Friday, May 29, 2009

"Microcosmic Buccaneers" by Harl Vincent, part 12

This is the twelfth installment of "Microcosmic Buccaneers", an early story by pioneering science fiction writer Harl Vincent which appeared in the November 1929 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. The first eleven installments can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. As we join our story, thirty-third century scientist Minott V8CA and his youthful ward Grayson R36B have shrunk themselves down to subatomic size and been captured by subatomic alien pirates called the Prags. Minott and Grayson have been brought to the Prags' subject planet Els, where they are being forced to help the Prags launch an invasion of their home universe. Grayson has escaped and joined the Elsian defense forces, which are launching an attack on the Prags . . .

The End of the Great Ones

Grayson felt one of the gas masks thrust into his hand but he was too excited to pay much attention. His face was pressed to the window and he saw that several of the flapping-winged craft of the Prags were approaching their own vessel. So close did they come, that he was able to see the ghastly bulbous heads of the two Prags who occupied the nearest. Then he saw one of them go limp and slump forward in his seat. The second followed suit and the wings flapped crazily, out of control. The bird-like mechanism flew drunkenly and then dashed headlong to earth sending up a cloud of dust as it crashed. The others of the curious squadron quickly joined it and he knew that the wave generators of their vessels were a success.

Along the several roads that entered the city could be seen scurrying groups of Elsians and kindred beings from Rad and Aun. These were the prisoners, rushing from the mines and workshops in accordance with the plan.

Then they were over the city and the nine spheres circled and swooped, their wave generators operating at full capacity. From the square there rose one of the cylindrical Prag fliers and it headed directly toward Grayson's vessel. With a quick spurt the great sphere rose and allowed the pointed metal cylinder to whiz harmlessly past beneath them. It passed so closely that they could hear the rush of its slip-stream through the walls of the ship. Then it too went drunkenly reeling, shooting skyward and circling and diving, completely out of control. Again the wave generators had proved their worth. The huge cylinder went down in the midst of the tall ebon buildings, tearing away walls and roof structures and carrying hundreds of Prags to their deaths in the falling d├ębris. Another of the Prag fliers met a similar fate in an attempted attack on another of the spheres of the outlanders. There were cheers from Grayson's companions and one and all they itched to be outside and in the confusion that reigned in the streets of the city.

Still the great spheres circled the city, spreading destruction beneath them. Two more of the Prag fliers rose to the attack and one of the spheres went down at the successful rush of the first of the pointed vessels. But the cylinder was carried to its doom along with the victim for the swift rush had carried the pointed end through and through the sphere where it stuck, the sphere impaled like an apple on a spike. The second cylinder was dodged by its intended prey and soon went down to join its fellows. There remained but one of the ships in the square and the watchers could see that its crew was deserting and making for the buildings on the edge of the square. Grayson's sphere hovered a moment over the square, then settled gracefully to a landing. The order came to don gas masks and the hatches were opened.

Out into the open filed the Elsian infantry, trinors in hand and looking fearfully inhuman with their eyes hidden behind the huge goggles of their masks. Dead and dying Prags lay in heaps about the square and they had to climb over piles of them in places in order to make their way to the streets. A cloud of the white gas descended on them and they fought their way blindly in the direction of the tall building for which they had started. Grayson stumbled over a body and fell heavily. When he arose, he found that he was alone but he staggered his way through the murk until he reached a wall. He felt along this and fell through an opening which proved to be the entrance of a building. Pushing open the door, he rushed into the corridor, and here there was none of the gas, and the lights were burning brightly. He removed his mask and looked around.

* * *

Neither Prag nor outlander was in sight and he immediately recognized this as the building that housed the Great Ones. He heard a commotion nearby and walked down the corridor to investigate. In a narrow hall that branched from the corridor he found three of the Elsian prisoners struggling with one of the lower class Prags. As he reached them, there came the crackling blue flare of the ray pistol and one of the Elsians suddenly melted into horrid nothingness. With a cry of rage he drew his own ray pistol, forgetting the trimor, and the Prag turned wide eyes in his direction as the blue flame struck him full in the chest. The two remaining Elsian prisoners were saved and they spurned the shrinking mass of putrefaction that had been their enemy as they rushed to thank their rescuer.

With the assistance of these two slaves he located the lift and the three ascended to the uppermost floor. They emerged under the transparent roof and Trayson grimly set forth to beard the Great Ones in their den, the two Elsians protesting in fear. He paid no heed to their earnest warnings but proceeded steadily along the aisle between the rank growths that had disgusted him so when they first reached the place. When he had reached a point about fifty feet from the dais where he was still hidden from the cushions of the Great Ones by foliage, there came a mental command to stop. But instead of retreating at this evidence that the fearsome rulers of the Prags were in their accustomed places, he pressed the catch of his trinor and waited until the whine of its mechanism had risen to the vanishing point. The Elsian slaves retreated precipitately, but Grayson advanced slowly and cautiously in the direction of the dais.

Slowly he felt the paralyzing force creeping over him but he pressed doggedly forward, using every once of strength in his body to drag his benumbed limbs into movement. Then he fell heavily to the floor and had to pull himself along by grasping the vines and tree trunks along the path with his stiffening fingers. He was in view of the dais now and he saw that two of the Great Ones had fallen victims to the air vibrations, their colossal, hairless heads having dropped to the cushions on which they rested. But the third, though weakening, was still alive and it was this one that was exerting his will power on the hapless earth man. With a final desperate effort Grayson twisted that rigid member that was his right arm until he was able to reach they ray pistol in his belt. But he could not aim it in the direction of the remaining Great One. He struggled and fought, but that arm would not move. Then he concentrated with closed eyes. He spoke aloud.

"Grayson R36B," he growled through clamped jaws, "you're not going to let this devil of a Prag get the better of you -- you're not. You must lift that arm and blast him from existence -- you must -- you must!"

Then, miraculously, he found he could move his fingers -- a bit at a time he edged his right arm forward, talking and grunting and berating himself aloud. Then the ray pistol was levelled at the monstrosity that glared at him among the cushions. Came the blue flare and he was released. His own will power had saved him and he sprang to his feet with a cry of victory. The Elsian slaves came running and they capered in glee at the sight that greeted them from the dais. The power of the Great Ones was no more!

When eventually they reached the square, all of the spherical vessels were landed and the fighting had spread to the side streets. There was not a living Prag in sight and Grayson made his way to his own vessel to report to Erne. He found him at the radiophone and greeted him with a broad smile.

"What have you to report, Grayson," the captain asked.

"I have killed the Great Ones," he replied simply.

"What? Killed -- the -- Great -- Ones?" was the incredulous reply. "Alone."

"Alone."

"For that deed you will receive the highest honors and decorations that can be conferred by the Governor-general of Els. You will be famous."

But the earth man cared not. He was tired and he wanted to go back to Els -- to Lola.

(continue to part 13)

No comments: