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Doing the Grunt-work: First Part - The Ship
Posted By: Dagorath<hoyinshan@gmail.com>
Date: 9 April 2005, 9:43 AM

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Saphos and the rest of his regiment were slumped in their chairs, looking despondently at the large platefuls of thick, viscous yellow goo that lay in thick folds on their plates. The technological level of the Covenant might have advanced tenfold since its establishment, but the army kitchens still served the same old grunt-food from centuries ago: something they called a "Semi-liquid Starch Glutamate" but what the Grunts nicknamed "Monster Poo from Outer Space": as usual, the Grunts' imaginations had gotten the better of them.
      But it was all that the kitchens had to offer, and it was their lot. With a collective sigh, the Grunts picked up their spoons and started picking at the mush. Saphos could taste both the disgusting tubers and the weak artificial flavours they had mixed in.
      Halfway through his mush, something wet hit his skull above his earmuff. Putting his finger up, he touched it and smiled broadly. It was mush. And that only meant one thing.
      Scooping some of his mush up (covered as it was with his saliva, which he couldn't help) he threw some at a Grunt a few seats to the left. After his cry of surprise, the whole regiment started hurling the stuff around. Their orange armour and respirators were soon covered with the stuff, making them look like little piles of custard.
      Saphos mashed his whole bowl into another Grunt's face, but the other didn't respond. Turning around, he noticed that every Grunt was frozen, staring at something in the canteen doorway.
      He turned slowly, shaking mush from his face to see clearer with his eyes. There was something large and blue in the doorway.
      He raised his little hands to his eyes and brushed the rest of the goo off. What he saw made him know that he was in deep, deep trouble.
      An enormous Elite (at least in his eyes) stood in the doorway, already in his armour, twin plasma rifles and four grenades slung on his belt. His small, dark eyes watched with disapproval and his mandibles twitched as Saphos tried to explain.
       "We was....er....just tryin' tah...." He scratched his head, seeking inspiration. It came after almost a minute.
       "We was tryin' tah....eat our food!" he cried with sudden glee and relief. Surely he would believe them? Everyone knew Grunts were messy.
      Then again, maybe not that messy.
      After his fumbled explanation, Saphos finally recognized who the Elite was. It was the Elite. Saphos had always referred to his commander with a capital H, i.e. His food, His orders, report to Him. Why he could never tell, but it was something to do with the fact that He always treated them better than the other Elites treated Grunts; that He actually cared for their welfare, that He always protected them in the fights. Saphos believed that it was only his non-brutality that prevented him from ascending the ranks very quickly.
      Reminiscence over, Saphos stared at his commander again. He stared impassively back. The air actually seemed electric with tension, very rarely seen between a Grunt and an Elite. Usually the Elite just killed the Grunt on the spot, and applied for another one.
      After staring at the floor for a minute, The Elite finally spoke.
       "Come with me, all of you. We're starting for the surface."
      Relieved that he hadn't received some kind of punishment or worse, Saphos followed the rest of the team down the corridor of the battle cruiser, clumsily trying to wipe the goo off his armour.
      After a lot of running (The Elite was only walking, but the Grunts' short feet had to run to keep up) they arrived outside a tall door near the shuttle bay. Walking in, Saphos and the rest were confronted with a weapons specialist's dream: the long corridor inside was completely lined with every Covenant weapon available: plasma rifles, pistols, needlers, carbines, beam rifles, brute shots, energy swords and fuel rod guns.
       "Pistols and needlers only", said The Elite.
      There was a collective sigh from the Grunts as they picked up the same old weapons, while The Elite weighed a fuel rod gun in his hands appreciatively.
      A few minutes later, they had all piled into a waiting Phantom, along with Jackals, Elites, Brutes and Drones: all the other races of the Covenant. Hunters were far too risky for this kind of operation.
      The Grunts were endlessly optimistic. Having used the weapons they were now holding in their hands for every battle they had ever fought (and that was not many, because most Grunts were killed in the first charge. Blessed by The Elite's care for his troops and his own considerable cowardice, Saphos had survived a grand total of five battles, something which made him an object of admiration from the other Grunts.), the Grunts had concluded that they had a very high chance of winning, as they were so adept. They just couldn't figure out why all the other kinds of Covenant were so nervous, even the impassive Elites.
      They still did not realise what was so serious about the whole operation until they crash-landed on the lush green planet beneath.