Doing the Grunt-work: Third Part - Assault
Posted By: Dagorath<email@example.com>
Date: 21 May 2005, 3:14 AM
"They're here!" cried Sor to the Jackal patrol coming round the corner. "The Covenant is here!"
An elder Jackal frowned. "What?" He frowned. "If you're lying - "
"Why would I lie about that? They're here, I tell you!"
The elder Jackal looked out, while the rest of the patrol stood by. The plains were hot and the heat haze affected vision but the blue trail of the crashed Phantom was clearly visible.
"I hoped I would never live to see this day," said the elder. He turned to the patrol. "Alert the colony! The Covenant is here!"
As one, the patrol ran off to notify the rest of the heretics, which was the Covenant's collective term for heretics, rebels and atheists alike. Sor was left all alone again. He could feel tears prickle his eyelids. Just when he had thought he had escaped them, they were here.
He was not alone. The elder Jackal put his gnarled hand on his shoulder. "You'll never have to do their grunt-work for them again, boy. Either we win or we fall. Those are the only two options."
Sor did not find it overly cheerful.
The Covenant troops charged down the hill, yelling various war cries as they pelted towards the Forerunner structure in a well-ordered formation. The Elites were on one ring, the Brutes on the other. The Jackals ran in the middle, swinging their shields, and the Grunts ran in a very disorderly crowd behind. The whole group strafed in a diagonal pattern, dodging the pink blasts from the heretics' beam rifles.
But it didn't work. Soon, the Grunts were utterly exhausted and even the Elites were finding it hard to sprint and shoot the heretics at the same time. They needed a change of tactic.
Retreating to the hoots of the heretics that carried on the wind, the strike team retreated to the cover of the forest. The Brown Elite, who had ordered the charge in the beginning, was unfazed and promptly presented his Plan B.
"You," he said, pointing at a few Elites and Brutes, seemingly oblivious of their ancient rivalry, "each pilot a Shadow each. The remainders sit in them or man the turret. Then circle the heretics' den while the rest of the team approaches the structure at a light jog. You should be able to distract them enough. Just remember to use the turret and shoot liberally, and strafe so they can't get a lock on you." He smiled self-satisfyingly. "Got it?"
There was a voice of dissension, and it came unexpectedly from The Elite. "That is ridiculous!" he cried, in a rare fit of temper. "The Shadows will get boarded or destroyed far too quickly. Even with the most advanced techniques and most accurate shooting, there is no way they can hold out until the main force arrives and still stay intact. Only a Demon can complete that kind of mission!"
The Brown Elite was livid. "You, a mere Elite Minor, dare challenge my authority?"
"Yes, I do! Your plan will never work!" He turned to the strike force, some of which were actually listening to him with interest, including the irrepressible Saphos, who, with the rest of The Elite's Grunt team, was listening rapturously, trying in vain to apply some peer pressure onto the rest of the strike team to listen. "Send one of the Ghosts back for the Phantom. It is heavily armoured and has powerful plasma cannons. Then we will all get on the Shadows and Ghosts. There might be a few Banshees back at the crashed Phantom as well. With all these vehicles, all Elites, Brutes, Jackals, and most of the Grunts can travel to the structure quickly."
There was a smattering of applause. The Elite smiled a bit shyly. He could see Saphos and the other Grunts clapping enthusiastically. Little fools. They probably understood ten percent of that.
"I will recommend you to the commander," said an aged Elite in red. "That is a good tactic. If it works I will have you promoted." He turned to the rest of the strike team. "Carry out his orders! Now!"
The enthusiastic Covenant soldiers ran off to do as he bid, including Saphos and the rest of The Elite's team. But if the little Grunt had looked back, however, he would have seen murder in the Brown Elite's eyes as he glared at The Elite.
Back at the Forerunner structure, all was chaos. The Jackals milled around, putting on armour and activating shields, while the Brutes got their rarely fired Brute shots and Brute plasma rifles and practiced forgotten techniques on them. Behind closed doors near the centre of the structure, a furious debate raged between the Brute and Jackal leaders.
"There are a total of about twenty Brutes here. We form two strike teams of ten. The Covenant forces number at about sixty, but they have much more powerful firepower and vehicles. How I see it is for all Jackals to take up defensive positions and the Brutes will slam into them in a pincer move when they get near." The main Brute, a Lieutenant back in his Covenant days, sat down, open to questions from the floor.
"We are in this together! The Jackals will aid the Brutes in the assault!" cried a Jackal, waving his pistol.
"At least thirty Jackals must stay on sniping duty," interjected another Jackal.
"I'm frightened," said whimpered Jackal.
