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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:37 am 
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Mysterious Mynds--D'ni


“Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends”
--H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


“So you saw the Gargantuous.” Gideon poured out some coffee from the pot and handed it to JJ. “That’s unusual, he doesn’t come by the old Maintainer fortress much anymore. Probably lost interest in it some centuries ago. You must have been just lucky.”

JJ smiled wanly. “Lucky. Right.”

“Dr. Calumon will probably want to talk to you.” Gideon said, filling up another cup and passing it to Reid. “He’s one of our resident biologist; he’s done a lot of research into the Gargantuous. We still don’t know if it’s a singular creature or a species.” He sat back down and smiled at Reid. “Perhaps you might be able to give him some theories on that, Spencer.”

Reid was just staring at him.

Gideon’s smile dimmed, and he looked down at his mug. “Dissociative communal delusion.” He said, his roughened fingers toying with the sleeve of his flannel shirt. “You’re currently wondering if I’m some sort of shared memory and if this entire experience has been a sort of dream. I imagine it’s a theory you discarded some time ago but are returning to now due to the introduction of familiar yet nonsensical elements like myself.” He gestured. “A similar effect to, say, if you’re having a picnic with Charlie Chaplin.”

“Kim Kardashian would be a better example.” JJ said. “Chaplin would unquestionably be a dream; the man’s been dead for some time.”

Gideon shrugged. “Whoever you like. The refutation is still the same. One may mistake a dream for reality, but mistaking reality for a dream is much, much harder.” He looked at Reid. “You’re quite aware this whole thing feels too real to be a dream. Your subconscious couldn’t come up with this if it tried.”

“True.” Reid said. They were the first words he’d spoken. “And honestly, of the things I’ve experienced in the last few days, this is easily the most realistic.”

Gideon nodded. “Yes. I know. That’s the point of the Journey.”

Reid gave something of a shudder and pressed his hands to his face. “I think I’m struggling less with you being real and more with you… being you. I think I’d potentially have this reaction if we bumped into each other in a McDonalds in Seattle, and not…” He glanced to the side, out the window “…in some parlor in an underground city.”

“Ae’gura.” Gideon said, helpfully. “This is the most liveable district. The heart of the D’ni civilization was here. And it’s where most of the DRC has set up their own research camp.”

On the bare streets, Reid could see people walking back and forth. The noise of talking, laughing, shouting drifted up against the rock walls and floated through the window. The city was not crowded, certainly, but it was by no means empty.

“The… missing travelers.” He swallowed. “They’re… living down here?”

“We all are.” Gideon nodded. “The descendants of the original D’ni settlers. We’ve been called back to our home.”

“Called.” JJ said.

“Yes.” Gideon gave a solemn nod. “Including me. It wasn’t a chance I’d been feeling so aimless, so unhappy with my life. It wasn’t a chance that I went on a road trip, and it wasn’t a chance I went south on I-29 instead of north. When I saw the volcano…” He fell silent, a moment.

JJ and Reid waited.

“It was like… falling in love.” Gideon said, at last.

JJ and Reid both shifted. They were trying very hard not to look at each other.

“Not the feeling itself, but the experience.” Gideon continued, as if he hadn’t noticed. “Hard to explain, impossible to mistake. That somehow, that place was my home. My fate.”

“I didn’t think you believed in fate.” JJ said.

“I’m not sure I did, before I came here.” Gideon said. “Honestly, even here, there’s something of a difference of opinion on it. ‘Has the ending yet been written,’ is how they phrase it. I don’t know. I can’t think of another way to explain what I felt, when I looked on the city.” He glanced out the window, and for a moment his old eyes sparkled with life.

Reid’s eyebrows knitted. “The… Ending. Who’s ending?”

“Any ending.” Gideon shrugged. “The Ending of the Journey, in the cosmic sense, but also the endings of private journeys, national journeys…” He smiled. “It’s not some sort of end-times prophecy, if that’s what you’re wondering, Spence. Just philosophical ponderings about whether events have a purpose they’re headed toward.”

