The Only City Left: Part 86

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 85, Allin revealed his plan: keep Doyle outside in the thin, freezing air until the moon sets, they both revert to their human forms, and they die. Whoa, heavy.

The Only City Left: Part 86

Doyle took his foot off of my neck and offered me a hand. Alert for any treachery, I took it. I was actually surprised when all he did was help me up and step back a few paces.

“I’ve been chasing you for your entire life, Allin,” he said. “And now the chase is finally at an end. But you’re not half so clever as you believe if you think I’m just going to give up and let the moon set on me out here.”

“Go ahead, try to make it back in time. I may not be able to kill you, but I can slow you down for long enough.”

“You’d really sacrifice yourself just to make sure I die?” he asked. He seemed genuinely confused.

“Yes.”

He shrugged. “Then I’ll have to kill you quick.”

He leaped toward me, claws out, but I expected the attack and caught him by his wrists. I couldn’t stop him from continuing to barrel toward me, though.

He smashed into me and we ended up in a rough embrace, each trying to claw and bite the other to pieces, but we were so evenly matched that neither could get the upper hand. We stumbled to and fro in the maze of protrusions that littered this section of the roof, crunching into machinery and vents and pipes that hopefully no one below us was relying on. As we crashed around, I wondered how it was that he hadn’t torn me apart yet. He was bigger and had more strength and experience; it should have been an easy victory.

Listening to his ragged breathing, I realized what was working in my favor. He wasn’t used to this kind of exertion. As a ghost, he never got tired, never wore himself down. If he needed more energy, his nanoswarm could siphon it from the world around him. Up here, in his physical body and dealing with the bitter cold and thin air, he had spent himself chasing me. His reserves were running low.

I, on the other hand, felt energized by this realization.

“Getting tired, Doyle? Need a break?” I asked as I took the lead in our dance.

I swung him around and ran him into a chest-high exhaust vent, then reversed direction to smack his head into a thick stand of pipes.

“Is this what you’ve wanted all these years, Doyle? To feel?”

I lunged out and raked him with my claws, giving him a set of wounds to match mine. He put his hand to his chest and looked down at the blood oozing through his fingers.

“Hurt. Pain. Fear,” I said. “Is being alive again all you ever hoped it would be?”

I laughed at his distraught expression. It felt good to be on the offensive for once, to be the one in power, the hunter instead of the hunted. I imagined that with one leap I could be on Doyle, ripping out his throat with my teeth. His imaginary blood tasted delicious to my fevered mind. Standing there watching him cower, I felt like a true werewolf for the first time.

Only I didn’t want to be a werewolf, didn’t want to beat Doyle at his own game.

The moon was lower in the sky now; if I could hold out a little longer, I’d never have to fight the wolf inside of me again. Warring against my instincts, I put my hands up and said, “There’s no point in fighting anymore. Let’s wait out the end peacefully.”

Doyle sneered and licked his own blood off of his palm. “Peacefully? And just when I was beginning to be proud of you.”

He ran at me with a surprising burst of speed, but I easily caught his outstretched hands in mine and began to push him back.

“One thing I want to know before the end,” I said. “What did you get out of all this death and destruction?”

“That’s the difference between you and me, Allin,” Doyle said as I pushed him further and further backward despite his attempts to dig in his heels. “You need reasons. I just did it because.”

He gave up trying to stop me and instead fell backward. He used my momentum to pull me into his embrace, where he took the opportunity to bury his teeth in my shoulder. I howled in pain. He wouldn’t unclamp his jaw, so I dug my claws into his sides and twisted my fingers underneath his skin. That worked.

He roared and tried to throw me off of him but I wouldn’t let go. We ended up rolling around like boys roughhousing except for the part where we were really trying to kill each other.

Over and over we rolled and if that didn’t make me dizzy enough, the lack of good air didn’t help, either. Our rambling path took us far and wide, and we ended up beside the chasm once more.

This wasn’t the same one, though, or we were at a different point along it, because here the far wall towered a few stories above us. Wherever we were, one important detail stood out: there was nothing I could do to slow our progress toward it. One more roll and we were over its edge.

I barely managed to reach out and grab the ledge with both hands to keep from falling into the depths. A second later, I nearly lost my grip as Doyle clamped onto my legs for the same purpose.

He began to laugh. “If you want it to end, Allin, just let go.”

I looked down at his ugly, laughing face and then beyond to where the chasm fell into shadow. Shadow? I craned my neck up and saw that the moon was setting above the high wall opposite us. Soon we would be in the wall’s shadow and it would all be over.

But Doyle will be in the shadow first. Could I…?

I dug my claws into the ledge above me and held on with all my might.

“Let go, boy. Let go! Isn’t this what you want?”

Through a snoutful of gritted teeth, I said, “Change of plans. Look down.”

He must have done as he was told, because the next thing I knew he sunk his claws into my calves for extra purchase. I moaned in agony and my grip slipped ever so slightly. I looked down and saw the shadow line steadily rising up the chasm wall.

“Pull us up. We should fight and die as wolves.”

“Sorry, Doyle. The time of the wolves is at an end.”

The shadow line climbed up his body and overtook him entirely. I watched as he transformed back into a human being. He looked frightened, and younger than I would have imagined. His claws retreated from my flesh, leaving only human hands to grasp the fur of my legs.

