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Daughters of Doom   By:

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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... Continue reading book >>

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