Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Eratz perched on the last of the big branches reaching out from the forest towards the massive clearing the space-farers had scorched into his landscape . His body stretched almost flush with the limb, lost in the blue leaves and rough bark, one leg and one arm stretched out completely, fingers and toes curled tightly around while the remaining arm and leg were tucked up, coiled to launch him into flight. His bare skin bristled in the cool nighttime air, its colour mimicking exactly the bark he had veneered himself to.

He waited.

Beneath him, like clockwork, the patrol of soldiers lumbered by. Copper skin covered in tribal markings, hair cropped short, heavy weapons cradled in well muscled arms. These were the off-world intruders, masters of brute force and ignorance.

Eratz barely breathed as they slipped by scant few meters beneath him completely unaware.

When they stopped at the perimeter midpoint, as they always did, Eratz narrowed his eyes to slits and focused on a point twenty meters beyond, above the fence line, and in his mind plotted the trajectory and landing. When he heard the lighter snick, the soldier’s night vision momentarily spoiled in the glare, Eratz launched, arms and legs coiling and uncoiling with the fury of purpose as he reached the end of the branch without so much as moving it and launched into the air. His groundward flesh took on the colour of the night sky, and his skyward flesh the colour of the ground as he spread his arms and legs, pulling tight the glider flesh and made the fence-line and that distance again beyond in a silent rush, before diving and coming to a complete stop, his body now blending completely with the ground as he flattened himself to it and cooled his body to its exact temperature.

He barely breathed, didn’t move, opened his ears as wide as he could and once again waited.

Beyond the fence he could make out the steady inhalation and exhalation of the soldiers as they smoked their cigarettes, the measure of their laboured breathing. He could hear the hardware shift as their weapons were repositioned at the end of well worn carrying straps.

There were no sounds of detection.

Eratz cooled and conserved until the soldiers resumed their patrol, then he resumed his forward motion.

He kept plastered almost completely to the ground, arms and legs coiling and uncoiling, joints bending so as to keep his body flat, its only motion forward towards the landing platform. Where the ground cover changed into the glasphalt of the landing pad, Eratz’ skin adjusted again, taking on the smooth flecked grey of the new material as he continued across its surface.

He moved slowly, steadily, closing the distance to the nearest starfighter with spider-like precision of movement and laser focus.

If he turned his head he’d be able to clearly make out the guard towers at either end of the compound, and the control tower looming overhead. He would be able to make out the eyes of those soldiers inside charged with protecting their equipment from just this sort of intrusion. He didn’t turn his head as he knew he didn’t need to. If they spotted him, if his skin betrayed his true colour, or his body temperature rose so much as half a degree he’d be gunned down in an instant, there was no value in foreknowledge of that eventuality should it occur.

Once beneath the safe cover of the nose gear, Eratz cycled through the schematics of this craft in his head, then slithered up the skid into the landing gear compartment, dialed open the maintenance hatch and crawled through the munitions access tube to the navigator’s compartment, then between the seats into the cockpit proper.

He ran through the startup sequence once from memory, then in a mad flurry of fired switches and interface overrides the vertical thrusters bathed the tarmac in flame as the craft shot up into the night sky, nosed down as the take off thrusters rotated for forward motion and the ship was gone, Eratz madly coding through all the tracking interfaces and shutting them down as he pushed the throttle as far as it would go.

These intruders had taught him the value of invisibility, and once he’d grafted that to their firepower he would teach them to disappear.

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