As the shadow that fully engulfed him began to climb up my legs, too, Doyle cried, “Allin, don’t do this. We’re family!”

“You killed my only family. Goodbye, Doyle.”

In the end, it wasn’t tooth or claw or gun or knife that ended Doyle Arcady’s evil reign. All it took was one swift shake of my leg to loosen his grip and send him plummeting into the darkness.

As he fell, the hungry shadows continued to climb higher, eager to make me their next victim. But I wanted more now. I wanted to see Tumble again. To find Tyena and ask for a second chance. To share a drink and a story with Ballister.

For years I had been living to see the Roof of the World, but that hadn’t really been living. That had been waiting. That had been me adrift and grieving for my parents.

I would never forget them, but that part of my life was over now. I wanted to live not for the past and not for some illusory tomorrow, but for the now, wherever that took me. I wanted to live.

First, though, I had to avoid sharing Doyle’s fate.

I climbed.

* * *

Continue to Part 87.

10/6/13 News: Wow, I can’t believe we’ve reached the story’s climax already. I hope you’ll stick around for the next three weeks and coast toward the end of Book 1 with me. There’s still a thrill or two left in store for Allin, and some loose threads that need to be tied up. Thanks again for reading!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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.)

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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 85

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 84, Allin fought with his newly-resurrected uncle until, realizing he could not possibly win, he maneuvered his uncle into taking the fight outside onto the Roof of the World.

The Only City Left: Part 85

I was out for as long as it took to fall to the ground, where the shock of being slammed onto the icy roof snapped me awake in an instant. My vision cleared in time to see Doyle falling, too, but not in time to keep him from landing on me with enough force to bellow the air out of my lungs. Instinctively, I rolled backwards and pistoned my legs to push him off of me and further away from the penthouse. Having bought a second or two of freedom, I used it to take a breath. This was a struggle in and of itself, as the thin, near-freezing air cut my throat like a knife and threatened a return of spot-addled vision.

I staggered to my feet, swaying a bit as the world refused to hold still. It wasn’t just the thin air making me feel faint, but also the lack of a ceiling. For the first time in my life, I was outside. No walls. No recycled air. I was free!

It felt incredible and frightening all at once. A sky without end. I might have freaked out and retreated back into the penthouse’s embrace if not for the fact that I could feel the thrum of the city beneath my feet. It might be largely empty, with its systems failing and its corridors dark, but even though it was battered and decaying, it fought to keep itself running. If I wanted to save it, I could do no less.

I had a plan, not much of one to be sure, but elegant in its simplicity. All I had to do to make it work was to keep Doyle chasing after me for as long as possible.

“Hey, Doyle,” I said as he got to his feet. “Is that the best you can do?”

“You must have an extraordinarily thick skull, nephew. Next time I’ll simply tear your heart out of your chest and be done with it.”

“You’ve got to catch me first.”

With those words, I took off at an angle away from the broken glass wall. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Doyle begin his pursuit. Perfect. Inside the penthouse, I had been at a disadvantage. Doyle was stronger than me and I couldn’t avoid him in those close quarters. Out here, though, I had a head start. All I had to do was maintain it.

This proved harder than I expected. What had at first appeared like a mostly smooth landscape turned out to be more chaotic up close. Our chase led us through ravines and over gaps in the roof, under pipes the size of houses and across uneven sheets of scarred metal, pitted by time.

I could hear Doyle’s footfalls not far behind me, and I wondered what was under our feet as we ran. Did survivors still inhabit the rooms below us and did they look up in surprise as two sets of feet pounded their way across the ceiling? Did our passage shake dust loose from the rafters and onto someone’s meal? I smiled, buoyed by the thought of life going on below us even as I ran toward the end of mine.

Our chase continued as the moon inched closer and closer to the horizon. Doyle and I were evenly matched in terms of speed, and he did not seem at all inclined to give up on his prize, which suited me fine. But one way or another, I knew I could not keep away from him forever.

The first hiccup came when the ground ran out ahead of me. This was not the first gap I had crossed but it was by far the widest and, once I was in mid-leap over it, I saw it was the deepest as well. If I fell down into that, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not Doyle caught me. There’d be nothing left to catch.

The roof on the far side of the chasm was lower, which I hadn’t expected. I landed awkwardly, crashing and rolling into a thicket of antennae. I shook my head to clear it and stood up in time to see Doyle bounding gracefully over the yawning chasm. To be fair, he had the benefit of seeing me do it first. He landed softly nearby, going down to one knee to absorb the impact of his landing.

“I’ve got you now,” he said.

I didn’t waste my breath on a witty retort. Instead I turned and ran further into the metallic forest of struts, towers, and coiling pipes that made up this portion of the roof. That was my second mistake. The paths were narrow and full of twists and turns that kept me from building up any speed.

Our chase continued for a little longer in that maze, but even though the environment hindered us both, the result was inevitable. Eventually I made one misstep too many and Doyle managed to reach out and get a grip of my shoulder fur. This was just enough to pull me off balance and, since we were both running as fast as we could, bring us crashing to the ground together.

He got to his feet first and kicked me back down when I tried to follow him. Two quick steps and he had his foot against my neck, daring me to try to get up past his claws.

