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Title: Way of a Rebel
Author: Miller, Walter M., 1923-1996
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Way of a Rebel" ***

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                            Way of a Rebel

                         By Walter Miller, Jr.

                     Illustrated by Rudolph Palais

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


[Sidenote: _No one knows the heart of a rebel until his own search for
the reason of right or wrong is made. Lieutenant Laskell found the
answer 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 the
Florida coast where he had been patrolling in search of enemy subs.
Darkness had fallen. He tuned his short wave set to the Miami station
just in time to hear the eight o'clock news. The grim announcement that
he 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 total
emergency for the nation. President Williston signed it immediately and
tendered his resignation to the Congress and the people. The executive,
legislative, and judiciary are now in the hands of the Department of
Defense. Secretary Garson has issued two decrees, one reminding all
citizens that they are no longer free to shirk their duties to the
nation, the other calling upon the leaders of the Eurasian Soviet to
cease air attacks on the American continent or suffer the consequences.

"In Secretary Garson's ultimatum to the enemy, he stated: 'Heretofore we
have refrained from employing certain weapons of warfare in the vain
hope that you would recognize the futility of further aggression and
desist from it. You have not done so. You have persisted in your
blood-thirsty folly, despite this nation's efforts to reach an agreement
for armistice. Therefore I am forced to command you, in the Name of
Almighty God, to surrender immediately or be destroyed. I shall allow
you one day in which to give evidence of submission. If such evidence is
not forthcoming, I shall implement this directive by a total
attack....'"

Mitch Laskell switched off the short wave set and muttered an oath. He
squeezed his way up through the narrow conning tower and sat on the
small deck, leaning back against the rocket-launcher and dangling his
feet in the calm ocean. The night was windless and warm, with the summer
stars 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 that
the Manlin Bill would be passed, and that Garson would be given absolute
powers to lead the nation through the war. And his ultimatum to the
enemy was no surprise. Garson had long favored an all-out radiological
attack, employing every nuclear weapon the country could muster.
Heretofore both sides had limited themselves to non-rigged atomic
explosives, and had refrained from using bacterial weapons. Garson
wanted to take off the boxing-gloves in favor of steel gauntlets. And
now it would happen--the all-out attack, the masterpiece of homicidal
engineering, the final word in destruction.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mitch, reclining in loneliness against the rocket-launcher, blew a
thoughtful cloud of cigarette smoke toward the bright yellow eye of
Arcturus, almost directly overhead, and wondered why the Constellation
Boötes suddenly looked like a big club ready to fall on the earth, when
it had always reminded him of a fly-swatter about to slap the Corona
Borealis. He searched himself for horror, but found only a gloomy
uneasiness. It was funny, he thought; five years ago men would have been
outraged at the notion of an American absolutism, with one man ruling by
decree. But now that it had happened, it was not to hard to accept. He
wondered at it.

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

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

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

The message meant: _return to base immediately_. And it implied an
urgency 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 suddenly
boiled up inside him as a _personal_ resentment. There was something
about the metallic rasp of the radio's voice that sparked him to sudden
rebelliousness.

"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 being
called in for rearmament with cobalt-rigged atomic warheads for their
guided missiles. The submarine force would probably be used to implement
Garson's ultimatum. They would deliver radiological death to Eurasian
coastal cities, and cause the Soviets to retaliate.

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

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

He arose and let himself down through the conning tower. He reached for
the 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 radiological
death-dish for the world. He hated the voice quietly. His hand touched
the microphone but did not lift it.

He stood poised there in the light of a single glow-lamp, feeling his
small sub rocking gently in the calm sea, listening to the quiet purr of
the atomics beneath him. He had come to love the little sub, despite the
loneliness of long weeks at sea. His only companion was the sub's small
computer which was used for navigation and for calculations pertaining
to the firing of the rocket-missiles. It also handled the probability
mathematics of random search, and automatically radioed periodic
position 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 the
computer's antenna circuit. Immediately the machine began clicking and
clattering and chomping. A bit of paper tape suddenly licked out of its
answer-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 and
another labelled RADIO OUT. One bank of tubes immediately lost its
filament-glow, and the computer shot out another bit of tape inscribed
DATA ROGERED. He patted it affectionately and grinned. The computer was
just a machine, but he found it easy to personalize the thing....

