HL: Industrial Disease

by Tom Ingram

Previously…

A vent in the compactor led me outside. For a little while I’m in the mountains proper, looking up for the first time at the imposing figure of the Black Mesa facility from a vantage point that is truly outside. But this little canyon is closed off. There’s no way out except climbing up the sides or finding a way back into Black Mesa. It’s not pleasant, but there’s still work to be done. I’m not finished here.

I co-opt what looks like a big industrial pump and use it as an elevator. At the bottom of its chamber is another vent. I emerge from the other end in a dank factory floor done up nicely in grey concrete, rusty metal, and warning signs. A big vat nearby is labelled “Hazardous Waste”. A security guard runs along, and I follow him, but he runs right into the tongue of a barnacle and is eaten before I can do anything about it. I take his gun–a little morbid, but I can’t let it go to waste. This hallway works out to a dead end, so I return to the big vat.

I climb up to the rim and hop across solid chunks of…stuff floating around. At the other end of the vat is a little tunnel, probably a pipeline of some kind. It’s clear, and just large enough to crawl through. This takes me into a larger room filled with more vats. This level continues the theme of industrial equipment being uncannily similar to torture devices. After passing through this room, I face, among other things, giant underwater turbines, heavy stamping machines, conveyor belts, heavy stamping machines on conveyor belts, rollers (on conveyor belts), and one thing that I swear looks like a set of jaws that want to eat you.

But it’s actually a short chapter with very little to do and no dialogue. The only enemies are what few headcrabs and barnacles have made it down here. The main thing is that by the time it’s over, I’ve picked up a new magnum and some satchel charges. At the other end of the residue processing factory, I climb out into a room filled with houndeyes. At this point I have very little health and no armour left, and five of them in close quarters can do a lot of damage very quickly. I don’t like using the magnum on such weak enemies, but if I don’t kill them quickly, I’m dead. I pull it out and fire off five shots, one each. Now that they’re dead, I look at the scenery in the room: it’s filled with kennels.

I proceed into a darkened laboratory room. Computers line the walls, and there’s a wide column in the middle. The door on the other end is locked, but there’s a button on a nearby console. I press the button and behind me glass shatters. I turn around to see that the column was actually some kind of stasis chamber, and inside is a bulky Xenian creature that looks very angry. It fires little projectiles out of its hand that bounce around the room, eating away at my health. I unload a pile of magnum rounds into it until it drops down, leaving a yellow splatter on the wall behind it.

Another lab has some headcrabs trapped in a cage, with what looks like an experimental teleporter above them. Curious, I turn it on. It zaps them, all right, but judging by the stains I don’t think it teleported them anywhere. As I leave this lab, I’m attacked by a lone marine, and there are more up ahead in the lobby. They must have gotten here shortly before I did, because they seem to be in the process of securing the building. As I enter the rest of the labs, I hear a scientist and a guard talking about an experimental weapon. The scientist warns him not to overload it, and immediately afterward something explodes.

I don’t investigate it yet. There’s still plenty of killing to be done before I can feel safe exploring. As I work my way through, I recover most of my weapons, including the rifle, shotgun, and tranquilizer. I also discover a new weapon in a squishy alien pod thing: a little one-eyed screaming bug that I can throw around. I honestly didn’t remember that from the first play-through. It seems to me a rather odd thing to use as a weapon.

Eventually I find and activate a number of consoles that control a laser at the centre of the lab. When it fires, a shield is supposed to come down to prevent it from damaging the wall, but I block the shield and let the laser do its work. Through the wall I find a team of scientists hiding from the military. The conventional route into their cranny is blocked by the “surgical unit”, which looks like a couple of buzzsaw blades attached to big spinning arms hanging from the ceiling. I can’t imagine how you’d do surgery with something like that. The surgical unit has gone rogue, but I am able to slip past and shut it off. The scientists offer to open the locked exit in the lobby, and I take them up on it, but not before backtracking and finding the experimental weapon: the Tau Cannon.

This chapter raises the same question as the one with the ichthyosaur. These labs contain aliens, not ones that have teleported in, but ones that are carefully restrained and monitored, and must have been here for some time. The resonance cascade is only the tipping point, where the aliens started to come through to Earth in force. Before then, long before, something was up. Exactly “what we were doing down here” is never explained fully and may never be, but the conspiracy runs deep. I don’t even know how far I can trust the science team.

I go outside and find a soldier standing over three dead scientists against a wall. He must have executed them. I fire at him before he sees me and move on. It’s hell out here. Completely under military control. That means more than regular soldiers–tanks, planes, artillery, snipers. The end is near, and the military is mustering all its forces against me. I’m out in the open and, without full confidence in the support of the science team, all alone. It’s not a nice place to be.

Next: Reckoning.


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