“You’re a fool, boy. Did you really think you could escape? You only delayed your death.”

Above us, the moon had begun its descent. I smiled and allowed myself some time to catch my breath before I replied.

“I may have only delayed mine, but I ensured yours.”

Doyle eyed me curiously and then looked around. We were in the middle of nowhere on the Roof of the World, far from the penthouse and its access to the rest of the city. Out here, the world was a cold, lonely place, the air barely rich enough to keep us breathing even in our werewolf forms. Once the moon set and we reverted to our frail human bodies, it would be a race between freezing to death and asphyxiating. Either way, it would mean the end of Doyle. Of course, it would mean my end as well, but if it meant saving the world from Doyle’s lunatic reign, it seemed worth it.

“I see,” Doyle said, the light of understanding in his eyes. “You’re insane, Allin. I like it.”

* * *

Continue to Part 86.

9/29/13 News: The race to the end continues and it’s looking rather final for Allin.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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.)

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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 84

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 83, Allin was dismayed to find that Doyle survived the last-ditch assault by the ghosts.

The Only City Left: Part 84

Doyle ran his hands over his body as if he himself couldn’t believe he was physical once more. Then he looked at me and said, “Damn, but it feels good to feel. Although I wasn’t expecting to see you when I returned, other than in a mirror.”

I stood up and faced him from across the room. “Sorry to ruin your plans.”

But it wasn’t me who had done that: it was the ghosts. Xerxes and the others had given Doyle what he wanted, to be physical again, but they had sacrificed themselves so that I wouldn’t die in the process. They could have simply waited until Doyle had taken me over and then killed me like they had Matthias and the henchwolves by the bar. Instead, they had taken a chance and let me survive, at the cost of whatever was left of their own lives. Their memories, emotions, and ties to the past were all gone now. I wouldn’t let their sacrifice go to waste.

“Ruin my plans? This is perfect,” Doyle said. “I’m alive again and I get to beat you to within an inch of your life before bringing you back to the Garden with me. I’ll lock you up, let you heal, and have a replacement body on hand that much sooner.”

My blood ran cold through my veins. I’d be damned before I let him use me as part of his plans for eternal life.

“Just try it,” I said, and leaped straight at him.

He leaped at me in turn and we met in mid-air. I tried to gouge his newly-formed flesh, but he blocked my blow with one arm, grabbed me with his free hand, and flung me behind him. As I flew upside-down across the room and smacked into the clear wall, I saw him land lightly on his feet. I picked myself up and Xerxes’ last words drifted into my head: If you fight on the level of beasts

He was right. Doyle had the clear advantage in a contest of strength and savagery. But Xerxes hadn’t made any suggestion about how I should fight Doyle, and I didn’t have time to come up with a plan before he was after me again, bounding across the room in a flash. I dodged away from him at the last instant and he slammed into the wall.

He pushed away from it with a laugh and said, “First blood.”

I looked down and realized I hadn’t quite gotten away in time, as attested to by my tattered shirt and the four bleeding lines that ran from my chest to my hip. It wasn’t until I saw them that I felt the pain. I clutched at my wounds and growled at Doyle.

“Run, little Allin. It’s more fun that way,” Doyle said, standing before the clear glass wall.

Beyond him, the Roof of the World glistened in the moonlight, its metal peaks and valleys mimicking, perhaps, the original landscape that the city had covered and consumed. Above it all, the moon hung almost directly above our little bubble of life atop the city. How long until it sets? I wondered. Maybe I’d have a better chance against Doyle if we were both human again.

Still clutching my stinging wounds, I scrambled across the room and away from Doyle. I might be doing exactly what he wanted, giving him a good chase, but any time I could buy would also be in my favor.

“That’s better,” he said, and stalked after me.

I jumped over a plastic-enshrined couch in the sunken portion of the room and turned to see how close Doyle was behind me. The bastard stood right on the other side of the couch. He smiled and made a shooing gesture.

“Hey Doyle, how did it feel when Mom chose both of your brothers rather than have to look at your fugly face every day?” I asked, backing away from him.

The smug smirk disappeared from his face. My words had hit home where my claws could not.

Doyle growled low in his throat, bent over to grab hold of the couch, and lifted the entire thing above his head. How strong is he? I marveled before I turned and ran.

I heard the flipflapflip of the plastic covering the couch as it soared through the air, the telltale sound alerting me to drop to the floor a moment before the couch would have crashed into me. It soared over my head and smashed into the far wall, where it splintered inside of its plastic cocoon and slid to the floor. It left a spiderweb of cracked glass at the point of impact.

Very strong, I decided, peering up at the window. That could have been my spine. I’ve got to put some distance between us.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible inside the confines of the penthouse, but I had an idea of how I could fix that.

I turned over so that I faced Doyle and then I crab-walked backwards as quickly as I could. Doyle sneered and followed me.

“You’re garbage, Allin, like your mom and dad before you. I’ll tear those filthy lies out of your throat even if it means I have to wait years for a replacement body. After all, now that I’m back, I’m not planning on losing this one anytime soon.”

Yeah, keep talking, I willed him as I climbed over the remains of the couch and got to my feet, my back against the wall. And keep thinking like a big, dumb wolf.

