The Only City Left: Part 85

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 84, Allin fought with his newly-resurrected uncle until, realizing he could not possibly win, he maneuvered his uncle into taking the fight outside onto the Roof of the World.

The Only City Left: Part 85

I was out for as long as it took to fall to the ground, where the shock of being slammed onto the icy roof snapped me awake in an instant. My vision cleared in time to see Doyle falling, too, but not in time to keep him from landing on me with enough force to bellow the air out of my lungs. Instinctively, I rolled backwards and pistoned my legs to push him off of me and further away from the penthouse. Having bought a second or two of freedom, I used it to take a breath. This was a struggle in and of itself, as the thin, near-freezing air cut my throat like a knife and threatened a return of spot-addled vision.

I staggered to my feet, swaying a bit as the world refused to hold still. It wasn’t just the thin air making me feel faint, but also the lack of a ceiling. For the first time in my life, I was outside. No walls. No recycled air. I was free!

It felt incredible and frightening all at once. A sky without end. I might have freaked out and retreated back into the penthouse’s embrace if not for the fact that I could feel the thrum of the city beneath my feet. It might be largely empty, with its systems failing and its corridors dark, but even though it was battered and decaying, it fought to keep itself running. If I wanted to save it, I could do no less.

I had a plan, not much of one to be sure, but elegant in its simplicity. All I had to do to make it work was to keep Doyle chasing after me for as long as possible.

“Hey, Doyle,” I said as he got to his feet. “Is that the best you can do?”

“You must have an extraordinarily thick skull, nephew. Next time I’ll simply tear your heart out of your chest and be done with it.”

“You’ve got to catch me first.”

With those words, I took off at an angle away from the broken glass wall. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Doyle begin his pursuit. Perfect. Inside the penthouse, I had been at a disadvantage. Doyle was stronger than me and I couldn’t avoid him in those close quarters. Out here, though, I had a head start. All I had to do was maintain it.

This proved harder than I expected. What had at first appeared like a mostly smooth landscape turned out to be more chaotic up close. Our chase led us through ravines and over gaps in the roof, under pipes the size of houses and across uneven sheets of scarred metal, pitted by time.

I could hear Doyle’s footfalls not far behind me, and I wondered what was under our feet as we ran. Did survivors still inhabit the rooms below us and did they look up in surprise as two sets of feet pounded their way across the ceiling? Did our passage shake dust loose from the rafters and onto someone’s meal? I smiled, buoyed by the thought of life going on below us even as I ran toward the end of mine.

Our chase continued as the moon inched closer and closer to the horizon. Doyle and I were evenly matched in terms of speed, and he did not seem at all inclined to give up on his prize, which suited me fine. But one way or another, I knew I could not keep away from him forever.

The first hiccup came when the ground ran out ahead of me. This was not the first gap I had crossed but it was by far the widest and, once I was in mid-leap over it, I saw it was the deepest as well. If I fell down into that, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not Doyle caught me. There’d be nothing left to catch.

The roof on the far side of the chasm was lower, which I hadn’t expected. I landed awkwardly, crashing and rolling into a thicket of antennae. I shook my head to clear it and stood up in time to see Doyle bounding gracefully over the yawning chasm. To be fair, he had the benefit of seeing me do it first. He landed softly nearby, going down to one knee to absorb the impact of his landing.

“I’ve got you now,” he said.

I didn’t waste my breath on a witty retort. Instead I turned and ran further into the metallic forest of struts, towers, and coiling pipes that made up this portion of the roof. That was my second mistake. The paths were narrow and full of twists and turns that kept me from building up any speed.

Our chase continued for a little longer in that maze, but even though the environment hindered us both, the result was inevitable. Eventually I made one misstep too many and Doyle managed to reach out and get a grip of my shoulder fur. This was just enough to pull me off balance and, since we were both running as fast as we could, bring us crashing to the ground together.

He got to his feet first and kicked me back down when I tried to follow him. Two quick steps and he had his foot against my neck, daring me to try to get up past his claws.

“You’re a fool, boy. Did you really think you could escape? You only delayed your death.”

