The New Haven Incident - Part Eight

Published on 5 July 2024 at 08:00

New to the tale? Start here.

The woman, Lilith, had taken residence on the balcony, looking out over the silent, dark city. When Mendez was relieved by Joseph, he went to her side.

“Warm night,” he noted conversationally.

Lilith glanced over at him and smiled slightly, before reverting her attention back out over the city. Mendez shifted his rifle and leant both forearms on the railing. “It never stops being creepy,” he mused. “A city is supposed to be full of life; noise, light.” He shook his head. Turning to face Lilith, he took some time to observe her. She was, now that he was used to the sight of her, strikingly beautiful; clearly very fit. Though a slender build, her musculature was easily discernible. She wasn’t skinny.

“Hey,” Mendez said, drawing her attention again. He reached into one of the many pockets on his trousers and pulled out a small, long, foil-wrapped object. “You like chocolate?” He offered the object to Lilith who, after a slight hesitation, took it. She slowly unwrapped the foil to reveal a single finger of chocolate. She sniffed it and, finding nothing wrong with the smell, bit off a small piece.

Mendez grinned as he watched her body relax and her eyes close as the chocolate melted in her mouth.

“It’s good, right?”

Lilith nodded, smiling up at him.

“My abuela makes it. An old family recipe. I keep telling her she should open up a shop.”

Lilith’s smile broadened and she cocked her head, regarding him. There was warmth in her dark gaze and Mendez found that he liked her, wings and all. There was just something about her that felt… he struggled to find the right word, and decided on ‘good.’

Lilith signed. Thank you.

“No problem.” He turned back to look over the city. “Hey,” he said after a moment. “I’m sorry about Harding. He can be an asshole sometimes, but he’s not a bad guy. He just hates surprises. And, no offence, you’re quite surprising.”

Lilith smiled again. She shook her head and turned to Mendez, her expression growing serious. Do you trust him?

“With my life.” Mendez shrugged. “I’ve had to a lot since I’ve known him. He’s never once let me down.”

Sighing, Lilith turned back to the city.

“I’m prying,” he said. “But I’m guessing you didn’t always have…” Stopping himself, Mendez cleared his throat. “You know what? Never mind. I am prying.”

A soft laugh from the woman at his side turned his head. Yes, she signed. But I will tell you, all the same.

Mendez waited, grateful for her good-humoured forbearance of his curiosity.

No, I did not always have… She flapped her wings a few times. Believe it or not, I was once a normal woman. Well, mostly.

“So, what happened?”


Mendez stiffened. He glanced around to ensure that no one was watching them too closely. Turned back to Lilith, he noted the expression of wry expectation and knew he did not mishear. Still, he needed clarification. He started signing.

You’re infected?


Suddenly, Mendez had run out of questions. His mind whirled, and he struggled to find a thread on which to latch for any kind of coherent thought.

Lilith laughed softly. Mendez stared at her.

It’s not quite the same as the others.

Mendez continued to signing. You need to explain everything. Now.

Lilith nodded. She sighed, then began. What happened to me… You will meet others that look something like I do. But they’re different. They’ve lost their minds. Became hyper-aggressive. Forgotten their humanity. That’s what the infection does. It makes you lose your mind. It went a little differently for me.

Why? How?

Lilith shrugged. I don’t have an answer for you. Only that I’m different. She cocked her head. Your friend, Richards, he wasn’t wrong to shoot. If you see others that look like me, you should shoot too.

What if they’re like you?

I’ve not yet encountered one where that is the case.

Mendez scowled. Finally, he asked, Why did you tell me? It could have gone badly for you.

Smiling softly, Lilith looked away, cocking her head upwards as if thinking. It might have been the chocolate.

Not expecting that response, Mendez laughed; a short cough of a laugh. He shook his head, caught somewhere between bewilderment and astonishment.

“Yes!” Richards said, capturing Mendez’s attention. “Got through.”

