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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

James Rollins

  Everyone’s favorite globe-trotting, wisecracking archaeologist is hurtling headfirst into high adventure and relying on his wits, his fists, and his trusty bullwhip to get him out of deep trouble.

  It’s 1957, and the Cold War is heating up. A ruthless squad of Russian soldiers crashes Indiana Jones’s latest expedition and forces the unwilling Indy along as they brazenly invade American soil, massacre U.S. soldiers, and plunder a top-secret government warehouse. Commanded by a sword-wielding colonel who’s as sinister as she is stunning, the menacing Reds have one objective: a relic even more precious—and powerful—than the mythic Ark of the Covenant, capable of unlocking secrets beyond human comprehension.

  Quick thinking and some high-speed maneuvers help Indy narrowly escape certain death. But the Russians are unrelenting, and their next move leads Indy into the depths of the Amazon on a desperate rescue mission. With a hotheaded teenage biker as his unlikely wing man and his vengeful new Russian nemesis waiting for a rematch, Indy’s back in the game—playing for a prize all the wonders of the world could never rival.




  Deep Fathom


  Ice Hunt


  Map of Bones

  Black Order

  The Judas Strain



  Wit’ch Fire

  Wit’ch Storm

  Wit’ch War

  Wit’ch Gate

  Wit’ch Star



  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Copyright © 2008 by Lucasfilm Ltd. & ® or ™ where indicated.

  All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization.

  Published in the United States by Del Rey Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  DEL REY is a registered trademark and the Del Rey

  colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

  ISBN 978-0-345-50128-8

  Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper

  2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1

  First Edition

  Book design by Katie Shaw










































































  To George Lucas and Steven Spielberg,

  for turning geeks like me into heroes in the dark


  For a book written under a cloak of secrecy, there are a surprising number of people who were instrumental in making this project a thrill to write. First, I must thank Sue Rostoni at Lucasfilm for walking me through the entire process, from start to finish, along with Leland Chee, who toured me through the Lucasfilm campus and taught me the incantations necessary to delve into the rich database that covers the history of Indy, from past to present. There are many others at Lucasfilm who were also invaluable in answering countless queries: Stacy Cheregotis Jill Hughes, Stephanie Hornish, set coordinator Ryan Wiederkehr, and Frank Parisi, who shared his valuable insights. I must also express my appreciation to screenwriter David Koepp for both the inspiration and the generous counsel he offered along the way. And it’s always good to have a partner in crime. In this case, that would be my counterpart in the young-adult literary world, James Luceno.

  Closer to home, I must thank a group of friends who have been behind this writer from the start of his career, a writer’s group any author would be proud to have at his back. They were not allowed to critique this novel due to confidentiality, but their support and years of guidance and criticism still echo behind each word written. So let me acknowledge them here, too: Penny Hill, Steve and Judy Prey, Dave Murray, Caroline Williams, Chris Crowe, Lee Garrett, Jane O’Riva, Michael Gallowglas, Denny Grayson, Leonard Little, Kathy L’Ecluse, Scott Smith, and Dave Meek. Beyond the group, Carolyn McCray and David Sylvian stand to either side of me and keep pushing me forward to loftier heights.

  And finally, a special thanks to my editor and champion at Del Rey, Shelly Shapiro, for all her hard work, stalwart support, and steady stewardship of this entire project. I started my career with Del Rey, so she made it a little like coming home. And of course, I must acknowledge my friend and agent, Russ Galen, who was as excited as I was to put some small fingerprint on the rich history that is Indiana Jones.


  RETURN . . .

  Francisco de Orellana stumbled the last steps toward the cliff’s edge. At the lip of the precipice, he fell to his knees. The wide desert plain spread far below him. As the sun sank, he stared across that parched and rocky landscape, a reflection of his own soul. From this height he saw strange pictures carved into the desert floor, monstrously large, stretching many leagues across the rocky plain, giant figures of monkeys, insects, snakes, along with flowers and strange angular shapes.

  It was a God-cursed and demonic land. He should never have come.

  Francisco tore the conquistador’s helmet from his head and tossed it behind him. While the sun gave up its last light, he planted his sword deep into the hot, sandy soil. The Spanish pommel and grip formed a cross against the setting sun.

  Francisco prayed for release, for forgiveness, for salvation.

  El dios querido, me perdona.

