They're waiting for you, Gordon.
In the Test Chamber.
Since I'm not much of a blogger, I think I might as well post this here instead for the heck of it. This is something me and some friends came up with after brainstorming for an hour.
Disclaimer: A lot of this is speculation that is based on canon events.
After the destruction of the facility, the HECU's homebase of Santego would've been placed under strict lockdown. No communication to the outside world unless it was directly with the federal government and no one in or out of the base until further notice.
Washington would attempt to hide the cover up as best as they could, pointing the finger at the Black Mesa Corporation for either a nuclear accident or possibly an attack. If attack is used as a cover story, this would allow the government to name suspects. Said suspects would be all facility personnel on the roster that were unaccounted for.
Using the powers at their disposal, the government would label these people as high value criminals. Anyone who escaped Black Mesa (such as Barney Calhoun) would have to flee the United States (or even the entire Western world for that matter) immediately. This "attack" would obviously raise grave concerns involving nuclear terrorism and future incidents.
An undetermined (but short) amount of time later, portal storms begin erupting. These storms (as seen in Episode Two) cause severe gravitational fluctuations. The portal storms caused widespread destruction and scattered aliens all over the planet. The destruction and rapid alien infestation had overwhelmed the world's governments.
With the planet quickly being overrun with Xenian species, countries began pulling back into more strategic positions. Major cities and other important hubs were walled off and the remnants of the world's militaries were charged with the defense of these safe zones against incursions.
As the portal storms raged, the citadels began touching down sometime during this period. They landed in almost every major city, blindsiding Earth completely. The citadels opened, unleashing vast armies of the Combine's synths. The military would've obviously been the first targets of the initial waves. The United Nations declares war on the invading Combine.
The fighting would've been amidst the rubble of cities and towns largely ruined by the portal storms before their arrival. Earth's militaries, having been long overwhelmed and starved of resources, offer little resistance to the Combine. Obliterating most of Earth's military forces, the Combine were now free to put humanity out of its misery.
Wallace Breen makes contact and manages to surrender Earth several hours after the war began. Breen had convinced the Combine that humanity was worth enslaving rather than outright destroying. He was appointed Earth's "administrator" and given headquarters in City 17, the location where the "prime" citadel had apparently landed.
Portal storms would continue across the planet, still causing widespread destruction. Most notably, the world's nuclear power grids would've been severely damaged during this period. Meltdowns would be occurring all across the globe, decimating the environment and contaminating vast portions of the freshwater supply. (This would explain the radioactivity of the rivers and canals all throughout HL2 and its Episodes.)
As word spreads of Earth's surrender, governments which could not afford to engage the Combine would likely join Breen's administration. Politicians who did not want to be axed would become puppets (just like Breen) to the Combine's will. Between these countries would lie the task of rebuilding usable safe zones, maintaining local/intercontinental transportation, mass relocation and controlling the population.
The puppet regimes mentioned above would be plagued by corruption and compete for the limited supplies and resources in the new world. Outside of the controlled areas, humanity would've adapted to the invasive alien species by this point. Outcasts, marauders and refugees would inhabit the outlands. These hardened survivors would form the backbone of the human Resistance movement.
Earth's surviving militaries would either be in hiding, working with the Resistance or working for the Combine. The "conscript" forces would consist of an early civil protection agency, who would be charged with policing the cities and towns, and then the military, who would be responsible for defense against wildlife incursions, quelling local uprisings, dealing with marauders, Resistance forces and anything else considered a viable threat to Breen's administration.
(Just to clarify: Technology such as the Combine APC, Helicopter and etc would come steadily over the years. Both conscripts and eventually Overwatch would see their use. Also, fun fact about the AR2: I believe the AR2 was relatively new at the time of Gordon's awakening. Completely replacing the Earth weapons in use by the Overwatch Elite units, while the Regular infantry were still in the process of transitioning to them and the Civil Protection not yet receiving them at all.)
As the first decade drew to a close, the Resistance would grow more organized with Vortigaunt allies and Eli Vance's leadership. All the meanwhile, the Combine would start perfecting breakthroughs they've made in transhuman experimentation. To dull the threat of rapidly growing numbers, the Combine installed a reproductive suppression field across their network of citadels around the globe.
(Since the destruction of the "prime" citadel in City 17 caused the suppression field to shutdown, it is safe to assume that it was somehow connected to the network of citadels that were also disabled with its destruction. This would make sense considering the field would've been very ineffective had it only been transmitting in/around City 17.)
Seeking to quickly integrate humanity into the empire, the Overwatch program is activated. This program would pool unwitting recruits from the militaries of their puppet regimes and then the best of civil protection officers, until eventually taking any able bodied human. Overwatch would quickly grow in numbers, replacing the decaying armies of an era long past.
Loyal to no government, home to no continent, the new transhuman legions were the gateway to the Combine's total control over humanity. At some point, the majority of the Combine's synth armies began leaving Earth, leaving few citadels to with enough synths to deploy in a moment's notice. (Being the headquarters, the City 17 citadel likely held the most remaining synth units.)
(People have asked why a random city in Eastern Europe would be made into the Combine’s headquarters and not a high profile location such as New York, Paris, London, Moscow and etc. Given that the citadels had touched down in almost every major city across the planet in no particular order, and with how the entire network requires one citadel to act as a primary node, it is merely a factor of where Citadel 17 landed. Which, as stated, could’ve been any major city.)
The Resistance would also have major gains and major losses during this period. Establishing an underground network within City 17 itself, mastering the art of reverse engineering Combine technology, advancing human teleportation methods and growing large enough to be a considerable threat to the new world order. However, none of it came without consequences.
The Combine responded by unleashing a devastating biological weapon. Weaponizing one of the more dangerous and invasive Xen species, free settlements and Resistance bases (such as Ravenholm) were saturated with headcrab canisters. The emerging parasites wreaked havoc, quickly infesting entire towns and either destroying or forcing their populations to scatter.
In the coastal regions, Overwatch frequently clashed with Resistance forces that held a wider presence due to their distance from civilization and the widespread Xenian wildlife. While the Combine had prior knowledge of Black Mesa East and the Resistance’s scientific advancements, they opted to gather intelligence rather than shut it down immediately. One of the empire’s goals on Earth was the acquisition of superior human teleportation methods.
(People have also asked why there are so many Anglo English speakers inside of a city located in Eastern Europe. For one thing, the mass-relocation over the past decades would play a huge part in the reason behind this. The western hemisphere would’ve been hit the hardest by the portal storms considering that North America is ground zero. Marc Laidlaw had also said in a statement that differing languages are spoken there, and that the Combine broadcasts would in fact transmit in multiple languages, but Valve lacked the development time to see such things through.)
Nevertheless, the Combine were secure. The Earth was being rapidly drained of its natural resources, humanity’s last generation was either filling the ranks of Overwatch or being enslaved as stalkers, and there was little even the Resistance at that time could do about it. As far as the empire was concerned, they posed little threat and were more of a nuisance. If the rebels needed to be crushed, they could’ve easily done it with their thumbs.
Approximately two decades has gone by since all of this began in New Mexico. At an unknown date and time in 202x, having been awoken from stasis by the mysterious G-Man, Gordon Freeman appears on a train enroute to City 17.
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