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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:03 am 

Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:43 am
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Location: Texas
Mysterious Mynds: Gahressen, Pt. 2

“Ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
--Khalil Gibran


JJ didn’t exactly pass out, but she had a few moments of dazed pain where black spots swam in her vision; where rib-splitting pain banished the past and the future from her mind entirely. She couldn’t say how long it was impossible to even conceive of motion.

Slowly it faded. She was lying on something. She must have hit it… yes, she’d been falling, she’d hit something. Something spongy, almost fleshy, except for that mess of straw-stuff under her left arm…


JJ rolled off him and managed to lift herself on all fours. “Reid?” Her voice was shaky as she crawled over.

At first he did not respond, and then there was a faint groan, light enough to almost be a breath. His eyelids drifted open and his pupils seemed to roam about without landing on anything. “I… I…”


His eyes landed on her, seemed to focus. “JJ.”

Relief washed over her. “Oh, Spence.” She grabbed onto him and crushed herself against him. She heard him give a sharp intake of breath and immediately let go. “Oh my word… I didn’t even think… Are you all right? Anything broken?”

“Feels… feels like a few… ribs, maybe.” Reid’s voice slowly gained a clinical tone “I’ve lost feeling in my left arm, could be something wrong there… not sure I should move it.” He glanced over at her. “Are you all right? You’re the one who fell.”

“I… yeah.” JJ stood up. “I feel perfectly fine, actually.” She looked up. “Don’t know why. That’s like a three-story drop. Adrenaline, maybe?”

“It’s amazing what the human body can sometimes sustain.” Reid murmured, in an almost sing-song manner. “I read of a case in Baltimore where this guy jumped out of a fifth-story window to escape drug dealers, landed flat on a car, and just…” he waved, “got up and ran off. Then there’s a story of an allied pilot in WWII who jumped out of his airplane without…” He giggled, “…without a parachute and…”

“Well, you’re not okay.” JJ frowned, looking back down at him.

“Yeaaaah… probably endorphins. I might be in shock.” Reid squinted at her.

JJ glanced around and saw the knapsack lying a few feet off. “Hang on.” She jogged over and snagged it off the ground. “Don’t exactly have any plaster in here, but there’s medical tape and some rope…” She muttered, rooting through it. Spotting a branch that had fallen on the pathway, she bent to pick it up. “Lie still for a bit.” She said, coming back to Reid. “This is probably going to hurt.”

Reid’s eyes focused on her again. “I thought you were gone…” He almost breathed it.

JJ didn’t look back. “You shouldn’t have come.” She said, binding the branch to the arm with medical tape. “Reid, the book… I lost it. There’s no way out of here.”

Reid’s eyes were still on her. “I thought I’d lost you.”

Over the tape JJ wound the rope, binding the branch tighter to the arm. JJ cut off the end with the knife. “Here, sit up.” She helped him to sit against the low wall of the path. JJ looked at the roll of medical tape. “No good.” She muttered, glancing at Reid. “We need more than that…”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Reid asked again. “You look like you took a beating in the fall.”

JJ glanced down, and for the first time became aware that her jeans were torn in multiple places, and her shirt had rips all over it. The sleeves were just barely hanging on, and through the ripped fabric could be seen scrapes, bruises, and long raspberry burns from skin scraping against the stone.

It gave her an idea. “Aha.” JJ gripped her left shirt sleeve at the seam and pulled hard. It came away easily, and she shrugged it off. The other sleeve was nearly entirely off already, and took even less persuading. Tying the sleeves together in a long loop, she draped it over Reid’s neck. “Okay, this is probably going to hurt again.” She warned, taking hold of Reid’s arm.

Reid did indeed let out a hiss, but nothing further as she gently guided his arm into the loop of cloth. “There.” She said, sitting back and wiping her forehead. “That’ll have to do for now.”

“…you’re… a…mazing, JJ.” Reid said, his splinted arm resting in the improvised sling.

JJ gave a little chuckle. “I should fall on your head everyday, if it makes you say stuff like that.”

“I’m not…”

And then they heard it.

It felt most like a wall of sound, an almost tangible crashing rumble that shook the entire walkway. Tree trunks cracked, birds (or the local equivalent) cried aloud and took to flight, rocks shook. The vibrations could be felt in your teeth, in the ground, almost against your very skin.

And JJ knew what it was.

“Oh no.” She whispered. “It’s coming back.”

“What?” Reid looked around.

“Come on.” JJ tried to haul Reid to his feet. “We need to get…”

Another crashing rumble. Then another. Footsteps, undoubtedly getting closer.

