Prepare For Unforeseen Consequences

"I remain confident she was worth far more than the initial... appraisal."

My Adoring Public
Before Floyd Mason left the Borealis, Alyx gave him a thorough run-down of the procedures necessary to make a secure radio transmission back to the ship. Wonder of wonders, Floyd actually remembered it long enough to get the protocol set up at the local Resistance base. In the twenty-odd hours since then, communications have been short and sporadic: they made it to the base, they're filling the locals in on the Gene Worm... and there's an American here who claims to be The One Free Man.

Alyx isn't overly concerned about that last piece of news. She knows it's happened before, back in City 08, and feels confident that Gordon and the rest of the shore party will settle his hash quickly enough. Mostly, Alyx wishes she could be there to witness Gordon's confrontation with the impostor firsthand. That would be a sight to see.

Now, Floyd reports that the false Freeman is going to make a speech. Alyx managed to talk him through setting up a small camera and patching in a video feed. The image is staticky and the camera is so far off center that the podium is barely in the frame, but it'll serve. she's patched it through to one of the main monitors in the control room, and a substantial crowd of onlookers has gathered there to watch. Alyx herself is, of course, right in front.

She wishes she had popcorn.

So far, there's nothing on the video feed except another crowd of people massed in front of the makeshift podium. Then a murmur of noise rises from the crowd as they look at something off-camera. A similar sound ripples through the crowd on the bridge as two figures walk into view. Both of them are wearing HEV suits.

The feed is too grainy to get a good look at the impostor. He's slightly shorter than Gordon, and his suit is yellow where Gordon's is orange, but Alyx can't make out any more details than that. He swaggers up to the podium, with Gordon trailing just behind, looking as uncomfortable as ever to be in the spotlight.

The man in the yellow suit steps up to the podium and raises both hands for silence. "Ladies and gentlemen," he begins, "You're all no doubt aware of the strangers in our midst today. What you may not know is that they've brought with them some alarming news. The Combine's evacuation of civilians from the cities of Europe was for a more sinister purpose than we ever could have imagined..."

"He talks a good talk, I'll give him that," someone murmurs from the vicinity of Alyx's shoulder.

"So did Cubbage," mutters a voice Alyx recognizes as Barney's. "If he's gotta pretend to be somebody he ain't, how capable can he be?"

"...but there is a ray of hope. This same group of strangers has the equipment and means to destroy this 'Gene Worm' once and for all. It's been successful against Combine forces in Australia and the Americas. And the transmissions intercepted by our own Janusz Prohaska suggest that the Gene Worm in Africa has fallen as well..."

Alyx's eyebrows lift. Now there's an interesting statement. She'll have to contact this Prohaska person directly. If the transmissions mean what he thinks they do, that means they have one less Gene Worm to fight, but it also means that those protecting the two remaining might know they're coming...

Her attention snaps back to the screen when she sees the man in the yellow suit gesturing at Gordon. "This man," he says, "came to our shores claiming to be Gordon Freeman. Now, a lesser man would be upset that someone else was pretending to be him, trading in a reputation he hadn't earned. But I met him, and I talked to him, and he's seen the light. He won't be using my name anymore, now, will he?"

If Gordon had any verbal response to that, it would be lost in the cheers of joy and cries of outrage arising from the crowd. But he doesn't. He just stares at the man in the yellow suit, too gobsmacked to be angry, at least for the moment.

On the Borealis, there's no cheering, but the outrage is mingled with shock. Some of those assembled--not the majority, but a not insignificant number--are new enough to the Resistance for a seed of doubt to be planted. Could the man they've been following really be an impostor?

Alyx, for her part, just stares blankly at the screen.

"And just to show there's no hard feelings--" the man in yellow wraps his arm around Gordon as though they've been close personal friends for years-- "This man will have the honor of fighting by my side when we take on the Gene Worm."

The crowd noise grows ever louder--there might be a small riot in the making. The Borealis crew won't get to see it, though--something knocks the camera loose, and the video feed goes blank.

The crowd on the bridge starts to disperse, still arguing vociferously.
"Incredible. All this time, I thought he was really Gordon Freeman..."
"I can't believe it. I won't believe it."
"But how can we know?"
"It's bullshit! I know Gordon Freeman, I knew him in Black Mesa--"
"And whose word have we got on that?"

