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Ragitsu

Half-Life 2 HERO?

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Despite the lack of granularity at the lowest of the low levels, I believe HERO 6th Edition can run a good game set in the Half-Life 2 universe.

 

Instead of playing the main cast, our heroes (the PCs) can play up and coming Resistance members tasked with undermining, and eventually destroying, the Combine's grip against humanity.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

I have been tinkering with Half Life 2 to Hero.

 

I want to run Half Life 2 Hero: Escape From City 17 at some point, once I get everything in order. I have the Gravity Gun written up and have done some work on weapons and alien life forms.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

I have been tinkering with Half Life 2 to Hero.

 

I want to run Half Life 2 Hero: Escape From City 17 at some point, once I get everything in order. I have the Gravity Gun written up and have done some work on weapons and alien life forms.

 

The Resistance members would certainly have an "Everyman" equivalent Skill list.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Any suggestions as to what it might look like?

 

I'll go through 6E's Skill section and post any that jump out at me. For starters, of course, Area Knowledge: City of Operation.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

The image is from a fan-film of resistance fighters trying to escape City 17 after Gordon Freeman wrecks the Combine HQ there.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Resistance Skills ->

 

Area Knowledge: Place of Residence

Climbing

Knowledge Skill: Combine

Knowledge Skill: Resistance

Professional Skill: Resistance Member

Stealth

Survival (Urban)

Weapon Familiarity: Handguns

 

---

 

Area Knowledge is a given. Climbing is oh-so-critical, as there will be many places you need to reach or circumvent, and there will not necessarily be a ladder. Knowledge Skill: Combine explains how a character knows who the Combine are, their influence, any major locations they control, and, to a limited degree, what to fight/run away from. Knowledge Skill: Resistance works much the same as the Combine version, but for those that will be fought alongside with. Professional Skill: Resistance Member is what Professional Skill: Soldier would be to a soldier in our world: the essential information to operate as a fully active, competent, and fighting, Resistance member. Stealth, like Climbing, is another critical movement Skill: even the scientists recognize the importance of knowing how to duck away into darkness when outmatched by a Civil Protection squad. Survival (Urban) allows one to find adequate food, shelter, water, etc in a city environment...and how to avoid calamities unique to cities. Weapon Familiarity: Handguns is an operational necessity, as firearms are the first, and typically best, weapons taught to be used against the Combine.

 

---

 

Edit: If you want to be generous, you can assume every Resistance member that's not a scientist has Tactics, at the minimum level of trained Skill. However, then...it's not so much an "Everyman" type Skill.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Resistance Skills ->

 

Weapon Familiarity: Handguns

 

---

 

Weapon Familiarity: Handguns is an operational necessity, as firearms are the first, and typically best, weapons taught to be used against the Combine.

 

Correction -- that needs to be Small Arms. Resistance members use handguns, SMGs, shotguns, and the like in the various Half Life 2 episodes. Also, they use shoulder-launched rockets, Combine energy rifles, and should use grenades and mounted machine guns. So, really, it's WF: Small Arms, Energy Weapons, and some support weapons.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Correction -- that needs to be Small Arms. Resistance members use handguns' date=' SMGs, shotguns, and the like in the various Half Life 2 episodes. Also, they use shoulder-launched rockets, Combine energy rifles, and should use grenades and mounted machine guns. So, really, it's WF: Small Arms, Energy Weapons, and some support weapons.[/quote']

 

If you want to be that broad, then sure.

 

I was going into this with the knowledge that handguns are the smallest (and therefore, easiest to carry) firearm available, which greatly increases their attractiveness across the entire Resistance population. I can see everyone knowing how to fire and keep the bare minimums of a USP Match functional, but not, say, an H&K G36K or Franchi SPAS-12.

 

The entire Small Arms category would be more appropriate for a front-line fighting force.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

If you want to be that broad, then sure.

 

I was going into this with the knowledge that handguns are the smallest (and therefore, easiest to carry) firearm available, which greatly increases their attractiveness across the entire Resistance population. I can see everyone knowing how to fire and keep the bare minimums of a USP Match functional, but not, say, an H&K G36K or Franchi SPAS-12.

 

The entire Small Arms category would be more appropriate for a front-line fighting force.

 

Except the entire resistance seems to be a front-line fighting force, since aside from a few scientists, everyone needs to be able to fight the Combine at any time.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

...Has anyone written up Gordon Freeman?