JJ threw a despairing look toward the door at the end of the walkway. “No time.” She said. “No time. It’s too close.” She laid Reid back down against the stone parapet; crouching beside him so they were both out of side. “We’ll… we’ll just have to risk it.”

“What is that?” Reid tried to crane up his neck to see.

“Stay down!” JJ grabbed him by his shirt collar and pulled him back under the railing. “For… Just stay down!”

There was a final crashing thunderous noise, and then a loud splash, as something enormous landed in the river far below

JJ crushed herself against the wall, huddling close to Reid, one hand on his shoulder. Even above the roaring of the waterfalls, they could hear the great splashing sounds of the creature below. It was hard to keep track of its exact location, as they slowly rotated around the valley.

Then suddenly there was silence, and that was even worse. Reid looked at her, and for a moment JJ was worried he was going to ask a question again, but instead he just gave her a small smile.

Then they heard a rumble of gravel. JJ realized that actually, that had been going on for a while, but it was only noticeable now, because it was so close, and…

One great forearm grasped the parapet just above their heads, and JJ felt the breath stolen out of her. It was great and black, covered with fur, and over half as big as she was. Three chitinous claws protruded from the fleshy forearm—she could see the pits and scratches that marked their surface. Another hand came into view, this one grabbing onto the wall of the fortress itself. They could see more of the arm now; it grew narrower beyond the forearm, like Popeye in one of those old cartoons. Muscles rippled under the long dark fur.

JJ glanced around at Reid. His face was white.

A great heave shook the entire fortress, bringing the monster’s upper body into view—massive shoulders that seemed to nearly swallow up the creature’s beady little head. It seemed entirely disinterested in them, as it continued to mount the grey-black wall of the fortress. The claws of its lower feet grasped the parapet, and its arms started to bat, cat-like, at the high platform JJ had slid down from.

JJ found that seeing the creature the second time was not nearly as petrifying. She tugged on Reid’s shoulder and indicated the thick door set in the side of the fortress.

It seemed to take Reid a moment, and then his face cleared. Slowly, quietly, they inched along the pathway toward the door. They froze for a moment when the door hissed open, but the giant ape-thing, absorbed in a particularly tricky part of its mission, did not even turn its head.

“What… what was that…” Reid gasped, as the doors hissed shut behind them.

“I don’t know.” JJ said. “I saw it before, from the upper levels. I think it’s a native animal of the area. Or some sort of animatronic.” She said, with an attempt at humor.

“Doesn’t matter.” Reid sighed, slumping to the floor. “It’s pretty obvious they made these fortresses to keep those things out… We should be safe for the moment.” He looked up at JJ. “You were on the upper levels?”

JJ snorted and dropped down beside him. “There was one of those tapestry things… teleported me straight up there. Some sort of prison, I think.”

“Seems a good place, for a prison cell.” Reid agreed, looking around. “Clear danger outside, creates feelings of dependency in the prisoner—variation of Stockholm Syndrome.” He frowned. “Clearly… more than that, though.”

“Clearly.” JJ said, almost absentmindedly. “Not in use for years, I should think. It was all open for me to walk around.” Her head dipped and dropped onto Reid’s shoulder. “I found two more of those handprint things up there.” She yawned. Reid’s shoulder felt strangely tense under her head.

She heard Reid swallow. “Th-there were three back at the other station.” He observed. “We’ll have to get you back to them somehow—I’m pretty clearly not finding a way up there.”

“I don’t think there is a way, no.” JJ agreed.

For a moment they just sat there.

Reid’s hand touched her arm. “I thought you were gone.”

“You said that.” JJ murmured, without rancor. “I thought I was gone. I lost the book, Reid. I don’t know if there’s a way back.”

“We’ll just go out via the relto door.” Reid’s hand stroked her arm slowly. “I’m pretty sure it can fit two. If not… well, we’ll work something out.”

“We should probably get moving.” said JJ.

“Probably.” Reid said.

They sat there for a while longer.


“Dr. Watson?”

“It’s his name in the book, boss.” Morgan said, flipping through the pages again. “Reads like him, too, though you or Rossi would be better able to make that call.”

“Tell them about Yeesha.” Prentiss said.

Morgan waved her to silence. “It sounds like he went through some sort of awakening.” He said into the radio. “This book talks about how he’s come around to Yeesha and her followers—he thinks the DRC is a dead end, not truly ‘living’ the spirit of D’ni.”

“Interesting. So then the question becomes, did he come to that viewpoint before or after he told us she was a madman?”

“There’s no little green book here, sir.” Morgan said. “But the dust does seem to have been disturbed rather recently.”

“Simmons was sure no one had been down the shaft in months.”

