The sky burned with a coruscating maelstrom of gases and vapors consistent with the biosphere of almost any humanoid-based world. The sensor suite of Bren’s singleship catalogued such in an efficient if unnecessary litany of other atmospheric data as he left the bleakness of space and entered the periphery of the ruined planet. Had any semblance of softness still held sway within the soul of the rangy pilot, he would have wept for the destruction. Yet, much like those gases, the gentler aspects of his nature had been just as ruthlessly burned away a very long time ago.
With a practiced pass of his hand, he engaged the small vessel’s chameleon cloak and dove through the thick blanket of cloud and smoke that obscured all view of the terrain below. Having witnessed similar destruction and desolation on half a hundred other worlds, he knew what to expect but his continued survival was testament to the value of following protocols.
That the insectoid Cholgachi conquerors had come to this world was beyond question. On the looping course he had taken in-system, he had detected multiple ion trails of their craft and felt the discarded remains of missile pod magazines and empty external munitions housings pinging off his shields. They had come in their might and sounded the death knells of yet another civilization. Were Bren in luck, enough of them would remain planet-side to allow him to exact fitting revenge on behalf of those who had fallen beneath the merciless claws of their inhuman feet.
Completing a circuit of the planetary surface, he found all major population centers decimated, all native power emissions stilled and the biometric monitors showed only isolated pockets of activity above the levels associated with livestock, wildlife and other associated lesser life forms. A second sensor screen gave him readouts indicating the Cholgachi elements detected. There were four complete Cohorts on-planet with an additional two gave him readouts indicating the Cholgachi elements detected. There were four complete Cohorts on-planet wifull Wings of airborne assault and shock troops conducting ground sweep operations over those isolated pockets of survivors.
Bren fed all available data into the singleship’s battlecomp with an eye towards preserving the most viable clustering of humanoids left. He knew he would only have time for an extremely limited and cursory operation and so could scarce afford to squander his efforts on any but those most able to take advantage of whatever respite he could offer. Selecting the coordinates from those presented to him, he braced himself for the blood and carnage he knew awaited and settled into his final approach trajectory.
This story was submitted for the weekly Finish That Thought flash fiction challenge prompt phrase: The sky burned.