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. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)
At the end of Part 44, Allin could only watch in despair as a werewolf threw Tumble directly at one of the killer robots known as clinkers.
The Only City Left: Part 45
“Tumble!” I screamed, my voice reaching new heights to rise above the rumbling white noise that cocooned us.
Shiloh laughed as he let go of the cat, but the instant Tumble was released, he grabbed onto the werewolf’s wrist in return. He dropped to the floor and used the force of Shiloh’s throw to pull the laughing wolf off balance and propel him toward the doorway in his place. A clinker had made it through the room and now stood in the doorway, six arms outstretched to receive Tumble’s gift. Shiloh sailed upside down through the hallway and landed directly in its deadly embrace. Rather than attack him itself, it turned around and held still for its comrades, who set to with their own devices. Shiloh’s laughter turned to high-pitched screams and then silence.
Matthias, meanwhile, had ignored the entire encounter while he worked on unlocking the next door. He truly didn’t seem to care which of his subordinates died in the course of his escape. Guppy, by his side, looked paler than ever, his skin the color of his hair, his eyes rimmed with red. Kenner caught up to us and looked more angry than scared, but then werewolves tended to look angry by default, so I couldn’t really tell.
“Boss, that cat got Shiloh killed,” he said.
“Then make sure he dies next,” Matthias said. He had one hand around my arm and with the other he was tearing apart the control panel in the wall next to the door.
Tumble stopped halfway between our group and the door to the previous room, through which I could see the clinkers stripping Shiloh of his fur. He looked back and forth slowly, calmly, waiting to see what his next move would be, trapped between clinkers on one side and werewolves on the other.
Behind me, Matthias finally got the door open, and the combination of sound and moist air that immediately poured through it made me whip around to search for its cause. Beyond the door was a metal catwalk leading into a large, open space lit by muted, strobing lights. Matthias pulled me through the door and Guppy followed us in. On either side of the catwalk, torrents of water plunged through the air, churning into a mist that hid the far end in fog. It was the flickering lights behind the water that caused the strobing effect and made it difficult to get a clear view of the room. From what I could tell, the room ascended and descended further than I could see, with catwalks criss-crossing above and below us in several directions. The air was heavy with vapor and my clothing was quickly soaked through.
As Matthias pulled me along the slippery, perforated metal walkway, I looked back and saw Kenner start to swing the door to the room closed. It probably wouldn’t lock anymore, but even if it slowed Tumble down for a few seconds, it would be long enough for the clinkers to get him. I cried out and fought to free myself from Matthias’ hold on my arm, but I needn’t have worried. Tumble shot through the narrowing gap at the last second and slipped past Kenner. In an instant, he caught up to us and leapt atop Matthias’ head, which he set upon with a clawed frenzy. Matthias let go of my arm and twirled in place, grabbing at Tumble, while Guppy stood nervously by and Kenner ran up to us. I bent over and rammed my shoulder into Kenner’s gut as he approached, keen to keep him out of the fight. He slipped and we both fell down on the slick metal flooring, but he got to his feet first. He raised his clawed hand and brought it down to strike me, but Matthias of all people came to my defense, kicking Kenner’s arm away and yelling something unintelligible.
He had gotten Tumble off of him but was bleeding from several deep cuts on his face. I felt a grim satisfaction upon seeing his injuries, but it turned to anxiety as I wondered where Tumble had gone. I turned over, got to my hands and knees, and looked around. There he was, further along the catwalk. He, too, had not come out of his tussle with Matthias unscathed. He would have some scars to rival his brother’s if we came through this alive.
I began to crawl toward Tumble when a weight hit my back and I collapsed to the floor, splitting my chin on the metal grating.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Guppy yelled. He flipped me over, grabbed me by the shoulders, and slammed my head against the catwalk. “No running away. You’re the only thing keeping me alive at this point.”
“Tell that to the clinker,” I yelled back, pointing behind him.
In fact, the clinkers had breached the doorway to the waterfall room, but Matthias and Kenner stood between them and us. Guppy probably realized his mistake as soon as he started to turn away, but it was too late. I pulled my knees to my chest and kicked out with all the force I could muster.
My kick broke his grip on my drenched shirt and forced him to his feet. He stumbled backward, hit the railing, and was over and gone before I had half-risen to my feet. I looked over the edge for him, but I didn’t see anything besides the never-ending torrents of water and a couple of catwalks. Guppy was gone. I had wanted him off of me, but I hadn’t meant to send him to his death. I didn’t have time to mourn, though, as a great furred hand clamped itself around my neck and lifted me off the floor.
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12/23/12 News: I hope everyone has been enjoying some holiday cheer of one sort or another. I have a holiday tale set in the world of the webcomic LeyLines that I would love for you to read. Creator Robin Dempsey provided a wonderful illustration for the story and, of course, a fantastic world to play in.
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.)
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.