Indiana Jones and a Tale of Two Tales.
The view over the glacier in the distance was stunning. The early morning sun glanced off the ice and snow creating a myriad of tiny rainbows surrounding a brilliant halo of reflected sunlight. The sky was a vivid icy blue, mirrored in the smooth upper surfaces of the glacier giving the impression of a lake sitting in the hollows of the ancient, slowly moving white behemoth.
Indiana Jones looked down from the cable car carrying him over the Schienigge Platte as it wound its way, creaking and bobbing, a tiny box on a thread, toward the Jungfrau plateaux ahead. Behind and below in the distance, he could make out the little regular shapes of the houses of Wilderswill, Switzerland, where he and Marcus Brody had come for a well earned holiday. He had always promised himself a ride in a cable car and he had grinned like a child as he bought his ticket at the station house and boarded the car. The forty minute journey ran from the upper slopes of Wilderswill, across the valley of the Scheinigge Platte to the almost sheer face of the Jungfraujoch mountain on the opposite side. A further cable car ride could be taken from there if anyone so wished, up the face of the mountain to a small restaurant perched on a ledge some eleven hundred feet above the valley.
Tiny wooden buildings were at each end of the cables housing the massive powerful engines that pulled the cars along runs of triple cables, over huge iron support pylons spaced every five hundred yards or so across the valley floor on outward and return journeys. The two outer cables were not powered, only supporting the cars. The third, centre cable was driven, pulling the cars along on their journey. There were runs of cables going in both outward and return directions.
Indy was on an outward journey and was slowly moving downward, toward the cable car station perched on a rocky outcrop on the lower face of the mountain some half a mile away. The car jiggled as the cable wheels on top of the car rattled over a pylon top. Indy looked ahead, along the cables toward his destination, past the two remaining pylons supporting the cables between him and the station. Marcus wasn't with him this morning, as he was terrified of heights and had taken a taxi to meet Indy at the other side later on. It was just as well, Indy thought as he admired the view momentarily. Funny the things that go through your mind at the most inappropriate moments, he thought.
He glanced round and into the cabin as the heavy closed fist smacked into the side of his head for the third time. He sagged and shook the muzziness from his mind as he was hauled to his feet by two huge men dressed in snow whites with parachutes strapped to their backs. A faint trail of blood trickled down from the side of his mouth and he wiped it away with the side of his hand. The third member of the gang rubbed his knuckles which smarted from the impact with Indy's head.
"Now, Doctor Jones. I will ask you again. Where is Mr. Brody? You are here together and I know he left the hotel with you this morning. Where did he go?"
Indy didn't have time to answer before the thug's fist slammed into the side of his head once again.
"Neat," Indy thought, reeling from the blow. "Not the face. That might render me unconscious."
He shook his head and glared at the thug. Why were these men searching for Marcus? What could he possibly have of interest to them? Neither he nor Brody were engaged on any particularly important expeditions or research at the moment, or even in the recent past. It didn't make any sense.
"He's at the store, getting some milk!" he scowled. The thug hit him again. The funny thing was, Indy dimly realised through the black haze in his mind, Marcus actually WAS getting milk and 'just going for a stroll'. He omitted to tell the thug he was meeting Marcus when they arrived at the station in ten minutes. They had agreed to meet at a small cafe at noon and Indy now thought that whatever happened, he had to keep these goons away from Marcus until he could find out what was going on.
"Last chance, Doctor Jones." the thug hissed, signalling to his associates.
Indy was hauled up to the open window and heaved outwards to rest on his middle over the narrow steel window sill. The frame cut into his stomach as his arms flailed wildly in mid air. The thugs held firmly onto his belt, preventing him from falling at least five hundred feet to the valley below. He closed his eyes momentarily to block out the view and the thoughts that went with it.
"It seems to be goodbye then, Doctor Jones." the leader of the thugs said, leaning out of another open window beside Indy.
"Such bracing air, don't you think?" He took an exaggerated breath and exhaled loudly.
"OK, OK." Indy yelled, clinging onto his fedora. "What do you want?"
He groped wildly for a hand hold of any description on the outside edge of the car. There were none and the thug laughed.
"You know, Doctor Jones, You wouldn't believe me if I told you!" The thug nodded at his associates as he drew his head back inside the car.
Indy had to do something, and quickly. Looking down at the valley below, he noticed the cable car skids some ten feet beneath on the lower side of the car. A plan was formed almost as he moved.
