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Doing the Grunt-work: Second Part - A Short Jog
Posted By: Dagorath<hoyinshan@gmail.com>
Date: 11 May 2005, 12:15 PM

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Sor the Jackal was staring at the sky, always on guard. Having gone renegade with a hundred of his fellows and some Brutes, his whole life had been one long, vigilant wait.
      Why had he done it? In the beginning, everything had looked bright and hopeful. Having escaped the military life of High Charity and managed to hide on this deserted paradise, he thought he could finally do what he wanted to do. There was water, green grass, companionship....what more could he ask for?
      They had found an abandoned Forerunner building deep within the jungle. It had been perfect: large enough that each could have his/her own space, small enough to guarantee safety within the pack. The group was mainly comprised of Jackals, but the Brutes did their bit with the clearing of the debris and posting guards around the installation. In the good days that followed, Sor had been able to appreciate the life in the jungle, the beauty of the sky, that primeval joy one had when one was in the great outdoors with not a care.
      Their joy had been ruined three days ago. They had seen a Seraph make a cursory flight over their territory. It was obviously a scout.
      In three short days, the renegades had been shaken out of their dormancy and into the state of highest alert. The Brutes and Jackals made regular patrols around the installation; in addition Shade turrets were mounted around the building with eager Jackals ready to shoot down any purple Covenant ships.
      Sor swung round another 45 in his Shade. And then he saw it.
      Two purple Phantoms were gliding down from space. They swept along smoothly, but suddenly blue sparks flew from the second Phantom. There were small explosions along its hull, and then while the first Phantom watched rather uncertainly, the second Phantom lost all control and plunged into the undergrowth. The first Phantom landed beside it, deep in the jungle.
      It had finally come. His small frail body trembling wildly, Sor jumped off the Shade and ran to the nearby Jackal patrol which was rounding the corner. In his mind, there was only one thought.
      I will find the bodies of the Covenant who crashed and throw them down a dark pit lined with spikes. They have stolen everything from me.

The Phantom smashed into the treetops like a purple flaming bolt from the heavens. All the passengers were thrown towards the nose of the transport. There were sounds of bones cracking and cries of pain, as well as screams of delight, all from the irrepressible Grunts.
      The damaged transport finally came to a halt, having entrenched itself in the leafy forest floor.
      Saphos and the rest piled out of the Phantom. Many of the Grunts nursed broken bones and/or bruises; Saphos himself was relatively unhurt, having only suffered a bruise when his arm collided with The Elite's hard thigh armour, no less.
      They had emerged into a soft green paradise. The lead Elite, a stocky brown-armoured giant, stood before them.
      "According to the pathfinder," he pointed to a luminous globe in his calloused hands, "the heretics' base should be due east of here. The other Phantom has landed nearby in a clearing. We will first move north to meet them before moving east."
      He swept his gaze over the troops. A few Grunts had died from blows to the head during the crash, but the other races had suffered no casualties: only the Jackals had had some injuries amidst their number. He nodded: no one ever cared about Grunt casualties.
      "Let's go," he said, and the whole troop jogged off into the undergrowth.
      It was grueling for the Grunts: their height inhibited them as brambles that the Elites stepped over blocked them; roots that tripped the Brutes were a blow to the shin; what a Jackal might have shrug off were a hindrance to them.
      Saphos talked through the whole march. In between his exhausted pants, struggling to hold on to his weapon, he let his imagination run wild and spun off story after story about his own exploits, embellishing so much that even he was embarrassed at its falsity. But the other Grunts loved it.
      After half an hour of crashing through the undergrowth and general swearing, the contents of the crashed Phantom finally made it to where the other Phantom had landed. The Grunts, having completely exhausted themselves, flung themselves onto the ground, panting hard.
      After a short break, they were off again, though at a slower pace as the other races were conserving their energy for the big fight when the reached the heretics' base. Two Shadow transports accompanied them, but as usual the Grunts had to run alongside, the seats having been reserved for the Elites and Brutes and Jackals.
      The Elite, strangely, jogged lightly beside them, providing a commentary on how to handle needlers and pistols. Having finally realized that his Grunts' enormous casualties were largely due to pathetic aiming, they spent the entire journey practicing firing at trees and birds.
      Saphos found that, in the end, he could actually aim better. Perhaps he was a faster learner; perhaps he just got repeated flukes. But he was the best shot in his team. Something to talk about on those long journeys.
      With almost a tangible noise, the strike force appeared out of the forest. Before them lay a flat prairie, and smack bang in the middle was the Forerunner building.
      The Brown Elite stood before them once more. His face looked even more menacing than normal. "Let's move in boys," he said.
      As one man, the entire troop, even the Grunts (which had rehearsed it many times), cried: "For the Covenant!" and charged down the hill.