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

Mitch whitened and picked up the microphone. He keyed the transmitter's
carrier and spoke in a quiet hiss. "Commsubron Killer from Sugar William
Niner Zero. Message for Daddy. Sonnyboy just resigned from the Navy. Go
to 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 fingertips
to his temples and breathing in shallow gasps. Had he gone completely
insane?

He sat down on the floor of the tiny compartment and tried to think. But
he could only feel a bitter resentment welling up out of nowhere. Why?
He had always gotten along in the Navy. He was the undersea equivalent
of a fighter pilot, and he had always liked his job. They had even said
that "he had the killer instinct"--or whatever it was that made him grin
maliciously 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 damn
war and run away. Because of Garson maybe? But no, hadn't he anticipated
that before it happened? Why should he kick now, when he hadn't kicked
before? And who was _he_ to decide whether Garson was right or wrong?

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

But he drew his hand back from the microphone. He wiped his face
nervously. Mitch had never spent much time worrying about ethics and
creeds and political philosophies. He'd had a job to do, and he did it,
and he sometimes sneered at people who could wax starry-eyed about
patriotism and such. It didn't make sense. The old school spirit was
okay for football games, and even for small-time wars, but he had never
felt much of it. He hadn't needed it in order to be a good fighter. He
fought because it was considered the "thing to do," because he liked the
people he had to live with, and because those people wouldn't have a
good opinion of him if he didn't fight. People never needed much of a
philosophic motive to make them do the socially approved things.

He moistened his lips nervously and stared at the microphone. He was
scared. Scared to run away. He had never been afraid of a _fight_,
frightened maybe, but not afraid. Why now? _It takes a lot of courage to
be a coward_, he thought, but the word _coward_ made him wince. He
groped blindly for a reasonable explanation of his desire to desert. He
wanted to talk to somebody about it, because he was the kind of man who
could think best in an argument. But there was no one to talk to except
the radio.

The computer's keyboard was almost at his elbow. He stared at it for a
moment, then slowly typed:

DATA: WIND OUT OF THE NORTH, WAVE FACTOR 0.50 ROUGHNESS SCALE.

INSTRUCTIONS: SUGGEST ACTION.

The machine chewed on the entry noisily for a few seconds, then
answered: INSUFFICIENT DATA.

He nodded thoughtfully. That was his predicament too: insufficient data
about his own motives. How could a man trust himself to judge wisely,
when his judgement went completely against that of his society? He typed
again.

DATA FOR HYPOTHETICAL PROBLEM: YOU HAVE JUST SOLVED A NAVIGATIONAL
PROBLEM WHOSE SOLUTION REQUIRES COURSE DUE WEST. THREE OTHER COMPUTERS
SOLVE SAME PROBLEM AND GET COURSE DUE SOUTH. MALFUNCTION NOT EVIDENT IN
ANY OF FOUR COMPUTERS.

INSTRUCTIONS: FURNISH A COURSE.

The computer clattered for awhile, then typed: SUGGESTION: MALFUNCTION
INDICATORS ARE POSSIBLY MALFUNCTIONING. IS DATA AVAILABLE?

He stared at it, then laughed grimly. His _own_ malfunction-indicator
wasn't telling him much either. With masochistic fatalism he touched the
keyboard again.

DATA NOT AVAILABLE. FURNISH A COURSE.

The computer replied almost immediately this time: COURSE: DUE WEST.

Mitch stared at it and bit his lip. The machine would follow its own
solution, even if the other three contradicted it. Naturally--it would
_have_ to follow its own solution, if there was no indication of
malfunction. But could a human being make such a decision? Could a man
decide, "I am right, and everyone else is wrong?"

_No evidence of malfunction_, he thought. _I am not a coward. Neither am
I insane._

His heart cried: "I am disgusted with this purposeless war. I shall quit
fighting it."

He sighed deeply, then arose. There was nothing else to do. The atomic
engines could go six months without refueling. There were enough
undersea rations to last nearly that long.

He switched on the radio again, goosed the engines to full speed, and
after a moment's thought, swung around on a northeasterly heading. His
first impulse had been to head south, aiming for Yucatan, or the
Guianas--but that impulse would also be the first to strike his pursuers
who were sure to come.

A new voice was growling on the radio, and he recognized it as Captain
Barkley, his usually jovial, slightly cynical commanding officer.
"Listen, Mitch--if you can hear me, better answer. What's wrong with you
anyhow? I can't hold off much longer. If you don't reply, I'll have to
hunt you down. You're ordered to proceed immediately to the nearest
base. Over."

