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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. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of  Part 81, Doyle’s attempt to take over Allin’s body failed when all the coils turned off at once. Doyle had a Plan B, though, and it involved a road trip.

The Only City Left: Part 82

Doc Needles lived up to his name. While Doyle held me down, the good doctor (of what, I had no idea) injected me with a fast-working sedative cocktail. While that took effect, more of Doyle’s men came in with a gurney and strapped me onto it. From there, Doyle led our entire group out of his room, down some stairs, and into the streets of the Garden. Everything after that happened in a dream-like blur.

We traveled through a chaotic landscape full of the sounds of gunfire, yelling, and shattering glass. More than once, Doyle’s men had to fight against fearsome pink demons to clear a path as we made our way deeper into the Garden.

Angels flew over the battlefield, singing and raining gerrybrook flowers over the former werewolves and slaves alike. Where the flowers landed, entire bushes sprang up. Soon the landscape was covered in greenery and filled with the overwhelming scent of gerrybrook blooms. I felt sick but I was also in awe. Imagine the city as one big Garden. Doyle had the name right but had been going about things all wrong.

I saw Banshee clipping flowers off of the bushes. He offered me one but I couldn’t reach it. He shrugged and chewed the flower instead, its crimson petals staining his mouth like blood. He ate flower after flower in this way until the sticky red juice poured down his front, matting his fur and pooling beneath him. I tried to tell him to stop, or at least slow down, but then we were past him and it was too late.

Mom and Dad showed up for a little while to walk on either side of Doyle like an honor guard. They didn’t talk to or even acknowledge me; maybe they thought I was asleep. Still, it was nice to see them again. They stayed with us as we left the populated portion of the Garden and moved through an area that had already been used up and discarded by Doyle’s devouring domain. Here the only light came from Doyle himself until we reached a working elevator. When its doors opened, sterile white light poured out and Mom and Dad faded away under its awful glow.

After that it was all darkened corridors and ramps and elevators up. I was with it enough to marvel that Doyle had not only mapped out a route to the Roof of the World, for that was surely our destination, but that he had kept the elevators in working order the entire way. That was a sign of real power. Imagine if he had used the might of his empire to repair the city as he moved along instead of dismantling it.

That I could string together a coherent thought like that made me realize that I was coming out of the hallucinatory fog under which Needles had buried me. I kept my mouth shut, though, hoping Doyle would drop some secret while he thought me too out of it to notice. It turned out, however, that he wasn’t much interested in talking to his subordinates except to direct them to the next step in the circuitous and seemingly never-ending route.

I ended up bored and lost in dark thoughts. I slipped in and out of sleep, which was probably to my benefit. By the time we reached the final doorway, I felt rested but Doyle’s men looked exhausted from the non-stop march. Doyle, half-ghost, seemed unfazed but eager.

“At last,” he said as he keyed open the door. “I thought we’d never get here.”

We entered a spacious room whose walls and ceiling were a deep black, free of any ornament. Lights set into the floor gave off a gentle yellow glow that illuminated a sparse, square room containing some furniture covered in stiff plastic.

“Leave him there,” Doyle said, pointing to a sunken floor in the center of the room. “Have a drink. Enjoy the penthouse. Don’t interrupt me.”

His men lifted my gurney down two steps and left me craning my neck to see what was going on. Their job done, they adjourned to the bar that ran along the far wall. Doyle walked to a side wall, cupped his hands against it, and pressed one eye to the circle his hands formed.

“Perfect,” he said, and wiped his hand across the wall before turning around. “I was afraid we’d have to wait, but the timing is just right. Maybe it was meant to happen this way. Doc, is he good to go?”

Needles abandoned his spot at the bar, which the rest of Doyle’s men were raiding for its ancient stores, and came over to check me out. I did my best to appear dazed. Maybe if I looked too drugged, Doyle would have to delay his hostile takeover.

He pulled down my eyelids, gave me a tiny slap on the face that I couldn’t help but flinch from, and said, “He’s good. Probably been awake for a while now.”

Gee, thanks Doc.

“Then let’s not delay this any longer,” Doyle said, suddenly looming over me. “I spent years chasing your father and then you, Allin, but at long last I’m going to get everything I want. Boys, one of you clear the walls, would you?”

Everything I want… A surge of hope filled me at Doyle’s words, and then where the side walls and ceiling had been, there was only clear glass, and I was too distracted by the view to do anything but look up in awe. Starlight filled the room, and moonlight, too. I had a brief moment to marvel at the night sky and how it was speckled with millions, no, billions of twinkling stars, and then my transformation began.

