Frontline 12: A shady business

Posted February 9th 2006

This is Radio WRKX broadcasting, coming to you once more from the tumbling wonder known as Halo. And as you join us, our roving reporter Suzie Hoffenblatt has made her way to an eerily quiet night-time enemy encampment beneath an enormous hovering ship. A big blue enemy Elite patrols up and down nearby as Suzie prepares to have a few words with a much shorter fin-backed fellow sitting in a hovering seat, manning a strange three-legged gun affair. I wonder what he's got to say. Hear it all from the frontline, only on Radio WRKX. Take it away Suzie…

Suzie: So Mr Grunt, how are things with you this evening?

Mr G: Oh fine Suzie. No enemy movement to report. Especially no cyborgs running around shooting up the place, which is always good I think.

Suzie: I'm sure. But if there was a naughty cyborg shooting at you, it looks to me like you'd have the upper hand with that fearsome looking contraption you're manning.

Mr G: Ah, you mean my Shade turret. Heh, you'd think so wouldn't you. But just between you and me, it looks a lot scarier than it really is.

Suzie: Really? How so?

Mr G: Well for starters you can't see a darned thing once you start firing.

Suzie: Sounds a bit of a drawback.

Mr G: Actually it probably doesn't matter much because it goes all over the place anyway.

Suzie: Oh dear. What goes all over the place, exactly?

Mr G: The pink light. That's what it fires. Oh yes. You want pink light, we've got it by the bucketload.

Suzie: Well I don't have any immediate need just at the moment thanks; maybe later. Does it hurt?

Mr G: Well, not much unless you catch it close up. But it does tickle a bit.

Suzie: Not ideal against rampaging cyborgs then, for example.

Mr G: That depends. Is he ticklish?

Suzie: I doubt it.

Mr G: Darn. Ok then but the light does look very pretty.

Suzie: So maybe he'll stop for a while to admire it?

Mr G: Exactly. And then maybe the Elite can sneak up and bash him on the head or something.

Suzie: Again, I doubt it. So from what you're saying, you're basically sitting on a giant tickling device that doubles as an attractive light-show.

Mr G: That's about the size of it Suzie, but you'd better not tell anyone. I think we're supposed to keep that a military secret.

Suzie: I did mention that we're going out live to several billion listeners including UNSC strategic planning, right?

Mr G: Oops.

Elite: Uoy nif-dekcab elttil niterc!

Mr G: Uh-oh, he's doing that talking-backwards thing again. Never a good sign. I think he blows a fuse in his head when he gets really angry. Did you make that out?

Suzie: No, but it didn't sound very complimentary.

Mr G: Oh great. He'll probably drop me on my head later. Thanks a bunch Suzie!

Suzie: Sorry. Do you get dropped on your head a lot then?

Mr G: Only four times this week so far. But see that guy stumbling around over there? He's on fifteen. Doesn't know whether he's coming or going.

Suzie: He'll be going over the edge if he doesn't watch it! And it's a long way down, I've looked.

Mr G: Well that's nothing new to us gunners Suzie. It's almost always a long way down when you're in one of these things. Bit disconcerting really. I don't know why they always have to put us so close to a big drop. You could have a real nasty mishap if a grenade comes in. Which it usually does. Sometimes I wonder if the Elites put us there on purpose so we'll go flying off and they'll never have to see us again.

Suzie: Surely not.

Mr G: Well, they're not the easiest fellows to get along with. Maybe they figure that seeing us flying off cliff edges is more fun than just dropping us on our heads all the time.

Suzie: Sounds like a pretty tough life being a Grunt.

Mr G: Tell me about it! Still, there's always the food nipple back on the ship to keep us going. That tends to take our minds off things.

Suzie: I'm sure. That's your ship up there right?

Mr G: Yep, that's the one. The 'Truth and Reconciliation'. Looks good huh?

Suzie: Yes, very nice. But the 'Truth and Reconciliation'? If you don't mind my saying, that name seems a bit out of keeping for the Covenant.

Mr G: Very true Suzie. A lot of people would've much preferred 'The Death and Annihilation' or something like that, but High Command had some lofty ideal or other to follow and we were pretty much stuck with it.

Suzie: I see. Did you have any ideas for the name?

Mr G: Me and my Grunt squad suggested the 'Nippleflyer 5', but High Command threw that suggestion out because they were already pretty mad about having to commission Nippleflyers 1 through 4. I mean, they do have to give us Grunts something to keep us happy, but this time they'd had enough.

Suzie: I hope you didn't take it too badly.

Mr G: Well they didn't have to be so mean about it when they sent back the rejection letter. There was a lot of talk about short legs and running away at the sound of a paper bag popping and stuff, which just seemed spiteful. Admittedly we are at our best when scattering to the hills in panic, but there's lots of other good stuff we do too.

Suzie: Such as?

Mr G: Well, accidentally shooting our squad Elite in the back helps keep him on his toes; and fumbling plasma grenades down around his ankles gives him a tremendous amount of leaping practice. You should see him go!

Suzie: Sounds like a pretty valuable service to me. At least for our side.

Mr G: Exactly! …Huh? What was that last bit?

Suzie: Oh nothing, nothing. So what goes on up in your ship?

