THE DEFINITIONS OF PROFESSIONAL ATTIRE
by Evergreen Lee
Detective Umbria picked up the ISC dress code manual left open on her workstation and read the highlighted section: “Employees are only allowed to display two eyes each, and they should be in the traditional locations (see diagram, left).”
The picture showed a human face, with human eyes. Umbria flipped to the front of the manual. It had been revised yesterday. She trotted into her manager’s office, slammed the door, and flung the document at him.
“Am I really expected to conform to this nonsense?”
Carl sighed. “I have no control over it. There were complaints about your third eye. People claim it makes them uneasy.”
“That eye is part of why you hired me, so I could see heat patterns and emotional overlays at crime scenes!”
Carl ran his fingers through his hair as he hunched in his chair. “I tried to point that out, but then they said that it gave you an unfair advantage over the other detectives.”
Like being an ‘alien’ working in an almost-entirely human company wouldn’t more than offset any supposed advantage? She’d had the best scores in the training program, but had been the last one to get hired, with the lowest title, and the least pay.
Umbria took a deep breath and let it out again before speaking. She thought back to her off-world preparatory training. “Shouldn’t maximizing our investigative potential be the priority?”
“Look,” Carl said, “I found some eye patches that will appear opaque but still allow you to see clearly. I sent you an email with the website, but in the meantime, you will have to wear a hat.” He handed her a company baseball cap with the Investigations, Surveillance, and Convictions logo scrawled across it.
Even on the largest setting, the brim pushed against her eye and gave her a terrible headache. She left work early, then took a sick day while she waited for the eye patches to arrive.
They were pretty, and looked similar to the jewelry that some humans wore on their foreheads. The fabric still clouded her vision, however, and the disorientation caused her to trip and stumble when walking.
“All employees must wear appropriate footwear (see details on page 87).”
Umbria wrapped her hooves in several layers of fabric, then pulled on the ‘boots’ that had been deemed appropriate. Maneuvering with the awkward coverings proved difficult, and increased her clumsiness.
As she plodded outside so she could urinate in the literal stall they had provided for those with ‘unusual physiology’, she caught the sound of someone crying.
The heat patterns indicated that an Imgran was huddled inside. It had to be Eredral – he was the only Imgran still working at ISC. The others had left after they’d been told they had to sit in chairs, instead of hanging from bars, while they worked.
“Are you okay?” Umbria asked.
The crying cut off, followed by the sounds of water, and the air dryer.
The fur on his face still appeared damp as he walked out.
“Sorry,” he said.
“It’s noth-,” his voice choked, and he shook, then whispered in a hollow voice, “My tail. I had to remove it.”
Umbria gasped. An Imgran’s tail was more essential to them than an arm or leg. They used it for everything, including foreplay and mating.
“It’s in cryo, so I can re-attach it… some day. I need this job though. We’re about to have three litters and I’m the only one in our tribe with a steady paycheck.”
“But, why did you have to remove it?”
Eredral’s face sank into an expression of resigned exhaustion. “There had been … complaints.”
Carl sat back in his chair and grimaced as he looked at the annual review paper in his hand. “I’m afraid I had to rate you as Below Expectations.”
“Excuse me? I’ve been working sixty-plus hour weeks all year. I’ve closed more cases than anyone else, and I linked together the Juggler crimes, which no one else had realized were connected. I rescued his last victim before it was too late, captured him myself, and the evidence I collected led to an easy conviction.”
“Yes, I know.” Carl frowned. “But, most of his victims weren’t even our clients. Not to mention the, uh, nature of his crimes meant that they were low priority.”
“You mean the fact that his victims were non-humans?”
Carl coughed. “Plus, you’ve messed up our crime scenes on multiple occasions.”
“That’s because of this stupid eye patch and these damn boots you force me to wear!”
“Also, your people skills and professional appearance needs work. There have been a number of … complaints.”
It took a few months for Umbria to put everything together. It helped that the victim she’d rescued from the Juggler was the only child of a successful investment financier. They gave her great business advice, as well as bankrolling her startup costs.
When the last details had been finalized, she approached her Imgran co-worker.
He quickly shut the drawer he’d been looking in.
She knew it held pictures of his tribe’s litters. People had complained when he left them out on his desk.
“Eredral, I have a job proposition for you. I’m starting up a freelance detective office. I can’t pay much, yet, but you can work however you want and look however you want, as long as the job gets done.”
His entire face lit up. “Really?”
“Really. And I have a friend who wants to pay for your tail re-attachment surgery.” Eredral’s stellar work in the lab had been crucial, after all, to finding the Juggler in time.
It didn’t take long for either of them to resign and pack up. The company chose to terminate them immediately, rather than use their four-week notice.
As they walked out of ISC for the last time, they passed a poster on the wall. It showed several different smiling aliens, all of different species, but all of whom could be mistaken for humans, with enough makeup. The poster claimed: “We Want Diversity.”