Reid shifted uncomfortably. “I didn’t mean…”

“You think this is a death cult.” Gideon said. “Watson mentioned that. It’s not an unreasonable assumption, given the circumstances; if I was still on the team I’d probably believe it myself.” His face relapsed into sadness. “In our work… your work… you become so entrenched in darkness, sometimes you forget there’s such a thing as light.”

“Ah, that sounds like the Jason Gideon I remember.” JJ smiled.

“I was starting to forget it.” Gideon smiled back. “That’s why I left—or why I thought I did, anyway. We pay such attention to the darkness of the human heart, that we miss the beauty that’s all around us.” He looked around the cavern, with the high rock ceiling overhead, the stone buildings and the crowded streets. “Or if we see it, we look for sinister explanations in it.”

“So… the Calling…” JJ prompted.

“Not sure how it works.” Gideon shook his head. “Some think it’s fate, other think it’s some psychic link or genetic marker of some sort, activated when the city was rediscovered. But it can’t be an accident that so many D’ni descendants are finding their way, through various causes, to the New Mexico desert.”

“And disappearing.” JJ said. “Jason, we really need to take an accounting of the people here, verify that they’re the same…”

“I can’t do that.” Gideon looked down. “Or at least, the others would never allow it. Doesn’t make sense to me—we’ve had all sorts of ‘outsiders’ down here before; but the feeling in the Cavern is a bit more cautionary ever since Thornberry came back with news of the federal agents wanting to break in here and catalogue everything. They say you’re not even supposed to be here, that you picked up the book by accident.”

JJ winced.

“What, exactly, is going on?” Reid asked. “How do those… books work?”

“I have no idea.” Gideon shrugged. “Doesn’t make them magical; I have no idea how my car works, either. Still…” Gideon frowned. “According to the Guild of Writers, it’s not really an… exact science.” Seeing Reid’s expression, he grinned. “I imagine that doesn’t satisfy you.”

Reid shook his head. “Then what’s the theory?”

#

“A tree.” Rossi mused. He was standing several stories above the floor of the shaft, looking at the beautiful mosaic at the bottom, now lit by many searchlights. “But it looks almost mathematical—there’s a pattern to how the branches split and form fruits. And the fruits, too, there’s a growing level of complexity as they diverge from the center…”

“David.” Crackled the radio at his hip. “Are you planning to come down and help us with the door?”

Rossi sighed. “I don’t know anything about safe-cracking, locksmithing, or explosives, Aaron. Short of those, I don’t see how we’re getting through.”

“Simmons found a side entrance drilled into the rock on the side; it looks to be more accessible.”

“Mm.” Rossi brought up a pair of binoculars to study the mosaic. “Aaron, do you remember what Dr. Watson said about how the books worked?”

“He said they teleported you to whatever world the book described, as I recall.” Hotch’s voice was weary.

“Mm. His lawyer, Thornberry started to say something about it too, but Watson cut him off.” Rossi took the glasses away and looked at the mosaic as a whole again. “Something about ‘the Great Tree of Possibility.’”

#

“Quantum theory, would probably be the most familiar way to describe it.” Gideon said. “The idea that somewhere, in the multiverse, no matter how strange the circumstances, any scenario might be true. As far as we can tell, the D’ni linking books connect to a particular place/time that exactly fits the circumstances described in the book.”

“Like horizontally orbiting suns or naturally formed rock gardens.” JJ said.

“Exactly.” Gideon said. “How it does that… again, you’d have to talk to the Writers, and I don’t know that they’d be able to tell you. The ancient empire of D’ni used their linking books to connect to specifically suitable worlds for whatever resource or environmental situation they could use to their advantage.” He nodded at the city around them. “I mean, they could hardly farm or grow food using what they had down here.”

“Down here.” Reid said. “Where are we, exactly?”

“Roughly four miles below the surface.”

Gideon said it as if it were the most natural thing in the world, barely worth commenting on. Reid, who had been taking a sip of coffee, choked on it and coughed for a few moments. JJ’s eyes went very round.

“Roughly seven miles south of the cleft.” Gideon continued. “Possibly. Lateral distances are a little trickier to measure, relative to the surface. You need to travel seven or so miles laterally, anyway.”

“…huh.” Reid mentioned.

