Read Fifty-Fifty O'Brien Online

Authors: L. Ron Hubbard

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien

BOOK: Fifty-Fifty O'Brien

L. R


The Case of the Friendly Corpse

Death's Deputy


The Ghoul

The Indigestible Triton

Slaves of Sleep & The Masters of Sleep

Typewriter in the Sky

The Ultimate Adventure


Battlefield Earth

The Conquest of Space

The End Is Not Yet

Final Blackout

The Kilkenny Cats

The Kingslayer

The Mission Earth Dekalogy*

Ole Doc Methuselah

To the Stars


The Hell Job series


Buckskin Brigades

Empty Saddles

Guns of Mark Jardine

Hot Lead Payoff

A full list of L. Ron Hubbard's
novellas and short stories is provided at the back.

*Dekalogy: a group of ten volumes

Published by
Galaxy Press, LLC
7051 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 200
Hollywood, CA 90028

© 2014 L. Ron Hubbard Library. All rights reserved.

Any unauthorized copying, translation, duplication, importation or distribution, in whole or in part, by any means, including electronic copying, storage or transmission, is a violation of applicable laws.

Mission Earth
is a trademark owned by L. Ron Hubbard Library and is used with permission.
Battlefield Earth
is a trademark owned by Author Services, Inc. and is used with permission.

Cover art: © 1936 Metropolitan Magazines, Inc. Reprinted with permission of Hachette Filipacchi Media. Cover artwork thumbnail on back cover and story illustrations from
Top-Notch Magazine
and horsemen illustration from
Western Story Magazine
are © and ™ Condé Nast Publications and are used with their permission. Fantasy, Far-Flung Adventure and Science Fiction illustrations:
Astounding Science Fiction
copyright © by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of Penny Publications, LLC. Story Preview cover art:
Argosy Magazine
is © 1937 Argosy Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Argosy Communications, Inc.

ISBN 978-1-59212-560-9 EPUB version
ISBN 978-1-59212-754-2 Kindle version
ISBN 978-1-59212-362-9 print version
ISBN 978-1-59212-320-9 audiobook version

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007903623


Stories from
Pulp Fiction's
Golden Age

a golden age.

The 1930s and 1940s were a vibrant, seminal time for a gigantic audience of eager readers, probably the largest per capita audience of readers in American history. The magazine racks were chock-full of publications with ragged trims, garish cover art, cheap brown pulp paper, low cover prices—and the most excitement you could hold in your hands.

“Pulp” magazines, named for their rough-cut, pulpwood paper, were a vehicle for more amazing tales than
could have told in a million and one nights. Set apart from higher-class “slick” magazines, printed on fancy glossy paper with quality artwork and superior production values, the pulps were for the “rest of us,” adventure story after adventure story for people who liked to
Pulp fiction authors were no-holds-barred entertainers—real storytellers. They were more interested in a thrilling plot twist, a horrific villain or a white-knuckle adventure than they were in lavish prose or convoluted metaphors.

The sheer volume of tales released during this wondrous golden age remains unmatched in any other period of literary history—hundreds of thousands of published stories in over nine hundred different magazines. Some titles lasted only an issue or two; many magazines succumbed to paper shortages during World War II, while others endured for decades yet. Pulp fiction remains as a treasure trove of stories you can read, stories you can love, stories you can remember. The stories were driven by plot and character, with grand heroes, terrible villains, beautiful damsels (often in distress), diabolical plots, amazing places, breathless romances. The readers wanted to be taken beyond the mundane, to live adventures far removed from their ordinary lives—and the pulps rarely failed to deliver.

In that regard, pulp fiction stands in the tradition of all memorable literature. For as history has shown, good stories are much more than fancy prose. William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas—many of the greatest literary figures wrote their fiction for the readers, not simply literary colleagues and academic admirers. And writers for pulp magazines were no exception. These publications reached an audience that dwarfed the circulations of today's short story magazines. Issues of the pulps were scooped up and read by over thirty million avid readers each month.

Because pulp fiction writers were often paid no more than a cent a word, they had to become prolific or starve. They also had to write aggressively. As Richard Kyle, publisher and editor of
the first and most long-lived of the pulps, so pointedly explained: “The pulp magazine writers, the best of them, worked for markets that did not write for critics or attempt to satisfy timid advertisers. Not having to answer to anyone other than their readers, they wrote about human beings on the edges of the unknown, in those new lands the future would explore. They wrote for what we would become, not for what we had already been.”

