The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Furious Rose

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Title: The Furious Rose

Author: Dean Evans

Illustrator: Thorne

Release date: February 21, 2016 [eBook #51257]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


The Furious Rose


Illustrated by THORNE

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction January 1952.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

This world was a setup for any man who wanted to get
along—provided one had enough victims to toss to the wolves!

The Master Clock on the black desk in the office of Federal Executions made a quiet blipping sound. Immediately the lights lowered to Emote Neutral. Long, probing shadow fingers snaked here and there across the floor, and a silence that should have been restful—and wasn't—descended on the place.

Tony Radek leaned back in his chair and frowned. One-fifteen in the morning. At one-fifteen in the morning no man, no matter who, should be going to his Neg-Emote. Why not hang a man instead? Or electrocute him? Or gas him the way they used to back in the old days? In those old days his grandfather used to talk about, where twelve ordinary citizens said the word that peeled the life off a man like skinning an onion.

He sighed softly and folded his hands across a tiny paunch that was just beginning to show. Tony Radek was getting old. He was a "safe" now. That meant he needn't worry about the war any longer. He was a nice, mild, peaceable gentleman who stayed at home and thought beautiful thoughts about the younger men out in space. A man his age didn't feel anger and hate and retribution and lust and treachery any more. He was just a little old fat guy. He was the Federal Executioner.

He frowned again and leaned forward and touched a nacre button on the desk top. That lit up the screen on his left. Not the Master Screen, which was the one on his right. This was the other, the one that could tell him what was going on outside the office, outside in Portal Waiting, where certain peculiar ghouls who derived a measure of excitement from the executions were allowed by the gracious State to hang out.

He stared at the screen. His frown deepened. Portal Waiting should be bare and vacant at this hour, but it wasn't. This was the third night in a row that it wasn't. There was a girl out there. A quiet girl, a girl who looked about as ghoulish as one of the nice red ritual roses over in the cooler built into the wall.

Damn the dame, why didn't she go home? Tony Radek's upper lip lifted a little, showing small angry teeth.

At once the Emote Neutral lights in the office flickered wildly. Tony pulled his eyes from the screen and glared up at the lights. That's progress for you. Let a man go on one little momentary emotional binge, like this, and right away spies in the joint start screaming. In a moment now, the one on his right—the Master Screen—would blink into life and old hell-hips himself would start poking around asking questions. Just see if it didn't.

He turned his head to the right, stared at the Master Screen and waited.

The screen blazed into life. A narrow-faced man with washed-away eyes that looked as though they'd seen sin and hadn't liked it peered angrily over toward Tony behind the desk.

"Mr. Radek!" he had a thin, thin voice that sounded like a sheet of paper slitting down the middle. "What's going on down there? Can't you control your own office? Or maybe you'd like to be back in Training?" The eyes squinted sharply.

Tony worked up an innocent look. He spread his hands on the black surface of the desk, smiled, and said mildly: "Out of your mind. My lights have been as steady as old Emote Neutral herself. Probably that blonde you got Central Direction kidded into thinking you need as an assistant—probably you sneaked up on her when she was in Personal Lok and...."

"What?" The Master Screen trembled a little and the narrow-faced man's eyes seemed to jerk out of registration for a moment. "Look here, Radek, I've stood just about enough of your insinuations!"

"Look who's making the lights flicker now," said Tony calmly. He waved an arm around the office. Emote Neutral was flickering rapidly as though controlled by an interrupter switch. "Central Direction should see this," he observed.

He stared briefly at the contorted face on the screen. That face was working convulsively now, getting red like the ritual roses over in the cooler.

He snorted disgustedly, reached forward and touched the matswitch which threw the Master Screen into visi-lok. At once the screen darkened and all sound left the office.

That was more like it. Let old hell-hips up in Supplies and Control stew if he wanted, there wasn't anything in the Constitution—not even the old Constitution—that said a man had to sit and look at him.

"Central Direction to Radek!" a hard voice rapped out of the alternate speaker over in the corner.

Tony Radek jerked, spun around. He swallowed quickly, said nervously: "Yes, sir?"

"Radek, you're violating Ordinance Six, Code 325, Division of Security! Unlock that visi-screen at once!"

"Yes, sir." Tony's hand flew to the matswitch, pulled it. "Sorry. Elbow must have hit it accidentally. Didn't know it was locked...."

"Radek, there's a war on. That visi-lok must be used only in emergency. You know that."

"Yes, sir. Like I said...."

