Author : Kelly Sauvage Angel

“So, how was transport?” Betta asked as I settled into her chair.

“Speed of light, really.” I gathered and lifted my hair in a messy bundle so she could snap the nylon cape around my neck.

From the moment we landed, I’d found myself warily intrigued by what I had witnessed among our requisite stops throughout the Integration Center. Not only were we given a comprehensive orientation on Earthling customs, but our Commandrix stayed by our side throughout the documentation process as well as the distribution of The Rules for our independent study. All that was left before settling into our sleep capsules was a visit to the salon. The cooking, crochet and Pilates lessons would begin tomorrow.

“This will take no time at all,” Betta assured me. “Your locks are lustrous. All we need to do is give you bangs.”

“Bangs?” I asked, reaching for my blaster.

Betta stifled a kind laugh.

“No weaponry involved,” she said. “Bangs are simply the shorter hairs required of females to mask their high foreheads.”

“But, I’m quite proud of my cranial prowess,” I protested. “How will my superior brain mass be acknowledged if my forehead cannot be seen?”

“That’s precisely the reason you were sent to my chair.” Betta sectioned off a swath of my hair for cutting. “High foreheads give Earthling males a commanding presence and garner respect; whereas, among females, they are considered, well, downright homely. People will whisper of your horse face.”

Lost for words, I directed my gaze downward. Lengths of hair descended into my lap.

Betta paused the snipping of her shears. “Please tell me you’re okay, Mallo.”

“I… don’t… understand.” Never had my voice sounded so meek to my own ears.

“Take it as a compliment. They’re threatened,” Betta said, crouching so we were at eye-level. “Even modern society here is structured for a perpetuation of the oppression of women. But, when on Earth, do as Earthlings do. They still teach that in orientation, don’t they? Can you see why our women called for backup?”

“Yes, but how will anyone understand what I have to offer if I present as they desire rather than as I am?”

“Perhaps it’s wise if they don’t know. We want them to underestimate you.”

“What else is required of me?”

“You haven’t been to the marketplace, I take it. You will need apparel without functional pockets so that you are forever encumbered as well as shoes that keep you from moving with any purpose whatsoever. And, by all means, make sure to paint your face so you are not tempted to sweat, swim, speak or eat anything truly appetizing.”

“Am I allowed to pass gas?”

“Heavens, no! You’ll literally blow your cover.”

“I don’t know about all this. It seems rather demeaning.”

“Welcome to Earth, Love,” Betta said as she removed the cape. “Our strategy is to catch them unawares.”

Upon observing my reflection in the mirror, something within me snapped—or perhaps simply clicked into place. I reached to reclaim the cape, which I then secured around my own damn neck.

“Do you find your new bangs to be uneven?” Betta asked.

“Fuck bangs,” I said as I rifled through Betta’s top drawer to retrieve the clippers.

Betta gasped as I began buzzing along my scalp.

“They’ll think you’re a lesbian!” she cried.

“Imagine that. Do you ladies want backup or not?” I asked. “If so, we’re playing by new rules or none at all.”

“But the strategy is—“

“As it’s always been.” I finished the sentence for her. “And where, pray tell, has that gotten you?”