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´╗┐Title: Daughters of Doom
Author: Livingston, Herbert B.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Daughters of Doom" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                              DAUGHTERS

                               OF DOOM


                           By H. B. HICKEY


    Deep in space lay a weird and threatening world. And it was
    there that Ben Sessions found the evil daughters . . .

Beyond Ventura B there was no life; there was nothing but one worn out sun
after another, each with its retinue of cold planets and its trail of dark
asteroids. At least that was what the books showed, and the books had been
written by men who knew their business. Yet, despite the books and the men
who had written them, Ben Sessions went past Ventura B, deliberately and
all alone and knowing that the odds were against his returning alive.

He went because of a file clerk's error. More correctly, he went as the
final result of a chain of events which had begun with the clerk's mistake.

The clerk's name was Gilbert Wayne and he worked at the Las Vegas
Interplanetary Port. It was Wayne's job to put through the orders for
routine overhaul of interplanetary rockets. Usually Wayne was quite
efficient, but even efficient men have bad days, and on one of those days
Wayne had removed from the active list the name of Astra instead of its
sister ship, the Storan.

The very next morning the Astra had been turned over to Maintenance.
Maintenance asked no questions. It was that department's job to take the
ship apart, fix what needed fixing, and put it. Ten minutes later Jacobs
saw Armando Gomez was the mechanic detailed to check the rocket tubes.

Gomez, who always got that job because he was small and slender, dutifully
dropped his instruments into his overall pockets and crawled into the left
firing tube. Half an hour later he stuck his head out of the tube and
yelled to Jacobs, who was in charge of the job:

"Amigo! How many hours this ship she got?"

Jacobs ran his finger down a chart and discovered to his surprise that the
Astra had only two hundred hours on its log since the last overhaul.
Ordinarily a ship was checked each thousand hours. He scratched his head
but decided that if Operations wanted the Astra tuned it was none of his
business. So he told Gomez not to ask useless questions and to get back in
the tube.

Anyone else but Gomez would have obeyed orders and forgotten all about it.
Ten minutes later Jacobs saw Armando's head appear.

"Amigo!" Gomez shouted. "How many hours?"

"Two hundred!" Jacobs shouted back, knowing he would have no peace until
Gomez was answered. "Now get to work! We ain't got all year."

But Gomez was out of the tube again in five minutes and yelling for the
foreman.

"What do you want now?" Jacobs demanded. He swung himself up on the catwalk
beside Gomez.

"Something very funny in here, amigo," Gomez replied. "One plate she is too
clean."

"Less work for you," Jacobs grunted. "So why complain?"

Nevertheless he took a look at the plate, which was near the mouth of the
tube. It should have been lightly encrusted with the oxides of rocket fuel.
Instead, it was only beginning to dull, in strange contrast to its
neighbors which were welded to it.

"That is queer," Jacobs muttered.

"_Si._ As you say, amigo. Queer."

Once Jacob's interest was aroused he was also not one to let a matter drop;
he told Gomez to work on another tube while he consulted the front office.
The front office was not especially interested, but at Jacobs' insistence
they called in a metallurgist. The metallurgist, whose name was Britton,
was fortunately a thorough young man. He ordered the plate removed and sent
to his laboratory for complete analysis.

After that things happened fast. Britton scanned the analysis of the plate
and without hesitation called in his superior who ordered a second test
just to be safe, and then notified Washington. Washington turned it over to
Interplanetary Intelligence, of which Carson was chief of staff.

One week later Ben Sessions stood before Carson's desk.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sessions was only thirty-five, but in his few years with "Two Eyes," as the
organization was known, he had rung up an enviable record. Tall, lithe,
darkly handsome, he was well liked by the men who worked with him. At the
moment there was a puzzled frown on his face, lengthening the line made by
a scar which ran from his forehead down the side of his nose. The scar was
the result of a crash landing on Neptune.

"I don't get it, sir," he said. "A single plate from a rocket tube . . . So
what if it didn't oxidize?"

"That makes me feel much better." Carson smiled, an inner bitterness making
the smile wry. "I didn't get it either," he went on. "A mechanic named
Gomez got it; a foreman named Jacobs got it; a lab man named Britton got
it; but the chief of "Two Eyes" missed the boat. I feel swell about that."
He rose suddenly and hammered his fist on the desk. "Every one of us in
Intelligence ought to be cashiered!"

