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PostPosted: Sun Jun 11, 2017 5:15 am 
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Mysterious Mynds--Gahressen, Part 1

"When you finally accept that it's OK not to have answers and it's OK not to be perfect, you realize that feeling confused is a normal part of what it is to be a human being."
-Winona Ryder


“Look, I feel like we’ve been stuck here forever. Can we just get moving again? Just forget the giant digging machines.” Morgan said. “They’re not going anywhere, and my teammates are still somewhere at the end of this tunnel.”

“Of course, I’m sorry.” Mr. Simmons collected himself. “Rick! Tom! Get the men together and let’s keep moving.” He turned to the others. “I apologize. It won’t happen again.”

“We understand.” Hotch said. “They’re impressive, and this entire case has been… very unusual. We’ll have a team go over them later and make sure you and your men get credit for their discovery. But in the meantime, can you give us any thoughts for what they might mean about the tunnel ahead?

Simmons chewed his lip as he stared at the machines. “The only reason you would use a something like this in the first place is if you wanted to make the tunnel big. REALLY big. Much bigger than we’re seeing here. Any one of these could have made this tunnel, but I count no less than four. So I’m guessing the tunnel gets four times as big further down the line.”

“Or it splits into four different tunnels.” Prentiss said.

“Terrific.” Hotch sighed.

Simmons shook his head. “These things don’t follow a standardized model. They’re pretty clearly different digging machines meant to work together in tandem. How, I have no idea, but you wouldn’t use them separately to make four tunnels, you’d use all four to make one really big one.”

“Must be a pretty common task for them, to have machines like this in the first place.” Rossi mused. “Then again, they left them here… a bit like the English burying the Chunnel drills.”

“The good news is that we shouldn’t have any further problems with cave-ins or the like.” Simmons said. They were walking again, and he pointed at the ceiling. “There’s some sort of shell over the rock… almost looks like the sort of lava tube you’d see near a volcano.”

“We are near a volcano.” Rossi glanced toward Hotch.

“This stuff is old.” Simmons assured them. “And I don’t think it’s natural. It’s too regular. But the point is, if we cleared out the tunnel behind us, we could probably drive the rest of the way.”

“I called in a team at the first cave-in we ran into.” Hotch said. “They’re clearing it out now.”

“Really, boss?” Morgan looked at him. “Isn’t that expensive?”

“Missing federal agents pulls in a lot of resources.” Hotch said. “In the meantime, we press on. See where this leads.”

#

Reid sat, cross-legged, in the middle of the four pillars, staring furiously at the open book in front of him.

Something was wrong. JJ wasn’t here. She should have been here, waiting for him, when he fell into the stars and again found himself on the plateau. She should have been commenting on the new stone islands that had suddenly grown out of the mist next to the island. She should have been looking over the last book, already ready with a theory about it and a plan for how to approach it.

But she wasn’t.

The obvious answer was that she’d simply gone ahead and entered the last book. But that didn’t make sense. Yes, she’d been anxious to finish and get back to Henry, but she’d also been cautious. Perhaps his little outburst had annoyed her more than he’d realized? But she’d been the one to say she would wait for him. Perhaps the environment was starting to affect her—studies of people trapped in (relative) isolation showed an increase in irritability and a propensity to make rash decisions. The mind attempted to create its own variety...

Reid’s thoughts went around and around and around, but none of them changed the core reality.

JJ should be here. She wasn’t. He needed to find her.

But where? Yes, the last book (some sort of stone ampitheathre) was the most likely candidate, but maybe she had gotten stuck somewhere in the swamp world. Taken a wrong turn or gotten trapped in a room or something. Or maybe she’d gone back to one of the other worlds to catch fish or something.

The question was especially important because there was no room for second guessing. JJ had the relto book. (which begged the question of why she hadn’t used it…) If Reid guessed wrong; if he entered one while JJ was trapped in the other, then apart from the star chamber, there was no way to get back. He could be trapped. JJ could be trapped.

Reid groaned. He’d run over the probabilities a thousand times. They never changed. The odds weren’t good and he didn’t like them, but that didn’t change the fact that he needed to make a decision, and make it now.

Five minutes later, Reid was standing before the stone pillar, the book he’d chosen spread out before him. The other was stuffed in his pack. Theoretically, if he retained the book across the porting, he could use it to travel to the other world, if JJ was nowhere to be found. Theoretically.

