I’ve engaged with my various media-related obsessions in lots of different ways over the years, but I must confess I’ve never had much use for fan fiction, better-known in geeky circles as “fanfic.”
No offense if fanfic is your thing; it’s just never been my thing. As far as writing goes, I’ve always thought my time and energies ought to be spent working on my own original ideas rather than playing in someone else’s sandbox. And when it comes to reading fanfic… well, I haven’t delved very deeply into the scene, but what I’ve encountered by chance has been all over the map in terms of quality, with the low end being really astonishingly painful, and often the themes or scenarios being explored do not speak to my interests, assuming they don’t outright contradict my understanding of the parent property. (For instance, so-called “slash” fiction — which I understand is a common subcategory of fanfic — offends my sensibilities not because it depicts same-sex relationships, but because the characters involved are usually not defined as homosexual in the original source material. Kirk and Spock, the stars of the earliest documented slash stories that I know of, are not gay; there is no on-screen evidence anywhere that they have same-sex attractions toward anybody, let alone each other, so stories in which they get together don’t pass muster with my suspension of disbelief. They’re just not plausible in my mind.) So, yeah, not into fanfic.
Which means that I am rather chagrined as I announce that I have, in fact, just written a piece of it myself.
I didn’t really intend to… and I don’t know that I ever will again. It’s just that I had this idea a while back, and it’s steadfastly refused to leave my imagination alone, even after months of neglect. So I finally gave in this morning and banged out the little tidbit that follows in about 20 minutes. It’s the first time in a very long time indeed that I’ve felt that ecstatic gushing sensation when the words and the story seem to almost tell themselves. I haven’t written any fiction in longer than I care to admit, and in recent weeks even blogging has becoming something of a chore. (You may have noticed recent entries lack a certain spark… although I hope you haven’t!) Whatever value this fanfic trifle may or may not possess — and I’m not going to pretend it has much — it’s at least demonstrated to me that something I’ve lately been fearing was lost forever is still there, somewhere deep down. I can still write, and I can still experience joy when I do it. Writing this was… reassuring. And I had fun while I was doing it. Surely that’s worth something, even if the result itself is lame, right?
I don’t want to ruin any surprises, so I won’t say any more by way of introduction, except to note that what I’ve created here is in the form of a screenplay. You’ll understand why as you get into it, I think…
EXT. CASTLE – NIGHT
A massive medieval fortress perched high atop a craggy mountain. Red-and-black NAZI BANNERS hang from the battlements, and strings of ELECTRIC LIGHTS illuminate the courtyards.
SUPER: SCHLOSS ADLER (CASTLE OF THE EAGLE) — SOMEWHERE IN BAVARIA, 1943
The view is peaceful for a long moment. Then ALARM BELLS begin to ring, and we HEAR men shouting in GERMAN.
CUT TO: INT. CASTLE – NIGHT
A platoon of NAZI SOLDIERS clamber up a staircase, their faces grim, machine guns and sidearms at the ready. As they round a corner and disappear from sight, two MEN emerge from a broom cupboard. GEORGE “MAC” McHALE is dressed in the fatigues and steel helmet of a Wehrmacht non-com. The taller of the two, INDIANA JONES, is in a black SS officer’s uniform. Mac turns to descend the stairs, but Indy grabs him.
Where do you think you’re going?
Away from those boys with the guns. They went up, I’m going down.
‘Fraid not, pal. Our mission says we gotta get to the highest point in this pile.
Jonesy, one of these days, you are going to get me into serious trouble, you know that?
Sorry, Mac. Orders.
Yeah, yeah, direct from Eisenhower, no doubt. Lead on, Colonel Jones!
Indy and Mac begin sneaking up the stairs. Before they’ve gone very far, though, we HEAR a scuffle of BOOTED FEET as the platoon we saw earlier returns. Indy and Mac shrink into the shadows as much as possible, without looking too obvious about it. The platoon of Nazis passes them by, all except for one SOLDIER who lags a bit behind. He notices Indy and Mac and speaks to them in GERMAN.
Indy replies in the same language, but the Soldier doesn’t buy whatever he’s selling. The other Nazis notice what’s happening and stop on a landing several steps below.
Indy steps toward the Soldier, berating him in German, obviously asking him why a lowly footsolider is daring to question an SS man. But the guy is too suspicious to be intimidated. He swings his machine gun into firing position while the men below start to adjust their own weapons… and then Mac grabs THE GUN by the barrel and twists it out of the Soldier’s hands. Indy throws one of his famous bone-crunching punches, dropping the young man like a sack of potatoes. Mac whirls and fires on the Nazis below, sweeping the gun back and forth until all the Nazis lay dead on the floor.
Well, so much for stealth.
You didn’t really think we were going to get in and out of this place without attracting attention, did you, Jonesy?
I guess that’s not really our style, is it?
