Posts Tagged ‘sun’

NOTICE: Parts 88 and 89 (the end of The Only City Left) will be posted here and mirrored at atgoldman.com, my new site. After that, lithicbee.wordpress.com will not be kept up to date.

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 87Allin had survived the final encounter with Doyle and returned to the penthouse on the Roof of the World, where he saw the sun rise for the first time in his life.

The Only City Left: Part 88

I must have stood at that window for an hour, soaking up the sun’s rays and basking in its warm, comforting presence. At one point I found myself holding onto my lantern coil, happily surprised that Doyle had left it on me and that it had survived last night’s activity. It no longer worked, of course, and had never come close to the feeling of actual sunlight that I now experienced. Still, I would miss its glow. My travels through the city from now on would be that much more dark and dangerous.

Thoughts of travel spurred me to finally leave the window and search the penthouse for anything that might help once I left this room. I winced when I saw the corpses that littered the area around the bar. Doc Needles and Doyle’s guards, human once more, still wore confused and anguished expressions from their sudden demise.

I realized that one of the guards was missing and I recalled that he had fled through a door along the wall behind the bar. I followed his course and discovered another wing that included a large bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small dining area. I also found the guard, who hadn’t made it ten feet into the room before the ghosts had caught him. I covered him with a large blanket from the bed and continued my search.

Much like the house in Clinkerville, the penthouse was well stocked. I could only imagine that Doyle had used this penthouse to impress others or maybe as a reward for good service. He certainly couldn’t have availed himself of any of its amenities. I, on the other hand, most certainly could.

I took a warm shower with the sun shining down on me through the clear walls, dressed in spare clothes I found in a closet, and filled up on water and preserved food from the pantry. I even found a canvas bag which I used to store extra food, a spare set of clothes, and a towel. Behind the bar I found some empty plastic containers which I filled with water. Even better, I found a tiny but powerful flashlight. I had food, clothes, and light. I was ready to face the world again, even if I didn’t know where I was in it.

I opened the door to leave but stopped to let the sun soak into my skin one last time. Who knows if I’ll ever see it again? I thought, but without any sadness. I’d had my time in the sun, but there was no life to live up here. Everything I knew, everyone I loved, was down in the darkness, and that was fine with me.

As I turned to go, the sunlight filtered past me into the hallway, and I saw that someone had etched a large arrow into the floor, pointing away from the penthouse. Next to it: a dash and the letter X.

I traced the X with my fingertips. Xerxes. He must have done this before the ghosts poured into the room and overwhelmed Doyle and his men. I thought again about their sacrifice. They had used their numbers to somehow provide Doyle with enough material to completely rebuild his body rather than take over mine, at the cost of their afterlives. I didn’t wholly understand why they would do such a thing, but that it had been the plan from the beginning I now had no doubt. Otherwise, Xerxes wouldn’t have left this mark. Or the next one, or the next one.

He had, as it turned out, left marks along the length of the route from the Garden to the penthouse, as if he knew I would be returning alone and would need his help one last time. Without that trail to follow, I might never have returned to a part of the city I knew. With it, I made it to the Garden in half a day.

The Garden. What a mess. From the number of lantern coils strewn about the streets, I got the sense that the slaves had gained the upper hand while I was away. Maybe the former wolves had abandoned the coils when it became clear that they were both useless and unpopular. To be on the safe side, I took mine off and hid it in my bag.

I needn’t have bothered. The entire place was abandoned except for corpses. Whatever struggle had occurred, neither the winners nor the losers (if any had survived) had stuck around this already picked-over wasteland. Fires burned unchecked, making it hazardous to breathe, but I had to look for Tyena before I left. I wasn’t surprised when, despite calling out for her and searching the building that used to be Doyle’s headquarters, she was nowhere to be found. I only hoped that she and her mother had managed to get free in all of the confusion, and would end up somewhere safe.

Me, I wanted to return to Pudlington, and with the Garden going up in flames around me, now was a really good time to get going. Fire in the city, I worried as I scampered out of there. Not good.

It would run out of air and combustible material in time, but it would leave behind one last piece of useless city in its wake. Doyle’s legacy.

I made my way back to Pudlington, reversing the route along which the ghosts had led me. Had it only been yesterday? It seemed like another lifetime.

I crawled through the ducts, thankful that the ghosts hadn’t reset all the traps they had disabled, and from there into the sterile white corridors of Pudlington’s outer bailey. Finally, I stood before the gates of Pudlington once more. I didn’t know if I would be met with a friendly greeting or the barrel of a gun, but there was nothing for it except to walk up to the guards, announce myself, and find out.

