We are Grenn. We do not get to choose. But we do get to change.
The hole in the wall bar was tucked into a narrow alley, only a flickering neon sign betrayed its existence to passerbys. The inside was dimly lit, the air musky and thick with the smell of booze and sick. The Huarangi bartender was scrubbing murky, yellow Shil’Q puke from the bar. It had left a bite in the bar, the acidity having eaten away at it. The bartender cursed, so Jack chuckled to himself. He didn’t need the job, but not being active was worse. It would leave him alone with himself.
“Who’s a good boy?” he asked his Curate. It wagged its sack and curled up in a corner of the bar floor.
“When are you going to stop bringing that thing to work, Jack?” the bartender asked.
“When he dies, Loreng,” Jack replied bluntly.
Loreng made an apologetic gesture, “Alright man. Sorry. You’re the last person I want to start a fight with.”
Jack sat down at the bar and over the next few hours watched a steady stream of customers come and go. He didn’t have to do much, occasionally he had to throw a rowdy customer out. It wasn’t until late in the night that a group of smaller folk pulled up at a table near him that his evening got interesting.
“…that’s a Legionnaire. Fuck’s he doing here?” said one of them.
“Dude, just leave it, okay?” his friend replied.
“No man. These fuckers ruined our city. I shouldn’t have to accept them.”
“I said, leave it, you’re drunk.”
Jack chuckled to himself. Not the first time he had heard people talk about him like that and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time. It’s not like they knew what it was like, being Grenn.
“The fuck you chuckling about, bugface?” the rude patron asked.
“I beg your pardon? You got something to say, murderer?” His friends were visibly upset, trying to calm their friend.
“Sure, I’ve got something to say. Mind if I sit?” Jack got up and walked over to their table. He’d found several ways of dealing with guys like these, but he preferred educating them, showing them. A show of force almost always escalated things and he really wasn’t in the mood for a useless fight. Especially not against beings this small.
The group of friends looked at each other in panic as the Grenn towered over them and their table. Jack didn’t wait for an answer and sat down.
“…yeah, I min-”
“Don’t care, bud. Were you in the uprising a few years ago?” Jack interrupted.
“My parents were, yeah. Told me all about how you slaughtered hundreds. And now the Coalition wants us to live with you in this unicity. And I think that’s fucked up. I think you’re fucked up. You’re supposed to be a dumb animal, but they made you a killer, a murderer.”
Jack paused and looked at him. He put his glass down with his metal hand.
“…you’re not wrong. It is fucked up.”
“It’s messed up that your city revolted for something they believed in. It’s messed up that I was created just to kill that revolt. Let me… let me tell you a story, okay?”
“I woke up 8 years ago. I dug around in the mud for a few months, that monster in the corner there licking me clean every day, feeding me. I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t holding my rifle, or why I wasn’t standing upright. Days and nights flowed into each other and before I realized it, I was up. Me and hundreds other Grenn had crawled in the mud, confused and only thinking about our mission, what we were supposed to do and how to do it. My mind overflowing with combat scenarios, we marched to the meetup point. I got my armor, my rifle. A gigantic Centurion told me my battalion number. Third Beta Squadron.
Third Beta Squadron consisted of fourteen Grenn. Me and nine other Legionnaires, two massive Funditors, a single Videte and our squad leader, another Centurion. I call myself Jack now, but back then I was Three-BS-Eight. Three-BS-One was our squad leader. I was one of four Legionnaires to take care of the two Funditors. Protective duty they called it. I bet most Funditors you meet nowadays are calm, massive beings. But walking next to a live one, knowing that one wrong bullet could make them blow will certainly put you on edge. For the first month, trekking through the wilderness towards the Unicity, we were all fine. The Fundies occasionally made jokes that we didn’t get, Three-BS-One occasionally drilled us on our knowledge of the uprising and the city, and the Videte would occasionally go hunting.
We were assigned to infiltrate and take out an uprising outpost before getting to the Unicity. Have you ever been shot at? I bet you haven’t. I lost an antenna there. We were getting shot at before we even saw the outpost. Humans call it “guerilla tactics”, I believe. The other Funditor, not mine, got blown up, took a solid chunk of forest with him, exposing the outpost. Our Fundie did the rest after that. We walked through ashes and bones. Through ashes and bones.”
Jack paused and let his head drop for a second. The table was captivated, or scared. He couldn’t tell.
“Look… we infiltrated your city. We put our Videte through a bodyprint and had her infiltrate the rebels. I remember one time, we had gotten new intel from them, and it was me and my fellow Legionnaires, standing outside the door to a cellar, just like this bar. We kicked the door in. We threw grenades in. When I finally entered, we found out our intel was wrong. These were people in hiding. Not rebels. Children and their parents, engulfed in flames. We didn’t care. We weren’t programmed to care.