 

I've considered it, but I've only played Half Life 2 and am unsure if the original Half Life would contain anything important about his character's origins and the like.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Except the entire resistance seems to be a front-line fighting force' date=' since aside from a few scientists, everyone needs to be able to fight the Combine at any time.[/quote']

 

There were the plain clothed members...and, besides, there are a lot of aspects of the setting the games don't go into, such as supply lines, sanitation, medical care in general, training areas for combatants, route organization, and so forth. I think, in that regard, we can excuse the lack of focus on the minutiae of recruitment standards in a fast-paced action PC game.

 

I'd call the fact that all non-main characters in The Resistance can shoot any weapon found (all, what, dozen or so? See the following words) a mechanic to facilitate gameplay. "Realistically", most in the Resistance would have some firearm training at the basic level, but there would undoubtedly be those that lack "professional" capability with every category of small arms. Doctors, merchants, smugglers, engineers, mechanics, hackers, teachers/trainers, new recruits, specialists (like snipers or heavy weapons experts), and some spies, come to mind.

 

Again, though, broadness is cool if you really do envision everyone in the Resistance being able to step up with any small arm should the need arise.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

I've considered it' date=' but I've only played Half Life 2 and am unsure if the original Half Life would contain anything important about his character's origins and the like.[/quote']

 

Not really. The major differences are equipment only. You can dial back Skills/experience if you want to represent Half-Life version Freeman, but, other than that, the Half-Life 2 version is pretty much interchangeable.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

If/when I work up Half Life 2: Escape from City 17 as a con game, the PCs will be resistance fighters and be able to use all weapons. After all, I'm trying to model what the game shows, and the game shows the resistance fighters using and/or being trained in just about every weapon they might come across (witness the end of Episode 2.)

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Oh okay. So you're more interested in the specific game (and it's time frame?), rather than the setting in general.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Of this topic? I should've been more clear, but, I wasn't limiting Half-Life 2 HERO to just the events/time of the Half-Life 2 game. It would be interesting to see tales that happen before Gordon arrives, or even in the aftermath of Episode 1/2, pre Borealis.

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Jacob was just starting school in Prague, the Czech Republic when the Combine invaded. From as far back as he can remember, he was indoctrinated into their teaching and philosophy. It seems his parents were some of the first to go along with Europe's new masters and therefore kept their jobs and status. Jacob was neither a bright nor an athletic student, he had a knack with tools and working with his hands. After High School, he worked his way into a career with the Combine in aviation. Besides his ability to fix things, he was given the opportunity to test fly the craft and weapons systems that he worked on.

 

After a while, his parents and everyone he knew started being treated like cattle. It seemed the Combine didn't need anyone anymore except for a few 'Civil Protection' police.

It was then that Jacob realized mankind was doomed unless someone stood up and did something about it.

 

Jacob today, looks like the prisoner that he is...with a shaved head, tattoos, scars and a gold tooth. He has develolped a taste for taking chances and doesn't mind standing up to odds that are definately not in his favor. When the guards aren't looking, he steals a smoke, a gulp of coffee or a shot of Vodka to 'calm his nerves'.

 

---

 

The faint sound of a power chord is all he could remember. He was only six at the time. Very impressionable. Serban Costea, now only four short years until his thirtieth birthday remembers that as his fondest moment in life. Sitting in his living room watching rock stars on television. The glamorous life of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, however, would be nothing more than a legend in years to come. Serban received guitar lessons for his birthday that year. He was starting to get pretty good at it, but his song would be cut short that day when it all started. The war ended the last future rock star before he could even join his first garage band. He was trying to play along to a Romanian metal band on TV, doing a poor job due to his inexperience. The television cut off, replaced with the breaking news of the war. Only a child at a time, Serban was angry and began whining to himself. He’d have a lot more to complain about shortly.

 

There’s no point into going into the details of what happened next. We were all there. We saw the downfall of the once dominant race on this planet. Retelling the story of what happened to Serban would just be rubbing salt in your wounds. Long story short, he managed to escape for a while. He was a refugee along with his parents. They, along with a small caravan of neighbors managed to live on the back roads of Romania for about a year. During this time, Serban was forced to burn his guitar for firewood. The vision of this flaming guitar was not as glorious as Hendrix’s burning at Woodstock. There was no sign of rebellion or freedom rising in that smoke. The smoke came from Serban’s hope, dreams, and future being torn away from him. His future was sacrificed to save him in the present, but it made the pain no easier. The silent tears from his eye came with more pain than he’d show again for as long as he lived. He’d scream out when he watched his parents receive a single bullet each between their eyes, but the realization of his future being reduced to ash would make that day seem like a trip to the beach.

