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Chapter 5

  • He was late for his date with Ciel, of course. He glanced at his chrono as h_ntered the Stardust Cafe by the front door and saw that he was twenty minute_ate. However, this time he was certain Ciel wouldn't complain too vigorously.
  • Again the askarins were playing, and once more the green-skinned Venusia_irls were doing their writhing, spasmodic, aphrodisiacal dance. It wa_emarkable how they could achieve such an effect of utter abandon and yet kee_heir faces blank and frozen. He looked around the rest of the room swiftly.
  • Not so crowded tonight, and people were generally quieter. There were n_versexed spacemen clawing after the dancers on the floor.
  • Ciel was again in a rear booth, in the same corner of the room she had chose_efore. She had spotted him now; she was looking his way. She lifted a white- gloved hand and waved.
  • He smiled and headed for her. He forced his smile, and made himself forget th_rickling of his wrists and the feeling of bristling fur along his spine. An_e held his smile all the way across the room.  _Why, hello, darling, fanc_eeing you here; no, nothing's wrong, nothing at all, why on earth would yo_hink anything was wrong?_
  • "Hi, baby," was all he actually said.
  • "I'm—I'm glad you're here, Dick." Her eyes didn't show much. They roved ove_is face a little too much perhaps, but otherwise they seemed simply as larg_nd dark as ever. He noticed that the meth glass in front of her was empty.
  • Grinning, he sat down. "This is a big moment. This is almost too much for m_o handle. Maybe that's what I need—a good slug of meth."
  • "No."
  • "No?"
  • "Let's not waste time. Let's go out on the terrace. I want you to kiss me."
  • "Best offer I've had all evening." He rose again. "Where's the terrace?"
  • "Through that door. There's a dining room there that's closed at night. You g_hrough the dining room and out to the terrace."
  • "Okay."
  • He took her arm and led her in and out of tables, across the room. They move_wiftly through the quiet, nearly dark dining room, and after that through _air of window-doors. They were on the terrace then, a flagstoned space with _ow wall. It overlooked the scattered lights of World City's topside area an_ome distance beyond they could see the river, a blue-silver ribbon in th_oonlight.
  • They stopped at the wall. She turned toward him. He looked down at her, at he_ale face and deep, dark eyes. He smelled her perfume and he felt her liv_armth near him and coming nearer. He saw her eyes close, her lips part jus_lightly, and each lip glistening, faintly moist… .
  • He was wondering when it would happen. He was wondering when he would b_truck.
  • As he wondered that he suddenly discovered he wasn't on the terrace any more.
  • He looked about him in some surprise. It was nearly dark. He was in a room; h_ould sense the walls about him. He heard a curious, high-pitched metalli_oice—and recognized it.
  • " _Pell? Are you awake now?_ "
  • It had happened then, just as he had expected. Someone had thrown a freezer o_im there in the patio, and during his complete unconsciousness he'd bee_aken here, wherever this was. He sighed. The least they could have done woul_ave been to let him finish kissing Ciel.
  • As calmly as he could he said to the four blank walls, "I'm awake."
  • Soft glowlights came on gradually and he saw that the room about him wa_airly small—twenty by fifteen, roughly—and very plain. It contained a bed an_ few odd pieces of furniture, all apparently of good quality. There was _oor in one wall. He tried the door. Locked. He went back to the middle of th_oom.
  • "Chief," he said to the blank walls, "what's this all about? Is it some kin_f a joke?"
  • The metallic voice chuckled. It belonged to Eustace J. Larkin, Chief, Centra_nvestigation Bureau, and even filtered like this it was somewhat prim an_recise. "No, Dick, it's not a joke, I'm afraid. I'm surprised you haven'_uessed what it's all about. Or at least had one of your brilliant hunches."
  • There was sarcasm in this last.
  • "Where's Ciel?" Pell asked.
  • "Right here with me. In the next room. Here—listen."
  • Ciel's voice said, "Don't worry, darling, we'll explain everything. And whe_t's all over it will be for the best. You'll see that it will."
  • "All right, everybody," said Pell, half-belligerently, "what's the big idea?"
  • "Big idea is right," Larkin's voice came back. "The biggest that ever hit th_uman race. And as Ciel says we'll explain it all in a moment. But first I'_ike your word that you won't be foolish and make any kind of a struggle. I_ou'll promise that you can come in the other room here and we can all tal_ace to face."
  • Pell frowned. "I don't know—I'm not so sure I can honestly promise that."
  • "Suit yourself, then. A few minutes from now it won't make any differenc_nyway."
  • "Will you stop being so damned mysterious and tell me what it's all about?"
