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Disclaimer: The following story is a non-profit, fan-based work of fiction. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 Episode One and Two are all owned by Hasbro Studios, Valve Software and Gabe Newell. Please support the official products.
Welcome To Hell
Twilight Sparkle and her friends huddled around Celestia's hospital bed.
"Do you know how long she's been like this, princess?" Pinkie Pie asked the tall alicorn next to her.
Luna shook her head. "She mentioned her daily migraines have become worse than usual. Other than that..." she murmured as tears swelled up in her eyes. "Oh, Tia... I wish you told me," she whispered to her unconscious sister.
"Princess Luna? Would you mind if we asked you a few questions?" the doctor asked.
Luna sniffed. "Of course not. What do you wish to know?"
"Well, could you elaborate on these migraines?" His kind eyes bore into Luna's.
"Yes. They started a few weeks ago. Each morning I would see her looking more and more in pain, constantly rubbing her forehead or temples," the princess admitted.
"Mhm. Go on," the doctor said as he jotted some notes down.
"And she said she kept hearing a voice," Luna said slowly.
"Really? What was the voice saying to her?"
Luna swallowed nervously. "Rise and shine."
The doctor frowned. "That's it?"
The princess nodded.
"Hmm. Interesting. Well, I'm sorry to usher you out." He turned to the six mares gathered around the princess. "But it really should only be family."
Applejack nodded. "Ah can understand that. C'mon girls."
"I wonder what caused it," Rarity murmured as they shuffled out reluctantly. Twilight was the worst. She had frozen up in fear as Luna's urgent letter told her Celestia had been found unconscious. She had gathered her friends, minus Spike, who had to stay to look after the library, and marched to Canterlot immediately. They'd been waiting and watching ever since.
"I hope she's alright," Fluttershy whispered and shivered.
"She'll be fine," Rainbow Dash said and nudged the timid pegasus next to her. "Right, Twilight?"
Twilight nodded without a word.
Applejack nudged her. "You OK Twi?"
"Mhm," Twilight mumbled and felt her lower lip quiver.
"Ah know it's a big shock, 'specially for you, but sometimes ponies just get sick and there's nothin' ya'll can do about it." Applejack said and tried to comfort her.
Twilight nodded silently again.
"Come on, let's go back to Ponyville. Maybe Spike can cheer you up?" Rarity asked hopefully, and put a hoof around Twilight's neck.
Twilight shivered at the touch and forced a weak smile out. "I think... I just need some time alone," she whispered, her voice barely audible, and even made Fluttershy's ears strain to hear her.
"Twilight Sparkle," The princess called from behind them.
Twilight turned and saw Luna running towards her. "Twilight, we - I desire your opinion on something," she murmured. "In private," she added and glanced at her friends.
"Of c-course princess. You go on girls, I'll see you soon."
Rarity nodded. "Of course dear. Take as long as you want."
Twilight smiled and waved her friends goodbye, then turned to the princess of the night. "What happened?" she asked softly.
Luna sniffed and gazed into her eyes. "I truly do not know, but seen as how you are Celestia's best student, and closest friend, I would wish that you remain on the premises until she wakes up. Your magic may be useful here."
"Of course, Luna," Twilight replied. "But surely she's just sick with something?"
Luna looked at her darkly. "Celestia does not get sick," she said bluntly, on the verge of growling. "We are both immortal, and have never fallen sick before. I am sure we are both immune to it. I fear her reason for being unconcious draws from a supernatural force," she whispered.
Twilight widened her eyes. "W-what do you mean? What could hurt her like this?"
"Discord, but he's trapped in stone. Chrysalis, but she's disappeared from the face of Equestria, back to the Badlands... anypony else I cannot name," Luna shook her head and sighed. "So you will help?"
"Of course I will. She's the best teacher anypony could ever ask for, and one of my closest friends. If I didn't, I would consider our friendship over. And I will never let that happen," Twilight replied and straightened her back defiantly.
Luna smiled. "I admire your loyalty, Twilight Sparkle. Come, I'll show you your quarters, where we will look for a cure perhaps." She pointed her hoof in the direction
Twilight nodded and followed her, glancing over her shoulder at the infirmary room door.
Gordon nudged Barney awake as they began to reach a snowy area.
"Ugh. We there already G?" He grunted and rubbed his eyes.
"Is Alyx up?" Barney asked cautiously.
Gordon glanced over his shoulder and saw the sleeping Alyx curled up in the comfy seats. He shook his head when he turned back to Barney.
"OK, good. Listen... What's your relationship with her?"
Gordon turned bright red and sealed his lips shut.
"Aw c'mon, Gordon, are you two... you know?" the ex-security guard prodded and grinned.
Gordon stayed silent and shook his head.
"Well, whatever you two are, you'd best take care of her now. Poor Eli," Barney murmured with a far away look in his eye. "You're the only guy in her life now. Unless there's some dude we don't know about yet."
The physicist stayed red and nodded slowly.
"You don't talk much do you?" Barney grinned and nudged his old friend. "Not even before Black Mesa either."
Gordon felt the normal colour returning to his cheeks and scratched his beard thoughtfully, grinning as he did so.
