Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The room is greener than my natural dermal shade in springtime, and the air conditioning is more noisy than effective. Both of which are features of another day on Earth, the quirkiest destination in Cluster 644984, catchily known as ‘The Milky Way’ among the locals.
“I hate humans.”
I turn smoothly to see Mlurbon glaring angrily at the combination of shining bones sticking out the side of their arm.
“No, you hate having to restrict your ability to move. It’s a perfectly natural reaction. We Slurra are invertebrates. Not being able to lunge everything in any direction at whim scares us.”
Mlurbon growls at me. Sensory clusters reshaped as eyeballs glare realistically from left orbit and nasal cavity of the skull floating a handspan clear of the top of its spine. I point towards their pelvis.
“While you’re trying to find a way to tell me you’re not scared of anything, think about manifesting some genitalia.”
The in-joke is wasted. They look down, eyeballs shooting from the skull on a pair of pseudopods.
“Why do we have to wear skeletons?”
“Technically, they wear us, as clothes are worn on the outside.”
Another growl.
“You know what I mean.”
“It forces us to move like them, reducing the chance of accidental disclosure.”
Which presupposes the operator’s ability to stabilise their form… I flush my skin and internal tone back to transparent.
“Mlurbon. Look at me, then arrange your skeleton like mine is. Don’t worry about shading yet. Get the skeleton. Yes. Like that. Now, add the limiters. You know, like when we practiced internal bands at nursery?”
“That basic?”
“Yes. We have to be sure these bodies will move like humans if we have to act instinctively.”
Starting at my feet, I slowly flush my limiters deep red so they can see where they start and end.
They nod.
“Okay. Give me a moment. It’s been a long time.”
As a member of the Slurran Intervention Agency, you should have been practicing physical formations and controls daily. What have you been wasting your downtime on?
“Like this?”
I walk round them. It may be shabby, but it works. A natural assumption of almost human slovenliness. Impressive.
“Now bring your skin tone in to match mine. Dermal colouration is still a divisive factor here.”
Not bad.
“Okay. Details. Body hair. Look at my left arm. Imitate that on the lower sections of all four limbs, but leave the undersides of the manipulators on the end of each free. Good, good.”
No, that really is good. It took me ages to get it right.
“Now shift your air sack inside the upper cage of bones. That’s it. Talk to me while you do it. Makes sure you don’t constrict the tubes.”
“I really don’t see the need to cleeeeeek-”
“That’s the need. No, just rotate it left.”
“Thank you.”
Walking around again, it’s a workable imitation of a middle-aged adult human male.
Mlurbon grins.
“Like what you see?”
“I do. Next is clothing. But first-”
I fire the pistol I placed on the table behind them. Mlurbon emits a warbling shriek and collapses into a quivering wave of Slurra headed away from the noise, leaving an untidy pile of bones in front of me.
That would be a fail, then.
“Not good enough. Get back to internal duties.”
“By your order, chief.”
After they slide out under the door, I press the intercom.
“Find me another volunteer for tomorrow. I’ll patrol on my own today.”
“By your order. Safe patrolling, chief.”