The Commandos of Operation Plato

In 2011 I was commissioned by a private collector to write and illustrate an original Indiana Jones story. My client, Adam, gave me carte blanche to tell any story that I wanted to tell. The resulting tale and accompanying illustrations were a joy to create.

He then commissioned me to create another original story for Dr. Jones and I decided to tell a tale of Indy's exploits during World War II. I wanted this story to feel more like a war movie than the Saturday afternoon serials that inspired "Raiders" of the Lost Ark". I was looking to create something more akin to "The Dirty Dozen" than "Allan Quartermain".

This story was originally featured on my old TypePad website, which no longer exists. I am re-posting it here so that it can be read and enjoyed by those who may not have seen it back in 2011.

Get your John Williams score cued up...

****

The walls of the submarine control room shuddered unnaturally and seemed to bleed seawater.

"How old is this bucket?" asked Commander George McHale of the vessel's skipper.
Captain Barnabus Shackleford turned from the periscope in the center of the room and sneered at the Brit. "First time on a boat, mate?"

Mac smiled. "Naw, I've been on boats before. But innit customary to keep the water out?" He let out a laugh that let everyone in the cramped room know how pleased he was with himself. No one else joined in.

Major Henry Jones Jr just looked at him and shook his head. Indy was accustomed to allying himself with useful blowhards when he had to, but Mac's hot air was testing even his limits of pragmatism.

Captain Barnabus turned back to his periscope. "Five minutes, Colonel," he said to the Army officer standing next to him.

Colonel Robert Ross, the commanding officer of the small unit of men being taken to the bottom of the ocean, nodded in reply. He turned to his group of commandos.  "This is it, gentlemen. In five minutes you'll be the first non-German speaking humans to set foot inside the lost city. Present company excluded," he added, looking over to the man who had set the events of this mission in motion, Korvettenkapitän Klaus Hartzler.

Indy looked over at the Nazi defector, who stood in the rear of the control room, keeping to himself. The tall, fair-haired man looked more nervous than any of the Allied commandos about to embark on what could be their last mission (there was always a chance of that, something that Indy had long ago accepted). Hartzler clearly didn't want to be on the submarine with the men he had once fought against, and it showed.

Funny, thought Indy. I have been on a submarine before and there were Nazis there, too. Something tells me that Mac wouldn't complain about a few drops of water if he had ever experience sub travel while lashed to a periscope.

"Two minutes," snapped the Captain, not looking away from the periscope.
Colonel Ross nodded once again. "Here we go."

Indy felt a surge of adrenaline and gripped the handle of his M3 Grease Gun.  He had seen a lot of strange action during the war, but the anticipation of gunning his way into the lost city of Atlantis had even Indiana Jones wondering what he had gotten himself into when he agreed to be a member of "Corner's Commando’s”.

Indy felt the sub shift in the three dimensional space of the ocean and he knew instantly that they were surfacing.

"Let's move," said Ross as the seven members of the landing party climbed the ladder that led up the conning tower and toward the outer hatch.

Hartzler led the team, just in case any Germans were in sight. If that happened, the former Nazi, dressed in his Nazi uniform, might be able to talk his way through an initial encounter just long enough for the other commandos to emerge from the sub and launch an attack.

The hatch opened and Hartler climbed up onto the tower. From below, the others could see him quickly scan the environment. He looked down at them and shook his head, indicating that there was no danger.

"Go," said Ross.

The commandos climbed up the ladder, exited the conning tower and followed Hartzler down the side of the sub.

The moment Indy emerged, he began taking in visual information. The sub had surfaced inside a large, circular area that was covered by a dome. The walls of the environment looked like some kind of marble. There was light, but it seemed to come from nowhere in particular.

Perhaps the walls themselves are bioluminescent, thought Indy.

Cracks in the domed ceiling leaked seawater into the pool below. A dampness permeated everything. There was also, somehow, breathable air.

Atlantis certainly has secrets worth exploring, thought Indy. I hope we get the chance to do that before the end.

