The Crystal Skull
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Ain’t – isn’t, aren’t
circumspect characters – suspicious people
debris – the remains of anything broken down or destroyed; ruins; rubble
dough – slang for money
Geetu – an Indian friend from earlier adventures starting with ‘The Tiger’
Lead – a heavy metal
Grand – slang meaning 1000
Minion – a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power
Obliterate – destroy completely
Pew – bench in a church
Pukka – real, excellent, first-class
Swell – slang meaning first rate, fine, beautiful
Uranium – a radioactive metal used to make nuclear weapons
1948 – Several thousand Indian soldiers were massed at the border of the state of Carackpore. India had become independent the year before after 300 years of colonial rule. The British were gone but a lot of India was still ruled by native kings, the rajas and maharajas. Most of them had agreed to hand over power to the new Republic of India, yet the Raja of Carackpore refused. He insisted that he was the ruler of his lands and that after the withdrawal of the British his little kingdom was fully independent. In response the Indian government sent troops. The little army of Carackpore was greatly outnumbered and when the Indian troops crossed the border the fight was over before it had begun. The native soldiers of Carackpore simply surrendered. The Raja of Carackpore, his wife Queen Geetu and their son Prince Adhip fled the country in a plane. They flew to America where they started a new life.
Many decades later, the last Raja of Carackpore and Queen Geetu were long dead, Edward and Anthony were having fun together at home. Suddenly Anthony spotted someone from the window and said “Dad, the postman’s just been.”
Their father went to get the mail. When he came back two minutes later he had a puzzled expression on his face.
“There’s a letter for you boys,” he said. “It’s from an American law firm.” He looked sternly. “Have you two been getting into any trouble I need to know about?”
The brothers shook their heads.
“Just open it, Dad,” Edward said eagerly. It was the first time he’d had a letter from a lawyer and it sounded intriguing.
Their father opened the mysterious letter and read it out loud:
We request the presence of Edward Laurence Smith and Anthony Leo Smith in our law firm on Monday, March 28th regarding the last will and testament of Queen Geetu of Carackpore.
“Queen Geetu of Carackpore?” their father said in a puzzled voice. “Whoever is that?”
The brothers looked at each other. There was only one person called Geetu they had ever met. She was only a princess at the time, but she had lived in Carackpore. It had to be from her. They felt excited to hear from their friend again.
“Dad,” Anthony said, “what is a last will and testament?”
“That’s a paper people write to say what they want done with their belongings when they die.”
The boys were shocked.
“You mean Queen Geetu is dead?” Edward asked.
“Well, I suppose she would have to be if a law firm contacts you about her testament. Let’s check the encyclopaedia, maybe there’s an entry about her.”
There wasn’t much in the thick book, only a brief entry:
Geetu of Carackpore, Queen (30 December 1889 Carackpore – 26 May 1969, New York USA)
“That’s strange,” their father said. “She died before I was born. How could she mention you boys in her testament? Anyway, we’ll find out soon enough. Monday’s just a few days away.”
Their father took the brothers to the American law firm. The secretary asked the boys to enter a room but requested their father to wait outside.
“This is getting more and more mysterious,” their father grumbled. “Well, all right, go in on your own then, but don’t sign any papers!”
Edward and Anthony sat down in two huge leather armchairs.
The representative of the law firm looked at them kindly.
“This is most unusual,” he said. “I have here a letter which is sealed and postmarked April 6th, 1958. It is definitely addressed to you two.”
He held up an old envelope:
Edward Laurence Smith
Anthony Leo Smith
He looked at some papers on his desk.
“The instructions by the late Queen Geetu of Carackpore were very precise. We were to contact you boys and read her letter aloud to you on exactly this day. I just can’t see how she could write a letter to you. She died decades before you were born. Are you ready?”
The boys nodded. They knew exactly how Geetu could write a letter to them but it was not something they wanted to explain.
The American lawyer opened the sealed envelope and began to read it out loud as Geetu had instructed.
My dear Edward and Anthony,
It is now so many years since we met and I have never forgotten you and the pukka adventures we had together. The India that was mine when we first met is gone and my family were forced to flee to America. Our new life here started well, but now I am desperate.
I beg you, I dare you come to my aid.
Stars whirled around Edward and Anthony and the astounded lawyer saw them vanish into thin air in front of his very eyes.
Edward and Anthony were flung through space and time and moments later they both landed on a large, comfortable sofa in the middle of an opulent room, richly decorated with statues, paintings and tapestries of ancient India. In front of them was a coffee table and on the other side was an armchair. An elderly lady wearing traditional Indian clothes sat in it.
“Hello, you two,” she said with a smile and without the slightest surprise.
This was too much for the boys who simply stared at her, their mouths wide open.
“You don’t recognize me?” she said with a laugh that was both cheerful and bitter. “How could you. The last time we met I was but a little girl.”
She smiled at their disbelieving faces.
“Yes, it’s me, Geetu. Surely you can’t have forgotten me.”
Anthony looked at her in surprise and horror. “But we just saw you a few months ago.”
She smiled sadly. “For you it was a few months, maybe, but for me it’s been almost my whole life. You can’t imagine how I waited for you to come back to me.”
There were tears in her eyes.
“All my life I remembered you and the time we spent together. Just a few months for you but more than fifty years for me. Did you never think of me?”
The boys looked at each other feeling embarrassed.
“To be honest,” Edward said, “we’ve had other problems.” He told her about how the Earth had been destroyed by aliens and some other adventures.
While he was talking the boys couldn’t stop staring at Geetu. They remembered her as a young girl, yet now she was old, her face was covered in wrinkles and her hair was grey.
With a lifetime of experience she knew why they were staring. She smiled sadly.
“I’m still Geetu,” she said. “It’s just my outside that looks different, inside I’m the same. There now, give me your hands.”
She leant forwards and held out her hands across the table. The boys took them still feeling a little embarrassed.
“I missed you terribly,” Geetu said, “but now I need your help. To be honest with you, I’m desperate. I don’t know what to do anymore.”
“What has happened to you?” Anthony asked. “All we know is an entry in the encyclopaedia our dad found and it said…”
Edward slammed his elbow into his brother’s side. He felt embarrassed. How could they possibly tell Geetu when she would die?
She smiled at Anthony and understood. “It’s all right, I understand. There’s no need to tell me. It’s better if I don’t know.”
“We were very surprised to get your letter,” Edward said. “It was written so long ago.”
“Yes,” Anthony added, “our dad said it was written before he was even born.”
Geetu sadly tilted her head to one side. “I suppose,” she said with a heavy heart, “there are quite a few things I have to explain to you. You see, when you left me I was still a young girl, just as you are young now, with all my life ahead of me. I grew up and married and when my father, the Raja of Carackpore died, my husband became the new raja and I was queen, that was in 1924.”
