This is the eighth 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 seven installments can be found 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 fears his captors have discovered a way to follow their trail back to Earth. Meanwhile, Grayson has been recruited into a resistance movement and is being taken to the leaders of the Prags, the Great Ones . . .
Grayson Comes Back
Grayson, with rebellion and fury in his heart, neared the throne where lay the three arch-pirates of the atom universe. He longed to lay hands on one of the vile creatures and tear him limb from limb. And when he saw the haggard face of his friend Minott, who sat at a small table adjacent to the dais, he clenched his fists, as if about to carry out his rash desire. Quick as a flash there came the paralyzing of the muscles that was produced so easily by some mental process of the ghastly creatures, and a single unspoken warning that seemed to come from within his own consciousness.
"Cease thy futile ragings," came the adjuration. "The plans of the Great Ones have altered to thy good. No longer shalt thou labor in the mines. This night thou shalt depart for Els in one of our space ships and in the company of thy friend. Minott has been of much assistance to us and, in gratitude, we have granted his wish that thou mayst be permitted to join him in the expedition of our scientists. That is all."
Grayson's tense muscles relaxed. Then they did not know of his talk with Oril! But he cast the thought from his mind at once, fearing to betray himself to their uncanny faculties. Minott smiled wanly and greeted him with open arms. Evidently he too had suffered and continued to suffer.
They were dismissed immediately by the Great Ones and repaired to Minott's quarters to prepare for the journey.
"What is it all about?" asked Grayson, when their affectionate greetings were over.
"It is a plan to attack our own world," came the hopeless reply, "and we are to assist them and act as their guides when they reach there -- if they do. I was compelled to give them all of my data regarding the super-microscope and the four-dimensional means used by us in reaching this system. They learned from me the location of the ray of my super-microscope where it still impinges on the planet Els at the edge of the lake. Their scientists have calculated that the process can be reversed, and they have constructed a duplicate of the Rollin apparatus in accordance with my description of the mechanism. They reason that they can utilize the ray that still connects the point we were watching in Els with my laboratory at home, and they plan to send one of their space ships, manned and armed, to our world along this beam."
"Is such a thing possible?" gasped Grayson.
"I fear that it is, my boy. You see the time-space relationship can as well be altered in one direction as in the other. By the same means that we adapted ourselves to conditions on this plane, they should be able to adapt themselves to conditions on our own. I can pick no flaw in their calculations, and I am mortally afraid that this unspeakable banditry of theirs is to be extended to our own country. The worst of it is, we are helpless to prevent them."
"But -- but," objected the younger man, "if one of these space ships of the Prags is rotated into the hyperphysical plane and then emerges in your laboratory, it will be of enormous size. It can not occupy the available space, if it is of the same proportion there as it is here."
"It will burst the walls of the laboratory like a chicken breaking forth from an egg and will lie exposed to the sky amid the débris of a great section that will have been torn from the upper surface of our own New York. You forget that my laboratory is in the extreme upper level and that the walls and floors of our city structure will crumple like glass against the sides of a vessel of more than 1000 feet in length and with walls as hard as steel and of more than five feet thickness -- suddenly thrust in their midst as it will be."
Grayson groaned. He was heart-sick over the change that had come to the beloved features of his foster-father. Minott had aged then years, it seemed, during the few days they had been in this awful realm. He thought too of the terrible engine of destruction to be let loose on an unsuspecting world -- and of others to follow, for the Prags would not stop at one if the initial venture proved to be a success.
"Is there no way of stopping the brutes?" he asked.
"None that I can think of. Of course we must do everything we can to upset their plans, but I am afraid we are helpless."
There came the sound of the buzzer and Minott paled to a still more ghastly color. "It is the signal," he said. "They are ready."
The two earth men hurried to the great landing stage in the heart of the city and there entered one of the shiny cylindrical vessels, of which Minott had learned there were seven in existence. This time they were not carried as prisoners but as more or less unwelcome, but tolerated guests. They were quartered on the same deck with the nine scientists sent by the Great Ones to complete the plans for sending an expedition into the "Outside Universe." Before they had even settled themselves in their cabins, the ship had taken off and they were on their way to Els. When the Great Ones determined that a thing was to be done, little delay was brooked.
All through the remainder of the night the two men talked, when they should have been resting in their beds. They had been separated for more than a week and each had much to tell the other. It was a matter of great speculation between them as to what the plans of the "outlanders" were for the overthrowing of the power of the Great Ones and the destruction of the entire breed of Prags. The slight information given to Grayson by Oril was supplemented by but little more that Minott had learned from his Elsian servants. But it was certain that the outlanders were confident of ultimately ridding themselves of their ancient enemy and that the day for the culmination of their plans was close at hand. Whether it was to come quickly enough to forestall the Prags in this new venture they did not know. And they discussed matters until the Prag vessel slipped into the dawn-brightened atmosphere of Els.
The vessel was soon close to the surface and the earth men joined the Prags, who had assembled in the forward compartment, where the transparent floors gave them a full view of the scene beneath and where the rising of the first sun could be seen through the transparent side walls. The first dawn of Els reminded them of moonrise on their own world, for the quality of light was similar, though of greater intensity. It would be several minutes before the second of the cold suns rose and one twelfth of an Elsian day before the red glare of the third sun greeted them. The ship was skimming the surface rapidly at an altitude comparable to about one thousand feet above the surface as measured on earth, and the peaceful countryside below showed signs of the early activities of the day. Here and there a farmer with his flock of quadrupeds strangely resembling sheep was thrown into a panic at the passage of the pirate vessel, and at several points early travelers in high speed vehicles that traversed the shining roads deserted their cars and fled into adjacent forests in fright at the same vision. But the ship from Pra kept steadily on, and within a short time they saw far ahead a scene that seemed vaguely familiar. Closer they drew and, as the vessel slowed down, they saw they were nearing the lake they had seen through the super-microscope in Minott's laboratory. They were overhead of it in a trice and the great ship circled about to make a landing. Several Elsians who walked by the shore of the lake ran in affright for their homes -- mere huts and cabins that were set back a little distance from the shore.
"The point of focus of the super-microscope!" exclaimed Minott.
He looked at Grayson with blanched features and their hearts sank at the realization that they were about to land in this spot, where they would be compelled to assist their captors in preparing for a piratical raid on their own world.
(continue to part 9)