“Sir? Given the things we’ve been seeing in this case…”

“The world still functions according to rules, Morgan. If we accept the teleporting books, it would make sense it could teleport them to a specific location.”

“Watson said the books didn’t teleport to specific world locations.” Rossi’s voice broke in on the radio. “He said they went to worlds.”

“More to the point.” Prentiss said, “that book was exactly like the one that took Spence and JJ. If Watson used the same book, it would seem that he would go to the same place as they did.”

There was silence.

“Is there any sign of either of them there?”

“No, sir.” Morgan shook his head. “Barely any sign of Watson. Apart from the book, there’s really only one weird thing we’ve found in the room.”

“And what’s that?”

“A stone tablet. With a… piece of cloth stretched over it. Rough canvas, like a tapestry or something. It’s got a picture in the middle.” Morgan frowned at the object. “And… it’s moving.”


“A conference room.”

“It’s a bit… fancier than most conference rooms I’ve seen.” JJ said, glancing over the five-sided marbled table and the elegant chairs surrounding it.

“It’s still a conference room.” Reid looked around the room. “All this security, putting this whole building in the most dangerous place on earth… for a conference room?”

“Maybe this was the military command center. Where the generals and what-not met. You know…” JJ grinned, gesturing again to the five-sided table. “The Pentagon.”

Reid looked at her incredulously. “How are you still having fun with this?”

JJ giggled. “I don’t know. Adrenaline? Hysteria?”

“You don’t seem hysterical.” Reid felt his own mouth quirking upwards as he looked at her, and quickly looked away. “Anyway, you’ve got a point. Not just this table—this whole building was five-sided. That other place that I started out in was five-sided too.” He thought for a bit. “I don’t think that’s unique to this location, though. That cabin we started out in on the mushroom world was five-sided also, and the one portico in the puzzle world, and some of the sculptures in that garden place. The culture designing these probably had an obsession with the number five, it could even have formed the basis of their numeral system, which would naturally carry over to…”

“Spence.” JJ placed a hand on his arm. “You’re babbling. You babble when you’re nervous.”

“Right.” Reid swallowed.

He had an idea what was going on. Emotional bonds could be very easily and powerfully formed during high-stress situations. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Or rather, he was pretty sure he knew how he did feel, he just didn’t know whether it was a good idea.

JJ sighed. “One of those things was fighting a giant troll.” She muttered, taking her hand away.

Reid looked at her. “JK Rowling.” He said, almost automatically. “What…?”

“Nevermind.” JJ shook her head. She moved away from him, starting to investigate the parts of the room. “By the way,” she called, “did you notice that you’re talking about the ‘culture’ that designed these, not the ‘cult?’”

Reid hadn’t. “It could still apply.” He said, beginning to look around his own side. “Cults tend to form their own distinct sub-culture. However, I’ll confess that the hypothesis seems less likely, given the giant insect-ape outside.”

“Could be virtual reality.” JJ said, but almost distractedly, as if purely for intellectual exercise. “Though that wouldn’t really explain my jeans.”

“Or my arm.” Reid said. He was trying not to think too hard about the state of JJ’s jeans. “The question seems irrelevant for the moment—if the world is not real, it is sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from being real.”

“Hmm.” JJ had stopped and was studying a portion of the left wall.

“It looks like the conference may have been meeting to observe something.” Reid said. “This window—“ He had stopped in front of a large pane of smoked glass that took up the whole inner side, “—seems to be looking in on some… climbing wall, or something.”

“Sports, maybe?” But again JJ did not sound very interested. “I found another of those handprint things, Spence.”

“You did?” Reid glanced around. “Then that’s the last one! We can go back to the other station and finish things up!”

“Yeah.” JJ pressed her hand to the canvas and watched the handprint light up.

There was a moment’s silence between the two.

“Maybe… we should look around a bit more here first, though.” JJ said.

Reid wasn’t sure that was a great idea. “Maybe… maybe we should.”


“We’re setting up a more robust rappelling apparatus.” Hotch’s voice went on. “We’re working on getting a car down here too, but there’s no assurance the ramp is steady all the way down. How far down would you say it is?”

Morgan looked at Prentiss, who shrugged. “We’ve gone down nearly 3000 feet already, I’d say, and the book says this is some halfway point. So 6000 at least… say 7000 to be on the safe side.”

“That’s more than a mile underground.” Morgan looked at her askance. She shrugged.

“…very well.” Hotch said. “We’ll allow for it. Let us know if the situation changes. Continue down.”

“Yes sir.” Morgan clicked off the radio and sighed. “When I got my degree in criminal behavioral psychology, I didn’t expect to use it by joining some journey to the center of the earth.”

Prentiss shrugged. “So far, this case has involved preciously few actual corpses. I’d call that a step up from most of our jobs.”

