Calvin M. Knox

never
follow
a
falling
star!

 

The
humanoid worlds of the galaxy were alarmed! Somehow, somewhere the
mind-destroying hypnojewels were being trafficked in.

An uneasy Earth, newcomer to the ranks of the
civilized planets, sent Lloyd Catton to the Intenvorld Crime Commission on
Morilar to investigate. Although the Commission had made little progress until
then, after his arrival things started to happen fast.

For it didn't take Catton long to realize
that the hypno-jewels were but the thin edge of a murderous wedge that was
calculated to shove the Earth back again into the helpless isolation of a world
returned to
savagery.

 

 

 

 

 

Turn
this book over for second complete novel

CAST
OF CHARACTERS

 

Lloyd
Catton

He knew what he wanted to find, but didn't
know what it was.

 

Pouin
Beryaal

Being
on the Crime Commission, he knew too much-yet not quite enough.

 

Estil
Seeman

She had to run away with a star-born alien to
learn there was a difference between men.

 

Ambassador
Seeman

He
knew more about the affairs of state than about those of his own home.

 

Nuuri
Gryain

He would double-cross—not for money, but for
revenge.

 

Doveril Halligon

His
way with women proved to be fatal.

The
Plot
Against
Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by

CALVIN
M.
 
KNOX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACE
BOOKS, INC.
23
West 47th Street, New York
36,
N. Y.

the plot against earth

Copyright ©, 1959, by Ace Books, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To
Robert A. W. Lowndes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

recruit for andromeda

Copyright ©, 1959, by Ace.
Books, Inc.

 

 

Printed in U.S.A.

The mobning
was bright, clear, and crisp. The sun, a blazing
yellow-white ball, climbed toward its noonday height, casting long shadows in
the streets of the city of Dyelleran. This was the hot season on the main
continent of Morilar. Those beings whose business forced them out into the open
moved rapidly toward their destinations. Only a few stopped to peer at the
Earthman.

Lloyd
Catton was his name. He was tall, tall as any of the elongated natives of
Morilar, but unlike them he was solidly and powerfully built, with none of
their spindly flimsiness. He was built to stand up to punishment—even the
punishment of a noontime walk in 115-degree heat. One didn't go to an alien
world expecting to find comfort and convenience.

Catton was dressed in the accepted style of a
Terran diplomat: a light-weight sleeveless red doublet, gloves of green velvet
trimmed with orange, a golden sash. His dark brown hair was cropped close to
his skull. The gleaming blaster fastened to his sash was purely for ceremonial
purposes: it neither could be fired nor was intended to be fixed. A local law
prevented non-residents from carrying any sort of functional weapons, but
Carton's official position required him to be at least decoratively armed.

An attache case dangled from his left hand.
In it was his identification plaque, as well as the credentials naming him for
the post of Special Investigator for the Terran World
Government.
Sweat beaded his broad back and shoulders,

5

pasting
the
doublet to his skin. This assignment, he knew, might keep him on Morilar for a
long time. He was simply going to have to get used to the heat.

He
crossed a broad well-paved street and looked up at the name-label riveted to a
building wall. Translating from the wedge-shaped Morilaru characters, he read:
Street of Government.
He nodded, satisfied. This was the place he
had intended to reach. And he had found his way across the city from the Terran
Embassy by himself, without the need of asking a single person for directions,
on his first morning here. That was the sort of performance his job was going
to require as a constant norm.

He
had arrived late the night before, on a special liner non-stop from Earth. By
arrangement, he was quartered at the Terran Embassy. Last night he had met the
Ambassador and his attractive young daughter, Estil; this morning, he was due
to present his credentials to the Interworld Commission on Crime, of which he
was now a member. Catton had been well prepared for this mission. He had been
chosen with care from the entire corps of Terra's Special Agents.

Standing
at the head of the broad street, he looked to the west and saw imposing
sleek-walled buildings rising on both sides. His eyes took in the unfamiliar
Morilaru numbers, and he searched until he had the one he wanted. There it
was—Number Eleven, Street of Government.
The towering
building with the gray-and-yellow decorative pattern along its flanks.
Catton walked toward the main entrance.

There was no door, only a golden curtain of
force. The Earthman stepped through, and his nostrils registered a faint tang
of ozone as he passed through the field. He knew he had just been scanned for
dangerous weapons. He knew he would never have passed successfully through the field
if he were carrying anything more deadly than the plugged blaster. The Morilaru
were an innately suspicious race.

A guard paced back and forth in the pleasandy
cool, antiseptically austere lobby of the official building. He stared
curiously at Catton for a moment; it was not every day that Earthmen came in
here. Catton paused, wondering if the guard would hail him. But the guard made
no sign of interference. The Earthman walked past him and into the open
liftshaft that waited for him, as if by special appointment, in the rear of
the lobby.

