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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:32 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:43 am
Posts: 39
Location: Texas
Mysterious Mynds 5—Eder Gira
--------------------------
"Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing." --Warren Buffett
---------------------------------
“I can’t believe you just popped those berries in your mouth without even knowing what they were.” JJ scolded.

Reid, now on his hands and knees, studying the base of one of the fruit trees, shrugged. “It’s not like you have some kind of toxicology set in that bag of yours. You know we were going to have to eat them sooner or later.”

“Later would have been better.” JJ insisted, picking berries off the trees. “As in, later when we were sure we weren’t finding any other, more recognizable food OR finding some sort of way home.”

“You took my temperature and blood pressure. You know there’s no sign of adverse symptoms.” Reid protested, frowning at the tree’s roots. “Besides, it would be inconsistent for the cult to poison the trees. They’re meant as a reward for getting through the first maze. You should probably wait a few more days, though.” He added, almost as an afterthought. “The effects might take a little bit longer to show.”

“Twenty-four hours.” JJ compromised. “I’m not going to starve myself on nutrition bars much longer. Learn anything from those roots?”

Reid stood up, brushing dirt off his jeans. “Just another thing that makes no sense.” He grumbled. “The grass is grown up all around the tree. No sign of digging or planting... it’s like it’s been here for over a year.”

“And yet it wasn’t here yesterday.” JJ shook her head, dropping the berries into one of the emptied water bottles. “So... what? We went to a completely different island, with trees on it?”

“Only explanation that makes sense.” Reid answered

“Apart from the fact that my suit jacket is still hanging up in that wardrobe and there’s wear marks on the pillar where we tied the rope.” JJ folded her arms. “Though I suppose that’s easy enough to fake. But seriously Spence, doesn’t this seem awfully elaborate, even for a cult?”

Reid frowned as he looked about the island. “It does seem like there should be a more... straightforward way to go about this.”

“Really, so far as impressing possible initiates goes, most of this ‘magic’ has been remarkably non-flashy.” JJ observed, also looking at the grass creeping around the roots. “Seems like it wouldn’t leave as much of an impression.”

“I agree.” Reid nodded, a forlorn look across his face. “This makes less sense by the minute.”

JJ sighed and brushed her hair back from her face. “All right, well, for the time being, let’s worry less about it making sense and worry more about finding ourselves a way home.”

“Or a source of fresh water. Those puddles won’t last forever.”

JJ frowned. “Let’s be optimistic Spence. Let’s pretend we might get out of here before the puddle runs out.”

“Right.” Reid looked like he wanted to say something more, but whatever it was, he kept it to himself.

“So what book do we try next, Mr. Geographic Profiler?” JJ asked, turning to Reid with a light smile.

Reid considered for a few moments. “The desert one.” He decided. “It has to be the desert one.”

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

“What is it with cults and deserts, anyway?” Prentiss grumbled, staring out the window of the SUV.

Morgan, sitting on the other side, shrugged. “Isolation, desolation, heat? I’m not actually sure there’s a correlation there, Emily. Cults pop up all the time in cities, and beyond Branch Davidians and Mormons, I’m struggling to come up with any real desert cults.”

“Mormons aren’t a cult.” Prentiss objected, shading her eyes. “They’re too big.”

“Because that’s what makes the difference.” Morgan frowned at her.

It was Prentiss’ turn to shrug. “Might as well.” She argued. “I’m just saying—why would you want to come out to the desert? There’s nothing here!” She paused for a moment. “Why would Gideon come out this way?”

Morgan looked over at her thoughtfully. Gideon’s unexpected departure had surprised the whole team—Reid in particular—and in some ways had felt like a betrayal. Morgan knew, intellectually, that that’s not what it had been, but having the old memory drudged up so unexpectedly had made him realize that he too harbored doubts and questions about Gideon’s sudden resignation.

Sighing, he laid the folder aside. “Emily,” he started, looking at her. “You read his letter. Gideon left because there’s only so long you can gaze into the void. He got tired of studying and obsessing over the darkest and bloodiest minds in the nation.” Morgan shrugged. “He had one too many cases go bad, and he wanted to go to a world where he could believe in happy endings again.”

“I get why he left, Derek.” Prentiss looked back at him. “Goodness knows we’ve all been close to that point at one time or another. I just don’t see why he came to the desert and got tangled up in a cult.”

“Heh.” Morgan smirked. “Would you be able to stay on vacation if bodies started turning up?”

“I might.” Prentiss insisted. “If the stakes were high enough. But I wouldn’t come out to the desert in the first place.”

“Because you still like people.” Morgan pointed out.

“You’re saying Gideon didn’t?” Prentiss looked at him.

Morgan gave it some thought. “I’m saying... I think Gideon got tired of always knowing what people were thinking. I’m saying Gideon wanted to take a break from humanity, and headed out to the most deserted portion of Americana to find some sort of solitude.”

“And instead of that, he stumbled across a crazy death cult.” Prentiss shook her head, turning again to look out the window.

“Crazy thing, Life.” Morgan observed.

“That it is.” Prentiss sighed. Glancing away from the window, she frowned at the sheaf of papers in his lap. “What’re you doing, anyway?”

“Filing paperwork.” Morgan answered. “With everything that’s been going on, we haven’t really had a chance to file reports or anything. I told Hotch I’d do it while we were on stakeout duty.”

Prentiss frowned at him. “Really?”

Morgan nodded, still looking at the papers. “Doubles as a way for me to look over all the information we have on the ranch.” He said, flipping through a thick wad of papers. “Looks like they took that holoprojector apart.”

“Anything useful?”