Only two people linger behind. One is Judith Mossman; the other is Alyx Vance, who continues to stare at the blank screen as though rooted to the spot.

"Alyx?" Judith gently lays a hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Are you okay?"

The contact rouses Alyx from her trance, but only just barely. "Would you excuse me for just a minute?" she says, voice perfectly and unnaturally even. She doesn't wait for a response; she pushes herself out of her chair, turns smartly on her heel, and walks out of the room.

For daemonmuses - Jamie
gunbarrel, moody
A first kiss *or* a first love; whether or not they're the same target is up to youCollapse )

For daemonmuses
Write about someone else encountering you and your daemon for the first time.Collapse )

Reawakening, part deux
intent, serious
Finding all the parts of PIaDOS that actually contained her brain(s) was the hardest part. At least, Alyx hopes it was the hardest part. If it wasn't, that means she screwed up while wiring the AI back together, and that could spell disaster.

She supposes they'll find out in a minute.

"Okay, I'm going to connect the power now..."

PIaDOS isn't dead.

PIaDOS isn't dead.

She may be more broken than ever before, but PIaDOS isn't dead.

That one thought has been driving Alyx for the past hour as she cobbles parts together. She's not trying to completely rebuild the AI--not yet. For the moment, her goal is to make PIaDOS able to communicate again, to observe her surroundings and the people in them. Finding the parts for that proved to be slightly harder than Alyx had anticipated, but find them she did. And as of now, the interface is complete. She hopes.

Her heart is in her throat as she flips the power switch to the 'ON' position.

One second of silence. Two seconds. Three.

"PIaDOS?" says Alyx softly. "Can you hear me?"

"I hear you." The voice is faint and frightened, but it's there. "Nobody else."

"There's no one else here," says Alyx gently. "It's okay, no one's gonna hurt you. You were damaged when the ship crashed."

"Where   is   me?"

"In the Level 5 maintenance workroom," says Alyx. "Don't worry, we'll get you reinstalled in--"

"Where is me???" PI repeats, insistently. "I can't hear me anymore..."

"I don't--" Alyx stops short as it finally clicks. "You mean your other personalities?"

"Yes!" the little computer chip wails. "Where? Where? Where? WHERE??"

Alyx is silent for a long moment. "I'm still trying to figure out what hardware is salvageable," she says softly. "I'll do what I can to get them back."

"I NEED me! I'm not enough without me!"

"I know, PI. But I need you to focus first--"

If PIaDOS is listening, she's not giving any indication of it. She just keeps wailing "I NEED ME I NEED ME" over and over again.

"PIaDOS, listen to me! The teleporter's offline and I--"


"PI, listen--!"


The voice cuts off abruptly as Alyx flips the power switch off again. She sags heavily against the workbench, resting her head in her hands.


Doctor in the House
[immediately following this]

The door opens onto a dark corridor. It's not a corridor that's supposed to be dark, but the overhead fluorescent lights aren't working just now. The walls and carpet are old, but surprisingly clean. There's an odd hitch in one's center of gravity as one walks through; the floor at Milliways is level, but here the whole structure lists to the left a bit.

"Welcome aboard," says Alyx dryly. "Watch your step."

Lake Eyre
The last Combine survivors at the gene worm site have been picked off. The refugees have been sent away. The ship is as stocked and the crew as ready as they're liable to get. It's time to depart.

"Okay, I think I've found us a good destination site. Over water, close to the source of the distress call..."

(no subject)
let me think about this
The round of target practice out behind the bar wasn't as therapeutic as Alyx had hoped. Neither was the supper Gordon treated her to afterward. She's not about to go home in this kind of a funk--not without doing her level best to get herself out of it, at least.

It is with this goal in mind that she approaches Bar tonight and asks for "something to help me relax." The jar that Bar provides is labeled "Deep Relaxation Lavender & Melissa Bubble Bath." Huh. She's heard, vaguely, of bubble baths, but never tried one herself... what the hell, it can't hurt anything, right?