Mr G: Usually not very much to be honest, but at the moment they've got some captured humans they're questioning. It's all a bit hush-hush, but I hear they've got the captain of an Earth ship we blew out of the sky.

Suzie: Really! I wonder if that was the 'Pillar of Autumn'.

Mr G: I didn't notice the name myself. I was too busy looking out of the portal going "Woo-hoo, heh-hay, yippee!" and so on. Had a great time I did. So much fun I almost wet myself.

Suzie: Well from what I've heard it doesn't take much.

Mr G: Whassat?

Suzie: Nothing. So anyway, if you've got the captain on board, maybe you'd better watch out. I imagine my side would quite like to get him back. Could be just the job for a big green cyborg!

Mr G: Ahhhh! Don't scare me like that, I'm only little.

Suzie: Romping though the night with his visor glinting in the moonlight!

Mr G: Stop! I'll have nightmares!

Suzie: Plasma gun at the ready, and a string of glistening Grunt skulls dangling around his neck, with room for just one more!

Mr G: No! Not me!

Suzie: There there, only teasing. I'm sure you've got nothing to worry about. Besides, how could they know the captain's here? I promise not to tell, and I'm sure our several billion listeners will promise too.

Mr G: Phew, that's ok then. For a moment I thought I'd said too much.

Suzie: Not at all Mr Grunt, you said just the right amount.

Elite: M'i gniog ot llik mih…

Mr G: Is he still at it? What's that about?

Suzie: Oh probably just mumbling to himself. So how about you lot down here then? I've been all along the path outside and it doesn't seem to go anywhere except to another big drop.

Mr G: Really? Gosh what a swindle. Our Elite told us there was a circus along there! Said we could go later in the week if we were good. I was really looking forward to that.

Suzie: That's a shame. But no circuses I'm afraid. No anything in fact, unless you count rocks.

Mr G: I do sometimes count rocks actually, when I'm bored. Well at least we can still play with the gravity lift over there. That's what we're guarding.

Suzie: I was wondering what that was.

Mr G: Maybe they'll let you have a go on it later. It's great. You go up and down and there are funny sparkly lights and everything. I could play for hours on that thing. It's quite a ride.

Suzie: Sounds fun. This piece of machinery you're manning looks to be something of a ride too. That appears to be a hovering seat you've got.

Mr G: That's right Suzie, it's held up by this nice wavy plasma effect. Like it?

Suzie: Oh yes, very pretty.

Mr G: Keeps the seat nice and toasty too! They thought of everything. Well, apart from the gun being much use that is, but I think I covered that earlier.

Suzie: And UNSC strategic planning thanks you for it I'm sure. I wonder, could I have a go up there?

Mr G: Sure, why not. I'll just hop down and stretch my legs. Not that they've got long to stretch, but I'll do the best I can, heh heh! Boof!

Suzie: I see what you mean. Gosh you're a stubby little critter aren't you!

Mr G: Certainly like to think so Suzie. Ok, your turn.

Suzie: Thanks, I'll hop in if I can manage. Yes, there we are. Oooh, isn't it nice? It's all floaty. I can swivel around and everything. And look, there's your squad Elite in my sights right now.

Mr G: He might not like that.

Suzie: Let me see… is this the firing mechanism? Pdoosh doosh doosh doosh!

Elite: Arrrh!

Mr G: Ulp.

Suzie: Oooh… pretty! I tickled him with the pink light. Hey this is fun, let me try that again. Pdoosh doosh doosh doosh doosh doosh!

Elite: Teg taht yzarc namuh tuo fo ereht uoy elppin-gnivol loof!

Mr G: Uh-oh, he's talking backwards again.

Suzie: I didn't catch it, did you?

Mr G: I think I'll be catching it later actually.

Suzie: Oh, he was probably just being playful. Didn't you see him dancing around? Let me just give him one more tickle, I think he quite likes it. Pdoosh doosh doosh doosh doosh!

Elite: Aaarrrrrgggggh!

Nearby Grunt: Casualty!

Mr G: Oh crikey, that's torn it.

Suzie: Oops. Looks like I've tickled him to death. You think I was a bit too close perhaps? Maybe I got a bit carried away there. Oh well, look on the bright side. At least he won't be dropping you on your head now.

Mr G: No, but I'm going to have some explaining to do when we get back to the ship.

Suzie: Hmmm… How about this? He was pacing up and down, but forgot to notice where he was going and stumbled clean off the edge in the darkness.

Mr G: Fiendish. But I like it! Suzie, you just play around on that thing all you want while me and the rest of the squad roll the eight-foot nasty over the edge.

Nearby Grunt: Can we shoot him first?

Suzie: I don't see why not.

Nearby Grunt: Woo-hoo, payback time! Zzp! Zzp! Take it, squid face! Zzp! Zzp!

Suzie: Golly, he seems to be enjoying that.

Mr G: With fifteen bumps on your head, wouldn't you? I've a mind to contribute a good kicking for that circus thing myself! Frankly he's had it coming for a while now. Anyway, thanks for the idea!

Suzie: My pleasure. And on that encouraging note of inter-species cooperation, it's back to the studio while I do a bit more swivelling on the tickling device! Wheeee…