  But there could be no forgiveness for the murder he had committed.

  Blood bathed his gilded armor, dripped from his sword, and soiled his breastplate. The blood came from his own men, slaughtered at his own hand.

  With his gold dagger, Francisco had slit the throats of the twin brothers, lago and Isidro. He had used his sword to gut Gaspar like a pig and had come close to cleaving Rogelio’s head clean from his wide shoulders. He had stabbed Oleos in the back as he tried to flee; the same with Diego, cutting him off at the knees. The last man’s screams had chased Francisco to this perch atop the cliff.

  But all had fallen silent.

  The slaughter was complete.

  Return . . .

  Francisco clawed at his face and dragged deep gouges. The command filled his skull. He sought to dig it out, cursing himself and the trespass he had committed. It would not let him go. The urge cut through his entrails like a rusted hook. It dug deeper than his spine, hooking him and trapping him.

  For weeks he had fled that cursed place, sure he had escaped with a wealth to challenge kings, with wonders that would make queens weep. He had chests of gold and silver, another full of rubies and emeralds. A boat waited only a few days away, ported in a deepwater cove.

  So close.

  Return . . .

  He sank around his sword, begging for release. As this day had dawned, he had finally succumbed to the command etched into his bones. With each step away from that accursed valley, the word had grown louder in his skull. There was no escaping it. At last he found it impossible to continue, to take another step toward his ship. He became trapped in amber, unable to move forward. Only one path was left.

  His men felt no such compunction. They chattered like boys, excited to return home, reveling in how they’d spend their wealth, full of grand schemes and great dreams. They would not listen when he spoke of going back. They had fought him, urged him, and swore at him. They meant to take the treasure and continue to the ship, even it it meant leaving him behind.

  And Francisco would have let them.

  But in their greed, the men moved to take that which belonged to Francisco alone. That could not be! In a blind rage, he had cut them down like a scythe through wheat. Nothing must stop him, not even his own men.

  Return . . .

  Now he was alone at last.

  Now he could go back.

  As the sun dropped below the far horizon and night fell, he gained his feet, retrieved his helmet, and pulled his sword from the soil. He turned, ready at last to obey the command. He headed down the dark slope—but movement drew his eye.

  Below, figures shifted out of shadows and from behind tall boulders. They rose from holes and crawled from the limbs of twisted trees. They climbed toward him from all directions. He heard the knock of naked knees and the clop of stony heels.

  An army, stripped of flesh . . . made of bones.

  He paled and backed away, knowing now he was truly cursed.

  The living dead closed toward him.

  Come to drag him to Hell.

  Where he truly belonged.

  Still, he screamed to the night sky—not in terror, but in anguish, knowing he was forever damned. For he had failed, failed to obey the command burning in his skull. Merciless, relentless, the dead advanced toward him. His scream ripped into the night, but all Francisco de Orellana heard was one word.

  Return . . .


  Yucatán Peninsula, 1957

  EACH STONE told a story.

  He edged on his stomach across the circular floor. Its surface had been carved into a Mayan calendar: a massive wheel made up of concentric rings of glyphs dug deep into the rock. Ahead, in the center, rose a large statue of a serpent’s head, cowled by stone feathers, its fanged mouth stretched wide, ready to swallow the unwary. The opening was large enough for a man to crawl through.

  But what was in there?

  He had to know.

  If only he could reach it . . .

  He tried to go faster, but the roof pressed against his back. He could not even lift up onto an elbow. The chamber required the supplicant to slither across the floor like a snake, perhaps in representation of the Mayan god, Kukulkan, the feathered serpent. Except this current worshipper wore no feathers, only scuffed khaki pants, a faded leather bomber jacket, and a battered brown fedora.

  Covered in mud, he crawled across the limestone floor. It had been raining in the Yucatán for the past week. The sun was just a distant memory. And now a tropical storm was due to strike this night, threatening to drive them away from the jungle-covered Mayan ruins that hugged the Yucatán coast.

  “Indiana!” The call came from the stairs behind him.

  “Little busy here, Mac!” he yelled back.

  “The sun’s gone down, mate!” his friend urged, his British accent thickening with worry. “The winds are kicking up fierce. A coconut flew right past my head a minute ago.”

  “It’s only a tropical storm!”

  “Indy, it’s a hurricane!”