Gripping the window edge to one side firmly with one hand, Indy heaved himself forwards, almost falling into space. His sudden action threw his assailants off guard and they were jerked forwards, instinctively releasing their hold on his belt. Indy lashed out with his left foot, catching one of the thugs hard on the shin and gaining a yell of pain for his efforts. The thug dropped like a dead weight, clutching his lower leg. Indy smiled grimly and launched himself forward again completely out of the window to the total amazement of the thugs. He didn't let go of the window frame however and his momentum carried him in a curve in mid air, back through the open window beside him and into the car again, straight into the thug who had delighted so much in hitting him. Indy felt a surge of satisfaction as he careered into the man's groin, knocking the wind from him with an explosive gasp of pain.
In an instant, he was on his feet, spinning to face the third thug, while the other two were still temporarily incapacitated.
This one was not going to be so easy, he realised, as the sudden attack on the other two had given the thug time to jump back out of Indy's way and appraise the situation.
"Very athletic, Jones!" he scowled, drawing his own gun, motioning for Indy to move back and away from the other two men.
"Aren't you gonna help them?" Indy asked, nodding to the two groaning figures crouched on the floor, smirking deliberately provocatively at their lack of well being.
The thug with the gun glanced at his comrades and the moment's distraction was all that Indy needed.
Quick as a flash, he unhitched the bullwhip from his belt and lashed out at the armed man. The end of the whip snaked around the man's gun hand and Indy yanked hard, pulling him forward and off balance. Indy grabbed his arm and dropped onto his back, pulling the thug on top of his rising foot, and unhitched the thugs parachute harness with his free hand. With a surge of effort, Indy straightened his leg, propelling the man through the air, over his head.
The glass window behind Indy exploded outwards in a shower of splinters as the thug went through it, screaming into the void beyond, the echo of his death cry fading into the distance as his parachute pack - now unattached, sailed off in a different direction.
Indy scrambled to his feet, stretching out for the dropped gun but the second thug now marginally recovered from Indy's attack beat him to it.
A bullet thudded through the car floor just next to Indy's foot and in a sudden desperate lunge to save his own life, he bounded forwards like a giant frog, straight through one of the open windows.
The thugs jaw dropped in astonishment and at the same moment something stung his throat and pulled him off his feet.
As Indy had moved, his whip arm was already drawing back and as he shot through the car window he lashed out at the thug. The whip streaked forwards with a 'crack' and wound itself firmly around the thug's neck. Indy dropped into the valley, the whip tightened, breaking his fall as the thug was pulled up against the window ledge inside the car and Indy swung under the car in a curve, to catch hold of the huge metal skid on the opposite side beneath.
The first thug leaped forward to help his comrade.
"Don't let him go!" he yelled, tugging at the whip around the man's neck, pulling him back as he was being drawn out of the window.
The whip went slack, and was suddenly pulled away and out of the car.
Indy was gone.
"Bastard! Hope the fall's a bloody long one!" the man yelled into the valley below, but there was no sign of a falling body. He turned to his friend who was now slumped against the opposite wall.
"The sonofabitch must be hanging on somewhere..." he began to say.
He looked at his comrade. His eyes were closed and the skewed angle of his head spoke volumes. His neck was broken.
Beneath the car, swaying wildly in the biting wind hundreds of feet above the valley floor, clung Indiana Jones to the cold metal of the skid. His breathing was fast and laboured and a feeling of resignation was rapidly growing in the pit of his stomach. Tiny flakes of snow began to kiss his already freezing skin.
"Not my idea of hanging around for a good time..." he mumbled to himself. His fingers were growing numb from the cold of both the wind and the icy metal of the skid. Indy sized up the situation. It didn't look too good. There was still a good quarter of a mile to go before the car reached the platform on the mountainside and he estimated that it would be at least three quarters of that distance before the rocky surface was near enough to drop with any degree of safety.
Could he hold on that long?
Gripping his whip between his teeth, he grabbed the skid with both hands and swung upwards, wrapping his legs around the metal to hang on like a giant sloth.
"Well, I suppose it could be worse." he sighed.
Then a voice, carried on the wind cried out to him.
"Have a good trip, Doctor Jones!" Indy snapped his head to one side to see the last of the thugs falling away to the depths below. A moment later there was a plume of white as his parachute billowed open.
"What the hell did he mean by..." Indy got no further as he noticed a gradual but marked acceleration in the speed of the car.
"Damn!" he cursed, realising the brake wheels on the roof had been disengaged.
He looked about frantically as the car gathered momentum and gauged that he had about two minutes before he hit the station house on the mountainside below like a sledgehammer.
