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Codename: Firestarter

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~ *Across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the beasts of the jungle - intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic - regard this Earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely draw their plans against us...* ~ Orson Welles, ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast ~

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The Bennington Institute, lying on the northern outskirts of Las Vegas in Nevada, was one of the most prestigious and well-respected facilities of its kind in the world. Some wings of the building were more like a local resort than a mental institution. When Dr. Spencer Reid came to visit his mother, they liked to spend the evenings lounging on the patio by the pool, watching the stars wheel across the desert sky. High ridges to the west tended to obscure this view, along with the notoriously bright neon lights of the Vegas Strip that sent a stain over the southern horizon, but the view to the north and east was still mostly clear.

Dr. Diana Reid, once a highly respected professor of medieval literature, had long suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but lately, she had also shown troubling symptoms of a secondary mental illness, recently determined to be early onset dementia, probably Alzheimer’s. While incurable, both conditions could be treated with a range of pharmaceuticals that, mostly, worked to keep her on an even and coherent keel. That didn’t stop her son from worrying about her, wishing things could be different, already mourning the day she would inevitably forget who he was entirely... and wondering if either of those conditions, both with hereditary indicators, might one day effect him as well. He had begun a desperate search for alternative treatments to either stop or limit the progressive damage of both diseases, so far with indifferent luck.

Spencer liked to time his visits to take advantage of the various astronomical phenomena visible from Nevada, and this particular April, it was the scheduled Lyrid meteor shower. So on this clear, warm night, mother and son lay on pool loungers facing north, holding hands and looking up.

“Oh! There’s one,” his mother commented, pointing low in the north west.

“Really?” Spencer frowned, tracking the brilliant light in its passage across the darkness. “It’s at least thirty seven minutes early, and should be from the east.”

And then, against all possibility and reason... the light slowed, hovered, and a beam came from it... and then a flash of light on the ground... and after approximately six minutes and twenty one seconds (and therefore, after Spencer did a quick bit of rough calculation in his head, adjusting for air pressure, temperature, wind direction and speed, approximately eighty three miles distant to the north-north-west), the concussive sound of a distant boom. The moving light, still hovering, had already shot more beams, in different angles to different targets. Then it seemed to break into three pieces, or maybe they had been so close together, and far enough away, that they had only seemed to be one. There were three lights now, and one grew larger, evidently headed toward Vegas. More booms echoed across the desert, louder now. Sirens began to blare. Emergency vehicles and air-raid sirens, televisions inside the Institute suddenly turned on and volume turned up...

“Under attack by unknown...”

“All citizens to take cover immediately...”

While Spencer and his mother stood and stared, by turns mesmerized and appalled by the light show, nurses rushed out to hurry other patients and visitors into the building, and to the storm cellar facilities in the basement that had never before been needed. This part of Nevada had never been prone to damaging earthquakes, tornados or hurricanes, blizzards or sleet storms... the occasional debilitating heat-wave or flash-flood were the only natural disasters they looked to defend against. But with the Nellis Air Force Test Site and Range so close (among other more secret and supposedly hidden military sites) the possibility of nuclear or terrorist attack was taken very seriously.

“Oh my God... Spencer, look!” his mother cried out, pointing into the western sky.

Everyone still on the patio stopped and looked up, and stared in wonder.

It looked like a shining Christmas ornament, a silver snowflake base with a transparent glimmering globe over top, floating through the air... towers under the dome looked like fairy-tale castles... without any kind of perspective for reference, there was no way to tell how big or how small... how near or far. It hovered over the light heading toward Vegas, and began to fire beams of its own. More, but smaller lights descended from the darkness, fired on the snowflake, creating blossoms of orange, red and gold across the dome... tiny specks began to issue from both the snowflake and the lights, and more tiny specks buzzed from somewhere close. Aerial dog fights seemed to break out all across the heavens. One speck seemed to burst, a gut of flame issued, then a broil of something that obscured everything behind it, probably smoke, and it fell from the sky, growing larger and larger... until it grew to the approximate size of a jet fighter, and crashed, all too near the hospital.

Okay, definitely time to take cover. Spencer rushed his reluctant mother through the French doors on the common room, and into the hands of an orderly.

