"…and we trust you found the settlement satisfactory?"
"The money's fine. The situation is totally unacceptable-"
"Well gentlemen, I guess that just about wraps it up."
"Where is the Ark?"
"I thought we'd settled that. The Ark is somewhere very safe."
"From whom? The Ark is a source of unspeakable power, and it has to be researched!"
"And I assure you it will be, Dr. Brody, Dr. Jones. We have top men working on it right now."
She had betrayed him. No, to be more precise, she had been leading him around by the nose this whole time. Her purpose? Use him to find the Tempus Simia, and once the Nazis had it, bring Jones to a position where he could be neutralized. Indy's capture was probably her gift to Eaton and the Fuhrer.
Jones moved tentatively back and forth. He tried to make all the pieces fit together, like a shattered vase from an ancient dynasty that turns out to be a fake. How did Eaton manage to pull it off? His mind was blank for a few seconds, while shouts of "Seig heil!" rang out below him.
Then it occurred to him; the clues were in the missing pieces. Pieces that were never actually there in the first place.
When Marcus showed up in his classroom that day, Indy simply took him at his word the two gentlemen really were from Army Intelligence. They certainly appeared official enough, and one of them even produced a German communiqué, which-
"Or he simply recited a memorized line from a blank piece of paper." The thought hit Indy like a punch to the gut.
The Nazis had sent him after the Ark, just as they had sent him after the Tempus Simia.
When Belloq seemed to be proving useless, they sent in a couple of spies to pose as army agents. Then they followed him and when he made contact with Marion, tried to take the headpiece of the Staff of Ra for themselves. Failing that, they dogged his trail until he produced the Ark for them. And even when they were unable to keep it out of his hands…
…same two agents in a sparsely decorated office building in Washington D.C. and no questions or verification of credentials. Eaton simply took possession of the Ark, paid Indy a fistful of money, and sent him packing.
But if that was the case, did this mean the Ark was in Germany?
And what did Zim know about it?
Once again, Indy was overcome with feelings of isolation. His head swiveled back and forth. The odds against him in the temple were more than a hundred to one, but if he turned and retreated, Hitler would be loosed upon the earth once more, and with a very powerful weapon at his disposal.
Jump in and fight it out with some hundred odd men (including Eaton, Hitler, and Zim) in the hopes of defeating Eaton's plans? Or turn and run, in an attempt to get help?
Indy weighed his options, then made up his mind.
In that instant, a sputtering rumble came from the edge of the jungle near the airstrip.
He stared at his hands as though they were unfamiliar. They were unfamiliar. At least, they were hands he had not seen in more than a few decades. What gripped the landing strut of the hoverjet were two strong, youthful fists attached to arms that had not known this kind of strength in years. Maybe ever.
The noise of the engine was a combination of whine and rumble, and it was extremely cold in the cramped spaces where the landing strut was housed. Indy could barely see, but what he could see filled him with a mixture of emotions, not the least of which was a sense of something impending. Whatever had happened to him back at the logging camp had stayed with him, and he couldn't help but sense his final moments were not too far away. In fact, he didn't just sense it, he knew it.
In an odd way, it comforted him. Having lived far beyond what he considered his usefulness, the prospect of finality where his life was concerned sat perfectly well in his mind.
It was perhaps fitting that he should perish (for he was completely convinced of this now, almost as though he were determined it would happen) within the proximity of what he considered his greatest accomplishment; the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant. In a time when he considered himself a scientist, Indiana Jones believed the best approach to life was as an agnostic. But in his days since then, he had born witness to many events that were clearly beyond the realm of coincidence or mere trickery of the senses.
Destiny and fate were often two distinct facets of existence as Indy saw it. Once was a time when he thought nothing was ever destined to happen. Whatever occurred in our lives, it was only because of what we had done and the choices we made for ourselves. Then there came a time when he tried to believe that everything happened for a reason; a purpose, in order to make sense of a world of barely controlled madness. But that didn't quite pan out either. He believed at one time that Zim was to be "the one" he was slated to spend his life with, but neither fate nor destiny had born that out. It was simply a choice she had made. It was what ultimately convinced him there was no such thing as a "soulmate"; there were only those we wanted to be with, and if we were lucky, then they wanted to be with us as well.
His thoughts turned to Marion Ravenwood and he was filled with regret. They hadn't been married for ten years before she ran afoul of one of Indy's enemies and was murdered just because she was his wife. Unable to get over her death, a bitter son turned his back and left Indiana with his father in a rest home in Florida. Indy hadn't seen Mutt in years.
He was jarred from his memories by the sudden shifting of the craft as it banked at a steep angle and began a descent. Indy wasn't sure where exactly they were going but he had a pretty good idea based on their interrogation sessions. They were heading for Middleton, last known resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. It was under the charge of a small group of Hassidic Jews called The Metaken, who were practitioners of the ancient fighting style of Abir; martial art of the Biblical Israeli Warriors.
Even in his newly transformed youth, Indy wasn't sure about the odds. This Dementor fellow would no doubt have a private army at his command, while Indiana Jones was just one man. Again he was overcome with a feeling of being alone. But he smiled at this, recalling another time he had felt abandoned…
The sputter smoothed out and the rumble gained a steadiness that indicated an engine had just been brought to life. Specifically, it was the engine of a BF 109, one of the German fighter planes sitting on the airstrip that had been carved into the jungle. Indy scooted toward the outer part of the wall and craned his neck. Though he couldn't see through the thick foliage, there was a gap between the temple and the runway. He saw movement through the trees as the engine roared up several octaves. Then, for an instant, the plane was perfectly framed in the gap as it rolled down the runway. There was no mistaking who the pilot was. She turned her head and glanced in his direction, though he couldn't be sure if she was looking at him. The aircraft continued down the runway, gaining speed, and rolled out of sight.
What now? Was she running away?
That didn't sit right with him. Yes, he had only known her a short time, but it just didn't seem like her. She was dedicated. In fact, it occurred to Indy that she might be so dedicated that she was willing to leave him there in order to make a quick escape and find help; even notify her superiors.
Then, shouting accompanied by a multitude of footfalls.
Indy scooted back through the opening to the inner part of the wall and watched with bemusement as the inner room of the temple virtually cleared. Eaton was shouting while simultaneously reassuring his Fuehrer that everything was under control. The rest of the men were scrambling to get out through the narrow entryway. Roughly twenty men were left in the room.
She had drawn most of them outside; a diversion. What remained was not the greatest of odds, but certainly better than before.
Indy pulled his pistol and checked his ammunition.
With no replacement ammo to reload.
He holstered the gun, uncoiled his whip, and went to work.
His arm shot out, hurling the whip toward the ceiling where the end of it coiled rapidly around the protruding carved foot of a stone monkey near the center of the roof. The crack of the whip caused faces to turn upward. No time to check if the whip was secure, Indy swung himself out, allowing the whip to slide – somewhat painfully, as the leather burned his palms – through his hands in order to half swing, half lower himself to the platform where Eaton was standing with his new intended master.
Indiana Jones landed between the two men, facing toward Adolph. Behind the German dictator, through the red swirling vortex, Indy could make out the rippling image of a tiny room made entirely out of concrete; a bunker. In the center of that room was a small couch where the body of a woman was slumped over, and two dead dogs were lying on the floor. A look of vague recognition came over the Fuehrer's face.
With one move, Indy threw a vicious right backhanded fist at Eaton, catching him across the jaw and sending him sprawling over the smaller pedestal, knocking the monkey idol off its perch. It tumbled down the stairs, the head piece coming loose from the body. Eaton tumbled involuntarily down after it.
Meanwhile, Indy's right fist swooped downward and came up with his pistol. The barrel centered on Adolph Hitler's forehead and blazed forth with fire as a look of sheer terror bloomed on the German's face. The onetime Nazi Dictator reeled back several steps, fell, and slumped dead on the couch in the bunker. The vortex closed, and he disappeared.
Rapid-fire shots rang out as bullets struck the ground near him, and the wall behind him. One even nicked Indy's shirt sleeve. He hit the ground, grabbed the whip, and flicked it several times to dislodge it from its hold on the stone monkey foot above. It came loose on the second try. Amid the hail of bullets, he wrapped the whip around the base of the smaller pedestal and lowered himself down the backside of the larger one, away from the stairs, where there was no exit, but no German soldiers either. He flicked the whip again, but this time it would not dislodge. Indy took two tentative steps toward his right, and saw the shadows of rapidly approaching German soldiers. Reeling around, he took another couple of steps in the other direction and was met with the same image, shadows on the wall of approaching German soldiers.
For a fraction of a second, Indy stood there, grimacing, unsure of what to do. Then it occurred to him what Zim might do in this situation, and he borrowed a page from her book. Grabbing the whip, he climbed several feet and then wrapped the end of the whip around his left arm. Hanging like that, Indy put his feet on the base of the large two story pedestal and straightened his legs, pushing himself outward but not away from the pedestal base. Then he moved toward his right, slowly at first as his steps were tentative, but faster and more sure of his footing as he went along. He was almost at a full run, his body parallel with the floor, when the first soldier rounded the base of the pedestal and ran face first into Indy right fist. The soldier's head snapped back, but his feet kept running. He tumbled, and the men behind him tripped and went sprawling over him as Indy was naturally lifted above their reach due to the whip's decreasing length. Stopping at the point where his momentum expired, Indy turned and ran in the other direction, this time holding the whip with both hands.
The soldiers coming from the left hand side of the pedestal base had stopped just short of tripping over their fallen comrades. They looked up in time to see Indy running along the wall toward them. The archeologist brought up both his feet at the last second and slammed them into the chests of the two Germans in front. They were knocked back into their fellow soldiers until only those in the back remained standing. They brought up their weapons as Indy let go of the whip, landed square in front of them, and delivered first a right cross against one face, and then a left against the other.
The soldiers had forgotten to take their safeties off.
Indy grabbed their MP40 submachine guns and turned back to the other soldiers who were regaining their feet. He sprayed them, fire blazing from both barrels. They retreated back around the base of the pedestal, though more than half of them never got up again. Jones went after the survivors.
Zim barely managed to get into the air. She knew she had pulled up too soon, but was unwilling to risk staying on the ground for longer than was necessary, knowing they would be very close behind her. She could feel the plane struggling to stay aloft, and immediately second guessed herself on the decision to pull up. Now she would need some distance to build up airspeed, and if she'd stayed on the runway longer, she would have been able to turn back sooner and prevent anyone else from getting off the ground. Zim allowed the aircraft to descend ever so slightly toward the tree tops, building up the much-needed airspeed. She resisted the urge to look over her shoulder to see if any other planes had become airborne.
Suddenly the tree line broke and she was over water.
She had forgotten it was there. She banked the plane to the right, headed up river, and nosed forward, descending toward the surface of the water. It was exactly what the aircraft needed. The struggling, almost sputtering motor began to smooth out. As a result, the aircraft vibrated a bit less, and felt more like a beast made for the air than the ground. Zim brought it as close to the water's surface as she dared, using up every bit of descent she could to gain speed. In a few seconds, she was going too fast to stay with the river and pulled up. Now skimming the tops of the trees, Zim scanned the horizon for other aircraft.
She saw five.
None, however, were in pursuit of her.
Fearing she would ambush them as they took off, they were in tight formation and circling the airport so that if she did attack, they could overwhelm her rather than try to take her on individually.
Zim climbed as steeply as she dared, in order to get above them as well as get a better handle on the terrain. She surveyed the river, the airport, the temple and the opposing fighters and quickly devised a battle plan. It would have to be unorthodox, since the odds were five-to-one against. Now six-to-one, she grimly noted, as another plane made it off the ground. The first priority would be to shut down the airstrip to make sure the odds against her wouldn't get any worse. Her plane was equipped with two bombs, one on each wing. She would have to make both of those shots count for all they were worth which posed a problem. Even though she could see the air strip, she couldn't be positive where the best location would be to place her shots with which she could do the most damage. Zim decided one bomb would be dropped on the middle of the runway, in order to make a crater that would prevent additional aircraft from taking off. The other would ideally be dropped where residual damage could be inflicted; an ammo dump or fuel supply depot. She just wasn't sure where those might be.
A seventh plane made it into the air.
Then, as if on cue, a black plume of smoke intermixed with orange erupted from the end of the runway near the temple. It was as though Indy had sent up a beacon.
She would need some kind of beacon, Indy thought to himself as he sprinted out through the entrance of the temple. He skidded to a halt and ducked back inside when automatic gunfire kicked up small explosions of earth all around him. He stood panting, and looked around frantically. He couldn't stay in here.
"Jones!" came a growl of fury from behind him.
Indy spun around to see Eaton with his pistol drawn; a fresh black eye was forming on the left side of his face.
"Tell me something, Colonel," Indy spit the word out with contempt, "How many of my countrymen died because of you? A hundred? A thousand? How many missions did you authorize that sent good men needlessly to their deaths?"
"I'm not interested in justifying myself to a fool like you, Dr. Jones", Eaton snarled, "What do you think you have done here? Nothing! You have stopped nothing. I will kill you, and use the Tempus Simia to go back before any of this happens and prevent you from doing what you've just done."
"You sure about that?" Jones asked with a smirk, "Think about it. If you're going to do that, then how would we be having this conversation?
For a split second, Eaton looked bewildered, as though he was puzzling out the answer to Indy's question. His concentration was jarred by the wrenching feeling of his own gun being yanked out of his hand, then a fist plowing into his face with frightening force. He fell flat on his back.
Indy cocked the weapon and stood directly above Eaton, training the pistol squarely on Eaton's forehead.
"You're just an archeologist," Eaton chuckled contemptuously, "You wouldn't da-"
He was dead before he finished his sentence.
Jones quickly gathered up the Tempus Simia and put it into the bag he kept at his side.
"Erscheinenden unbewaffnet!" came a voice from outside, ordering him to come out unarmed.
Indy did just that.
Raising his hands and holding the bag with the talisman aloft, Indiana Jones walked slowly out through the entrance of the temple.
"Ich gebe," Indy said softly, I surrender.
He heard the sound of small arms being cocked and barely managed to conceal his smile.
How many times had he done this, he wondered to himself, a dozen? Two dozen? How it worked depended almost entirely on who it was he surrendered himself to. If this were the Orient, or if they were Africans; Indy would never have dreamed of doing what he was about to do, because he would have been executed where he stood. Eastern cultures had no sense of chivalry. These men might have been Nazis, but they were still soldiers; they still adhered to some sense of code.
When an enemy surrendered, and your comrades all had their weapons trained on him, why then you were perfectly free to let your guard down.
The soldier closest to Indy allowed himself a self-confident grin as he stepped toward his intended captor and grabbed the bag with a firm grip. Indy gave the bag a hard yank, pulling the Nazi to him, and slammed his fist into his enemy's face, then spun him around to face his fellow countrymen. Without sliding the gun from the other man's shoulder, Jones grabbed it and pulled the trigger, spraying back and forth while crouching slightly behind the dazed Nazi, using him as a shield.