Of course that would still leave him stranded away from the relto…

Reid shook his head. Thinking would change nothing at this point. Squaring his shoulders, he took a deep breath and reached out toward the image of the sunlit stone ampitheatre.

He was so focused, he didn’t even see the new island materialize into view in the mists off the shore of the island.

#

JJ regarded the paper with irritation and stuffed it in her pocket. Very nice, she was sure, (or would be if she could make heads or tails of the thing). It was probably setting up a new forest or whatever in their home age—relto—right now, but at the moment it was useless.

She glared around the small room. It was pretty evidently meant to be a cell, but had also pretty obviously been broken out of at some time—the porthole in the corner and its ladder gaped invitingly. Why this particular cell was ROTATING, she couldn’t begin to guess.

She tentatively glanced out the window again, but without real hope—she could not for the life of her see where the book had disappeared to, or indeed if it had gone anywhere at all. All that could be seen for miles was thick, dense jungle.

That jungle was a problem. JJ could not remember any jungles like this in the mushroom world she’d just come from, or—more importantly—from the books at the relto island. Which meant she had no idea where in the network of worlds she was supposed to be, or, for that matter, how she was supposed to get back.

JJ blew a breath out her nose. Well, she certainly wasn’t going to get back sitting in some high prison cell guarded by—whatever that had been out there. Her best bet was to reclaim the book, but even if she couldn’t do that, there should be somewhere another book taking her back to the mushroom world, like there had been in the stain-glass art gallery.

She really should leave the cell and start looking.

She really should.

Leave the cell.

The nice, safe, solid cell with comforting bars over the windows.

Start looking around... possibly outside in the jungle, where that thing was...

JJ ground her teeth. It’s not going to get any safer with waiting. She walked over to the porthole and jumped down.

#


“That’s a long way down.” Morgan said.

No one contradicted him. If anything, they rolled their eyes at the understatement. They were standing at the lip of a massive shaft, its ceiling about 20 meters above them, the other side about 150 meters across from them, the bottom lost in the blackness far beyond the reach of Morgan’s flashlight.

“Figures we’d run into a bottomless pit eventually.” Said Prentiss. She rolled her eyes at the looks the others were sending. “What? We were all thinking it. This whole case has been something out of Indiana Jones.”

Morgan picked up a stone and let it drop. They all waited.

Nothing.

“Any idea how deep that would make it?” Morgan looked at Simmons.

The specialist shrugged. “Rocks are a notoriously imprecise way to tell distance.” He said. “It could have bounced into a cavern or landed in a pool, or there might be some sort of overhang that hides the sound. I’ve sent some of the boys back up for a laser rangefinder, but that might not be totally accurate either… dust can cloud the light and make the reading unreliable. And that lead we had gave out after 1000 meters.”

“The floor slopes here, and I think…” Rossi peered through the gloom at the other side. “Yes. There are ramps running along the other side. This whole thing is one giant spiral staircase.”

“We could walk down?” Prentiss studied the path with interest.

“Well… or drive. It looks like a long way.” Rossi said. “How far off are we on getting the vehicles down here?”

“About half a day, probably.” Hotch turned to Simmons. “Your men have that rappel gear ready?”

Simmons gestured to a capable-looking man off to the side, who was shrugging into a harness. “Higgins is just getting set up with the equipment now.”

“Hang on a sec.” Morgan glanced over. “Let me give it a shot.”

“Morgan?” Hotch arched an eyebrow.

“We covered rappelling in combat training.” Morgan said, taking the harness and gear from the surprised spelunker. “Same principles.”

“I’m just a little surprised you’re volunteering.” Hotch said.

“I’m not standing around up here waiting for the report.” Morgan shrugged. “Plus,” he turned to the spelunker, “no offense, man, but I doubt you’ve got much combat training.”

“I agree.” Prentiss stepped forward. “You guys go in pairs, right?” She said to Simmons. “Set up a harness for me.”

Simmons looked to Hotch, who shrugged after a moment’s thought. “Very well.”

“I hope no one’s expecting me to climb down there.” Rossi said.

“We don’t want to wind up rescuing a third person.” Morgan said, buckling the harness around himself.

“Just one thing.” Simmons said. “We don’t know how deep the shaft is, and the cable only reaches so far. Has either one of you done rock climbing before?”

“A little.” Prentiss nodded.