"Take it easy," Ben cautioned. "All because of that plate?"

Carson slumped back into his chair. "Yes. And because we have failed in our
duty. Our only hope is that we may have time to make it up. I'll give you
the facts:

"Those tubes are made of Virium, but even Virium develops scale. After next
week it will develop even more, because next week we make the changeover to
the new fuel. If Wayne had made his mistake two weeks later there would
have been so much deposit in the tubes that Gomez would not have noticed
the difference.

"Now, Virium is one of the most standardized products in the world. So
Gomez was rightly astonished that the tube didn't oxidize evenly. Jacobs
saw further. Virium is the toughest metal we know of; if this piece was
tougher it might be a discovery of major importance. So Britton analyzed
the plate."

"Now we get to the point," Sessions grinned.

Carson stabbed a finger at him. "Right. And the point is that this one
section of plate is not Virium! In fact, it is a substance which we are
positive does not exist in our system!"

"Wait a second. What do you mean by 'system'?"

"I mean every single bit of matter that lies between here and Ventura B."

"Maybe it's not a natural substance. Not an element."

"We thought of that. It's an element, and one we know nothing of."

"Do you mind if I sit down, sir?" Ben asked suddenly.

The enormity of the thing had struck him, almost dazzling him with its
implications. Carson laughed bitterly and waved him to a chair, then went
on talking.

"Precisely, Ben. The question is: How did this strange substance get into
the tube of an Interplanetary rocket called the Astra? To answer that we
checked on the ship. The Astra is one of the few ships which have ever gone
beyond Ventura B!"

"I almost expected to hear that," Sessions said.

"It adds up, all right, doesn't it? A foreign substance, a foreign system.
But this substance had been made into a plate. That means the work of
intelligent beings."

"Who took the Astra on that trip?" Sessions asked, his body tense.

"A licensed space explorer named Murchison. Two others went with him but he
returned alone. Claims they fell into a chasm."

"But no explorer has reported life beyond Ventura B," Sessions said, taking
up the thread of thought. He whistled softly. "You must have been busy this
last week."

"Busy is no word for it. It's only three years since anyone has been
allowed to go outside our system. For the purpose of science Interstellar
Flight granted permits to six licensed explorers. All returned with charts
showing only a desolate waste. In our own quiet way we have checked on each
of these six men, including Murchison, in the last week."

"And . . . ?"

"And we discovered something very interesting. The six who returned from
beyond Ventura B were not the same six who went! They are identical in
every facial, bodily, and mental characteristic, identical enough to fool
even the families of the lost explorers. But when we secretly photographed
them with infra-red light we found that their skins contained elements
foreign to our system!"

Ventura A and its sister star were the twin beacons that marked the last
outposts of the Earth System. Past them was only a trackless waste of
inter-stellar space. Ben Sessions knew that the charts he carried were
probably worse than useless, were likely downright traps.

He and Carson had planned the trip. Carson had wanted to send a fighting
fleet but Ben had opposed the idea. Wayne's mistake had led them to the
uncovering of a gigantic hoax, a hoax which could have only a sinister
purpose. Somewhere in the void ahead were sentient beings. To send a fleet
would be to let them know that their existence was suspected.

Sessions let the automatic controls take over while he examined the charts
once more. They showed the constellation which lay directly ahead, the one
after that, and then nothing for hundreds of millions of miles. Those first
two reflected a tiny amount of light from Ventura B and were visible
through telescopes, therefore it would have created suspicion to falsify
their position. Past them, however, the blackness was too intense to
penetrate.

The speed of the rocket ship increased. Atomic blasts replaced those of the
regular fuel. Sessions knew that an Earth measurement would have shown the
ship to have shrunk to half its size. Only light and the radona beam which
protected the ship from collisions could travel faster.

From now on it was just a matter of luck. Someone had pulled those six
explorers out of space and Sessions was hoping the same thing would happen
to him. On the third day it happened.

He was sitting in the pilot's chair, watching the radona chart before him.
Most of the chart was blank, only the upper right hand corner showing a
mass of black dots which indicated a planetary dispersal about a dead star.
Sessions waited for the radona beam to swing the ship leftward.

Instead, the ship was curving in the direction of the dots! Ben's first
thought was that the beam had gone out of order, and he switched to manual
controls. No use. Despite all his efforts he was being carried toward those
planets.