“Not to our study.” Morgan frowned, placing the paper aside. “Now this is more interesting,” he noted, picking up another file. “A transcript of the Yeesha speech. I pick it up whenever the reports start to blur together. Keeps the mind fresh and engaged.”

“Should just learn to concentrate, Derek.” Prentiss shook her head, looking out the window.

“It’s a proven study technique.” Morgan threw her a wounded look.

“Whatever. So what did you learn?”

“Apart from the messianic delusions and fondness for metaphor you noted? There’s a strong...” Morgan’s voice broke off. “What is he doing here?”

Special Agent David Rossi was stepping out of a gleaming black sedan in front of the hotel.

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

“This is a surprisingly lush desert.” JJ noted, gazing up at the thick vines and cacti-like plants clustered on the red rock.

“There’s a waterfall over in that direction.” Reid pointed out, peering from the crest of the ridge. “It probably provides most of the moisture these plants feed off of, probably through air humidity.”

“Or through these steam vents that are everywhere.” JJ frowned at the plume of gas bursting out of a nearby hole.

Reid cast her a doubtful look. “Those vents leave no moisture behind. I’m inclined to think they’re compressed air, rather than steam.”

“Spence, I’m no geologist, but even I get that water...” nodding toward the distant waterfall, “...plus lava...” gesturing at the foot of the cliff, where a red-hot mass bubbled and frothed, “...equals steam. And you don’t get compressed air without some kind of pump.”

“You’re assuming this is a natural world.” Reid admonished her.

“What makes you so sure it isn’t?” JJ challenged him.

“The lava, for one. It should not be in a deep ditch like that. Lava cools as it reaches the air, eventually the flow hardens and becomes rock, and then more lava flows on top of that. It builds itself up, that’s why you get volcanoes, volcanic islands, and diatremes.” Reid frowned at the geological impossibility in irritation. “This flow should have topped over the ditch years ago and overflowed onto the path. Instead, it seems to have eroded the stone, a process more consistent with water than with lava.”

“Between weird fruit trees and teleporting books, I’m willing to overlook it.” JJ shrugged. She glanced toward the ‘steam vents’ again. “In any case, I’m not testing that ‘compressed air’ theory of yours by going anywhere near those holes.”

“I wasn’t... I didn’t...” Reid started.

“C’mon.” JJ turned away and started down the path. “Natural or not, that water’s clear and fresh. I’m pretty sure we found what we were looking for.”

As Reid turned after her, something caught his eye. “You see that handprint cloth up there?” He asked, pointing at a small object halfway up a standing rock.

“I see it.” JJ continued walking. “Let’s go.”

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

“I’m calling Matthew.” Dr. Watson pulled a phone from his pocket. “I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want me talking to you without him here.”

“Probably not.” Rossi nodded. “Honestly, though, I’m not here to talk about the case. Something more personal... off the record.”

Dr. Watson raised his eyebrows as he put the phone to his ear. “Nothing is ever ‘off the record’ with you people. I’m calling him.”

“As you please,” shrugged Rossi. He glanced around the room as Watson spoke quickly into the phone. Several coats were hanging in the closet, along with several dress shirts. On a unfoldable ironing board, there was a clothes iron warming up, and the remains of a half-eaten lunch were position on a small gurney near the door. There was a laptop charging on the desk, next to the charger for another.

But what drew Rossi’s attention was a thick, elegantly bound book sitting dead center in a specially cleared portion of the dresser.

Rossi stepped toward the dresser. He casually lifted the edge...

“Don’t touch that.” Watson’s voice snapped with uncharacteristic sharpness. “It’s an old and... er... rare volume.”

“I apologize.” Rossi let the pages fall and held up his hands placatingly. “I didn’t realize. It’s beautifully bound... calf-skin leather?”

“Of a sort.” Watson waved him to a nearby chair. “Matthew will be joining us shortly. He’s checking through the local psychiatrics, trying to find a suitable third party to examine Jeff.”

Nodding in vague disinterest, Rossi sat down. “Of course. But as I said, I’m not here to discuss the case. Now, I imagine you don’t believe me.”

Watson shrugged as he sat down. “Let us say I am skeptical.”

“Fair enough. I certainly would be. But as it happens, it’s a subject I imagine you’re eager to talk about anyway.” Rossi leaned back in the chair. “The other day, you started talking about Elias’ life’s work, this ‘Dunny’ culture.”

“D’ni.” Watson corrected.

Rossi nodded. “Now, it wasn’t the time to indulge in personal hobbies, so I let it go. I was more focused on Jeff and Yeesha.”

“Jeff is...” Watson started...

...but Rossi raised his hand. “Like I said, I’m not here to talk about that.” He insisted. “The fact is, though, I’ve always found ancient cultures fascinating, and I’d never heard of your D’ni before. So.” Rossi spread his hands wide. “This visit is more me indulging a... private interest.”

“And to indulge this personal hobby, your supervisor allowed you to drop work on an active investigation into...” Watson’s brows knitted. “What is the FBI investigating here, exactly?”

Frowning, Rossi leaned forward. “It’s not that I mind repeating myself, it just gets old. I’m not here to talk about that. As for my supervisor...” he shrugged, “...given that Yeesha’s delusions are apparently bound up in this D’ni culture of yours, my supervisor thought it prudent that we hear the story from your side.”

Watson said nothing, blinking at the BAU profiler behind his thick eyeglasses.

“So, Dr. Watson... who—or what—is the D’ni?”

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

“Wonder what these wooden platforms all over the place are supposed to be.” Reid mused, glancing down. “They’re always right next to the compressed air vents...”

“Steam vents.”

“...so they must be related somehow.”

“I’m sure we’ll find out if we need to.” JJ, high atop a pile of rocks, called back down. “Hey, check it out. There’s all sorts of tubes and stone pillars and things on this side.”

