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Space Suit

L. R. Conti is a writer based in Morro Bay, California. She lives with her Zombie Woodturner husband and two children. Her short fiction is published or forthcoming at Nature: Futures, 365 tomorrows, and Riggwelter. You can follow her on twitter @lisarconti.

Going into the job interview with my skin set to flash is risky, but I do it anyway. After all, I need them to remember me. I need them to think I'm bold. I need them to know I am up for a risk. So, I walk in with stripes, change to blue, change to scales, change to purple fur. I sit in the only seat available.
By the time my skin flashes to stone, an annoyed voice says, "Dr. Drone, Please set the skin to something steady." It comes from the male in the green uniform. The other three nod in agreement.
I wonder briefly if I should match the panel's attire but realize that wearing a uniform is presumptuous. I've already overstepped but I need to nail it so I take a different risk. I could use the presets; preset interview, preset work, preset professional.
Instead, I swipe my hand across my wrist and say, "Skin setting: Default. Adaptive. Variable. Self." I blink long listening to the committee's audible exhale, a coordinated concerned gasp. I'm worried too--did I really just say adaptive and variable?
"Please," I think, praying to my amygdalar circuitry, "No nudity, no armor, no T. rex teeth, no cape, and especially no space suit. No. Space. Suit."
I open my eyes, looking down before I look to the interviewer's faces. I'm pleased to find myself dressed in office wear. An involuntary smile takes over. Similar smiles appear on each committee member's face. But then I notice the female looking at my feet. One ankle holds a half broken shackle and the other is luminescent green. My feet themselves are spared but vintage shoes can only go so far.
I decide to address the situation. Lifting my pant legs to mid-calf where the effect fades to skin tone, I say, "As you can see from my current status, I'm up for a challenge. I like to push boundaries but I'm tempered as needed." I adjust the pants, positioning them to cover the ankles completely and wait for questions.
The inquiries come one after the next like high-energy pulses. I tackle each without injury. Despite the panel's militant skins, I can tell my answers please them. Their faces relax. When I start to tell them about my resiliency genes and empathy markers, both females lean forward. When I talk about my hobby of collecting asteroids, the male smiles with amusement. My pride surges as we wrap the session with "thank yous" and next steps. And then, just as I get up to leave, I know there's something wrong.
I can't avoid it. And there's nothing I can say to help. I contemplate walking out backwards but it's clear that won't work. After awkwardly standing too long, I pivot and take brisk steps toward the door. As I place my hand on the knob, I look over my shoulder. I could only hope for a peacock plume or a modest prehensile appendage. But the orange scaly tail that screams dragon has unfolded in a long train behind me. I give the group a sideways smile and a shoulder shrug, and walk through the door without attempting to shut it.
Three steps down the road, my helmet appears. I walk home in the comfort of my space suit.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Author Comments

This story emerged as a concept while updating the font and wording of my resume. With constant digital access and the ability to make changes on the fly, the idea to integrate one's dynamic preferences to suit (so to speak) the needs of the situation, resulted in imagining how a futuristic job interview might play out.

- L. R. Conti
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