Stealth Expert

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"People call me a backstabber. Hell, I'll stab you in the front if you want."
Phantom, Dirty Bomb

Someone who is very good at remaining hidden. Security cameras? No problem. Camouflage? Got it covered. Usually they will have some sort of tranquilizers or equipment to jam electronics. In a wartime setting you will often find one of these.note  These people have stealth down to an art form, normally outclassing anyone in real life. It is also wise to assume that snipers qualify here as well.

This ability often enables them to infiltrate areas while dressed in a ridiculously conspicuous costume, rather than using camouflage like a normal sane human being. If done too much, it may break the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Some stealth experts are also Masters Of Disguise, although they do not use this skill as often as the audience might expect. They're often capable of Stealth Hi/Bye and Offscreen Teleportation.

Compare The Sneaky Guy, who might or might not use stealth. Ninjas are Stealth Experts, or not. Contrast the stealth expert's mortal enemy, The Anticipator. Stealthy Colossus is this taken to its logical extreme.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Laffitte from One Piece is capable sneaking into Mariejois with three Warlords of the Sea on the grounds... while wearing tap shoes.
  • While Lupin III often gets into buildings via disguise, he is also an accomplished second story-man. He can sneak in in a black Spy Catsuit, or cause enough distractions that his bright yellow tie and bright red jacket aren't noticed.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman. Dick Grayson and Tim Drake also fit this, being two of his protégés.
  • Black Widow is a stealthy girl.
  • Black Panther is one of Marvel's stealthiest heroes, often being able to get the drop on his foes.
  • Nightcrawler is a flamboyant swashbuckler at heart, but when he needs to be sneaky he's very good at it. The fact that he can cling to walls and vanish into the shadows at will certainly helps, but beyond his powers there's the fact that he is quite good at moving in complete silence.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Caesar's spy in Astérix and Cleopatra appears to have a literal 'cloaking device' in his cloak, giving him the chameleon-like ability to blend with his background.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Invisible Boy of Mystery Men is great at being invisible — as long as nobody's looking at him.
  • In The Film of the Book Clear and Present Danger the sniper Chavez was so good, in a controlled test he was able to sneak up on his instructor, using a cheeseburger wrapper as a decoy.
    Sergeant Major: Soldier, how did you get so close to me?
    Chavez: Sniper approached the instructor by being a sneaky bastard, Sergeant Major!
  • Batman in most of his movie adaptations. This is shown subtly in The Dark Knight Saga. Whenever Batman is onscreen, the sound of his footsteps is simply not heard. Even at the end of The Dark Knight, when Batman has been shot and most likely has an injured leg, and the area is silent enough to hear his cape flutter, there is only one set of footsteps — from Gordon's young son running down the steps.
  • The butler from the Adam Sandler movie Mr. Deeds.
    "I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness, sir."

