Everyone Loves the Undead: Part Five
Dr. Franks was a very unique doctor who lived in the Old Quarter of Neopia Central. He was unique in that he operated mainly on the undead, specialising in healthcare for those who the regular Hospital at Bracegirdle Yard had turned away.
He was also unique in that he operated on himself. Regularly.
The Halloween Kacheek was, in theory, some sort of zombie, though he wouldn't really consider himself such. There were rumours he had been an experiment, a creation of an insane scientist trying to create the perfect doctor. He had long ago begun the practice of grafting on new limbs to his body whenever the old ones stopped working. Such was the doctor's age that it was impossible to say if any part of his body was part of the original, but few dared to ask such questions.
His clinic was a dilapidated home not far from Oddfellow's Hall, and it was Robert's destination.
"How can I help you?" Dr. Franks asked as he sat down behind his desk.
Robert's eyes had drifted to the Kacheek's arm, where part of his hand had come away.
"Oh!" Franks said, noticing the problem. "Do excuse me."
He hastily took up a needle and thread and sewed the hand back into place.
"I don't like to fall to pieces in front of patients," he added.
Robert didn't appear to get the joke, still mildly horrified at the doctor's patchwork appearance, so Franks let it pass.
"I'm a Werelupe," Robert said at last. "A lunar Werelupe, that is."
"Ah," Franks said with a smile. "I can give you a few good tips, of course. You'll need to find yourself somewhere safe to transform. Don't be tempted to use a cellar, Werelupes need space when they change..."
"No," Robert interrupted him. "I've been a Werelupe for a few months now, I know all the ground rules. I have a spot to transform up on the Helm."
"Oh," Franks said with interest. "Then how can I help? If you are looking for a cure, I should warn you that there isn't one."
"I transformed last night," Robert said. "That makes it two nights in a row."
This seemed to genuinely pique the doctor's interest.
"I take it that this is not usual?" he enquired.
"No," Robert said. "I've spoken with other Werelupes – I was the only one who transformed last night."
"Interesting, interesting..." Franks considered. "Any dietary changes? Increased stress? Contracted any rare tropical diseases lately?"
"Not that I can think of," Robert said. "The only thing different is that this time during the full moon, I seemed to move out of my territory. I woke up somewhere new."
"Hmm... Werelupes tend to only move territory if they are threatened by a new predator," Franks considered. "But that alone wouldn't explain the extra changes. I am afraid I can't help you with this."
Robert let out a deep sigh.
"But, if you don't mind a short trip, I can put you on to a man who may be able to help," Franks added. "He's a vampire, something of an odd scientist, but he's often at the forefront of medical science for the undead. If nothing else, he will be interested in working with you to discover what makes you different – but with any luck he'll be able to revert you back to a normal Werelupe. If you head south on Fletchers Street, then turn right, you'll come across his laboratory. He goes by the name of Gabriel Frommholtz."
"Will he be... awake, during the day?" Robert asked. "I want this fixed by tonight, in case it happens again."
"Then you may have to wake him," Franks suggested. "Just try to do it without a stake in your hand. Vampires get funny about that sort of thing."
Oldnose drifted out of the Last Tango during the afternoon, though he could have easily stayed there for days – he'd found a new circle of friends who accepted who he now was, and he felt happy. Still, he did have work to do – the reconstruction of Neopia Central Insurance, Inc. would not happen without him to oversee the work. Even if Munroe, the company's head, had cast him out of the Zombie Union, Oldnose was still a professional.
As it turned out, the Last Tango was located below Trawler's Parade, a long street in the Docklands district that led from the port down to Grout Road, which led to the marketplace. The buildings on street level now gave no clues as to the ghostly tavern that lay below.
Oldnose drifted southwards towards the marketplace, and the construction site beyond. The few Neopets that he encountered on the street gave him a few odd looks, but nothing more.
He emerged into the marketplace expecting to meet the normal hustle and bustle that filled the area towards the end of the day as peddlers haggled the last of their goods. Instead, the place was strangely deserted, most of the stalls being abandoned, and what few customers there were seemed to be hastily running in the opposite direction.
A chill went down Oldnose's ethereal spine. The last time he had seen an area of the city like this, it was because there were riots happening elsewhere. But there were no fires on the horizon – and the threat of Mr. Jennings's disapproval was still present. No one would dare riot any longer. Something else had to be happening.
A Kyrii ran into view, darting down an alley next to the Soup Kitchen. Oldnose followed, calling after him.
"What's going on?"
The Kyrii turned, a look of fear in his face.
"You've got to run!" he gasped, out of breath. "They're coming!"
Who 'they' were was hardly a question Oldnose had to ponder for long. A shadow darkened the entrance to the alley as a hulked, mutated figure appeared. His eyes glowed red as he approached, and the Kyrii scrambled to run. The creature saw that his prey was moving and launched into a great bound, closing the distance between the two almost instantly and pouncing on the Kyrii. The Neopet let out a brief scream before Oldnose interrupted the monster's work.
