An artificial cavern under the Yonaguni Formation
Off the coast of Yonaguni Island, Pan-Asian Empire
Thursday, September 20th 1940
t came from nowhere. One moment Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones, Dr Sun and four Si-Fan acolytes were looking wildly about, directing the beams of their torches in all directions trying to find the source of the Hellish whistling sound. The next something colossal was almost on top of them – it was an oblong thing, made up of a sickly pink-grey bulbous matter which reminded Indy of the colossal wounds he’d seen on some long dead fallen soldiers during the Great War, or perhaps like an extirpated cancerous growth. The thing had several fang-packed mouths spread seemingly at random all over its surface and eyes opened and closed, never twice in the same place. It looked to be floating but under it great footprints of the now hideously familiar kind appeared as it moved about. The edges of the thing were not well defined – here a part of it appeared as if from nowhere and there it disappeared – it was not a case of reshaping or retracting parts of its hideous anatomy, but rather as if parts of the creature alternated between visibility and invisibility.
No sooner had the thing appeared, it struck. As the men shrieked in abject terror, a small localized tornado sized one of the acolytes. Immediately, the creature opened a mouth and let out a savage blast of cold air, so powerful it stripped much of the flesh from the unfortunate Chinese’s bones. His scream of terror and pain was cut short with brutal suddenness.
The other acolytes snapped Zhuge SMGs from their backs and opened up. Firing at point blank range, their fire would have massacred an elephant, but the creature shrugged it off and answered with another blast of cold air. Without anything holding him in place, a second acolyte was flung backwards, still screaming and firing as he disappeared into the darkness. His scream ceased abruptly, presumably as his trajectory intersected something unforgivingly solid.
‘RUN!’ Indy cried and the survivors bolted. Indy ran like a madman, windowless basalt towers flashing by on both sides. Panic-stricken, he headed for the breach in the wall opening up into the Citadel Hall.
Suddenly he felt his arm being grabbed, and, with a final scream of panic, he was dragged into one of the yawning black entrances to one of the basalt towers.
‘Shut up!’ Dr Sun whispered, just inches away. ‘Let’s just wait a moment – If that thing is intelligent, and I do not doubt that it is, and if there’s more than one of them, the entrance will be guarded!’
Hardly had the American started to voice his objection when a fresh round of screaming and gunfire erupted from the direction of the entrance. It was mercifully short.
‘Good thinking!’ Indy agreed, admiring the composure of the Chinese. ‘But we can’t stay here – it – they – they will find us!’
‘Agreed – let’s explore this tower then. We might find something that could be of use to us.’
Their torches shut down, the two men moved deeper into the absolute darkness reigning in the tower. The ground floor seemed to stretch across the whole surface of the building. The darkness pressed on them, their minds populating it with the floating monsters.
‘Come to think of it, it should be safe using our torches’, the Chinese academic said.
‘How do you figure?’ Indy protested, not feeling inclined to experiments. ‘Their light would be visible through the tower opening, and that thing had eyes – and a lot of them!’
‘But they can’t depend on light to be able to see; there isn’t any down here, remember? Either they can see in a different spectrum of radiation than us, like infra-red, or they have some wholly exotic means of detection. I take it you noticed that these are not tri-dimensional beings. In any case, our electric torches can hardly make us any more detectable.’
‘Bad pep talk!’ Indy said ruefully, but dutifully switched on his torch, as did Dr Sun. By the light of their beams, the interior of the tower proved to be one giant chamber, the towering internal walls covered with so many openings it gave the impression of a giant honeycomb of basalt. But what immediately attracted their attention was something flickering oddly on the floor.
Indy whistled softly. ‘Will you look at that!’
There were a few large, apparently fossilised teeth scattered on the floor, but that was not what attracted their attention. A kind of colossal porous structure or lattice, somewhat like a sponge but much less closely knit was on the floor. A dull bone-white and partly translucent, it flickered in and out of existence around the edges just like the creature had, so that its exact shape and dimensions could not be appreciated. The lattice was broken in many places.
‘It’s one of them – dead!’ Indy whispered.
‘What do you suppose killed it?’ Sun whispered, crouching over the remains. ‘OH! Look!’ he suddenly exclaimed, pointing to something on the floor, just in front of the remains of the creature.
What had caught the scholar’s attention was a small crystal cube with each smooth side about four inches. Aside from the atypical shape, it looked entirely like quartz. And there was something inside it, something reminiscent of a coin (although not metallic), complete with characters inscribed on it. That disc drew in Sun’s gaze...
‘Don’t look at it!’ Indy shouted and threw his jacket over the cube.
‘What?’ Sun snapped. ‘Why not? If that’s not the cube we were sent to fetch, I’m a cucumber!’
‘I agree – but don’t you remember the pictures in the Inner Sanctum? I think they were a warning! There was a member of each of the species inhabiting the Earth at the time holding a cube very much like this one – and what were they doing?’
Sun nodded. ‘Killing their brethren. Right, thanks for warning me. So you think examining this cube too closely might turn me into a homicidal maniac?’
‘I don’t know how it works, or if it works, but I’ll happily leave studying it to Fu Manchu. And to judge from the shape this critter is in, I’d say it turned on its fellows, and they killed it. We’ve found no other remains of any one of them, so I’d say they normally take care of their dead in some manner that leaves no fossils. But not this one. They probably avoided this tower ever since killing it – they must’ve realised the cube was to blame for the sudden insanity of one of their numbers.’