Habit made him shut off the tubes. Why waste fuel? A tight smile froze on
his lips as his speed dropped to twenty million miles then lifted again as
the ship by-passed a planet. With calm deliberation Ben switched on the
camera he had installed before the flight and let it record his course as
shown on the radona chart.

Only one dot remained on the chart. It grew larger and larger until it
filled the entire screen. There was no longer any doubt as to the ship's
destination, and as if to add further proof its speed dropped sharply. Ben
clicked the switch on the camera and removed a tiny roll of microfilm. The
roll fit snugly into the hollow cap which covered the stub of one of his
molars.

The altitude indicator went on automatically, showed fifty thousand feet,
then forty thousand, went down to hundreds. Ahead there was only blackness.
Ben held his breath and waited for the crash. It never came. Long after the
altimeter showed zero the ship still moved. Ben could think of only one
explanation: he was below the surface of the dark planet! And then he could
think no more; the blackness seemed to filter into the ship and into his
mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

"He awakens," a voice said. It was a pleasant voice, a feminine one, silky
and soothing.

Ben Sessions sat up and said, "Huh?"

The first thing he noticed was the light. No more darkness, but a light
that came from nowhere and yet was everywhere. He was on some sort of
couch, in a huge room with a vaulted ceiling. Shaking his head groggily,
Ben looked for the source of the silken voice. He was alone in the room.

His eyes ran down the length of his body. The flash gun was gone from his
belt. That was hardly unexpected. But the belt was gone too. So were his
clothes. He was clad in a loose robe of shimmering white cloth.

That meant he had been unconscious for some time. How long? Ben would have
given much to know. Suddenly he let out an unearthly moan, threw his arms
wide and rolled off the couch. He lay still.

The silken voice was raised again and added to it was another, more
masculine. Then a door opened and two people stepped into the room. Ben sat
up and grinned at them, especially at the woman.

"I thought that would get you," he said. "It's not hospitable to hide from
your guest."

"Resourceful, isn't he?" The woman raised her eyebrows in mock admiration.
Her companion growled a reply which Ben couldn't quite catch.

They were an odd pair, the woman towering well above ten feet but perfectly
formed, her skin the color of pink marble; the man more beast than human.
The women of Saturn were as tall as she, Ben had time to think, but not
nearly as beautiful.

"Welcome to Teris, Ben Sessions," she said. Her smile was the smile of the
serpent of Eden.

"You're pretty resourceful yourself," Ben grinned.

He had carried no papers except a blanket permit from Interstellar Flight.
He wondered if the precaution he and Carson had taken would prove to be in
vain. The woman spoke again.

"Ben Sessions, graduate of Neptune School of Rockets; born in Taos, New
Mexico, Earth; third of four children; unmarried, unattached at present;
first position, co-pilot Earth-Vega Express . . ."

She seemed to be choosing items at random from a memorized list. The
exhibition was intended to impress Ben and it was succeeding. More than
that, however, it was frightening. He held his breath as she neared the
end.

". . . two years with Interstellar Communications; presently a licensed
space explorer, non-affiliated."

"Pretty good," Ben said.

It was better than that. It was perfect. Only the end was wrong. He and
Carson had worked that out with the psychoanalyst. The two of them had
wanted to falsify the entire biography, but the analyst had convinced them
he was right.

"One lie I might attempt to pound into your very subconscious by hypnotism;
a dozen would be spread too thin. We would leave holes. Under the type of
electroanalysis you seem to think might be used on you I can't even promise
one lie will hold up."

Ben reminded himself to recommend the man for honors if he ever got back to
Earth. He had certainly known his business; but then, if he hadn't he would
not be working for "Two Eyes."

"Now that you've told me all about myself maybe you'll tell me what's going
on," Ben said.

"One of your compatriots can do that," the woman told him. Her interest
seemed suddenly to have waned.

She said a few words in a strange tongue to the man who stood at her side.
He grunted, bowed, and advanced toward Ben. Long arms, covered with thick
black hair, reached out. Ben dodged.

"You'll be sorry if you make him use force," the woman said.

"Nothing like trying," Ben told her. He avoided another grab and stepped in
and smashed his fist to the hairy man's jaw.

[Illustration: The ape-like figure rushed forward and Ben's head was thrown
back by a mighty blow . . .]