Shocked, and unwilling to injure their friend, the force of fifteen or so men that had just captured Indiana Jones scattered, some of them tripping over themselves to get away.
Indy fired, emptying the weapon, then reached into the man's belt and pulled his pistol, deftly flipping it until he was holding it by the barrel. Jones brought the butt of the pistol down hard on the back of the soldier's skull and he crumpled up like a rag doll. Flipping the gun again, he raised it and drew a bead on the nearest opponent and pulled his trigger. That man also dropped to the ground in a heap. Indy sprinted to him and snatched up his MP40, two spare clips and a couple of grenades. Small explosions of dirt erupted around him once more. Indy turned and sprinted for a vehicle parked roughly fifteen feet away. He dove over the hood amid a hail of gunfire and hit the ground hard. Scrambling to his knees, he took up a defensive position and returned fire, casting glances this way and that, looking for something he could ignite; something that would create a lot of smoke and act as a guide for Zim's inevitable strafing runs. Movement caught his peripheral vision and Indy turned to gun down a soldier who was sprinting across the clearing. But something was odd about the man's trajectory. He hadn't been running at Indy, he was running toward his fallen comrade near the entrance to the temple. The man still lay unconscious on the ground. Then, to Indy's horror, he realized the fallen man was still clutching Indy's bag, with the Tempus Simia still inside. Indy hadn't even noticed when the bag was torn from his grasp. He made a move to retrieve the bag but was pinned down by withering gunfire. When Indy felt it was safe to raise his head again, he looked just in time to see a Nazi snatch up the bag and sprint off into the jungle with it.
Jones took a quick assessment of the situation. The Temple was to his right, the airstrip to his left, where he noted three more planes were idling and getting ready to take off. With a few planes already in the air, Indy realized Zim would have her hands full. Then it occurred to him she would still need to know precisely where the airstrip was in order to prevent further enemies from getting aloft. All the while, the Nazis were getting away with his bag containing the Tempus Simia. A second glance toward the retreating soldiers told him the Nazi with the bag, now joined by two of his comrades, wasn't simply running into the jungle, he was following a crude trail, but where it led, Indy had no idea. Not to the river, that was behind him. Indy watched as several more Germans suddenly bolted from their positions and followed the Nazi in possession of the bag. They were retreating. It occurred to Jones that they were now leaderless, and possibly operating under the assumption they had been attacked by a force greater than two people; which meant their default command was likely to secure the talisman, and bring it someplace where it could be kept safe.
More joined the withdrawing soldiers, while a few stayed behind to cover their retreat. Indy took out the three grenades he had scavenged from the dead Nazi and pulled all three pins, tossing the small bombs in rapid succession; two toward enemy positions and the third toward some stacked barrels near the runway. He hoped they weren't full of water.
A massive orange fireball accompanied by a huge boom caused several soldiers to jump back, startled at the exact moment the grenade that had been tossed at them went off. They all simply sprinted away from the third grenade, leaving Indy – who was lying face down on the ground and covering his head – alone for the moment. He snatched up the MP40 and took off at a run after the retreating Nazis, hesitating only for an instant as a secondary explosion consumed one of the planes attempting to take off.
Zim zeroed in on the column of black smoke billowing up from the runway. Pushing the throttle all the way forward, she nosed the aircraft downward until she was skimming across the tops of the trees, hurtling along at better than 150 mph. As soon as the trees cleared she released both bombs and pulled back hard on the stick, shooting almost straight up in the air. Zim craned her neck around to see where her bombs landed, but there was no explosion. Then she had a horrifying realization. They hadn't been bombs at all. The planes had to have been outfitted for long range transport in order to get them to this location in Africa, which meant they needed extra fuel tanks. Surplus fuel tanks were shaped like bombs and attached to the wings in order to extend a plane's effective range. Now those tanks were tumbling across the runway, and the only fuel Zim had left was in the wings.
Zim pulled back on the stick and looped over, diving back toward the ground, then suddenly pulled hard to the right, away from the runway, as a massive explosion plumed up toward her, threatening to consume her aircraft.
Fuel tanks though they were, they still did some effective damage. The first tank to hit the ground burst open immediately, but the second remained intact as it tumbled over and over until it collided with one of the remaining Nazis planes attempting to take off. It tore through the fuselage and ripped open, scattering aviation fuel in all directions like a massive sprinkler. The plane exploded from a spark caused by the hurtling tank, and in less than twenty seconds, the entirety of the runway area was a raging inferno. The third Nazi plane attempting to take off did manage to get into the air, but it was on fire, and exploded over the river.
Zim leveled out and attempted to get her bearings. She didn't have the opportunity as she was set upon by three Nazi aircraft. Bullets ripped through the air all around her. Zim Possible suddenly found herself in the dogfight of her life.
Indy sprinted down the trail. Behind him, the jungle was an orange wall of blazing heat, with flames shooting close to a hundred feet into the air. He was tempted to move off the trail in order to stay hidden from enemy troops, but already flames had crossed over to his right, spurred on by the fuel that had scattered in almost every direction. If he left the trial he ran two risks; the first was losing his way in the jungle, even if it weren't on fire. The second was getting consumed by the fire itself.
Rounding a corner, he pulled up short for an instant as he emerged in a vast clearing covered with military tents. Eaton had planned to make this his base of operations, using the temple to move through time, gathering weapons and soldiers as he wished, until he was ready to march out of the jungle with his Fuehrer at his side, laying waste to the world beyond. He looked around frantically, hoping no one would spot him. It didn't take long to ascertain that no one was really interested in him anymore. What soldiers remained were piling into two military trucks and a Kuebelwagen; Germany's version of the Jeep. They were moving in earnest, not even bothering to check who might be in pursuit, undoubtedly feeling the heat of the wall of flame bearing down on them.
Indy scrambled into the nearest tent, snatched up two MP40s, several grenades and a pistol, then sprinted back outside when he heard the vehicle engines roar to life. He ran back outside in time to see the vehicles move out on a very rough road that headed into the jungle from the far side of the camp. Already, tents all around him were beginning to burn as flaming cinders rained down. Jones began to look around for a suitable pursuit vehicle, but as he ran past rows and rows of tents, all he saw was the heavy equipment used to build the runway and the encampment.
Then, he heard a familiar but oddly-out-of-place sound behind him; a snort. Indy spun around to discover a very large tent, open at both ends. Something inside the tent was tied to a stake in the ground.
It was a horse.
He was a jet-black thoroughbred Arabian Stallion, tall and without a single blemish or white spot to be seen. The animal was saddled and ready to ride. For an abstract second, Indy wondered at this, but then decided it had been intended for Adolph as a sort of victory lap around the camp in order to be worshipped by his new army. This, Indy surmised, was why Eaton had gone to the bunker for his Fuehrer. At the point of suicide, Hitler would have been willing to go anywhere with anyone. Bring him through the vortex, set him on a horse while Nazis cheered, and Adolph probably would have been easily sold on Eaton's plan.
By the time Indy finished these thoughts, he had untied the horse, stowed his weapons in the saddlebags and was sitting in the saddle. The black stallion was almost too eager to have a rider guiding him. A rider meant escape from the fire, and he was ready and willing to make a hasty exit.
Indy pulled his hat down low over his eyes and gave the horse a firm but gentle kick in the sides. The animal did not need a second invitation, it bolted from the tent, wheeled to the right, away from the fire, and galloped down the narrow lane between rows of canvas structures.
Half the camp was engulfed in an immense conflagration; small pockets of ammo or barrels of fuel were exploding all over the compound. Indy raced ahead of the wall of fire, emerging from the rows of tents – most of which were burning – turning slightly to the right, and heading down the road at a thundering gallop. When he had gotten a couple hundred feet down the road, a fuel truck near the edge of camp exploded with a massive boom that sent a powerful shockwave out in all directions. The horse, more determined than fearful, never lost his footing.
The soldiers in the back of the second truck turned their heads to look in the direction of the explosion and were met with a sight that turned Nazi blood to ice-water.
Bearing down upon them was a lone warrior on a stallion that could have been the personal steed of the Grim Reaper himself. Indeed, this leather-clad gladiator, with a massive fireball pluming up into the sky behind him and an inferno stretched out on either side, looked as though he were riding out of hell itself; galloping forth from damnation's gates in order to facilitate their descent into the fiery abyss. To these increasingly terrified former members of the Third Reich, Indiana Jones wasn't merely riding out of hell, he was bringing it with him.
Zim jinked and weaved almost uncontrollably in order to keep her three pursuers off her tail. They were highly trained pilots who did not all pile on her at once. One of them gave orders for only three to pursue, this way they would be less likely to get tangled up with each other. In fact, they kept a tight formation behind her, not allowing her any kind of leeway in either direction, while the rest remained at higher altitude in order to prevent her from climbing. All around her was wide open sky; with no mountains in sight, and worse, no clouds in which to hide. Her best bet was to stay as close to the runway as possible, using the billowing smoke as cover from the higher altitude aircraft while she dealt with her pursuers.
Again, she was headed for the river, this time doing close to 300 mph. The second she cleared the tree line, she nosed forward slightly, diving for the water, then pulled back on the stick as hard as she could. The plane nosed up and over on its back in a perfect, tight loop. The G force on Zim was almost unbearable, gray voids began to creep into her peripheral. She gritted her teeth and deliberately hyperventilated to try and keep herself from blacking out. As soon as she was slightly past the apogee of her loop, diving slightly toward the jungle, she barrel rolled the plane until it was right side up and pulled level when she reached the tree tops, banking slightly toward her left in order to head toward the temple.
Her three pursuers did not fare as well. When she came straight up over the tree line, the third pursuer behind her simply nosed slightly upward and began firing. His reflexes proved slow, however, and instead of catching her, his bullets sliced right through the plane directly behind her – which had stayed on her tail - and it exploded immediately. Unable to turn away in time, he slammed into the exploding aircraft and disintegrated on impact. Pursuer number two managed to avoid all this, but in his zeal to stay on Zim's tail, he pulled into the loop too tightly and simply passed out due to the intense G forces exerted on him. His plane sailed straight up into the air, stalled out, and crashed into the river.
Zim reached the runway and weaved through the billowing columns of smoke that were belching into the sky. The remaining four opponents stayed where they were, chattering to each other over the radio about their next move. One of them pointed out Zim no longer had her reserve fuel tanks while they had theirs and proposed waiting until she ran out of gas.
"Gentlemen," Zim said over the radio in German, "I can understand every word you say. So I will know whatever plans you make. Why waste time fighting me when you can simply withdraw and go where you wish? Clearly you must know that your leader is dead by now. What is the use of continuing this?"
"We will figure out what to do with ourselves only after you are dead," said one of the pilots in a low, cold voice.
"Then come and get me," Zim challenged.
"We would prefer that you come to us." The pilot answered.
They weren't stupid, they knew they had the advantage with the altitude. They wouldn't come down to fight her near the tree tops. If Zim made a run for it in any direction, they would swoop in and destroy her in short order, and they certainly wouldn't fall for the loop maneuver after watching their friends perish.
There was a moment of silence while Zim frantically tried to figure a way out of her predicament.
"What will it be American woman?" the German challenged her in broken English, "Will you fight or will we watch you die?"
"I believe we will fight," came a familiar, thickly accented Russian voice.
It was Stukhov. Zim looked wildly about until she spotted a Russian Mig-3 fighter plane streaking in low over the treetops. It shot skyward and zeroed in on one of the Germans, fire blazing from its wings. The Nazi planes broke formation and scattered, the Russian Mig dropped in behind one of them and continued firing.
Zim throttled all the way up and pulled her plane into the air.
Thanks to the terrain and the roughness of the road, the horse actually gave Jones the advantage of speed. Any more than thirty miles per hour and the vehicles would bounce right off the road.
The soldiers in the back of the rear truck were scrambling to find weapons. Indy decided not to wait and see if they came up with any. He dug his heels in and the powerful beast surged forward, the gallop smoothing out as the horse's feet seemed to barely touch the ground. It's footing was as sure as a mountain goat, largely because it chose to put its head down and concentrate on where his hooves were going to fall, while leaving all other matters up to his rider. Jones reached into one of the saddle bags, pulled out a grenade, pulled the pin with his teeth, and tossed it – underhanded – deftly into the back of the truck. Then he jerked back on the reins bringing the horse to a skidding halt, wheeled the animal to the right, and spurred it into the dense undergrowth.
Though the Germans probably had time to snatch up the grenade and toss it out, every single man in the truck had that very same idea, and went for the bomb. What resulted was a tangled mass of humans, none of whom was able to get ahold of the explosive. It was only then that a couple of them remembered the two barrels of fuel they were riding with.
The blast obliterated the truck and everyone in it.
Indy discovered that his speed was greatly hampered by the thick undergrowth. He made his way back to the road as soon as he was beyond the wreckage of the truck, but as soon as he got out onto the rough trail, he was met with gunfire. He spurred the horse and again they galloped back into the jungle. Indy tried to stay off the road, in the safety of the woods but soon realized they were pulling away from him. He took out an MP40, brought the horse back out on to the road, and fired in the direction of the remaining truck. This didn't do much to suppress their return fire, and Indy was forced to go back into the jungle again.
Then, a stroke of luck. As he brought the horse back to the edge of the road to see how far they had gotten away from him, Indy noticed the lead vehicle turning to the right very sharply. Indy dug in his heels and the horse bolted across the road, into the jungle on the other side. But instead of turning to follow the Germans, he went straight, weaving his way around trees and the denser bushes as fast as the horse was willing to go, which was barely more than a trot. Foliage lashed at his face like thousands of whips. He did his best to protect his face with his arm, but he had to allow himself to see where he was going, especially since the horse had its head down close to the ground. After several agonizing minutes of this, the horse suddenly sprang out into the clear and was standing smack in the middle of the road, next to the river, directly in the path of the lead vehicle.
The driver was so startled to see this apparition that he slammed on his brakes until both vehicles shuddered to a halt.
For a tense moment, everyone stared at each other with jaws open. Engines idled, the horse stamped his foot, one of the Germans in the back seat of the Kuebelwagen coughed.
"Schießen Sie ihn!", the Nazi in the passenger seat screamed, Shoot him!
Indy quickly pulled his Luger and shot the driver, then spurred the horse over the far side of the road, down an embankment, and onto the sandy shoreline of the river. He wheeled to the right, dug in his heels, and galloped up ahead of the vehicles amidst a hail of bullets.
The Nazis were rolling again within twenty seconds; every single one of them was armed and keeping a watchful eye out for him.
Indy kept far enough ahead that the range of their weapons was ineffective. Meanwhile, his mind raced as to how to deal with them, and retrieve his bag. The answer presented itself a half mile further up the road. A tributary stream flowed into the river there, and the road crossed that stream via a very crude bridge; two logs and some cross-planks. Indy dug his heels in and the horse found extra speed, hurtling along the sandy bank of the river at the pace of a derby champion. When they reached the bridge, Indy pulled the stallion to a halt and took the last three grenades out of his bag. He quickly pulled the pins on each of them, and lightly tossed them up onto the surface of the bridge. Then he wheeled the horse around and raced back down the riverbank, toward the oncoming vehicles.