“Hi. It’s me, Allin Arcady. I’m home.”

* * *

Continue to Part 89.

10/20/13 News: The penultimate post! Next week is the nearly double-sized ending, wrapped in a bow for my loyal readers. Thank you for sticking with me to the end.

Only one more posts and then this draft of The Only City Left is done. In case you didn’t see the notice at the top of the post, please be aware that I have a new website: atgoldman.com. Right now it is simply a copy of this one, but after Part 89 of The Only City Left is posted, any new content will be posted to atgoldman.com. This site will be shuttered except for a notification post when The Only City Left is released in novel form.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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.)

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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.

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 65, Allin learned how Emperor Banshee and Professor Copper intend to destroy the system that allows werewolves to exist.

The Only City Left: Part 66

“We’ll have to repeat the process, of course, for however many satellites there turn out to be. You see, there needs to be overlap for the times when—”

“Enough. Save the details for the scientists,” Banshee said. “All you need to know, Allin, is that we can take away the powers that Doyle’s army has been given.”

“That’s great,” I said. “So why haven’t you done it yet?”

Copper said, “For one, we haven’t stabilized the inverted coil yet, so it can close at any moment. We’re also working on a spacesuit with its own oxygen supply and a tether. You couldn’t tell, but the coil room is currently in vacuum due to us needing to open a portal into outer space. We already lost one cat when we inverted the coil quite by chance. Poor, poor Jaspers. His sacrifice shall not be forgotten.”

“And for another, I won’t authorize it until Doyle is out of the picture or the wolves are at our door.”

“You can take away all the werewolves’ powers at once and you won’t do it?” I couldn’t believe Banshee wouldn’t jump at the opportunity. “Why not?”

“Until Doyle is gone, it is pointless,” Banshee said. “Take away the werewolves’ power and he’ll still have an army of normal humans under his command. If we wait until he’s gone to flip the switch, his people will be disorganized, confused. If they don’t fall to infighting and destroy themselves first, we’ll sweep in and mop them up.”

“So you’re saying that until Tumble or I invade the Garden and come back to report that Doyle is well and truly dead, you won’t do the one thing that would make it easier to get into the Garden in the first place?”

“I’m sorry, Allin, but that’s the way it needs to be. If you’re dead set on going into the Garden, you’ll have to accept that it will be full of werewolves.”

That would be pretty bad news if I had to enter the Garden as Allin Arcady, regular human. But if I looked like any other werewolf, things would probably go a lot smoother.

“Is Dad’s coil still usable after you turn it inside out like that?”

“Oh yes,” Copper said. “As long as the satellites exist, the coil should work.”

I realized then that once the satellites were destroyed, not only would the moonlight be cut off, the sunlight would be, too. Dad’s coil would be no more than jewelry, a powerless memento. The loss of sunlight was a shame, but a world without werewolves would be worth it.

“And even if we knew how to activate the moonlight mode,” Banshee said. “We can’t lend you the coil at this point, Allin. If you get caught, we would lose our one chance to stop the wolves.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t think of leaving you without a coil,” I said, reaching into my shirt. I pulled out and held up Matthias’ coil for inspection. “But would you consider a trade?”

# # #

About an hour later, I had Dad’s coil in my hands again. There had been a painstakingly careful process to pump air back into the coil room, ensure that the QUIPS system could not accidentally turn on (“We must never forget Jasper’s lesson,” Copper said solemnly), and swap out the coils. Banshee wouldn’t agree to return my coil until Copper was sure that Matthias’ could be used in the same manner, so the coil room had to be evacuated of air and another test performed. Only when the replacement coil had worked to reverse the quantum tunnel was Dad’s coil returned to me.

When I had cast it off, I had been angry at my parents for lying to me, for never telling me that they were werewolves and that I was probably one, too. A lot had happened since then. Now here I was, ready to put my theory to the test and become a werewolf myself. If it worked, I would use that horrible power to kill my own uncle. Quite a family, werewolves the lot of us.

Werewolf or human, we all have choices to make. My parents’ chose to save me at the cost of their own lives. Whatever lies they had told or truths they had kept from me could not erase the power of that ultimate act of love. How could I possibly stay angry with them?

I looked up to see Copper staring at me, her head cocked. I turned to Banshee, who nodded as if he understood what I had been thinking. I nodded back and slipped the necklace over my head. Though Matthias’ coil had been identical, this one felt more right somehow.