"Hmm. Looks like a storm's coming. We'd better set down somewhere. Are we in the Arctic already?"
Barney turned to his HEV suit clad friend, who gazed out the window and frowned at something, pointing his finger. He turned his gaze to where the scientist's were pointing, and saw a blinking light through the storm. "Aha. That must be Judith's base. So we are here already." He grunted and began to set the chopper down, slowly and carefully.
Gordon rose out of his chair and walked back to Alyx, who stirred and rubbed her eyes. "Are we stopping?" She asked wearily.
The scientist nodded and smiled, reaching out a gloved hand for her. She smiled and took it gratefully. "Thanks, G."
Gordon nodded his head and smiled again.
When Alyx shivered, he immediately wrapped a blanket around her and kept her warm.
"Thanks Gordon, but it's alright. Wait a minute, why's it so cold? We can't be at the Arctic already, can we?" she asked, as her breathing increased.
Barney glanced over his shoulder and smiled at her. "We sure are, Ally. Better get wrapped up more'n that. Gordon's suit will keep him warm, and this CP stuff will keep me a bit warm, but you're still in your civvies. Unless you wanna go skinny dippin' in a frozen lake?" he chuckled.
Alyx glared at him and chuckled herself. "Oh shut up, Barns."
Barney snorted at his nickname. "Yeah, yeah. Looks like the welcoming party's here to greet us," he said as he looked out the window and saw a human looking figure waving his arms up at them.
"I wonder if Judith's alright," Alyx murmured and shivered again.
"Ahoy there!" A friendly voice called. "I say, is that Doctor Freeman and Alyx Vance? And... Barney Calhoun?"
Barney grinned as he stepped out the heli, helping Alyx and Gordon down too. "Sure is, old timer. What is this place?"
Gordon recognized the individual immediately: one Odessa Cubbage. Former Major, and leader of a small group of resistance fighters against the combine. He had helped Gordon along his journey, and even helped Gordon take out one of those damn gunships.
Odessa laughed heartily as he shook their hands one by one. "Greeting again to you, Dr Freeman. I see the wearies of battle have not kept you down. Welcome to Outpost South. Or as the men would say: welcome to hell. Please, come and have some tea while I give you the briefing of what's been happening down here."
Gordon nodded and let Alyx go first, then Barney, then he closed the door on his way in.
Odessa clapped his hands. "Thank you my dear," he said to the rebel soldier who brought him three cups of tea. She smiled and nodded to him, blushing and giggling as Gordon watched her.
Barney leaned over to him and whispered in his ear, "Boy, the girls sure do like a man in an HEV suit."
Gordon grinned and shoved him away.
"So I suppose you're wondering about this storm, and why it's so cold down here," Odessa said as he sipped his tea.
"Yeah, are we so close to the Arctic Circle already?" Alyx asked and sipped her own tea.
"The Arctic Circle? My dear! Why on God's green Earth would you want to go there for? We thought you were here to help with the combine situation we have here, and their infernal weather machine," Odessa cried.
"Well, we'll help in any way we can, but we're on a top secret mission from Eli himself - oh jeez, sorry Al," Barney mumbled and glanced at Alyx, noticing her pained expression.
The Major frowned. "Have I missed something? What's happened up in White Forest?"
Barney glanced at Gordon over Alyx's back.
Gordon sighed and put a hand on her shoulder.
"It's fine, Gordon... Odessa... my father's dead. A pair of damn Advisors got him," she said bravely, and felt the sorrow tremble on her voice.
"Oh my dear... I am so terribly sorry to hear that. If there's anything I can do to help, or if you need anything, just give me a call," Odessa murmured and set his tea down, touching her knee gently.
Alyx sniffed and smiled at him. "It's alright Major. So why's the storm beating up if we aren't in the circle yet?"
"Well, it's thanks to that damn machine the combine have stashed away in their base up the mountain. It can somehow manipulate the weather around these parts. It's driven most of us here underground, when this once used to be a warm, sunny place," Odessa grumbled. "But I'm sure with the good doctor here," he gestured to Gordon. "We'll have that problem fixed in no time at all."
Gordon rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Aw c'mon Gordon. It'll be a cakewalk for you, especially with that new doo-hickey Kleiner gave you," Barney chuckled.
Gordon raised his eyebrows and tapped the device on his left forearm.
"Heh. Forgot about that didn't you doctor?" Alyx chuckled.
Gordon smiled sheepishly and flexed his fingers, then nodded.
"Ah. I see. Well then," Odessa clapped his hands together. "Shall we begin preparations?"
"Major Cubbage, sir!" a rebel cried as he burst through the door, "the combine are attacking again."
Odessa nodded. "Gather the troops. We'll beat them away from our doorstep. We have assistance this time." He nodded to the trio from the helicopter.
"Oh. Oh!" The rebel cried and shook their hands vigourosuly. "Great honour to meet you sirs and ma'am."
"Ma'am?" Alyx chuckled.
"Sirs?" Barney laughed.
Gordon frowned and scratched his head awkwardly.