He might as well have hit a wall. Before Ben could strike another blow he
was lifted from his feet by an upward slap that threatened to tear loose
one side of his face. Too dazed to resist, he felt both his wrists
encircled by a tremendous hand. The woman's voice rose sharply in a tone of
command.

       *       *       *       *       *

The corridor through which Ben Sessions was being led was thronged with
people. There seemed to be three classes: rosy-skinned giantesses like his
escort; men of his own size, but also with pink complexions; and the squat,
hairy men who appeared to be nothing more than slaves.

It was plain that women dominated this society, and from them Ben received
curious but contemptuous glances. Any one of these Amazons would have been
considered a beauty on Earth, so regular were their features, but they
lacked an air of feminine softness. Instead, cruelty lay thinly masked
beneath the surface.

At the end of the long corridor a huge door swung open and Ben was led
through it into an immense room. At the far end of the room was a throne,
and on it a woman. Ben blinked. As well proportioned as the others he had
seen, she was half again as tall, twice as beautiful. He could not contain
a gasp of appreciation.

Thick violet hair fell almost to her shoulders, her skin was luminous and
flawless, her body breathtaking, more revealed than concealed by a
clinging gown of some filmy material. At her breast, flashed a single
violet jewel larger by far than the famed sapphires of Uranus.

"I brought him as soon as he awakened," said the woman with Ben.

A malevolent stare from the woman on the throne rested on Ben. "It was
unnecessary," she said. "We have no further need of him. Take him to the
field."

"Wait a minute," Ben snapped.

"You are addressing Arndis, Queen of Teris," he heard his escort say.

"I don't give a hoot . . ." He never finished the sentence. From behind the
hairy slave seized him, lifted him and flung him bodily toward the doors.
The interview was over.

They went for a while along the same corridor, then turned off and followed
a side passage for a way. It led steadily downward to an arched opening and
through that out of the building. Here too the light was diffused, but much
brighter. Ben had to blink several times before he became adjusted to it.

They were standing in the center of a vast level plain, apparently endless
and roofless, for overhead there was no sky, only an increasing intensity
of light. Ranged in rows on the plain were thousands of space ships. Ben
turned once as they approached the first line of ships and saw behind him
the building from which he had just come. It rose upward, a single block of
shining stone, for almost a mile. Alongside it were other buildings of the
same material, but none so large.

Then Ben and his two escorts were past the first rows of ships. His eyes
roved over them, trying to discover what armament they carried. None was
visible. Their firing tubes were much the same as those of Earth design,
but slightly smaller.

His attention was diverted from his study by a sudden disturbance aboard
the closest ship. The sound of an angry feminine voice came clearly through
an open porthole, and mingled with it was a pleading, deeper tone. An
instant later a door was flung open and out of it came hurtling one of the
men of Teris. He hit the ground, rolled over, and came to his knees facing
the open door and the giant woman who stood framed in it.

       *       *       *       *       *

That the man was pleading for his very life was obvious to Ben, but it was
equally plain that his pleas were having no effect. The woman on the ship
uttered a single contemptuous word that cut the pleas short. On her face
was a sadistic anticipation such as Ben had never before seen. Slowly she
raised a cylinder in her hand and pointed it at the man on the ground.

From the cylinder came a violet light, weak at first, but growing in
intensity as she pressed some sort of trigger. The man shrieked in agony as
the light played on him. Then the smell of burning flesh came to Ben's
nostrils, and the shriek became a single high pitched scream which choked
off suddenly.

Ben's escort laughed with ghoulish enjoyment, said something to the woman
in the doorway, and gestured at the charred body on the ground. The violet
light grew to blinding intensity. A puff of smoke and the body was gone.

"What was that for?" Ben gasped.

His escort smiled indulgently and shot a question at the other woman. The
reply was a shrug of shoulders and a few short syllables.

"He did something that displeased her," she told Ben. At his look of horror
she laughed again, apparently pleased to have shocked him.

He noticed, as they went along, that the space ships decreased in size.
Those in the first rows had been comparable to Earth's battle cruisers,
those in the last were one or two man jobs. His own ship, the _Rapier_, was
at the very end of the last line.

Beyond was a vast army of men, both rosy skinned and hairy, at work on a
gigantic excavation project. Great power shovels scooped load after load of
earth. But most of the work was being done by the men who labored with
primitive pick and shovel.