Indy was not in too much danger at this point; a majority of his opponents were in the back of the truck. Only one man, sitting in the back seat of the lead vehicle, was shooting at him, and not very effectively as his ride was bouncing roughly along the crude dirt road. Indy didn't even bother shooting back, but kept racing in the opposite direction the Germans were traveling. When he drew dead even with the vehicles, he could resist a glance up at them, and locked eyes with the driver of the Kuebelwagen. Unspoken words passed between them. Indy's glare told the German that he would keep coming at them as long as he was still breathing and could lift a weapon. The German's look was one of resigned acknowledgment of Indy's unspoken declaration, with nothing left to do, he would continue his side of the conflict until he was dead or defeated. The gaze broke, and Indy shot past them, now under fire from the men in the rear of the truck. To their surprise, Indy wheeled the horse around, climbed up onto the road, spurred the stallion, and came at them full gallop. They raised their weapons. Jones raised an MP40 and sprayed the back of the truck with bullets; one man slumped over and tumbled out onto the road. The others dove for the deck of the truck. When the weapon was empty, Indy tossed it and dug in his heels. The horse surged forward. Jones pulled it just to the right and grabbed ahold of the right rear corner post of the truck, swung his leg over the animal and hauled himself to the rear bumper of the vehicle.
From the German's perspective, the shooting had barely stopped and they were recovering themselves when this Rider from Hell was suddenly standing in their midst.
Zim banked slightly toward Stukhov's plane, easing up on her speed a bit. Stukhov continued in pursuit of his original target.
"Your assistance would be appreciated, Ms. Possible." The Russian crackled over the radio.
"I will not leave you alone to die, Stukhov." She replied, "But I am curious. How did you make it alive out of that river in Japan?"
"I am good swimmer," he replied.
Thoughts raced through Zim's mind as she gained altitude to join the fight, thoughts that quickly turned to conclusions. Chances were very slim Stukhov was alone. He had come in search of the temple and probably had cohorts in planes all over the area looking for it. When he spotted the explosions, he likely radioed his comrades and came to investigate. When the battle was over, Stukhov was going to insist that he be given the Tempus Simia for safe keeping, and that was unacceptable. The Soviets could not be allowed to posses the artifact any more then the Nazis, especially now that she had seen its power, and what its capabilities were.
Zim spotted what she had been waiting for, A Nazi plane had moved into attack position behind Stukhov. She banked over to intercept the German and opened up when he came within range, slicing up his fuselage and canopy. The German peeled off, smoke pouring from the engine compartment as well as the cockpit.
Stukhov stuck with his target until he finally found good position and pulled his trigger. His ammunition tore through the German plane until there was little left of it. Debris scattered and fell into the jungle.
"Tell me something Lieutenant", Stukhov's voice was almost nonchalant, "When this little war is over, are you going to shoot me down as well?"
Clearly he had been anticipating her thoughts.
"No," Zim said with conviction, "I will not shoot you down. You have my word."
"And I will not shoot you down," Stukhov said emphatically.
Of course you won't, Zim thought with contempt, you need me alive or you will never find the Tempus Simia. That doesn't mean you won't take me prisoner as soon as we land.
Then something occurred to her.
"I appreciate that, Major." Zim said aloud.
At almost the same instant, both Zim and Stukhov had the remaining Germans on their tails. Zim had been hoping both of them would come after her but she would settle for this. She nosed forward and dove for the ground, then almost immediately pulled back level, and then into a vertical climb, pushing the throttle as far forward as it would go. She reached under her seat and found what she was looking for. The German tailing her was directly behind but did not fire. He was no idiot. He was not about to start raining debris down all over himself, but he was determined not to lose her. She would have to pull level at some point or she would stall out. Zim unlatched the canopy and slid it back as her plane began to slow. Just before the upward momentum quit altogether, Zim drew her pistol, unlatched her seatbelt, and pushed herself outward as hard as she could. She sailed straight out from the plane, throwing her head back as she did so, bringing herself into a lazy somersault. When she had come all the way around, she brought up her pistol and fired.
Her pursuer simply stared at her, mouth wide open in utter shock.
It would have taken a perfect marksman a thousand years worth of attempts in order to shoot the pilot while freefalling through the air. Which is why Zim didn't even bother trying. Instead, she fired every single shot she could into the left wing of the German plane. Fuel began to pour out of the holes she had created. Zim was already several hundred feet below when her plane drifted backward and downward into her pursuer's aircraft. Metal crashing into metal threw sparks everywhere, ignited the fuel, and both planes were obliterated in a massive fireball.
Zim pulled the ripcord of the parachute she had found under the seat. The chute plumed open and her downward momentum abruptly slowed. She waited several tense seconds as burning debris fell through the air all around her. The explosion, however, scattered most of the parts, and very little fell in her direction. Several shards of burning, twisted metal hit her chute, all but one immediately slid off. The remaining chunk of debris slowly began to burn through the silk, but the piece was so small it did not create a hole large enough to affect the chute's performance. Zim hit the tree tops, and snagged her chute on a large branch. She hauled herself up to the branch, took out a utility knife, and began cutting the ropes in order to lower herself out of the tree.
She was on the ground in ten minutes.
In that time, the air battle had ceased, and the remaining plane began circling the area. Zim had no doubt it was Stukhov, searching for her. She wasn't worried, however. Fire was still raging at the airstrip, and it was scattered with debris anyway. Landing anywhere near the temple would prove an impossibility. Zim set foot on the ground about a mile and a half south of the temple, in some very thick jungle foliage. Stukhov had been too occupied with the remaining German for him to notice where her chute had gone down. All she had to do now was stay out of sight.
She began making her way toward the river, hoping and praying that Indy was all right.
Indiana Jones went straight to work. Right fist into the face of the German closest to him. Grabbed the gun from the next one and smashed the butt of it across his opponent's jaw. Elbow into the face of a third. Indy was now in the center of the truck bed. A Nazi had gotten behind him. Indy spun around and pulled the trigger.
Nothing but empty clicks.
The German grinned triumphantly at him and raised his fists. Indy gave back a sheepish grin of his own, then threw the gun at the man's chest, knocking him backward and out of the truck. The Nazi who had taken the elbow was attempting to get back up, Indy threw a hard right to the side of his head, rendering him unconscious. When he was sure there were no more viable threats in the back of the truck, Indy slid open the divider that led to the cab and grabbed the driver by the throat, pulling him through the hole with both hands, and finally tossing him out the back of the truck. When he peeked back into the cab, he realized there was no one in the passenger seat.
The lead vehicle began to slow down. They were almost to the bridge, which was now just wreckage; one of the logs having been thrown wide by the force of the grenades. Indy scrambled into the driver's seat, downshifted and stepped on the gas. The truck surged forward, rammed into the back of the Kuebelwagen, and shoved it over the embankment and into the stream where the bridge had been. Not wanting to leave the Germans with an operating vehicle, Indy allowed the truck to follow the smaller vehicle over the embankment, jumping clear just before it thundered down on top of the smaller automobile, killing its occupants.
Indy tumbled and came to rest on the sandy shore of the river. He struggled to his feet and staggered over to the wreckage. The bag containing the Tempus Simia was lying on the ground next to a still-spinning wheel. Two Nazis climbed out of the rear of the truck. Indy looked wildly about for a weapon, but it wasn't necessary. They wanted nothing to do with him, and scrambled up the bank on the far side of the stream, then ran as fast as they could down the road.
Indy retrieved the bag, looked around for the horse – who was taking a much-needed drink from the river about a hundred yards away – mounted, and rode back down the river toward the temple.
Zim was hiding in the tree line near the deflated raft when Indy rode up.
"A horse?" her smile was warm and relieved, "Really?"
Indy nodded, "Better than a jeep. Faster in the jungle, gets better mileage, less maintenance."
"Bring him up here," she said, "So you won't be spotted by the planes."
There were now three planes in the air, circling.
"Who are they?" Indy inquired, "Those don't look like German aircraft."
"Soviets," Zim confirmed, "Stukhov helped me finish off the remaining German pilots."
"Apparently he's a good swimmer."
He turned to her and grinned. She walked up to him, slid her arms around his neck, and kissed him.
"I'm glad you're OK," she said softly.
"If I knew I was coming back to this, I would have gotten here sooner," he responded, "You could have told me you were going to jump in that plane."
"Didn't really think we had time to discuss a battle plan. I assume we're pretty much alone?"
"For now," he said, then told her all that had happened.
"Wherever those two ran off to, it can't be good." She concluded, referring to the two remaining Germans who had run from him at the crash site.
Indy nodded, "No way of knowing what's up that road. Could be more reinforcements. Can't go that way."
"And the Russians are likely south of here, so we can't go down river," Zim said grimly.
"West, then," said Indy, "Shortest distance to the coast. I know the Captain of a freighter in a town out there. Might be able to get us to Southern Europe at least."
Zim nodded and said nothing. As confident as Indy sounded, trekking west straight through the African Jungle wasn't exactly going to be a walk in the park.
"Why not use the Tempus Simia?" Zim suggested, "We can go anywhere at any time.
"True," Indy acknowledged, "But we'd have to wait until noon tomorrow to use it. I don't think we want to be here at noon tomorrow."
Again, Zim nodded and said nothing.
As daylight began to fade, they carefully picked their way through the burned German tents, scavenging for food and supplies. Fires still burned here and at the airstrip, but they had greatly diminished. They would be out by morning, and there was a strong likelihood the place would be crawling with armed Germans, as well as Soviets. They gathered what they could, which was precious little, and were careful to stay out of sight of the Soviet planes. Then, as darkness came on, the aircraft withdrew, the sound of their engines fading to nothing as the first stars began to shine in the sky. They re-inflated the raft, put their supplies into it, then tied the raft to the horse. Zim rode, while Indy held on to the back of the raft as they crossed the wide river; the horse doing his best to swim straight. They trekked about a mile in almost pitch blackness, then made camp for the night.
Two weeks later, they walked out of the jungle and into the Port City of Libreville on the western coast of Africa. As Zim expected, it had not been a walk in the park. Twice they had to go well out of their way to avoid a lake or massive swamp. An encounter with an African Boa had Indy on edge for days afterward. Food supplies had run out and there was precious little in the jungle that was edible, as the horse had discovered on the eighth day. It had gotten sick eating what it thought was a tasty plant, and they had to spend a whole day nursing it back to health. Indy lost several pounds. They were exhausted, the horse was worn out, their clothes were in shambles, and neither of them smelled very appealing.
They sold Lucky (the horse; Indy wanted to call it Copernicus) at the local outdoor market and got themselves a hotel room, a hot shower and a good meal while Indy made inquiries about his friend the freighter captain. As luck would have it, he was due in port the following day, and would be leaving on a return trip to the Eastern Mediterranean the day after.
When the ship pulled in, Indy and Zim were waiting on the dock. The captain recognized the archeologist immediately.
"Dr. Jones," his smile was radiant, his accent a thick African dialect, "I received your message via telegraph yesterday. Again, your appearance is exactly as I imagined it would be. But your women seem to be getting younger and more beautiful."
Zim smiled and shook Captain Katanga's hand, unsure how to take the compliment.
She and Indy shared a small cabin for the next three days.
Katanga dropped them at Gibraltar, after which it was several days by train to Calais, France; across the Channel to Dover, England, and straight to the nearest U.S. Military air base.
They decided to exclude any mention of the powers of the Tempus Simia to Zim's superior officers. The army would consider it a simple relic and allow Indy to keep it with the expectation he would donate it to a museum.
By the time they arrived in Washington D.C for debriefing, Zim was pregnant with James.
At Middleton Regional Airport, a very elderly man stepped off a plane with no personal bags and no luggage to claim at the terminal. Though he could not move quickly, he certainly moved with a purpose. He made his way through the terminal building and out to the loading area beyond, shuffling his way up the sidewalk to where the taxicabs were parked.
"Where to, Old Timer?" The driver asked as he got in.
"West," he replied, "Need to head west out of town. I'm not exactly sure where I'm going, but I will know when I get there."
He handed the driver a hundred dollar bill.
"You got it, pal."
The cab pulled out and headed for the Middleton city limits.
"I didn't realize it, but I was pregnant with James by the time we reached Washington. There were a few days when we both felt we might not make it out of the jungle at all. When we finally did make it out... it was a long trip to England, the cabin on the ship was very small, and there really wasn't much else to do. We were in love. After the debriefing in Washington, I wanted to get to Guam to see Slim, but there were a couple of things to do first…"
Kim put her grandmother's diary down and looked over at her husband who sat brooding.
"Ron," She said quietly.
"I still think we need to move it." Ron grumped, his frustration was evident in his voice, "Dementor still has the IDOL, and where the Ark is now isn't exactly a secure location."
"I know, Ron, but Wil Du's directive was clear. The Ark stays where it is." Kim said soothingly. She could feel his frustration, and even sympathized with it.
"But why! That's all I want to know. What is the reasoning behind this?"
"Because he has a lair." Wade's voice drifted up the stairs leading to the cave below the house. He appeared on the landing with a small backpack in his hind which he immediately handed to Ron.
"Thanks, Wade," Ron said, "What does a lair have to do with it?"
"Lairs are usually in geographically isolated locations. We can't do another battle in Middleton." Wade said matter-of-factly, "Not like the one we had with Ray and his clones. Government had a rough time covering up the story. The head of the NSA has made it clear that was a one-off. Any more of these skirmishes in populated areas and Global Justice will be shut down."
Ron pursed his lips but said nothing, "So we just wait, then?"
"No," Wade said casually, "Dementor raided the Middleton synagogue less than a half hour ago. He's taken the Ark."
Stoppable bolted to his feet, "And we're not going after him because…?"
"Because he still has the IDOL," Wade, said quietly, "Rabbi Katz allowed us to place a tracking device on the crate that houses the Ark. If we tailed him now, Dementor would use the IDOL to eliminate the tracking signal."
"But what if he uses it anyway, just to be cautions?" Kim asked.
Ron came to a realization, "Because eventually he wants us to come after him."
Wade nodded, "We didn't put up a fight when he came into town because we want him well away from Middleton before the fireworks start. But he does want us to come and find him, and only when he's ready. We go after him too soon, he'll eliminate the signal and disappear with the Ark."
Ron nodded in agreement, "His first step in conquering the world is revenge against his oldest enemies. His lair won't be far, but it will be heavily guarded."
"And we won't be able to approach it with any vehicle, nor will we be able to take weapons," Wade added, "The IDOL will simply shut them down, or turn them against us, like he did with the Ninjet."
Ron sighed, "I miss that car."
"Focus, Ron," Kim said automatically.
"Assaulting a heavily guarded lair with no equipment while the enemy has plenty of firepower at his disposal. Sounds fun." Ron mused.
"Oh, I don't think he'll have any weapons, at least none that work," Wade said with a grin, "That's the other reason we wanted him to go back to his lair."
"Care to explain?", Kim asked.
