"I didn't mean to! I-I-I just- I just wanted-"
He breathed unsteadily in the powder-thick air. Picking himself off the ground as his hand firmed around the familiar shape of his gun in the gloom. He coughed. Spitting cement chips and blood to the side as the grit tried to burrow between his teeth.
The small explosion had turned the UNSUB's house into a chalky ecosystem of paint flakes and dust. Scattering tablets and notebooks everywhere as storage boxes littered the hall. He fished the broken radio out of his ear, barely recognizing Reid's voice before it broke into static. The wires seared.
He had to focus.
"People are dead, Jacob," he answered, picking up where they'd left off minutes before. Voice steadier than he felt as he advanced down the hall. The plaster was bristling with nails and metal-fragments that had barely missed him. "This needs to end peacefully. I know you want that. …I know you didn't mean to hurt them. You were trying to help them, weren't you?"
He registered the situation quickly. They'd been retreating. He'd pushed Reid out the door ahead of him before the bomb had detonated. Cutting him off from the only way out. It wasn't ideal, but it meant his team was safe. Alive. And for now, that was enough.
"Yes! Yes! Help them! Yes! I wanted to help them! I was trying to help everyone! You have to understand... I had to...someone had too! Everything is wrong. I was just trying to fix it."
He inched forward, shaking himself as his ears rang. Blinking rapidly as smoke and debris turned the air suffocating. He felt his way forward, moving carefully as his right knee twinged - bleeding through his dress slacks.
He had to focus.
He had to-
He inhaled, tasting dry-wall and chemicals on his tongue.
"Jacob. This is Agent Hotchner. We talked on the phone... I need to see your hands."
There was thump from the other room, then the sound of footsteps towards the remains of the closet that had been rigged to blow when Emily had stepped on the landing. He'd been lucky. They'd all been lucky. Remembering how small her waist had felt as he'd snatched her back. Keeping her behind him as the tell-tale ttttick! had sounded.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. Alert.
There could be more devices. The chemicals the UNSUB was working with were unstable. Containing deadly levels of hormones and pheromones - enough that it had virtually overwhelmed the nervous system of Jacob Hindes' victims. His test subjects. A lethal cocktail meant to do the impossible.
"I just need more time! I almost have it figured out. Almost!"
The pitch of the man's voice was grating. Manic. Spiraling. On the cusp of hyperventilating as the outline of the UNSUB peered through a hole in the wall. Showing a care-worn face and thick blond hair wet with blood before he ducked away again.
"Jacob, I need you to listen to me-"
He flashed back to the briefing. Jacob Hindes. Omega. 42. Divorced. Father of three. Bio-engineer and amateur chemist. Mentally unstable. A rare mix between a Dispute-caused and Mission-oriented bomber. His manifesto hit the internet almost three weeks ago. Claiming he had the answer to the Alpha problem the same day as his devices started to go off in crowded locations all over New York City. DOJ was involved and together with the FBI, CIA and Secret Service, were all trying to hold off on raising the terror-level.
This had to end.
He hadn't been able to get the victims out of his mind. Rachel Warren had only been 13. She'd been the first one exposed, but the last to die. Fighting the virus with bared, rictus teeth. Foaming at the mouth as something close to a growl slipped from her throat just before her heart gave out.
"-listen to my voice. You can still do the right thing. For your children. They can still grow up knowing their father. It's not too late. They need you. Don't give up on them. I spoke to Sarah, Jacob. She said the kids want to know if you're coming to get them this weekend. What should I tell them? They love you, Jacob. Don't do make me do this."
It had been his profile, and so far, it had been accurate.
Which meant he knew how far Hindes would take this.
Talking wasn't going to be enough.
He needed to get close enough to bring him down before he could set off another device.
"No, no, no! No! I need more time! I can make it right," the man yelled, each word punctuated by a hollow thud that made him picture fists slamming into an unstable wall.
"What do you need to make right, Jacob?" he asked, stalling. Hoping the others would find another way in. He needed to give them time to coordinate with the bomb unit and hazmat team outside. "You can tell me. It's just me and you, alright?"
The truth was, this was a symptom of an existing problem. The amount of people who couldn't cope with the shift was growing - especially amongst the Omega population. No one knew how or why the Alphas died out, but the scars the event had left on humanity's psyche were only becoming more apparent by the decade.