"This way, if you please," Odessa said and led them towards a large metal vault-like door. "You'll want to take this passageway, Dr Freeman. It leads right up behind their lines, unfortunately... it's infested with headcrabs, zombies, and all manner of ghastly things. You might want to stock up on weapons and ammo before you go."
Gordon nodded and cracked his neck. He'd dealt with zombies before. He'd been to Ravenholm.
Gordon loaded his trusty shotgun, and strapped the pistol holster to his thigh, while Alyx and Barney helped him ready his stuff.
"I would come with you G, but these guys need me here." Barney said apologetically.
Gordon held his hand up and shook his head.
"Too dangerous I know, plus you've got yer grapplin' iron thing. Well. Good luck out there Gordon," he said and shook a gloved hand.
Alyx hugged him. "Be safe. Come back."
Gordon nodded and hugged her back, then turned to the door and nodded to the rebel manning the controls.
"Alright, Dr Freeman, stand back," he murmured.
The vortigaunt in the room murmured something in Vortigese and raised his arms. "May the spirits guide the Freeman, and bring him back safely after vanquishing the combine oppressors."
"May the spirits guide him," the chorus of rebels went round the room.
"Good luck," Odessa told Gordon as the doors opened up.
"One last thing, Freeman," the vortigaunt said and approached Gordon. "The combine have a Shu'ulathoi. An Advisor. It must be destroyed to stop the combine from returning."
"An Advisor?" Alyx breathed and began shaking. "Destroy that thing, Gordon."
Gordon nodded and walked forwards, into the darkness.
The door swung shut behind him.
He was alone.
Gordon spun around and raised his gun at the sound from behind him. He slowed his breathing down and crept up to where the noise was.
He chuckled when he saw it was just a bit of muck that had fallen down from the ceiling, and carried on through the tunnel.
It stank in there. Worse than the canals under City 17.
The physicist scrunched up his face and held his breath as the stench increased, and a shuffling noise could be heard up ahead.
He flicked on his flash-light and glared at the owner of the shuffling: a bloodstained remnant of a human, with a headcrab latched onto his or her face.
Bang went the shotgun.
Down fell the zombie.
Up went the cries of the remaining zombies, and the screeches of the fast zombies, and the grunts of the zombines.
Gordon sighed and raised his crowbar again.
Time to get to work.
Battered and bloodstained, Gordon Freeman pressed himself against the wall at the end of the tunnel, grunting and wincing as the most recent blow from one of the zombies hurt his arm.
He groaned and applied some of the green medigel stuff he had found, and proved to be quite useful when needed. He glanced around at his surroundings and grunted at where he thought he was: right underneath the combine base. He could hear their radio chatter.
"Freeman has been sighted at the rebel base," one of their synthetic voices croaked.
"Confirmed." Another said. "Don't let him near the Advisor or the prisoners."
Gordon quietly crept up to the door where he heard the voices coming from and peeked through.
Four combine soldiers.
Two with AR2s.
One with a shotgun.
One with a sniper rifle.
This is gonna be easy.
He readied his shotgun again and checked the ammo. Twelve shells.
The physicist took a deep breath and kicked the door open.
"It's Freeman!" one of the combine shouted and opened fire.
Gordon felt the bullets ricochet off his suit and pointed his shotgun at the shooter.
One down. Eleven shells.
"Soldier down," the radio chatter went up as they all opened fire on him.
Gordon dove behind a table and flipped it over, firing his shotgun as he did so. A double bang round this time, hitting one of them. He grinned as he heard the sputtering of blood.
"We need backup! Freeman is he-"
Three down. Eight shells.
Gordon blew the smoke away from the end of his gun as he heard the remaining soldier flee the scene.
"Hello?" A quiet voice whimpered.
Gordon spun around and raised his shotgun again.
"In the air-vent. They haven't realized I escaped yet," the voice whispered.
Gordon walked up to the vent suspiciously and lowered his gun. He flicked on the light and his eyes widened in surprise. For there, in the air-vent, was a small horse. A light blue horse. With wings.
"Can you please help me? My family's still trapped up there," the talking horse asked with tears in his eyes.
Gordon nodded and pried the grate off the wall.
The horse hopped out and groaned. His wing was badly hurt, Gordon saw, and took out some medigel. "What's that?" the small, blue creature asked and backed away from Gordon.
Gordon sighed and put some gel on one of the dead soldier's bullet holes.
The pegasus's eyes widened as he saw the red hole seal up and heal itself. "OK," he whispered and let the strange biped creature put some of the gel on his wing.
He immediately felt the difference and flexed his wing. "That's much better. Thank you. Now, tell me where I am. And what those things are. And what you are," he demanded bravely.
Gordon raised a finger and shushed the pegasus. He nodded towards the door and he heard more voices.
"One of the prisoners escaped," one of the voices croaked.
"Yes. We must apprehend it immediately. Freeman is here too."
"We must eliminate him, and secure the Advisor."
The pegasus next to Gordon cringed with fear. "They found out then," he whispered. "Listen, there's a big white, grub thing that's keeping my family prisoner. Please help me rescue them."
Gordon nodded silently, still in amazed confusion at the small blue winged horse talking to him.
The pegasus held his hoof out. "The name's Skydancer, but my friends call me Sky. What's yours?"
