Employee Training

An Enlightening Glimpse of Business on Io.
by Electric Keet

When I came to, I was standing behind the counter of the Blue Teapot Hotel on Tvashtar Mensa. In front of me stood a pastel green pseudoferret with a nametag identifying him as the hotel manager, my direct superior. To my left floated a caramel-coloured cephalopod bearing the closest thing it had to a smug expression. I was wearing a crisp midnight-blue minidress that would have been a perfectly acceptable employee uniform for any gender other than my own.

My name is Yaz Lenslight, and I’m here to tell you that on-the-job training can be a real… a real… positive experience, and one for which I thank my employers.

With a quick yank, the soft cotton fuzz that may have prevented any of my thoughts from reaching my consciousness was gone. It wasn’t like waking up in a strange place after being drugged. I knew exactly where I was, and even though I knew exactly what was going on, I couldn’t help but ask my boss, Fildyn, the most natural question – while, of course, carefully editing out the normally expected invectives. “What… just happened?”

His face spoke of apology, disappointment, and the sort of amusement one isn’t supposed to show in a professional context. “You’ve been through a bit of training, recently. Our benevolent regional manager rightly felt it necessary.” He nodded to the squid at my side.

The same regional manager who had condemned me to transformation camp over the relative safety of a vid-call now stared directly at me in person. My head resonated like a steel drum smacked with a decaying salmon. I felt compelled to respond as though I’d been asked a question. “Yes, I will, and thank you greatly for that. I do feel fortunate.”

The hotel manager’s smile was slightly too forced for comfort. “Fortunate! Absolutely. Well, if that’s all, I’m sure Regional Manager Twell-Teff would like to get back to important business on Saturn…?”

The squid’s expression and colour shifted toward reddish amusement and it floated toward the rotating doors of the lobby. As it passed, each of the five guests simultaneously paused to cheer, “We’re glad we stayed at the Blue Teapot!” Once it was outside, they went directly back to their conversations without even realising what had happened.

Fildyn exhaled heavily. “Sorry that had to happen, kid, but it came in here unannounced and just sort of took over. You know how they are.”

I squeezed my eyes tight, visualising the frustration squirting out my ears. “Lemme guess, I brought this on myself.”

The ferret laughed gently. “Kid, I don’t know how you snuck out of that camp, and I don’t want to, but you almost got away with it, and to be honest, I would have looked the other way. You’re a good lad.” He paused and looked me up and down as though he were uncertain, and the reminder of my clothing rekindled the frustration. “Seriously, though, I think you got what you needed out of it. The R.M. felt otherwise, and before I could object, it was here with its tendrils in you. Figuratively. I think.”

The pressure was building, I was completely exhausted, and I wanted nothing more than to scurry home for the day. A glance at the clock told me that I was in the middle of my shift, and— “Whoa! Three days?”

“Two and a half.” Fildyn shook his head. “Look, Yaz, take eight minutes and get yourself together, okay?”

I nodded slowly. “Yeah… yeah, I should go do that. I’ll be back in a few. Thanks, boss.” That would be enough time to grab a quick puff or two of Soma – just to take the edge off – and make a call I was absolutely burning to make.

I normally kept my belt-pack behind the counter when I was on-shift, and finding it there was the first not-greatly-unsettling thing that had happened to me in three— two and a half days. I grabbed it and headed past the folks in the lobby who were trying hard not to stare. I was halfway to the shadowed side of the building when the clicking of my own footsteps sunk in. I realised out loud and with some amount of anger, “K’r’roc squid taught me how to walk in heels!” I dug through the pack, found my Soma stub, and took two quick puffs of air through the device. It helped, but not enough. The second thing I pulled out was the floating projector that my brother had given me as a decanting-day present. As it floated cheerfully at arm’s length, I tapped beneath my left ear. “Call: Eekay,” I barked in annoyance… then yelped, “Audio-onl—” just as the snow-leopard’s picture came on.

“Oi, Yaz-boy, y’caught me just out of the shower! Spot m’new pierc— ’Ey, is that a flower over your ear?”

“What?” I pawed at my ear briefly, and pulled back a pastel blue flower. I growled audibly… but put it back as though it made perfect sense to do so. “Yeah. Remember the favour you did for me?” I pointedly drew out the word. “The regional figured it out and popped over to Io for some intensive one-on-one training. Hypnosquid-style.”

The damp cat cringed a little. “Ouch. ’Pologies, mate. What’s the damage?”

“Two and a half days of being repro’d with hospitality protocols… and how to walk in heels, apparently. Vile sense o’ humour.” I motioned with a hand, pale blue streaks at my fingertips only just now registering. “Fraz it all, my claws’ve been painted?”

Eekay’s tail snaked inquisitively. “Love to spot that in person….”

The frustration bubbled up again. I puffed at the stub and tried to pool my determination. “Think I’ve had enough humiliation for one day. Look, I don’t know how the rest of my shift’s gonna fly, but if I gotta quit this job, I—”

“’Ey, don’t punk out on me. You’ll be brill in no time.” The cat got that unsettling grin that first snagged me so long back. “Anyhow, I need ya there. Looks like a two-track tourney in th’ area in a few days. I’ll be ’round, ’long with the team. Old times, mate!”

I couldn’t stay frustrated knowing that I’d get some time to visit with the racing team I once called my family. I still did, really. I let a bit of a smile out. “Serious? That’ll be star.”

“Top star. An’ hey, cheer up.” Eekay’s tail bobbed impishly. “Yer pretty when y’smile.”

“You bi—” The projector flashed a disconnection message then blinked out. I shook my head and stuffed it in my belt-pack, then turned and impeccably clicked my way back to finish my shift.

  1. Yaz Lenslight’s avatar

    You know, it only occurred to me after I disconnected the call… Eekay has a sonic scrubber at zir place. Shower? What was zie doing, playing in the sink?

    Then again, this is Eekay….


    1. Eekay’s avatar

      Wouldn’t you like to know, skirt-boy?