Some of the more lasting names that graced the pulps include H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Max Brand, Louis L'Amour, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner, John D. MacDonald, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein—and, of course, L. Ron Hubbard.

In a word, he was among the most prolific and popular writers of the era. He was also the most enduring—hence this series—and certainly among the most legendary. It all began only months after he first tried his hand at fiction, with L. Ron Hubbard tales appearing in
Thrilling Adventures,
Five-Novels Monthly,
Detective Fiction Weekly,
Texas Ranger,
War Birds,
Western Stories,
Romantic Range.
He could write on any subject, in any genre, from jungle explorers to deep-sea divers, from
and gangsters, cowboys and flying aces to mountain climbers, hard-boiled detectives and spies. But he really began to shine when he turned his talent to science fiction and fantasy of which he authored nearly fifty novels or novelettes to forever change the shape of those genres.

Following in the tradition of such famed authors as Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Jack London and Ernest Hemingway, Ron Hubbard actually lived adventures that his own characters would have admired—as an ethnologist among primitive tribes, as prospector and engineer in hostile climes, as a captain of vessels on four oceans. He even wrote a series of articles for
called “Hell Job,” in which he lived and told of the most dangerous professions a man could put his hand to.

Finally, and just for good measure, he was also an accomplished photographer, artist, filmmaker, musician and educator. But he was first and foremost a
and that's the L. Ron Hubbard we come to know through the pages of this volume.

This library of Stories from the Golden Age presents the best of L. Ron Hubbard's fiction from the heyday of storytelling, the Golden Age of the pulp magazines. In these eighty volumes, readers are treated to a full banquet of 153 stories, a kaleidoscope of tales representing every imaginable genre: science fiction, fantasy, western, mystery, thriller, horror, even romance—action of all kinds and in all places.

Because the pulps themselves were printed on such inexpensive paper with high acid content, issues were not meant to endure. As the years go by, the original issues of every pulp from
Zeppelin Stories
continue crumbling into brittle, brown dust. This library preserves the L. Ron Hubbard tales from that era, presented with a distinctive look that brings back the nostalgic flavor of those times.

L. Ron Hubbard's Stories from the Golden Age has something for every taste, every reader. These tales will return you to a time when fiction was good clean entertainment and the most fun a kid could have on a rainy afternoon or the best thing an adult could enjoy after a long day at work.

Pick up a volume, and remember what reading is supposed to be all about. Remember curling up with a
great story.

—Kevin J. Anderson

is the author of more than ninety critically acclaimed works of speculative fiction, including The Saga of Seven Suns, the continuation of the Dune Chronicles with Brian Herbert, and his
New York Times
bestselling novelization of L. Ron Hubbard's
Ai! Pedrito!

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien

coaster dip roared like
shells in a barrage. The merry-go-round wheezed and banged soulfully and the cymbals clanged and the horns blazed away and the horses went up and down and the kids shouted.

The freak show
delivered his hoarsely nasal spiel, never varying, never ending. The popcorn seller bawled his wares and the peanut roaster squealed with a shrill monotony which went through your head like a knife.

People shouted, people laughed. The hum of the
went on and on, its pulsation an electric shock which made you breathe hard with excitement. The roulette wheels whirred and the trained seal barked.

And above it and through it went the
yap, yap, yap
.22 rifles
, hammering away with gusto at the mechanical ducks which swam and dived, and dived and swam, on their endless chain. Water geysered, bells clanged, lead whacked through clothespins, splinters sang.

And behind the cartridge-covered counter, on the muzzle side of the chained rifles, stood a young man with straw-colored hair and eyes that flared like gaslights. He was yelling to be heard above the racket, above the clang, above the showering tinkle of empties. He was hazy in the smoke and dust, but his voice was sharp and clear.

“C'mon, step right up and winnah a ceegah. Winnah a ceegah. Winnah baybee dawl.
Two bits
for fifteen shots. Heresya your chance. Heresyachance. Anybodeee can do it. Right this way, step right up.”

Over and over.
Crack, crack, crack. Clang clang.
And the ducks and rabbits jumped up and went down, over and over again.

From the next booth, the
leaned out and yelled, “Hey, Win! Hear ya leavin' us.”

“Yeah. Gonna join the Marines.”

“Whatsa matter? Doncha like it?”

“Wanta see some excitement for a change, thasall.”

Crack, crack, crack,
the pungent smell of smokeless powder and dust and the buzz and clang and clatter of the crowd, the merry-go-round, the coaster dip, the people, the radios, the people, and
crack, crack, crack …


Nothing moved.

