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 73, Allin met with Tumble after stopping him from attempting to assassinate Doyle.
The Only City Left: Part 74
In the dark recesses of the narrow alleyway, I hugged Tumble until he gasped for air. I set him down and asked, “What are you still doing here? You have to get back to Pudlington. Now.”
“Is it true? About Banshee?” he asked, his voice grave.
Of course. I couldn’t just drop a bomb on him by announcing his brother was dead and then expect that he would leave without talking to me first. I spent the next half-hour filling him in on everything that had happened since he had last seen me plummeting to my death, but I started with the most important news for him.
“It didn’t look good, Tumble. Last I saw, he wasn’t moving.”
After that, Tumble listened to my story quietly, asking questions to clarify this or that detail but mostly allowing me to get through it as fast as possible.
“Fordham in league with Doyle,” Tumble said when I was done. He stroked his chin as he mulled over that possibility. “Well isn’t that a horrible prospect. Are you sure about this?”
“Well, no,” I said. “But it was awfully convenient that he wasn’t standing next to Banshee when that catwolf attacked. And he was quick to claim leadership in the midst of that chaos. Real quick.”
“That places you in incredible danger,” Tumble said. “He knows your mission is to kill Doyle and that you can become a werewolf now. It won’t be long before he sends a warning to the Garden.”
I hadn’t considered that, but it made a scary sort of sense. If the ghosts hadn’t gotten me to the Garden so quickly, the news might have arrived before me. I might have stood in front of Doyle, semi-confident in my disguise, only to be set upon and exposed on the spot. That I hadn’t been meant one of two things were true: either Fordham wasn’t in league with the wolves or his messenger hadn’t arrived yet.
Tumble agreed but pointed out one more depressing fact. “Whether it’s Fordham or another spy who gets the word out, it won’t be long until Doyle knows you’re a wolf. You can’t stay here, Allin.”
“He may know I’m a wolf, but not which wolf. You’re the one who can’t stay. You need to go to Pudlington and knock Fordham off the throne. How fast can you get back there?”
“Less than a day if I don’t stop, now that I know the way.” He paused and stroked his muzzle. “Allin, I know my brother wanted to hold off on shutting down the coils, but you’re the one dealing with the werewolves now. Do you want me to have Copper turn them off?”
I thought about it for a moment but shook my head at the offer. “As much as I want the werewolves gone, I have a better chance of getting at my uncle as one of them. Let’s stick with Banshee’s plan.”
“And do you have any plan for getting rid of Doyle?”
“No. I thought the ghosts were going to help me, but they didn’t show up when I confronted Doyle just now.”
“Then my plan’s as good as any,” he said, and handed over three nutri-bulb sized grenades. EMPs, just as I thought. “These are still our best chance to erase Doyle. Which I might have done already if you hadn’t intervened.”
I started to protest but he cut me off. “I know, I know. You had to make sure I knew about Banshee. You did the right thing. You’re becoming quite the brave young man, Allin.”
“Thank you,” I said, a feeling of pride swelling inside me. Coming from Tumble, those words meant everything.
“I’d best be off. We both have much to do. Good luck, Allin Arcady. I hope to see you again when all this is over. Don’t disappoint me.”
“I’ll try not to.”
We hugged one last time and then he was off down the alley until he disappeared around a corner. I held the three EMP grenades in my hands. Without my bag, I had no place to put all of them, so I stashed two beneath some rubble and put the third in my pocket. I’d only have one chance at erasing Doyle, anyway. Maybe I could even use Tumble’s original plan. I reached up and dug my claws into the brick wall to see if it would take my weight, but a shout from the mouth of the alleyway startled me. I fell to the alley floor with a thud.
“Ballister, that you?” asked a werewolf walking over to me. “What are you doing, man?”
The werewolf offered me a hand up and I accepted it, thinking of an answer while I stood up and brushed myself off.
“I was getting antsy. Figured I’d climb the walls for some exercise.”
“Yeah, well, we’re moving out early, so you won’t be bored no more. The name’s Pogue, Sergeant Pogue.” He stopped and sniffed at the air. “I think I smell cat.”
With my heightened sense of smell, so did I, but I made a show of sniffing the air and shaking my head.
“I can barely smell anything with all this smoke in the air,” I said, heading toward the street and away from the direction Tumble had taken.
Pogue sniffed a couple of more times before reluctantly following me out onto the street.
“Weird,” he said, and shrugged. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to the guys.”
This was definitely not good. I needed to stay in the Garden, not get roped into some hunt for more human slaves. Oblivious to my inner turmoil, Sergeant Pogue led me through the streets, talking all the while about this new site they had scoped out and how twenty wolves should be plenty to take it. He was either a genuinely friendly guy, as werewolves go, or he was treating me well because of the “promotion” Doyle had given me. Either way, he wouldn’t shut up or leave my side, even when I suggested I had gear I needed to get before I left.
“Oh, we got tons of good stuff you can use,” was his unhelpful response to that gambit.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. We were getting to the edge of town and I’d have nowhere to go but with him if I didn’t make a move. I waited until the area around us was deserted of anyone but human slaves and then said, “Over there, did you see that?”
I clapped him on the shoulder and pointed past a pile of rubble down the street.
“You were right! I just saw one of those stinking cats skulking around. He must be spying. Let’s get him!”
“Yeah!” the dim Sergeant Pogue replied, and took off running.
I ran, too, but in the opposite direction. Since Pogue could realize I had lied and turn back to find me at any moment, I did the first thing I could think of to disguise myself amidst the slaves. I removed my coil and shoved it into my empty pants pocket.
I couldn’t change my clothes, though, and even Pogue would recognize me in them if he found me, so I needed to do more to hide from him. To that end, I ducked into the first darkened doorway I could find, determined to wait him out inside of the abandoned building. Except it wasn’t abandoned.
It was full of werewolves.
* * *
7/14/13 News: I finished the re-outlining of The Only City Left, which entailed cutting a lot of scenes, adding new ones, and changing other ones. In this page, for instance, most everything after Tumble and Allin part has been removed in favor of a new avenue. This makes posting pages like this a little painful, but it’s all part of the process. At any rate, I need to type up all my notes, give it a once-over, and send it to my editor for evisceration, er, review. And then I’m back to writing. Yay!
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