    Literature 
  • In A Brother's Price, Jerin's younger siblings report to him what they found in their newly arrived guest's luggage. They tell him not to worry, as they didn't get caught. He scolds them for it, but later uses their findings to convince his older sister that the guests can be trusted, as, if they had anything suspicious with them, the little sisters would have found it. As the grandmothers were spies, this runs in the family, and seems to be a kind of hobby.
  • The High-Elves in The Lord of the Rings were capable of moving silently and unseen in the woods. Hobbits were also capable of great stealth, or so it seemed to a big, clumsy human.
  • The Animorphs naturally excel at this. Flies, fleas and even roaches are among their most common morphs.
  • Corvin Wergard, a private detective from James H. Schmitz's Federation of the Hub series, is an expert at lockpicking and staying hidden.
  • In Masques the protagonist Aralorn is a spy. She's also a shapeshifter who can become a mouse. That's her favourite form, and she knows all the subspecies, too, so she avoids Misplaced Wildlife.
  • In the X-Wing Series, Tyria Sarkin is brought into Wraith Squadron largely for her training in "silent movement in difficult terrain".
    • Force-Sensitives, in much of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, are capable of this using the Force. Tyria herself is Force-Sensitive, though weakly so (her daughter, Jesmin, inherits both her Force sensitivity and her stealth skills - her son Doran, on the other side, only inherited the Force sensitivity).
    • Borborygmus Gog in Galaxy of Fear has some aspects of this, due to being a Shi'ido.
  • In the Star Trek Novel Verse, Garak. His identity in the Obsidian Order was "Agent Regnar" (a Regnar being a small animal capable of changing colour and texture so as to blend into its surroundings). Garak achieves his stealth through a meditative technique that allows him to "blend" his personal energy signatures into the background energy fields. It's hinted that all Cardassians could in theory learn the technique - if they were paying attention and weren't conditioned into ignoring the deeper realities of life around them. This is an important plot point in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — A Stitch in Time.
  • The Shadow
  • The key ability of Gaunt's Ghosts, with the scouts being even better at it. Oan Mkoll is their scouts' chief and is thus an expert among Stealth Experts.
  • Ajatasutra, Narses personal henchman and Hitman with a Heart in Belisarius Series.
  • In Discworld Lord Vetinari was so much of one at the Assassins' Guild School that he failed his classes in stealth for nonattendance despite being there the whole time.
  • Every single member of ranger corps from Ranger's Apprentice. Bonus points for showing/explaining stealth realistically.
  • In Wind And Sparks by Alexey Pehov elves are undisputed expert woodsmen. But plenty of humans can beat them in their own game. This includes two of the main characters: the Noble Savage scout Ga-Nor and Cold Sniper archer Ness.
  • In the McAuslan series, set in a Scottish regiment shortly after World War Two, the author describes a typical night exercise, in which men are dropped miles from a "home base" and have to sneak through an opposing unit. The trope is invoked by Lance-Corporal MacRae, a former gamekeeper, and averted by nearly everyone else; the author notes that these exercises usually degenerated into an all-out brawl.
  • In Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, the members of the prophet's doomsday cult specialize in this. They capture several members of the Traveling Symphony so quickly and silently that others mere feet away don't see it happen.
  • In the Ryanverse, former Navy SEAL and CIA agent John Clark is one, having the codename "Snake", the one whose footsteps the enemy never hears. He demonstrates this by, during a training exercise, sneaking up to the observation post and "killing" the Marine general in charge and several CIA observers...and then waiting around for them to complain that he never showed up before revealing himself to them. He served as a mentor and inspiration to two other members of this list, Chavez from Clear and Present Danger and Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell.
  • Edgedancer (a novella of The Stormlight Archive): Lift is definitely one; she first manages to sneak into Nale's house and eat his breakfast while he's in the next room over, then leave with him none the wiser, and later successfully tails a pair of his acolytes across an empty, straight-as-an-arrow corridor without them realizing that they're being followed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Locke displays some impressive stealth skills to gather intel on Craster's Keep.
  • Some of the hiders in the Monty Python's Flying Circus "How Not to be Seen" sketch.
  • Kari Byron manages to fool a heat-detecting motion sensor using a bedsheet in Mythbusters.
  • Sqweegel from CSI. This creepy serial killer in full-body latex suit can and will live inside the houses of his victims, without the victims noticing him.
  • Because she spent her childhood undergoing classified military training that simultaneously broke her psychologically and gave her amazing abilities, River Tam from Firefly is gifted at stealth. Sometimes it's plot relevant and sometimes it's just used to emphasise how damaged and weird she is, or played for comedy. There's even a scene where she glues herself to the ceiling and watches her brother and a crew member having sex.