"You knew I wanted to," Wade teased, "And I can't take credit for this. It was Wil's idea. When Dementor came and took the Ark, he was, of course, carrying the IDOL, in case he needed it. I was able to lock onto the IDOL's signal and upload a new program. The default setting on the IDOL now puts it in a state where it simply shuts down everything electronic within a five mile radius, which is its maximum effective range. The program is set to execute early tomorrow morning. That's when we'll roll in, giving us time tonight to make our plans."
"I don't understand, Wade," Kim inquired, "Why not just upload a command that tells the IDOL to shut itself off?"
"Can't" Wade answered, "The IDOL was designed with some extremely sophisticated firewalls to prevent someone from doing precisely that or anything like it. We can't shut it down, nor can we operate it by remote, but we can reset the defaults with what the software in the IDOL will think is a harmless protocol. Early tomorrow, all his lights are going to go out."
"Then we attack at dawn," Ron stated with an almost fierce determination.
"Idiot," Dementor scoffed at the corpse lying at his feet.
They had set the Ark on a small dais in the main hall of the lair. It was cavernous, almost cathedral-like, and seemed a proper setting. The crate was removed and taken away, and the poles used to lift the Ark were slid out from their places, leaving only the relic to sit amidst a soft golden glow that seemed to emanate from the Ark itself. It was nearly impossible to look at it without a sense of awe.
One of Dementor's henchmen had walked up to it, unable to resist the urge to touch it. That urge cost him his life. The second his skin came in contact with the Ark, some Unseen Force struck him where he stood. There was no flash, no bang, no smoke, he simply crumpled up in a heap and breathed no more.
Dementor stood there impassively, regarding the dead man as one regards a dead insect. At least, that was the impression he was trying to give to the other men in the room with him. Inside, a fear took hold of him like a fire that began in his feet and worked its way upward.
"The army that marches with the Ark before it is invincible." That was what Locke had told him. But what if Locke were making an assumption? What if it were only the ancient Israeli army that seemed invincible when the Ark went before it?
No question there was real power at work here. The man lying on the floor of the dais was proof of that.
So God was a vengeful being after all, Dementor thought to himself.
Or maybe God simply won't allow anyone to use Him or His symbols as weapons of evil.
Dementor froze. He wasn't sure where that second thought had come from. It wasn't as though a voice had spoken inside his head. The thought was simply there, as though it appeared without his control. Perhaps it was best to be rid of this talisman. And yet…
The army that marches with the Ark before it was not invincible, it was protected. Which is practically invincible.
Dementor waited for a reply-thought to pop into his head, but none came.
So that was it. God protected His talisman. If Dementor put it at the head of his army, God would have to protect him and his forces if He wanted to protect the Ark.
Only a fool would assume God is so easily manipulated. Or can be manipulated at all.
That thought hadn't come from him either, but he pushed it aside before it could fully materialize in his mind. This was what the true power of the Ark was. God didn't want anyone touching His stuff, and He would destroy entire opposing armies in order to make sure of this. Under the right circumstances, Dementor thought, God was just a puppet.
From the center of the dais, from the very center of the Ark, and simultaneously all around them; from the walls, from the mountain beneath them, from the very air itself, there came a vast, deep rumble. It was not an earthquake, or an avalanche or rockslide. It was not a roar, indeed, it was not loud. But it was deep, deeper than the foundations of the earth itself. It almost sounded like…
…something menacing, angry, full of wrath.
He is not mocked.
Dementor pretended he hadn't heard anything, and strode calmly across the floor of the main hall to the nearest door.
"Clean that up!" he barked at his henchmen, indicating the body at the foot of the Ark.
Then he exited.
Professor Dementor had a very large army at the ready. It was slightly diminished overnight, as every henchman who had been in that hall, and had heard that rumble, decided they no longer wanted any part of this particular operation.
They were gone before morning.
It was night. The cab had driven for more than two hours. They were in a desert region, with massive, mountainous rock formations scattered here and there. There was no moon in the sky, but there were a million stars out, and they seemed brighter than normal due to the lack of the moon's presence.
"Here," The passenger said. He had been silent for the entire trip.
"What?" The cabbie asked, startled.
"Here, stop here."
"But there's nothing here."
"I said stop here!"
The cab slowly came to a halt. The passenger handed the driver several hundred dollars, and then got out.
"You sure you're going to be all right?" the driver asked.
The ancient looking passenger said nothing. He merely stood there and stared at the driver.
"All right," the cabbie shrugged his shoulders. He pulled the cab around and headed East again.
The elderly man stood and watched as the cab faded into the distance, then he turned and walked into the desert.
Cold, gray light began to tinge the horizon in the east. Cloudless was the sky, and frigid was the air. The massive stone formations looked like immense sentinels guarding a dead land. No indigenous life moved, no bird in the air, no beast on the ground. What few words passed between any in the company of soldiers were hushed, as though the very sound of them were swallowed up by the desert air.
They had gathered several miles east of the fortress, watching, and waiting. The lights from the walls twinkled, and the sounds of machines, of engines, wafted across the desert floor as a stench wafts across a hot room. Several hoverjets were idling behind those walls on launch pads, waiting to be sent skyward should an alarm be raised.
Dementor, with some sense of ancient villainy, had constructed his lair in the style of a mountaintop fortress, which sat upon a massive rock formation. The entire setting looked as though it had been transplanted out of ancient days, save for the machinery and electrical equipment. It had high walls all around the front of it, with guards patrolling the battlements. The rear was a natural wall made up of a towering rock formation that jutted up from within the lair itself. One large gate was located at the top of a road leading down to the floor of the desert. Its purpose, of course, had been to haul equipment and building material by truck, but the finished product looked like a low-lying castle; the type lived in by evil wizards in fantasy stories.
Ron sat atop his horse at the center of the line of warriors that stretched out on either side. To his left was his wife. She had the Lotus Blade strapped to her back. Her use of the weapon was the one condition Ron would accept upon her insistence that she be included in the operation. As his daughter grew older, Ron was increasingly protective of her and her mother. But he also knew that asking Kim to stay behind was an act of futility. He felt the bulge in the saddlebag at his side; the contents of the backpack Wade had given him the day before, and wondered if Kim suspected what its contents were. She had not asked him, and he hadn't told her. She would look at him every now and then, knowing something was on his mind, and wanting to ask, but at the same time, not wanting to know the answer.
Ron had requested the contents of the backpack from Wade after having spent time talking to Rabbi Katz the morning before the Ark wastaken. It was an enlightening conversation. Ron wanted to know if the Ark was as powerful as legend said it was. He was surprised by the Rabbi's answer.
"I don't know, Ronald, and frankly, it doesn't matter."
"Ron, the Ark isn't a weapon. It has no power of its own. If it is a source of power as some claim, then that power comes only from God, and only when He chooses to exercise that power." Katz explained. "But as much as it is not a weapon, it is something much more important."
"What?" Ron asked.
"Ronald, the Ark is not just a symbol of us, or of our people. It is a token placed here on earth by God, it is the representation of all we hold dearest and truest to us; that God will one day restore His people, and His kingdom."
Ron listened intently.
"The Ark wasn't just marched before the army of Israel. It went before the nation of Israel as it wandered for forty years, providing hope when times were darkest. It sat in the temple, and the men of Israel came before it to offer their sacrifices of atonement. Think of it, Ron. The blood of sacrificial lambs was sprinkled on the side of it to atone for the sins of each man and his family. Now that's power, Ronald. Making an army invincible only takes strong, well-trained warriors. Forgiveness of sin? That takes the power of God Himself."
Ron thought about all this as Katz spoke.
"For thousands of years, the Ark has been the object of hope and faith to one man, while the object of power and subjugation to another. It's almost representative of how we see God. Many see Him as a benevolent, loving being, while others see Him as a cold, vengeful deity. "
"How do you see him?" Ron was curious.
"God is all things, Ron. He is merciful and vengeful. Loving and wrathful. The only thing He is not, is evil."
"I thought you said He was all things." Ron couldn't help himself.
"He is. But evil is not something of substance, it is simply the natural state of existence when there is no good. Just as darkness and cold have no substance, but light and warmth do. Cold and dark are the natural state of existence when light and warmth are not present. But cold and dark are not substantive, they have no physical presence. They are simply the absence of something. Evil is simply the absence of good. Light cannot be both light and dark, just as God cannot be both Good and evil. And since evil is nothing of substance, it is not wrong to say God is all things." The Rabbi said evenly.
Ron said nothing at this.
"But we've wandered off the subject," the Rabbi said helpfully, "You want to know why the Ark is so important, why the order of Metaken has sworn to protect it from falling into the wrong hands."
Rabbi Katz leaned in close, and spoke in low, forceful tones, "The moment we take any of God's symbols lightly, and do not keep them holy, is the moment we begin to lose who we are; not just as Jews, but as God's children. Do you know what is in the Ark?"
"Just sand, from what Dr. Jones indicated." Ron recalled.
Rabbi Katz smiled, "Sand was just the packing material. You don't put two stone tablets into a box without packing material."
"Then the-?" Ron began.
"Ten Commandments are contained within the Ark." Katz cut him off, "The Word, written by God himself. If we do not protect the Ark, then we do not protect God's Word. Take His symbol lightly, then how long before His Word is taken lightly as well? No. We guard the Ark with our lives, just as we guard the Word with our souls. If we do not do both, then we will have neither."
"I understand," Ron said solemnly.
"Now, this is not to say that God hasn't allowed the Ark to be taken from time to time, and put into the wrong hands," Katz said cryptically, "But it is all to His purpose."
Sitting in the desert in the cold pre-dawn hours, Ron realized Katz knew Dementor was coming for the Ark and he would allow it to be taken, rather than fight to protect it. But for what reason, he could not guess. He thought about riding over and asking him, but time was drawing short. Ron was determined to retrieve the Ark. Failing that, he was determined not to allow Dementor to keep possession of it. For this reason, he had asked Wade to bring him two experimental Quantum Cobalt explosive devices. If all else failed, he would destroy the Ark rather than see it fall into the hands of evil, whether or not evil was capable of harnessing any power the Ark might have.
"You think we should have brought more people?" Kim asked, just for the sake of making conversation.
Ron shrugged, "I get the feeling our hundred troops could be a hundred thousand and it wouldn't make much of a difference."
There were fifty Metaken warriors present, including Rabbi Katz, who was the head of the Order. He had taken the place of Rabbi Berkowitz, who created the secret band of Abir warriors when the Ark was originally brought to Middleton by Zim and Indy.
In addition to the Metaken warriors, there were roughly fifty of GJ's best Deep Field Operatives, all here on a voluntary basis, including Wil Du. Among the DFO's were a villain and a disgraced agent, trying to earn back his good name. Jim Possible and Arianna had volunteered to join the attempt to retrieve the Ark. Arianna, a devout Catholic, was furious when she found out what the IDOL had been used for. As a native of Brazil, she was familiar with the cruelty the Nazis were capable of, and as a Catholic, the Ark was as sacred to her as the Holy Grail would have been. She felt responsible, and wished to correct her mistake.
Ron had to admit, it wasn't a very large force for an army about to attack a walled fortress in the desert. But it was the best they could do. Regular military could not be utilized mainly because it would attract attention. What was about to happen would never be officially acknowledged by the United States Government, or its Military. As with most Global Justice operations that took place in the U.S., an official investigation would be launched, deliberately erroneous conclusions would be made, and the internet would be abuzz for years with conspiracy theories as to what "really happened."
All one hundred plus warriors were on horseback, knowing the IDOL would shut down anything electronic, even vehicles, which the IDOL could get control of through the GPS systems. BY direct order, they were prohibited from bringing non-electronic firearms by the Pentagon. If any shots were heard, especially on a large scale, the military would be forced to respond, and GJ would likely be shut down permanently. Though this presented a difficulty, it did not mean they were marching into the face of opposing artillery. Most modern supervillians preferred high-tech weaponry; deathrays, particle beam weapons, blasters, etc. All those would be inoperable in a few moments when the IDOL's new programming went into effect.
"I guess I'd feel better with the hundred thousand," Kim said with a weak smile.
Ron smiled and looked at his wife, sitting astride a horse in the cold pre-dawn hours, wearing her battlesuit even though it wouldn't be operational. He wondered if there was ever a time when she wasn't the most beautiful woman he'd ever laid eyes on.
Ron was wearing his Ronin outfit, but without the mask. For some reason, he wanted to go into battle with his face uncovered. Somehow it felt more honorable, considering the task at hand.
"Ron," Kim said softly, "If there is something you want to tell me…"
Ron suddenly felt a twinge of guilt for keeping things from her. He reached into his saddlebag and pulled out the backpack containing the Quantum Cobalt devices and took them out for her to see. She recognized them for what they were.
"I won't allow Dementor to have the Ark." Ron said with such quiet intensity that it surprised even him.
"You brought me on a suicide mission?" Kim demanded, though in a soft voice so as no one else would hear.
"Not if I can help it," Ron said with conviction, "This is the contingency plan if all else fails."
Kim breathed a sigh of relief, "Then let's make sure it doesn't come to that."
"Works for me," Ron agreed. He reached for her hand and squeezed it.
At that moment, Wil Du and Rabbi Katz rode up and pulled their horses next to Ron and Kim.
"Well, General Stoppable, now that we've seen the place, any ideas for a battle plan?", Du asked.
"I'm not much of a military leader," Ron confessed, "I was thinking basic frontal assault. But I'm open to suggestions."
"I sent a small advance group of my best stealth warriors on foot," Katz informed them, "Maybe they will find a suitable place for us to breach the wall. Has anyone done any reconnaissance on this place?"
"We were able to locate it with our satellites via the tracking device you allowed us to place in the crate," Du said, "But we couldn't get detailed imagery. He's using some kind of device to obscure our imaging technology. All we got were map coordinates and blurry pictures."
"I think we need to go with Ron's plan," Kim contributed, "Time is a factor here. Once Dementor realizes he has no weapons or useable vehicles, he will be looking to relocate as soon as possible. I think it's in our best interest to contain him here."
"Yeah." Ron added, "What she said."
"I've issued non-electronic grapplers to everyone I could," Du reported, "If Katz's advance team gets back in time to give us some good recon, then we'll devise a quick plan that utilizes that information. Otherwise, frontal assault it is; to the wall and up over it."
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"One last thing", Kim added, "I don't think we should give Dementor much time to react. He's evil, but he's not stupid."
"Agreed", Du nodded, "The charge signal will be given as soon as the lights go out,"
Katz immediately wheeled his horse around and began to spread the word among his men. Wil Du did the same.
"Shoot," Ron exclaimed, "I forgot to ask Rabbi Katz why he let Dementor take the Ark."
"You can ask him afterward," Kim assured him.
The light behind them in the east grew brighter. The sun would be coming up soon. The line of horsed warriors stood one hundred wide, so as to look as intimidating as possible. Though no alarm had yet been raised, there would be one soon enough. And a line of horseman charging the fortress would look a little more impressive than a tight column of trotting warriors. They would funnel their way onto the steep road that led up to the walls, and then find a suitable place to grapple themselves up and over.
