Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 1: A Show for the Masses (Interlude)
"...and so you see, my friends, that every penny you contribute to the National Museum is a penny invested in preserving the cultural histories of people everywhere, for all to see." Marcus Brody steepled his fingers for a moment and smiled. It had been a good speech. "Are there any questions?" A hand drifted up in the middle of the auditorium. Brody squinted to make out the hand's owner, then brightened. It belonged to one of the regular - and wealthy - contributors, Emile Castleton.
"Yes, Mr. Castleton?" Brody continued. "You've always been a wonderful supporter of the Museum Fund. What is your question?"
Castleton, a broad shouldered, older gentleman, stood and cleared his throat. "Marcus, what you've said is absolutely on-target." Marcus beamed. "However, isn't it also true that other than the lovely little pieces of Peruvian artwork you acquired last summer, the museum hasn't displayed any significant new finds in almost two years? How often do you expect people to come see the same old rotation of exhibits?" Some of the others seated in the auditorium murmured their agreement.
Marcus frowned in thought for a moment before answering. "Wellll, it is true that recently things have been rather slow in the field. But as you all know, part of the proceeds from this fund-raiser are meant to assist us in supporting new archaeological digs and to facilitate exhibit exchanges with other museums. Do you know that even as we speak, representatives from this museum are engaged in negotiations with the Egyptian National Museum to secure display rights to the remains of Thutmose II for the entire year of 1938? Think of the crowds that will bring. And we have other men in the field, searching for new discoveries and working tirelessly with a number of foreign governments on our behalf. We expect to gain exportation and exhibitor privileges to a number of their most precious pieces throughout the year.
"All well and good, Marcus," an audience member piped up sarcastically. "But we have yet to see any results. And I'd like some names."
"Who are these 'representatives' working so diligently on our behalf?"
"Ah, well - I'm glad you asked." Marcus raised his voice in an attempt to sound more confident. "We have top men. Yes, I say, we have top men in the field. The best."
"Like who?" Castleton demanded, irritated.
"Like me," answered a deep voice, rolling through the auditorium.
Attendees turned in their chairs, startled. Brody looked out, narrowing his eyes to make out the figure leaning up casually against the far wall. After a moment, he began to smile in relief. "Ah, ladies and gentlemen," he began, "might I introduce world renowned archaeologist Indian-ah-ah...Dr. Henry Jones, Jr." Brody then motioned towards Indy with a broad sweeping gesture.
Many in the crowd knew of Jones. Some had read the news reports. Others, the scholarly papers that Indy had grudgingly produced to satisfy his superiors at Marshall College. A few had even seen the embarrassing newsreel short that had played at theaters for a week two years earlier. Even Sallah had been in that one. And while some knew of him through his serious contributions to the museum, an equal number had heard stories from their children at Marshall College. Regardless of their disparate sources of information, all eyes followed him closely as he walked down the center aisle toward the podium at which Brody stood.
Like the other men at the fund-raiser, Indy wore a slick, black tuxedo. He looked dashing and confident, his aura of invincibility cracked only by the bright white cast that encased his left arm. Halfway down the aisle he slowed, turning toward a seated young woman squeezed into a bright green dress.
"Hello Annie," Indy whispered, smiling at her.
"Hi Indy," the woman purred. Immediately, her date placed his hand upon her own and glared at the archaeologist.
Indy ignored him, turned, and continued toward the podium. Marcus happily stepped aside and, while shaking Indy's hand, breathed a sigh of relief. "So glad you made the plane, Indy - your timing couldn't be better. The arm's all right?"
Indy nodded with a grin and turned to address the attendees. The audience grew quiet. "Some of you here tonight know me," Indy began. Up the center aisle, Annie giggled. "And a few better than most," he continued. A few men in the audience chuckled knowingly, only to be elbowed by their wives.
"All I ask is that you don't presume that archaeology comes without a price. Let me show you what I mean." Indy reached into his inner breast pocket with his right hand and withdrew the bottom half of the silver snake. He sat it on the podium and withdrew the head. "Marcus, if you would, please," he whispered, motioning to his broken arm. Marcus stared at the pieces for a moment, fascinated, and shook himself. Where was this going? he thought. He picked up one piece in each hand and held them high enough for the audience to see clearly. Those in the front rows oohed and aahed.
"What Marcus holds in his hands is a symbol of what your contributions - your support - provides to the World. Not me - and not the museum either. The World! This piece was shaped in 1622 by the aborigines of Australia. 'Wait a minute!' you say. The aborigines didn't know how to forge silver. And you'd be exactly right. There's more to this beautiful piece than you might think. The silver was originally taken from a mine in northern France, sometime around 1552. It was crafted into a rod used by Catherine de' Medici, mother of Henri III, during dignitary functions of the court. In 1578, she bestowed it to a court advocate - a gift for successfully proving the innocence of a distant cousin accused of murder, thereby saving the King from embarrassment and scandal.
"The advocate handed the piece down to his heirs. Over time, the piece made its way to England, and from there onto a frigate transporting criminals to Australia. The frigate, while caught in a powerful storm, was driven upon the rocks of the western coast and destroyed. The aborigines scavenged what they could from the ship. Later, they reshaped the rod into a representation of a mighty legendary serpent that still has resonance in their culture today. They also left a little surprise inside.
"This piece of history - 400 years in the making - was priceless. The aborigines from whom it was stolen thought so, as did I. I was trying to recover it for them. Not for the museum. Not for Marcus. And not for you. We are in the business of preserving the history of man for all of those who come after us. Because of men who eschew this noble philosophy, what you see before you is now a valuable piece of primitive artwork and nothing more. It's no longer priceless and its power is lost to those who believed in it. Now it's just two hunks of metal. Imagine the loss you would feel were the Mona Lisa torn in two. Believe me - the more artifacts we are able to preserve, to keep from those who would hoard or destroy them, will only enhance our lives and our museum - our museum - in the long run. I assure you that Marcus, and those men in the field working with him, will, in time, bring you the finest exhibits, the finest artifacts. But we are in a race against men who are funded by private interests - even political agencies - whose goals are opposed to all we stand for." Indy paused dramatically and then grabbed the audience by it's collective throat, his voice becoming more strident.
"Do you think Mussolini wants to make the treasures of our past available to the masses?"
"No," a few in crowd shouted back.
Indy roared into the crowd. "If Adolf Hitler had discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen, would you ever have been given the opportunity to see it?"
"NO!" came the reply.
"Which is exactly why your contributions are more important to us than ever before. Friends," Indy walked to Brody and put his good arm across the older man's shoulders, "Marcus Brody's job is not simply to provide you with a weekend's entertainment. His job is to ensure the survival of the world's history for your children-" Indy took off his hat and held it against his heart. "-and mine," he finished sincerely.
The crowd rose to its feet and, clapping and cheering, called out Brody's name. Several of the men threw their hats in the air. Brody broke into the clamor as best he could. "Refreshments are being served on the lawn, my friends. Go and have a good time!"
As people filed happily from the room, Brody leaned over to Indy. "My thanks for your assistance, Indy. Things were getting a bit dodgy today."
"Always turn it political Marcus," Indy responded, gesturing in the direction of the departing partygoers. "Works every time."
"Hmm, yes, I'll remember that. So tell me - when is the United States Government going to make the Ark of the Covenant available to the masses?" Brody said with a twinkle in his eye. "And Indy, when did you find out you had children?"
"Shut up, Marcus."
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: May 6, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999