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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:36 am 
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Location: Texas
Mysterious Minds 4--Kadish Tolesa

Exploration is what you do when you don't know what you're doing. --Neil deGrasse Tyson

“Native American representatives have looked over the cleft and the artifacts we found there and determined conclusively that none of them belong to their culture.” Prentiss stated. The team was using a small conference room in the local New Mexico police station to hold their quick meeting. “Doesn’t mean Strauss is going to let up about you destroying that cave, but it does give us a freer range with what we can do.”

“Fine.” Hotch nodded. “How are we coming on destroying that cave?”

“Just heard back from the forensics team.” Morgan was hunched over in his chair, bent over his hands folded on the table before him. “They’ve got a crew going at it, but so far there’s nothing. Cutting through rock is slow work, and according to Agent Dawson, that rock is all natural. No sign of concrete or anything man-made.”

“Keep at it. Something in that cave is wrong, we have to find out what.” Hotch turned to look at the others. “What else do we have?”

“Well, that word you said... ‘Dunny?’” Garcia’s face smirked from the screen of a laptop on the table. “It reminded me of something I’d found when looking up your friend Zandi. Turns out his father, Elias, didn’t give Jeff any money because he left it all to something called the ‘D’ni Restoration Council.’”

“Interesting.”

“Oh, it gets better. Turns out most of your missing persons either belong to or are loosely connected with this D’ni Restoration Council. In fact, that one guy, Richard Watson? He’s the chair of the Council.”

“Disinherited son becomes obsessed with the organization that took his father’s billions away from him, begins to kill off their members one by one.” Rossi nodded. “Makes sense.”

“Except for one TINY detail.” Garcia held up a finger. “All of the members joined AFTER they disappeared.”

Hotch blinked. So did the rest of the team. “What?” managed Morgan.

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

Reid and JJ sat in the hut, considering. Before them on the floor lay the four pillar books, open. As expected, they contained the same gibberish and the same “moving picture” as the one in the cleft. Disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, none of them showed the cleft itself. There was no going back that way, at least not yet.

“So which looks good to you?” Reid finally asked.

JJ frowned. “This one looks too much like a desert to be of much use.” She said, pointing at the far left one. “This one is just a solid room of stone, so I don’t see how that can help. This one looks promising—a house interior. We’d almost definitely find food there.”

“We might find MORE than food there.” Reid argued. “Don’t forget, we’re dealing with a cult of some kind here, possibly of serial killers. That house could be their living quarters.”

“We’re a little past serial killers.” JJ frowned. “But I suppose it would be best to avoid whatever inhabitants this place might have until we know a bit more about them.” She studied the books again. “That just leaves this one, with the stone path and the... pillars, looks like.”

“Right.” Reid sat back and considered, then nodded again. “That’s definitely where I feel we should start.”

“You’re the geographic profiler.” JJ shrugged. “I’m more interested in our chances of food, and I can’t quite see how this place can help us with that. Unless it’s some kind of cold cellar.”

“We’ll take the green book with us. If it turns out there’s nothing there, we can go back and try one of the others.” Reid pointed out.”

“About that.” Reid stood up, picking up the book with him. “We need some way to... figure out exactly what’s going on with these books. How they moved us, where we are, and what the books actually do.”

“If you’re thinking you’re going in there without me...” JJ frowned.

“I’m not ‘going in’ anywhere.” Reid rolled his eyes. “But I’m going to touch the book, and I want you to stand by and observe what happens.”

“What if it vanishes with you and I can’t follow?” asked JJ, still frowning.

“If you’re not after me in five minutes, I’ll go back with this and we can repeat it.” Reid picked up the book and readied his hand. “Here goes...”

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

At first Reid didn’t quite understand what he was seeing. He seemed to be standing on a surface of blue-grey stone, surrounded by massive blue-grey pillars that towered on every side. The whole was lit by a pale sort of moonlight, and the air was still and quiet.

Then a leaf fluttered past his face.

Reid looked up... and up... and up... and up. And FAR, far overhead, he could just make out a dark latticework of leaves that sprouted from the barely-visible tops of the pillars, casting a permanent shade over the land.

There was a sound behind him, and JJ appeared. “That still feels weird.” She panted. Catching his look, she followed his glance upwards. And stared.

“We’re in a forest.” Reid observed.

“A MASSIVE forest,” agreed JJ, a slight tremor to her voice.

Reid glanced at her. “Are you okay? Because I know forests creep you out and quite honestly this is the mother of all forests here...”

“It’s also the strangest of all forests.” JJ looked down and closed her eyes. “I’ll be okay. I just... I’ll just try not to think about it too hard.” Drawing in a breath, she looked at him, smiling wryly. “Besides, not like we have much of a choice, right?”

“No.” Reid answered. “So, the book stayed there?”

“Yeaaaaah. And... what happened was really weird.” JJ frowned.

Reid nodded victoriously. “Hallucinogens.”

“No...” JJ shook her head. “That was the thing. It was all very ordinary, but at the same time... very weird. You touched the picture, and then you sort of froze in space, and then you just... faded away. Like...” JJ gestured desperately. “...Like I could see the back of the hut through your head, and then you weren’t there at all. I swear the book stayed floating in thin air for a second after you vanished, and then it just fell to the ground.”

Reid frowned, eyes darting about rapidly. “That... doesn’t make any kind of sense.”

“You’re telling me.” JJ nodded. “Next time, YOU observe and see if you get anything out of it.”

“If there IS a next time.” Reid looked around the towering trees. “This doesn’t look any more familiar than the island.”

“Still no reception.” JJ checked her phone.

“Better turn it off for now.” Reid suggested. “Doubt we’ll find an outlet anytime soon.”

JJ snorted as she pocketed the phone. “Didn’t bring my charger anyway.”

Reid blinked at the blonde as she strode decisively down one of the paths. “You brought a knapsack with rope, flashlights, water, nutrition bars, and flares, and you didn’t bring your phone charger?”

“Well no.” JJ turned at the curve in the path, giving him an odd look. “Why would I?”

“I...” Reid shut his mouth as he realized the idiocy of the question. “Right, sorry.”

The path was fairly easy to follow... in fact, the path was the only thing one could follow. The trees were so large and so close, they practically formed a wall on either side of the cobblestone path. Even had they not, the lack of roots at their base caused Reid to suspect that actually, the true bases of the trees were below, and the path they were on was actually elevated some distance above the ground.

This theory was rather suddenly proven as they rounded a bend and came on a circular courtyard. Or at least, it would have been a circular courtyard, if large portions of the cobblestones had not fallen away to reveal the yawning chasm beneath. A partially ruined stair rose to a stone gazebo in the center, with a pedestal at one end and a strange device somewhat resembling one of those tourist viewfinders. Through a gap in the trees, a curious circular symbol could be seen, suspended from an arch of stone.

Reid froze at the entrance, eyeing the gaping holes in the floor, but JJ stepped forward curiously to the edge. “Seems steady enough.” She bounced up and down a bit on her heels to test the floor. “Yeah. Surprisingly solid.” JJ picked up a loose pebble and tossed it into the hole, listening for the drop. “Wow. That’s deep.” Glancing up at the trees, she commented, “Bad stonework’s not the problem here. I’ll bet a branch broke loose up above and crashed through the floor.”

“That would make sense.” Reid nodded, making his way toward the broken stair. “Actually, it’s somewhat surprising that MORE branches and leaves haven’t fallen down. By the look of these ruins, the path should be covered in decomposed leaves.”

JJ gave a small huff as she leapt across the narrow chasm to the other side of the stone courtyard. “Maybe these leaves work differently.” She commented, looking up. “You don’t recognize them, do you?”

