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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 3:27 am 
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Location: Texas
Mysterious Minds Chapter 2--The Cleft

“Nothing resembles an honest man more than a cheat.” –French proverb

“So you say these people come here all the time?”

The portly man nodded pleasantly, almost as if he were talking philosophy with a man at the bar, not handcuffed and sitting in the back of an SUV. “All the time, agent.”

Hotch glared. He really didn’t like how well this man was taking everything. “And you do... what?”

“I set them on the path,” answered the man.

“And what path is that?” Rossi cut in.

Zandi smiled. “The path of the Grower. The return of the Least. The seven journeys.”

Hotch and Rossi exchanged glances. All around them, the police officers and FBI agents were fanning out across the ranch, searching the firepit, digging up suspicious-looking piles of dirt, rappelling down into the strange canyon just beyond. So far, nothing had come up.

“Where is this path?” Hotch tried.

“I told you. Listen to the message. Find the seven journeys, then... enter the tree.” Zandi gestured, a difficult action when your hands were cuffed. “I’m not really here to give you... answers, you understand.”

“No, I’m pretty sure that’s EXACTLY why you’re here.” Hotch shot back. “And believe me, you will give me plenty of them back at the station, one way or another, so start thinking some up.” He gestured to the driver. “Take him away.”

Rossi glanced at him as the car sped away. “We don’t really have enough evidence to arrest him, Aaron.”

“He’s hiding something.” Hotch argued. “We can hold him for at least 24 hours; after that we can hit him with ‘obstruction of justice’ and see if that loosens his tongue.”

Rossi considered this. “He might not be ABLE to loosen his tongue, Hotch.”

“He’s not insane. Odd, definitely, but more perverse than insane. I get the feeling this isn’t the first time he’s done something like this, and he ENJOYS the mysterious answer routine.” Hotch turned as Prentiss came walking out of the camper, accompanied by several officers. “Well?”

She shook her head. “Lots of books and old records, but no guns, chainsaws, or anything remotely resembling a serial killer’s setup.” Prentiss answered.

“See any repeats of that odd hand symbol he’s got on the back of his trailer?” Rossi asked.

“One ratty old shirt in the closet,” shrugged Prentiss. “From the looks of his camper, I’d profile the guy as a laid-back sort, a prematurely retired man. There are signs he’s used to living larger—gourmet foods in the fridge, a few tuxedoes in the closet—but he’s settled down to his means.”

“The books?” Rossi asked.

“Some archaeological, some puzzle, some ones I don’t recognize,” answered Prentiss. “They’re kind of a mix—I’d say he at least used to be a scholar of some kind, but now he reads mostly for recreation. And he loves puzzles, they’re littered all over the place.” She shrugged. “Right now, I’m going with disappointed heir of old money who’s bored and feeling unfulfilled, so he starts killing tourists to prove himself.”

“This isn’t Batman, and our unsub isn’t the Riddler.” Rossi shook his head.

“Just saying. If I had to spend days out here, I might go crazy too. I mean, there’s NOTHING out here. Why would anyone come this way? Why would Gideon come this way?”

“Maybe he picked up on the missing persons angle and wanted to look it up himself.” Rossi suggested.

“Gideon stopped working because he was sick of the business.” Hotch shook his head.

“He might say that,” Rossi allowed, “but we both know the profiler never really stops working.”

“Maybe. But even so, Jason would know...” The ring of a phone cut him off and Hotch reached into his pocket. “Garcia.” He said, pressing speakerphone. “What do you have?”

“Ask and you shall receive, Keemosabie!” Penelope Garcia’s voice laughed from the device. “I did some checking up on your Jeff Zandi character. Get this. PROFESSOR Jeff Zandi is the only son of the late Elias Zandi.”

Hotch just blinked. “Who?”

“The millionaire archaeologist?” Rossi asked, moving a step closer.

“That’s the one! Used to collect southwest artifacts, eye for the strange and unusual. Died back in 1996 of a heart attack, but didn’t leave his son anything outside of the bare land you’re standing on.”

“See?” Prentiss smirked. “Daddy issues. Wanted to prove himself.”

“Trying to give value to the worthless land his father gave him?” Rossi considered. “I could see it.”

“Garcia, what about the handprint on the back?” Hotch asked.

“Stiiillll working on that, oh wise one.” Garcia sounded slightly less enthusiastic. “But not much has been coming up yet. All I’ve got are a few cave drawings and some designer shirts, and neither seem to be the original thing.”

“All right. Keep on it.” Clicking the phone off, Hotch turned to an approaching police officer. “What is it?”

“Sir, you may want to come out by the gate,” said the man. “We have a... minor situation.”

---------------

“Reid, let it go.”

“You don’t understand. These bones can NOT exist.”

“So they don’t!” Morgan gestured at the giant ribs and skull poking out of the sand. “Let’s just call them plaster casts and move on!”