“We just haven’t found the corpses yet.” Morgan said. “The people are still missing.”

“Yeah.” Prentiss nodded. “But I’m starting to think—a lot of people could hide out down here.”

“Or a lot of bodies.”


“I saw these statues on the upper levels.” JJ shone her flashlight on the blocky-tank like robots, standing in rows amidst the pipes of the steel-and-concrete chamber they were in now.

“I think they’re suits, actually.” Reid said, examining the back. “Or… vehicles. There’s some sort of hatch back here, and these eyepieces…” He came around the front. “…they look like they’re meant to be seen through.”

“What sort of vehicles could they be?” JJ said. “They’ve got no legs or wheels or…” Something clicked in her brain. “….but if you could teleport, you wouldn’t need those.” She said, studying the hands.

Reid looked at her. “Pardon?”

“These things. They’re observation pods.” JJ explained. “Use a teleportation book to move the whole pod somewhere, then use another one to send it back. Meanwhile, the person inside gets a good look at where they are.”

Reid frowned. “Why would they do that?”

JJ shrugged. “Because they wouldn’t know what they were getting into? I don’t know, Spence. Maybe all these books aren’t so safe.”

“These other suits I saw back in the other building.” Reid studied the next item on the wall—a blocky suit of armor topped by a massive helmet-and-gas-mask. “They look pretty sturdy also. For an army?”

“Not enough for an army.” JJ frowned.

“Away team, then.”

JJ blinked, confused. “Away team?”

“Star Trek.” Reid said. “Exploratory team sent out from the main ship—teleported out, actually.” He smiled. “Didn’t wear armor—though some of them could have used it. They were usually armed, since there wasn’t any way of knowing what they’d meet.”

“…so this is an exploration post.” JJ turned around, taking in the room. It was a long hallway, lined with varying sorts of suits. The two tank-like statues were at the head, most of the rest were the armored suits with gas masks, and at the back was an empty dias of sorts underneath a massive vent. “Use the big suits to make the initial landfall, like a probe, then send in the guys with spacesuits.”

“…in theory. That would be the explanation the cult would be pushing us toward, yes.” Reid looked uncomfortable.

“But why?” JJ dropped her arms. “This place is huge. I mean, NASA’s huge, but it’s not built in the middle of a jungle with security checkpoints and blast doors.”

“Actually it probably does have…”

“Reid, my point is that this was obviously important to the… culture, or whatever, of these people. NASA’s not important. It needs to fight for funding every year. Why would any nation pour this many resources into exploration?”

Reid did not answer right away, and when he did his voice was curiously detached. “The Age of Exploration in the 1400’s was initially motivated by better trade routes, but it was kept going by various… economic resources.”

“Colonies.” JJ said. “Like the mushroom processing plant, right? Food and goods you couldn’t get in the homeland.”

“Goods… and services.” Reid said.

JJ looked puzzled, then her face cleared. “Oh.”

“The other thing we found at the mushroom farm.” Reid nodded.

“Slaves.” JJ looked at the suits again. “The ‘backs of the Least.’”

Now Reid looked confused.

“That Yeesha lady. One of her cave recordings.” JJ said. She was moving along the line of suits toward the back, studying each one. “She said those… Eder places we visited—the rock gardens—they were built on ‘the backs of the Least.’ She must have been talking about their slaves.”

“You said there was a prison up top?”

“Not the sort you’d keep slaves in.” JJ shook her head as she stepped back. “Maximum security. And comfortable. Nothing like the slave pens we saw. Those were hidden, remember.” She turned around in place, considering. “Probably something of an open secret—not authorized by…” she gestured at the room at large, “whatever government built this place, but nonetheless commonly used by rich people such as would commission the rock gardens.”

“Or that giant vault world.” Reid crossed his arms. “Incidentally, I want it recorded that I’m uncomfortable how we’re talking all the time now about this place as if it’s real.”

JJ looked at him. “Really? You saw that giant ape thi…”

She stepped onto the dias at the back of the room. There was a click, not from the floor but from the ceiling, and a metal cylinder shot down around her.

“JJ!” Reid darted forward. What was it with this place? “JJ, are you…?”

“Ah!” JJ’s voice rang out, amidst a series of whirrs, clicks, and pops of compressed air. “Wha… hey! It… the… what the… how…”

Reid frowned. She didn’t sound hurt or scared, just surprised, almost curious.

“How did you… what even…” The tube shot back up into the ceiling, and Reid found himself staring at something out of a sci-fi show—a spaceman in some sort of tight-fitting (very tight in some places) leather armor, with ceramic boots and gauntlets and a sleek helmet with glowing green goggles.