It was more painful this time, like I was bursting out of my own skin. Maybe the unadulterated moonlight was more powerful. I didn’t have a chance to contemplate it, though, because Doyle wasted no time in becoming smoke and arrowing through the air straight toward me. This is the end, I thought as he moved to envelop me once more.

And then the ghosts arrived.

* * *

Continue to Part 83.

9/8/13 News: There’ll be no escape for Allin this time… Wait, what? The ghosts beg to differ. We’re in the home stretch, folks. There are 89 total posts (there were 90, but I have since been convinced to hold back that last post) and then this version of Book One is complete. I had hoped to have TOCL available in novel form when that happened, but with the total rewrite, that is not going to happen. That is somewhat aggravating, but at the same time I am much happier with what the finished product will be, so it will be worth it. Here’s to a shorter timetable for Book Two, though!

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.

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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. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of  Part 80, Allin refused to speak the passphrase that would transform him into a werewolf (and which would allow his uncle Doyle to perform a hostile takeover of Allin’s body).

The Only City Left: Part 81

Doyle didn’t lash out or yell at me. He simply held me down, grabbed the coil, and said, “Not much as famous last words go. Now get out of that body. I need it to always stay alive.”

Time slowed down. Doyle released his grip on my coil and I could see moonlight burst forth from it like a splash from a puddle. Then the light hit me and I could immediately feel the transformation begin to take over. My own transformation, though, concerned me less than Doyle’s. He was turning to smoke before my eyes, the same as when I cut his arm off with the steel door, or when he pretended to slap me earlier. This smoky, wispy version of Doyle held its form for a moment and then started to flow toward me.

Still halfway between human and werewolf, I fought against my bonds. I could feel my wrists straining against them as I grew stronger moment by moment, but I feared that strength would come too late to save me from Doyle’s onslaught.

I snarled my contempt for this shadow creature that thought he could evict me from my own body. I was a creature of flesh and blood, a werewolf, and no ghost could stop me. I roared and snapped the ropes binding my wrists at the same moment that Smoke-Doyle reached me and enveloped my head in a suffocating darkness.

I could feel the fine grit of his nanoswarm filtering into my eyes, ears, mouth, nostrils, even into the pores of my skin. I couldn’t roar, or breathe for that matter, as I drowned in a torrent of nanobots. Fight, I demanded of myself. If there’s any chance his plan might work, you need to stop him somehow. Don’t let him take you over. Better to die.

I started to black out from lack of oxygen when all of a sudden a bright yellow and orange light pierced the shawl of nanobots that covered my eyes. I felt Doyle retreating from me at great speed, pulling me with him so that I fell forward. My feet were still tied together at the base of the table and I barely got my hands in front of me in time to take the brunt of the fall. Still my forehead bounced against the floor and I grunted in pain. That was nothing compared to the next instant when a once-again-solid Doyle gripped me by my hair and lifted me up to face him.

“What is this?” he barked at me. “How did you turn off the coil?”

Turn off the coil? That’s when I realized I wasn’t a werewolf anymore, and the coil hanging from my neck was not emitting any light.

“I don’t know what happened,” I said, spitting out the words between gasps of pain. It felt as if my scalp was going to pull away from my skull.

Maybe Xerxes or one of the other ghosts had come up through the floor and siphoned off the coil’s moonlight. Xerxes had said he would know when Doyle and I were together, and if I had ever needed the ghosts’ help, now was the time. There was a problem with that idea, though. If it had been a ghost, why wasn’t the moonlight back on now that the ghost wasn’t holding on to the coil anymore?

The question was answered a moment later when the door burst open and a disheveled-looking human with a lantern coil around his neck barged in.

“Lord Commander, the coils! Something’s wrong. Everyone’s changed back!”

Doyle snorted in disgust, pushed me back against the table, and reached underneath it to rotate it to horizontal once again. Free from his grasp, I sighed in relief.

“What nonsense is this?” Doyle asked. He was still a werewolf, albeit a ghostly one.

“I can’t explain it, my lord. Our coils flared up and then the moonlight cut off. Several slaves have escaped in the confusion and others have fought back against us. If we don’t organize resistance soon, we’ll be overwhelmed.”

Unless Doyle had lied, I had only been unconscious for an hour. Tumble couldn’t have made it back to Pudlington yet and, even if he had, we had agreed to not turn the coils off. Not that I was complaining. However it had been accomplished, it was having the desired effect on the werewolves and, as a bonus, had saved me from Doyle, too.