“But they’re NOT plaster!” Reid darted about the bones, glancing at the teeth, feeling the texture of the eye socket, tapping the jagged ribs. “The texture, the feel, the consistency is all wrong for plaster!”

“So what do they feel like?”

“Like bones!”

“Well okay, maybe they are bones!”

“Morgan, these bones correspond to no known species of animal, living or otherwise!” Reid shouted, throwing up his hands in frustration. “I am familiar with the skeletomuscular system of every living and fossilized creature, and this does not fit into any of them!”

“Familiar with... oh c’mon.” Derek scoffed. “Look, let’s narrow it down some, okay? What would you say if you had to—bird, mammal, or lizard?”

Reid backed up and took a long look. “Fish.” He decided.

“Fish? Seriously? In the desert?”

“It’s the only thing that fits! The teeth make me think of a shark, actually, but then the skeleton would be cartilage, and these bones are more like...” He studied it some more. “I don't know. It's almost the size of a very small whale. With tusks.”

“Tusks. Right.” Morgan shook his head and glanced upward. “And how’d it get out here? Fall out of the sky, Douglas Adams style?”

“Fish falling from the sky is NOT unprecedented,” answered Reid defensively. “A typhoon picks up fish from the sea, brings them up into the air, and then rains them down far inland when it’s lost its energy. The first recorded instance was in Singapore in 1861, but even as recently as 2012, there was a instance of it in the Phillipines.”

“New Mexico isn’t some Pacific Island, Reid.” Morgan pointed out. “And it’s been years since any hurricane came this way. A fish skeleton doesn’t belong here.”

Reid rounded on him. “THIS fish skeleton doesn’t belong ANYWHERE.” He insisted. “I’m telling you, this skeleton doesn’t fit with any known species!” Turning back to the bones, he started to inspect the inside of the sizeable jaw, continuing: “And it can’t be a fossil, because it’s out in the open and exposed to the elements! It would have rotted or...” He paused suddenly.

“What?” asked Morgan. “You solve the mystery of the missing fish?”

“Not so much.” answered Reid. “But I did find something interesting. Here, take a look at this.”

Morgan came around the skull to see what Reid was talking about.

Attached somehow to the interior of the skeleton’s jawbone was a piece of rough canvas, emblazoned with a rough painting. Four short stalks extended from a slightly oblong spiral to form a stylized, tribal-like symbol of a hand.

“Hey, that’s the same symbol we saw on the back of Zandi’s trailer.” He noted.

“On the same sort of cloth, too,” agreed Reid, fingering the stitching. “But why stick a symbol like this to a skeleton, fake or otherwise?”

“Ritualistic, maybe?” Morgan suggested. “These bones could have been part of a sacrifice of some kind. Or—saying these bones are fake...”

“They are. They have to be.”

“Right. In THAT case, then maybe someone drafted them as the relics for a new cult of some kind. Say these are the remains of the fish deity who fell from the stars or something.”

“And decorate it with the cult’s emblem.” Reid nodded. “It fits. But most cults use rather derivative imagery, and err on the side of detail, particularly for an object of worship, like these bones. This hand is remarkably simple... not even that big, really.” He stretched his own hand out along it to indicate.

There was a strange sound like a droning hum, and a portion of the cloth lit up.

Reid yanked back his hand as if it had been burnt, stumbling away and crashing against the other side of the "fish’s" jawbone.

Morgan just gave him an odd look. “Reid. It’s freaky, but it’s not THAT freaky.”

“Sorry.” Reid managed, pushing himself back to his feet. “It just... felt really... strange.”

“Strange? Like how?”

“Like I was being pulled... well, no, more like it was marking... well, it just... forget it.” Reid sighed.

“O-o-kay,” answered Morgan, still eyeing him strangely. “Suppose we should get forensics down here to look at this cloth, see if it’s some sort of touch or heat-sensitive pad under there.”

“And WHY it’s there.” Reid pointed out.

Morgan nodded. “Should probably check the one on the trailer, too, see if it does the same thing.”

“Not just that...” Reid was staring at the cloth with renewed concentration. “I’ve seen another one of these.”

---------------

“Sir, trespassing on a crime scene is a serious offense.” Hotch informed the man.

“I know, I know.” The man smiled, holding up his hands. “Believe me, I have no intention of interfering in official business. But I just wondering... perhaps I take a look? With your permission, of course. Just a quick look. I bother no one.”

Hotch eyed the man. He spoke with a faint Eastern European accent, but even a foreigner should have known how ludicrous such a request was. “Why is it so important you look around?” He asked.

“Well, it... it just...” The man laughed, scratching the skin under his polo shirt in an embarrassed fashion. “Is hard to explain... volcano is just... just... like something I remember.” He smiled.

“Have you been here before? Are you familiar with the area?” pressed Hotch. Perhaps this man could give them information.