The commandos jumped from the sub onto one of the mooring walls nearby (that were clearly meant to accommodate some kind of Atlantean vessel) and began to climb a set of stone stairs that led to a platform high above them. When they reached the top of the stairs, they all stood and looked down the tunnel that lay before them, which seemed to extend for miles into the interior of the sunken city. At the end of the tunnel all they could see was a bright light, the same strange bioluminescence that filled the area they were in, but much more brilliant.

 

Indy couldn't believe where he was standing. All of his life, the lost city of Atlantis had been pure myth to him, a fantastic speculation that was built solely on the writings of Plato, but nothing he ever took seriously as an archaeologist. Now he was looking upon the stone walls of Atlantis itself.

He looked over at Hartzler and thought back to the moment he first saw him at the mission briefing just two days earlier, the moment that the German had spoken the words that set them all on this task: "Atlantis exists and der Führer will use its power against the Allies if we do not stop him."

****
Two days earlier . . . October 9th, 1944 . . .

Indy felt a hand on his shoulder, jostling him awake. A Russian-accented voice spoke to him: "Wake up, Professor. We are here."  He pushed the brim of his fedora up and let the daylight into his eyes. He looked out the window of the military transport plane in which he had slept and then over to his comrade-in-arms, Polkovnik Anatoly Petrov.

"Where is here?" asked Indy.

"I do not know. Somewhere in the South Pacific, I believe," replied the Red Army Captain as he collected his gear and headed for the door of the plane.

Indy grimaced and looked down at his right forearm, which was bandaged. Blood bled though the fresh wrappings from an injury he sustained on a mission just a few days in the offing. That was how the last two years had been for him, moving from one spot of the globe to the next and licking his wounds on the go.  He rarely knew where here was from day to day, he simply kept moving forward at the service of the Allies.  The war had to be won.

Indy grabbed his backpack and satchel and followed the Russian out of the plane.  The air outside was moist and warm. Indy could smell sea air, but he saw no coastline, just palm trees and the jungle beyond the small makeshift airstrip that the Army engineers had cleared for military use.

They were met at the edge of the airstrip by Army Colonel Robert Ross, the commander of their small unit, which was affectionately known as "Corners’ Commandos". Ross had been given the nickname of "Corners" by the team due to his buttoned-down nature. To them, he was Mr. Hospital Corners, his by-the-book nature dictating his every move.

Ross had personally recruited Indy for the team based on his previous experience seeking out unique items for the U.S. government and dealing with the German threat to the world.  Indy remembered Ross's exact words when he asked him to join his unit; "We're going to be up to our necks in Nazis and nonsense. Are you in?"

Nonsense, thought Indy with a smile. That was Ross's code word for things that couldn't be explained. It was as close as he came to speaking openly about a world that Indy knew too much about.  "Corners’ Commandos" would be tasked with countering Hitler's obsession with the occult and that's why Indy was there.  The team called him "Professor", the man they looked to for an explanation when nonsense was in evidence.

"Welcome to nowhere, gentlemen," said Ross, stone-faced as always.  He pointed to a large tent nearby.  "You're the last ones to arrive. We only have an hour to get briefed up, so let's move."

The three of them ran to the tent and entered through the main flap.  A table stood at the center of the tent. Around it sat two men that Indy immediately recognized and standing in the corner stood one man that he didn't. Commander George "Mac" McHale, MI6, flashed a wide smile when he saw Indy.

"Jones!" exclaimed the British agent. "Good of you to finally join us. Sorry I missed you in Egypt, mate."

"Tunisia," Indy corrected him.

"Whatever. I'm sure it was a corker of a good time," Mac replied, chewing on his ever present unlit cigar.

Indy nodded to the other man he knew, Captain Barnabus "Barnshack" Shackleford, U.S. Navy. "Captain," he said, as he and Petrov took seats at the table.

"Professor," replied the seaman.

The roster of Corner's Commando's changed from mission to mission, but Mac and Shackleford had been mainstays of the group through most of Indy's time of war. He had only served with Petrov once before, the Red Army only recently having decided to contribute to Ross's unit. And Indy certainly had never served with the other man in the tent, who was wearing a Nazi uniform. If that wasn't enough to make him stand apart, he had a face like an Easter Island statue. No emotion eminated from his features and he stared straight ahead, not making eye contact with any of the others.

