There was a time when the ruin had an air of desolation and respect to it. It had been left well enough alone for thousands of years; its silent, extraordinary mechanisms dormant, though operational and waiting to launch themselves upon whatever hapless or unworthy trespasser decided to try to penetrate to the treasure within. There had been spinning blades, and bottomless pits disguised with optical illusions and riddles.
All that was excavated long ago, and now, there is the production line. A mechanical system of rails and single-occupant cars. The occupants lie down; many of them are unable to stand. An army of nurses and medical assistants prep them, affixing a funnel-like attachment in one corner of the mouth and attaching the tube to a port on the little vehicle's exterior. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of the cars, scooting around and around the complex circular route, hundreds of bays where people are loaded, sidings where cars are removed for repair or cleaning, and hundreds more bays where people are unloaded.
There's a temptation to sit up, try to see the sights, the ancient architecture and sculpture. It's a sacred and venerable sight, of tremendous historical significance. But the medical infrastructure which dominates the interior of the ruin, now the traps are removed, blocks the sights out. There's a tube down which you travel, and the wall of the tube is intentionally clouded.
You have to be able to get there. Nobody will arrange transportation, there or back. And you have to have something which won't kill you before you do. There are armed U.N. peacekeepers. There is a processing and prioritisation system. There are lanes. If you're at death's door, you'll get to the front very fast. If not... you may have to wait a significant amount of time.
The effect doesn't work outside of the ruin complex. The effect doesn't work if the water is transported in any other container. The water is just water and nobody knows what the truth is.
The real truth is, there is a machine at the centre of the ruin complex, in the central room. The Grail is mounted on a hydraulic arm. When a capsule arrives in the room, it decelerates to a halt, turns slowly, and the hydraulic arm scoops a few CCs of the water into the funnel. It flows down the short tube into the patient's mouth. And the capsule accelerates out of there. The exchange takes several seconds, during which more capsules are arriving and braking. It's a pleasing ballet of technology to observe. There are five or six capsules in the central room at any given instant. The rail system runs twenty-four hours a day, every day.
And by the time the patient reaches the disembarkation bays, they are fully healed.
"Clothes," Indy says to the knight, whose name, as he learned decades ago, is Thomas. "No matter how many times you tell them, they don't figure it out. Your body's going to change shape. Your weight's gonna change, you're gonna be able to stand up again, you'll have your arm back. You need to bring new clothes. Another shoe, for G... for Pete's sake."
The knight nods, sagely. He has guarded the Grail for unsleeping centuries and believes it will likely continue to be his duty for centuries more. In that time, he has never left the innermost sanctum where the Grail resides, and not seen with his own eyes the main part of the vast human processing machine. He only knows the archaeologist's descriptions.
"It has always sounded to me," the knight says, "like a kind of chaos out there."
"It's not my field," Indy says. "I like an adventure. A journey. I like to see the world, explore new cultures. A grand fistfight, big personalities and clear-cut morals. Or, these days, I like a quiet classroom. Humanitarian aid at this scale? There's a country's worth of people in line out there."
"Things could have gone another way," the knight says. "A more regrettable way."
"I know. I replay the scenes over and over. I can never stop thinking... there could have been a way to do all this, and save Dad too."
"It was a difficult judgement, made under intense conditions," the knight says, as he has many times. "Ah! Behold this child."
A smaller capsule has arrived. There is a very, very small infant in the capsule, baby-sized funnel in its mouth, held tightly by a frightened young father. The infant has its eyes closed, and it's not obvious to either the knight or the retired archaeologist that it was born very prematurely, in line, with a rare blood condition, to a woman who is close behind it in the line and carrying the same condition.
The knight raises a hand and says a word of blessing. He had a child of a similar age, once.
One sip, and the capsule is folding away, and the procession continues. The child will be fine. If humans were on foot through here, the rate at which people could be processed would be reduced to a tenth or a twentieth of this. On foot, people would insist on slowing down, hailing or praying to the knight, attempting conversation or sightseeing. Some are simply struck down by the miracle.
"There is a lack of art to this machinery," the knight says. He and Jones both know they can be overheard by the passing patients, so they speak in low tones. And, for the knight's part, in Latin. "I will admit it. There is no myth or sanctity to it. Its endless rattling. And yet, the outpouring of blessings it produces. And the great variety of people! The great cross-section! I considered myself well-travelled! Consider this exchange, archaeologist. To put an end to your adventures. To subtract out from your life the journey, the ancient mystery, the poison and the fire and the endless chase across the globe, in exchange for this unlimited boon!"
"There's nothing left out there to discover," Indy says. "The world's shrinking to a point. Wilderness and ancient culture are off the plate, everybody got sick of it. I ever tell you about this new thing called a computer?"
The word does not translate well. "A new kind of mathematician?" the knight asks.
"A machine. A machine which does math. A box with lights on it. Near as I can figure out, having a machine which does math just means everybody suddenly wants to do math. I'm ninety years old. I've never needed to do more math than... figuring out how much... gas to put in a biplane's tank."
The knight turns to Indy, examining him closely. Indy is barely able to sit up straight. "Archaeologist, should you, too, be in the great line?"
"There's no point," Indy says, closing his eyes. "Another two years and I'd be back in line again. And then, again. Round and round."
"The machine must be stopped," the knight says, rising to his feet and striding towards the Grail. But he hesitates. There is an emergency stop button, but in truth, a continual stream of emergencies passes through the sanctum. Nothing can justify stopping it.
"Embalm me," Indy says. "Stuff me and put me in a museum."