“Oh, not me.” The man shook his head. “I come to America on vacation. My friends, they say I crazy to go to New Mexico and not New York. But...” Again he looked longingly at vacation. “Something calls me here. I come to see...”

Hotch’s attention was suddenly caught by Reid and Morgan, who had come up silently during the conversation and were now inspecting the half-fallen sign leaning against the fence. “Excuse me.” He said, holding up a finger to silence the man. “Reid. Morgan. What is it?”

Morgan looked up at him, while Reid continued to study whatever-it-was on the back side of the sign. “Hey Hotch. We found another one of those hand-symbols on some bizarre skeletons out in the desert.”

“Skeletons?” Hotch’s eyebrow shot upwards.

“Not human. Some kind of animal...”

“NOT an animal. Not any possible kind of animal that I’VE ever seen, anyway.” Reid cut in.

“...they might be fakes.” Morgan threw Reid an exasperated look. “Anyway, the hand thing sort of lit up when Reid touched it.”

Hotch closed his eyes. “You realize we have a forensics lab for a reason.” He said.

“When have we ever used forensics?” Morgan scoffed. “We checked the cloth on the trailer and it did something similar, and then Reid remembered he’d seen another out here...”

“Just out of the corner of my eye, when we first arrived.” Reid answered, turning the sign around. There, fixed tightly to the metal, was another cloth bearing the strange hand sign.

Hotch frowned. “Odd place to stick something like that.”

“Secret sign of some kind,maybe?”

“Too blatant for a secret sign.” Rossi shook his head, coming alongside Reid to study the symbol. “No, it’s meant to be overt, tacked over the sign like that, but why?”

“Show them how it lights up, Reid.” Morgan suggested.

Reid nodded. “They seem to have differing responses.” He informed the others. “The one at the skeleton only lit up this far.” A quick jab at the symbol indicated his meaning. “The one on the trailer lit up a little farther... about halfway up the spiral. Not sure yet what this one will do.” He pressed his hand to the cloth.

The entire spiral that made up the lower part of the hand lit up with a strange glow. Hotch, Rossi, and most of the surrounding officers studied it with interest. “Significance?” Hotch asked.

Rossi shrugged. “An elaborate scavenger hunt of some kind? Markers, maybe for different hiding spots? You could say ‘the complete spiral’ and no one would know which you meant until they pressed the cloth.”

“They could memorize the locations.”

“Not if they rotate the markers. It’d be random.”

“That would imply a higher level of organization than what we’d supposed.” Hotch muttered, staring off across the desert. “We’d taken this to be one man, perhaps...”

“Hey!” An outraged shout cut him off, and Hotch spun round to see the European tourist, halfway across the fence, shoving past a police officer to press his hand against the cloth.

“Get him out of here!” snapped Hotch, as the officers finally pushed the man away.

“Look! Look!” cried the man, pointing with delight.

The same cloth lit up, but now only to the edge of the thumb.

The Analysts stood dumbfounded. “Perhaps it... alternates? According to how many times its been activated?” Reid hazarded.

Hotch shook his head. “Officer Ramirez.” He said, pointing. “Please escort Mr. Benyskouy off the premises. Sergeant Briscoe, get forensics out here to take a look at this thing. See if they can work out the programming and who built it. And,” he said, turning to the team, “I think it best if from now on we wear GLOVES while examining those cloths. There are likely some fingerprints on some.”

“More likely too muddled to make anything out.” Rossi warned.

“Still, we should take precautions.” Hotch answered. His phone beeped, and he snapped it open. “Emily, how’s the canyon coming?”

Hotch, you better get down here.” Prentiss’ voice came through. “You have to see this.”

-----------------

"Have you heard of the city? The deep city, the ancient uru? Where there was power to write worlds. For thousands of years the city lived, lived beneath the surface. Keeper of the secret; keeper of the power..."

With all five BAU agents and a few FBI forensic specialists, it was pretty crowded in the cave chamber. But right now, nobody minded, as they watched the glowing hologram of an olive-skinned woman in strange garb walking through the cave.

“...The water flows where it wills. It seeks its own path uncontrolled, except that it flows downward, always downward..”
The hologram ghosted through Reid’s body back into the center of the crowd.

Hotch leaned in toward Prentiss. “This is the second time you’ve seen this. Does it make any more sense to you?”

Prentiss shook her head. “Apart from the obvious—that the woman’s delusional and has some sort of Messiah complex—I can’t understand a word of what she’s talking about. Silent cities and quests and such. It would be easier if she wasn’t continually speaking in metaphor.”

"Dunny, the city of ages, of other worlds, died. But now it breathes again. It awaits. Some will seek that destination, but you should seek the Journey..."

“Religious-oriented unsub.” Hotch frowned. “Those can be difficult. Particularly in a case like this, where we have no way of knowing what the rules of this religion are.”

A shrug was Prentiss’ response. “We’ve got that Zandi guy in custody, right? Maybe we can get him talking.”

