(Petrovich, Russia: 1920 -
New-York, April 1992)
Grotto - Part 5
swirled back in and turned to Morrison:
- Are you wearing a watch or do
you have anything metallic on you? - she asked
- I have no possessions on me at
all, Dr Kaliinin. Nothing but the clothes I wear, the
single pocket of which is empty. Even this identification bracelet that has
been put on me seems to be of plastic.
- It is merely that there is a
strong electromagnetic field and metal would be interfere.
- Any physiological effects?
- None. Or at least none have yet
Morrison, who was waiting for them
to give up their pretence of miniaturization and wondering how long they could
carry on the fraud (he was growing more censorious over the matter by the
minute), said, with just a touch of malice:
- Might not overexposure lead to
birth defects should you ever get pregnant, Dr Kaliinin?
- Kaliinin flushed:
- I have a baby. She is perfectly
- Were you exposed during
- Is the inquisition over, Dr
- Then go ahead. I'm all eyes.
(How foolish of them, he thought
sardonically. They would soon be claiming, of course, that something had gone
wrong, but where would they go from there? What was it all about?
- To begin with, Dr Morrison,
would you lift the cage?
Morrison made no move to do so. He
looked from one to the other of the three Soviets in suspicion and uncertainty.
- Go ahead. It won't hurt, Albert.
You won't even get your hands dirty and after all, hands were meant to become
dirty at work.
Morrison put his hands on either
side of the cage and lifted. It weighed about ten kilograms, he judged. He
grunted and said:
- May I put it down now?
- Of course, said Boranova.
- Gently - said Kaliinin -. Do not disturb Katinka.
Morrison lowered it carefully. The
rabbit, which had momentarily stopped feeding when the cage was lifted, sniffed
the air curiously and returned tentatively to its unhurried chewing.
Boranova nodded and Sophia moved to one side of the room where
a bank of controls were all but hidden by the cables.
She looked over her shoulder at the cage as though estimating its position,
then walked over to move it slightly. She returned to the controls and closed a
A whining sound made itself heard
and the cage began to glitter and shimmer as though something, all but
invisible, had interposed itself between it and themselves. The shimmer
extended beneath the cage, separating it from the stone-top table on which it
had been resting.
- The cage is now enclosed in the
miniaturization field. Only the objects within the field will be miniaturized.
Morrison stared and a little worm
of uncertainty began to stir within him. Were they going to try some clever
illusion on him and make him think he had witnessed miniaturization? He said:
- And how exactly did you produce
that so-called miniaturization field?
- That - said Boranova
-, we do not intend to tell you. I think you
understand what classified information is. Go ahead, Sophia.
The whine heightened in pitch and
intensified somewhat. Morrison found it unpleasant, but the others seemed to endure it stolidly. In looking at them, he had taken his
eyes off the cage. Now when he looked at it again, it seemed to have grown
He frowned, and bent his head so
as to line up one side of the cage with a vertical line of a cable on the
opposite wall. He held his head steady, but the side of the cage shrank away
from the reference line. There was no mistake, the cage was distinctly smaller.
He blinked his eyes in frustration.
Boranova smiled narrowly:
- It is indeed shrinking, Dr
Morrison. Surely your eyes tell you so.
The whine continued - the
shrinking continued. The cage was perhaps half its original linear measurement.
Morrison said, with obvious lack
- There are such things as optical
Boranova called out:
- Sophia, stop
the process for a moment.
The whine lowered into silence and
the glitter of the miniaturization field dimmed and died. The cage sat on the
table as before, a considerably smaller version than it had been. Inside was
the rabbit still, a smaller rabbit, but one that was proportioned in every way
as the original had been, munching on smaller leaves, with smaller pieces of
carrot distributed across the floor of the cage.
- Do you honestly think that this
is an optical illusion?
Morrison was silent, and Dezhnev
- Come, Albert, accept the
evidence of your senses. This experiment consumed considerable energy and if
you remain unconvinced, our clever administrators will be annoyed with all of
us for wasting money. What do you say, then?
And Morrison, shaking his head in
rueful confusion, said:
- I don't know what to say.
-Would you lift the cage again, Dr
Again Morrison hesitated and Boranova said:
- The miniaturization field has
not left it radioactive or anything like that. The touch of your unminiaturized hand will not affect it, nor will its state
of miniaturization affect you. You see? - And she placed her hand, flatly and
gently, on top of the cage.
Morrison's hesitation was not
proof against that. Gingerly, he placed his hands on either side of the cage
and lifted. He exclaimed in surprise for it could not be much over a kilogram
in mass. The cage trembled in his grip and the miniaturized rabbit, alarmed,
hopped to one corner of the cage, and huddled there in agitation.
Morrison put the cage down, and as
nearly as he could estimate, did so in its original position, but Kaliinin walked over and made a small adjustment.
- What do you think, Dr Morrison?
- It weighs considerably less. Is
there some way you pulled a switch?
- Pulled a switch? You mean
replaced the larger object with a smaller while you were watching, the smaller
exactly like the larger in everything but size. Dr Morrison, please.
Morrison cleared his throat and
didn't press the point. It lacked plausibility even to himself.
Please, notice, Dr Morrison, that
not only has the size been decreased, but the mass in proportion. The very atoms
and molecules of which the cage and the contents are composed have shrunk in
size and mass. Fundamentally, Planck's constant
has decreased, so that nothing inside has changed relative to its own parts. To
the rabbit, itself, its food, everything within the
cage seems perfectly normal. The outside world has increased in size relative
to the rabbit, but, of course, it remains unaware of that.
- But the miniaturization field is
gone. Why don't the cage and its contents revert to ordinary size?
- For two reasons, Dr Morrison. In
the first place, the miniaturized state is metastable.
That is one of the great fundamental discoveries that make miniaturization
possible. At whatever point we stop in the process it takes very little energy
to maintain it in that state. And secondly, the miniaturization field is not
entirely gone. It is merely minimized and drawn inwards so that it still keeps
the atmosphere within the cage from diffusing outwards. It also leaves the
walls of the cage touchable by unminiaturized
hands... But we are not finished, Dr Morrison. Shall we continue?
Morrison troubled and unable to
deny the direct experience, wondered, for a moment, if he had somehow been
drugged into a kind of super-suggestibility that would make him experience whatever
he was told he was experiencing. In a choked way, he said:
- You are telling me a great deal.
- Yes, we are, but only
superficially. If you repeat this in America, you will probably not be believed,
and nothing you say will give the slightest hint as to the core of the
miniaturization technique. - Boranova lifted her hand
and Kaliinin again threw the switch.
Will follow in
next issue of AIR