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The world is shattered. A disastrous scientific experiment in the New Mexico desert cast humanity into a cosmic conflict, resulting in the occupation of earth by the despotic Combine empire. Under the aegis of the human collaborator Doctor Breen, the meagre remains of humanity have begun their gradual assimilation into the Combine war machine.
It would be almost two decades before humanity, led by a team of scientists, took up arms against their oppressors. But before that time, before the return of the mysterious "One Free Man", a desperate struggle for survival took place. Between the Combine prisons masquerading as cities and the dangerous wastelands of earth populated by alien fauna, those living between the cracks of the new regime eke out a living in hidden compounds and the crumbling ruins of civilisation.
In the midst of this period three such people find themselves drawn, each in their own way, to a strange, half-destroyed American city called Franklin, wherein they find a group of survivors who have paid a terrible price for their freedom. Once inside, they discover a powerful secret, but the city holds many dangers, deceptive temptations, and the promise of a freedom that could restore everything they have lost...