Beware the Fury
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by Theodore Sturgeon
Category: Science Fiction
Description: Meet Wolf Reger--traitor. Compared to him Benedict Arnold was a national hero and Judas Iscariot a paragon of virtue. At least that's the way it showed in the Major's notes?. But traitors aren't born that way. Something has to happen to them long before they turn against society. That's why, when you dig deep enough, you may find that the word traitor can be one hell of a misnomer!
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks, 1954 Fantastic Stories
eBookwise Release Date: May 2010
9 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [47 KB]
Reading time: 26-36 min.
Read it for yourself," said the Major.
She took the sheaf of flimsies from him and for a moment gave him that strange dry gaze. The woman's in shock, he thought, and did what he could to put down the other two memories he had of eyes like that: an injured starling which had died in his hand; his four-year-old niece, the time he struck her, and the long unbearable moment between the impact and her tears.
Mrs. Reger read carefully and slowly.
Department of Defense
Bureau of Astronautics
Division of Planetary Exploration
She said, at last, "That is the foulest thing a human being has ever done." Then her mouth slept again.
"I'm glad you agree," he said gratefully. "I was afraid that--"
"I don't think I understand you," she said tonelessly.
"That's what I was afraid of," he said miserably. "You meant the report. I thought you meant Wolf Reger."
She glanced down at the report. "That isn't Wolf. Wolf might be a lot of things ... things that are ... hard to understand. But he isn't a traitor." The Major saw her face lifting and turned his head to avoid those hurt eyes. "I think," she said quietly, "that you'd better go, Major, and take those lies with you."
He made no move toward the report. "Mrs. Reger," he suddenly shouted, "do you think I'm enjoying this? Do you think I volunteered for this job?"
"I hadn't thought about you at all."
"Try it," he said bitterly. Then, "Sorry. I'm sorry. This whole thing ... " He pulled himself together. "I wish I could believe you. But you've got to realize that a man died to make that report and get it back to us. We have no choice but to take it for the truth and act accordingly. What else can we do?"
"Do what you like. But don't ask me to believe things about my husband that just aren't so."
God, he thought, where did a rat like Reger ever find such a woman? As gently as he could, he said, "Very well, Mrs. Reger. You needn't believe it.... May I tell you exactly what my assignment is?"
She did not answer.
He said, "I was detailed to get from you everything which might have any bearing on--on this report." He pointed. "Whether I believe it or not is immaterial. Perhaps if you can tell me enough about the man, I won't believe it. Perhaps," he said, knowing his voice lacked conviction, "we can clear him. Wouldn't you help clear him?"
"He doesn't need clearing," she said impatiently. Then, when he made a tiny, exasperated sound, she said, "I'll help you. What do you want to know?"
All the relief, all the gratitude, and all the continuing distaste for this kind of work were in his voice. "Everything. Why he might do a thing like that." And, quickly, "Or why he wouldn't."
She told him about Wolf Reger, the most hated man on earth.
Beware the fury of a patient man.
Wolf Reger had so many talents that they were past enumerating. With them he had two characteristics which were extreme. One was defenselessness. The other was an explosive anger which struck without warning, even to Reger himself.
His defenselessness sprang from his excess of ability. When blocked, it was all too easy for him to excel in some other field. It was hard to make him care much for anything. Rob him, turn him, use him--it didn't matter. In a day, a week, he could find something better. For this he was robbed, and turned, and used.
His anger was his only terror. Perhaps this was innate; more likely it was the result of his guardian's cold theory of discipline, and a conviction that anger is a destructive habit and must be crushed the instant it shows itself. When he was two, when he was three, and twice when he was five, Wolf Reger was knocked unconscious by single, instant blows when he showed anger. Direct punishment was never necessary again.
When he was eight he was chasing another boy--it was fun; they ran and laughed and dodged through the boy's large old house. And at the very peak of hilarity, the other boy ran outside and slammed the french doors in Wolf's face and stood grinning through the glass. Wolf instantly hit the face with his fist. The double-thick glass shattered. Wolf severed two tendons and an artery in his wrist, and the other boy fell gasping, blood from his carotid spurting between his futile fingers. The boy was saved, but the effect on Wolf was worse than if he had died.
He never ran and shouted again. He lived every moment of the next four years under the pressure of his own will, holding down what he felt was an internal devil, analyzing every situation he met for the most remote possibility of its coming to life again.
When he was twelve he met a situation he could not avoid. He was in his second year of high-school then, and every day for three weeks a bulky sophomore twice his size would catch him on his way from English to Geometry II, wrap a thick arm around his neck, and grind a set of knuckles into his scalp. Wolf took it and took it, and one day he tore himself free and struck. He was small and thin, and the chances are that the surprise of the attack was more effective than its power. Their legs were entangled and the bigger boy was off balance. He hit the tile floor with his head and lay quite still with his lips white and blood trickling from his ear. For six weeks they did not know if he would live or not. Wolf was expelled from school the day it happened, and never went to another. From that point on he never dared be angry.
It was easy to hate Wolf Reger. He surpassed anyone he worked with and was disliked for it. He retreated from anyone who wanted what he had, and was despised for it.
He had two great successes--one a chemical process and one an airfoil design. They taught him enough about fame to frighten him away from it. Fame meant people, meetings, associates. After that he let others take the credit for the work he did, and if he hated them, he dared not show it.
At thirty he was married.
The question hung offensively in the air between them for an appreciable time before the Major realized that he had spoken it aloud and incredulously.
She said, carefully, "Major, what have you in your notebook so far?"
He looked down at the neat rows of symbols. "A few facts. A few conjectures."
With an accuracy that shook him in his chair, she said coldly, "You have him down as a warped little genius with every reason to hate humanity. If I weren't sure of that, I wouldn't go on with this. Major," she said suddenly in a different voice, "suppose I told you that I was walking down the street and a man I had never seen before suddenly roared at me, leapt on my back, knocked me down, beat me and rolled me in the gutter. Suppose you had fifty eye-witnesses who would swear it happened. What would you think of the man?"
He looked at her sleek hair, her strong, obedient features. Despite himself he felt a quixotic anger toward her attacker, even in hypothesis. "Isn't it obvious? The man would have to be a drunk, a psychopath. At the very least he would have to be deluded, think you were someone else. Even if he did, only a real skunk would do a thing like that to a woman." He suddenly realized how easily she had pulled him away from his subject, and was annoyed. "What has this to do--"
"I hope you'll soon see," she said thoughtfully. Then, "You wanted to know why he married me."
The army wants to know that, he corrected silently. I'd like to know why you married him.
She committed suicide.