Ross secured the flap to the tent and looked at the men sitting around the table.
"This is going to be the briefest of briefs, boys.  You'll get the bullet points now and I'll flesh out the details once we're under the waves.  Korvettenkapitän Hartzler . . . care to bottom-line it for my boys here?" said Ross, turning to the German.

The four other Allied commandos turned to the Nazi standing in the corner and finally Hartler's eyes moved to meet theirs.

"Atlantis exists and der Führer will use its power against the Allies if we do not stop him," said Hartzler, barely registering any emotion at all.

Mac slapped his hand on the table before him and exclaimed, "Bloody brilliant! I knew this outfit would be worth my time.  Atlantis, indeed!  Dare I hope to catch me a mermaid on this run?"  He laughed at himself with glee. No one joined in, as usual.

Indy leaned forward and looked Hartzler in the eye, ignoring Mac's antics.  "Atlantis," he said. A statement and a question, all at once.

"Yes," Hartzler replied.  "Hitler's occult division has been there for a week mining its secrets."

"And you know this how?" asked Indy.

"I have been there," replied the German, flatly.

"Hartzler here defected and provided the Allies with some tasty intel. It checked out and we have no reason to believe that he's wrong about this bit, no mater how crazy it sounds," said Ross.

"We've all seen some nutty stuff in this outfit, Colonel. But even I have some doubts about this one," said Captain Shackleford.  He turned to Indy.  "Professor?  Got any tidbits to share on this one?"

"Well, the lost city of Atlantis is considered by most archaeologists to be pure myth," replied Indy. "There is nothing in the historical record that speaks to it being anything but the fantastical musings of Plato.  It's a bedtime story that only crackpots talk about with any seriousness.  That being said . . . when do we leave?"

Indy cracked a smile and the others soon joined in.

Ross stepped forward and held up his hand, "Not so fast.  This isn't going to be the usual hit and run raid.  Our mission, as always, is to put the kibosh on Hitler's more extreme antics.  But this time we have something extra to throw at the Gerries.  The Army Corps of Engineers have been working on a new weapon, something we've never seen before.  A real hush-hush deal.  They've sent us a prototype and they want this mission to be the first test of this new bomb."

Indy furrowed his brow.  "Bomb?  Wait, they want us to-"

"Affirmative," Ross interrupted.  "We have orders to destroy Atlantis so that any technology it contains can't get out into the open."

"Colonel, we can't just destroy the lost city.  If it actually exists, it could be a goldmine of historical and archaeological information that-"

Ross cut him off again.  "Jones, we'll collect as much intel as we can. When we get there, keep your eyes open and soak in all the history all you want.  But we have our orders. This is war and you knew the game when you signed on."

Indy sat back in his chair and nodded, "Yes, sir."

The mission comes first, Indy thought, and not for the first time during his service.

"We'll be entering the city on the opposite side that Hartzler says the Germans made their way in, but just in case we run into any of them right away, he'll take point and try to talk to them long enough for us to do our thing.  Oh, and we're bringing along a German mini-sub, in case we have to ditch the sub and the weapon in the city.  Hartzler here was kind enough to have extracted himself from his former pals with one of their newest toys and we're gonna make use of it if we have to", said Ross.

"Hmmph," grunted Shackleford,  "Can't say I'm thrilled having that thing on my boat, Colonel."

"Look into my eyes, Captain, and notice that I don't give a damn.  Now get to the supply tent and load up," barked Ross.  "We leave in 45 minutes, gentlemen."

The commandos began to file out of the tent, but Indy stayed a moment and approached Hartzler.  He looked the German in the eyes and he could tell that Hartzler knew what he was about to say.

"Why?" Indy asked.

Hartzler looked back at Indy for a moment and his face softened slightly as he said, "My fiance'.  She was…  Jewish."

Indy nodded and turned to exit the tent.  He thought about the intelligence reports that he had been privy to, containing information about atrocities that had not yet become common knowledge among the Allied civilian population.

This would be a mission to remember, thought Indy.  For so many reasons.

****

The commandos walked through the Atlantean tunnel toward the bright light ahead of them.  Their weapons were raised, but that had not yet seen or heard any signs of life in the lost city.

"Where are all the Gerries?" whispered Mac to Hartzler.

