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BreenGrub

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"A host body? You must be joking, I can't possibly— Oh all right, damn it, if that's what it takes!"
Dr. Breen[src]
Concept art from Episode Three of Dr. Breen in his host body, often called "BreenGrub".

"BreenGrub" is the name of a Twitter account created by Half-Life series writer Marc Laidlaw that was used to tell a "fanfic"[1] story based on Dr. Breen that followed the events of Half-Life 2. It is also the name used to describe Breen's form in his host body, as further employed by Laidlaw in his other "fanfic" short story Epistle 3. Although it has yet to appear in any canonical Half-Life title, the term and its related concepts have since been widely adopted by the community.

"BreenGrub" Twitter account[edit]

The last seen activity on the BreenGrub account.

The BreenGrub account was registered on Twitter on May 31, 2012 and would be periodically active over the next two years, making a total of 180 tweets during that time. Its profile picture was set as the texture of the cut juvenile Advisor from Episode Two, and no other profile information was included. While never explicitly stated, it can be inferred that the account's posts convey a story being told from the perspective of Dr. Breen, albeit not the same individual who took part in the events of Half-Life 2. Rather, the narrator describes himself as being a previously stored consciousness of Breen's that has been imprinted into a host body, the larval stage or "grub" of an Advisor. The account goes into detail summarizing the history of the Advisor's race, revealing that they're also subjugated and restrained servants of the Combine. Although expressed in written form, the nature of these messages imply they're being broadcast in a radio transmission format as the signal occasionally drops out or is interrupted by other transmissions. By the end, it seemingly becomes hijacked by a different party with sinister intentions.

During its first outset of tweets in 2012, the BreenGrub account received little notice. It was only with the second batch of tweets a year later in 2013 that the account amassed a great deal of attention, namely after Marc Laidlaw himself tweeted about it.[2] While his authorship at this point was uncertain, it was noted that Laidlaw and Bill Van Buren, both Valve employees, were the account's first two followers.[2][3] This quickly led to speculation in the community that this BreenGrub account could be related to a new development in the series, potentially even being part of an ARG for the long-awaited Episode Three as had been recently done for the release of Portal 2.[2] However, in the following days, Laidlaw would admit to being behind the account so as to put an end to the increasing speculation, confirming that it was simply him writing his own fan fiction surrounding Dr. Breen for fun.[1][4][5]

After remaining inactive for the rest of 2013, the BreenGrub account would make its last series of tweets over the course of 2014, beginning with some cryptic messages at the start of the year and concluding with more substantial messages in June and July. This final sequence of tweets appeared to bring an end to the narrative, and the account ceased posting afterwards.

Synopsis[edit]

Tweet archive[edit]

The following table lists all 180 tweets made on the BreenGrub account in chronological order.

Epistle 3[edit]

Main article: Epistle 3

BreenGrub, appearing under the obfuscated and genderswapped code name "Bree-Slug", is featured in Laidlaw's other fan fiction short story Epistle 3. Released in 2017, several years after the BreenGrub Twitter account had ceased activity and a year after Laidlaw had retired from Valve, the story recounts a summary of the events following Episode Two's cliffhanger ending, hence effectively acting as the plot for Episode Three.[6] It goes into greater detail describing the specifics of the being's circumstances.

In the course of the story, while Gordon and Alyx are searching the Arctic for the Borealis, they briefly find themselves being detained by an unknown force. Rather than the Combine, these are the subordinates of Dr. Breen. Previously assumed dead, they discover that an earlier version of Breen's consciousness had been preserved by the Combine, and following his physical demise atop the Citadel, they had imprinted this backup personality into a biological blank that resembled a massive slug. (While not stated here, BreenGrub's tweets indicate this host body is the larval form of an Advisor.) Here dubbed "the BreenGrub", this replication of Breen held a position of relative power in the Combine hierarchy. He nonetheless feared Gordon as, although he did not know how his original human incarnation had died, he was aware Gordon was responsible.

Despite previously being their adversary, Breen confessed that he himself was a prisoner of the Combine's rule and that he no longer wished to exist any longer in this grotesque form. Pleading with the two to end his life, Alyx believed he didn't deserve a quick death, but Gordon felt some pity. When out of her sight, it's mentioned that Gordon did something to help hasten Breen's demise.

Concept art[edit]

On August 28, 2022, several unseen pieces of concept art from Episode Three were released to the public by a private collector of Valve memorabilia who had acquired them from a former Valve employee.[7][8] Two of these concepts, both by Ted Backman as indicated by his signature, pertain to depictions of the Combine's host bodies that are alluded to in the series.

The first illustrated piece offers the first identified visual depiction of Dr. Breen in his host body, quickly becoming associated with the "BreenGrub" moniker by fans. The artwork portrays Breen in a grotesque slug form that possesses a protruding deformed human head with two ears on one side of his face and a single emaciated arm. A sculpture of Breen's bust from Half-Life 2 sits alongside him. The second piece is a model render for another slug-like creature with scant human features that's specified as being an "Advisor Host Body", resembling the form of a juvenile Advisor that was cut from Episode Two. No dates are provided with any of these pieces, making it unknown as to when these concepts were created.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw goes back to Breen with fanfiction Twitter account on PCGamesN (May 22, 2013)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 BreenGrub's twitter on the Steam Users' Forums (May 14, 2013) (archived)
  3. Twitter favicon.png Tweet: "Long story short: @BreenGrub's first two followers are @MarcLaidlaw and @bill_vb. Might be a "canon" ish account." @Marlamin on Twitter (May 16, 2013)
  4. Twitter favicon.png Tweet: "I am strongly anti-troll so let me be clear: @BreenGrub is me having fun with some things that I love. It's not an ARG. It is what it is." @MarcLaidlaw (Marc Laidlaw) on Twitter (May 16, 2013)
  5. Twitter favicon.png Tweet: "For all I know, confessing @BreenGrub will completely kill the fun of writing it. But I'd rather stop it than make people crazy speculating." @MarcLaidlaw (Marc Laidlaw) on Twitter (2013)
  6. Epistle 3 on Marc Laidlaw's personal website (August 25, 2017) (archived)
  7. Twitter favicon.png Tweet: "High-res scans of Half-Life 2: Episode 3/Half-Life 3 concept art (previously teased by @DominusNoctis as part of his *extensive* Valve collection)." @LambdaGen (LambdaGeneration) on Twitter (August 28, 2022)
  8. New Half-Life 2: Episode Three Concept Art Reveals What Could Have Been on Kotaku (August 30, 2022)

External links[edit]