“You’re still stronger than them and you have weapons,” Doyle said. “Form groups and kill any slave who dares to challenge you. Now go.” He looked down at me and called out to the now-human guard before he could leave. “One more thing. Task someone with escorting Doc Needles here.”

“Form groups. Kill slaves. Doc Needles. Got it,” said the guard, who looked relieved to have firm orders. “Your will be done!”

He sped out of the room, leaving me alone with a very unhappy Doyle.

“So your friends in the Skunkworks took the initiative and destroyed the satellite even without Banshee’s orders.”

I tried to keep my face blank, but inside I despaired. Banshee thought he was playing Doyle with false reports all these years, but it looked like Doyle had been on to him the whole time. If Doyle knew about the Skunkworks and Professor Copper’s coil project, it meant one of the scientists was talking to the wrong person about forbidden topics, or worse, was on Doyle’s payroll.

“You don’t have to keep it secret, Allin. The cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Fordham promised me he would cancel the project, but apparently I can’t trust him as much as I thought I could.”

Fordham! He was working for Doyle.

“Sorry they ruined your plan,” I said, dripping sarcasm. “I guess you don’t need me anymore.”

“On the contrary, I need you now more than ever. And if I can’t bring the moon to you, well…”

A silver-haired man who looked freshly woken came into the room, carrying a leather bag.

“You called for me?”

“Yes. Sedate the boy. We’re going on a trip and I don’t want him getting too excited. After all, it’s not every day I make someone’s dream come true.”

* * *

Continue to Part 82.

9/1/13 News: Can Allin take advantage of this sudden turn of events? Will he be happy to have his dream come true? Neither one seems likely. Tune in next week to see what happens next, faithful TOCLites!

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 79, Doyle told Allin he planned to take control of Allin’s body.

The Only City Left: Part 80

“You’re insane.”

“A little,” Doyle replied with a broad grin. “You don’t try to transfer your consciousness into a string of other bodies without a few side effects, after all. But I have no doubt that this time, with you, the transfer will work.”

He picked up my lantern coil again and said, “The transfer is best completed when the subject is in a transition state between wolf and man. So let’s get this on you and begin, shall we?”

I tensed up, uncertain of what torture I was about to be subjected to in the name of Doyle’s mad experiment. When I heard a loud slam from behind me, I jumped and nearly slipped off the stacked books, but it turned out to only be a door opening.

“I’m sorry, sir. We couldn’t stop her without injuring her,” said a gruff, masculine voice.

I looked to the side to see who was speaking, but the first person to come into view wasn’t some werewolf guard. It was Tyena. She was dressed in fine crimson silks and had her red hair up in a tight bun. For a prisoner, she looked well kept. She advanced on Doyle with a righteous anger in her eyes, but when she glanced over and saw me, she stopped and ran to my side.

“Allin, it’s true. You’re alive!”

“For the moment.”

“It’s okay,” Doyle said to someone behind my table. “Let them say their goodbyes. Wait outside until I call you.”

The door closed again and Tyena turned on Doyle, still holding on to me.

“Let him go,” she said.

“No, let her go,” I countered. “You got what you wanted. Set her and her mother free.”

“So sweet, the both of you, but the answer is no. Besides,” Doyle said, putting one wide hand over Tyena’s stomach. “If I were to let him go, it would mean I would need to use your baby. Is that what you want?”

“Baby!?” What in the world?

Tyena shot me a fierce look, while behind her back, Doyle leered.

“She didn’t tell you? Then let me be the first to say ‘Congratulations, Dad!’ I’m sure you’re as happy as I was to find out.”

Happy didn’t quite cover the range of my feelings at the moment. Disbelief. Confusion. Concern. Especially that last one. Since Tyena and I had never been that intimate, her carrying my baby was impossible.

“With you presumed dead, it cheered me to no end when that cat brought me Tyena. At first I thought to make a sport of her slow death, but imagine my delight upon hearing that she was with child. Your child. All hope was not lost.”

Now it made sense. Tyena had said what she needed to in order to survive for a little while longer, although this was one lie that couldn’t last for very long. At most she had pushed back the date of her execution by a couple of weeks.

“You were going to transfer your mind into a baby?”

“Eventually. It would actually be easier to overwrite a baby’s fresh mind, but there’s no point in being flesh again if all I’m doing is pissing my dipeys all day long,” he said. He let go of Tyena and walked around to my other side. “Sadly, it will be years before the child is old enough to be suitable for me. But then, a gift. You returned.”