“Wow, Anthony said, “that’s a long time ago. But when did we meet you?”
“You don’t know?” Geetu said in surprise. “That was in 1897. I was eight years old at the time.”
The two boys looked aghast. They found it hard to remember the old lady in front of them as the eight year old girl they had spent adventures with not so long ago.
Geetu sighed. For her sixty-one years had passed.
“My dear friends,” she said and squeezed their hands, “I think you will only ever understand when you have become old like me. Let’s not dwell on all those years now, for I have a far more important reason to call you here.”
Edward nodded. “You wrote you were desperate. What has happened?”
Geetu took a deep breath. “Here in America my family has found a new home. The people have been kind to us and even my husband has somehow accepted that he is not a king anymore. But my son Adhip,” she sighed, “cannot resign himself to the fact that he won’t be king.”
“You’ve got a son?” Anthony exclaimed in surprise.
Geetu laughed. “Yes, and he’s thirty-six years old. He’s old enough to be your father, in fact.”
She saw the crestfallen look on their faces and said “Don’t forget it’s not everyone that can travel through the ages like you two. For everyone else time passes by quite normally and without mercy.”
The boys nodded.
“You can’t imagine,” Geetu said, “how the world has changed. After the terrible war we’ve just been through and the things that have happened since then we often wonder if the next day might be our last, just take a look out of the window.”
“What is a fallout shelter?” they asked.
“If you don’t know,” Geetu said, “then that’s a great relief. It means we never needed them. A fallout shelter is a place we can hide in when there’s a nuclear attack.”
Edward remembered reading something about the cold war, yet what had it to do with Geetu and her son?”
“So what about Adhip?” Anthony asked.
“The problem is,” Geetu said, “I’m not sure myself. His views have become more and more radical and I fear he’s willing to do anything if he thinks it will help him to get back Carackpore. He’s been meeting some very circumspect characters, I think they’re people with links to communists and even the nuclear industry here. It could get him arrested and even sentenced to death.”
“Why can’t you find out more?” Edward asked.
“Believe me, I’ve tried. I once even hired a private detective, but he vanished without a trace. The agency he worked for thinks he’s been murdered. They told me that they don’t want to have any more to do with the case as it’s too dangerous.”
How could Anthony and Edward possibly refuse to help their old friend Geetu? Geetu gave them all the money they needed and helped them onto the trail of her son Adhip and the boys followed him across the USA always careful not to be noticed. The experience they’d had with Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street boys proved to be invaluable and Adhip never once suspected he was being followed by them.
After travelling for almost a fortnight they finally came to a small town where Adhip went into a private house.
“I hope we’ve finally found what we’re looking for,” Anthony said. “I don’t know why Adhip was going back and forth between different places, never really stopping anywhere.”
“I think he was trying to make sure that no one followed him,” Edward said.
“Ha!” Anthony laughed. “He can’t trick us!”
They found a small café that was almost opposite the house and sat down to keep watch. Several hours went by and there was no sign of Adhip. They did see men in suits coming at regular intervals. Each time a man came he would stand outside the house for a moment, look around nervously, and then quickly go in. It was obvious that these men had been there before on many occasions as none of them knocked or rang the bell, they simply opened the door and entered.
“Well then,” the waiter said, “another drink?”
He looked at the boys suspiciously. It wasn’t often that anyone spent a long time in the café and he was sure that they were up to something.
“You kids ain’t from around here,” the waiter said fishing for information.
“We’re just visiting,” Edward said.
“Just be careful what you visit then,” the waiter said in a slightly menacing tone. “We don’t want no one snooping around here, what with Area 32 so close.”
He bent down towards them. “You kids ain’t communists, are you?”
They shook their heads.
“What is Area 32?” Anthony asked.
“Aha,” the waiter said, “so you are snooping.”
“I don’t think we want another drink, after all,” Edward said. He put the exact change on the table but left no tip.
“What, no tip!” the waiter exclaimed.
“I give tips for good service,” Edward said feeling annoyed, “not for rude questioning and accusations.”
“Yes,” Anthony quipped, “you should be polite to your customers.”
The waiter was fuming and they quickly left the café. They walked along the road thinking about what to do next when they saw a group of boys standing in front of a billboard advertising a film at the cinema.
The boys were excited by the picture but Edward and Anthony burst into laughter.
“That’s so silly,” Anthony said.
“Oh yeah?” a big boy called Chuck said. “Well I got some news for you, pal. It’s all true.”
Two other boys nodded.
“You can’t be serious,” Edward said. “There’s no such…”
“You may laugh,” Chuck said, “but I’m telling you there’s things going on just outside this town…”
“You mean Area 32?” Anthony asked.
“And what would you know about that?” Chuck asked. “You ain’t from around here.”
Edward and Anthony were getting more and more intrigued. Apparently everyone in the little town knew about Area 32, yet when any outsider mentioned it they became suspicious. Edward decided to bait Chuck.
“We know nothing, really,” he said. “The waiter in that café mentioned Area 32, that’s all. Anyway, there’s no such thing as giant women or any other kinds of giants.”
“Oh yeah?” Chuck said aggressively.
“I bet you a dollar,” Edward said and pulled a shiny dollar coin out of his pocket.
“Done,” Chuck said. “And you better be ready to pay up, follow me!”
On the way Anthony whispered to Edward “Shouldn’t we be watching the house where Adhip is?”
“Don’t worry,” Edward whispered. “I’m sure Adhip won’t be going anywhere. If there’s a mystery in this town then it must have some connection to him.”
Chuck and his friends got their bikes and asked Anthony and Edward to sit on the back.
“Are you ready for this?” Chuck said. “You sure will have a swell time!” He and his two friends laughed.
Edward and Anthony didn’t like the way they laughed, yet what could they do? They cycled out of town and after about half an hour came to the entrance of a huge, dark tunnel.
Chuck got off his bike. “Come on then, guys,” he said. He turned his bike round facing out of the tunnel and parked it.
Anthony and Edward went to him but the other two boys shook their heads. “We ain’t going any farther,” they said.
Edward noticed fear in their eyes. What dark secret could the tunnel hold?
“Cowards!” Chuck said. “I ain’t afraid.” He waved to Anthony and Edward. “Come on then. You’ll see soon enough.”
He slowly walked into the tunnel. At the far end they could see a tiny dot of light where the tunnel ended.
“Hey ho!” he shouted.
His voice echoed down the long passage.
He stopped to listen.
He shouted again, this time louder “Hey ho! Where are you!”
“Have you got that dollar ready?” he asked.
Edward nodded sceptically and held it up.
Something dark appeared at the other end of the tunnel. It was coming towards them rapidly. Chuck turned, grabbed the dollar and rode off on his bike.
“Run!” he shouted back.
