We now present the third installment of "Microcosmic Buccaneers" by Harl Vincent, published here for the first time since its initial appearance in the November 1929 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. The first two installments can be found here and here. And now, on to the story . . .
A Fatal Error
When Grayson R36B recovered consciousness it was slowly and with tortuous, futile attempts at raising himself to a seated position. He lay prone in some feathery, aromatic substance that was soft as down, but of so great a depth as to almost bury his body. His head ached abominably and his lids refused to open at first. Then suddenly he remembered, and he sat up quickly. He drew his hand across his forehead and brought it away covered with blood. Something had gone amiss with their experiment.
A feeble moan at his side caused him to search through the fuzzy substance that carpeted this strange realm and he came across the figure of his friend, Minott V8CA. He had been injured likewise, but they soon discovered that nothing more serious than broken scalps and minor bruises had been sustained by either. Then they arose and had their first sight of the new surroundings.
It was a brown and green landscape that met their view -- not greatly unlike the countryside of their own world as it had existed many centuries previously when it was thinly populated. The sward beneath their feet was of great depth and it was fine-stranded and soft like a woman's hair. But it was green -- a warm yellow green that was pleasing to the eyes of these city-bred mortals. At the edge of the clearing in which they stood there was a fringe of tall plant life closely akin to the trees of their own world. These had smooth trunks of a reddish brown hue and rose for a considerable distance before branching into foliage. The foliage itself was of the same warm green as the grass and massed about the tops of the trunks in round, symmetric clusters. The air was balmy and warm -- a gentle breeze stirred the soft carpet of the clearing into rippling waves that lapped at the shadows of the forest like the swells of a calm sea.
"What a beautiful place!" exclaimed Grayson, "But how is it that we were thrown here so heavily and that we did not arrive at the point on which the ray was focussed? There was a lake at that point, with a sandy beach and with habitations visible in the near distance."
Minott rubbed his bruises ruefully. "I see it all now," he exclaimed. "When we combined the Rollin apparatus with the super-microscope, the ray was deflected an infinitesimal amount by the introduction of our hyper-physical entities. We are probably quite some distance from the point of original focus and at quite a different elevation on the miniature world. That is why our landing was not so gentle."
Grayson had glanced at the sky and he gasped in utter amaze: "Why, there are three suns in the heavens!" he cried.
* * *
And such was the case. One shone hotly red and was exactly overhead. The other two, of smaller size, shone paler and with a colder light. These two were close together but fully fifteen degrees from the first and the net result in lighting their surroundings was a brilliance seemingly even greater than that of their own sun and of similar quality as regards color of the light. The multiple shadows lent a strange triple complement to their movements.
"Yes, I expected that," replied Minott. "This atom, which is now our universe, contains quite a number of protons of which these three are self luminous. If it were an atom of gold, whose atomic number is 79 and the atomic weight 179, there would be 79 protons in the nucleus. In addition there would be 118 neutrons to make up its weight. About the nucleus there would be 79 electrons to neutralize the 79 protons comprising the atomic number. Of course this universe is a much less complex one than an atom of gold, but it is far more complex than an atom of hydrogen, which consists of but one proton with a single electron to neutralize it."
"Then we must expect many things to be different than those existing at home?"
"Yes indeed, and interestingly so. And do you know, Grayson, we must make up our minds to remain in this place for we shall never be able to return to earth."
"What? We can not return?"
"No. I was far too optimistic in my setting of the time switch. According to my watchwe have been here nearly thirty minutes already. We were probably unconscious for a third of that. The apparatus has long since functioned and we are still here. Of course the ray of the super-microscope having been deflected from its true course by our advent, we were lost to it on its focus, which point we missed. We are doomed to remain."
Grayson gazed gloomily at his mentor. "Fine fix we are in," he commented.
"Yes. And it's all my fault for being too precipitate and not taking time to prepare more carefully."
The great scientist was so crestfallen that the young man burst into laughter. He threw an arm about the older man.
"After all," he said, "what does it matter? We have but little at home that we may not have here. Since both mother and father are gone I have no one but you -- and I still have you. There is your home and your position, of course, but insofar as family ties are concerned you are similarly situated. And we can make a place our ourselves right here. Probably we shall be better off."
"Bravely spoken, my boy," said Minott, with an answering hug. "And now suppose we explore a bit and orientate ourselves."
Undismayed, they set forth toward the forest.
For two hours they tramped through the unfamiliar multi-shadowed depths of the wood, stopping often to examine some new growth that was discovered. It appeared to be a trackless jungle, peopled only by furred and feathered creatures of small size and timid nature. Then suddenly they came out upon a road, a smooth highway of glistening metal that wound its way through the forest.
"Well, this is encouraging," said Minott. "All roads lead somewhere -- in both directions. Which shall we try?"
"The forest looks thinner to the right. Why not that way?"
"All right. Let's go."
With little thought to the future they trod the silvery road for several miles, as they would judge distance on earth. They were nearing the edge of the wood and were suddenly in the open.
The three suns had sunk so low that the two smaller ones were close to the horizon. The period of the first twilight was about to set in, but ahead of them in the slanting rays, there gleamed a magnificent city, a city of towering walls and great spires and domes, all constructed of the silvery metal on which they walked.
They stood spellbound for a moment before advancing further. Each was so impressed with the grandeur of the sight that neither spoke a word. Then there came a ringing command. Each was sure that no sound had broken the stillness, yet that command was heard as surely and clearly as if shouted in their ears.
"What was that?" asked Grayson in astonishment.
"You heard it too? It was a distinct command to stop, though I am sure there was no speaker."
"Exactly as it seemed to me."
Undecided they remained rooted to the spot for a space. Then Grayson took an experimental step. Again came that insistent demand and he withdrew the foot he had thrust forward.
Then there came a roar from the skies and a huge cylindrical vessel swooped directly before them, alighting on the metal surface of the road as lightly as a bird. The voice that was not a voice spoke to them once more.
"Approach closely," it commanded.
They obeyed in some little trepidation, drawing near to the strange conveyance and stopping as a small square opening appeared in the side nearest them.
"Enter," came the insistent, unspoken command.
They stepped through the opening into the cylinder.
(continue to part 4)