The roar of the machinery is deafening. Walking down the narrow passageways with the ship’s equipment on either side, I can feel the chill of sweat dripping down the small of my back as the heat beats down on me. It’s crazy to me how far we’ve come with nuclear power, but we couldn’t do anything to help keep the engineering department cooler?

Creeping between the vents, I can still hear the bastards behind me. Are they on duty? Have they left their posts to assault other passengers that are trying to get to berthing? I am not a large person but I can still feel the gauges and knobs reaching out and grabbing at me as I squeeze through some of the narrower sections. Being the third ship to make this trek, they didn’t care much about the quality of the crew, just the numbers.

Sometimes, when I come through this way, I feel like I’m getting cooked as well as a hot dog and would taste better than whatever they serve up in the mess decks if I slathered my arms up in enough ketchup. But it is so much better than the alternatives. Last week, some fella got caught by one of the rougher crew members and we found him clogging up the waste compactor. It truly is a rough life being unskilled labor. The first ship had all the intellectuals, the second ship had all the rich people, and now we are just bringing up the muscles and the meatheads, the people starting a new life or finding new prey. Mars…is it really going to be worth all this?

“I SEE YOU!” came the call from down the passageway. I know they can see me. This is a straight passageway, we’ve been going straight for nearly 200 meters and there is no exit for at least another 50 before I get to a main passageway will let me close a door or at least turn and run unabated.

The beads of sweat are streaming down my face, my heart is pounding in my ears and I can feel my breaths getting more labored as the heat and panic makes it harder to maintain my speed. I guess I should have expected a lower caliber of passenger on this ship when I got here. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to take this shortcut and it isn’t the first time I’ve been chased down it either. But it’s safer than the main halls where it feels like walking the yard in a prison. I’ve played sports, I’ve done martial arts, I’ve done a lot of things, but none of that prepared me for the constant battle for survival that would be this shit.

It’s kind of a rule of mine to not kill people, and also a rule of mine to not put myself in situations where I think I can get killed. I’ve done the best I can so far, and I’m still here, not in the waste compactor. So that’s good. I wasn’t necessary enough to the survival or the settling of the planet to go on an earlier voyage so here, on this ship, I fight to survive.

I know the end of the passageway is somewhere near here and from there I can close them in and make my way to berthing. I’ve been working for what feels like forty hours straight and I just need to hit my rack for some sleep. Even after this past fifteen minutes of elevated activity trying to escape these thugs, it won’t be hard to fall into dream land immediately. I look forward to dreaming of what I’ll find on Mars. They say you dream about the last thing you were thinking about and lately, since we are so close, landing is the thing that is on everyone’s minds. I’m anxious because it’ll essentially be a crash landing but somehow they engineered this ship so that it will absorb the impact and be able to take off again in two months after we’ve established ourselves off the ship. I’m just hoping that some of these thugs aren’t completely buckled in when we land.

The door is just within reach and I can close them in as soon as I get past this last narrow spot…but my jacket is caught on a protruding gauge! Oh shit. That isn’t a gauge, it’s the hand of my pursuer! It’s so much bigger than I had thought it would be. Had I not noticed that he was gaining on me when I was stumbling through the obstacles? How can someone his size even have made it in here? All of these thoughts buzzed through my head as I felt the wall being brought to my face. I hit the bulkhead hard and slid down against the floor. “You are going to regret the day that you signed on to be a Martian.”

Why? Why am I the target? Why do his boots feel like they are puncturing my internal organs? Are my ribs trying to avoid the blows and sacrificing my insides? “What…the…hell…is…mayo…”

Trying to form a coherent sentence to reason with someone who is mad at the world, no, not the world since we have left it far behind, but at the universe is impossible when you are dehydrated, panicked, being beaten, and sliding into unconsciousness.

Next Chapter: Auburn