Mitch wanted to answer, wanted to argue and fume and curse, hoping that
he could explain his behaviour to his own satisfaction. But they might
not be certain of his exact location, and if he used the radio,
half-a-dozen direction-finders would swing around to aim along his
signal, and Barkley would plot the half-a-dozen lines on the map in his
office before speaking crisply into his telephone: _all right, boys--get
him! 29° 10' North, 79° 50' West. Use a P-charge if you can't spot him
by radar or sonar._

Mitch left the controls in the hands of the computer and went up to
stand in the conning tower with the churning spray washing his face.
Surfaced, the sub could make sixty knots, and he meant to stay surfaced
until there were hints of pursuit.

       *       *       *       *       *

A three-quarter moon was rising in gloomy orange majesty out of the
quiet sea. It made a river of syrupy light across the water to the east,
and it heightened his sense of unreality, his feeling of detachment from
danger.

Is it always like this, he wondered? Can a man toss aside his society so
easily, become a traitor with so little logical reason? A day ago, he
would not have dreamed it possible. A day ago, he would have proclaimed
with the cynical Barkley, "A sailor's got no politics. What the hell's
it to me if Garson is Big Boss? I'm just a little tooth in a big gear.
Uncle pays my keep. I ask no questions."

And now he was running like hell and stealing several million bucks
worth of Uncle's Navy, all because Garson's pomposity and a radio
operator's voice got under his skin. How could a man be so crazy?

But no, that _couldn't_ be it, he thought. Jeezil! He must have some
better reason. Sort of a last straw, maybe. But he had been conscious of
no great resentment against the war or the Navy or the government.
Historically speaking, wars had never done a great deal of harm--no more
harm than industrial or traffic accidents.

Why was this war any different? It promised to be more destructive than
the others, but that was drawing a rather narrow line. Who was he to
draw his bayonet across the road and say, "Stop here. This is the
limit."

Mitch turned his back toward the whipping spray and stared aft along the
phosphorescent, moon-swept wake of his mechanical shark. The radio was
still barking at him with Barkley's clipped tones.

"Last warning, Laskell! Get on that microphone or suffer the
consequences! We know where you are. I'll give you fifteen minutes, then
we'll come get you. Over and out."

Thanks for the warning, Mitch thought. In a few minutes, he would have
to submerge. His eyes swept the moon-washed heavens for signs of
aircraft, and he watched the dark horizon for hints of pursuit.

He meant to keep the northeasterly course for perhaps ten hours, then
turn off and cruise southeast, passing below Bermuda and on out into the
central Atlantic. Then south--perhaps to Africa or Brazil. A fugitive
for the rest of his days.

"Sugar William Niner Zero," barked the radio. "This is Commsubfleet
Jaybird. Over."

Mitch moistened his lips nervously. The voice was no longer Barkley's.
Commsubfleet Jaybird was Admiral Harrinore. He chuckled bitterly then,
realizing that he was still automatically startled by rank. He remained
in the conning tower, listening.

"Sugar William Niner Zero, this is Commsubfleet Jaybird. If you will
obey orders immediately, I guarantee that you will be allowed to accept
summary discipline. No court martial if you comply. You are to return to
base at once. Otherwise, we shall be forced to blast you out of the
ocean as a deserter to the enemy. Over."

So that was it, he thought. They were worried about the sub falling into
Soviet paws. Some of its equipment was still classified "secret",
although the Reds probably already had it.

No, he wasn't deserting to the enemy. Neither side was right in the
struggle, although he preferred the West's brand of wrongness to the
bloodier wrongness of the Reds. But a man in choosing the lesser of two
evils must first decide whether the choice really _has to be made_, and
if there is not a third and more desirable way. Before picking a weapon
for self-destruction, it might help to reason whether or not suicide is
really necessary.

He smiled sardonically into the gray gloom, knowing that his thinking
was running backwards, that he had acted before reasoning why, that he
was rationalizing in an attempt to soothe himself and absolve himself.
But a lot of human thinking occurred beneath the level of consciousness,
down in the darker regions of the mind where it was not allowed to
become conscious lest it bring shame to the thinker. And perhaps he had
reasoned it all out in that mental half-world where thoughts are inner
ghosts, haunting the possessed man with vague stirrings of uneasiness,
leading him into inexplicable behaviour.