Gordon opened his mouth but was cut off before he could speak by an explosion.
"Hyaaaa! take that you sons of bitches!" Barney's voice called out. "Gordon! Can you hear me? If you can, go to the window and I'll pick you up."
Gordon grunted and rubbed his head.
"Gordon?" Sky coughed and blew the smoke away.
Gordon nodded and shook his hoof.
"Well, Gordon. Let's go rescue my family."
The physicist grinned and strode to the window, waving his arms around wildly.
"I see you G. Hang on," Barney's voice called from the heli's speakers as he swung around. "I'll blow a hole in the wall. get to cover."
Gordon nodded and grabbed the pegasus, and dove through the door he had entered from.
"Hey!" Sky cried as he wriggled out of the grasp of his saviour.
Gordon grunted in what Sky assumed was an apology, and slammed the door, just as Barney fired a missile at the window.
The physicist covered the small horse and coughed out some more smoke.
"Woohee. I didn't scratch your suit did I?" Barney laughed as he hovered near the hole.
Gordon grunted and opened the door again, nearly tumbling off the side. He shook his fist at the heli and laughed, then waved for Sky to come through.
"My wing's still hurting, so I don't think I can fly," the pegasus muttered.
Gordon smiled and picked him up again, then took a running jump and leapt onto the heli's passenger space.
"Whoa, what the hell? Where'd the horse come from?" Barney asked in surprise, fear and confusion.
"I am not a horse. I am a pony. A pegasus pony," Skydancer said in defence.
"And it talks? Christ, what have the combine down now?" Barney cried and nearly crashed the chopper in surprise.
Gordon nodded and set Sky down.
"Of course I talk. What are you creatures anyway?" Skydancer asked, fear tingeing his voice.
"We're... humans... what are you again?" Barney asked.
"Pegasus. Wonderbolt try-out. From Equestria," Sky replied quietly and slowly, suddenly very wary of these bipedal creatures on their mechanical bird with the strangest set of wings he'd ever seen.
"Wonderbo- what? Equestria? What the hell?" Barney asked dumbfounded.
Gordon nudged him and got him moving again.
"Right, yeah, sorry G. It's just... maybe Alyx knows what you are. Or what Equestria is. We're going back now, I'll drop you two off."
"What? No! We need to rescue my family! Please," Sky begged.
Gordon sighed and turned to Barney again.
Barney raised his hand. "Alright, we'll rescue your family. Are they all... pegasuses?"
Sky nodded. "Pegasi," he corrected.
"Pegasi, whatever. So there are more of you?"
Sky nodded again. "Yes. Now can we please go find them before those things with the scary voices hurt them? Or that big grub thing does something to them?"
"Things with the scary voices? You mean the combine?"
The pegasus nodded.
"And the grub thing... an Advisor?"
"I don't know what they're called. But I think so," Sky murmured and felt tears well up in his eyes. "Please..."
"Alright, we'll go. But you gotta explain where you came from, or how you ended up here. Deal?" Barney said.
"Deal," Sky sniffed. "By the way, what's your name? I'm Skydancer."
"Barney Calhoun at your service." Barney smiled and shook Sky's hoof. "And this is Dr Gordon Freeman. He's only saved the world multiple times."
Gordon chuckled and nodded to Sky.
"Doctor? You're a doctor?" Sky cried happily. "You can help my mother then! She's really sick and we don't know why." He whimpered as tears took him again.
"Well, we'll get her, and the rest of your family, to the base. Hopefully when the Advisor goes, the weather will clear up. Any idea what they were doing to you?" Barney asked as they flew to the top of the combine base.
Skydancer shook his head. "No. But they kept... squeezing us." He murmured.
"Squeezing?" Barney asked.
Sky nodded and turned red. "It didn't feel right."
"Mhm." Sky confirmed again.
"Squeezing." Barney repeated and let his jaw open. "What the f- why?"
Sky shook his head. "Pegasi control the clouds in Equestria. They kept mentioning a machine they had that could control the weather, but it needed pegasi stuff. So they squeezed us."
"The combine just keep getting weirder and weirder. Let's go get your family then - careful now, G - and get back to some place safe."
Gordon grunted as he nearly fell out the heli, the wind buffeting the heli around and nearly knocking them off course.
Barney set the heli down and raised his SMG. "OK, Gordon, you go with Sky and find his family. I'll try and keep the combine away from this."
Gordon nodded and raised his scavenged AR2.
Sky shivered. "It's so cold up here. Let's hurry up."
Gordon nodded again and pointed for Sky to lead the way.
Barney smiled to himself as he saw Gordon take off with the pony, then he smiled and began setting up a defensible position, ready for when all hell broke loose. Which it would. It was Gordon after all.
"This way," Sky said as they took off down a luminous green corridor. "They should just be past that door. But that thing - the Advisor - is hovering in the corner, so watch out."
Gordon nodded and readied his gun.
"One, two... three," Sky murmured as they burst open the door.
Sky cried out in anger and pain as the Advisor's telepathic rays hit him full force and hoisted him into the air.
Gordon had experienced these before and braced himself. He still grunted and stepped back and raised his gun.
