Archive for September, 2012

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 1-30 and then start at Part 31. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 32, Allin met a familiar face at the bottom of a spike-lined death trap.

The Only City Left: Part 33

“I’d say ‘Don’t shoot’ but I’m curious to see your jelly gun in action,” he deadpanned. “Please, go ahead.”

It was Tumble all right, looking much as he had when I first met him, except his gun was holstered at his side and he wore a backpack. I lowered my useless, and apparently comical, grapple gun to my side and asked, “What are you doing here?”
Really, he was the last person I had expected to see again, certainly not so soon, and definitely not coming through a secret door in the bottom of a spike-lined pit.

“Would you believe it was pure chance?”

I cocked my head and raised one eyebrow in answer.

“I didn’t think so. Truth is, I have been assigned to keep track of you,” Tumble said. He eyed the room and then returned his gaze to me. “You know, keep you out of death traps and that sort of thing.”

I shoved the grapple gun back into the cocoon bag, ignoring the mess inside it.

“And a fine job you’re doing of that so far,” I mumbled as I sealed the bag closed and swung it onto my back. “Look, you can go back and tell Banshee I said ‘Thanks but no.’ I’ve been on my own for a while now. I don’t need you to keep me safe. Now if you would?”

I gestured for him to step out of the way so that I could crawl through the opening behind him. He sidestepped with a grand sweep of his arms.

“Thanks,” I offered over my shoulder as I crawled into the tunnel.

I heard the grating sound again, followed by Tumble’s voice.

“Far be it from me to wonder how you were going to leave that room if I hadn’t shown up,” he said, following behind. “I’ll give you full credit for having the ingenuity to have figured it out on your own.”

I mumbled another “Thanks” and rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t help but smile at his lofty way of speaking.

“But I am afraid I am barred from returning to Pudlington for the foreseeable future. Unless, that is, you could be convinced to return there. Then it would be my duty to ensure your safe arrival.”

The tunnel opened up into a large cylindrical shaft with ladders running up and down the walls at intervals around its circumference. I switched the wristlight to a cone of light and aimed it up, down, and around. I couldn’t see the ceiling or the floor, but there were other openings at various heights around the chamber.

“Sorry, Tumble. I’m not going back there,” I told him, my voice echoing in the open chamber before me.

My stomach felt sour at the thought of Tyena’s lies and how both she and Banshee had sought to use me to their own ends. I wouldn’t trade the freedom of the city to return to that.

“I assumed as much,” Tumble said with a tiny sigh. “Then we shall be companions!”

I switched my wristlight back to full illumination, swung out onto a nearby ladder, and started to climb.

Uh-uh-uh, I would not go that way,” Tumble cautioned, looking up at me from the mouth of the tunnel I had exited.

I paused my climb and stared back at him.

“I want to go Up, remember?”

“Yes, but this access tunnel only leads to more trapped rooms. And, and!” Tumble raised his voice, cutting off the protest I was about to make. “And it is not without traps of its own. Look up.”

I could hear the tension in his voice, so I slowly tilted my head back and brought my wristlight up. I noticed that about a foot above me on the ladder, there was a nearly invisible piece of string just above one rung. Its ends were wrapped around either side of the ladder and then continued on into tiny holes in the wall.

“Step on that and the entire ladder will separate from the wall,” Tumble explained. “Explosively.”

I caved. “Fine, I get it. I need you to get me out of this feline death-maze.”

“Very good. Now do exactly as I say.”

We spent the rest of the journey through Pudlington’s defensive maze mostly in silence, except for Tumble’s instructions as he either led me around traps or had me wait while he disabled them and reset them once we had passed.

Twice during the trip he tried to talk to me about what was happening in Pudlington in my absence: what Tyena was doing now that she knew the cats were aware of her deception, and what alternate plans Banshee was crafting to combat the werewolves. Both times I cut him off; I didn’t want to hear it.

Finally, we dropped from a ventilation shaft into an unlit corridor that was as run-down and dismal as the ones outside of Pudlington were clean and bright.

“Here you are, Allin,” Tumble proclaimed. “Free of Pudlington’s grasp. I shall of course leave you alone if you wish it, but I cannot ignore my Emperor’s commands. Do not be surprised if you see me following behind you about fifty paces or so.”

“You’re laying it on kind of thick. You really can’t return to Pudlington?”

“If only. Following you is to be my punishment for my, ahem, oversharing,” Tumbled admitted with a wry grin.

I couldn’t exactly stay mad at him. After all, he was only in trouble because he had told me the truth. Plus, even though I wouldn’t admit it to him, I was looking forward to having his company. The city was a mighty lonely place, and I hadn’t traveled with anyone since my parents died.

“Fine, you can follow me, but enough about Tyena and Banshee. If you nag me about them, we’ll find out how effective being one with the universe is against a swift kick in the butt.”

