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The Death-Traps of FX-31   By: (1897-1970)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Astounding Stories March 1933. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

The Death Traps of FX 31

A Commander John Hanson Adventure

By Sewell Peaslee Wright

[Sidenote: Commander John Hanson recalls his harrowing expedition among the giant spiders of FX 31.]

I do not wish to appear prejudiced against scientists. I am not prejudiced, but I have observed the scientific mind in action, on a great many occasions, and I find it rather incomprehensible.

It is true that there are men with a scientific turn of mind who, at the same time, you can feel safe to stand with shoulder to shoulder, in an emergency. Young Hendricks, who was my junior officer on the Ertak , back in those early days of the Special Patrol Service, about which I have written so much, was one of these.

Nor, now that I come to think of the matter in the cool and impartial manner which is typical of me, was young Hendricks the only one. There was a chap let's see, now. I remember his face very well; he was one of those dark, wiry, alert men, a native of Earth, and his name was Inverness! Carlos Inverness. Old John Hanson's memory isn't quite as tricky as some of these smart young officers of the Service, so newly commissioned that the silver braid is not yet fitted to the curve of their sleeves, would lead one to believe.

I met Inverness in the ante room of the Chief of Command. The Chief was tied up in one of the long winded meetings which the Silver sleeves devoted largely to the making of new rules and regulations for the confusion of both men and officers of the Service, but he came out long enough to give me the Ertak's orders in person.

"Glad to see you here at Base again, Commander," he said, in his crisp, business like way. "Hear some good reports of your work; keep it up!"

"Thank you, sir," I said, wondering what was in the air. Any time the Chief was complimentary, it was well to look out for squalls which is an old Earth term for unexpected trouble.

"Not at all, Commander, not at all. And now, let me present Carlos Inverness, the scientist, of whom you have undoubtedly heard."

I bowed and said nothing, but we shook hands after the fashion of Earth, and Inverness smiled quite humanly.

"I imagine the good captain has been too busy to follow the activities of such as myself," he said, sensibly enough.

"A commander" and I laid enough emphasis on the title to point out to him his error in terminology "in the Special Patrol Service usually finds plenty to occupy his mind," I commented, wondering more than ever what was up.

[Illustration: At the same instant two other trap doors swung up. ]

"True," said the Chief briskly. "You'll pardon me if I'm exceedingly brief, Commander, but there's a sizeable group in there waiting my return.

"I have a special mission for you; a welcome relief from routine patrol. I believe you have made special requests, in the past, for assignments other than the routine work of the Service, Commander?"

He was boxing me up in a corner, and I knew it, but I couldn't deny what he said, so I admitted it as gracefully as I could.

"Very well," nodded the Chief, and it seemed to me his eyes twinkled for an instant. "Inverness, here, is head of a party of scientists bent upon a certain exploration. They have interested the Council in the work, and the Council has requested the cooperation of this Service."

He glanced at me to make sure I understood. I certainly did; when the Supreme Council requested something, that thing was done.

"Very well, sir," I said. "What are your orders?"

The Chief shrugged.

"Simply that you are to cooperate with Inverness and his party, assisting them in every possible way, including the use of your ship for transporting them and a reasonable amount of equipment, to the field of their activities... Continue reading book >>

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