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!"