Doctor Moebius – June 12
From New Babbage Department of Records and Archives
The Chronicles of Scottie Melnik - Doctor Moebius – June 12
((Posted by Scottie Melnik on June 12, 2010))
Last night I spun up the centrifuge yet again, growing a bit frustrated at the progress I wasn’t making. Calibrating the new centrifuge has been burning through my samples and I will need more soon. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and that it could take months or even years, but it just didn’t seem like I was getting anything accomplished. Reconstructing the centrifuge had been bad enough but getting it to separate the components of the samples without destroying them was taking its toll on my patience.
I stepped away from the lab table and poured a glass of absinthe to calm my nerves. I lay back on my chair and reminisced about the first time I had seen a centrifuge and discovered its purpose. Dr. Moebius had shown me his complete lab, far more advanced than the one I have now, but then he was a real expert.
But, as I often do when I recount things like this, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The tall, black clad man was leading me back into Madame LaStrange’s shop. Well, Mrs. McCallister’s shop, anyway. Having revealed her true name and the charlatan that she was he had yet to reveal his own. Not that I could have been bothered with those details as I was still seething with anger over the deception and the theft of my pocketbook. But even more devastating was that this woman had given me false hope, claiming to have contacted my dead mother.
He strode purposefully through the door of the shop with me in tow. Mrs. McCallister had been sitting in her chair once again when we entered. She looked from him to me and must have seen the rage in my eyes because her demeanor shifted from that calm, cool medium to a self-righteous and cold business woman. She eyed us both for a moment and then asked icily, “What do you want?”
The timbre of her voice had shifted from deep to almost shrill and she seemed to have lost that thick Romanian accent for a lighter Irish one. (I should note to anyone who gets their hands on my chronicles that I can’t write an accent to save my life. Maybe it’s just me, but they never quite sound right when I go back and reread them, if you know what I mean.) The dark man stood a couple meters back but leaned just a bit toward the woman, his voice still rather pleasant and patient, “Give the boy his pocketbook and we shall be on our way.”
She took a step back, nearly tripping and falling into her own chair. She caught herself just as he belted out, “Harold!” A rather crusty fellow emerged from the séance room but my eyes didn’t have time to take in more than that. They were suddenly glued to the shotgun he was holding, which was aimed directly at us
My new but as of yet unnamed friend put his arm back and pushed me directly behind him, shielding me from harm should Harold fire. I stammered quietly that I didn’t need the pocketbook that badly but he stood his ground. I couldn’t see around his face but I heard a sharp scream come from Mrs. McCallister. I took a step back just as my friend moved toward Harold with an eerie swiftness, still between the gun and myself so I couldn’t see exactly what was happening. What I could see was Mrs. McCallister, her face pale and her eyes and mouth wide open.
I took a quick side-step and witnessed Harold shrunk down next to the little round table under the gaze of the man. The man now had the shotgun and tossed it out of reach carelessly, I still couldn’t see his face but Harold was obviously very scared. Mrs. McCallister squeaked, “Here, take it!” and held out the pocketbook, producing it seemingly from nowhere.
The man looked at Harold for a few more moments and then turned his attention to Mrs. McCallister. I could see his face now but I wasn’t sure what had scared them so. He motioned her to me and she took care to give him wide berth as she scurried over to me. I took the pocketbook from her shaking hand and then she moved back into the corner of the room, her eyes glued to him the whole time.
The man smiled, bowing slightly, “Thank you, Mrs. McCallister. We shall be on our way.” He brushed past me, opening the door, “Come along, lad.” I hurried out the door, catching the man’s final remark to the shaking couple, “I’ll be watching you.”
The cool outside air was a welcomes relief compared to the cramped warmth of the shop. The man closed the door and approached me once again. I hesitated for a moment, sizing him up again. He didn’t seem that threatening and I couldn’t tell why the couple had been so utterly frightened of this man. I opened my mouth to ask him what had just happened when he motioned down the street, “Walk with me, I’ll tell you everything.”
Again I hesitated but we were standing right near the shop and my natural curiosity was getting the better of me. I nodded and we walked. He did most of the talking.
“Pardon my manners. I am Dr. Moebius. Well, that is what I go by these days, anyway. It’s not my real name, as I’m sure you can tell. It’s a moniker I picked up some time back and it’s grown on me. And your name, boy?”