 

He managed to put it all aside. He still wrote music, though he had no mean to express it. The music was one way to get him through the day, but it was not his only escape. He’d escape through socialization. People reminded him of the good that was still out there. They used to be something. They were not the best of creatures, but they had so much potential. He learned they could be manipulated. They were such trusting creatures. He’d spend hours just talking with people as he wandered from refugee camp to refugee camp. He’d listen to stories and tell ones of his own. By the end of his travels, he knew how people worked. In all situations, he’d know what to say and more importantly, how to act. The phrase actions speak louder than words became almost an unspoken motto to Serban. He was a marvelous performer and used this to get everything from free food to a warm bed with a decent looking female.

 

However, life on the road was nothing like he pictured from the documentaries of bands. In these times, life on the road meant lots of hungry, cold nights. Eventually, he was caught and brought to their city. He didn’t seem to mind, though. Being captured meant little to him, because he knew what the future had in store for him. He knew he’d get his revenge. He’d get revenge not only for the loss of his own freedom, the loss of his parents and friends. That wasn’t his motivation. His motivation was to avenge the loss of his future.

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

July 7th, 2017

 

90 kilometers northwest of White Forest

 

2134 hours

 

The forest was quiet.

 

Quieter than usual, anyway. Occasionally an owl would hoot or something would scurry underfoot, but for the most part the forest was silent, as if aware of the intruders that now crept from tree to tree. The half moon cast an ethereal glow over the land, occasionally catching one of the infiltrators in a beam of moonlight. A medley of green, black, and brown greasepaint covered their faces, and faded boonie hats sat atop their heads. In their hands were silenced MP5s, in their leg holsters silenced USPs. Ammo pouches, frag grenades, and flashbangs adorned their chests, and knives sat in sheaths on the small of their backs.

 

One operative crawled up a ridge, cradling his MP5 as he went. "Okay, people, where are we?" he whispered into his headset.

 

"One here. Ready on go."

 

"Two here. Ready."

 

"Three here. Gimme a minute."

 

"Four here. Almost there."

 

"Five here. Awaiting orders, Skipper."

 

Skipper – he was still getting used to that. As soon as they had gotten wind he was former Force Recon it was goodbye, Daniel Marcinko and hello, Skipper. Even more so now that he was leading this rag-tag bunch of commandos. They were young, sure – but he'd trained them himself. He'd been given six months and he'd put every second to use. Now they were lean, mean killing machines, virtuosos in the art of mischief and mayhem. Celer, Silens, Mortalis. He had lived by those words once. He liked to think he still did.

 

They'd been inserted by helicopter ten kilometers away at 1930 hours, just as it was getting dark, and had made their way through the forest quickly and quietly, working around or taking out the odd Combine patrol. Now the pieces were finally falling into place, and what a wonderful feeling it was.

 

"Roger, Six copies all." He peeked over the ridge.

 

Their objective was a Combine supply dump, nestled in a small clearing directly below the ridge. This supply dump was supposed to be lightly guarded, a perfect target for their first op.

 

"Aw, *beep*

 

Scratch lightly, but most definitely guarded.

 

"All elements, this is Six. I count three-zero Overwatch regulars in and around the supply dump. Moving into position now."

 

He crawled away from the ridge and moved into a crouch, taking care not to rustle any leaves or snap any twigs as he crept closer to the base. He thumbed the MP5's fire selector to full auto, wincing at the metallic click it produced. He could see the supply dump again, rows upon rows of munitions interspersed with what he assumed were rations and fuel, all surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. The trees were still blocking most of the view, but it was a fair trade-off for the darkness they provided.

 

A sentry was walking towards him. He went prone, hugging the earth tight. He glanced up. The sentry was closer; sauntering along with arrogance only the Combine could muster. That'll change in three…two…one…

 

In one smooth motion, Marcinko leapt up, drew his knife, thrust it into the soldier's left lung, then ripped it across his throat. The soldier only had time to grunt before he hit the ground.

 

"April fool, *beep*

 

He didn't bother moving the body. The compound was lit bright enough to ruin the soldiers' night vision, and the trees would shade it nicely. He crept closer to the camp. Two soldiers were by the front gate, and a third was just about to start a patrol around the perimeter. Four less to worry about, then.

 

"Gimme a sitrep, people."

 

"One ready."

 

"Two ready."

 

"Three, say the word."

