the eye and unpredictable in its output.  Dr. Breen used this hearsay to his advantage, arguing that the spread of monstrous creatures to a global scale was inevitable.  By their method of entry onto the earth, and the ease by which they reproduced and occupied themselves within the American continent, they were a deadly reality that could destroy the human race.

He strung us in despair only long enough to fully entice us with his solution.  The human race would be destroyed unless something was done about it.  Certainly the human race was the most adaptable and innovative species ever to inhabit this planet, but the process is now much hindered by disunity of thought within the multitudes of self-aware homo sapiens.  Natural selection has fared well enough for the animals of this planet for millions of years, and under natural circumstances the same applied to humans in the face of their own difficulties through the centuries.  However, the crisis they then faced was no natural occurrence.  An unnatural blending of two worlds has taken place.  New species have been introduced into a new environment not fit to sustain them, and they too will attempt to adapt, at the expense of the native inhabitants.  Just as the introduction of foreign zebra clams into Lake Michigan literally clogged the lake’s economy and wildlife, so these creatures will choke the earth of its own economy and wildlife.  Only two solutions existed. The answer which came most easily?  Eradicate every last intruder with swift action, strict maintenance, and brutal suppression.  Such would be the case when scorpions enter your home.  You must take preventative measures immediately to keep them out.  You must check your shoes before you put them on.  Anything that would provide support for the intruder is to be removed.

Even though the experiment failed, Dr. Breen found a way to keep blame off himself. In fact, he immediately propagated a motion for martial law over the facility.  The marines moved in on Black Mesa with orders to kill everything that moves. In efforts to contain the situation, and perhaps contain hearsay against Dr. Breen, everyone employed at Black Mesa was effectively sentenced to death alongside the intruding aliens.

At first, Dr. Breen embraced this plan, pushing for it with a wildly enthusiastic following from the higher ups, eager to eradicate every last remnant of the secret science facility. However, as it became apparent that the contamination had spread beyond the confines of desert surrounding Black Mesa in the middle of New Mexico, he cautioned that effective coordination which would last relied upon the appointment of a chief adviser to this project, someone who knew the situation best and could provide reliable guidance to the various endeavors required. All said, Dr. Breen offered that he was up to the noble role.  He suggested that his qualifications provided the best service toward what needed to be done. As administrator of the Black Mesa facility, his high government standing added to the persuasion.

Not that he was a particularly charismatic person, but his speeches to the masses made sense.  He gave gave the world their option, and everyone truly felt that it was the only viable and reasonable option.  The panic of worldwide destruction coupled with the convincing advice of a renowned scientist made room for government adjustments the world had never seen.  The pace by which he accomplished this task surpassed a century of progress by the United Nations.  Within a day multitudes were calling him a worldwide savior. Thousands of others called him the Antichrist; it was no use.  Before a week  passed world desperation instilled an unprecedented outcome: Dr. Breen was appointed supreme potentate of the world.  A cabinet was quickly compiled to represent different areas of expertise.   They offered advice for the potentate and filtered orders to the respective areas of need.  It was certainly a good way to get things done fast and ensure that no one resisted and got in the way of fast needed progress and cooperation.  All said and done, Dr. Wallace Breen now held free dominion over the terms of global attack and surrender.

Chapter 2, Pt. 2 > >

< < Chapter 1, Pt. 2

Half-Life Series: Chapter 1, Part 2


[This is part of an ongoing series. See my ‘Half-Life Story‘ page for more information.]


“So what makes you defend the current state of affairs?” I thrust at Elliott.

He seemed surprised by my question, but responded nonetheless, “Oh, I’m not defending them.  I know you’re all part of a resistance and everything.  I’m just saying that with the new government and all, well, it worked didn’t it?  As far as I can tell they have preserved the human race from complete devastation.”  He was returned with dubious expressions.  “What I mean to say is that it is better to be alive than dead I suppose,” he added.

“Better to be miserably alive than dead you mean?  You were tortured!” Brice challenged to the one he had saved.  Brice’s gruff nature did not surface often, and never due to lack of control.  He never wavered from a deep, matter-of-fact tone.  The way I see it, he feels it his duty to speak of things the way they are, nothing more, nothing less.  Pure and simple. In his eyes, embellishment either way will do nothing to further our survival.  That is why I gave him a curious glance at the sudden intensity in his voice.

A gaunt Elliott looked down at his scratches and scars, some still in the process of scabbing.

Brice’s rebuff continued with a simple question, “How do you, how did Dr. Breen, know that what happened was the best way to save the human race? In whose imagination was this to be the best answer?”

Our apparent pacifist replied just as simply, “Because we had to survive.  It was found to be the best solution to the problem.  I mean, a seven hour war?  Who would have imagined America to barely survive a seven hour war against alien invaders? Let alone the world in seven days.”

Brice remained stubborn.  “I still say better to be dead than miserably alive.”

“Thankfully in theory, not in practice, eh Brice?” But my logic went unacknowledged.