"I heard. In the future, be a little more careful. And, Radek—"

"Yes, sir?"

"Ready Cell Two. Execution at one-twenty-seven. John Edward Haley. Convicted of mass interference of morale, City of Greater New Denver, as outlined under Congressional Act of April 12, 2250. Decision rendered equally on all three Final Master Machines."

"No appeal?" asked Tony very softly.

"No appeal. And, Radek—"

"Yes, sir?"

"The condemned is married. Check with Supplies and Control for bill of divorcement. His wife is a young woman, will have to marry again in the morning as outlined under Congressional Act of May 28, 2211. Got that?"

"Yes, sir."

The Master Screen went dead. Tony blinked. Bill of divorcement. Will have to marry again in the morning as outlined under Congressional Act. By God, that's progress for you! He sat staring at the Master Screen for a long time.

Then he sighed, punched the button on Supplies and Control.

"Hell-hips!" he growled. "Snap it up. Execution at one-twenty-seven. Bill of divorcement."

The narrow face peered sourly out at him from the Master Screen. It didn't have much emotion in it now. It was almost blank, like the face of a humanoid robot somebody'd left something out of.

"Been hittin' the bottle again, huh?" said Tony.

"My name is Clacker, Mr. Radek. Arthur Jared Clacker. Kindly keep that in mind when you address me."

"Sure, sure. Nice name. Lovely name. Sounds like a stone-boat going over ground glass. Whip up that bill of divorcement."

"It's ready, Mr. Radek. Been ready for the last half hour. I suggest that if there were a little of my own well known and demonstrated efficiency in your office, perhaps Executions would be something to be proud of. Instead of what it is. Instead of the foul-smelling, sloppily run, lice-infested...."

Tony's hand reached out for the button on Supplies and Control. "Watch those lights," he said tiredly.

He got up from the desk, stretched a little and went across the office to the cooler in the opposite wall. His feet made no noise; he had that quiet tread that all cats, a few men and some women achieve. His hand interrupted the automatic cellgard and a tiny, almost hidden door in the wall swung wide. He reached up, poked his hand in the cooler, felt around. A little smile came into his eyes. He took his hand out of the cooler, got up on tiptoes and looked inside. No roses. Not even one rose.

Not even half of a rose.

Chuckling, he went back to the desk and jabbed a finger at the button over Supplies and Control.

"Hell-hips!" he rapped. "Where's all that well known and demonstrated efficiency I've had to rake out of my ears?"

The narrow face lit up the Master Screen once more. It looked bored now. "Mr. Radek, there was something?"

"Yeah. Something." Tony's voice dropped, got deadly soft. "How many weeks since you checked the cooler, boy? There aren't any ritual roses."

"There—there aren't any?"

"That's right, Mr. Clacker. Now get away from that screen. I'm reporting this to Central Direction." His finger jammed down on the Supplies and Control button. He watched the Master Screen go blank and grinned. He thought, "Shake a little, Mr. Clacker, shake a little," because he didn't dare even whisper to himself.

He sat down at the desk again and thought of something. His finger went out, touched the button on the screen on the left—the Portal Waiting screen.

She was still there, hunched up in one of the chairs like a small child somebody had left in an interplanet waiting room and then gone away and forgotten. Tony frowned once more. Damn that dame, she was spoiling his nights.

He got up, crossed the office on silent feet, opened the door of Executions, went down a bare, silent hall. At the levelators he waited a moment for the platform, took it down, got off again at Portal Waiting, and crossed to the foyer.

She was there, just as she'd been on the screen upstairs, only clearer, more vivid, something witnessed instead of second hand, something with dimension to it. She was in a big chair that could have accommodated two like her. She had her legs tucked under her and her brown eyes that looked up at Tony's approach weren't any larger than two full moons.

He said, "Are you Mrs. John Haley?"

The girl nodded. "They—they've got Johnny...."

"I know." Tony dropped into a chair opposite the girl. "It's late," he said softly. "You shouldn't be here this time of night, Mrs. Haley."

The girl thought about that. "You're Mr. Radek, aren't you? In the Execution Office?"

"Call me Tony, Mrs. Haley."

"All right, Tony. Yes, it's late. I hadn't noticed, but I suppose you're right."

"You should go home, Mrs. Haley." He stopped, then lied a little. "They'll let you know. You don't have to worry."

You don't have to worry. They're bringing the guy up now, little girl, but you don't have to worry. Old hell-hips is getting a ritual rose now, little girl, but you don't have to worry.

