The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 12
“Not again,” Markus murmured to himself, his voice thick with sleep.
These past few nights had been pure torture due to the annoying repair inquiry calls waking him up at the crack of dawn.
Fumbling around on his desk side table, he came across his communicator.
“Listen, whoever you are, you might want to try restarting your computer before waking me up. Have you done that at least?,” he mumbled.
“Is this Markus?,” asked a cheerful female voice.
He sat up in bed cautiously. He somehow knew it wasn’t an ordinary service call.
“Who’s asking?,” Markus replied, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt.
“Hey, I mean you no harm. My name is Alyx, Alyx Vance. You may have heard of me.”
Who hasn’t heard of the Vances. Alyx and her father are both top members of the Combine Resistance Movement. That resistance was the only thing keeping humanity safe. So yeah, he’s heard of her.
“I have heard of you. So that brings me to my next question: why are you calling me?”
“Markus, we could really use your help with a mission. We need to get a-“
“Whoa, whoa, let me stop you right there. I’m flattered Alyx, but aren’t there other higher-ups who could assist you? This is kind of above my paygrade.”
“Well, you see, we don’t really have any other alternatives. All of our other contacts are either working on other projects, or are otherwise indisposed. We need a combat engineer, and I can see you’re more than qualified. What do you think of taking a little vacation? We would double your current salary.”
“Alyx, what exactly would I have to do?”
“Come meet me and I’ll fill you in.”
“This is Gordon Freeman, which I’m sure you’re already aware of Markus, if my source was correct,” Alyx explained, pointing to the photograph.
Markus nodded. Freeman was (well actually, still is), one of his childhood heroes. The physicist was a former researcher for the Black Mesa Research Facility before the war broke out.
“While I was back in college, I used to pore over his gadget blueprints whenever I could. They were absolutely amazing. I mean, I earned an engineering degree so I didn’t really know too much about the science that was responsible for creating any of them, but I knew how they were physically put together…”
Alyx's face lit up.
Then she jogged out of the room without saying one word to Markus.
Shrugging, he stood up to check out the bulletin board Alyx had wheeled in when he had first arrived.
Next to Freeman’s photo were a few maps of this station and the surrounding bases.
A saw mill, a water tower and bloodstains?
I’m in the midst of a war zone, of course there would be blood.
It was still a bit unsettling though.
“Take a look at this Markus, I think you’ll recognize this,” Alyx called out.
Whirling around, he strode over and saw it.
“The gravity gun,” he said in awe, “Can I hold it?”
Alyx laughed, handing it over to him on a nearby desk.
“I sure hope you’ll do more than that! You see, we need you to fix it for us… and deliver it to Gordon.”
He nearly dropped the d*mn thing.
“Markus, I know it was a lot to spring on you, but there really isn’t any time to lay things down more gently,” Alyx explained through his bedroom door. “I’m sorry. I’m, I mean, we’re, really desperate to get Gordon back.”
During these grim times, who hadn’t felt desperate?
He opened the door, and gestured for her to enter his quarters.
“I want to help you Alyx, I mean, I am a combat engineer… but my job is dealing with disgruntled, technologically moronic customers. Isn’t there anyone else?”
“I wish I didn’t have to drag you into this, but there is nobody else. I would do it myself if I could, but it’s not my area of expertise. I’m more of a hacker.”
“Your old professor, Dr. Larouche, highly recommended you. Now, I can’t help you fix the gun, but I would still help you. I am pretty good with a gun. I would be right alongside you, helping you to deliver the gun to Gordon. What do you say?”
Markus extended his hand to her.
"Put 'er there partner."
It had been awhile since Markus had actually faced any true technological challenges.
Most of the time people didn't turn something on properly, or their device was in sleep mode... yada yada, yada...
Now, the gravity gun was a real puzzle.
In the end though, Markus surprised himself.
Maybe it was being cut-off from his job, or having a different change of pace here at the base, but it felt like he was back in college again.
When he ran to deliver the good news to Alyx, she was ecstatic. Her father gave him a huge pat on the back too.
Markus had never felt more proud of himself.
But then Alyx started talking about training and using it.
She had a good laugh at his puzzlement.
"Markus, that gravity gun is an important tool out here. Don't you think it's only right to not only know how it works, but to also be able to actually use it too?"
So that is why Markus was currently outside training with Alyx, attempting to arrange and throw various barrels, crates and other items in the outdoor yard.
So far it was Objects-3, Markus-0.
Alyx helped him up after a particularly ugly fall.
"This may seem pointless Markus, but out there, anything could mean the difference between life and death, whether it's a brick, or crate or flammable barrel."
"Keep at it."
Alyx had been right.
It had been a very, very good idea to train Markus.
There had been a close-call with a ceiling barnacle that had Markus in its slimy tongue and had begun dragging him up to its sharp jaws. Groups of antlions that had sprung from the ground, piercing him with their teeth, not to mention the waves of Combine soldiers and their weapons.
For being a newbie, he was fairly pleased with himself though.
He had only thrown up once. After the barnacle incident, of course.
But now it was the final showdown.
Alyx stopped the car just ahead of a tunnel.
A lone headcrab zombie was beginning to approach them, wailing miserably.
It made his skin crawl.
"Those things, Alyx... I've heard about them, but, I've never seen them up close before..."
She clapped a strong hand on his shoulder.
“Gordon!” Alyx repeated, running around the corner of the communication tower.
“Alyx, could Gordon be… you know... compromised?”
Markus gestured at the gore adorning the walls and covering the floor.
She went around checking out the carnage.
“No. He can’t be here… let me see if I can pull up the footage.”
He watched her hack into the camera's database.
“Mmhmm, nothing too- wait!” Alyx pulled him closer. “See the man, in that suit? That’s Gordon!”
Markus pulled out a map and spread it over the console.
“I’m guessing he had to head to a different base? But which one?”
“Well, our operative Barry is scouting out the Saw Mill facilities, so I guess that leaves us the Water Tower section to check out, past these water canals.”
Nodding, Markus rolled the map back up and tucked it away.
Grasping the gravity gun again, he turned and began heading back to the car.
“Markus, wait up,” Alyx shouted, catching up with him. “You know, you don’t have to do this. I never figured it would be this difficult. Your primary objective was to fix the gun. You did that, and more. Now, I can just take it to Gordon myself. I’ll contact Barry to send an extra car my way. You can go back home, thank you for everything.”
He paused for a moment.
If you would have told me one day I’d be holding THE gravity gun in my hands, AND fighting off creatures and zombie hordes to SAVE Gordon Freeman, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I did it, and I’ve made it this far already…
“I’m coming with you, I want to see this through, Alyx,” Markus said determinedly.
He grinned at her.
“And well, maybe I want to be a big d*mn hero like you and Gordon…”