Then, a silence descended upon the desert. The whining/roaring engines of the hoverjets that were idling died down. Any machinery that was running suddenly shut off. Last of all, the lights atop the wall blinked out.
For a brief moment, all was utter silence. To Ron, everything suddenly looked as though a battle were taking place in ancient times; the assault on Ai, the battle of Megiddo, the taking of Tyre by Alexander, or even a reverse re-enactment of the attack on Masada. Here was a line of horsed warriors, with only the weapons they could carry, about to attack a fortress built atop a great rock.
Ron wondered who was going to give the signal. That question was answered by the long, sustained and unmistakable sound of a horn. Ron looked over and saw Rabbi Katz with his lips pressed against what looked like an ancient ram's horn (for that is what it was). The sound filled the air, and rang out across the desert. It was a sound that was at once noble and ominous; the herald of a battle about to take place.
Wil Du looked at Ron and nodded. Ron spurred his horse, and broke from the line. Kim was immediately behind him by half a length, and then, the entire line suddenly surged forward.
The charge was on.
The old man had been walking and climbing all night. He was nearly at the base of the wall when he heard the sounding of the horn. He merely nodded to himself and continued onward toward the front gate.
Dementor hadn't slept well. That is to say, he hadn't slept at all. When the henchman came pounding on his door, he was nearly frightened out of his wits.
"What is it?" he growled.
"Sir, everything has shut down! Even the power!" came a frantic voice behind his door.
"Impossible," Dementor fumed, "Bring me the IDOL."
Up on the wall there was a general state of panic. No one had noticed the line of horses sitting on the desert floor below until they began to approach. When one of them tried to sound the alarm, nothing happened, while others were attempting to use their defensive weapons to no avail. Worse yet, no one was sure what exactly they were being attacked by, or how many of them there were. At the exact moment the charge began, the sun peaked up over the horizon and obscured their vision. The desert floor was still in shadow, and the sun seemed intensely bright this morning. No one could see anything down there. Suddenly, to everyone's astonishment, a stranger in a fedora swung in on what looked like a bullwhip. He landed lightly and began dispatching henchmen with his fists. Pandemonium erupted.
It was time to come out of hiding. The sound of the horn indicated to him that someone was coming to get the Ark, and he had no doubt whoever they were, they were the good guys.
They would need some help.
He hadn't been in the hoverjet that went on the raid to Middleton, but he did see what they brought back. Though he couldn't see through the crate, he knew what was in it. Stealthily, he followed the crate to the cavernous hall where they unpacked it and set it upon the dais. He watched as the henchman who touched the Ark perished, and then felt the rumble that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. To his pleasant surprise, the remaining henchmen evacuated the hall soon after Dementor had left, leaving him alone with the Ark.
Indiana Jones spent the entire night gazing at the most important archeological discovery of his life. He kept a respectable distance, not wanting to touch it or defile it. Memories came flooding over him; of Marion, of Zim. The two people in his life he had loved more than any others. Each of them had their own special place in his heart, in his very soul, and he loved them both deeply. He found it interesting how memories of either of them inevitably were attached to memories of the Ark itself. Marion had been there when he had discovered it. Zim was with him when the Ark had come to Middleton.
That particular memory, in fact, brought back nostalgic feelings of longing and awkwardness. In 1957, Soviet operatives had broken into Area 51 with Indy as their hostage, and absconded with the remains of an alien being from another dimension; the space between spaces, as it were. Indy, as usual, escaped their clutches and attempted to thwart their mission. In the ensuing battle, the crate containing the Ark had been inadvertently discovered. When Zim was sent to investigate the break-in at area 51, she found the Ark, and made arrangements to have it moved to her hometown of Middleton in the hopes that such an obscure location would never attract unwanted attention again. Because of Indy's history with the Ark, the OSS wanted him involved in the relocation process. By that time, Indy had married Marion Ravenwood, and James was already nine years old. The cargo plane ride to Middleton was mostly uncomfortable silence. He had asked awkwardly how James was doing. Her answer was terse, followed by a firm reminder that she didn't want anything to do with him, and did not want him attempting to have a relationship with his son. At the time, Indy didn't understand why. But in later years, the answers would be revealed to him, and he understood what she had done, even if he didn't necessarily approve of it.
Gazing at the Ark, Indy didn't sleep at all that night, didn't feel the need to. When the sound of the horn roused him from his thoughts, he didn't hesitate. He sprinted out the door, toward the outer wall. One of the wings of a hoverjet was folded for storage, and was sticking straight in the air, the tip of which was well above the top of the wall. Indy took out his whip, lashed it to the wingtip then sprinted as hard as he could until his feet left the ground and he swung up landing atop the wall.
The final adventure of Indiana Jones had begun.
As they neared the base of the road, they began to merge seamlessly into a column three horses wide. Ron, Kim and Rabbi Katz were out front, urging their rides to gallop as fast as they dared. The road switched back several times during its ascent, and it was a harrowing ride. Had those inside the wall use of their weapons, everyone on horseback would have been annihilated before they reached the midpoint. As it was, no one had even so much as hurled a rock in their direction. Soon the entire column was on the road, resembling a massive millipede making its way around the curves and ever upward. Ron stole a glance to the top of the wall but saw only faces on the right side of the gate, none of the left. He had no time to wonder about this, however. They were about to reach the base of the wall. Ron hoped grapplers would be all they needed.
The ancient wanderer made his way along the base of the wall to the front gate. Without hesitating, he began to push.
"How do I get the front gate open?" Indy had the scruff of a henchman's shirt in his fists.
"You will learn nothing from me." The henchman sneered.
Indy dragged him over to the wall and shoved him over the side. The henchman screamed all the way down. Jones grabbed another henchman.
"How do I-?"
"The gate operates on a hydraulic system!" The henchman gibbered, "There's a manual release on the other side. Foot pedal at the top of the wall nearest to the gate."
Indy dropped him and looked over at the gate. It was thick, but not thick enough for him to stand on, or walk across. Jones grabbed his whip and lashed it once more around the tip of the wing of the hoverjet. He swung back down into the foreyard, bringing his feet up into the chests of two oncoming henchmen as he reached the bottom. Then he turned and looked for a way up the wall on the left side. There was a stairway to his left, but nothing close to the gate would facilitate him. Indy gritted his teeth and went to work. Sprinting over to the base of the stairs, he was met by three opponents, intent on stopping him. They were descending the staircase in single file, very close to each other. The lead henchman pulled up short when he saw Indy, and his two comrades behind him piled into his back. At the same instant, Indy barreled his fist straight into the face of the man closest to him. His opponent's head snapped back and rammed into the head of the man behind, which in turn smacked into the third man's head. All three fell off the stairs. Indy bounded up the steps two at a time and was met with a small reception at the top. He plunged his fist into the gut of the nearest henchman, who doubled over. Indy grabbed him and shoved him into the next man, and both went tumbling off the catwalk into the foreyard. There were only three men remaining between him and the gate release. Left into the face of the first, uppercut to the chin of the second, followed by a vicious right hook that sent him stumbling backward into the final henchmen who lightly sidestepped his comrade only to feel Indy's hand on the back of his neck, forcing his head downward into Indy's upward rising knee. He dropped in a heap. Jones scrambled over to the point where the gate was attached to the wall and found a small foot lever there. He stepped on it.
The old man pushed harder, and to his astonishment, the gate began to move inward. He leaned his frail weight against the massive door, satisfied at the feeling of it giving way before him. As soon as it was open as wide as it could go, he stepped just to the right, and narrowly avoided being trampled by horse hooves.
"The gate is open!" Rabbi Katz said with no small amount of shock in his voice.
Ron knew how he felt. He squinted and saw what looked like an old man pushing against the door. He brushed it off as a trick of the early morning light. One of Katz's advance team members must have gotten inside and was already stirring things up, including opening the gate. Stoppable raised his arm and waved everyone forward. The riders in the first few rows behind him saw his gesture and made a similar one of their own for the benefit of those behind. The entire column came thundering into the foreyard of Dementor's fortress.
Indy watched with satisfaction as the cavalry came galloping in through the front gate and spread out in as many different directions as possible. Whoever they were, they were ready to fight. Then Jones was set upon by more men who had scrambled up the stairs behind him. Reinforcements had emerged from some inner part of the fortress and some were headed in his direction. The newly arriving henchmen had brought weapons; clubs, staffs, anything that could be wielded as a primitive weapon. Indy squared himself, took out his whip and flicked it at the closest henchman when he was near enough. The slender leather rope lashed itself around the man's club, and Jones yanked it from his grasp. He did the same to the second man's staff, and set to work on the rest.
The interior of the fortress looked like something out of a fantasy novel. There was a large foreyard immediately inside the gate which was marked with many landing pads for the hoverjets. More than half the pads were empty. There was a massive overhanging rock that towered above the foreyard, and seemed to serve in place of any actual buildings. In the face of the rock were several doors; some as large as an aircraft hangar, and others vehicular or human sized. Clearly the immense stone formation had been hollowed out to serve as quarters, storage and whatever else was needed. The high, black iron wall that surrounded the foreyard embedded itself in the face of the rock on either side, which left very tight quarters for the hoverjets when all the landing pads were occupied. It was for this reason the satellite imagery of the location always turned out blurry. When all the hoverjets were idling on all the landing pads, the heat waves emanating upward were so intense that any imaging devices would have been unable to penetrate them clearly enough to produce accurate pictures of the lair. Dementor was no fool, he had planned well.
Ron broke to the left as soon as he was in the gate, wanting to leave plenty of room for those behind him to make their way through the opening. He charged his horse at a group of opponents who scattered at his approach. Ron swung himself down from the animal and began delivering punches and kicks in rapid succession. Four men were lying on the ground when Ron reached into the saddlebag and brought out the backpack with the cobalt charges. He slung it to his back and was about to charge another group of enemy soldiers when he heard something odd. It was a cracking sound, almost like a gunshot, but not as loud. He turned to see the last thing he expected. Atop the wall to the left of the gate was a man wearing a leather jacket, khakis and a brown fedora. He had a bullwhip, and was doing some significant damage to the henchmen unfortunate enough to be in his path. One man was had the whip wrap itself around his neck. He was abruptly yanked forward only to stumble headlong into the fist of the man in the hat. The remaining henchmen on the wall lost their resolve and tried to make their way back long the wall and down the stairs, but they were met by resistance as the henchmen at the back of the group tried to make their way forward.
"Who is that?" Ron yelled to his wife above the increasing roar of the battle, "Can't be one of Katz's men!"
Kim had just dismounted and turned to follow Ron's gaze, "Maybe a GJ agent we haven't met yet. Is it really that important right now?"
"I guess not", Ron allowed, "Just…something familiar about him."
Ron was set upon by henchmen and too busy to worry about it further.
Roughly twenty guards were rushing at Kim, but she did not flinch. Changing the Lotus blade into a naginata, specifically the Cactus Blade, she brought it up over her head and struck the ground in front of her. A massive rumble shook the immediate vicinity as a thousand cracks traveled at lightning speed toward the oncoming enemy. The front row of henchmen merely exploded, the second were tossed into the air, and the third were blown off their feet. The echoes of Raitaro resounded throughout Dementor's lair.
Rabbi Katz's weapon of choice was a pair of fighting sticks, roughly a foot and a half in length each. They twirled and danced in his deft hands as he swung them, striking foe after foe. His Metaken warriors were well trained in the art of Abir combat, which, to an outsider, would appear as a blend of eastern martial arts and Greco-Roman wrestling. An opponent striking with his fist would first be met with a flurry of blocking maneuvers from very fast Abir hands; hands which were not only blocking an incoming fist, but working to gain leverage on an opponent's arm in order to throw him off his feet. The attacker would be violently pulled forward, and find himself tumbling face first to the ground, with a solid fist to the back of his head for good measure. More often than not, one who attacked a master of the Abir fighting style found himself unconscious within a few moves.
Wil Du and his GJ agents were making good headway against the enemy. Du had suspended the non-lethal directives for this mission, as he was wont to do from time to time when he felt the mission called for it. His agents did not relish killing opponents, especially when they felt those opponents were mostly misguided henchmen working for a villain who either paid them for their services, or intimidated them into doing their jobs. But today, it was understood that lethal force was very necessary.
Jim and Arianna were also holding their own. Arianna due in part to her mutant power, which she wielded to great effect.
Not long before she was born, Arianna's mother had taken ill. She was sent to a medical facility that had been conducting human trials on various pregnancy ailment remedies, and Arianna's mother was a prime candidate. Unfortunately, the facility was headed by a rather unscrupulous doctor who conducted human trials of his own in secret. He exposed Arianna's mother to a highly concentrated dose of gamma rays in the hope of mutating the child in her womb. It worked. Ariana was born with a kinetic ability; she could levitate any object weighing less 150 kilograms up to ten feet away from her. At a very young age, she was moving toys and books through the air, to the astonishment of her family and friends. Her loving parents taught her to keep her mutation a secret, in the hopes she could have as normal a life as possible. However, Arianna's mother died from the prolonged effects of the gamma radiation she was subjected to when Arianna was only 19. When she sought out the medical facility and in particular, the doctor who had performed his secret experiment on her, she discovered the facility had been quietly shut down by the Brazilian Government, its personnel relocated to places unknown. As an act of vengeance, Arianna swore she would make every member of the government pay for what happened to her mother, and she turned to a life of crime in order to finance her quest. It was amazing what she could steal just by levitating it out of its display case or off its shelf, and into her possession. Her ability soon caught the attention of some of Brazil's more infamous supervillains, and she began hiring her services out to those who could pay handsomely. She was in the middle of a rather large heist from a bank when she came under the arresting custody of one of Global Justice's best agents; Jim Possible. They got to know each other on a long, slow extradition trip to the United States. And by the time she broke out of her GJ holding facility, they were in love.
She picked up two at once, and brought them toward her, bringing their faces rapidly into her fists. Sometimes she would toss an enemy at Jim, who would dispatch the foe with a roundhouse kick. All during the fighting, she began to feel a strange sensation within her; emotions she hadn't felt before. What she was doing at the moment was not something she would profit by, nor would she gain a sense of vengeance from it. And yet, she felt more fulfilled just by what little she had thus far contributed to the battle than anything she had done in her life up to this point. She felt a satisfaction at knowing what she was doing was for the cause of right, against evil.
Arianna was beginning to get a taste for hero work.
Meanwhile, the agents and the Metaken Warriors began to cut large swaths into the enemy lines, driving them back or dispatching them altogether. Ron, busily fighting off larger opposing numbers, caught an odd sight out of the corner of his eye. When he looked again to confirm what he thought he saw it was no longer there. But he was sure he had seen a very, very old man make his way through the foreyard as though he were jostling his way through a crowded sidewalk. He told himself he was seeing things and continued dispatching Dementor's troops.