Spencer and the other visitors volunteered to help move patients. The activity and urgency should have been upsetting to some of the more vulnerable or unstable cases, at least those on the lighter forms of medication. Yet that wasn’t what was happening, and Spencer found it fascinating from a psychological point of view. Those only loosely connected to any objective reality, those who assumed this was a drill, and those who were rather enjoying the excitement, proved to be in the vast majority, even among those who needed to be transported in straight jackets. There was almost a festive holiday air to what might otherwise have been a claustrophobic and panic-filled atmosphere. A separate underground complex and protected generator kept the air conditioning and the lighting on full, and a giant screen TV was dialled to a local channel for further news.

Front row seats, as it were.

Local network reporters were being ridiculously reckless in trying to get too near some of the more accessible crash sights, or crowding around the various gates to Nellis, trying to talk their way in. They used telephoto lenses to zoom in on aircraft overhead that were... not anything like any aeronautic design on Earth, that Spencer knew of. The giant snowflake was displayed in all its seemingly fragile glory, and, to judge by the size of the little Quonset-hut shaped vessels issuing from its highest tower, the entire structure was obviously immense... maybe the size of the isle of Manhattan.

A flying city...

Their enemy’s ships, on the other hand, were neither beautiful nor whimsically shaped... jagged black blobs with spikes, and an oily, evil gleam across their skins that seemed almost organic in nature. Two of the really big ones remained to hover north-north-west of Vegas, firing in determination on their target there. The third was stalled, somewhere over Indian Springs according to the reports, blocked by the snow flake city in the sky. From openings in the third ship’s belly gushed clouds of needle-shaped flyers, all heading toward Vegas. Fast, yes, and they had silver-white beams that flared from their undersides to strobe across the ground beneath them, but they weren’t very manoeuvrable, couldn’t turn or bank as well as the home team Quonset-craft, which meant a lot of them were crashing everywhere.

And yes, now, fifteen minutes to half an hour after the initial attack, there were more recognizable fighters out there, conventional jets sporting the stars and stripes... but they were in the overwhelming minority, and all the others, apparent friend and obvious foe alike, could only be described as... alien.

How ironic that Spencer was watching all of this from the bowels of a mental institution.

“Oh well,” Diana Reid commented off-handedly, her own thoughts in parallel with his, “This will make the bunch in the south wing happy... vindication, you know? Come to think of it, most of the east wing... and the west... they’ll all be pretty pleased too.”

Spencer had to admit, she had a point.

“... it seems the original target of the attack was the secret military base at Groom Lake...”

“Omigod,” gasped someone, “You mean I was right all along? Groom Lake? Area 51? It’s real!” And, oddly enough, it was one of the doctors.

“... also attacks on Washington DC, Antarctica, and Colorado, six mother ships in all...”

Alarmed, Spencer pulled out his cell phone and attempted to dial members of his BAU team at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, all too close to the nation’s capitol. But as his cell reception cut out – no doubt cell towers were either flooded by traffic, commandeered or shot down – he had to wonder about the very odd collection of targets. DC, at least, made some kind of sense, he supposed, but Antarctica? Colorado? Las Vegas? What kind of demented attack was this? It seemed almost like the start of a bad joke.

Then camera shots zoomed onto the neon-flooded streets of Las Vegas, and crowds of shrieking people being herded... by seven-foot tall humanoids, the larger bulkier ones in a kind of bone mask, the more slender ones with albino-white faces and long white hair in ankle-length sweeping black leather coats, and all brandishing what appeared to be bazookas.

“Oh, you have *got* to be kidding! Marilyn Manson is an *alien*?” someone yelped in disbelief.

As one of the needle-ships passed over the trapped crowd, a white beam flashed out, and those poor people caught in it were just... gone! There were a few stragglers left on the periphery outside the light, paralysed in terror, backing slowly, desperately from the alien soldiers.

One white-haired alien approached a heavy-set man in a floral shirt and tan cargo shorts who had stumbled and fallen directly in their path. The alien grinned on a terrible set of jagged teeth as it leaned toward the man. One hand darted out to almost slam the downed tourist in the chest. The screams of the victim could not be heard over the television transmission, but the rapid withering of that florid face was all too clear, in seconds shrivelling into a desiccated mummy-like corpse, before crumbling to the street in a pile of dust.

“... report to your nearest base or branch office... Off-duty and retired personnel in military, reservist, law enforcement, first responders and especially EMT divisions also to report to your nearest base or office...”

Diana glanced worried at her only child. “Spencer...?”