Moments later the brothers saw a gigantic ant racing towards them. They turned to flee, but it was too late. The ant was much too fast.
“Let’s get in there!” Anthony shouted.
There was a narrow entrance to another tunnel, much too narrow for the ant. They managed to get in at the last moment before the ant caught them. As they went deeper into the dark tunnel the ant tried furiously to get at them. It tore at the entrance and slowly made the passage wider. The brothers had no choice but to go further in the hope of finding another way out.
They hurried along the tunnel. The noise of the angry ant tearing at the ground behind them kept them running as fast as they could and for once neither of them said a word. They were too terrified to say anything.
After running for over an hour they came to the end of the tunnel. Something was blocking the exit but they could see a dim light shining in. They pushed hard and were surprised to find themselves in the room of a house. They pushed the armchair that had covered the exit back into place and went to explore.
Everything was quiet. They tiptoed to a window and looked out.
“It’s the café!” Anthony whispered excitedly. “That means…”
“…we’re in the house Adhip went into,” Edward said.
“But why is he interested in giant ants?” Anthony asked.
Edward shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows. We’ll have to find out more before we start any guessing games. Let’s see if we can find out anything in the house.”
They heard the front door opening and suddenly footsteps came nearer. In a panic the boys looked for a place to hide. There was nowhere to go except the tunnel they had just come from. They dashed there and hid in it, barely managing to pull the armchair back in place when the door to the room was opened.
“I can’t see anything,” Anthony whispered.
“Never mind, just listen,” Edward said.
There were three different voices, two men and one woman.
“You’re looking swell, honey,” a man with a strong Texan drawl said. “Have you got it?”
She laughed. “Sure thing, Carl. Here it is.”
There was the sound of something made of metal being put on the table.
“Is it all right?” Carl asked.
There was a moment’s silence, then the other man said “Yes, seems genuine.”
The boys looked at each other. They had both recognized Adhip’s voice immediately.
“Of course it is,” the woman said. “Now where’s the dough?”
“Here it is,” Adhip said. “Five grand, as agreed.”
The woman counted the five thousand dollars out aloud.
“Happy?” Carl asked.
“Yep. Always a pleasure to do business with you guys. I’ll be seeing you.”
Without waiting the woman walked out of the room and left the house quickly.
“What do you need that stuff for?” Carl asked.
“Just mind your own business,” Adhip said. “You’re getting paid enough. Now help me lift this into the lead box.”
“All right, but then get this out of here. If we’re caught it’ll mean the electric chair,” Carl said.
“Don’t worry. Just help me pack it and I’ll leave through the tunnel. There’s no one outside anyway and even if there is they wouldn’t see anything,” Adhip said.
His last words worried Anthony and Edward. If Adhip was going to come into the tunnel they’d have to go back towards the giant ant!
They heard a box being closed.
“No choice!” Edward whispered and pulled Anthony back into the tunnel. They hurried away as quietly as they could and a minute later they heard the armchair at the tunnel entrance being moved away. Adhip was coming!
The boys couldn’t hear the ant ahead of them and so for the moment the danger of Adhip finding out about them seemed much greater than that of the ant. They hurried down the tunnel for some twenty minutes going much faster than Adhip.
Suddenly they stopped.
“Look!” Anthony said. “There are two tunnels.”
He was right. In their mad rush to escape from the furious ant they hadn’t noticed that there was another tunnel branching off. After a brief examination they determined they had come from the right tunnel.
“So let’s turn left,” Edward said. “Anything’s better than going back to the ant.”
There was no arguing with that and they set off again. After what seemed like a very long time rushing through the dark underground world they saw light ahead. They cautiously approached the exit to the tunnel to make sure they weren’t surprised by any giant ants or other unpleasant things.
They peeped out of the tunnel and saw a small town, almost a village. There was a church, a fire station and a few streets with rows of houses.
“That’s a strange town,” Anthony said.
Anthony shrugged his shoulders. “Just a feeling.
They watched the town for a few minutes but couldn’t see anyone.
“It’s very quiet, anyway,” Edward said. “Let’s go and have a look.”
Anthony wasn’t happy. Deep down he had a feeling that something was wrong, but he followed his brother. It took them twenty minutes to reach the town. The first thing they noticed was a goat tethered to a lamp post.
“Why is there a goat?” Anthony asked.
“I don’t know,” Edward said feeling curious. “Come on, let’s see if we can find anyone.”
They walked along the road past some very old cars that were parked in driveways until they spotted a café. They went in.
“Hello!” Edward called.
Anthony went behind the counter.
“What are you doing?” Edward whispered urgently. “If anyone sees you…”
Anthony opened the fridge. It was empty and warm. He was confused. “How can it be a café if there’s nothing to drink…?”
He tried the water tap. As much as he turned it nothing came out, not one drop of water.
Edward was beginning to feel that his brother was right. There was something strange about the town.
Suddenly they heard a strange sound outside. They went to the window and were horrified.
“It’s a gigantic cobra!” Edward whispered.
“Yes,” Anthony agreed. “It’s as tall as a building, just like the ant. How can the animals be so big?”
“No idea,” Edward said as they watched the cobra slither past them. “What I do know is that we’ve got to get out of this town.”
“But where can we go?”
Edward thought for a moment. “Let’s go to the church. If there’s a way up the tower we should get a good view of the area.”
The boys left the building quietly and kept a careful lookout for any creatures that might come along. They moved along the walls of buildings to avoid being seen. When they finally reached the church and the door closed behind them, they breathed a sigh of relief.
The inside of the church gave the same peculiar impression as the café. There were pews and an altar but the walls were not painted. In fact there was no ornamentation of any kind, not even a cross above the altar, only bare concrete walls.
They walked through the building to the tower and were glad to find a flight of stairs leading up. They lost no time and a minute later they were at the top of the tower.
“Looks nice and empty,” Anthony said.
Edward nodded. “Maybe a good time to leave. Do you see that tower over there?”
He pointed to a tall metal structure with an unusual large object hanging down in the middle, suspended from steel cables. It was about a mile away and lay in the opposite direction they had come from.
Before Anthony had time to answer there was the cackling of a loudspeaker being switched on. The voice of a man boomed across the entire town:
“T minus ten minutes. Your last chance to withdraw to a safe distance.”
Then an air raid siren began to wail.
The boys looked at each other in shocked horror. Edward understood.
“This isn’t a real town. It’s fake. They’re using it for testing a bomb.”
The boys dashed downstairs and ran away from the tower in the distance. Suddenly it all made sense to Edward.
“This is a nuclear test site!” he yelled to Anthony while they were running. “That’s why the animals were so big, it’s from the radiation.”
They hadn’t yet reached the edge of the town when the voice on the loudspeakers announced:
“T minus five minutes.”
“We’re too slow!” Edward shouted desperately.