“Splendid,” Tumble declared, as if he had known this would be the outcome all along. “You lead, I’ll follow.”

I played my wristlight in either direction down the decaying corridor. Neither way held any more promise than the other.

“You brought us here, so you should know: how do we go Up from here?”

Tumble smiled his feline grin and said, “I lead. You follow.”

* * *

Follow Tumble to Part 34.

9/30/12 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!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

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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 1-30 and then start at Part 31. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 31, Allin had fallen into one of the many traps in the maze of ductwork surrounding Pudlington.

The Only City Left: Part 32

I screamed as I careened down a nearly vertical metal chute, a sound I could no more control than I could my descent. I kicked my legs and scrabbled my hands, but could find no purchase on the slick metal walls. Some part of my panicked brain did note, though, that when the soles of my cling-tight boots connected with the chute, I slowed down the teensiest bit.

Without a second thought, I bent my legs, slamming my feet into the ceiling of the chute and my knees into the floor. Now my screaming was only partly due to hurtling to my doom; it was also because of the intense burn where my knees scraped against the side of the chute. I didn’t let that stop me, though, because it was working! The longer I held my boots against the surface of the chute, the more they slowed me down. I was almost at a standstill when I ran out of chute and my hands flew out into empty space.

It was at that point that my boots locked into place, having finally gained the advantage over the slippery metal wall of the chute. I jerked violently to a stop and swung backwards, thwacking the back of my head against something hard and unyielding.

“Yow!” I yelled, or something equally high-pitched. As I swung back and forth like this in diminishing arcs, the beam of my wristlight traced a path over a floor covered with sharpened spikes some distance below me. I shone the light up and saw only inches of space between my boots and the end of the chute.

“Holy Ancients, that was close,” I gasped between breaths.

A second later, I heard a bumpa-da-bumpa sound and something slammed into my legs and then fell past me. I yiped in fright and waved my left arm around, trying to aim my light onto whatever it was that had been following me. In a moment I saw it, impaled on a spike.

My cocoon bag.

“Now that’s just unfair,” I moaned, already thinking about how I could get it back. It contained everything I needed to survive; abandoning it was not an option.

I switched the wristlight to full illumination and was satisfied that the light just reached the edges of the room. The spikes below me looked to be about waist-high if I was standing next to them. From my upside-down perch they were still two or three arm-lengths away from my outstretched hands, so there was no way I could get my bag without being down there. Luckily, there was space to move around in between the spikes if I could get down to the floor.

I pulled one foot off the wall of the chute and felt the strain on my other ankle. As fast as I could, I moved my free foot to the ceiling of the spike chamber and made sure it was secure. I groaned in agony as I pulled back on my other foot. It felt like my ankle was going to break before the seal did, but it finally came free and I was able to stomp it into place on the ceiling.

All this hanging and swaying upside down made my vision swim and stomach churn, and the walk to the wall was terrifyingly slow. With each step I wondered if my boots would finally lose their grip or if I would slip out of them. When I finally made it across the ceiling, I turned around to face away from the wall and made my way down it in a sort of upside-down, reverse crab-walk. By the time I reached the bottom and slid into a clear patch between spikes, my ankles and legs felt like stone weights and I was ready to pass out. I sat up slowly and gave my head time to adjust to being right-side up again. Once I felt better, I stood up and gingerly threaded my way into the center of the room to retrieve my bag.

“Oh no,” I moaned, examining it. It wasn’t the holes in either side of the bag that bothered me, because once I held the fabric together it bonded back together just fine. The contents of the bag were another matter. The spike had pierced a food-pack I didn’t even know I had; one of the cats must have provided me with it. Thoughtful of them, but now there was nutrient jelly over everything in my bag. What a mess.

What’s more, there was a nice hole through my towel, which could not be as easily repaired as the bag itself. Needle and thread were not amongst the tools I had thought to bring.

I shoved everything back into the bag in disgust, dropped it unceremoniously to the ground, and wiped my hands on the front of my pants.

“Okay, now what do I do?” I wondered out loud, eyeing the square opening in the ceiling. I had used my only glue grapple already; the rest were clawed and would likely prove useless in this predicament.

While I considered trying one anyway, a grating sound from behind me set the hairs on the back of my neck a-tingling. I very nearly fell backwards and impaled myself in my haste to whip around and determine its source. A small portion of wall along the floor was sliding to one side. I heard something padding towards me from inside the opening, but it was still out of view.

I glanced quickly to the left and the right, searching for some improvised weapon, but this death trap was surprisingly clean of any debris. There wasn’t even a bone I could wield as a club. As a last resort, I kneeled down, plunged my hand into my bag and came up with the grapnel gun. Sure, it was unloaded and sticky with jelly, but the possible intimidation factor was all I had going for me at the moment.