“Then you should go down first.” Simmons said, handing her a pick and a set of anchors. “When you get down fifty feet or so—five levels, if the staircase remains consistent—then you can re-anchor yourself there and let Agent Morgan climb down past you. Then he can anchor himself…”

“Tag team.” Morgan nodded, also grabbing a pick. “Should get us all the way to the bottom.”

#

Quote:
ATTENTION ALL VISITORS
PLEASE PICK UP YOUR KI
FROM THE MACHINE
IN THE WEST HALL.


Reid looked at the sign again and shook his head. What sort of cult went to all the work of creating giant bubble worlds with unique cultures and ecosystems, and then filled them with placards full of MS Word printouts in plain English?

And construction cones. He reminded himself. And barriers. And giant animatronic beetle-whale-alligators.

The light on the walls was shifting slightly. He looked up into blinding light. Natural light. He must be looking straight up into the sun, rendering the surrounding sky invisible against the glare. But why was the light on the walls moving?

He pressed his hands to his temples. None of this was making any sense. None of it was going to start making sense anytime soon. It was best to just keep on going and hope at some point things would clear up.

He passed through the rooms rapidly. All the doors (vast, immovable-looking things) were locked, but some had been left open. Some sort of locker room, with strange gas masks, a block/tapestry thing sitting on a shelf (He ignored it). Some sort of furnace, with a symbol similar to the sign board at the entrance. A stone chamber with collapsed doorways and toppled pillars, one great gash running through the middle, etching out a deep trench. He saw one of the handprints in the trench and jumped down. (He regretted that a moment later, as there was no clear exit, but the rope in the knapsack soon resolved the situation). Another he found behind a smashed pillar. A third he found in a crumbling room of small cages marked with iconographic beetles. For once he didn’t pause to ponder if there was religious or totemic significance to the iconography, he just climbed on top of the cages and pressed his hand to the sheet.

At the end of the room was a small window. He peered through and was greeted with the sight of the chamber he’d begun in, complete with sandwich board.

No matter. There was a room he’d seen earlier, where the ceiling had collapsed inward , leaving a pile of rubble that should allow him onto the second floor. He retraced his steps, climbing the pile (noting with annoyance the incongruous construction cones and 2x4 planks.), and stood up on the second floor.

Nothing. Here all the doors were shut. The crevice continued on to the back wall, leaving a gash in it (taken together, it looked like a deep gouge left by some massive creature), but it only exposed another wall. The only thing he seemed to be able to do was look through another window, down on the central chamber.

Again he pressed his hands to his temples. Okay. Okay, think. So a central, circular chamber, surrounded by a series of smaller stone chambers. A castle-like format, especially if one took the starting assumption that the central chamber was where everyone started. A reverse-castle, come to think of it.

At the very least, it made it extremely unlikely that he could have missed JJ anywhere. If she was here, she must have already progressed to the next stage of the area.

On the other hand, it also meant that progressing in general was very difficult. “Reverse-castle” might just as well mean “prison.” The reverse-castle seemed to be in fairly good repair, apart from that large crevice in the middle of it. The locked doors certainly seemed solid enough.

There must be a way to open those doors. The “KI” that he was supposed to pick up, presumably. For that he would need to find the “machine.”

The furnace. The one with the symbol on it.

Returning to the ground-floor room was simple enough. A quick inspection of the machine confirmed his suspicion. After a few false starts, his hand slipped by pure accident into the right slot, and he felt something latch around his wrist. He snatched his hand back, only to find there was now a purplish watch-like device encased around it. Its surface glowed with a strange rune.

Grinning triumphantly, Reid dashed back to one of the doors…

…nothing happened.

After running throughout the whole building again, Reid confirmed that, in fact, this “KI” didn’t open anything. Standing again on the second level, looking down at where he started, Reid felt the beginnings of a headache. Was this even solvable? If this were a real world, after all, it wouldn’t be intended to BE solved, it would be intended to keep people in.

No. Reid pressed his hands to his temples. He couldn’t think like that. This wasn’t real. None of this was real. Was it? That whale in the past world…

He shook his head. Irrelevant. Focus on JJ. If she had gone here, she had gotten past this point. So could he.

He turned again, studying the deep gash in the wall behind him anew. It extended to an outer wall, which seemed to be rapidly moving, rushing past with a clacking sound of gears.

