Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Microcosmic Buccaneers" by Harl Vincent, part 2

This is the second installment of Harl Vincent's "Microcosmic Buccaneers", a science fiction story that has never appeared anywhere beyond its original publication in the November 1929 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. Part 1 can be found here. And now, on to the story . . .

By Means of the Fourth Dimension

With the passing of four months the scientist found himself little closer to the solution of the problem than when it was first presented. Experiments with white mice as subjects had progressed to the point where these lively creatures had been reduced to the size of blood corpuscles, a dozen or more of them scampering about in an opening the size of a pin point indented in a thin paraffin coating on a microscope slide. They were still far from their goal and the young man, who had assisted with all the work, was on the point of despairing entirely.

Then there came a day when Grayson R36B was startled from his observation of the electron world through the super-microscope, by an ecstatic shout from his guardian.

"What is it?" he asked excitedly.

"We've been working on an entirely wrong basis, Grayson. But now I see the light. The fourth dimension!"

"Fourth dimension," repeated his ward, blankly.

"Certainly. I don't know why I haven't thought of it before. We'll visit the tiny planet by its agency."

"But -- but I thought the fourth dimension was only a mathematical conception -- that there was no real knowledge of it."

"You are quite right, my boy, as far as any published data is concerned. But there have been experiments -- successful ones, too -- that were apparently of no practical use. Now we have the practical use. You understand, of course, that even though you do not perceive a fourth dimension, all objects in our universe must be possessed of this abstruse quality in order to exist. We live and breathe in a four-dimensional world that is part of a four-dimensional universe. The so-called dimension has been variously explained but for our purpose we need not enter into any of the various arguments which have been brought up. It is not time in the strict sense that we are interested in, but the time-space relationship, and it is that relationship I intend to employ in entering that little world at which you have been gazing."

"You mean, if the time-space relationship as applied to our physical existence is altered, we shall then have no difficulty in making the journey?"

"That is it exactly, my boy. We as human beings are four-dimensional entities peculiarly adapted to life in our own environment. These entities occupy space in a definite volume we are pleased to designate by three dimensions. But the interval, the time-space relationship, is what makes us as we are. Size is only relative and if everything in the universe were suddenly to become a million times larger or a million times smaller, we should not be aware of the difference for our standards of measurement would also have altered in like proportion."

"But how to effect such a change?"

"I'm coming to that. There is a plane which in 3281 was designated by Rollin D4Y as the hyperphysical plane. And Rollin experimented at considerable length in rotating objects in and out of this plane by various methods. In the most successful of the methods used, a purely mechanical means, he found it possible to rotate living creatures instantaneously into and out of the hyperphysical existence without harm. By instantaneous, I mean that the transition must take place within the peroid of not more than two or three heart-beats of the subject. We shall go further than did Rollin. We shall not only enter the hyperphysical plane, but shall project ourselves into the delectable world of the microcosmos and there emerge as entities adaptable to the greatly different existence."

Grayson's eyes popped. "You think it can be done?" he gasped.

"I'm sure of it. And quite simply too."

Minott hurried to a large cupboard at the side of the laboratory and there brought to view a dust-covered apparatus that Grayson had never seen. This was provided with a box-like base set on four casters and it was trundled forth byt he excited scientist.

"A duplicate of Rollin's apparatus," he explained, busying himself with a duster.

* * *

Grayson watched in intense interest as the older man uncovered the upper portion of the mechanism. There was a huge vacuum tube, one of the largest he had ever seen, and about this there clustered a maze of helices of tiny silver ribbon. Two arms swung out from the side of the box, and each of these carried what appeared to be a parabolic reflector, also of silver. These was a heavy cable to which a wall plug was attached, and Minott connected this with a base receptacle nearby. He withdrew a slide from the side of the box and arranged the two reflectors to focus on the slide. Then he reached for one of the small cages containing a normal white mouse and this he placed on the slide. With all arranged to his satisfaction, he pulled a switch at the side of the mechanism. There came a roar from within and the great vacuum tube lighted to a dull red glow. The mouse scampered unconcerned in its cage.

"Now, observe closely," said Minott, placing his finger on a small button that Grayson had not noticed.

He pressed the button and the universe seemed to totter. The very space about them seemed to warp and twist. The lively creature in the little cage vanished as suddenly and utterly as if a genie had whisked it away. Grayson stared dumbfounded. A second passed. Two seconds. Then, in a puff of blue haze, the mouse once more nosed about in its coop. The accompanying wrench of the space in which they stood left Grayson trembling and aghast.

"Good grief!" he exclaimed. "There's strong medicine in that box all right! So that's the way we are going?"

"Yes. Excepting we must combine Rollin's apparatus with my super-microscope."

"Combine it?"

"Of course. Otherwise we should not reach our destination; we would merely return to our normal existence, as did our little subject. With our existence transferred to the hyperphysical plane, we'll be whisked along the minute ray of the super-microscope, which is now trained on the place we are to visit. In reentering the purely physical plane, our time-space relationship must necessarily alter in exact accordance with the requirements of the microcosmos."

"And the return? Getting back to our own world, I mean."

Minott was already busy with the connections between the two mechanisms. He did not look up from his work as he replied, "Oh, for the initial visit I shall set a time switch to control our apparatus here. We'll stay but two minutes and then return in the same manner. After the first trip, a better method can be worked out. But in any event it is merely a reversal of the original process. Are you ready?"

He looked at the younger man with a twinkle in his eye.

"Now? Right away, you mean?"

"Yes. All is prepared."

"Why, sure, I'm ready if you are."

"Very well, then. We'll be off at once."

He made the final adjustments to the apparatus, directing the reflectors of the Rollin mechanism to include a tiny disc he had attached to the super-microscope. Grayson was somewhat apprehensive as he watched the attaching and setting of the time switch, but he had no thought of reconsidering or of objecting.

"All right, Gray," came in measured tones, as the scientist straightened from the completion of his task.

He drew the younger man into the proper position before the apparatus and thew an arm affectionately over his shoulder as he reached forth with his free hand to close the main switch and press the button. This time it seemed to Grayson that the very fibres of his being were wrenched asunder. There was a terrific flash of blinding light, an inconceivably violent explosion, and then a momentary impression of being hurled through the vastness of space. He opened his eyes to the glare of sunlight and instinctively ducked his head at the sight of a heavy object rushing to meet him. There was a sickening thud and his senses left him completely.

(continue to part 3)

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