Above the sound of digging rose the sharp voices of the giant women of
Teris, each with a battalion under her command. As far as Ben's eyes could
reach men were digging at the ground.

He was hustling along to a point where a dirt spattered group struggled
with a metallic lining for the half-mile hole it had excavated. At that
point his escort turned him over to the woman who bossed that crew. Ben saw
in the hand of the overseer one of the violet ray cylinders.

"Down there," she said curtly, pointing to where a small knot of men worked
on a terrace fifty feet below. "They will tell you what to do."

Ben had found nothing strange in the fact that his escort had spoken
English fluently. She had been present at his electroanalysis. But he
doubted that all the women of Teris could have the same command of the
language. Nevertheless he said nothing and clambered down the ladder to the
terrace beneath. Ben's unasked question was answered when he saw the five
faces turned up toward him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Earth men! Even the grime that covered them could not hide that. And there
was added proof in their widening eyes. They were sorry to see another
Earth man captive, yet happy at sight of one of their own kind. Willing
hands helped Ben down from the bottom rung of the ladder.

"We'd heard they had picked up another ship," one of the men said. "But we
weren't sure the rumor was true."

"True enough, as you can see. I'm Ben Sessions."

His outstretched hand was grasped and shaken cordially. Names were flung at
him. Murchison, Davies, Kennard, Bannon, Murchison.

"Wait a second," Ben said. "I thought I heard Murchison twice."

"You did," said the big, rawboned man at whom he was staring. "The first is
my daughter Sally."

It was only then that Ben noticed how small and slender was the figure of
the one next to Murchison. Even the girl's loose robe, similar to that of
the men, could not quite conceal her femininity. Her hair was cut short,
her hands toil hardened.

"Carson didn't tell me," Ben muttered. He grinned at Murchison. "I expected
to find you and two assistants, but I didn't know one would be your
daughter."

"Expected--?" Hope glinted in five pairs of eyes. Above them there was a
shouted command to get to work, and a cylinder was waved threateningly.

"I'll explain as we go along," Ben said hastily. "Show me what to do."

Bannon, a short, thickset man with a mop of unruly black hair shoved a pair
of tongs into Ben's hands and quickly explained how to hold the rivets with
which the group was working. In effect they were constructing a huge
cylinder. Looking down, Ben saw that it descended into the bowels of Teris.

The others were pressing Ben for his explanation but he insisted that they
tell their stories first. The same thing had happened to them as to him.
Within some thousands of miles of Teris they had felt a force pull them
toward it. Then they had passed out and awakened to find themselves
prisoners.

"I know all that," Ben said. "But in all the time you've been here you must
have found out a good deal. What goes on here? Why are they taking prisoner
every one who approaches the planet? Why do they conceal its existence from
our system?"

Murchison paused between blows of his hammer, as though to wipe sweat from
his brow.

"Since you seem in a hurry," he said, "I will tell it in brief. You are in
the center of a planet whose evil people are engaged in one enterprise: the
conquering and subjugating of our universe."

"I thought that might be it," Ben nodded. "But subjugating billions of
people may prove tougher than they think."

"Their intention is to reduce our population so it can be easily handled.
And I can assure you that these women are perfectly capable of slaughtering
as many people as they think necessary. They have both the means and the
contempt for human life that such an undertaking requires."

Ben hazarded a guess. "This project is part of their preparation?"

"The final part. Since the surface of Teris has a temperature of absolute
zero it can only be reached from here through a series of locks. What they
are building now are new locks big enough to handle their largest ships. As
soon as that's done they plan to attack."

"Any idea when that will be?"

"About a week, Earth time." Murchison's shoulders sagged with despair.
"We've been wracking our brains for a way to stop them, but it's no use.
They're as clever as they are evil. They've even sent doubles of each of us
men to Earth to pave the way for the attack. I suppose you've seen your
double."

"No."

"Then they haven't made one. You have to be awake while it's being done. I
suppose they didn't think it necessary now that there's so little time
left."

"Less time than I thought," Ben grunted. "I'd better get moving." He tilted
his head back and shouted to the woman above.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a second time Ben stood before Arndis, queen of Teris. Her eyes probed
at him, trying to divine his thoughts. There was anger in those eyes. If
she detected a single flaw in his story it would mean Ben's death. More
than that, it would mean disaster for Earth. He talked fast.

"When we found that plate in the firing tube of Murchison's ship we knew he
was lying. We figured he'd discovered valuable deposits out here and was
trying to keep them secret."

"That was all?"

"It's enough, isn't it? Enough for Interplanetary Intelligence to send me
on this mission. Those false papers I carried are proof that we suspected
something. And if I'm not back in the time we allowed they'll have our
entire battle fleet out looking for me."

"Very clever," Arndis smiled. "But if you are trying to frighten us you are
failing. The women of Teris had a high civilization before your Earth was
born. We can do things you never dreamed of."

At her command Ben's arms were seized and bound behind him. He was carried
swiftly into a room nearby, a room filled with a maze of scientific
apparatus. On what appeared to be an operating table was a transparent
shell, and beneath this Ben was strapped.

Through the shell he saw one of the men of Teris brought into the room and
placed in a similar position on another table. Wires were strung between
the two shells and somewhere a machine began to hum. The shells filled with
a white vapor that lingered a moment and then was gone.

Although he had known what was to happen Ben could not control his
amazement. For the man who came out of the other shell was an exact replica
of himself! Within minutes he saw the other dressed in his own flying suit.

"You see how simply we solve the problem?" Arndis asked. "Ben Sessions will
return to Earth and there will be no search. He will report that he found
nothing and request that he be allowed to try again. By that time we shall
be ready to attack."

Ben's arms had been untied, and now he put his hand to his face, as though
to rub some tender spot. The move attracted no undue attention. An instant
later he had two fingers inside his mouth and was working loose the cap
over his tooth.

His next move took them completely by surprise. With a leap he was half way
across the room and lunging for his double. Ben brought the man down with a
flying tackle and for seconds they wrestled on the floor. Then a hairy hand
tore Ben loose and he was hauled to his feet. He had done little harm to
the other.

"Not quite fast enough," Arndis said. "Within minutes he will be aboard the
Rapier and on his way." Her voice rose. "Take this one back to the locks."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Doesn't it ever get dark here?" Ben asked.

He and Murchison and the others had been allowed to come out of the tube
after what seemed hours of toil. They sat now in a tiny cell into which air
came through slits in the wall.

"No," Murchison said. "But Bannon has a good watch and we're able to keep
track of time. It's exactly six days and three hours since you were put to
work."

Ben nodded thoughtfully. There was not much time left. Work on the locks
went on endlessly, and sooner than he could have believed possible they
were being completed. Given enough slaves, he thought, anything could be
accomplished.

Gluing his eyes to one of the slits, he peered out. The last of the giant
gates was being installed. Their own crew would have only one more shift
before the job was finished.

Beyond the excavation Ben could see the tower from which the locks were
controlled. Bannon, who had been in Teris longest and who had managed to
garner some information, had explained their operation to Ben.

"I worked on the new controls when they were being installed," he said,
ranging himself alongside Ben. "They're fully automatic. There are five
locks in each tube between the interior and the surface of Teris."

"How many ships did you say were kept at the tower?" Ben asked.

"About ten. They make inspection flights each day, although nothing has
ever gone wrong that I've heard of. But the tubes and the locks are the
only outlets to the surface and they watch them carefully."

"What are our chances of getting to the tower?"

"Zero, I should say. Only the women are allowed to enter it, or a small
crew under their supervision."

"Willing to make a try?" Ben asked. He swung around to face them all. Until
now he had not taken them into his confidence, given them no inkling of
what was in his mind.

"We've talked about it before," Murchison answered. "But there's so little
chance we gave up the idea. Better to stay alive and hope for a rescue."

"I can't tell you how I know," Ben told them, "but there isn't going to be
any rescue." He kept his eyes on the girl. "How about you, Sally? Willing
to trust me?"

She nodded and Ben heaved a sigh of relief. Rather than leave her behind he
would have stayed with her. Gathering them about him he outlined his plans.
The men were more than skeptical but no one had any suggestions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ben and Davies were the last to finish their work, and as they fastened the
last rivet to the last hinge Ben looked up and shook his head. To the giant
woman who stood watching him it seemed only that he was tired. She failed
to notice that Sally had drifted off to one side and was coming up behind
her.

Sally's foot suddenly caught the overseer just behind one knee and knocked
her off balance. At the same instant Ben stepped in close and wrenched the
violet ray cylinder from the woman's hand. The others screened them from
sight. Ben looked around and saw that the slight flurry of activity had
gone unnoticed by others of the giant women who were nearby.