  • Larkin's voice laughed. "Very well. I haven't had much chance to tell abou_t, frankly. And I think you'll agree we've rather neatly kept our parts unde_over—until you got dangerously close to the answer, anyway."
  • "Until I got close?"
  • "Certainly. Doc Wilcox's office on the moon was perhaps our one weakness i_he whole set-up. How you managed to stumble on to that, I'll never know—you_uck must have been with you."
  • "It wasn't luck, Larkin, it was a hunch."
  • "Still believe in hunches, eh? Well, we won't argue the point. At any rate yo_ouldn't have found the enzyme any place else but there."
  • "Oh, so the enzyme does have something to do with it."
  • "Everything. Here—suppose I let Doctor Nebel explain it to you. He develope_t, after all."
  • Pell lifted his eyebrows in surprise and Dr. Walter Nebel's sibilant voic_ame through the hidden speakers. "I think you should know how it works, Mr.
  • Pell. You may know that a certain part of the brain called Rossi's area is, t_ut it figuratively, the hypnotic center. The cut-off of the adrenal cortex, so to speak. In ordinary hypnosis the function of that area is dulled b_verexercising the motor senses. By that method the intensity of hypnosis i_idely variable and never really one hundred per cent effective. My compound, however, brings about complete and absolute cut-off. Any post-hypnoti_uggestion given under those circumstances takes permanently and deeply. I_an only be removed by further post-hypnosis under the same treatment, negating the original command."
  • Pell stared at the blank walls. "Go on," he said in a soft, tense voice.
  • "What's the rest?"
  • Larkin spoke again. "Suppose we briefly examine a little history as a kind o_ntroduction to this matter. The human race, since the beginning of recorde_ime, has failed to achieve real peace and stability, right? Every time ther_as been a chance for cooperative effort—for total agreement—certain selfis_nterests have spoiled it. There have been times, however, when certai_roups—states or combinations of states—came close to permanent peace an_rosperity. The Napoleonic era was one. Hitler two hundred years ago almos_rought it about. The only reason they failed was that they didn't achiev_heir goal— _complete_ conquest."
  • _Did Pell hear correctly? Was there a faint simmering of madness in tha_etallic voice now?_  In the words there was madness, surely… .
  • It went on: "The fact is, Pell, people simply don't know what's good for them.
  • Look at the blunderers and even downright crooks who are elected to Worl_overnment. Never the best brains, never the best talents. When a really abl_an gets into a position of leadership it's an accident—a fluke."
  • "I still don't see what all this has got to do with it," said Pell.
  • There was a shrug in the metallic voice. "For once the ablest men are going t_ake over. There are a number of us. You know already about myself and Docto_ebel. Rysland will be with us, too, as soon as we can get him conditioned."
  • "By conditioned, you mean this enzyme of yours?"
  • "Exactly. We started out in a small way, using force or trickery wher_ecessary, and managed to condition a number of doctors and nurses.
  • Conditioning simply means injecting Nebel's compound and then giving the post- hypnotic command to be unquestioningly loyal to the Supremists. We created th_upremists, of course. In order for us to take over it will be necessary t_ave another war, and to conquer Venus. That can be done if Earth strike_uickly. Within the next few days I think there'll be enough Supremis_nfluence to get this war started."
  • Pell stared back, open-mouthed. To hear it coldly and calmly like this wa_hock, cold-water shock. "Let me get this straight now. Your group mad_upremists of doctors and nurses and they in turn made new members b_nstalling this hypnosis stuff whenever anybody came for a hypodermi_njection of any kind, is that it?"
  • "That's it."
  • "But how does this stuff work? Does it knock you out, or what?"
  • "You'll be finding that out at first hand very shortly."
  • Pell stiffened, made fists and unconsciously lifted them and looked aroun_im, warily.
  • Larkin laughed. "It won't do you much good to put up a fight. I'm sending _ouple of my assistants in there. They specialize in people who want to make _truggle. And there's no reason to feel unhappy about it, Pell: once you'r_onditioned you'll simply be unable to do anything against the Supremis_ause. You'll be happier, in fact, having such a cause. Ask your wife if tha_sn't so."
  • Pell trembled with anger. "How did you get to her? How did you make her d_hat she did?"
  • "You mean luring you into our little trap on the terrace, so to speak? Yo_ustn't blame Ciel for that. She couldn't help herself; she had to obey, afte_ll. You see she was conditioned in Augea on the moon by Dr. Wilcox, one o_ur very loyal men. He simply dropped in when you were at the Post Office, pretended that Ciel needed a routine injection and she, not at all suspicious, allowed him to do it. He gave her the command of loyalty, and also cautione_er not to say anything about it. So you see, Ciel's been one of us fo_everal days. It was just a little precaution of mine, in case you shoul_ecome troublesome. I had to assign somebody to the investigation, of course, because Rysland and his crowd would have been too suspicious if I hadn'_omplied with their request."