“Let’s take that!” Anthony yelled and pointed at a blue sports car.
There was no time for debating it. They ran to the car.
“The keys are in,” Edward grinned.
They hopped in the car, Edward turned the key and the engine roared to life. He put his foot down hard on the accelerator, the wheels spun and the car sped out of town.
Half a minute later the needle on the speedometer showed 120mph.
“Wow, this is fast,” Anthony said. “I didn’t know you could drive.”
“Me neither,” Edward said, “but now’s a good time to learn.”
His hands gripped the steering wheel tightly. He was sweating. From time to time he glanced in the rear view mirror. Behind them the air raid siren was filling the air with its desperate warning.
“Get down,” Edward said.
Anthony got down on the floor of the car and Edward kept his head as low as possible. Suddenly the mirror was filled with a bright light.
Edward slid right down. He still had his foot on the accelerator and he held on to the steering wheel, but he couldn’t see where they were going.
“How can you drive like that…?” Anthony asked.
“Close your eyes!” Edward shouted.
Then the blast wave caught up with them. It lifted the car off the road and hurled it through the air.
Half an hour later the boys were still inside the car feeling dazed. The fast car had put enough distance between them and the explosion to save their lives, and the boys were lucky they didn’t get thrown out when the car was hurled through the air, so apart from feeling dazed and a large number of bruises and scratches they hadn’t sustained any injuries.
“That was pure hell,” Anthony said, “I never want to do that again.”
His lips were trembling.
“Come on then,” Edward said. “Let’s get out of the car. It’s a total wreck anyway.”
The boys climbed out and looked around. Where the fake town had been everything was obliterated. The only thing still visible were a few feet of concrete sticking up where the church tower had been. Everything else was smouldering debris.
“Let’s hope that killed the gigantic snake,” Anthony said.
“There must be lots of radiation here,” Edward said. “We should leave as fast as possible.”
About a mile away lay some hills. They walked towards them with all haste. The first thing they saw when they reached the foot of the hills was the entrance to a cave.
“This will protect us from the radiation,” Edward said.
Anthony wasn’t happy about going underground again, he still remembered the gigantic ant, yet the only other option was to climb the steep, rocky hill. He followed his brother into the cave. The cool air made a pleasant difference to the outside heat.
Right then they heard a sound coming from deep inside the cave. The boys stopped to listen.
“Sounds like Carl!” they both whispered.
“At least we’re back on track,” Edward murmured.
There was no choice now. They had to go in deeper until they found out what Carl was doing. As they went deeper into the mountain Carl’s voice gradually became louder until it was close by. The boys crept up on tiptoes. There was light ahead.
Carl was speaking excitedly, though his words didn’t make sense to the boys. Finally they reached a doorway in the rock. It opened up to a chamber that was very obviously man made.
“Wow!” the boys gasped.
In the middle of the chamber was a large, blue crystal skull. They had never seen anything like it before.
“What is it?” Anthony whispered excitedly.
Before Edward could answer Carl came back into the chamber. He was carrying a heavy metal box which he put down beside the skull. He opened it and lifted out a small container on the side of which it said:
Carl opened the container, took a pair of metal tongs and lifted out a shiny ball of uranium. He went to the crystal skull and inserted the ball of uranium into the back. The uranium moved into the middle of the skull, and a strange humming sound filled the chamber.
Carl stepped off the raised area in the chamber and stood in front of the skull. He raised his arms up in the air and began muttering a strange imprecation.
A light began to glow within the skull weakly at first, but then stronger and stronger until it was almost as bright as the sun. Then the skull rose up into the air. It glowed in a strange metallic blue, yet its eyes were a fiery red.
The skull had awoken. It looked about and recognized Carl as its master. Its eyes penetrated the rock all around and it saw the boys watching in secret. Its mind was now connected to that of Carl and whatever the skull saw, Carl knew instantly.
“Bring them forth!” Carl commanded.
The skull’s eyes emitted bright red rays that went through the rock and into the minds of both Anthony and Edward.
The boys lost their free will. They stood up and went into the chamber as commanded. The skull penetrated their most secret thoughts and found out how Geetu had sent them to spy.
Carl smiled. “Foolish woman,” he said. “You shouldn’t have meddled. But never mind, these two boys will be the first to recognize my rule.” He looked them in the eye and said “Kneel!”
The boys immediately knelt in front of him.
Carl laughed manically.
“That fool wanted Carackpore! Ha, what is Carackpore, all India, the whole world will be mine! I shall be known as Emperor Carl I, ruler of the Earth, and thousands of years from now people will still remember me as the greatest ever!”
Carl’s heart and soul were totally corrupted by the unlimited power the skull gave him and he set forth to subjugate the world. It was on a Monday afternoon that Carl began his quest to achieve world rule.
While Carl stayed in the chamber with the crystal skull he sent the boys out to Area 32. When they left the mountain the first things they saw were two gigantic ants. The boys had no fear. The skull controlled them, the skull controlled the ants who were standing guard at the tunnel entrance. The boys walked slowly and mechanically. By the time they reached the main base area they were both feeling unwell. It didn’t matter to them. They were mere soldiers under Carl’s command, ready to die for their master.
Every time they met someone the crystal skull was able to see through their eyes and take control. By Monday evening all of Area 32 was under Carl’s control. Not a word was spoken in Area 32 anymore. There was no need. Only Carl was free to think. That evening Edward and Anthony were suffering from fatigue. Their bodies and minds were tired and weak and several times they felt the urge to vomit.
Carl stayed in the chamber, close to the crystal skull. With greedy eyes he looked out into the world, wanting to have it all, while at the same time there was fear in his heart, a growing fear of someone taking the skull away from him. These two feelings made him move closer and closer to the skull until he embraced it and held it close to himself with both his arms. He fell asleep that night holding the skull.
On Tuesday morning people in America woke up to a new and different day. In Area 32 Edward and Anthony threw up. Everyone else set about to find what transport there was to go out and take Carl’s rule all over America and beyond.
In Washington D.C. some alarming reports were received about a communist take-over of Area 32 where the nation’s most advanced weapons were being developed and tested. Authorities couldn’t contact anyone in Area 32 and decided to send an airborne brigade there. When the brigade parachuted into Area 32 Carl’s minions were ready to convert the brigade to his rule.
A number of nearby military bases were already controlled by him around noon. Carl was ecstatic. His rule and command were spreading fast, faster than any other rule in world history. Around noon he noticed a tuft of hair coming loose from his head. He didn’t care. Power! All he cared about was more power!
Edward and Anthony had been sent to the nearby town. They helped subject the waiter, the other boys and everyone else to Carl’s rule.
By Tuesday evening the whole state was subject to Carl and military bases around America were under his control. There was a panic in Washington D.C. where the US Government held a crisis meeting.
