This is the ninth 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 eight installments can be found 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 will be forced to watch the Prags launch an invasion of their home universe . . .
Preparations in Els
With the coming of the pirate vessel to the shore of their lake, the neighboring villagers expected the worst. Knowing there was no escaping the gases and the paralyzing forces of the enemy, they did not attempt to flee the vicinity, but they retreated within doors to postpone their certain doom for as long a time as possible. And when, on the second day, they observed that they were not to be molested, but that the Prags were erecting strange mechanisms in the open outside the space ship and covering these over with rude shelters, a few of the bolder ones ventured forth from the homes to learn what it was all about. They were still unmolested and they gazed in open-mouthed wonder at the sight of a considerable number of Prags actually at work, laboring with their hands with feverish haste. They were still more astonished to see that the earth-men, of whom they had heard through the medium of their local news broadcast, were aiding the hated Prags. It seemed that there was some difficulty with the apparatus being erected and they saw that the higher class Prags were greatly perturbed over some unforeseen trouble.
As the days passed and nothing happened beyond occasional relocating of the odd contrivances and further adjustments of their parts, some of the natives went so far as to gather around the scene of activity and watch the proceedings with bold curiosity. Upon seeing that the Elsians were given little attention by the busy Prags, Grayson made it a point to wander away from the work several times and mingle with the watchers. In this manner he struck up an acquaintance with one Atar, who seemed to be an Elsian of some standing in the community and who mastered Grayson's speech in a very short time as had been done by others of his countrymen. He made friends quickly with the villagers and advised them as to the meaning of the strange proceedings in the open space at the shore of the lake. In turn he was told much of the plans of the outlanders for conquering the Prags and he learned that the day of reckoning was not far off, though it was more than thirty days in the future, and he felt certain that the experiment with the Rollin apparatus and the focus ray of the super-microscope would be successful long before that time.
He told Minott of these things in the privacy of their cabin aboard the space ship and the scientist was deeply concerned over this fraternizing with the Elsians.
"Grayson," he warned, "these Prags are possessed of uncanny faculties and, though they are now so deeply engrossed in the work at hand as to pay little attention, one of the lower class is apt to surprise you in treacherous conversation one of these fine days and you will pay the penalty at the receiving end of one of their horrible dissolution rays."
"I'll be careful. And besides, I like these people and wish to be friends with them. Our case looks hopeless anyway and if I can do nothing to prevent the atrocities of these monsters, I can at least show that my heart is in the right place, until such time as the fate overtakes me that is bound to come sooner or later in any event. How is the work progressing?"
"Well, as you know, the reflectors were reset today and the apparatus readjusted. The energy was tried on a test specimen, one of the small rodents they brought with them, and the result left them more worried than ever. The rodent passed into the hyperphysical plane all right, but was returned fearfully distorted and in a dying condition. This has given them pause."
"You old fox," chuckled Grayson, "I'll bet you thew a monkey wrench in the gears somewhere."
"No," was the solemn reply, "I did nothing of the sort. I must admit, however, that I see a fault in the apparatus about which I have not advised them. Fortunate it is that the Great Ones are not here, for they would have read it out of my mind. These Prags have not the mind-reading faculty to so great a degree as have the Great Ones, and I find that I can hide my thoughts from them fairly well."
"Then you think the ultimate success of the project may be delayed for a considerable time?"
"Possibly. But not for long, my boy. These arch-fiends are devilishly clever and they will stumble on to the difficulty in short order -- at least within the next ten days, I should say."
"Is it absolutely certain that the ray of the super-microscope is still in operation?"
"Absolutely. By means of the balvanometers, we have located the exact center of the impingement and have mapped the entire circle of its influence, which extends well past the village and outlines the view just as we witnessed it back home. There is no question of the workability of their plan, once the Rollin apparatus is in perfect working condition."
Grayson looked moodily from the open window toward the lights of the village. The sweet breath of the Elsian countryside was wafted to his grateful nostrils. How he wished that conditions were different -- that he might be free to roam about as he pleased and explore this inviting planet they had so rashly visited. But the arm of the Prag was long, and he knew he could not get far away if he attempted to escape. Besides there was Minott -- and the threatened expedition against his own land.
Through the stillness of th Elsian night there came a faint wavering tremelo -- a feminine cry that rose in crescendo to a wailing scream. The two earth men were electrified to tense expectancy but the cry was not repeated.
"By George!" exclaimed Grayson. "That cry came from the village and I'm going to find out what it is all about!"
"Steady now," admonished Minott. "How do you expect to pass the guard at the door of the vessel?"
Grayson was busy pulling the bedclothes from their bunks. "Not going to," he grunted, "I'm going out the window."
And, all protests of his friend notwithstanding, he made good his statement. Quickly he knotted the sheets and coverlets into a rope of considerable length and this he let out through the open window. Bidding Minott a hasty farewell after tying the makeshift line to the ring used for fastening the window, he let himself down to the ground and made off through the darkness in the direction of the village.
Reaching the fenced-in grass plot that was the gathering place of the small town, he found that considerable excitement centered about the loud speakers of the local news broadcast receiver. A crowd had collected and angry shouts and protests came from every side. A little group in the center of the square was huddled about a prone figure and Grayson pushed his way through until he saw that an extremely beautiful Elsian maiden lay stretched on the grass in a faint. Over her bent Atar, his friend of the past few days.
"What is it, Atar?" he asked, when close enough to get the ear of the obviously agitated Elsian.
"Lola -- my daughter Lola," groaned the stricken man. "She has been chosen for the next lot of three hundred. In six days she will be torn from her home and taken to Capis -- a slave to the beasts we hate. And in so short a time we should have prevented it!"
Grayson observed the smooth pallor of the girl's skin, her perfect features, the glossy sheen of her hair as it spread over her shoulders where she lay. Then her breast rose and, with a deep sigh, she turned her head in his direction and slowly opened the most wondrous pair of violet eyes he had ever seen. Atar clasped her in his arms and sobbed like a child.
"By God!" swore Grayson, "they'll not get her!"
(continue to part 10)