I remained kneeling, gun pointed at the opening, until a creature stepped forth from the darkness. A small creature. A familiar creature.

I lowered the gun and cried out, “Tumble!?”

* * *

Continue to Part 33.

9/23/12 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!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.

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 1-30. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 30, Allin struck out on his own again, leaving behind a distressed Tyena and a disappointed Banshee.

The Only City Left: Part 31

After leaving the Pudlington guards behind, I tried to retrace the path that Tumble and I had taken when we arrived here. Problem was, every hallway looked the same, the carpet a thin, gray, industrial-looking affair, the walls a uniform tan in color interrupted only by the occasional off-white, sealed-shut door.

Since I couldn’t find the exact way I had come in, and crawling through claustrophobic ventilation shafts didn’t sound appealing to me anyway, I decided to search for an alternate route out of the area.

An hour later, exasperated, I gave up on that idea. The hallways were like a maze, and though they were well-lit and safer than most of the City, I wasn’t making any progress. Instead of an exit, all I found were numerous dead-ends, locked doors that wouldn’t budge, and blank walls where I would have expected something, anything, stairs or an intersecting passageway or an empty elevator shaft. The cats had this sector locked down tight; I should have expected as much.

I guess it’s back into the ducts after all, I thought sourly. I stopped underneath the next grate I found, looked up at it, and took a moment to think about my next move.

This whole area was part of Pudlington’s outer defenses, after all. If someone could simply climb in and out through the air ducts, it wouldn’t be very effective. Tumble had disarmed traps along our way in, and I’d have to watch out for the same on the way out, but would the grate itself be dangerous?

“Only one way to find out,” I said out loud, my voice eerily muted in the empty, carpeted corridor.

I kneeled down and rummaged through my bag, pulling out a few tools and laying them on the floor beside me: magma stick, grapple gun, wristlight. I thought of the Skunkworks and sent a silent “Thank you” to the cats for not only sheltering me but also giving me access to a workshop. Without these gadgets, I wouldn’t even be able to make it out of Pudlington’s outer bailey.

The wristlight was the replacement I had made for my donated lantern coil. Simplest description: it was a tiny dome light on top of a plasteen wristband. Twist the dome one quarter turn and it emitted a cone of light pointing past my hand. Another quarter turn and it narrowed to a beam. A half turn and it opened fully to provide general illumination, like my lantern coil but not as strong. I also couldn’t reproduce the same vivid golden light as the coil, but given that I was using algae instead of sunlight, I thought I had done pretty well.

Next up on my list of gadgets to use was the grapple gun. It was a shame to use one of my few grapples to climb such a short distance, but without Tumble holding open the grate, there was no way I could jump up and climb into the duct behind it on my own. With a sigh, I stood in front of the wall to the left of the grate, held the gun straight up above me, and pulled the trigger.

The grapple slammed into and clung against the ceiling with a quick-acting epoxy I had cooked up, and I pulled myself up the few feet of rope that trailed from it, bracing myself against the wall with my cling-tight boots. Once I was situated next to the grate, I tested it with my magma stick. Unlike the grate I had entered through, this one didn’t lift up.

I shined the wristlight’s beam into the angled vents on the grate, but couldn’t tell if there was anything rigged on the other side. There was nothing else for it, though. I was going to have to risk that it wasn’t rigged with a trap, or if it was, that I could evade it. I clicked the magma stick on and slowly, carefully, dragged it along the perimeter of the grate. When I finished, the grate dropped to the floor below and I leaned away from the exposed opening, waiting for some sort of explosion or rain of metal shards to be triggered. When nothing happened, I leaned over and shone the wristlight into the shaft. Nothing but smooth metal walls ending in a T about ten feet back.

I sighed in relief and dropped back down to the floor, where I disconnected the rope from the grapple, retracted it, and stowed the gun and the magma stick back in my bag. Then I reached up and pushed the bag into the shaft ahead of me, gripped the bottom of the duct, and pulled myself up and in after it.

I made it in safely. No traps, no surprises, and my wristlight provided enough light to see by. I slithered forward, pushing my bag along. The shaft was barely wider than my body, and the sooner I was quit of it, the happier I’d be, but at least I had made it in. At the T, I chose the left path at random, pushed my bag in that direction, and contorted myself to follow after it. After some time in which the only other paths led back to the left (and presumably back to the same corridor I had just come from), there was a turn to the right in addition to the duct running straight ahead. For a change of pace, I went down the right path, stopping only when I heard an eerie clickclickclick sound.

My first thought was of the obscenely large rat that had attacked Tumble in these very ducts, but this fear was eclipsed by a second, more pressing concern as the metal floor beneath me tilted down suddenly. I fumbled at my backpack, which rested ahead of me on a stable piece of ductwork, but the floor beneath me angled away too quickly and I couldn’t get a firm grip. My fingers slipped off one by one and I found myself sliding headlong toward some uncertain fate.

