Shiva braced himself against the blister, his tentacled three eyes studying the devastation. His own vessel orbited in a darkness uncorrupted by life. He and his three companions, were very likely the only living things left in this region of space. His left eye swivelled on the cold glass, its iris constricting to focus on the charred planet about which he slowly circled. It felt unfair that gravity was unchanged by the holocaust afflicting that once orange and blue world, mass was mass after all.
Shiva remembered very clearly, and even if he could not, if somehow he needed reminding, his computers were brim full of detailed images, not only from space but from the planets surface, the result of his surveillance electronics and video from his swarm of microscopic drones that teased out facts and numbers from the entire planet. The gathered information included the daily lives of typical inhabitants, the contents of computers, the mountains, the deserts, the animals and insects, the plant life and even the majestic views of the night sky from the local perspective. While Shiva could not, others of his kind could assemble all this mass of information into a self consistent virtual world which could play on and on while the real one smouldered for aeons far beneath him. Yet, he could not reconcile himself that somehow something created from his voluminous data bank constituted anything which would ever approximate real life or be worth a fraction of what was nor irretrievably lost.
Ganesh growled angrily beside his left shoulder, the navigator of their ship, spitting and snarling. He could not yet speak as he trawled through his atavistic emotions, using his sub verbal responses to replace his usual language, it could not begin to express his feelings and thoughts. His is a language of technology, mathematics and physics but sadly lacking in the vocabulary of loss. Shiva studied him too, he was responsible for making a faithful a record as possible of not only this planets end but of their own responses. As if their loss was any more than a diminutive counterpoint, an aside.
The planet beneath them was once whole, a living if limping world, an ecosystem presumed upon by its inhabitants which Shiva recalled was a common enough attitude in the wilder Universe. It’s deserts were a mixture of ages, some were ancient dried up oceans rippled with sand and tundra but too many were barely a century of the planet’s years. They flanked the great cities wallowing in their own pollution. This was a world facing inevitable collapse but other worlds had faced the same situation and dealt with the poisons and waste well enough to thrive, and join the assembly of planets and systems. The only qualification for membership was evidence of good stewardship of at least their own world. This is still considered the basic duty of being in possession of an ecosystem. Ignoring the needs of your own home world clearly implied an incapacity to care for the wider universe. Until that attitude changed, no one was going anywhere from this planet.
Shiva was the galactic appointed adjudicator for this planet. He did not give him any satisfaction to witness such a cataclysmic failure of the assessment process. Never before in the history of this galaxy, had a world been on such a knife edge of self destruction that his appearance would trigger utter, total immolation in a few hours. He had carefully staffed his drones with minor consciousness, giving them a dull capacity to choose where and who they would seek out and record. Drones had followed the few leviathans in the air and oceans, mystified that such violent passages though the atmosphere were permitted. Children in schools , their shadows now smudged on any remaining walls, had been studied for weeks playing, talking, laughing and like most children in the galaxy, studying as little as possible. It seemed so normal.
Shiva had watched all this, and though he could not feel the poisoned air in his lung or taste the caustics in their drinking water, he could imagine it. The numbers from the drone sensors were telling, the problems widespread and largely ignored from its tiny watery pole in the north to the great mountain continent in the south.
Of course his assessment about membership was not irreversible, many worlds had improved their stewardship enough to have decisions about quarantine from the larger universe reversed, but it was final enough for now. Shiva had followed the set reporting protocol, the planets media agencies subverted for only a few minutes. Shiva’s physiognomy was a galactic standard, his feathered wings demurely folded, his muzzle laced with fine razor sharp teeth, and his afore mentioned three eyes retracted back into his face and forehead. His appearance differs from a typical insect inhabitant of this world, and even from the bipedal creature which appeared to be in charge, but Shiva had seen the media files often enough to see creatures sharing his appearance were often portrayed in what the locals called ” movies” and would not cause any alarm.
Even before he had finished his short explanation of his task, in the most ancient and early language he could find, there was chaos. The choice of Sanskrit was one for which he would be criticised on his return home but it was the oldest and richest language he was able to find. It just seemed to suit him. Yet it was even before any attempt of discourse or of negotiation, that he could see the trails of missiles littering the skies beneath him. And then the massive fires spanning continents and the multiple golden clouds erupting out of the lower atmosphere. Shiva watched with emotions of amazement, regret, sadness, and anger. He folded his wings back, nestled them into the hollows in his spine, sealed the skin with its muscular pleats and then feeling empty and lost, he hovered inside his ship. He floated there for many hours. It felt smaller than it ever had before, and eventually its blisters became opaque, the third consciousness inside the ship began its sleep, readying itself and the two corporeals for the trip back to their own home world. His last thoughts were muddied by those deep hypnotic drugs, but they were real nonetheless, was it his name or was it his appearance or was it something of which he had now no idea at all. But why he thought, would the name of Shiva trigger the end of the world?