A small shop on an unremarkable side street…
The chimes hanging on the door tinkle as it opens.
“Be right with you!”, called a voice from the back of the store. “I’m in the middle of a pour, just be a tick.”
The newly-arrived patron walked up to the counter, and drummed his fingers on it for a minute or two.
The shopkeeper brushed aside the curtain, and smiled widely. “Now then, what can I…I…”
The smile faded. “You!”, he esclaimed, taking a step back. “Obolensky!”.
“So gratifying to be recognized, despite my current bedraggled appearance.”, replied the villain. brushing disdainfully at his stained jacket. “I’ve come for my trunk, Herr Unbekannt, and be snappy about it, I have no wish to be cursed with this sartorial nightmare for another moment.”
Herr Unbekannt shrunk back against the shelving. “Y-you look quite well, Doctor, considering. B-but….I no longer have your trunk.”
Obolensky’s gleaming metal hand slammed down hard onto the heavy wooden counter, the cracking the top in two. “What? How….*dare* you? I gave you very *specific* instructions, and very *specific* consequences of disobeying me, Unbekannt. Did you think a little thing like death would keep me from returning for what is mine?!”.
The shopkeeper flinched. “N-no Doctor, I would never, I would never! I followed your instructions to the letter!”.
Obolensky let out an exasperated sigh. “Obviously, you are lying, because I *told* you to hold onto that trunk until *I* came back for it!”
Unbekannt nodded repeatedly. “Of course, of course! I hid it away, as you instructed, never looked into it, as you instructed….and…”, the shopkeeper swallowed. “And I gave it back to you, when you came to me last year, Doctor.”
The villain’s right eyebrow raised. “*I* came for my trunk?”
Unbekannt nodded again, empatically. “It was a…less subtle you, but definitely you, Doctor. A mechanical body, with no physical head, but some sort of projection. But it was definitely you!”
Obolensky muttered under his breath. “It’s that cursed future me again. Why would he need to steal *my* suits?”
The shopkeeper cleared his throat. “He didn’t take your suits, Doctor. He just took a bag of gemstones and the wine bottles. It was your ghost that took your suits.”
“My….ghost?”, asked Obolensky. He rubbed his temple, causing his entire face to shift back and forth. “There is no such thing as ghosts, Unbekannt.”
“Well, of course not, Doctor. Of course not…it was just…well, it was you, and I could see through you, and you just sort of floated about, flickering, so you could see how I….”, stammered the shopkeeper.
“So…a whole-body projection of some sort….I *was* working on something like that, it would have been considerably cheaper than my mechanical doubles….but I…wait a moment, why would a projection come for my suits?”
“Well, he *was* rather….underdressed.”, replied Unbekannt.
Obolensky grimaced. “That makes no….no, nevermind, I don’t want to know. So, you’re saying only the cash and sundries are left? Not a total loss, at least, just….”
The shopkeeper raised his hand.
Grimacing, the villain paused. “What?”.
Unbekannt swallowd. “Well, the *third* you took the cash, and the fourth one took everything else….well, except for this.” He reached under the counter, and pulled out a round tin labelled “Space Prince Premium Coal Black Shoe Polish and Moustache Wax’, before offering it to the doctor.
“There are *four* of those idiot decoy Obolenskys running around Babbage?!”, exclaimed the mechanical Obolensky, snatching the tin from the shopkeeper’s hand.
“Well….I don’t *think* so.”, replied Unbekannt. “I mean, nobody’s seen the projector-head you since then, and the ghost…the projection, I mean, we had an exorci…I mean, it just disappeared. An’ the third one hijacked a moon rocket… and the fourth one turned out to be a couple urchins, one of them standing on the other’s shoulders…”
Obolensky sighed. “Idiots….Well, at least I’ll be able to get my moustache back in order. Unbekannt!”
“Y-yes, Doctor?”, replied the shopkeeper.
“Remind me to destroy all you hold dear, once I’ve re-established my lair, and come up with a suitably inventive method.”, said the villain, turning on his heel and striding out of the shop.