Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth.
If you are new to The Only City Left and want a quick catch-up, you can read a synopsis of Parts 1-24 and then start from Part 25. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 26, Allin was feeling the pressure to agree to Banshee’s mission, so he told Tyena he would think about it. But while she slept, he just ran the same arguments for and against over and over in his mind, without coming to a conclusion.
The Only City Left: Part 27
Tumble woke us up the next morning and suggested I might want to return to my apartment to clean up before going down to the Skunkworks.
I ran a hand through my hair and turned to Tyena, who sat next to me. We both looked worse for having slept on the couch instead of a proper bed.
“What do you think,” I asked. “After we get ready, do you want to see what I’m working on down in the Skunkworks?”
Tumble coughed politely into his hand and cut in, “I am afraid the lovely Miss Branch does not have the Emperor’s permission to enter the ’Works. Perhaps you would like me to inquire about that?”
Before I could reply, Tyena answered, “That’s okay, boys. Allin, you can show me what you’re making when it’s done. I have some chores to do this morning anyway.”
She leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek.
“Don’t stay down there all day today, huh?”
That tiny kiss left me flustered—it certainly didn’t help that Tumble witnessed it—but I assured her I wouldn’t.
“Your reunion seems to be going… well,” Tumble said as he walked with me to my place. “Do you even need a room of your own anymore?”
I stopped in my tracks and I’m sure I blushed as I protested, “It’s not going that well, you pesky cat! Geez, we’ve barely had a few hours together awake. You don’t have to rush me!”
He gave me a sideways glance, twitched his whiskers, and said cryptically, “Time waits for no-one, young man,” before walking ahead with a chuckle.
In his curious feline way, Tumble was all too right. The next few days were some of the best of my life but they passed in a blur as I alternated between spending time with Tyena and tinkering in the Skunkworks. The only power outage in the sector was that I had a tough decision ever-present in the back of my mind: would I or wouldn’t I accept Emperor Banshee’s mission to infiltrate the Garden and assassinate my uncle?
No matter how hard I tried to avoid it, the question dogged me. In Pudlington Above, Tyena and I spent our days exploring the city, making our way through and between ancient buildings, marveling at hanging and rooftop gardens, and getting lost in the immense maze of platforms and rigging. In Pudlington Below, I continued to craft whatever useful gadgets I could fit into my cocoon bag, and I kept track of Professor Copper’s progress in analyzing the lantern coil.
As much as I tried to live in the moment and enjoy myself, it seemed that around every corner there was some reminder of what was at stake. While out exploring with Tyena, a wayward kitten ambushed us, keeping us at bay (and in fits of laughter) with his clumsy ferociousness, until his mother came along, cuffed him behind the ears, made him apologize, and carried him away. The kitten stuck his tongue out at us over his mother’s shoulder and I returned the gesture, laughing. When I looked to Tyena, though, her face had grown serious.
“I miss my mom,” she admitted, and then was quiet the rest of the afternoon.
Down in the Skunkworks, Professor Copper put her search for the lantern coil’s moonlight mode on hold.
“It’s like there’s a password, but I don’t even know how to input it, much less what it is,” she explained in frustration.
I commiserated with her, but couldn’t help but think that this meant I only had one option left now if I accepted the mission: give myself up to the wolves and hope for the best. It wasn’t a prospect that filled me with much hope.
Copper distracted me from my worried thoughts with her theory about how the sun- and moonlight were emitted by the coils in the first place. She was sure that the coils contained one end of a quantum tunnel, the other end of which was in orbit around the moon.
“Satellites, most likely,” she confided in me. “The light, either straight sunlight or reflected first off of the moon, enters the tunnel and is instantaneously co-translated into the coil, which diffuses it.”
“How can knowing that help you stop the werewolves?”
“Well, if we can’t destroy all the coils, which are the output end of the tunnel, perhaps we can destroy the satellite that harbors the input end. Then the coils are useless!”
It seemed like a good idea to me, if you didn’t let the fact that a satellite in orbit was even more unreachable than the roof of the world itself. Copper read my expression and nodded her head sadly.
“I know, there is little chance of success,” she acknowledged. “But I must continue to try. Did you hear? The wolves took another settlement today. The humans fought valiantly, but hundreds died and hundreds more were taken. I fear if we don’t stop the wolves soon, even the walls of Pudlington will not stand against them.”
With that heavy load on my chest, I had Tumble escort me out of the Skunkworks and I went to find Tyena to talk things over with her. When I reached her window, I heard indistinct raised voices from inside. I slipped through the window as quietly as I could and made my way through the cluttered floor until the voices grew loud enough that I could make out the words.
“I’m doing everything I can,” Tyena said, her voice pleading. “He has to understand that!”
“He understands that you’re playing around while lives are at stake!” came a male voice I didn’t recognize. “Do you understand the cost of any further delays?”
“I understand. Now let me go,” Tyena cried.
Her distress shocked me out of my curious eavesdropping. I rushed to her defense and was surprised to find her in the grip of a Pudlington Guardsman.
I yelled out and the pair of them looked at me in surprise. The guardsman pushed Tyena’s arms away and stalked past me.
“I was just leaving,” he said brusquely.
“Hey, you wait!” I yelled lamely at his retreating back, but Tyena came up to me and put a hand on my shoulder.
“It’s okay, let him go.”
I spun around to face her.
“It’s not okay. What’s going on? Who was that?” I demanded.
“A client,” Tyena said. “I mean, he works for a client. A rich, nasty client. I’m late on his portrait.”
I didn’t believe that story for an instant.
“Tyena, why are you lying to me?”
* * *
8/19/12 News: The Only City Left is now listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!
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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.