There were theories, of course. Most of them thoroughly debated long before he was born. Some claimed that the Alpha gene had never been as dominant as historians and anthropologists believed. That they had been steadily dying out since mankind's antiquity. A throwback. Some believed the shift into modern city centers had contributed to lower birth rates. With even Alpha and Omega pairs producing more Beta and Omega offspring. Not Alphas. Whatever the reason, within less than three hundred years, Alphas were extinct.
And more and more, Omegas were lashing out. Without Alphas, some Omegas couldn't cope. It was in their biology. Many were forced to check into Omegan Treatment centers - places that were only growing in number across the world. Leaving experts with the realization that something had to change. Soon.
It hadn't escaped him that this could be the start of something inevitable. Maybe it was unavoidable that people would start playing God. Desperate to exhume the Alphas from the dust, despite evolution likely having good reason to put them there.
He'd never thought much about it, before all this.
But then, he was a Beta.
It didn't affect him.
"I can bring them back," Jacob whispered, making something tighten under his skin. Flexing like a second heartbeat before he forced it down. He couldn't afford to be distracted.
He shook himself again, trying to clear his head. Pressing a hand between his eyes, forcing them away from seeing double. Barely registering it when his fingers came back red.
Jacob whined, thin and wounded-high somewhere in front of him.
A muscle in his cheek twitched.
"Nothing has been right since they left..." the man cried. Distressed. Pacing.
"Since who left, Jacob?"
He inched forward.
"The Alphas..." Hindes whimpered.
He gritted his teeth as the feeling threatened to rise again.
What was that?
Gideon's voice was surprisingly quick to answer in the privacy of his own head.
Concussion. Head injury. You're bleeding. Work it out, Aaron. You're going into shock.
Or he'd been exposed.
No. If he'd been exposed, he would have felt the effects by now. With the other victims it had been almost instantaneous. Seizures. Confusion. Muscle aches. Vomiting. Swelling in the gums, glands, groin. Irritation in the vascular system, increased heart rate and an almost immediate fever.
"I was just trying to make everything right. You know I-"
Jacob surprised him, making his gun jerk when he suddenly appeared in the jagged hole in the wall closest to him - making him flinch. But the man just stared at him. Owlish and awed against a smear of soot and blood.
"Oh- yes- of course. Of course. I can fix you... Agent- I can fix you!"
His gun rose, barely wavering. But Jacob didn't notice, he just kept babbling. Reaching for something out of sight that made his aim jerk from the man's center mass to his forehead. Finger ghosting the trigger.
"Jacob! Hands where I can see them!" he barked, repeating it until the man raised them distractedly. Showing a glass vial half-full with yellow liquid.
Anxiety swelled in his throat. Adrenaline crashing. Threatening to close his airways.
That had to be it.
"Yes. Yes. I've always been able to tell. It's so strong in you. I can- I can fix it. It's why you found me. You knew I could help!"
His finger tightened around the trigger. Surprised he was letting his anger get the better of him. Unable to keep Rachel's smiling photo from flashing across his mind's eye as Hindes babbled. Her parents had pressed it into his hands after she'd died. Pale and drawn as JJ ushered them into his office and closed the door.
"I'll find who did this to your daughter, and they will pay."
It hadn't made the Warrens feel better.
But it was something they could focus on.
Something he could focus on.
"I found you because you've killed four people, Jacob. Four innocent people," he snapped. The lack of control unlike him as he watched the liquid in the vial slosh with the man's erratic movements.
"Accidents. Unhappy accidents! The road to progress is rough. They were martyrs. They will be remembered! I just need to get it right. You'll thank me… There's something missing, you know there is. You know there's always been something missing - inside. Look at you...even now, you-"
"Jacob, listen to me. Put. The vial. Down."
The words came out low and gravel-rough. Like a command. With a power so strong that Jacob quivered to a stop. Looking at him with wide eyes, pupils dilated. Obeying. Good.
The moment stretched - yawning out of his control before a sound from outside - the slam of a vehicle door - broke the illusion. Shaking Jacob from whatever fugue state he'd been caught in as the UNSUB blinked hugely. Twitching.
"Put the vial down," he repeated. Only this time, the words didn't seem to have the same power. Hindes just looked at him like he'd hung the god damned moon. A blissful smile spreading across his face. Determined. Insane. Spreading wide lips to show the points of blunt teeth and-
"I'm going to fix you, Agent Hotchner," Hindes repeated before lifting the vial. "I'm going to fix all of you."
He would remember three things clearly.
First, the tension of the trigger against his finger as he took the shot.
Second, the lack of a shatter as Jacob fell, vial rattling across the floor.
Third, the strange wobble before his legs gave out underneath him.