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Indiana Jones and the Astrologer's Legacy

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INTRODUCTION

South Africa
1942


“Keep digging, boys.” The muscle-bounded mercenary sank a shovel a few inches into the dry earth. A collection of four other treasure hunters for hire followed the digging rhythm. They ignored the tied up archaeologist sitting in the tall grasses behind them, struggling to get out of his ropes.


Dr. Richard Brownfulk was busy searching for the long sought Sphere of Sheba. The history of the stones was sketchy at best, most professors and experts dismissing it as Sunday school drivel. Brownfulk was one of the few that took it seriously. And he’d found the resting place, here in the Makapansgat Valley, a visually foreboding labyrinth of jungle and scraggy rock.


He even located the royal crest of Sheba engraved into a stone pillar. He didn’t even begin to dig when a handful of grave robbers and ruffians appeared out from the bush and knocked him unconscious.


“See what you’ve gotten yourself into,” Brownfulk trailed off to his own conscience.


“Keep quiet or they’ll turn around.” A deep whisper forced Brownfulk’s head around.


Crouching among the petrified roots, Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones appeared. His felt, wide-brimmed hat of choice was heavily beaten at best. The two thin slits of his eyes were focused on the mercenaries. A thick base of stubble covered his chin. His tattered, sepia-stained shirt was pock-marked with sweat from the sweltering jungle. His wrinkled tan slacks were ripped and torn in too many spots to count, some with dried blood stained through. The plain brown boots he’d worn for years sat in a fresh layer of dirt and earth. Brownfulk’s face lit up.


“Indy? It is you!”


“How’s it going, Rich?” Jones slowly untied the knots around the doctor.


“I’ve been better. What brings you here?”


“You.” Indiana glanced back over his shoulder. “I want you to hide over there.” Jones drew a Smith and Wesson revolver from a holster on his belt and pressed it into Brownfulk’s shaky hand. “Take this. Use it if I start to lose.” Brownfulk nodded, some confusion showing through, but ran off behind a thicket of branches.


Jones spotted the collection of hiking packs that the grave robbers lugged along, with an extra shovel lying across the top of them. He slipped his gloved hands around the low end of the handle and crept towards the ignorant assembly. He tapped a bald-headed digger on the shoulder. He jerked his head up, then around.


Jones heaved the shovel to his right, and then forcefully swung it across himself, cracking the mercenary straight across the thug’s surprised face. A sickening metal clang alerted his comrades. The injured grave robber yelped as he flew back into the ditch they just dug.


A fedora-clad, wiry villain took his turn. With fists swinging faster than Jones could dodge them, the archaeologist simply flung the shovel at him. The confused robber caught the shovel and took Jones’ solid knuckles across his jaw. He fell in a heap.


Indiana felt a ragged sleeve wrap around his neck. The last two mercenaries had him pinned, one choking him and the other practicing his punches. Jones’ gasped for air and tried to throw elbows, but nothing seemed to work.


“Not so tough now, are ya?” Jones caught an Australian accent. Probably Renfield’s men Jones thought scornfully. He groaned as another jab landed on his ribs. The distinct crack of Jones’ revolver rang out.


Indiana stumbled forward out of the goon’s headlock and violently regained his breath. He pulled his hand away from his throat to see the crimson streaks of blood. He hesitated, then ran his hands over his neck. He was fine.


He turned back to see the grappler screaming in pain, holding his bloodied arm in a rolling huddle. Jones swallowed hard and didn’t question his luck. He couldn’t have regained his breath fast enough.


An uppercut sent his scarred jaw to the dirt, along with the rest of him. Jones rolled over onto his back and swept his foot into the last fighter’s leg. He bent to adjust himself and Indiana shoved his other boot into his chest, knocking him to the earth. He didn’t move.


“Why can’t they ever give up?” Jones grunted as he knelt to his feet. Brownfulk came running from his leaf-adorned hiding spot.


“That was marvelous!”


“You almost shot me!” Jones rubbed his neck gingerly.


“Sorry. I was aiming for his leg. I’d never fired a gun before!” Jones gruffly pulled the revolver from his colleague’s hand and stuffed it into his holster.


“Let’s get you back to civilization.” Brownfulk’s usually chipper expression disappeared.


“What about the stones?”


“They dug the hole. Why waste low-rent mercenaries?” Jones turned around and hopped into the five foot deep pit. He kicked the crumpled body against the earten wall and squinted into the dark base. He spotted a scrap of fabric, long ruined, poking from a shovel’s scratch. Indiana brushed aside the loose soil and set his hand on the fabric, balled around something. He held it in the light, but gave the honors to Brownfulk. “It’s your wild goose chase. Only fair you get to see the goose first.” Jones tossed the wadded relic to the doctor above.


With glowing eyes, Brownfulk unwrapped the object to reveal a perfect sphere, formed from an unknown rock, with two grooves cut along it and blue flakes of minerals covering it.