Once he was inside, the walls of the
liftshaft closed instantly around him. Catton eyed the indicator dial and
twisted it to the Morilaru equivalent of
Sixteen
.
Purring smoothly, the liftshaft rose. The gravitic column that was pushing it
upward halted at.the building's sixteenth floor. Catton got out.

A
frosted office door confronted him. The inscription, right-to-left after the
manner of Morilaru writing, read:

INTERWORLD
COMMISSION ON CRIME
Please
enter.

Catton
put his hand to the doorplate and the frosted door flicked open. He stood at
the threshold, his hand tightening convulsively on the sweaty handle of his
attache case.

A Morilaru receptionist smiled coolly up at
him from her desk. It was impossible to tell her age; she might have been
twenty, or just as easily seventy. She wore the green crest of an unmarried
woman twined in her hair. Her skin was a soft purplish hue; her eyes, light
crimson, stood out brilliantly against that background. The clinging blouse she
wore left her shoulders bare, revealing the three litde inch-high nubbins of
bone on each shoulder that marked the chief external anatomical difference
between Terran and Morilaru.

She said, using the local Morilaru dialect,
"You have an appointment, sir?"

Catton
nodded. "Pouin Beryaal is expecting me. My name is Lloyd Catton.
From Earth."
He spoke the language fluently; after a
hundred hours of intensive hypnotraining in the three major Morilaru dialect
variations, it was not surprising.

"Lloyd Catton," she repeated
tonelessly, as if memorizing.
"From Earth.
To see Pouin Beryaal.
Yes.
Just one
moment, Lloyd Catton.
I will check."

Catton
waited while she spoke briefly into an intercom grid. She used a somewhat
different dialect, apparently not realizing that Catton would be aware of its
implications. All she said was, "The Earthman is here to see you, Pouin
Beryaal." But the inflected form of the dialect was an expression of
contempt. Catton was not annoyed, merely interested. It was vital to him to
know exactly how all of these outworlders, whether receptionists or potentates,
regarded Earthmen.

He was unable to hear Pouin Beryaal's reply.
A moment later an inner door opened and a' male Morilaru appeared —a hulking
purple-skinned spider of a man, with enormous elongated arms and legs. "I
am the secretary to Pouin Beryaal," the Morilaru said in his own language.
"You will come this way."

Catton followed him inside. The atmospheric
pressure dropped considerably in the inner office. Evidently they had
conditioners on in here. Carton's ears were discomforted by the change, but at
least it was a relief to emerge from the steam-bath for a while. The humid
climate of Morilar was hellish.

His
guide kicked a doorstop and a wooden slat door folded up with a loud clap,
admitting them to a circular office whose walls were an iridescent blue-green
that flickered irregularly down to the violet end of the spectrum and back
again.

A
Morilaru sat at the head of a wide table, and his posture and demeanor left no
doubt that he was Pouin Beryaal, chairman of the Interworld Commission on
Crime.

Seated
to his right was an enormously fleshy orange-skinned being
whom
Catton recognized as a native of Arenadd, and to Beryaal's left was a gaunt,
spectral gray creature from the Skorg system. All three outworlders were
staring at Catton with undisguised curiosity.

The Morilaru said, "I am Pouin Beryaal.
Do you speak Morilaru, Earthman?"

"The
rules of interstellar contact," Catton said evenly, "require
government personnel to be capable of speaking the language of the world to
which they are assigned. I understand your language. My name is Lloyd
Catton."

"Sit
down, Lloyd Catton," Pouin Beryaal said, making no comment on Carton's
acid reply. It was difficult to judge from the intonation, but it seemed to
Catton that the Morilaru's tone in asking him to sit had been intentionally
offensive.

The
Earthman sat. He lifted his attache case, placed it on the table before him,
and thumbed the release catch. There was a moment's halt while the scanner-band
examined his thumbprint; then the case popped open. Catton drew forth a thin
document bound in dark gray fabric.

"These
are my credentials," he said, handing the document to Pouin Beryaal.

The
Morilaru nodded and leafed through the booklet with no apparent change of
expression. When he had reached the last page he nodded again, and casually
handed the papers to the ponderous Arenaddin. The Arenaddin's eyes seemed to
emerge from a welter of fat in order to scan the pages. The document was in all
four of the major languages of the galaxy: Terran, Morilaru, Arenaddilak, and
Skorg.

In a
moment, the Arenaddin was finished. He passed Catton's document across the
table to the Skorg, who leaned forward and perused it with awesome intensity for
perhaps thirty seconds.

