Of Orbs and Octane
"All you do is press it. You won't see it working but it does."
A human technician in a white lab coat was standing before a small group of assorted adventurers. He held a flat circular device above his head so that everyone could see it. For emphasis, he slowly poked the device a few times.
"They are a part of every away team member's safety suit. You press it and your outward appearance changes to look like whichever species you need to look like. Don't ask how it works, there's a lot of computer gadgetry and fuzzy logic involved. All you need to know is that it could save your life, especially on those backwater slums that haven't made it out of the stone age yet. I don't care who you are, getting bashed by a rock will take out anyone if it hits them right, even witches and demon spirits! You should be aware though that these devices won't work on most planets that are 'in the loop', so to speak. So don't think you can go home and pretend to be the Prime Minister. We good? Good."
As the group began to disperse, a human female, slightly shorter-than-average, approached the technician. She crossed her arms and looked at the technician critically.
"I won't see it working but it does? Doesn't that seem a little risky? We have a tale on my home world of a Sta'asa Lord that ran around naked because of foolishness like what you're proposing."
"Let's see... Hezorifo Sseh... 'Zori', for short... Faiclori. The goal was to look human. You look human to me."
The technician was short with his responses, though his gaze lingered. Hastily looking away, he continued to speak.
"Either way, that device was evaluated dozens of times. You see yourself as yourself. Field tests showed that participants using the device performed 30% worse when they had no sense of their own physical presence. So they tweaked it and now the computer fills in the gaps. Here, look."
A screen behind the technician switched to a camera feed showing the human Zori. She moved her arms a bit and flapped her wings, taking note of how the disguise reacted. Satisfied, she switched her disguise off and returned the device.
"Thank you for taking the extra time to explain it to me."
"Yeah. That's my job. Now if you'll excuse me..."
Zori nodded and left the room. She headed off toward the cafeteria to get something to eat.
A burst of black smoke shot out of a wrought iron grate in a cobblestone street. The source of the smoke was one of countless engines that kept the wheels of industry turning. A four-legged creature stepped out from the veil of smoke and looked around. He pulled on the brim of his dark green hat and continued into the evening rush. The city was known as Os and had a population of just over 300,000. Its denizens were of the Stridurba species. Their planet had no name, though data banks in various credit agencies listed it as HGG-743-22401. It was just another planet that had yet to even consider its place in the galaxy, outside of a narrow religious context of course. Maybe someday they'd make it to space, maybe not. Either way, space was the last thing on the minds of the Stridurba. New advances in industry and power generation were at the top of the order. Some became wealthy and some remained poor. It was an altogether uninteresting story that would most-likely play itself out like it had a million times before in a million other places.
Darkness had consumed the city. HGG-743-22401's small moon was blotted out by a thick, black haze. The Stridurba in the dark green hat approached a mansion on the far side of a factory compound. He knocked on the door several times before being shown in. Once in the privacy of the master's chambers, he smiled and reached into his pocket.
"Our days in the dark are over, my friend."
Chuckling a bit, he produced a glowing white orb and held it up in the dim candlelight. The factory owner gasped and stared at the foreign object in awe as the room around him filled with the light and warmth of the afternoon sun.