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The Babylonian Great Engine was a legendary device created by the ancient Babylonians by order of their king, Nebuchadnezzar, to contact the god Marduk through an alternate realm called the Aetherium. Since its initial construction and subsequent destruction, the Engine has been popularly referred to as the "Infernal Machine." The Machine was rediscovered in 1947 by Indiana Jones.
The Machine was believed to have been built in what was fabled to have been the Tower of Babel or the Etemenanki, with much of the engine itself located underground, below the ancient city of Babylon; however, it is also possible the tower was built after the Machine's dismemberment as a tribute to Marduk and collapsed later during Alexander the Great's conquest of Babylon. In 1947, Indiana Jones confirmed that the ruins of Babylon were in fact the deteriorated site of the Machine itself, which, rather than being a single small item, was in fact a whole building that spanned over the space of numerous chambers, hallways, and galleries.
The Machine only operated properly when four special, removable parts were brought together and placed in their proper locations scattered throughout the many rooms of the Machine's superstructure.
It remains unclear whether Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians ever successfully accessed the Aetherium via the Machine, though the scholar and physicist Dr. Gennadi Volodnikov claimed that they did. Ancient writing found at the ruins by Jones described that "the rabble" hindered construction of the Machine out of fear about its devastating powers. Afterward, being abandoned thus, the Machine and its housing structure fell into decay.
Scripture seemed almost deliberately vague or ambiguous; however, it was written that four faithful disciples (though faithful to whom remains uncertain), called Urgon, Taklit, Azerim, and Nub (whose names were unknown prior to Indiana Jones's adventures), were each entrusted with one of the four essential parts of the Infernal Machine. They fled from Babylon, taking the parts to various places throughout the world, either in the hopes that the pieces would one day be reunited in Babylon by some worthy adventurer (who would be able to recognize the clues they left behind) or that they would never be found again, ensuring that the Machine could never be rebuilt. Such motives remain somewhat unclear to this day. Each of the four disciples then built an elaborate series of traps and obstacles to prevent their respective parts from being stolen by common criminals, so that the parts would remain protected long after they had died. In addition, to ensure each part's security, each disciple also created or summoned a giant supernatural guardian to ward off thieves.
In 1947, wanting something to help them turn the tide of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent a secret detachment of troopers and Dr. Volodnikov to dig up the remains of Babylon, locate the lost Machine parts, and reactivate the Machine. The newly-formed CIA caught wind of this and sent the archaeologist and ex-soldier Indiana Jones to find the parts first.
Jones recovered all of the parts (discovered in Soviet Kazakhstan's Shambala Sanctuary, Palawan's Volcano Temple, a step-pyramid in an uncharted valley near Teotihuacan, and Nub's Tomb in Meroë, respectively) and returned them to their home in Babylon. Jones, along with CIA agents Sophia Hapgood and Simon Turner, entered the intact underground chambers of the Machine, realizing it now as an enormous engine whose many pieces were housed in various rooms. Jones navigated these subterranean halls and returned each part to its proper place in the Great Engine. For the Machine to function, however, a human sacrifice was also required, a position involuntarily taken by Hapgood when she was pushed into a crystalline cage by the treacherous Turner. In the end, Jones was forced to kill Turner while he and the captive Hapgood entered the Aetherium via the reactivated Machine.
The inner sanctum of the Engine was adorned with an odd mixture of stone and unexplainably electrical ornaments. The Engine was protected by Nub's robots and included a headless Pegasus-like statue whose robotic head, made in the image of Marduk's, was found by Jones in another room and returned to its body. This roused the statue to life which then initiated an important part of the Engine's reactivation. The cage imprisoning Hapgood then lowered into a watery pool of aether; Jones dove in after her and thus they together entered the Aetherium.
The Aetherium itself consisted of otherworldly passages, halls, and shafts of aether that could be swum through like water. After defeating the aethereal deity Marduk, Jones rescued Hapgood and the two escaped from the Aetherium as it self-erased and merged into reality. What was left of the Machine's housing fully collapsed during this event.
The Four Parts Edit
Each of the four removable parts of the Machine was a special device on its own. Each piece emitted an energy (believed to be aether, an energy that does not normally exist in our own world, but originates from the Aetherium) that provided a specific power. The powers could be both helpful and, if handled improperly, detrimental.
Urgon had taken his given piece to the mysterious Shambala Sanctuary in Soviet-occupied Kazakhstan, specifically in the Tian Shan region. Indiana Jones discovered the part resting in Urgon's study within the Shambala inner sanctum (in the lair of the ice guardian); the skeleton of Urgon himself lay hunched over in a chair next to the piece. Urgon's part had the power to unleash a concussive wave of energy that could smash apart loose solid material such as weakened rock walls or large chunks of ice. Jones also used it three times on the ice guardian to smash its frozen body; the third time, the guardian squealed and exploded into a shower of icy fragments. Although about the size and shape of a corn cob, when activated, it would open up, looking like a large flower with blue energy resonating from its core. If excessively activated in quick succession, its vibrating power would begin to injure the user.
Used together with the Infernal Machine, Urgon's part played a role in regulating its vibrations.
Taklit had placed his piece on a pedestal in the Palawan Temple in the Philippines where it was discovered by Indiana Jones. This device had the power to emit a field of energy that made its user appear almost completely invisible. The part looked like a flat disc with a handle, adorned with one red crystal and one blue crystal.
Its role for the Infernal Machine was related with the machine's controls, rendering them inert if the part was missing.
Azerim had brought his piece into a stone chamber inside the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, an Olmec pyramid in Teotihuacan, Mexico. If the user of this part stood beneath special blue crystals called the Jewels of Heaven and activated it, he or she would be able to levitate up or down through a spontaneously generated blue shaft of energy. The part was adorned with ring shapes at the top which extended when activated.
Its role in the functionning of the Infernal Machine was unclear, though its proper location being atop the device suggests it was related to energy fields, in a vaguely similar fashion to Indy and the Jewels of Heavens.
This piece was found, by Jones, in King Nub's subterranean tomb beneath the pyramids of the ancient city of Meroe in Sudan. Specifically, Jones found it crowning the zenith of a strange winged structure. It, like Urgon's part, was shaped like a corn cob, and its power was to act as a primitive yet enormously powerful battery for charging up specific ancient machines that apparently ran on electricity.
It apparently provided additional, if not required power for the proper functioning of the Infernal Machine.
- Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (First appearance)