Ron, glancing over to make sure Kim was doing alright, began to relax a bit. They had caught Dementor by surprise, and the battle would be over within the hour. The Ark would soon be back under the protection of Rabbi Katz, Dementor would be in custody and all would be restored. He even began to smile as he threw punches and kicks and took down one enemy after another. At long last, one of Ron Stoppable's battle plans had gone according to design. In the background, he could hear Jim and Arianna chattering to each other. Then he noticed Wil Du had stepped back from the line and began to call out orders to his agents, coordinating their attacks. The enemy was driven almost to the stone wall, and while foes were pouring out of the doors, the reinforcements weren't significant.
Then, to Ron's surprise and dismay, the engines of one of the hoverjets behind him roared to life.
Dementor had figured out the problem with the IDOL. And while he couldn't change the default settings for the device, there was something else he could do. He raised the device above his head and smashed it to the floor, then stomped on the shattered pieces until they were no bigger than his thumb. The lights in his quarters blinked on.
Most villains don't like to give up the toys they've stolen, even if those toys aren't functioning properly any more. Dementor was no fool (he was a professor, after all). He realized that in order to keep the bigger prize, he would have to lose the smaller one.
He pulled out a communications device and punched several buttons.
"Yes, Professor?" came a crackly voice.
"Bring in the reinforcements," Dementor growled, "All of them."
Indy was just finishing off the final thug on the wall when he heard the engine fire up. Sensing a bad turn of events, he once more lashed the tip of the hoverjet's wing and swung down into the foreyard, landing on the run. He dashed into the hoverjet itself and was set upon by four henchmen who had been in hiding. Jones threw a left into the nearest jaw, then a right to the gut, dropping the other man like a sack of cement. An elbow caught him on the face, and he reeled for a second then recovered himself, returning the elbow with a viscous backhand. A third enemy was dropped with a solid right fist squarely to the nose, and the fourth…
…the fourth man just stood there for a second, then turned and ran down a small corridor toward the hoverjet's cargo hold. Indy went chasing after him with a wild yell he hoped sounded intimidating. When they got to a door, it slid open.
Inside were fifty of Dementor's troops, all glaring at Indy.
Jones pulled up abruptly, his yell trailed off rapidly. He stood there for a split second with a look of horrified shock on his face, then went racing back up the corridor and out of the jet, with all fifty opponents hot on his tail.
One of the hoverjet's blasters fired. An explosion erupted in the foreyard near where the Metaken were fighting. Several of them went flying through the air, and did not move again when they hit the ground.
Ron looked at his wife who had a blank look on her face, then over at Wil Du who was talking on a communicator. Du sprinted over to Ron's position.
"Wade says he's no longer getting a signal from the IDOL," Du shouted above the noise.
"Which means Dementor destroyed the it." Kim contributed.
"And he now has the upper hand," Ron concluded grimly.
"I'm ordering a withdrawal," Du said determinedly, "We'll have to deal with Dementor another day."
"NO!" Ron shouted, "We can't let him keep the Ark!"
"This is not up for discussion, Agent Ronin!" Du barked, "We withdraw now and then we will-"
"Look!" Kim shouted.
Behind them, from the main doors of each of the hoverjets that had been parked in the foreyard, fifty enemy soldiers came streaming out, all of them armed. Weapons fire erupted in the foreyard, several GJ agents went down. In the skies above, ten to fifteen more hoverjets flew into view and began descending toward the fortress.
"It's a good bet they're full of troops, too." Ron said, almost bitterly.
Two hundred and fifty armed enemy soldiers were between them and the gates. Another hoverjet sitting on the foreyard began firing its weapons. Explosions were erupting all over the foreyard.
"Inside!" Du shouted, "Get inside the fortress!"
No one questioned the orders. What had been an inevitable victory a moment ago was now a fight just to survive. Jim and Arianna managed to fight their way to a smaller side door. Jim called out for the others. As many as could make it, they all filed inside, with the enemy close on their heels. They raced down a short corridor to another door and rushed inside, finding themselves in the great central hall with the Ark on the metal dais at the far end. Across from them another door burst open. Additional GJ agents and what remained of Rabbi Katz and his Abir fighters came pouring in. Leaving a few men to bar the doors, they rushed over to join their compatriots. For the moment, none of Dementor's men were in the hall.
"There's nothing to barricade the doors!" one of the agents observed.
"We'll try and hold the doors closed as long as possible," Rabbi Katz shouted, "Let us know what plan you come up with."
"I don't know how we're going to get out of this," Wil Du said with frustration.
"I might," Ron said quietly, pulling the backpack off and unzipping it.
Kim's face went white, "Ron, NO!"
Ron merely looked at her but said nothing. He then turned to Wil and showed him the contents of the bag.
"How large will the explosion be?" Wil asked quietly.
"Shouldn't take more than whatever is on that side of the hall," Ron said emphatically.
"Ron-" Kim began.
"No." Ron said quietly, but firmly, "I told you, I will not allow Dementor to have possession of the Ark. This was a contingency plan, and the time for that plan to be executed has come."
Kim wanted to say a hundred things at once, but bit her lip.
"With the Ark destroyed, and GJ reinforcements on their way," Ron said, turning to Wil, "The fight won't last much longer. Dementor will want to make a hasty retreat."
"There has to be another way," Wil Du said, not wanting to lose his friend.
"If you can think of one, I'm open to suggestions." Ron returned.
"Whatever you do, do it fast!" came a shout from across the enormous room, "They are already battering the-"
At that instant, two doors came crashing inward and enemy troops streamed into the great hall.
"Take care of Veronica", Ron kissed his wife hurriedly, "I love you."
"Ron! You can't…" Kim Possible fought back tears, "You just… I love you too."
He leaped away just before they were set upon by enemy troops.
It was a curious feeling for Ron, being terrified and at peace all at once. He kept a firm grip on the cobalt charges as he made his way toward the platform where the Ark rested. He suddenly knew nothing of any world beyond the walls of the lair; even Kim and Veronica began to become a dim echo of a memory. All that mattered was destroying the Ark before Dementor had an opportunity to use it. The army that marched with the Ark before it was invincible. And then, Rabbi Katz's words from the previous day rang in his head as well; 'Ronald, the Ark is not just a symbol of us, or of our people. It is a token placed here on earth by God, it is the representation of all we hold dearest and truest to us; that God will one day restore His people, and His kingdom.'
And so it was that Ron would finally end his own life not out of self-pity, not out of a sense of false nobility, but rather motivated by the belief that even the symbol of a Faith was bigger than him, and worth more than his life; that to allow this symbol to be used for evil would be an abomination.
Explosions continued to rock the grounds around the lair. Kim was just managing to keep the enemy busy, in order to buy Ron some time. Jim and Arianna had Dementor's troops fully occupied as well. It was a hopeless battle, no question. In a matter of minutes, Dementor's army would overwhelm them, and all would be lost completely.
Ron had to take his opportunity now. He clutched the bombs to him, as a precious thing to be guarded. The dais at the far end of the massive room was close. The Ark almost seemed to be glowing as Ron drew near. But when he got to the platform, there was something else. No, there was someONE else. A Presence that seemed to be waiting expectantly for him. Overcome with realization, Ron was driven to his knees; the Name escaped his lips almost before he was aware of it,
He barely managed to keep a grip on the explosives.
There was a response, a whisper that rumbled from deep within the earth, and floated to him from out of the sky, and made itself known from every part of his surroundings:
In the furthest reaches of Ron's mind he wondered that the Almighty would call him by his hero name. He remained on his knees, his eyes cast downward. He was not kneeling before the Ark, but rather the One who had come to be in that space where the Ark currently rested.
"I am Your servant." Ron whispered firmly.
The conflict behind him seemed to slow down and grow dim, almost as though everything were happening in slow motion. The urgency Ron felt from the need to destroy the Ark was still there, but it was overpowered by the all-consuming Presence of the King of Kings. Ron waited for instructions.
Then, a hand on his shoulder, "I'll take it from here, kid."
Ron looked up and marveled at the face staring back at him. It was framed in a brown fedora, and the eyes almost sparkled with a mysterious knowledge. The eyes... Ron realized there was no eye patch, and then was startled to realize there was no discernible age either. He was not old, nor was he young, he was simply Indiana Jones. Ron knew deep within him that this was not some time travel happenstance, nor was he hallucinating. They were in the Presence of the One, and with Him, all good things are eternal. In the reflection of Indy's eyes, Ron saw himself, also ageless; neither young nor old, but simply Ron... Ronin. Indy gave his shoulder a friendly squeeze, then stooped and picked up the Quantum Cobalt charges from Ron's grasp.
Suddenly they were set upon by enemy troops. Indy dropped the bag and squared off against the nearest opponent. Ron turned and put his back to the archeologist, protecting his flank, and for a few moments, they set about the task of defending themselves. Indy threw one punch after another at any foe who came within reach. A right to the jaw, a left to the chin; Dementor's soldiers began to pile up at his feet. Ronin kept pace, delivering roundhouse kicks, flurries of fists, and sometimes a knee or an elbow. He felt the surge of Monkey Kung Fu flowing through him as it never had before, fueled by a deeper Power; one with no end or beginning.
When all enemies in the immediate vicinity had been dispatched, Indy once more picked up the backpack.
"Take care of that family, kid. Do it for me, because I was unable to take care of mine." For a brief instant, regret played across Indy's face.
"They know you wanted to," Ron said quietly. A tear slid down his cheek though he was not fully aware of why.
Indy smiled a small, lopsided grin, then took a deep breath and stepped toward the Ark. From nowhere, an enemy struck Indy causing him to drop the bag. One of the charges went clattering across the dais. The battle was drawing close, and there was no time to chase after the device. Ron took the foe down, but he knew one charge would not be enough. Ron and Indy watched as the explosive rolled awkwardly away from them, and was caught in a waiting hand on the other side of the dais. The hand closed around the bomb, then drew it upward as the owner of that hand stood upright and looked across the dais at his son.
Now it was Indiana's turn to marvel. Henry Jones was not the ancient, withered old man he'd shared a room with at the rest home all these years. He too seemed neither young, nor old. He was ageless, eternal. He walked calmly up to the Ark.
"Let me help you with this, Indiana."
Indy took the final few steps and came to stand next to his father, "You can call me Junior."
Henry simply nodded and smiled.
"NOOO!" Screamed a desperate voice from a short distance away, "STEP AWAY FROM THERE! NOW!"
Ron stood up and turned around, his voice was the epitome of authoritative calm, "It ends now, Dementor! Everything. It all ends now."
Ron then ignored the villain and turned his eyes to his wife. Kim had been caught, and stood in the firm grip of her captors but did not struggle. She returned his gaze and smiled; a deep, loving smile that was only ever meant for Ron. In that second of silence, they said goodbye to each other.
Dementor was sprinting toward the Ark with a group of his henchmen, shouting. Ron only heard him as though he were very far away. Kim's eyes caught his attention once more as they widened and looked past him to the platform.
Ron turned and beheld a third person standing on the far side of the Ark. She also had an eternal look about her, ageless and utterly beautiful.
"Nana?" Kim cried out almost breathlessly.
Indy turned to look at Ron and the two men shared a nod. "So long, kid."
Ron closed his eyes and dropped to his knees once again, whispering the words, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."
At the split second when Dementor reached the dais, Henry and Indy looked at each other and pulled the ignition pins on the cobalt charges.
The explosion was instant.
In an instant, Ron noted three things: The first was that the explosion was not the massive orange fireball he had been expecting, but rather a bright, pale blue dome of energy that spread outward in all directions as it engulfed the Ark, the dais, and all who were on it, then spread rapidly outward.
The second was that Ron had once more whispered, "Thou art with me" as the wall of energy bore down upon him.
And the third... the very last thing he was aware of just at the point when the explosion consumed him was one final word from the One. A last exhortation from the Whispered Rumble that filled the air, the earth, and Ron to his very soul.
Then Ron knew no more.
It was October, the 26th to be exact - and Reno, Nevada was experiencing a snowstorm that Autum of 1946. It wasn't a blizzard, at least not in the valleys. The snow fell in lazy flurries and accumulated slowly on every available surface. The mountains were undoubtedly getting a good helping of the white stuff, and they planned to take a few days honeymoon at a hotel on the south end of Lake Tahoe. But they weren't planning on driving up to the lake until tomorrow.
Tonight was their wedding night.
Henry Jones Jr. and his new bride, Marion Zimmer Jones, were sitting in the coffee shop of the Nevada Club Hotel and Casino, having just gotten married by a justice of the peace at the courthouse down the street.
Once they had arrived back in the States and discovered Zim was "in trouble" as the saying went, they decided to go ahead and tie the knot as soon as possible, so the math wouldn't be too far off when the baby asked about his lineage. Nevada was the only state in the union where Marriage was an actual industry (third behind Gaming and Divorce, but ahead of Mining and Prostitution…in that order), and one could obtain a marriage only slightly faster than one could get a divorce, mostly because divorce required six weeks of residency in the state to be valid.
Indy decided he would just write a letter to his father with the news, while arrangements would be made to bring Slim to the States on the next available military transport so he could meet his new stepfather. They were all going to live at Indy's house, where he could keep his teaching position at Marshall College. Zim would be able to work anywhere, largely because she was often away on missions, though she had already made up her mind to scale those back a little. She would keep her Aunt Mim's house in Middleton as a Summer residence when Marshall College was between semesters. They weren't sure how it was all going to work out, but they promised each other they would make it work.
For now all those details could wait. After all, they had only been married for a couple of hours, and they were enjoying their first meal as husband and wife. Since the hotel was Nevada themed, the entrees in the coffee shop were all named after Nevada locales. The burgers were named after state counties; there was the Washoe Burger, the Douglas Burger, etc.
Indy was enjoying a Storey Burger. It had lots of meat in it.
"How's your sandwich?" she cooed, munching on a french-fried potato.
"Chewie." He answered with a grin.
They gazed at each other in a comfortable silence. Indy was keenly aware that he had these feelings only one other time, and that woman had also been named Marion. Abstractly he wondered how she was doing, and felt a mild pang of regret for having run out on her only a week before they were supposed to be wed. In many ways, Indy pushed aside any reservations he might have had about marrying Zim because he was determined not to make the same mistake twice. He genuinely loved her, and now was going to have a child and a life with her. He knew with absolute certainty that she would not force him to settle down. Indeed, he wondered if there wouldn't be times when he was asking her to come home and be with the family. One way or the other, they were going to have a very interesting life full of adventure together, and that appealed to him.
Having finished their meal, they went outside to get into the car. They would make the drive to Carson City tonight at least, and then go the rest of the way up to Lake Tahoe tomorrow. When they got outside, snowflakes were wafting lazily through the air. Feeling like a little girl, Zim picked one of the flakes out and chased after it, intending to catch it on her tongue. She was so intent on her chosen task that she wasn't paying attention to where she was going, slipped and went sprawling.
Laughter erupted from Indy.
Sitting on her backside in a snowy parking lot, she wanted to be angry at him, but burst out laughing instead.
"Dr. Jones," she said, holding her hand out to him, "Your wife is in need of attention."
Indy pulled her up, and into his arms, kissing her until she absorbed some of his warmth.
"Are you ready to begin our honeymoon, Mrs. Jones?" he asked her with a grin.