“You’re sure this is back to normal? I don’t want to turn it on and get pulled inside out.”

“At least 97% certain,” Copper said. My eyes grew wide. “Kidding. Yes, it will work.”

I might never get used to her sense of humor, but if she said it worked, I trusted her.

“Let’s try it out then.”

We had moved to a different lab on another sub-floor for two reasons: it was currently vacant and it had a row of cells along its rear wall. Banshee opened the door to one of them, waved me in, and closed it behind me. Copper locked it with a key from a crowded keychain.

Before I tested my passphrase theory out, I powered up the coil’s sunlight mode. The amber glow felt reassuring but left me with a question.

“Professor, why was the sunlight white when you inverted the coil but yellow now?”

“An astute question, young sir. It should be white in both cases. I can only assume that the coil filters the light to prevent it from blinding anyone, and in so doing, creates the yellow glow you are witnessing.”

“If we’re done with the science lessons, perhaps you can see if all this switching of the coils was worth it?” Banshee asked.

He was right, of course. My question was a delaying tactic. I rubbed my sweaty hands on my pants and swallowed past a tightness in my throat.

“Which buttons do I press?”

“Here, here and here at the same time,” Copper said, reaching through the bars and tapping them with one claw. “That’s the combination I found that produces a brief power surge with no commensurate change in the coil’s appearance. I believe that is what will initiate the transformation, in combination with the correct passphrase.”

“Okay, here we go then,” I said, walking to the back of the cell. I pressed the indicated buttons and whispered, “Always stay alive.”

* * *

Continue to Part 67.

5/19/13 News:

This week I can report that my editor and I are done going over the notes for Book 1 of The Only City Left. I have a lot of big decisions to make as to how I want to implement those edits, and if I say I feel daunted by the task, I think that’s an understatement. I am also genuinely curious to see how TOCL will look on the other end of the process. Thank you for being part of the journey with me.

The Only City Left is 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.

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 64, Allin learned that Tyena had been taken back to the Garden, the werewolves’ den.

The Only City Left: Part 65

“Taken to the Garden? Who took her?” I asked, struggling to come to terms with the thought of Tyena being snatched out of Pudlington.

“She was spotted in the company of a guard named Halifax. We knew he worked for Doyle and we had him under surveillance, but he slipped his watch and got to Tyena before we could.”

Halifax? That must be the cat I had seen arguing with Tyena.

“When did this happen?”

“Immediately after you left Pudlington.”

After I left. That meant…

“He took her because she didn’t get me to walk into Doyle’s trap!”

“That is one possibility. The citizen who saw the two of them didn’t think anything was wrong at the time. When we questioned him later, he reported that Miss Branch did not appear to be trying to get away. She went with Halifax of her own accord.”

“They have her mother,” I said. Though I couldn’t be sure how much of what Tyena had told me had been true and how much a convenient fiction to lure me out of Pudlington, Tumble had confirmed that much at least. “Everything Tyena was doing, she was doing for her mom. If she refused to leave, Doyle would have her mom killed, so of course she went willingly.”

“Perhaps that is so. At any rate, once Tumble returned and found out about this, he immediately went after her. Oh, he claimed he was going after Doyle, but knowing my brother, he’s going to try to accomplish both goals.”

“You let Tumble go to the Garden by himself? That’s crazy!”

“He is an adult and he made his choice.”
“Great. Now he and Tyena are both in trouble because I didn’t go to the Garden in the first place. Look, Banshee. I mean Emperor Banshee,” I said, but he waved off the informality. “You’ve got me. Whatever you decide about opening up Pudlington, I need to go to the Garden. I owe it to Tumble and Tyena.”

“I see,” Banshee said, giving no indication as to how this would affect his decision.

“But first I need to know: how is Professor Copper doing with her work on the lantern coil?”

“Progress is being made. Let me show you.”

# # #

Down in the Skunkworks, Copper seemed pleased to see me again. “We’ve had a breakthrough since I saw you last!”

Her lantern coil project had moved out of her small room into a much larger laboratory, and she now had a team of white-coated cats working under her lead. The coil itself was nowhere to be seen.

“Did you figure out how to turn on the moonlight mode?” I asked.

“No. Something equally exciting, though.”

“Give him the demonstration,” Banshee said.

“Of course. This way.”