Alyx waddles up the steps to Room 287, and after a bit of fiddling with the fixtures, gets the bathtub sealed and filling up with hot water. She frowns at the directions on the jar. It says to add the "desired amount" to the bathwater, but there's no indication of how one would decide how much one wants. Alyx considers this for a minute or so, then pours out a generous handful into her palm, and from there into the water.

That was probably too much. Mountains of white foam start to emerge from the spot where the tap's flow strikes the water's surface. After a few seconds, Alyx can't see the water in the tub anymore. She has to stick her hand through the foam (strange how it looks so solid but gives at the slightest touch) to test the depth of the water so she can turn it off before she risks an overflow.

She regards the mass of bubbles for a long moment before shrugging off her bathrobe and stepping, carefully, into the tub. The foam overflows onto the tile as she settles down onto the floor of the tub and leans back.

Alyx just lies there, letting the water and bubbles lap over her body. The foam towers over her, muffling sound and softly filtering the overhead light. The warmth of the bath and the scent of lavender and lemon envelop her, melting away her soreness and tension away. For the first time in months, she feels completely relaxed.

It won't last, the pessimistic voice in the back of her mind says. It never does. Somehow, though, the thought doesn't niggle at her as much as it normally would. This bubble bath is almost aggressively soothing. It seems as though nothing could possibly be unpleasant now.

"Well," Alyx murmurs to herself, running one hand idly through the nearest bubble mountain. "Now, this was a good idea."

By the time she's done soaking, the water has gone cold, her fingers and toes are wrinkled as raisins, and she's feeling on top of the world.

We have got to get a working bathtub in Greenbrier.

Project Greek Island - Part 2
Despite the protestations of one Kate Shephard, Alyx is on guard duty at the mouth of Druid Cave. She feels confident that she can repel any wildlife that tries to encroach on the cave entrance, pregnancy or no. Besides, she wants to be the first to meet Corporal Shephard's scouting party when they return from Greenbrier.

Not that the rest of the residents of Druid Cave know exactly where the scouts have gone or why. Alyx made sure of that. Everyone's strung out enough as it is, they don't need their hopes raised only to be dashed on the rocks if the bunker turns out to be uninhabitable--or, worse, already inhabited by the enemy.

Now, if the report she gets back is a good one, that'll be something else again.

Christmas in Rowlesburg
with Gordon - in bed
It's not a white Christmas. Not in Druid Cave, anyway. Getting snow that far underground would be problematic.

"Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green"

The decorations are meager, by pre-Combine standards. Sure, there's a big tree in the town square, and the public buildings are decked out in garlands and lights for the occasion, but the individual houses only have a few scrap-metal stars and trees, and garlands made of old cloth.

"Here we come a-wassailing, so fair to be seen"

The children who would be eagerly running to the living room to see what Santa brought them are still a good four and a half months away.

"Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too"

Still, there is some measure of Christmas cheer in Rowlesburg this morning. And that cheer has woken Alyx up. She rubs her eyes, props herself up on one elbow, and frowns in bemusement.

"And God bless you and send you a happy new year"

"... is that... is someone caroling?"

"And God send you a happy new year"

pregnancy yoga, second trimester
She first noticed it in the morning, just before breakfast. Alyx was just sitting down to eat when she felt a faint stir of movement in her abdomen. She sat and waited, but it didn't happen again--not that she could tell, at least. Kate told her not to worry, that it was different from one woman to the next and one pregnancy to the next, and she'd come to recognize it better over time.

A few ours later, when she was leaning over her workbench, she felt it again--it startled her so much that she almost dropped her soldering iron. Again, she stopped and waited, but she couldn't tell if it was just gas bubbles or... something else.

The thought of it kept niggling at her for the rest of the day. Was it too soon? Too late? If it was too late, did that mean that something was wrong? If it was too soon, did that mean that something was wrong?

It wasn't until that evening, when she was doing her daily yoga routine, that the feeling returned. With the distractions of the world shut out, there was no mistaking it. Her insides fluttered once--twice--then it was gone again. But Alyx knew what it was.

She shifted her posture, settled into the lotus position, shut her eyes and breathed deep. She didn't know if Gordon would be able to 'hear' her, but this was too good not to at least try to share it. She thought at him, as strongly and clearly as she could:

I felt the babies move.