The two of them break into a run, taking the stairs two or three at a time. From behind them comes shouting and the sounds of MORE MEN chasing after them. Rounding a corner, Indy spots a SUIT OF ARMOR on display in an alcove. He grabs it and spills it onto the stairs to slow down the pursuers. There’s a tremendous CRASH and CLATTER that goes on for a time as the Nazis stumble and pick their way through metal pieces.
Mac stops at one point to shoot a few more bad guys, but Indy grabs his shoulder and pulls him after.
(checking his watch)
Come on, Mac, we don’t have time for that!
Indy and Mac reach the top of the stairs. A NAZI SOLDIER is just descending. Indy and Mac take him down like a pair of charging football players, and Indy finishes him with a brutal punch. They run down a LONG CORRIDOR. The space is lighted with a strand of electric bulbs, but there are also UNLIGHTED TORCHES at intervals. At the end of the corridor, they are blocked by a stout, medieval-style WOODEN DOOR.
Indy jiggles the handle. It’s locked. Mac turns around and goes back a short way to stand guard while Indy looks for a way to open the door. While both of them are distracted, ANOTHER DOOR midway between them silently opens and TWO NAZIS and an OFFICER emerge with guns ready. One points his weapon at Mac’s back, the other at Indy’s, and then the officer clears his throat. Indy and Mac both slowly turn.
OFFICER (in English)
Drop your weapons, please. Do not pretend you don’t understand. You are Allied spies, ja?
We were just passing by and needed to use the toilet. This looked like a nice clean place.
Very amusing. Drop the guns.
The jig is up. They can hear the group from below closing in. They drop their guns and raise their hands.
So what exactly is your mission? Sabotage? Have you planted bombs here in the Schloss Adler? Or are you attempting to escape with some property of the Reich?
Indy glances around, desperately looking for a way out. Suddenly Mac begins to cough. It starts small, like he has a tickle in his throat, then builds until he’s practically doubled over, wracked with deep, lung-dredging spasms.
Help him, for god’s sake.
The soldier nearest Mac takes an uncertain step forward and reaches out as if to pat the Englishman on the back. Mac instantly siezes the man’s arm. Simultaneously, Indy reaches out and gets a grip on the man closest to him. Our heroes pull their respective soldiers in closer and punch them, then push them away. The two men crash into each other and sink to the ground, dazed.
The Officer, meanwhile, takes a cautious step back, swinging his pistol from Indy to Mac and back again.
If you make another move, I will shoot —
While the officer is looking at Mac, Indy’s hand slips into his SS tunic and comes out with his trusty old BULLWHIP. He doesn’t have the space to completely unfurl it and get a really good crack in, but he flicks the end at the Officer’s face anyway. The man flinches, giving Mac just enough time to grab one of the unlighted torches from the wall and clobber him with it.
EXT. CASTLE PARAPET — NIGHT
A BURST of MACHINE-GUN FIRE splinters the wooden door. It flies open and Indy and Mac charge through, Mac still holding the smoking Nazi gun. There’a single GUARD out here. He’s startled by the gun fire, and encumbered by his heavy woolen great-coat. Before he can get himself together and react, Indy’s whip snaps out and wraps around the man’s throat. Indy tugs the whip and the man spins over the castle to plummet down the mountainside.
Meanwhile, Mac swings the door closed just as the pursuing platoon of Nazi soldiers plows into it. He puts his shoulder against it, but can’t hold it closed.
Any ideas, Colonel?
Indy takes the machine gun from him and waves him aside. He fires a burst through the shattered door to drive the Nazis back, then wedges the gun lengthwise into the corner between the door and the heavy stone jamb.
You really think that’s going to hold?
INDY (checking his watch again)
You’re such a pessimist. It only needs to work for another minute or so.
And then what happens? We sprout wings and fly away from this deathtrap?
Something like that. Look out there…
He points. Mac peers into the clear, starry night. At first there doesn’t seem to be anything out there… but then one of the stars begins to move. It grows into a yellow spark, moving in a straight line down toward the horizon. A meteor? No, because it suddenly turns in mid-air and begins coming straight for the castle… growing larger, resolving from a spark into a distinct flame and then… it’s a MAN! A man with a bullet-shaped rocket pack strapped to his back and a strange, finned helmet on his head!
The flying man makes a perfect upright landing on the far end of the parapet and his rocket engine stops with a falling whirr, like a turbine winding down. Mac looks completely flabbergasted, but Indy just grins. He’s been expecting this.
What in the hell — ?
(to the rocket-man)
The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.
But I always burn “Blue Coal.” Colonel Jones, I presume?
You got it. Mac, let me introduce you to one of the best-kept secrets of the OSS, Cliff Secord and the Hughes Cirrus X-5 rocket motor. Better known as the Rocketeer.
Uh… hallo. Nice helmet.
He pulls off his helmet, revealing a handsome young man roughly 15 years younger than Indy. Behind Indy and Mac, the door begins to shake as the Nazis try to break through again.
