The level of activity in the hospital room had reached the visual analog of a scream. Everyone was moving at a rapid walk, almost a half-run. Only the figure on the operating table was still. A heavy thermal blanket lay over it, the numerous coils snaking through it, filled with their circulating refrigerant. And under it -was the nude body, chilled to the point where life within it was a sluggish whisper.

Benes' head was now shaven and marked off like a nautical chart in numbered lines of latitude and longitude. On his sleep-sunk face was a look of sadness, frozen deeply in.


On the wall behind him was another reproduction of the circulatory system, enlarged to the point where the chest, neck and head were sufficient in themselves to cover the wall from end to end and floor to ceiling. It had become a forest in which the large vessels were as thick as a man's arm while the fine capillaries fuzzed all the spaces between.

In the control tower, brooding over the operation room, Carter and Reid watched. They could see the desk-level banks of monitors, at each of which a technician sat, each in his CMDF uniform, a symphony in zippered white.

Carter moved to the window, while Reid said softly into a mike, "Bring the Proteus into the Miniaturization Room."

It was customary protocol to give such orders in a quiet voice, and there was quiet on the floor, if absence of sound was the mere criteria. Last minute adjustments were being frantically made at the thermal blanket. Each technician studied his own monitor as though it were his new bride, isolated at last. The nurses hovered about Benes like large, starch-winged butterflies.

With the Proteus beginning the preparation for miniaturization, every man and woman on the floor knew the last stage of the count-down had begun.

Reid pushed a button. "Heart!"

The Heart Sector was laid out in detail on the TV screen' that was rostrumed just under Reid. Within that Sector, the EKG recordings dominated and the heartbeat sounded in a dull double-thump of sorrowful slowness.

"How does it look, Henry?"

"Perfect. Holding steady at thirty-two per minute. No abnormalities, acoustic or electronic. The rest of him should only be like this."

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"Good." Reid flicked him off. To a heart man, what could be wrong if the heart was right?

He turned on the Lung Sector. The world on the screen was suddenly one of respiration rates. "All right, Jack?"

"All right, Dr. Reid. I've got the respiration down to six per minute. Can't take it any lower."

"I'm not asking you to. Carry on."

Hypothermia next. This sector was larger than the rest. It had to concern itself with all the body and here the theme was the thermometer. Temperature readings at the limbs, at' various points of the torso, at delicate contacts making readings at definite depths below the skin. There were constantly creeping temperature recordings with each wiggle bearing its own label: "Circulatory," "Respiratory," "Cardiac," "Renal," "Intestinal," and so on.

"Any problems, Sawyer?" asked Reid.

"No, sir. Overall average is at twenty-eight degrees Centigrade-eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit."

"You needn't convert, thank you."

"Yes, sir."

It was as though Reid could feel the hypothermia biting at his own vitals. Sixteen Fahrenheit degrees below normal; sixteen crucial degrees, slowing metabolism to about one-third normal; cutting the oxygen needs to one-third; slowing the heartbeat, the rate of blood flow, the scale of life, the strain on the clot-blocked brain. -And making the environment more favorable for the ship that was soon to enter the jungle of the human interior.

Carter moved back toward Reid, "All set, Don?"

"As near as can be managed, considering that this was improvised overnight."

"I doubt that very much."

Reid flushed, "What's that supposed to mean, general?"

"No improvisation was needed. It's no secret to me that you've been laying the groundwork for biological experiments with miniaturization. Have you been planning, specifically, the exploration of the human circulatory system?"

"Not specifically, no. But my team has been working on such problems as a matter of course. That was their job."

"Don . . ." Carter hesitated, then went on tightly. "If this fails, Don, someone's head will be needed for the governmental trophy room, and mine will be the handiest. If this succeeds, you and your men will come out of it smelling like lilies-of-the-valley. Don't try to push that too far if it happens."

"The military will still have first call, eh? Are you telling me not to get in the way?"

"It might be sensible not to. -Another thing. What's wrong with the girl, Cora Peterson?"

"Nothing. Why?"