He swung around frantically, looking for some way back up into the car. There was none. The car was at least ten feet wide and the skid he was hanging on was a good two feet below the floor. Straining backwards, he looked up the outside of the car. He could see the window frames were completely out of reach even if he could get up onto the skid, of which now he wasn't sure. His hands were almost completely numb from the cold. At this rate he thought, hitting the mountainside was not likely. He would fall off the cable car long before then. There were no hand holds to be had on the car body above, so climbing up somewhere was out of the question. He would have to think of something else.
"Why me, Dad. Why me?" he murmured to himself, weighing up his seemingly none existent options.
The speed of the car had reached the point where the rushing wind was blowing Indy back along the slippery skid until he came up against one of the supporting legs. He grabbed at the vertical strut and using every last ounce of his strength, heaved himself up to a sitting position on the lower rail. At least now he wouldn't fall off. He would only smash into the rocks in around a minute at about sixty miles per hour!
Indy scanned the surroundings through a stinging mist of snow and noticed the cables for the cars travelling in the other direction running parallel above him and to one side, some twenty feet away. He looked down to see that every moment brought his car nearer to the valley floor as it reached the end of its journey, but it was still hundreds of feet down. Too far to jump! An insane plan formed in his mind. The skid on the opposite side of the car was about ten feet away.
He knew his trusty whip was twelve feet long and if he added his arms length, it gave him about fifteen feet altogether.
Good enough, he thought grimly.
Quickly, he lashed out with the whip, yanking on it hard as it wrapped around the opposite skid, pulling the coils of leather tight, locking the whip in place.
"Hell, here goes!" he cried as he launched himself off his perch into space, clinging tightly onto the whip handle.
He swung down and backwards in a graceful curve, then up, away from the car, slowing in momentum at an alarming rate. As his body reached the zenith of his flight, he flicked his wrist, releasing the whip from the skid that was about to yank him forwards and down again as the runaway car continued its death race along the cable toward the mountainside.
For a fleeting moment Indy knew what it felt like to be a bird. He hovered momentarily in the air above the twin runs of cables, his stomach rising to his throat as he attained a brief weightlessness, then began to fall the three hundred feet or so to the valley below.
Again, Indy lashed out with the whip and it snaked away with a barely audible crack and coiled itself firmly around one of the opposite runs of fixed cable. He had no need to jerk the whip tight as his body weight did that as he fell to the length of the whip. He held tight, praying for his life as the whip reached its full extent and he was yanked to a halt, hanging about nine feet below the cable.
He gulped. His breath came hard and fast as he appraised his situation. He was stuck, hanging on the end of his whip, dangling below a cable at a distance above the ground he didn't even want to contemplate.
"What the hell's the matter with everybody!" he cursed. "I only wanted a damn cable car ride!"
Then he saw the other cable car travelling on its return journey, coming toward him along the cable he was hanging on.
"Aw, Jesus!" he wailed. "Marcus, you owe me!"
Calculating his time carefully, Indy waited until the car was almost upon him. He hauled himself up the whip with what little strength he had so that at least he wouldn't slam into the end of the car as it approached at an inexorable fifteen miles per hour.
At the last possible moment, he dropped to the car roof and flicked his whip loose, pulling it in and away from the wheel gear as it moved along the cable.
He almost collapsed with a mixture of exhaustion and relief and drew in a deep lung full of air as he knelt on the car roof, recovering from his ordeal.
"Thank God for that!" he exclaimed, looking about the roof of the car for the service hatch.
"Now let's get down from..." he began but his sentence trailed off as he felt a shudder run through the car, transmitted from the cables overhead. His head snapped up to see the cable car station in the distance exploding into fragments as the runaway car he had just escaped from hit the cable stops and keep going, ripping the wheel gear and powerful engines from their stanchions within the small wooden building. The weight and momentum of the car kept it moving, through the end wall and onto the street beyond, sending startled tourists and bystanders running for their lives as the battered wreckage of the car came to rest neatly in a white rectangle painted on the road surface, between two parked police cars. A sign nearby said, 'Police Vehicles Only.'
At that moment, an elderly police sergeant walked around the corner, took in the situation and putting on his most authoritative tone, yelled loudly,
"Who parked this here!"
Back on the other car, Indy felt the shuddering ease off and he let out a gasp of relief. He began to lift the service hatch to climb in to the safety and warmth of the car. He noted it was empty and couldn't help a wry smile at the prospect of explaining his return trip with no ticket.
It was then that the engines in the demolished station building decided to part company with their wrecked stanchions and were yanked off the cliff face into space as the weight of miles of cable, combined with the weight of Indy's car, pulled the whole construction downwards to the valley below.