“I’m not sure he’ll be any more intelligible than this recording,” muttered Hotch as the hologram at last flickered off.

There was a collective sigh and the team exchanged glances. “Well,” said Morgan, clapping his hands. “That gives us a face, and a name. More than we usually have at this point.”

Hotch nodded. “Did she leave anything here?” He asked, turning to Prentiss.

“There’s a letter to her we found in one of the adjoining caves.” Prentiss handed him a sheet of paper, neatly enclosed in an evidence bag. “Written from someone named ‘Atrus,’ claiming to be her father.”

“No last name, I suppose.”

“No.”

“Those aren’t exactly common names.” Morgan pointed out. “Let’s call up baby-girl, see what she can do with that.”

“Ask her about that city of Dunny, too.” Hotch nodded. “It seems like an important motivator in whatever’s driving our unsub.”

“Right.” Morgan pulled out his phone.

Reid eyed the projector atop the stone pillar with distrust. “Seems odd to bother with a projected image like that.” He mused. “Why not a simple note? Or a video?”

“You think THAT’S odd.” Prentiss smirked. “See that cloth on the wall back there? When we started up this projector, it wasn’t there.”

One of the forensic team snorted. Hotch glanced over at him. “Something amusing, Agent Dawson?”

Agent Dawson coughed, a little embarrassed at being caught. “Well, it’s just that... you all are missing the point. Compared to the projector itself, a hidden cloth, touch-sensitive or otherwise, is small potatoes.”

“Really?” Reid looked over. “How expensive is one of these things?”

Dawson gave a little laugh. “I don’t know, because I’ve never seen one before. To be honest, before Agent Prentiss hit that button, I didn’t know something like this existed.”

The agents looked askance at him, but the other forensic agents were nodding. “Holographic projectors are available on the market, but generally speaking they stay in one place—over the projector,” volunteered one. “Something like this... that can project the image anywhere in its line of sight... well, it’s unheard of.”

“So this is an invention of our unsub’s design?” Hotch asked.

Agent Dawson shrugged. “I don’t know where else she would have gotten it. The bigger question is why she would hide it down here—you could sell the designs to a company and make an easy million. More than that, if you decided to market it yourself.” He rubbed his hands in anticipation. “I can’t wait to take it apart and see what’s inside.”

“Hold that thought.” There was a commotion at the door, and several of the forensic agents moved aside as JJ pushed her way into the cave, clad in a dark suit with slacks. “We can’t damage any of these artifacts until we get the Apache, Navajo, and Zuni representatives out here to give the ok.”
“Seriously?” Morgan asked, turning as he snapped his phone shut.

“The artifacts just in this room are distinctly different from any sort of native American culture,” protested Reid, caught in the act of lifting a strange leather belt from the rock shelf. “The carvings, textiles, and symbology are wholly inconsistent with any known tribal culture.”

“Plus, there’s the electronic cloths, the windmill, the automatic doors, and the holographic projector.” Prentiss pointed out.

“I agree.” JJ nodded. “But it doesn’t change the fact that there are protocols about these things. Any artifacts found in the desert have to be examined to determine who they belong to.” She glared at Reid. “Which means you should probably put that belt back, Spence.”

Reid seemed not to hear her. He was too busy frowning at the satchel that hung from one side of the belt. “What could this possibly be used for?” He pondered aloud.

“I suppose I should call off the drill team, then.” Hotch muttered, looking slightly annoyed as he pulled out his phone.

JJ glanced from him to Prentiss. “Drill team?”

Shrugging, Prentiss answered, “For the door under the tree, at the far end of the cleft. The man we have in custody said something about ‘entering the tree,’ so we’re pretty sure it’s important, but we can’t get it to budge for anything. And it’s stone, so a battering ram wouldn’t do much either.” Without much hope, she looked at JJ. “I don’t suppose it’s possible that destroying things in the area is permitted.”

“Sorry.” JJ offered an apologetic smile.

“Don’t worry about it.” Hotch said, as he snapped his phone shut. “Clearly our unsub has a fascination with technology and cryptic riddles. And Prentiss noted he has a fondness for puzzles... There is most likely some sort of key about the cleft that can open the door. We just need to locate it.”

“Given the similar symbology, I’d say it has something to do with these cloth panels.” Reid suggested, frowning at the one on the wall. “Counting the other ones we found in the cleft, this makes seven.” Slipping a glove over his hand, he pressed it to the cloth and smirked triumphantly as the entire hand lit up.

Rossi raised an eyebrow and looked at Hotch. “’Seven journeys,’ eh?”

“I told you he was enjoying playing with us.” Hotch answered. “Reid.” He gestured. “Let’s see if the door recognizes your handprint.”