"Freeman..." the Advisors voice rang through his head, deep and grating.
He opened fire on the control panel, down by the bottom of the Advisor's pod.
The thing screeched in pain and fury and flung Sky at the scientist, then detached itself from it's pod, screeched at Gordon once more, then took off through the ceiling.
Sky yelped in pain as he dropped to the floor. "Th-thank y-you G-G-Gordon." he whimpered and rose unsteadily to his feet.
"Skydancer?" a pained female voice croaked.
"Mother!" Sky cried and hobbled over to a small cage.
Gordon noticed it was filled with more ponies, of all the colours of the rainbow.
"Skydancer... I told you... to run..." Skydancer's mother told him.
"I know, mother... But I couldn't leave you. Any of you. This is Gordon Freeman. He's a doctor. He can help," Sky said to his brothers and sisters as he introduced Gordon.
Gordon smiled in a friendly way and began to pry the bars of the cage off with his crowbar.
"W-what is he?" Sky's little sister asked.
"He's a friend, Cloud. He's promised to help us escape and go back to Equestria," Sky assured her and nuzzled her through the bars.
"You... what are... you?" His mother wheezed at Gordon.
Gordon grunted and finished prying the bars off.
"He doesn't speak, mother," Sky murmured, suddenly realizing that Gordon had never actually spoken to him since they met.
Gordon nodded and helped them out, one by one.
The smallest of the ponies, probably no older than three months, whinnied in fear as Gordon helped her out. He smiled apologetically and tickled her belly.
She stopped whinnying and giggled. "Mama, the nice rescuer's tickling me!" she cried.
"Heh I can see. that..." Sky's mother wheezed again and hacked a cough out.
Gordon turned his attention to the sick pony and helped her out.
"So you're... a doctor... is that right?" she coughed.
"Mother..." Sky murmured and nuzzled her lovingly.
"Hush boy. I'm alright, *cough* just feeling a bit... tired," she murmured and felt her eyelids flutter downwards. "Gordon... My name is... Hurricane Dancer... thank you for saving my children..." she whispered and collapsed, her chest just barely moving up and down.
Her children gathered around her and tried to shake her awake.
"Mama... mama! Mama, mama, mama!" The youngest of her children cried and sobbed loudly. "Sky, why won't mama wake up?"
Sky choked back a tear and felt Gordon's hand on his shoulder. "B-because she's... sleeping. We'll take her with us, where she can wake up away from this awful place."
Gordon nodded and picked her body up. She was cold. It might have just been the temperature here on the mountainside, or perhaps she was dying, he didn't know. What he did know, was that there was a group of children here who needed him. So he was going to help them.
Barney stumbled backwards when he saw Gordon come running out of the corridor, one of the ponies in his arms, and several others around him, including Skydancer.
"Holy crap, Gordon! What did you do? Liberate a small army?"
The foals in front stopped and backed up when they saw Barney, and glanced at their big brother.
"He's a friend too. C'mon, get in," Sky assured them and began lifting them up.
Gordon strode up to the heli and placed his Hurricane in between her children, then stepped out and helped the remaining in. He smiled sadly as they nuzzled against her in weeping huddle.
"I don't think we've got enough room for ya G," Barney murmured as he counted them over. "I think you're gonna have to find your own way down."
Gordon nodded and raised his left wrist, tapping the device strapped to it.
"Oh yeah, you could rappel down couldn't you?" Barney cried and slapped his forehead. "Of course. Well, I'll see you soon then. Try not to die."
They laughed as they clasped their hands together and parted like old friends.
Gordon stepped back as he watched the chopper rise, and waved goodbye to the ponies and the human, and began his own exit of the accursed place.
Celestia groaned and strained her neck muscles, allowing her eyelids to flutter open.
Luna snapped her head up when she heard the groans. "Tia! Tia are you awake? Can you hear me?"
"...Yes...." she whispered, just audibly.
"Oh Tia!" Luna cried and hugged her sister, sobbing loudly. "I'm so glad you're awake. What happened?"
"A flash... of light... then darkness.... Luna..." Celestia sat up and turned to her younger sister. "How long have I been asleep?"
Luna sniffed and removed her face from Celestia's mane. "Four days. Myself and Twilight Sparkle have been working day and night to try and bring you around, but to no avail." She murmured and hugged Celestia again. "I've missed you."
Celestia licked her lips. "I'm so thirsty..." she croaked.
"Yes, of course!" Luna cried and sprung up and fetched a glass of water for the recovering sister. "Drink," she said and helped the glass to Celestia's lips.
The water cascaded down her throat, cooling it and soothing the soreness. "Thank you Luna... where is Twilight?"
"She's upstairs, sleeping. The poor dear has never stopped since we found you." Luna smiled. "I'll go get her."
Celestia nodded and weakly coughed as Luna exited the hospital and the doctor walked up to her. "How are you feeling, princess?" he asked kindly.
"My throat hurts, doctor. Has it really been four days?" she asked and rubbed her throat, allowing the doctor to feel for any abnormalities.
"Days? My dear princess... It's been four months..." the doctor murmured and stepped away from her.