Copper led us to a large desk and sat down facing a bank of monitors, all but one of which were full of graphs and columns of numbers. The exception was one screen which had a picture of a room bare of anything except for the lantern coil in its cradle. Strands of wires ran from all around the coil’s circumference into a pedestal upon which the cradle rested.

Banshee and I stood to either side of Copper, who pressed a button on her desk and said, “Quips testing imminent. Quips testing imminent. Hold all intensive functions until the all clear is given.”

As she spoke, her voice echoed throughout the room from speakers set into the wall.

“Quips?”

“Quantum-inverted phase state,” Copper said. “QUIPS, for short. Get it? Because it shouldn’t be possible, so it’s a joke of sorts.”

“Sure,” I said, not getting it at all, but she seemed happy with my response.

“Just show him,” Banshee said.

“Very well. Eyes on the screen, gentlemen.”

She began typing commands into a keyboard on the desk. The cats moving about the lab stopped what they were doing and joined me in watching the screen.

The first thing I noticed was that it went black.

“Is it broken?” I asked.

“No. I turned off the lights. It’s more dramatic that way. Watch.”

So I watched. The coil turned on, lighting up the room with its familiar golden glow.

“Wait for it,” Copper said, as she nudged a slider forward.

The glow abruptly cut off and the room darkened except for a tiny beam of white light pointing out from the coil to the right side of the screen.

“Extending inversion field.”

The beam grew in size and the room lit up with brilliant white light. The beam itself was almost too bright to look at until the entire screen dimmed. The lights in the room we were in flickered and buzzed before themselves dimming out almost completely.

“What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry, we’re almost at our limit. There,” Copper said.

With that pronouncement, the white light filling the coil room promptly disappeared and the room was once again dark until it suddenly brightened to show the coil, sitting undisturbed in its cradle. All the cats in the room cheered as the lights in our room returned to their normal brightness. Copper pressed a button, announced, “All clear,” and swiveled her chair around to look at me triumphantly.

“It wiped out the sensors on the camera the first time we tried it,” Copper said. “We had to reinvent polarized lenses. Not much use for them these past few millennia. Sunglasses, you see.”

“No, I don’t see. Can someone tell me what just happened?”

“Think of it this way,” Copper said, grasping my hand between both of hers. “There’s a satellite orbiting the moon, and one side of it faces toward the sun, while another side faces the moon. Can you picture that?”

“Sure.”

“Now the way the lantern coil works, and this is technology centuries ahead of anything we have, is that there’s a quantum tunnel that connects the satellite on one end and the coil on the other. The coil end remains static. It’s always tied to the coil itself. But on the satellite end, there are two possible anchors for the tunnel to latch onto: one on the side facing the sun and the other on the side facing the moon. With me so far?”

“Sun. Moon. Tunnel. Got it.”

“Right. So the key thing to realize is that the flow of particles through the tunnel is always one way, from the satellite to the coil. But introduce enough power into the coil, the amount you’d use to run a medium-sized city for a few seconds, and you can effectively invert the coil, which is a space-time construct and not a physical artifact as you probably assumed.”

Banshee cleared his throat. “Keep it simple, please. For the boy.”

“Simple? I thought I was,” she said as if to herself. “Don’t you see? We’re able to switch the direction of the quantum tunnel, to send items, or people, from here to there. All we have to do is stretch the inverted coil wide enough! Then you simply pop through, turn around and you’re looking at the satellite, not to mention the moon and the Earth and don’t think I won’t be taking pictures while I’m there.”

“I think I get it, but you’d want to do this why?”

“Because besides sightseeing, she’s going to slap a bomb on the satellite,” Banshee said. “Close the portal, timer ticks down, bomb goes off. No more satellite. No more moonlight. No more werewolves.”

* * *

Continue to Part 66.

5/12/13 News:

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there! Sorry for the late post. I’m sick and a bit out of it. In lieu of writing this weekend, I’ve been working on making some stuffed Totoro dolls for my daughters. Here’s one that I’ve finished already. Have a good week everyone!

IMGP8845

Thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares. It truly makes me happy to know that people are enjoying this story.

The Only City Left is 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 1-24. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 24, Tyena had gotten upset when asked about the fate of her family, so she went to spend some time alone. With nothing else to do, Allin asked Tumble if there was a workshop he could use.

The Only City Left: Part 25

I had asked Tumble for a workshop, expecting a tiny room with maybe some spare parts lying around that I could tinker with. Instead, after a quick stop to pick up my cocoon bag, he led me into the murky depths of Pudlington, ground level in the center of the city.