He extended his hand as we walked. I took it in mind and shook it warmly. He had quite a grip. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, doctor. My name is Scottie Melnik, and could you please quit calling me boy? I haven’t been one for quite awhile now.”
He laughed heartily at that, “Oh, but you are merely a boy. However, I shall refrain from calling you such from now on. I must apologize for that scene in there, Mr. Melnik. I had meant to keep the situation civil but they forced my hand.”
I looked up to him as we walked side-by-side, still looking for what it was he might have, “What did you do? They were terrified of you! Are you concealing a weapon of some sort?” And then I remember the quickness with which he moved, almost otherworldly, “Or is there something else you’re concealing from me?”
He suddenly stopped on the street and looked at me. The abrupt stop caught me off guard and I had to backtrack a few steps. His eyes darted left and right, mine following his, surveying an empty street. He brought his gaze back to me and said slowly, carefully, “I was just getting to that. You asked me if magic and the supernatural is fake and my answer was no. Even in this age of scientific discovery the old ways survive. There those who truly commune with unseen forces and monsters moving in the dark. I, Mr. Melnik, am one of those monsters.”
He pulled back his lips slightly, displaying his teeth. They looked normal at first but then I noticed the canines growing longer. I took a step back as I realized what had terrified the McCallister’s so. I shook my head and then stepped back forward, studying him more closely. He appeared human in every way. I had heard of vampires and I was even sure I’d seen some but I had never actually met one firsthand. The doctor had been nothing but kind to me and had had plenty of opportunities to inflict harm upon me had he wished to do so. Aside from my initial surprise, I can’t say I was all that scared. My curiosity took hold once again and asked, “So you are a vampire. Why did you help me? What is it you want?”
He sighed, “I must admit I had an ulterior motive in helping you. I have been searching for a new… assistant in my work. I sensed a lost soul in you from the moment I watched you walk into that huckster’s shop. I was hoping to convince you to lend me a hand with my studies.”
I considered the doctor’s offer. I was both fascinated and a bit worried about what this man may be studying, and what he may need my help with. He didn’t know a thing about me aside from his ‘lost soul’ comment. He motioned for us to continue walking, saying, “We are but a few blocks from my lab. Come with me, look around, and ask your questions. We can make arrangements from there, if you’d like.”
I followed, my mind racing, wondering if this was such a good idea. On the one hand, he could have killed me the moment we met when he appeared from the alley. On the other hand he was a vampire! Weren’t humans like myself their food source? But for reasons I could not explain I felt at ease with this man.
We made a few turns on the dark New York streets, our pace almost leisurely and both of us quiet. Finally we approached a two story brick warehouse on the corner of the block. All of the windows were completely bricked over and there were no signs of life within. We passed the front entrance and went around to the side door. He pulled a key from his pocket and opened it, wishing for me to step through. I drew a breath and entered.
The brightness of the lighting hurt my eyes after having walked several blocks in the dark. They adjusted and I stared around in wonder. The room benches around the edges and they were littered with strange gizmos and sheets of paper strewn about. A large icebox stood in the corner of the room and next to it a door, presumably leading to the front of the warehouse.
The most impressive sight was the lone table in the middle of the room. This table was kept immaculate with a single closed notebook, several empty test tubes hanging perched on a rack, a microscope, and a strange machine I had never seen before.
The contraption consisted of an iron base secured firmly to the table. I cylinder arose from it and from that four clamps held four separate tubes. I pointed to it as I approached the table, “What is that?” The doctor shut the door and walked around me, simply flipping a switch on the machine. The base remained steady but cylinder began to spin, the tubes clamped to it rose to an angle on a hinge. I shook my head, “What’s it for?”
“It is a centrifuge, designed for separating the lighter elements of a liquid from the heavier elements. I built this one by hand from some schematics and firsthand knowledge of such machines. It’s quite useful for studying certain liquids.” And then he chuckled, “And for separating cream from milk if you like one or the other in your coffee…”
I nodded, my gaze still fixed upon the device as it spun. He flipped it off, breaking its hold upon me. I asked, “What liquids are you studying?”
He walked around the table to the icebox and pulled yet another key from his pocket, unlocking it. Since when were iceboxes locked? He opened the door and I soon discovered why this one was. Inside were three metal boxes with criss-crossing slats and while two were filled test tubes top one only had five left. The tubes were filled with a dark red substance.
“Is that… blood!?”
It had indeed been blood and he was running low of a certain type, sort of like I am now with my absinthe. I guess it’s time to replenish that stock too.