I am free now, he told himself. I have given them my declaration of
independence, and I am an animal struggling to survive. Living in
society, a man must submit to its will, but now I am divorced from it,
and I shall live apart from it if I live at all, and I shall owe it
nothing. The "governed" no longer gives his consent. How many times have
men said, "If you don't like the system here, why don't you get out?"
Well, he was getting out, and as a freeborn human animal, born as a
savage into the world, he had that right, if he had any rights at all.

He grunted moodily and lowered himself down into the belly of the sub.
They would be starting the search soon. He sealed the hatches and opened
the water intakes after slowing to a crawl. The sub shivered and
settled. The indicator crept to ten feet, twenty, thirty. At fifty feet,
he jabbed a button on the computer, and the engines growled a harder
thrust. He kept the northeasterly heading at maximum underwater speed.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour crept by. He listened for code on the sonar equipment, but heard
only the weird and nameless sea-sounds. He allowed himself a reading
light in the cramped compartment, folded the map-table up from the wall,
and studied the coastline of Africa.

He began to feel a frightening loneliness, although scarcely two hours
had passed since his rebellious decision, and he was accustomed to long
weeks alone at sea. He scoffed at himself. He would get along okay; the
sub would take him any place he wanted to go, if he could escape
pursuit. Surely there must be some part of the world where men were not
concerned with the senseless struggle of the titans. But all such places
were primitive, savage, almost unendurable to a man born and tuned to
the violin-string pitch of technological culture.

Mitch realized dismally that he loved technological civilization, its
giant tools, its roar of mighty engines, its proud structures of
concrete and steel. He could sacrifice his love for particular people,
for particular places and governments--but it was going to be harder to
relinquish mechanical civilization for some stone-age culture lingering
in an out-of-the-way place. Changing tribes was easy, for all tribes
belonged to Man, but renouncing machinery for jungle tools would be more
difficult. A man could change his politics, his friends, his religion,
his country, but Man's tools were a part of his body. Having used a
high-powered rifle, the man subsumed the weapon, made it a part of
himself. Trading it for a stone axe would be like cutting off his arm.
Man was a user of tools, a shaper of environments.

_That was it_, he thought. The reason for his sudden rebellion, the
narrow dividing line between tolerable and insufferable wars. A war that
killed human beings might be tolerable, if it left most of
civilizations' industry intact, or at least restorable, for although men
might die, Man lived on, still possessing his precious tools, still
capable of producing greater ones. But a war that wrecked industry, left
it a tangled jumble of radioactive concrete and steel--that kind of war
was insufferable, as this one threatened to be.

The idea shocked him. Kill a few men, and you scratch the hide of
Historical Man. But wreck the industry, drive men out of the cities,
leave the factories hissing with beta and gamma radiation, and you
amputate the hands of Historical Man the Builder. The machinery of
civilization was a living body, with organismic Man as its brain. And
the brain had not yet learned to use the body for a constructive
purpose. It lacked coordination, and the ability to reason its actions
analytically.

Was _he_ basing action on analytic reason?

Another hour had passed. And then he heard it. The sound of faint sonar
communication. Quickly he nosed upward to twenty feet, throttled back to
half speed, and raised the periscope. With his face pressed against the
eyepiece, he scanned the moonlit ocean in a slow circle. No lights, no
silhouettes against the reflections on the waves.

He started the pumps and prepared to surface. Then the conning tower was
snorting through the water like a rolling porpoise. He shut off the
engines, leaving the sub in utter silence except for the soft wash of
the sea. He adjusted the sonar pickups, turned the amplifier to maximum,
and listened intently. Nothing. Had he imagined it?

He jabbed a button, and a motor purred, rolling out the retractable
radar antenna. Carefully he scanned the sky and sea, watching the
green-mottled screen for blips. Nothing--no ships or aircraft visible.
But he was certain: for a moment he had heard the twitter of undersea
communicators.

       *       *       *       *       *

He sat waiting and listening. Perhaps they had heard his engines,
although his own equipment had caught none of their drive-noise.

The computer was able to supervise several tasks at once, and he set it
to continue sweeping the horizon with the radar, to listen for sonar
code and engine purr while he attended to other matters. He readied two
torpedoes and raised a rocket into position for launching. He opened the
hatch and climbed to stand in the conning tower again, peering grimly
around the horizon.

