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Craig knew he should be feeling better. The gash in his hand was healing fine. He had even been to the hospital (which he loathed) and had it stitched. He had been given a tetanus shot even though he hated needles. There was no sign of infection. Craig instinctively knew he was in trouble. He felt like a vice was gripping his head. He was dizzy and nauseous. He sat down for fear of falling. Something else was happening. His spidey sense was tuned to the vibrations of a psychic web. As his mind followed the threads, he began to suspect a much sinister cause for his condition. That would explain a lot he thought as he passed out and slumped to the floor.

Like a hungry beast, despair tried to reach up and grab Tom, drag him into darkness where the light of hope could not find him. He looked over at Megan, this time with no promise that everything would be alright, only a  dimness that matched Megan’s own foggy stare.

“The government is currently operating a pilot project somewhat similar to the Witness Protection Program. In fact, it is using that program as a cover for this one. The main difference is that your relocation will be to the new colony on Mars.” With the kindness of a crocodile, the visiting agent’s reassuring tone gave the sympathetic touch of an undertaker. “Your prayers have not fallen on deaf ears. The government, in its compassionate wisdom, would like to offer you a new life.”

Imagining what the future would hold, they traded stories about what they thought their new lives would be like. They had no way of knowing that their dream of a new life was to become their living nightmare.

They were led to different rooms for their final examination. They each lay back on a comfortable recliner, not unlike a dentist chair. It was not until the wrist and ankle shackles automatically locked in place that they realized all was not as it seemed. The examiner moved silently to Megan’s side and told her to relax. “In a few minutes you will neither remember nor care about your past life. You belong to us now. Once you have been through our mind wipe, you will live only to serve our needs. We need workers. You didn’t think this was a free ride, did you?”

The terror that swept through Megan was revealed in her eyes as the technician plunged the needle into her arm. The darkness sucked her down into oblivion and she vanished from this life to a sea of nothing.

The small flashlight that Craig was able to scrounge was getting dim and shed little light. The tunnel shrunk in height, and they were forced to crawl on hands and knees, and then the flashlight went out altogether. Immediate panic set in and they all started yelling in mind-speak. The volume was thunderous as Craig struggled to tone it down. He finally whistled inside their heads, which was incredibly effective. The group went silent all at once. Craig then told them to crawl forward until they reached the person in front of them. Groping around in the darkness and the slime sent a chill into their spines as well as their bodies. Amber was quietly sobbing. Eventually they all reported in that they were right behind the next person. In the blackness they inched their way along the tunnel floor. When their knees ached and their hands were scraped raw, the roof suddenly opened, and the walls fell away. Daylight crept in from above, revealing a large cavern.

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