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. You can reach an individual part of the story by browsing the Table of Contents.
At the end of Part 27, Allin caught Tyena having a heated argument with a Pudlington Guardsman. He was yelling at her about delays and lives being at stake. He fled when Allin arrived and Tyena said he was the messenger for a rich client. Allin told her he knew she was lying.
The Only City Left: Part 28
Tyena opened her mouth to answer me but no words came out. Rather than give her time to create a better story, I barreled ahead.
“I know what’s really going on,” I told her. I had suspected it for a while, but the presence of the guard confirmed it. “Did you guys think I was too stupid to figure it out?”
“Allin, no, you don’t understand,” she protested.
“I understand. Banshee knew I might say no, so he held you in check. Then sure enough, I tell him I’m leaving and who shows up in my room but you?” I asked rhetorically while pacing back and forth. I had anger and energy to burn, and it all came out in one torrent that didn’t allow Tyena to get a word in. “Your job was to what, keep reminding me that your family might be alive, until I felt bad enough to try to save them, to go on Banshee’s mission? Even though it’s more likely I’d die than be able to kill Doyle?”
Tyena stared at me, eyes wide, throughout my tirade. Only the tears pooling in the corners of her eyes slowed me down.
Words and tears spilled out of her simultaneously.
“He, he, Banshee told me I had to convince you to go,” she gasped out between sobs. “That if you wouldn’t do it, he’d exile us both.”
I cursed Banshee for his villainy and myself for being fool enough to trust him for this long.
“Let him exile us,” I said. “I don’t need Pudlington to be happy. And neither do you! Come with me, Tyena. We can find the Roof of the World together, feel real sunlight on our skin!”
“You’re not mad at me?”
“No, it’s not your fault that Banshee put you in an impossible situation. Will you come with me?”
Tyena wrapped herself around me, cried “Yes!” and kissed me. This was no peck on the cheek and there were no cats nearby to make me feel awkward.
Minutes later, we forced ourselves apart. Tyena looked happier than I had seen her in days, and I finally felt like I was doing the right thing. Banshee’s heavy-handedness had given me the freedom to choose my path without regrets.
“When are we leaving?” Tyena asked.
“Right now?” I answered, still in a daze.
Tyena made a face and looked all around her. “You’ve got to give me a little time to get some of my belongings together,” she insisted. “And don’t you have anything you need to do before we go?”
She was right. All my gadgets and my cocoon bag were still down in the Skunkworks.
“Okay, yeah. Meet back here in… two hours?”
“Perfect,” she agreed, and pulled me in for another long kiss. “See you then.”
“Yeah, perfect,” I repeated airily as she walked deeper into her loft.
I traced my path back to the exit, the dumb grin on my face transforming into a grimace as I made my way. Getting into the Skunkworks meant dealing with Tumble again, and I wasn’t exactly in the mood to deal with Banshee’s lapcat at the moment.
I didn’t really know what Tumble got up to when he wasn’t baby-sitting me, but with the help of some friendly cats I was able to track him down.
I found him leading a class of a dozen or so kittens in some sort of martial arts training, and when I arrived he nodded for me to wait at the back of the room.
He must have been near the end of the class already, because soon enough the kittens were bowing to him, he bowed back, and the kittens broke into raucous play, pitting their newly-learned skills against one another.
“Karate?” I asked when Tumble made his way over.
“Aikido,” he corrected. “A way to be one with the universe.”
I looked past him at kittens flinging each other around and giggling, and skeptically said, “Uh huh.”
“I thought you would be spending the rest of the day with Miss Branch,” he continued. “Is anything the matter?”
“No, things are great,” I answered. “But I want to get my things out of the ’Works. Will you take me?”
“If you want, I can have them sent up to you,” Tumble offered.
I wouldn’t get to say goodbye to Professor Copper, but if it meant less time with Tumble, all the better. I accepted.
“Have it sent to Tyena’s place,” I ordered, and turned around to leave.
“Allin, please wait,” Tumble requested softly.
I stopped, facing away from him, arms held stiffly at my side.
“Were you planning on saying goodbye?” he asked.
I rounded on Tumble and pointed at him accusingly.
“I don’t know. Were you a part of it?”
“A part of what?”
“Banshee’s plan to manipulate me into walking into the Garden.”
“I warned him not to push too hard,” Tumble whispered as if talking to himself. Louder, “The choice was always yours, Allin. Emperor Banshee merely wanted to help you see the necessity of his plan.”
I sneered. “By threatening to kick Tyena out unless she convinced me to go along?”
“Is that what you—?” Tumble started to ask.
He sighed and turned to watch his students, his hands clasped behind his back. He observed them for a while without speaking, and I was about to give up and leave when he spoke again.
“Allin, I was hoping you would have seen it on your own, but love is too powerful, I suppose, and can blind us all.”
I stepped up beside him and asked, “What are you talking about?”
He looked up and gestured for me to kneel, which I reluctantly did.
What’s going on here? I wondered.
He placed his hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes.
“There’s something you need to know before you go running off with Tyena. Yes, the Emperor asked her if she would help you see the importance of the mission, but he didn’t threaten her. She agreed to the plan gladly, for her own reasons.”
I could feel blood coursing through my temples, and my brain slowed down time as if to prevent Tumble from finishing his thought.
“You see, Allin, Tyena is a spy for Doyle, and has been ever since she arrived here.”
* * *
Continue to Part 29.
8/26/12 News: While this ending may not come as a surprise to you, it never fails to bring a smile to my face and produce a dun-dun-dunnnnnnn sound effect in my head.
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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.