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 1-34 and then start at Part 35. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 43, things were looking bad for Allin. Surrounded by werewolves and abandoned by Tumble, he stood frozen in fear. And then a clinker came knocking at the door. Good times.
The Only City Left: Part 44
Matthias bared his teeth. “You brought a clinker down on our heads? I expected better, Guppy. Crow, get up.”
Werewolves, a clinker, and no Tumble. I might have remained frozen by this horrible combination of events, but somehow it worked to free me from my fearful inertia. Since Matthias was distracted, I began to slowly move around the room toward the hallway that Tumble had fled down. Guppy saw what I was doing and copied me. I gave him a look. Do not sell me out again. I took his continued silence for a sign that our truce was in effect again with the return of the clinker.
Clinkers, actually. In the time it took Guppy and me to meet at the back of the room, six of those killer robots had entered from the opposite side. Each one had a unique pattern of patchwork skin over an identical frame, with an array of deadly tools in motion at the end of their four extra arms. At their feet was a seventh clinker, our old friend the car-chaser. Its ruined legs and tattered skin had been removed, and it pulled itself across the floor with its two human-like arms. It looked like some bizarre pet next to its unmarred companions.
“You are harboring fugitives,” it said from the floor. “Please remain still while processing commences.”
In the center of the room, Matthias helped Crow to his feet and then backed away from the giant werewolf.
“Crow, I’m counting on you.”
“You got it, boss.”
Matthias turned and took two bounding steps to where Guppy and I stood together in the far hallway.
“Matthias, I didn’t know—” Guppy said.
“Shut up and run,” he said, grabbing me by one arm and pushing Guppy ahead of him.
I could barely keep my feet underneath me as he dragged me down the hallway. I looked back once before we turned a corner and I saw Crow swinging one of the clinkers by its legs to keep the others at bay. There were too many to fight, though. When he turned one way, clinker arms whipped in from the other side, cutting and piercing, and Crow howled a song of pain and rage.
I continued to hear his howls long after I couldn’t see him anymore, even after the background roar that permeated the area grew so loud that Matthias had to yell to be heard.
“Guppy, you screwed up,” he said as we passed through an open door into a corridor that ran left and right. He turned and slammed the door shut, sniffed the air, and continued down the left path. “But you also brought us this kid.”
He shook me painfully by my arm for emphasis and I squeaked out an ineffectual protest.
“So I’ll give you a choice. Return to the Garden with us and let Doyle sort it out.” He paused, as if to give Guppy time to consider the implications of that choice. “Or leave now and take your chances with the clinkers. But you’re outcast. If you ever run into me or another werewolf again, we will treat you like any other pink skin.”
We reached an intersection and Matthias stopped and sniffed again.
“We’re going this way,” he said, pointing to the right. “Which way are you going, Guppy?”
Guppy didn’t hesitate. “I’m with Doyle and the Fifth all the way, sir. I’ll pay for my mistake if that’s what it takes.”
“Good. Then let’s keep going,” he said, looking back the way we had come. “Crow’s life will not go to waste if we can get this boy to Doyle.”
“You’ve really got your snout buried in Doyle’s glowing blue butt, don’t you?” I said.
His only response was an angry growl and a tighter grip on my arm as he pulled me down the right-hand corridor. Soon enough, we reached another open door, through which I heard growls and yells. We stepped inside of the room, which was full of shelves and machinery, and saw Tumble leading two werewolves on a merry chase. He was small and light enough to scamper up the shelves and leap from one unit to the next, while Kenner and Shiloh barged around knocking everything over in their attempts to grab the elusive cat.
“Tumble,” I yelled out. “We’ve got clinkers on our tail!”
“How many?” he asked without slowing down.
Matthias ignored our conversation. He closed and locked the door behind him and strode through the room, dragging me in his wake, to another door on the far side. Behind us, the door we had entered through burst open, framing a clinker whose shredded flesh hung in strips from its body. I despaired at how little time it had taken the clinkers to deal with Crow and catch up to us. In the face of this new arrival, Tumble and the two wolves opted to stop fighting and flee along with us. They even worked together to push more shelves into the clinker’s path on their way out.
When Matthias got the door open, the roaring sound immediately increased in intensity, becoming so much white noise. What machine is making that much sound? I wondered as we hustled into a short corridor that led to yet another closed door.
Behind us, I saw Kenner burst through the doorway, followed by Tumble and Shiloh. Behind them, I could see more than one clinker tossing shelving out of the way as they moved toward us. Even though he was my captor, I fervently hoped Matthias knew where he was heading and had a plan to get out of this. If the clinkers had overpowered Crow, none of the other werewolves, not to mention a mere human like me, stood a chance against them.
Free of clinker interference for the moment, Shiloh resumed his hunt. He lunged forward, caught Tumble by the scruff of his neck, and yanked him off of the floor. He held the much-smaller cat at arm’s length and turned to the open doorway.
I could only watch in despair as Shiloh reared back and threw my friend as hard as he could at the approaching clinkers.
* * *
12/16/12 News: The Only City Left is now listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any ratings/reviews/recommends on that site to help get TOCL noticed. Thanks!
If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)
Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.