He smiled at her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t worry, mom. I’ll be fine. I have my go-bag at the desk. With any luck, the flying city will have finished the bad guys off before I even get to the FBI office.”

A worried Dr. Norman, one of Bennington’s directors, found him and asked if he needed the combination to the reception centre safe, where all visitors had to leave any kind of contraband forbidden inside the facility, from weapons to nail clippers to aspirin. Spencer only smiled and shook his head. He could easily pick the lock. He’d known the combination for years.

After he’d pulled out his go-bag, he stopped at the front lobby reception desk to study the chaos outside the front windows and use the landline phone to call in.

The sanitarium was right on highway 95, the main access road leading north west out of the city, toward Reno. There was a military road block being set up within sight to turn back tourists and civilians, causing absolute havoc. But anyone thinking to escape in that direction was clearly delusional in any case, since that way led to what seemed to be the focus of the attack. Still, it was making it difficult for emergency vehicles, military, law enforcement, EMTs, to get by. The road beyond Bennington’s manicured gardens, hedge-rows and high black wrought iron fence and gates, was jammed with traffic, mostly military, heading south, into the city. Emergency and military transports were sporadically making their way north, under sirens and wheeling red lights. To add to the din, there was the occasional distant explosion of more aircraft shot down, or attacks aimed at various points of infrastructure – roads, rail lines, landing strips, transmission and wire transport towers.

Shaking his head in wonder, Spencer managed to get through to the local FBI field office and announced himself and his current location.

“North of the city on 95? Okay, don’t try to get into town, there’s no way you’ll make it. I suggest you flag down a local emergency vehicle on the road. You’ve got your ID with you?”

“Yes, and my weapon, my backup, extra ammunition and my FBI flak vest.” As he spoke, he shrugged out of his sweater-vest in order to put on the black bullet-proof vest with ‘FBI’ printed across front and back in large luminescent white letters.

“Wow. Visiting your mother, you said? You come that prepared?”

Spencer chuckled, even as he started fastening his ankle holster, phone receiver tucked between chin and shoulder. “I’m with the Behavioural Analysis Unit out of Quantico. My team gets called on cases all over the country, we have to respond quickly, so I’m required to carry my go-bag everywhere, even visiting my mom.”

“Well, that’s good news for us, anyway,” and the woman sounded relieved. “None of the other visiting agents have anything with them more lethal than a tooth-pick umbrella with a cherry stuck on the end. We’re calling them all in to our field office to coordinate. Since you’re armed, see if you can’t flag down a ride heading north-west. That’s where the real action is. Let us know as soon as you do... we’ll log who you’re with. Most of the local LEOs and EMTs have secure comms, so they can reach us even with cell service down.”

“Yeah, okay. Good luck.”

“And to you, Agent Reid.”

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Bennington was listed with FEMA as a tertiary emergency medical site, so some of the doctors and nurses were still on the main floor, preparing for overflow triage cases, even though the sanitarium didn’t really have any surgical facilities. These were the members of staff with experience in other areas of medicine than mental, addiction and behavioural issues. They could handle basic first aid, stitching cuts, setting broken bones, setting up basic saline IVs, and even just temporary beds for those seeking refuge. Spencer was rather impressed with how well-oiled they seemed to be in their response. His mother had told him that almost every hospital and medical facility in Nevada had been holding disaster response drills lately, coordinated by people wearing FEMA jackets... he had to wonder, now, if maybe there had been a reason for that.

He waved goodbye to the members of staff he knew, and hurried out to the main gate. The security man opened the electronic gate and Spencer, quite eye-catching in his FBI flak vest, began waving his arms to catch the attention of any Law Enforcement Officers heading out of the city.

It was a black CSI SUV that slowed and stopped for him. A husky young man with dark hair and a contagious grin hung out the front passenger window, and waved him over. “Going our way?”

“Yes, I am, thanks.” Spencer jumped in the back seat. There were three men in the SUV, in flak vests labelled CSI, Crime Scene Investigators. He had worked with local Las Vegas CSI teams in the past, and had always heard good things about their expertise, closure rates and professionalism. Behind the wheel was an older man with greying hair and an intent look focussed on the road ahead. Next to Spencer in the back was a young man in his early thirties, so probably around his own age, blond hair an untidy mess, with an excited grin and a twinkle in his green eyes.

