Oh, how noble…

With Mark on the ground trapped (?) by a column of Gypsum, he encourages his “friends” to save their own skin, leave him for dead, and make good on the foreshadowing provided months ago… remember La Cueva del Muerto?  Well, someone has to die here… and it might as well be Mark as this would put us all out of our misery…

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But really?  It would appear that the center of gravity on the “I have fallen and I can’t get up” column is all wrong… the longer and heavier base is suspended in the air, seemingly held up by the downward pressure from Mark’s right arm, hugging it like a teddy-bear…  Never mind that it hit him on the head and shoulders, so no telling how it ended up  in this position, not to mention the fact that mark is fully conscious and able to speak… so despite a couple of crushed ribs, one would imagine that it’s not as serious or desperate a situation as Mark would declare…

Yes, Gabe, Mark did stick with you, and with a touch of his magic hand, made you miraculously skinny in order to get you through that impossible thin crevice…

Don’t worry- he’s had worse…

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Mark has the ability to take a blow and recover…  maybe not immediately, but eventually… remember that this is the man that doesn’t shave and doesn’t age…

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So with a THUD and an UNNNGH, We see Mark go down… it was destined to be.  Anything to manufacture a bit of drama… I like the plot suggested by the comments, where they make it to the surface only to be met by Jose and Jefe, but then rather than being killed, they are taken into bondage to serve in their human trafficking enterprise…  Carina is given some kind of harem outfit to wear- like Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi, at the, um, foot?  tail? of Jabba the Hut…and kept in their lair as a sex-slave…  all the while she spouts on about cave formations and other such nonsense…

What… this just occurs to you??

Skulking around in a subterranean cavern with sharp objects jutting out of the floor and ceiling?  Hot as Hades, no apparent connection with the blue sky above?  What made this an attractive option in the first place?  So Mark the Alpha takes the lead again and suggests (loudly) that they get the heck out of there…

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It’s really cool how Mark and Carina can finish each other’s thoughts now… heck they have been tested in the Octagon of Nature, Mother Earth’s Crucible, so it’s only a matter of time before they start to get inappropriate…

“But Mark, you are a Married Man…”

“Oh it’s really just a marriage of convenience… My readership is largely from the south and they were getting all up in arms over the fact that Cherry and I had been sharing a roof without the formality of a ring… we have an ‘arrangement.’ Who knows what she does when I am away…”

Mark, you are an idiot…

Does placing your large hand on your square jaw help you come up with these inane thoughts?  Yes, gypsum is used in Sheetrock (an also tofu, for that matter…) but it’s not mined in crystalline form, but rather found in sedimentary rock formations

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Your knowledge of the commercial world is fairly wanting Mr. Trail, but then you’ve never really had to pay for the roof over your own head… a living off expense account and the largess of your father in law has left you wholly unaware of what it takes to turn a profit…

Crawling around? Literally?

Mark, why don’t you and the Cub Pack head back to the opening of the sinkhole?  At least there you have open sky and a WWI (or II) Biplane to ponder… If you are frustrated and bored by the crystal cave, imagine how we must feel!

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And where are the Feds when you need them?  In the past they have always arrived in the nick of time, whether threatened by forest fires or evil, megalomaniacal kingpins bent on acquiring radioactive material, we saw our precious tax dollars being spent to save your sorry ass…

But Mark is never too frustrated to crouch and point and remark on the wonder of Nature… “Wow, a forty-footer,” he exclaims…

Cooling? Is anything on earth actually cooling??

OK Kids, sorry I bailed on you yesterday… but I have to bring a couple of  comments to the surface:

From Faithful Reader George:

Maybe this pointless, extended sidebar is really background “research” for a class paper for one of Allen’s grand kids and he doesn’t want to be accused of simply writing it for the kiddo! Or maybe Allen has just lost it a lot earlier than Dodd or Elrod!
By the way! I’m now using exclamation points for all of my sentences, just like Mark Trail! If comic strips had audio, they would all sound like infomercial talent!

Or from Greendog:

A new addition to Mark Trail’s resume … human thermometer.

So… Let’s return to the “story…”  as Carina continues to instruct Mark on “Geothermal Processes,” Gabe is getting himself tangled up in the crystal maze…  is he coming or going?  What the hell is he doing?!  And for that matter why is Mark talking about “looking for a way out,” when he had spotted one a while back in the Sinkhole??  Or was the “passage” he pointed to what led to the crystal maze?  I guess so…  Hang on everyone, we are going to be underground at least through Memorial Day…

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Ah, a mere tick of the geological clock- it’s probably been “cooling” for a million years or so… Good thing they stumbled upon this formation when it was set on simmer and not roast