The Only City Left: Part 60

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 59, Allin couldn’t sit idly by while the merskers were being rounded up by slavers, so he made a deal with Matthias. If he could find Matthias’ coil, Matthias would stop the slavers. With the help of a mersker, he found the coil and brought it back to Matthias.

The Only City Left: Part 60

Matthias wasted no time once I returned the coil. He slipped the necklace on, pressed the proper buttons, and whispered his passphrase. Just in time, too, because the slavers had finally noticed my constant comings and goings and were heading our way.

The nearest one wore a helmet in the shape of a dragon’s head, perhaps in compensation for his mouse-squeak of a voice. He said, “What’s this, then? The merskers got some human pets?”

Matthias, fully transformed, leaped out of the bin, sending mersker food flying in all directions. A loose tentacle flew forward and slapped Dragon-head in the face. He was so busy wiping the slime off from that, he didn’t even notice that Matthias had sliced him open from neck to groin until the werewolf had already moved past.

“What’s this then?” he repeated softly, and collapsed first to his knees and then face down.

Matthias stared at the remaining slavers and said, “Slave-takers! Doyle Arcady has dealings with these creatures. If you enslave them all, he will be displeased.”

“Hell with you!” said a slaver in response.

He shot at him three times, but Matthias grabbed another slaver and used him as a shield before tossing his limp body to one side. The slaver managed to land one dart successfully before Matthias tackled him and exacted his bloody revenge. If the tranquilizer slowed him down at all, I couldn’t tell.

It was clear that the slavers hadn’t expected any resistance. After another one took a shot at Matthias and met the same grisly end, the fight went out of the rest of them and they lowered their weapons.

Matthias, blood dripping from teeth and claws, said, “Doyle Arcady’s reach is infinite. Never seek to deny his will. Now take the merskers you’ve already tranked and get out of here, you scum.”

The slavers exchanged glances, their thoughts evident: Is this some kind of trick?

“Go!” Matthias roared.

He didn’t have to tell them again. They sprang into action, dragging limp merskers away toward their trucks.

I ran up to Matthias and grabbed his arm.

“What are you doing? This isn’t the deal!”

He knocked my hand away with a shrug of his shoulder. “You’re lucky I’m saving any of them. Trust no one, remember?”

“Oh, I remember all right.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the tiny device I had stashed there earlier. With a brief prayer that it still worked, I jammed it into Matthias’ side. Electricity flooded into him with a sizzling crackle and I could smell burnt hair. After only a couple of seconds, the battery was drained and the one-time device was useless, so I dropped it. Matthias fell, too, crashing to his knees as he fought to control his paralyzed body. I couldn’t count on that lasting for long, so I did the quickest thing I could think of to neutralize the threat. I reached out and switched his coil to sunlight mode.

As he contracted to his regular human proportions, I slipped his necklace off and tossed it away. There, now I stand a chance.

“I don’t need to be a wolf to kill you, boy,” Matthias said, staggering to his feet. The effects of the shock had worn off even sooner than I would have imagined. “I don’t care why Doyle wants you. You’re mine now.”

I backed away and waited for him to come to me. Tumble would have approved. Behind him, I could see the merskers working to break free of their chains, aided by my friend. I hoped they could free themselves and help their brethren, but I couldn’t spare them any more attention.

Matthias lunged at me, the same straightforward fighting style he used as a werewolf. Without the extra size and razor-sharp teeth and claws, it lacked the same effect. I threw myself to the side and landed hard on my right shoulder, but rolled with the fall and was on my feet again shortly. Matthias twisted around to face me, his head down and back hunched, looking savage and primal even as a human.

“Face it, Matthias. Without your coil, you’re nothing.” I had to make him angry, get him rattled. I knew that even with his injured leg, he had strength and experience I did not.

He responded with a roar rather than sensible speech. This time, when he ran at me, I didn’t dodge. Instead, I threw myself at him, tackling him at the knees. Tumble would have shaken his head.

Matthias plowed through me and knocked me aside, but I must have hurt his bad leg, because he fell to the floor and yelled out. He reached for his leg and then pulled his hand back as if afraid to touch it.

With Matthias down, I spared a glance at the merskers. They had freed themselves and were going after the slavers. Some of them had destroyed the floodlights that had hindered their ability to fight back. Score one for the little guys.

I had to decide what to do with Matthias. I got up and walked over to where he lay, looking down on him by the light of the ghosts. His mouth was set in a grimace and he groaned in pain.

“Now what?” I asked him. “Do we keep going until one of us kills the other? Is that how you want to do it?”

Matthias’ grimace transformed into a grin, and his whimpers of pain disappeared.

“Yes. That’s generally how it’s done.”