As if he'd deliberately telepathed the thought, the girl said suddenly: "Tony, is—is it true about the furious roses? I mean, if a man is found guilty, do they—?"

"The 'furious' roses, Mrs. Haley?" He smiled. "I see. You mean because they're so red. Yes, it's true. Ritual roses, we call them, but that's nothing. Nothing at all. A custom only. A symbol handed down. It means nothing."

"I know." The girl nodded again. "When we were children, we always called them the furious roses because they were a furious red. We always used to say that if an innocent man was executed, the furious red rose would right away turn white, Tony. To show they'd been wrong about him."

He shrugged. "Bedtime stories, Mrs. Haley."

"Not—not that it means anything to me, Tony. They'll find Johnny innocent, of course. All three machines. The final machines."

Innocent? Oh, sure.

"A man," said Tony with a vague motion of his hands. "What's the difference what man a woman has? In the morning there's always another—and another name. What's the difference?" He smiled a small toy smile with eyes half closed so the girl couldn't look too closely into them.

But it was all right, she hadn't heard. At least she wasn't balling those big eyes of hers at him. She was looking down into her folded hands.

He continued, "There's a war on, Mrs. Haley. It seems there's always a war on, somehow. And everybody—you, me, the guy down the street who skins ships for a living—we all have to remember that. And yet some of us don't. Some of us go off on a tangent and try to sell out our country and then there's hell to pay. And if we're found guilty, we get the execution. The Neg-Emote."

The girl's lips began to tremble. She looked up. "Does it hurt, Tony? I mean...."

"Physically? No, of course not." A corner of his mouth curled. "We're humane nowadays, hadn't you heard? We just strap a man in a chair and press a button and down comes a metal hood over him. We press some more buttons and pull a switch or two, and that's that. No feeling, nothing. The man's as good as new except he has no emotions any more. No emotions whatever except personal physical pain, such as he'd need in case somebody stepped on his toe or jabbed him with a pin. The State wants us to protect ourselves, you see. It wouldn't want us getting hurt because we don't feel anything."

He stopped because it was getting harder to continue. "We used to call it 'stripping,' but that was long ago before the humane boys decided the term was a little cruel. Now it's just Neg-Emoting. But the same thing. Just a fancy title."

Her big eyes were suddenly eating into his. "What do they do with them, Tony?"

He shrugged again. "Send 'em off to Training. Some can be taught this, some that, but a living death nevertheless. What else can a traitor expect?"

The girl began to tremble all over. "Not Johnny! They can't do that to Johnny! He's innocent, Tony—he didn't do anything! Tony, tell them that! Tell them to let him go...."

He put his teeth together hard. What do you say to a woman who sits across from you, waiting the long, long wait? What do you say to a woman like this when you see the terror—and something else—in eyes like hers?

"You like the guy, Mrs. Haley?" he asked gently. "That's old-fashioned as hell, you know. We all learn that way back in primaries."

But the woman wasn't listening again, wasn't caring what he'd said. She began to whisper very softly:

"In the nights I used to be frightened. I used to lie there asleep and dream of the ships coming down and spraying the house with the burn-waves. And I could hear the roaring thunder of the jets and the house would start to shake and I'd try to yell, but I couldn't. Something inside would be choking me. And just when the burn-waves would be coming hot through the window and licking at the walls inside the room, I'd scream myself awake and jump up in bed and the sweat would be pouring off me."

Tony stared, incredulous, into the big balls of fright that her eyes had become.

"And then the lights would come on again, and there would be Johnny lying next to me smiling a little, and his curly hair would be all tousled from sleep, and he'd say to me, 'Baby, you've been dreaming again. Don't you know I'm here? Don't you know I'll always be here? Don't you know that, Baby?' And then it would be all right, and the roaring jets would be only the dawn shift going out on Security Patrol. And then I could go back to sleep again."

She stopped. Portal Waiting had become a gray ghost of a thing with nothing living in it, only the clouds of memory like smoke veils swirling, drifting here and there, soon gone.

And then: "They'll let him go, Tony. He's innocent, you know. They have to let him go."

He didn't look at her. He got up from his chair, put his hands rigidly at his sides. Then he did look, just once, and very hard.

"Get out of here!" he growled.

"No, Tony."

He took a deep breath, turned, went across the foyer to the levelators. As he passed under the huge Master Screen, her voice came again, but quite thin:

"You'll let me know, Tony? You'll let me know as soon as you get word?"

