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.”
“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.”
“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.
* * *
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…
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