The German shook his head, looking as confused as everyone else.
"Keep moving," ordered Ross, as they pressed on.

A few minutes later the group had reached the end of the tunnel and entered into an enormous open area.  The domed expanse was miles wide and just as high with columned walls that arched above them convening at a point that was somehow emitting a light like the noontime sun.  The area was made up of stone pathways, bridges and platforms.  There were tunnel entrances like the one they had just emerged from all along the outer wall.

"Look," said Indy, pointing off into the distance.

The group turned to look at what Indy had seen.  There were lifeless bodies lying on the ground, just a few hundred feet away.  The bodies wore Nazi uniforms and were surrounded by the debris of excavation equipment and vehicles.  There were deep scratches in the stonework all around the dead Germans and some of the walls had somehow been damaged.  Debris of one kind or another lay everywhere.

"Bloody hell," exclaimed Mac.

Upon closer inspection the bodies seemed to form a path, leading toward what looked like a massive pool.  It was a circular area near the center of the domed room in which they stood.  Calm sea water filled the pool, which had a diameter of thousands of feet. The commandos saw the same strange scratches all along rim of the pool that they saw along the walls.

"What the blazes happened here?" asked Indy.

"I do not know," replied Hartzler.  "When I left, my people had just finished unloading the equipment and vehicles.  We had not yet begun to investigate the interior of the city."
A sound suddenly caused all of the men to turn and look toward one of the many tunnel entrances along the wall. It was the sound of running footfalls.  Someone was there with them and was approaching fast.

The commandos raised their weapons just as a young Nazi officer emerged from the tunnel.  He ran toward them, wild eyed.  His uniform was torn and damp and he had clearly been through some sort of ordeal.

Hartzler stepped forward to speak to the Nazi, but before he could, the young man grabbed hold of Hartzler's coat and shrieked in his native tongue, "Help me!  For the love of God, you must get me out of here!"

"Be calm, Lieutenant," replied Hartzler in German.  "We will help you.  But you must first tell us what happened here. How did these men die?"

"Kraken," whispered the young German, his voice shaking.

Mac leaned over and looked at Indy, perplexed. "What did he say?"

Suddenly, the group's attention was diverted by the sight of a series of large bubbles forming at the center of the pool. The bubbles quickly multiplied and grew in size.

Something was rising from the seawater below and it was rising fast. The group stepped back from the rim of the pool and raised their weapons, pointing them at the water. Mac and the Petrov pulled their bazookas from their backs and loaded them.

The young Nazi repeated the word he had just spoken, this time with a scream, "Kraken!"  He broke from the group and ran, disappearing down a tunnel into the darkness.

"What is kraken?", asked Petrov, to no one in particular.

All eyes turned to Indy, who simply shook his head.

The pool was now filled from one end to the other with gigantic bubbles and sea foam. The water began to churn, forming waves that increased in size as the seconds ticked by.  Suddenly the water seemed to rise all at once and a gigantic creature with three long appendages erupted out of the water and landed on the rim of the pool.

 

The commandos immediately opened fire, unloading their weapons at the creature. The bullets seemed to simply bounce off of the rough hide that covered it.  The beast was all mouth, teeth and arms. It was a massive sea creature that was clearly built for one thing; feeding. It was fifty feet high and at least three times as long, but it moved with the speed of an animal half its size.

The kraken reached out with one of its long arms and took hold of Hartzler.

The German continued to fire his weapon even as the monster pulled him toward its gaping maw.  Indy and the others watched in horror as the beast dropped Klaus Hartzler into its mouth and closed its voluminous rows of teeth down upon him.

The kraken lurched forward, sliding over the rim of the pool and toward the commandos.  It propelled itself with long tentacles protruding from its hind end, tentacles clearly intended to be used underwater, but just as capable of making the beast mobile on the land.

Ross turned to Captain Shackleford and barked, "Get back to the sub and arm the weapon.  We're leaving!"

The Captain nodded and ran off down the tunnel toward the submarine.  The commandos continued moving backwards, firing their weapons and moving toward the tunnel.

The kraken began moving faster and faster, crawling toward them.  As the men entered the tunnel, it suddenly sprang toward them and was stopped by the tunnel's stone arch. It struggled to enter the opening, but it was too wide to fit inside.  Its glassy eyes looked down on the commandos as it writhed and attempted to get to them.