False Veils
Alyx is feeling a hell of a lot better than she did when they arrived yesterday, but she's still far from being completely at ease. Among other things, she's preoccupied with that sense of presence that flashed across her mind last night. It was Gordon, there's no doubt in her mind about that. But... but what? Is he alright? Where is he? Is Shephard still with him? Do they know where she is?

There has to be a way to find out. And Alyx knows just where to go to get some answers.

After persuading Kate to let her go and getting directions from Dan, she trudges out into the snowy twilight (bundled up in the heavy boots and down parka that Kate insisted on making her wear) in the direction of Windy Slope Cave.

The Day After
Alyx stirs, and blinks muzzily at the wall next to the bed she's lying in. That's not a wall in White Forest, or Milliways. So what--


Slowly, reluctantly, she sits up and rubs her eyes. She doesn't know how long she's slept; this far underground there's no ambient light with which to gauge the time of day. It's been long enough for her to get hungry again, though, so she shuffles into the kitchen.

There's a piece of paper lying in the middle of the table, with the following message:


Sorry I didn't wake you, but I had to get out and lend a hand with the pumps down in New Year's Day Cave, and you needed your sleep. I've left breakfast for you. I'll be back soon as I can. You're welcome to the bookshelf in the meantime if you want it. If you want to get out and about, just leave a note on the other side of this page.

Take care-

Breakfast consists of goat's milk and some kind of hash with ingredients that Alyx can't quite identify. It tastes all right, though. After she's polished it off, she sits at the table for a few minutes, quietly weighing her options, before turning the paper over and jotting off:

Kate -

Thank you for breakfast. I went out to get a feel for the town. I'll be back when I can.

- Alyx

She stands up, takes a deep breath, and strides out the door.

Comfort in the Caves
pout, concern
It took three and a half hours to get the displaced residents of White Forest settled in at Druid Cave. They haven't moved the Borealis yet; it's getting dark and there's enough snow falling to conceal the boat effectively for the night. Also, though Alyx would never willingly admit it, she's just too damn tired to think about moving the damn boat tonight. After a quick visit to reassure PIaDOS that everything was copacetic, she retreated back to the cave and into Kate Shephard's house.

Alyx is now lying on her side on the wood-frame bed, staring at the wall, too overwhelmed with conflicting emotions (where's Gordon is he okay I can't believe I didn't see the attack coming we're so lucky to have somewhere to go how many people aren't so lucky am I cut out to lead these people are they patronizing me we're stuck hiding in a hole in the ground again I refuse to let that happen but what choice have I got) to sleep, and too bone-tired to do anything but sleep.

reverie, tiny smile, looking down
It hasn't snowed at White Forest yet, but the winter weather isn't too far away. With that in mind, Alyx and Eleanor have settled down to mend and patch winter clothes for everyone on-site.

"You know, I could fix the sleeve for you," Eleanor comments, glancing at the duct-tape on the shoulder of Alyx's worn and bloodstained leather jacket. "And patch up those holes in the back..."

"Are you kidding?" says Alyx with a chuckle. "I've had it since I was a kid. When this sucker wears out, I'm getting it framed."

Eleanor smirks and returns to sewing up the lining of the fleece vest in front of her. Alyx is just about to ask her about how she feels about Shephard, but there's an interruption.


The girl's heads shoot up at the noise. The sound is muffled by distance and concrete walls, but the sound of the Borealis 'porting back in is too distinctive to miss. "That was quick," Eleanor remarks. "They're back already?"

"Something must have come up, they can't have gotten to the dead zone and back that fast." Alyx rises from her seat. "I'd better go see what's up..."

Talking With Chell
The second level of encryption on the Abrams Island data has been cracked. The third and (hopefully) final layer can't be far behind. Unfortunately, progress on the decryption must take a backseat to matters of basic biology, like nutrition. Thus, Alyx is headed for the mess hall to grab a late-night snack.

Truth be told, she's grateful for the excuse to take a break. The information they're pulling is valuable, but everything related to Aperture's experiments and corporate culture is damned disturbing. She'll be glad when this little project is finished.

(no subject)
faintly worried, sidelong
[Millitimed to just after this]

Alyx remains frozen on the spot, lost on thought, for a long while after Kaidan excuses himself.