“How did they get down here?” JJ asked. “Why did they go down here?”

“We think they started down here, actually.” Gideon said.

“Started…?”

“Using the books.” Gideon smiled. “They’ve been around for quite a while. Technically our world is just another place to link to. Historical records—which of course are half-legend, but still all we have—say the original settlers came from another world. Running from some great disaster. The original inhabitants of the city didn’t even know the surface existed until fairly late in the Empire’s history.” He considered this a moment. “I suppose they must have theoretically known it existed, but they didn’t drill the Great Shaft until the last century or so of the empire.”

“Empire?”

Gideon looked at Reid. “If you’ve been on the Journey, you’ve gotten the gist of what it was.”

“Why did it fall?” JJ asked.

Gideon shrugged. “Depends who you ask. There was a plague, or a bio-weapon—that was probably the largest event. But most of the historians agree that there was a long decline that led to that point—corruption and stagnation—like most empires.”

“Slave trade.” Said Reid.

Gideon inclined his head. “Among other things. The Bahro, they were called—it seems to have been a race, rather than a general term. It means…”

“…the Least.” JJ said. “We’ve heard Yeesha’s talk.”

“Yes.” Gideon smiled. “Yeesha.”

#

“The hologram of Yeesha also mentioned a tree.” Rossi said. “When she was talking about the water, how it pools… ‘and the tree begins to grow again,’ she said.”

“Fascinating. Your point?”

“Just thinking aloud.” Rossi said. “Zandi mentioned it too; when we asked him what we were supposed to do at the ranch, he said ‘enter the tree.’ Which we took to mean the stone door in the tree in the Cleft, but what if it was a more metaphorical tree he had in mind?”

#

“Yeesha’s not a leader exactly.” Gideon said, pouring another cup. “More of a philosopher. Zandi and Logan discovered the city back in the day. Watson worked with them to found the DRC. They studied it for many years. But Yeesha…” Again Gideon smiled. “She’s different. She thinks the city shouldn’t be studied. It should be lived in. That instead of taking the Tree apart, we ought to enter it, and help it grow.”

“I think I’m losing track of the metaphors, here.” Reid said.

“Any metaphor is going to be break down eventually.” Gideon said. “Watson and Zandi… not Jeff, but his father—were all about cataloguing the Great Tree of Possibility, categorizing and grouping the different worlds that we found in the books, figuring out which ones were safe to visit and so on…” Gideon nodded. “A commendable impulse, really. And fitting, to an extent. But it missed the point. The Tree of Possibility isn’t about what IS. It’s about what CAN BE.”

“Yeesha wants to rebuild the culture.” Reid said

“Regrow.” Gideon said. “Rebuild implies reconstruction, some sort of ‘building things the way they used to be’ approach. But Yeesha says you don’t study history, you live it. You don’t cut apart a flower, you enjoy it. You don’t catalogue all the different possible ages one has linked to, you make your own and experience it for yourself. You don’t make maps, you make memories.”

“Maps would be very helpful, actually, at the moment.” Reid said.

“And studying history can be quite valuable and cutting apart a flower is a very instructive exercise, and of course we are, currently, cataloguing the ages we have.” Gideon smiled. “The sense is more of one’s priorities. Not everything needs to be analyzed or exploited. Some things can simply be enjoyed.”

JJ smiled and looked at Reid. “Not everything has to make sense.”

#

“This makes no sense.” Simmons said.

Hotch grunted. “Of course.”

“The drillwork on the side is modern.” Simmons said. “A Neilsman P-12 reverse bore, if I’m not mistaken. And the framework and the door around it, so far as I can tell, is modern also. They use that sort of framework to put up dividers in mineshafts all the time. The door even looks like one of those mechanical garage doors you see. But I can’t tell for certain, because…” he gestured irritably, “…this rock sheathing stuff is over everything. It must be applied in a liquid state, almost molten, I would say, except that again makes no sense.”

“That’s probably what it is, then.” Hotch said. “So the modern passageway is sealed up by the bizarre metal coating we’ve been seeing everywhere?”

“Applied more recently than the stuff we’ve seen elsewhere, I would guess.” Simmons said. “But that’s only a guess, because…”

“Because you’ve never seen anything like it before.” Hotch had a twist to his mouth.

