Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Microcosmic Buccaneers" by Harl Vincent, part 10

This is the tenth 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 nine installments can be found 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 will be forced to watch the Prags launch an invasion of their home universe. Grayson has befriended the local group of Elsians, and has become smitten with a young Elsian woman named . . .


Late that night Grayson returned to his cabin in the same way he had left. Minott was sleeping the sleep of exhaustion, so he had no one in whom he could confide. But he did not awaken his friend, preferring to fret and toss in his own bunk rather than disturb him. Finally he drifted into a troubled slumber, into dreams of the beautiful Lola who had looked at him so pleadingly, dreams of the Prags and of frightful battles with them, in which he fought to protect the lovely daughter of Atar. His tortured mind was not resting for a moment, even in sleep. He dreamed of Minott -- dear old Minott -- and the scientist seemed to be delivering one of his early talks to the younger man. He told of the composition of matter, of molecules and atoms and electrons -- of the universe of the atom where the electrons were the bodies that revolved about the central sun or nucleus. It came to him that an atom was so small, that if magnified as much as ten billion times -- the second stage power of the super-microscope -- the outer electrons would appear to be as much as three feet from the nucleus, yet the nucleus itself was still no larger than a pin point. It was all a muddle, yet in his slumbers he knew that all these things were actually transpiring on a minute world that was nothing more than an electron in an atom of unidentified matter contained in a grain of sand that lay on the slide of Minott's super-microscope in the New York laboratory.

In the morning he awoke unrefreshed and the first thing he did was advise Minott of the happenings of the night.

"Worse and more of it," groaned the scientist. "I thought the annual tribute of three hundred girls was not due for forty-five days."

"So did I. That is what I was told, and the day of reckoning was purposely set for a few days before that time to prevent this very occurance."

"Well, my boy, we are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Here we are helping the brutes in their attempt to raid our own world and at the same time you have gone to work and fallen in love with this Elsian damsel who is about to be abducted. Meanwhile the decent folks of this little universe are about to make a break for freedom and the break will be too late to save your new girl."

Minott's eyes twinkled despite the hopelessness of the situation and Grayson could not repress the flush that mantled his features.

"But what can we do?" he countered. "I'll admit that this Lola has made a great impression on me and by George they are not going to get her if I can prevent it. But what can we do?"

Minott spoke solemnly now. "Don't do anything rash, Grayson," he advised. "Keep your eyes open and use your best judgment, but do not forget that we have a powerful enemy to deal with. Our first duty is to our own world, but of course we can do very little to prevent the Prags from carrying out their present plans. Probably the best thing is to submit to things as they are and trust that not too great damage will be accomplished on this initial venture into our universe. Then, when they return from the trip, it will be about time for the action planned by the outlanders and further trouble will thus be averted."

"But dammit, Minott, that doesn't save Lola. And she must be saved. I -- I want her."

"You poor boy! Is it as bad as that?"

"Yes." Grayson kicked savagely at the towel he had just dropped.

"Well, run along to the village then and see what you can learn. I'll hold the fort here and -- who knows?"

Grayson needed not to be told a second time and the older man watched him with misty eyes as he rushed from the compartment in his haste to be gone.

It was very early and the Prags were late risers, so Grayson did not anticipate any interference with his leaving the vessel. But when he came to the entrance, he found some little difficulty in convincing the guard that he was merely going for a morning stroll. The guard was one of the lower class of Prag and could not understand the earthman's thoughts unless he was actually speaking. It seemed that the spoken words, though the Prags heard them not, were a medium that facilitated the telepathic process. And when Grayson turned the latch of the door, this low-class Prag laid violent hands on him. Quick as a flash the earth man had him by the throat and was battering the huge head against the metal partition. The Prag fell unconscious and Grayson, stopping only to take the ray pistol from his belt, rushed from the ship and made for the village.

* * *

He had crossed the Rubicon! He knew his life was now forfeit but he was armed. And he was on his way to Lola, come what might.

Atar met him at the cottage door with a mile on his face and Lola's greeting was such as to cause him to flush with pleasure. The girl was radiant and the father hardly less so, for during the night there had come a message from Arun, capital city of the province, calling all of the three hundred maidens to the city with their parents. It was stated in the message that action was to be taken to prevent the turning over of the annual tribute to the Prags, and this statement accounted for the happiness of father and daughter.

Grayson told of his skirmish with the guard of the vessel and offered to accompany them on their visit to Arun, since it was now necessary for him to leave the vicinity in any event, and he felt that he might be of some service in their company. Atar welcomed the offer and Lola's downcast eyes told of her surprise and pleasure. The earth man's heart sang, though full well he knew that the shadow of death hung over them all. And he fondly patted the ray pistol where it lay hidden in his pocket. He did not worry about Minott, for he knew that the Great Ones considered him too valuable to allow him to be harmed as long as there was still information to be obtained from him regarding the outer universe.

The government ronsal, or road vehicle, that was to call for Lola and her father, arrived in a very short time. It was a car of considerable length, mounted on two wheels of a diameter the height of a man, and completely enclosed in transparent material of crystal clearness. From within there came a musical note that told of the high speed of the gyroscope used for balancing the machine. There were four other girls already on board with their families and with the entrance of Lola and the two men all available space was filled. The ronsal started smoothly and was soon rolling over the surface of the metal road with terrific velocity. Grayson learned that it was but a short run to Arun -- less than one ul, the unit of time that was the twentieth of an Elsian day.

The ribbon of gleaming metal, over which they sped, wound through a beautiful country, but Grayson saw very little of it. He was too busy gazing into those violet eyes and watching the lips of the beautiful girl at his side, as they formed the unfamiliar, yet rapidly learned syllables of his own tongue. So it was that, by the time they had reached the walls of Arun, he and Lola were conversing fluently in English, and he had even picked up a number of words and phrases of the Elsian language. Atar observed these things with approval.

Once within the portals of the huge gate that raised at their approach, they were escorted immediately to a great council chamber where sat the provincial governor and his deputies. A great assemblage of Elsians was there and Grayson thought that almost all of the three hundred chosen beauties had preceeded them. But he failed to see a single maiden that could compare with Lola, though all of them were undoubtedly charming.

There was a short wait for a few more arrivals, after which a secretary called the roll. The Governor then arose and spoke rapidly and forcefully in the Elsian tongue, becoming much excited and red-faced during the speech. At its conclusion there came a great cheer from the assemblage and Grayson noticed that tears of joy coursed down the cheeks of Atar. Lola translated to him quickly:

"He says that the government has decided not to let us be sacrificed!" she said happily. "The day of reckoning with the Prags is set ahead and is to be tomorrow, instead of as planned. We girls are to be kept in Arun under government protection and our families as well, while the fighting is going on. The prisoners on Pra have been notified, as well as the inhabitants of the two satellites and those of the outlying provinces of Pra itself."

"Hooray!" exclaimed Grayson. And he grasped Atar by the hand and hurried him to the rostrum, where he requested him to translate his offer of enlistment in the forces of Arun.

There was some staccato questioning by the Governor -- equally rapid-fire replies from Atar -- and Grayson was accepted.

(continue to part 11)

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