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 76, Allin was caught by the werewolves and was knocked unconscious.
The Only City Left: Part 77
When I woke up in the darkness, I heard someone say, “One grenade. Looks to be an emp. Get that out of here before the Lord Commander arrives. One coil. Set it aside. He’ll want to examine it. No other belongings in his pockets. Cavity search?”
No thanks, I tried to say, but my throat felt like it was filled with grit and I couldn’t speak past something that had been shoved into my mouth.
“You better,” came Sergeant Pogue’s voice.
I couldn’t talk but I could move, and at Pogue’s command, I tried my best to get away. Since I was laid out on some flat surface with my arms stretched out above my head and my hands and feet tied down, all that amounted to was bucking against my restraints.
“I can see that,” Pogue said. “Here, I’ll flip him and hold him down.”
“Mrph um nurmph!” I said in protest. The gag not only blocked my words, but it made me feel like I couldn’t get enough air, either. When someone turned me face-down, my nose was smushed into the bag covering my head and I truly did find it hard to breathe. I struggled to break free, to get into a better position to clear my airway, but to no avail. One set of hands held me down by my shoulders, while another tugged on my pants. I couldn’t draw in enough air and I began to see flowing, geometric lights dance before my eyes. So soon after waking up, I was on my way back to being unconscious.
“Very thorough, boys, but there’s no need for that. Flip him over.”
Pogue and the other set of hands followed Doyle’s orders immediately, and then someone pulled a hood off of my head and removed the gag. I sucked in great gulps of air and slowly let my eyes adjust to the light provided by two coils and Doyle’s usual luminescence.
“Welcome to my home, Allin. You could have saved us all a bit of trouble and come when I first invited you.”
“How long was I out?” I asked. I had a sudden hope that Tumble had made it to Pudlington, imprisoned Fordham, and was now marching on the Garden to rescue me.
“Oh, less than an hour,” Doyle said. Damn. “Pogue, Geracy, you may leave.”
The two werewolves thanked Doyle and departed without another word, but Pogue gave me a stern glare before disappearing from my sight. Maybe I hurt his delicate feelings by lying to him, I thought with a chuckle.
“You laugh,” Doyle said, no anger or surprise in his monotone voice. “You’ve got more spine than I expected from the spawn of my brother and his mongrel doxy. Or you’re too simple to realize the trouble you’re in. Which is it?”
While he spoke, I took the time to look around the room I found myself in. There wasn’t much to see: a wooden desk and chair, a large bed, and a number of shelves full of books. I guess you don’t need much in terms of physical comforts when you’re half a ghost. I appeared to be tied down to a large table of some sort and I could barely feel my hands and feet they were bound so tightly.
“Allin, Allin, am I losing you here?” Doyle asked, his face looming into view.
Maybe I had been spacing out a bit, a side effect of the alcohol and having my head used as a battering ram. I tried to use it to my advantage.
“Yeah, I’m out of it,” I said weakly. “Can you untie me so I can sit up and clear my head?”
“How about this?”
Doyle reached behind me and worked some mechanism. Next thing I knew, the table below me rotated so that I was nearly vertical. I groaned as my bound wrists took the weight of my body. It felt as if my arms were going to tear out of my shoulders.
“Is that better? Good,” Doyle said, moving to stand a few feet in front of me. “Now let me get a look at my nephew. Why, Allin Arcady, as I don’t live or breathe, it seems news of your demise was fabricated. Well played. You had me greatly worried.”
“So nice of you to care, Uncle,” I said through clenched teeth.
Doyle seemed to notice my pain. He took some books from a shelf and placed them beneath my feet so that I could stand. The relief was instantaneous. It was still awkward to hold my arms above my head, but at least I wasn’t in constant agony anymore.
“Better? Good. You see? We can work together. It doesn’t always have to be adversarial between us. We’re family, after all.”
His words were calm, but he paced back and forth in front of me like a caged beast. He stopped and whipped his head to the side to glare at me.
“But then you come into my home, my domain, and make a fool of me in front of my people,” he said, acid tingeing his words now. “Really, Allin. Tongues will be wagging for weeks about how I promoted my own nephew without even recognizing him. If I wasn’t so happy to see you, I would be very, very cross.”
He picked up my coil from where it lay on the desk and dangled it in the air by its necklace.
“And you figured out Dylan’s passphrase, too. Very resourceful. Or did the cats unlock it for you? Never mind. You got it to work and it got you here, with me. That’s what’s important.”
He moved closer, nearly poking my face with his spectral snout. Up close, I saw a storm lurking in his eyes, belying his calm facade.
“Now let’s talk about how you’re going to help me return to the world of the living.”
* * *
8/4/13 News: Late post today! Thanks to Fiona for the reminder.
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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.