Tyena squeezed my shoulder tight while Doyle went on.

“Don’t worry, though. Even though I don’t need him now, I’ll allow your son to grow up. If it’s a daughter, eh, we’ll see.”

“You leave them the hell alone,” I said, struggling against my bonds. I was playing along with the charade for Tyena’s sake, but there was a core of real emotion in it, too. I’d be damned if a lunatic like Doyle got near any child of mine, even if this one only existed in Tyena’s desperate imagination.

“It won’t be any of your concern in a few more minutes,” Doyle said. “Guard, take her away!”

“Allin, I’m so sorry,” Tyena said. She kissed me one last time as the guard came into the room.

“I’m sorry, too. For everything.”

“So sweet,” Doyle said as the guard put his furry mitts on Tyena’s shoulders. “Now go get some rest, my dear. You mustn’t exert yourself so.”

The guard led her out of my sight and shut the door behind them. I hoped for her sake that she had another trick up her sleeve and could escape before Doyle caught on.

“You’re a monster. You were really going to steal her baby?”

“Of course. And I still will. You see, if this ritual works, and I take over your body, what’s to stop me from dying and reincorporating as many times as I want? All I need are more Lazarus swarms, which the Fifth House has promised me, and more bodies to which I am related by blood. Your child will be the first, but once I’m corporeal again, I’ll get to work on making more little babies who can grow up to be host bodies for me. Yes, I’m quite looking forward to that part after all these years.”

“Good thing you’re such a loyal little lap dog to the Fifth House. Sounds like without all the gifts they’ve given you, you’d still be a sad little punk. My mom chose both of your brothers over you, didn’t she? I bet that hurts, doesn’t—hurk!

That last bit was my yell of surprised pain as Doyle kicked the books out from under my feet and all my weight fell onto my bound wrists and straining shoulders again. As I writhed, he slipped my necklace back on and pressed the buttons to activate it.

“Did you know that you can’t change the passphrase on a coil once it’s set? And that I was there when Dylan chose his? So shall you say it or shall I?”

Ghosts, if you’re planning on saving me, it’s now or never.

“Always…”

“Yes, keep going,” Doyle urged.

“Always. Shove it up your ass, Uncle.”

* * *

Continue to Part 81.

8/25/13 News: That last line is perhaps my favorite of the whole book. Now you know my maturity level.

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 78, Doyle was sharing his version of Arcady family history with Allin, when he revealed that he got his powers from a mysterious force called the Fifth House.

The Only City Left: Part 79

The Fifth House? That was the name of the distant kingdom that gave the older brother his powers in Mom’s story, and the slave in the Garden had used that phrase in Doyle’s title. Banshee had alluded to them without knowing their name. If any part of this story were true, this might be it.

“What’s the Fifth House?” I asked.

“Gods. Or as close to them as the Earth can afford nowadays.”

“So you met some gods.” So much for the truth.

He scowled at my sarcasm. “I have a werewolf army and I came back from the dead, and you find it hard to believe I met some gods? Well, believe what you want. I found them or they found me. Either way, they gave me the power to become a werewolf and to turn others, and the coils to allow us to transform even in the depths of the city. In return, they asked only that I expand my empire, which as you might have guessed I was quite happy to do. But first I had to protect my wife, so upon my return I infected her.”

“You!?” Doyle had been the one to turn Mom into a werewolf? Could that be true? Not that it made it any better, but I liked to think that Dad had been the one to do it. If it was Doyle, it meant I was even more connected to him, as if the werewolf side of me was his son. I felt ill.

“Yes. She was safer that way. I did Dylan next. That was my biggest mistake, sharing my power with the betrayer. But I couldn’t have known at the time. No, all I knew was that the city was dangerous and I needed to make it safer. I built a new Garden for Jessie and vowed she would always be safe within its walls. But while I worked to infect more wolves and build a fortress, my brother poisoned my wife against me. No fortress, no matter how impregnable, can withstand such rot from the inside.”

Wow, I had it so wrong all this time. Doyle isn’t the bad guy at all; it was my parents. Now that I see the light, I’ll gladly do whatever I can to help him. How could I have ever been so wrong? At least, that’s what he seemed to expect me to say. He was so earnest in his delivery of the tale, I didn’t doubt that he believed it himself. I suspected that after all these years as half a ghost, Uncle Doyle was more than a little bit insane.