    Music 
  • In The Protomen, the band member the Nightwalker is described as this.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Vampires are believed to be this. Creeping and stalking their potential prey, is essential for their survival as traditionally they have many weaknesses which can kill them.
  • Big Foot, The Abominable Snowman and all Yeti kind. For a creature believed to be a lot bulkier and taller than the average man, these often Gentle Giants hide even in places where humans can go like forests and mountains. But so far their has been no clear evidence if these creatures actually exist at all.
  • The Yuki-Onna can count too. With the appearance of just a Geisha or Kimono girl, it would be hard to tell if this creature was the monster or not? (even in the Western Regions). Some are even believed to be kind and caring, further adding difficulty to their identity, but beware if you ever upset them.
  • Jesus, in the canonical Gospels, would occasionally slip away from the crowds he taught to pray to God alone. Being able to escape the notice of thousands of people (while being quite popular) definitely qualifies him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Rogues have always been the designated stealth specialists of the character classes, though since third edition, any character can put ranks in the "move silently" and "hide" skills. Feats such as "Hide in Plain Sight" can make certain characters particularly stealthy.
    • Some 4th Edition monsters have similar abilities. Most of these are "lurkers".
  • Exalted tends to have various splats with Stealth as a Favored Ability. Among the Solars, they're the Night Castes. Not only do they have Charms that allow them to go utterly unnoticed, but their Caste ability gives them the power to mute their Anima Banner, meaning they can do some tremendous things without lighting up like a Christmas tree like other Exalts.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade gives this power to vampires through the discipline of Obfuscate. The Nosferatu rely on this discipline for survival, since they all look like Orlok. Consequently, they tend to become Knowledge Brokers and whisper mills, able to get in anywhere to dig up dirt.
  • Vampire: The Requiem has the Mekhet, who have Auspex in addition to Obfuscate, meaning they can get in anywhere and dig up anything. The Nosferatu still have Obfuscate, but now it's more about being the monster lurking in the darkness, though there is nothing stopping a Nossy from excelling at stealth and making a profit out of what he or she can find out.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The "Stealth" special rule, logically enough, represents a modicum of stealth training and allows the unit to make better use of cover, therefore gaining improved Cover saves against shooting. "Infiltrate", on the other hand, is a more comprehensive rule that lets the unit set up on the battlefield after the enemy's units, representing it sneaking into the perfect position to counter the enemy's strategy. It can even set up outside of it's army usual setup zone, as long as it remains 18" away from an enemy (or 12" if it's out of sight, such as behind a building).
    • A more powerful form of Infiltrate exists, beloved of true Stealth Experts such as Imperial Guardsman Sly Marbo and certain Tyranid scouts. This rule functions exactly the same as its more common counterpart — except that the minimum distance it must stay away from enemies while setting up is a mere 2". (For scale, a grenade has an 8" range.)
    • Even da Orks have their own stealth experts — the Kommandos. Yes, really. One of the most famous examples of this kind of Ork is Boss Snikrot of Armageddon, who is said to be better than most Eldar at sneakin' about. Because sneaky Orks distinctly lack the aiming ability for one-shot sniping techniques and are often physically weaker than most of their kin, they tend to prefer to Throw Down the Bomblet. Spookums from Dawn of War II: Retribution is a Kommando Nob who specialises in grenades and explosives — imagine being a Guardsman at a fortified checkpoint or position, when suddenly an Ork jumps out of bush shouting at the top of his voice "I AM SNEAKY!" and showering the area around you with grenades and rockets.
    • On the tactical level, this is the shtick of Lord Castellan Ursakar E. Creed. Not content to merely sneak up on enemies, he sneaks tanks up on enemies. Any one unit in his army may, after everything else is set up, make an immediate move, representing that he has fooled the enemy into thinking the unit was in one position, while all along they were in their new location. Fanon takes this Up to Eleven, giving him the ability to hide anything, even superheavy tanks, behind lampposts, in someone's bathroom while they aren't looking, or behind Internet users' monitors, and, as his crowning achievement, disguising a tank as a therapist.
    • The Raven Guard and Night Lords Space Marine Legions excelled at this, with Raven Guard veterans able to wraith-slip past even very observant guards (although not Salamanders, who have incredible night vision). The Raven Guard generally use their powers for good, preferring to confuse the enemy and strike at key targets, while the Night Lords fell to Chaos and evolved into sadistic murderers who use their stealth as an aspect of general terror tactics. In one of the Horus Heresy novels, Sergeant Lethicus of the Ultramarines is trying to hunt Gendor Skraivok of the Night Lords:
      Lethicus: They could be staring right at us.
      Skraivok: We are. [Night Lords appear out of nowhere and start murdering Ultramarines]

    Theater 
  • Mrs Hawking play series: The primary weapon in Mrs. Hawking's crime fighting arsenal is her stealth. She wears a black costume with a hood to pull down over her face to conceal herself in the dark. She regularly climbs into places where she cannot be detected.