He swept his legs to one side and took my feet out from under me. I hit the floor hard and the impact knocked the breath from my lungs. He jumped nimbly to his feet and reached down to grab me by my hair. The shock and pain of that did nothing to help me catch my breath, and dark spots filled my vision as I gasped for air. He pulled me to my knees and leaned down to speak directly into my ear.

“You should know, we heal a little each time we transform, so my leg’s all better now. I went to a lot of trouble to protect you, but I’ve reached my limit.”

He shook me by my hair and it felt like my scalp would tear off my skull. I cried out in pain and he continued.

“When I see Doyle again, I’ll share with him the sad tale of how you perished in the bowels of the city at the hands of the merskers, and how I killed them all in return. I’m sure he’ll get over the loss somehow.”

I found my breath and said, “I liked you better when you didn’t talk so much!”

With all my strength, I elbowed him in his freshly-healed leg. The snap of his bone breaking again was the most satisfying sound I had heard in ages. He let me go and collapsed to the floor, his screams of pain genuine this time. I got to my hands and knees and saw one of the mersker’s spears on the ground next to me. I grabbed it, used the blunt end to help me to my feet and then reversed my grip on it and stood next to where Matthias writhed on the ground.

“I’ve had enough of you, too, Matthias.”

His eyes widened as I lifted the spear above my head. He squeezed them shut as I thrust it down at him.

And buried the point in the ground beside his head.

He opened his eyes and looked at the spear, mere inches away.

“So much for my killer instinct.”

I pulled the spear out of the ground and walked away. In his state, he wasn’t a threat any longer. The slavers, on the other hand…. It seemed they weren’t a threat any longer, either. The freed merskers had managed to overwhelm the remaining slavers and had bound them in their own chains. One of the merskers broke off from his comrades and headed my way. I saw four parallel claw marks on his chest, so I pointed to Matthias and said, “He’s the one you want.”

The mersker ignored my foreign words and raised his spear. I brought mine up in return and thought, I won’t let them take me this time.

Instead of attacking, the mersker pointed his spear at me and then swept it around to point out of the village, past the ghosts. He jabbed the spear for emphasis.

“I get it, I get it. You don’t have to tell me twice.”

It wasn’t exactly gratitude, but given the way the merskers were licking their lips while eyeing the captured slavers, I was glad to accept the free pass.

I dropped the spear, disgusted by what it represented. It had been a split-second decision to bury it in the ground rather than in Matthias’ skull, and I wasn’t sure which choice I would make if I had to do it again. I felt the darkness of the city creeping into my soul.

My mood lightened a bit when, before I reached the edge of the village, my mersker friend caught up to me. He had my bag in one hand and Matthias’ coil in the other. In my haste to leave, I hadn’t even thought of retrieving them, but he had remembered.

We couldn’t understand each other’s language and my throat was too tight to speak, so I accepted the gifts without words, head bowed and eyes closed. When I opened them, the mersker was scurrying back to his people.

I turned once more to leave, only to find myself face to face with a ghost.

“Allin Arcady, we must talk.”

* * *

Continue to Part 61.

4/7/13 News: Another busy week, but I fought and clawed my way forward on the Book Two first draft, determined to catch back up to my goal sooner rather than later. If I can keep up this pace, it will still be a couple of weeks before I’m back on track, and then there’s only two or three weeks before the first draft should be done, but I’d rather not be so far behind until the very last day.

5thWk6

Okay, I’m writing. That’s good. What else? I’m also getting notes back on The Only City Left from my editor. Perhaps the word “notes” does not encompass the amount of suggestions, questions, and polite ridicule that is included in each chapter’s editorial response. Some of these “notes” equal or outweigh the amount of original text. And I’m loving it. Even though I worked hard to improve TOCL when I created a full-length novel from the serial version, there was still a lot that needed to be done to make the book more engaging. My editor is pointing those areas out to me and, when needed, whacking me upside the head with them. Once I am done drafting Book Two, I’ll be working on the edit/re-write of Book One. I am really really really looking forward to it.

Finally, I have a cover for Book One! So without further ado, here it is!

onlycityleft-small

I feel that I am finally making some good progress on getting this book produced, but at the same time, I’m not rushing it just to have it out there. My goal is to have it done at least before the serialized version ends (in about 7 more months) and hopefully well before that. We shall see.

Thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares. It truly makes me happy to know that people are enjoying this story.

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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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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.

The Only City Left: Part 46

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 45, Allin inadvertently sent the wannabe werewolf, Guppy, to a watery grave, and one of his werewolf pals was none too happy about this.

The Only City Left: Part 46

The hand holding my neck twisted me around and I came nose to snout with Matthias. I grabbed onto his arm to hold myself up as best I could. He turned my head to one side and I thought, This is it. He’s going to bite my head off. Literally.