"Your voice was loud enough. I heard you just before I came into the conference room. Do you know of any reason why she shouldn't be on board."

"She's a woman. She may not be reliable in emergencies. Besides... "


"If you want the truth, Duval assumed his usual I-am-the-law-and-the-prophets manner, and I automatically objected. How far do you trust Duval?"

"What do you mean, trust?"

"What's your real reason for sending Grant along on the mission? Who's he supposed to keep his eye on?"

Carter said in a low, husky tone, "I haven't told him to keep an eye on anyone. -The crew should be about through in the sterilization corridor by now."

Grant sniffed at the faintly medicinal odor in the atmosphere and was grateful for the opportunity of a quick shave. No use not looking his best with a lady on board. The CMDF uniform wasn't bad, either; one-piece, belted and an odd cross between the scientific and the dashing. The one they had found for him bound him slightly under the armpits, but he'd only be wearing it for an hour, perhaps.

In single file, he and the others of the crew passed down the corridor in dim light that was rich in ultra-violet. They wore dark goggles against the dangers of that radiation.

Cora Peterson walked immediately ahead of Grant so that he silently deplored the darkness of the lenses before his eyes and the manner in which they dimmed the interesting style of her walk.

Wanting to make conversation, he said, "Is this walkthrough really sufficient to sterilize us, Miss Peterson?"

She turned her head briefly and said, "I think you need have no masculine uneasiness."

Grant's mouth quirked. He had asked for that. He said, "You underestimate my naivete, Miss Peterson, and I am unfairly run through by your sophistication."

"I didn't mean to offend you."

The door at the end of the corridor opened automatically and Grant, as automatically, closed the gap between them and offered his hand. She evaded it and stepped across at the heels of Duval.

Grant said, "No offense. But my meaning was that we aren't actually sterile. Microbe-wise, I mean. At best, it is only our surfaces that are sterile. Inside, we teem with germs."

"For that matter," Cora responded, "Benes isn't sterile, either. Microbe-wise, I mean. But every germ we kill is one less germ we might introduce. Our germs will be miniaturized with us, of course, and we don't know how such miniaturized germs will affect a human being if released in his blood-stream. On the other hand, after one hour any miniaturized germs in his blood-stream will expand to their normal size and that expansion might be harmful for all we know. The less Benes is subjected to unknown factors, the better."

She shook her head. "There's so much we don't know. This really isn't the way to experiment."

"But we have no choice, do we, Miss Peterson? And may I call you Cora, by the way, for the duration?"

"It makes no difference to me."

They had entered a large round room, glassed in at all sides. It was floored completely in hexagonal tiles some three feet across, roughened into close-packed semi-circular bubbles, the whole made of some milk-white glassy material. At the center of the room was a single tile like the rest, except that it was in deep red.

Filling much of the room was a white vessel some fifty feet in 'length, horse-shoe in shape, with an upper bubble the front of which was glassed in and which was topped by a smaller bubble, entirely transparent. It was on a hydraulic lift and was being maneuvered into the center of the room.

Michaels had moved up next to Grant. "The Proteus," he said. "Our home away from home for the next hour or so."

"This is a huge room," Grant said, looking about.

"It's our miniaturization• room. It's been used for the miniaturization of artillery pieces and small atomic bombs. It can also serve to hold de-miniaturized insects-you know, ants blown up to the size of locomotives for easy study. Such bio-experiments haven't been authorized yet, though we've sneaked in one or two quiet efforts along that line. -They're putting the Proteus over Zero Module; that's the red one. Then, I suppose, we get in. Nervous, Mr. Grant?"

"And how! And you?"

Michaels nodded in rueful agreement, "And how!"

The Proteus had been adjusted onto its cradle now and the hydraulic lifts that had maneuvered it into place were drawn off. A ladder on one side led to the entrance.

The ship gleamed in sterile whiteness from the featureless bluntness of its prow to the double jet and upright fin at the rear.

Owens said, "I'll get in first. When I signal, the rest of you come in." He moved up the ladder.

"It's his ship," muttered Grant. "Why not?" Then he said to Michaels, "He seems more nervous than we."