Carl was still clutching the skull. He had no feelings of hunger and thirst. All his hair had fallen out during the day and he was completely bald. He felt sick several times and was developing a high fever. He didn’t notice. All that mattered to him was the power of the skull.
On Wednesday morning Carl prepared to take over the entire USA. He was sure that by the evening of that day every military unit in the country, every city, town and village, every single person in America would be his!
He had a severe headache and a high fever. He threw up beside the skull. It didn’t matter to him. He clutched the skull more tightly. It gave him a feeling of power. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He felt invincible!
Across America his rule was spreading and with every new follower to his rule his feeling of satisfaction grew.
He tried to vomit several times, though his stomach was empty and he suffered from diarrhoea. As the day wore on he became increasingly dizzy until his mind and body entered a state of shock.
At 1pm most of the nation was under his control. The President of America obeyed him as did everyone else who mattered. Only a few people in remote areas were not affected yet.
Carl didn’t understand it, but he was suffering from acute radiation sickness. The uranium inside the crystal skull was highly radioactive. Every minute he spent with the skull meant that radiation was destroying the cells in his body. A healthy person would have understood, yet Carl’s mind was corrupted by the power of the skull. It was like an evil cancer that spread through his mind.
At 2.24pm that day Carl died from radiation sickness.
When Carl died all of America awoke like from a bad dream. People everywhere felt dazed, unable to understand what had happened. Only Anthony and Edward knew the full truth, Geetu guessed most of it and the American president knew enough to understand that his country had almost been conquered by the most powerful weapon in the world, a weapon he was determined to have.
The FBI was soon able to trace the origin of the strange outbreak that had taken control of the nation to the small town near Area 32 where Edward and Anthony were lying in a military hospital suffering from radiation sickness.
During the fortnight that followed they were repeatedly questioned by FBI agents as well as military personnel who wanted to know what they had been doing in Area 32.
The boys instinctively understood that everyone was looking for the source of the mysterious power that had gripped America, yet they also knew how dangerous the crystal skull could be, so they decided to say nothing.
When they were finally released from hospital an army sergeant drove them out of Area 32 and back into town in a jeep.
“And don’t you boys ever go wandering into the restricted area again!” he warned them strictly when he dropped them off.
“What do we do now?” Anthony asked as they watched the jeep turn round a corner.
“First we’ve got to find out what happened to Adhip. Carl must have done something to him or Carl wouldn’t have had the skull and the uranium.”
“What about Carl?”
“He’s dead. At the moment only we know where the skull is so we can think about what to do with it later.”
“I don’t want to do anything with it,” Anthony said. “We’d only get radiation sickness again if we go near it.”
Edward nodded. “We’ll decide later. Let’s see if we can find out about Adhip in the house where we saw him last.”
A few minutes later they stood at the door of the house. They knocked and rang the bell but no one opened. Anthony tried the handle and the door swung open.
The boys looked at each other and nodded. There was no one in sight. They entered the house and closed the door behind them.
An eerie silence pervaded the house.
“It’s just a house,” Edward whispered. “Let’s look around.”
The first room they checked was the living room. The armchair was moved away from the wall and the entrance to the tunnel was open.
“Strange,” Anthony said. “Why did they leave it open?”
“Maybe they didn’t care anymore, or rather Carl didn’t care anymore.”
There was no one in the other rooms and a search upstairs yielded no results either.
Edward drew his hand along furniture in different rooms. Wherever he did so there was dust on his hand.
“Looks like no one has been here for some time,” he said.
They went back downstairs to the entrance hall.
“Look here,” Anthony said. “We missed a door.”
Anthony was right. There was a door made to look like the wall panels it was let into and its handle was hidden behind some jackets hanging in front of it.
Edward tried the handle. The door wouldn’t open.
“Help me push,” he said.
He pressed the handle and both boys together pushed against the door as hard as they could. There was a creaking noise as the door came unstuck and opened to reveal a dark staircase leading downwards.
As soon as the door opened the boys noticed a bad smell.
“What a stink,” Edward said.
He flicked a light switch and a single bulb at the bottom of the stairs lit up. They began to go down the wooden stairs which creaked with every step.
Suddenly they heard a sound. They stopped to listen. Someone was calling from down below!
They rushed down and followed the voice to a door that was bolted from the outside. Anthony drew back the bolt and pushed the door open. What they found was disgusting and horrible.
Poor Adhip was lying on the floor, weak with hunger, and in one corner stood a bucket that he had used as a toilet. It was overflowing and the stench was almost unbearable. The boys felt their stomachs turn and they wanted to throw up.
“Help me!” Adhip begged them.
Sometimes being brave meant doing something disgusting. The boys knew they had to help Adhip and they were brave. They ignored the stench and the dirt. Each boy took one of Adhip’s arms and helped him up the stairs.
It was too much for Adhip. When he reached the top he collapsed from weakness.
“Did Carl lock you in down there?” Edward asked.
Adhip looked at him in surprise. “Yes, but how can you know…I mean…”
The boys looked at each other in horror. It meant Adhip had been locked in the dark cellar for more than a fortnight without food. No wonder he was so weak.
Two hours later, after a long shower, some fresh clothes and a hearty meal Adhip and the boys were sitting together in the living room.
“When Carl found out about the power the crystal skull can give its master, he attacked me and locked me into the cellar,” Adhip said.
“Where did you get it from?” Edward asked.
“It was found in South America and legend has it that it came from Atlantis. A French archaeologist found it in the 19th century in a lost temple in the middle of the jungle. The walls were covered in mysterious inscriptions that no one has been able to decipher.”
“So how did you know what to do?” Anthony asked.
Adhip shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe I was just helped by the progress of modern technology along with some shrewd guesses. It worked perfectly, didn’t it?” he said with a grin.
“I wouldn’t call it perfect,” Edward said, “it’s a terrible thing. We should destroy it.”
Adhip was outraged.
“Destroy it? Are you out of your mind? The skull is mine, I tell you! With it I will take my rightful place in Carackpore. The Indian government had no right to steal our kingdom.”
There was a fanatical gleam in his eyes that showed his soul had already been corrupted by greed and the lust for power that the skull could bestow.
“Just think what happened to Carl,” Anthony said. “The skull made him so greedy he didn’t even understand that he was dying. It only does harm.”
Edward nodded and said “It’s an evil thing. You’re better off without it.”
Much to the boys’ dismay Adhip wouldn’t listen to them.
“What nonsense,” he said. “Carl just didn’t know how to use it properly. With me it’ll be different. You boys best go back to my mother and tell her not to worry and especially not to meddle. I know what I’m doing and once I’ve restored our family to their rightful place in Carackpore we can all go home.”
Edward shook his head in frustration. He stood up and walked around the room. As he came past the window he noticed something outside. He looked carefully. Across the street two men in suits were watching the house. He recognized them immediately.