He didn't answer, didn't look back, didn't do anything except keep going to the levelators. He went upstairs, found the door of Executions, opened it, went through, let it slam shut.

Things started to happen. The Master Clock over on the black desk made a quiet blipping sound and the Emote Neutral lights went out. At once the office was flooded with Amber Official, the working lights. Then the Master Screen glowed and a narrow-faced man with washed-away eyes looked out at him.

"Condemned is waiting, Mr. Radek," the narrow-faced man said acidly. "Cell Two is getting dusty waiting for you, Mr. Radek. Very dusty."

Tony looked up. His heart wasn't in it, but he said it anyhow: "Go chase your blonde some more, hell-hips."

He went over to the desk, banged the Supplies and Control button, held it down. Master Screen darkened. He looked at the small square of white paper on the black desk top.

A bill of divorcement. Like that. So in the morning the kid downstairs could go out and get herself another mate and then she could go back to bed again and dream some more about the roaring jets and the burn-waves.

He reached up and wiped at his forehead. She didn't have to see it happen. Nothing in the Constitution—old or new—stated she had to see it happen. He looked down at the matswitch that controlled the visi-lok on the Master Screen. He clamped his teeth together and his hand went out and flipped the switch. The office went dead.

Maybe nobody'd notice. Maybe he'd have time to slip into Cell Two and get it over with before anybody noticed. He started across the room on fast, silent feet.

"Radek!" the alternate speaker over in the corner blasted out. He froze solid. "Radek, don't move! Stand where you are!"

Don't move? He couldn't have moved if he'd had jets on. And then the hard voice went on again: "Central Command to Supplies and Control. Use Emergency visi-relay. Unlock the Master Screen! This is Command 419, Regulation Four. Signed, Countersigned."

Almost at once the Master Screen flickered into life and a hard, severe-looking face appeared there. "Radek, turn around! Face the screen!"

"Yes, sir." Tony turned.

"Second violation, Radek. Why?"

Tony forced a blank face. He lifted his shoulders, said: "I was over here on my way to Cell Two for the Execution. How could I—"

"That will be all, Radek! Clear your desk. Prepare for judgment on final machines."

Tony swallowed. He didn't move because he couldn't move.

"Well, Radek?"

He fought his face clean, kept his hands rigid at his sides. Sweat was rolling down his back, but that was all right; Central Command couldn't be expected to see sweat roll down a man's back under his clothing, though a lot of people thought so.

"A suggestion, sir," he said at last.

"What?" Hard eyes bored into his own.

He let a little anxious look creep over his face. Not a guilty look—he hoped—but the kind of anxious look a worried but innocent man might have in a spot like this.

He said quickly: "About that visi-lok. I suggest it might have gone into lock by itself. You see, it's one of the old-fashioned kind, the type they used to have that worked with solenoids. We've had trouble with them before."

That brought a little silence. The hard eyes in the screen said at last: "Central Command to Supplies and Control. Is the visi-lok in Executions controlled by a solenoid? Was it never changed to relay?"

Tony gulped. He looked into the Master Screen, but he remained frozen to the floor, hardly breathing. And then a very thin voice answered nervously:

"I—I believe that's correct, sir. I believe Executions does have the old-fashioned solenoid. It seems there hasn't been time to change it. I've been intending to...."

The voice was cut off. The hard eyes came back to Tony. "Decision!" the hard voice said.

"Yes, sir?"

"Exonerated, Radek! Carry on with Execution in Cell Two." The screen went blank.

Tony shuddered. A close one. A damned close one. That was the war for you. Even a man's breaths are counted. He went on shaky feet over to the cooler, reached in, got out a ritual rose, left the office end shuffled down the hall to Cell Two.

John Edward Haley. The condemned. A thin man, Tony thought. Well, sure, there aren't many fat men any more. Not in ordinary circumstances, that is.

The man was sitting tensely in the chair. There was no one else in the cell, which was as it should be, of course. Witnesses, yes—the Master Screen up on the wall—but not here, not visible.

Tony went across the Cell. "John Edward Haley," he said.

The man moved a nervous tongue over dry lips.

"John Edward Haley, you have been sentenced for Execution. Now hear these final words of the State as directed by Presidential order from Responsibility Official in the City of Greater New Denver, this night."

He took two small steps toward the man in the chair. He held out the red rose, put it in the hand of the other. Then he stepped back two steps until his toes were just touching a small plaque built into the floor. He looked down, read from the plaque:

"The giving of this rose. A symbol for the red of the blood of your brothers that you have let by treason and/or treachery. A symbol that as the rose is red, so are the unclean acts of your own hand, of your own mind. The State has so spoken."

