Originally written by Jaycie Ewald for Boreal Alyph
Creative Writing

“There’s no way into this place on foot. None of us would stand a chance against the defenses or the storm. There’s a small, out of the way Combine train depot about 7 kilometers south of the weather station. If someone could time it just right, maybe they could hitch a ride on a supply train, sending them right to the heart of the compound...”

High in the distance, a red light blinked vaguely. The outline of the Spire was barely visible in the falling snow.

Through his binoculars Gordon scanned the Razor Train way station below. It seemed minimally guarded and somewhat trivial to infiltrate. His headset crackled to life with Alyx’s voice: “Your train leaves at 1500 hours, according to our intel. I have no idea what it’s carrying, but it sounds like some of the carriages will be empty. I’ll have to leave that to you. Good luck.” He checked his watch. 30 minutes to 1500. Gordon hoped that would be more than enough time to get onboard. He did one final sweep and, seeing only one exterior guard, decided it was time to move. Gordon slid down the embankment and crawled towards the exterior fence.

A few meters inside the fence stood a medium sized transmitter array. While the trains were fully automated, the inevitable distress call was not. If he could successfully disable that transmitter, they would have no way to call in reinforcements. Gordon pondered the problem. He figured that stealthiness likely wouldn’t do him much good if he could disable it, so he went for his grenades. Gordon carefully determined the trajectory, primed the grenade, and tossed it. To his relief it landed less than a meter from the base of the tower. The following blast ripped through the supporting rods of the transmitter, sending it toppling over into the snow.

Several seconds later the base klaxon rang to life. Half a dozen Combine Soldiers rushed out of an outbuilding and ran towards the remains of the transmitter. Gordon brought out his rifle and aimed it at the rushing soldiers. At ground level buried in snow, the soldiers had little chance of seeing him right away. He took the first shot, grazing the squadleader’s skull and sending him running for cover. The squad began to fan out, concentrating fire on his position. This was getting bad, fast.

Gordon ducked behind a large pile of debris and grabbed his MP7. He shot blindly out of cover, hearing one of the robotic voices get suddenly interrupted by a flatline. A grenade landed at his feet. Gordon scrambled to pick it up and tossed it towards the exterior fence. The damaging explosion gave him an opening to enter the station. He popped out of cover again, spraying his weapon with slightly more intent. Two more bodies fell to the snow. The squadleader barked a barely intelligible order and the remaining soldiers fell back to the main depot building.

If he was lucky, maybe he could restock his ammunition in the building the soldiers had originally emerged from. Gordon took a chance and darted across the open ground through the gap in the fence. The small structure contained several Combine sleeper pods, a medical bay and small armory. Gordon did a quick sweep of the armory and picked up more ammunition for his MP7. The suit sounded a warning about his vital signs, but to Gordon’s dismay the medical bay’s health station was depleted.

The compound went deadly quiet. The base klaxon had cut out. Only the soft sounds of the wind and the ice remained. Gordon crept out slowly towards the depot building. While they couldn’t call for help, whatever was left of the Combine unit would still fight fiercely. A large doorway sat invitingly open on the near side of the depot building. He checked his reserves and found that he only had a handful of frag grenades left. Flipping the catch on his MP7’s grenade launcher, he fired a single round through the doorway with a soft ka-chunk. The explosion sent the corpse of a soldier sprawling out of the doorway and footsteps receded further into the structure.

From the viewing platform, Gordon saw only a handful of train carriages in the small depot. At the far end of the room was a single engine attached to several carriages. That must be his train. He checked his watch again: 3 minutes to 1500. it was now or never. He ran down the catwalk until he was positioned just above one of the carriages. He hopped over the railing and landed hard on the cold blue paneling. The suit’s shock absorbers took the brunt, but his legs were still bruised by the impact.

As he tried to keep his footing, the train shifted suddenly under his feet and started rolling. Gordon scrambled to find a way to get into the carriage. He spied a large ventilation panel and started to shimmy it with his crowbar. The train was picking up speed fast. He finally cracked the panel out of its fasteners and tossed it over the side. Seeing nothing but darkness inside the carriage, he jumped.

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