“While I was busy building an army, your parents hatched their plan. And when I took a break from my works to spend time with my wife, they struck. They cut me down and left me for dead. What they couldn’t have known was that the Fifth House had given me the means to survive death via the Lazarus swarm. Once I returned, I vowed to track them down to the ends of the Earth and make them pay for their crime.”

“I guess that didn’t work out so well for you.” I couldn’t help myself. Tied to a table, waiting for who knows what horrible fate to befall me, all I had left were my words, so I used them to inflict what wounds I could. But instead of looking angry, Doyle grinned his wolfish grin.

“For a long time, yes. But now here you are, and all will be right again soon.”
“How’s that exactly?”

Doyle stood up, walked over to me, and cupped my cheek with his hand, almost a caress. I shuddered under his touch.

“You have wondered, I am sure, about my present state of being? A ghost who can touch but can’t feel? Solid one moment…”

He brought his hand up behind his head and then brought it down to slap me. I winced against the expected impact, but instead of a slap I felt like someone was pouring fine sand over my face. I opened my eyes and saw that his arm from the elbow down looked like flowing smoke. It passed over my face with all the force of a strong breeze.

“…Insubstantial the next. And back again.”

His hand and arm re-formed and he gave me a light slap on my cheek with the back of his hand.

“An amusing party trick, to be sure, but no way to live, to really live,” Doyle said. He started to pace again. “I can’t blame the Fifth House. They told me it would work best with someone of my own blood, but it was taking so long to capture Dylan, I had to try using someone else.”

Someone of my own blood.

“Use them for what?”

“To transfer my mind into their bodies, of course.”

“Mind transfer? You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? I may be mechanical and you biological, but we’re both delivery devices for consciousness. The Fifth House showed me how to overwrite a host body with my consciousness, but it has never fully worked. The host body always rejects me. But with each failure, I consumed the body. Rather, the nanobots that make up my body did. I grew stronger, more solid. But even though I can touch, I can’t feel. Even though I can tear into warm flesh with these teeth, I can’t taste the blood. It’s driving me mad!”

That last part I could agree with.

“For years I chased after your family, desperate to capture Dylan and transfer my consciousness into his body. I even had some notion that I could effect the transfer in secret and in that way be with my sweet, poisonous Jessie one last time, willingly, before I murdered her. Imagine the hurt and betrayal she would have felt as the man she thought was her husband choked the life out of her. But then your parents went and got themselves killed. Which left you, Allin. You’re my only family left, and I’m going to have to kick you out of that body of yours. Nothing personal.”

* * *

Continue to Part 80.

8/18/13 News: First off, I finally put a reminder in my calendar to post the new TOCL episode, and without it, I would definitely have forgotten again. Second, yes, Fiona called it. Doyle wants to kick Allin out of his body. In rewrite news, I finished Chapter 3 and it is off to my editor. She has had minimal notes on the first two chapters, which is good news. I have 43 chapters planned, so I feel like I am once more at the beginning of a long road, but I am glad that I will have a better book at the end of it.

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.)

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 77, Allin was at the mercy of his ghost werewolf Uncle, Doyle.

The Only City Left: Part 78

“You seem pretty alive to me already,” I said. Which was true. He could move around, talk, and unlike most ghosts who could only interact with a tiny bit of the physical world for a small amount of time, he was as solid as they came.

Speaking of ghosts, I thought. Here I am, all alone with Doyle. Now would be an excellent time for Xerxes and friends to show up. Where in the hell are they?

Doyle backed away and threw his hands up as if throwing my words back at me.

“Bah. This? This isn’t life. This is a waking dream. My senses are dulled. I can’t eat or drink.” He slammed his palms down on his desk. “Every sensation is deadened. What I wouldn’t give to feel again, to taste, to know the touch of a woman. Yes, especially that.”

“Creepy,” I said. “Seriously creepy. And nothing to do with me.”

“Mock me all you want, boy, but you’re the key to fixing this. Even better, it means I’ll finally have my revenge on your parents. They killed me and their son will give me new life. How perfect.”

“The only thing my parents did wrong was not sticking around to make sure they finished the job.”

In the blink of an eye, Doyle stepped toward me and punched the table beside my head. His fist left a gaping hole in the inch-thick slab of wood.

“Are you trying to get me to kill you? Clever, that would ruin my plans for now. But I won’t make it that easy on you. And I won’t allow you to keep on spewing the lies your parents fed to you about me. Before this ends, you should know the dirty truth about them.”
The possibility of finding out more about my parents made me keep my mouth shut. That and the fact that I really wasn’t trying to get Doyle to kill me. As clever as he thought I was being, I had no desire to die and I didn’t see how that would be a big win for me. So I didn’t say anything; I just listened.

“The first thing you should know is that Jessie didn’t pick your dad first. She picked me. It wasn’t until years later that he played on my trust and kindness and stole her away from me. But I’m getting ahead of myself,” he said. He dropped my coil on his desk, pulled a chair over, and sat down facing me. “The story really began in a section of the city known as the Garden, which was governed by Jessie’s parents. Now your dad and I, we kind of grew up like wild dogs, all over the place, doing what we needed to do to get by. So when we saw the Garden, and Jessie, it was like a little slice of heaven smack dab in the middle of the dirt and decay of the city. It wasn’t fair that some people had so much while we were living day to day, so Dylan and I, we went to the Garden and we made a deal with Jessie’s parents. Jessie had to choose one of us to marry, or we’d burn the Garden down. Jessie chose me.”

I wasn’t surprised that Doyle was the star of his own story, or that he cast Dad as the villain. I was prepared for his version of events to be skewed in his favor. What did surprise me was that I had heard this story before, sort of. Except…

“Wait a second. Did you have another brother who went with you to the Garden?”

Doyle’s eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth. For a moment I thought he would jump up and put a matching hole in the table on the other side of my head, but he calmed himself and said, “I don’t know what lies your parents filled your head with, but shut up and listen to what really happened.”

Lies. Stories. I always thought my parents had kept the details of their past hidden from me, but what if it was all out there for me to see, plain as day, only disguised as a fairy tale instead of a history lesson? The Princess and the Three Brothers. But if that was the case, why would Doyle deny the existence of the third brother in the tale? I decided it was best not to anger him further by pushing him on the subject, but I kept that question in the back of my mind as he continued.

“Unbeknownst to me, Dylan was consumed with jealousy that Jessie had chosen me over him. He showed me no hint of his true feelings, but he plotted behind my back while continuing to play the role of the loyal brother. A year or so passed in this way and then we received news that the Garden had been destroyed and all its people murdered. Dylan acted as shocked at this news as I was, and it wasn’t until much later that I learned that his were the hands that had committed the crime. By then it was too late to let Jessie know, because he had already turned her against me.”

The story was so obviously altered from what Mom had told me, I considered it almost useless. But where the two stories overlapped, perhaps there was some truth to be found. I continued to listen, helpless at any rate to do anything else.

“When I heard of this travesty, I vowed to Jessie to never allow such a fate to befall us. But what could I do to protect her? I was just one man, facing powers that had wiped out an entire town. So I decided to look for some way to grow more powerful, to become strong enough that I could protect Jessie from the dangers of the city. And that’s when I found the Fifth House.”

* * *

Continue to Part 79.

8/11/13 News: Late post again! No excuses. WTH, Andy? (Okay, time to add reminders to my calendar.) Also, this is more behind-the-scenes stuff that will likely not be appearing in the final version. Enjoy!

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 76, Allin was caught by the werewolves and was knocked unconscious.

The Only City Left: Part 77

When I woke up in the darkness, I heard someone say, “One grenade. Looks to be an emp. Get that out of here before the Lord Commander arrives. One coil. Set it aside. He’ll want to examine it. No other belongings in his pockets. Cavity search?”

No thanks, I tried to say, but my throat felt like it was filled with grit and I couldn’t speak past something that had been shoved into my mouth.

“You better,” came Sergeant Pogue’s voice.

I couldn’t talk but I could move, and at Pogue’s command, I tried my best to get away. Since I was laid out on some flat surface with my arms stretched out above my head and my hands and feet tied down, all that amounted to was bucking against my restraints.

“He’s awake.”
“I can see that,” Pogue said. “Here, I’ll flip him and hold him down.”

“Mrph um nurmph!” I said in protest. The gag not only blocked my words, but it made me feel like I couldn’t get enough air, either. When someone turned me face-down, my nose was smushed into the bag covering my head and I truly did find it hard to breathe. I struggled to break free, to get into a better position to clear my airway, but to no avail. One set of hands held me down by my shoulders, while another tugged on my pants. I couldn’t draw in enough air and I began to see flowing, geometric lights dance before my eyes. So soon after waking up, I was on my way back to being unconscious.

“Very thorough, boys, but there’s no need for that. Flip him over.”