“No.” Reid narrowed his eyes at a leaf drifting innocently by his head. “None of this makes any sense.”

“More things in heaven and Earth...” JJ’s voice trailed off. “Hey, Spence, there’s one of those cloth hand-mark things on the wall over here!”

“Really?” Reid glanced over and stepped to the edge of the gazebo. “Exactly the same?”

“Looks the same to me.” JJ answered, stepping back so Reid could see the cloth. “Think they’re linked to the ones we found in Mexico?”

“Hard to say.” Reid clambered down the stair and ran around the courtyard (the long way, which involved no jumping over bone-crushing depths) to JJ’s position. “Here, let’s see.”

Reid pressed his hand to the cloth. Again the strange sound, the bizarre sensation, and then the thumb lit up.

“Hmm.” Reid stepped back.

“We had the whole hand lit back in New Mexico, right? So... this is similar but not connected.” JJ frowned at it. “Think we have to find seven of these here, too?”

“It makes sense.” Reid nodded, stepping back away from the wall. “The cleft is an initiation, a training ground. You learn what’s expected so you can do it later here.”

“Great.” JJ sighed, also pressing her hand to the print. She shuddered as the hand lit up. “Wow, you’re right, that does feel wierd.”

They returned to the central gazebo. “This viewfinder seems to be aimed at that circular symbol.” Reid observed, gazing through the eyepiece. “Not just that, but these controls... huh.”

“Spence, there’s a book over here.” JJ noted, studying the opposite pedestal.

“Yes, I noticed. I’d prefer not to jump into any more drug-induced mazes until we’ve solved this one, though. JJ, this is interesting, I can rotate the different sections of the symbol with these controls. It must be some sort of combination lock...”

He turned. She was gone, and the book was open.

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

JJ did not turn as she heard the strange sound. “Hey Reid.”

“You could have warned me. I was supposed to observe, remember?”

“You can observe when we go back. There’s a book in the middle there that shows the courtyard we just left.” JJ gestured over her shoulder. “Spence, what do you make of this?”

They were standing in a gallery of some kind... a largish hall of marble and gilded designs. Four large rose pillars were in the center around a pedestal with the book JJ had mentioned. Along the left and right wall were hung four stained glass windows, and in the front of the gallery were six tiny half-columns, surmounted by rotating blocks, below a very ornate piece of metalwork.

Reid glanced around the gallery, taking in the different stain-glass windows. They were, mostly, abstract pieces. “This is... different.” He frowned, studying a long window with three circular designs arranged in a column. “Why the connection between these two places? Not exactly much in common. Maybe this is a visitor’s center of some kind?” He glanced around at the others: a window with some triangular pictograms, a deep-blue circle with a bizarrely-shaped shard cut out of it, four colored rectangles suspended in space, surrounded by a rotating wheel...

“Reid?” JJ’s voice sounded odd. “Take a look at this.”

Turning, Reid blinked.

On the one hand, it was a very simple object. Reid had seen thousands of such objects, practically as a backdrop in his day-to-day life, and never thought anything more of them. And that was precisely what made it so odd, that such a commonplace and pedestrian object should be found here, among all this bizarre, exotic imagery.

“It’s... a construction barrier.” Reid managed. “They use them for designating construction sites, usually indoor because cones are so much cheaper to use outdoor and those things are pretty small, and in fact even indoor these days they tend to use tape.”

“I KNOW what it is, Reid.” JJ answered tightly.

“Sorry.”

“But what the fiery abyss is it DOING here?”

“Perhaps...” Reid blinked at it. “Perhaps... well, perhaps... probably... that is to say... it was maybe...”

JJ shut her eyes and took a deep breath. “Whatever.” She turned around and strode back toward the book in the center of the room. “Let’s just get out of here.”

Reid turned just in time to see her hand on the book. He watched, dumbfounded, as her form slowly faded away.

“Impossible.” He muttered.

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

He arrived back on the stone platform to see JJ tinkering with the viewing port on the far side of the courtyard. “Hey, check this out.” She called. “This is aimed at that weird window over there, and there’s a set of controls that rotate the different circles.”

Spence looked. Among the towering trees, there was a pair of crumbling pillars. In between them was set a stone circle, with a strange metal design inset. As he watched, the different segments of the metal design shifted and changed.

Something about that design looked familiar.

“Wait.” He called out. “Rotate the outer circle left. Now the middle one right. Now...”

“Spence, I can’t move the inner ones without moving the outer ones.” JJ said, taking her eyes from the viewer to give him an odd look. “What difference does it make?”

Reid pointed. “That circle look familiar to you?

JJ squinted at it, then peered through the viewfinder again before nodding. “It’s the same design as on one of those stained glass windows.”

“That room must have been a key of some kind.” Reid’s eyes flitted about the landscape. “There were three of those circle designs, so there should be three of these. But where do the other windows come into play?”

“Guess we’ll find out.” JJ shrugged. “Come on.”

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

“Recall that a lot of our missing persons weren’t reported missing, or at least, not reported in a timely manner.” Garcia reminded them, as the screen filled with website pages and images. “Yet for nearly all the receipts we’ve managed to gather from the Carlsbad area, about 83% of them are entered into the DRC registry a few months after the date of the receipt. No other record of them doing anything else during that period.”

“Doesn’t make sense.” Prentiss mused.

“Not necessarily. The diner manager did say that some people came out of the desert. These could be the survivors—cult members following ‘the Journey’ instead of going straight to the underworld destination.” Rossi speculated.

“Except the members also include plenty of confirmed disappearances who never resurfaced.” Garcia put in. “It’s not identical to the list of victims we have already, but it’s more similar than is healthy.”

“Clearly the DRC knows more than they’re letting on.” Morgan looked over at his chief. “Could they be the cult we’re looking for here?”

Hotch rubbed his chin. “Garcia, go through their website with a fine-tooth comb, see what you can find. In the meantime, I think we need to pay these researchers a visit.”

“Easier done than said, mighty one.” Garcia’s voice was gleeful. “As it happens, they’ve been hammering at the FBI’s doors since you seized that ranch. Demands for interviews with you have been skyrocketing like there’s no tomorrow.”

“They’re hiding something.” Rossi observed.

“Oh, ya think?” Morgan snorted. Rossi threw him a mild glare.

“Set up the meeting for tomorrow.” Hotch ordered. “As high in their structure as you can make it. We can start cracking the smaller nuts later if we get a good picture for what the larger nuts have in mind.”

“Trust me, not straining my ultra-powerful-luckdragon skills here. The founder and current president, Dr. Watson...”

The sounds of a commotion broke through from outside. The team members turned to see a portly middle-aged man, flanked by lawyers, arguing with the officer at the front desk.

...flew into the city about half-an-hour ago. He’ll probably be there soon.”

“Yeah.” Morgan nodded, staring at the man.

Hotch stood up. “Morgan, get out there and escort Dr. Watson to one of our interview rooms, then let him stew there for a while. In the meantime, Garcia, forward all information you can get on the DRC to this office for Prentiss to look over. David... you know anything about archaeologists?”

“They’re not generally serial killers,” Rossi shrugged, also standing. “...but they’ve got a few psychoses. I’ll give it a shot.”

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

“This must be the second one.” Reid bent to look in the second eyepiece, positioned atop a tall platform of stone surrounded by four pillars, right up against a tall wall of stone. The granite-like trunks towered on every side, blurring the line between stonework and woodwork.

JJ, a step below Reid, looked around. “There’s another of those handprint things.” She touched in and grinned in satisfaction as the symbol lit up. “Four pillars, just like the gallery.” She added, glancing at the ruins towering around the platform. “Definitely supports the idea that they’re linked.”

“Call it a hunch, but I’m guessing that each one of those windows in that place corresponds to puzzle here.” Reid answered, twisting the controls on the eyepiece.

