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Halfway through an arboretum, Robert Palmer encountered an odd looking plant around six feet tall surrounded by high grass. Its uppermost leaves were tightly clustered around what Robert guessed was a flower. Although he’d never seen anything like it before, something stirred in the back of his mind and wouldn’t let go. He shrugged and slowly started to go past the plant. At that moment its upper leaves opened up to reveal a face of sorts with dark blue eyes, no nose, but a slit of a mouth. Then it said in strongly accented English, “Hello, Mister. If you aren’t too busy would you like to go on a trip?”

Surprised, Robert stopped and stared at the plant.

“Hey, Mister,” the plant said, “Don’t just stand there. Did you hear me?”

“Yes. I heard you. What do you want?”

“Would you like to go for a ride? I’ll give you a nice reward for doing that. But don’t take too long to decide. I’m in a hurry.”

Feigning confusion, Robert said, “What am I supposed to do, dig you up and carry you off?”

“No. That’s not necessary How about that trip? “

The plant struggled a bit and emerged from the tall grass to reveal two short legs with thick oblong toe-less feet and a pair of arms and hands. It stepped closer to Robert and looked up at him.” Hurry up and tell me.”

Robert thought it was some kind of joke. But he decided to play along out of curiosity instead. He had a vague feeling there was something questionable about the plant but he couldn’t quite pinpoint what. Going along with the plant might provide helpful clues.

“It’s no trick, Human.  I’m only asking for a little help. And there will be something worth your time.”

“I might help. But first, what were you doing there?”

“It wasn’t by my choice. Some—uh—acquaintances and I were touring this place. Somehow we got separated. I looked all over but couldn’t find them so I decided to stay near this path hoping they would find me. I’ve been here for hours and they still haven’t turned up. They must have run off and abandoned me, the rotten vermin. They brought me here in their vehicle but now they’re gone I have no way of returning to where I first met them.”

The flower being walked away from where it had been standing and stopped a couple of feet from Robert.

“Do you have a . . . a chariot” No, that is not right. Wrong era. I mean a-a car, as you Humans call them? I need to get to my- uh, ah starship I believe you call them though. There will be a nice monetary award if you get me to it in an hour or so. If you don’t help you will be missing out on a good deal for you. You wouldn’t like that to happen it and that’s no lie. Now let’s get going.”

* * *

His suspicions aroused, Robert was tearing his way cross country in his private air car. The Plant, whose name was Hydriam Merklan, which Robert had learned on the way, was on the passenger side hanging for dear life, with the window rolled down all the way.

As far as Robert could tell, the mobile plant was truly scared but looks can be deceiving especially when it comes to something as alien as Hydriam Merklan.

“Can this thing go any faster, Robert,” Hydriam said as loud as he could.

“Yeah. Over 250 miles per hour. If you want a conversation with the highway patrol armed with weapons. We’d lose even more time. I’d be in jail and God knows what they would do about you.”

“Oh. We have officials like that on my planet. Do the best you can.”

Robert pressed down on the accelerator a little more, keeping one eye on his passenger.

“How much farther do we have to go and where’s your starship hidden?”

“Not far. There’s a large old—what do call it? Oh, cemetery that looks like it has been abandoned. I will let you know when we’re close to it.”

As he drove, Robert noted that Merklan kept looking back as if he was expecting someone would soon catch up with them. Robert was already suspicious of Merklan and that got him to wondering about possible reasons for the plant man’s terrified actions. Now that he had a name, Robert was certain there was more to what his passenger was letting on.

After a short time Merklan said, “There it is! There off to the left where those two stone columns are.”

Robert made a quick left turn and sped between the columns. His curiosity grew stronger. He wondered why Merklan had hidden a starship somewhere in a cemetery. His thoughts were racing as far as the car. Certain items were falling into place, parts of which were recollections about certain rumors. He’d soon know if he was correct in what he was thinking.

“Where’s this starship of yours,” He asked Merklan.

“It’s over behind that big brick building partly hidden by heavy brush. Get over there.”

“Calm down.” Robert drove up to the stone building and stopped.

Merklan was starting to exit the car. But Robert was faster and blocked him off. “Don’t move an inch more,” he said as he pointed a stun gun at Merklan “It won’t kill you but you might wish it had.”

“Wh-What do you want? I thought you were helping me.”

“Maybe I am. Cut the crap. We’re both good actors but I’m better than you. I had you pegged almost from the beginning.” I pretended to be a confused simpleton human and you fell for it.”  Robert smiled and took a secure phone from a pocket and said, “Come on down.”

Abruptly a large police air car settled down behind Robert’s car and half a dozen security agents surrounded Robert and Merklan, who looked as if he was going to faint. Robert slowly shook his head.

“You’re a plant all right both physically and figuratively but you’re not on Earth’s side. We received intelligence briefings that an all-out surprise attack on Earth was imminent. There was no indication as to who was planning it. However, we were apprised that a trio of conspirators was on Earth to signal the start of the attack and leave to escape to avoid the carnage But there was no implication as to who they were. Then I came upon you and your story. After hearing it I felt sure why you were in such a hurry to leave Earth. That was the tipoff.  Thanks to your so-called friends you wanted to avoid being caught in Earth’s destruction by our long time enemy because you were one of the conspirators. Your actions proved that.

“Well, that has changed. We learned about the timing of the assault and countered it several days ago. Earth is safe now. We had a feeling other worlds might be in danger too so we alerted all the rulers about the possibility of that it might happen to them. By the way, didn’t you know your world was targeted too? We don’t know why you were involved and don’t care. There was probably a lot of money involved. It looks like your friends double-crossed you. Go ahead to your planet. Yours is safe. But you might have to do some explaining when you arrive there. “We Earth people aren’t as stupid as you think. So get on your way. Okay, men. Let him go. We’re done here.”

The End

I'm an old retired guy. My wife and I now reside in rural Kentucky. I have been a reader most of my life and have been a writer a large part of it. Since I have lots of time on my hands I thought I would do some writing again. I have had stories published in the following publications. Marvin Kaye's Witches and Warlocks and Lovers and Other Monsters, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine Volume 2 Issue 2 and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine Issue 15, Minnesota Fantasy Review, Science Fiction Randomly #4, Beyond Science Fiction and Fantasy and Starsong Numbers Two and 4.


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