Pogue and the other set of hands followed Doyle’s orders immediately, and then someone pulled a hood off of my head and removed the gag. I sucked in great gulps of air and slowly let my eyes adjust to the light provided by two coils and Doyle’s usual luminescence.

“Welcome to my home, Allin. You could have saved us all a bit of trouble and come when I first invited you.”

“How long was I out?” I asked. I had a sudden hope that Tumble had made it to Pudlington, imprisoned Fordham, and was now marching on the Garden to rescue me.

“Oh, less than an hour,” Doyle said. Damn. “Pogue, Geracy, you may leave.”

The two werewolves thanked Doyle and departed without another word, but Pogue gave me a stern glare before disappearing from my sight. Maybe I hurt his delicate feelings by lying to him, I thought with a chuckle.

“You laugh,” Doyle said, no anger or surprise in his monotone voice. “You’ve got more spine than I expected from the spawn of my brother and his mongrel doxy. Or you’re too simple to realize the trouble you’re in. Which is it?”

While he spoke, I took the time to look around the room I found myself in. There wasn’t much to see: a wooden desk and chair, a large bed, and a number of shelves full of books. I guess you don’t need much in terms of physical comforts when you’re half a ghost. I appeared to be tied down to a large table of some sort and I could barely feel my hands and feet they were bound so tightly.

“Allin, Allin, am I losing you here?” Doyle asked, his face looming into view.

Maybe I had been spacing out a bit, a side effect of the alcohol and having my head used as a battering ram. I tried to use it to my advantage.

“Yeah, I’m out of it,” I said weakly. “Can you untie me so I can sit up and clear my head?”

“How about this?”

Doyle reached behind me and worked some mechanism. Next thing I knew, the table below me rotated so that I was nearly vertical. I groaned as my bound wrists took the weight of my body. It felt as if my arms were going to tear out of my shoulders.

“Is that better? Good,” Doyle said, moving to stand a few feet in front of me. “Now let me get a look at my nephew. Why, Allin Arcady, as I don’t live or breathe, it seems news of your demise was fabricated. Well played. You had me greatly worried.”

“So nice of you to care, Uncle,” I said through clenched teeth.

Doyle seemed to notice my pain. He took some books from a shelf and placed them beneath my feet so that I could stand. The relief was instantaneous. It was still awkward to hold my arms above my head, but at least I wasn’t in constant agony anymore.

“Better? Good. You see? We can work together. It doesn’t always have to be adversarial between us. We’re family, after all.”

His words were calm, but he paced back and forth in front of me like a caged beast. He stopped and whipped his head to the side to glare at me.

“But then you come into my home, my domain, and make a fool of me in front of my people,” he said, acid tingeing his words now. “Really, Allin. Tongues will be wagging for weeks about how I promoted my own nephew without even recognizing him. If I wasn’t so happy to see you, I would be very, very cross.”

He picked up my coil from where it lay on the desk and dangled it in the air by its necklace.

“And you figured out Dylan’s passphrase, too. Very resourceful. Or did the cats unlock it for you? Never mind. You got it to work and it got you here, with me. That’s what’s important.”

He moved closer, nearly poking my face with his spectral snout. Up close, I saw a storm lurking in his eyes, belying his calm facade.

“Now let’s talk about how you’re going to help me return to the world of the living.”

* * *

Continue to Part 78.

8/4/13 News: Late post today! Thanks to Fiona for the reminder.

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.)

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 75, Allin ended up face to face with his dad’s killer, the now-crippled werewolf named Verrut.

The Only City Left: Part 76

He let me go with a shove and I had to grab the bar to keep from falling backwards. I kicked my legs out to find some purchase and knocked over my stool. It fell with a clatter.

“Pick it up,” he said, and then to the wolves who had turned to watch the entertainment, he added, “On-the-job training.”

This got some laughs and then they returned to ignoring us. I righted the stool and sat down again.

“So if you’re going to turn me in, turn me in already,” I said, tired of this game. My stomach was upset, from fear or the drink or both, and behind my bold words, I was desperately trying to devise a way out of this situation.

As a human, I had no chance of escape. And even if I was able to get my coil out of my pocket, slip it on, and activate it before anyone stopped me, I would still be one werewolf against a room full of them. Maybe if Xerxes and friends showed up at this moment and drained everyone’s coils of moonlight, I could escape in the confusion, but there was no sign of my ghostly companions.

Instead I had this werewolf, the one who murdered my father, pouring me another drink.