"Ha!" laughed Mac. "Too fat, eh?  Sorry, beastie, I don't plan on bein' your breakfast today."
Mac reloaded his bazooka and aimed it squarely at one of the creature's many eyes.  He pulled the trigger and unleashed a torrent of smoke and fire.  The round exploded and the kraken suddenly stopped moving.

"Woooo!" bellowed Mac, moving toward the kraken and standing before it as if it were a trophy.  "Anyone bring a camera on this safari?"

The kraken suddenly began shaking violently and cracks began to form in the tunnel wall and ceiling.  Bits of stone began to fall as it started to force its way into the tunnel, tearing it apart as it crawled forward.

Indy grabbed onto Mac's backpack and pulled him away just as a large portion of the ceiling came crashing down where he once stood.

"Run!" yelled Indy.

Mac and Petrov threw their bazookas to the ground and began to send bullets into the creature with their machine guns.  The four commandos ran farther into the tunnel.  The kraken was at their heels, tearing its way through the passageway and bearing down on them.

Indy pulled the single grenade from his belt and with one flick of his fingers released the pin.  He stopped running, turned and flung it at the gaping mouth of the oncoming kraken.  The grenade had barely left his hand when he turned again and continued running away from the creature.

The small explosive flew through  the air, but instead of going into the mouth of the kraken, it bounced off of one of its teeth and was propelled up toward the ceiling of the tunnel where it exploded in a plume of fire and smoke.  The explosion caused the ceiling just ahead of the kraken to come down in massive chunks of stone, blocking its path and giving the commandos just enough time to exit the tunnel and run down the stairs to the mooring platform.

As they climbed up onto the sub and made their way to the conning tower, they saw the creature finally break through the remnants of the ceiling and emerge from the tunnel at the top of the stairs.  The weight of the beast caused the platform to crack, buckle and then collapse, sending dust and debris into the air.

Indy, Mac, Ross and Petrov scrambled one by one to enter the submarine's hatch and get inside.  Even before they were all securely in, they could feel the sub begin to descend.  Indy closed the hatch just before they finally submerged.

The commandos scrambled down the ladder of the conning tower and entered the control room where they found Captain Shackleford and his small crew at work making their escape from the sea creature possible.

"The weapon is armed," said the Captain to Ross.  "Now what?"

"Get topside immediately," said Ross as he looked up at the ceiling of the sub.  "If that thing doesn't follow us, we'll have to surface and wait for a bit before heading back to unload the weapon.  It might be best to disarm it for now, just in case-"

Suddenly all of the men in the control room were thrown off of their feet and onto to floor as the entire sub lurched backwards.

"It doesn't give up, does it?" said Indy.

The Captain stood and grabbed onto the handles of the periscope, turning it 180 around and looking into the eyepiece.  "Dear God, " he said in a whisper.

The sub began to shake from side to side.  The commandos and crew could barely keep their balance from one second to the next.

Shackleford turned away from the periscope and said in as calm a voice as Indy had ever heard, "Hold on to something, boys."

As every man in the sub reached for something to secure themselves, the room was turned end on end.  In just a few seconds the back wall became the floor.  Crewmen were sent flying down narrow corridors.  Indy grabbed onto the periscope and was left hanging next to the Captain, who did the same.  Mac and Ross were clinging to pipes nearby.
"It's grabbed onto us. It's pulling us down!" yelled the Captain.

The sub shook violently now, and they all heard the sound of metal being ripped apart, emanating from below.

"What the hell is that sound?" asked Indy.

"I think it's hungry," replied the Captain.

Ross began to climb up toward the forward hatch.  "Captain, start unloading every torpedo you have at that thing and begin the countdown on the weapon.  We'll get the mini-sub ready to launch."

"Aye," replied Shackloford.

Indy, Mac and Petrov followed Ross and they all climbed the sub's walls until they reached the hatch that led to the mini-sub.  They opened it and crawled inside.  One by one the members of the sub crew followed, quickly filling the small vehicle.

The high pitched sound of torpedoes being launched could be heard as the seamen began to bring the small sub to life.  The screws began to turn just as Captain Shackleford climbed into the sub and pulled the hatch closed behind him.

