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Way of a rebel, p.1

Way of a Rebel, page 1


Way of a Rebel

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Way of a Rebel

  Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at

  Way of a Rebel

  By Walter Miller, Jr.

  Illustrated by Rudolph Palais

  [Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from If Worlds of ScienceFiction April 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence thatthe U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

  [Sidenote: _No one knows the heart of a rebel until his own search forthe reason of right or wrong is made. Lieutenant Laskell found theanswer to his own personal rebellion deep beneath a turbulent Atlantic,and somehow, when the time came, his decision wasn't too difficult...._]

  Lieutenant Laskell surfaced his one-man submarine fifty miles off theFlorida coast where he had been patrolling in search of enemy subs.Darkness had fallen. He tuned his short wave set to the Miami stationjust in time to hear the eight o'clock news. The grim announcement thathe had expected was quick to come:

  "In accordance with the provisions of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment,Congress today approved the Manlin Bill, declaring a state of totalemergency for the nation. President Williston signed it immediately andtendered his resignation to the Congress and the people. The executive,legislative, and judiciary are now in the hands of the Department ofDefense. Secretary Garson has issued two decrees, one reminding allcitizens that they are no longer free to shirk their duties to thenation, the other calling upon the leaders of the Eurasian Soviet tocease air attacks on the American continent or suffer the consequences.

  "In Secretary Garson's ultimatum to the enemy, he stated: 'Heretofore wehave refrained from employing certain weapons of warfare in the vainhope that you would recognize the futility of further aggression anddesist from it. You have not done so. You have persisted in yourblood-thirsty folly, despite this nation's efforts to reach an agreementfor armistice. Therefore I am forced to command you, in the Name ofAlmighty God, to surrender immediately or be destroyed. I shall allowyou one day in which to give evidence of submission. If such evidence isnot forthcoming, I shall implement this directive by a totalattack....'"

  Mitch Laskell switched off the short wave set and muttered an oath. Hesqueezed his way up through the narrow conning tower and sat on thesmall deck, leaning back against the rocket-launcher and dangling hisfeet in the calm ocean. The night was windless and warm, with the summerstars eyeing the earth benignly. But despite the warmth, he felt clammy;his hands were shaking a little as he lit a cigarette.

  The newscast--it came as no surprise. The world had known for weeks thatthe Manlin Bill would be passed, and that Garson would be given absolutepowers to lead the nation through the war. And his ultimatum to theenemy was no surprise. Garson had long favored an all-out radiologicalattack, employing every nuclear weapon the country could muster.Heretofore both sides had limited themselves to non-rigged atomicexplosives, and had refrained from using bacterial weapons. Garsonwanted to take off the boxing-gloves in favor of steel gauntlets. Andnow it would happen--the all-out attack, the masterpiece of homicidalengineering, the final word in destruction.

  * * * * *

  Mitch, reclining in loneliness against the rocket-launcher, blew athoughtful cloud of cigarette smoke toward the bright yellow eye ofArcturus, almost directly overhead, and wondered why the ConstellationBooetes suddenly looked like a big club ready to fall on the earth, whenit had always reminded him of a fly-swatter about to slap the CoronaBorealis. He searched himself for horror, but found only a gloomyuneasiness. It was funny, he thought; five years ago men would have beenoutraged at the notion of an American absolutism, with one man ruling bydecree. But now that it had happened, it was not to hard to accept. Hewondered at it.

  And he soon decided that almost any fact could be accepted calmly afterit had already happened. Men would be just as calm after their citieshad been reduced to rubble. The human capacity for calmness was almostunlimited, _ex post facto_, because the routine of daily living had togo on, despite the big business of governments whose leaders invoked theDeity in the cause of slaughter.

  A voice, echoing up out of the conning tower, made him jump. The commandset was barking his call letters.

  "Unit Sugar William Niner Zero, Mother wants you. I say again: Motherwants you. Acknowledge please. Over."

  The message meant: _return to base immediately_. And it implied anurgency in the use of the code-word Mother. He frowned and started up,then fell back with a low grunt.

