Human Resources (The Galean Universe)

Another rejected contest submission

Originally written for Furious Fiction — August, and rejected. 
The entry had to be 500 words maximum and include these three sentences: 
The door was locked. She laughed. It felt familiar.

Better luck in September.

September 11, 2006
Ft. Meade, Maryland

The door was locked. Of course it was. They only gave her the office so she wouldn’t be readily available, or readily visible, to the rest of the department. If they really wanted her out of sight they should have given her the damn key. Now she would have to walk all the way back to the director’s office with her box of belongings, and then back again.

Her stomach twisted and churned, and her face started to turn purple with humiliation.

It felt familiar.

She’d been here before.

She’d been here every year she’d been in public school and then college, and then graduate school. She had more degrees and PhDs than all of the men in the counterterrorism department combined and a resume longer than she was tall.

Despite that, she’d learned the hard way that none of that mattered if the ‘Species’ section of your ID said anything other than ‘human.’ She might have had an easier time if she at least looked human, but no, she was a dryad and had two antlers curving back out of her head to prove it.

She’d truly thought that this time would be different. She’d moved up. She was working in the National Security Branch of the FBI, shoulder to shoulder the with best of the best.

She’d been naive to think that way.

“They didn’t give you a key did they?” A deep rumbling voice appeared behind her and she turned and was startled to find a nearly seven-foot tall, dark-skinned orc standing behind her. His width blocked her view of the entire hallway and his head was tilted to the side to stop his massive ram-like horns from grazing the ceiling. Despite his size, his tailor-made suit fit him like a glove and he exuded authority and experience like a second skin.

It was hard not to be intimidated by such a figure, but she managed not to flinch.

“They must have forgotten to give it to me,” she said smoothly, “a simple mistake.”

“Mistake my arse,” he said pulling a small keycard out of his front pocket, “they did it on purpose.” He reached around her and swiped the card so the door clicked open.

“After you,” he said.

When she looked back behind him she saw heads poking up over cubicle walls and people loitering down the hallway. They were all watching them.

“After me,” she said quietly and peeked into the room. It was barely big enough for her. “Please don’t tell me that we’re supposed to share this office?”

He gave a small nod and held out one massive hand to her. “Solomon Wu,” he said.

She placed her tiny hand in his. “Nice to meet you,” she said. “I’m — “

“Skasda Järvinen,” he finished for her. “I’ve actually been following your career for quite a while, and can I just say that it is an honor to finally work with someone with a proper set of horns.”

She laughed.

JLRose is an American fantasy writer, 3D artist and game designer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s spent the past three years working on the first book of The Galean Universe and is currently querying it to agents.

She has just published her first completed work, The Chase, to Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Find it here.

This is the first installment of The Lockwood Series, a mini-series from The Galean Universe that follows Cosima Lockwood, an ocelot shifter with a penchant for trouble.