Instead, he yelled directly into my ear so that I could hear him over the pounding, rushing water that fell all around us. “You are ruthless. I like that. But stop fighting or I’ll forget that Doyle wants you unharmed. Understand?”

I did my best to nod.

“They’re here!” Kenner’s roar sounded faintly over the din of the room, even though he stood only a couple of feet away from us.

Matthias looked past Kenner, narrowed his eyes, and set me down. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me along again, away from the incoming clinkers, but came to a stop when confronted by a bedraggled Tumble. With his wet fur plastered to his skin, Tumble looked like half the cat he normally was, but he had the same calm, determined expression as ever. He didn’t speak but his message to Matthias was clear: You’re not getting past me.

Matthias likewise responded silently. He yanked me in front of him, twisted my arm behind my back, and used it to lift me onto the tips of my toes. Even if Tumble couldn’t hear my scream, he could see my anguish. Message received. He frowned and began to back away, straight toward the clinker walking out of the swirling fog behind him. They weren’t simply following us anymore; they had us surrounded.

With my free arm, I pointed the clinker out in time for Tumble to stop and see the threat. Matthias saw it, too, and let out a string of curses. He swiveled around, pulling me with him, and I saw Kenner grappling with a clinker on that side. Matthias let me go and I stumbled forward, catching myself on the waist-high railing. He must have figured I had nowhere to run to anyway. He was right.

I leaned over the rail to catch my breath and saw the next catwalk a couple of stories below us. With clinkers on either side, it seemed like the only way out. I yelled out to Tumble to jump down, but it was Matthias who noticed me first. He must have agreed with my assessment, because he swept me up in one arm, grabbed the railing, and swung up and over it.

The plunge was frightening but brief, ending in more of a collision with than a landing on the lower catwalk. Matthias lost his grip on me and we both went sprawling. I slid away from him on my back, completely out of control, until suddenly nothing was underneath me anymore. I twisted in midair and saw one more catwalk below and then only the yawning depths. There was no lighting past the next catwalk, so the pit became a black hole swallowing all the water that poured down into it. I would have been swallowed too if not for Matthias grabbing my ankle and hauling me back up.

I’m sure he didn’t hear my muttered thanks and wouldn’t have cared if he did, but I had reason once again to be grateful that Doyle wanted me alive. My heart, already pounding in my chest thanks to the jump down and near-death experience, received another shock when Tumble landed next to me. I flashed him a big grin and looked up, expecting to see Kenner leaping down next. Through the mist, I saw that the werewolf had not been so lucky. He struggled in the grips of clinkers on either side of him. I only hoped he would buy us enough time to figure out how to leave the relentless clinkers behind for good.

He didn’t. Two clinkers followed us down immediately, landing a little ways away on either side of us. And if they followed us down once, they could do it again, and then we’d be out of catwalks to land on. So down wouldn’t work and the sides were blocked. That only left going back up, and I realized I had something that might help me with that. I kneeled down, pulled my cocoon bag onto the floor, and started to open it. Matthias grabbed my hand to stop me.

Leaning in, he said, “What are you up to?”

“I have something to slow them down!”

“No surprises,” he said and let me go.

The clinkers moved ever closer, cautious in their steps on the slick metal floor. I pulled my grapple gun out, attached a claw hook to it, and slid my bag back on. I set the gun down and motioned for Tumble, who stood awaiting the clinker’s arrival, to pay attention. With my back to Matthias, I pointed down at my gun, then up, and then cupped my hands and mimed rapidly lifting them up.

Tumble looked up at how high above us the catwalk was, back at how near the clinker was, and then looked at me and shrugged. Without any hesitation, he ran at me and stepped into my cupped hands. I stood up and hefted him into the air. When my hands were as high as they could go, he leapt off. Through our combined efforts, he sailed upward far enough to latch onto the underside of the catwalk above us.

Now it was my turn. I picked up the grapple gun, turned to face Matthias, and nodded. He looked up at Tumble and then back at me.

“I thought you said down,” he yelled.

“I lied,” I said, and took a leap of faith over the railing, grapple gun in hand. My insane plan was almost worth it for the look on his face alone.

I twisted in mid-air, aimed at a higher catwalk, and squeezed the trigger. The rockets fired and the grappling hook rattled, but it remained firmly in place. Before I could think of some quick fix, the gun became too hot to hold and I reflexively threw it away. My entire plan had counted on that gun working, but it had jammed. Now I was falling without hope of rescue, retreating from the light, from the clinkers, from Matthias and Tumble, as water churned in sheets around me and all I knew was the dark embrace of the abyss. And still I fell.

* * *

Continue to Part 47.

12/30/12 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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.

The Only City Left: Part 45

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 44, Allin could only watch in despair as a werewolf threw Tumble directly at one of the killer robots known as clinkers.