"All set? asked Ross.

The Captain nodded in reply.  "Haul ass."

A seaman hit a switch on the wall and they heard explosive bolts go off, releasing them from the larger submarine.  As the mini-sub righted itself and began to pull away, Indy and Mac exchanged grim looks.

"I have a bloody awful feeling about this, mate," said Mac.

Colonel Ross turned to the seaman at the mini-sub helm.  "Can't this thing go any faster?"

"Colonel, what do you know about this new weapon that we don't?" asked Indy.

"Just that you don't want to be nearby when it goes off," replied Ross.

"Define 'nearby'", said Indy.

And then they heard it.  The sound of distant, muffled thunder.  Every man in the sub turned their eyes toward the sound and imagined what might have created it.

Ross put his hand on the shoulder of the helmsman, "Surface."

The seaman said "Aye" and adjusted the controls.  Indy felt the sub shift and then rise.  As they neared the ocean surface, the waves began to toss the vessel from side to side.

Indy reached for the circular hatch wheel and started to turn it quickly.  Ross took hold of it also and helped to open the tightly secured door.  Indy felt it loosen enough to push the hatch upward and he opened it.  Sunlight and sea water spilled in.

As Indy stood up into the sea air, he squinted.  The sun was out, but that was not what was illuminating the ocean that day.  He turned to see an enormous plume of water and fire rising up into the sky, nearly a mile away.  It rose and formed a mushroom shape on such a scale that Indy had never seen before.

Ross looked up at Indy.  "Well?  What do you see, Jones?"

Indy knelt down inside the sub.  "You can tell the boys at the Army Corps of Engineers that it works."

Ross moved to the open hatch and stood up.  He gazed at the mushroom cloud, which was now collapsing in on itself and dissipating.  "My God . . . " he exclaimed, shaking his head.  "The war is over.  The Germans may not have found what they were looking for down there, but we have the weapon to end all of this now."

Indy looked up at the Colonel, who stood transfixed by what he saw in the distance.  "Um, Colonel?  You may want to close the hatch."

"What?" asked Ross, still in a trance.

"There's a very large wave heading this way, sir."

Ross looked at the ocean surface and saw what Indy was referring to . . . a wave emenating from the epicenter of the explosion and moving out in every direction.  He slammed the hatch shut and turned the wheel, securing it.

"Get us the hell out of here!" yelled Ross at the helmsman.

"No," said Captain Shackleford. "Dive and turn into the wave!"

Moments later the sub was turning toward the explosion and speeding forward, diving as it moved.

"Hold on, everyone!" said Indy, as the men all braced themselves.

Suddenly the sub began to shake from side to side as the effects of the wave began to be felt.  The helmsman struggled to keep the sub steady, but the moving water was too strong.  The men in the vessel were all hurled to one side, slamming into one another, as the sub was tossed end over end by the wave.

"Never a dull moment," said Indy with a smile.

Mac laughed.

Moments later, the sub righted itself and the men were safe.

"Anyone injured?" asked Ross.

No one said anything.

Indy's smile faded as he looked at the faces of the other Commandos.  He could see it in their eyes, the feeling of disappointment.  Their mission would be seen as a successful failure.  The Nazis didn't have Atlantis or its secrets, but neither did they.  And if there were any more of those creatures down there, they likely never would.

If it weren't for the momentum of war, Indy would likely never stop trying to unlock the secrets of Atlantis, now that he knew for certain that it existed.  It was his cross to bear, the obsession to solve mysteries and bring light to the dark corners of history.  He knew that if he thought of Atlantis as a real location on the map, that he'd never stop thinking about it, never stop desiring to return. So he decided to let it remain a myth to him. Just one of Plato's dreams.

Indy leaned back against the hull of the sub, pulled his fedora down over his eyes and yawned.

Time for some dreams of my own before the next mission, thought Indy, closing his eyes. I wonder where I'll wake up this time?

****

Written and illustrated by Otis Frampton. All illustrations were drawn and colored in Photoshop CS4 using a Cintiq 21UX.

"Indiana Jones and the Siberian Death Ray" is a work of fan fiction.

"Indiana Jones" and all related characters & material are a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd.