The Only City Left: Part 30

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.

If you are new to The Only City Left and want a quick catch-up, you can read a synopsis of Parts 1-27 and then start at Part 28. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 29, Allin was yelling at Tyena for lying to him, when she turned the tables and suggested he had been lying to her as well. So there.

The Only City Left: Part 30

I opened and closed my mouth several times to say something, but Tyena’s riposte had robbed me of words. I had avoided telling her certain truths about my relationship to the werewolves, but she had actually known them all along. How stupid I must have looked to her!

She nodded emphatically at me and said, “There, you see. Don’t tell me I’ve been lying when you neglected to mention it’s your own uncle who kidnapped my mother, who ordered me to watch as they killed my brother! Don’t yell at me about secrets when it turns out you’re one of them!”

It felt like a physical slap, having my newly-discovered heritage thrown in my face like that.

“Does it matter that I’m related to some madman I’ve never met? That I might be a werewolf even though I’ve never become one?”

“It matters that you didn’t tell me!” Tyena shouted.

“I was afraid if I told you, you’d hate me!” I shouted in return.

We stood there without speaking, both of us breathing heavily. Tyena’s cheeks were flushed red and her hair had fallen over half of her face.

She kneeled down and picked up the camera, inspected it, and said softly, “It’s broken.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

She looked up at me and said, “Let’s start over. We know everything there is to know now. It’s not too late to change your mind, to go along with Banshee’s plan. I’ll send word to Doyle that you’re coming in peaceably. You said it yourself, they want you alive. You’ll be safe. My mom’ll be safe. It’s the best solution.”

She set the camera down, grabbed onto my hand and pulled herself up.

Without letting go of me, she leaned in and said, “Please do this for me, Allin. I love you. Don’t you love me?”

I shook my head. Maybe she meant it, maybe she did love me, or maybe it was another lie. Either way, I wasn’t going to risk being made a fool of again.

“If I loved you, I could forgive you, right?” I asked as I shook free of her grasp. “Then I guess I don’t. Bye, Tyena, and good luck.”

I turned and walked away without looking back, while behind me Tyena screamed, “No! What about my mom? Allin, what about my mom?”

I don’t know who I was crying for as I left her behind: Tyena, me, her mom? It didn’t matter. The world had become a dark, awful place, but it wasn’t my job to fix everyone’s problems.

I wiped my eyes as I was leaving through the window, and I nearly bumped into Tumble, who stood on the platform outside holding my cocoon bag. He looked at me with an inscrutable expression and held out my bag without a word.

I shouldered it in a huff and traced a path down and toward the outskirts of Pudlington, to the only exit from the city that I knew of.

When I arrived at the inner gate, the two guards on duty were leaning against the wall lazily, but they snapped to attention when they saw me. I marched up to them and said, “I’m leaving.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t open this door without official orders,” said the cat on my left. He shifted his gun ever so slightly in his hands, bringing it closer to level.

I couldn’t believe it. “Am I a prisoner here after all?” I sputtered.

“No, but guests usually say goodbye and thank you before departing,” came a low voice from behind me that raised the hairs on my neck.

I turned around and looked down at the dour face of Emperor Banshee. Tumble, head downcast, stood behind and to one side of him.

“Allin, it’s not too late to change your mind,” Banshee continued. “You can help make a difference. We can end the tyranny of the wolves.”

“Everybody wants me to go to the wolves!” I shot back, and began ticking off points on my fingers. “You want me to risk my life on the off chance I can kill my uncle. Tyena wants to trade me for her mom. Doyle wants me there for who knows what reason, but I’m guessing it’s not to have tea and cake!”

I clenched my fist shut and shook it at Banshee.

“Well I’m not having any of that. You’ll all have to find another hero to enter the werewolves’ den. I just want to live long enough to see the sun with my own eyes. Is that so wrong?”

“Your decision is final, then?” Banshee asked, ignoring my question.

“Yes.”

“Fine. Go,” he ordered and then added, “How very human of you,” before he whipped around and stalked away. I told myself he had no right to judge, but my cheeks nevertheless burned at his scorn.

“Let me out of here,” I told the guards between gritted teeth, and this time they opened the gate without a fuss and escorted me into the hallway beyond. I looked back one last time and saw that Tumble had left, too. I regretted not getting to say a real goodbye to him.

I exited Pudlington as I had entered it, crouching and sick, though this time with shame and anger rather than a virus. I eyed the murder-holes in the walls and ceiling and wondered how upset Banshee was with me, but when I reached the outer gate, the guard keyed it open and I stepped out and stood up unmolested.

I turned around, watched the doors slide shut, and whispered, “Goodbye, and thank you.”

I meant it for Pudlington as a whole and for Banshee, too. Whatever his motives, he had taken me in and patched me up, and now I was healthier and better-equipped than before. I wasn’t fool enough to not appreciate all that, despite our differences.

One of the outer guards must have thought I was speaking to him, for he nodded at me and said, “Good luck on your journey, sir. Be careful out there. The world is a dangerous place.”

“That it is,” I agreed and waved at both of the guards before leaving Pudlington behind me.

* * *

Continue to Part 31 (or read my Author’s Notes below first).

9/9/12 News: Thus ends the first one-third of The Only City Left, roughly 30,000 words of an adventure not just for Allin, but for me as well. It takes a certain kind of naïveté (and it was naïveté in the beginning, not moxie) to state: I’m going to write a novel and post the first draft of it online each week, warts and all, for anyone to take a gander at. The results have already pushed me to become a better writer. Sure, for me it is a first draft, hopefully to be improved upon once the entire story is completed, but for most people stopping by here this is the only sample of my writing they might ever see. So I’m trying to make it a polished first draft. I read and re-read each post many times, trying to ensure it fits with where the story has been and where I see it going, trying to trim the scenes that last longer than they are welcome, trying to give a little insight into characters to make them more than cardboard place-holders for later edits.

All of which amounts to this. Thank you for coming along with Allin and me on our adventures. Please stick around for the next 60,000 words or so. I think you’ll enjoy it. (And now that I’m thinking of it, you might also enjoy my short story, False Negative, published this month in Electric Spec! Yes, a shameless plug. I really am acting like a writer now.)

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 29

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.

If you are new to The Only City Left and want a quick catch-up, you can read a synopsis of Parts 1-27 and then start at Part 28. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 28, Tumble dropped a bomb on Allin’s psyche by revealing that Tyena’s motives were suspect: she has been spying for Doyle and the werewolves since she first arrived in Pudlington!

The Only City Left: Part 29

“What are you talking about?” I demanded, my voice raised. The kittens at play in the room stopped as one to stare at me. “That’s a lie.”

Tumble looked to his charges and nodded at them to keep playing, then guided me up and away from them.

“I’m afraid not, Allin. It is Tyena who has lied to you and us both, although we’ve never really held that against her. You see, we did find her wandering the city, half-starved, but we were not the first to do so. It was the werewolves who first found her.”

I gave him a hard look and asked, “How do you know that?”

“When Tyena first arrived here, she was distraught and aimless. We allowed her to sit in our planning councils, to give her something to do and because she had first-hand experience with the ’wolves from the recent attack on Glin’s Rising. Soon after that, we suffered a series of losses amongst our outside patrols. We traced the leak to her.”

“This is Tyena we’re talking about,” I said, shaking my head. “She’s not a super-spy. How would she even get information outside of Pudlington?”

“She doesn’t have to. Doyle has spies inside our city, probably more than we know about.”

“The guardsman,” I realized. The one she had been arguing with earlier.

“Him we are aware of,” Tumble agreed. “He regularly passes along intel to Doyle’s people while on outside patrol.”

“Then why don’t you stop him?” I asked, incredulous.