-------------------

It took them a few moments to get out of the room and down to the canyon floor. It wasn’t a large canyon—in fact, with all the agents swarming over it, things were rather crowded—but it had not been designed for ease of access. Several of the bridges had collapsed, and though the forensic team was working on a solution to that, the team still had to practically climb down the cliff face to get to the ground.

Reid helped her to the floor. “Careful, JJ.”

“Thanks, Spence.” She answered with a smile.

But she could see in his face that he wasn’t fooled. As much as JJ loved the team, one of the things she HATED about profilers is that they were always watching you and appraising your actions. Right now, she could feel all their eyes on her, studying her face, her walk, the way her hand trembled slightly when she pushed back her hair, the goddamned pants she was wearing.

“Slacks, huh JJ?” Morgan observed, as he dropped to the ground. “That’s a new look.”

Bingo. “We’re in the desert, Morgan.” She grinned at him. “A skirt didn’t exactly seem practical for climbing over rocks.”

Morgan nodded and smiled, but she could still seem him watching. It didn’t really matter what she said. Or at least, it didn’t matter except to the extent that it helped them appraise why she was lying. She wondered why Morgan thought she was wearing slacks. Physical protection to compensate for emotional vulnerability? Attempt to move on past tragedy by reinventing oneself? Lack of concern for personal appearance, suggesting apathy and a slow degeneration of character?

“What’s in the bag?” That was Prentiss.

“Can’t quite remember, to be honest.” Actually, she wasn’t being honest. Flashlight, sunblock, bugspray, three water bottles, a coil of rope, a compass, a map of the area, a pack of energy bars, and a flare gun. But listing them out would only give her friends more to work with. “I threw it together when I heard we were heading out to the desert. I had an uncle who got stranded out in Texas once... all they ever found of him was the vultures picking dry his bleached skeleton.”

There was a sudden silence.

“I’m KIDDING.” She said, throwing them a mock-glare. “They found him after two days. He was fine.”

The team broke into some relieved chuckles, and JJ allowed herself a little smile. Yes, she was hurting. But for as much as she was hurting, there were people out there DYING, and neither they nor Henry could last if she chose to have a nervous breakdown right now. Of course, having a whole team of people constantly watching you for signs of said breakdown was NOT helpful. JJ gave a little kick at a stone and instantly regretted it—that was probably one of the signs.

“Reid.” She said, in an attempt at distraction. “What is this place, exactly? Doesn’t look like any cavern I’ve ever seen.”

“Strictly speaking, this isn’t a cavern.” Reid answered, his lecture-voice taking over. “A cavern is a large underground region, a large cave, if you will. This could more accurately be considered a canyon, a narrow chasm with steep walls. But generally people think of much larger regions when they think of canyons. The precise term for this sort of formation is ‘diatreme,’ a sort of volcanic vent or fissure, which...”

“Volcanic?” That was Morgan.

“I’m practically certain it’s extinct.” Reid assured them. “There hasn’t been an eruption in this area since the 1500’s, according to geological surveys.” The others looked at him strangely, and he shrugged. “I looked it up on the way over here, okay? Living so close to a volcano represents an adventurous spirit, which contrasts with the underground nature of the complex—geographically, underground dwellings indicate a fondness for establishment and rules.”

“So perhaps a risk-taker who follows certain rules of his own?” suggested Prentiss. “Definitely an unorthodox, creative sort, given all the artistry on the walls and the simple fact that they set up shop in this ‘diatreme.’”

“Not only that, but living beneath the surface like this shows that the unsub, or at least the original designers of this place liked secrecy and isolation.” Reid seemed to consider for a moment. “Though I guess you could get that anyway from the desert surroundings.”

“Wonder what it would be like to lay in here at night and just look up at the stars through the crack.” Prentiss mused. Her voice had an odd, almost sing-song tone to it, and her head was tilted back to look at the sky.

“Dark, probably,” answered Morgan.

Awakening from whatever world she was in, Prentiss slapped the agent on the arm. “You haven’t an ounce of romance in your soul, Derek.”

They had reached the door. JJ was surprised by the size of the tree—its roots reached along either side of the circular stone door, and its trunk craned all the way out of the cleft, spreading its leaves out in the open air.

None of the other agents seemed particularly interested in the tree right now. They simply watched as Reid placed his hand on the symbol set in the center of the stone. The symbol glowed briefly, and then, with a rumble, the stone door lowered into the floor.

Reid threw her a smile. “Got it.”

“What’s back there?” Morgan craned his head around, trying to see past all the others clustered around the opening.

“It’s a hole, and there’s a ladder leading down into it.” Reid answered. With sudden abruptness, he moved forward and started to clamber down the ladder. JJ noticed, with faint exasperation, that he had the belt from the cave slung over one shoulder. “Let’s see what’s at the bottom!”

“Whoa, hey, Reid, maybe let someone with more weapons experience check it...”

“I’m on the floor!” Reid’s voice called up. “Wasn’t much of a climb at all.”