Everything was dim and the world was quiet except for the slow creaks and moans of the city above. Tumble had not brought a light with him—he could see well enough—and I no longer had my coil, so I followed him closely through long-abandoned streets until we came to a set of stairs that descended into the earth. The darkness in there was impenetrable.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I told him.

“Don’t worry, it’s clean. Here, take my hand.”

Reluctantly, I did so. When he said it was clean, he wasn’t talking lack of filth. What he meant was that nothing foul had taken up residence, nothing that thrived in darkness. I was a bit skeptical.

“Where are we going?” I whispered.

“You don’t need to whisper,” Tumble assured me in a full voice. “These tunnels are locked down tight. Nothing can get in here.”

“So why are we here?” I asked, my voice still low.

“You wanted a workshop, right? That’s where we’re headed,” Tumble said, as he led me around a corner and then down more stairs.

“Why is it all the way down here?”

“For one, it keeps out most curious cats. Not many people like coming down here,” he explained. “And for another, it’s far enough down that any explosions shouldn’t affect the rest of the city.”

“Explosions. You’re kidding, right?”

Tumble chuckled and replied, “You’ll see. Be patient.”

The only sounds were our footsteps and a background hum that told me these tunnels still had power and air. Fresh air or no, the darkness was suffocating. By the time Tumble called a halt, countless flights of steps and interminably long tunnels later, I was nearly crushing his hand in mine.

“Just one moment,” Tumble said.

I heard tiny beeps and then a hiss before a vertical slice of light appeared and began to widen before me. I squeezed my eyes shut against the sudden brightness.

“Please step inside as quickly as possible in case I was wrong about it being safe out here.”

“What?” I squeaked, stumbling forward with my eyes slitted open.

Tumble laughed and sealed the door shut behind us.

When my eyes had adjusted and I had blinked and wiped the tears from them, I gaped at the sight before me. Tumble and I stood on a balcony that ran around a large rectangular opening. Doors lined the walls around the balcony and cats in white lab coats moved to and fro about the area. I could hear the whirr of tools, the rumble of engines, the vibrant hum of massive amounts of energy. The room was lit by huge tubes of white light that ran across the ceiling and thinner ones that ran along the walls.

I stepped forward and put my hands on the balcony railing. From that vantage point I could see two more balconied levels below and then a floor filled with massive machinery being inspected and tended by groups of cats. Everything was white plastic, clear glass, and grey metal. Where Pudlington above felt lived-in and almost organic, down here everything was pristine and sterile.

“Welcome to the Skunkworks,” Tumble declared.

“What do you need all this for?” I marveled.

Tumbled led me clockwise along the balcony, greeting cats who we passed along the way.

“Running a city the size of Pudlington is no easy task. Energy, food-stuffs, defense, offense, building materials, we work on it all here,” he explained. He stopped in front of a door and entered another code on the keypad next to it. “Come on, you might be interested at what’s going on in this room.”

We stepped into a smaller room lit only by banks of monitors scattered throughout the space. As if timed to our arrival, the room suddenly lit up in bright yellow light and I felt a wave of heat wash over me. It was strong but it felt good, relaxing. I sighed contentedly.

“Yes, if nothing else, this would make an excellent attraction,” said a ginger-furred cat who walked up to us. “Come bask in the sun’s rays, feel its warmth even in the depths of the city!”

“Allin, meet Professor Copper,” Tumble said. “She’s the ones who is going to figure out how your lantern coil works.”

“You give me too much credit, Tumble,” the professor said. “All I’ve done so far is figure out how to adjust the strength of the sun mode.”

I looked past Copper to where my coil hung suspended in the center of an array of equipment. I walked up to it, palms out, and felt its heat. I had never seen Mom and Dad make the coil work like this, nor figured it out myself, and I told the professor as much.

“I see. Well, small victory then. Perhaps they were more familiar with the moon mode,” she said blithely.

As I was about to protest, Tumble stepped in and suggested that I might be able to provide some insight into the coil’s workings.

“Quite right,” Copper declared, and for the next few minutes, she pressed me for any details I could provide. She was particularly interested in whether or not I had heard any verbal commands given to the coils when the moonlight mode was activated.

“I don’t think so, but it was chaos all around me when I saw them, and it’s been years,” I said.

“I’ve tried all of the combinations of the buttons around the edge of the object, you see,” the professor explained. “That’s how I found a way to change the strength. But I suspect that some further means of input is required to switch modes. Verbal, telepathic, something like that.”