"Yes," She said emphatically, "I am. I don't think I will ever be ready to end it, though."
And for the next two years, they both felt as though they were still on their honeymoon. Indy settled into this teaching position again, Zim took a leave of absence from Army Intelligence to have the baby and take care of it for awhile. In honor of her first husband, she named him James Timothy. Indy had no objections.
Officially, the Tempus Simia was destroyed during the battle at the African Monkey Temple. Unofficially, it wound up in the basement of Zim's aunt Mim's house in Middleton. Both Indy and Zim felt such an innocuous hiding place was preferable to something more obvious, such the warehouse at Area 51.
At Indy's request, Zim made inquiries into the career of Colonel Eaton, specifically; why he hadn't taken the Ark to Germany when Indy turned it over to him. It was ultimately determined that Eaton was unable to find a way to get the Ark out of the country without blowing his cover. He had tipped the Nazis to the fact that the Ark was being taken by Indy out of Cairo on Katanga's freighter, and felt his job was complete once the Nazis took possession of the relic. He probably never expected to see Indy again, nor the Ark for that matter. When Jones showed up in the U.S. with the Ark in his possession, Eaton's hands were tied. He had to watch helplessly as the Ark was taken from him and squirreled away in a massive warehouse in the deserts of Southern Nevada.
Zim and Indy shared many adventures together. Indy would often accompany his wife on strategic missions, and sometimes she would go with him on an archeological expedition. In either case, both of them were very efficient, very attuned to each other, and worked very well together. Many missions were accomplished, and many antiquities were recovered and put into a museum where they belonged. Both of them felt as though they had finally discovered the deeper meaning of true happiness.
And so it was, in the Summer of 1948, when Zim received an unusual visitor. She was in the basement of the house in Middleton. Indy had taken Slim and their eighteen month old son James into town for some ice cream, though Zim had to make Indy swear he wouldn't feed any to the baby. She knew James would get some anyway, but at least this way, Indy would feel guilty about it and not give him so much that it would upset his stomach. Such were the little battles and skirmishes of marriage.
Zim was folding laundry when the room suddenly lit up in a bright crimson glow. Startled, she spun around and saw a vortex open up a few feet away, and through it, she saw the interior of their house near Marshall College. But something about it didn't look right; everything was where it should be, but it looked dim, dark. There was dust on every available surface, and a thick coating at that. Most of the family pictures on the walls were gone. Some of the furniture was broken and disused. All this she took in during the few seconds it took for the vortex to form. Then she heard a voice.
"Please step through, Mrs. Jones," It was a female voice, and very familiar, "I promise nothing will happen to you. It is quite safe."
Zim stood still, wondering if she should bolt for the stairs and go try to find her husband.
"There isn't much time," the voice said again, "I cannot maintain the integrity of the portal! Please step through. I assure you, no harm will come to you!"
It was curiosity that got the better of Zim. She had to know who that voice belonged to. So, she held her breath, and stepped forward.
It was much like stepping through a doorway with a high threshold. There were no strange sensations or feelings, no noises or odd occurrences. One instant she was in her basement, and the next she was in the house back east.
"I appreciate your cooperation," the voice said from just off to her left.
Zim turned and almost let out a yelp. The woman the voice belonged to, was her. Or at least, it was a much older version of her. Zim felt as though she were looking in a funhouse mirror at a carnival; the ones with the ripples in the glass that are supposed to make you look older.
"Yes," she said, guessing her younger self's thoughts, "I am you. I have used the Tempus Simia to bring you forward ten years."
"Ten years!' Zim gasped, "But you-"
"I know," the older woman cut her off, "I look like I'm almost sixty. That is because of what I have been through, and it is a story I will tell you, but you have to make me a promise."
"I promise nothing," Zim said defiantly, still not sure if this was all really happening.
Older Zim nodded, "I would expect nothing less from myself. Nevertheless, what I am about to tell you and show you must be considered the absolute truth. I don't think I have the time or energy to try and convince you this is all real. If you assure me of that, then I will exact no further promises from you. Will you do that?"
"I had a stuffed animal when I was five-" Zim began.
"An English Bulldog" Older Zim confirmed, "You called him Brit, and you lost him when you were six."
Zim said nothing for a moment, and then quietly, she said, "I will trust you."
"Good," the older woman nodded, "Come with me."
They walked out the front door and up the street, turned the corner at the intersection and walked two blocks. During all this time, Zim expected her older self to tell her the promised story but she said nothing. Zim decided to remain quiet, knowing the other woman would talk when it was necessary. Halfway through the third block, Older Zim turned left, crossed the street, and went into the cemetery which was located there. Zim followed. They made their way through the rows of headstones and statuary until the older woman found what she was looking for and turned, gesturing for Zim to take a look. She saw what she was half expecting to see; gravestones for Indy, and his father. But there were four more; one for Slim, one for James, a headstone for someone named Amanda, and sill another for someone named Marcus.
"Our children," Older Zim said calmly, "All of them."
"What happened?" Zim asked breathlessly.
"The Tempus Simia. You remember those two Germans who escaped into the jungle when Indy and I- Indy and you, recovered the Tempus Simia?"
"They were caught by the Soviets. And they talked. Stukhov was bent on possessing the Tempus Simia, but the KGB wasn't as tightly run as the Russians wanted us to think. There were spies, word got out, and many agents of the world's more nefarious governments came looking for it."
"So why not get rid of it?"
"We did, but then, we knew where it was, and we were the only ones with the information on its whereabouts."
Zim said nothing.
Older Zim's voice began to quiver, "James was the first. And Indy was so broken up about it that he quit his job and moved us all out to Middleton. But they found us. And they found Indy's father. And the worst part…"
Here she had to choke back sobs.
"…the worst part was, they killed James not long after his second birthday. Then it was like they waited for the other children to be born! Amanda didn't even make it to six months! Finally, they killed Indy out of spite, leaving me to choke on bitter memories of my dead family."
Older Zim was openly crying by this point.
"OK," Zim said quietly, "Then you have warned me. I'll tell Indy when I get back and-"
"No," Older Zim said emphatically, "You don't understand. I've already done that! I've done it a hundred different times in a hundred different ways, and it all ends up the same!"
"I'm afraid I don't understand."
"That was the first thing I tried. I went back and warned you, and it worked. The first attempt on James' life was thwarted. But they kept coming back and eventually succeeded. So I tried it again, I went back in time and warned my younger self and Indy about what was going to happen. Again, the process was different, but the outcome was the same. We were given bodyguards, special protection; the government even tried to put us into the Witness Protection Program, but they kept finding us. So I kept going back, kept trying to find different ways of avoiding this, but it always ended the same."
"Wait," Zim interjected, "If you kept going back, how would you remember everything from previous attempts?"
"This," Older Zim reached behind Indy's headstone and produced a large, leather-bound book, "This has details of each attempt at going back and changing history. After each attempt is recorded, the book is passed on to the next Zim, as I am passing this on to you."
Zim took the book and opened it. Inside was an account of the many attempts to change history in order to save the Jones family. Every attempt ended with only Zim remaining alive.
"In some of the timelines," Older Zim said through fresh tears, "We had more children than these four. They all wind up dead. But there is something that has not yet been tried."
"What?" Zim asked.
"In each of the attempts, these government agents find the Jones family, and eliminate all of them save me…us…you know what I mean."
"But, if there were no Jones family…"
"No!" Zim said resolutely, "Out of the question."
Older Zim nodded knowingly, "I said the exact same thing to my older self when we had this talk. I tried to find some way to alter things without sacrificing my relationship with my husband. Read some of the entries if you want to see how well it went. Read the entire book."
Zim sat down on the ground right there in front of the gravestones of her husband and children and did just that. One entry after another described in detail each attempt to alter the timeline in order to prevent the deaths of Indiana Jones and his children. There were close to a hundred such entries, and each of them ended the same. Sometimes the family was killed all at once, or in a short span of time, sometimes it took almost the entire ten years to take place, but every single time, James was the first to go, followed by the others. Zim realized there were probably many attempts before one of the versions of herself decided to start keeping the journal. Her mind reeled at all the years spent trying to change the inevitable; the waiting, the horror at watching plans dissolve as Indy and the children were killed anyway. Sometimes it was at the hands of soldiers, other times it was assassins, or ninjas, or mercenaries. One way or another, the result was the same. It took close to two hours to read the entire book, and Older Zim never once interrupted her. By the time she was finished reading, Zim had some questions.
"What about going back to the day we recovered the Tempus Simia at the African Temple?"
"Impossible," Older Zim responded, "Because Eaton used it to bring Hitler into his time period, there is already an energy stream from the Tempus Simia locked into that day. It is impossible to go there from a different time period because it is impossible to cross the energy streams. It's already been tried"
"Before that day, then."
"Go back before that day? Try to change events before that day?" Older Zim asked pointedly.
"And do what?" Older Zim demanded. "Take the Tempus Simia away from Eaton? Do that and Zim and Indy will have no reason to go to Africa at all. The first kiss, the trek through the jungle, and James' conception; none of it will have happened. You and Indy never get together, and worse, Eaton might never be exposed. His New Reich was destroyed that day. This would allow it to continue to exist."
"Another time, then, after that day." Zim insisted.
"It's been tried." Older Zim said quietly, "Once James is conceived, you and Indy begin your relationship in earnest. Everything falls apart after that."
"Then if I do what you are suggesting, what makes you think it will succeed?"
"I don't know that it will," Older Zim replied honestly, "But everything else has been tried. At least this way, things would be so altered that it might shift the timeline. You and Indy have no more kids. You go back to being Zim Possible, which means James does as well. In addition, separate the two pieces of the Tempus Simia and return them to their original resting places. Word will get out that you are no longer with Indy, and that you dismantled the Tempus Simia. That may be enough to discourage the assassination attempts."
"What if I just went back and separated the pieces of the Simia, but stayed with Indy? That might be enough."
Older Zim smiled a sad smile and shook her head, "You seem to have forgotten already. That's what I tried to do. That's my entry in the book."
Zim flipped to the last few pages and verified what her older self had just said.
"If you do as I suggested," Older Zim continued, "There might be enough variables in play to prevent Indy from being killed."
"Why do they leave me alive each time?" Zim needed to know.
"I don't think they intended to," Older Zim answered, "I believe somewhere back there when all this began, the first Zim used the Tempus Simia to go back and warn her younger self before she was eliminated. In any case, those looking for the Tempus Simia needed someone alive to give them the information of the whereabouts, and…"
She trailed off. Zim waited patiently for her to begin talking again, then a realization came to her, and she suspected it was the same realization that had come upon the older version of herself.
"You understand now," Older Zim said quietly, "Don't you."
Zim could only nod. Dread began to grow in her stomach as she came to accept the inevitable. In Zim's mind, it was like an automobile race on a circular track, and the race only lasts for one lap. The race is run, and one driver doesn't like the outcome, so he declares the race will be run again. Again he loses, and again he declares a restart. Each time he starts the race over, he tries something different; taking an inside lane approach, faster speed in the turns, drafting behind this driver or that driver, but the outcome is always the same. This is due to the variables always being the same; same drivers, same cars, same car speeds, same conditions on the track. The driver in question always loses; either coming in second, or worse, because each new strategy was a minor alteration of the one before it. What was needed was a radical new approach to the race. Change the variables significantly enough, and you change the outcome.
She looked through the book again. At least a hundred times or more, Zim had gone back in time to warn her younger self about the events that were going to take place, and each time, the only changes made to the timeline were minor, so the way the events unfolded might be different in each attempt, but the outcome would always be the same. Zim was the driver who kept declaring the race null, and calling for a restart. She realized that in order to win, she was going to have to change vehicles, change racing strategies, and change the track altogether.
Her world came crashing down around her.
Older Zim sensed what her younger self was thinking, and gave voice to the thought, "You can't tell him."
Zim looked up at the older woman and nodded with vacant eyes that welled up with tears, "I know. He'll just insist we can overcome it all, that we can fight, that we can change things."
"And in his heart he would believe it. He would gladly lay down his life for you, because he loves you that much. And if it were just a case of that, then I would say make a go of it. But the children…even Slim…", and here Older Zim gestured to the gravestones. "And the worst part is, I have no idea if the Tempus Simia is even kept out of the wrong hands after all is said and done."
"Then maybe I should just enjoy the time I have with him."
"You really want to lose James? And Slim too? And have you thought about what their deaths do to Indy? When I made my attempt at altering the timeline, Indiana was a hollow shell of a man when they eliminated him. I half suspect he was glad to lose his life after losing four children. Some of the entries in the book say the same thing."
Zim began to sob, "I wish I'd never-"
"So do I." Older Zim said quietly but forcefully, "So do I."
They walked back to Indy's house together and discussed what needed to be done. The more they talked about their plans, the more depressed Zim became. Every now and then, she would suddenly become defiant and resolute, and declare she could handle things the way she wanted. Each time, a patient Older Zim would open the book and show her why that just wasn't possible.
When she was ready to go, Older Zim opened the vortex with the Tempus Simia. As it turned out, the African Temple wasn't needed to utilize the power of the relic. The ancient Chinese Monks fabricated the elaborate process in order to make it difficult for anyone to use the talisman at all. And since Older Zim had already made a link between this day and that Summer day in 1948, the same vortex was simply reopened to allow Zim to step back through. If someone had been standing there when Zim came forward into the future, it would have seemed that she immediately turned around and came back through. No time had passed…in the past.
After the vortex closed behind her, Zim began to wonder if it had really happened at all. But there in her hands was the journal, the detailed description of the many attempts to prevent Indy and the children's deaths.
Zim decided to allow herself one last week with her beloved husband; one that she intended to soak up and enjoy for all it was worth. But even then she was unable to fully appreciate it; a sense of dread hung over her. Many were the times during that week she wanted to tell Indy everything, to share with him her pain and anguish, and to utilize his vast intelligence in finding a solution. Each time she was tempted to do this, she would secretly sneak off, take the journal from its hiding place, and deliberately read about the times when Zim had told Indy everything, after which he had resolved to fight, to triumph, and to spend his life with her, only to end up dead, along with his father, and their children.
For Indy's part, he did notice something was bothering her. But every time he asked her about it, she would tell him everything was fine. He knew she wasn't being honest with him, but he didn't push her. Whatever was bothering her, it was serious.
Zim made the most of that week. They took the children to the park, or to the Middleton Community Pool. Every evening they would have a family dinner on the porch in the warm Summer breezes, and every night they made love.
All too soon, that week was over. Zim dared not risk any more time for selfish purposes. James would be dead in six months if she didn't get to work. Time was already short.
From Indy's perspective, it was as though she had begun to grow cold and distant. Her loving and cheerful disposition gradually gave way to aloofness and detachment. As those Summer months went on, Zim began to find fault in just about everything Indy did. They had several rather heated arguments about what Indy considered trivial matters. By the end of the Summer, they were sleeping in separate beds.