  “Okay, so it’s a big tropical storm! Still busy down here. I’m not leaving till I see what’s hidden in the center of that statue. It has to be important.”

  Indy had discovered the secret entrance to the temple two days earlier. It lay beneath a Mayan city complex on the central coast of the Yucatán. Hours of careful digging had been required to open the chute that led down to the inner chamber. Jungles still shrouded most of it, keeping it hidden for centuries from prying eyes and the sticky fingers of robbers.

  Indy read the calendar wheel as he worked across the floor. The outer ring told the genesis myth of the Maya, as related from the Popul Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya. It listed the birth date of the world as: 4-Ahwa 8-Kumk’u

  In the Gregorian calendar, this corresponded to August 13, 3114 BC. The inner rings continued the story of the K’iche Maya tribe, who had mostly settled Guatemala. Their writings were never seen this far north. The tale told of the birth and rise of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent god.

  Indy ignored the ache in his knees and continued his crawl toward the innermost ring and the strange sculpture in the center. The last ring spoke of the end of the Long Count calendar, the end of the world itself: December 21, AD 2012.

  Fifty-five years from now.

  Would the world truly end that day?

  He continued onward. Plenty of time to worry about that later.

  Indy reached the snake god’s head and lifted his lantern between the stone fangs. A small chamber opened beyond the mouth—but it had no floor. A pit dropped, like the dark throat of the stone serpent itself. It was deep, too dark to see the bottom, but a whispery rush echoed up to him.

  Indy squirmed into the mouth and lowered his lantern. He caught a glint of silver, but it was still too dark to make out any details.

  “Indiana!” Mac called from the stairs. “What are you doing?”

  “What does it look like I’m doing?”

  “It looks like you’re being swallowed by a snake!”

  Indy shuddered at the thought. It was his worst nightmare. He twisted around and loosed his bullwhip from his shoulder. He tied the end around the handle of his lantern and lowered the light into the pit. The darkness fell back as the lantern descended. The walls of the well appeared to be raw polished limestone.

  At last his light revealed the source of the silvery glint: water flowing past the bottom of the pit. The hole opened into one of the numerous underground rivers that ran through the porous limestone peninsula of the Yucatán. Hundreds of miles of such rivers and tunnels riddled the underworld here. The Maya considered such openings to be pathways to the next life.

  Indy lowered the lantern a bit deeper. The river surged fast and fierce, storm-fed by the weeks of rain and the current typhoon. But through the rush of crystal-clear water, his lantern’s glow revealed a final glyph, carved into the bottom of the river channel.

  He could almost make it out.

  Indy sidled farther into the statue, half hanging into the pit, his arm outstretched. The glyph came into better focus. Indy recognized it. He had seen the same carving on the lintel above one of the temples outside. It was a figure of
a man, upside down as if falling, symbolizing mankind’s birth into this world.

  Or maybe it was more literal: a warning to be careful.

  Too late. The lip of stone broke away under Indy, and he went tumbling down into the pit. His heart jammed into his throat, choking back a yell of surprise and fear. His hands scrabbled against the walls, his legs splayed, trying to stop his plunge. But the walls were too smooth.

  “Indy!” he heard Mac scream behind him.

  The lantern hit the water first and was doused. Then he struck. The icy chill cut to the bone, tried to squeeze the air from his chest. He forced himself to hold his breath as the hard current grabbed him and shot him down the river tunnel. He rolled and turned in complete blackness. He fought to keep his legs out in front of him as he was swept along.

  That’s what I get for playing with snakes.

  The small army crept through the dark, storm-swept jungle. Winds battered palm fronds and whipped branches from trees. Rain pelted like hail, stinging any exposed skin—then the next moment, the downpour fell in heavy sheets that threatened to drown a man with a single breath. It was a torturous slog, but the lights of the camp glowed through the forest, beckoning them onward.

  Dressed in goggles, helmets, camouflage, the assault team moved like clay soldiers, half melted by the storm.

  Nothing must stop them.

  The leader of the team had his orders.

  Secure the key.

  Kill everyone else.

  Flushed through total darkness, Indy held his breath.

  Lights began to dance across his vision. At first he thought it was due to the lack of oxygen. His lungs screamed for air. Why keep fighting? Then he realized that the light was real. It glowed ahead, something brighter than the pitch darkness of the storm-swollen channel.