"Commander. Commander?" The soft voice of Technology Specialist Luke
Daven broke the silence in the still room. His crisp British accent cut through
Commander Joel Sutton's sleep, and wearily he raised his heavy eyelids.
"Daven?" he murmured, words slurred.
"Yes, sir," the tech specialist affirmed, a small smile of amusement coming across
his face. "Message from home, sir."
"Thank you Daven."
The tech specialist, or TS, strolled soundlessly from the room, and with the flick
of his wrist, Joel shut off the heat and massage to his chair. Instantly, the seat returned
to room temperature. He made a half hearted attempt at running a hand through his
hair, and before he could change his mind, flicked the switch that caused a hologram to
appear in front of him.
"Carrie!" he exclaimed. A smile of delight swept across his ruggedly handsome
"Joel, it's good to see you. I miss you so much."
"A few more weeks," Joel soothed, "and I'll be back home. Besides, it's beautiful
The cute dark-haired girl smiled wryly. "That's the last thing I could say about
"Gee, thanks hon," Joel quipped sarcastically.
"Well, Joel, they're telling me I have to go."
"Bye, Care. I love you."
"Love you, Joel."
With a flash of yellow light, her image vanished from the receptor platform.
Carrie was the one thing Joel could say he missed about home. They'd been high
school sweethearts, attended the same college, and, in a few short months, would be
married. This was possibly his last time at the space station from quite some time.
The International Space Station, christened Unity, had been built in 2045 by the
United Nations. It was intended to bring member countries closer, and for the most
part, served its purpose well. Every month, two or three teams of astronauts manned
Joel smiled to himself. He'd spent the last four Julys aboard Unity, and what a
time it'd been. The USA and the UK always teamed up, and most of the men had always
worked together. They were all great friends, even if they only saw each other one month
out of every year.
Would Carrie make him give it all up? It seemed he had spent the majority of his
twenty-nine years trying to live in his father's shadow. Commanding the first ever
mission to Unity had been a great accomplishment, but most people still knew him as the
son of Thomas Sutton, the first man to set foot on Mars. And to die on Mars, Joel
No, he knew Carrie better than that. She understood, even when he himself did
Smiling again, he caught his own glance in a mirror across the room. Serious
grey eyes stared back at him. His eyes could demand attention, respect, and silence with
a single glare. They were a great attribute, even if he usually had no need to use them.
Wildly unkempt black hair that he was forever running a hand through in an attempt to
control it. Dark tan skin. Good for being in space, Joel mused.
The Commander turned his attention away from the mirror. He loved space.
Nowhere else could one find such peace and majesty. And that was only from inside the
Then there was Luke Daven and Thad Spencer. The two young British TSes
admired Joel unabashedly, an action fully returned by their commander. Though five
years separated them, they were close friends-
Something caught Joel's eye for a moment. It'd looked like something was
zooming around out there. Right, he told himself, get a little tired and now you're
But there was something a little more suspicious about the loud explosion that
rocked Unity a second later.
"I'm sure there is a very reasonable explanation for this," Joel addressed his crew,
"and until we find out wha-"
"Commander! Something is outside the station!" an American TS called to him
Joel turned to see dozens, maybe hundreds of specks speeding directly toward
them. He couldn't believe his own eyes. "Is this some kind of sick joke?" he demanded
As if in reply, a ball of glowing orange exited one of the specks. The crew watched
in slow motion as it rocketed their direction, ultimately crashing into Unity. Alarms
Joel regained his voice as more orange balls appeared. "Evacuate! NOW!"
The twelve-member crew raced toward the docking bay, skidding and sliding
with each blast. Unity was breaking apart, and the oxygen inside the station was feeding
flames that had engulfed her in a relatively short time.
Joel knew he was facing a critical decision. Pegasus, the British space shuttle was
much closer. It was also bigger, holding seven people. However, the Magi had a clearer
They hit the fork and paused, glancing up at their leader.
"Daven, Spencer, Reegan, Pentomb, come with me. The rest of you get to
Pegasus. Don't wait for us!"
His order was accepted without comment, and the four crew members he had
named raced down the corridor close at his heels. Flames ravaged only a foot behind
them. Reegan and Pentomb fell. Crying out between gritted teeth, Joel pressed on. The
heat was terrible. Suddenly, That tripped and was engulfed in flames only a split
"Thad!" Luke screamed.
Both men sprinted the final stretch, turning a corner that slowed the flames and
bought them a second. Joel felt as if his lungs were going to explode. He and the TS
dashed into the Magi.
"Jettison! Jettison!" he yelled frantically.
The Magi floated away from Unity only a second before flames burst through the
hatch and died instantly.
Unexpectedly, Pegasus came around the edge of Unity's burning corpse.
"They made it. They made it!" Luke breathed. He pushed the communicator
switch. "Pegasus, this is the Magi-"
As they watched, on of the dreaded orange balls flew head-on into Pegasus.
"Pegasus!" Luke cried, still holding the switch down.
Joel regained his senses just in time to see that a similar fate was planned for
them. Thrusting the boosters, he sped away. They weren't pursuing. Turning
slightly, Joel saw why. The biggest ball of fire yet was on a collision course with
them. He and Luke would not survive, despite all their valiant efforts. They were