“And here’s us without a camera.” JJ smirked, walking around the platform . “Thank goodness for that eidetic memory of yours, otherwise we’d need a notebook or...” She stopped.

JJ had gone around to where the platform met the back wall. As in many places, the stonework had collapsed, leaving here a small dark alcove. But what caught JJ’s eye was the rough tablet of stone resting in the alcove.

It was small, rectangular, and flat, like a clay tablet that past civilizations would have used to record events of import. But instead of any sort of heiroglyphics, a scrap of rough canvas was attached to the tablet. And on the canvas was painted...

JJ leaned closer. It was the same sort of picture as in the books, closely detailed and almost moving, though the texture of the canvas made it harder to make out. It seemed to be a balcony somewhere overlooking an ancient and curious city street. But there was something odd about the lighting... JJ frowned. There was no sun or moonlight. Indeed, the only light seemed to be coming from the lights in the town.

Where was this? JJ wondered if it the picture would work like the ones in the book. She reached forward...

“JJ!” Reid called her from her study. “I think the third eyepiece is over there! Come on!”

“...right.” JJ answered, casting a last look at the tablet.

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

Dr. Watson looked up as Rossi and Hotch entered the room. He snapped. “I’ve been in here for hours, just waiting to speak to someone!”

The lawyer sitting at Dr. Watson’s elbow stood up and blocked the two agents. “This is intolerable.” He snapped, shoving a card into their hands "Matthew Thornberry, attorney-at-law, legal counsel for the DRC. My client, Dr. Watson has flown over half the country just to get to you, and then we're stonewalled in an interrogation room for three hours. If this is what your police force means by cooperation...”

“Special Agent Aaron Hotchner, FBI.” Hotch stated briefly, sitting down. “This is Special Agent David Rossi. We’re with the Behavioral Analysis Unit.”

“Behavioral... I’m sorry, what?” Dr. Watson blinked.

“We’re somewhat obscure.” Rossi gave a pleasant smile. “We use psychological research methods to build a profile of criminals based on the sort of crimes they commit. There’s not many of us.”

“Generally, we’re called in when there’s a string of serious crimes without much tangible evidence to work from.” Hotch answered, opening a file on the table. He looked straight up at Dr. Watson. “Serial killers, most often.”

"All very fascinating." Thornberry cut in coldly. "But none of this has anything to do with why you are all over our property."

“According to the state office, it’s not your property, the ranch and everything on the land belongs to Jeff Zandi.” Hotch answered. “Who we currently have in custody.”

“You’ve taken Jeff into custo... why? What on earth has he done?” Watson half-stood. “I need to see him!”

“Why? He’s not a part of your little DRC club.” Rossi shrugged.

Watson gave him a cold glare. “Hardly a club. As for Jeff, his father was an old and dear friend of mine. And while his son is somewhat irresponsible, he certainly does not belong in a police station. And his ranch, while perhaps not owned by me directly, is nonetheless of great interest to me personally.”

“Really.” Hotch and Rossi shared a look. “Why don’t you tell us a bit more about that ranch, professor...”

=-----------------

“There!” Reid looked up from the third eyepiece. “See? Line up the windows right, and the pillar rotates to reveal an entrance.”

“Wonder what all the puzzles are for.” JJ stepped through the door. “There’s a hallway back here, leads to some chamber at the end, looks like.”

“The unsub loves puzzles, remember.” Reid said, following her. “Either she or her cult has something to do with this place, probably to... what are you doing?”

JJ looked up at him. “I’m going to see what this button does.”

“What if it sets off some sort of...” But JJ had pressed the button already, and the pillar behind them again began to turn.

“Hah!” JJ crowed triumphantly. “Another of those hand-print things!” Running in, she pressed her hand to it.

“I’d really feel better if you didn’t experiment with every potentially deadly thing we encounter.” Reid had a queasy look on his face.

“It’s worked out pretty well so far.” JJ shrugged, brushing past him. “Let’s take a look at this chamber, shall we?”

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

“Elias was... a good man.” Dr. Watson said, somewhat reluctantly. “A trifle... extreme, perhaps, in some respects, but his heart was in the right place. They called him eccentric but...” A smile passed over his face. “...well, they didn’t know the truth.”

“I’ve followed his work.” Rossi nodded. “An archaeologist of some note interested in Southwestern artifacts. Known for spending fortunes on items no one else would touch.”

“Yes.” Dr. Watson nodded. “We went on a few expeditions together, back before... well.” He smiled. “We were friends.”

“You must have admired him a great deal.” Hotch observed. “So when he asked you to come to New Mexico...”

Dr. Watson gave a sudden chuckle. “I was skeptical, but Elias was an old friend. But what he showed me...!” His voice broke off, and he sat silent for a while, trying and failing several times to speak. “...it... was like finding myself. After years of being lost.” He managed.

“He died in 1996, I heard.” Rossi observed.

“Yes.” Dr. Watson nodded. “Massive heart attack. Terrible thing. The doctors had been warning him for years, but the work was too important. He left his entire fortune to the organization we had built together.”

“Even so, he left the ranch to his son, not you.” Hotch pointed out. “Why was that?”

“No idea.” Dr. Watson frowned. “Truth to tell, I thought he and his son had parted on poor terms... Jeff was in some ways even more extreme than Elias.”

Hotch and Rossi again exchanged glances. “And Yeesha?” Rossi asked.

Dr. Watson’s face froze. “Where did you hear that name?”

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

JJ smirked in triumph as the stones began to sink into the floor. “See? Told you that was how it worked.”

“Fascinating.” Reid breathed, jogging down the steps to join her. “The lights show you where to step. This is like Indiana Jones. But why...?”

“I know. If this was supposed to be a lock of some kind, why have such an obvious set of clues?” JJ huffed as the last flagstone sank down all the way to reveal a door. “This is like... I don’t know. A kid’s park or something.”

“It’s a test,” Reid asserted, stepping down the stairs after her to the door. “I think I figured out what’s going on.”

“Oh?” JJ cast him a look over her shoulder.

Reid nodded triumphantly. “This world is too surreal, too contrived. I think it’s an artificial world, constructed in some kind of giant bubble, for the purpose of deluding new inductees to the cult. That’s why that cone was in that room. The island where we came from is probably one too.”

“What, like The Truman Show?” JJ scoffed. “Seems awfully complex.”

“For a cult?” Reid questioned.

“For people they’re planning to kill, yeah.” JJ answered, as they made their way down the stone tunnel. “Even as an initiation ceremony, building worlds like this would take a serious amount of cash. I doubt they’d waste that much on...” Her voice trailed off.

The stone tunnel had ended amidst more of the massive trees, and now she and Reid stood on an open stone platform, with ruined arches and pillars half-crumbling about them. The trees had finally fallen away to give them a clear, unimpeded view.

And the view was magnificent.

A cloud-choked sky of smoky blue and dusky gray faded to meet a rising purple mist. Impossibly tall trees, thin and elegant, stretched up through the mist to spread their leaves to the sky.

“Wow.” JJ breathed.
-------------------

“There was a message in the cleft at the ranch.” Hotch answered, spreading out pictures of the hologram. “A woman named Yeesha recorded it. And there was a note in one of the caves, too, with her name.” He pulled out the note, now in a plastic bag, and slid it across the table toward the white-faced professor.

“Know anything about that, doctor?” Rossi asked, watching him closely.

Dr. Watson pushed the photos away. “Nobody.” He insisted. “Nothing important. A historical figure, nothing more.... Jeff’s sadly obsessed with her, I fear.”

“We gathered that.” Rossi nodded.

“How obsessed?” Hotch asked grimly. “Obsessed enough to kill?”