JJ dug into her bag and pulled out a flashlight. “Here, catch.” She called, tossing it down.

Reid caught it, but he gave her an odd look. “It’s... not really dark down here, JJ. They have lights.”

Oh. Well now she felt stupid. “I’m coming down.”

As she stepped off the ladder, Prentiss already climbing down after her, JJ took the flashlight back and stuffed it into her bag as she glanced around. They seemed to be in a subterranean passage. It didn’t seem to be going down at all, but it was heading away from the cleft, which meant...

“Spence.” She asked, stepping just a little further away from the ladder, so Prentiss would have room. “Are you SURE that volcano is extinct?”

“Reasonably.” He answered. “Why?”

Without answering, she dug out a compass. “Because this path is headed straight for it.” She answered.

There was a little creak as Prentiss paused in mid-climb. “You couldn’t have mentioned that while I was still at the top?”

“I’m telling you, it’s perfectly safe. This volcano is as extinct as they get.” Reid walked a few steps down the path to prove his point.

And jumped back as the walls of the tunnel suddenly lit up. “YAAH!”

“Huh. That’s interesting.” Prentiss stepped off the ladder. The sides of the tunnel were now covered in glowing runes. “More techno-magic tricks?”

“This one looks to be pretty simple... some kind of phosphorescent algae.” JJ answered, studying the designs. “Though it must be something of a trick to get them to stay in one place.”

“Emily, could you move away from the ladder?” Morgan, still at the top, called out. “I’m getting tired of hanging here.”

“Right, sorry.” Prentiss moved away, and soon the whole team stood in the tunnel. Hotch studied the algae thoughtfully. “An odd mixture—the mystic and the techno-geek. And now this algae.”

“We may be looking at an organization, remember.” Rossi noted. “Perhaps they all contributed to this complex.”

The tunnel led them to a small room at the end, covered in the strange algae-pictures, with a small book on the pedestal in the middle. Reid, by default, went for the book, while the others examined the pictures on the walls.

“Some... guy in a gas mask?” Morgan hazarded, looking at the blocky figure on his wall.

“Perhaps a miner.” Hotch glanced over another sign. “This seems to show an underground cavern of some kind. Thoughts, David?”

Rossi was busy studying a diagram of a tall pointed shape, something like a truncated pyramid. “That one over there is fairly obviously supposed to be that ‘city of Dunny’ the girl mentioned in her recording.” He remarked. “Morgan’s gas-mask man is probably their messiah figure. This...” he tapped the symbol, “... puzzles me. It’s clearly an illustration, not a symbol, but it’s a very simple one. I’d guess this is a temple or monument that features largely in their mythology.” He turned around. “I imagine the book explains it all. Reid?”

“That would seem a reasonable hypothesis, and I imagine you’re correct.” Reid answered, already examining the tome. He flipped through the pages rapidly. “But... it’s filled with gibberish. A code of some kind.”

“More likely a fictitious language, the way our unsub works.” JJ pointed out, peering over his shoulder.

“Possibly. There are some patterns that suggest...” Reid paused suddenly in his rapid flipping. JJ blinked at the page and stepped back. “Huh.”

“What? What is it?” The other’s pressed in close to see.

“It... ah... it...” Reid stared at the page before him, not so much as turning to the others. “Well there’s a picture here, but it’s... rather odd.”

“Symbology? Some kind of icon or metaphor you can’t interpret?” Rossi hazarded.

“No," Reid shook his head, eyes still fixed on the page. "That's not it;the picture itself isn’t strange, it’s just a house on some kind of plateau, surrounded by mists. The architecture is odd, possibly Indonesian, though the climate wouldn’t match with that... But the odd thing is... the picture’s moving.”

“It looks almost more like a window.” JJ agreed. “Like we’re actually...” She shook her head. “Gotta be a video panel or a hologram of some kind.”

Reid turned the page over. “Doesn’t look like it.”

“A projector?” Morgan glanced around the cave.

“This is probably their ‘Bible.’” Rossi noted to Hotch. “This whole place is an initiation ground of some kind... people find the signs, come down here, and read the ‘Bible,’ complete with magical illustrations.”

“So that’s what the man meant about ‘helping them to find the path.’ Makes sense.” Hotch nodded. “But all our missing persons came to this initiation. Where are they now?”

Rossi shrugged. “Nothing new about suicidal cults. Or even sacrificial ones. Maybe the whole point of recruiting new acolytes is to provide new people for the unsub to kill.”

The discussion was broken by JJ. “Reid, what are you doing? I told you not to touch any of the artifacts.”

Reid didn’t listen, continuing to tighten the belt around his waist. “I think I figured out the purpose of this equipment belt.” He explained. “There are some hooks of some kind on the back of the book that line up with the loops on the satchel. So the satchel rests on your hip and the book...” He slipped the book neatly in place. “There.”