In the Fall, he went back to teaching at Marshall, and Zim began taking more and more missions from the OSS, spending a great deal of time away from home. Indy tried desperately to make things work, wanting nothing more than to be with her and raise a family. But Zim began to drop hints about their marriage being a mistake, and perhaps they might be better suited apart from each other. Again, Indy put a great deal of effort into the relationship, pledging to her to do whatever it took to make their marriage work. She rebuffed his pledges, and treated him with cold indifference. At last, more out of frustration than anything else, Indy went on an extended archeological expedition for two months by himself. When he came back, Zim had taken up temporary residence in Reno.
Six weeks later, a hurt and bewildered Indiana Jones signed his name to the divorce papers she set before him. As part of the divorce agreement, Indy was to have nothing whatsoever to do with his son James, and avoid all contact with Zim. On the evening after the papers were signed, Indiana Jones boarded the eastbound train without saying goodbye to her or Slim, or James.
Zim cried almost nonstop until the sun came up the next morning.
"…never cried so hard in my life. Even now I have my doubts about whether it was necessary to go to such extremes to alter the timeline. But it worked. There were two attempts on Indy's life, and both failed, though the second attempt claimed the life of his wife, Marion Ravenwood. Once, they came after me, but I had made sure there would be plenty of warning. The headpiece of the Tempus Simia I returned to the shrine in Australia, but the body of the statue I kept, and had it put on display at the Middleton Museum. The label in the display case simply read "Tempus Simia". The only person besides Indiana who would ever know there were two pieces to the talisman was Stukhov, and if he had gotten ahold of the lower piece, then he knew where the head piece would be and he would leave me alone. Later I found out that Stukhov had been sent to Siberia for his failure to acquire the Tempus Simia in Africa. For reasons only he knows, he never shared pertinent information about the talisman with his superiors. Another Soviet agent was sent, and he did break into the Middleton Museum, but it seems he was unaware of the necessity of the headpiece. I caught him in Africa, trying to use the power of the T.S. without it. I managed to get the lower piece back without killing the Russian in the hopes he would go back and report to his superiors that the rumors of the Tempus Simia's abilities were false. It must have worked, because there were no further attempts to take it. Indy lived, and so did Slim and James. Not a day goes by that I don't miss my husband terribly."
Kim closed her Grandmother's diary with tears rolling down her cheeks. Just the thought of the heartbreak her grandmother had to endure was itself almost heartbreaking. Kim was grateful she didn't have to make such a choice with Ron. She didn't know what she would do without him.
As though he sensed her thoughts, Ron stirred. He had been lying unconscious in a hospitable bed at Middleton General for three days now. Kim herself had only just woken up the day before, bruised and tired, but otherwise alright. She rose from the chair where she had spent the night reading her grandmother's diary and went to the bedside.
His eyes opened and found her, "Kim?"
She knelt down and kissed him, taking his hand in her left, and stroking his hair with her right. They stayed like that in silence for awhile while he collected his thoughts. Then, memories came back to him.
"Is gone," she said quietly.
"Do you remember telling us the explosion would only effect that part of the great hall where the Ark was sitting?" Kim asked.
"Well, it wasn't just limited to that area."
"I don't think that was the Cobalt Charges." Ron said, his voice hoarse, "I've seen a Quantum Cobalt detonation, it's a very bright and intense orange. This wasn't."
Kim nodded, "It looked blue to me, but then I only saw it for a second."
Ron nodded again.
"This explosion was much larger," Kim continued, "It set off alarms back at Global Justice which responded with a fleet of Jetcopters; enough to deal with Dementor's hoverjets. Only…"
"What?" Ron croaked.
"There were no hoverjets. In fact, there was nothing."
"I don't understand."' Ron was confused.
"From what Wil tells me, the GJ jetcopters should have easily intercepted the hoverjets before they got away. They were at the location within a half hour of detecting the explosion, and the monitors back at GJ said it was a big one. They initially feared a nuclear detonation." Kim explained.
"Wow," Ron rasped, "So it took out the hoverjets."
"You don't understand, Ron. The hoverjets were gone. There were no hoverjets, not even wreckage. There were no soldiers or henchmen to be found. Dementor was gone, the Ark was gone. Ron, there wasn't even a lair!"
Kim nodded emphatically, "The pilot of the lead chopper swears he found us all unconscious, lying on top of a huge rock formation out in the desert. You, Me, Wil, most of the GJ agents, as well as Jim and Ariana and most of the Metaken warriors. Oh, and the horses. The horses were all found at the base of the rock. But there was no lair! No fortress, no walls, no hollowed out rock. No Dementor, no army, no hoverjets."
"And no Ark."
"And no Ark," she confirmed. Then, her face took on an air of sadness, "Ron, Rabbi Katz was not found with us either. GJ has search parties out in the desert, but so far he hasn't been seen."
Ron looked crestfallen. Kim put her arms around her husband's neck and kissed him softly on the forehead. Without saying a word, they both knew Rabbi Katz was not going to be found. It was then that Ron noticed her red eyes.
"Have you been crying?"
At that moment, Veronica burst into the room, followed by Wade and Monique. Rufus was contentedly perched on Veronica's shoulder. The girl had a joyous reunions with her parents and chattered excitedly about all she had been doing in the last few days. Kim and Monique listened intently, while Wade quietly came over to his friend's bedside.
"I've got a question for you, if you feel up to answering one." Wade said pointedly.
"Sure," Ron said affably, sitting up in his bed.
"We monitored the explosion at the location where you were all found, but it wasn't a Quantum Cobalt explosion. I have half of GJ's systems set up to detect any kind of detonation with a Quantum energy signature, but those detection systems never registered anything. So what happened?"
Ron sat there and thought for a bit, "You know, Wade, I'll have to tell you some other time when I can concentrate on remembering the details. If I told you everything right now, I don't think you would believe me."
Wade nodded, "I bet it's quite a story."
"You have no idea," Ron said with no small sense of wonder.
The conversation turned to lighter subjects, and soon the four of them were talking and laughing together. A doctor stopped by and informed them he wanted Kim and Ron overnight for observation. Kim insisted she would be in Ron's room until they were to be discharged the following day. Word came that Wil Du had woken up and they all paraded down the hall to find his wife Justine sitting at his bedside with both his hands clutched in hers. She greeted them all warmly as they crowded around to see how Wil was faring. After a time they all went back to Ron's room in order to give Wil and Justine some much needed privacy.
Evening came on, and Veronica began to yawn profusely, eventually falling asleep in Kim's arms. Monique picked her up, and she, Wade and Rufus went home for the night, leaving Kim and Ron alone.
Ron had not forgotten his question from earlier that day, "You never told me why you were crying."
Kim stood up and walked over to the chair on the other side of the room, "I've been reading Nana's diary. You would not believe what she went through to make sure Dad would be OK."
She told him everything she had read.
"So was that the end of it?" Ron asked, a little sadness in his voice.
"Not quite," Kim slid into bed next to him and opened up the diary, "there is one final entry."
Ron sat up a little and put his arm around her as she began to read aloud.
"It was October 26, 1970, and I was retired. Slim had quit his job at MIT and bought a ranch in Wyoming, while James was in his third year at Stanford, earning his degree in Chemical Engineering. He had just written a letter about a girl he'd met…"
"…couldn't stop talking about her smile and her laugh and her fiery red hair. The way he sounded in his letter, I had a strong suspicion he'd be bringing her home to meet me before long. I was still in the process of settling into the Government retirement community in Florida. Even though I was just past the age of forty, I had earned a good pension, and I decided I had had enough of putting my life in danger. I wanted to see my grandchildren. That's not to say I didn't work. I had gotten a good job as a security consultant, which allowed me to travel from time to time. But this particular day I was at home. There was a knock on my door."
It was Indy.
He stood there in the warm Florida rain looking for all the world to see like a lost puppy. She could see the pain in his eyes, the bewilderment and the fresh anguish at seeing her for the first time in more than two decades.
"It's been twenty-two years," He said firmly, "I stayed away like you asked me to. I kept out of my own son's life like you asked me to. I married someone else, but she died a couple of years ago. I want answers. I think I'm entitled to some answers."
"Indy," she said softly, "Come inside out of the rai-"
"Don't!" he practically yelled, pointing a stern finger at her, "Don't be nice to me now, not after what you did to me. All I want to know is why. I deserve to know that!"
"You do," Zim agreed, "but it's a very long story, and I will not tell it to you while you stand at my front door in the rain."
He stood there, resolute, water running off his fedora and down his grey trench coat. But she could tell he was unsure what to do.
"Indiana," Zim said softly, "You came here for a reason. I am offering to give you the answers you want, but I can't give you a satisfactory answer in just a few minutes while you stand out there getting soaked. Please. Come inside."
"I can't," he said, his voice shaking, "You want to have a polite conversation. You'll make me coffee and we'll sit and have a pleasant chat about why you did what you did. And I'll go away from here just as hurt as I ever was because the truth is, Lieutenant, I still love you. There! I admitted it. Are you happy? I never got over you. I even told Marion that none of the other women in my life weren't her, but I think I was trying to make myself believe it more than anything else! After she died I wanted to come find you and scream at you for what you've done to me, and now I don't even have the strength to do that! So just tell me why and I'll go! OK? Can you at least do that much for me?"
Zim stepped forward, into the rain, and walked right up to him.
He recoiled slightly, as though her touch might actually cause him physical pain.
"I still love you, Indy," she said firmly, "If you don't want to come in, then I will come out to you, and we can both stand here and you can listen to my story. But I will tell you the whole thing, and you will listen to all of it, and once you have heard it, you can judge my actions and either understand why I did what I did, or turn away unsatisfied. But one way or the other-"
Zim couldn't take it anymore. Standing there this close to him, he still smelled the same; that unique scent that was a mixture of his natural smell and some cheap cologne. All the memories came flooding back; all the feelings, all the desires. He had aged in the last twenty years, but not much.
She kissed him.
She put her arms around him, drew him to her, and kissed him deeply.
Indy was unable to resist. He wanted this more than anything in the world, and it was the last thing he was expecting to happen. He returned her longing embrace and held her tight.
She was crying when her lips parted from his.
"I'm so sorry, Indiana. I don't…I am so sorry. Please, come inside and let me tell you everything."
"I….um…ok," still acting like some lost puppy, he followed her inside.
She told him everything; every last detail of what she did and why she did it. She told him about her older self bringing her forward into the future, and the story her older self told her. She brought out the journal of attempts to alter the timeline and made Indy read every entry. She told him of her horrible doubts and how much she didn't want to end their relationship. She told him absolutely everything.
Indy listened in silence, never once asking a question or interrupting her. He read through the journal, and absorbed every word. In the end, he chose to believe her.
When she finished her story, there was silence for a time.
"I understand," he finally said, almost in a whisper, "I don't know if I agree with what you did as the answer to the problem, but I understand."
"If there was another way-" she began.
"It doesn't matter," Indy said firmly, "Because we are here now, and even though it might be an option, we are not going to go back and change anything. We aren't going to go back at all. The Tempus Simia stays where it is, and the timeline – such as it is – will remain. I think part of your problem was that you kept second guessing yourself, so you went back to fix something else, only to have it all fall apart anyway. You were right, you were that driver declaring the race null and void and attempting to go another lap."
"But you know what I keep thinking?" Indy continued, "You took this responsibility on yourself. You didn't come to me or anyone else for advice, and one way or another, that had a serious negative effect on my life, as well as your own."
Zim began to tear up.
"So you have to live with the responsibility of that." Indy turned to look at her squarely, "And I know you. You'll spend the rest of your life torturing yourself over what might have been done different, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good enough punishment for taking all that power into your own hands and deciding you could choose which events were valid and which others could not be allowed to happen. In this one thing, I will never comfort you, never reassure you, never console you, never tell you that you did your best, because you didn't. You arrogantly decided that you were the sole arbiter in how this affected all our lives. You have to live with it."
Indiana Jones got up and walked out, leaving a sobbing Zim alone with her grief.
He returned the next day. She asked him to stay, and he did, for the rest of her life.
Due to his service in the OSS, Indy qualified for retirement housing and took up residence next door to Zim. Soon after, he moved his father in with him; telling her all about their adventure with the Grail, and how they felt the need to fake Henry Jones Sr.'s death. She guarded the secret well.
They did not remarry, partly because Indy had had enough of marriage, and because Zim did not want to attract attention should word get out about their reunion. Indy and James quietly got to know each other, and Indiana even visited the hospital when James and his wife gave birth to their daughter Kim, and again when the twins came along. But for their safety, the grandchildren were never told of Indy's existence, and James rarely saw his father, but they did spend some precious quality time together over the years.
Zim and Indy found happiness in each other, and had one or two more adventures in the following years, then they settled down and grew old together. They watched secretly in pride as their granddaughter became a world famous hero, battling supervillians, and saving the world, and once even saving them from a plot by Dr. Drakken to turn Florida's elderly residents into his own Zombie army.
And when, in the course of time, Zim Possible's life reached its end, Indiana Jones was at her side as her final breath passed between her lips.
In the desert region west of Milddleton sat a great rock formation. There was a road at the base of this formation that led to the top, and ended at a massive rock outcropping. Aside from the road, there was no sign of any kind of human presence. Deep inside this rock was a hollow space that looked as if it had once been a large room, though there were no windows and no doors, and there was more than fifty feet of solid stone beyond any point in the walls. Nevertheless, this hollow space contained three things; a dais, the Ark of the Covenant, and a man.
In the outside world, the man had been known as Professor Dementor. He had woken up in this strange cave-with-no-entrance to find himself alone with that which he had so desperately sought after.
The Ark gave off a dim glow as though a golden perpetual twilight existed inside this mountain den.
He searched for some kind of exit; a secret door or a weak point in the walls but to no avail. He screamed at the top of his lungs for hours, but the sound only echoed off the walls.
Then for some time he stood and stared at the Ark. He stared, and hated, and raged, and refused to repent or regret any of his actions.
Within him, Dementor tried to compose thoughts that might provoke some kind of response such as those that had come to him earlier when the henchman dropped dead. But no responses came.
He was aware of two very important facts, though how he came by this knowledge he did not fully understand. The first was if he touched the Ark, he would die. That fact was easily enough deduced from having seen one of his henchmen perish as a direct result of that very action. The second fact was if he did not touch the Ark, then he would not die. Ever. He would not die from dehydration, or starve to death, or from sickness, or old age, or even injury. He could attempt to take his own life (which he would do several times in the coming years), but he would always wake up unharmed. He could not die. He would simply exist in this isolated den of rock with the prize he had once sought to possess at the cost of innocent lives. This particular existence could easily be ended by laying a hand on the Ark (something he would also contemplate doing over the coming years) and yet, the thought made him afraid. A deep-seeded fear prevented him from even going near the Ark. It sat at one end of the hollowed out dungeon of stone, while he sat, or stood, as far away from it as possible. And even though insanity would gradually take him in the coming decades, that fear would never leave him; he would never be able to bring himself to touch what he had so fiercely desired before he came to be inside the mountain.
So he sat.
And he stared.
And ever so slowly…
… over the course of decades that stretched into centuries…
…he descended into madness.