“What... that’s ridiculous!” Dr. Watson fully stood this time. “Jeff, kill? The man wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

“Any of these names look familiar, doctor?” Also standing, Hotch picked a whole sheaf of papers out of the folder and shoved them at the doctor.

“What... I don’t...”

“You’re harassing my client.” Thornberry broke in.

“These are people—tourists—who’ve gone to that ranch and haven’t come back out.” Hotch snapped. “Over a hundred names, doctor. What do you think’s killing them, the coyotes?”

“This... this is preposterous!” Dr. Watson threw the papers to the table. “Utterly preposterous! That ranch is a historical site, nothing more! It’s perfectly safe, there’s nothing that could harm anyone to...”

“Then how did two of my best agents disappear in front of me!?” Hotch roared, stepping forward. “What sort of ‘historical site’ has books sitting around that make people vanish into thin air?!!”

“Enough of this!” Thornberry said, shoving himself between Hotch and Watson. “My client and I are leaving. You’re behaving in an intimidating manner, Agent Hotchner, and making unfounded accusations which my office is under no obligation to handle.” He pulled at Dr. Watson’s arm.

Dr. Watson went, but paused at the door. “The book...” he said, half-turning at the door. “...was it small? and green?”

Hotch and Rossi exchanged glances. “Yes.” Rossi nodded, after some thought.

Dr. Watson nodded and turned to the door. But even as he walked out, the two agents heard what he muttered.

“darn it all...”

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

“Still think this is a bubble world?” JJ asked. She and Reid were resting against one of the massive trees, staring off at the purple-smoke twilight. They’d scouted the surroundings—they appeared to be on another thin shelf of rock, the tree trunks still continued down a ways. There was a blue stone pyramid with a gleaming black sphere atop it just off to the side, but neither analyst felt much like exploring it just yet.

“More than ever.” Reid nodded. “This is way too weird to be anywhere real, and this...” he nodded toward the skyline, “looks like a textbook landscape painting.”

“Landscape projection.” JJ amended, watching a flock of bizarrely-colored birds take flight and drift into a passing cloud.

“With some real elements” Reid nodded. “Those trees are probably real. But the sky... that’s just to make us think this place is much larger than it is.” He glanced at JJ.

“Still seems awfully convoluted.” JJ shook her head.

“You have a better idea?”

JJ shrugged. “Not really. But it doesn’t explain the books.”

A furrow appeared in Reid’s forehead.

JJ sighed and shifted position, bringing her a little closer to Reid. “Well, I suppose we’ll have plenty of chances to figure it out. There are three more books, after all.”

“We did find water.” Reid pointed out.

“A very limited supply of water.” JJ looked with faint disgust at the puddle under the stone arch. “And not very hygenic. Promise me you won’t touch your canteen until we’ve had a chance to boil and test the water—if that’s even what it is.”

Reid looked at her in disbelief. “You think they’d come up with a wholly new liquid compound just to screw with us? Doesn’t that seem a bit elaborate?”

“Hey, you’re the one who came up with the bubble-world theory.”

Reid grunted and leaned back. The action brought his shoulder into contact with JJ.

Almost reflexively, Reid pulled back. JJ straightened up and scooted a little ways away.

There was an awkward pause.

“Want to check out the pyramid?”

“Yes!” JJ gave a decided nod, hopping to her feet. “Whatever this place actually is, there’s got to be something important in there.”

“Agreed.” Reid nodded, picking himself up. “All the puzzles seem to point to it and we still have two windows from that gallery to decipher.” He glanced at JJ and blinked. “You’ve... ah... got something stuck to your...”

“Huh?” JJ twisted around to see a piece of paper stuck to her rear. “What? How’d that...?” She picked it off. “Must have been sitting on it.”

“A message of some kind? Or a code?”

“Nothing so easy.” JJ turned the paper around, considering it from various angles. “It’s some kind of picture. A tree, looks like. Very stylized.” She handed it to Reid to study.

Reid looked at it, then the skyline. “Odd.” He mused. “They don’t look anything like the trees here.”

“The artwork is similar to the stuff we found in the cleft, though.” JJ pointed out.

“Diatreme.” Reid corrected. He slid the paper into the book. “We’ll have to take a closer look at it later. Maybe it’s a clue to a later puzzle.”

JJ shook her head as they made their way toward the pyramid. “Something tells me I’m going to be reaaaaallly sick of puzzles by the time we’re done here.”

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

“Get anything?” Prentiss asked as Hotch and Rossi came back into the room.

“Not exactly.” Hotch shook his head.

“Watson wasn’t very forthcoming, but he hinted that the whole thing may have been started by Zandi’s father, and what’s happening now is a more extreme version.” Rossi answered, dropping into a chair. “Possibly fueled by Zandi’s unhealthy obsession with this ‘Yeesha’ figure.”

“And he knows what that book Reid picked up was, and why it made him disappear.” Hotch also sat down. “But he isn’t talking.”

Morgan raised his eyebrows. “Think we should put some pressure on him?”

“He’s got too many lawyers around him for that to work.” Rossi shook his head. “The little pressure we exerted just now only motivated them to spring Zandi.”

“They took him?” Prentiss glanced up in shock.

“Tried.” Hotch shrugged. “Watson’s lawyer, Thornberry, was saying our ‘obstruction of justice’ charge didn’t stick because Zandi wasn’t mentally competent. Zandi didn’t like that, though, and vetoed him.”

“Wouldn’t have worked anyway.” Morgan smirked. “Too many psychologists in the building.”

“It’s only a matter of time before they pull out their own to declare Zandi insane.” Hotch warned. “The clock’s ticking. What do we have?”

Garcia’s image blinked into existence. “Ran the names ‘Yeesha’ and ‘Atrus’ through every database I had and came up with zip.” She reported. “But! Decided to take a chance on the names being so crazy-weird and just plugged them into Google.”

“And?”

“I was deluged with a sea of useless and irrelevant information that would have blown a lesser mind.” Garcia smirked. “Fortunately, I am not a lesser mind, and found the needles of truth in the haystack of mindlessness.”

“Kinda mixing your metaphors there, baby-doll.” Morgan frowned.

“What sort of needles are we talking about?” Hotch asked.

“Very murky ones, particularly with Yeesha. Forum posts, online chatter, isolated references, mostly from the DRC boards or affiliated groups.” Garcia seemed to check another of her screens. “It’s weird, it’s like they all know who she is without ever talking about her.”

“Her message was at the initiation site.”

“But the DRC has nothing to do with the ranch.” Rossi objected.

“If we believe Watson.” Hotch shrugged.

“She seems to be a charismatic figure of some sort. The DRC doesn’t like her, but different members keep going over to her side. But as to why, or what she’s teaching, or where she can be found, there’s nothing.”


“What about Atrus?”

“More needles, less hay.” Garcia adopted a more satisfied expression. “He’s the main subject of a series of journals that feature very largely in the DRC’s ‘archaeological studies.’ Apparently lived over 500 years ago.”

“And this Yeesha claims to be his daughter.”

“Oh that’s not the weird part. The weird part is that they talk about him in the present tense. Like he’s still around.”

“Death cult.” Morgan nodded. “Founder’s dead, but he’s still alive.”

“So... someone... say Elias Zandi, starts a cult based around his obsession with Southwestern artifacts and a series of fake journals he concocted, probably using his archaeological experience.” Prentiss theorized. “He bases it out in the middle of New Mexico where no one will see it.”

“Right.” Morgan nodded. “Maybe it’s a death cult at first, maybe it’s just a ‘spiritual’ one, but whatever it is, eventually this girl claims to be the daughter of their god, jump-starting a more extreme, more proactive section of the cult. Getting Elias’ son on board just gives her more legitimacy.”

