The New Haven Incident - Part Six

Published on 21 June 2024 at 08:00

New to the tale? Start here.

Dr. Liu led Sebastian back to the first boardroom. Inside, twelve or so people huddled on the floor. Five of them still wore their lab coats. One of them was the child Hannah, and one the strange winged woman. Everyone else looked like normal human adults.

“Everyone, this is Sebastian,” Dr. Liu said. A murmur rustled through the gathering, but no one stepped forward, except the young woman who had greeted Hannah earlier.

“I’m Cheryl,” she said, extending her hand and offering a warm smile. “Hannah told me all about how you fought the hellhound for her. Thank you so much.”

Sebastian took her hand and shook it. “I’m afraid I didn’t make much of a showing of it.”

“You bought enough time for our Lilith to find her. That is not nothing. None of us could have managed it. Thank you.”

No one save his superiors ever thanked him, on the rare occasion, and it was certainly never as heartfelt as Cheryl’s gratitude. Sebastian shrugged, not really knowing what to say. “Sure.”

Someone marched past Sebastian and, grabbing Dr. Liu by the arm, dragged the small man outside of the room. Sebastian turned with a frown, noting immediately that Lilith, who had been leaning against the wall, straightened and narrowed her eyes.

Though the woman had pulled Dr. Liu out of the room for some privacy, she didn’t care enough to keep her voice down when she spoke to him. Everyone could hear.

“Another mouth to feed, James? Really?”

“Be calm, Mered—”

“Calm, James? We don’t have the supplies to keep the twelve of us…”

“Come on,” Cheryl said to Sebastian, grabbing his arm and pulling his attention away from the argument happening outside of the room. “Come and find a place to rest.” Sebastian let Cheryl lead him to a space on the floor where Hannah sat. “Don’t worry about Meredith,” Cheryl said as Sebastian slowly sat down. “She’s a little high strung.”

“She’s not exactly wrong,” Sebastian noted. “Without adequate resources, survival is impossible.”

“We’re not staying forever. Lilith has another safe place to go, and we’ll be leaving soon.”

Sebastian turned his attention to the winged woman who remained focussed on the two having an argument just outside the room. “What is her story, anyway?”

“Lilith? Oh… It’s not really my place to tell it.”

“I know it,” Hannah said.

“Is that so?” Sebastian replied. He glanced at Cheryl, who shook her head.

“Mm-hm,” Hannah confirmed, unmindful of her aunt’s disagreement.

“Well, don’t leave me in suspense. Tell me.”

“Well, the faeries live underground, you see. Only it’s not really underground but the way you get to faerie land is by going underground. Anyway, something happened, and the gate that usually keeps all the nasty faeries from coming into our land broke, and so all the nasty faeries got out and started hurting people. And then Lil came, to try and save us from all the bad faeries. She’s a good faerie, you see.”

“That’s… actually not far from the truth,” Cheryl murmured.

“Aren’t all faeries supposed to be good?”

“No, silly! Most are bad, and want to hurt people. But a few of them are good. Like Lil.”

“Oh. How can you tell?”

“Well, the bad faeries look bad. They’re not beautiful like her.”

“I see.”

“Auntie?” Hannah said, apparently done with the conversation. There were more important things on her mind now.

“Yes, my dear?”

“I’m hungry. Is it dinner time yet?”

“I don’t know.”

The argument outside stopped, and Dr. Liu entered the room. He offered Lilith a small signal to stand down and the woman relaxed, resuming her position leaning against the wall. James continued into the room and squatted by Sebastian’s side. “I’m sorry about that. Meredith is a little sharp, but…”

“But she’s not wrong,” Sebastian interrupted.

“Perhaps, perhaps not. I do not believe in coincidences, Sebastian. I think perhaps you were sent to us.”

Sebastian snorted and turned away.

“In any case, you’re here, and I will not turn aside someone in need. Now, we’re about ready to eat. So, come along. I’ll show you the camp kitchen.”

With considerable help, Sebastian rose to his feet and followed Dr. Liu out of the boardroom. Lilith came quietly to his side, and soon the entire room was following Dr. Liu to yet another boardroom. This one had a window open, and a small fire going on a camping oven. On top was a wok, filled with what looked like tinned beef stew. A round faced woman knelt before the wok and stirred with a wooden spoon.

