Frontline 4: The heavy brigade

Posted May 30th 2004

This is Radio WRKX broadcasting, coming to you live once more from the surface of Halo. This time our adventurous reporter Suzie Hoffenblatt has made her way into the centre of a remote desert island, where she's apparently found herself a piece of walking artillery to talk to. It's another frontline exclusive here on Radio WRKX. Take it away Suzie…

Suzie: Mr Hunter, thank-you for agreeing to talk with us, and may I just say right off the bat, goodness me you're enormous. You must be a good twelve feet tall!

Mr H: A pleasure Suzie, and yes, I am in fact enormous, as beasties go.

Suzie: Well, I'm really still getting over it. I mean, I bet that if they hollowed you out, they could stuff half a dozen Grunts inside and still have space left over for a good-sized fruit stall.

Mr H: Hah! That's a good one Suzie, I like that, though I hope nobody's actually going to go ahead and try it. I'm pretty sure the Grunts would object too.

Suzie: I suppose so, but let me come back to your appearance later. For the benefit of our listeners, perhaps we could do a little scene-setting first. Here you are in this odd circular depression, with some sort of structure jutting into the centre. Can you tell me what this is, exactly?

Mr H: Wish I could Suzie, but it's all pretty mysterious to us. I know there's a security substation just around the corner, down underground, but that's about it. We're just using this circle for a landing place. Should be a dropship coming in later actually, with extra Jackals. Maybe you'd like to hang around and have a chat with them? You could judge an impromptu pointing contest; they'd love that.

Suzie: I don't doubt it, based on past experience. No I think I'll probably pass on that. But more Jackals you say; are you expecting any trouble then?

Mr H: Well, we've been getting reports coming through about some green-coloured fool running about shooting up the place, so we're on standby for anything suspicious. I suppose he might want to get into the security substation for some reason.

Suzie: Security related perhaps?

Mr H: That would be my first guess Suzie, yes. But there's no way he's getting past me and my mate Hank over there.

Suzie: I imagine not. You seem to be fearsomely armoured for a start.

Mr H: You got that right Suzie; nothing's gonna get through this tin plating! Which seems only fair because it's a royal pain having to walk around in. Weighs a flippin' ton.

Suzie: Yes, I noticed that you did seem a bit clanky when you lumbered over to kill me a few minutes ago.

Mr H: Heh, sorry about that Suzie but we don't get a lot of news reporters around here, so I pretty much assumed you must be the next bit of target practice, even though you're not green. We already had a bit of fun over there where you came in.

Suzie: Ah, I was wondering about all those ammo supplies lying around.

Mr H: Yeah, and the owners have now departed. Boom! Yeah that was real fun.

Suzie: Hmmm… I assume that "Boom" indicates the use of that huge cannon you seem to have, bolted on to your armour.

Mr H: The fuel rod cannon, yes. That'll usually do the trick. Actually when I'm using that, I look a bit different. Here, I'll show you my combat state. Clunk!

Suzie: Gosh, it's like you've collapsed into a ball. You've got four foot shorter but you look even more solid. I can barely even see you under your armour.

Mr H: Yes, although unfortunately I can barely see you out of my armour.

Suzie: Oh dear, that seems a bit of a tactical shortcoming. Doesn't it affect your aim rather?

Mr H: It's no help, certainly. But I'll catch the odd glimpse of the enemy and power up old faithful now and again. Once in a while I'll get a hit, but quite often they've moved; so by the time I've fired they're off behind a rock or something, which is seriously annoying. Still, at least it makes the fun last a while before I eventually blow 'em to kingdom come.

Suzie: That's nice. And you don't mind being shot at in the meanwhile?

Mr H: Nah, it barely even tickles. Shots just bounce off this armour plating.

Suzie: That's definitely an advantage. And I see that when you're in combat state like that, those huge spikes of yours really stick up.

Mr H: Yeah, that's basically to make us look scary. Sort of a message. You know, "Come on then if you think yer 'ard enough!". Pretty good huh? Very proud of our spikes, we are.

Suzie: They're very nice, yes. And do you have any other weapons than the cannon?

Mr H: Well, if the enemy gets up close I can't use the cannon any more, else I'd probably blow myself up too, which would be frankly embarrassing. No, in that case I'll take a swipe or two with my shield arm here. And I've dished out quite a few nasty headaches in my time, believe me.

Suzie: From the looks of that shield I don't doubt it. That must weigh a ton just on its own!

Mr H: It sure builds up the arm muscle, I can tell you that. Plus it makes a great barbecue table for the Grunts. You can sizzle up a feast on this thing. I'll just lay it out flat, set the cannon to 'low flame', and the food's done in no time.

Suzie: Gosh, so not just a piece of walking artillery, but also a self-contained catering unit in your spare time! I never would've guessed it. You get on well with the Grunts then?