* * *

Continue to Part 32.

9/16/12 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!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.

The Only City Left is my serialized, science-fiction/fantasy action-adventure tale about Allin Arcady’s adventures through a planet-sized city called Earth. Yes, thousands of years in the future, the Earth has become one giant layer-cake of a city. Once home to trillions of humans, it is now largely abandoned except for pockets of humanity here and there. In the absence of humans, other beings have begun to fill the void, making Earth a dangerous place for the remaining humans.

Since one of the difficulties of getting into a long-form serialized story is catching up on everything that happened before you discovered it, I offer this as-brief-as-I-could-make-it synopsis of The Story So Far. If at any point you want to jump into reading the actual story, head to the Table of Contents.

In Part One, we are introduced to Allin Arcady, a young man on his own who has one goal: to one day reach the roof of the world and see the Sun. To do that, he has to survive the perils of the city, like rogue cleaning machines called tacmites, or all-too-real ghosts that take offense at his presence. Normally Allin would just ignore the ghosts; they’re insubstantial and can’t do any real harm. Or so he thinks until he runs into a giant, snarling werewolf-looking ghost who is all too solid and who chases Allin into the tunnels between levels of the city. After barely making it through a flooded section of the tunnels, Allin loses consciousness and dreams of a time in his past when his parents were still alive.

This flashback begins in Part Four with Allin’s dad letting him know that they will be moving on from the community of Glin’s Rising post-haste. This is not happy news for 15-year-old Allin, who has fallen in love there with a girl named Tyena. When Allin asks his mom for help, she just tells him to say his goodbyes. When Allin tells Tyena that he has to leave, they come up with a plan for Tyena to follow the Arcady family out of Glin’s Rising.

When the Arcady family leaves Glin’s Rising via some maintenance tunnels, Allin spies Tyena chasing after them. She looks excited, or so Allin thinks. As he is walking with his parents, he realizes from their conversation that they are worried about someone who might have followed them to Glin’s Rising. It soon becomes clear to Allin that his parents bring trouble in their wake, and that’s why they were so eager to move on. Worried for Tyena, Allin runs back toward Glin’s Rising…

In Part Seven, Allin awakes just in time to realize the ghost werewolf is still chasing him. He narrowly escapes the ghost, but not before the werewolf reverts to his human form, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Allin’s father. After a feverish sleep—Allin picked up a virus swallowing some of the fetid water from the tunnels—Allin awakes to find a talking, bipedal cat named Tumble waiting for him. It seems Tumble is one of a whole society of genetically-altered felines which has survived and prospered in the time after the decline of humanity. Tumble bears an invitation for Allin from the cat emperor, Banshee. Allin accepts and they head to Pudlington, a human city entirely converted for feline use, with platforms, ramps, and rooms strung up between skyscrapers like a gigantic cat’s cradle.

In Part Twelve, Allin meets Emperor Banshee, who tells him that the werewolf ghost chasing Allin is in fact Allin’s own uncle. Banshee implies that this is the least of the secrets Allin’s parents kept from him. But before Banshee can share any more family history, he commands that the now-very-ill Allin be rested and healed. Allin protests to no avail. When he is better, a feast is thrown in his honor. At the feast, Allin asks to know why Banshee thinks that the ghost of a werewolf could be his uncle. In response, Banshee asks Allin to first share what he knows of his parents and their involvement with the werewolves, so that Banshee can know exactly what blanks need to be filled in. There is only one story Allin can think of to share on that subject: the story of how his parents died.

Part Fourteen begins that story, which also happens to be the continuation of the events in the earlier flashback. Allin makes it back to the outskirts of Glin’s Rising and is very worried since he has not run into Tyena along the way. Maybe she wasn’t running toward him earlier, but rather away from something else. He is about to go search for her when Mom and Dad show up. After a bit of a row, Dad agrees that they can go try to rescue Tyena. But when they enter Glin’s, it is entirely empty. Dad, hearing something that Allin does not, realizes that there are some people still around inside of an abandoned department store, and Tyena is one of them. The bad news is that she is with some of the dangerous people who are following the Arcadys. Dad forms a plan for him and Mom to distract the bad guys while Allin grabs Tyena, but when she screams from inside the store, Allin throws caution to the wind and runs in to save her. A fight ensues inside the darkness of the store, full of inexplicable flashes of light and the sound of beasts. Allin manages to grab Tyena but is confronted by a towering werewolf who blocks his path. He is about to be killed when Mom tackles the beast and plants a knife through its eye, but not before the beast guts Mom right before Allin’s eyes. Dad dies soon after, his last act to give Allin a glowing pendant that he always wore around his neck. One werewolf also survives the battle and collects similar pendants from the dead werewolves and from Allin’s mother. He tries to take the pendant from Allin but is too injured, so he flees with a promise to get it later. Surrounded by dead werewolves and his slain parents, Allin’s world goes dark.