"What?!" she cried and tried to get out of bed. "Months? Months?!" she demanded and allowed her voice to raise. She could feel the sweat dripping down her face, and the anger bubbling inside of her.
"N-now, princess... we've done everything we can, b-but-" the doctor stammered.
"Luna," Celestia growled. "Get Luna. Now."
The doctor bowed and shivered. "Find the princess!" he called as he galloped off.
Celesta groaned and rubbed her head again. "Why did I shout at him?" She murmured to himself. "Luna just didn't want me to worry... and Twilight. Has she really not stopped in four months?"
Twilight and Luna came bursting back in the room. The former threw her hooves around the princess in bed, while the latter tried to shuffle away nervously.
"Luna." Celestia barked and hugged Twilight back. "Come here."
"I'm s-sorry, sister. I just... we both agreed to not let you worry you've been sick for four months." Luna stammered and cowed away from Celestia's glare.
"It's true princess." Twilight said from inside her long mane. "It was actually my idea. We didn't want you to wake up thinking you've lost four months..." She murmured and cringed away from her teacher and mentor under her cold gaze.
"I understand Twilight. But you still should have just told me. What has been happening since I've been... away?"
Luna coughed nervously. "W-well... I had some trouble raising the sun in the first few weeks, so... the nobles tried to take matters into their own hooves, claiming I was Nightmare Moon again... and-"
Celestia raised a hoof, her face like thunder. "What did they do?" she growled.
Luna started in protest. "They didn't do anything, they just took over management for a while, while we searched for a cure," she murmured.
Celestia's eyes lit up in fury. "And they just... threw you out of the palace?"
"Well... no... I sort of let them takeover to prove I wasn't a monster anymore," Luna whimpered and flayed her ears back.
Her sister's face softened up. "Luna... you shouldn't let anypony treat you like that monster anymore. You don't have to prove anything to anypony. And you still rose the sun, see?" she pointed to the rising sun through the window.
"I suppose. But it was only in the sixth week of your illness. And they still resented me for that month of darkness." Luna mumbled and turned away from her sister.
Celestia sighed and wrapped her wing around her baby sister. "I don't care. Shhh." She whispered and rocked Luna backwards and forwards, like a baby.
Luna broke down into tears at this. "I've missed *sniff* you so much... We both *sniff* have."
Twilight wiped her own tears away and smiled at the princesses embracing each other. "Sorry to interrupt, princess." She murmured, and they parted. "But may I ask what happened to put you in a state like that?"
Celestia rubbed her head again, wincing at the tender skin around her horn. "It was a flash of light. An ice blue beam shot up in the sky, many leagues away. That's the last thing I remember."
"A flash of light? A huge beam?" Twilight whispered and felt her lower lip tremble.
"What? What's been happening?" Celestia asked and made Twilight face her. "Tell me."
"P-ponies have been disappearing all over Equestria... in huge flashes of light, like the one you saw, princess." Twilight murmured and avoided her gaze. "Everypony's stumped. The light shows, then the ponies are gone. Without a trace."
Celestia hung her head. "I have failed my subjects," she whispered and choked back some tears.
Luna nuzzled her. "No you haven't. There's nothing you could've done, Tia. None of us were prepared for your sudden ailment, or these disappearances. As soon as you are well, we will begin the search for them. More so than we already have," she assured her sister.
Celestia sighed and hung her head. "I still do not understand."
Luna nodded to Twilight. "Close the door, Twilight Sparkle. Make sure nopony disturbs us."
Twilight nodded and closed the door, sitting against it and listening to what the princess had to say.
"Tia. Tell us what you experienced in your slumber," Luna said.
Celestia froze up. "W-why?" She murmured, fear dancing along her words.
"It will be helpful. Trust me. Tell us, Celestia," the night princess said sternly.
Celestia shifted her eyes from her sister to Twilight.
"It will, princess. Tell us."
The princess of the sun hung her head resignedly and began to tell them what she'd seen in those four months of sleep.
Starting with the human.
Gordon grappled across a large chasm and grinned to himself. He thought back to his teen years in college, where he'd read a few of those Batman comic books. He figured if he ever survived this, he'd take up a superhero name. Freeman. Fighting for truth, justice, and ready to kick any alien invaders off Earth.
As he landed he went into a roll and ended up just outside the base. Thankfully, rescuing the pegasi had done something to the weather somehow, and the storm was fading as quickly as it came.
"Hey Dr Freeman, Barney said you'd be coming shortly. Nice landing. Let me get the door for you." The rebel guard smiled and opened the door for Gordon.
Gordon nodded and went inside, brushing the snow from his shoulders and head.
"Gordon! You're back!" Alyx cried and hugged him. "Barney told me what happened. The... ponies... are down in the hangar, their mother's in the infirmary. What exactly are they?" she whispered and led him to the pony refugees.
He shrugged and followed her.
"Gordon!" Skydancer cried happily and shook Gordon's hand. "Thank you for getting us out safely. Now we just need a way home and we're set," he murmured, and nuzzled his baby sister. "Or at least them."
"Freeman, we have detected the Shu'ulathoi's energy readings. Is the beast dead?" the same votigaunt from before asked.
