by Cheeseburger Brown
The general's hand-picked team boarded a gate and transited together. My palette of pest control devices hovered cheek by jowl with military palettes bristling with ordnance delivery hardware. When the gate irised open we stepped out in sequence according to rank. I was the last.
I looked into the night sky. The stars were weird. We were very, very far from the core systems.
"Is this the infested world?" I asked.
The general shook her helmet. "No. This is a staging area. They sabotaged our gate on the target planet."
The sun was up but the sky was black. The atmosphere was thin and tasted metallic. A gas giant was rising from the horizon, whorled stripes of rusty brown and sulphur yellow. It was, in its way, striking. There was beauty here amid the duty.
The soldiers had equipped themselves for action, field armour bristling with the traditional spiked phalluses and red blinky lights of their caste. Now they worked together to assemble a skiff from a kit. "We'll have to jump planets," the general explained. "Everybody get ready to hold your breath."
She pointed out a blue-green sparkle in the ink sky.
"That's where the bastards are."
Dutifully we all looked skyward. There it was, a whole planet roiling with meat. The skeletons in humanity's collective closet, rattling their bones and shrieking for their own inscrutable kind of justice.
In a zoo, I could appreciate the reverence.
But in the wild?