Part Eighteen brings us back to the present, as Allin finishes telling his story to Emperor Banshee and the other assembled felines. The story ends with Allin and Tyena arguing over their next course of action. He wants to keep going in the direction his parents were traveling, away from the werewolves. Tyena wants to try to find her family members who have been taken by the wolves. Eventually, they split up and go their own ways.  Banshee chides Allin for thinking that Allin caused his parents’ death, saying that Mom and Dad Arcady made a choice for love, so Allin should not lessen their sacrifice by taking credit for their deaths. Banshee then dismisses his guests except for Allin and Tumble, and tells Allin he needs to talk about Allin’s uncle and why he has always been chasing Allin’s family. The answer: he never forgave Allin’s dad for killing him.

In Part Nineteen, Uncle Doyle Arcady’s history is discussed. Doyle was a small-time gang punk who somehow became a werewolf and started building a werewolf army. But if it is true werewolves need moonlight to transform, how would you do that underground? Doyle and his wolves were given a piece of technology that can emit moonlight even in the depths of the Earth. With that power, the gang of wolves bred terror and fear in the sectors it ruled over, and committed atrocities. Shockingly, Allin’s dad, Dylan, remained with this fearsome army for years, until he killed his brother Doyle over a girl, Jessie, who would become Allin’s mom. Unfortunately, Doyle survived his own death as a ghost (trust me on this one, too long to explain here), and after that hounded Dylan and Jessie for the rest of their days. Murder wasn’t Dylan’s only crime, though. He also stole some of the rare tech that allows werewolves to transform. Allin claims to have never seen such a device, but Banshee points out that Allin is wearing it around his neck: Dad’s lantern coil. Allin is not so sure. The coil has only ever emitted yellow light, as he demonstrates. Banshee and Tumble tense up, and Allin asks what their worry is. Banshee explains that the coils can emit either sunlight or moonlight, if you know how to operate them. Allin points out  that even if he somehow turned on the moonlight mode, it’s not like he’s a werewolf, right? Right? Well, as it turns out, both of Allin’s parents were werewolves, which makes him one by birth, albeit one who has never transformed before. Allin asks why Banshee would bring him into Pudlington if he might werewolf out at a moment’s notice. Banshee responds that if Allin could transform, he could infiltrate the werewolves’ lair and finish the job his dad started, namely, killing Doyle.

In Part Twenty-One, Allin points out that he doesn’t know how to turn on his coil’s moonlight mode. Banshee says that, as an alternative, Allin could turn himself in to Doyle, since Doyle wants him alive anyway. Once inside the Garden (the ironic name for the werewolves’ lair), Allin could murder Doyle and open the doors, so to speak, to a commando cat army. The more Allin thinks about this offer, the more horrified and offended he gets. He has just found out his dad was a murderer and possibly worse, that his mom and dad were secretly werewolves, and that he is also a werewolf. That’s a lot to take in, and on top of that, Banshee wants to recruit him to be an assassin? Allin isn’t having it. He gives his coil to the cats since they want to study it and because he sees it as part of the lies of his past, and he wants nothing more to do with his past. He tells Banshee he is leaving Pudlington tomorrow and then returns to his room for a final night’s rest in a comfortable bed. Who is waiting in his room when he arrives? None other than Tyena. Sometimes the past just won’t let go.

In Part Twenty-Two, Allin learns what happened to Tyena after she left him three years ago. Namely, she got lost and was rescued by the cats, who took her in. Allin gives her an abbreviated version of his life events. After all, she might not take kindly to finding out that the man who ordered the werewolf invasion of Glin’s Rising, who kidnapped her family, is actually Allin’s uncle. Or that Allin is actually a werewolf, too. And when Tyena kisses him, he realizes he still has feelings for her.

The next morning, Allin wakes up with a hangover from his gerrybrook juice binge. Apparently, he ended up passing out before his makeout session with Tyena could lead to anything else. Tyena goes back to her place to get ready for breakfast, and Allin gets ready, too. Tumble arrives and escorts Allin to breakfast. He also shares that Emperor Banshee brews his own gerrybrook juice from a deadly flower; in fact, he’s a master of that craft. Still sick from drinking too much of the juice, Allin is glad when Tyena shows up and Tumble’s story is interrupted.

At breakfast, Tyena learns about the dangerous mission Banshee wants to send Allin on. In light of Tyena’s presence in Pudlington, Allin decides to reconsider Banshee’s offer, but this is really an excuse to spend time with Tyena. When Allin asks Tyena if she thinks her mom and brother might still be alive inside the Garden, she becomes sad and this puts a damper on the breakfast. She leaves to spend some time alone, leaving Allin with nothing to do, so he asks Tumble if there is a workshop he can use.