No. Understanding rushed upon Reid. The wall was stationary. The building was moving. The entire circular structure was slowly rotating, like a giant stone merry-go-round. That explained the shifting light. That explained why he’d been stumbling so much.

He tested this now, slowly walking toward the crack. Every step he took toward the outside was easy, every step he retraced toward the center was difficult. Now that he was paying attention, he could feel centrifugal force pulling at his feet, tugging him to the outside of the fortress.

The force grew and grew as he approached the edge, and as he stepped into the gash in the wall, he half-stumbled against a rock, sending him into an uncharacteristically strong headlong tumble, straight into the moving (or rather stationary) wall beyond the crack.

Or at least, it would have, had not that same moving (or rather stationary) wall suddenly exposed a gash of its own, leaving a black hole into which Reid tumbled.


#

JJ didn’t think much of this place as a prison. Beyond the floor porthole (which would have lent any prisoner the higher ground), the internal security of the place seemed pretty rotten. The ladder led to a dimly-lit tunnel (she should probably call it a hallway, but the stone walls were confusing), which as far as she could gather, connected all the prison cells together. There were no checkpoints, no guard stations, no safeguards of any kind. There were even big gaping windows—barred windows, but the bars were spaced out so widely, it would be easy for any enterprising prisoner to slip through to the outside.

Though, JJ considered with a shudder, who would want to?

Well, her, technically. She WAS trying to escape this place; she really shouldn’t be complaining about how poor the security was. In fact, she had glanced out the window, but the sixty-foot drop (on a slope, but still) had forced her to discard the idea.

Right now her best bet seemed to be this ladder. She’d passed lots of them, but they seemed to be on the periphery, this was more in the center. Whether it went outside… well, she’d just have to see.

Taking a deep breath, JJ put her hand on a rung of the ladder. Then another hand. She pulled herself a little up, faltered a little, placed first one foot, then the other on the ladder. After that her arms and legs seemed to move almost on their own and JJ emerged into blinding sunshine.

#


“Anything?”

“Not yet.”

“Seriously?” Morgan dropped down alongside her. “How deep are we now?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Prentiss shrugged. “I lost count somewhere around twenty levels ago. Take five?”

“Sounds good to me.” Morgan stretched. “Man, what sort of cultist would put this much time and effort into fabricating a civilization? Simply paying for this would be more trouble than it’s worth.”

“Maybe the shaft was mostly natural.” Prentiss shrugged. “Maybe they just drilled out the edges to make it regular."

"Maybe. Although—you know, I have a theory.”

“What’s that?” Prentiss gulped down some water.

“One of those machines we passed? It looked like a giant centipede.” Morgan pointed. “It’d work pretty well for carving out this screw-like staircase on the sides.”

“You think those things up there actually worked?” Prentiss threw him a quizzical look.

Morgan shrugged. “You think they made this with normal machines?”

Prentiss made a half-nod, admitting defeat. “Just… why make this at all?”

“Search me.” Morgan pulled out a water bottle.

There was a short moment of silence. There was only the sound of air—not wind, but air, still air that you only hear when there’s nothing else to listen to.

“There was this place I visited in Italy.” Prentiss said suddenly, in a dream-like voice. “Up north, by the Alps. ‘Religious community,’ they called it. Back in the 1970’s, this guy Falco just started digging in his basement. He said he had visions of a past life where he’d seen beautiful temples—like, crazy intricate things. He and his followers just worked with hand tools from sketches he made. They made this whole underground complex. Absolutely beautiful. They didn’t open it up, they didn’t turn it into a tourist thing, they just carved out these amazingly trippy temples underground for the fun of the thing.”

“You think there might be a connection?” Morgan looked at her.

Prentiss shrugged. “When we were flying here I dug out a tourist handbook on New Mexico. There’s this other guy, Ra Paulette, who carves artistic tunnels out of the sandstone here. Again, doesn’t really make much money at it. Didn’t mention any visions of past lives, either. But he’s been doing it for the past 25 years.”

“Hm.” Morgan suddenly chuckled. “My dad told me once about this guy, Dr. Dyar, in the 1920’s, who made a whole network of catacombs in his backyard. Said it was just a hobby, something he did after work.”

Prentiss shrugged. “I suppose a person’s got to have a hobby.”
#

Reid was not particularly claustrophobic. Elevators freaked him out, but that was purely statistical, nothing irrational about that. So even though he’d fallen by pure accident into a closet-sized cavity in the rock, inches away from what seemed to be madly grinding gears, Reid wasn’t particularly frightened.