“Elias dies broken-hearted, his old friend Richard Watson takes over, trying to shield Jeff Zandi because of the friendship with the father.” Hotch nodded. “It all fits. But it doesn’t get us any closer to finding Yeesha or finding Reid and JJ.”

“Watson knows.”

“He isn’t talking.”

Morgan bit his lip. “Hotch, I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly feeling like waiting for the cultist to give us information.”

“I don’t feel like it either, but I’d rather wait than blow a hundred-plus people’s chance for justice on the off chance that the head of a death cult is afraid of death.” Hotch’s eyes bored into Morgan. “Neither Reid nor JJ would want it. Right now, we have a better chance of finding information by following his movements.” He inclined his head toward the door. “You and Prentiss get a team together and track him.”

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

“So we started off by the trees, and then we went down in the room with the lights.”

“Correct.”

“And then we found the combination, and went a little further down.”

“Also correct.”

“And then we found the secret symbols in the pyramid floor, and we went down even farther.”

“Yep.”

JJ grunted and glared up at the high arching ceiling. “Suppose it was inevitable we’d have to go up at some point.” She grumbled. “Only...” she consulted the compass. “It seems like this shaft would run into one of the other downward shafts, given how much looping around we’ve been doing.”

Reid turned from his study of the counterweight system. “Really? How close are we?”

“Well, I haven’t been measuring the distances exactly, but this shaft easily reaches back up to the floor height of the lights room, and we practically turned back on ourselves to get here.” JJ shrugged. “We can’t be more than a few feet away from it.”

“Really? Interesting. A compact, self-contained structure, indicating a need for control and an almost obsessive level of egotism.” Reid glanced around again. “Most interesting. Though after all the ‘magical’ devices we’ve been manuevering through, I don’t see why they suddenly bother with this very basic counterweight system.”

“Actually a lot of this stuff has been pretty mechanical, if you think about it.” JJ pointed out, pocketing the compass. “The circle windows, the pyramid rotation... even the light room could have been a simple pressure trigger.”

“But not the books.”

“No. Those do rather mess everything up, don’t they?” JJ frowned. “Well, might as well keep at it for now.” She pulled the lever on the far right once more.

Reid winced as the thunderous grinding of chains rumbled in the underground vault. “I don’t see why you’re trying to get up there!” He shouted over the roar. “I told you, the window in the gallery gave a very specific combination that had nothing to do with that opening on the wall! That’s a diversion at best and a trap at worst!”

JJ threw him a smile. “C’mon, Spence!” She shouted back. “Haven’t you ever wanted to explore?”

Reid shook his head.

The counterweights sank, and correspondingly, one mighty flagstone rose up like a column, revealing the metal ladder inscribed in its side and raising itself up neatly to join the other three columns already arranged to form a sort of massive staircase to the aforementioned opening, three-quarters of the way up the wall.

“Here.” JJ tossed Reid her pack and jogged toward the ladder. “Be right back. Sit tight.”

Reid sighed and leaned against the back wall of the shaft, watching JJ mount the ladder on the first column. And then the second column. Then the third. “Sure I like to explore,” he muttered, watching her disappear into the opening, “Not in a death-cult-manufactured-killer-world.”

Minutes passed. Reid got up and took a few steps toward the center, craning his neck to see in the opening. He stepped back. He paced back and forth a little, bouncing up and down on his heels. He started toward the ladder, turned back, rested against the wall. His breath exhaled in a long sigh.

Suddenly, the wall behind him rumbled into life. Reid yelped, jumped away, and half-stumbled over the rough cobblestones as he scrambled to draw his sidearm.

The wall rose up to reveal a giggling JJ. “Spence...” she chuckled, her shoulders shaking. “Spence... it’s just... it’s just me.”

Reid let out a huge sigh of relief and his knees sagged. “Don’t do that again.” He pleaded.

“What, open a door?” JJ was still giggling. “I didn’t even know you were on the other side until you screamed like that.”

“Just... next time I’m going with you.” Reid poked his head in and looked up. “So this passageway leads back up to that opening, huh? Anything useful?”

JJ shrugged. “Another of those hand prints. That makes six, we’re nearly all the way there.”

“Right.” Reid stepped up to the levers. “Then let’s align these properly and the last should reveal itself.”

Levers clicked up and down. Counterweights fell. Columns rose.

“Are you sure about this, Spence?” JJ shouted at him. The columns were forming a rather irregular shape, more like a bar chart than a staircase.

“Positive!” Spence shouted back. “Those symbols in the gallery must’ve denoted some sort of number system! Those numbers were all on a wheel surrounding the fourth window in the gallery, and there were colored... look, just trust me, okay?”

The counterweights touched the floor. The central column stopped rising.

Silence hung over the room.

And then, with an even louder rumble, the ceiling began to unravel.
----------------

“Everything all right, David? Hotch asked, as the door closed behind the other two agents. “You’ve been very quiet.”

Rossi sighed. “That interview with Watson.” He said. “You ever feel like you asked exactly the wrong questions?”

“David, you literally wrote the book on profiling and interrogations, and you’ve got more experience than nearly any other agent still working in the FBI.” Hotch passed a hand over his eyes. “You know what sort of questions to ask better than anyone else.”

“Too much intellect blinds us to the truth.” Rossi mused. “I can’t help but feeling we’re taking entirely the wrong tack with this case. “

Hotch frowned. “How, exactly?”

“We deal in human minds.” Rossi answered. “Thoughts, obsessions, complexes, psychoses. But what we’re dealing with now isn’t about minds. It’s a religion.”

“Religions are about beliefs. Beliefs are about minds. Again, David, you wrote the book on this.” Hotch’s brow was furrowed in intense confusion.

“Maybe I should re-write it.” Rossi stared at the tips of his fingers. “Hotch, at least in part, this is a religion of objects, not of minds. Artifacts, items...” Rossi shrugged. “...from the way that message went on about landmarks, it might even be about landscapes.”

“What are you saying?” Hotch asked.

“I’m saying we don’t know enough about this ‘D’ni’ world of theirs.” Rossi looked up at the other agent. “I’m saying we should be looking at the foundation and not the buttresses. I’m saying, Hotch, that we have no idea what we’re dealing with.”

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

JJ let out a small huff of frustration. “Spence, I get it. It’s impossible for that big, box-shaped vault to be dangling in mid-air from two dozen cables, however thick.”

“Not just impossible, it makes no real sense, unless you were...”

“BUT.” JJ held up a hand to stop him. “The last handprint, and quite possibly our way home, could be in that vault, and we both know the clue was probably in that gallery, and we both ALSO know that I wasn’t snapping pictures the last time we were in there. So.” She gestured to the control board resting outside the vault. “Either you use that giant brain of yours to figure out what this means and how we should open the darn thing, or we should start hiking back to the gallery so we can look it all over again.”

Reid held up his hands. “Okay, you’re right, and I agree, and I’ll get started on it in a minute, but please just tell me you understand the significance of a vault that can’t actually be hanging there.”

JJ shrugged wearily. “I don’t know... new materials? false shells? hallucogenic drugs? magic?"

Reid paused, his hands hovering over the control panel. “False shells I hadn’t considered. That’d be a fun idea—a vault that’s not nearly as heavy as it looks.” He stopped to look at it again. “You know, maybe it is possible after all—“

“Spence.” JJ closed her eyes.

“Right, sorry.” Reid hurriedly began to work the control panel. “It’s just... it is just barely possible for that thing to be hanging there. My engineering degree may not be a doctorate, but I can tell that much. Those cables have to be just barely holding it up, and it makes no sense for it to be suspended in mid-air in the first place—you want to set a vault deep in the ground or something, to keep people from getting at it.”

