The Palace of Culture

Originally written by Jaycie Ewald for Boreal Alyph
Creative Writing

The distinct call of a Hunter reverberated through the empty streets of Severniy. Gordon instinctively ducked behind a burnt out car in the middle of the road. He looked around quickly, trying to triangulate the source of the sound. Before he could identify anything, it faded into the wind. How could they be on to him already? He had seen nothing while sneaking up from the Resistance basecamp. Gordon cursed himself for not bringing more ammunition. According to the rebels on base, the Combine’s arctic Hunter squads were even more deadly than the ones just outside City 17.

He scanned the buildings around him for something sturdy enough to hide in. Most of the buildings in Severniy were practically decayed to rubble by decades of abandonment, but some of the heartier buildings were still safe to enter. Gordon spotted a low concrete building down the street with a large Soviet star emblazoned on it. Once upon a time, it might have been the local Party headquarters. It seemed to have stood the test of time better than the buildings around it. Gordon jumped up and moved towards it, careful to avoid disturbing any debris on the street. He peered through a gated storefront window in hopes of finding any supplies. Inside, half a dozen zombies lay still in the snow. A headcrab canister had long ago crashed through the roof. Seeing nothing of use, he moved on.

Another Hunter call echoed through the streets. Gordon knew he didn’t have much time. He picked up his pace and was nearly there when a zombie came crashing through a boarded up door. His movements, light as they were, must have disturbed a resting ghoul. He bolted the last few steps through the entrance and closed the heavy wooden doors behind him. They might not hold up for long, but it was better than nothing. He heard a third Hunter call vaguely through the walls of the building. It sounded different this time. Lower, more guttural. Closer. The interior of the headquarters was dark and completely wrecked. He saw bullet impacts on both sides of the room. A firefight must’ve broken out here during the last stages of the invasion.

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