“I didn’t say I was going to give you to Doyle. Just said I could. I don’t owe Doyle anything, and whatever reward he could give me won’t fix this,” he said, nudging his limp arm forward. “But I’m curious. What’re you doing in the Garden here and now? Last I heard, you were dead.”

“Business trip,” I said.

The werewolf grinned. “The only business you’d have here is revenge, and you didn’t expect to see me, so… Ah, you’re here for Doyle, are you? Well, good luck and I’ll drink to that.” He did. “But you haven’t a hope in hell of hurting our beloved leader. If I were you, I’d scoot on out of here while you can.”

What the hell, I thought. No point in lying anymore.

“Can’t do that. Gotta see it through. But if you want revenge, you could help me get close to him.”

He rubbed his chin and leaned in closer to me.

“You’d trust me, the man who murdered dear old dad?”

“What have I got to lose? You’ve already caught me. But if I can kill Doyle—”

“Shhhh!” he said, and nodded his head at something behind me.

I swiveled around to see another werewolf approaching the bar. No, not just any werewolf. Pogue.

“Colonel Ballister, I don’t know how we got split up, but we’re on a schedule here. And why in the world are you wearing your pink skin? It’s disgraceful.”

“Ah, but the liquor hits harder that way, doesn’t it, Colonel?” the werewolf asked, pouring me another glass.

“Yes, exactly” I said.

I took another sip to emphasize the point and to buy some time. This was getting ridiculous. Is he really helping me? I thought. Is Dad’s murderer going to help me get revenge on the one man ultimately responsible for my parents’ deaths?

“There’ll be plenty of time for drinking when we get back, Colonel,” Pogue said in an exasperated tone. “And hopefully something better to drink than this swill.”

“Awww, you’re hurting my feelings, Pogue.”

“Shut it, Verrut,” Pogue said to the bartender, and I thought, I finally have a name. To me, Pogue said, “Come on, Colonel. Suit up and let’s go.”

Verrut slammed his hand on the bar and said, “Dammit, Pogue. The colonel and I have matters to discuss. Go without him.”

“He was assigned to this mission by the Lord Commander himself. Do you want me to tell him you countermanded his orders?”

“By the Lord Commander?”

Verrut sounded confused, and well might he be. I could barely follow it myself, but that might have been due to the liquor. I looked at my hand and realized I had drained the entire glass while trying to decide what to do.

“Doyle sent you? This whole thing was a trick?”

“What? No,” I said, and then an evil thought occurred to me, which I acted on immediately. “Sergeant Pogue, this bartender here has been conspiring to assashin, ashassin, kill the Lord Commander. Arrest him at once. I’ll go summon the guards.”

“You little pink worm, I’ll gut you,” Verrut said and lunged at me.

Pogue blocked him with ease and stood between the two of us.

“What in the world is going on here, Verrut?” he asked.

“You tell me. First Doyle lies about his nephew dying and then he sends him to spy on me? That ain’t right. I don’t like being played with!”

A thought surfaced from my clouded brain: Hey, he told him who I am. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Pogue looked at me and asked, “Doyle’s nephew? No, this is Ballister. Doyle himself promoted him.”

“Well no offense, but Doyle couldn’t smell a dump in his own lap. I’ve met the kid and this is him!”

“Is this true?”

I shrugged, glass still in hand, and then smashed it into the side of Pogue’s head as hard as I could, ready to duck away in the confusion. The glass didn’t shatter and Pogue barely flinched under the blow. Chairs scraped the floor throughout the room and Verrut chuckled behind the bar. Pogue plucked the glass from my hand and set it on the counter.

“You really shouldn’t have done that.”

I didn’t see his punch coming, either because of the weird shadows that filled the room or because he was just that fast. All I knew was that my jaw felt like it had been knocked loose and the floor was a dirty, sticky mess that I was face down in all of a sudden.

“You men help me secure him,” Pogue said. “Something funny is going on here. I’ll let the Lord Commander sort it out.”

Rough hands lifted me by my arms and legs and my head lolled backwards as they carried me horizontally out of the bar. I saw Verrut, upside-down, tsk-tsking me, and I managed to say, “I know your name now, Verrut. I’ll see you in your nightmares,” before someone knocked my head into the door frame on the way out.

And then there was nothing.

* * *

Continue to Part 77.

7/28/13 News: Nice try, Allin. In writing news, my editor gave me the go-ahead on my revised outline, so the rewriting has begun. Hopefully the fact that I already know what happens from start to finish this time will balance out the difficulty of trying to improve my writing style at the same time. We shall see!

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.)

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.