Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Microcosmic Buccaneers" by Harl Vincent, part 11

This is the eleventh 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 ten installments can be found here, 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 are being forced to help the Prags launch an invasion of their home universe. Grayson has escaped with a young Elsian woman named Lola and has joined the Elsian defense forces . . .

Grayson Joins Forces

Next morning Grayson was outfitted with the uniform and equipment of an Elsian soldier. He was permitted to retain the ray pistol he had taken from the Prag guard and considerable envy was displayed by his fellows over its possession. He requested that he be allowed to bid farewell to Lola and Atar and this too was granted.

Lola gurgled with delight when she saw him and a big thrill came to him as she hugged his arm in her glee and admiration. Atar bid him an affectionate adieu and thanked him profusely for his help and for the courage his presence and support had lent. When Lola accompanied him to the door of their quarters his cup was full, and he bent suddenly down and kissed her upturned lips. Then, in a sudden panic over his temerity, he raced for the square of Arun where the soldiery was assembling. Had he looked back, he would have known that his caress was not unwelcome.

There was a great hullaballoo in the square, and it seemed that all of the population of the city had turned out to witness the departure of the expedition. For the first time Grayson knew what it was all about.

In the center of the square there were two circular pits and into the mouths of these the soldiers were descending. Each of the pits contained a space flyer that had been built secretly during the preceding two years and there were two others of the same type to set forth from another city of Els. The Prags were to be taken by complete surprise.

Grayson joined his unit and was soon within one of the great spheres, that were so different from the projectile-shaped vessels of the Prags. The number carried by each vessel was in excess of five hundred, including crew and soldiery. He was extremely interested in the equipment of the vessel and in the activities of his new comrades. So, when the confusion had subsided and the hatches were battened down, he struck up a converation with his commanding officer, using his few words of Elsian as an entering wedge. He was much pleased to find that the captain, Erne by name, was able to pick up his own language almost at once as had been done by the others with whom he had come in contact.

The ship was under way in a surprisingly short time, shooting forth from the mouth of the pit like a ball from the bore of an old-fashioned cannon. They were on their way to Pra and Grayson was bursting with curiosity as he questioned the indulgent Erne.

"What is the plan of campaign?" he asked.

"There are four ships leaving Els, two more from Aun and one from Rad. These are the satellites of Pra. It is known that all of the fliers of the Prags are in their own cradles excepting two, one of which is at the shore of Lake Ilo in Els and the other in the province of Trasa in Pra. We will leave our own people at home to deal with the one at Lake Ilo and the outlanders will deal with the one at Trasa. But the nine vessels will attack Capis directly and will be assisted by the prisoners there who are apprised of our coming and of the change in plans."

"But, what weapons will be used against the Prags?"

"Didn't you know?" asked Erne in surprise.

"No. I had heard vague hints of a recent discovery that was expected to prove effective, but I have no knowledge of its nature."

Erne withdrew from Grayson's belt the cylindrical object which had been given to him with the rest of his equipment.

"You have not been instructed in the use of the trinor?"

"I have not had the opportunity as yet."

The cylinder was of blued metal and by earthly standards Grayson would have judged it to be eighteen inches in length and three in diameter. There was a small catch at one end and Erne pressed this to demonstrate the operation of the weapon. There was a shrill sound from within that rose rapidly in pitch until it was a thin scream. Then it vanished entirely but the weapon still vibrated smoothly to the impulses of some mechanism within.

"The trinor," said Erne, "sets up sound waves or vibrations in the atmosphere. As you noticed, the original sound was audible but gradually rose in pitch until it passed beyond the normal response of your auditory organs. But the trinor is still sending forth powerful waves that disturb the air at the rate of twenty-five cycles per second. These are the waves that will destroy the enemy."

"But how?" asked Grayson. "The Prags can hear no sounds of any frequency."

"True. But you must remember that the Prag was originally equipped with ears and auditory nerves the same as you and I. In the course of his evolution through the ages he learned thought transference and the ears were no longer necessary. After many generations of disuse they atrophied and all outer portions disappeared entirely. But there still remained certain of the inner parts and these are still in existence. Two years ago we had three of the enemies in Arun whom we had taken prisoner during one of their raids and our scientists experimented with them until they learned of their susceptibility to the high frequency air waves. You see it happens that certain tiny bones that are all that remain of the Prag's inner ear lie very close to the great vein that supplies the brain with blood. By subjecting the Prag's body to air waves of the high frequency I mentioned, these bones are set in vibration and, due to their contact with the artery against which they lie, a clot is formed which is carried to the brain and causes almost instant death -- apoplexy."

"Capital!" exclaimed Grayson. "But are these small hand weapons the only thing to be used against them?"

"No indeed. Among the prisoners in Capis there are sufficient of the trinors hidden to account for the guards below the surface. These are to be used as soon as our space-fliers reach the island. Then each of the vessels will swoop down upon the city, emitting the waves from great generators that are set in the outer hulls. These will cover considerable areas and will account for many more of the Prags. The prisoners will then rush to the city and the vessels will land at the same time, sending forth their fighting men into the streets. The generators aboard our ships will keep up constant emission of the powerful vibrations and the rest will have to be done by hand to hand fighting. Not a Prag must be allowed to escape."

Grayson thrilled to the call of battle. The closer they drew to the planet of the Prags the more bloodthirsty he became.

"What is our protection against the gase and the ray pistols of the Prags?" he inquired.

"Against the gases we have newly perfected masks which will be supplied before we land. Against the ray pistol there is nothing. But we hope there will be few left to use such weapons by the time our large generators have gotten in their deadly work."

"What are the odds against us -- in numbers I mean?"

"About nine to one including the prisoners. On the ships there are forty-five hundred fighters and there are about twice this number of prisoners in Capis. There are one hundred and twenty thousand Prags, so the ratio I mentioned is approximately correct."

"Thank you, Captain," said Grayson.

A lieutenant was distributing the gas masks and this brought their conversation to an end. The captain busied himself with the radiophone instrument through which his orders were to come, and the soldiers gathered about the windows where they were able to see the island of Capis with its black central city. The ship was crossing the end of the island and several others of the great spheres could be seen converging on the same point -- the city.

There was a sudden vibration accompanying a tremendous, high-pitched scream from somewhere in the ship's vitals. Like the scream of the trinor this rose and vanished, but the vibration persisted. The fight was about to begin!

(continue to part 12)

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