Our guest continued, “But a unified turnover offered the least path of resistance.  Perhaps Dr. Breen was only acting out of duty, he was providing damage control.  Again, it was the best answer to the problem.”

I chimed in, “Honestly, can you really give Dr. Breen that much credit?  To me he is synonymous with the enemy.  Here, let me put it this way.  Do you want the answer to a problem that is deemed to be the best by a corrupt authority and accepted by an ignorant majority, or would you rather struggle a little longer in order to preserve freedom and find the truth of the matter?”

I was fully interested in the other’s answer, but he did not seem to have one, or at least he chose to remain quiet in the presence of opposition this time.  Then I slapped my forehead.

“How rude of me!  Here we are delving into politics and yet I have not even facilitated proper introductions.  One cannot debate with the nameless.”

Brice and I stood up again.  “You have already met Brice Torley Galleger, a commander of the resistance.”  Brice stood at attention with a nod.  “As you’ve seen, Brice is a tough and practical man.  He started his position as soon as the resistance began, and has helped the resistance go a long way ever since.”  A smirk was his only recognition of this praise.

“Considering myself,” I continued, “I think of myself as nothing more than a facilitator; one who tries to keep tabs on various projects in the area and offer ways to get it done through available resources and planning.  Sorry, I have yet to say my name.  I am Winston Shepherd.  But some call me Colonel.”  We shook hands once more.  “But realize I am not from a military background.  Just the same with Brice here.  Being a part of the resistance gives men and women a new life.  And being part of the resistance means being part of an ongoing war.  Apparently we’ve proved some metal during these years of resistance, and so they’ve found it fit to appoint us into roles of leadership.  God help us all,” I ended with a grin.

A black haired lady in a blue jumpsuit smelling of petrol walked in.  “Aren’t y’all thirsty?    Lemmie give you a drop.”  She wiped her greasy hands on a rag before pouring glasses of water for everyone, refilling Elliott’s glass first.

“That is very generous of you Marco.  Thank you.”  I turned toward our guest with a second grin as she left, “See. Where there is kindness, there is still hope in the world.  Even when survival occupies so much of our lives.”

He looked at me straight in the eyes, “I had lost all hope of survival.”

“Survival is not the only thing to give us hope.”

“It’s the only goal we have to strive for.”

I paused to meet his gaze.  “Fair enough.  Still, I am curious.  Do you truly believe that pure survival of the species is the ultimate goal of life?”  His gaze shivered for only a moment.

“Just because Dr. Breen abused the need for survival for his propaganda does not make it invalid.  The resistance itself is a struggle for survival.”

“But with very different purpose.  The way you put it, what was done to you is justifiable.  Violating your life, your personality, disregarding that which makes us individual human beings.   And you allow it to be packaged up in the neat name of the ‘greater good.’”

“Such individualism leads to anarchy.  And anarchy leads to nowhere.  Just because the process is disagreeable to us now…”

“Yes, your reasoning does sound disagreeable, especially when you would rather live, yet simultaneously sacrifice person-hood for the species.  They won’t coincide.  My purpose is to warn you of the dangers in such an incomplete meta-physic.”

What was I doing?  A hesitation hovered over my lips.  I am interrogating a rescued prisoner.  There is something wrong about that.  Yet, he was a passive citizen of a totalitarian regime.  I found I could not let him get away with that as my lips reanimated.

“You are clinging to a theory that brings no satisfaction, no explanation, to the human condition, let alone our current circumstance.  It may work on plants and animals to a degree.  But I will not stand by while the human race is treated like anything less than it is: as anything less than human.  Dr. Breen and the Combine he serves will only treat human life as profane and unsacred, and I will refuse their crap so long as I live!”

As that emphatic moment passed, I knew it was time to step out.  As I retreated back to my office after excusing myself I could hear Brice speak up quietly behind me, “That is our purpose.”

Chapter 2, Pt. 1 > >

< < Chapter 1, Pt. 1

Half-Life Series: Chapter 1, Part 1


[This is part of an ongoing series. See my ‘Half-Life Story‘ page for more information.]


I could see the new guy walking in.  He carried the common characteristics of a man used to oppression.  His back bowed unusually, as if held taught by an unseen archer’s grasp.  His head slouched as if a hinge in his neck only held it loosely.  His arms held stiff at the elbows, though it wasn’t enough to hide the tremors causing his hands to tremble from side to side.

Standing behind the small window of my door I watched him.  He had suffered much.  Not only did my resources tell me this, but his features displayed it.  “And to think, this man was only in custody for three days!” I exclaimed through my teeth.  No one heard me behind the heavy submarine door that served as the entrance to my office.  I took out my handkerchief to wipe off the condensation I had formed on the circular glass.