“What, like the pressure mechanism for the compressed air vents?”

“Doubt it. They look more decorative than functional, they’re all bent over in arches.” Glancing down, JJ offered him a hand. “C’mon, take a look.”

Reid looked dubious, but took her hand regardless. Some puffing, blowing, and clambering later, he also sat on the rocks beside her. “Hm.” He squinted. “Fascinating. It’s like they’re lining an... avenue of some kind.”

“I was thinking it was like some strange sort of rock garden.” JJ tilted her head to look at the avenue. “Like those Japanese places. Except with natural rock formations instead of boulders and pebbles.”

“Then it’s not a rock garden.” Reid eyed her in puzzlement. “The term ‘garden’ implies artifical agency and maintenance—which I agree with, by the way—but making an artificial garden out of natural rock is by definition impossible.”

“You could.” JJ argued. “Redirect water streams, dig ditches to make sure it flowed in the direction you wanted it to.”

“Over several hundred years, yes.”

JJ sighed and slid off the rock. “I’m just saying.” She insisted, watching as Reid slid down. “These rocks aren’t plaster or concrete, and I don’t see any sign of jackhammers.”

“No... that’s true.” Reid admitted, dusting himself off.. “I suppose you could use jackhammers to do the majority of the erosion and then redirect the streams later.”

“It would work. But how would they get the rocks in here in the first place?” JJ looked at the cliffs towering on either side. “I mean, this isn’t brickwork either. You couldn’t cut up a mountain and put it back together.” She stepped up to the rock wall on the left side and ran her fingers over it. “Not this neatly. There’s not even a sign of any crack.”

“I understand that, but I’m telling you, there’s no way this place is natural.”

“And I understand that.” JJ gave him a look. “But I’m telling you, there’s no way this place is artificial.”

Reid groaned. “That is by definition impossible.” He pointed out.

JJ smiled. “I know.” Turning from the wall, she strode past him. “C’mon. That waterfall has to be just around the bend.”

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

“The D’ni Empire achieved its height around 1000—500 BC.” Watson’s voice was easy, like a lecturer, as he showed Rossi a series of pictures on his laptop. “Technically the empire itself never occupied more than the capital, but they had a vast and far-reaching trade network that spread their influence over a much wider region.”

Rossi studied the amulet in the picture. “I see Moroccan influences, and possibly also a touch of Meso-American culture.”

“Ah. Well, it would be more apt to say the D’ni influenced them.” Watson’s laugh was just a touch patronizing. “The D’ni as a culture far predate the development of any recorded art in the Middle East or the Americas. The famous Morroccan gardens, for instance, probably come from the D'ni's own eder's--vast cultivated gardens.”

Rossi’s brow knitted. “I see.” He answered carefully. “What can you tell me of their religious practices?”

Watson shrugged as he leaned back. “A lot of generalities but very few details, I’m afraid.” He answered. “There were various religious groups and sects, but they were largely monotheists... followers of a deity known as ‘Yahvo.’ Information on him is tantalizingly scarce, however. There’s a bit more information on a prophesied “Grower” who became popular in the days of D’ni’s decline... people said he would restore D’ni to his former glory.”

Rossi simply nodded. “And how would he do that?”

“The prophecy is conveniently vague on that point.” Watson shared an understanding smile with Rossi. “There are mentions of a Kadish, a guildmaster, who purported to be the Grower, but his methods involved clever engineering, parlor tricks, and a co-opted nutrient feed. And he was exposed.” Watson shrugged. “Messianic figures were fairly common in the D’ni culture, one of their oldest legends was that of the ‘Great King’ who would save D’ni.”

“King?” Rossi raised his eyebrows.

“Ah yes, I should have mentioned.” Watson shook his head. “The D’ni were ruled by a monarchy, but not very strictly. Most power rested in the Guilds... Maintainers, Architects, Surveyors, Miners, Writers...”

“Writers?” Rossi was certain he saw Watson wince. “That seems odd. Was writing important to their culture? Or was it more religious.”

Watson’s laugh was a trifle forced. “Not religious no, no.” Rossi’s quick eyes caught an involuntary glance toward the book on the dresser. “It’s curious, we’re not sure ourselves why writers were so well-respected. Possibly a cultural obsession, they left behind a great many records and journals.”

“Such as Atrus.”

Watson blinked. “You’ve looked into this, I see.” Recovering, he clicked around on his laptop. “Atrus is the most prolific—and most recent—writer that we have records of.” He said, bringing up an image of a manuscript. “The journals we’ve recovered are from 500-300 years ago, shortly after the fall of the D’ni civilization.”

“You’re saying the civilization fell that recently?” Rossi frowned. “Shouldn’t there be more records, if that were the case?”

Smiling, Watson nodded understandingly. “I understand your skepticism. The lack of records is a direct result of the civilization being largely based underground.”

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

It was an underground city, JJ realized.

She was staring at another of the strange cloth-tapestry-affixed-to-clay-tablet objects. Reid was off somewhere behind her, filling their water bottles from the clear, glistening waterfall and pool they had discovered. There were even fish in it—and fishing traps—in the water. Neither JJ nor Reid felt like trying to catch fish just yet—particularly as they’d yet to get a good look at the animals—but it was nice to have the option. And the water, of course.

JJ was supposed to be filling the water bottles she had, but she’d caught sight of a tablet propped up on a rock beside the lake, and once again found herself fascinated.

It was once again a curiously photorealistic image, once again of an odd-looking city of stone, and once again there was the odd artificial luminesce lighting up the whole. JJ had been puzzling over the lack of sunlight or moonlight when the obvious solution occurred to her.