The visor on the helmet clicked open, and JJ’s astonished face looked out. “Oh my word!” She said, looking over her arms. “What even is this thing?”

Reid shrugged. “Latest version of those suits back there?” He said. “Or the light scout version?”

“Would’ve appreciated some sort of warning or a sign.” JJ grumbled, twisting around to get a better look at herself. “Just as well, I guess, after what happened to my clothes.” She straightened as something occurred to her. “Come to think of it, where are my clothes?”

“Er…” Reid couldn’t think of an answer to that.

“Why would they have an automated dressing machine here anyway?” JJ looked up at the vent. “They couldn’t very well…”

There was another click noise, this time from down below.

JJ had just time to look at Reid and groan “not again,” before the floor opened up under her and she plummeted into a shaft.


“Aaron, I’ve been thinking.”

Hotch looked at Rossi. “Mm. That’s a bad sign. You only say ‘Aaron’ when you think what you’re going to say will upset me.”

“Preparatory measure. Establishes familiarity while also warning you that you’re not going to like what you hear, yes.” Rossi turned to face Hotch. “I think we may need to give this case over to another department.”

“You’re right, I don’t like that.” Hotch said. “JJ and Reid are still missing, we haven’t found any of the bodies or the serial killer cult, and you want us to give up?”

“Not give up. Give over.” Rossi held up a finger. “Don’t mischaracterize positions, Aaron. It’s beneath you, and you’re only doing it now because you know I’m right. This case left the Behavioral Analysis Unit’s purview quite some time ago.”

Hotch ground his teeth. “The killings…”

“…are still unconfirmed and more importantly, not the main issue here.” Rossi said. “This isn’t a case of profiling a killer to determine who we should be looking at. We left the ‘serial killer’ case in the dust a long time ago. Now we’re in some deep underground cavern on the lip of a bottomless pit, trying to find an underground city that may or may not exist so we can make contact with a cult that thinks they’ve discovered an ancient civilization.”

Hotch looked away.

“I don’t know about you, Aaron, but I’m an analyst. A good one, I like to think, but I don’t know much about ancient civilizations, archaeology, spelunking, or magic teleporting books.” Rossi took a breath. “And you’re a good analyst yourself, and so is Derek and so is Emily, but unless you all have additional doctorates you never told me about, we’re way out of our depth here.”

Agent Simmons, who was standing off to the side, grinned wryly.

“We’re computer programmers trying to paint the Mona Lisa. There’s a limit to how many ‘experts’ we can bring in before their knowledge becomes more useful than our own.” Rossi said. “If we want Reid and JJ back, we need to step away from this and call in someone who knows what they’re doing. US Tribal Relations. The American Historical Society. fiery abyss, maybe the army. We could be dealing with a sovereign state here.”

“Army.” Hotch snorted. “Do you want another repeat of the Branch Davidians, David? With JJ and Reid in the mix?”

“That sort of thing usually happens when people have some sort of personal stake in the mix.” Rossi said. “You tell me—would you allow a cop to work a case about his missing partner?”

There was a silence.

It was broken by the revving of an engine. “Special Agent Hotchner!” A fresh-faced man in a corduroy jumpsuit drove up on a small ATV. “We have those vehicles you requested!”

Hotch gave a short nod. “Let’s go.”


Surprisingly, JJ found she landed with no harm whatsoever. It was a sizeable fall—though not as high as she’d fallen from before—and she landed with considerable force, but the suit seemed to take the brunt of it.

She looked around. It looked like a marshalling ground of some sort, like a bullpen. There was only one door leading out into a hallway, so she jogged toward that. If her sense of direction was holding, she was probably heading toward the center of the garrison. What was…

The hallway came out into a much larger room and JJ drew up short. She had seen far too many amazing things by this point—even in this individual world—to actually gasp, but the size of the room was itself impressive. It had to be at least four stories tall. It looked vaguely industrial, but the only object of any note was a massive wall in the exact center, which neatly divided the chamber in half.

“JJ? JJ, are you there?” A voice resounded in the room.

“Reid?” JJ turned around, trying to locate the loudspeaker. “Where are you?”

“Oh, there you are! JJ, up here! I found this room, next door… it’s got a microphone and some sort of controls… anyway, there’s a window! I can see you. Are you okay?”

JJ scanned the walls. There were at least four large windows that she could see. “I’m fine!” She shouted. “Can you tell me how to get out of here?”

“JJ? JJ, can you hear me?”

Right. She supposed radio communicators would be a bit much to expect.

“Wave if you can hear me, JJ.”

She waved.