“I don’t think you’ll get very far with the skull,” he said. “The FBI’s outside keeping a close eye on us.”
Anthony nodded. “You can’t imagine how many questions they asked us. They also want the skull.”
“What?” Adhip said in horror. “You told the FBI about the skull?”
The boys shook their heads. “We think no one should have the skull,” Edward said. “It’s too dangerous. If the FBI got it, then the government would use it to create their own world rule.”
Adhip jumped up from his seat. “Maybe they would, but all I want is what’s mine, what’s my birthright.”
There was a fanatical gleam in his eyes again.
“And no one’s going to take that from me!” He dashed across the room and disappeared into the tunnel.
“If we tell the FBI they’ll stop him,” Anthony said.
Edward shook his head. “Then they’d get the skull. It’s no use, we’ll have to go after him ourselves and try to take it away from him.”
“But what about the radiation?”
“We’ll think about that later. Come on!”
Edward waved for his brother to follow and ran after Adhip into the tunnel.
Finding Adhip was easy. They knew the way to the chamber the skull was in. When they got there Adhip was just removing the uranium ball from the crystal skull. He placed it into the lead container and closed the lid. The skull was standing on the ground. Now there was no light coming from it. The boys understood that the skull had to be some kind of machine that was powered by uranium.
Adhip looked in their direction even though they were hidden behind the rock wall.
“I know you’re there,” he said. “It’s no use hiding.”
The boys looked at each other in surprise.
“All right,” Edward said and stepped into the chamber. “We’re here.”
“How did you know?” Anthony asked.
“I didn’t expect you to give up so easily,” Adhip grinned. “What else could you do? Anyway, it’s good you’re here. You can help me carry the box of uranium while I carry the skull.”
“We’re not going to help you do that,” Edward said. “We promised your mother to…”
“To what?” Adhip asked. “If we leave the skull here it won’t be safe. How long do you think the FBI will stand outside the house until they decide to go in and investigate? They’ll find the tunnel and then they’ll get the skull. Do you want them to have it?”
The boys realized that Adhip was right. If the FBI got the skull it would be almost impossible to get it back. Whether they liked it or not they had to work together with Adhip to remove the skull from the tunnels and take it somewhere else.
Anthony carried the box while Edward helped Adhip to carry the crystal skull. It was heavy going and it seemed like hours until they came out of the tunnel system. Exhausted they put the heavy things on the ground and looked around. The exit had taken them to a road that led back to town in one direction and to a highway in the opposite direction.
“There we are,” Adhip grinned. “That was the hard part. Now all I need is a truck. You kids wait here for me and I’ll be back in no time.”
Without waiting for an answer he turned and ran down the road towards the town.
“Let’s take the skull and go away before he comes back,” Anthony said.
They tried to lift it but only managed to get it up a few inches before dropping it again.
“It’s much too heavy,” Edward said.
They had no choice but to wait and in no time at all they saw Adhip driving a truck furiously down the road. They helped him load the skull and the box containing uranium into the back and then quickly got into the driver’s cab while Adhip covered the skull. He smiled to himself. He understood the boys were intent on coming with him because they were still hoping to get the skull away from him, yet he didn’t mind. He decided that the boys might still be of use to him on the way to the coast where he was planning to board a ship to take him out of America. He had already bought one ticket on the United States that would take him to Europe.
The ‘United States’
The huge liner would be sailing in five days’ time. Enough time, he reckoned, to reach New York and set sail towards his destiny as ruler of Carackpore. He patted the crystal skull and a strange sensation went through his mind.
“What am I thinking?” he murmured. “With this I shall be the ruler of all India!”
He quickly got out, closed the back flap and climbed into the driver’s seat. Moments later the truck was hurtling down the road towards the highway.
Driving along a highway for hour after hour is monotonous and boring. After seven hours of uneventful driving Adhip was sure that they had left the FBI far behind. He began to relax and decided that he didn’t need the boys anymore.
“After all,” he thought, “if no one’s following us, they can only get in the way.”
A little while later he saw a service station coming up. He pulled in and parked the truck.
“Right,” he said to the boys with a smarmy smile. “Time for a rest and something to eat.”
They ordered food in the restaurant. No one said a word during the meal. The boys were thinking about how to get the skull from Adhip, while Adhip was scheming to get rid of the boys without attracting attention to himself.
It was quiet in the restaurant. They were the only customers and the staff were lounging away the time. Suddenly the door burst open and two armed men stormed in.
“Hand it over!” one of them shouted at the cashier while the other one came to the table where Adhip and the boys were sitting.
With her hands shaking the cashier opened the register and put all the money into a bag the robber was holding open.
“And you,” the other robber said to Adhip who had no choice but to give him his wallet. With the gun still pointing at Adhip the robber looked out of the window and saw the parked truck.
“Now ain’t that something,” the robber said. “Give me the keys!”
Now Adhip was getting worried. Giving the robber his wallet was one thing, he could easily replace the money in it, but letting him have the truck with the crystal skull was a much more serious matter.
“You’ve got my money…” Adhip tried to argue, but this just made the robber more suspicious.
“The keys, or else!” the robber growled at Adhip and pointed the gun at his head.
Seething Adhip slowly put his hand in his pocket, drew out the keys and gave them to the robber.
Seeing how upset Adhip was the robber grinned and said “Now ain’t that a swell truck. I wonder what you’ve got in it.”
The two robbers ran out again. One of them climbed in the car they’d come in while the other took the truck. The engines revved up and moments later the vehicles sped onto the highway.
“This is terrible!” Anthony said looking aghast.
“A pukka disaster!” Adhip said who already saw all his dreams of taking power in India vanish before his very eyes.
“We’ve got to get it back!” Edward shouted and jumped up.
His sudden movement seemed to bring everyone out of their shocked inaction. The cashier took the telephone and dialled 911 to report the robbery to the state police.
Adhip and the boys ran outside and looked around desperately.
“We need a vehicle,” Edward said, “before they get too far away.”
The car park was empty so they ran towards the highway. It was a quiet time of day. The robbers had already vanished in the distance. Crestfallen, Adhip and the boys looked up and down the bare highway. They waited nearly five minutes until they saw a car in the distance at last.
“We must get that car!” Adhip said desperately and for once the boys agreed with him. There was no telling what terrible fate awaited the world if criminals were able to use the crystal skull.
Adhip quickly dashed to the middle of the highway and lay down.
“Wave to the driver,” he said, “and make sure he stops!”
Now Adhip was in mortal danger. If the driver failed to see him in time and stop his car Adhip would be run over. The boys jumped up and down on the highway and waved to the rapidly approaching car. As it got nearer they heard the roar of a powerful engine.
“It’s a racing car!” Anthony said excitedly.
“The very thing we need,” Edward said.