In Part Twenty-Five, Allin visits the Skunkworks, a huge lab and engineering bay in the subway tunnels below Pudlington. He meets Professor Copper, who is working on solving the mystery of Allin’s lantern coil. She has found a way to increase the output of the sun mode, but is unable to access the moon mode. He then works on his own gadgets, such as making a light source to replace his coil and grapples for his gun. When he is done for the day, he visits Tyena for dinner and finds her painting. He learns that she has filled several floors of one building with her artwork as a way to keep busy. They discuss Banshee’s character and his plans for Allin. Tyena evidently wishes Allin would accept the mission, on the chance he could rescue her family. Allin agrees to think on it further, but he is inwardly anxious about the prospect of accepting such a dangerous assignment. He spends the next several days alternating between time with Tyena and time down in the Skunkworks, and as much as he tries to avoid thinking about the mission, he is always being reminded of it. Upon returning to Tyena’s loft one night, he hears her arguing with someone who is telling her time is of the essence. When Allin confronts them, he sees a Pudlington Guard holding Tyena by the arms. When the guard abruptly leaves, Allin tells Tyena he knows what’s going on.

In Part Twenty-Eight, Allin tells Tyena he knows that she and Banshee are working together to convince him to accept the mission to infiltrate the Garden. Tyena admits Allin is right but explains that Banshee threatened her and Allin both with exile if she couldn’t convince him to accept. Allin resolves to leave Pudlington and invites Tyena. She accepts but asks for some time to get her stuff together. They agree to meet at her place in two hours. Allin seeks out Tumble so that he can go get his cocoon bag and gadgets from the Skunkworks, but when Tumble learns of Allin’s plans, he informs Allin that Tyena is actually a spy for Doyle and the werewolves! Allin is stunned and feels like an idiot for allowing her to manipulate him. Tumble admits Banshee was using her to coerce Allin, but there was never any threat of exile. Allin now resolves to leave Pudlington alone, but first he goes to tell Tyena off. Tyena admits she wanted to get Allin to go to the Garden since if he did, Doyle would free her mom (her brother is dead, murdered by the werewolves in front of her). She tells Allin that she wanted him to accept Banshee’s mission because then her mom would be free but Allin would still have a chance to survive his encounter with Doyle. Allin wonders why she didn’t just tell him the truth in the first place, but Tyena points out he wasn’t truthful about his connection to Doyle and the fact that he was actually a werewolf, too. Despite all that, she professes her love for Allin and asks him to go along with Banshee’s plan. Allin feels foolish and betrayed, so he rejects her and leaves her behind. At the gates of Pudlington, Banshee confronts Allin about his decision to leave, shaming him but not changing his mind. Outside of Pudlington, Allin readies himself to once again venture alone into the city called Earth, The Only City Left.

#

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.

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 1-27 and then start at Part 28. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 29, Allin was yelling at Tyena for lying to him, when she turned the tables and suggested he had been lying to her as well. So there.

The Only City Left: Part 30

I opened and closed my mouth several times to say something, but Tyena’s riposte had robbed me of words. I had avoided telling her certain truths about my relationship to the werewolves, but she had actually known them all along. How stupid I must have looked to her!

She nodded emphatically at me and said, “There, you see. Don’t tell me I’ve been lying when you neglected to mention it’s your own uncle who kidnapped my mother, who ordered me to watch as they killed my brother! Don’t yell at me about secrets when it turns out you’re one of them!”

It felt like a physical slap, having my newly-discovered heritage thrown in my face like that.

“Does it matter that I’m related to some madman I’ve never met? That I might be a werewolf even though I’ve never become one?”

“It matters that you didn’t tell me!” Tyena shouted.

“I was afraid if I told you, you’d hate me!” I shouted in return.

We stood there without speaking, both of us breathing heavily. Tyena’s cheeks were flushed red and her hair had fallen over half of her face.

She kneeled down and picked up the camera, inspected it, and said softly, “It’s broken.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

She looked up at me and said, “Let’s start over. We know everything there is to know now. It’s not too late to change your mind, to go along with Banshee’s plan. I’ll send word to Doyle that you’re coming in peaceably. You said it yourself, they want you alive. You’ll be safe. My mom’ll be safe. It’s the best solution.”

She set the camera down, grabbed onto my hand and pulled herself up.

Without letting go of me, she leaned in and said, “Please do this for me, Allin. I love you. Don’t you love me?”

I shook my head. Maybe she meant it, maybe she did love me, or maybe it was another lie. Either way, I wasn’t going to risk being made a fool of again.

“If I loved you, I could forgive you, right?” I asked as I shook free of her grasp. “Then I guess I don’t. Bye, Tyena, and good luck.”