Once she was satisfied that I had no useful information to share, the professor left me in peace and Tumble led me to another room where I could work on my own projects.

I had done pretty well for myself in the past, scavenging what parts I could, cadging together tools and weapons from the detritus of past civilizations, but when I saw the setup in what was one tiny room of the larger complex, I realized I was basically at the level of banging two rocks together compared to the cats.

Still, they were running an entire city. I only needed some gadgets to make my journeys more manageable.

First things first: I had given away my lantern coil, and navigating the City without a light was akin to walking around with an “Eat Me” sign taped to my back. I needed a replacement light source.

I set my bag down on a workbench and asked Tumble, “You wouldn’t happen to have any bioluminescent algal scum, would you?”

“Let me check,” he replied, typing commands into a nearby terminal. “Yes, here we are. Green, red, or yellow?”

And that was the pattern for the rest of the day. It seemed that whatever I could imagine, whatever tool or ingredient or material I desired, Tumble would have it delivered from the storerooms.

“Um, I can’t, you know, pay for this stuff or anything,” I told Tumble later while working on a set of new grapples for my gun.

“I know, Allin. No payment is expected.”

“Is this Banshee’s way of making me feel guilty?”

“You could choose to see it that way, or you could accept that emperors are known for their magnanimous gestures and leave it at that.”

“Which do you think it is?”

Tumble scratched at his chin and tilted his head from side to side. “Perhaps a little of both.”

I set down a plasma welder, pulled the tinted safety goggles off, and narrowed my eyes at Tumble.

“Thanks for the honesty.”

Tumble bowed his head once and replied, “You are welcome. So are you reconsidering your answer to Emperor Banshee’s offer?”

“If I say no, will I get to come back here again?”

Tumble considered this and replied, “Why don’t I tell the Emperor you’re thinking about it.”

I grinned.

“Fair enough.”

* * *

Continue to Part 26.

8/5/12 Notes: 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.

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 1-17 and then jump into the story at Part 18. You can reach an individual part by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 20, Emperor Banshee suggested that Allin might be able to infiltrate the werewolves’ lair and kill their leader, his uncle Doyle.

The Only City Left: Part 21

“You want me to sneak into my uncle’s secret lair and kill him? The giant ghost who was trying to kill me?” I half-spoke, half-laughed. “Why don’t you ask for something big next time?”

“It is a dangerous assignment, I’ll grant you,” Banshee said. “But one you are uniquely capable of completing.”

“Why me?”

“If you could transform into a werewolf, you have the best chance of anyone to get inside the Garden, find Doyle, and complete the mission. You’ll be just another wolf to them.”

“The Garden?”

“That’s what Doyle has named his ever-expanding empire. Ironic, I know.”

“Just because I look like one of them, I don’t think it will be as simple to get to Doyle as you’re making it out to be.”

Banshee nodded. “That is the other reason you are uniquely suited for this. Even if you can’t or don’t transform, you are still Doyle’s nephew, and by your own account his people had orders to bring you in alive. It’s perfect. Your safety is ensured and you will be right where we need you to be to end this threat.”

I began to pace back and forth in front of the two cats, all this new information racing through my brain, ricocheting around inside my skull.

“Let me…. For one moment, let me entertain the idea of going along with this. How exactly do you expect me to kill a ghost?”

Tumble held up one finger in protest. “Ghosts are nothing more than swarms of nano-bots imprinted with the memories of the deceased. They are mechanical, electrical, not spiritual, and so are susceptible to the same attack as any other mechanical creature.”

I stopped, hands on my hips.

“In other words, you want me to emp him.”

In theory, using an electro-magnetic pulse to kill a ghost should work the same as it did with the tacmites. It would wipe out all the saved information contained within the Lazarus swarm, along with the machinery of the nano-bots themselves. No more body, no more soul, no more ghost. In theory.

“Exactly,” Tumble said. “Our scientists will provide you with a tiny device that will go undetected if they search you. As soon as you’re in his presence, you set it off. Once Doyle’s gone, we’ll sweep in and clear up his crew.”

“One little problem with that scenario,” I said, shaking my head. “Doyle is not like any other ghost I’ve ever encountered, so there’s no guarantee your plan will work.”

“Yes,” Banshee drew the syllable out into a hiss. “We are aware that he has evolved past the normal bounds of the afterlife. He is solid. He can transform from werewolf to human and back at will. As you’re aware, this has its drawbacks as well.”