"JEEZ!" Indy yelled as the car, no longer suspended on a taught cable dropped like a stone beneath him. He leaped forwards and grabbed at the car support, clinging on for his life. As the cable spun free into space from the station house, pulling the huge engines behind like a slingshot, the car swung backwards and down, toward the valley floor. Indy closed his eyes. Then, a sudden jerk drove him down to his knees as the cars descent came to a sudden halt and it bounced tantalisingly on the now sagging cables.
Indy slowly opened his eyes to see what had happened.
There were two huge support pylons between him and the remains of the station house. The cables still ran over the wheel mechanisms at their tops, but were now sagging loose in gigantic arcs between. The massive engines, still attached firmly to the cables, were tightly wedged in the top mechanism of the gigantic support pylon nearest the mountain, arresting the travel of the cable. Indy shook his head and grinned.
"You always said I was lucky, Marcus."
His grin quickly vanished as the car jerked beneath him again. One look told him the top of the pylon in the distance was severely damaged by the impact of the huge smashed engines and would soon give way. The car he was on was dangling only yards away from a pylon but at this height, the distance seemed magnified into miles. Indy had little choice he realised, as he felt another more severe jerk and the car fell away to the valley floor below as the top of the other pylon broke free, releasing the cables once again.
He shook his head in resignation, closed his eyes and jumped. A small leap under normal circumstances, but a giant leap for Indy.
He crashed into the iron work of the nearby pylon with such force he almost bounced off again, but his arms wrapped around the cold metal girders as fast as his whip could ever have done, and he clung on like a limpet. He glanced downward to see the car thundering toward the rocks below at a rapidly increasing pace. He closed his eyes and prayed silently, thanking all the deities he had ever researched.
"Now, how do I get down?" he asked himself.
The answer was quick in coming as he felt a sudden shaking of the pylon he was clinging to and heard the air whistle about his ears as the steel cable snaked overhead, screaming through the pylon transport mechanism above, still firmly attached to the top of the plummeting car. He looked up and then toward the cliff to see that the huge engines were still attached to the cable and were being pulled toward him on the end of the speeding cable, like a stone from a catapult. The engines were each the size of a small car and would demolish the pylon he was clinging to when they hit.
Indy jammed his hat on his head, gripped his whip with his teeth, and scrambled down the girder like a squirrel, cursing, "Damn, damn, damn, damn..." as he went.
He knew he would never make it. The engines would hit the pylon some fifty feet below him as they fell on the swinging cables but still he scrambled frantically downwards.
Almost as if in slow motion, he saw the engines speed toward the pylon, but they were nearer the ground than he first thought.
The massive engines hit the earth like a missile and bounced, skipping like a stone on water, and hit again, ploughing two yard deep gouges, twenty feet long in the ground. The bouncing continued, each impact with the earth slowing their attack until the two ton chunks of scrap iron came to rest with a gentle bump against the foot of Indy's pylon.
He sighed once more and then laughed, hardly believing his luck. Perhaps he could get down now!
Then, there was a sudden jolt as the cable went taught, up, over and down the pylon, caused by the still falling car on the other side of the iron structure. The wrecked engines skipped upwards briefly, then fell to earth again, counterbalancing the car which was now hanging on the cables some fifty feet out from the pylon and moving in toward the iron work at a terrifying rate. Indy frowned, then a look of panic spread over his face as realisation hit him. He spun round from his perch to see the car speeding toward him like a pendulum on a string!
No curse was sufficient. He looked skyward and shook his head from side to side in disbelief. He had nowhere to go.
Resigned to his fate, he watched the car careering toward the pylon just below him. He waited for the bone jarring impact that would destroy his support, but it never came.
The pylon legs at the point of impact were about eleven feet apart, some one foot wider than the car.
The car shot through the pylon legs like an express train, barely missing them by six inches on each side. The cable connected with a cross brace some ten feet above and with an almost audible twang, the car was brought to a halt as it swung upwards on the opposite side of the pylon. Slowly it fell back, swinging through the legs and it continued in this manner, swinging back and forth for almost a minute before it came to rest some twenty feet directly below Indy.
He stared in stunned disbelief and then continued his descent of the now swaying pylon which had been severely weakened by the swinging of the car, like the continual bending of a thin metal strip.
The car was only feet below and Indy jumped onto the roof, scrambling for the access hatch. He almost ripped it from its hinges and dropped inside. The emergency locker had burst open and a parachute lay on the floor along with a demolished first aid kit. There was barely time to fasten the parachute properly about his chest as the car gave a sudden lurch beneath his feet.