“I’m Dr. Spencer Reid, with the BAU out of Quantico. I was told to hitch a ride with anyone willing to take me north-west, and call in once I did.”

The man in the front passenger seat leaned over to introduce himself, just the trace of soft Texas drawl in his accent. “I’m Nick Stokes, this is my boss and unit chief, Dr. Gil Grissom, and that’s our probie bouncing beside you, Greg Sanders.”

Spencer acknowledged them all with a nod, and Nick passed back a sat phone. He dialled up the FBI field office and told them he was riding with Dr. Grissom’s CSI team.

“Gil? That’s great. He’ll take good care of you, Dr. Reid.”

And Spencer realised that was true when Dr. Grissom’s first words were, “Are you armed, Dr. Reid?”

“Yes. My FBI service weapon, and a backup in my ankle holster. I have extra clips for both.”

“Wow,” Greg commented. “They still won’t let me carry a backup.”

“Yeah, well, tonight will be different,” Nick said, and passed an ankle holster to his younger colleague. “Just don’t hit any of us with that thing.”

Greg only grinned. Spencer noted that while Nick and Greg seemed excited by events, Dr. Grissom was tight-lipped and grim.

His next question was, “Have you seen any briefings on the attack, Dr. Reid? What we’re facing?”

“No. I witnessed the first attack in the distance, and saw just a few glimpses on TV reports. Of... you know, the space vampire aliens, and the flying city.”

“Yeah, way cool or what!” Greg gushed. Spencer had to grin. It was, after all, just like stepping into a Doctor Who adventure all his own.

Grissom actually growled from the driver’s seat. “For God’s sake, take this seriously! You remember the mummified bodies we found last week? That is how you’re going to end up tonight, if you’re not careful!”

Only slightly chastened, Greg schooled his expression, but still bounced his knee in an excess of energy. Spencer himself felt much chastened, as he realised that the aliens must have sent an advance scouting group, if bodies had appeared as early as last week. He didn’t waste time wondering why no one had heard about this – he was familiar with government secrecy protocols in the face of major threats, to avoid widespread public panic.

“Okay, Gil, give us the 411,” Nick recommended, casting an understanding smirk back at Greg.

“Okay. I don’t know much, but there’ve been private briefings going on for the past three weeks. I was read in after we found that first mummified John Doe in the desert...”

“After the Air Force swooped in and commandeered the whole case away from us,” Nick added for Spencer’s benefit.

Grissom gave Nick an irritated glance, and continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted.

“If you’re thinking aliens, and you have to be after what we’ve seen tonight, you would be right. The bad guys in the oily black Hive-Ships and the needle-shaped Darts are called the Wraith, and they have some kind of insect hive biology, drones obeying a Queen. Think Marilyn Manson space vampires, and you have it about right. They eat us. Well, they suck the energy out of us, leaving us a withered mummified corpse. And that can happen in as little as a few seconds.

“They’re bigger than we are, faster and stronger. They’re very difficult to kill, even harder after they’ve fed. Luckily, they aren’t totally impervious to bullets, but best if you take head shots. The only way to make sure one stays dead is to decapitate it once you’ve got it down. Greg, get Dr. Reid an extra K-Bar out of the kit. He can use that if he has to. Saw through the soft tissues of the neck, then give it a good swift kick to sever the spine.

“If one gets close enough to shoot, take head shots only, torso shots won’t even slow it down. Don’t try to talk to it or reason with it, we’re just a chicken sandwich as far as they’re concerned. Don’t let it get close to you or anyone else. It feeds by sticking its hand on your chest. If it gets that close to you, try jamming the knife up under its chin and into the brain case and twist... it’s the only chance you’ve got at that point. Then decapitate, to be sure. Some of them can mess with your head, make you see things that aren’t there, and while you’re confused, they strike. The weapons you’ve seen them carry? They’re mostly set on stun, so they can feed on you as you lie helpless.

“That white beam you’ve seen the darts spray beneath them? It’s some kind of teleport. It catches humans, can keep dozens, maybe hundreds at a time in some kind of holding buffer in the dart, so it can take them back to the big ships and transfer them to their larders. So don’t get caught in the beams. If we find a downed dart, we make sure the pilot is dead – the darts are one-man ships only – and tag it for clean-up. If not too damaged, they can sometimes retrieve the people caught in the buffers. If we find a downed dart without a pilot, it means the bastard is probably creeping up behind you, so act accordingly.