D0G gently prodding her shoulder finally rouses her from her trance. Mwoooo? he inquires, clearly very worried.

"I--I'm okay, D0G," she says, managing a weak smile.

Mwoooooooo? He sounds, if anything, even more distressed.

"No, really, I'm fine. I just... need some time to get my head on straight." Alyx gives her pet robot a quick hug. "I'll be back soon, okay?"

Bwrrp, says D0G, mollified for the moment.

"Good boy." Alyx gives him one last pat on the shoulder before turning and heading for the stairs to the rental rooms.

intent, serious
Four hours ago, the fighting forces returned to White Forest.

A little less than two hours ago, Alyx finished debriefing Chell and Adrian, and retreated to a private room with the recordings from their headset cameras.

Ten minutes ago, Alyx emerged from her room and ordered Kleiner to set up for a video broadcast.

One second ago, the broadcast went live.

Alyx takes one last glance down at the hastily-scribbled notes in her hand, takes a deep breath, and begins.

"This is Alyx Vance, acting leader of the Resistance against the Combine Empire. I'm sending this message to anyone who can hear it, to be passed on to those who can't. The message is... the stakes have been raised. It sounds impossible, after everything we've lived through over the past twenty years, but it's the simple truth.

"Four days ago, a small group of rebels infiltrated the Citadel in City 17 and destroyed its main reactor, killing Administrator Breen and cutting off the Combine's access to their homeworld. Mere hours later, in cities all over the continent--and, we believe, the entire planet--the Overwatch began rounding up civilians and transporting them to the dead zone in the center of North America. We now know why. In the heart of the dead zone is a specially bred Synth that can only be described as a combat terraforming device. It is designed to convert our atmosphere into theirs... and it's being fed on the bodies of human civilians. Our cities were evacuated for the express purpose of increasing its food supply to make it grow as fast as possible.

"I wish I could say that this came as a shock, to me or to anyone else. Most of you will not be surprised to learn that the people who left on those trains won't be coming home. But when I saw the evidence for myself, I had exactly one question: Why now? The Combine have been in power for sixteen years, and clearly they've been planning this ever since day one. The dead zone was established not long after the war. The transportation infrastructure has been there almost as long. They could have done this at any time, so why now?

"As soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer: They're afraid. The last four days have seen the destruction of their primary Citadel, the death of their puppet ruler, and the closure of the door between their world and ours. All in the space of less than forty-eight hours. For the first time in thousands of years, the Combine has encountered a genuine threat, and they're scrambling to put their ultimate plans in to motion before that threat has a chance to strike again.

"The Combine fear us. They fear humanity. And they're right to do so. We've done what no one thought possible. We've beaten back the unbeatable army. We've conquered the unconquerable regime. We've closed the door on an empire that didn't think it needed doors. And this is only the beginning. We've wounded their terraforming Synth, but it still lives. The data taken from the dead zone shows that there are five more--one on each of the populated continents of Earth. But they will fall. Oh, believe me, they will fall.

"On behalf of the Resistance--on behalf of the entire species--I call on each and every one of you. If you haven't yet taken up arms, now is the time. We will show the Combine the full might of humanity. There will be casualties--many of them--but when this war is finished, the Combine will never touch this dimension or any of its inhabitants ever again.

"And to any members of the so-called 'Universal Union' who may be watching this broadcast, I have only one more thing to say: You do not yet know what it means to be afraid."

are you nuts?
"Alyx?" Judith peers in. "If you have a minute, we should talk."

Alyx doesn't look up from the computer screen. "If this has anything to do with the fact that I'm pregnant, then no, I don't have a minute."

"Alyx, please. I just want to--"

"Yeah, you and everyone else on site," Alyx grumbles. "I'm busy."

"Doing what?"

"I'm trying to convert the data dump from the Abrams Island facility into something our computers can understand." Alyx pushes away from the console, running her hands over her face with a grimace. "And it'd go a lot faster if people didn't keep interrupting me."

"When was the last time you ate?" asks Judith with a frown. "Or slept?"

"Oh, here we go." Alyx sighs. "I had some jerky an hour ago. I'm fine."