The city must be in a huge cave of some kind, lit only by such lights as the inhabitants could devise (and perhaps phosphorescent algae). That was why all the buildings were stone, and why there was no sunlight or moonlight available.

“What’s that?” Reid was behind her with the water bottles.

JJ picked up the tablet and handed it to him. “Not sure.” She said. “Looks kind of like one of those books, except it’s clearly not.”

Reid squinted at the image. “Some sort of stone city?”

“Underground, I think. See how dark everything is?”

Reid’s eyes grew vacant. “’...the city lived beneath the surface...’”

JJ blinked. “Huh?”

Shaking his head, Reid handed the tablet back to her. “That’s what the message back in New Mexico said, remember? From that Yeesha woman. ‘For thousands of years the city lived, lived beneath the surface.’”

“’...The deep city, the ancient Uru.’ Of course.” JJ nodded in realization. “Rossi noted how the connection with ancient lost cultures was typical. It was the centerpiece of their cult.” Looking at the cloth, something else occurred to her. “Wait. She said something about tapestries, didn’t she?”

Puzzled, Reid nodded. “Yeah... ‘Some will seek that destination, but you should seek the journey. It’s as a fine tapestry. Complex beyond comprehension, but now torn...’” His voice trailed off in realization.

“There are hers.” JJ held up the tablet, indicating the fabric tacked to it. “And probably the hand-print cloths too.”

“That’s so obvious.” Reid’s eyes darted back and forth. “She even called the hand-prints ‘Journeys’ in the desert. I should have seen the connection sooner.”

JJ shrugged. “There’s a lot been going on... but whatever the reason, I’m betting these ‘Journey’ cloth-things are key to whatever initiation ritual the cult has going on. There was another of these tablets in that last place.”

“I’ve been wondering about that.” Reid glanced all around the rocks. “Compared to the last world, this one is surprisingly simple. No complex puzzles, no tricks or combinations to memorize... just rocks and water.”

“Well, we haven’t been trying to get to the hand-prints.” JJ allowed. “And there might have been something going on with all those wooden trap-door things. But apart from that, this world might be designed to teach a different ‘lesson’ than the other one.”

Reid looked conflicted. “Possibly... but it’s difficult to think what. Ordinarily, deserts signify independence, meditation, a sense of hardiness and isolation, which makes sense, given that we’re in a rock canyon. But this...” Reid indicated the pool. “A lake and waterfall practically conveys the exact opposite. Opulence, luxury, life, sustainability... it’s an exercise in contrasts.”

“Of course it is.” JJ shrugged. “On the one side of that pile of boulders, you have lava and those steam vent things, over here we have water, fish, and light. This whole place is a study in contrasts.”

Reid started to say something, stopped, looked at her, started again, and then shook his head. “Why aren’t you the geographic profiler?” He asked.

“Don’t know that that takes much profiling.” JJ shrugged. “I couldn’t say what that reflects mentally. But even in terms of the air, I’ve noticed this air is a lot more mild and cooler than we had on the other side of the boulders.”

Turning around, Reid studied what he could see of the lofty cliff they’d arrived on. “Interesting. So it’s a desert of extremes, not of isolation. But why?”

“Unlikely we’ll find out until we get to the end.” JJ pointed out, standing to her feet. “That’s how it worked with the last one. We’ve got the water we want, but as long as we’re here, we might as well check to see what we can figure out about how this cult thinks. Might be the best chance we have of getting home.”

Reid nodded. “There’s a tunnel at the back of those caves behind the waterfall...”

“How original,” JJ rolled her eyes. “...caves behind a waterfall.”

“It looks like it runs up there.” Reid pointed to the height of the falls, where a path could be seen winding its way.

“Let’s check it out.” JJ waved the tablet in her hand. “Should we hang on to this, you think? Try to bring all the tablets together and form the ‘tapestry?’”

“No... the tablet shows the city, the ‘destination.’” Reid frowned. “The message said to seek the Journey—that would be those hand-cloths.”

“So we should have been gathering those hand-print things, not touching them.” JJ tossed the tablet back onto the rock. “All right. Let’s see if there are any in this tunnel of yours.”

“Might not see them even if there are.” Reid warned. “It’s dark there, we’ll be feeling our way along...”

JJ pulled the flashlight out of her bag. “Honestly, Spence, have you EVER gone camping?”

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

“So what were you saying about Yeesha?” Prentiss turned back to Morgan. “As long as we’re stuck camping out here while Rossi does whatever-he’s-doing in there, mind telling me if you found anything useful in what she’s saying?”

“Well, there’s the obvious.” Morgan gestured at the paper. “Picturesque imagination, charisma, confidence, disembodied focus, unconventional thinking...”

“The tattoos and the message itself.” Prentiss nodded. “What else?”

“A sense of self-dissociation.” Morgan stated firmly. “Her language was continually focused outward, she barely mentioned herself until the end. Anything that might be understood to refer to her—the water, for instance—was rendered in metaphor. The girl has a strong sense of self, but not of body... she’s thinks she’s above the ‘material’ realm.”

“Makes sense. Is that our working theory, by the way? That ‘the water’ that’s collecting and pooling and what-not is actually her?”

Morgan shrugged. “One theory. There’s also the theory that it reflects the cult members—being called from different corners of the world. I toyed with the interpretation that the water is life, going where it wills, etc., but I couldn’t get that to work.” He dropped the brief and sighed. “Just another mystery that we’re going to have to set aside for now.”

“Tell me about it. I’m getting sick of having to defer all these questions.” Prentiss folded her arms and glared out the window. “When we found that recording, I figured between the name and the face that we’d have everything answered in a few days. Now here we are, and all we have is more questions. Usually by this point we have at least SOME concrete answers.”

