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 65, Allin learned how Emperor Banshee and Professor Copper intend to destroy the system that allows werewolves to exist.
The Only City Left: Part 66
“We’ll have to repeat the process, of course, for however many satellites there turn out to be. You see, there needs to be overlap for the times when—”
“Enough. Save the details for the scientists,” Banshee said. “All you need to know, Allin, is that we can take away the powers that Doyle’s army has been given.”
“That’s great,” I said. “So why haven’t you done it yet?”
Copper said, “For one, we haven’t stabilized the inverted coil yet, so it can close at any moment. We’re also working on a spacesuit with its own oxygen supply and a tether. You couldn’t tell, but the coil room is currently in vacuum due to us needing to open a portal into outer space. We already lost one cat when we inverted the coil quite by chance. Poor, poor Jaspers. His sacrifice shall not be forgotten.”
“And for another, I won’t authorize it until Doyle is out of the picture or the wolves are at our door.”
“You can take away all the werewolves’ powers at once and you won’t do it?” I couldn’t believe Banshee wouldn’t jump at the opportunity. “Why not?”
“Until Doyle is gone, it is pointless,” Banshee said. “Take away the werewolves’ power and he’ll still have an army of normal humans under his command. If we wait until he’s gone to flip the switch, his people will be disorganized, confused. If they don’t fall to infighting and destroy themselves first, we’ll sweep in and mop them up.”
“So you’re saying that until Tumble or I invade the Garden and come back to report that Doyle is well and truly dead, you won’t do the one thing that would make it easier to get into the Garden in the first place?”
“I’m sorry, Allin, but that’s the way it needs to be. If you’re dead set on going into the Garden, you’ll have to accept that it will be full of werewolves.”
That would be pretty bad news if I had to enter the Garden as Allin Arcady, regular human. But if I looked like any other werewolf, things would probably go a lot smoother.
“Is Dad’s coil still usable after you turn it inside out like that?”
“Oh yes,” Copper said. “As long as the satellites exist, the coil should work.”
I realized then that once the satellites were destroyed, not only would the moonlight be cut off, the sunlight would be, too. Dad’s coil would be no more than jewelry, a powerless memento. The loss of sunlight was a shame, but a world without werewolves would be worth it.
“And even if we knew how to activate the moonlight mode,” Banshee said. “We can’t lend you the coil at this point, Allin. If you get caught, we would lose our one chance to stop the wolves.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t think of leaving you without a coil,” I said, reaching into my shirt. I pulled out and held up Matthias’ coil for inspection. “But would you consider a trade?”
# # #
About an hour later, I had Dad’s coil in my hands again. There had been a painstakingly careful process to pump air back into the coil room, ensure that the QUIPS system could not accidentally turn on (“We must never forget Jasper’s lesson,” Copper said solemnly), and swap out the coils. Banshee wouldn’t agree to return my coil until Copper was sure that Matthias’ could be used in the same manner, so the coil room had to be evacuated of air and another test performed. Only when the replacement coil had worked to reverse the quantum tunnel was Dad’s coil returned to me.
When I had cast it off, I had been angry at my parents for lying to me, for never telling me that they were werewolves and that I was probably one, too. A lot had happened since then. Now here I was, ready to put my theory to the test and become a werewolf myself. If it worked, I would use that horrible power to kill my own uncle. Quite a family, werewolves the lot of us.
Werewolf or human, we all have choices to make. My parents’ chose to save me at the cost of their own lives. Whatever lies they had told or truths they had kept from me could not erase the power of that ultimate act of love. How could I possibly stay angry with them?
I looked up to see Copper staring at me, her head cocked. I turned to Banshee, who nodded as if he understood what I had been thinking. I nodded back and slipped the necklace over my head. Though Matthias’ coil had been identical, this one felt more right somehow.
“You’re sure this is back to normal? I don’t want to turn it on and get pulled inside out.”
“At least 97% certain,” Copper said. My eyes grew wide. “Kidding. Yes, it will work.”
I might never get used to her sense of humor, but if she said it worked, I trusted her.
“Let’s try it out then.”
We had moved to a different lab on another sub-floor for two reasons: it was currently vacant and it had a row of cells along its rear wall. Banshee opened the door to one of them, waved me in, and closed it behind me. Copper locked it with a key from a crowded keychain.
Before I tested my passphrase theory out, I powered up the coil’s sunlight mode. The amber glow felt reassuring but left me with a question.
“Professor, why was the sunlight white when you inverted the coil but yellow now?”
“An astute question, young sir. It should be white in both cases. I can only assume that the coil filters the light to prevent it from blinding anyone, and in so doing, creates the yellow glow you are witnessing.”
“If we’re done with the science lessons, perhaps you can see if all this switching of the coils was worth it?” Banshee asked.
He was right, of course. My question was a delaying tactic. I rubbed my sweaty hands on my pants and swallowed past a tightness in my throat.
“Which buttons do I press?”
“Here, here and here at the same time,” Copper said, reaching through the bars and tapping them with one claw. “That’s the combination I found that produces a brief power surge with no commensurate change in the coil’s appearance. I believe that is what will initiate the transformation, in combination with the correct passphrase.”
“Okay, here we go then,” I said, walking to the back of the cell. I pressed the indicated buttons and whispered, “Always stay alive.”
* * *
This week I can report that my editor and I are done going over the notes for Book 1 of The Only City Left. I have a lot of big decisions to make as to how I want to implement those edits, and if I say I feel daunted by the task, I think that’s an understatement. I am also genuinely curious to see how TOCL will look on the other end of the process. Thank you for being part of the journey with me.
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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.