The New Haven Incident - Part Five

Published on 14 June 2024 at 08:00

New to the tale? Start here.

Dark fell before Lilith led Hannah and Sebastian into a tall office building. As with the hospital, the first floor was a mess of corpses and shattered glass. Flies buzzed over bloated corpses, feasting on drying eyes. Sebastian wrinkled his nose at the stench, but did not complain, following the example set by his new companions. The power was off.  Even if the elevators had not been utterly shattered in a recent fall, they would still have to take the stairs. Lilith led the way to the small door at the side of the lobby. She opened it carefully, keeping the noise to a minimum.

In considerable pain, Sebastian lagged behind, instinct guiding his very careful steps across the floor, avoiding making any noise whatsoever. He slipped through the door to the stairs held open by Lilith, nodding his thanks to her. She nodded back and began the trek up the stairs. Refusing his body’s desperate cries for rest, Sebastian followed. They climbed four agonising flights before Sebastian’s leg gave out. He fell to the ground with a grunt.

A gentle touch on his shoulder raised his head. Grimacing, he let Lilith help him to his feet. He met her querying gaze and nodded. He could keep going.

“It’s not far,” Hannah whispered. “Here.” She took his hand in his. Sebastian twitched and stared down in surprise. He looked up at Lilith. She smiled; the sort of gentle smile that spoke of maternal amusement.

“Okay,” Sebastian whispered back. “Lead the way.”

Hannah smiled up at him and began climbing up the steps, Sebastian in tow. Lilith walked behind, and Sebastian heard her chuckle softly as they recommenced the climb.

Five more flights of steps brought them onto a floor consisting entirely of boardrooms. A cursory sweep of the area revealed no broken glass, and not a single corpse. There was, however, a large group of people set up in one of the boardrooms, which no longer had a table in it.

“Hannah!” someone cried out, and a young woman in an expensive pantssuit exited the boardroom. Hannah forgot Sebastian, letting him go and running into the embrace of the woman who was now sobbing. “Auntie!” she squeaked as she ran.

“Oh, baby girl, why did you run off like that?”

“I’m sorry. But look,” Hannah reached into her satchel and removed a bottle of luridly purple liquid. “Cough medicine for Becca.”

“Oh, baby girl!” Hannah’s aunt pulled her close again.

Sebastian watched from the door, Lilith at his side. He stirred at her gentle touch on his arm and followed her to another room, where a diminutive Asian man in a lab coat poured over an electronic tablet and several paper files.

Lilith knocked on the door and the man looked up. “Lil!” he said, rising to his feet and rushing over. “You’re back! You’re safe!” He checked her over, looking for any wounds. Lilith bore it with good grace, smiling softly, before catching the man’s hands in both of hers and kissing his knuckles. She stood aside and revealed Sebastian, who had been standing behind her at a respectful distance. She signed to the man.

This is Sebastian. He was with Hannah when I found her. A friend, she said.

“Oh, oh. Come here, young man,” the man said. He waved Sebastian in with quick motions of the wrist.

Only after a brief pause and a glance at the winged woman, who smiled and nodded reassuringly, did Sebastian approach.

“You’re injured.”

“Uh… yeah. There was a giant dog… thing. Got tossed around like a doll.”

The man grunted. “We’ve taken to calling them hellhounds. Hannah’s invention. Well, come in, come in. Let me examine you.”

Sebastian hesitated.

“Oh, of course. You don’t know who I am. I am Doctor Liu. You’ve already met my daughter, Lilith.”

Sebastian turned to look at the woman, then back at the doctor.

“Adopted, of course,” Dr. Liu said with a small smile.

“Uh huh.”

“In any case, let me take a look at you.”

Not really knowing what else to do, Sebastian obliged. Dr. Liu turned back. “A little privacy please, Lil. We’ll talk soon.”

The winged woman nodded, offering another small smile before turning and walking back to the first room where the other survivors were huddled.

“You’ll need to take off your shirt, if you don’t mind,” Dr. Liu said as he flipped papers on his desk to reveal a stethoscope, which he placed over his shoulders. Sighing, Sebastian did as he was told, sliding off his knife holster first. He had quite forgotten about the bandages at his wrists until he noted the doctor’s eyes flicker to them, then to the still-obvious tracks on his left arm. Ignoring the brief surprise that flashed across the doctor’s face, Sebastian removed his shirt.

“Well, keep yourself in good physical condition, I see.” Dr. Liu frowned. “Mostly.” Sebastian’s torso bore three healed bullet holes, clustered close together over his right lung. Another, clearly fresher and still looking painful sat over his left hip bone. A large scar puckered under the shoulder-end of his left clavicle; a stab wound. Another scar, also a knife wound, sliced across his pectoral just beneath the stab wound. Similar wounds marred his back.

“Dangerous profession?” Dr. Liu asked.

He received no answer save a defiant, direct stare. Shaking his head, Dr. Liu changed the subject. “Let’s see how you move.”

What followed was a careful, thorough examination of Sebastian’s torso, identification of painful spots, and range of motion. The fresh claw marks on Sebastian’s back were cleaned and smeared with some antibacterial cream before being covered with cloth taped in place. After what seemed like an age, Dr. Liu stepped back. Sebastian began to dress himself.

“Well, fortunately for you, nothing appears broken. Just very bruised. In ordinary circumstances, I would recommend a protracted rest, but… well… that might not be possible at present. For now, though, I can welcome you to our little group of survivors, and offer you something warm to eat and a place to sleep.”

“What exactly happened here?”

“You don’t know?”

Sebastian shook his head. “Woke up in the hospital,” he said, turning to the doctor. He met the man’s gaze defiantly, daring the doctor to mention the track marks and bandaged wrists.

“Ah. I see,” the doctor said. “Must have been quite the shock.”

Sebastian grunted, sliding into his holster with a wince.

“And yet, you do not appear to be very shocked. Could it be that this is not the first time you’ve been through something like this?”

Sebastian did not answer. Dr. Liu did not push the issue.

“Well, come along, then. You are in desperate need of some food, and sleep, I imagine.”

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