This man peered through low eyelids at his surroundings, as if he had never expected to see a mahogany table, or a mattress, or a simple glass of water ever again.  His eyelids rose a little.  I watched him drink the water in grateful but reserved sips.  His escort continued across the room to the front of my door.  Two large knocks were followed by four small ones.  I unlatched the metal door to let him in and promptly closed it at his heels.

“Seems you have come a long way to see this day.  Glad to see you well, Brice.  And glad to see you still remember the password.”  I gave the heartiest handshake I could to the man who had hands that could crush mine.  My guest only smiled and stood at attention with a nod.  I glanced out the door to continue my observance of the man on the other side.  “How is he?”

Brice waved a large hand like a see-saw, “He’s shaken.  Physically and mentally.”

“But he’ll be okay?”

His wide shoulders shrugged.  “That’s a hunch.”

I nodded.  “What’s his name?”


“I hear he was rescued only hours ago.  Your dual operation against the City Service Center was quite a success then.  Dealing a blow to that precinct’s machine factory as well as rescuing this man from the adjacent prison facility.  I am impressed as always.  Thank God you worked quickly.  Another day’s time and he might have cracked.”

Brice raised a bushy eyebrow.

“Not that they were trying to get information out of him.  Not that he had any important information to disclose,” I added for clarification.  “But cracked in such a way that his will, his desire to live, would have broken.  That is their goal.  Once the will breaks, the enemy reprograms the poor soul to their service.  Almost literally.  The best we can tell, they use some sort of Trans-human technology.”  I paused before adding with a whisper, “He could have become a Stalker.”

Brice only shook his head.

“But enough of this talk,” I blurted, eager to remove us from the melancholy mood I had so easily allowed to encroach upon us.  “We must welcome our new friend!”

As I opened the door and approached, the man raised his head with a gleam of curious but reserved anticipation.  I had decided to speak frankly with him.  Recently freed prisoners are not usually in a state of strong-mindedness, but experience told me that the one thing that irks them most is knowing they are being talked down or lied to.

“Welcome to City 14.  A simple, impersonal name I understand.  But, as you know, that is also how the government we rescued you from conducts all business.  Simple and impersonal.”

“Not much hope for anything else,” he responded with a mumble.  Nonetheless, he stood up and shook my hand.  He seemed slightly abashed at his cynicism, and added with a shrug, “Besides, there is little hope it could be any better, right?  Without a strict government we would not have likely survived.”

I regarded him for a brief moment before responding.  “The world has indeed changed as we know it.  Changed rapidly at that.  The drastic changes this world has endured did not allow much time.  Not much time at all for proper adaptation.  We all,” I motioned to both Brice and our guest, “heard Dr. Breen as he preached his message, about how only a powerful government would provide the precious time necessary to adapt.”

“Who would have thought that Dr. Breen, the scientist, the Black Mesa administrator, would step into politics so quickly,” I said.

Brice grunted.

“Who would have known that his new dictatorship would simply hand the world over on a silver platter?” I added.

The other two acknowledged their own surprise at such a turn of events as we sat down.  But something still bothered me.  Was he defending the new government?  Was he okay with the way Dr. Breen betrayed humanity?  He had given the entire earth to our new oppressors, and he has since been the representative of their iron fist all over the world for nearly two decades.  Was enslaving Earth really the best chance for survival?

Chapter 1, Pt. 2 > >

< < Prologue: Elegy

Half-Life Series: Prologue

Traptown[This is part of an ongoing series. See my ‘Half-Life Story‘ page for more information.]

Prologue – Elegy

Not a day not wrought by sadness profound, nor a night not destitute with regret.

A burning tear for each cold star in the sky, to where hope has escaped.

Joy stands frozen in grief.

All textures of life denied light of day, drenched in forever shadow,

Never again to undo what is wrought, perpetually denied a full breath’s respite.

Liberty stands bound to a post.

We stumble and stagger to the stench of a diminished population.

Only the ignorant speak of verve, vim and vigor,

As it is nothing but a pretense of the foolish.

Life stands still as a corpse.

~Dirge written by an unknown American author
after the United States fell to the invasion.

Chapter 1, Pt. 1 > >

<< Series Home Page


ACSTO 101 Cover

ACSTO 101 is an e-book authored by me and designed by Tommy Smith (Marketing and Communications Manager at ACSTO). This is the magnum opus of my career as a copywriter at ACSTO. It is a compilation of my experience and expertise in Arizona tax credit law, nationwide school choice, technical writing skills, research and development, marketing and communication, and calls to action. It is professional yet friendly; informational yet interesting (for the target audience at least!); heavily researched and technical yet laid out simply for the layman.

As the author and researcher for this e-book, I created it for the purpose of educating our constituents (parents, donors, and schools) about the inner workings of ACSTO and the tax credit law that we operate with, and how our constituents can best take advantage of this tax credit law for the benefit of providing funding for private Christian education. It is in essence a fundraising booklet – and our parents trying to pay for the cost of tuition will best benefit from the information it contains.

Originally published as a free e-book in Nov. 2012.
Copyright Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, Inc. March 2013.