“These guys need to come up with fantasy bookbags, too?” Morgan glanced to Rossi, who shrugged.

“There must be a reason for it.” Reid insisted, opening the book slung on his hip. Craning his neck, he tried to see the pages he was flipping through. “Maybe the code only makes sense from this angle...”

“Reid, take off the belt.” JJ ordered, tugging at the strap insistently. “I need to clear it with the representatives before we can use it as...”

“JJ, wait!” Reid grabbed her wrist with one hand, as his other pressed the book to his thigh.

By sheer chance, his hand came down on the glowing picture.

There was a strange sound.

“Reid?” Morgan asked, as the two suddenly froze. “Reid, you’re looking...”

“JJ!” Emily cried, pushing forward as the two forms became transparent.

All the rest of the team could do was gape in disbelief as Reid, JJ, and the strange book all vanished into nothingness.

-----------------------------

Reid and JJ felt as though their bodies were melting, transmuting, flowing into the image on the page, the words, the ink, the very paper. It was impossible to tell whether they was shrinking or the book was growing, only that they were being pulled into it—or was it through it? Through, to another...

And suddenly they were again themselves, refreshingly solid on refreshingly solid grass, with a bright sky overhead and a cool wind on their faces.

“Owwowowowwww!” JJ hissed.

“Sorry!” Reid let go of her wrist, suddenly conscious that he was gripping it VERY tightly. “I just... when that happened...” He stopped, looking around. “...when...”

JJ’s eyes traveled around her, slowly realizing that something was very, VERY wrong.

They were no longer in the cave. They were on a grassy plateau, with nothing to be seen for miles but an ocean of rolling mist. A small hut was built against the side of a tall jutting rock on their left, while on their right, four strange pillars were placed in the ground.

For all its strangeness, it was a horribly familiar scene, and it was with a sinking heart that JJ turned to look at Reid, his blank, staring eyes telling her that he had come to the same terrifying conclusion.

“We’re in the book.”

“There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing as strange.” –Daniel Webster

----------------

A/N: Chapter 2 of my Criminal Minds/Uru crossover. This more or less sets up the premise of the story. Not sure if teleportation works if the person is just touching you, but relto books sort of seem to operate off their own premises anyway.

And yes, I know that Linking isn't actually going INTO a book. But for JJ and Reid, that's definitely what their first time would feel like.

Chapter 1 is here viewtopic.php?f=41&t=27089


Last edited by Afalstein on Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:55 am, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:10 am 
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I'm very much enjoying this. Just a few minor nitpicks. You got Yeesha's message somewhat wrong, and the Bahro door goes down not up. But its not a huge deal and its your story so you're free to take a bit of creative license.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:16 am 
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I'm feeling quite selfish right now because I want them to explore all of Uru so I can read chapters and chapters of their explorations. :D

It feels so familiar and I'm enjoying all the delicious details about each (Criminal Minds & Uru) and the way you've brought them together and meshed them so perfectly.

[Reveal] Spoiler: More Censored Words
I warned you; the auto-censor is heavy handed here.
g o d becomes Atrus and j e r k e d becomes mean person/people
Afalstein wrote:
“Right. In THAT case, then maybe someone drafted them as the relics for a new cult of some kind. Say these are the remains of the fish Atrus who fell from the stars or something.”

Reid mean person/people back his hand as if it had been burnt, stumbling away and crashing against the other side of the "fish’s" jawbone.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:44 pm 
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ChloeRhodes wrote:
I'm very much enjoying this. Just a few minor nitpicks. You got Yeesha's message somewhat wrong, and the Bahro door goes down not up. But its not a huge deal and its your story so you're free to take a bit of creative license.


Couldn't really remember Yeesha's speech, but I do feel a little sheepish about missing the door detail. Of course it wouldn't go UP, there's a tree there. Fixing now.

Tai'lahr wrote:
I'm feeling quite selfish right now because I want them to explore all of Uru so I can read chapters and chapters of their explorations. :D

It feels so familiar and I'm enjoying all the delicious details about each (Criminal Minds & Uru) and the way you've brought them together and meshed them so perfectly.

[Reveal] Spoiler: More Censored Words
I warned you; the auto-censor is heavy handed here.
g o d becomes Atrus and j e r k e d becomes mean person/people
Afalstein wrote:
“Right. In THAT case, then maybe someone drafted them as the relics for a new cult of some kind. Say these are the remains of the fish Atrus who fell from the stars or something.”

Reid mean person/people back his hand as if it had been burnt, stumbling away and crashing against the other side of the "fish’s" jawbone.


Wow, those are pretty heavy-handed. Fixed now, thanks for pointing them out.