Indeed, it would be more accurate to say he was fascinated.

It seemed his earlier thought had been correct, and it was indeed the building that was moving, not the rock around it. Now that he was outside, he could quite clearly feel the stable ground underneath his feet and could see the outer wall of the fortress flying past him. He recalled a thing he’d seen once at a historical museum, where you looked through a peephole at a rapidly rotating cylinder with pictures on it. This was nearly like that. Not quite as fast, fortunately, but Reid expected that eventually, the crack from the point where he had initially entered the cavity would reappear, and he could return to his goal.

What he didn’t expect was for the wall to suddenly give way entirely to a large, open room.

Reid had popped out of the crevice before he quite realized the opening wasn’t the same one he’d come in through, and stumbled slightly as a result, just barely avoiding falling over on the giant gear inscribed in the floor. Immediately realizing his mistake, he turned around nearly immediately, but the crevice was continuing its journey around the wall and already was nearly gone. Giving it up, he took a closer look at his surroundings.

This room was nearly four times the size of the other rooms he’d seen so far. Tall and long, and deep, a series of massive machines, marked with switches, lined the far side of the room, flanked on either side by the sort of locked doors he’d found everywhere else in the fortress. The walls and floor, of course, were the same blu-ish gray stone as the rest of the structure, but right under his feet was a massive gear, made of the same material as the rest, but slightly raised and set apart. Reid rocked back and forth on it a little to satisfy himself—it was actually a separate piece from the floor. Mounted on an axle, it almost felt like.

The machines mounted against the far wall had a vaguely electrical look to them, or at least the switches looked a great deal like contact switches. Reid supposed even the ingenuity of death cults only went so far. He walked closer to investigate. Several were marked with pictographs of a sort—doors, he realized, and what looked like some sort of elevator. The final one…

Reid’s eyes grew wide, and went back to the gear in the floor, noting for the first time the notches in the wall just above it. This was the generator room! No wonder the doors weren’t opening! They didn’t have power! The power was meant to come from the spinning building…

Reid frowned. That made no sense. Rock structures didn’t revolve naturally; clearly the revolving was also powered by something. So why would you base your power source on something that was itself powered by something…

He shook his head. Too many questions. Stick to what you can do and what you can solve. Right now, the question was, how to unlock the gear and get it lined up with the grooves in the rock wall?

Reid backed up, considering, completely failing to observe the pressure plate under his feet. There were very clear clamps on the left and right of the gear, and pedals next to them. It stood to reason that probably the pedals were meant to release the clamps. But how to raise the gear? That would take some sort of power, and the entire point of the gear was to generate power. So there must be a back-up generator. But where would that…

Reid suddenly became aware that there was something behind him. He turned around, stepping off the pressure plate.

A massive pillar, which had almost risen to the height of his shoulder, stopped rising and started to sink back into the floor.

Intrigued, Reid stepped forward, back on to the pressure plate.

The pillar stopped and began to rise again. Turning, Reid noticed that a small light by the pedals had turned on. He stepped off; the pillar started to sink.

Reid stepped on. He stepped off. He stepped on. He stepped off, letting the pillar sink all the way back into the floor. He looked back at the light—now it was off. He stepped back on, and watched the pillar climb to its maximum height. He stepped closer, and studied the small tallies marked in the stone.

His eyes went to the pedals and clamps on the other side of the room.

#

“Morgan.” Prentiss said. “There’s a room down here.”

“Oh, thank god.” Morgan groaned. “I was about to think this whole place was one big spiral all the way down.”

“Looks like a rest stop of some kind.” Prentiss unhooked her harness. “May as well look around.”

“Sounds good.” Morgan stepped into the room. “Huh. You weren’t kidding. I’ve seen bus stations worse than this.”

“Everybody’s seen bus stations worse than something.” Prentiss said. “C’mon, they must have drinks or something around here.”

“If you say so. Place looks pretty deserted to me. Although…” Morgan stopped suddenly by a pedestal. “Emily, there’s a book here.”

“A what?” Prentiss was suddenly on full alert. “Careful, Morgan…”

“I’m just going to look…” Morgan flipped it open. “Ah. Looks like a journal of some sort… someone… writing about…”

“What?” Prentiss asked.

Morgan turned around. “Looks like our friend Dr. Watson was here.”