Dr Sun nodded. ‘No way to confirm it, but it sounds plausible enough. So we got the cube – now how do we get it – and ourselves – back to the surface?’
Before answering, Indy bowed to pick up the cube, still covered by his leather jacket. Donning leather gloves, he put it into one of the jacket’s pockets and put on the garment.
‘I just might have an idea about that. We’d be staking our lives on us guessing right about how the things feel about the cube though.’
‘Well, if we stay here we’re dead anyway, so we have nothing to lose, right?’ Dr Sun said cheerily.
Indy groaned. ‘That’s one way of putting it, I guess. Prepare to run – and don’t look at the cube when I take it out!’
Holding the cube high in his left hand and with Dr Sun at his side, Indy ran through the tunnel leading to the Citadel Hall. There had been no sign of the trans-dimensional monstrosity, but the crushed remains of the two last Si-Fan acolytes had been spread out on the cave floor just outside the tunnel entrance.
As the two investigators entered the cavernous Citadel Hall, it quickly became apparent to them that all was not well. From the ruined cyclopean fortress of the Great Race came screaming, gunfire and the Hellish whistling of which Indy and Sun now knew the source only too well.
‘The camp is under attack!’ Indy shouted. ‘There’s nothing we can do, we must get out with the cube!’ He had no intention of risking failure, which would mean an excruciating death for James, for the sake of a bunch of Si Fan henchmen. He turned away from the Citadel and set his aim on the base of the shaft leading to the trapdoor chamber in the Yonaguni monument.
‘No, think! We must get our diving gear!’ Sun replied, pulling at the Americans arm. ‘We can’t possible survive the ascent to the surface without it!’
Indy thought about it for a moment, but finally shook his head. ‘No, we can do without! It’s not more than sixty feet to the surface – we should be able to reach it even without the diving suits!’
‘You’re mad!’ Sun screamed. ‘We have to go to the camp! You said the cube would scare off the things!’
‘I said it might!’ the archaeologist replied. ‘I’m not eager to put the theory to the test if I can help it!’
Their disagreement was resolved in an unsettling manner as a number of the creatures floated up from the ruin of the Citadel and advanced quickly, uncannily hovering over the expanse of hexagonal flagstones toward the two running men. Apparently they had dispatched all the Si Fan in the ruins and were looking to finish off the last survivors.
‘Oh crap!’ Indy murmured. ‘Quickly, to the shaft!’
Now Dr Sun did not object, but their panicked flight came to a sudden end as two amorphous things reached the base of the shaft, located near one corner of the building, long before Sun and Indy.
The two scholar-adventurers stopped dead, looking wildly about. Too late – a broad circle of a full dozen of the horrendous beings had formed around them and was constricting. To his horror, Indy now saw that not all the Si Fan acolytes had enjoyed relatively quick and painless deaths – held fast next to one or several voracious mouths by scores of purpose-formed tentacles, several still trashed and howled as they were slowly eaten alive. Their blood showered the ground under the steadily converging monsters.
‘No... NO!’ Sun screamed. ‘It’s not working! They’re not afraid of the cube! I don’t want to die like that! Not like that!’
Pale as a sheet, Indy silently agreed, to the point of seriously considering drawing his revolver and give Sun and then himself a quick, clean death. Only the knowledge of what would befall James if he didn’t bring the cube to Fu Manchu stayed his hand – while there was life, there was hope, however tenuous.
Suddenly, the nightmare things stopped. Slowly and deliberately the two of them who stood between the humans and escape moved away, leaving their path to the shaft open.
‘What? It worked?’ Indy whispered, fearful of being the object of a cruel jest.
‘No!’ Sun answered in a piteous, fearful whine. ‘They... they want to be rid of it! They want us to take it away from here! Go, Dr Jones, go quickly!’
Not daring to run, for fear of provoking an instinctive predatory response, the two men walked to the base of the shaft, where a rope ladder still hung from the nethermost of the metallic rungs driven into the shaft wall.
Slowly, always under the horrendous gaze of the myriad of forming and disappearing eyes of the creatures, they began to climb the rope ladder.
‘Oh, Dear Lord Buddha!’ Dr Sun suddenly cried when they had almost reached the first rung.
‘What’s the matter?!’ Indy asked, his voice full of alarm.
‘It just occurred to me!’ Sun cried, his voice tinged with hysteria. ‘For getting rid of the cube – THEY ONLY NEED ONE OF US TO LEAVE! NOOOO-PLEASE-NOOO!’
As he finished his sentence, just as he had foreseen, one of the things lunged forward. A long, cancerous-looking tentacle snaked around the Chinese scholar’s waist, and despite his panicked attempt to hang on to the ladder, it ripped him away from it with ease. For a few instants, he swirled about at the end of the slimy appendage-
‘OH GOD NO! NO! KILL ME! JONES PLEASE KILL MEEE!!’
-and then it tossed him, with apparent carelessness straight into a cluster of slavering, fang-studded mouths on the back of the trans-dimensional being.
Indy had whipped out his gun, but the creature moved away from the shaft, blocking his view of Dr Sun’s tortured final moments. His shrill screams and obscene, crunching noises made bitter bile rise in the archaeologist’s throat. But short of climbing back down the ladder to get a clear shot, which hardly seemed wise under the circumstances, there was nothing he could do.
As Indy resumed his climb, a last desperate scream, which would haunt him for the rest of his days, rose through the shaft;