 

"Four ready."

 

"Five, in position."

 

"All elements standby." He crept as close as he dared to the front gate and put the MP5's stock to his shoulder. He lined up the guard on the right, putting the front sight directly on his center of mass. At this range, he'd be dead, body armor or no body armor.

 

"All elements: execute, execute, execute."

 

He squeezed the trigger. The MP5 bucked as nine-millimeter rounds perforated the guard's midsection. One down, shift aim to the left. Three-pound trigger, front-sight focus, take up slack and squeeze. The MP5 chirped as it brought down the two other guards. An explosion on the far side rocked the compound. That's the Bangalores. Fuses came out solid after all.

 

"Six, moving in through the front gate. Three tangos down."

 

"Three, wire's been breached. Two tangos down."

 

"Three and Four, work around the perimeter. The rest of you, rendezvous with me in the middle."

 

"Wilco, Skipper." The rat-tat-tat of MP7s and the suppressed phut-phut-phut of MP5s filled the air. Marcinko crouch-walked in between the stacks of munitions, careful not to present a silhouette. An Overwatch soldier trotted around a corner and was in mid-stride when Marcinko cut him down with a burst. Marcinko reloaded, slapping the MP5's bolt forward just as he came upon two more soldiers taking cover behind a crate. No need to rush this time – five rounds each to the upper center mass. Sayonara, Mr. Tango. The gunfire was starting to die down.

 

"Four, perimeter clear. Moving in."

 

The compound was silent again. Marcinko stood up, MP5 still shouldered. No need to get waxed just as they were cleaning up. He made his way to the center of the dump, prodding the occasional corpse. You could never be too careful.

 

"All clear, Skipper. Coming out."

 

They stepped out of the shadows, one holding a wounded Combine soldier by the neck.

 

"Got a prisoner for you, sir." He shoved the soldier into the middle of the circle, where he crumpled to the ground, holding his leg.

 

"Where's he hit?"

 

"Shot him in the left leg and kneecap. Might've nicked his intestines, too. What's left of them. You never know, with the reassignment surgery and all." The soldier looked up at the assembled commandos, blue eyes pleading, searching for mercy but finding none.

 

"We don't take prisoners, Jerry. You know that."

 

"Sorry, Skipper. I'll keep that in mind next time."

 

"Someone put him out of his misery," another ordered.

 

"*beep* his misery."

 

Marcinko sighed and drew his USP. The soldier's eyes locked onto the pistol, and he emitted what sounded like a whimper.

 

"No, no, please –"

 

Thwack. Thwack.

 

"Did he say something?"

 

"Hell if I know."

 

"Anyone hit?" Marcinko asked.

 

"No sir. Not a scratch." The speaker grinned, white teeth standing in stark contrast to his painted face. "Our first op and we waste thirty gearheads without a *beep* scratch. Can you dig it?"

 

"Don't get cocky. It's only going to get harder from here. Get any intel?"

 

"Right here, Skipper," one of them said, passing him a folder with assorted maps and documents inside. A disc fell out and Marcinko picked it up, blowing dirt off it.

 

"It's not much, but it looks like some Combine encryption algorithms and op orders. Some maps, too, but they only show a couple firebases and this supply dump."

 

"Good find, Chuck. Let's get out of here. Plant C4 on the supplies first and set it on a 40-minute delay. If you have any left after that, go nuts. We're meeting Goliath at LZ Oriole in an hour. Debrief is tomorrow. Calhoun and Dr. Vance will be there, so try to look somewhat human."

 

"Roger that, Skipper."

 

"And don't call me Skipper."

 

"Okay, Dan."

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

Serban was a PC in one of my games. Too bad he wasn't around for long: I was really curious as to how he'd have developed (or not developed).

 

Jacob, well...his player...

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Re: Half-Life 2 HERO?

 

The sun was streaming in through a crack in the wall, and Jaguar was sitting there with his SKS Type 45 Carbine staring intently at something through said crack. He squinted for a moment, opened the bayonet with a *schlick*, and walked outside the house. I got up and peeked out the broken window to see what the deal was. Just a zombie. Jaguar stabbed him a half dozen times in the head, and that was that.