“This is quite the set up,” Sebastian noted.

“Looted it all from the cafeteria downstairs. Hazel, this is Sebastian.”

“The newbie. Meredith came in and told me already.” The woman looked up at Sebastian and offered a beatific smile. “She was in quite the mood. Don’t you worry about her, love. She’s never been the nicest.”

“Hazel,” Cheryl admonished with a giggle.

“Tell me I’m wrong.” With no further protest, Hazel turned to Sebastian. “Well, you’re a cutie. Could use some fattening, though. Grab a bowl.”

Choosing to ignore the mention of his appearance, Sebastian took up a paper bowl from the pile on the floor and handed it to Hazel. She filled the bowl with the stew and handed the bowl back to Sebastian. “Careful, it’s hot. The rolls are a little stale, but nothing that a whole heap of butter won’t fix. We don’t have butter. Bon a-petite!”

Despite himself, Sebastian flashed a brief smiled. “Thank you.” He moved away so that others could be served.

“Ah! The little runaway! Heard you were back. Good thing, too. We were getting worried.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Well, you’re back now. Grab a bowl.”

One by one, the members of the group retrieved their meal and found a place to sit. Dr Liu opted to join Sebastian, and so Sebastian found himself sitting with the doctor and Lilith. Hannah, obviously attached to the woman, sat beside her, and so Cheryl joined them.

“So, Sebastian. I’m guessing you weren’t here on vacation,” Cheryl ventured.


“What did you do, you know, before the faerie apocalypse?”

Sebastian pointedly ignored the doctor as James Liu shook his head and cautioned Cheryl against this line of questioning with a small movement of his hand. There would be no point in acknowledging it.

“Nothing much,” he replied.

He felt movement behind him and knew that Lilith was signing something.

“Later,” Cheryl said, glancing over at Sebastian. For his part, Sebastian continued to ignore them, focussing on his meal.

“Lilith says you’re lying,” Hannah supplied, unable to read the subtleties of what those glances and facial expressions exchanged between the adults.

Sebastian turned to look at Lilith with a raised brow. “Is that so?”

Lilith cocked her head at his challenge. She smiled sadly and signed.

“She says,” Dr. Liu supplied, “She can tell. But we are prying and shouldn’t be.”

Cheryl frowned. “Tell what?”

“Prying, Cheryl,” Dr. Liu said as Lilith signed the exact same thing.

Cheryl rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she muttered, returning to her food.

Hannah leaned over to Sebastian. “It’s a secret isn’t it?” she whispered conspiratorially.

Sebastian looked down at her. “Very,” he whispered back. Keeping his expression sombre, he offered Hannah a wink. The child smiled.

“Oh, okay. Shhh.” Hannah pressed her forefinger to her lips.

Sebastian nodded and returned the gesture. “Shhh.”

Hannah giggled, then returned to her food, wolfing it down.

Lilith reached across and tapped her arm. Slow down, she signed. You’ll make yourself ill.

“No I won’t,” Hannah answered, not slowing down.

Lilith smiled, rolled her eyes and shook her head.

The meal continued in amicable silence. Sebastian was acutely aware that he was the centre of everyone’s attention. A new person showing up in the middle of hell would be noteworthy. He did his best to ignore the continual glances and whispered conversations he could nevertheless overhear. But he was used to being invisible, and all the attention was making him twitchy. He cursed himself for a hypocrite, as he could not stop glancing at Lilith. Her strange appearance was part of his fascination, he knew. But she was, as Hannah so freely admitted, strikingly beautiful despite, or perhaps because of, that strangeness.

It was not possible that she was truly a faerie princess from another dimension, however much Lilith looked like one. Sebastian had been sent into the centre of some incredibly strange situations; deranged cultists that were creating mind-altering drugs to unleash on the world, scientists gone mad with power who fancied themselves gods demanding worship from peoples in remote regions of the world while also experimenting on them, creating bizarre monsters in deranged quests for perfection, terroristic cells working on appalling bioweapons… He had seen all manner of things that any regular person would immediately dismiss for impossible fantasy. Never once was there an alternate dimension. There was, however, a plethora of genetic researchers who could be responsible for her creation.