"To hell with you weaklings! We did most of the work here! May the gods devour you!" cried an enormous Brute. "You lot have been nothing but hangers-on when - "
"Watch your language, you brute!" yelled a Jackal! "There's twenty of you and a hundred of us! I'll stick an energy sword in you one day!"
"Getting tough, huh, are we?" jeered another Brute. "You wanna fight?" He put his arms around another two of his fellows and bellowed.
"Let's not get this out of hand!" roared the Lieutenant Brute. "We're all friends here! Let us settle our differences afterwards. Why must brothers fight when the wolf is at the door?"
At his angry words, the audience quietened. He continued: "The Brutes will attack their Shadow transports. It is the job of fifty Jackals to follow us and give aid. You can be a shield for us to fall back on. The other fifty will man the turrets and snipe. Reserve ten of your best for preservation of our inmost chamber, where we keep - "
"We know what we keep there," said an old Jackal. "He is right. We should not settle disputes now: let us first take care of the Covenant. We outnumber them two to one!"
There was silence. Then gradually, applause broke out, ragged and not very enthusiastic. Hoots and jeers rang out, mainly from the Brutes.
The Lieutenant shouted for silence, and then said: "Nonetheless that is what we will do. Move it, you sluggards!"
One moment, there was nothing. The dry wind swept the ragged grass across the plain. The Forerunner structure fired yet another blue bolt into the pristine sky, like someone reaching for freedom. The next, two purple Shadows slid easily across the prairie, escorted by a few Ghosts and some whining Banshees. A small dark dot behind the vehicles showed the Grunts who had to run.
Saphos had actually managed to squeeze in between a few sweaty Jackals, and now he extended his small head as high as it would go and tried to taste the fresh wind. No time had he done an assault in such style. The previous times, he had been unceremoniously asked to charge in to an enemy infested area while the larger Covenant soldiers followed.
To him, war was all a game to him. There was always a childlike attitude about the Grunts. But it was hard to identify what really made them crack under the strain. They always joked, even if their dead comrades lay about them. Always cheerful, the Grunts ran into enemy dens and fired at will, until enough of them were killed that they got frightened. But it never seemed to make a very large impact on them if they saw fellow Grunts fall.
Saphos himself had a different view on such a matter. Unknown to most of the Covenant, the Grunts had a secret religious book, in which was described the heights to which the Grunts could reach if they banded together. However, any adherence to the vision, combined with the Grunts' natural stupidity, had simply branded the involved persons as heretics and they had promptly been exterminated. Saphos himself believed that one day, if they acted together, the Grunts could overthrow the Prophets' iron rule and establish their own empire. Before then, any losses were insignificant, compared to the great battle that will have to be fought to gain their independence.
In truth, Saphos cried when no one was listening: in lavatories, even in the dorms. He knew every single Grunt he saw die: Grunts actually had an amazing memory for names. He still thought about them when he was alone, but one had to move on. The Grunts, and especially Saphos, lived for today.
A smack on the chest from one of the Jackals nearby. Saphos jerked his head up to see that the Shadow had neared the Forerunner building and had now begun firing. The Shadow turret spat and glowed as the Elite controlling it fired at the turrets set upon the decks above them.
"Fire, you little bastard!" said one of the Jackals, bringing his own plasma pistol to bear.
Saphos, sighing lightly, picked up his needler, but he could find nothing to shoot in the chaos. The doors to the structure were carefully closed. Despite the serious mood of the day, he began to hum softly.
A loud bellow from the Brutes, and cries of "Heretics! Heretics!" as the two strike teams of Brutes with fifty Jackals emerged from the structure. They fired hard at the Shadows, and Saphos saw one of the Jackals next to him fall. He hurriedly scrambled away as another hit where he had just stood.
The Brutes, fueled by the steely desperation of despair, brought down one Banshee and two Ghosts, as well as many Grunts and Jackals, as well as a smattering of Elites and Brutes, before they were finally blasted to bits in a blaze of glory. The surviving Jackals, including the ones on the turrets and sniping, retreated into the interior of the structure. Saphos looked over the rest of the troop. The total was now less than fifty. He was happy to see, however, that The Elite had suffered no injuries and was currently swapping his depleted plasma rifle for a carbine.
The doors of the installation loomed up. The Shadows slowed, and then stopped. The Elite jumped lightly onto the grassy floor and said: "Call in the Phantom. We shall need its guns for this."
Over the hills, the undamaged Phantom swooped over and delivered powerful blasts into the door. Built though it was by the Forerunners, nothing could have survived that barrage, and it promptly smashed open, falling onto a few startled Jackals.
The strike team split up into small teams: Elites and Grunts, Jackals, Brutes and Jackals, and Elites.
Picking up his carbine, The Elite motioned to his Grunts. "Let's move in," he said.
Saphos ran gaily behind him, waving his needler. He had never had so much fun in his life.