"Helluva start to the day!" he growled, heaving himself out of one of the many now broken windows. He looked down and with a sinking feeling realised that although the distance was too far to jump, he was in fact too close to the ground for the parachute to open in time.
"Aw, hell, Marcus. You and I need to talk!" he moaned.
The car gave another lurch and Indy grabbed for the window frame, cutting his hand on the broken shards of glass that remained embedded in the metal. He sucked at the cut and looked over to the pylon leg nearest to him. It was about six feet away but the sudden groan of the massive structure gave him no further time for thought. He launched himself forward, once again grabbing frantically at the iron work. The pylon gave a quiet 'squeak', and began to tilt sideways.
Indy looked to one side and saw the thick oiled cable running vertically from the huge engine stuck in the mud below, running up and over the pylon, and down, attached to the car roof behind him.
An idea gelled in his mind.
Gingerly, he slid down the girder until he came to rest on a horizontal strut across the pylon. Gripping with each hand one at a time, he removed his jacket and holding one sleeve, swung it out and around the greasy cable. He barely had time for second thoughts as the pylon gave another lurch and tilted precariously at an angle of some twenty degrees from vertical. Grabbing frantically at the swinging free arm of his jacket, he launched himself at the cable and using his jacket as a barrier between his hands and the cable, began a rapid descent. He had often wondered what it felt like to be a fireman on a pole!
A feeling of exultation welled up inside him as he reached the engine at ground level with a solid thump.
"YES!" he exclaimed.
Then, with a sickening jolt, the top of the winch mechanism broke free from the engine.
"NO!" he yelled, as the cable he was hanging on to, and the winch mechanism beneath his feet became considerably lighter due to the lack of attachment to the two ton engine.
The car, counterweighted over the pylon, fell like a stone and Indy was catapulted vertically at a rapid rate back up the pylon.
"JEEEEESUUUUUUSSSSS!" he yelled, pulling his hat firmly onto the top of his head with one hand.
He knew there was only seconds to spare and he leaped for his life toward the pylon leg, slamming into the metal with a force that took the wind from his lungs.
He clung there for a moment, recovering his breath and he looked down to see the car impact with the ground and flatten like an eggshell almost instantly. Once more he shook his head, hardly believing his luck. It wasn't as bad as it seemed, he thought. There, some ten feet below was an access platform and the top of the service ladder! If only the pylon would hold long enough!
Then a further whistling sound grabbed Indy's attention as the winch mechanism, now freed from its attachment by cable to the demolished car began its rapid descent down again above his head.
Like a trapeze artist, Indy swung from support to support as the huge chunk of twisted metal whizzed past his ear, extracting yet more curses from him.
He slid down a central girder to land on the shaky pylon platform below. It was about thirty feet to the ground and the pylon was now beginning a constant rate of declination toward the ground. At any second gravity would win the tug of war and the pylon would crash down, with Indy still attached.
Scrambling now for his life, he almost went through an access hole head first and slid fireman style down the ladder with his feet outside the rails, clinging with his knees to slow his descent. He was about ten feet from the ground when the pylon finally lost the will to survive, and with a creaking, groaning crescendo of noise, the whole structure collapsed like the skeleton of a giant factory chimney being demolished.
Indy jumped, hit the ground in a crouching position and bounded forwards, away from the falling iron and steel shrapnel that had once towered over the valley. Enormous shards of wreckage crashed around him, tons of metal, bouncing like pieces of a broken toy. One long piece of girder, twice Indy's size and twenty times his weight shot between his legs like a javelin, to embed itself firmly in the ground some distance away.
Indy kept running amid the rain of flying metal and launched himself headlong into a muddy, water filled ditch, hoping the small crevice would afford him some protection.
The sound of the falling structure could be heard for miles and seemed to last an interminable amount of time. A flock of sheep scattered, bleating in terror. Birds wheeled crazily above, confused and frightened by the iron carnage around them.
Finally, with a few last creaks and crashes, silence fell.
Indy lifted his head and peered out at the scene of devastation.
The pylon was completely unrecognisable having collapsed totally flat as it hit the ground. The car was completely crushed beneath tons of grey twisted iron. Indy counted his blessings and stood up, a grin slowly spreading from ear to ear.
"Well done, Jones." he said quietly to himself, taking off his fedora and dusting his shirt with it, hardly believing he was back on firm soil.
"Not a scratch. Not a..."
A sudden 'splat' on the top of his head made him look up at the wheeling pigeons. The warm, damp trickle over his left ear told him what had happened.
"Damn Marcus! WHY ME!" he cried.