Brooding, festering jungle steamed unheard as it had for centuries. Vast, empty silence like a wall which roared and roared and hurt your ears. Tense, festering jungle—nothing else.

For a long while Winchester Remington Smith had been standing at the top of the trail, staring down through the twilight tunnel which was the trail. His sodden khaki, mud-spattered and torn, blended in with the tan and red of the muck in the path. His campaigner was faded, wavy from rain and sun, and his leggings were the color of Nicaragua.

Somewhere ahead he had heard a sound. Ten minutes ago he had heard it. And he stood there, waiting, ears smarting with silence. In his hat he carried a few sheets of onionskin paper—orders for Company K. And the paper had to get through.

To push back that still wall which pressed in against him, he muttered, “The only difference between me and a telephone wire is that they patch a wire and bury a runner.”

Bitterness marred his voice. For three months he had been at it—carrying orders, stamping alone across mountains, through angry yellow streams, down steep-sided, silent ravines.

And he was under orders to avoid trouble, to get his messages through.

But God, what a relief it would have been to send Springfield lead into a goonie's guts. Sometimes, when he crept alone through the sullen night, he almost went mad with the desire to fire a clip at the silence. Anything to break the tension before the tension broke him.

Perhaps, this time, when he got back to Company K, the
top kick
would let him stay around long enough to get himself back again. But Company K hardly knew him, and neither did “Fifty-Fifty” O'Brien, first-sergeant
. And if Fifty-Fifty O'Brien didn't even see him, then what chance did a fellow have in getting a break?

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien. He'd like to know that man. Fifty-Fifty O'Brien was solid. He didn't let a thing like silence get him. Fifty-Fifty O'Brien was the toughest man in the regiment. Self-reliant, big-jawed, swashbuckling, with a killer's eyes—pale, icy eyes that stared straight through you and out the other side and saw something you couldn't see.

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien and his small black horse—the only black pony in the regiment—were always found in unexpected places. O'Brien had the idea that he himself could bring this guerrilla war to an end.

A faraway click of a hoof, faint in all this stillness, came again to Win Smith's ears. He moved the rifle a fraction of an inch, glanced down to make certain that the safety was off.

His pale, haggard eyes bored down through the leafy tunnel, and he crouched a little forward, waiting for he knew not what. The fact that something besides himself was moving in this vastness heartened him, made him forget the silence for a moment. Something was moving in the steamy heat and silence and it might spell danger.

He could hear the hoofs more distinctly, he could even see a shadow moving through the patterns of sun upon the path. Then he wanted to shout with relief. A black pony was coming toward him—and a black pony meant O'Brien. Maybe he'd have company during the last ten miles.

He started to call out a greeting, but the word clung in his throat, a sodden lump. O'Brien was not on the horse. The rider wore a straw hat, a ragged white shirt, a pair of leather

A goonie! On the black horse!

Where was O'Brien?

A creak of leather and a startled wheeze from the pony, a swift white flash of amazed eyes, the blur of a hand moving to the
for a mountain gun.

Win Smith dropped down and the shot screamed over his head. The rifle jolted his shoulder, shaking the jungle with its crash.

The native jerked in the saddle, clawed at the horn, and came sliding out. The black horse, nostrils flared, charged up the trail toward Win Smith. He snatched at the bridle, caught it, and dragged the pony to a snorting stop.

Very slowly, very watchfully, he went down the red clay path toward the sprawled lump of white. For an instant he was afraid he had missed and killed the native, but the pale flicker of an eyelid gave him assurance. He knelt down and propped the goonie up against a tree trunk.

“What's the idea?” said Win Smith.

¿Que pasó?

spat the goonie in a spray of blood.

De donde viene el caballo
demanded Smith. “And where is the
who rode it?”

The sullen brown jaw was tightly set, the eyes were flaring with anger.
Quién sabe

“You know and you're going to tell me about it. If you don't, I'll … I'll …” He felt in the pockets of his soggy shirt and found a box of matches. He struck one and looked at the goonie's feet. Then he knelt and began to remove a muddy leather puttee.

“No!” screamed the native. “No! I have heard what you do. I know you would torture me.”

“That's better,” said Smith and put the matches back in his pocket. “Where is this

“We wounded him. He is now on his way to our camp.”

“What for?”

“He knows much, he is a great man. We would break him with certain means and obtain much knowledge. I went to bring other men.”

“Which trail?” said Smith.