“You had to know you were never good enough for her,” I said. “You’re a just a loser who borrowed someone else’s power.”

He was in front of me then, his left arm pressed against my chest, pinning me in place.

“Goodbye, nephew.”

He pulled back his right arm and punched at my head, but I wrenched to the side and he ended up hitting the glass wall behind me.

“Did you have to beg the Fifth House to help you?” I asked, bringing my head back up so that I could look him in the eyes.

“Shut up,” he said, and threw another punch.

I threw myself the other way this time and again he punched the wall instead of me. The glass crunched and crackled under the blow. Almost there.

“I bet they helped you out of pity. Sad sack like you couldn’t wipe your own butt without—”

Doyle moved his arm from my chest to my neck, choking off my insult. I sputtered and gasped while he opened his mouth wide and snapped his jaws shut an inch before my snout.

“I said shut your mouth, but you didn’t listen, so I’ll shut it for you.”

He wrapped his free hand around my snout, pulled my head toward him, and smashed it into the glass wall with all his might. I heard a cracking sound that might have been the glass or my aching skull. Black spots filled my vision and jagged pain lanced from behind my eyes to the tips of my toes.

He leaned in to one side of my head and whispered, “Do you know how many times I raped your mother before she ran away with Dylan? I’d tell you but I lost count.”

He pulled my snout toward him and slammed me into the glass a second time before leaning in again.

“Why, we were doing it right before Dylan came in and killed me. How soon were you born after they ran away? I could be your daddy. Yeah. Let that be your last thought, son.”

“How could you be my dad?” I asked. “Mom said you couldn’t even get it—”

He roared over my words, pulled me toward him a final time, and drove me into the glass wall with all of his strength.

This final assault shattered the already-damaged wall, and we fell out of the room together amidst a rush of air and bits of broken couch. The black spots swimming before my eyes multiplied until all was darkness.

* * *

Continue to Part 85.

9/22/13 News: Late post is late. But sleeping in felt good, especially as the entire family is at various stages of recovering from a cold. Speaking of cold, does Allin know what the heck he’s doing? It must be freezing out there!

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

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.)

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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 67

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 66, Allin prepared to transform into a werewolf for the first time in his life. He spoke his father’s passphrase, “Always stay alive,” and…

The Only City Left: Part 67

The transformation began immediately and was over in seconds, but for me it felt like an eternity. The moonlight from my coil enveloped me and set me on fire. My skin rippled and bubbled like a pot of water set to boil. A full-body cramp wracked me and I collapsed to my knees and bowed my head to the floor. It’s not working, I thought, panicked. Copper was wrong. I’m turning inside out!

I groaned at a feeling of not-quite pain but not-yet pleasure, a feeling of something about-to-happen like when you’re starting to fall but you haven’t hit the floor yet. I watched in awe and revulsion as the skin on my arms darkened, hardened, and sprouted fur. I could feel other, invisible changes, too. Although my head was bowed, I knew exactly where Copper and Banshee stood in the room, could smell Banshee’s subdued fear and Copper’s unbridled curiosity. I felt an untapped reservoir of power coursing through me, waiting to be unleashed. My groan became a series of howls.

A monstrous rage built up inside of me. Not blind fury but rather focused wrath. All those wolves out there who felt the same power: they had so much potential, but what did they use it for? To take what they wanted and kill anyone who stood in their way, to destroy. How narrow-minded.

Imagine harnessing the incredible power for good, instead. The problem with Doyle being in charge is that he was a punk before he was given this power and all it had done was turn him into a stronger punk. I wouldn’t think so small. With an army of werewolves at my command, I could force the planet to shape up. I could bring about a renewed age of peace and prosperity. And anyone who didn’t like it would be wise to get out of my way.

“Allin!” I heard Banshee’s voice as if from a distance, nearly drowned out by the sound of blood rushing in my ears, pulsing through my body. Louder, “Allin!”

I focused and saw my hands gripping the bars of my cell. I had pulled two bars together until they nearly touched in the middle. Outside of the cell, Copper peeked out at me from behind Banshee, the both of them standing well away. I let go of the bars and staggered backwards. I looked down and saw that the concrete floor had been gouged out in a set of parallel lines. I didn’t remember doing any of that.

“Turn it off!”

I looked up again and saw Banshee standing right before the cell bars. Was he mad? I could take one step forward and end him with a swipe of my great claws. Look what I had done to the floor. Flesh and fur would be like nothing to me.

“Allin, please, turn it off,” Banshee said, his voice low. Not an imperial command. A request from a friend. “This is not who you are.”

Not who I am? What was he talking about? This is who I always had been, under the surface. This was the gift my parents had bequeathed to me. A gift of unbridled power, of heightened senses, of unlocked potential. I was a werewolf now like my parents before me. Like my parents.

My parents who had fled that life to keep me safe, who had hidden their werewolf nature from me. My parents who had been murdered by the wolves. I was reveling in the power that had destroyed them. I felt sick.

With a press of the same buttons that had begun the transformation, it was over. I was human once more, on my hands and knees and retching in the corner of the cell. Banshee was by my side, patting my back and repeating, “It’s okay, Allin. It’s okay,” until I believed it enough to sit up and wipe the tears from my eyes.

“Sorry if I scared you,” I said, my voice a ragged croak.

