Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Microcosmic Buccaneers" by Harl Vincent, part 13

This is the thirteenth and final 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 twelve installments can be found here, here, 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. While Minott is being forced to help the Prags launch an invasion of the home universe, Grayson has escaped and joined the Prags' subject races, which have launched an assault on the Prags' homeworld . . .

The Administration Building Gone

For three days they remained on the planet Pra, exploring every nook and cranny that might hold a skulking Prag. Communications from Trasa told of victory over the Prag vessel that was quartered there. The golden sphere told them that the vessel at the shore of Lake Ilo had not been molested, as the Elsians desired to learn more concerning the experiments that were being conducted.

When Erne told him of this, Grayson groaned. "Captain," he said, "I can tell them all they wish to know of those experiments. And my friend Minott can tell them more. Tell them to destroy the Prags at once by means of the air vibrations. I fear for Minott's safety and I fear for my own world."

"But it is impossible for me to give orders to my superiors," Erne objected.

"Then send one of our ships back. Send me with it and I'll lay the case before the authorities. I tell you, Captain, there is much at stake -- much."

Grayson was pleading now. He knew that it would be necessary for the greater part of the force to remain in Capis for several more days to make sure the job had been well done. But he pleaded for Minott, for his own peoples. And eventually Erne took it up with the commander of the expedition. After much explaining on Grayson's part, it was finally arranged that one of the spheres was to return him to Arun, and that he was to be allowed to tell his story to the Governor there. He expressed his gratitude in no uncertain terms and hastened to board the vessel that was assigned to carry him back.

During the short voyage he worried constantly. Grayson was in the control room, talking with the pilot. Suddenly he gasped in alarm. The great pointed cylinder that was the Prags' vessel lay crushed in the ruins of what had once been the Administration Building! A vicious curl of white told of the Prag gas cloud that was not yet fully cleared from the streets!

"We are too late!" he moaned. "The three hundred maidens were quartered in that building!"

The pilot looked at him commiseratingly. "You had a sweetheart among them?"

"Yes," Grayson replied. He choked and paled and the pilot maneuvered the ship to as quick a landing as possible.

No sooner were they on solid ground when the earth man donned his gas mask and demanded that he be allowed to leave the vessel. Upon the pilot's explaining of matters to the captain this was allowed and Grayson rushed into the ruins of the building, crawling under the great metal hull of the Prag vessel to get into the débris. He thought he could locate the chambers where Lola and her father had been quartered and he risked his life in worming his way through caved-in corridors and broken-walled rooms until he reached this point. He found the body of Atar and mourned over it, as if the Elsian had been a life-long friend instead of a recent acquaintance. But, try as he would he could find no trace of Lola. He found many other bodies, a few of them of the young girls who were thought so safely housed, but there was no evidence of either the death or the saving of the girl he had loved so quickly and deeply. He crawled from the débris and rushed frantically to the ship which had brought him.

The last vestige of the gas was now cleared away and he found a crowd collected about the entrance of the massive sphere. Among them was the Governor, and Grayson elbowed his way to his side. The pilot of the vessel was there and he acted as the earth man's interpreter.

"Were many of the three hundred saved?" he first asked.

Patiently he waited for the translations. This Governor was not as adept at picking up his language as had been some of the others.

"Yes," the pilot translated back. "More than two hundred were rescued."

The Governor had a list and he looked through it carefully for the name of Lola. It was not there!

The raid had come unexpectedly, it seemed. Out of a clear sky the enemy had appeared and had laid down gas clouds in several sections of the city. A portable wave generator was finally brought into action and the ship was sent down out of control -- unfortunately directly atop the Administration Building. There were thousands of casualties throughout Arun. But the High Command had not suspected that such a thing would transpire.

"Damn the High Command!" said Grayson. "They were wrong, and I have lost Lola -- probably Minott too."

He remained in the city, sick at heart. For three days the wrecking crews searched the demolished building, bringing many bodies for identification. But Lola was not among them. When the casualty lists were complete and neither she nor Minott were accounted for, Grayson had an inspiration. Maybe Minott had been left behind! Maybe he was still at Lake Ilo! He would go and find out.

* * *

Attempts to communicate with the village were futile, so the Governor provided a ronsal to carry the earth man to the village. Before he left, there came the general broadcast advising that the remaining three Elsian spheres had left Pra and were on their way home. The celebration over the complete victory was starting as he ronsal left the city limits, but there was no jubilation in Grayson's heart. He was bitter; broken-hearted.

When the ronsal reached the site of the vilalge they found it in complete ruin. The Prags had destroyed it before they left for Arun! But, looking out toward the lake, it was seen that the huts that covered the experimental mechanism were still standing. Grayson made all haste to reach them and he searched first one and then the others of the rude shelters.

"Grayson!" came a familiar and beloved voice.

Minott stood before him and the younger man fell to his knees and thanked God that the Prags had left him behind. Minott raised him gently to his feet and led him to the largest of the shelters, thrusting him through the door without a word. There in a chair that they had built when they first came, sat Lola!

The young man stopped in his tracks and gazed at her with unbelieving eyes. Then they embraced.

Minott gave them plenty of time; then he stepped through the open door and coughed gently. His face beamed and explanations came fast and furiously.

Half crazed at the death of her father, Lola had made her way to the village only to find it in ruins. She collapsed, but by good fortune Minott found her and nursed her back to health. It was a happy reunion and the three embraced in a huddle from sheer joy.

There came a tremendous wrench, a twisting and warping of the universe, and they stood in Minott's laboratory -- three where there had been but two before. Lola still clung to her lover but Minott sprang to the super-microscope and shut off the power.

"What on earth?" gasped Grayson.

Minott glanced at the clock and laughed. "My boy," he said, "our two minutes have expired. Our own apparatus brought us back, thanks to the time switch."

"You mean to say that all of that grief took place during two minutes of our time?"

"Absolutely. The time-space relationship, you see. Those long days in the atom universe were but fractions of a second here. The Elsians and the Prags and all of them lived out their lifetimes in less than one of our days. I had forgotten that point while we were there. Which reminds me that I must investigate fully the qualities of our focussing ray. It must have the property of altering the time-space relationship optically, for when we observed the Elsians through the super-microscope their terrific pace of living was not apparent."

"But Lola," objected Grayson, "will she live a normal span of years here?" He drew her still more closely in awful fear.

"Of course. The time-space relationship has been altered with her as well as with us. You may live happily ever after, my children."

Minott's face was wreathed in smiles and Lola, comprehending that she was in a new and strange land, but not understanding how, was glad. She had found her happiness, and, but for the ache that remained in her heart for her father, was content.


(continue to "A little bit about Microcosmic Buccaneers")

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