Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Microcosmic Buccaneers" by Harl Vincent, part 6

This is the sixth 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 five installments can be found 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. Having been captured by the Prags, subatomic alien pirates, they are being taken to their home planet along with several hundred captives . . .

The City of the Prags

The scene on the landing stage of the city of the Prags would remain forever impressed on the minds of the two earth men. A vast, mirror-like surface it presented and there were gathered thousands of the misshapen creatures to welcome the return of the raiding vessel with its load of treasure and prisoners. The sea of pink, upturned expanses of flesh that were the containers merely for the huge brains and the staring optics overcame them with nausea. To think that these monstrosities were in the ascendancy over the handsome and kindly Elsians!

They were sickened at the brutal handling of their more than four hundred fellow prisoners and Grayson cried his rage aloud at the sight of a number of aggravated cases in the prodding and beating of stragglers and rebellious captives. The three suns shone on the scene with even greater brilliance than they had in Els -- evidently Pra was considerably closer. The atmosphere was heavy and foul as opposed to the sweet-scented, invigorating air of Els. There was a haze over everything and the humidity was such as to bring beads of perspiration to the brows of the earth men. In perfect uniformity on all sides of the great landing stage, there rose towering buildings of ebon blackness -- not the glossy black of jet, but a dead, lifeless charcoal that reflected so little light as to cast a pall of gloom about them.

In the confusion attendant upon the landing and the disposal of the Elsian prisoners, Grayson and Minott had drawn aside unhindered and apparently unnoticed. They were now approached by the Kama and , by exercise of his will, he compelled them to follow him. They walked through the staring crowds of the detestable Prags and entered one of the gloomy buildings at the edge of the landing stage.

No hand was laid on them, yet they were forced to proceed in the desired direction as inexorably as if they had been bound and carried. They were taken into a lift which soon bore them to the uppermost portion of the structure. There, on the top level under a vast expanse of the transparent material used in the windows of the ship, they were brought to the Great Ones. The huge compartment was a veritable conservatory. It bloomed with strange and rank vegetation. Tall, serpentine growths of ghastly gray hue spread sickly fronds to the uppermost heights under the transparent covering overhead. The earth men wrinkled their nostrils in revulsion at the offensive odors of the plant life that was evidently admired by the Prags. They moved slowly through a passageway between the growths and soon reached a sort of dais on which there were three cusioned divans set in triangular formation in the full glare of the Pragian suns. On these reposed the Great Ones.

Mere brains were the Great Ones. Their bodies were shrunken beyond all belief and the huge, semi-transparent heads lay helpless amongst the cushions, the immense eyes presenting the only evidence of life in the weird beings.

The Kama bowed low and Grayson and Minott perforce followed suit, though they raged inwardly. In stupefied silence they peered into the eyes of the Great Ones, and, for the first time, Grayson observed the nature of the blue rims about the unblinking orbs of these, the highest type of Prags. They were porous areas, and the minute pores opened and closed rhythmically! They were the breathing organs of the uncouth things! But the discovery detracted not one whit from the hypnotic effect of the bloodshot eyes.

"Beings from the great outside universe," came the thoughts of one of the Great Ones, they knew not which, "you come at an opportune time. We have but recently discovered the existence of your universe and would learn more of its extent and peculiarities from recent dwellers therein. We would likewise know how your advent into our system was accomplished. Speak."

Minott replied, "Our universe is to yours as yours is to a grain of sand by the seashore. We entered by means of an extremely powerful microscope and the fourth dimension."

"Thy first statement is understood and conceded. But as to the second, there is some doubt. Concentrate on this instrument of which thou speakest, that we may read of its construction and operation."

Grayson exploded, "Don't do it, Minott. The beasts will try to reverse the process and enter our own system."

"Objections are useless," replied Minott to his hot-headed ward. Then he continued in an elaborate description of the super-microscope while Grayson fumed and fretted at the seemingly indiscreet speech of the scientist.

"It is well," came the approving thoughts of the Great Ones. "Thou hast the intelligence to know that the information should have been purloined from thy very brain hadst thou not given it willingly. But it is enough for the present. We shall commune further at a later time. Meanwhile thy friend is condemned to the mines. He is of inferior intellect."

Minott protested sorrowingly. Grayson endeavored to attack the monstrosities that lay so smugly among their cushions, but the mysterious power once more gripped him and he was led helpless from the presence of the Great Ones. Minott's eyes followed sadly.

* * *

The treatment accorded the scientist was greatly different. At a command from the Great Ones, two slaves entered their presence and were ordered to convey him to certain living quarters. To Minott's delight, these slaves were Elsians who had kindly human countenances, and seemed overjoyed at being permitted to serve a creature so like their own kind.

He was conveyed to rooms that, but for the difference in colors and kinds of materials used, might have been in his own land. But he walked the floor with his mind constantly on Grayson. The two Elsians stood aside patiently, as they observed the dejection of their new master.

Clearly to him came the mental message, "You are worried about a friend?"

Minott peered startled at the nearest of the Elsians, who was smiling commiseratingly. "Er -- yes," he said hesitatingly. "My friend from another world, who has been condemned to the mines."

"Speak further," came the encouraging message. And Minott poured out his heart to the gravely listening Elsians. He told of Grayson's childhood, of his later life, of the experiement that had brought them to Els and resulted in their capture by the Prags. He concluded with a hopeless note, as he told of the scene in the place of the Great Ones.

"Fear not," came in perfect English when he had finished, "the time is close at hand. Grayson will be rescued, as will all of our people when the great day comes. You have but to be patient and obey all commands of the Great Ones. Through our secret system of communication, we shall learn of the whereabouts of your friend and arrange for the interchange of messages between you and him."

Minott was astounded at the facility with which this Elsian had learned his own tongue -- more easily than had the first in the space ship. But he was elated at the hope held forth and was about to make eager reply when there came an insistent buzz from close by.

One of the Elsians left the room hurriedly and the other -- he who had spoken -- laid a warning finger to his lips and busied himself with the appurtenances of a dressing table. Minott knew not what to expect.

There was complete silence for a moment. Then two Prags entered the room, bearing between them a golden sphere of the diameter of a large pumpkin. With a curt nod from one of them, the Elsian servant was dismissed and they set the shimmering globe on a table.

Drawn to the beautiful polished object by an irresistable force, the scientist found himself gazing into depths of wavering brightness that soon resolved into scenes on the other electron planet, Els. With great rapidity the scenes shifted, outlining in rapid succession an entire continent and picturing city after city similar to the one they had first seen. Rural districts were also covered, particular attention being paid to the vicinities of small bodies of water. then suddenly he recognized the locality they had been observing through the super-microscope. His start of recollection brought about the immediate cessation of the action of the sphere and a mental message came at once from one of the Prags:

"It is well. The location of the ray is determined."

They marched solemnly from the room without further ado, taking the golden sphere with them. The clang of the door as they left brought a sense of dire foreboding to Minott and he stared helplessly about the lonely rooms.

(continue to part 7)

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