Hannah finished before everyone else, rose and went to Lilith, settling happily against the woman’s side. In moments, the child was fast asleep, snoring quietly. Lilith smiled down at the child at the first snore, gently brushing her dark hair away from her face, then returned to her meal. When she was done eating, Cheryl rose and gathered her dishes. Lilith signed, Thank you, to which Cheryl simply nodded and smiled.

Dr. Liu turned to Lilith. “Still planning on heading out tonight?”

Lilith nodded, signing. Sebastian watched, though he could understand nothing of Lilith’s side of the conversation.

“Do you know where?”


“Is Reinhert with them?”

A shake of her head.


A nod.

“Oh good. Are you bringing them here?”

Another shake of her head and more signing.

“I see.” Dr. Liu sighed. “I know I cannot stop you, of course. But I will always worry.”

Lilith offered her adopted father a soft, warm smile, and reached out to take his hand a moment. She dropped it and signed. Dr. Liu nodded and Lilith turned, carefully lifting Hannah into her arms without waking her, and taking her to where Cheryl was setting up some bedding.

Dr. Liu turned to Sebastian and smiled. “Lilith has taken it upon herself to help us escape the city. She’s trying to find as many survivors as she can. There are very few of us, I’m afraid.”

“Are you going to tell me what happened here?”

“A faerie apocalypse,” Dr. Liu said with a shake of his head.

Sebastian grunted. “So a portal opened underground and all these hellish creatures started pouring out, is that it?”

“More or less.”

“There’s a research lab beneath the university, isn’t there.” It was not a question. Dr. Liu looked up sharply, and several people turned their heads.

Scoffing Sebastian shook his head. “Fucking Cedarwood City all over again.”

“It’s not like that.”

“No? You’re a geneticist, aren’t you?”

Dr. Liu sighed. He rubbed the side of his face. “I am a doctor. I instructed the medical students at the university hospital. But yes. I was also involved in the genetic research programme.”

Sebastian turned away, choosing to stare at the wall rather than meet Dr. Liu’s gaze and expose his disgust.

“But we were not creating plagues or bioweapons down there. There was no programme like that. We had learnt from Cedarwood City.”


Dr Liu observed Sebastian for a moment. “You’re a little young to be angry about Cedarwood, no? It was a little before your time.”

Again, Sebastian scoffed. “I was there,” he said quietly. “I was a cop. Sort of. It was my second week.”


“I shouldn’t be here,” Sebastian muttered. “Better men than me never made it out.” He became acutely aware everyone in the room was following their conversation. He shook his head and adjusted his position on the floor stretching out one leg. He returned his gaze to Dr. Liu.

“If not bioweapons, what were you doing down there?”

Dr. Liu sighed. Moved over to settle beside Sebastian.

“James,” Meredith called from across the room, her tone a warning.

“Oh shut it, Mer,” Hazel answered. “I think the NDA is expired. What are they going to do to us, really?”

Dr Liu ignored them. He spoke to Sebastian, his tone gentle and calm. “There were a number of programmes in the laboratory. Hazel’s team was working on an exiting new cure for pancreatic cancer. Rosalee, may she know peace, and her team were working on using genetically altered bacteria as medication delivery systems.”

“And you?”

Dr. Liu sighed. “Before I was demoted to simply lecture at the university? Super soldiers. We had been contracted to do research into creating super soldiers.”

Sebastian snorted.

“I know. It’s like something out of a bad sci fi movie or comic books or something. But it’s true.”

“I believe you.” There was nothing mocking in Sebastian’s tone.

Dr. Liu paused. He observed Sebastian for another long moment. The younger man’s blue eyes, hard and cold, stared down at the floor, his lips turned down in an expression that told the doctor that they had almost never moved to a smile. He recalled the wounds on Sebastian’s torso.

“I imagine you do.” Liu sighed again. “It was such rewarding work,” he said. “We were all so excited about the idea of perfecting humanity that we didn’t really stop to think of the implications. It was not until much later, until after Lilith was born that I realised how foolish we were.”