  • "You're stark crazy, Larkin! You ought to be in a mental hospital!"
  • "You'll be over that idea in a minute or so. Meanwhile, we're wasting time.
  • I'm sending the boys in now. You'll make it easier for yourself if you submi_ithout giving them any trouble."
  • The door opened, then. Pell caught a quick glimpse of the other room and sa_hat it was a tastefully furnished living room. He recognized it, and kne_here he was. This was a country house of Larkin's, topside, not far from th_utskirts of World City. Whoever turned the freezer on him must have set th_ontrol at high intensity because it would take at least an hour to get t_his place from the Stardust Cafe and he had been unconscious at least tha_ong.
  • He had the momentary impulse to rush that partly opened door—and then th_oys, as Larkin had called them, appeared.
  • They were specialists, little doubt of that. They regarded Pell with flat, almost disinterested looks as the door closed behind them. One held _ypodermic needle. He was the shorter of the two, but he had shoulders lik_x-yokes. His face had been kneaded in the prize ring, and his bare arms wer_uscular and hairy but the top of his head was bald. The other had red hair, close-cropped. He was big and well-proportioned; Pell might have taken him fo_ professional football player.
  • Red did the talking. He spoke quietly, almost pleasantly. "Gonna cooperate?"
  • he asked Pell.
  • Pell said, "You touch me, brother, and I'll make your face look like Baldy's."
  • Red glanced at Baldy and seemed to sigh. Abruptly he whirled, jumped at Pel_nd brought a sizzling right hand punch through the air. Pell ducked it. H_aw Baldy move in as he did so, and a painful blow struck the back of hi_eck. His teeth rattled when it struck. Something caught him under the chin, straightened him. When he was straight a pile driver struck him in th_idsection.
  • It was all over within a matter of seconds. Under different circumstances Pel_ight have found time to admire their technique.
  • As it was, he was now face down on the floor and Red was straddling him, holding him there. The pain in his stomach made him gasp. His face and th_ack of his neck ached terribly.
  • Red had his arm in the small of his back. Pell tried to struggle.
  • "I can break the arm if you move," said Red cheerfully.
  • And then Pell felt the bite of the needle just below his shoulder.
  • A misty feeling came. He felt as though he were in a red whirlpool, spinning, going down—down… . He fought to rise. He could still hear. He could hea_ootsteps and the slam of the door when somebody else came into the room. An_hen he seemed abruptly to be detached from his own body and floating in _uge gray void… .
  • Words hammered at his brain. Larkin's voice, at his ear now and no longe_etallic. " _You will be loyal to the Supremist cause. You will do nothin_gainst the Supremist doctrine. You will believe that Earthmen are meant t_ule the Universe—_ "
  • He felt an overpowering impulse to nod, to agree, to believe that it was righ_o do this. He fought this impulse, straining his mind and his very bein_ntil it seemed that something might burst with the effort.
  • " _You will work for the cause; you will give your life for it if necessary._
  • "
  • Yes, perhaps it was better to succumb. The words were too strong. He couldn'_ight them. Larkin was right, Earthmen were supreme, and they were destined t_ule… .
  • Somewhere in the depths a tiny spot of resistance still glowed. He trie_esperately to evoke it. It seemed then that it became brighter. He  _could_esist—he  _would_ … . He kept thinking over and over again: " _No, no, no!_ "
  • Larkin's voice said, "Carry him in the other room. He'll come to in a moment."
  • He came to slowly, and he saw that he was lying on a couch and that severa_eople were gathered around him smiling down at him. Something detached itsel_rom the group, knelt by his side. He blinked. It was Ciel. Her golden hai_hone and her dark eyes searched his face and she was smiling. "Hello, darling," she said.
  • "Hello, Ciel." He kissed her, and then sat up on the couch and looked around.
  • Larkin and Dr. Nebel were standing together, and Red and Baldy were a fe_teps behind them, still looking indifferent.
  • "Now you're one of us, Dick," said Larkin, flashing his professional smile, dimples and everything. Pell rose. Nebel held his hands behind his back an_eamed, blinking his heavy reptilian eyelids and Larkin stepped forward an_eld out his hand.
  • "Yes," said Pell, shaking the hand, "I guess we're all working for the sam_hing now. What do you want me to do?"
  • Larkin laughed. "Nothing right away. We'll give you instructions when the tim_omes. I think you might as well go home with Ciel now; I have a copter and _hauffeur outside that'll take you to the station near your apartment."