Damn straight. If Doyle had been able to phase through the hatch I slammed shut on him, I would have never escaped him.

“It is safe to assume that his altered state is one more gift from the unknown party that turned him in the first place. But this matters not,” Banshee said. “He may be a different sort of ghost, but he’s still a ghost, and we are confident that the E.M. pulse will disincorporate him.”

I stared at Banshee for a moment and then turned and walked over to one of the flowering bushes. I closed my eyes and breathed in the cloying aroma of the flowers as I tried to wrap my brain around all this information.

My parents: werewolves who lied to me my entire life.

My uncle who I didn’t even know existed until recently: a mutant werewolf ghost who wants me back in his life for reasons unknown.

Me: probably a werewolf, too, and in a unique position to finish the job that my father started nearly two decades ago. Namely, murdering my uncle.

And Banshee is confident his plan will work, I thought. Confident enough to send me into danger while he waits to see if it works.

“No,” I murmured. Then louder, “No!”

I turned around to face Banshee and Tumble. They were having a whispered conversation but stopped to listen to me.

“I appreciate the meal and all,” I said, closing the distance between us. “But as for the job offer, no thanks. You’ll have to find someone else crazy enough to try to kill my uncle.

“As for this,” I wrapped my fist around Dad’s lantern coil and yanked on it, snapping the necklace free. I threw it to the floor at Banshee’s feet. “Your scientists can have it, for all I care. It’s a lie, just like everything else I’ve ever known.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sleep on that nice bed one more time. Tomorrow, I’m out of here.”

Banshee glared at me and Tumble made as if to speak, but I interrupted him.

“Don’t mind me, I’ll find my own way back.”

I scarcely paid attention to my surroundings as I left the rooftop garden and descended into the city. Snippets of my conversation with Banshee played over and over in my head. I had learned so much about my parents and about myself, and none of it good.

Pudlington grew darker as I navigated its byways, and it wasn’t simply my mood. The city’s night-cycle had begun, and as the lights slowly dimmed and more and more shadows filled my path, I reached for my coil and grasped an empty space. Old habits.

The coil was a thing of my past and so was the entire sector. I decided that when I left Pudlington the next day, I would do my best to leave it all behind: the sector, the coil, the cats and wolves, the memories of Mom and Dad and Glin’s Rising. I was done with the past and only wanted to look to the future.

Meantime in the present, my feet carried me to the platform outside my room despite the dimming light and being lost in my own thoughts.

A sound from within broke me out of my reverie. Had Tumble beat me back here to try to convince me to follow Banshee’s plan? Good luck.

I ducked through the window and saw not a cat, but another human. A woman in a dark green satin dress, standing with her back to me as she inspected the triptych.

She had pale skin and fiery red hair that fell to her shoulders. My heart began to pound furiously against my rib cage and I broke out into an instant sweat.

I might have been done with my past, but it wasn’t done with me.

“Tyena.”

* * *

Get reacquainted with Tyena in Part 22, or read my notes first if you like.

7/8/12 News: So Allin said “No” to Banshee’s fine offer. Imagine that. Maybe Banshee doesn’t understand human psychology enough, because he really thought his sales pitch was going to work. Allin’s a hard sell, though. The last time he played the hero, things didn’t work out so well; he’s not exactly motivated to try it again. Of course, Banshee’s sales pitch might not be over yet, after all…

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.

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 1-17 and then jump into the story at Part 18. You can reach an individual part by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 19, Allin discovers that the lantern coil given to him by his father is capable of emitting moonlight, and that the werewolves use the coils to transform. So why did Dad have a coil?

The Only City Left: Part 20

“Dad’s lantern coil?” I asked, lifting it up to examine it. “That makes sense, I guess. The werewolf that got away in Glin’s Rising was collecting these. But how does it transform someone into a werewolf?”

I absentmindedly pressed the buttons on the edge of the glass ovoid that housed the coil, and it lit up with its aureate yellow glow. Its light was cleaner, healthier somehow than the sterile light that poured out from Pudlington’s ceiling, but the cats reacted as if I had drawn a gun on them.

Banshee raised his hands in a defensive posture, claws out, and I instinctively backed up a step or two. I looked over and saw Tumble, similarly tense, claws out and hair puffed up.

“Hey guys, it’s just a light,” I soothed. “What’s the big deal?”

Tumble moved to stand beside Banshee, shaking his fur into place as he walked.

“Not just a light, Allin,” Tumble explained. “Sunlight, if our theories are correct. Captured and transmitted into the coil housed inside the casing.”