“This is it, Henry. It’s the Sphere of Sheba. No one’s seen this in over two thousand years. Not since Sheba-“


“-converted to Christianity and had this idol hidden by her best guards. They got lost in the uncharted part of the continent and it was never seen again. I know the bedtime story and I’ve had some experience with her petty cash before. But why would these thugs want it?”


“Alexander Renfield. He’s the one that really wants it. The b*****d probably hired some mercenaries, gave them shovels, and had them follow me since Capetown.”


“I figured he was behind this. Was this his next big ticket sale?” Jones took Brownfulk’s arm and clambered out of the hole.


“Very good, Henry. I sense a history with the man.”


“I stole the Brutus Dagger from him a few years ago.”


“The one that killed Julius Caesar?!”


“One in the same. We don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the value of archaeology.” Brownfulk chuckled, but remembered something.


“Why were you out here, out of curiosity?”


“My contact in Capetown told me there was a crazy-eyed doctor and a group of rough looking guys asking questions about the Sphere of Sheba. Even if the doctor didn’t turn out to be you, I had to make sure it didn’t end up on the black market.”


“Marcus sent you, then?”


“Not this time; I took a few months off of teaching.” Jones barely finished his explanation when a distant jumble of hurried voices caught his attention. His head snapped to attention.


“Oh! You brought a team?”


“They did.” Jones grabbed the doctor by the arm and rushed him through the patches of steamy forest, to a heavily rusted cargo truck. “Get in and stay down.”


“This thing runs?” Jones rattled the key in the ignition. The voices got louder.


“I wasn’t about to walk this far.” Brownfulk frowned. Apparently Indiana hadn’t realized that the doctor hiked from the nearest town, some forty miles north. The mercenaries must’ve driven, he presumed.


The truck rumbled to life, with a grunt of smoke. Jones stomped the accelerator and bounced past the trees. The grumbling of another engine followed them. A similar truck burst into the clearing. At least a dozen more grave robbers were piled onto, into, and around it. Gunshots came off the vehicle in all directions.


Jones ducked impulsively as the windshield shattered into a shower of sharp edges. Brownfulk wrapped his arms around his head. The archaeologist swerved the weighty truck into the maze of trees, dropping a few yards into a dry riverbed. Renfield’s boys followed, the conscious fighters from the last round hopping onto the side. Jones wondered how the truck hadn’t tipped over completely.


“Take the wheel, Rich.” Indiana leaned out his window to see the barrels of shotguns and assault rifles greet him. Brownfulk was petrified.


“What?” Jones shot him an aggressive glance.


“Take the wheel!” Brownfulk slid over and set his trembling hands on the steering wheel.


Jones turned to the backboard of the cab and smashed the small window to the flatbed. Brownfulk didn’t dare take his eyes off the dirt trough he was careening down.


Indiana drew his revolver and leveled it through the frame. He cracked two rounds at the truck, knocking one of the thugs off the passenger side. A hail of buckshot flew back at Jones.


He yanked himself back inside, dodging the flak, and kicked open the driver door. The corroded hinges tore apart, the door tumbling behind. Indiana stuck his head out to watch it.


It flew end-over-end down the flat soil, straight toward the pursuing truck. To dodge the rampaging metal, the driver lurched the truck to one side. Three or four of the abundance of mercenaries slipped off the flatbed and disappeared into a cloud of dust. Jones grinned.


The weighed-down truck behind struggled to steady itself, losing a few more goons.


“Henry.” Jones still watched the theatrics behind. “Henry.”


“You’re doing great, Doc.” Jones only started turning back.


“HENRY!”


“WHAT?!” Jones’ jaw dropped and he groaned. They made it out of the valley, to the top of the waterfall that once carved it. Of course, now it was just a cliff into the wilderness. “Hold on to something, Rich.”


Indiana wrenched the wheel with all he could muster, teeth bared in strife. The front end of the truck tore around, just poking out over the edge. It grunted to a halt, parallel by inches to the cliff.


“Good show, my boy!” Brownfulk was surprisingly excited.


“Not yet, Rich; not yet.” Jones shoved him out of the cab as the quickly approaching second truck roared towards them. Brownfulk dived to the grass spotted earth. Jones crawled for the passenger door, away from the incoming battering ram.


Brownfulk watched as the second truck barreled into their own, splitting the cab from the flatbed and sending wood splinters in a cloud. What sounded like a gunshot echoed through the forest. The distinct whistle of wheels spinning in midair trailed off, followed by a three tremendous tree crackles, one for the truck, and two for the halves of the other.


Brownfulk’s face was contorted in horror. Jones heaved himself onto the edge, sweat stain prominent on his back. The doctor was dumbfounded. He scurried over to the heavily breathing archaeologist. He didn’t say a word, just looked at him.


“And everyone says this is useless,” Jones pressed his unfurled bullwhip into Brownfulk’s chest.


“Not when they’re on the other end, Henry.”



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