“Basically.” Simmons shrugged. “You’d need a metallurgist or a geologist to take a look at it, and then an explosives expert to figure out how to get it out of the way.” He shook his head. “This is all way out of my field.”

“I hear you there, brother.” Morgan said, hands on his hips. Hotch sent him a look.

#

Reid gave an irritable wave, seemingly fed up with the question. “And what are Yeesha’s goals?”

Gideon looked at him and sighed. “Still worried about the death cult possibility.” He nodded. “A cult would have a strong interest in quashing long-term analytical thinking. Well. She wants, as far as anyone can tell, to re-unite the D’ni people and return the Bahro to the cavern. And she wants the cavern itself to become a viable city again, with farms and produce and craftsmen and guilds—not just a tourist destination or an archaeology dig. Or perhaps she wants us to found a new city… opinions differ. She can be a bit… vague about her wishes.”

“Yes, we heard her speech.” JJ gave a thin smile. “We noticed the vagueness.”

“As typical of a cult leader.” Gideon nodded. “Not an implausible reading, and I’m not quite certain how to convince you it’s more than that. Any sort of far-reaching plan must necessarily be vague, since it’s hard to know how things will change and shift as time goes on. Especially when you’re talking about matters of an entire nation. The Pilgrim Fathers did not offer very concrete plans when they were founding their Plymouth colony.”

“True.” Reid inclined his head, a touch reluctantly. “And Elon Musk is famous for offering poorly-defined promises.”

“So is Donald Trump.” JJ said. “And 90% of politicians.”

Gideon blinked. “I’m… starting to get a bit lost here. Who are these people?”

Reid snorted. JJ giggled. “You’re lost.”

“The point stands is that not every charismatic leader is a con man.” Gideon said. “It can be hard to remember that, especially when your job is to find out liars. But there is such a thing as honesty.” He gave the two of them a look. “Every so often, it’s good to be reminded of that.”

#

“Set up floodlights on the floor and around the perimeter.” Hotch pointed. “Some on the upper levels of the screw, shining down on the floor. Have our forensics people go over everything—take pictures of that tree mosaic from every angle you can. And look at the door, naturally.”

“Yes sir.” Prentiss said, writing things down.

“Morgan, help Simmons and the rest to get a long cable run from the top of this shaft to the bottom. It’ll probably take a while to get an actual elevator going the whole length of the shaft, so in the meantime, work out some sort of system of lifts at abbreviated intervals.”

“A mile-long elevator might not be safe, boss.” Morgan said. “A rail system along the spiral might be better.”

“Talk to Simmons. Do whatever he suggests.” Hotch said. “They’re going to need a reliable way of ferrying goods and supplies down here.”

Rossi, who’d just come walking up, raised his eyebrows. “’They?’”

Hotch looked at the other analyst. “Once we’ve got things in motion here, I want all of you on my team back in the rovers.” He said. “We’ll go back up to the surface, then I need to make a phone call.”

“Who are we calling in this time?” Morgan said.

“The State Department.” Hotch said. “We’re turning this case over to them. There’s nothing more for us to do here. Time to go home.”

#

Neither Reid nor JJ answered immediately. “What do you—what does Yeesha want from us?” JJ asked, finally. “We just want to go home; how can we do that?”

“They’ve sealed the tunnels.” Gideon said. “Partly because of Aaron and the others, I gather.” He sighed. “I asked if they’d just let me talk to them, but the others seem to think that’d just make it worse. Oh well. The quickest way for you is to complete the Journey. It’ll take you straight back to the Cleft where you started.”

“And you complete the Journey by…?”

“Find the remaining pillars, then visit all four worlds again and enter the Bahro tunnels in each.” Gideon said, promptly. “It’ll open up a portal in your relto that’ll take you back to the surface.”
Reid blinked. “That… is a refreshingly clear set of instructions.”

“I never understood Jeff’s fondness for metaphor.” Gideon frowned. “Why not just say ‘find the handprints and it’ll take you to strange and new places?’” He shook his head. “I suppose that’s why he’s up top and I’m down here, interviewing newcomers.”