Sunlight? No wonder these things were so precious. To bring sunlight into the dark depths of the city, even a little bit, was a wondrous thing. Both Mom and Dad’s coils had glowed with that gentle, golden light, in sharp contrast to the ones that belonged to the werewolves.

“The werewolf coils emit moonlight instead, don’t they?” I hazarded.

I recalled the bursts of harsh, white light that lit up the darkened department store so many years ago in Glin’s. Grinty and his crew, human when we entered the store, and then transformed into gruesome beasts. All made possible by the coils they wore.

“They do,” Banshee intoned. “But their coils are no different than the one you wear. It too can produce moonlight, if operated correctly.”

That explained why the werewolf had wanted to take it from me, but…

“Even if it did emit moonlight, what’s there to worry about? I’ve never been bitten.”

The darkened department store.

Banshee leaned forward. “Allin, your father stole the coils for a reason.”

Flashes of white light.

“Yeah, to keep them from the werewolves, and to light the darkness.”

A shape hurtling overhead to tackle the female werewolf that threatened me.

“Do you truly believe that? Your father remained with Doyle’s gang for years, during which time more coils were discovered, more werewolves were created. Do you think Doyle’s own brother would not be included?”

Grinty, dead, falling to the ground before me.

“You’re saying Dad was one of them, that he stole a coil so he could change when he needed.”

Dad, his lantern coil glowing yellow, standing weaponless over Grinty’s corpse. Could he have killed a werewolf with his bare hands?

“It is very likely.”

The sunlight from Dad’s coil. That was the first time I had seen its light in the department store. Before that, it was all white light. Moonlight.

“Mom had a coil, too.”

Mom’s lantern coil in the she-beast’s hand, and then Mom, a frail, injured human taking on the hulking she-beast.

“Yes,” Banshee agreed, his voice solemn.

As humans, Mom and Dad had been murdered by the werewolves within seconds, but the fight had gone on for some time before that. How could they have survived for so long, unless…

“You can’t be certain,” I insisted, but it didn’t matter. They were certain, and so was I.

“Getting bitten isn’t the only way to become a werewolf, is it?” I asked. “You can be born as one.”

“If both your parents are werewolves, yes,” Banshee said.

I wanted to deny it, I wanted it not to be true, but it was the only answer that made any sense. It was Mom who leaped to my defense in that store, not as a human woman but as a fearsome beast who could hold her own against an inhuman opponent. And Dad had only become human again to talk to me. He had let down his defenses so that I wouldn’t see that he was as much a monster as the creatures he was fighting.

And I was a monster, too, thanks to them, wanting only a ray of moonlight to unleash the beast inside me.

“No wonder your people aren’t thrilled you let me in,” I said, recalling the looks I had gotten after the feast. “I don’t blame them.”

“If I could not handle one werewolf cub, I wouldn’t be a fit Emperor,” Banshee snarled. “But the point is moot. You don’t know how to switch the coil to moonlight mode.”

“Still, why risk it? Because Dad tried to kill his brother twenty years ago? That didn’t work out so well, sounds like.”

“There is another reason you were allowed within these walls,” Banshee admitted. “We have a proposition for you.”

Tumble took over: “Your coil is the first one we’ve ever had access to, Allin. The werewolves guard the technology closely. Even when we manage to bring a wolf down, the others make sure to rescue the coil before we can abscond with it.

“Our hope is that if we can examine the coil, we can figure out a way to interrupt the transmission of moonlight. Without that, Doyle’s wolves go back to being just a bunch of human punks again, and we’ll make short work of them.”

“So why didn’t you just take the coil from me when I was passed out?” I asked.

Banshee answered, “Because if we can’t block the moonlight, perhaps we can make it work for us.”

I scratched my cheek and eyed Tumble and Banshee in turn.

“Make it work how?”

Tumble replied, “By allowing you to transform into a werewolf.”

I took that in and played it back in my head to make sure I had heard it right.

“And you would want that why exactly?”

Banshee folded his arms across his chest, leaned back, and said, “So you can infiltrate the wolves’ lair and finish the job your father began. Doyle Arcady must be killed.”

* * *

Infiltrate Part 21, or read my notes below first.

7/1/12 News: And now we see what all Banshee’s wining and dining and praise of Dylan’s heroics was all about: buttering Allin up so that he’ll accept a dangerous assignment into enemy territory. Hmmm, I wonder if it will work.

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.