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The Women-Stealers of Thrayx   By:

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This etext was produced from Planet Stories January 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.



"And that is why you will take us to Earth, Lieutenant," barked the Ihelian warrior. "We do not want your arms or your men. What we must ask for is ten thousand women."

Mason was nervous. It was the nervousness of cold apprehension, not simply that which had become indigenous to his high strung make up. He was, in his way, afraid; afraid that he'd again come up with a wrong answer.


He'd brought the tiny Scout too close to the Rim. Facing the facts squarely, he knew, even as he fingered the stud that would wrench them out of their R curve, that he'd not just come too close. He'd overshot entirely. Pardonable, perhaps, from the view point of the corps of scientists safely ensconced in their ponderous Mark VII Explorer some fifteen light days behind. But not according to the g n manual. According to it, he'd placed the Scout and her small crew in a "situation of avoidable risk," and it would make a doubtful record look that much worse.


The next time he'd out argue Cain with his rank if he had to. Cain was big enough to grab things with his brawny fists and twist them into whatever shape he wanted when the things were tangible, solid, resisting. But R Space was something else again. Nobody knew what it did beyond the Rim.

He materialized the Scout into E Space, listened for trouble from her computers, but they chuckled softly on, keeping track of where they were, where they'd been, and how they'd get home.

It was as though nothing had happened. But Lieutenant Lansing Mason was still nervous, his slender fingers steady enough, but as cold as the alien dark outside the ship they controlled.

"You look a little shot again, skipper!" Cain said, grinning like a Martian desert cat. "What's the matter, Space goblins got you again?"

A retort started at Mason's taut lips, but his third officer was already speaking.

"Here's a dope sheet from the comps, if anybody's interested in knowing just where outside the Rim we are," she said. "I make it just a shade inside the outermost fringes of the Large Magellanic Cloud." Sergeant Judith Kent's voice had its almost habitually preoccupied tone, as though the words she said were hardly more than incidental to a host of more important thoughts running swiftly behind her wide set, deep gray eyes. They were serious eyes, and in their way matched the solemn set of her small features and the crisp, military cut of her black hair and severe uniform.

"Our little boss man knows where we are, all right!" Cain said.

Mason gave Cain's six feet two a quick glance, wondering as he always wondered why the big redhead's shoulders always seemed too broad for the Warrant Officer's stripes on them. "Sergeant Kent's right," he said. "Here's her comp sheet. You can look for yourself. Fringe, Magellanic. And look at that while you can " he jabbed a forefinger at the main scanner, its screen studded with unfamiliarly close constellations "because we're on our way back. Set up a return on the comps, will you, Sergeant?" For all his tenseness his voice was low, and the words it formed were even and swift.

"Hell, Lance, this is the sort of stuff the brain trust pays us bonuses for."

"Not out here they don't. R drive when you're ready, Sergeant!"

Cain turned from the deep control bank and gave his full attention to the scanner as the slender, efficient girl started feeding a tape of reversal co ordinates into the computers.

Mason waited the few necessary seconds, pushed disarranged dark hair out of his eyes and felt the clammy dampness on his forehead, and wished silently to himself that opportunists like Cain were kept where they belonged on the Slam Bang Run out of Callisto... Continue reading book >>

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