We haven’t got much time for small talk. Have you got a package for me?
Indy hands a fat leather notebook to Secord.
Seems like an awful lot of trouble for something so small.
True, but there’ll be a lot less trouble for all of us once the Allies get that list of double agents.
Cliff puts the notebook in his tunic pocket and makes sure the flap is secure.
My rocket doesn’t have enough power to carry all three of us. How are you guys going to get out of here?
We’ll think of something. You just get that book into the right hands as fast as you can.
Will do. It was a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Jones. And you, Mac. Good luck, guys.
I hope we meet again under better circumstances.
You and me both, brother. Maybe when all this is over, you can come out to Hollywood and I’ll introduce you to my girl.
They all shake hands, then Cliff puts on his helmet and becomes The Rocketeer again.
Anybody ever tell you you look like a hood ornament in that getup?
Yeah, I get that a lot. Better stand back as much as you can.
Indy and Mac squeeze back against the door — which is still trembling under the assualt of the troops and obviously won’t hold much longer — and then the rocket ignites with a tremendous BOOM and Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer soars into the night sky. He waves back at the two men below, then banks toward the south… toward the Allied lines in Italy.
You know some of the damnedest people, you know that?
Ah, that kid’s nothing. You ought to meet this Steve Rogers guy I’ve been hearing about.
There’s a tremendous CRASH at the door. They’re nearly out of time.
I don’t think I’m going to get the chance. Now what?
Indy peers over the edge of the parapet, then nods.
Easy. The cable car we came up here on. We can block the door to the control booth, start it up, and be to the bottom of the mountain before they can break through. All we have to do is get to it.
And just how do you propose we do that?
Indy cracks the whip around a timber protruding from the side of the wall. He hands the handle to Mac.
(looking like he’s developing a severe case of heartburn)
Like I said, one of these days, you’re going to get me killed…
Mac take a deep breath and steps off the parapet, swinging like Tarzan on the end of the whip to a balcony on a lower level. He lands clumsily, then throws the whip handle back to Indy. Indy swings off himself just as the abused, ruined door finally gives way and the Nazis tumble through.
We HEAR confused shouting and random gunshots as we:
FADE TO BLACK.
* * *
And there we go. Like I said, a trifle. It’s not even a complete story, really, just a random scene. And admittedly it’s kinda cheesy and self-indulgent, with all the references to 1930s-era pulp heroes. But hopefully it’s at least entertaining to read.
If anybody out there cares at all how I came up with this, you can blame my iPod. You see, I’ve taken to walking every afternoon, and it seems to go better — i.e., it’s more pleasurable and I find I can walk farther — if I’m listening to something. Most days, I choose a podcast downloaded from NPR — I particularly enjoy a locally produced talk show called Radio West — but sometimes I feel like walking to music. A while back, I had the ‘Pod loaded with soundtracks, and the shuffle mode kicked out John Williams’ “Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, followed by the Main Title from James Horner’s score for The Rocketeer. Well, it was a lovely autumn day — told you this idea has been dogging me for months! — and I was feeling good with warm sunshine on my face, and I just started daydreaming about two of my favorite characters, Indy Jones and The Rocketeer, and how they supposedly exist around the same time period, and wouldn’t it be fun if they crossed paths somehow…
I doubt I’m the first person to have this idea. In fact, I know I’m not, because I remember in his novelization for The Rocketeer, author Peter David imagines a Nazi officer musing that he had a better assignment than those poor bastards on that “endless archeological dig in the desert at Tanis, Egypt.” But I had the thought that, given their different milieus, they’d be more likely to meet during World War II than during their civilian lives in the 1930s. We know from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that Indy was an intelligence operative during the war, and it seems likely that a man of Cliff Secord’s abilities would have been recruited for that gig as well. And I thought it made sense to throw in Indy’s wartime sidekick Mac, who could’ve (and should’ve) been a far more interesting character in Crystal Skull. (As he was written in that movie, he was just a retread of the Benny character from the 1999 version of The Mummy… which was of course an Indiana Jones rip-off, albeit an enjoyable one. This genre stuff is sometimes like a nerdy form of Ouroboros.) The reference to Steve Rogers — a.k.a. Captain America — was probably gratuitous and maybe pushed the whole thing just a little too far, but the recent Captain America movie — which I loved, by the way — was directed by Joe Johnston, who also directed The Rocketeer back in the day, so I can rationalize a connection between the two stories. As to why a comic-book character like Captain America exists in the Indy/Rocketeer-iverse, but The Shadow is simply a radio show (look up Indy and Secord’s code phrases if you don’t know what I’m talking about), I can’t say… other than it simply amused me to use these bits of flotsam in this way.
Anyhow, I’m probably beating this to death, but as I said, I had fun producing it, and I’m feeling a variety of contentment and pride right now that I haven’t felt in a long time. I really need to start writing fiction again…