“I know. It bugs me too.” Morgan agreed. “Guess Reid lucked out in a way... he’d go crazy trying to figure all this stuff out.”

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

“How is that possible!?” Reid stared at the hand print in barely controlled fury.

JJ, her own expression markedly annoyed, surveyed the cloth from all sides. “It’s cloth.” She observed. “No signs of nails or staples. Attached to stone wall presumably by glue...”

“darn strong glue.”

JJ forcibly ignored him. “...or else attached to a hidden palm-reading device embedded in the rock.” She scooted to the other side of the hand-cloth. “So how can we scrape the rock away on all sides of it and yet not come up with a way to pull the darn thing off?”

“Smooth rock, lightly damp between the dark of the cave all the moisture from the waterfall.” Reid echoed, feeling the cave wall.

“That thing should be peeling away like a band-aid in a shower.” JJ crossed her arms, oblivious to Reid’s shudder. “Instead...” she felt at the edge, “...it’s so tight up against the wall we can’t even slide a knife between the two.”

Reid felt at his temples and groaned. “Would it kill something in this place to MAKE SENSE for once?”

“Happy thoughts, Reid. Think happy thoughts.” JJ insisted, rubbing her own eyes. “There’s no way they’d expect us to gather these things together if they’re this hard to separate from the wall, so at least we can be sure these aren’t part of the ‘tapestry’ we’re supposed to assemble.”

“So... the tablets, then.”

JJ shrugged. “Worth a shot.” She said, moving toward the exit. “Let’s head back down to the pool.”

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

“We’re going over the cave with infrared lights, x-rays, sonar...” Agent Dawson shrugged helplessly. “We’re practically using tweezers to sift through all the rock we’ve jackhammered out.”

Hotch nodded. “And?”

“And the cave consists of igneous substrata sediment that, based on comparison with test samples, was coughed up by the volcano some 300 million years back..” Dawson answered, dropping his clipboard. “Far as we can tell, it was thrown up with the Rocky Mountain were formed, a little after the Mezoic era.”

For a moment, Hotch was silent, digesting this. “So what you’re saying is that it’s the exact same kind of rock that’s all over New Mexico.”

“That is what I’m telling you, Special Agent Hotchner.” Dawson agreed.

Hotch sighed. “Anything useful?”

“We won’t know when or how the cave was formed until we hear back from the lab, and the algae came back as fairly normal cave mold,” answered Dawson, consulting his clipboard again. The tree’s a mesquite, the cover stone is solid granite with no sign of a palm reader...”

“What about those hand-print cloths?” Hotch asked.

Dawson winced. “Ah, yeah. About those... We’ve been trying to get at them from day one, but they’re surprisingly... stubborn. We ended up simply cutting the metal around the ones on the sign and trailer, and the bones were being taken to our lab anyway...”

“How’re those bones coming?”

“Still waiting on word. They’re apparently something of a puzzle to the lab boys. Anyway, we also cut out the ones on the door and bucket, but we only finally managed to pry the one off the cave wall today.”

Hotch raised his eyebrows, but said only: “And?”

“And it was... kinda scary, sir.” Dawson gave an involuntary shudder. “Just... um... yeah.” He glanced away. “Creepy.”

Hotch waited for elaboration but it seemed none was forthcoming. “So now that you have all of them together, have you found anything new?”

“Well, they seem to light up the same regardless of being attached, so there’s that,” shrugged Dawson. “We can’t identify the fibers, but they’re from some kind of plant... no metal in there. The ink used in the print is strange too... working on that.”

Hotch breathed a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “So what HAVE you worked out?” He asked, a little more testily than was strictly warranted.

Dawson looked worried. “Well, one of the boy’s a geology nut with a thing for volcanoes, so he...” The phone rang, cutting him off. Muttering an apology, he fumbled to switch it off, then froze.

“Sir?” He said, holding up his phone. “Maybe you should see this...”

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

“It’s another book all right.” Reid called.

“Huh.” JJ slid the stone tablet into her bag and jogged over to him. “Any idea of where it leads?”

Reid was flipping through the pages. “Not anywhere familiar.” He noted as the picture page came up. It showed an earthen path arching over a glistening pool, the path guarded on either side with metal railings. It looked barren—less harsh, perhaps, but in any case certainly not New Mexico.

JJ considered for a moment, then shrugged. “Well, let’s give it a shot.” She reasoned. “Worst case scenario, it’s a dead end and we can use the green book to get back to base.”

“That’s not really the absolute WORST case scenario, you realize.” Reid frowned.

JJ swatted him. “Happy thoughts, Spence, remember? Look, chances are there are another of those tablet thingies...” she jostled her bag meaningfully, “...in there, and the sooner we get all those collected the better.”

For a moment Reid seemed doubtful, but then he nodded. “Agreed. Besides, it’s always possible that they’ll be another book there that goes home.”

“Hold your breath if you feel like it, I won’t.” JJ grinned. And reaching out, she touched the page.

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

The SUV’s came to a screeching halt outside the now-familiar ranch. Morgan and Prentiss leapt out of the car and jogged over to a white-faced Agent Dawson. “What’s going on?” Morgan asked. “Where’s Hotch? We didn’t catch much of what he said except to get down to the cleft, fast.”

“He’s... ah... he’s... uh... down there.” Dawson waved vaguely at the cleft. “It... well...”

“I hope this is important.” Rossi joined them. “I was making serious progress with Dr. Watson.”

Dawson passed a hand over his forehead. “Perhaps... you’d better just see it for yourselves.”

Exchanging puzzled glances, the team climbed down the ladder and into the cleft. Various forensic specialists were milling around, talking in hushed voices. They all seemed congregated around the tree and its gaping entrance. Morgan, Rossi, and Prentiss ducked beneath the tree’s roots and dropped into the hole.