“One kilometer back, the trail to the left. But,” added the goonie with a sick smile, “they have gone far, you can do nothing.”

Smith stood up and looked back along the path. The native was right. He could do nothing about it now. In fact, it would be better if he did nothing. His orders were to the point. He had to avoid any such trouble. The orders were more important than a single man. The best he could do would be to tell them at camp and let the patrol take care of it.

But it was ten miles to Company K and in the meanwhile …

“One kilometer,” said Smith. “I can see their tracks, anyway. I can make sure.…”

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien, the self-reliant, the swashbuckling O'Brien, caught like a rabbit in a snare. O'Brien was too swell a guy to leave in a spot like that.

“One kilometer?” He took out a cigarette, shoved it in the native's mouth and lit it for him. Then, looking down into the puzzled brown eyes, he added, “They'll be finding you soon enough. You won't bleed to death.”

He swung up on the black pony and went on down through the sun patterns which leaked into the dense tunnel. He wasn't listening to the nerve-twisting silence now. He had something else to think about.

He found the trail, found the tracks. Several ponies had passed that way at a walk. He put a fresh clip in his Springfield and whipped up the black horse and left his own trail.

The path led into a country cut and slashed by ravines, the forerunners of the Yuloc Mountains. As it went gradually up, the vegetation became less thick, the trees bigger and further apart.

An hour and a half later, he slowed the black pony's pace and began to look ahead each time he went over a canyon edge. And then, about five hundred yards away, he caught sight of white dots moving along a ravine bottom.

The trail there was long and straight, and from his position high above, Smith could command the entire length.

He dismounted and spread himself out on top of a limestone boulder. He adjusted his sling with neat precision, as though he was again on the firing line winning his expert rating all over again.

Seven white dots, he counted. One horse seemed to have no rider, until he made out the khaki lump which was draped like a meal sack over the saddle. If that was O'Brien, the man might well be dead.

He could almost hear the whir of the chain taking the ducks along their ledge. He could almost hear the
crack, crack, crack
of yapping .22s and the clang of the bells and the whistle and thump of bullets. He grinned down the sights and squeezed carefully.

A white duck pitched over on its side and out of sight. Another threw up its arms and toppled backward. The echo of the shots roared and pounded through the close canyon walls and the reports were curiously hollow out in the open this way.

Another mechanical duck jolted, almost fell, and then clung hard to a terror-stricken horse and bolted out of sight, just as though the duck was alive.

The remaining white dots did not wait to look back. They loosened the horse they led, and with quirts cracking against lathered flanks, fled out of sight into the brush. The sack of meal hung listlessly from the saddle, arms dangling as the mount danced about, lead rope tangled in its forefeet.

Win Smith swung onto his horse and with a hard slap, sent the animal plunging down the steep side and racing along the trail toward the released pony.

It did not take him long to get there. It did not take him long to unsnarl the rope and quiet the rearing horse. He was scared by the listless waving of O'Brien's arms, by the small trickle of red which ran down out of the sleeve and dripped from the stubby fingers.

A pipe-barreled
mountain rifle
snapped peevishly from the brush. Smith grabbed O'Brien's shoulder and shook it.

O'Brien's eyes flickered for an instant and then opened wide. “Beat it,” snapped O'Brien with odd intensity. “Beat it.”

“Hey, it's me, Win Smith. It's me, Top. You're okay.”

“Beat it,” cried O'Brien.

Delirious, decided Win Smith and immediately swung up on the black horse and led the other pony away from there at a swift pace. The mountain guns began to roar and crack down the trail. Powder music. Slugs spanged and howled away from rocks and trees. Win Smith grinned happily, and remained erect in his saddle.

he clatter of the pans in the galley, the rattle of mess kits and
, the slamming of aluminum beaten to the off-key song about Lulu teaching a baby to swim, filled the velvety darkness which had dropped over the camp of Company K.

Clinging to the hillside by its tent pegs, Company K was busy finishing its supper in a bedlam which was sweet to Win Smith's silence-stung ears. Confident in the sentries, Win Smith could almost forget that still jungle and the men who scuttled like the lizards through the brush.

“That was hot going, baby,” said the corporal on Smith's right. “I hear you popped off three of them.”

“Naw, just two. One rode off with the others.” Smith was not looking at the corporal's eyes. Smith was looking at the two stripes which graced the corporal's arm. He had just realized something.

15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

A Lament of Moonlight by Travis Simmons
Geared Up by Viola Grace
One We Love, The by Glaser, Donna White
Mafia Girl by Deborah Blumenthal