“The instructions are clear, but the process sure seems roundabout.” JJ did not look happy. She hesitated. “Jason… all else aside, this is a lot to just… accept on your word. I mean, you can’t really guarantee that all the people we’re looking for are actually here, still alive. And these instructions seem a little too clear-cut, after all the exploration. How…” She trailed off awkwardly.

“How can you know that I’m not part of a serial killer death cult, working to brainwash you into the same movement I’m a part of?” Gideon smiled.

Reid and JJ looked away.

“I could give you reasons. I have.” Gideon said. “But they would all be suspect since they might be coming from the reasoning of a brainwashed man. I could, possibly, convince you if I showed you around the city, but the others won’t allow that right now. You’ve seen plenty already to let you know that this isn’t some sort of technical trickery hocus-pocus, but that doesn’t by itself mean that the people in charge of it aren’t insane.” Gideon gave a long sigh. “So essentially, you can’t know.” He looked at them again. “You can only do the one thing profilers are trained not to do. You can only trust.”

The three of them sat in a circle for a long moment, looking at each other.

Finally, there was a nod.

#

It took Hotch and the others a good three hours to set up things to their satisfaction in the shaft. It took nearly four hours of silent, uncomfortable driving to get back up to the surface. No one felt like saying anything, at least not with Hotch’s face set in that expression of grim defeatism. Even when they found themselves driving up out of the crater to the desert with the twinkling sky overhead, they felt more sadness than relief. Gloomy as the underground had been, the sight of the cleft and the FBI vans, looming black against the sky, seemed darker yet. They drove straight up to the vans and got off the rovers in total silence, avoiding each other’s eyes. Morgan was already wondering what he was supposed to tell Garcia.

Something flashed in the corner of his eye, and the next second, something slammed into him. He went sprawling in the dirt, the wind knocked out of him. Glowing eyes loomed out of the darkness. Off to the left, he heard Prentiss give out a scream. Hotch was barking orders.

An attack! He thought, fumbling desperately for his gun. They shouldn’t have gone up by themselves, they should have had an escort, left more men by the vans…

He found his gun. His flashlight. He whipped them both up, flashlight underneath the pistol, bracing it and illuminating his target at once. “Freeze!” He shouted. “Federal…”

The light shone on the exhausted and very bewildered face of Dr. Spencer Reid. A few feet away, the strange figure in the bizarre suit tentatively flicked up her mask, the glowing eyesockets giving way to the panting, sweating face of Jennifer Jareau.

Morgan dropped his gun. He heard Hotch give a cough.

After that, there was a lot of crying.

“To distrust our friends is greater shame than for them to deceive us.”
-Confucius


#
A/N: I think there's about one more chapter left in this. Apologies for the figures here, I fudged a lot of the times and distances, feel free to offer corrections.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 4:12 am 
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Heh. I know that's probably not me you mentioned there at the beginning, but I can *totally* see myself researching a Gahreesen beastie in an alternate timeline.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:09 pm 
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Afalstein wrote:
“Yeesha’s not a leader exactly.” Gideon said, pouring another cup. “More of a philosopher. Zandi and Logan discovered the city back in the day. Watson worked with them to found the DRC. They studied it for many years. But Yeesha…”
I think you mean Loftin here. Elias Zandi and John "Fighting Branch" Loftin discovered the cavern.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 4:51 am 
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Also another bit of historical nitpick. The D'ni did know about the surface at the very beginning. During the early years of the D'ni empire, they dug air shafts up to the surface to circulate air. At least one group of those teams of people that were responsible disappeared, its believed to live on the surface. The human to D'ni connection that the "Called" are supposed to be from, are from those early D'ni who stayed behind.

EDIT: It was between 84 - 114 DE that the air shafts and fans were installed by the early D'ni inhabitants. Those that stayed behind on the surface were thought to have left in 84 DE.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 1:20 pm 
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ChloeRhodes wrote:
EDIT: It was between 84 - 114 DE that the air shafts and fans were installed by the early D'ni inhabitants.

For reference, that would be between 7573 and 7543 BC.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:38 pm 
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Another wonderful chapter and I greatly enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing, Afalstein!

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