“We’ll talk more later,” Mendez said, before turning and jogging to the table where Richards and Harding were working.

He arrived just as Harding connected his ear piece. “Harding,” he said as Mendez arrived. “Who do we have?” A pause. “Oh thank God. We’ve been trying to pull someone up since we entered the theatre. We can’t raise the other teams. Do you have contact?” Another pause. “Shit.” A longer pause. “Roger that. If you manage to contact Team Three, I need you to relay new rendezvous coordinates. We have alternate means, but if you get to them first it would be appreciated.” Harding waited, then gave the new coordinates. “We’ll keep trying on our end. In the meantime, I was wondering if you could do a favour for me. It’s possible we have an unknown entity that may be of some help. I was wondering if you had any intel of anyone in the city who might fit the description of highly trained personnel, but not military?” A pause. “Thank you. I’d appreciate that. Excellent. Alright, Nest. Harding out.”

“Good news?” Mendez asked.

“That was Sigma Nest,” Harding answered. “We’re the first team they’ve managed to contact since mission start.”

“I don’t like that.”

Harding grunted. “Flying blind is not optimal. Doesn’t change much, though. We stick to the plan as much as possible.” He glanced at the balcony where Lilith had resumed staring out over the city. “Get anything out of it?”

Mendez frowned at Harding’s use of the word ‘it.’ He looked back at the young woman. “No,” he said. “Nothing worth noting anyway.” He grinned. “She likes chocolate.”

Rolling his eyes, Harding replied, “Well, she seems to have taken a liking to you. Use that and see if you can’t get anything worth noting.”

“Yes, sir.”

You didn’t tell him, Lilith signed when Mendez returned to her side.

“No,” Mendez answered. Shifting his rifle to his side, he leant against the railing. Lilith matched him, and did not press it. Mendez found her silent company pleasant, and so he remained there, quietly surveying the city until Dr. Lundt came to collect Lilith and usher her to bed. Sighing, Mendez returned to the command table.

Harding was reading a tablet. Riley returned from his patrol and glanced over his captain’s shoulder.

“Lining up a date for after the mission, sir? Very pretty. Didn’t think you went for pretty.”

Harding scoffed, but ignored him.

Joseph and Grindel roused themselves and jostled for a glance at the tablet.

“Sir,” Grindel said, grinning viciously, “he’s beautiful, sir.”

“Yo,” Richards said as he passed by. He stopped and grinned when he spotted the picture of the young man on the tablet. “Who’s the twink?”

“Connors,” Harding mused aloud. He handed the tablet to Mendez, who took it and was met with a young, slender, strikingly handsome man with blond hair and shockingly blue eyes smiling up at him, wearing a Cedarwood City Police uniform.

“Agent Sebastian Connors,” Harding continued, emphasising the word agent. “Survived Cedarwood City.”

Mendez stared at the file, noting the birth date and making a quick calculation. “Jesus. He was just a kid.”

Harding grunted. “Continue to read the file, if you wouldn’t mind Olly.”

Mendez obliged. “Following the Cedarwood Incident, recruited by redacted. Trained at redacted, four years. Close combat specialist. Firearms specialist. Sniper… Jesus, what doesn’t he specialise in? Seven missions… All of them redacted.”

“Read the mission statuses, if you please.”

“Okay. Operation… redacted. I’ll just number them. Mission one, objective complete. Mission two, objective complete. Mission three… four redacted objectives, all complete. Five, six, seven… all complete.”

“Any soldier with that kind of record would be so decorated he’d need an exoskeleton to walk. Yet I’ve never heard of this guy.”

“So,” Mendez said. “Highly trained. Not military.”

Harding grunted.

“This is a good thing, no?” Riley asked. “Someone like that can help us get out of this city.”

“That depends entirely what kind of man he is,” Harding said. “Right now, he’s an unknown. I fucking hate unknowns.”

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