 

He walked back into the building and gave me only a passing glance before wiping the bayonet off on the sleeping form of Dragon. It coulda been ketchup and mustard on Dragon for all you knew, if it weren't for the chunks of gristle and bone suspended in it like pineapple in jello. I watched, without surprise as Dragon rotated onto his back, kicked Jaguar soundly in the hand holding the gun, causing him to drop it, and used his other leg to kick him behind the knees. He crumpled to the floor, and Dragon sat on his back, wiping the blood of the zombie into Jaguar's hair. Disgusting. I'd end up smelling that all day. Thank the Lord it was a "mature" zombie and not something new, which would have had parts of him that the crab deemed unnecessary rotting off. They rolled around on the floor together, a brutish ballet of ham-fisted combat. A better way of saying it would be that they were wrestling. Sounds less fruity too. I got bored of watching this and gave them each a good kick in the ribs, narrowly avoiding a grasping hand that reached for my shirt.

 

They disengaged and Jaguar jumped at me. I dropped my shotgun and brought my knee up to block his assault, rotating my body slightly to use his momentum against him. At the same time, I grabbed his arm and thus, with the help of his bulk, swung him to the floor. I kneeled down on his arms, pinning him quite effectively, and applied pressure to his cheek against his teeth. It's something I learned raising dogs. It hurts. I had both hands on his face, grinding his flesh against his molars and canines, and suddenly felt a sharp blow to my back. It hurt. I fell off him and thought, "I'm getting rusty." And it was true. Most zombies are slow and not a threat. Headcrabs can be dealt with from a range or with a blow from some sort of blunt object. People, on the other hand, are slippery. And can hit you in the back with their knees.

 

I roll over on my back and see Jaguar and Dragon standing over me and laughing, but that was okay. They both offered me a hand up, but I got up by myself. Kind of wished I hadn't. I sort of have a reputation for being standoffish and uptight. It was an opportunity, albeit a small one, to help alleviate this. Meh.

 

"I dunno if you have enough of that disgusting gruel to eat for breakfast, but if you do, hurry up. Time's wasting. Places to go and people to kill."

 

They didn't have any food. Fine by me. My stomach felt hungrier than a black hole with no gas giant to feed off. I wonder if anyone will know what I'm talking about in twenty years. There probably won't be Astronomy 101 in Community College, if there even are Community Colleges. You know what; forget what I said. I was hungry. I hadn't eaten in two days, but had too much pride to go foraging for a headcrab or something. So we set out for the Rustam Hulei Arsenal. Or as Jaguar coined it, "Destination: FUN!" Wacky bastard.

 

The hike took a good part of the morning. We encountered a handful of zombies; nothing too extraordinary. Jaguar's bayonet accounted for a few, and I put my axe to a few more. If you know what you are doing, zombies aren't really a threat unless they get you cornered. At least not the plain-jane types. The hulking brood zombies and the crack zombies are two entirely different propositions, but those are far less common. Except in Ravenholm.

 

The Arsenal was over the next hill according to the map, and it was. It was bigger than I expected. Something that immediately raised warning flags was the fact that most of the buildings were intact, as was the fence. The Combine hadn't blasted this place into slag for some reason. Why wasn't the resistance using this place as a Forward Operations Base?

 

"Jaguar, look at the map again. Any notes?"

 

"None."

 

"Then why aren't we using it?"

 

"Dunno."

 

Odd.

 

"Let's take it slow."

 

And so we fell into formation, the name of it long forgotten but the memories of our instructors fresh in our subconscious. My tenure in the Army seemed so long ago. But it worked. The gate to the compound was swinging on its hinges, a large padlock dangling from one of the sections of fence. Closer inspection revealed a ring of rust where the weather had taken its toll - the lock had been disturbed recently. Fascinating. We could be hot on the trail of the mystery man who shot the stiff by the foundry. Or it could just be nothing. My reverie was interrupted by gunshots.

 

Great, big, loud gunshots in quick succession. And the howl of a zombie. The howl of a crack zombie.

 

"Wanna risk it?"

 

"Sure."

 

So we ran towards the sound. More gunfire broke out, echoing off of barracks and what looked to be vehicle hangars. Then I saw something that made me halt in my tracks. The remnants of a headcrab shell.

 

When the Combine are too lazy to send a dedicated force to root out a large group of people in an area, they use biological warfare. Namely, headhumpers. They created a delivery system (although I've talked to people who say it was the United States military who created these for war after the portal storms) to give the gift of undeath to people from far away. This is what they did to Ravenholm. Headcrabs crawl out and in a few hours you can turn a dangerous population of armed paramilitarists into relatively harmless zombies. During the Seven Hour war nearly every military unit in the world was deployed. And so...