“Better to use him. And her,” Tumble said. “We give them just enough real but unhelpful information to keep them useful to Doyle, and much that is apocryphal. This way when we need Doyle to believe something, we have a sure path to deliver the information.”

I sat down against one wall of the dojo and put my forehead in my hands.

“So this is real, this is a real thing,” I babbled. “Tyena’s been lying to me this whole time. That cold—“

“Emperor Banshee is sympathetic to Tyena’s plight. Our best intel out of the Garden—for we have our spies, too—is that Tyena’s family is alive and being held hostage to her continued reports. She has no choice but to do Doyle’s bidding, which is another reason we have not closed her down.”

“Well, that’s just great,” I barked. “That’s so nice of you! How funny was it to watch me as I believed all her lies? And thanks for not telling me any of this earlier. I might not have been able to make such a fool of myself if you had!”

Tumble held out his hands, palms out. “I tried, Allin, I did. Remember my warning about the gerrybrook flower?”

I closed my eyes. “That was nice of you and all, Tumble. But instead of riddles, maybe you could have just told me?”

“I was under orders not to. Plus, I hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. You deserved some happiness, Allin, even if only for a brief time, and if you had accepted Banshee’s mission, you need never have known of Miss Branch’s duplicity.”

I opened my eyes and stared at Tumble.

“Well thanks a lot, buddy,” I said, standing up. “But I guess it didn’t work out for any of us, did it? I’m leaving. Alone. You can still send my stuff to Tyena’s, though. I’m going over there to tell her goodbye.”

I took his silence for assent and walked away.

My trip back to Tyena’s was filled with dark thoughts as I realized what a sucker I had been. I really thought something good had happened to me, reuniting with Tyena, clicking with her again despite the horrors of our past. But the past was inescapable, it seemed, and no matter how the cats felt, Tyena’s behavior was inexcusable. She’d get no sympathy from me.

When I tracked her down, she was walking through another floor of her museum, holding a device up to each of her paintings in turn.

“Look, Allin, a friend gave me a camera so I can record my paintings!” she beamed at me.

“Is this the same friend who passes along all your secrets to Doyle?”

The smile slowly melted from her face.

“What? No, what do you mean?”

“Stop lying to me,” I yelled. “I know you’re spying for the wolves. The cats know you’re spying. You’re not fooling anybody!”

She winced and held up her hands as if to block my words. “It’s not that simple,” she protested.

“What could be simpler than telling me the truth?”

“You want the truth, Allin? My mother is alive. She’s alive and she’s safe,” Tyena said. “And I’m doing what I have to do to keep it that way.”

“Including delivering me up to Doyle?”

“He promised to set her free if I could get you to go to the Garden.”

“What about your brother?”

“Killed three years ago. Before my eyes. To show me the cost of failure,” Tyena moaned. The light in her eyes had gone out. She looked more like the broken girl I had dragged out of Glin’s Rising than the joyful, vibrant one of the past few days.

I would have felt sorry for her but I was so full of bitterness and hurt there was room for nothing else inside of me.

“So you lied to me, you used me, so you could trade me for your mother.”

“It wasn’t a lie, Allin!” Tyena cried. “We’re not a lie. If you had only accepted Banshee’s offer, there was a good chance that you could have killed Doyle and then my mom would be free and we could be together and—”

“And angels would sing and manna would fall from heaven and everyone would live in perfect harmony!” I scoffed. “But when I changed the plans and said, ‘Let’s leave together,’ you went along with that pretty quickly. What was your Plan B?”

Tyena answered in a whisper, “I was supposed to lead you into an ambush once we were outside of Pudlington.”

“So much for my good chances then, huh?”

Tyena grabbed my hand in hers and said, “Allin, what else could I have done?”

I whipped her hand off of mine, accidentally knocking the camera out of her other hand in the process. It fell to the floor with a crack.

“You could have told me the truth!” I shouted.

“You’re one to talk about truth,” she shot back.

* * *

Continue to Part 30.

9/2/12 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.