The Only City Left: Part 45

“Tumble!” I screamed, my voice reaching new heights to rise above the rumbling white noise that cocooned us.

Shiloh laughed as he let go of the cat, but the instant Tumble was released, he grabbed onto the werewolf’s wrist in return. He dropped to the floor and used the force of Shiloh’s throw to pull the laughing wolf off balance and propel him toward the doorway in his place. A clinker had made it through the room and now stood in the doorway, six arms outstretched to receive Tumble’s gift. Shiloh sailed upside down through the hallway and landed directly in its deadly embrace. Rather than attack him itself, it turned around and held still for its comrades, who set to with their own devices. Shiloh’s laughter turned to high-pitched screams and then silence.

Matthias, meanwhile, had ignored the entire encounter while he worked on unlocking the next door. He truly didn’t seem to care which of his subordinates died in the course of his escape. Guppy, by his side, looked paler than ever, his skin the color of his hair, his eyes rimmed with red. Kenner caught up to us and looked more angry than scared, but then werewolves tended to look angry by default, so I couldn’t really tell.

“Boss, that cat got Shiloh killed,” he said.

“Then make sure he dies next,” Matthias said. He had one hand around my arm and with the other he was tearing apart the control panel in the wall next to the door.

Tumble stopped halfway between our group and the door to the previous room, through which I could see the clinkers stripping Shiloh of his fur. He looked back and forth slowly, calmly, waiting to see what his next move would be, trapped between clinkers on one side and werewolves on the other.

Behind me, Matthias finally got the door open, and the combination of sound and moist air that immediately poured through it made me whip around to search for its cause. Beyond the door was a metal catwalk leading into a large, open space lit by muted, strobing lights. Matthias pulled me through the door and Guppy followed us in. On either side of the catwalk, torrents of water plunged through the air, churning into a mist that hid the far end in fog. It was the flickering lights behind the water that caused the strobing effect and made it difficult to get a clear view of the room. From what I could tell, the room ascended and descended further than I could see, with catwalks criss-crossing above and below us in several directions. The air was heavy with vapor and my clothing was quickly soaked through.

As Matthias pulled me along the slippery, perforated metal walkway, I looked back and saw Kenner start to swing the door to the room closed. It probably wouldn’t lock anymore, but even if it slowed Tumble down for a few seconds, it would be long enough for the clinkers to get him. I cried out and fought to free myself from Matthias’ hold on my arm, but I needn’t have worried. Tumble shot through the narrowing gap at the last second and slipped past Kenner. In an instant, he caught up to us and leapt atop Matthias’ head, which he set upon with a clawed frenzy. Matthias let go of my arm and twirled in place, grabbing at Tumble, while Guppy stood nervously by and Kenner ran up to us. I bent over and rammed my shoulder into Kenner’s gut as he approached, keen to keep him out of the fight. He slipped and we both fell down on the slick metal flooring, but he got to his feet first. He raised his clawed hand and brought it down to strike me, but Matthias of all people came to my defense, kicking Kenner’s arm away and yelling something unintelligible.

He had gotten Tumble off of him but was bleeding from several deep cuts on his face. I felt a grim satisfaction upon seeing his injuries, but it turned to anxiety as I wondered where Tumble had gone. I turned over, got to my hands and knees, and looked around. There he was, further along the catwalk. He, too, had not come out of his tussle with Matthias unscathed. He would have some scars to rival his brother’s if we came through this alive.

I began to crawl toward Tumble when a weight hit my back and I collapsed to the floor, splitting my chin on the metal grating.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Guppy yelled. He flipped me over, grabbed me by the shoulders, and slammed my head against the catwalk. “No running away. You’re the only thing keeping me alive at this point.”

“Tell that to the clinker,” I yelled back, pointing behind him.

In fact, the clinkers had breached the doorway to the waterfall room, but Matthias and Kenner stood between them and us. Guppy probably realized his mistake as soon as he started to turn away, but it was too late. I pulled my knees to my chest and kicked out with all the force I could muster.

My kick broke his grip on my drenched shirt and forced him to his feet. He stumbled backward, hit the railing, and was over and gone before I had half-risen to my feet. I looked over the edge for him, but I didn’t see anything besides the never-ending torrents of water and a couple of catwalks. Guppy was gone. I had wanted him off of me, but I hadn’t meant to send him to his death. I didn’t have time to mourn, though, as a great furred hand clamped itself around my neck and lifted me off the floor.

* * *

Continue to Part 46.

12/23/12 News: I hope everyone has been enjoying some holiday cheer of one sort or another. I have a holiday tale set in the world of the webcomic LeyLines that I would love for you to read. Creator Robin Dempsey provided a wonderful illustration for the story and, of course, a fantastic world to play in.

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.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

#

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.