“Any questions?”

“Yes, actually,” Spencer admitted. “Where are we going?”

“We’ve been ordered to rendezvous with the rest of the armed Law Enforcement units at the gates of the Groom Lake base, deep inside Nellis Air Force Base. That’s apparently where the brunt of the attack is happening, and Nellis just doesn’t have enough manpower for containment at this point. Air Force special forces are in command of this operation. Regular military or police don’t usually think much of CSI weapons training or hand-to-hand expertise, and I admit we’re not really cut out to act as soldiers... so I imagine they’ll assign us something like clean-up sweeps or perimeter guards. So don’t get your hopes up that you’ll actually meet an alien, Greg. And thank your lucky stars for that. Anything else, Dr. Reid?” Grissom sounded a lot more friendly now, as if Reid’s manner had impressed him in some way.

Spencer knew he looked a lot younger than he really was, tall, skinny and gawky as any adolescent, and his unruly brown hair and geeky appearance did not always help him make a professional impression. So sue him, he was on vacation. Coming up with a useful question no doubt helped Dr. Grissom accept him as a peer.

“No, I think that about covers it. It should take us about an hour and twenty minutes to reach the rendezvous at this speed, if we don’t meet more obstacles in the way, and I notice there seems to be considerably less action above us than there was half an hour ago. By the way, I’m not much of a physical threat either, obviously, but my last three weapons proficiency tests, I rated ninety seven percent and above.”

“Good to know,” Grissom nodded. Nick grinned at him. Spencer only shrugged. He was well aware that he was too tall, too thin, too gangly-looking to seem an imposing threat to anyone. His strongest muscle was his brain, and that was flexing at maximum at the moment.

Greg did seem impressed with his marksmanship, and said, “Cool. I can’t seem to do better than a sixty one. Which, you know, is barely better than if I kept my eyes closed. Which is one of my problems on the range... how’d you manage to do so well?”

Spencer sighed, his mood abruptly darkening, as he acknowledged the serious nature of their mission tonight. He, or any of the other three men in this vehicle, might not be alive come the dawn. “My team mates kept getting... hurt. I kept getting hurt. I decided that, if I was going to be serious about being a field agent, it was time to grow up and take responsibility for the safety of myself and everyone around me.”

Greg blinked and slowly nodded, casting a brief glance at his boss in front of him. Nick smiled warmly and reached back to shake Spencer’s hand. Grissom said, in a much friendlier voice, “Welcome to the team, Dr. Reid.”

As it turned out, Dr. Grissom actually knew who he was, had read some of his academic papers on serial killers and followed a few cases, including those few that had brought the BAU to Las Vegas in the past. Spencer suggested some behaviours that, he could only guess, might cross species lines and apply to the insect-like aliens called the Wraith. He had, after all, encountered many a similar monster, who regarded humans as nothing but prey. As his first attempt at an alien profile, and without more empirical experience, he figured it was the best he could do.

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They had almost reached their rendezvous when an especially bright light bathed the desert landscape, and the flying city had shot down the last of the three hive-ships over Nevada. Nick, Greg and Spencer all leaned out of their windows to try and see what was going on above, and so they had a decent view of the snowflake city hovering, drawing in her scattered blunt-nosed children before speeding away. There were a very few dog-fights still going on, less than a dozen, and even those ended in favour of the friendly fighters. Grissom slowed down the SUV at the road block, and was directed by a very young Marine where he should park.

Armed, vested and kitted, the four of them made their way on foot through the crowds to one of the hastily-erected tents. It was like a small town, pitched at the side of the road outside the barbed-wire fence encircling the not-so-secret Groom Lake base, deep inside Nellis. Tables were stacked with heaped ammo clips and nearby there were piled flats of water bottles. FEMA, Marines and Special Forces in brightly-coloured bibs circulated, advised people to get as many extra clips as they could carry. They checked off arrivals, and assigned duties and sorted them to secondary gathering spots for additional orders.

Spencer and his CSI friends pawed through the available ordnance for the appropriate clips (Nick taking the ones Greg held to put them back and pick out correct ones). Since Las Vegas was home town to all four of them, no one needed to tell them how necessary it was to fill pockets with water bottles. There was a chill in the early spring desert air right now, but with the sunrise, it would get hot and killingly-dry.