“In some ways, putting it in thin air makes it pretty tricky to get to also.” JJ observed, brushing hair out of her eyes.

“My point was, the second we step on that thing, those cables are likely to snap and send us plunging into... that.” Reid indicated the gulping chasm just beneath them.

JJ’s face altered. “That does explain the hanging-in-air part. Sink your valuables rather than let someone else have them. But seems like the person would have a false combination do the same thing.” She glanced at Reid with sudden alertness. “You sure you know the combination?”

Reid’s brow was furrowed, he was changing the last couple buttons. “Only one that makes sense...”

The last button clicked down, and a thunderous rumble shook the shaft. Reid and JJ glanced around nervously, half-expecting the ground underneath them to give way.

Instead, the massive door to the vault at the head of the path split down the middle and slid open.

Slowly, Reid and JJ looked at each other. Despite everything, Reid couldn’t quite keep himself from giving a triumphant smirk. JJ shook her head and punched his arm. “C’mon.” She said, shouldering her backpack. “Let’s see what’s in this death trap.”

It took them only a few moments to get to the vault’s door, but even so the short trip taught them two things. One, the vault(and it’s cables) were MUCH bigger than they had appeared at a distance, and two, the interior of the vault looked to be much smaller than its outside.

“False shell.” Reid nodded confidently as they climbed the path to the door. There was a small rise that kept them from seeing the floor of the vault, but the walls looked to be lined with all sorts of things. “Not nearly as heavy as it looks. Perhaps conceals mechanisms or detection devices or...”

Reid stopped at the very crest of the path. “JJ.” He said carefully. “Looks like there’s nothing in here. Maybe we’d better try elsewhere, see if we can find...”

“Oh, come on, let’s at least SEARCH the place properly.” JJ pushed past him, walking straight up to the door.. Glancing around the artifacts lining the walls, she let out a whistle. “Looks pretty full to me. There should be something we could... oh!” She gave a little start back. Turning, she glared at Reid. “A little warning about the skeleton on the floor would have been nice.”

Reid shrugged as he followed her. “I tried to stop you.”

“Reid, I run cases for you guys. A skeleton is refreshingly tame compared to some of the bodies I’ve seen over the years. Just...” She sighed. “...surprised me.”

“Wonder how long it’s been here.” Reid craned his neck to look at the body, careful not to actually step into the vault. “Maybe that’s the trap. Step in and the doors slam shut behind you.”

“He’s got a book right there.” JJ pointed out.

“Which apparently didn’t work.”

Rolling her eyes, JJ dug around in her pack and rooted out a water bottle, which she tossed into the vault. It sailed through the air, rebounded off a Persian-looking vase, thudded against an elaborately woven carpet, and crashed onto a pile of coins.

“Well, that didn’t set anything off.”

“Could be triggered to a specific weight.” Reid warned.

“That body’s been here a while.” JJ shook her head. “Here. Give me that little green book.”

Reid unhooked the book from the leather straps and handed it to her. JJ opened it up and looked again at the odd little mesa. She held it up at chest’s length and poised her fingers over the glowing picture. Then, taking a deep breath, stepped into the vault.

Nothing happened.

JJ laughed. “Wow... you really had me going there for a bit, Spence.” She chuckled, closing the book and glancing around the room. “Here, c’mon, take a look.”

Reid stayed out of the vault. I think... I’ll just stay back here. In case the doors close.”

“Okay. I’m not sure I’d remember it anyway.” JJ turned all the way around, surveying the chamber. “There is a LOT in here, Spence. It’s like one of those Pharaoh’s tombs."

“Those usually had traps.” Reid reminded her.

“And sarcophagi.” JJ knelt next to the body. “Doesn’t seem like he was planning to die here . But then there’s the book...”

“Can you tell how long he’s been dead?”

JJ shrugged. “Hey, none of us are forensic scientists, Spence. Years, probably, this guy is more decomposed than most bodies in Westminster Cathedral.” She wrinkled her nose. “Wonder what color this robe was when he put it on.”

“Pretty sure it’s a fake anyway.” Reid noted from the doorway. “No way a corpse would denigrate that much in an airtight vault like this. You’d need rats or bacteria or something to aid in the process.”

“You’re forgetting.” JJ glanced at him. “We’re not the first to have gone through this world.”

Reid considered that. “Still...”

“Anyway, the body looks plenty real.” JJ stood up. “But you’re right about the decomposition... even if others have been here before, it would take a long time for it to get to this point... certainly longer than the timeframe for the cult suggested.”

“Some one could have exhumed their ancestor and put him in here.” Reid suggested.

“Possibly.” JJ looked around. “Wonder where they got all these artifacts from, then. Unless they’re fabrications of some kind. Hello.” She bent and picked up a piece of paper on the crate next to the body.

“Anything interesting?”

“Mostly some kind of gibberish.” JJ frowned at it. “Fake language, probably. Different from the fake language in the green book, though.”

“Really? What about the book he has?”

JJ knelt again and flipped through the book beside the body. “That looks like the same.” She opened the green book and compared the two. “Yes, same sort of writing. But different than this paper.” She waved it for emphasis. “And there’s some marginalia too... modern English. Somebody’s made some notations on it.” She folded it up and stuck it in the book.

“Anything else in there?”

“Nothing that I can... oh. There’s the last of those hand prints.” JJ jogged over to one of the walls. “Let’s see now...” She pressed her hand to the cloth. It lit up, showing the palm, the thumb, and all four fingers.

Nothing happened.

“Huh.” JJ let her hands fall to her sides. “I really thought that was going to do something.”

“Guess not.” Reid shrugged.

“So... if that doesn’t...” JJ turned around. “Why do this?”

“It does seem odd.” Reid agreed.

“I mean, what’s the point?” JJ raised her hands. “They send us through all these wacky puzzles and strange ruins, they have these handprints all over the place, and then... nothing? Just a vault full of fake treasures and a dead body?

“If we’re looking at it as a training ground,” Reid suggested, “perhaps the cult used it to teach a particular lesson?”

“What? Like ‘the path to riches is hard, tricky, and ultimately ends in death?’” JJ asked.

“’My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.’” A smile curved Reid’s lips.

“’Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.’” JJ finished the quote. “It fits with the ruins. But kind of a heavy-handed way to make a point, isn’t it?”

“It’s a death cult. Subtlety’s not their strong point.” Reid shrugged. “Maybe they intended to glorify death by putting it in this setting? But that’s not really the impression the body gives... a masoleum or something would work better.”

“Whatever.” JJ sighed. She looked at the hand print again, shook her head, and turned away. “I only know that there’s no food or water here, and definitely no way home. There’s nowhere further to go here, and we checked every avenue there was on the way.”

Reid nodded. “And given that the world seems to be designed around this vault, I imagine there’s nothing more here.”

“Then there’s nothing for it.” JJ sighed, stepping out of the vault. “Let’s go home, eat and rest. We’ll try one of the other books tomorrow... Maybe we’ll have better luck there.”

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

Reid knew, the second he felt the firm ground under his feet, that something about the mesa had changed.

It took him a moment or two to work it out. The house was still there. The pillars were still there. The mist still stretched away for miles on every side. The sunless sky still shone done, its light glinting off the leaves of the small trees that dappled the island...

Reid blinked.

Trees?

JJ was studying one of the six or so saplings that was scattered on the island. “Spence, do you recognize these?”

“No...” Reid looked them over. They were short--probably chest high—and thin, but they had to be several years old. The leaves were oddly shaped, and there were small berries ripening on the branch—these were fruit trees, he realized. Fruit trees of a kind he had never seen before, and yet there was something very familiar about them...

Reid’s eyes widened. His hands grasped at the book hanging by his side, he flipped it open, searching quickly through the pages.

