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I’m new at this, at observing them. It’s part of my training, to find how things work in their world. How do they grow? How do they deal with these “emotions”? And how, of course, do they eventually die?

It’s sad really, to have seen documented cases of these creatures hurting each other, hurting themselves. Things that haven’t happened to us for thousands of years.

This is what we’re studying now: sickness. I’ve taken several courses on the development of germs, bacteria, disease. It’s all very new to me, and today marks my first day in observation.

“Why don’t we help them?” I ask my instructor as the ships door opens to reveal what looks to be a courtyard.

“Too dangerous,” he says, as we take our first steps on their planet’s surface. Simulations had prepared me for the dense atmosphere as I feel my body grow heavy. “Can’t do anything to disrupt their own evolutionary progress. We are here to observe and report, nothing more.”

We make our way across the courtyard, all but invisible to those we observe. Some may see a flicker of light out of the corner of their eye, but nothing more. Colors are somewhat subdued in my vision; a possible effect of the atmosphere.

The building we enter is what they call “hospital”. “Today’s lesson is on observing what we’ve learned in class first-hand.” Our instructor points down a few halls, listing off what we should expect today.

“Of course, some halls are for advanced classes only if you wish to continue your studies on this planet.” Some of my peers look at each other quizzically, but raise no questions.

We make our way through several rooms riddled with germs and disease, and even glimpse a few operations. I marvel at the rudimentary skills of their healers; shaky hands and minuscule mistakes that differ from ours by at least 12.5 percent.

With the conclusion of our lesson, we are instructed to head back to the ship. “I want a report sent to me by next lesson,” our instructor says.

Before we leave, I hear loud noises coming from a hall we didn’t observe. Screaming, I think. Curious, I step away from the group and enter a darkened room. A female lies on a table, crying, while a male sits and holds her hand. He says something, and I turn my translator on to make out, “Sometime soon.”

We had had a lesson on death, but I haven’t had the chance to observe it.

I move forward, trying to find the source of her pain. I switch the mode on my visor to see inside and find a disturbingly large mass in her abdominal region. I almost remember what they call them. Tumors, I think.

My instructor wouldn’t approve, but I can’t help it. I lay my hand on her stomach, and concentrate. Within moments it’s gone, and I smile to myself.

And then she’s screaming again, but it’s different, it’s worse. What have I done?

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