#

JJ wasn’t quite outside—not yet. She was still surrounded by high, thick walls, which for the moment was fine by her. And there was some sort of ceiling high above. But the sounds of the jungle, and of some rushing water, were much clearer here, and she had little doubt she would be able to look out on the jungle from the balcony running along the top of the walls.

Right now she wasn’t interested in that. She’d found what she assumed to be the warden’s office or control room or whatever. It had a variety of complicated-looking machines, and also two enormous robot-like constructs in the corner. They seemed to be more decorative than anything—their bases were a solid block, and their “arms” were little more than stubs But they definitely had clear glass visors, and what looked like some sort of gas mask.

In any case, she couldn’t do anything with them—she couldn’t really do anything with anything here, really. The machines were incomprehensible and unresponsive, and there seemed to be no path down. She’d been hoping for an escape pod, or a book, or at least a map, but there was nothing. JJ ground her teeth in frustration.

There was a metal rung ladder leading to the parapet. Conceivably, from up there, she could get a better view of the surrounding world she was supposedly on. She thought she could even see another one of those handprint cloths up there.

She would also be more exposed. Directly confronted with the jungle and whatever was in it.
But she was starting to get familiar with that feeling. JJ grabbed the rungs and, once again, began to climb.

#

The power was on. Reid still wasn’t entirely sure how a gravity-based power generator worked, but for the moment, that didn’t matter. The doors were all opening, and more importantly, one of them had turned out to be an elevator.

Reid wasn’t wild about having to use any elevator, least of all one in a half-broken ancient complex that operated under uncertain rules of physics, but there didn’t seem to be anything else, even in the unlocked rooms, so when the elevator doors opened, he stepped inside and let them slide shut behind him. He held his breath as it moved upwards (with apparently no trouble, and jumped outside as soon as the elevator doors opened on fresh sunshine. He took a moment to compose himself, then shielded his eyes against the light to look around.

Reid gasped.

#

JJ, now at the top of the ladder, walked a few steps to the edge of the parapet, looked down, and gasped.

#

What Reid saw was a massive jungle crowding around on all sides of the stone pentagonal building he stood atop (which was, indeed, revolving.) He seemed to be on the edge a small valley of sorts, a basin into which several rivers poured.

What made him gasp, though, was the other building.

Reid had thought his own “reverse-castle” was large, but the stone structure he saw (also revolving) in the center of the basin was truly massive. It was vaguely pyramid-shaped (closer to a truncated octahedron, his brain noted abstractly) probably three times the size of his own, and towered over him, nearly blotting out what little of the sky could be seen. Long bridges extended from a third of the ways up its thick stone walls, nearly touching Reid’s building, while almost comically huge spikes adorned the sloping surfaces above, until they ended in a narrow parapet that overlooked the whole basin.

#

JJ, looking down from the parapet, saw a tiny figure standing on a smaller building far below. It was too far to make out the details, but the sandy hair and the profile looked very familiar.

“Reid!” She screamed out. “Reid!”

#

The cawing of birds and the chirping of insects filled Reid’s ears. The jungle surrounding him sounded very real. For that matter, it also looked, smelled, and felt very real. But right now, Reid didn’t care.

It looked like it might be possible to get to the larger building. The five long spokes radiating from it didn’t quite reach the bridge extending from one side of his building, (and the timing between the two revolving buildings seemed to be off anyway) but they did reach to a small island located almost suspiciously well between the two.

Reid walked to the end of the bridge jutting off his building. The fact that his building’s roof was at about the level of the other building’s lower third was telling. He waited for the bridge to swing around to the island, and then jumped off onto the narrow finger of rock. The surface was flat and bore signs of masonry—perhaps there had been a building there at one point.

Reid saw the handprint on the side of the rock and pressed his hand to it. That was… four? He felt no real interest in the subject. Standing up, he backed up a few steps and waited for the bridge from the larger building to come to the island.

#

JJ dashed back to the parapet. She’d gone back down, checked the control center, checked the interior prisons, looked through all the cells she could. There was no way down. Nothing at all. It made no sense!

(Later, it would occur to JJ that actually, it made perfect sense, given that you had teleporting books. Of course a prison would be completely cut off. But at the moment she was too enraged to really think about that.)

Reid was not on the building anymore, and it took her a second to find him, on the island between the two buildings. “Spence!” She screamed again. “Spence, up here!”

