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Rated: E · Short Story · Sci-fi · #1580061
Not everything is what it seems... especially to an alien telepath.

Dusky images played on the rough-hewn wall as bits of rubbish – mostly discarded newspaper and forgotten plastic bags - danced down the street to the music of the wind. The street lamps bled small pools of illumination, highlighting the dirty streets in a regular pattern of muddled light. Unnoticed, Merlin crept along the side of the building projecting an image of one more shadow.

Merlin wasn't his real name. His species could speak, a chittering sound that few could understand, but it was secondary to their telepathic abilities. Over time, telepathy had become the predominant means of communication so his real name was a series of pictures. For reasons beyond his understanding, the idea of "Merlin" seemed to have become associated with him.

Some kind of local humor, he thought. Humor wasn't part of his make up.

Early on, his people, whose name roughly translated as "They Who Survive," had been invaluable as translators for the Consortium because of their unique abilities. His clan had a long history, however, serving as spies, and he now found himself on this small backwater planet following in the proud footsteps of his ancestors.

Why anyone wants this planet... His thoughts trailed off. "The mission comes first," he muttered, reminding himself why he was here. The sound of his voice startled him. A dark thought occurred to him. I've been here too long. I'm going native! I can't believe I'm actually speaking.

Up ahead, he could sense danger. Someone was waiting around the corner. He sent a thought out and was repelled by the jumble of images he encountered. Flashes of color in a series of square boxes, drawn crudely on the pavement, flooded his mind.

Ugggh! It's a young off-spring of the vermin that infest this planet. he thought disparagingly. "Hopscotch." The strange word tumbled from his mouth but it meant nothing to him and he spit the taste of the awkward sounds into the night air.

Merlin prided himself on being chosen as one of the advance scout troops. He had been part of a select group that had infiltrated the planet under the cover of a meteor shower. His mission was to seek out the weaknesses of the indigenous species as part of developing a final plan for domination.

I can't believe these bipeds have actually discovered our plans, he thought, leaving the cover of the wall and pushing onward. It's lucky for the Consortium that I overheard them planning counter-measures.

The strange conversation he had picked up bothered him. He had stumbled on an underground movement composed of mobile assassins known by the code name "The Exterminators." The name meant nothing but the images that had come from them sent a chill through him. He had seen thousands of his fellow soldiers in their hiding places preparing for the initial assault, twitching, dying. A wave of nausea swept over him as he realized how close to disaster they had come.

He slowed as he approached the corner. Sending out a probe, he breathed a sigh of relief when he felt no new presences. Only a few more blocks to go, crossed his mind.

Merlin smiled – what passed for a smile – as he anticipated the rich rewards he would get for bringing back this critical information. I'll be a hero! They'll probably erect a statue to me... even if it's only on this mud ball.

Preoccupied, Merlin never saw or felt the killing blow.

"Ewwww!" screamed Marleigh.

"Are you OK?" came her mother's voice from the open tenement window.

"Yeah. It was just a weird looking cockroach," she replied, scraping the bottom of her shoe off on the curb.


Word Count: 609

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