  • "Okay, Chief, whatever you say." He smiled and took Ciel's arm. He starte_oward the door. Then he stopped, patted his chest and said, "Oh—my freezer. _uess the boys took it away… ."
  • Larkin turned to Baldy. "Give him his weapon."
  • Baldy took the freezer from his pocket and casually tossed it to Pell.
  • A sudden change came over Pell, then. His smile disappeared. He steppe_uickly away from Ciel, whirled and faced all of them. He pointed the freezer.
  • "All right, everybody stay perfectly still—you, too, Ciel. This is where w_reak up your little Supremist nightmare."
  • Larkin stared in utter amazement. Nebel's turtle lids opened wide. Cie_rought her hand to her throat.
  • Red's hand blurred suddenly, going for his own weapon. Pell squeezed th_rigger, the violet sparks danced for an instant, and then Red stood froze_ith his hand almost to his chest.
  • "I'd advise nobody else to try that," said Pell, and then in an ironical ton_o Larkin: "C.I.B. agents are trained to be pretty quick with a freezer, right, Chief?"
  • Larkin seemed to find his voice now. "But—how—what happened? You wer_njected. How can you… ."
  • "I just took a little precaution, that's all," said Pell. "There'll be plent_f time to explain it all later. You'll probably hear the whole thing i_ourt, Larkin, when I testify at your trial for treason. Meanwhile, all of yo_ust stay nice and calm while I use the viewer."
  • He stepped to the viewer and dialed with his free hand. The plate glowed, shimmered and a moment later the pale, grave face of Theodor Rysland came int_iew. His eyebrows rose as he saw the weapon in Pell's hand and glimpsed th_eople beyond Pell. "Hello—what's this all about?"
  • "Haven't time to explain fully now," said Pell, "but I want you to get t_arkin's country house as soon as you can. I'll call agent Kronski in a momen_nd have him bring some others, and together we'll take Larkin and Nebel int_ustody. They're behind the Supremist movement—a deliberate attempt to tak_ver the government. They did it with a drug; that's how Supremist's ar_ade."
  • "What's this? A drug?"
  • "Think about it later," said Pell. "Just grab the facts right now. The dru_akes a person subject to post-hypnotic commands—that's why your Supremist_re blindly, unthinkingly loyal. However, the command can be erased by _econd treatment. That'll be tough and take a lot of ferreting out, but i_on't be impossible." He glanced at Ciel, and saw that she was staring at hi_ith horror—with enmity. It sickened him, but he steadied himself with th_ealization that Ciel would be one of the first to be re-treated.
  • Several minutes later he had completed his calls. Rysland, Kronski and th_thers were on the way. He kept the freezer pointed, and watched his captive_arefully. Ciel had gone over to the couch and was sitting there, her face i_er hands, weeping softly.
  • "I don't know how you did it," said Larkin. "I don't understand it. Th_njection should have worked. It always did before."
  • "Well, it almost worked," said Pell. "I must admit I had quite a time fightin_ff your commands. But, you see, I knew you'd gotten to Ciel somehow when sh_alled me up to make the date this evening. She spoke of going out to th_errace at the Stardust Cafe. It was a little odd that she should speak of th_errace like that, out of a clear sky—and I wondered why it should be on he_ind. Then it struck me that neither of us had ever noticed a terrace there, and Ciel must have some special reason for knowing about it.
  • "She did, of course—she'd been instructed to get me out there where your boy_ould slap a freezer on me. So I started guessing with that hunch to work on.
  • Everything more or less fell into place after that. It was pretty certain tha_hey'd try to make a loyal Supremist out of me, too, and that's when I too_hat little precaution I mentioned to you."
  • "What precaution?"
  • Pell smiled. "I had Marco the mentalist hypnotize me and give me a rathe_pecial post-hypnotic command. He ordered me not to believe any  _subsequent_ost-hypnotic commands. That's why your conditioning didn't work on me."
  • Larkin could find no words; he just stared.
  • "Think about it, Larkin," said Pell. "Think hard. Maybe you'd convince_ourself you were doing good, but your purpose was still tyranny. And like an_yranny it contained the means of its own destruction. It always works ou_hat way, Larkin—maybe it's a law, or something."
  • It had been a long speech for Pell, practically an oration. He was, after all, a cop, not a philosopher. Just a guy trying to get along. Just an ordinar_itizen whose name was legion, looking at his wife now and waiting with wha_atience he could find for the time when she would be cleared of the poisonou_octrine that any one race or group or even species was supreme.
  • He was thinking, too, that the trial would keep him busy as the very devil an_hat they  _still_  wouldn't get to that vacation and second honeymoon for _ong time… .
  • That, considering everything, was not too much to put up with.