    Video Games 
  • America's Army has a couple missions where the goal is to be this.
  • The titular Assassins of Assassin's Creed. Unlike your typical example, Assassins are also quite adept at hiding in plain sight, blending into crowds of random people with ease.
  • Batman, in the Batman: Arkham Series. The same goes for all other playable characters save for Harley Quinn, who is incapable of silent takedowns.
  • Zer0, the assassin character in Borderlands 2. His playstyle encourages either picking off foes from a distance or sneaking close enough to stab them in the back, then vanishing with the help of a decoy hologram.
  • Price and MacMillan during the All Ghillied Up mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
  • The Commandos team.
  • City of Heroes has the Stalker archetype as well as the Concealment power pool.
  • Cyrus in Dawn Of War 2. The fact that he and his scouts can be cloaked and sent in and plant extremely powerful traps and explosives almost makes him a Game-Breaker with the right upgrades (using him in one mission is also the only way to avoid killing marines who are loyal, but think you've turned traitor, thus assuring you get the Golden Ending).
  • Deus Ex:
    • JC Denton can be this or an One-Man Army (Or a hybrid), depending on the upgrades the player has chosen.
    • Ditto for Adam Jensen Deus Ex: Human Revolution, whose silent takedown ability means you don't even need weapons.
  • Joe in Devil Survivor 2, of the "socially invisible" kind. He doesn't even bother lowering his voice when playing The Peeping Tom.
  • Among the Dirty Bomb playable mercenaries is Phantom. He has a katana for lethal sneak attacks and can turn invisible for short durations thanks to his Refractive Armor.
  • Rogues in Dragon Age: Origins get a Stealth score. Maxed out, they can enter stealth any time, which prevents enemies from seeing you until you attack. The expansion pack also gives a prestige class called the Shadow, which lets you stay near invisible all the time.
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • Rangers and Snipers can become invisible in Final Fantasy Tactics A2, so that they can't be targeted by enemies until they perform an action.
  • Grand Theft Auto V gives you the option to be this. Levelling up the stealth skill may take time, but is very useful whenever your trying to avoid the police, ambush someone, or prefer subtlety over strength in your missions and online.
  • Spartan-IIs are said to be this in the Halo universe, and some Elites are as well, the latter largely using active camouflage to aid them in such.
    • Spartan-IIIs are part this. Instead of the super-expensive MJOLNIR Powered Armor, they are handed out the much cheaper (and unshielded) Semi-Powered Infiltration armor that gives them some stealth capability, although that becomes useless if the Covenant uses active sensors.
  • Agent 47 from the Hitman series prides himself on killing his targets with little issues to hinder him.
  • Kyle "Shadow" Simmons from Jagged Alliance 2.
  • You can become one in Knights of the Old Republic. Mission usually is one as well. Juhani can also cloak herself in the Force to remain unseen until she wants to attack. If you attack from stealth you get a massive stealth-attack bonus.
  • In Mabinogi, the elf's hide skill could count as this.
  • Master thief Kasumi Goto and assassin Thane Krios in Mass Effect 2. Infiltrator!Shepard gets the Tactical Cloak ability.
  • Solid Snake and Big Boss from the Metal Gear series are iconic examples of this trope. Though the specifics vary between games (and the playstyle of the person controlling them), generally they prefer infiltration and evasion to simply shooting everything that moves.
  • Styx the intelligent goblin in Of Orcs And Men and the spinoff stealth game Styx: Master of Shadows is this, though it is more fleshed out in Master Of Shadows due to the lead character Arkail in the first game Of Orcs And Men favors attacking head on a lot more. He is probability the first stealth expert in video game history that happens to be a goblin.
  • Pokémon
    • The Poison Type are generally based off animals who are well known for their stealth such as spiders or ambush predators. Bonus points for being used by various stealthy trainers most notably Janine and Koga.
    • The Dark Type can also count due to using many underhanded moves and usually have thin and cunning appearances.
    • The Electric Type would also fit, not notably strong but instead very fast their overall use is to paralyze and out-speed their opponents, don't be fooled by how cute or flashy they may look.
    • Team Plasma and the Shadow Triad are unlike the other villain teams in the series. They play this trope essentially well, being among the most elusive of all antagonists. But they all bow to Ghetsis knowing fully well, that he outclasses them all in both cunning and superiority.
  • The Thief can be played as this with a strong enough Stealth stat in Quest for Glory.
    • In Quest for Glory I it becomes possible to outright avoid any enemy encounter thanks to it, and this makes the game a whole lot easier. At one point, you can even steal a key from a Kobold wizard, with the key hanging from the guy's neck!
    • In Quest for Glory II, especially the Fan Remake, you become able to pull the same in the desert. You also avoid palace guards and eunuchs
    • By Quest for Glory V you have such insane stealth boosts you can rob silly a bank twice even with guards patrolling if you do it right.
  • The Scoundrel and Imperial Operative advanced classes from Star Wars: The Old Republic have stealth as one of their class abilities and can also Back Stab opponents, though the Smuggler uses a scattershot instead of a knife. The Jedi Shadow and Sith Assassin can do the same, using the force to hide themselves from sight.
  • The Spy in Team Fortress 2. Able to cloak himself, disguise his figure as any other class, his team's or otherwise, and with the strongest melee attack on a Back Stab in the game, he's Paranoia Fuel personified when in the hands of a competent player. In custom servers where Friendly Fireproof is off (taking out the chance of Spy-checking), even a good Spy is a nightmare.
  • Garrett, from Thief. The Keepers who trained him specialize in stealth as well, though even they will readily admit that Garrett is the most skilled sneak they've ever known. Indeed, the first game shows him being recruited because he actually managed to spot (and attempt to pickpocket) his soon-to-be mentor in a crowd.
  • Rogues in World of Warcraft have the ability to go into "stealth" mode (which translates to very limited aggro radii in PvE and invisibility in PvP). They gain several ambush moves, as well as the ability to pick pocket. They get even more stealth related abilities if they specialize in the subtly talent tree (e.g. the ability to teleport straight behind enemies).
  • In Atlas Reactor, the characters Nix, PuP and Kaigin have cooldown abilities that turn them invisible and lets them approach the enemy team unseen.