“Make sure it stops!” Adhip groaned.
He needn’t have worried.
The driver was none other than Albert Knowles, a famous racing car driver. He spotted the three people on the highway early and stopped in good time. A man lying on the highway with two boys jumping next to him was not only unusual, it was unheard of. Albert Knowles jumped out of the car and rushed to Adhip to see if he needed help. When he bent down Adhip repaid his helpfulness with an ungrateful punch to his chin that sent Knowles sprawling to the ground. Adhip jumped up and ran to the racing car. Edward and Anthony managed to get in at the last moment. Adhip didn’t care about them. He put his foot down hard and the car accelerated.
“Sorry!” Anthony called back to Albert Knowles who couldn’t believe anyone would use such a nasty trick to steal his car.
Twenty seconds later the car was thundering along the highway at 120 miles per hour. As they didn’t have any goggles they bent low to shield their eyes from the strong wind.
Parked by the side of the highway was a police car. A state trooper was leaning through a side window listening to the radio and heard about the robbery at the service station. He immediately recognized the car and truck that had passed by just minutes before. He opened the door and was just getting in when the racing car roared past him at top speed. Trooper Jackson had stopped many speeding drivers before but he had never seen anyone going that fast before. With its light flashing and the siren wailing he chased after the racing car. He was driving at top speed, yet it was no use, the racing car quickly vanished in the distance. Trooper Jackson radioed for backup and continued along the highway.
The robbers were happy at first with their successful robbery and getaway, but then they remembered that they’d forgotten to destroy the telephone at the rest station. At the next exit they left the highway in the hope of being able to shake off any pursuers. They drove along the road for a few minutes until they came to a turning that led towards a forest. The robbers stopped. The shady wood looked like an ideal place to hide and examine the contents of the truck. The lane leading into the woods was narrow, not much more than a dirt track that was seldom used. After considering the matter for a minute the robber in the car decided to make use of the opportunity. He drove towards the wood with the truck close behind.
“There they are!” Edward said and pointed. He spotted the truck just in time in the distance as it was leaving the highway.
Adhip slowed down and followed the robbers. The racing car went round the bend carefully and then accelerated again to catch up with the robbers. The road ahead was empty. The racing car hurtled past fields and grazing cattle, though not in time to see the stolen truck vanish into the forest. After rushing along the road for about ten minutes they were getting nervous.
“Shouldn’t we have caught up with them by now?” Edward asked.
Adhip pressed his lips together. He knew that Edward was right. They were going at twice the top speed the truck was capable of. It was impossible they hadn’t caught sight of it yet. “They must have turned off,” he admitted and slowed down, “but where?”
“There was a little lane a few minutes ago,” Anthony said.
Adhip braked hard and brought the car to a standstill.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
Anthony nodded. “It was a mud road that went to a forest.”
Adhip thought hard. He couldn’t remember it, but neither had he seen any other road turning off. If Anthony was right that was the only place where the robbers could be. He spun the car around and raced back keeping a close look for any roads or tracks turning off. Six minutes later they reached the mud road.
“That’s it,” Anthony said.
It was slow going for the racing car on the mud road. The car was made for smooth, hard roads, not for soft ground full of potholes. The racing car rumbled along into the dense forest. They weren’t going much faster than a person could walk. There was no sign of the truck and they looked ahead impatiently, but as the mud road meandered from side to side they could never see very far ahead. This went on for almost half an hour.
Had they made the right decision in coming along the mud road? Or had the robbers taken another turning? Uncertainty was nagging at their minds. Then, suddenly, they came to a dead end. The forest ended and just outside was an old, abandoned building.
Adhip turned off the engine. There was an eerie silence around them. Not a single bird could be heard, there was no wind to rustle the leaves and the old building seemed to gape at them with its dark windows and gateways. They strained their eyes to see if the truck and car were parked within the building, yet the darkness was so intense they could see nothing.
“Let’s not waste time,” Edward said and got out of the car. He walked towards the building. Only when he reached the entrance was he able to discern anything inside. There in the gloomy darkness stood the missing truck.
“It’s here!” he whispered urgently.
They lifted the flap at the back and looked in. The skull and the container of uranium were gone!
“We must be quick before they use the skull,” Adhip said.
“What about their guns?” Anthony asked.
“No time to worry about that now, come on!” Adhip said and advanced into the darkness.
The boys followed hard on his heels. They turned around a corner and found the robbers.
The men knew nothing about uranium and radioactivity, yet when they examined the skull and opened the container they guessed that the metal balls in the container were meant to go into the crystal skull. One robber took a uranium ball out of the container with his bare hands and inserted it into the skull at the very moment when Adhip and the boys came round the corner.
The skull came to life and its eyes glowed like a fiery blaze in the dark room.
Anthony jumped past the robbers and looked the skull in the eyes. The crystal skull recognized him as its new master!
With the power of the skull Anthony quickly imposed his will on the robbers and Adhip.
“You nasty bad men!” he said to the robbers. “Give Adhip his wallet and the keys back.”
Without a word one robber handed the wallet and truck keys to Adhip.
Anthony smiled. He was beginning to enjoy himself.
“Now get in your car, drive to the nearest police station and surrender yourselves,” Anthony said.
Edward watched speechlessly as the robbers left the room, got in their car and drove away.
“That’s amazing,” Edward said, “but we’d better leave the room. Remember the radiation from the uranium.”
The boys quickly left the building and under Anthony’s orders Adhip followed them and then sat down some distance away so the boys could talk in private.
“That was easy,” Anthony said with a grin. “All we have to do now is get Adhip back to Geetu and we have to find a secure place to hide the skull.”
“But how do you want to do that?” Edward asked. “If we load the skull on the truck as it is we’ll get radiation sickness again. It’s too dangerous to be near it. We have to get the uranium back in the container.”
“But then the skull will stop working,” Anthony protested, “and Adhip will do what he wants to again. Anyway, how do you want to get the uranium out?”
“Hmm, we’ll ask Adhip to help us do it and we’ll stand by with a large hammer or stone to smash the skull as soon as he’s put the uranium in the container.”
Suddenly Anthony felt a strange sensation, like an iron hand gripping his chest. He controlled the skull, but like others before him he found that the skull began to exert a pull on his mind.
“Destroy the skull!” he burst out. “Never! It’s much too precious. Just think of all the wonderful things that are possible with it. We can end all wars, we can…”
“All right, all right!” Edward said quickly. He realized that the skull had begun to influence Anthony. The sooner it was switched off, the better, before it got too much power over him.
“I’ve got a different idea,” Edward said. “Make Adhip take the uranium out and put it in the container in a safe way. I’ll stand by and hit him on the head when he’s finished. Then we can put everything on the truck and drive to Geetu. She’ll be able to help us then.”