“Is she one?”

Immediately guessing who Sebastian meant, Dr. Liu drew his knees into his chest and rested his hand on them. “One what? A super soldier?” Dr. Liu nodded. “The only one,” he whispered.

“Is that why she… is that the reason for…?”

“What? Her current appearance? No. No, that came later, right at the beginning of this current mess. But I have a feeling it’s related.”

Sebastian turned to Dr. Liu with a frown.

“My programme was abandoned,” Dr. Liu said. “Cancelled, actually. We’d been getting results, but whatever step forward we took in one area, it seemed we took three back in another. Most of the time, we couldn’t get the genetic changes to take, and we’d lose the subjects before they even passed the zygote stage. Of those that did become embryos, most were malformed. They could not survive outside of the incubators. We did have a few successes, but they were… their aggression levels made them entirely unsuitable. They would hurt their caretakers, each other, themselves. All before they could walk. They were incapable of learning. None of them lived very long. We couldn’t figure it out.

“Turns out, the primary problem was chromosomal.” Dr. Liu snorted. “You see, people hear the words ‘Super Soldier’ and they think Steve Rogers or Rambo - some roided up man in love with the Stars and Stripes. We did, too. So did the people who contracted us, I suppose. But I had a hunch. You see, many of the same neurological problems present themselves very differently in each sex. I thought it would be the same here. Turns out, I was right. At least in this one instance. Everything could not have gone better.” Dr. Liu smiled, his eyes distant as he recalled holding the baby in his arms.

Sebastian remained silent, watching the doctor lose himself in the memories. Dr. Liu roused himself and smiled at Sebastian.

“I made a report on our phenomenal results, thinking we were finally going to have our work rewarded. We did it. We achieved a genetically engineered human. But the higher ups were not having it. They didn’t want an army of female super soldiers, I suppose. We were ordered to abandon the project and to destroy the research. All of it.”

“But you continued?”

“No,” Dr. Liu said. “You don’t understand. You see, the final measure of success was a threshold none of the male subjects ever reached – puberty. I didn’t make the report until I was certain. They were not ordering the destruction of cells in a dish. They ordered the murder of a twelve-year-old girl.”

Sebastian straightened, his perpetually unhappy expression collapsing into a scowl.

“Lilith was born a beautiful, healthy baby girl to a surrogate. As it turned out, she was a very normal baby. Except she was born mute. She can make sounds, but doesn’t have the right… equipment for human speech. It was the only snag in our programming, and I’m not convinced it was us. There was likely some anomaly in the donor DNA. Still, she was very clever, and was signing before most children learn to speak. But it seemed her greatest super power was empathy. She would know whenever we were sad, even if we were doing our best to hide it. She would just look at you with her huge, brown eyes; this strange knowing in them. And then she’d just reach out and hold you. Not just me, either. With everyone who helped raise and teach her. She was the darling of our department. Still is.

“I managed to hide her from our superiors. The whole programme helped. Even Meredith. We placed her in the orphanage, and managed to acquire the remains of a child who had unfortunately died, passing those off as our subject. Months later, I formally adopted Lilith from the orphanage. This was easily snuck past the counsellors we all knew were sent to keep an eye on us. Plagued by guilt, you see, I adopted a little girl to give her the life I couldn’t give our subject.”

For a second time, Dr. Liu fell into silence, lost in memories. Sebastian waited.

“They believed us. The arrogance of not imagining that anyone would disobey, and the fact that the entire programme was in on it helped, no doubt. I raised Lilith as my own daughter. She enrolled in school, signed up for martial arts lessons and archery, where she excelled. She was champion material, but it was never so great a divide between her and the other girls that it was obvious that any of our genetic work took.

“She led a very ordinary life. She graduated, went to school to become a teacher — she’s always had a soft spot for children. Even had a couple of boyfriends. She was so very normal. I know now that she was holding back. I learnt that trying to escape the labs when everything went to hell.”

“Does she know?” Sebastian asked.

“She is my daughter. I do not keep secrets from her.”