But Reid did not seem to notice. He was entirely focused on the upcoming bridge. And even if he did hear her, what could he do? If there was no way down, there was certainly no way up. And the sloping surface didn’t look like the sort of thing you could climb, even if you were a much better climber than Reid was.
But… perhaps… a very talented climber… could climb down

JJ hesitated, but there was really no choice. Before she could give herself a chance to chicken out, she slipped under the railing on the parapet and clambered out onto the smooth face of the fortress.

“Spencerrrrrrr!” She screamed, once more.

#

Reid landed slightly off, and stumbled a few steps further before coming to a stop on the path. He let out a sigh of relief. That’d been a little freaky. He’d gotten distracted at the last minute by another of those bird calls. Really, those were the strangest…

His eye caught sight of a small bit of color, high up. It was small. It was humanoid.

It was blonde.

“JJ?”

The figure seemed to be seeking a handhold on the fortresses slanted surface. It missed, slipped, started to slide.

“JJ!” Reid screamed, running forward.

#

The wall flew past JJ as she scrambled for another grip. It was too steep, she couldn’t get a solid grip, but the pitted, rocky surface allowed her to at least slow herself. She thought she heard her name, but she couldn’t spare attention for that right now. The skin was burning off her palms as her hands scrabbled for a hold, lost their grip. She twisted, tumbled, tore. If she could just… slow… find a handhold… or…

Her legs slid off the edge of the building’s slope, even as her hands grabbed with a last desperate strength onto a pitted ridge. She stopped with a mean person/people that sent pain shooting up her arms. “Ah!” She screamed.

“JJ!”

JJ’s eyes flew open and she glanced down. It seemed the building was not a pyramid, as she had thought from the top. It was more of a diamond-shape, with a sharp cliff undercutting the steep angle that led to the top. Her feet dangled twenty feet (or forty, it was hard to tell at this distance) from the floor of the rotating pathway.

And running toward her along that pathway was a gangly, sandy-haired analyst.

JJ felt she could burst into tears. “Spence!” She shouted, and heard her voice break a little.

“Hang on!” He shouted. “I’m coming!”

Now JJ felt an impulse to laugh. What could he do, with her forty (or twenty) feet above? But then her left hand slip, and nothing was funny. “Hurry!” She screamed.

“I’m almost there!”

Her left hand slipped free completely. Her right hand managed to bear her full weight for all of thirty seconds before her fingers seemed to snap backwards and then she was falling and everything was air and….

The middle portion of her slammed into something, and her legs and head whipped back, even as she felt that something crumpling underneath. There may have been a crack, but the next second her head was slamming into something much harder and much more unyielding…

Stars.

“Jump, and you will find out how to spread your wings when you fall.”

-Ray Bradbury


**********************************
A/N: Yes, I know. I leave you without an update for this long and then leave it on a cliffhanger. I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to. In fact, this is roughly halfway the chapter I had planned. Tell you what, how about I delete all this and come back and post it when I've finished the other half?

No, but seriously, I do apologize. Quite frankly, I got bored--Gahressen is not my favorite age--and distracted with other projects. And I just recently realized that this whole thing was stretching onto twenty pages and they still hadn't done half the things I wanted them to... so I chopped the chapter in half and called it an update.

IN HAPPIER NEWS: I have some time off now, and a good chunk written of the next entry. And i have a strong desire to finish this, if mostly so it's not a guilty unfinished project eating away at my writer's conscience. So the next updates should come in a more... timely fashion.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 8:49 am 
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Excellent! Can’t wait for the next part :)

I wonder though why Reid didn’t stop a moment to examine the KI latched on to his wrist...

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 3:33 am 
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Just found this on another forum (that I actually don't have an account with) and read it all the way through.

I've never really seen Criminal Minds before, but I'm loving seeing their reactions to the D'ni madness. :D

And really, from an outsider's perspective, it really does seem quite Cultish! XD

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:42 am 
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Minor nitpick, only two digging machines were left near the surface, the others had been dismantled and shipped back down to the cavern after completion of Descent.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2017 2:44 am 
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Was very thrilled to see an addition to this saga. Being a fan of Criminal Minds, I am loving how you have captured the characters, and revealed very plausable reactions to fining the grea Shaft, and the ages.
Glad to see I am not the only writer on this forum who gets side tracked with life, and leaves their readers hanging.
Well done...Luv angelmyst

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