Minutes later, a buzzer sounded beneath him. The computer had something
now. He glanced at the parabolic radar antenna, rearing its head a dozen
feet above him. It had stopped its aimless scanning and was quivering
steadily on the southeast horizon. _Southeast?_

He lowered himself quickly into the ship and stared at the luminous
screen. Blips--three blips--barely visible. While he watched, a fourth
appeared.

He clamped on his headsets. There it _was_! The faint engine-noise of
ships. His trained senses told him they were subs. Subs out of the
southeast? He had expected interception from the west--first aircraft,
then light surface vessels.

There was but one possible answer: the enemy.

He dived for the radio and waited impatiently for the tubes to warm
again. He found himself shouting into the mic.

"Commsubron Killer, this is Sugar William Niner Zero. Urgent message.
Over."

He was a long way from the station. He repeated the call three times. At
last a faintly audible voice came from the set.

"... this is Commsubron Killer. You are ordered to return
immediately...."

The voice faded again.

"Listen!" Mitch bellowed. "Four, no--_five_ enemy submarine--position
31°50´ North, 73°10´ West, proceeding northwest--roughly, toward
Washington. Probably carrying an answer to Garson's ultimatum. Get help
out here. Over."

He heard only a brief mutter this time. "... ordered not to proceed
toward Washington. Return immediately to--"

"Not me! You fool! Listen! Five--enemy--submarines--" He repeated the
message as slowly as he could, repeated it four times.

"... reading you S-1," came the fading answer. "Are you in distress? I
say again. Are you in distress? Over."

Angrily Mitch keyed the carrier wave, screwed the button tightly down,
and kicked on the four-hundred cycle modulator. Maybe they could get a
directional fix on his signal and home on it.

The blips were gone from the radar scope. The subs had spotted him and
submerged. In a moment he would be catching a torpedo, unless he moved.
He started the engines quickly, and the surfaced sub lurched ahead. He
nosed her toward the enemy craft and opened the throttle. She knifed
through the water like a low-running PT boat, throwing a V-shaped fan of
spray. When he reached the halfway point between his own former position
and the place where the enemy submerged, he began jabbing a release at
three second intervals, laying a trail of deadly eggs. He could hear the
crash of the exploding depth-charges behind him. He swung around to make
another pass.

Then he saw it--the wet metal hulk rearing up like a massive whale dead
ahead. They had discovered the insignificance of their lone and
pint-sized attacker. They were coming up to take him with deck guns.

Mitch reversed the engines and swung quickly away. The range was too
close for a torpedo. The blast would catch them both. He began
submerging quickly. A sickening blast shivered his tiny craft, and then
another. He dropped to sixty feet, then knifed ahead.

God! Why was he doing this? There was no sense in it, if he meant to run
away. But then the thought came: they're returning Old Man Garson's
big-winded threat. They're bringing a snootful of radiological hell, and
that's the damned bayonet-line across the road.

       *       *       *       *       *

Depth charges were crashing around him as he wove a zig-zag course. The
computer was buzzing frantically. Then he saw why. The rocket launcher
hadn't retracted; there was still a rocket in it--with a snootful of
Uranium 235. The thing was dragging at the water, slowing him down,
causing the sub to shudder and lurch.

Apparently all the subs had surfaced, for the charges were falling on
all sides. With the launcher dragging at him, they would get him sooner
or later. He tried to nose upward, but the controls refused.

He knew what would happen if he tried to fire the rocket. Hell, he
didn't have to fire it. All he had to do was fuse it. It had a
water-pressure fuse, and he was beneath exploding depth.

_Don't think about it! Do it!_

No, you've got to think. That's what's wrong. Too much do, not enough
think. They're going to wreck mechanical civilization if they keep it
up. They're going to wreck Man's tools, cut off his hands, and make him
an ape again!

But what's it to you? What can _you_ do?

Dammit! You can destroy five _wrong_ tools that were built to wreck the
_right_ tools.

Mitch, who wanted to quit an all-out war, reached for the fusing switch.
_This_ part was _his_ war; destroy the destroyers, but not the
producers. Even if it didn't make good military sense--

A close explosion sent him lurching aside. He grabbed at the wall and
pushed himself back. The switch--the damn double-toggle _red switch_! He
screamed a curse and struck at it with both fists.

There came a beautiful, blinding light.





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