“Okay. I’m over to your left.” That window with all the rust-stains, then. “I’ve got some controls but I don’t see an exit button. Let me look around for a map or something…”

JJ waited, but it seemed nothing was happening. Glancing up, she saw something like a vent, situated near the top of that strange wall in the middle. It’d be hard to get to, with how smooth that wall looked. Smooth and… regular. With lines running up and down, almost like a grid.

JJ’s eyebrows lifted. Again she looked at her hands. There were some pads there, where her fingers and palms would be. And some sort of egg-shaped device, on the back of her wrist. She looked back to the wall.

A small grin touched her lips.

“JJ, I think I found… JJ, what are you doing?”

JJ ran toward the wall at high speed, arms flashing, legs pumping. As she came within five feet she leapt into the air with all her might, colliding with the wall some four feet above the ground.

And hung there.

“JJ! What the...?”

JJ laughed, peeling one of her hands off the wall and looking at the pads again. “Speed climbing, Spence!” She called, her voice echoing off the walls of the chamber. “Notice how this wall sort of looks like a grid? It’s a sports field!”

“Seriously, what on earth are you doing? How are you doing that?”

Right. JJ sighed. No sense in talking. She took her free hand and reached upward, letting the gelled pads grip the metal. “Probably not really a sports field, anyway.” She muttered, continuing to climb. “More likely a training field of some kind… explorers need to climb, I guess. Kind of limited, though, seems like there should be something more…”

“Hang on, I think… this control panel looks like it has something to do with that wall…”

JJ suddenly understood. “Wait, Spence, don’t--!”

Wire around the surface of the grid lit up, and suddenly flames erupted from beneath JJ. They shot out at her, licking around her suit—but she felt nothing. A slight warmth, and she could see the leather (clearly it was something very different indeed, but it still looked like leather) blacken with the soot, but she herself felt nothing.

Huh. She thought, and kept climbing. Of course the suits would be designed to shield against environmental hazards.

“Oh my gosh! Oh man, JJ, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize… these must operate security measures or… some sort of modular attack system… I think this switch here should shut them off…”

JJ quickly hopped onto the next module, just missing the blast of icy water that shot out of the square she’d been on. This is going to be interesting. She sighed.


Morgan and Prentiss had gone ten more levels when the ATVs caught up to them. “Hop on.” Hotch said, nodding at the back.

“Don’t you want some sort of advance scout, sir?” Morgan asked, climbing on.

“Think of this more as a frontal assault approach.” Hotch said. “We’re driving slow, and we’ve got floodlights. We’re not going to pitch forward over any sudden gaps.”

“We should be safe from cave-ins and such, too. This roadway is better constructed than most fire escapes.” Simmons called, from the lead ATV.

“Might be much older.” Rossi said.

“Oh hey, that reminds me.” Prentiss said, climbing on a different ATV. “Morgan, I’ve got a theory about your theory.”

“What?” Rossi looked around.

“This ‘roadway’ looks like that centipede-ish mining machine could have made it.” Morgan said, as the ATV’s started to move.

“Yeah, so… suppose the shaft was mostly natural to begin with.” Prentiss said. “But suppose it only went so high. So our cultists—at least one of them’s a genius engineer, right?—say one of them assembles those mining machines, down here, and uses that to cut out this…” she waved her hand generally at the entire shaft. “…whatever.”

“Plausible, though still unbelievably elaborate.” Hotch said.

“They’ve gotta have a hobby.” Prentiss said.

“A lot of hobbyists.” Derek said. “Even if those machines DID work, you’d need a lot of manpower to clean up and outfit this place. Where’d they get all those people?”

“Pretty sure we know that.”

Hotch did not seem very interested in the question. “You mentioned you had a book, and a stone tablet with a… tapestry on it.”

“Yeah.” Morgan dug around in his harness vest. “Here’s the tablet. Emily’s got the book.”

Hotch looked at the cloth. “Surreal.” He muttered. “How do they do that trick with the moving…”

“Boss, these things teleport.” Morgan said. “Moving pictures kinda seem like small potatoes in comparison.”

Hotch withdrew a little from the tablet, as if suddenly remembering. “Better keep hold of it until we can get it back to the lab.” He said, handing it back to Morgan. “Maybe this one we can actually examine before a star witness steals it out from under it.”

“I hear that.” Morgan stashed the tablet in his backpack. “I looked at the picture—it looks like some sort of ancient urban development. Very gloomy, though, hard to make anything out.”

“Like an underground city?” Hotch said.

Morgan winced. “I didn’t want to say it…”

“After going through all this, they better have some sort of underground city, even if it’s a commune of people in cardboard boxes.” Prentiss called from her car.

“Or a mausoleum.” Hotch said.


