The tale of a golden atom-an astounding adventure in size.
It was shortly after noon of December 31, 1960, when the series of weird and startling events began which took me into the tiny world of an atom of gold, beyond the vanishing point, beyond the range of even the highest-powered electric-microscope. My name is George Randolph. I was, that momentous afternoon, assistant chemist for the Ajax International Dye Company, with main offices in New York City.
It was twelve-twenty when the local exchange call-sorter announced Alan's connection from Quebec.
"You, George? Look here, we've got to have you up here at once. Chateau Frontenac, Quebec. Will you come?"
I could see his face imaged in the little mirror on my desk; the anxiety, tenseness in his voice, was duplicated in his expression.
"Well-" I began.
"You must, George. Babs and I need you. See here-"
He tried at first to make it sound like an invitation for a New Year's Eve holiday. But I knew it was not that. Alan and Barbara Kent were my best friends. They were twins, eighteen years old. I felt that Alan would always be my best friend; but for Babs my hopes, longings, went far deeper, though as yet I had never brought myself to the point of telling her so.
"I'd like to come, Alan. But-"
"You must! George, I can't tell you over the public air. It's-I've seen him! He's diabolical! I know it now!"
Him! It could only mean, of all the world, one person!
"He's here!" he went on. "Near here. We've seen him today! I didn't want to tell you, but that's why we came. It seemed a long chance, but it's he, I'm positive!"
I was staring at the image of Alan's eyes; it seemed that there was horror in them. And in his voice.
"God, George, it's weird! Weird, I tell you. His looks-he-oh I can't tell you now! Only, come!"
I was busy at the office in spite of the holiday season, but I dropped everything and went. By one o'clock that afternoon I was wheeling my little sport midge from its cage on the roof of the Metropole building, and went into the air.
It was a cold gray afternoon with the feel of coming snow. I made a good two hundred and fifty miles at first, taking the northbound through-traffic lane which to-day the meteorological conditions had placed at 6,200 feet altitude.
Flying is largely automatic. There was not enough traffic to bother me. The details of leaving the office so hastily had been too engrossing for thought of Alan and Babs. But now, in my little pit at the controls, my mind flung ahead. They had located him. That meant Franz Polter, for whom we had been searching nearly four years. And my memory went back into the past with vivid vision....