“So how did she end up like…?”

“Like she looks like she belongs in some film adaptation of a badly written book for teenagers?”

“That’s… specific.”

Dr. Liu chuckled, then grew serious. “Whatever has affected this city, it’s not like what happened to Cedarwood. And yet, it is. I’m not sure what this infection is, but those afflicted become very ill. If they survive the fever, they become mindlessly aggressive, going on brutal sprees until they either collapse and die or they become… something else. It’s not an airborne virus near as I can tell. Infection cannot happen from contact.”

“Then how?”

“Injection appears to be the mechanism for spreading whatever this is. Once injected, the disease proceeds rapidly. People go from injected to dead in a matter of hours. Those who are strong enough to survive the initial phase of infection are completely changed in under twenty-four hours. The transition, I am reliably assured, is incredibly painful.”

“She was injected?”

Dr. Liu nodded. “She had come to visit me at work when this thing… We heard screaming in the halls and we both ran out to see what was going on. There was this… this man… but he wasn’t a man. Not anymore. He had Rosalee and was slamming her head against the wall. Repeatedly. There was so much blood. The security team arrived and tazered this thing. It did nothing save make it angry. It tore through them like they were barely an inconvenience. I was in shock. I just stood there. Like an idiot. When it turned, it saw me and lunged.

“It was Lilith who came to my rescue. She pushed me out of the way and fought him back. That’s the moment I knew we had succeeded in creating a super soldier; her strength, her inhuman reflexes… She turned to me and told me to run. That’s when it happened. He had a stinger thing on his wrist. I watched him plunge it into her side. She collapsed immediately. I thought she was dead. I don’t really remember much else after that. When I returned to myself, I was sitting in a tent, military types running around. That lasted all of three hours before we were overrun.

“We’ve been running, and shrinking in number, ever since. At least until three days ago.”

“Three days ago?”

“We were attacked. Three of those things… We’ve taken to calling them Dark Ones, thanks to Hannah. She gave them all names. They’re evil faeries, as she would tell it. In any case, there were three and then, out of nowhere, this other, well, faerie came and she was fierce. She fought those three off, killing two and injuring the last so badly we’re fairly certain it died after its retreat. When she turned to face us… I recognised her right away. I couldn’t believe it. She had undergone the physical transformation of the infection, but she was still herself. Still my sweet, beautiful, kind Lil. I feel like her genetic alterations had something to do with that. Anyone else would have turned mindlessly violent. Not her.”

Sebastian turned from Dr. Liu, resting his back against the wall of the boardroom that served as the dining hall. “The virus that took Cedarwood City had similar symptoms: Rapid spread, fever, increased aggression then death… or not. It would change people. Make them monsters.”

“With wings?”

“No. The wings are new.”

Dr. Liu snorted a sad laugh. “It can’t be the same. Our facility was working on bioengineering bacteria, on cancer cures… none of us were working on viruses.”

“Someone was.”

Dr. Liu fell silent. He sighed.

“So… you named her Lilith? That’s biblical.”

“Yes,” Dr Liu agreed. “She lives in defiance of man. Or the man. I thought it appropriate.” 

Lilith appeared at the door to the boardroom, a satchel slung over a shoulder, the strap falling in between the four sets of dragonfly wings that protruded from her back. Dr. Liu stood, Sebastian following suit.

“Heading out?” the doctor asked.

Lilith nodded, smiling briefly.

“Heading out?” Sebastian asked. “Where?”

“The second group of survivors. They’ve not had an easy time of it. Several are in need of medical attention they don’t have the supplies for. Lilith is going to make a delivery, and hopefully move them to the new safe location she’s set up. We’ll join them tomorrow.”

Sebastian nodded, turning his attention to Lilith again. Liquid dark eyes observed him, strangely warm and kind, despite their alien appearance. Lilith signed to him.

“She asks that you look after us until she gets back,” Dr. Liu said.

“Promise,” Sebastian replied. Lilith smiled, turned and vanished down the hall.

“Well, I won’t be able to sleep tonight,” Dr. Liu said. He clapped Sebastian on the shoulder. “Let me show you where the beds are set up.”

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