Gordon nodded and shook his hand.
"If you mean the Advisor, Gordon hurt it, and it fled," Sky piped up.
The vortigaunt shifted his gaze down to the small pegasus at his feet. "You have retrieved a Pon'yleh. A pony as the humans would say. Tell me, pony friend, how did you come to be in this world?"
Sky froze up in fear at this even stranger looking creature addressing him. "W-well... there was a flash of light. Then the combine were all around us, and bundling us into crates. Then we woke up in that place. It's all very blurry," he murmured and scratched his head.
The vortigaunt rested his hands on his legs. "Most intriguing. It seems the combine have found a way to travel between dimensions. We will send you back," he said and raised his hands to his face, hollering out a call.
Sky and the other ponies covered their ears and whinnied in fear.
"Sparks, stop that, you're scaring them," Barney said and stroked the mane of the youngest one huddling against him.
Alyx smirked as she saw the 'big and tough soldier' cuddling a brightly coloured pony. "What? I can like things," he said defensively.
"I didn't say anything," she grinned and soothed the one nearest to her.
The small pony's big, yellow eyes gazed into hers. "I'm s-scared," she whispered.
"I know. C'mere," Alyx cooed and scooped the filly in her arms. "Awww, these dears are adorable," she giggled. "You should get one Gordon."
Gordon snorted and grinned.
'Sparks' stopped calling and listened.
The same call rang out through the mountains.
"My kin will be here soon. Now, the mother," he said and clapped his arms together. "We must move fast if we are to save her."
"Yes. This way, Sparks," a rebel who was watching the group said and led the vortigaunt to the infirmary.
Skydancer and Gordon followed, leaving the two humans and the group of ponies behind.
Hurricane was hooked up to a life support machine, her heartbeat beating steadily.
"What's wrong with her?" Sky whispered as he watched Sparks creates a green glow along her body.
"She carries a sickness that the combine have given her. Basraa sha. It will kill her if we do not move fast." Sparks replied sadly. "We require the essence again, Freeman."
Gordon rolled his eyes again and raised his crowbar.
"No, no. We already have some, but we must wait for my kin to arrive. They will be here within the hour," Sparks said hurriedly. "I know of your exploits with the guardian, and how your life is linked to the Alyx Vance's. We would not squander more of that essence," he smiled. Or at least, what Gordon thought was a smile.
Alyx sighed. "Oh good. The last vorts who said they needed that sent Gordon on some quest to find it right?"
Sparks nodded. "Yes. Now your life is tied with the Freeman's. We plan to do the same with the Skydancer and his mother."
Sky looked up at his name. "Say what now?"
Sparks nodded. "Yes. The son will be linked with the mother, for his life, for hers."
A sudden banging on the door made them all, except Sparks, jump.
"My kin have arrived. Would the Freeman help in showing them in?"
Gordon nodded and opened the door.
There, three shivering vortigaunts stood and greeted him one by one in the usual custom: "Greetings to the Freeman. Balak kaa."
"Shais'o. We will begin then. If the Skydancer touches his hoof with our claw, the process can begin," Sparks said, after greeting his brothers in their own language.
Skydancer nodded silently and gazed up at the four strange creatures and tentatively touched his hoof against Sparks' outstretched claw.
He felt a warm tingling as the vorts began humming in their own language, and a sudden jolt of what felt like lightning surged through him.
"Sky...dancer?" his mother's shaky voice asked.
"Mother!" he cried happily and hugged her prone form. "We did it!"
"Did what, my child?"
"The process is complete." Sparks said contentedly.
Hurricane looked around and gasped at the vortigaunts and human gathered around herself and her son. "W-what are y-you?"
"We are Vortikai. Vortiguants in your tongue, lady pegasi," Sparks said with respect. "We bonded the son's soul with the mother's."
Hurricane frowned and nuzzled her son's head buried in her mane. "So... we are free to go?"
"Yes mother. Gordon helped us escape," Sky looked up and beamed at Gordon, tears streaming down his face.
Gordon smiled sheepishly and raised his hands in modest protest.
Hurricane followed her son's gaze and looked up at Gordon, then broke ito a huge smile and hugged him. "Thank you for rescuing my children. Where are they?"
Sky took his mother's hoof and helped her off the table. "The're down this way. C'mon," he eagerly pulled her gently. She laughed and trotted after him.
The vorts conversed in themselves while Gordon watched.
"If the Freeman will assist?" Sparks asked.
Gordon snapped his head up and tilted it slightly.
"We require a certain device. We think you know that of which we speak," another of the vorts said.
Gordon felt pale.
"We believe he does. The Borealis is their hope."
Gordon felt like he wanted to die. That infernal boat had brought nothing but disaster ever since it was first created all those decades ago. He nodded sullenly.
"We know the location of the ship. It is not in the Arctic. It is merely just south, over the mountains," Sparks' brother said.
Gordon raised his head with wide eyes.
The vorts all nodded.
The HEV clad scientist picked himself up and went off to find Alyx and Barney with a grin on his face.
Twilight and Luna widened their eyes at hearing Celestia's dream.
"So... the human in the suit... who is he, exactly?" Luna asked.