Oh, and as for the exploration you're dying to see... I can't promise chapters and chapters, but I can promise that Reid and JJ will have QUITE the adventure home.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:29 pm 
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Will the others join them? Does a new Relto book appear by some means? Maybe a Bah'ro puts new ones there.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:33 pm 
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As a fan of Criminal Minds, I feel that you have pretty much nailed the character "voices", and I can easily imagine I'm actually watching this episode rather than reading it. Wonderful work! Looking forward to the next entry! An especially how you're going to resolve the issue of the Relto book, and more. And I'm looking forward to rejoining Mr. Gideon as well.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 6:11 pm 
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Yesha's Speech wrote:
"Sora reKUan treKleft preniv legloen b'rem

Oh, yes. Not in D'ni. They won't understand.

Once again the stream in the Cleft has begun to flow. It was dry for so long. The water is flowing in from the desert. The storm is coming.

Have you heard of the city? The deep city, the ancient uru? Where there was power to write worlds. For thousands of years the city lived, lived beneath the surface. Keeper of the secret; keeper of the power; keeper of the ages. Always keeping. The city grew proud and then it died.

The water flows where it wills. It seeks its own path uncontrolled, except that it flows downward, always downward.

D'ni, the city of ages, of other worlds, died. But now it breathes again. It awaits. Some will seek that destination, but you should seek the Journey. It's as a fine tapestry. Complex beyond comprehension, but now torn. We will show you remnants, pieces of the tapestry. Pieces of the Journey. Find these remnants, these Journeys. Seven. Seven in each age. Seven here in the desert. Consider it a quest; no a request.

Worship.

The water flows downward, and there it pools and collects, and finally, once again, it reaches the roots, and the tree begins to grow again.

I am Yeesha. My parents brought me to this place. We will bring you."

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 10:51 pm 
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Quote:
Reid backed up and took a long look. “Fish.” He decided.

“Fish? Seriously? In the desert?”

“It’s the only thing that fits! The density and structure is consistent with that of a small whale.” He studied it some more. “With tusks.”

Shorah everyone,

I'm not familiar with the show and characters here, but is Reid supposed to know what he's talking about?? I'm assuming he's an expert or at least "smart"... So it's a bit surprising that he leaps from fish to whale in almost the same breath, considering that these two beasties have no relationship to each other, save they both happen to be water-dwelling vertebrates.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
In other words, fish are in the Vertebrate Class "Osteichthyes", are cold-blooded, are gill-breathers and bear their young via eggs; and mammals are in the Vertebrate Class "Mammalia", are warm-blooded, are air-breathers and bear their young live.

Anyhow, I'm enjoying this ride along with everyone else! :) It's a lot of fun to see Uru cross paths with our surface worlds.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 3:57 am 
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Ainia wrote:
[
Shorah everyone,

I'm not familiar with the show and characters here, but is Reid supposed to know what he's talking about?? I'm assuming he's an expert or at least "smart"... So it's a bit surprising that he leaps from fish to whale in almost the same breath, considering that these two beasties have no relationship to each other, save they both happen to be water-dwelling vertebrates.
Anyhow, I'm enjoying this ride along with everyone else! :) It's a lot of fun to see Uru cross paths with our surface worlds.


Yes, Reid is supposed to be the resident genius on the team (eidetic memory, reads at an unholy rate, several doctorates, etc. etc.), and you're right, he should--and does--know the difference between a fish and a whale. My thinking was that he would first identify the bones as belonging to a water-dwelling creature, which he would characterize as a fish, before modifying that premise to a whale. (Although neither totally accurately describes a whark.) That is the sort of nitpicky detail that would drive him crazy, though.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 8:38 am 
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Shorah Afalstein,

Thanks for clarifying! :)

I'm relieved to know that Reid is supposed to be "smart" then. His thinking/logic is confusing (to me) as currently presented, when he transitions from fish to whale. Particularly since this immediately leads to "fish" being used thereafter as the working theory in everyone's minds, it implies that nobody present understands that whales are not fish at all (a rather dismaying display of ignorance for a group of "smart" people).

I would suggest that Reid include something like a self-correction in there, for instance:

Quote:
Reid backed up and took a long look. “Fish.” He decided.

“Fish? Seriously? In the desert?”

“It’s the only thing that fits! No, wait… not a fish, something more like a whale. The density and structure is consistent with that of a small whale.” He studied it some more. “With tusks.”

And then use "whale" rather than "fish" as the group's interpretation of the wahrk skeleton.

Although we don't really know if the wahrk is closer to a fish or a whale in terms of analogous Terran species, both Reid and I tend to perceive the wahrk as more similar to a whale than a fish. And in terms of this scenario at the Cleft, these people are naturally assuming it's a Terran animal of some stripe, so if they are going to speculate about it, it seems to me they should be doing so with a tad more intelligence. ;)

Of course, bear in mind this is my perception, nothing more… :D

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:38 pm 
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Good catch, Ainia and I like your suggested edit for fixing it.

Ainia wrote:
I'm not familiar with the show and characters here
If you or anyone else is interested, I found a wiki page of the Criminal Minds characters.

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