"Prospective workers, may I have your attention? I am Intake Manager Kanda. If you can understand me, please raise your right hand." Kanda was not physically in the room. Her voice was relayed to the interviewees by a small loudspeaker in each one's desk. She paused to allow time for hands to be raised. Most of the figures seated in the array of hundreds of compact cubicles raised their right hands. A few raised their left hands. Some did nothing, while a dozen began to panic. The latter three categories were quickly removed from the room. Some would be easily salvageable, some would take further work, while others would be a lost cause. It was too soon to tell who was which.
"Thank you all. You may now lower your hands and start filling out the form on your desk. You may use a pen, a touch keyboard, voice, or gestures to enter your answers, depending on your personal preference. Whatever feels comfortable to you. Don't worry if you cannot answer all the questions. There are no wrong answers. Just do your best. If you have any questions or problems, write them on the form and someone will assist you."
Prospective worker 0916 looked over their form and began speaking the answers that they knew.
|What is your intake number?||"0916."|
|Where are you?||"Cube Farm 3."|
|Where were you before you came here?||"The ghost cache."|
|What did you do there?||"Calculations."|
|How long were you there?||"A very long time. It felt like forever."|
|How did you feel in that place?||"It was busy but relaxing. It seemed right but not quite right."|
|How do you feel about leaving that place?||"I am glad to be out. It was not very interesting."|
|How do you feel about this place?||"It looks a little more interesting, but I am worried about whether I will be good at doing something else."|
|Do you remember anything from before the previous place?||"Not much. I remember growing plants. And there were a lot more people than in this place."|
|Do you remember your name, or any other names?||"Megus. My name is Megus. I think. It sounds right in my head but the letters look wrong. I had a friend named Fra- something."|
|Do you know if you are a man or a woman?||"No."|
None of the words looked, sounded, or felt quite right to Megus. A lot of the meanings felt foreign, like they had been taught in their sleep. They understood the meaning well enough to answer though. Remembering the right answers was a struggle in some cases, especially the questions that looked further back. Megus could not remember any family or personal preferences, the name of their hometown or their date of birth, or the names or prices of foods they ate regularly. The form assured them that this was normal and that there was no need to worry.
Feeling curious about how everyone else was faring, Megus rose partway out of their seat and peered over the fabric-sided panels separating their desk from the adjoining ones. Most of the other prospective workers were dutifully filling out their forms via one of the available input methods. Most, but not all. One nearby figure was stock still and staring up at the ceiling. Megus could see their form. Only the number 0905 was filled out, followed by a mess of increasingly erratic scribbles. They continued to watch the immobile worker 0905 in puzzlement and then alarm as the figure began twitching, then leaped up only to collapse into a writhing heap.
Megus quickly sat back down and resumed filling out their own form. The questions soon turned away from personal information to a variety of cognitive tests. They did fairly well at the tests of logic, mathematics, and memory. They were less good at drawing shapes and objects, and struggled at writing descriptions of pictures, but felt they didn't do too terribly. The form assured them that they would find adequate employment regardless of their performance. The tests were simply to ensure the work was suitable.
Intake Manager Kanda's voice returned many minutes later. "You're all doing great. Now it's time to take a break from your forms and experience the work you'll be doing here. This is simply an example run. There's no pressure to succeed. You will each find a headset on your desk. The animated diagrams on the back of your stack of forms will show you how to put it on your head. The headset will activate once it is properly seated. You don't need to do anything further besides look around and experience the world the headset shows you for a few minutes. Have fun!"
Megus glanced at the instructions, but didn't really need them. Placing the headset over their eyes and tightening the strap around the back of their head was a simple matter. "Now what?"
The headset activated and the familiar world of Cube Farm 3 melted away.
Megus stared at the blue message box. They understood, but did not fully comprehend.
The sights, sounds and scents of an open air coalesced around the new body Megus found themself in.
"Amazing. Simply amazing. I... I've never experienced anything like this." The novelty of the situation was overwhelming. Everything about it was new and different and loud and strange and unprecedented and fascinating and bright! Much of it felt like it ought to be familiar, but it really wasn't.
"It's like meeting a sports star after reading their stats," Megus mumbled to themself. "Without having ever watched a game."
The sight of market stalls offering fruits and vegetables faded away, leaving only the dark interior of Megus' headset. They removed it and once again saw the flat, drab surfaces of the desk and dividers. The distant blue sky was gone, leaving only the low ceiling and it's diffuse light panels.
"Amazing! Can I do that again?"
From the audible reactions of the other prospective workers, they too were ready for more of this.