Short Story: Chameleon

The pale glow of moonlight threw streaks of white across a puddle of warm, crimson blood. It formed a wet trail along hardwood flooring, slivered between strands of dry floor that shined of freshly-dried lacquer. The trail grew toward the wretch at its source as he drug himself forward. Light steps tamped a rhythm behind him, their gait paced to miss the blood entirely. The effeminate figure’s thin legs stepped forward with an almost reptilian sway toward the soon-to-be corpse.

A hand grabbed the old wretch by the shoulder, began to morph as it turned him over. The five-fingered hand turned to a four-clawed, reptilian fore-foot. The face of the sultry woman above it transformed to the swept-back, armor-plated features so common to her Chameleon race. The old man’s face was whiter than his hair, a difficult task even for a man of nearly two-hundred. The reptilian assassin leaned in with a sniff. Its head turned curiously to allow its panoramic sight to engulf the old man’s dying breaths.

He shook with a death rattle that jostled him in the lizard’s grip. His last thoughts centered on the knowledge that there’d be no corpse left to discover. Indeed, even after his body was wholly consumed, what little bits of his blood formed the trail would be lapped up. Any particulate remnants therein would be bleached away by the creature’s volatile saliva. There would be no evidence he was attacked, killed, or even– due to the wretch’s appetites– that anyone had been in the apartment.

That was what made them such efficient assassins, allowed them to charge the most exorbitant prices on the black market. They were nigh-on undetectable, impossible to suss out or catch even if spotted. Like humans, and a half-dozen other species, they’d evolved from Earth, aided by biochemical toxins dispersed into its atmosphere during the First Contact War. The virulent, gene-altering poisons were meant to distract Humanity during the war, bring chaos to Earth in order to weaken its hold on Mars and Sol’s colonies. It did that and so much more.

But none of that mattered now. Not to the old man. He felt his knurled innards rend, harden, then numb as the creature’s paralytic took effect. The Chameleons– MeLons– had won the evolutionary arms race. Their adaptations blew Canines and Felines out of the water, their minds even more cunning than the Corvian Crows and Raptors that now ruled most scientific institutions.

What had once been simple, color-changing camouflage to hide among their habitats for became the ability to shape-shift. They could copy, then hide among, any creature’s species as spies, refugees, or any other purpose they saw fit. While most MeLons had used the ability to blend, make themselves more humanoid, others used it for profit. It was mostly rumors, but the old man knew them to be true. He’d hired more than a few to do his dirty work over the years.

The assassin knelt over the wretch as the life faded from his eyes. His last breath left his lungs with a rattle. She inhaled the fresh stench of death pervading the room from the human’s lacerated torso– the ambrosia of a fresh kill ready to be savored piece-by-piece. Before she could begin though, she reached for his neck, jerked a pendant off it. It rose in the scaled palm of her hand, its faceted ruby twinkling in the light.

That was it; what her client had paid so handsomely for. In addition to his murder, and the stipulation that she clean up her mess, he added one other caveat. She slipped the jewel into a pocket of now ill-fitting clothing, leaned down to begin her meal. What her client wanted the data-jewel for, she couldn’t say. Nor was she certain of why the corpse needed to become a corpse, but she wasn’t paid to think or question, only to do the job, and do it well.

The balance of the galaxy had pivoted wildly. The powers were out of control. The Human Federation’s expansion was too rapid, their colonies too far apart and too numerous to be properly supported or defended. The HAA was no different, kowtowing to the Federation’s demands as if its plaything. Their subversive, inner-elements were gaining ground, the shift felt everywhere.

The assassin understood the chaos more than most, had suffered her share during the genetic alterations. Everyone’s life-span increased near tenfold over normal, her own included. Where humans had only minor birth anomalies of psycho and telekinetic power– her entire species had been changed.

Most MeLons that had survived the transformation had died off to poverty, in-fighting, or racist agendas. At that, most deaths were largely due to their own egos or carelessness. Like her, they saw their place in the galaxy as above others, but not one steeped in shadow. Most MeLons now lacked the subtle finesse and patience that had once been their biggest asset as lower-beings.

Inevitably, patience ran thin for the new-gen “MeLons” due to lacking any memory of their former station. For a species that used to do little but remain still, lying in wait to hunt or blending subtly with their environments to hide, it was ironic to say the least. Still, the new age of MeLons were letting themselves go extinct, refusing to adapt to the reality thrust upon them. She was different though, and nothing would keep her from living this strange, new life to the fullest.

It was nearly a full-hour before she’d lapped up the last of the blood puddle, dried her saliva with a hand towel from her pocket. She took great care not to overflex the Lycra bodysuit requested by the old wretch and now pulled taught over her scaly body.

She rose to her feet, ambrosial blood still fresh in her mouth, then began a slow walk toward the apartment door. Each step saw her morph more into the black-haired, pale-skinned nubian she’d been when she’d first entered. She stepped out fully shape-shifted, rode the elevator down. On the ground floor she made for the doors, the data-jewel hidden between her thighs. With a crooked smile at the door man, she disappeared out into the metropolis– just one more creature in the billions, but perfectly suited to her profession.

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