I turned and walked away without looking back, while behind me Tyena screamed, “No! What about my mom? Allin, what about my mom?”

I don’t know who I was crying for as I left her behind: Tyena, me, her mom? It didn’t matter. The world had become a dark, awful place, but it wasn’t my job to fix everyone’s problems.

I wiped my eyes as I was leaving through the window, and I nearly bumped into Tumble, who stood on the platform outside holding my cocoon bag. He looked at me with an inscrutable expression and held out my bag without a word.

I shouldered it in a huff and traced a path down and toward the outskirts of Pudlington, to the only exit from the city that I knew of.

When I arrived at the inner gate, the two guards on duty were leaning against the wall lazily, but they snapped to attention when they saw me. I marched up to them and said, “I’m leaving.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t open this door without official orders,” said the cat on my left. He shifted his gun ever so slightly in his hands, bringing it closer to level.

I couldn’t believe it. “Am I a prisoner here after all?” I sputtered.

“No, but guests usually say goodbye and thank you before departing,” came a low voice from behind me that raised the hairs on my neck.

I turned around and looked down at the dour face of Emperor Banshee. Tumble, head downcast, stood behind and to one side of him.

“Allin, it’s not too late to change your mind,” Banshee continued. “You can help make a difference. We can end the tyranny of the wolves.”

“Everybody wants me to go to the wolves!” I shot back, and began ticking off points on my fingers. “You want me to risk my life on the off chance I can kill my uncle. Tyena wants to trade me for her mom. Doyle wants me there for who knows what reason, but I’m guessing it’s not to have tea and cake!”

I clenched my fist shut and shook it at Banshee.

“Well I’m not having any of that. You’ll all have to find another hero to enter the werewolves’ den. I just want to live long enough to see the sun with my own eyes. Is that so wrong?”

“Your decision is final, then?” Banshee asked, ignoring my question.

“Yes.”

“Fine. Go,” he ordered and then added, “How very human of you,” before he whipped around and stalked away. I told myself he had no right to judge, but my cheeks nevertheless burned at his scorn.

“Let me out of here,” I told the guards between gritted teeth, and this time they opened the gate without a fuss and escorted me into the hallway beyond. I looked back one last time and saw that Tumble had left, too. I regretted not getting to say a real goodbye to him.

I exited Pudlington as I had entered it, crouching and sick, though this time with shame and anger rather than a virus. I eyed the murder-holes in the walls and ceiling and wondered how upset Banshee was with me, but when I reached the outer gate, the guard keyed it open and I stepped out and stood up unmolested.

I turned around, watched the doors slide shut, and whispered, “Goodbye, and thank you.”

I meant it for Pudlington as a whole and for Banshee, too. Whatever his motives, he had taken me in and patched me up, and now I was healthier and better-equipped than before. I wasn’t fool enough to not appreciate all that, despite our differences.

One of the outer guards must have thought I was speaking to him, for he nodded at me and said, “Good luck on your journey, sir. Be careful out there. The world is a dangerous place.”

“That it is,” I agreed and waved at both of the guards before leaving Pudlington behind me.

* * *

Continue to Part 31 (or read my Author’s Notes below first).

9/9/12 News: Thus ends the first one-third of The Only City Left, roughly 30,000 words of an adventure not just for Allin, but for me as well. It takes a certain kind of naïveté (and it was naïveté in the beginning, not moxie) to state: I’m going to write a novel and post the first draft of it online each week, warts and all, for anyone to take a gander at. The results have already pushed me to become a better writer. Sure, for me it is a first draft, hopefully to be improved upon once the entire story is completed, but for most people stopping by here this is the only sample of my writing they might ever see. So I’m trying to make it a polished first draft. I read and re-read each post many times, trying to ensure it fits with where the story has been and where I see it going, trying to trim the scenes that last longer than they are welcome, trying to give a little insight into characters to make them more than cardboard place-holders for later edits.

All of which amounts to this. Thank you for coming along with Allin and me on our adventures. Please stick around for the next 60,000 words or so. I think you’ll enjoy it. (And now that I’m thinking of it, you might also enjoy my short story, False Negative, published this month in Electric Spec! Yes, a shameless plug. I really am acting like a writer now.)

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!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.

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 1-27 and then start at Part 28. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 28, Tumble dropped a bomb on Allin’s psyche by revealing that Tyena’s motives were suspect: she has been spying for Doyle and the werewolves since she first arrived in Pudlington!

The Only City Left: Part 29

“What are you talking about?” I demanded, my voice raised. The kittens at play in the room stopped as one to stare at me. “That’s a lie.”

Tumble looked to his charges and nodded at them to keep playing, then guided me up and away from them.

“I’m afraid not, Allin. It is Tyena who has lied to you and us both, although we’ve never really held that against her. You see, we did find her wandering the city, half-starved, but we were not the first to do so. It was the werewolves who first found her.”