The cave beneath the cleft had changed drastically since the last time they’d seen it. It was taller, wider, and deeper by nearly five feet from the last time they’d seen it, and the glowing algae pictograms had been replaced with stenciled facsimiles on white sheets, hanging where the cave walls had once been. Rubble was piled everywhere, and a few generators in the corner powered a score of blinding floodlights and half-a-dozen assorted geological appliances.

The scene might have felt bleak and desolate, if the cave had not been teeming with a crowd of investigators. They were scanning the walls, checking figures, piling away rocks.

In the middle of the bustle stood Hotch, his back to his team, his immaculate suit strangely contrasting with the rubble of the cave and the white clean-suits of the investigators. He was facing a pile of rubble at the center of the cave, arms crossed.

“Hotch.” Morgan said, pushing his way through the crowd of researchers. “We got here as soon as we could. What’s... going...”

His voice trailed off as Hotch turned toward them, revealing the pile of rubble he’d been studying. It’d been stacked with a neatness too trim to be natural, the ragged shards and rough edges piling in an approximate geometric pattern that was strangely elegant.

And on top of the pile was a small, green, book.

"Each thing is of like form from everlasting and comes round in a cycle." --Marcus Aurelius
---------------------------

A/N: Gonna be honest, most of the reason I gave JJ a survival backpack in the first chapter was so that she could use that flashlight here. I HATE Eder Gira, and particularly the firefly puzzle. It was the most contrived...

Ahem. Anyway, it occurred to me, that someone with a decent survival pack could really cheat past most of the puzzles in Gira. So I went with that.

Anyway, if anyone's frustrated at Reid and JJ not getting the point of Uru, they're going to realize how things work in a little bit. Eder Kemo was where I picked up on the premise, so that's how it's going to be for them. But there are still a few hobbles before they pick up on what's going on.

I imagine I am, as usual, making mistakes with Rossi's talk with Watson about the D'ni culture. Suggestions are welcome.

Also available at FF.net https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10181626/1/Mysterious-Mynds and OpenUru.com! http://forums.openuru.org/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=901


Last edited by Afalstein on Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:30 am 
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Shorah Afalstein,

Another fascinating chapter! I'm afraid, though, that you will need to change your geologic references…

[Reveal] Spoiler: Details
  • New Mexico has a long and complex geologic history, with some formations dating back to 1.5 BY (you can check my September 2013 presentation and notes about this if you don't want to research it in depth yourself)
  • The Rocky Mountains were formed ~300 MYBP
  • The Mesozoic era took place 252-66 MYBP
  • Radiocarbon dating only works for up to ~60,000 YBP
  • You might have meant to cite another form of Radiometric dating, though it's not likely the analysts would have used *any* form of radiometric dating to get such a quick result (these types of tests are complex, expensive and there's usually a long wait list). It's far more likely that the analysts instead compared their samples with known/dated samples from elsewhere in New Mexico and inferred their age from that.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 5:54 am 
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Drat. And I was so proud of my wikipedia geological research. Still, glad to get some expert correction on the matter. I'll fix it.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 6:12 am 
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No worries Afalstein!

It took me about 3-4 months of evening and weekend research to compile everything that I used in my presentation last year. :) My own particular interests are more in the realms of anthropology/archeology and botany/zoology; so being an amateur geologist at best, it took quite a bit of effort for me to learn enough to educate interested explorers about New Mexico's geology.

[Reveal] Spoiler: Edit:
In checking US spectrographic services online, it appears it is far more affordable these days than back in my university years (when such services were only available from a very few universities), so my earlier comment about it being expensive etc. is no longer the case. Because it's more affordable now and available commercially (as well as through a few universities), I'm guessing it's also faster now.

So if the FBI analysts sent their samples to a geographically close laboratory (Texas or California), it's possible they might have gotten results back within a few days. I'm *guessing* that these commercial labs do the testing and provide the raw data to their customers and it would be up to the FBI analysts to interpret that data to answer their own questions (somewhat akin to a medical doctor ordering laboratory tests and being responsible for interpreting the resulting data for his patient).

Of course, it's also possible that the team has access to FBI-owned spectrographic assets (I have no idea if the FBI does this sort of thing in-house, but think it's a reasonable possibility). The equipment seems to be much more accessible these days, as well as commercialized instead of custom-made, so it's well within the realm of possibility that they would have their own laboratory.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:22 pm 
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Afalstein wrote:
beyond Branch Davidians and Mormons, I’m struggling to come up with any real desert cults.”
“Mormons aren’t a cult.” Prentiss objected, shading her eyes. “They’re too big.”
“Because that’s what makes the difference.” Morgan frowned at her.
Is this how Morgan really feels about Mormonism? And, would Prentiss' only argument be the size of the religion?

Afalstein wrote:
“The lava, for one. It should not be in a deep ditch like that. Lava cools as it reaches the air, eventually the flow hardens and becomes rock, and then more lava flows on top of that. It builds itself up, that’s why you get volcanoes, volcanic islands, and diatremes.” Reid frowned at the geological impossibility in irritation. “This flow should have topped over the ditch years ago and overflowed onto the path. Instead, it seems to have eroded the stone, a process more consistent with lava than with water.”
Did you mean to reverse these?

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Ouch. Yes I did mean to switch those. I'll take care of that right away.

As for the Church of Latter-Day Saints, I honestly don't know what the character's canon opinions are. So far as I know, the BAU has never run across Mormons in their work, and if they have, I doubt the question of whether they were a cult was a consideration.