"Your papers are in order," Pouin
Beryaal remarked. "Earth now has a delegate to this Commission. Your
colleagues, beside
myself
, are Ennid Uruod of Arenadd,
and Merikh eMerikh of Skorg. Do you find the atmosphere of this room offensive,
Lloyd Catton?" "I have no complaints."

"A
stoic," said the Skorg in hollow, cavernous tones. "He would have no
complaints even if we turned off the scent-conditioners, no doubt."

"I
don't happen to be as sensitive to discomfort as some Earthmen are,"
Catton said, restraining
himself
. The smell of a Skorg
was almost intolerable to an Earthman, he knew. But he also knew that Skorgs
were tremendously less tolerant of Earthman-odor than Terrans of Skorgs; five
minutes after the purifiers in the room were turned off, the Skorg would be
groveling in a retching heap on the floor, while Catton would merely feel
severe distaste. "I would have no objections if the scent-conditioners
are turned off," Catton said.

"That
will not be necessary," said Pouin Beryaal dryly. "We do not
intentionally wish your discomfort, Earthman. You are, after all, a member of
this Commission—a colleague."

Catton
nodded. He sensed the undercurrent of tension and hostility in the room. It was
only to be expected. These three outworlders were representatives of
races—Morilaru, Arenaddin, Skorg—that had known and vied with each other for
centuries. Into the group had come a fourth race, galactic newcomers. Small
wonder that the old, well established races would regard the fast-moving
humanoids from Sol III with some suspicion. Not yet a century had passed since
Earth's first contact with the other races of the galaxy.
Hardly
an instant, on the galactic timescale.

Pouin
Beryaal said, "When we organized this Commission last year, we felt it was
desirable to include an Earthman.
Hence the invitation that
resulted in your appointment and your presence here.
Our problem is a
problem that concerns every intelligent race in the galaxy."

"Hardly a new problem," rumbled the
Arenaddin. "But one that has become more serious in recent years. It is
time to take concerted action."

"Have you ever seen a hypnojewel,
Earthman?" Pouin Beryaal asked.

Carton
shook his head. "I've seen the documentary films on them, and I know what
they can do. But I've never actually seen a hypnojewel itself."

The Morilaru's face creased in a faint smile.
"You should understand the nature of your enemy, Earthman, before you
begin to plot his destruction. Here. Look at this, closely and with
concentration."

Pouin
Beryaal drew a small glittering object from a green leather box on the table
before him, and slid it down the burnished surface to Catton, who stopped it
with his hand. He picked it up. It was a small cloudy gem, a good size for
mounting in a ring. It was milk-white in color, and it had been cut with crude,
irregular facets.

"This?" Catton said.

"Look at it," murmured the Skorg.

Uneasily, Catton concentrated on the surface
of the stone. He had been warned, at the outset of this mission, to fear traps
every step of the way. Perhaps it was better, he thought, not to look at the
stone. These three outworlders might have prepared some unpleasant surprise for
him. It was wisest to ^smile and decline the invitation, and hand the stone
back. Yes, thought Catton. That was the wise thing to do. He would hand it back
to Pouin Beryaal. He would—

He could not take his eyes
from the stone.

It
glowed, he saw now, with some inner light of its own. It was a warm radiant
nimbus that swirled in patterns round the core of the gem, dancing and bobbing,
weaving dizzyingly. Catton smiled. The tiny blaze of color was breath-takingly
beautiful, an intertwining thicket of reds and greens and clashing blues. The
stone appeared to have enlarged in size. It was tremendously relaxing to go on
staring at it, watching the gay flame dance, while all tension ebbed away, all
consciousness of self, all fears and torment vanished.

The
edge of an alien hand chopped down numbingly on the upturned wrist of the
Earthman. Catton cried out, and his fingers, suddenly robbed of strength,
opened to let the stone fall. It went skittering across the glossy floor. Pouin
Beryaal scooped it up with
a
quick
motion and restored it to its box.

Catton
sat transfixed, breathing deeply, while the vision of beauty faded. For almost
half
a
minute, he could not speak.

"Half
an hour more," said the Skorg, "and to take that stone away from you
would have been to destroy your mind. As it is you probably feel withdrawal
pangs now."

. "I feel as if my brain's been drawn
out through my forehead and embedded in that stone," Catton murmured.

"The
effects are immediate and impressive," said the Arenaddin. "There
isn't a humanoid race in the galaxy that can withstand them."

"Devilish,"
Catton said quietly. He was shaken to the core. Up till this moment, he had not
really been interested in whether the hypnojewel trade flourished or not; his
real purpose lay elsewhere. But now, as he measured the intensity of his
yearning for the stone now hidden in the leather box, he realized that this
matter was graver than he had suspected. "Where do these things come
from?" he asked.

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