Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)
At the end of Part 64, Allin learned that Tyena had been taken back to the Garden, the werewolves’ den.
The Only City Left: Part 65
“Taken to the Garden? Who took her?” I asked, struggling to come to terms with the thought of Tyena being snatched out of Pudlington.
“She was spotted in the company of a guard named Halifax. We knew he worked for Doyle and we had him under surveillance, but he slipped his watch and got to Tyena before we could.”
Halifax? That must be the cat I had seen arguing with Tyena.
“When did this happen?”
“Immediately after you left Pudlington.”
After I left. That meant…
“He took her because she didn’t get me to walk into Doyle’s trap!”
“That is one possibility. The citizen who saw the two of them didn’t think anything was wrong at the time. When we questioned him later, he reported that Miss Branch did not appear to be trying to get away. She went with Halifax of her own accord.”
“They have her mother,” I said. Though I couldn’t be sure how much of what Tyena had told me had been true and how much a convenient fiction to lure me out of Pudlington, Tumble had confirmed that much at least. “Everything Tyena was doing, she was doing for her mom. If she refused to leave, Doyle would have her mom killed, so of course she went willingly.”
“Perhaps that is so. At any rate, once Tumble returned and found out about this, he immediately went after her. Oh, he claimed he was going after Doyle, but knowing my brother, he’s going to try to accomplish both goals.”
“You let Tumble go to the Garden by himself? That’s crazy!”
“He is an adult and he made his choice.”
“Great. Now he and Tyena are both in trouble because I didn’t go to the Garden in the first place. Look, Banshee. I mean Emperor Banshee,” I said, but he waved off the informality. “You’ve got me. Whatever you decide about opening up Pudlington, I need to go to the Garden. I owe it to Tumble and Tyena.”
“I see,” Banshee said, giving no indication as to how this would affect his decision.
“But first I need to know: how is Professor Copper doing with her work on the lantern coil?”
“Progress is being made. Let me show you.”
# # #
Down in the Skunkworks, Copper seemed pleased to see me again. “We’ve had a breakthrough since I saw you last!”
Her lantern coil project had moved out of her small room into a much larger laboratory, and she now had a team of white-coated cats working under her lead. The coil itself was nowhere to be seen.
“Did you figure out how to turn on the moonlight mode?” I asked.
“No. Something equally exciting, though.”
“Give him the demonstration,” Banshee said.
“Of course. This way.”
Copper led us to a large desk and sat down facing a bank of monitors, all but one of which were full of graphs and columns of numbers. The exception was one screen which had a picture of a room bare of anything except for the lantern coil in its cradle. Strands of wires ran from all around the coil’s circumference into a pedestal upon which the cradle rested.
Banshee and I stood to either side of Copper, who pressed a button on her desk and said, “Quips testing imminent. Quips testing imminent. Hold all intensive functions until the all clear is given.”
As she spoke, her voice echoed throughout the room from speakers set into the wall.
“Quantum-inverted phase state,” Copper said. “QUIPS, for short. Get it? Because it shouldn’t be possible, so it’s a joke of sorts.”
“Sure,” I said, not getting it at all, but she seemed happy with my response.
“Just show him,” Banshee said.
“Very well. Eyes on the screen, gentlemen.”
She began typing commands into a keyboard on the desk. The cats moving about the lab stopped what they were doing and joined me in watching the screen.
The first thing I noticed was that it went black.
“Is it broken?” I asked.
“No. I turned off the lights. It’s more dramatic that way. Watch.”
So I watched. The coil turned on, lighting up the room with its familiar golden glow.
“Wait for it,” Copper said, as she nudged a slider forward.
The glow abruptly cut off and the room darkened except for a tiny beam of white light pointing out from the coil to the right side of the screen.
“Extending inversion field.”
The beam grew in size and the room lit up with brilliant white light. The beam itself was almost too bright to look at until the entire screen dimmed. The lights in the room we were in flickered and buzzed before themselves dimming out almost completely.
“What’s going on?”
“Don’t worry, we’re almost at our limit. There,” Copper said.
With that pronouncement, the white light filling the coil room promptly disappeared and the room was once again dark until it suddenly brightened to show the coil, sitting undisturbed in its cradle. All the cats in the room cheered as the lights in our room returned to their normal brightness. Copper pressed a button, announced, “All clear,” and swiveled her chair around to look at me triumphantly.
“It wiped out the sensors on the camera the first time we tried it,” Copper said. “We had to reinvent polarized lenses. Not much use for them these past few millennia. Sunglasses, you see.”
“No, I don’t see. Can someone tell me what just happened?”
“Think of it this way,” Copper said, grasping my hand between both of hers. “There’s a satellite orbiting the moon, and one side of it faces toward the sun, while another side faces the moon. Can you picture that?”
“Now the way the lantern coil works, and this is technology centuries ahead of anything we have, is that there’s a quantum tunnel that connects the satellite on one end and the coil on the other. The coil end remains static. It’s always tied to the coil itself. But on the satellite end, there are two possible anchors for the tunnel to latch onto: one on the side facing the sun and the other on the side facing the moon. With me so far?”
“Sun. Moon. Tunnel. Got it.”
“Right. So the key thing to realize is that the flow of particles through the tunnel is always one way, from the satellite to the coil. But introduce enough power into the coil, the amount you’d use to run a medium-sized city for a few seconds, and you can effectively invert the coil, which is a space-time construct and not a physical artifact as you probably assumed.”
Banshee cleared his throat. “Keep it simple, please. For the boy.”
“Simple? I thought I was,” she said as if to herself. “Don’t you see? We’re able to switch the direction of the quantum tunnel, to send items, or people, from here to there. All we have to do is stretch the inverted coil wide enough! Then you simply pop through, turn around and you’re looking at the satellite, not to mention the moon and the Earth and don’t think I won’t be taking pictures while I’m there.”
“I think I get it, but you’d want to do this why?”
“Because besides sightseeing, she’s going to slap a bomb on the satellite,” Banshee said. “Close the portal, timer ticks down, bomb goes off. No more satellite. No more moonlight. No more werewolves.”
* * *
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there! Sorry for the late post. I’m sick and a bit out of it. In lieu of writing this weekend, I’ve been working on making some stuffed Totoro dolls for my daughters. Here’s one that I’ve finished already. Have a good week everyone!
Thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares. It truly makes me happy to know that people are enjoying this story.
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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.