In this particular context, the two are mostly bantering... I doubt either has any strong convictions on the subject. Morgan was searching for anything cult-like that could be considered desert-based (although technically the Mormons started in a city), and Prentiss' comment was a knee-jerk reaction to it. If they got into a serious discussion about it, I imagine Prentiss would come up with a lot more things to say, and Morgan would probably moderate his opinion some. Given how many Bible-based killers they come across, the BAU tends to not be very religious in general.


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I'm really enjoying your story Afalstein!

Afalstein wrote:
In this particular context, the two are mostly bantering... I doubt either has any strong convictions on the subject. Morgan was searching for anything cult-like that could be considered desert-based (although technically the Mormons started in a city), and Prentiss' comment was a knee-jerk reaction to it.


If you really want to be technical, the LDS church started in farmland in upstate New York. :D



Here's my bit about the geology:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
I think we're confusing 2 separate mountain building events.
The first, the Antler Orogeny, took place roughly 300 mya to the west of the Rockies in Nevada.
The Laramide Orogeny began about 75 mya and formed what we see as the Rocky Mountains today.

The basaltic volcanism in New Mexico is mainly the result of the Rio Grande Rift Zone, in which the crust has been spreading and thinning for the last 30 million years. (Sort of the opposite of mountain building.) The rift is still expanding now at about 1 inch every 40 years. Some of the volcanism dates back almost 40 million years but some has formed yesterday (geologically speaking) and is only 1000 years old.

The age of the Cleft volcano is a bit cryptic. The vegetation and soil covering the lava around the cone suggests an age of a few thousand or tens of thousands of years, however the steam that emerges from the cone even now shows that there is still something hot down there, not too far below the surface.


A few thoughts about Eder Gira:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
My first impression of Eder Gira also was that it was a desert. That was completely based on the lack of vegetation and the reddish rock color. However, the tantalizing views we get of the land surrounding the area we can explore shows a land that is quite the opposite! Lush vegetation, lakes, wildlife. And really the vegetation inside the exploration area is nothing that is exclusively desert flora: grass, thorny vines, broad-leaf plants, moss, and an aloe-looking plant. (But aloe is actually native to tropical Africa among other places, so no help there.)

My theory: The region is actually centered over an emerging volcanically active area. The sparseness of the vegetation is due to the gasses coming from all those fumaroles. Volcanic gasses are mostly water, with CO2 and SO2, but maybe that combined with trace gases discourages vegetation. (Kind of makes me think twice about jumping into them...)

The lava at the bottom of the fissure is a bit of an anomaly. I think that the fissure was not actually formed by the lava. The red rock really doesn't look like basalt. The trench already existed when the lava began flowing and it took advantage of it to flow to lower ground. The fumaroles have obviously been around long enough for someone to go to all the effort of trapping the gasses and piping them away, but the actual lava flows in the area must be a very recent occurrence.

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[Reveal] Spoiler:
My research into the geology of Eder Gira concluded that what we see is part of the caldera of a small-ish supervolcano.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:33 pm 
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Deck 15 wrote:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
I think we're confusing 2 separate mountain building events.
The first, the Antler Orogeny, took place roughly 300 mya to the west of the Rockies in Nevada.
The Laramide Orogeny began about 75 mya and formed what we see as the Rocky Mountains today.

The basaltic volcanism in New Mexico is mainly the result of the Rio Grande Rift Zone, in which the crust has been spreading and thinning for the last 30 million years. (Sort of the opposite of mountain building.) The rift is still expanding now at about 1 inch every 40 years. Some of the volcanism dates back almost 40 million years but some has formed yesterday (geologically speaking) and is only 1000 years old.

The age of the Cleft volcano is a bit cryptic. The vegetation and soil covering the lava around the cone suggests an age of a few thousand or tens of thousands of years, however the steam that emerges from the cone even now shows that there is still something hot down there, not too far below the surface.


Well we know exactly where that steam is coming from. When the path to the surface was constructed, the D'ni came across a lava pocket, rather then close up the tunnel and go around they chose instead to build a bridge, high above the flow itself. It's highly likely that lava flow is what's providing the volcano and it's vents with steam to this day.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2014 11:07 pm 
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And this gets into my own theories about exactly where in New Mexico the cavern *must* be located. :)

[Reveal] Spoiler: Active lava in New Mexico
Image

The main magma body is well below the cavern at 12 miles beneath the surface; but there is a relatively small magma bubble at about 1/3 of that distance (4 miles beneath the surface?). Sadly, I haven't found any depth measurements for the bubble itself; however, I believe this bubble is the magma pool shown in Aitrus's map and described in BoA. Which would mean the cavern is located within the Rio Grande Rift itself, probably along the rift bottom in the Albuquerque basin portion.

[Reveal] Spoiler: Albuquerque basin cross-section, wikipedia
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Ainia wrote:
And this gets into my own theories about exactly where in New Mexico the cavern *must* be located. :)

[Reveal] Spoiler: Active lava in New Mexico
Image

The main magma body is well below the cavern at 12 miles beneath the surface; but there is a relatively small magma bubble at about 1/3 of that distance (4 miles beneath the surface?). Sadly, I haven't found any depth measurements for the bubble itself; however, I believe this bubble is the magma pool shown in Aitrus's map and described in BoA. Which would mean the cavern is located within the Rio Grande Rift itself, probably along the rift bottom in the Albuquerque basin portion.

[Reveal] Spoiler: Albuquerque basin cross-section, wikipedia
Image


Except BoA's lava bubble was in Turkey, not New Mexico.

Sorry. Couldn't resist. That's impressive research. But honestly, there's no way of telling whether New Mexico-verse Atrus found a lava bubble at all.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2014 11:27 pm 
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Afalstein wrote:
Sorry. Couldn't resist. That's impressive research. But honestly, there's no way of telling whether New Mexico-verse Atrus found a lava bubble at all.

