by Annabel Sheila
With the exception of a near miss by a sizeable piece of space junk, likely a burned out satellite, the routine flight of Destiny, billionaire Rick Alison’s private space exploration venture, had so far been normal. At five million dollars a seat, Destiny offered weekly exclusive tours of the Red Planet to a select group of wealthy, adventurous billionaires. After only five years in service, the one point five billion dollar price tag on Destiny had been recouped twice over! Rick was a happy man, albeit one who had no interest in taking the flight himself. For a man with such vision, Rick Alison feared the unknown! He liked his feet planted firmly on terra cotta; in fact he rarely flew in an ordinary aircraft. So, quite out of character for him, he’d decided at the last minute to take this flight and for the most part had enjoyed every second.
The thirteen passengers had moved to the left side of Destiny for one last look at Mars before the booster rockets kicked in to propel them back toward Earth. The clarity of night in the velvety blackness of space gave the passengers a breathtaking view of the fiery planet. Expensive digital cameras flashed like fireflies in a dark meadow!
Suddenly out of nowhere a fiery entity, as if hurled from the very bowels of the planet itself, began closing on Destiny. And for the thirteen passengers, a millisecond became an eternity as their lives flashed before them.