 

My train of thought was interrupted by roughly thirty zombies staggering around. More gunshots were heard. I looked at Dragon and Jaguar, and they grinned. Oi vey. I slung my shotgun over my shoulder and got out my 1911. .45 was easier to find than twelve gauge, and this would be more of a turkey shoot than anything.

 

And it was. After the first magazine of ammunition, I stopped using my handgun and just watched. Funny how you become immune to violence against things that were once people, and, according to Dr. Hesing, still are underneath the rotting exterior and alien nervous control. Sometimes, if you hurt a zombie in the right way, it will talk to you...

 

But none of these did because they all died. Dragon dumped the mag from his Kalashnikov and slapped another one in, and Jaguar had used his second stripper clip. He should really consider upgrading to something that could hold more than ten rounds. Little matter. I inspected the corpses of the fallen undead. They were wearing military overcoats, but many of them had civilian clothes, and then it dawned on me that this place had probably been used as a refugee camp right after the Seven Hour War, when the resistance was scattered and many of us in other countries. This is probably why the Resistance skirted the place in the early scoutings. In the young days, we didn't have much ammo to waste, although after the discovery of a few former Soviet arms caches this eased up.

 

"Let's go."

 

And so we did. We would probably frisk the zombies later for anything of vague interest, like a watch or a pocketknife. Hey, you never know what could be useful. And it's not like they'd be needing it. I once found a still-ticking watch buried in the flesh of a brooder zombie. Sometimes I wonder if the person that may or may not have been under that disgusting and deformed exterior could hear it. The muted sounds of the world, and then the incessant ticking of his watch to keep him company as his body became twisted and deformed and horrible to look at, and then new little crabs would begin to grow...

 

Around the next barracks was a big building with a big blast door that was recessed into the ground. The arsenal. And someone was slumped against the wall. His hands were shaking and he had a ridiculous handgun that was as big as a Bible. He pointed it at a zombie which was lumbering towards him and fired, missing by a large margin. It was very loud. The bullet left a crater the size of my fist in the pavement that made up the ground. The gun was empty. He kept pulling the trigger anyway. Jaguar shot the zombie in the head. He turned and looked at us.

 

"Come on."

 

We walked over to him, weapons drawn and he just tracked us with his eyes. He was lying in a pool of his own blood, and had a good bit of meat missing from one of his legs. We sat there and stared at him, and then I kicked the Desert Eagle Mark XIX out of his hands. It skittered along the pavement and came to rest in front of the blast door. I looked at Dragon significantly and then asked the man "Do you speak English?"

 

He just stared at me.

 

"DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?"

 

He squinted.

 

"He doesn't speak English. Too bad none of us can speak Russian. Let's just kill him."

 

"No, don't do that! I can speak English."

 

"That's good. I am going to ask you several questions and I want you to answer them truthfully."

 

"Okay, I can do that."

 

"Why are you here?"

 

"I was looking for my family."

 

"Why did you shoot the man and the girl at the refinery?"

 

"What? No! I didn't shoot them. He was my friend and he killed himself, and then the girl killed herself in sorrow. I ran away in grief... and now I am here"

 

Har har har. All evidence pointed against this. I drew my 1911 and squatted down in front of him, the barrel pointing downward.

 

"What's your name?"

 

"Cheslav Abramova."

 

"Well, Cheslav, here's the deal. I know you're lying. My friends and I here, we've done a lot of bad things in our lives. There was this guy once and he was from Russia too, and he wasn't telling us the truth either. And you know what? There's this thing called the appendix inside of your body. It has special fluid for digesting food in it. Well, we had access to some anesthetic, so we drugged him and cut that open before sewing him back up. He told us the truth about things because his body was eating itself inside out. After the second day we promised we'd kill him if he told us the truth, because that's what he really wanted to do. He wanted to die, because it hurt. He told us the truth, but because it had taken him so long I was feeling kind of cranky so I let my dog eat him. God rest Muffy's soul. Anyway, would you care to change your story?"

 

Cheslav was sweating now, but whether from the pain of his injury or from my long and (for the record, false) painful threat I couldn't tell.

 

"So Cheslav, why did you kill the man and the girl?"

 

"The man wouldn't give me the key."

 

"Why did you kill the girl?"

 

"She had a gun."

 

"Why was she naked?"

 

"Do you like my gun?"

 

"That's a retarded gun. You think that gun makes you more gangster? I'm surprised you lasted this long."

 

"It is a cool gun. It comes from America. I have the only one in Russia."

 

Dragon walked over and picked it up and said: "Now I have the only one in Russia."