“I had no doubt you’d pull through,” Banshee said.

“I wish I was so sure.”

“The first transformation is bound to produce some adverse effects upon both your physical and mental well-being,” Copper said. “Subsequent uses of the coil should be easier on you.”

“Thanks, Prof.” I couldn’t help but notice she still stood well back from me on the other side of the bars. I didn’t blame her. I wanted to recoil from myself, to hide on the other side of the bars, but I was trapped in my own traitorous body. “I hope you’re right.”

Banshee helped me to my feet and led me out of the cell. He asked, “Do you still think you can do it? Become a werewolf? Infiltrate the Garden?”

I rubbed my mouth with the back of my hand and said, “I can do it. I won’t like it, but if it’ll get me into the Garden and close to Doyle, I’ll do it.”

“This mustn’t leave the room, your ability to transform,” Banshee said, looking at Copper and me in turn. “The last thing I need is for Fordham and his cronies to know that there’s a werewolf in the city, no matter that you’re on our side.”

I slipped the coil on its necklace back underneath my shirt.

“I won’t be bragging about this, believe me.”

“You have my silence, Emperor Banshee,” Copper said.

“Good. Allin, let me return you to your room for some well-earned rest. Tomorrow, I’ll announce that I’ve agreed to your plan and you’ll be on your way immediately.”

I was surprised, to say the least. I thought he had been adamantly against the idea.

“What made you change your mind?” I asked.

“Let’s just say: it’s the right thing to do.”

“What about Fordham?”

“I’ll remind him who truly runs this city.”

* * *

Continue to Part 68.

5/26/13 News: I am moving slowly along on edits for Book 1. I have such mixed emotions about the whole process, so part of editing is getting into the right mental space and figuring out exactly what are my goals for the book. Part of the oddity of this process for me is that I know people are enjoying this serialized rough draft, but at the same time, I am going to be making considerable changes to it. Hopefully it all works out.

Oh well, this is all an experiment and based on how it turns out, I’ll decide how I would like to change how I do things for Book 2. Thanks for being part of the experiment!

The Only City Left is 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 66

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.”

* * *

Continue to Part 67.

5/19/13 News:

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.

The Only City Left is 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.)

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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 65

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 64, Allin learned that Tyena had been taken back to the Garden, the werewolves’ den.

The Only City Left: Part 65

“Taken to the Garden? Who took her?” I asked, struggling to come to terms with the thought of Tyena being snatched out of Pudlington.

“She was spotted in the company of a guard named Halifax. We knew he worked for Doyle and we had him under surveillance, but he slipped his watch and got to Tyena before we could.”

Halifax? That must be the cat I had seen arguing with Tyena.

“When did this happen?”

“Immediately after you left Pudlington.”

After I left. That meant…

“He took her because she didn’t get me to walk into Doyle’s trap!”

“That is one possibility. The citizen who saw the two of them didn’t think anything was wrong at the time. When we questioned him later, he reported that Miss Branch did not appear to be trying to get away. She went with Halifax of her own accord.”

“They have her mother,” I said. Though I couldn’t be sure how much of what Tyena had told me had been true and how much a convenient fiction to lure me out of Pudlington, Tumble had confirmed that much at least. “Everything Tyena was doing, she was doing for her mom. If she refused to leave, Doyle would have her mom killed, so of course she went willingly.”

“Perhaps that is so. At any rate, once Tumble returned and found out about this, he immediately went after her. Oh, he claimed he was going after Doyle, but knowing my brother, he’s going to try to accomplish both goals.”

“You let Tumble go to the Garden by himself? That’s crazy!”

“He is an adult and he made his choice.”
“Great. Now he and Tyena are both in trouble because I didn’t go to the Garden in the first place. Look, Banshee. I mean Emperor Banshee,” I said, but he waved off the informality. “You’ve got me. Whatever you decide about opening up Pudlington, I need to go to the Garden. I owe it to Tumble and Tyena.”

“I see,” Banshee said, giving no indication as to how this would affect his decision.

“But first I need to know: how is Professor Copper doing with her work on the lantern coil?”

“Progress is being made. Let me show you.”

# # #

Down in the Skunkworks, Copper seemed pleased to see me again. “We’ve had a breakthrough since I saw you last!”

Her lantern coil project had moved out of her small room into a much larger laboratory, and she now had a team of white-coated cats working under her lead. The coil itself was nowhere to be seen.

“Did you figure out how to turn on the moonlight mode?” I asked.

“No. Something equally exciting, though.”

“Give him the demonstration,” Banshee said.

“Of course. This way.”

Copper led us to a large desk and sat down facing a bank of monitors, all but one of which were full of graphs and columns of numbers. The exception was one screen which had a picture of a room bare of anything except for the lantern coil in its cradle. Strands of wires ran from all around the coil’s circumference into a pedestal upon which the cradle rested.

Banshee and I stood to either side of Copper, who pressed a button on her desk and said, “Quips testing imminent. Quips testing imminent. Hold all intensive functions until the all clear is given.”

As she spoke, her voice echoed throughout the room from speakers set into the wall.

“Quips?”

“Quantum-inverted phase state,” Copper said. “QUIPS, for short. Get it? Because it shouldn’t be possible, so it’s a joke of sorts.”

