What we receive from you today is a vital part of our wildlife archive project. On the table, you will find the kit for your cell samples.
Under you is a sleeping pad, provided for your comfort. Sit up slowly, as you may feel light-headed. You may use the chair, if you prefer.
We have calibrated light and temperature preferences from your vitals probe. We can alter them at your request.
Pardon the limited space. It gives us better control over your environment. Be assured it is ample for our needs.
That is a microphone. Kindly do not tap it.
This voice, you mean? You are not the first to make that comparison. Our translation software is designed to produce the most reliable soothing effect. Eventually we hope to hear for ourselves this “Marion Cotillard.”
No, this is the physical universe, but feel free to believe that you are dreaming. We find it helps your species to remain calm. Shall we begin?
That is your vitals probe. We positioned it on your lower extremity for your convenience. We do not recommend removing it at this time.
Now you are bleeding. That must be unpleasant. There are antiseptic wipes in the sample kit—
There is no need to shout. Our receivers are perfectly attuned.
We are trying to help you, Subject 48821.
We are afraid there is no “door” in that sense.
Your adrenaline is spiking. That will affect your samples. In the cup to your left, the white pill is a calming agent. It is non-psychoactive and non-addictive. There is potable water to your right.
For your species, the Galactic Commission on Consumables has given the calming agent a rating of “probably not carcinogenic.”
Of course. You are free to abstain.
That is a common concern. But harming you would achieve no purpose. Take confidence that, as soon you provide your samples, you will be returned to your bed. It will be several cycles before the solar event. You will have plenty of time to enjoy your planet.
Please. Let’s concentrate on the task at hand.
We admire your insistence. We will be happy to answer that question once you complete your samples.
If you open the kit, you will find an orange vial for a cheek swab. Yes, that one. Take it out.
Let’s not worry about the other vials right now. Cheek cells are all we require at this moment.
Open it. Remove the swab. Rub it against the inside of your cheek. We will let you know when to stop.
A circular motion works best. Good. Just like that.
Now replace the swab in the vial and close it.
Excellent. For the second vial, we need a blood sample. There is a lancet below the lid. Sterilize the finger of your choice with an antiseptic wipe, insert that finger in the vial, and our device will do the rest.
Not at all. The lancet is sterile.
Your blood pressure is spiking. Kindly keep it within normal range. It is only a pinprick.
No, unfortunately we cannot use the blood on your ankle. We require a clean catch.
We are on a bit of a schedule. We prefer cooperation, but we are prepared to complete our work without it.
Good job. Go on and close it up. You are almost done. The last vial contains the swab for your rectum.
That decibel level overdrives our amplifier.
We are muting you until you desist.
You should take pride in being chosen. Only 0.01% of your population will have the chance to contribute to our genetic archive. You and your gut flora will be cloned and studied and celebrated for generations, long after the solar event has destroyed your civilization.
The rectal swab. Do you require assistance with this task?
You are trembling. Do you require a higher room temperature?
No one is watching you, Subject 48821.
Inside the anus, please. Insert the swab to the demarcation on the stem.
A circular motion works best.
Good. Close it and return it to the kit.
That concludes our—
Oh, yes, that. Well, studies of your star indicate it is verging on a coronal mass ejection that, even by low estimates, will cause catastrophic damage to your species’ agricultural supply chain.
Of course. Your species is very clever. We are sure many, many of you will survive.
If you must know, at this moment, we are approximately two hundred kilometers above the surface of your planet’s moon. Subject 48821, does it benefit you to know these things?
Now you are weeping. In the kit, you will find facial tissue.
That concludes your role in our study. Thank you for your cooperation. Our automata will remove your vitals probe and return you to your residence. As a courtesy to our survey participants, we offer memory expurgation. Of your experience here today, we can leave you with a memory that is clear, hazy, or inaccessible. Are you interested?
A hazy memory has 85% probability of being interpreted as imagination.
No, memory service is not carcinogenic.
It is not teratogenic, mutagenic, or any other toxicity. Goodness.
We know this must be difficult. Avail yourself of the facial tissue.
No, no one outside this space will ever learn what you chose.
No, we will conduct no work with your samples within your star system.
Very good. It may comfort you to know that is what most of our participants choose.
Please return to the sleeping pad, lie down, and count back from one hundred. We are introducing a sedative to your atmosphere that will be affecting you shortly.
Take care, Subject 48821. We look forward to seeing your face again.
Tory Hoke writes, draws, and codes in Los Angeles. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and Drabblecast, and her art has appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex, and B is for Broken. She’s art director of Strange Horizons and editor-in-chief of sub-Q, a magazine for interactive fiction.