The black clouds billow like raging ocean waves. There are sharks prowling the stormy brine.
Red light emanates not from the sky but from the ground. The ground is burning. It is a glassy, cracked mirror and there is hellfire spewing from the cracks.
The sharks scent more blood and loom overhead. They do not have teeth for it is their bellies that shoot pieces of the sun down to the planet below and scorch it to dust.
The force of the blast sends a wall of dust and debris and bodies slamming outward at hurricane force. Trees are peeled back and uprooted, joining the onslaught. What once was joyful and majestic and verdant is now black and charred and broken all to pieces. Smarting eyes leak tears and parched throats gurgle final curses as the wave engulfs them, stealing life away.
There is still a bit of green left but it won't be green for long (soon it will turn red and black and become burning glass because the sharks never do things halfway). The strip of green represents hope. A few doomed souls hide there, fooled into assuming they're lucky, taking comfort in their flimsy shelters and useless hidey-holes.
Small pink toes dig into tufts of grass and a small wrinkle appears between two fine eyebrows. Grip on the teddy bear tightens. Overhead the clouds part, revealing a swarm of predators. A smile briefly appears, for the sharks look like balloons from here, but quickly fades as Mummy and Daddy snatch and grab and scream Run For The Basement, and then it's hot and stuffy and loud flying can't breath where's Mummy it hurts—
The band of green is gone.
Life is gone from this world.
The sharks have left to gorge on choicer prey. All is silent save the crumbling of mountains and the boiling of oceans and the mournful wind screaming through the flames.
What has not become glass is a testament to destruction. Bodies piled one on top of the other stretch for miles. It matters not that some are human and some are alien, for all are embraced and entwined in death. Red blood and blue blood and purple blood and orange blood seep and pool and become one color.
There are no warriors. There are no victims. There are no heroes or villains or prophets or kings. All are made equal in the final hour. All are covered with soot and ash and each other. Beaks and maws and mouths gape, frozen in twisted expressions of dying misery and pain.
From afar the planet appears as a glowing ember. From the safety of a mighty ship a warrior watches as the ember flickers and sputters and continues to burn. An armored hand touches the glass separating artificial atmosphere from the vacuum beyond, as if reaching for what has been lost can bring it back. Behind an inscrutable gilded visor, a scarred face scowls as feelings of rage and failure and vengeance are stifled by a lifetime of training. There will be more battles. More worlds burned to glass. He must fight those battles to the best of his ability and cannot afford to doubt himself.
Fingers curl, scraping against the glass, a final vain attempt to catch hold of the lost world. It has shrunk down to a spark now as the ship prepares to flee the system. A defeated, dying spark.
One more flickering spark to feed the inferno of a Spartan's righteous fury.
It's been going on for days and the plan's already botched and no one even wants to know the odds, but somehow they keep going at it, even as the bloodthirsty sharks of the Covenant rain pillars of fire down upon the planet.
Watching from the ground is bad enough but when you're on the ground you're in the same boat as everybody else and you can't feel helpless because there's dirt beneath your boots and a weapon in your hands and you can keep fighting until life leaves your body, because that's what Spartans do. Which is what makes watching from overhead so much harder. You're a professional killing machine and yet those who've never touched a weapon in their lives are the ones dying right now (it's always like this, the undeserving are being punished, it's not fair) and you feel like your insides are being ripped apart because they're near and dear to you and you could have saved them if you had the chance…
Which is why you look upon the balls of fire erupting below you with sadness but you can't mourn, not now, because everyone else is depending on you and if you don't get the job done no one will.
So you look to your team and they wink green lights at you, telling you they're ready and they're not afraid, and deep down you know that some of them are going to die, but you're willing to sacrifice their lives along with your own because you're Spartans and you'll finish the mission no matter what.
You take one last look at the immolated planet below and feel a rush of anger in your blood, a firestorm fueled by every spark left behind over these long years, and you're a torch now, burning strong and bright and heading for your final battle, and you're not sad because you know that if your lives end someone else will carry the torch, because humanity is not going to go down without a fight.
Now to ignite the stars.