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Chapter 2

  • I was too astounded to speak at first. But finally, "Tell me about it," _asped. "This is certainly the most fantastic invention you have made yet! Ho_oes it work?"
  • "I am afraid," suggested Professor Martyn, "that you could not understand al_he technical details. It is horribly complicated. And besides, I am anxiou_o try it out. But I will give you an idea of it.
  • "Of course, you know that an object may be divided in half forever, as yo_ave learned in high school, without being entirely exhausted. It is thi_rinciple that is used in shrinking. I hardly understand the thing's mechanis_yself—it was the result of an accident—but I know that the machine not onl_ivides every atom, every molecule, every electron of the body into tw_xactly equal parts, but it accomplishes the same feat in itself, thus keepin_ace with its manipulator. The matter it removes from the body is reduced to _aseous form, and left in the air. There are six wires that you do not see,
  • which connect with the body, while the machine itself is placed on the chest,
  • held by a small belt that carries wires to the front of the body where the tw_ontrolling buttons are placed. "When the user wishes to grow, he presses th_pper button, and the machine then extracts atoms from the air which i_onverts, by a reverse method from the first, into atoms identical to certai_thers in the body, the two atoms thus formed joining into one large particl_f twice the original size.
  • "As I said, I have little idea of my invention except that it works by mean_f atomic energy. I was intending to make an atomic energy motor, when _bserved certain parts to increase and diminish strangely in size. It wa_ractically by blind instinct that I have worked the thing up. And now I fea_ shall not be able to discover the source of my atomic energy until I can pu_ogether, with great care, another such machine, for I am afraid to ris_aking this apart for analysis."
  • "And I," I said suddenly, with the awe I felt for such a discovery quit_erceptible, I fear, in my tone, "I am to try out this machine?"
  • "If you are willing," he said simply. "You must realize, of course, that ther_re a multitude of unknown dangers. I know nothing of the complete effects o_he machine. But my experiments on inanimate objects have seeme_atisfactory."
  • "I am willing to take any risks," I said enthusiastically, "If you are willin_o risk your great machine. Why, don't you realize, Professor, that this wil_evolutionize Science? There is nothing, hardly, that will be unknown.
  • Astronomy will be complete, for there will be nothing to do but to increase i_ize enough to observe beyond our atmosphere, or one could stand upon world_ike rocks to examine others."
  • "Exactly. I have calculated that the effect of a huge foot covering whol_ountries would be slight, so equally distributed would the weights be.
  • Probably it would rest upon tall buildings and trees with ease. But in space,
  • of course, no support should be necessary.
  • "And then, as you said, one could shrink until the mysteries of electron_ould be revealed. Of course, there would be danger in descending int_pparent nothingness, not knowing where a new world-atom could be found upo_hich to stand. But dangers must be risked."
  • "But now, Kirby," remarked the Professor officially, "time passes, and _hould like you to make your little journey soon that I may quickly know it_esults. Have you any affairs you would like to put in order, in case—"
  • "None," I said. I was always ready for these experiments. And though thi_romised to be magnificently momentous, I was all ready. "No, if I return in _ew hours, I shall find everything all right. If not, I am still prepared." H_eamed in approval.
  • "Fine. Of course you understand that our experiment must take place at som_ecluded spot. If you are ready, we can proceed at once to a countr_aboratory of mine that will, I think, be safe."
  • I assented, and we hastily donned our overcoats, the Professor spending _oment or two collecting some necessary apparatus. Then we packed the machin_n a safe box, and left his home.
  • "Are you all ready, Kirby?" The Professor's voice was firm, but my practice_ar could detect the slightest vibrations that indicated to me his intens_nner feelings. I hesitated a moment. I was not afraid of going. Never that.
  • But there seemed something partaking almost of finality about this departure.
  • It was different from anything I had ever felt before.
  • "All ready, Professor," I said cheerfully after a brief moment.
  • "Are you going to magnify or minimize yourself?"
  • "It shall be growth," I answered, without a moment's hesitation there. Th_tars, and what lay beyond… . It was that I cared for. The Professor looked a_e earnestly, deeply engrossed in thought.
  • Finally he said, "Kirby, if you are to make an excursion into interstella_pace, you realize that not only would you freeze to death, but also die fro_ack of air."
  • Walking to a cabinet in the rear of the room, he opened it and withdrew fro_t some strange looking paraphernalia. "This," he said, holding up a quee_ooking suit, "is made of a great quantity of interlocking metal cells,
  • hermetically sealed, from which the air has been completely exhausted so as t_ive the cells a high vacuum. These separate cells are then woven into th_abric. When you wear this suit, you will, in fact, be enclosed in a sort o_hermos bottle. No heat can leave this suit, and the most intensive col_annot penetrate through it."
  • I quickly got into the suit, which was not as heavy as one might imagine. I_overed not only the entire body, but the feet and hands as well, the han_art being a sort of mitten.
  • After I had gotten into the suit, the Professor placed over my head a sort o_ransparent dome which he explained was made of strong unbreakable bakelite.
  • The globe itself really was made of several globes, one within the other. Th_lobes only touched at the lower rim. The interstices where the globes did no_ouch formed a vacuum, the air having been drawn from the spaces. Consequentl_eat could not escape from the transparent head piece nor could the cold com_n. From the back of this head gear, a flexible tube led into the interior;
  • this tube being connected to a small compressed oxygen tank, which th_rofessor strapped to my back.
  • He then placed the wonder machine with its row of buttons on my chest, an_onnected the six wires to the arms and other parts of my body. Professo_artyn grasped my hand then, and said in his firm, quiet voice:
  • "Then goodbye, Kirby, for awhile. Press the first button when you are ready t_o. May the Fates be with you!"