Celestia shook her head. "I'm afraid I have no idea. I've only met a few humans before, many, many years ago. None of them resembled or sounded like this suited man."
Twilight blinked in confusion. "You've met humans before?"
"Yes my student. Millennia ago. One male and one female. I still do not know exactly where they went. And a few centuries later, I met some more," Celestia fell silent and contemplated who these men in her dreams were.
"And the other one. The one in armour? Who is he?" Luna asked again.
Celestia shook her head. "I do not know, sister. But I do know that the suited man seeks to use the armoured man. The Free Man as he is called. Perhaps the suited man wishes to enslave people, and the Free Man wishes to free them? I truly do not know."
"Hmmm," Twilight murmured and scratched her chin. "Perhaps there's something in the archives?"
Celestia shook her head. "I've already tried that my dear. I tried a few weeks before I saw the light."
"Oh," Twilight murmured and slumped down. "So there's nothing?"
The princess shook her head. "No. Not a thing. We can only hope it doesn't happen again."
"If I may make a suggestion, sister," Luna said quietly.
The princess and the student turned to her. "Yes?"
"Well... what if they were trying to contact you? What if everything you dreamt was really happening? And perhaps the armoured man was coming to warn us about the suited man?" the younger sister said, letting her imagination speak for a change.
Celestia sighed. "Perhaps. But I truly do not know. I just..." she took a deep breath and Twilight saw tears in her eyes. "Just... don't know..." the princess wept quietly.
Luna wrapped her wings around the crying princess and turned to Twilight. "You could go now, if you wish."
The student nodded. "I know. But don't you think I should stay for a bit?"
Luna nodded. "I think it might help he," she said as she cradled the now sleeping Celestia's head.
Twilight smiled. "Then I'll see you in the morning. Good night princess."
The princess nodded and smiled back. "I'll stay with Tia for a while, then go raise the moon."
Twilight smiled and left the infirmary.
The night princess kissed the top of her big sister's head and felt their heartbeats beat against each other. "I'm glad you're back Tia," she whispered.
They lay there for a while, then Luna quietly lay her sister's head down on the pillow and began her nightly duties.
"You mean the vorts know where the Borealis is?" Alyx asked incredulously.
Gordon nodded, and Sparks confirmed it. "Indeed it is, Alyx Vance. We will take you, and the ponies, there as soon as they are able."
"We're ready to go home," Hurricane said and huddled her children behind her. "Skydancer, take your sisters and brothers. Keep them safe. I'll be along shortly."
"Yes mama," Sky obeyed and led his siblings away.
Hurricane turned to Gordon and hugged him again, wrapping a hoof around his waist.
Gordon patted her on the back feeling awkward.
"Thank you Gordon. Your name suits you. For you are the Free Man."
Alyx and Barney laughed. "Yep. That's Gordon," they said in unison.
Odessa clapped his hands and smiled. "Well. I must stay here with the troops. Stay safe out their everyone. And pony."
"We will, major," Barney saluted and shook the major's hand.
"Stay safe yourself, major," Alyx said and shook his hand.
"I'll try m'dear. Hope you find what you are searching for."
Barney clapped his hands. "Alright, guys. Seen as how there's only enough room for... one, two, three... six ponies plus myself and Alyx, Gordon'll have to use his grapple to hold onto the edge. That alright G?"
Gordon shrugged and tinkered with his wrist attachment.
"Now hold on one second, Mr Calhoun," Hurricane started up. "I will not sit by like an idle wretch while the saviour of my children hangs underneath this strange metal bird. We are pegasi. We can fly."
Barney slapped his forehead. "Oh yeah, I completely forgot about that. Sorry ma'am."
Hurricane laughed. "It's alright. Nopony calls me ma'am by the way," she added with a coy smile.
Barney felt his temperature rise. "All... alright then. Gordon why don't you get in the co-pilot seat, Alyx you stay in the back and keep an eye on the ponies. The ones not flying." he said and eyed the youngest fillies. "Can they fly when they're that old?"
Hurricane chuckled lightly. "Mr Calhoun. Pegasi are born flying. We'll be fine."
"If you're sure," Barney murmured as he took the controls, and the pegasi began beating their wings powerfully. "Here we go."
Gordon sat in his co-pilot seat and grinned at Alyx, who grinned back. "Almost there," she said.
He nodded and turned his attention back to the flight controls.
"Doctor Freeman..." a voice whispered.
Gordon groaned and put his head in his palms.
"I see you've found the ponies. Excellent. I have great... plans for them. Perhaps... no. I won't tell you just yet. See you soon, doctor," the G-Man's voice floated out from the darkness of the night, and made the hair on Gordon's chin stand on end.
For the first time since the Black Mesa incident; Gordon Freeman was scared. Not just for himself, but for his friends. Ponies included.
"G? You OK?" Barney asked him.
He shook his head and gave the thumbs up sign, smiling weakly.
"You should get some rest. It must be tiring being the saviour of a different race." Barney chuckled.
Gordon grinned and put his hands behind his head, eager to see just what the Borealis was.
Celestia stirred in her hospital bed.
"Don't open the Borealis..." she whispered in her sleep. "Don't..."