Judith gives her a Look. "Alyx..."

"Don't 'Alyx' me. I know my own body. I can handle this."

"It's not just your body right now, Alyx," says Judith. "If you insist on going through with this, you need to take better care of yourself. That means getting a full night's sleep and eating real meals, not just whatever happens to be handy."

"'If I insist on...'?" Alyx frowns deeply. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"I just want to make sure you've thought this through. Parenting is a big responsibility, not something to be taken up on a--"

"Will you stop lecturing me?!" cries Alyx. "You're NOT my MOTHER!"

Even as the words are leaving her mouth, Alyx knows it was a mistake to say them. The way the color drains from Judith's face only confirms it. "Are we still doing this, Alyx?" the older woman asks. She sounds sad and tired.

"" Alyx sags in her heat. "I'm sorry. I'm not really mad at you, I'm just--really stressed right now, y'know?"

"I know. That's why I wanted to talk." Judith takes another step into the room, hesitates, then sits down in the chair nearest Alyx. "I'm worried about you, Alyx. You've been under a lot of stress lately, and now you're willingly imposing even more on yourself. First you take up leadership not half an hour after your father died--"

"Somebody had to," interrupts Alyx. "We can't afford a power vacuum right now, you know that."

"I don't dispute that. But now, on top of that, you're pregnant by a man you've known for all of two weeks! You're a strong, capable woman, Alyx, but I worry that you're taking on more than you can handle right now."

"Judith, I--" Alyx blinks. "Wait. What?"

Judith blinks back. "I'm... sorry? What part don't you understand?"

"You said I've only known Gordon for--" Alyx stops in mid-sentence, freezing on the spot for exactly two and a half seconds. Then she bursts out laughing. "Oh my God. You think we just--oh, Jesus--" She buries her face in her hand to stifle another wave of laughter.

Judith stares, utterly bewildered. "Alyx...? Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I--yeah, yeah, I'm fine." Alyx lifts her head and wipes tears of mirth from the corner of her eye. "Sorry, Judith, I should have told you sooner... you had no way of knowing."

"Knowing what? What do you mean?"

"That Gordon and I have been together for a lot longer than that." Alyx takes a deep breath. This is going to be Interesting. "To start with... does the name 'Milliways' ring a bell?"

The day dawns clear and unseasonably cold. Alyx has been up for a while--she tried to sleep, but couldn't quite manage it--so the maps are already set up in the north hangar when people start to pour in. The new arrivals from City 08 have nearly tripled the population of White Forest, so the room fills quickly, and there's considerably less breathing space than there was when Dr. Vance's death was announced to the public.

Oh, there's a reassuring comparison, thinks Alyx to herself, but quashes that thought before it goes any further. As soon as the flow of people comes to a stop, she steps forward and claps her hands twice, sharply, to get the crowd's attention.

"I'm sure that by now you all know what we've heard from the radio reports," Alyx begins. "All over the continent, the Combine have been rounding up civilians and transporting them by train to the dead zone, here." She points to the red circle in the center of the map of North America. "We don't know what they're doing in there, but whatever it is, it needs to be stopped. And that is exactly what we're doing today."

Now Alyx moves to the other map, which is an enlargement of the dead zone's general surroundings, with railroads, Resistance bases, and other significant features carefully marked out. "At sunrise, we launch a two-pronged assault on the dead zone. One squad, led by myself, will move in from the south to attack at this entrance. Twenty minutes later, a second squad led by Dr. Freeman will move on the east entrance, which should have reduced security due to forces moving to defend the south gate. It won't stay unguarded for long, but it should give the squad time to do some damage before reinforcements arrive.

"And that's what this is really about--making noise and causing chaos. We're not trying to get in by either gate, but we want the Combine to think we are. Meanwhile, a small group of hand-picked soldiers will be using the Borealis to teleport into the heart of the dead zone. Their goal is to gather information on what's inside and, if possible, destroy or cripple whatever machinery exists there. As soon as the scouting party gives the signal, the attack squads will fall back to Resistance bases here and here, wreaking as much havoc as possible along the route to discourage the Combine from following. We'll be 'porting the ship in close to the fallback points for evacuation back to White Forest. Any questions?"


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