“Sure,” I said, not getting it at all, but she seemed happy with my response.

“Just show him,” Banshee said.

“Very well. Eyes on the screen, gentlemen.”

She began typing commands into a keyboard on the desk. The cats moving about the lab stopped what they were doing and joined me in watching the screen.

The first thing I noticed was that it went black.

“Is it broken?” I asked.

“No. I turned off the lights. It’s more dramatic that way. Watch.”

So I watched. The coil turned on, lighting up the room with its familiar golden glow.

“Wait for it,” Copper said, as she nudged a slider forward.

The glow abruptly cut off and the room darkened except for a tiny beam of white light pointing out from the coil to the right side of the screen.

“Extending inversion field.”

The beam grew in size and the room lit up with brilliant white light. The beam itself was almost too bright to look at until the entire screen dimmed. The lights in the room we were in flickered and buzzed before themselves dimming out almost completely.

“What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry, we’re almost at our limit. There,” Copper said.

With that pronouncement, the white light filling the coil room promptly disappeared and the room was once again dark until it suddenly brightened to show the coil, sitting undisturbed in its cradle. All the cats in the room cheered as the lights in our room returned to their normal brightness. Copper pressed a button, announced, “All clear,” and swiveled her chair around to look at me triumphantly.

“It wiped out the sensors on the camera the first time we tried it,” Copper said. “We had to reinvent polarized lenses. Not much use for them these past few millennia. Sunglasses, you see.”

“No, I don’t see. Can someone tell me what just happened?”

“Think of it this way,” Copper said, grasping my hand between both of hers. “There’s a satellite orbiting the moon, and one side of it faces toward the sun, while another side faces the moon. Can you picture that?”

“Sure.”

“Now the way the lantern coil works, and this is technology centuries ahead of anything we have, is that there’s a quantum tunnel that connects the satellite on one end and the coil on the other. The coil end remains static. It’s always tied to the coil itself. But on the satellite end, there are two possible anchors for the tunnel to latch onto: one on the side facing the sun and the other on the side facing the moon. With me so far?”

“Sun. Moon. Tunnel. Got it.”

“Right. So the key thing to realize is that the flow of particles through the tunnel is always one way, from the satellite to the coil. But introduce enough power into the coil, the amount you’d use to run a medium-sized city for a few seconds, and you can effectively invert the coil, which is a space-time construct and not a physical artifact as you probably assumed.”

Banshee cleared his throat. “Keep it simple, please. For the boy.”

“Simple? I thought I was,” she said as if to herself. “Don’t you see? We’re able to switch the direction of the quantum tunnel, to send items, or people, from here to there. All we have to do is stretch the inverted coil wide enough! Then you simply pop through, turn around and you’re looking at the satellite, not to mention the moon and the Earth and don’t think I won’t be taking pictures while I’m there.”

“I think I get it, but you’d want to do this why?”

“Because besides sightseeing, she’s going to slap a bomb on the satellite,” Banshee said. “Close the portal, timer ticks down, bomb goes off. No more satellite. No more moonlight. No more werewolves.”

* * *

Continue to Part 66.

5/12/13 News:

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there! Sorry for the late post. I’m sick and a bit out of it. In lieu of writing this weekend, I’ve been working on making some stuffed Totoro dolls for my daughters. Here’s one that I’ve finished already. Have a good week everyone!

IMGP8845

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 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 25

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 1-24. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 24, Tyena had gotten upset when asked about the fate of her family, so she went to spend some time alone. With nothing else to do, Allin asked Tumble if there was a workshop he could use.

The Only City Left: Part 25

I had asked Tumble for a workshop, expecting a tiny room with maybe some spare parts lying around that I could tinker with. Instead, after a quick stop to pick up my cocoon bag, he led me into the murky depths of Pudlington, ground level in the center of the city.

Everything was dim and the world was quiet except for the slow creaks and moans of the city above. Tumble had not brought a light with him—he could see well enough—and I no longer had my coil, so I followed him closely through long-abandoned streets until we came to a set of stairs that descended into the earth. The darkness in there was impenetrable.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I told him.

“Don’t worry, it’s clean. Here, take my hand.”

Reluctantly, I did so. When he said it was clean, he wasn’t talking lack of filth. What he meant was that nothing foul had taken up residence, nothing that thrived in darkness. I was a bit skeptical.

“Where are we going?” I whispered.

“You don’t need to whisper,” Tumble assured me in a full voice. “These tunnels are locked down tight. Nothing can get in here.”

“So why are we here?” I asked, my voice still low.

“You wanted a workshop, right? That’s where we’re headed,” Tumble said, as he led me around a corner and then down more stairs.

“Why is it all the way down here?”

“For one, it keeps out most curious cats. Not many people like coming down here,” he explained. “And for another, it’s far enough down that any explosions shouldn’t affect the rest of the city.”

“Explosions. You’re kidding, right?”

Tumble chuckled and replied, “You’ll see. Be patient.”

The only sounds were our footsteps and a background hum that told me these tunnels still had power and air. Fresh air or no, the darkness was suffocating. By the time Tumble called a halt, countless flights of steps and interminably long tunnels later, I was nearly crushing his hand in mine.

“Just one moment,” Tumble said.