    Visual Novels 
  • Surprisingly, Sakazaki Yuuya in Hatoful Boyfriend, despite being an enormous and pure white fantail pigeon. It's probably because he is a spy. He can move silently if he wishes and sneak around other birds undetected. In Holiday Star he watches Albert at Sakuya's mansion for three days and is undetected despite security and the fact that Albert himself is an assassin and was tasked to keep an eye out for stealthy white things. A page in the manga suggests he's more visible to humans.

    Web Comics 
  • There was a strip in Brawl in the Family where Solid Snake, THE master of Tactical Espionage Action, gets out-stealthed by another Brawler... specifically, Mr. Game-And-Watch, who is two-dimensional and completely black, allowing him to literally become one with the shadows.
  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff: Hella Jeff seems to have a great knack for hiding in vents and behind store shelves to observe Sweet Bro's shenanigans.
  • The Niels webcomic by Humon brings us Agent 250, dubbed "The Stealth Monster" by Niels's men. A couple of strips reference his ability to go undetected and either catch mooks by surprise or mess with buildings.
  • XRS A military sci fi webcomic about a deadly new super-weapon. The XRS can stealthily bypass even the most powerful and advanced detections systems including Radar, Infrared, acoustic, and visual.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures demonstrates that it is possible to overdo it.
  • Bandit from The Whiteboard is capable of sneaking up on just about anybody on the paintball field and good enough to even pull off the occasional Stealth Hi/Bye. Not only can he hide Behind a Stick, but he manages to hide behind himself in this strip.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko (a.k.a. The Blue Spirit) has demonstrated a high level of stealth during the course of the series; sadly it didn't last too long.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Amon and the Equalists used many forms of stealth, to back up how serious and ominous their goal is. However Amon himself looked and even sounded, underhanded and cunning to the point of making even Korra fear him.
    • From Season 3, The Red Lotus have all proven to have a level of stealth, However Zaheer and Ming-Hua seem to be on higher level of swift action, than brute force P'Li and Ghazan their theme even sounds stealthy.
  • Transformers Generation One: Would you believe a giant alien robot can be one of these? Soundwave has a reputation for being able to sneak into all sorts of secret locations by hiding out as a 'harmless' tapedeck, though he's no slouch in getting into secret areas as a robot either. In one particularly humorous instance, he managed to remain undetected next to his Autobot nemesis Blaster...while inside Ironhide, another Autobot who had easily detected Decepticons in the past. Also counts as a Stealthy Colossus due to his robot mode size. More traditionally, Soundwave's most favored cassette, Ravage, is all kinds of sneaky, quiet, and hard to notice, thanks to the ability to nullify the sound of his footsteps and blend into shadows.
    • In the 1986's animated movie, Laserbeak (another one of Soundwave's cassettes) played this role. He entered, filmed and left Autobots' Moonbase 1 totally undetected. The information he filmed allowed the Decepticons to catch the Autobots off guard and put in motion most of the events of the movie.
  • TRON: Uprising: Beck excels at being able to get around without being seen, even in situations that ought to preclude stealth.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Due to how naturally quiet she is, a couple of times Fluttershy has been the one chosen on a stealth mission (to defeat Trixie with the Alicorn Amulet, and later to bring down Starlight Glimmer). Both time she succeeds with flying colors.