There, about halfway through the book, was the paper that they had found in the ruins, the same paper he had so carelessly stuff in the book at the time. Only now, it was a part of the book, the page sealed to the binding as if it had always been there.

And the strangely-drawn picture of a tree, the stylized tree that was inescapably meant to resemble the fruit trees dotting the island, was glowing faintly.

If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused.
-Walter F. Mondale


----------------------------------
A/N: I debated splitting this into two parts, both to give me more time to write and because it was so long. I decided against it, going instead for a sort of unified format. Hopefully, each chapter will be an Age. I can't promise the next one will be next week, though.

Oh, and JJ and Reid will figure out what's going on with the handprints fairly soon. But let's face it--the door in KT is not very easy to find. I wanted to do KT first for various reasons (which should shortly become clear), but I felt it would be a stretch to have Reid and JJ get the whole setup at one go. Oh, and while the relto page in KT technically gives you a bunch of evergreen trees, I needed to get them food somehow, and I felt it was a fairly minor change, from evergreen to fruit.

People asked if the Myst games were going to be in the world, like they are in the canon universe. I decided against it. Fanfics where the fandom is a real part of the world always seem kind of tacky to me, and it would just be too complicated.

Also posted on FF.net https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10181626/1/Mysterious-Mynds (where it's been surprisingly popular!) and OpenUru.com! http://forums.openuru.org/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=901


Last edited by Afalstein on Sun Mar 23, 2014 3:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 12:05 pm 
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This was fun to wake up to. Thank you!!! :D

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 2:40 pm 
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Wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. Yes, it was a bit long, but I like the idea of having each age be one chapter. Thanks again for writing this wonderful story. :D

[Reveal] Spoiler: suggested edits
Afalstein wrote:
“Oh, it gets better. Turns out most of your missing persons either belong to or are loosely connected with this D’ni Research Council. In fact, that one guy, Richard Watson? He’s the chair of the Council.”
Research should be Restoration.

Afalstein wrote:
They were standing in a gallery of some kind... a largish hall of marble and gilded designs. Four large rose pillars were in the center around a pedestal with the book JJ had mentioned. Along the left and right wall were hung four stained glass windows, and in the front of the gallery
This paragraph seems to trail off as if more was intended.

Afalstein wrote:
“That room must have been a key of some kind.” Reid’s eyes flitted about the landscape. “There were three of those circle designs, so there should be another three of these. But where do the other windows come into play?”
Either "another" should be removed or "another three" changed to "two more."

Afalstein wrote:
The sounds of a commotion broke through from outside. The team members turned to see a tall, thin elderly gentleman, flanked by lawyers, arguing with the cop at the front desk.

Hotch stood up. “Morgan, get out there and escort Dr. Watson to one of our interview rooms, then let him stew there for a while.
Unless this takes place in the very distance future and Watson has lost weight, he should be a portly middle-aged man. See A Guide to Characters for a picture of him.

Afalstein wrote:
Dr. Watson looked up as Rossi and Hotch entered the room. “This is intolerable.” He snapped. “I’ve been in here for hours, just waiting to speak to someone!”
This doesn't sound like Watson to me. He's a very calm and patient man. Perhaps you could assign these statements to his lawyers.

Afalstein wrote:
Dr. Watson gave a sudden chuckle. “I was sceptical, but Elias was an old friend. But what he showed me...!” His voice broke off, and he sat silent for a while, trying and failing several times to speak. “...it... was like finding myself. After years of being lost.” He managed.
sceptical should be skeptical.

Afalstein wrote:
“What about Atrus?”

“More needles, less hay.” Garcia adopted a more satisfied expression. He’s the author of a series of journals that feature very largely in the DRC’s ‘archaeological studies.’ Apparently lived over 500 years ago.”
Actually, it was his wife, Catherine who wrote the journals about Atrus and the D'ni.

Afalstein wrote:
“I don’t feel like it either, but I’d rather wait than blow a hundred-plus people’s chance for justice on the off chance that the head of a death cult is afraid of death.” Hotch’s eyes bored into Morgan. “Neither Reid nor JJ would want it. Right now, we have a better chance of finding information by following his movements.” He mean person/people his head toward the door. “You and Prentiss get a team together and track him.”
The heavy-handed auto-censor replaced the word you wrote.

Afalstein wrote:
Slowly, Reid and JJ looked at each other. Despite everything, Reid couldn’t quite keep himself from giving a triumphant smirk. JJ shook her head and punched his arm. “C’mon.” She said, shouldering her backpack. “Let’s see what’s in this mammary gland[s] trap.”
And, again, the censor replaced the word you wrote. Maybe "goof's" would work here?

Afalstein wrote:
“Oh, come on, let’s at least SEARCH the place properly.” JJ pushed past him, walking straight up to the door.. Glancing around the artifacts lining the walls, she let out a whistle. “Looks pretty full to me. There should be something we could... oh!” She gave a little mean person/people back. Turning, she glared at Reid. “A little warning about the skeleton on the floor would have been nice.”
Same word as before replaced by the auto-censor.

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Tai'lahr wrote:
Wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. Yes, it was a bit long, but I like the idea of having each age be one chapter. Thanks again for writing this wonderful story. :D

[Reveal] Spoiler: suggested edits
Afalstein wrote:
[i]

Afalstein wrote:
The sounds of a commotion broke through from outside. The team members turned to see a tall, thin elderly gentleman, flanked by lawyers, arguing with the cop at the front desk.

Hotch stood up. “Morgan, get out there and escort Dr. Watson to one of our interview rooms, then let him stew there for a while.
Unless this takes place in the very distance future and Watson has lost weight, he should be a portly middle-aged man. See A Guide to Characters for a picture of him.

Afalstein wrote:
Dr. Watson looked up as Rossi and Hotch entered the room. “This is intolerable.” He snapped. “I’ve been in here for hours, just waiting to speak to someone!”
This doesn't sound like Watson to me. He's a very calm and patient man. Perhaps you could assign these statements to his lawyers.

Afalstein wrote:
Dr. Watson gave a sudden chuckle. “I was sceptical, but Elias was an old friend. But what he showed me...!” His voice broke off, and he sat silent for a while, trying and failing several times to speak. “...it... was like finding myself. After years of being lost.” He managed.
sceptical should be skeptical.


Gah, auto-censor. Also distressed about about the sections I just forgot to finish. Thanks for pointing them out.

A bit surprised by all the continuity errors, though. I was rather proud of the research I'd done. Out of curiousity, where are you getting all the info about Dr. Watson (apart from the images... thanks for that.) from? My impression of him in the game was that he was impatient and somewhat domineering.


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Afalstein wrote:
A bit surprised by all the continuity errors, though. I was rather proud of the research I'd done. Out of curiousity, where are you getting all the info about Dr. Watson (apart from the images... thanks for that.) from? My impression of him in the game was that he was impatient and somewhat domineering.


Oh no. Just look at any of chat logs from the original Uru Live to see how calm he stays even in tense circumstances. "Impatient and domineering" would be a better description for Douglas Sharper.

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Vector Cramp wrote:
Afalstein wrote:
My impression of him in the game was that he was impatient and somewhat domineering.
Oh no. Just look at any of chat logs from the original Uru Live to see how calm he stays even in tense circumstances. "Impatient and domineering" would be a better description for Douglas Sharper.
Agreed.