I heard tiny beeps and then a hiss before a vertical slice of light appeared and began to widen before me. I squeezed my eyes shut against the sudden brightness.

“Please step inside as quickly as possible in case I was wrong about it being safe out here.”

“What?” I squeaked, stumbling forward with my eyes slitted open.

Tumble laughed and sealed the door shut behind us.

When my eyes had adjusted and I had blinked and wiped the tears from them, I gaped at the sight before me. Tumble and I stood on a balcony that ran around a large rectangular opening. Doors lined the walls around the balcony and cats in white lab coats moved to and fro about the area. I could hear the whirr of tools, the rumble of engines, the vibrant hum of massive amounts of energy. The room was lit by huge tubes of white light that ran across the ceiling and thinner ones that ran along the walls.

I stepped forward and put my hands on the balcony railing. From that vantage point I could see two more balconied levels below and then a floor filled with massive machinery being inspected and tended by groups of cats. Everything was white plastic, clear glass, and grey metal. Where Pudlington above felt lived-in and almost organic, down here everything was pristine and sterile.

“Welcome to the Skunkworks,” Tumble declared.

“What do you need all this for?” I marveled.

Tumbled led me clockwise along the balcony, greeting cats who we passed along the way.

“Running a city the size of Pudlington is no easy task. Energy, food-stuffs, defense, offense, building materials, we work on it all here,” he explained. He stopped in front of a door and entered another code on the keypad next to it. “Come on, you might be interested at what’s going on in this room.”

We stepped into a smaller room lit only by banks of monitors scattered throughout the space. As if timed to our arrival, the room suddenly lit up in bright yellow light and I felt a wave of heat wash over me. It was strong but it felt good, relaxing. I sighed contentedly.

“Yes, if nothing else, this would make an excellent attraction,” said a ginger-furred cat who walked up to us. “Come bask in the sun’s rays, feel its warmth even in the depths of the city!”

“Allin, meet Professor Copper,” Tumble said. “She’s the ones who is going to figure out how your lantern coil works.”

“You give me too much credit, Tumble,” the professor said. “All I’ve done so far is figure out how to adjust the strength of the sun mode.”

I looked past Copper to where my coil hung suspended in the center of an array of equipment. I walked up to it, palms out, and felt its heat. I had never seen Mom and Dad make the coil work like this, nor figured it out myself, and I told the professor as much.

“I see. Well, small victory then. Perhaps they were more familiar with the moon mode,” she said blithely.

As I was about to protest, Tumble stepped in and suggested that I might be able to provide some insight into the coil’s workings.

“Quite right,” Copper declared, and for the next few minutes, she pressed me for any details I could provide. She was particularly interested in whether or not I had heard any verbal commands given to the coils when the moonlight mode was activated.

“I don’t think so, but it was chaos all around me when I saw them, and it’s been years,” I said.

“I’ve tried all of the combinations of the buttons around the edge of the object, you see,” the professor explained. “That’s how I found a way to change the strength. But I suspect that some further means of input is required to switch modes. Verbal, telepathic, something like that.”

Once she was satisfied that I had no useful information to share, the professor left me in peace and Tumble led me to another room where I could work on my own projects.

I had done pretty well for myself in the past, scavenging what parts I could, cadging together tools and weapons from the detritus of past civilizations, but when I saw the setup in what was one tiny room of the larger complex, I realized I was basically at the level of banging two rocks together compared to the cats.

Still, they were running an entire city. I only needed some gadgets to make my journeys more manageable.

First things first: I had given away my lantern coil, and navigating the City without a light was akin to walking around with an “Eat Me” sign taped to my back. I needed a replacement light source.

I set my bag down on a workbench and asked Tumble, “You wouldn’t happen to have any bioluminescent algal scum, would you?”

“Let me check,” he replied, typing commands into a nearby terminal. “Yes, here we are. Green, red, or yellow?”

And that was the pattern for the rest of the day. It seemed that whatever I could imagine, whatever tool or ingredient or material I desired, Tumble would have it delivered from the storerooms.

“Um, I can’t, you know, pay for this stuff or anything,” I told Tumble later while working on a set of new grapples for my gun.

“I know, Allin. No payment is expected.”

“Is this Banshee’s way of making me feel guilty?”

“You could choose to see it that way, or you could accept that emperors are known for their magnanimous gestures and leave it at that.”

“Which do you think it is?”

Tumble scratched at his chin and tilted his head from side to side. “Perhaps a little of both.”

I set down a plasma welder, pulled the tinted safety goggles off, and narrowed my eyes at Tumble.

“Thanks for the honesty.”

Tumble bowed his head once and replied, “You are welcome. So are you reconsidering your answer to Emperor Banshee’s offer?”

“If I say no, will I get to come back here again?”

Tumble considered this and replied, “Why don’t I tell the Emperor you’re thinking about it.”

I grinned.

“Fair enough.”

* * *

Continue to Part 26.

8/5/12 Notes: 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 20

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 1-17 and then jump into the story at Part 18. You can reach an individual part by browsing the Table of Contents.

At the end of Part 19, Allin discovers that the lantern coil given to him by his father is capable of emitting moonlight, and that the werewolves use the coils to transform. So why did Dad have a coil?