"What do you think you're doing!?"
The creature broke off from his attack, though the Kyrii seemed to have already sustained a wound.
Oldnose could now see the attacker a little clearer – a caped Moehog. With some horror, Oldnose recognised the familiar cowl on his head. It was Judge Hog, somehow mutated. His eyes gleamed evil and he rushed forwards at Oldnose. Instinctively, the Meerca cowered, forgetting he was a ghost.
Judge Hog passed straight through Oldnose, hitting the wall of the alley behind him.
"Go!" Oldnose called to the Kyrii. "I'll distract him!"
But the Kyrii on the floor had started convulsing, his body mutating and growing to equal the Judge's in size. Whatever had happened to the Judge was clearly repeating itself.
The Judge meanwhile had recovered and was now snarling cautiously at Oldnose, his interest in the Kyrii now apparently gone. With no other way of helping either, Oldnose drifted up into the air and away from them, heading west towards the Old District.
The afternoon was drawing to a close when Frommholtz finished his work. Craven had been sitting in the corner, catching up with some private work he had been neglecting during the events of the previous nights.
"I believe I have refined the serum," Frommholtz announced. "It should now restore enough of the Werelupe's cognitive faculties for him to follow directions when given them. Without a doubt, he'll hunt down the thief tonight."
"Good," Craven said, closing a ledger he had been working on. "I trust you also have a method of locating the Werelupe?"
Craven sighed, "He's unlikely to still be under the Bundak Bridge."
"Ah yes," Frommholtz said. "The tracking device I installed should still be functional."
A knocking at the front door above them interrupted the pair.
"Expecting visitors?" Craven asked.
"During daylight hours?" Frommholtz replied. "Certainly not. Probably just a salesman, I'll get rid of him."
Frommholtz climbed the stairs from his subterranean laboratory back to the ground floor of his home. He opened the door, shielding himself from the sun in the shadow behind it. Waiting outside was a green Lupe – Robert.
Frommholtz's mouth had dropped open, but thankfully the shadows concealed his face, so the Lupe did not notice.
"Gabriel Frommholtz?" Robert asked. "Dr. Franks suggested I come and see you. I have a problem."
Frommholtz finally breathed out – the Lupe had not discovered the vampire's experiments, as he had feared.
"Come inside," Frommholtz instructed.
Once the Lupe was safely within the threshold, Frommholtz closed the door and stepped out of the shadows.
"This is Lord Craven, a friend of mine," Frommholtz said, gesturing to the Korbat who had followed him up from the laboratory. "Azimuth, this man has a problem and believes I can help him."
"Really?" Craven said with mild amusement.
"I am a Werelupe," Robert announced.
"A Werelupe?" Frommholtz feigned ignorance. "I would never have guessed. But, whatever Dr. Franks told you, I do not possess a cure."
"That's not what I'm looking for," Robert explained. "Last night was not a full moon, yet I transformed. That's two nights in a row, and I don't know why. I hoped you might be able to stop it happening again tonight."
"Transforming more often, you say?" Craven interrupted. "Why, Gabriel and I were just discussing a problem which sounds quite similar. We may be able to help each other."
"What?" Frommholtz said.
Craven swiftly grabbed Frommholtz by the arm and escorted him to the vampire's abandoned front room.
"What are you doing?" Frommholtz whispered.
"You said the job would be easier if you awoke part of the Werelupe's conscious mind," Craven whispered back. "Imagine how much easier if it was fully awoken, if he was in control of his actions while he became the beast. We need only tell him that the thief we seek is the one who altered his curse. He will be our willing pawn."
Frommholtz gave a little smirk. "Alright then."
The pair returned to the corridor and the nonplussed Robert.
"If you will follow me to my laboratory, I will explain," Frommholtz said, leading Robert downwards. "I have been developing variants on the Werelupe virus – purely scientific, not for any nefarious purpose, you understand. A few nights ago, someone broke into my laboratory and stole one such experiment. It was a virus designed to mimic the Werelupe curse, but every night at nightfall."
"I have been infected with this?" Robert asked.
"I believe so," Frommholtz lied with an experienced air. "We have been attempting to locate the thief, and stop him or her, to avoid just the predicament you now find yourself in. I believe in time I will be able to synthesise a serum to restore you back to a normal Werelupe, but first, we must find the thief and stop them from infecting any others. Sadly there is where we hit a brick wall, but you may be able to help us."
"You will transform into a Werelupe tonight," Frommholtz told him. "During that phase your senses will be heightened, and you will be able to track the scent of the thief across the city. I can infect you with another virus I have developed – one that will allow you to retain your rational mind during the transformation. With your permission, we will use you to find our thief and bring them to justice before they can harm anyone else. Do you agree?"
"Of course!" Robert said.
"Good," Craven said with a smile. "Then, let's get to work."
To be continued...