Afalstein wrote:
A bit surprised by all the continuity errors, though. I was rather proud of the research I'd done. Out of curiousity, where are you getting all the info about Dr. Watson (apart from the images... thanks for that.) from?
Mostly just from being around for seven years and having a keen interest in the storyline and history. I hesitated to go here, but Watson didn't even formally re-join the DRC when he returned. I'm not really sure who, if anyone is really in charge of the DRC right now. If you read their posts in the Activity In The Cavern? thread, you'll see they seem just like a group of old friends as they discuss what to do. You'll also see that the two other most recent threads on the DRC site are by Watson which might make him appear to be in charge, but he's really just inherited this position by default partly because he was the conduit to getting us back in the cavern and OOC, RAWA is Cyan's D'ni Historian and when we need a final word on something, he's the one to give it.

If you want advice on where to go from here (keep Watson in the story and modify his behavior or insert a different character or even choose a specific time period when the DRC was active), I would suggest you seek advice from people like Ainia. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 7:28 pm 
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No, that much I have thought out. I was aware that Watson left the DRC... in fact, I didn't know he ever came back after the disappearance. But he was the most familiar face of the DRC--nearly all the documents in the cavern mention him--so he was the most useful and recognizable figurehead. Accordingly, I've decided the story actually takes place somewhere in the middle of (or even before) Uru, when Watson is still a member of the DRC and hasn't totally gone over to Yeesha's camp.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 7:40 pm 
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Shorah,

Just a couple more suggestions for continuity/edits. If you need to learn a bit more about the DRC, you can head over to their council forums or read the Heritage Documents. And you will want to ensure your "canon" here adheres to the actual timeline of the past few centuries (e.g. Atrus was born in 1755, so is only about 259 years old… middle-aged by D'ni standards).

Here's the family timeline in both D'ni and western years, so far as I've been able to put it together:

  • D.E. / C.E.
  • 9312 1656 Aitrus born in D'ni
  • 9350 1694 Anna/Ti'ana born in New Mexico
  • 9362 1706 Anna's mother dies in New Mexico
  • 9368 1712 Anna's father dies at the Lodge, Anna arrives in D'ni
  • 9392 1736 Gehn born in D'ni
  • 9400 1745 Fall of D'ni, Aitrus dies on Ederat (age 89 years)
  • 9406 1750 Gehn leaves home, explores the Terran surface (age 14 years)
  • 9411 1755 Atrus born at the Cleft
  • 9432 1776 Achenar born on Myst Island
  • 9434 1778 Sirrus born on Myst Island
  • 9438 1782 Anna/Ti'ana dies on Myst Island (age 88 years)
  • 9471 1815 Yeesha born on Tomahna
  • 9480 1824 Achenar dies on Serenia (age 48 years), Sirrus dies on Serenia (age 46 years)

So far as we know, both Atrus and Yeesha are still alive and well (neither would be considered elderly by D'ni standards). Hope this helps! :)

Regarding Dr. Watson specifically, he is the "heir apparent" to Elias Zandi's efforts of restoring the cavern and reviving the D'ni culture (quite literally, Elias gave Dr. Watson his remaining millions in his will and left Jeff the land parcel at the Cleft/caldera). So if anyone would be considered "in charge" of the DRC, it would be Dr. Watson. Due to funding problems, they are all but disbanded, though so far as we know, the organization still exists on paper… which would mean that in an abstract sense, Dr. Watson is still the DRC lead.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 7:46 pm 
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Ainia wrote:
So far as we know, both Atrus and Yeesha are still alive and well (neither would be considered elderly by D'ni standards).

Actually, Atrus is definitely getting on somewhat. Iirc, 3 centuries is a long lifespan for a D'ni, and Atrus is getting on for his 259th birthday.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:03 pm 
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Shorah Kath!! :)

I guess it all depends on the assumptions we are forced to make about the D'ni since we have so little demographic information about them. I posted a bit about this here, and have been assuming that a normal D'ni lifespan is anywhere from 280-380 Terran years. Since we don't know much about how gracefully the D'ni aged (and whether their aging process accelerated in any way during their later years), all we can do is make a best guess for now.

So I have been equating Atrus reaching the age of 280 to being the rough equivalent of a human reaching the age of about 80. And, naturally, our own views as Terrans will influence which age range we happen to consider "elderly" for humans! For myself, I tend to see age 80 as "elderly" for Terrans since humans of lesser ages commonly are still active and productive.

Another way to look at it for Atrus and his age: he's currently about 2/3 through a long D'ni life span; or he's getting close to the end for a short D'ni life span. Keep in mind that "life span" in my old post takes into account accident, disease, etc. (i.e., events that would foreshorten an otherwise healthy D'ni life). So I think leaving such events aside, it's reasonable to expect a D'ni to reach the age of 300 if he's healthy.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:19 pm 
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And it looks like the D’ni longevity trait skipped Gehn’s generation. If only we had a bigger population sample...

EDIT:
Afalstein wrote:
Accordingly, I've decided the story actually takes place somewhere in the middle of (or even before) Uru, when Watson is still a member of the DRC and hasn't totally gone over to Yeesha's camp.

Surely before Wheely Engberg’s death, then, or he wouldn’t call the Cavern “perfectly safe”.

Also, if Reid and JJ touch the Nexus Book before they get a KI, one of them is going to have quite a nasty surprise :shock:

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:30 pm 
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Watson may be exaggerating for the FBI's sake. Also recall he's talking about the Ranch and not the Cavern itself. There's been at least one death at this point. ("Fighting Branch" died in the cavern years before Elias passed).

By the way, part of the premise of this story is that the DRC wants to keep D'ni secret. That's accurate, I assume? I'm pretty sure the DRC never told the government about the Cavern (though really, who's jurisdiction can an underground city even be under?), otherwise there would have been government agents swarming the place.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:38 pm 
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Afalstein wrote:
Watson may be exaggerating for the FBI's sake. Also recall he's talking about the Ranch and not the Cavern itself. There's been at least one death at this point. ("Fighting Branch" died in the cavern years before Elias passed).

By the way, part of the premise of this story is that the DRC wants to keep D'ni secret. That's accurate, I assume? I'm pretty sure the DRC never told the government about the Cavern (though really, who's jurisdiction can an underground city even be under?), otherwise there would have been government agents swarming the place.


Ranch? Do you mean the area around the volcano?

As I recall, there were a few newspaper articles about the cavern, so it wasn't a huge secret.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 4:55 pm 
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Vector Cramp wrote:
Afalstein wrote:
By the way, part of the premise of this story is that the DRC wants to keep D'ni secret. That's accurate, I assume?
As I recall, there were a few newspaper articles about the cavern, so it wasn't a huge secret.
Not a huge secret, no. They had a website at http://drcsite.org/ (which, unfortunately, now redirects to the DRC forum). IIRC, the newspaper articles were posted on the site (maybe you can find someone who has archived them somewhere).

But, they were archeologists in it for the science and research; no matter how interesting and unusual the D'ni were to them, they probably didn't expect to attract much attention. Certainly, they never expected ordinary people to "feel called" to come all the way out to the middle of nowhere to enter the cavern.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:53 pm 
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Afalstein wrote:
Watson may be exaggerating for the FBI's sake. Also recall he's talking about the Ranch and not the Cavern itself. There's been at least one death at this point. ("Fighting Branch" died in the cavern years before Elias passed).

By the way, part of the premise of this story is that the DRC wants to keep D'ni secret. That's accurate, I assume? I'm pretty sure the DRC never told the government about the Cavern (though really, who's jurisdiction can an underground city even be under?), otherwise there would have been government agents swarming the place.


If this story takes place before Watson joined Yeesha's side then the Phil is also presumed dead from the structural collapse in the Guild Hall. That's the reason why Watson left the DRC in the first place. That event took place during the first restoration (Ubisoft's beta).

If you want to nail down a time frame that is consistent with both Uru and Criminal Minds time frames than I'd suggest having it in modern day and having Watson try and keep Yeesha out of it to protect the surface world from knowledge of the Bahro Civil war.

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