Above us, the moon had begun its descent. I smiled and allowed myself some time to catch my breath before I replied.

“I may have only delayed mine, but I ensured yours.”

Doyle eyed me curiously and then looked around. We were in the middle of nowhere on the Roof of the World, far from the penthouse and its access to the rest of the city. Out here, the world was a cold, lonely place, the air barely rich enough to keep us breathing even in our werewolf forms. Once the moon set and we reverted to our frail human bodies, it would be a race between freezing to death and asphyxiating. Either way, it would mean the end of Doyle. Of course, it would mean my end as well, but if it meant saving the world from Doyle’s lunatic reign, it seemed worth it.

“I see,” Doyle said, the light of understanding in his eyes. “You’re insane, Allin. I like it.”

* * *

Continue to Part 86.

9/29/13 News: The race to the end continues and it’s looking rather final for Allin.

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.

The Only City Left: Part 84

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 83, Allin was dismayed to find that Doyle survived the last-ditch assault by the ghosts.

The Only City Left: Part 84

Doyle ran his hands over his body as if he himself couldn’t believe he was physical once more. Then he looked at me and said, “Damn, but it feels good to feel. Although I wasn’t expecting to see you when I returned, other than in a mirror.”

I stood up and faced him from across the room. “Sorry to ruin your plans.”

But it wasn’t me who had done that: it was the ghosts. Xerxes and the others had given Doyle what he wanted, to be physical again, but they had sacrificed themselves so that I wouldn’t die in the process. They could have simply waited until Doyle had taken me over and then killed me like they had Matthias and the henchwolves by the bar. Instead, they had taken a chance and let me survive, at the cost of whatever was left of their own lives. Their memories, emotions, and ties to the past were all gone now. I wouldn’t let their sacrifice go to waste.

“Ruin my plans? This is perfect,” Doyle said. “I’m alive again and I get to beat you to within an inch of your life before bringing you back to the Garden with me. I’ll lock you up, let you heal, and have a replacement body on hand that much sooner.”

My blood ran cold through my veins. I’d be damned before I let him use me as part of his plans for eternal life.

“Just try it,” I said, and leaped straight at him.

He leaped at me in turn and we met in mid-air. I tried to gouge his newly-formed flesh, but he blocked my blow with one arm, grabbed me with his free hand, and flung me behind him. As I flew upside-down across the room and smacked into the clear wall, I saw him land lightly on his feet. I picked myself up and Xerxes’ last words drifted into my head: If you fight on the level of beasts

He was right. Doyle had the clear advantage in a contest of strength and savagery. But Xerxes hadn’t made any suggestion about how I should fight Doyle, and I didn’t have time to come up with a plan before he was after me again, bounding across the room in a flash. I dodged away from him at the last instant and he slammed into the wall.

He pushed away from it with a laugh and said, “First blood.”

I looked down and realized I hadn’t quite gotten away in time, as attested to by my tattered shirt and the four bleeding lines that ran from my chest to my hip. It wasn’t until I saw them that I felt the pain. I clutched at my wounds and growled at Doyle.

“Run, little Allin. It’s more fun that way,” Doyle said, standing before the clear glass wall.

Beyond him, the Roof of the World glistened in the moonlight, its metal peaks and valleys mimicking, perhaps, the original landscape that the city had covered and consumed. Above it all, the moon hung almost directly above our little bubble of life atop the city. How long until it sets? I wondered. Maybe I’d have a better chance against Doyle if we were both human again.

Still clutching my stinging wounds, I scrambled across the room and away from Doyle. I might be doing exactly what he wanted, giving him a good chase, but any time I could buy would also be in my favor.

“That’s better,” he said, and stalked after me.

I jumped over a plastic-enshrined couch in the sunken portion of the room and turned to see how close Doyle was behind me. The bastard stood right on the other side of the couch. He smiled and made a shooing gesture.

“Hey Doyle, how did it feel when Mom chose both of your brothers rather than have to look at your fugly face every day?” I asked, backing away from him.

The smug smirk disappeared from his face. My words had hit home where my claws could not.

Doyle growled low in his throat, bent over to grab hold of the couch, and lifted the entire thing above his head. How strong is he? I marveled before I turned and ran.