He looked up. A nice way to kiss a guy off. Might as well tell him he bit his brother's finger, too, when he was a kid.

"Have you anything to say?" he asked.

The man's nervous tongue worked again. He said quickly:

"Yeah. Look, guy, just one thing. Just one favor. I don't give a damn what happens to me. Sure, I'm guilty. So you caught me, and so I take it. So what? A guy expects that. But the wife...."

Tony's teeth came together hard.

"... But the wife, see? She's down in Portal Waiting. Been there for three nights now. I don't want her to witness this. I don't want her to look into that Master Screen down there and see it. That's all I'm asking, guy, and it ain't much. Just a flick of a switch is all I'm asking. It ain't much. It ain't, is it?"

It ain't, hey? By God!

"When the hood comes down, she'll see it. She's bound to," the thin man went on fast. "She'll see the flash in the Screen and she'll know it's me, and she's never done anything to deserve that. That's all I'm asking, guy. That's all I'm asking."

The silence in the cell was a thick thing. Tony could feel the sweat rolling down his back again. But a different kind of a sweat now—not a sweat for himself, a sweat for somebody else. Just one finger touch on that visi-lok matswitch would do it. Just one finger, and the small woman downstairs in Portal Waiting wouldn't know, would have one more instant of waiting, of hoping against hope. Of suspense. Of breathing in the air we all breathe in, of being alive, sentient; and knowing that her man, the thin fellow with the tousled, curly hair, was still sentient, too.

"Well, guy?"

Tony wet his lips. "Sorry, Haley. Petition refused." The hood came down. The Master Screen up on the wall blazed into life.

Tony sat at his black desk with his hands folded, fingers laced. That's Executions for you. And this is war. There's a war on. Don't forget that. He looked down at his hands, sighed. Then he reached out and touched the Supplies and Control button.

"Hell-hips!" he growled.

He looked at the screen. It wasn't hell-hips. It was a blonde. Not a young blonde, a scarecrow blonde. An old wretched piece of living mechanism like himself.

"Where's Clacker?" he asked.

"Mr. Clacker is no longer with us, Mr. Radek."

"Huh? What happened to him?"

"Mr. Clacker has been taken to the three Final Machines for trial and judgment. I am now taking over here. My name is Hortense. G. Welker Hortense."

Tony looked at the blonde. Crude, undisguised lights were coming from the woman's eyes. Promotion-happy.

He said at last: "Sorry as hell about that. The solenoid thing, I suppose. I didn't mean to get the guy in trouble. I sure didn't mean that."

"He'd been ordered to change it. It was no one's fault but his own. You were only doing your duty, I'm sure. And duty comes above everything."

"Yeah. Yeah, sure. I know." He sighed once more. "Get me an airbrush and a bottle of white paint."


"I want an airbrush and a bottle of white paint. I want to paint my nice little ritual roses. I don't like red any more. I want all white ones."

"Mr. Radek...?"

Tony glared. "Do I get that paint or don't I? Don't just stand there!" His fist banged down on Supplies and Control button. The Master Screen went blank, and then flashed into motion again fast. The blonde again. Nasty now. A chip off the old block. Another hell-hips, but this time with skirts.

"Request not granted! This is entirely against regulations, Mr. Radek! Specifically, against ordinance 1991, of the Code of...."

"Oh, can it," he growled wearily. "For God's sake, don't give me any more of that."

The blonde stiffened. "Well! After all, I'm only doing my duty, Mr. Radek. As head of Supplies and Control, I have certain well-defined and inflexible...."

Tony blacked her out. He held her blacked out till he was sure she wouldn't come on again. Duty.

The Master Clock made a quiet blipping noise. Amber Official lights dimmed and Emote Neutral came on. Long, probing shadow fingers snaked here and there across the floor, and a stillness that should have been restful descended eventually on the place.


The hard eyes. The hard voice. Tony looked into the screen. "Yes, sir?"

"Radek, that woman is still downstairs in Portal Waiting! We can't have her hanging around all night. Why hasn't she been given her bill of divorcement and sent home? My God, man, where's your feelings? She's at least entitled to that."

"Right away, sir. I was just going."

He picked up the square of white paper. He pushed back his chair, got to his feet, went across the office taking those peculiar, quiet little steps of his.

Yes, sir. Just going, sir. On my way, sir. Because, sir, as you've pointed out so clearly, sir, she's at least entitled to that.