Anthony thought hard about Edward’s suggestion. In his mind he knew that it was what he wanted himself and yet the idea of switching off the skull made his heart pound. Sweat appeared on his forehead. How could it be so hard to agree with Edward, he wondered. Slowly he realized the hold the skull was gaining on him. With a great effort he opened his mouth and said “All right.”
It was all he could manage. He focused his mind and called Adhip. Every step towards the skull was hard to make. Anthony was in control but the skull resisted as much as it could. Adhip got some tools from the truck to handle the uranium. Anthony forced him to go to the skull. Sweat was running down Anthony’s face. Would he be able to keep control and finish the job before the skull gained too much power?
Adhip reached the skull and began to open it.
Edward moved into position behind him. He was holding a large stick.
With a steel tong Adhip pulled the uranium ball out of the skull and quickly dropped it in the container. He snapped the lid shut and looked back to the skull. The light in the eyes faded and went out.
Anthony breathed a sigh of relief as the skull’s power in his mind went away and Adhip became free again to think as he would. His greedy eyes rested on the skull. It was his, all his again! He smiled.
At that moment Edward hit him with all his might over the head. Adhip collapsed and passed out.
“Is he all right?” Anthony asked feeling worried.
Edward quickly checked Adhip’s pulse.
“Quite all right,” he said. “He’s unconscious, that’s all. Let’s tie him up before he comes round.”
The rest was simple though not easy. The boys had a very hard job getting the heavy skull back into the truck and an even harder job getting Adhip into it.
When Adhip came round he was furious, but there was nothing he could do. His hands and legs were firmly tied and he was strapped to the seat.
The boys got in the truck and Edward drove them all back to Geetu.
“Well, I must say,” Geetu said with a great big smile two days later, “you boys have done a first-class job, indeed a pukka job.”
Edward and Anthony were sitting on the sofa in her lounge. Geetu was in one armchair while Adhip was sulking in another.
“The only question that remains is what we’re going to do with the skull,” Edward said.
Anthony said nothing. Deep in his heart the skull had left a profound impression that would take a long time to get over.
Geetu saw him silent and guessed the reason. She knew she couldn’t trust her son Adhip anyway and decided to arrange things with Edward alone.
When the others weren’t looking she winked at Edward and said “Maybe we should think about what to do with the skull for a few days, there’s no hurry, wouldn’t you agree, Adhip?”
Adhip was surprised but he jumped at the bait immediately. If he had an extra few days, who knew what might be possible…?
“In the mean time,” Geetu said, “we need some proper packing material. Be so good and go into town for a crate and soft filling material so we can pack the skull properly. We wouldn’t want it to get damaged, would we?”
Geetu smiled gently at her son.
Adhip was confused by his mother’s apparent change of heart regarding the skull, yet his own greed prevented him from seeing the real reason so he agreed readily.
“You can take Anthony along to help you,” Geetu said. “If that’s all right with you, Anthony.”
Expecting another chance to get control of the skull Adhip was eager to do his mother’s bidding. He set off immediately and Anthony was surprised at himself for wanting to help Adhip so much.
“Now then,” Geetu said to Edward as they watched Adhip and Anthony drive off, “it’s up to you and me.”
Edward nodded. “What are you planning to do?”
“That is the question, isn’t it. First I thought of going on that ocean liner Adhip bought a ticket for and throwing the skull overboard in the middle of the ocean, but then I changed my mind.”
Edward eyed her suspiciously. Had Geetu fallen under the spell of the crystal skull?
Geetu saw his look and laughed.
“No, Edward, it’s not that. What I mean is…”
They were interrupted by the loud wailing sound of an air raid siren. First it sounded the all-clear to let everyone know it was a test. This was followed by a nuclear attack warning. School children ducked under their desks, people rushed underground into fallout shelters, the nation was in the grip of fear. When the exercise was over the all-clear sounded again.
When the sound of the siren died down Geetu said “You see what I mean? How can you trust people who are practising the end of the world, people who could turn our beautiful planet into a nuclear wasteland? If things ever come to the worst the skull might be our only salvation. Sinking it into the depths of the ocean could prove disastrous.”
Edward frowned. “But you told us before that everything turned out well because we didn’t know what a fall-out shelter was, so you don’t need the skull for that.”
“And how do you know why the world didn’t destroy itself in a nuclear war, Edward? Was it because people shrunk back at the last minute from disaster, or was it because someone like me stopped them with the help of the skull?”
Geetu sighed. “In the end it’s down to a simple question: Would you rather trust me with the skull or politicians with nuclear weapons?”
Edward nodded. His friend Geetu was a thousand times more trustworthy than all the politicians of the world combined.
“So what can we do with the skull?” he asked.
Geetu smiled, glad that her friend trusted her. “There’s only one thing to do,” she said. “We have to hide it well, but the others must think it’s gone.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll have to take a large box and go on that trip on the ‘United States’ to Europe. I have no doubt that Adhip and maybe Anthony will follow you and try to get the skull under their control. When you’re out at sea drop the box overboard so they think it’s lost for ever. While you’re gone I will hide the skull.”
It was a good plan. Edward knew it was good, yet he also understood there was one serious flaw.
He nodded slowly. “All right, but there’s one thing,” he said feeling embarrassed.
“Yes, Edward?” Geetu said.
“I mean what after you, … I mean one day who will get the skull when you…?”
He wanted to say ‘die’ but seeing his friend in front of him he could not bring himself to utter the dreaded word.
Geetu understood. “It’s all right, Edward, we all have to die one day,” she said with a sad smile. “You got a letter from me once and you’ll get a letter again telling you where to find the skull. Until then it’ll be my secret. But now you must go. There’s a box filled with some stones in the truck. Your ticket is there too. You know what you need to do, and leave the rest to me.”
“Will we meet again?” Edward asked.
“Oh, you dear boy,” Geetu said and hugged her friend. “Who knows, with you anything seems possible, but now you must go.”
A black car drew up outside on the opposite side of the road and two men in black suits got out.
“You see, Edward, our friends from the FBI have found us. No time to lose now, you must hurry.”
Edward drove the lorry with the decoy to New York where he managed to board the ‘United States’ at the last minute. Several hours later he dropped the box containing stones into the sea where it sank to a depth of nearly two miles, never to be seen again. Adhip tried to stop Edward at the last moment, but he was too late.
“What have you done!” was all he said until the ship reached Europe. There he bought a ticket back to America and sailed straight back home. He never returned to India.
The two FBI agents trailing Adhip witnessed the box falling into the sea and filed a report.
No one saw what Geetu did with the crystal skull.
Stars whirled around Edward and Anthony and carried them back to their own time, their own world safe from nuclear war and safe from the unlimited, corrupt power of the crystal skull.
There only Edward knew that their adventure was not finished yet, and that one day he would get a letter from Geetu.
Collect them all!