Everyone Loves the Undead: Part One
There was a tinkle of glass as the pair of Neopets let themselves in through the street level window. The basement was unnaturally dark, even at night, but the thieves knew what they were looking for.
"I don't see how this one is going to work either, sir," the large, Grarrl shaped figure whispered.
The smaller figure, a Krawk who moved with a limp, paused in his search.
"The people of this city want problems to be solved, Mr. Black," the Krawk answered him. "By and large, they are capable of doing this entirely by themselves. But sometimes, they need a little push in the right direction."
"But this is dangerous, sir," Black protested.
The Krawk found what he was looking for, a small vial of liquid on the shelves.
"It would be if we were planning on using the thing, certainly," the Krawk considered.
"We're not going to?"
"Of course not!" the Krawk replied. "We're just going to remove it for a little while. That should be enough to get them talking."
The Krawk pocketed the vial.
"Sometimes it only takes apples to change the world, Mr. Black," the Krawk said. "But other times, it takes a retrovirus."
Robert Benn was an accountant.
To all appearances, the green Lupe had an average life in an average accountancy firm in an average area of Neopia Central.
By day, he crunched numbers. On the weekends, he went running in one of the city's parks. In fact, it was during a late night run on the Helm, to the west of the city, where his life was changed forever.
He ate healthily, socialised little, and generally kept himself to himself. He was hardly the type of person to get caught up in the riots that happened when Mr. Jennings disappeared and the city turned upon itself – which is exactly why he wasn't.
Or not exactly why.
Because that night, he left work early, before the sun began to set. He did so once every month, and being an average sort of employee, his boss had yet to notice.
He made his way back to the Helm that night, back to the scene where his life had changed forever six months earlier.
It wasn't technically a public park, but the hill on the outskirts of the city's Old Quarter had been the site of the city's first and only castle. A relic from the days when they still had a King. Partly out of respect, but also because it was so close to the graveyard, no one had bothered to build on it.
The ruins of the old castle still stood, after a fashion, on the Helm's peak. It was there that Robert went to. He sat down on one of the fallen turrets and carefully folded his shirt up, placing it by his side. There he waited as the sun set, and the night began. There were fires in the city. There would soon be explosions and anarchy. But Robert was much more focused on a more immediate problem.
He took a deep breath as the full moon came out from behind a cloud, and braced himself for the Change.
Because Robert Benn was an accountant. But he was also a Werelupe.
The Change, as such Werelupes call it, is a vicious, unforgiving process. It begins by stopping your heart and breaking your bones. They don't call it a curse for nothing.
The pain is almost unbearable, which was why Robert had collapsed onto all fours. But it's only almost unbearable. The Change takes Werelupes to the edge and keeps them there, never throwing them over even for an instant.
The bones crack back into new positions, making the Lupe a good three feet taller than it was previously.
Now the changes begin on the outside, the fur becoming ragged and dark, the brow becoming more pronounced and thick claws appearing at the end of the limbs.
At this point the body is almost finished, and the Werelupe's curse knows it. It's not stupid - it won't kill its host. So it restarts the heart and injects vast amounts of endorphins and testosterone into the blood stream.
It's this that creates the feral Werelupe. Without it, they would just be like the wild, but intelligent ones living in the Haunted Woods. But here, the painkillers flood the brain in such quantities that all trace of rational thought goes out of the window.
The process complete, the Werelupe howls to the moon, attempting to burn some of the excess energy that it will possess for the next twelve or so hours.
The riots continued around the Helm as the new Werelupe stalked his now familiar territory.
In the morning, Robert woke in the familiar spot on the castle.
He recovered his clothes from the castle ruins and turned to face the city. There were fires still burning on the horizon. A giant green pool in the business district. An ice floe melting in the port.
Whatever animal Robert had turned into the previous night, Neopia Central had faced one far worse.
It was barely two weeks later when the wizards from the Museum held a climactic battle with an all-powerful magical entity in the skies above the city. As a result, the magic from the green pool in the business district, the Gap as it had become known, had been drained. The former business owners in the area were invited back, and the process of rebuilding Neopia Central could at last begin. In the weeks that followed, plans were drawn up.
One such business owner was Arthur Munroe. The Chomby had, and still did in theory, own Neopia Central Insurance, Inc. The only problem being that the building had fallen to pieces in the explosion that had created the Gap.
Thankfully Munroe had not been in the building at the time. He was a zombie, and as such had the more pressing issue of an enraged mob chasing him to attend to at the time. Not that he had escaped unharmed, of course. Most zombies involved now sported vicious scars or missing limbs. Munroe's left arm was now largely useless, and hung limply by his side as he looked over the plans to rebuild the office.