Not sure I'm following the logic here… could you explain a bit more? If you are confused over the Cleft location Wingrove-isms in BoA, RAWA has discussed them here. If you're disputing the existence or veracity of Aitrus's map (you'll have to scroll down), that's a whole different topic.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2014 1:51 am 
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Some interesting info about Descent for those who are curious:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
So, in one of Esher's speeches from Myst V's Descent, he says that the surface is three miles above them. This is when he's standing at the balcony over looking the floor of the Great Shaft. In actuality this is a mistake, the actual Great Shaft, as seen in the game is a little over 2500 feet from where he's standing, to the balcony at the top of the Great Shaft, and in the height between there and the surface and you're just a little over half a mile from the surface to the bottom of the Shaft. We can tell this because in Plasma, each Max (or blender) unit is equal to one foot in game. Cyan accomplished this blurring of the size of the shaft by the camera cut that takes place during your first elevator trip from the top to Watson's Tomahn. The cinematic that plays when you take the elevator has a camera at the top, then when the elevator can't be seen because of the fog, the camera switches to another one at the bottom, where we see the elevator approach. Because the elevators are controlled by counter weights and gears, there is no way for the elevator to cover the distance of three miles in such a short time.

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Ainia wrote:
Afalstein wrote:
Sorry. Couldn't resist. That's impressive research. But honestly, there's no way of telling whether New Mexico-verse Atrus found a lava bubble at all.

Not sure I'm following the logic here… could you explain a bit more? If you are confused over the Cleft location Wingrove-isms in BoA, RAWA has discussed them here. If you're disputing the existence or veracity of Aitrus's map (you'll have to scroll down), that's a whole different topic.


Ah. I was referring to the abrupt location change. That's interesting. Seems a somewhat flimsy excuse, but good to know anyway.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:31 am 
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Shorah Afalstein,

Looking at the question of the true Cleft location IC-ly and story-arc-wise, it actually makes a great deal of sense to me. Looking at BoA as the first clear disclosure of the cavern's existence (it was published while Cyan was developing Mudpie, their Uru prototype (OOC); or during the DRC's early work on cavern restoration (IC)), I would expect Cyan/DRC to avoid disclosing its genuine location in order to protect their work from meddlers, the idle curious or government/military seizure. Again IC-ly, I have been theorizing that Wingrove was given access to only some of Katran's journals as historic sources for his write ups. It's obvious Wingrove had no idea of the cavern's genuine location from these journals and he most certainly never visited the Cleft, caldera or cavern. We can discern this for ourselves when we compare what we see for ourselves in these Uru locales to how Wingrove has described them in the books. The simplest explanation is that Wingrove inferred things, while writing about them as if they were true; he would have been forced to do this in order to create a cohesive story and at the time, such artistic license meshed well with the DRC's desire to keep their restoration work "off the grid".

Although the Wingrovisms have caused confusion for the explorers, their existence has served an important purpose within the larger story, promoting the notion that some people are mysteriously "called" to the cavern and thus can see through the misdirections and find the cavern on their own, instinctively. Both Elias and his estranged son Jeff have at least one characteristic in common, a personal sense of mysterious purpose regarding the cavern's history and the D'ni story. Elias was obsessed with rebuilding the cavern and re-establishing a living D'ni culture there, being convinced that he and others were "called" or drawn to the cavern because they had a "connection" to the ancient, virtually extinct D'ni peoples. Elias's close friend Dr. Watson had taken a more academic approach to the cavern, assisting with the early restoration archeologically by putting together a team of experts to assist with excavating, repairing, documenting, translating, etc. Elias's fortune funded this work back then but at his untimely death, Watson was left with his money and Jeff was left with the Cleft and caldera acreage.

Apparently the ongoing restoration work drained the remaining Zandi fortune, for Dr. Watson seems to have approached Rand Miller about creating a game (Myst) that would tell a small portion of the story of the then-last-known D'ni survivors, Atrus and his family. Again, these records were known through Katran's journals, though I've never read or heard where, when or by whom they were discovered. The intent of this game was two-fold, firstly to help fund the DRC restoration activities and secondly to begin obliquely disclosing the existence of the D'ni along with its implications to our surface human history. Riven followed for the same purpose, as did the other games. From the IC view, Uru/MOUL is the only one of these that isn't a game recreation of historic events; it is the real-time, real-world events of the DRC restoration work, their eventual disbanding and the incremental process of the explorers themselves taking on the tasks of excavation and restoration ("open source").

In the earlier years of MOUL, the first explorers were exclusively those who felt inexplicably "called" to the New Mexico desert and eventually stumbled upon Jeff Zandi's fence line and Airstream trailer. In those days, only the "called" found the cavern, which fed the Yeesha mystique espoused by Jeff Zandi (and which frustrated the DRC to no end during those years). In more recent years, the explorers consist of both the "called" as well as curious members of the general public.

As you can probably tell, I see the larger saga here as a massive storytelling work by Cyan/the Millers. So far as RAWA has disclosed, this seems to be the genuine case, which I find deeply fascinating as well as a challenging mystery, to put the clues and bits together as a means to discern this larger story, an exercise which appeals to budding archeologists or history buffs. :) If you haven't already read them, you might find The Heritage Documents and Activity in the Cavern good resources for DRC/explorer cavern history. The RAWA Letters is my compilation of all the RAWA commentary I've been able to find, which is handy for getting a more coherent sense of canon as disclosed by him to the community.

[[The above is my interpretation of all the evidence I've found, seen or read; only RAWA can say how close to the mark this might be, and so far, he's not talking :) ]]

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