“Oh hey! Look! It’s another of those tapestry things.” Reid picked up the tablet from the cushioned seat. “This looks like some sort of underground city!”

A grunt.

“Wonder what these are for. They seem to operate off the same principle as the books, but they’re very different, more primitive looking. Perhaps a separate faction?” Reid gave a little laugh. “I’m talking as if this is real. I suppose I should be focusing on what the cult’s purpose in giving them to us is.”

A noncommittal hmm.

“Maybe it’s meant to be a study in contrasts?” Reid said, staring fixedly at it. “Primitive vs. Modern? Old way vs. New way? They all seem to show the same city, have you noticed that? Maybe it’s meant as a recruiting technique, how long the travelers can resist going through the tapestries. Although you used that one, that’s how all this got started.” He winced. “I mean… that is… I’m not saying this is your fault, or anything… I… what do you think the purpose of these things are?” He said, turning around quickly and proffering the tablet.

JJ, her armor scorched, marked with acid, and punctuated by stone spikes, stared back at him, arms crossed, the cold green eyeglasses of her helmet unreadable.

Reid swallowed. “Please just talk to me. I’m really sorry, I didn’t understand what the controls were for.”

“I might have believed that.” JJ’s voice was tinny, coming through the suit, but it was also unmistakably cold. “For the first one. I might have still believed it after the second one. I probably would have even been able to buy it after getting hit with three. But forty-seven…”

“Forty-eight.” Reid corrected before he could stop himself. “Technically the lava was an accidental combination of the fire and avalanche hazards, I don’t think they were meant to go together.”

“My point is that you should have stopped once you realized you weren’t helping.” JJ’s arms remained crossed.

Reid gulped. “I’m sorry.”

“So you’ve said.”

“I figured one of them had to help eventually…” Honestly, after the tenth one he’d been praying for something that would make up for the others.

“You were wrong.” JJ said, uncrossing her arms. “Clearly this place is some combination of training ground and homicidal rock-climbing football. Team managers sit in here watching people like me trying to get killed by people like you.”

“Must’ve been pretty entertaining.” Reid tried a quick joke.

JJ looked at him. “Was it?”

Reid gulped again.

JJ shook her head and turned to the door. “Look, let’s just get out of here before any more mammary gland[s] traps spring up. That… thing outside should be gone by now; you can show me where the handprints are on the other side.”

“Sounds good!” Reid said eagerly, stuffing the tablet in his bag.

There was one of the thick exterior doors directly across from the conference room. It opened automatically, signaled by Reid’s wristband, and the two of them stepped out into the blinding sunshine.

And there on the path before them, was a small green book.

JJ nearly jumped at it. “The relto book!”

Reid’s eyes widened, “Seriously?”

“Oh my word.” JJ flipped through the pages. “I thought… I really thought this thing was gone, lost in the jungle…” She looked at the picture of the hut and shivered. She closed the book and pressed her helmet against the spine.

Reid eyed her cautiously. While he was glad she’d apparently forgotten to be mad at him… “JJ… it’s not like we were actually trapped here. The handprint door is right back that way, we can go through it once you touch the other…

“I can go through it. What makes you sure you can?” JJ said, looking at him.

That was true. He hadn’t even considered that.

“And considering how splitting up worked last time, I really don’t think we should do that again.” JJ said, standing up and taking a step toward him. “From now on, we stick together. Agreed?”

Reid blinked. “A… Agreed.” It was a sensible idea, he told himself. No reason not to agree.

“Okay.” JJ looked away, seemingly a little embarrassed.

They didn’t say anything more for a while. Not when they crossed back to the island, not when they re-entered the smaller structure, not the entire time Reid showed JJ around the structure. (She did give a small ‘yipe’ when the machine attached the KI device to her wrist, but that was the only reaction.) Nothing at all was said, in fact, until they stood back on the small island between the two structures, looking down at the cliff where the door itself could be glimpsed.

“So… you should probably take this.” JJ said, handing him the book. “Go back to the relto with it, wait for…” She stopped and shook her head. “No, wait. We said we were going to specifically avoid that.”

“I don’t think we can.” Spencer said, with a glance toward the door. “I mean, the door only lets one person through, and you say there’s no way up to the other handprints…”

“We haven’t tried to bring two people through one before.” JJ argued. “It might work.”

Reid looked doubtfully at the cliff where the door was. “If it doesn’t, there’s not much of a way back. I guess we could both jump down and work it out there…”

“What if you drop it mid-jump?” JJ said. “If it lands in the water we’ll never find it again.” She pressed her gloved hands to her faceplate. “Agh. There’s no good options here, are there.”