The Only City Left: Part 20

“Dad’s lantern coil?” I asked, lifting it up to examine it. “That makes sense, I guess. The werewolf that got away in Glin’s Rising was collecting these. But how does it transform someone into a werewolf?”

I absentmindedly pressed the buttons on the edge of the glass ovoid that housed the coil, and it lit up with its aureate yellow glow. Its light was cleaner, healthier somehow than the sterile light that poured out from Pudlington’s ceiling, but the cats reacted as if I had drawn a gun on them.

Banshee raised his hands in a defensive posture, claws out, and I instinctively backed up a step or two. I looked over and saw Tumble, similarly tense, claws out and hair puffed up.

“Hey guys, it’s just a light,” I soothed. “What’s the big deal?”

Tumble moved to stand beside Banshee, shaking his fur into place as he walked.

“Not just a light, Allin,” Tumble explained. “Sunlight, if our theories are correct. Captured and transmitted into the coil housed inside the casing.”

Sunlight? No wonder these things were so precious. To bring sunlight into the dark depths of the city, even a little bit, was a wondrous thing. Both Mom and Dad’s coils had glowed with that gentle, golden light, in sharp contrast to the ones that belonged to the werewolves.

“The werewolf coils emit moonlight instead, don’t they?” I hazarded.

I recalled the bursts of harsh, white light that lit up the darkened department store so many years ago in Glin’s. Grinty and his crew, human when we entered the store, and then transformed into gruesome beasts. All made possible by the coils they wore.

“They do,” Banshee intoned. “But their coils are no different than the one you wear. It too can produce moonlight, if operated correctly.”

That explained why the werewolf had wanted to take it from me, but…

“Even if it did emit moonlight, what’s there to worry about? I’ve never been bitten.”

The darkened department store.

Banshee leaned forward. “Allin, your father stole the coils for a reason.”

Flashes of white light.

“Yeah, to keep them from the werewolves, and to light the darkness.”

A shape hurtling overhead to tackle the female werewolf that threatened me.

“Do you truly believe that? Your father remained with Doyle’s gang for years, during which time more coils were discovered, more werewolves were created. Do you think Doyle’s own brother would not be included?”

Grinty, dead, falling to the ground before me.

“You’re saying Dad was one of them, that he stole a coil so he could change when he needed.”

Dad, his lantern coil glowing yellow, standing weaponless over Grinty’s corpse. Could he have killed a werewolf with his bare hands?

“It is very likely.”

The sunlight from Dad’s coil. That was the first time I had seen its light in the department store. Before that, it was all white light. Moonlight.

“Mom had a coil, too.”

Mom’s lantern coil in the she-beast’s hand, and then Mom, a frail, injured human taking on the hulking she-beast.

“Yes,” Banshee agreed, his voice solemn.

As humans, Mom and Dad had been murdered by the werewolves within seconds, but the fight had gone on for some time before that. How could they have survived for so long, unless…

“You can’t be certain,” I insisted, but it didn’t matter. They were certain, and so was I.

“Getting bitten isn’t the only way to become a werewolf, is it?” I asked. “You can be born as one.”

“If both your parents are werewolves, yes,” Banshee said.

I wanted to deny it, I wanted it not to be true, but it was the only answer that made any sense. It was Mom who leaped to my defense in that store, not as a human woman but as a fearsome beast who could hold her own against an inhuman opponent. And Dad had only become human again to talk to me. He had let down his defenses so that I wouldn’t see that he was as much a monster as the creatures he was fighting.

And I was a monster, too, thanks to them, wanting only a ray of moonlight to unleash the beast inside me.

“No wonder your people aren’t thrilled you let me in,” I said, recalling the looks I had gotten after the feast. “I don’t blame them.”

“If I could not handle one werewolf cub, I wouldn’t be a fit Emperor,” Banshee snarled. “But the point is moot. You don’t know how to switch the coil to moonlight mode.”

“Still, why risk it? Because Dad tried to kill his brother twenty years ago? That didn’t work out so well, sounds like.”

“There is another reason you were allowed within these walls,” Banshee admitted. “We have a proposition for you.”

Tumble took over: “Your coil is the first one we’ve ever had access to, Allin. The werewolves guard the technology closely. Even when we manage to bring a wolf down, the others make sure to rescue the coil before we can abscond with it.

“Our hope is that if we can examine the coil, we can figure out a way to interrupt the transmission of moonlight. Without that, Doyle’s wolves go back to being just a bunch of human punks again, and we’ll make short work of them.”

“So why didn’t you just take the coil from me when I was passed out?” I asked.

Banshee answered, “Because if we can’t block the moonlight, perhaps we can make it work for us.”

I scratched my cheek and eyed Tumble and Banshee in turn.

“Make it work how?”

Tumble replied, “By allowing you to transform into a werewolf.”

I took that in and played it back in my head to make sure I had heard it right.

“And you would want that why exactly?”

Banshee folded his arms across his chest, leaned back, and said, “So you can infiltrate the wolves’ lair and finish the job your father began. Doyle Arcady must be killed.”

* * *

Infiltrate Part 21, or read my notes below first.

7/1/12 News: And now we see what all Banshee’s wining and dining and praise of Dylan’s heroics was all about: buttering Allin up so that he’ll accept a dangerous assignment into enemy territory. Hmmm, I wonder if it will work.

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.)

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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.