I gave him a hard look and asked, “How do you know that?”

“When Tyena first arrived here, she was distraught and aimless. We allowed her to sit in our planning councils, to give her something to do and because she had first-hand experience with the ’wolves from the recent attack on Glin’s Rising. Soon after that, we suffered a series of losses amongst our outside patrols. We traced the leak to her.”

“This is Tyena we’re talking about,” I said, shaking my head. “She’s not a super-spy. How would she even get information outside of Pudlington?”

“She doesn’t have to. Doyle has spies inside our city, probably more than we know about.”

“The guardsman,” I realized. The one she had been arguing with earlier.

“Him we are aware of,” Tumble agreed. “He regularly passes along intel to Doyle’s people while on outside patrol.”

“Then why don’t you stop him?” I asked, incredulous.

“Better to use him. And her,” Tumble said. “We give them just enough real but unhelpful information to keep them useful to Doyle, and much that is apocryphal. This way when we need Doyle to believe something, we have a sure path to deliver the information.”

I sat down against one wall of the dojo and put my forehead in my hands.

“So this is real, this is a real thing,” I babbled. “Tyena’s been lying to me this whole time. That cold—“

“Emperor Banshee is sympathetic to Tyena’s plight. Our best intel out of the Garden—for we have our spies, too—is that Tyena’s family is alive and being held hostage to her continued reports. She has no choice but to do Doyle’s bidding, which is another reason we have not closed her down.”

“Well, that’s just great,” I barked. “That’s so nice of you! How funny was it to watch me as I believed all her lies? And thanks for not telling me any of this earlier. I might not have been able to make such a fool of myself if you had!”

Tumble held out his hands, palms out. “I tried, Allin, I did. Remember my warning about the gerrybrook flower?”

I closed my eyes. “That was nice of you and all, Tumble. But instead of riddles, maybe you could have just told me?”

“I was under orders not to. Plus, I hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. You deserved some happiness, Allin, even if only for a brief time, and if you had accepted Banshee’s mission, you need never have known of Miss Branch’s duplicity.”

I opened my eyes and stared at Tumble.

“Well thanks a lot, buddy,” I said, standing up. “But I guess it didn’t work out for any of us, did it? I’m leaving. Alone. You can still send my stuff to Tyena’s, though. I’m going over there to tell her goodbye.”

I took his silence for assent and walked away.

My trip back to Tyena’s was filled with dark thoughts as I realized what a sucker I had been. I really thought something good had happened to me, reuniting with Tyena, clicking with her again despite the horrors of our past. But the past was inescapable, it seemed, and no matter how the cats felt, Tyena’s behavior was inexcusable. She’d get no sympathy from me.

When I tracked her down, she was walking through another floor of her museum, holding a device up to each of her paintings in turn.

“Look, Allin, a friend gave me a camera so I can record my paintings!” she beamed at me.

“Is this the same friend who passes along all your secrets to Doyle?”

The smile slowly melted from her face.

“What? No, what do you mean?”

“Stop lying to me,” I yelled. “I know you’re spying for the wolves. The cats know you’re spying. You’re not fooling anybody!”

She winced and held up her hands as if to block my words. “It’s not that simple,” she protested.

“What could be simpler than telling me the truth?”

“You want the truth, Allin? My mother is alive. She’s alive and she’s safe,” Tyena said. “And I’m doing what I have to do to keep it that way.”

“Including delivering me up to Doyle?”

“He promised to set her free if I could get you to go to the Garden.”

“What about your brother?”

“Killed three years ago. Before my eyes. To show me the cost of failure,” Tyena moaned. The light in her eyes had gone out. She looked more like the broken girl I had dragged out of Glin’s Rising than the joyful, vibrant one of the past few days.

I would have felt sorry for her but I was so full of bitterness and hurt there was room for nothing else inside of me.

“So you lied to me, you used me, so you could trade me for your mother.”

“It wasn’t a lie, Allin!” Tyena cried. “We’re not a lie. If you had only accepted Banshee’s offer, there was a good chance that you could have killed Doyle and then my mom would be free and we could be together and—”

“And angels would sing and manna would fall from heaven and everyone would live in perfect harmony!” I scoffed. “But when I changed the plans and said, ‘Let’s leave together,’ you went along with that pretty quickly. What was your Plan B?”

Tyena answered in a whisper, “I was supposed to lead you into an ambush once we were outside of Pudlington.”

“So much for my good chances then, huh?”

Tyena grabbed my hand in hers and said, “Allin, what else could I have done?”

I whipped her hand off of mine, accidentally knocking the camera out of her other hand in the process. It fell to the floor with a crack.

“You could have told me the truth!” I shouted.

“You’re one to talk about truth,” she shot back.

* * *

Continue to Part 30.

9/2/12 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!

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.