"We're going to walk to the control tower," he told the woman grimly. "If
anyone asks you're to say we have to do some work there. I'm going to have
this ray gun trained on you under my robe, so don't try any tricks.
Understand?"

She understood all too well. A flicker of fear in her eyes told Ben that
she knew he would blast her without mercy. They fell in behind her.

When they reached the doors of the tower a pair of women barred their way.

"We have received no notice of work to be done," one of them said. Ben saw
her eyes narrow with sudden suspicion, and then her hand darted for the
cylinder at her side.

Ben's ray gun spouted violet death and the charred bodies of three women
lay in the doorway. Ben scooped up their guns and thrust them at Bannon and
Murchison.

"We'll give you five minutes before we take off," he shouted as they ran
past him for the control room.

Behind him and Davies and Sally there were shouts as the two men went into
action. But they had their own job to do. The closest inspection ship was
several hundred feet away and already women were running to cut them off.
Ben cut loose with his cylinder before they had a chance to use theirs.

Then he and Davies were lifting Sally into the ship. While they covered the
open door Ben ran for the controls. Somewhere an alarm was wailing and as
he swung the ship about Ben saw other ships being boarded. But Bannon and
Murchison had not failed. Just beyond the tower a lock swung open.

Ben skimmed along the ground, figuring to pick up the two men as they came
out of the tower. Then he saw Murchison wave him on. He had planted himself
in the doorway and was refusing to budge. Ben saw why as Murchison blasted
away at a group of giant women who were trying to rush the tower.

There was no more time. Already other ships were taking off. Another wasted
minute and they would beat him to the lock. Ben yelled to Davies to close
the hatch as he turned on the power.

A moment later they were in the blackness of the tube. Davies ran forward
to the controls. "There's a light on the ship," he said. He found the
switch and threw it in time for them to see the next lock open for them.

"Three to go," Ben muttered. "Looks like we're going to make it."

"Maybe not." Davies tapped his shoulder and pointed to the rear of the
ship. Looking back through a porthole, Ben could see other ships behind
them.

"As long as we're in the tube they won't fire," Davies said. "But neither
can we get very far ahead!"

While he spoke the ship had gone through another lock with the others still
directly behind. It looked like Davies was right. But Ben was not yet ready
to concede defeat. The fourth lock loomed ahead and he watched it swing
open. Just a few minutes more and they would go through the last one. It
was still hundreds of miles ahead but at the rate they were travelling they
would be on it soon.

He waited until the last possible second and then cut his speed sharply.
Behind them the other ships were forced to use their retarding rockets for
fear of ramming them. It was just what Ben had expected. As the last lock
opened he threw the accelerator all the way forward and felt the ship leap
ahead.

That alone would not have been enough, but as the ship roared out of the
tube above the surface of Teris he cut sharply to the right. Had their ship
been faster it might have worked. But it was not fast enough. Through the
blackness of space the exhausts of their pursuers flamed closer. Ben's
teeth clamped down on his lips.

"I guess we're out of luck."

There was nothing more to say. It was only a matter of minutes before the
guns of the ships behind them would blast them to pieces. They held their
breath and waited, watching the exhausts come through the darkness.

And then suddenly there was no more darkness. A light as bright as the noon
sun flared. Ben let out a shout, for beyond the light were lined the battle
cruisers of Earth. His pursuers turned tail and ran.

"Where the devil did those ships come from?" Davies gasped.

"I sent for them," Ben told him. "We had it all arranged. When I tackled
that double I managed to slip a microfilm capsule into his pocket. It had a
complete picture of my radona chart. As soon as the double reached Earth,
Intelligence grabbed him. All they had to do was follow my chart to Teris."

They were passing the flagship of the Earth fleet, and Ben dipped the nose
of his ship in salute. Then he turned to see what was going on.

There was going to be no attempt to invade Teris. Instead, its surface was
illuminated with more of the flares. A moment later Teris was gone, blasted
by the guns of a thousand cruisers. And for the strange women who would
have enslaved a universe, Ben felt no pity.


                               THE END



                         TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE


The sentence on Page 61: "It was that department's job to take the ship
apart, fix what needed fixing, and put it." is exactly as it appears in
the original.

On Page 62, in "Once Jacobs' interest was aroused he was also not one to
let a matter drop;" the original had "Jacob's".





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