Evaluations happened out of the blue. For one of the cadets at the Space Station, it could not have been at a worst time. He had lost one of his limbs not sixteen minutes before, and his bandaging was only halfway done. Preferring to not default to an automatic ousting, he could not sit the tests out
The Department of Inspection arrived in their little capsule with two members on board, a toolbox between them. They equipped sixteen of the cadets with armbands from that white metal container, simple rubber affairs with chips embedded within. Yesuik, the injured cadet, sailed through the first two tasks, including the assembly of the ray gun in under thirty seconds. He managed it one-handed in seventeen, staining the platform he stood on in a pool of crimson.
The real trouble came in the final task of reporting stats. His head swimming, he managed to deliver 50% of the data in perfect clarity before he fainted from the heavy blood loss. His armband calculated his score, and he was safely above the required margin.
Only one amongst the 16 fell below.
Yesuik, who had thus far failed to clear the aptitude margin in twenty-one occupations until then, now had a new feather added to his cap. His first had been as a Space Janitor. During the evaluation, he cleaned the smaller asteroids and floating human debris out of the way, but did not close his vacuum well and released everything back where he collected them from. His time as a Coach for Ring Runners ended when he forgot to account for the temperature difference and did not optimize the runner’s shoes for the same. The runner was said to still be floating around in bliss; no one had heard a word from them to counter the rumour.
Time and time again, Yesuik had been rehabilitated in a dozen more roles, such as Air Tester for Planets, Traffic Control for Spaceships, and something as basic as Floater Catcher. He had come up short spectacularly each time. Now the number of departments they could toss Yesuik into were growing thin, and the evaluators had not yet found a job he could do without causing harm to self, much less excel at. Rumours lightyeared around the galaxy that if a profession had Yesuik on board, the Department of Inspection was bound to drop by soon.
“We could ground him, ma’am,” the second-in-command insisted for the umpteenth time. “Grounded ones do not need to be involved at all. Those are the rules!”
The Chief Inspector furrowed her brows and shook her head. “We did that once—no, twice already. He catapulted out of the damned atmosphere as though he were made of rubber and the air was solid ground.”
The second-in-command blinked in surprise. “Incredible. He really does fail at everything—even gravity!”
The Chief Inspector made to massage her throbbing forehead but stopped when she realized she had a helmet on. Sighing and fogging up the visor, she muttered in defeat, “There’s but an obvious solution left before we toss him into something like a Black Hole Monitor role and have him send the whole universe through it…”
She absent-mindedly ran a finger across the words ‘Department of Inspection’ stitched into the space suit.
Two months in, there had not been any complaints against Yesuik, nor had he been deemed unfit for his current job, yet. As it turned out, no procedures had ever been defined to evaluate the evaluators. The Chief was quite satisfied to turn a blind eye to it all so long as there were no reports of casualties involved in any official inspection.
“If our department ever implodes thanks to him,” she confided once to her subordinate, “do you think we will ever find anything else we would be good at?”
The second-in-command, who had misgivings about the employment of Yesuik, frowned before her expression cleared and she nodded. “Oh, I am positive we will find something. It will be thanks to Yesuik too.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“We have learned extensively about the various designations while trying to accommodate him.”
The Chief Inspector’s forehead creased as she considered the statement. “But that does not mean we would be good in those occupations.”
The second-in-command bared all her pearly whites in an act which the Chief had to assume was a grin, and not some primal form of a threatening gesture. Her words which followed confirmed her suspicion.
“Tell me, Chief, if the Department of Inspection gets dissolved, who would even be there to evaluate us?”
Manisha Sahoo (she/her), from Odisha, India, has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master’s in English. Her words have appeared in Sylvia Magazine, Atticus Review, Amity, Noctivagant Press, The Mean Journal and others. You can find
her on Twitter (@LeeSplash) and on Instagram (@leesplash).
Everyone Must Have a Calling is the winner of the Apparition Literary Magazine November Flash Fiction Challenge, which was based on the prompt Worst in Show reality shows.