"That's just his way. He looks nervous all the time. And if he is, he has reason. He has a wife and two young daughters. Duval and his assistant are both single."

"I am, too," said Grant. "And you?"

"Divorced. No children. So you see."

Owens could be seen plainly, now, in the bubble-top. He seemed intent on objects immediately before him. Then he waved the come-in gesture. Michaels responded and moved up the ladder. Duval followed him. Grant motioned Cora to enter ahead of himself.

All were in their seats when Grant ducked through the small one-man chamber that made up the hatch. Above, in the lone upper seat, was Owens at the control. Below were four more seats. The two in the rear, well on either side, were occupied by Cora and Duval; Cora on the right near the ladder that led up to the bubble, Duval on the left.

In the bow were the other two seats, close together.

Michaels had already taken the one on the left. Grant mat down next to him.

On either side were work-benches and a set of what looked like auxiliary controls. Underneath the benches were cabinets. In the rear were a pair of small rooms, one it small work-room, the other for storage.

It was still dark inside. Michaels said, "We will put you to work, Grant. Ordinarily we would have had a communications man in your place-one of our own, I mean. Since you have communications experience you will handle the wireless. No problem, I hope."

"I can't see it very well right now ... "

"Say there, Owens." Michaels called upward. "How about the power?"

"Right away. I'm checking a few items."

Michaels said, "I don't believe there is anything unusual about it. It is the only non-nuclear-powered object on the ship."

"I don't expect any problems."

"Good! -Relax, then. It will be a few minutes yet before we can be miniaturized. The others are busy and if you don't mind, I will talk."

"Go ahead."

Michaels adjusted himself in his seat. "We all have our specific reactions to nervousness. Some light cigarettes - no smoking on board; by the way ..."

"I don't smoke."

"Some drink, some bite their nails. I talk-provided, of course, I don't choke up altogether. Right now, it's a near squeak between talking and choking. You asked about Owens. Are you nervous about him?"

"Should I be?"

"I'm sure Carter expects you to be. A suspicious man, that Carter. Paranoid tendencies. I suspect that Carter has brooded over the fact that Owens was the man in the car with Benes at the time of the accident."

Grant said, "That thought has occurred even to me. But what does it mean? If you're implying that Owens might have arranged the incident, the interior of the car was a poor place to be."

"I don't suggest anything of the sort," said Michaels. shaking his head vigorously. "I'm trying to penetrate Carter's reasoning. Suppose Owens were a secret enemy agent, converted to Their side on one of his trips to scientific conferences overseas ..."

"How dramatic," said Grant, dryly. "Anyone else on board attend such conferences?"

Michaels thought a moment. "As a matter of fact, we all have. Even the girl attended a short meeting last year, one at which Duval presented a paper. But anyway, suppose it was Owens who was converted. Let us say that he was assigned the task of seeing to it that Benes was to be killed. It might be necessary for him to risk his own death. The driver of the collision car knew be was going to die; the five men at the rifles knew they would die. People don't seem to mind dying.

"And Owens may be prepared to die now rather than let us succeed? Is that why he is nervous?"

"Oh, no. What you now suggest is quite unbelievable. I can imagine, for the sake of argument, that Owens might be willing to give his life for some ideal, but not that he would be willing to sacrifice the prestige of his ship by having its first big mission fail."

"Then you think we can eliminate him and forget about the possibility of funny work at the cross-roads."

Michaels laughed gently, his moon-face genial. "Of course. But I'll bet Carter has considered every one of us. And that you have, too."

Grant said, "Duval, for instance?"

"Why not? Anyone at all might be on the Other Side. Not for pay, perhaps; I am sure no one here can be bought; but out of mistaken idealism. Miniaturization, for instance, is primarily a war weapon right now and many of the people here are firmly against that aspect of it. A signed statement to that effect was sent to the president some months ago; a plea to end the miniaturization race, establish a combined program with other nations for the exploitation of miniaturization for peaceful research in biology and medicine in particular."

"Who were involved in that movement?"