Two days later, the street rebellion broke out, largely due to the rebels finding that family murdered. I now know that the rebels fed us that intel to escalate the situation. To make us out to be the bad guys. I remember running, several squadrons side by side, guns out, firing into a mass of people. Firebombs were hurled at us and Centurions were hurling them right back. Blood of various colors covered the walls, the streets, the sidewalks. Corpses lay in the street for days. I remember my arm getting blown off by a scattergun and I remember bashing the guy’s face in for it.”
At this point, the entire bar was listening. It had gone silent. Jack took a sip of his drink.
“I care now though. We had to care. When the rebellion was crushed and the city was back in the hands of the Coalition, I got my new orders. I put struts in the very same cellar I blew up. I pulled corpses from the rubble that I had put there myself. I patched holes in buildings that my squadron had created. I had people yelling from their windows for me to get out of their city. I definitely care now. But we are Grenn. We know only what we’re programmed with when we are born. And yes, we’re made to kill. To kill you. To kill the Coalition’s own civilians. But by the time we are done, we too are those civilians. I made a home here for myself. I created a safety for myself, here, amongst the very people I simultaneously murdered and tried to protect. We are Grenn. We do not get to choose. But we do get to change.”
This is the first installment of a four-part coverage of the Grenn. In today’s article, we will give a brief history of this species as a whole, and we will explain more details about the most common of the Grenn subtypes: The Grenn Legionnaire.
Orbiting the star Syrena-C651-F5a is a planet called Syrena-C651-F5b, an oxygen-rich planet with long interspersed periods of an incredible turnover in biomass. The dominant species living there is an insect-like species able to devour most of the biomass on the planet within a year. After this mass extinction event and subsequent destruction of almost all ecosystems, the climate changes rapidly, and a select few of these creatures enter a hibernation state which can last a full century or more. After the ecosystems have slowly restored themselves, these creatures come out of hibernation, form a new colony, and the cycle repeats itself into perpetuity.
When Coalition surveyors discovered the planet, their attention was immediately drawn to the giant infestation that was taking place at the moment, and the insect-like species that devoured everything in its path was named: The Grenn. Of these insect-like creatures, after extended research, six different morphologies were observed: Queen, Centurion, Legionnaire, Funditor, Videte, and Curate. Each of these subtypes, as the surveyors saw, fulfilled a different role in a Grenn Colony and together, they behaved like a well-oiled machine of specialists.
Of these now well-documented subspecies, the Legionnaire is a quintessential soldier. These soldeirs have distinct warrior ant-like features, both in morphology, as well as in behaviour. On their heads, powerful mandibles protrude just below the faceted compound eyes. They have six appendages, of which the two rearmost are used for bipedal walking and running, whereas the other four are free to use in combat. When fighting, they heed orders from their Centurion superiors without hesitation and little regard for personal safety. On Syrena-C651-F5b, Legionnaires are the defenders of their colony during the growth phase and, in later stages of colony development, the attackers of other colonies until all available food on the planet has been eaten.
As soon as the Coalition’s elite genetic biologists managed to get their hands the Grenn, impressed by their potential and effectiveness as soldiers, they started experiments to stimulate prenatal brain growth, by means of a neurumbilical cord, for weaponization into the Coalition.
These days, newly hatched Legionnaires serve in the army for five years as foot soldiers, bred for a specific encounter, after which they can decide to enter civil society or to stay in service. Due to their artificially enhanced intelligence however, their behaviour can be unpredictable in social situations, and many that have seen the horrors of war have psychological problems, despite the Coalition’s best efforts to paint a more rosy picture of what is essentially nothing more than indiscriminate murder on a mass scale. A Grenn army hell-bent on conquering a planet is virtually unstoppable, save by thermonuclear weaponry.
In the Coalition civilian society, Legionnaires can fulfill many roles and hold many non-academic jobs, but a large number of them opt to remain warriors, either re-enlisting in the Coalition Military after their compulsory five year stint, or as mercenaries. While the latter is deemed a less glorious lifestyle, and does not come with all the healthcare and tax benefits of a Coalition Soldier, it usually does come with much higher paychecks.
Due to the relatively high prevalence of PTSD among them, many have a disregard for personal safety, and the promises of solitude and silence of deep space leads some to choose a life of exploring the dangerous reaches of the fringe of Coalition space, lured by the potential riches that unexplored places may contain. Some even become successful entrepreneurs, controlling a vast amount of wealth.
But no matter what a Legionnaire’s profession might be, it is strongly advised not to get into a fight with one, because even the friendly Legionnaire who changes the oil in your car was originally hatched for only one purpose: War.