Still, it could have been worse, he considered. He could have been the architect.
Thaddeus Oldnose had been a zombie as well, though he had fared less well during the riots than Munroe. His body had been damaged beyond any kind of repair. In most zombies, this simply resulted in their bodies returning to their deceased state while their soul went elsewhere. For whatever reason though, Oldnose was different. The Meerca had returned again, this time as a ghost. He was the first zombie ever to do so, and as such was being treated with a level of uncertainty by the remaining zombies.
"I followed your instructions, Mr. Munroe," the ghost stated glumly as he floated there. "It will be an exact reconstruction, following the original plans."
He gestured with one hand to the blueprints being held by Munroe's assistant, Mr. Jones. The zombie Skeith now walked with a serious shuffle, but had otherwise escaped the riots unscathed.
"How soon do you think we can get rebuilt?" Munroe asked.
"A few weeks before you will be able to have staff back in, I'm afraid," Oldnose answered, drifting about the plot. "Everyone is rebuilding, even the Defenders. Jobs that would have only taken days are taking so much longer now the trades are in so much demand. You probably won't be able to reopen to the public for at least a month."
Munroe sighed. "Well, that's the best we can hope for, I suppose."
He brightened slightly, adding, "There's a meeting of the Zombie Union tonight. I've booked Oddfellow's Hall. Seems like enough time has passed for us to gather again, I think."
"I'll be sure to be there." Oldnose nodded.
Munroe hesitated, having been speaking directly through the translucent ghost to his assistant, Jones.
"Err... yes, old boy," Munroe hastily replied. "We'll see you there."
The gothic carriage rattled along through the early morning streets of Neopia Central, heading through the cobbled alleyways of the Old Quarter. It came to a hasty stop outside a building that must have been a few centuries old, and the driver climbed down. Despite the relatively sunny morning, he took out a black umbrella, holding it over the carriage's door as the occupant climbed out. Despite the balaclava and thick black travelling coat, the Korbat still shielded himself from the sunlight as he quickly made towards the doorway of the building, his assistant keeping the umbrella above his head.
The Korbat delivered a swift knock, which was answered even more swiftly. The door opened and the Korbat disappeared inside, his assistant folding away the umbrella and standing guard outside.
Inside the balaclava and travelling coat were roughly cast aside, revealing a pale white Korbat in the candlelight of the house. Two fangs protruding from his mouth marked him as a vampire.
"This had better be good to risk a trip across town in the middle of the morning," the Korbat snapped at his host.
"Someone got out of the wrong side of their coffin this morning," the white Ogrin replied with a smirk. "You are usually so chirpy, Lord Craven."
"I am usually only awake at night," Craven replied acidly. "When I am safe, aha."
"You're inside now," the Ogrin said. "And trust me, what I have to show you is important."
The Ogrin flashed a smile, revealing a set of fangs which marked him as a victim of the same curse as Craven. The finely dressed Korbat noted the haphazardly dressed manner of the Ogrin, with his chemical stained lab coat and thick yellow rubber gloves. Such was typical of a vampire like Gabriel Frommholtz. He called himself a scientist. Society called him mad. The two had met in the middle and decided he was a mad scientist.
Frommholtz led Craven down into the building's cellar, the majority of the rooms on the ground floor having blackened windows and dust sheets over the furniture. Frommholtz rarely stepped above street level, the house had long since fallen into disrepair. The cellar was his real home – his laboratory.
The candles were perched all over the room, in every crevice and on every shelf, flooding the room with artificial light. Vampires may have been allergic to sunlight, but creatures like Frommholtz still needed light in order to work. Scientific equipment of dubious origin was scattered about the place, with tables filled with notes and bottles of strange chemicals.
"Well?" Craven demanded as they reached the bottom of the staircase.
Frommholtz pointed to the only window in the room. Right at the top near the ceiling, there was a small window at street level. The glass in one pane had been blacked out, while the other had been boarded up.
"Someone broke in last night," Frommholtz said.
"Where were you? Night time is hardly a time for a vampire to be sleeping, aha," Craven questioned.
"I was out collecting moss samples for an experiment I was looking to start," Frommholtz added. "I got back just before dawn to find this."
"Yes, they do seem to have made a mess of the place," Craven said, observing the chaotic appearance of the desks and shelves.
"No, that's always like that," Frommholtz said dismissively. "But something was stolen, something very specific."
He made his way over to one of the shelves and pointed dramatically to an empty space.
"Something important was stolen then, aha?" Craven asked.
Frommholtz's face was a picture of seriousness. "It could spell the end of Neopian civilisation."
To be continued...