"A great many. Duval was one of the most vociferous and outspoken leaders. And, as a matter of fact, I signed the statement as well. I assure you the signers were sincere. I was and I am. It is possible to argue that Benes' device for unlimited duration of miniaturization, if it works, would greatly increase the danger of war and annihilation. If so, I suppose Duval or myself might be eager to see Benes dead before he can speak. For myself, I can deny that I am so motivated. To such an extreme, in any case. As for Duval„ his great problem is his unpleasant personality. There are many who would be eager to suspect him of anything."

Michaels twisted in his seat and said, "And that girl there."

"She signed, too?"

"No, the statement was for senior personnel only. But why is she here?"

"Because Duval insisted. We were there when it happened."

"Yes, but why should she be available for his insisting. She is young and quite pretty. He is twenty years older than she and is not interested in her-or in any human being. Can she be eager to come along for Duval-or for some other more political reason?"

Grant said, "Are you jealous, Dr. Michaels?"

Michaels looked startled. Slowly, he smiled. "You know, I never really thought of that. I'll bet I am: I'm no older than Duval and if she is really interested in older men, it would certainly be pleasanter to have her prefer me. But even allowing for my prejudice, there's room for wondering about her motives."

Michaels' smile faded and he grew glumly serious once more. "And then, after all, the safety of this ship depends not only on ourselves but on those outside who are to a certain extent in control of us. Colonel Reid was as much in favor of the petition as any of us, although as a military officer he could not engage in political activity. Yet though his name was absent from the petition, his voice wasn't. He and Carter quarreled over that. They were good friends before."

"Too bad," said Grant.

"And Carter himself. He's very paranoid. The stresses of the work here might have created instability in the sanest of men. I wonder if one can be entirely sure that Carter hasn't grown somewhat twisted ..."

"Do you think he has?"

Michaels spread out his arms, "No, of course not. I told you-this is therapeutic talk. Would you rather I sat here and merely perspired, or that I screamed softly?"

Grant said, "No, I guess not. In fact, please go ahead. As long as I listen to you, I have no time to panic myself, It seems to me you've mentioned everyone."

"Not at all. I have deliberately left the least suspicious character for last. In fact, we might say as a general rule that the seemingly least suspicious character is bound to be guilty. Wouldn't you say so?"

"Obviously," Grant said. "And this least suspicious character is who? Or is this the place where a shot rings out and you crumple to the floor just before you name the identity of the fiend?"

"No one seems to be aiming at me," said Michaels. "I think I will have time. The least suspicious character is, obviously, you yourself, Grant. Who would be less suspicious than the trusted agent, assigned to see the ship safely through the mission? Can you really be trusted, Grant?"

"I'm not sure. You have only my word and what's that worth?"

"Exactly. You have been on the Other Side, been there oftener and under more obscure circumstances than anyone else on this ship, I'm certain. Suppose that in one way or another, you have been bought off."

"Possible, I suppose," said Grant, unemotionally, "but I brought Benes here safely."

"So you did; knowing, perhaps, that he would be taken care of at the next stage, leaving you in the clear and fit for further duties, as you are now."

Grant said, "I think you mean this."

But Michaels shook his head, "No, I don't. And I'm sorry for I think I'm beginning to grow offensive." He pinched his nose and said, "I wish they would begin miniaturizing. After that, I might have less time to think."

Grant felt embarrassed. There was a naked look of apprehension on Michaels' face as the skin of banter peeled off. He called up, "How about it, Captain?"

"All set. All set," came Owens' metal-harsh voice.

The lights went on. At once, Duval pulled out several drawers at his side of the ship, and began to look over the charts. Cora inspected the laser with care.

Grant said, "May I come up there, Owens?"

"You can stick your head up here if you want to," replied Owens. "There isn't room for anything more."

Grant said under his breath. "Take it easy, Dr. Michaels. I'll be gone for a few minutes and you can jitter, if you feel like it, without being watched."

Michaels' voice was dry and his words seemed to grind out with difficulty. "You are a considerate man, Grant. If I had had my natural sleep ..."