“Gil! Gil, over here!” called a voice, evidently familiar to the CSIs, considering the smiles that lit up their faces. Spencer followed along to meet a smaller middle-aged man with a bald spot. Grissom quickly introduced him to Detective Captain Jim Brass.

Captain Brass shook his head. “Wild night, hunh? Aliens, for Christ’s sake. As if we don’t get enough weird around here on a regular Saturday night...

“So, here’s the deal. The mother ships, hive ships, whatever they are, are history around here, and the floating snowflake is off to bring down the three others circling Earth. Our boys upstairs have brought down all of the dart things... yeah,” he said, touching his earwig radio. “So, they’ve accounted for all the flying vermin in our region. But, apparently, a bunch of troops were beamed down, some darts landed before being shot down, and some survived the crash landings of the hives and darts, so we’ve got space vampires wandering around loose. This is not good. We’ve got one lot in downtown Las Vegas making a mess, but they’re contained mostly to one area around the Pyramid, and the military has that in hand, and have surrounded the hive that crashed near Indian Springs. The rest of the alien ground forces are focussed on the Groom Lake base, so we’re hoping none of the strays are walkabout, and we can contain them long enough to put them down. Even one of these guys walking free means more mummified bodies in his wake.

“The military thinks they’re better than us regular cops at dealing with aliens, go figure, so they’ve taken the high-risk assignments. Their strike teams are mostly surrounding the base complex to engage the main enemy force on the ground, but they do have a couple of roving teams to check out the two other crashed hives and any downed darts on Nellis grounds, both inside and outside the Groom Lake perimeter. That leaves us search and destroy in the outlying areas of Groom Lake, inside the fence, away from the main base, to sweep and clean-up, and make sure none of them get out of the contained area. But I gotta tell you, it’s gonna be a helluva job, because we’re talking maybe sixty square miles of open desert scrub, in the dark, and there’s nowhere near enough manpower here for a job like that. There’s reinforcements expected from every military base and police force within seven states, but... most won’t get here till morning. So it’s up to us to hold the line. The fence has censors to alert us if anyone tries to get over or through it. We’ve got a search grid, and each team is taking a section.”

Captain Brass led them into another, more distant tent, with a table and a topographical map with structures and landmark features marked, spread out flat, laid out in grids. A clear plastic cover allowed them to scrawl on it in dry-erase markers, to show enemy activity, downed craft, sections for search, and team assignments. Support personnel with earwigs kept up a constant hum of whispers as information was supplied, and more squiggle codes were added to the map to indicate progress of the various teams.

Spencer cast a quick, experienced eye over the map, easily reading the state of the operation.

“You’ve got a serious hole right there,” he announced, grabbing a stray red marker, and circling a symbol that meant a small out-lying building, seemingly unconnected to the main base facility. Ignoring loud protests from several people, he ran his eyes swiftly over the situation, tabulating evidence. It was probably Grissom holding people back, recommending they listen to what he had to contribute.

Spencer declared, “Of all the downed darts noted on this map of the Groom Lake section, thirty two percent landed within five hundred yards of that building, in section 61A, the southern part of Ikabod Valley. Five of them landed right on top of it. That’s not a coincidence, but a significant statistical anomaly. From these markings, the structure appears to be not much bigger than a garden shed, but that wouldn’t explain the extreme Wraith interest. There’s either technology hidden there, or people. They would have no interest in anything else. And judging by the pattern of search and destroy teams you’ve already deployed, from the fence line in, for containment, it’ll be hours before anyone gets in there. In that time, the Wraith will achieve whatever goal they have. And I’m guessing that would be bad.”

Now he looked up and around at all the shocked faces. “I’m a profiler with the BAU, geographic profiling is my specialty, and I’m telling you, you need someone to check out that building right now.”

Brass nodded to a woman in a FEMA vest, who appeared to be in charge in this tent, and she reluctantly called it in. But apparently she wasn’t forceful enough to persuade her superiors on the other end of the radio, because she merely shrugged and said, “If your team wants to take it, Mr. Profiler, it’s all yours.”

“That’s Dr. Profiler to you,” Grissom drawled dryly, and nodded to Spencer. “We’ll take it.”

“If he’s right, you’ll need back-up,” Brass protested, suddenly alarmed as the four of them prepared to leave.

“What, do you have any?” Grissom asked in surprise. “If so, send them after us. You got a radio for us? I’ll take it and keep in touch. Come on,” and he beckoned his team to follow him.

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