Fifty-Fifty O'Brien

Free Fifty-Fifty O'Brien by L. Ron Hubbard

Book: Fifty-Fifty O'Brien by L. Ron Hubbard Read Free Book Online
Authors: L. Ron Hubbard
something snap inside him. He stepped ahead, but Duval caught his arm.
    An indistinct blur was at his right.
    â€œI’m number three, sir.”
    â€œGet the pack,” muttered Grant.
    Seconds, minutes, silence in front. Grant felt a lump in his throat. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t see. His orders were doing this. Were his orders right? Was this really necessary?
    Yes, they had to spot the caravan. They had to signal the drome. Perhaps the drome was waiting for an emergency message.
    That man would get through. He had had time. He would make it. He had to; because Grant knew that he didn’t have the nerve to send another out. He had never known what it was to hold a man’s life in his hand. It took more nerve to give those orders than he had thought he possessed.
    A scraping sound came to them, grew louder. Hobnails on stone. The man was making it! He was making it back with the pack. Grant’s muscles were as tight as bowstrings. He was mentally pushing the fellow along, straining forward as though that would help.
    Suddenly rifles cracked. A small sound came from the other side of the murette. A body rolled a little ways; boulders turned; the rifles stopped.
    Grant knew he couldn’t take the fourth. He didn’t have the nerve to send another.
    Before hands could bar his way, he was over the murette and gone.
    He scrambled down the shale, heedless of the noise he made. In the starlight he could see a silent shadow against a rock. That would be the Legionnaire.
    Strangely, no one fired at him—not yet. He arrived at the body and knelt. The pack was there. Fumbling for it, he felt the hard glaze of the open eyes. He withdrew his fingers as though he had been stung.
    Whirling about, he sprinted up the slope. A rifle slapped a bullet at his heels. Another took it up. Suddenly it seemed as though a thousand guns were pounding at him. But this did not seem to trouble him greatly. It was better to be shot than to order men to their death.
    The murette was close in front of him. A khaki arm snaked down to grasp his hand and pull him over.
    His face went numb. Blinded, he clawed at the rocks before him. Hands grabbed him, pulled him over. He sprawled on the ground, unable to see. Gingerly he touched his face. The cheekbone had been laid wide open by a ricochet. Blood ran hotly down his chest.
    His vision cleared and he saw the pack beside him. He stood up and took out the flares and the light pistol. His fingers were greasy with blood, but he would not give the task over to the rest.
    Fitting the big shell into the pistol, he cocked it and raised it high over his head. A red light soared far above him and burst in a shower of stars. He discharged another and then another.
    Three red lights—that ought to bring them.
    He wilted suddenly. He swore at himself for his weakness, but he could not stand. He had been going on nerve too long. The back wound and now this had been too much.
    Perhaps, he murmured, hugging the ground, perhaps if he slept a little, he’d— He scarcely knew when they bandaged his face.
    Some hours later he opened his eyes and sat up. He was at the base of the watchtower, in its shade. A machine gun was rattling and a loud roaring filled the air. For a moment he did not understand.
    Then he saw the planes. Two of them diving and banking higher in the mountains. Each time they came down they fired swift bursts into an invisible target.
    The panels were laid out in their black pattern. He knew that one of the corporals had attended to the signaling. They had wanted to leave yesterday. They’d wanted to run. Nothing would have stopped them had they gone. They could have left him there to die. But they hadn’t.
    The platoon was watching the planes. Grant got to his feet, unsteady and weaving. He saw something white far out in front. A moment later he knew that it would be the Tuaregs, beating a hasty retreat from a method of warfare they did not like nor

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