I heard the flipflapflip of the plastic covering the couch as it soared through the air, the telltale sound alerting me to drop to the floor a moment before the couch would have crashed into me. It soared over my head and smashed into the far wall, where it splintered inside of its plastic cocoon and slid to the floor. It left a spiderweb of cracked glass at the point of impact.

Very strong, I decided, peering up at the window. That could have been my spine. I’ve got to put some distance between us.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible inside the confines of the penthouse, but I had an idea of how I could fix that.

I turned over so that I faced Doyle and then I crab-walked backwards as quickly as I could. Doyle sneered and followed me.

“You’re garbage, Allin, like your mom and dad before you. I’ll tear those filthy lies out of your throat even if it means I have to wait years for a replacement body. After all, now that I’m back, I’m not planning on losing this one anytime soon.”

Yeah, keep talking, I willed him as I climbed over the remains of the couch and got to my feet, my back against the wall. And keep thinking like a big, dumb wolf.

“You had to know you were never good enough for her,” I said. “You’re a just a loser who borrowed someone else’s power.”

He was in front of me then, his left arm pressed against my chest, pinning me in place.

“Goodbye, nephew.”

He pulled back his right arm and punched at my head, but I wrenched to the side and he ended up hitting the glass wall behind me.

“Did you have to beg the Fifth House to help you?” I asked, bringing my head back up so that I could look him in the eyes.

“Shut up,” he said, and threw another punch.

I threw myself the other way this time and again he punched the wall instead of me. The glass crunched and crackled under the blow. Almost there.

“I bet they helped you out of pity. Sad sack like you couldn’t wipe your own butt without—”

Doyle moved his arm from my chest to my neck, choking off my insult. I sputtered and gasped while he opened his mouth wide and snapped his jaws shut an inch before my snout.

“I said shut your mouth, but you didn’t listen, so I’ll shut it for you.”

He wrapped his free hand around my snout, pulled my head toward him, and smashed it into the glass wall with all his might. I heard a cracking sound that might have been the glass or my aching skull. Black spots filled my vision and jagged pain lanced from behind my eyes to the tips of my toes.

He leaned in to one side of my head and whispered, “Do you know how many times I raped your mother before she ran away with Dylan? I’d tell you but I lost count.”

He pulled my snout toward him and slammed me into the glass a second time before leaning in again.

“Why, we were doing it right before Dylan came in and killed me. How soon were you born after they ran away? I could be your daddy. Yeah. Let that be your last thought, son.”

“How could you be my dad?” I asked. “Mom said you couldn’t even get it—”

He roared over my words, pulled me toward him a final time, and drove me into the glass wall with all of his strength.

This final assault shattered the already-damaged wall, and we fell out of the room together amidst a rush of air and bits of broken couch. The black spots swimming before my eyes multiplied until all was darkness.

* * *

Continue to Part 85.

9/22/13 News: Late post is late. But sleeping in felt good, especially as the entire family is at various stages of recovering from a cold. Speaking of cold, does Allin know what the heck he’s doing? It must be freezing out there!

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.

The Only City Left: Part 83

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 82, Doyle brought Allin to the Roof of the World and exposed him to moonlight to start his transformation into a werewolf. And then the ghosts arrived.

The Only City Left: Part 83

The ghosts! Xerxes hadn’t let me down after all!

Spectral blue hands shot out from all sides and grabbed onto Doyle, pulling him away from me despite his insubstantial form. I didn’t take my reprieve for granted. Though the ghostlight in the room was as powerful as the moonlight pouring in from above, it didn’t stop my transformation. I immediately put my werewolf strength to good use breaking the straps that held my arms and legs.

I let loose a mighty roar as I rolled off the gurney and onto my feet. It felt spectacular to be free and upright again, and I was ready to crack some skulls together in return for all I had been put through. Doyle already had his hands full, so I looked to his henchmen and the quack doctor. Of course, they were werewolves now too, and they had me outnumbered. Unlike me, though, they were completely taken aback by the flood of ghosts pouring through the floor and filling the room. I could use their confusion to my advantage.