  All of his resentment against the world's political jackasses suddenlyboiled up inside him as a _personal_ resentment. There was somethingabout the metallic rasp of the radio's voice that sparked him to suddenrebelliousness.

  "Unit Sugar William Niner Zero, Mother wants you, Mother wants you.Acknowledge immediately. Over."

  He had a good idea what it was all about. All subs were probably beingcalled in for rearmament with cobalt-rigged atomic warheads for theirguided missiles. The submarine force would probably be used to implementGarson's ultimatum. They would deliver radiological death to Eurasiancoastal cities, and cause the Soviets to retaliate.

  _Why must I participate in the wrecking of mechanical civilization?_ hethought grimly.

  But a counter-thought came to trouble him: _I have a duty to obey; Thecountry gave me birth and brought me up, and now it's got a war tofight._

  He arose and let himself down through the conning tower. He reached forthe microphone, but the receiver croaked again.

  "Sugar William Niner Zero, you are ordered to answer immediately.Mother's fixing shortening bread. Mother wants you. Over."

  Shortening bread--big plans, something special, a radiologicaldeath-dish for the world. He hated the voice quietly. His hand touchedthe microphone but did not lift it.

  He stood poised there in the light of a single glow-lamp, feeling hissmall sub rocking gently in the calm sea, listening to the quiet purr ofthe atomics beneath him. He had come to love the little sub, despite theloneliness of long weeks at sea. His only companion was the sub's smallcomputer which was used for navigation and for calculations pertainingto the firing of the rocket-missiles. It also handled the probabilitymathematics of random search, and automatically radioed periodicposition reports to the home-base computer.

  He glanced suddenly at his watch, it was nearly time for a report.Abruptly he reached out and jerked open the knife-switch in thecomputer's antenna circuit. Immediately the machine began clicking andclattering and chomping. A bit of paper tape suddenly licked out of itsanswer-slot. He tore it off and read the neatly printed words:MALFUNCTION, OPEN CIRCUIT, COMMUNICATIONS OUTPUT; INSERT DATA.

  Mitch "inserted data" by punching a button labelled NO REPAIR andanother labelled RADIO OUT. One bank of tubes immediately lost itsfilament-glow, and the computer shot out another bit of tape inscribedDATA ROGERED. He patted it affectionately and grinned. The computer wasjust a machine, but he found it easy to personalize the thing....

  The command-set was crackling again. "Sugar William Niner Zero, this isCommsubron Killer. Two messages. Mother wants you. Daddy has a razorstrap. Get on the ball out there, boy! Acknowledge. Over."

  Mitch whitened and picked up the microphone. He keyed the transmitter'scarrier and spoke in a quiet hiss. "Commsubron Killer from Sugar WilliamNiner Zero. Message for Daddy. Sonnyboy just resigned from the Navy. Goto hell, all of you! Over and out!"

  He shut off the receiver just as it started to stutter a shocked reply.He dropped the mike and let it dangle. He stood touching his fingertipsto his temples and breathing in shallow gasps. Had he gone completelyinsane?

  He sat down on the floor of the tiny compartment and tried to think. Buthe could only feel a bitter resentment welling up
out of nowhere. Why?He had always gotten along in the Navy. He was the undersea equivalentof a fighter pilot, and he had always liked his job. They had even saidthat "he had the killer instinct"--or whatever it was that made him grinmaliciously when he spotted an enemy sub and streaked in for the kill.

  * * * * *

  Now suddenly he didn't want to go back. He wanted to quit the whole damnwar and run away. Because of Garson maybe? But no, hadn't he anticipatedthat before it happened? Why should he kick now, when he hadn't kickedbefore? And who was _he_ to decide whether Garson was right or wrong?

  _Go back_, he thought. _There's the microphone. Pick it up and tellCommsubron that you went stir-crazy for a little while. Tell him wilcoon his message. They won't do anything to you except send you to a nutdoctor. Maybe you need one. Go on back like a sane man._

  But he drew his hand back from the microphone. He wiped his facenervously. Mitch had never
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