 

"And technically, my dear Cheslav, we aren't in Russia. We're in the Ukraine. And you're changing the subject, and I don't like that. Why are you here?"

 

"I have friends in the De Organizatsiya. There is an armory here supposedly. Organizatsiya wants the weapons to fight the Combine."

 

"Why was the girl naked, Cheslav?"

 

"Organizatsiya sent me here but I am a failure because I can't get inside. I thought it would just be a lock or something but it's all elektronik."

 

"Cheslav, answ-"

 

My inquiry was interrupted by Jaguar's angry shout and the screaming of one of the crack zombies. He and Dragon fired their guns about the same time I whipped my head around to see one on the roof of a barracks building nearby, flinching from the shots fired at him. That wasn't so bad. One crack zombie was cake. But there were about a hundred other zombies on the ground, slowly shambling towards us. They were streaming out of the barracks and bunkers and from under the mud. The majority of them were probably on the far side of the compound and were attracted by the gunshots. Bad.

 

I shoved my 1911 back into the holster and unslung my shotgun.

 

What happened next was kind of hard to remember. It involved lots of shooting. At one point I ran out of shotgun ammunition and started using it as a club before dropping it and using my axe. The herd had started to thin. I got scratched quite nicely. Jaguar and Dragon had more ammunition than I did. I had two clips for my 1911 left when they were all dead. All but one.

 

One of the zombies I had smacked was... different. Smaller. Same arms, same split chest cavity, but it was about three feet tall and I realized it was a child. I don't know why I've never found a child zombie before. It wasn't dead. Dragon dropped the nearly empty magazine from his Kalashnikov, slapped a new one in and was about to crush its head before I stopped him. I picked the little zombie up under the shoulders and set him down in front of Cheslav.

 

"Cheslav, you could have told us about those zombies and you didn't. Now, the only thing I want to do right now is cut off your arms and legs and let this little guy wake up and eat you. But I'll give you a fighting chance, even though you're scum. I won't cut off your arms and legs."

 

I set the little zombie down in front of him, and it started to stir. Cheslav called out "Yob materi vashi!", which Dragon tells me is a very bad thing in Russian. I turned around and walked away, and his cursing reached a crescendo. I stopped for a moment, gritted my teeth and turned around and walked toward him. I stomped the head of the zombie child in, and said "I know what you did to that girl," and shot him.

 

You know how you read in books about time slowing down during moments of intense emotion? It's true. I watched in what seemed like slow motion as his face caved in, A tiny halo of blood and flesh and bone spouted up from his forehead as the bullet went in before it splashed back down and joined the rest of the debris that exited the back of his skull and painted the wall he was leaning against red. I've read somewhere before that the Colt .45 is powered by the will of the Founding Fathers of America, and is propelled with powder made of the blood of every patriot. Some days that seemed true. But not today. I sort of scared myself by doing that. It was like I lost a tiny peice of humanity by shooting someone in cold blood. I've never really killed an ordinary human before, that close or that suddenly. He was an evil man, and in America or even Russia he would have been put to death for what he had done, but I made myself the judge, jury and executioner. The scary part was I kind of liked it.

 

"Wow," said Jaguar.

 

"He deserved it," said Dragon.

 

"Shut up and swipe that card you found in the coat." I said.

 

The card worked, and the door's locks disengaged. There was a muted grinding of gears and cogs and then the door finally began to slide open. Odd. This place must be on the Combine power grid or something.

 

"Go on in, I need to get my shotgun and I'll frisk Cheslav here for anything useful."

 

They went in, and after retrieving my shotgun I cupped my hand under Cheslav's chin and lifted his head up. My first squad leader told me to never look at the eyes of the people I kill, but I did anyway that first time and I've done it to every "real" person since. Combine are faceless, and zombies don't count. His blue eyes hadn't glazed over yet. Another face to remember for the rest of my life. This made nine, along with the face that I can't forget anyway.

 

Cheslav had nothing on him but an empty mag for the Desert Eagle. I put it in my pocket and stopped for a second. Fighting the zombies had given me an unbeleivable adrenaline rush, one that I thought couldn't be topped, but Cheslav was "better," if you could call it that. I swapped mags out of my 1911 and ran into the arsenal after Jaguar and Dragon with eight in the chamber.

 

What I saw when I got in surprised me. An older man wearing a Ukrainian uniform was sitting and chatting with Jaguar and Dragon. He nodded as I entered the room. I just sort of fell down in shock because frankly the last thing I expected to see in here was a clean shaven middle aged man. He was speaking Russian, so I looked at Dragon expectantly for some sort of explanation.