    Real Life 
  • Animals such as flounder and octopuses can do this (and make a cunning escape as well!). The aptly named mimic octopus can imitate 40 different species and change color, pattern, texture, and shape at will.
  • Cats of all sizes are essentially made for this trope. They have mottled coats to blend in with foliage, padded paws to muffle the sound of their footsteps, antibacterial saliva which kills odors (and explains why they groom so obsessively) and they also possess better night vision than virtually all other animals. It gets even better: they have a distinct gait which minimizes their profile (one side first, then the other), hypersensitive hearing and smell, and whiskers which act as feelers in the dark.
  • Bats, especially the smaller species, can fly fast enough to catch insects in flight. The ultrasonic quality of their echolocation means they can strike undetected in total darkness.
  • Snakes are the reptilian equivalent of this. Snakes are both cunning and vicious strikers from the darker side of the animal kingdom. Their methods of survival is similar to an assassin, in that they track their prey then kill it by any means necessary, using camouflage, intimidation and powerful venom in their hollow fangs.
  • Eels lie still in a rock until prey wanders by and then dart out and grab it. The green moray is visible to humans (sometimes; don't go putting your Hand in the Hole underwater) but not all sea creatures have our level of color vision and might just think the non-moving eel is a piece of seaweed. Some eels have patterns that make them even harder to see than the green one.
  • Between long-range night vision, pinpoint-accurate hearing and specialized feathers that muffle the sounds of flight, owls could be described as the airborne equivalent of cats.
  • The infamous Jack the Ripper. Infamous for both the apparent surgical precision evident on his victims, and for never being apprehended. His identity remains unknown to this day.
  • Spiders, especially tarantulas, are effective ambush predators for this reason. Using webbing to create traps and snares provides them versatile tools for hunting their prey. Even without webs, their impressive speed is the stuff of nightmares.
  • Ninjas were hired by the wealthy in Feudal Japan to commit assassinations and espionage. However, they probably spent less time skulking about in black stagehand costumes and more time Hidden in Plain Sight in disguise as peasants or servants.
  • The Tasselled Wobbegong is this among sharks. This incredibly patient creature camouflages on the sea floor waiting for its victim, then strikes mercilessly. When all else fails it hides within other areas then uses it's tail to attract fish similar to a decoy.
  • Foxes are the canine equivalent of this. While most dogs use teamwork and brute force to hunt, foxes however hide and scout their terrain and are especially effective at night. Their skills of purging prey had put many generations of farmers in a state of paranoia, but do not threat they tend to shy away from us humans.
  • Stick Bugs (aka Stick Insects) are notoriously hard to find in a any natural setting. These bugs are often soo slender, that they literally look like sticks or leaves. Don't think you can spot them by colour either, they are almost always brown or green and camouflage perfectly.

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