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Walking through a white corridor illuminated by fluorescent blue lights, I feel completely emotionless. My uniform has been slightly stained, giving the whole outfit a different overtone from the rest of the ship. Despite the fact that some invigilator may force me later to change to some clean wearables, right now it's like I'm my own self, standing out from the monotonous and boring crowd that inhabits this spacecraft. Throughout my short journey to base 5, I continue encountering several individuals, all ignoring my slightly audible "Hello's" yet some focusing for a split second on the somewhat striking dirt patch that decorates my shirt.
I finally reach Base 5, an impressive floor where all manual activities take place. It's mostly dedicated to the development of sophisticated machinery that is later incorporated somewhere else on the spaceship as means of creating a more comfortable life for all of us, though in reality, it is the government which ends up taking advantage of the newest equipment for their own necessities.
I reach a massive door carefully guarded by two invigilators, both wearing a mask, hiding their faces and mercy from those who dare disturb them.
"Identification," they say in unison, still looking ahead as if I'm too petite to even be on the level of their visual field.
"56910," I respond quite firmly, deciding to avoid glancing at them too.
"Leave any objects you may have in your pockets on the boxes provided at the entrance. Otherwise, go straight to your assigned spot."
I nod and while one of them continues standing in the same position, the other presses some buttons which trigger the door to open, letting me inside. I turn around, visualizing both individuals one last time before the door closes again and leaves me in complete darkness. I'm in another corridor, yet the lights have to be turned on manually. Although I struggle to find the small switch located on one of the sides of the wall, I finally manage to turn it on, revealing a metallic tunnel which leads to another glass door at the end. I have never been here since I'm usually part of a small team dedicated to planting and taking care of tubers with the mission of providing us with enough food for us to survive our first weeks once we arrive in our new home planet. My life in this aircraft is so different from what I was used to on Earth. I was what you could consider a suburban girl, living somewhat far away from the hectic life of the city yet still aware of its scandals and movement. I would usually organize small trips with some old friends during the weekends, running away from the grip of my parents from time to time as a teenager would. That was two years ago and so much has changed since then.
I scan the barcode tattoed on my wrist and the door opens, releasing some strange gas into the chamber I'm in, possibly to rid my frame of parasites. I find myself in a large room, with a few individuals already working on some extraordinary machinery. A lady in a lab coat approaches me with a severe expression but her plastic goggles make her a bit less intimidating. She does not request any identification number, something which catches my attention while she turns around and starts heading somewhere, expecting me to follow as you would in this emotionless community.
She leads me to the top floor, protected by a long glass window from which I can visualize the whole ground stage from where I envision several individuals in lab coats frantically working.
"You should have disposed yourself of any objects from your pockets at the entrance. If not, it is not my responsibility should these chemicals react with any of your possessions. Am I clear?"
"Here is your lab coat and goggles. You will be putting these pieces together." She demonstrates the task hurriedly without giving me the opportunity to ask. Before I can open my mouth, she has vanished. I do as she says and wear the clothing I have been provided with and commence my duty. It becomes incredibly dull within the first five minutes, the workers below becoming my distraction. There is no clock and so I have no notion of time, although I have not really acquired it since I was put on this ship. There are alarms throughout the day which indicate that we should either head to the cantine or our next location. My life has become a monotonous and tedious existence, trapped in this aircraft where no one is recognized as an individual of their own.
At one point, I hear the woman speak, her firm voice filling the room, singing over the repetitive metallic noises which infuse the atmosphere. An individual my age is put next to me to carry out the same tedious function. As with me, the lady leaves without any former goodbye while the fellow looks around in confusion or perhaps in desperation. He suddenly glances in my direction while we lock eyes. He does not look away and, to my surprise, he smiles. However, it's a sad grin, one which indicates years or maybe months of loneliness, of feeling trapped. I know that sentiment well; I have felt like that for a long time.
"Hello," I say with a small smirk. It has been so long since I've had any remote interaction with a responsive human being.
"You good?" He sounds incredibly informal, which makes me feel relaxed, as if I was back home, chatting my way to a close friend.
"Not really," I dare say but with some mistrust. Could he be a disguised invigilator, willing to gain information for his own benefit?
He laughs, which causes some to lift their heads up, though in instantly noticing they have lost focus they quickly carry on with their relative tasks. My new acquaintance lowers his head and whispers:
"I feel you. So tell me, what's your name? And don't give me that number bullshit."
This time I let out a small chuckle.
"Used to be Elle. You?"
"Used to? See, that's the bullshit I was talking 'bout. That's still you." He rolls his eyes but continues talking. "I'm Max, from New York City," he replies proudly.
"I used to go there a lot with some friends. It was a nice place, especially the food."
I take off my goggles and proceed with the conversation. The pieces I am meant to assemble are now lying without any care on the naked metallic table which decorates the top floor I'm in.
At one point, Max stops discussing the latest music he had managed to enjoy prior to 'The End.' Warily, he looks around and once he's turned his head back and with no previous warning, he grabs my arm strongly.
"I have to show you something once everyone has gone to sleep."
His sudden, strange reaction makes me hesitant, alert. My body completely firm and my fists clenched, awaiting to protect me.
"I... I just met you. I don't really know you and don't know what this is about."
"Please! You're the only one I've spoken to in these damn two years! Pl-"
Before he can continue begging, the woman enters the room and grabs his shoulder. An invigilator hides behind her, willing to capture the prey she has in her hands. Max stands there stiff while the guard demands the accustomed identification number and pushes him violently toward the exit. In that moment, my new acquaintance turns his head quickly and nods, letting me now he is willing to carry on with this unexpected yet exciting plan he has in mind. I know I have to trust him and I am certain we will be meeting tonight.