 

"He wants to know why we shot Cheslav."

 

"Tell him why I shot him."

 

Dragon and the man jabbered on and on about various things, and my eyes wandered over the room. It was one of at least three, packed to the ceiling with crates of weapons and ammunition. There was a conspicious empty spot. When I pointed, the Ukrainian said something and Dragon said "Heavy weapons. They were all deployed when the Combine showed up."

 

I suddenly felt very tired. I performed a huge tactical error and fell asleep.

 

My watch said it had been fifteen minutes but it felt like five days. I guess it was psychological, like my brain needed to be rebooted or something. I was very hungry. Dragon asked the man about some sort of food, and he said many words. He then got up and went outside.

 

"He said he would make us soup. He also said we could each choose one weapon and as much ammo as we could carry from his stores here."

 

Jaguar's eyes lit up and he ran off into the other room and began opening crates. Dragon did much the same thing. I began to wander around in the huge building, bewildered by the amount of devestation that this room could unleash. There were probably a billion rounds of ammunition in here. I grabbed eight boxes of shotgun shells, loaded my shotgun and threw the rest in my pack. There were many weapons here. PKM light machine guns, SVD Dragunov sniper rifles, Kalashnikovs by the hundreds. But I wanted something special. Something unique. Something that could actually be different and make me useful in capacities that my peers couldn't be. And then I found it.

 

I was still entranced by it when the Ukrainian walked in and stood next to me. "That" he began in broken English, "Mosin-Nagant 91/30PU Sniper Rifle. Zoom scope. 7.62x54 boolets. Big boom."

 

I pointed at the World War II era weapon and looked at him. He shrugged his shoulders and pointed to a bucket of stripper clips in the corner and then again to a tin of ammunition for it. I smiled at him in gratitude and picked up the heavy weapon. It fit me perfectly. I took the dust cover off the scope and sighted it down the room. Beautiful. The action worked perfectly. I was in love.

 

I put two ridiculously heavy tins of 7.62x54 in my pack as well as the stripper clips. It was going to be a long hike back home. I wondered how Oscar was doing. And then a smell wafted into the area I was in, a smell that overpowered the stench of cosmoline and metal, a smell that spoke to me of many things that once were, before the advent of the Combine. I walked into the main room to see the Ukrainian hunched over an electric range with a great big soup pot. He had some oil in the bottom, and was sprinkling an odd looking white powder into it - once it hit the oil I could smell the fact that they were dehydrated onions. Onions. Leek of the gods. And in the bottom of the pan, braising? Cubes of meat. Not the pale meat of a headcrab, but good red meat. It looked like beef. As I found out later after the addition of more dehydrated goods, it tasted kind of sweet, like pork, but also gamey at the same time. I made commentary on this and the Dragon translated the old man's words:

 

"Regrettably, the animal was under a lot of stress before the butchering. But it's still edible at least."

 

It was good enough for me. I sent Oscar a message in a code we had devised to let him know we were all okay. It was very simple. A certain pattern of knocks meant that we were in good fortune or bad. Two days without communication and he would report us missing to New Little Odessa.

 

We spent the night there, and ate the leftovers of the man's delicious soup in the morning. Before we left, he told us that the dead man near the refinery was a new recruit assigned to the arsenal, and after it turned into a refugee camp, only he and his girlfriend escaped. He came back the next day to see everyone headcrabbed - and thinking the old man was dead too, got the biggest lock he could find and contained the infestation. Why did the old man not signal him? "He likes his solitude," said Dragon.

 

We set out that day, back for my home and their boat so that they could leave. The man in the Arsenal said that any attempt by the Resistance to seize the arms would be met with lethal force, and I didn't doubt that for one moment. The three of us made a pact to lie about where we got our new arms. He could have his solitude.

 

I noted with interest as we left that something had worried the corpse of Cheslav over the night and removed most of the meat from the bones. Maybe a ravenous horde of crows? I didn't really know or care. I was thinking about what I could do to the Combine with my new weapon. She was beautiful, the light of the sun bringing out the color in her stock and the blued metal that made up her barrel and action. I was thinking up various euphemisms for sniping people when I heard several screams, much like the screams of crack zombies. They jumped over a nearby hill and were upon us in an instant. I felt burning lines gashed into my chest and then felt myself flying through the air and hitting something hard and I don't really remember what happened after that because I blacked out.

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