Grant rose and stepped back, grinning at Cora who stepped out of his way coolly. He then moved quickly up the ladder, looked up and about and said, "How will you know where to go?"

Owens said, "I've got Michaels' charts here." He flipped a switch and on one of the screens immediately before him was a replica of the circulatory system, the one Grant had already seen several times before.

Owens touched another switch and parts of the chart glowed an iridescent yellow-orange.

"Our projected route," he said. "Michaels will be directing me when necessary, and since we are nuclear-fueled, Carter and the rest will be able to follow us with precision. They will help direct us, if you take care of your end with the wireless."

"You've got a complicated set of controls here."

"It's pretty sophisticated," said Owens, with obvious pride. "A button for everything, so to speak, and as compact as I could make it. This was going to be used for deep-sea work, you know."

Grant swung down again and again Cora made way for him. She was deep in concentration over her laser, working with what were virtually watchmaker's tools.

"That looks complicated," said Grant.

Cora said briefly, "A ruby laser, if you know what that is.

"I know it puts out a tight beam of coherent monochromatic light, but I haven't the foggiest notion as to how it works."

"Then I suggest you go back to your seat and let me do my job."

"Yes, ma'am. But if you have any footballs you want strung, you let me know. Us physical types are good at that kind of unskilled work."

Cora put down a small screw-driver, brushed her rubber-gloved fingers together and said, "Mr. Grant?"

"Yes, ma'am?"

"Are you going to make this entire venture hideous with your notion of fun?"

"No, I won't, but . . . Well, how do I talk to you?"

"Like a fellow-member of the crew."

"You're also a young woman."

"I know that, Mr. Grant, but what concern is that of yours? It's not necessary to assure me with every remark and gesture that you're aware of my sex. It's wearisome and unnecessary. After this is all over, if you still feel called upon to go through whatever rituals you are accustomed to performing before young women, I will deal with you in whatever fashion seems advisable but for now ..."

"All right. It's a date, for afterwards."

"And Mr. Grant?"


"Don't be defensive about once having been a football player. I really don't care."

Grant swallowed and said, "Something tells me my rituals are going to be tromped on, but ..."

She was paying no attention but had returned to the laser. Grant couldn't help watching, his hand on the counter, following the minutest movement of her sure-fingered adjustments.

"Oh, if you could only frivol," he breathed, and fortunately she didn't hear him, or, at least, showed no signs of having done so.

Without warning, she placed her hand on his and Grant found himself starting slightly at the touch of her warm fingers.

She said, "Excuse me!" and moved his hand to one side, then released it. Almost at once she depressed a contact on the laser and a hair-thin streak of red light shot out, striking the metal disc over which his hand had just been resting. A tiny hole appeared at once and there was the thin odor of metal vapor. Had Grant's hand remained in place, the thin hole would have been in his thumb.

Grant said, "You might have warned me."

Cora said, "There is no reason for you to be standing here, is there?"

She lifted the laser, ignoring his offered help and turned toward the store room.

"Yes, miss," said Grant, humbly. "When near you henceforward I shall be careful where I place my hand."

Cora looked back as though startled and rather uncertain. Then, for a moment, she smiled.

Grant said, "Careful. The cheeks may crack."

Her smile vanished at once. "You promised," she said, icily, and moved into the work-room.

The voice of Owens came from above. "Grant! Check the wireless!"

"Right," called Grant. "I'll be seeing you, Cora. Afterward!"

He slipped back into his seat and looked at the wireless for the first time. "This seems to be a Morse code device."

Michaels looked up. Some of the grayness had left his face. "Yes, it's technically difficult to transmit voice across the miniaturization gap. I assume you can handle code."

"Of course." He beat out a rapid message. After a pause, the public address system in the miniaturization room boomed out with a sound level easily heard within the Proteus:

"Message received. Wish to confirm. Message reads: MISS PETERSON SMILED."

Cora, just returning to her seat, looked outraged and said, "Good grief."

Grant bent over the wireless and tapped out: CORRECT!

The return this time was in code. Grant listened, then called out, "Message received from outside: PREPARE FOR MINIATURIZATION."

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