Before I could go on the attack, a familiar ghost separated from the pack and intercepted me.

“Xerxes, what’s going on?”

“This is the moment of which I spoke outside of the Garden,” he said. “Prepare yourself.”

Part of me itched to stride past him and wade into battle against Doyle’s henchwolves, but his words brought me up short. Prepare myself? I looked back to where Doyle wrestled with his attackers. Though he flung ghosts away as quickly as he could, their sheer numbers would eventually overwhelm him.

“Looks like your guys are handling it,” I said. “I’ll take care of his men.”

“My guys are handling them as well,” Xerxes said.

I saw what he meant. Another group of ghosts was threading up through the floor by the bar and latching onto Doyle’s hapless men. Unlike Doyle, his wolves didn’t stand a chance against the combined power of that many of the undead. Individually, each ghost couldn’t do much, but together, with each one stealing just a little heat energy from one wolf at one point on the wolf’s body—the heart, for instance—the ghosts proved that they could combine their influence to lethal effect.

One of the wolves managed to fight free and stagger away along the wall behind the bar, which unlike the side walls and the ceiling had not turned transparent. He ducked through a doorway that I had not even realized was there and slammed it shut behind him. This was no impediment to the ghosts, of course, who phased through the wall after him. On this side of the wall, the other werewolves dropped to the floor one by one, their vital organs frozen inside of their bodies. It was a sterile, dispassionate affair and once the ghosts finished with the wolves, they turned their attention to Doyle, adding themselves to the scrum. Seconds later, the ghosts who had followed the fleeing wolf phased back into the room and joined their friends.

“I guess you don’t need me after all,” I said.

“No, Allin, this is when we need you the most,” Xerxes said, floating between Doyle and me. “I must say goodbye now, and good luck.”

“Goodbye? Where are you going?”

He ignored my question and turned to face Doyle. “A final piece of advice: If you fight Doyle on the level of beasts, he will win. He’s had more practice.”

I started to speak, to tell him that I didn’t understand, but he shot away from me and leaped toward Doyle. Instead of joining the fray with the rest of the ghosts, he bypassed Doyle’s defenses and simply immersed himself in the spectral werewolf’s chest like a swimmer diving into water.

The other ghosts took this as their cue to do the same, as if all their struggles to this point had been to distract Doyle until Xerxes gave the signal. All I could do was watch in confused awe as ghost after ghost stopped grabbing at Doyle and instead simply melted into him.

Doyle had been monstrously large to begin with, and as the hundreds of ghosts who filled the room continued to merge with him, his body expanded and pulsed with their added energy. It must not have been a pleasant experience, because he writhed in place and loosed a series of anguished roars. He grew so large that he began to lose definition, to become less an inflated werewolf and more a tiny sun with head and limbs poking out. I held up my arm to shield my eyes against his radiance.

After the last ghost disappeared into the sphere of energy that had been Doyle Arcady, I could still make out a hint of Doyle’s face on the sphere’s surface. His mouth was a stretched oval of silent agony, his eyes two exaggerated saucers of astonishment. A second later, even those features dissolved. Finally, the sphere reached some critical mass and burst apart.

The shock wave knocked me off of my feet and rattled the walls. When the shaking subsided, I sat up and looked at the space where Doyle had been. A grey cloud of smoke was all that was left of him and the ghosts who had swelled his body past its breaking point.

They did it, I thought as I grinned like a dog eyeing a treat. I don’t know how but the ghosts actually did it! It cost them their afterlives, but they erased Doyle from existence!

Then, laughter. Not mine. A form stepped out of the dissipating cloud of smoke. My grin turned to a snarl of disbelief.

Doyle Arcady, in all his werewolf glory, stood before me. He no longer glowed a ghostly blue, for he was now all too alive. The ghosts’ sacrifice had been in vain. Doyle had survived.

* * *

Continue to Part 84.

9/15/13 News: Oh noes! That might not have worked out as planned (or did it?). I’m just back from a week-long vacation today, so if you need me, I’ll be asleep for the next two days.

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.

The Only City Left: Part 82

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.)

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.

The Only City Left: Part 81

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!

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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.