Mr H: Oh yes, we look out for each other quite a bit. I mean, we're both a bit odd out in our own ways. Our way being that we're enormous, and their way being that they're grunty little idiots, heh heh! Gotta love 'em though. Take 'em for rides on our backs sometimes. They'll be up there two or three at a time, hanging on to the spikes for dear life whilst we're galloping around scaring the bejezus out of 'em.

Suzie: And they're not the bravest of critters at the best of times, I understand.

Mr H: That's putting it mildly Suzie. I mean heck, if I sneeze they'll bolt for the hills. Which is really good for a laugh I must say. I'll sneak up behind and then "AHH-PHHOOOO!", loud as I can. Scares 'em clean out of their boots. Wheeee! Up they go. Sometimes me and Hank'll have a contest to see who can make 'em jump the highest. I've managed a good two-footer a couple of times.

Suzie: Now that's just evil.

Mr H: Oh you haven't heard the half of it. Sometimes when they're clinging on to my spikes I'll charge towards the edge of a cliff or something. "STOP!" they'll yell, but I keep on going. And I'll stop just in time right on the edge, and let my spikes flick over and dangle a bit, which gets 'em going even worse. And then I'll run along the edge so they get a real good view of the drop. God you should hear 'em scream when I do that. "Let me off!". Hah, love it. And then when I let 'em off they'll run about like crazy. "Aaaaaah!" they'll go. "Run away!". But they're so scared out of their tiny minds that they can't think which way to go, so they just run about in circles bumping into each other for the next five minutes. And they'll still be shaking on their grunty little legs an hour later. They won't be much good for combat for a quite some while. Well, no great change there then, heh heh!

Suzie: So you're a white-knuckle fairground ride as well! So many talents. But why do they get on when they know they're going to be scared silly?

Mr H: Did you miss the bit where I said "grunty little idiots"? Besides, they've got terribly short-term memory, which is why they often don't seem to know whether they're coming or going. Actually, from what I've seen, most of the Grunt brain is devoted to a keen interest in food nipples. After that, it all gets a bit sketchy. If you want a picture of the Grunt brain, think of a bunch of primitive little thought nodes connected together by wires. Got that? Ok, now remove the wires.

Suzie: Oooh, that's not good.

Mr H: Not good at all Suzie. But coming back to the Grunt carrying, sometimes we take it even further actually. Friend of mind used to be in the circus with a Grunt formation act. He'd have ten or more up there in a big grunty pyramid. And believe me, if you've ever tried getting that many Grunts to concentrate on one thing for longer than two nanoseconds, you'd appreciate just how difficult that was. It was really something.

Suzie: I'm having trouble imagining it certainly. Was it a popular act?

Mr H: Oh it sold out everywhere it went, Suzie. "Big-Boy Blue and his Grunty Wonders" it was called. Terrific success. Course, then they got dragged into the war effort so now they're probably out fighting on some godforsaken planet somewhere, cleansing the place of pesky humans, no offence. So if you ever see a neatly arranged pyramid of Grunts charging across the battlefield on top of a spiky-headed monster, spitting needles and plasma fire left right and centre, you'll know who they are.

Suzie: And I imagine the sight will come as quite a surprise to the enemy too. But coming back to the armour and cannon and everything, I really can't see how anyone could get past a thing like you. Don't you have any weak points?

Mr H: Well just between you and me Suzie, it does rather sting if they manage to get a shot through a chink in the armour and hit my orange flesh. I mean, we may look like hulking great beasties, but we're actually pretty sensitive and squashy underneath.

Suzie: Really? Maybe I could just have a prod in here…

Mr H: Ow! Hey, watch it with that microphone woman!

Suzie: Sorry, couldn't help it. I've never seen an armoured carrot before.

Mr H: Well there's no need to get personal. I mean ok we are trying to wipe you out and all, but that's just business.

Suzie: Of course. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. But actually I've had reports that the 'green-coloured fool' you mentioned earlier has been doing away with some of your hulking great buddies with a single shot apiece. Doesn't that worry you?

Mr H: A single shot? Oh come off it, that's gotta be some sort of fairy story whipped up by your side to boost morale. I mean, not to boast or anything, but we've administered a fairly major dose of beastie-powered whup-ass to your puny human forces so far.

Suzie: That's true, but I think you might be in for a bit of a fight this time around.

Mr H: Well, I still don't believe it. Heck, if he shows up here, I've got half a mind to turn my back on him just to show my contempt.

Suzie: Oh I'm sure he'll be only too happy to level his sights at a nice orange spot of contempt. But you wouldn't want your fun-filled Grunt carrying days to be over prematurely would you?

Mr H: It's gonna be no trouble Suzie, you'll see. I'll fire up old faithful and blast him clean onto the beach like the last lot.

Suzie: Hmmm… well don't say I didn't warn you. Still, I'd best leave you to get on with your clanking around and stuff for now. So, Mr Hunter, thanks once again for your time.

Mr H: Hoh hoh hoh! It's been a pleasure Suzie.

Suzie: …and quite possibly one of your last.