“Changing like that really jeopardizes your cover.” John leaned against the door to his room. "We got lucky with Hannah.”
Skylar sighed. "It is a natural response to illness and injury." John opened his mouth. "For Qwortarians." Skylar amended.
"The logic is that, any internal injury, or sometimes sickness, becomes easier to identify and treat if doctors can see under the epidermis."
"But... Muscles hide things too."
"As far as I know," Skylar held out one hand, "a Qwortarian will continue to make all layers aside from the internal organs translucent." The skin on Skylar's hand became clear. The red muscle fibers were revealed. Skylar clenched and released their fist showing off the muscles contracting and stretching. "Until the problem is either fixed, or death." Next the deep red was gone, replaced by a view of the bones. Skylar waved. They put their hand on John's shoulder, the young man stiffening as he craned his neck to keep the skeletal hand in view.
“Why didn’t you warn us?” John swallowed and shooed Skylar's hand away. "What if you had gotten sick in front anyone besides Emily or me?"
"I didn't foresee illness or injury. Or even staying on Earth this long. I'll be more careful."
"You better." John rubbed his hands. "Are there any other times you shape shift involuntarily?"
Skylar closed their eyes, giving time for their translator to work. "Starvation, death, extreme dehydration, injury to my phenogland, sudden and unplanned unconsciousness and comas."
"We should be okay for the most part." John rubbed his thumb across his forehead. "But... What's a phenogland? And where is it?”
“The phenogland is what allows my shape shifting.” Skylar rubbed the back of their neck. “I believe in this form, my phenogland is nestled somewhere center mass, where it is most protected.”
“You don’t know?”
Skylar lifted up their shirt and hunched a little, watching their skin and muscles become invisible. “Do you see anything?” They looked up and then nudged John’s calf with their toe. He looked back, and sighed.
“Well, what am I looking for?” He couldn’t look for very long. Seeing the winding intestines, and bobbing stomach and liver made his own stomach twist.
“The phenogland is about three inches long, green, and corkscrew shaped.” John looked for the small organ in short glances. Skylar even turned around. John was fascinated for a few moments by Skylar’s spine, the gentle movements of the vertebrate as they breathed.
“Take a deep breath.” John bit his own lip as he forced himself not to look away. As the abdomen expanded, the organs shifted, and nestled into the intestines, was the phenogland. It was quickly hidden again when Skylar breathed out. “It has hidden itself in between the intestines.”
“Should be safe enough there.” Skylar pulled their shirt back down.
“I hope so.” John rubbed their forehead. “But let’s be careful so we don’t have any more close calls.”
“Agreed.” Skylar nodded and picked their smoothie back up.
Word count: 498