“I know, I know, I know, it’s just… we just said we wouldn’t do this. I just…” She sighed and looked at Reid. “I just don’t want to split up again… just yet.”

There was some silence. The wind whistled around the island, the water roared into the basin, the respective fortresses creaked and groaned as they swung in their lazy carousel.

“We could… take a detour.” Reid said.

JJ looked at him.

Reid shrugged. “I mean, there’s nothing saying we have to finish this now. We’ve both had a really hard day, we could… take a break, for a bit. Look around.”

“…look around… where?” JJ said. She was hugging her left arm to her side, looking at him with her head half-a-tilt.

“Well… I grabbed one of those tablets.” Reid said, bringing it out of the backpack. “We could see… I mean, it shows an underground city, but… we could see what it’s like.”

After a moment, JJ nodded. “But we touch it at the same time.” She said.

“Deal.” Reid placed the stone tablet on a ledge. “Okay… one… two… three!”

Their hands came down, practically on top of each other, and as one the two dissolved into light.


“Is that… is that another stop…?”

“No…” Simmons shook his head. “No, I think that’s the ground.”



“Oh my word.” Derek sighed, as the ATV’s left the ramp. “These guys had some serious time on their hands.”

Rossi was already off his ATV and was studying the floor, a thoughtful frown on his face. “It’s a mosaic.” He said. “Some sort of picture…” he started to walk around, casting his flashlight around. “If I could see more of it, I might be able to tell you what.”

“Careful, Rossi.” Hotch called, stepping off his own vehicle. “We still don’t know how stable things are here.”

Prentiss snorted. “We just drove at high speed over the equivalent of a mile on that spiral-ramp thing.” She said. “Seems a little late to worry about cave-ins.”

Simmons’ miners were scanning around the space with their spotlights. Bits and pieces of the mosaic came into view, but mostly they focused on the walls.

“No hidden city down here.” Morgan said to Hotch. “No tent-commune either.”

“No pile of corpses.” Hotch nodded.

“Are we thinking they’re further down yet?”

“Sir!” One of the searchers called.

Hotch and Morgan glanced over. In the gloom of the shaft, it was easy to see, even at a distance, what the spotlights were focused on.

A huge vault door, nearly three times the size of a man and made of the same rock-metal covering the whole shaft was coated in, was fixed into the wall. It was solid and square, and very, very locked.

“Further somewhere.” Hotch said, glaring at the door.


There was no sky. The light from the glowing lake outlined the rocky ceiling of a vast cavern that served as a backdrop to the many-colored buildings of stone looming dimly through the gloom. Most notably, above them all loomed a familiar A-shaped arch, the iconic shape sending Reid’s mind flashing back to the cave beneath the cleft.

He and JJ were standing on a roof, he realized as he looked around; a wide, flat roof in the Moroccan style, with stone half-walls on every side like railings. It was very cluttered with what looked like some sort of workstation. A generator powered several industrial area-lamps, which lit up the cheap particle-board folding tables, arranged roughly in a circle. The tables were piled with notebooks, laptops, and tightly-sealed plastic bags containing a variety of odd-looking artifacts.

And there, seated in the middle on a metal folding chair, was Jason Gideon, in a flannel shirt and weathered jeans.

“Hello Reid. JJ.” He said, smiling as he stood. “Good of you to join us.”


“Every parting gives a foretaste of death; every reunion a hint of the resurrection.”
--Arthur Schopenhauer

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:16 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:38 pm
Posts: 1673
Out of Gahreesen, and they got a Maintainer Suit for their troubles too! Looks like a friendly neighborhood Bahro decided to return their Relto book to them, too.

they've made good progress! Can't wait for the next part.

A-Xros Time and Space Stories | Entering Skyrim

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2017 2:54 am 

Joined: Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:34 pm
Posts: 554
Location: Canada
Loving every episode! You really out did yourself on this one. Had me holding my breath. Great job!!
Luv angelmyst

KI #03313934

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 4:28 pm 
Obduction Backer

Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 6:14 pm
Posts: 4250
Location: Digging around in the dusty archives, uncovering Uru history.
Enjoyed reading this installment as much as the others. It's just so neat to see characters I'm familiar with from another place inserted into a place with which I'm also very familiar.

I really don't care what direction it takes or how it ends (or if it ever does end, for that matter). I'm enjoying the journey too much to care. It's great writing and simply a pleasure to read.

Thanks for sharing your talent and entertaining us!

Explorers Memorial * In Memoriam

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 5:05 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:43 am
Posts: 39
Location: Texas
Tai'lahr wrote:
I really don't care what direction it takes or how it ends (or if it ever does end, for that matter). I'm enjoying the journey too much to care.

Well, the ending hasn't yet been written.

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