“Alright, who took it?”
Four pairs of eyes turned to stare at him from their positions in the common room. They were sprawled out on the couch and in the armchairs, around a holographic television screen displaying a scene from a movie he didn’t recognise. He was never big on those, unlike Alexa.
“Took what?” Sophie asked.
“The encyclopedia,” Pi said, putting his hands on his hips. “I just went down to the vault and it wasn’t in the box.”
“Kitchen,” Axel said flatly, snatched the remote control from the arm of the sofa and cranked up the volume.
“I checked. It’s not there.”
He said nothing.
Wyland tore the remote out of Axel’s hands, and hit the mute button, causing the television to go silent.
“I’m gonna go paint,” Alexa said, standing up and heading for the doorway at the other end of the living room.
“And I’m going to get something to eat.” Sophie slid off the sofa, and slipped through a door into the kitchen.
Nash was still snoring, his tail draped on the rug.
“You lost an anomalous object?” Pi asked.
Axel rolled his eyes. “Actually, I’m about ninety-nine percent sure it’s still there and you just can’t find it, like the cheese grater when you thought David was torturing someone with it but turns out it was in the drawer.”
“Show me then.”
“With...pleasure.” Axel groaned as he got off the sofa, yawned and stretched his arms out and then went for the kitchen door.
Sophie was rummaging through the freezer, whistling to herself. Pi walked past her to the counter in the middle of the kitchen, and pointed at the lack of anything at all on the countertop. “Yeah?” Axel made face. “I put it right here.” He pointed at one of the corners of the granite top. “Didn’t move it, I swear.”
Pi’s hand hovered over the corner Axel had pointed to. “Actually, I’ve an idea. What if it’s invisible too?”
“Possible,” Sophie said, before biting into an apple.
Slowly, Pi moved his hand down, and onto where the book would be.
He touched nothing, except for the cold of the countertop, and a sticky fluid invisible against the granite. “What the…”
“Rufus,” Sophie said immediately. “Must be. You don’t think he…”
“Ate it?” Axel chuckled. “That bastard almost ate a box of magnums once. I’ll put my money on that.”
“Where...where’s Rufus?” Pi glanced around the kitchen.
“Danny was feeding him earlier,” Sophie said. She cracked open a can of cola. “Rufus is probably outside.”
“Pi,” Axel started, his face contorting into a frown. “What happens if someone eats an artifact?”
“I don’t know,” Pi said quietly. He burst through the door into the living room, and Wyland looked up at him. “Danny, where’s my dog?”
“Oh, uh…” Wyland furrowed his brow. “I let him out about ten minutes ago. Should come back tired.”
“Dammit,” Pi muttered, and hurried up the stairs just outside of the living room. It split at an intersection, but he kept going forwards, to heavy metal door. He pushed the handle down, and threw it open.
The sunlight blinded him momentarily, but as his eyes adjusted, a chill ran down his spine. Strewn among the hills outside, baking in the sun, were a dozen bodies of Klaxbeasts, their grey skin pale, almost colourless, all with their throats torn out.
And the brown-and-white fluffball that was Rufus the corgi was standing next to the closest body, ripping flesh from the open abdomen of a Klaxbeast and chowing down merrily.
Axel’s pistol came up out of the corner of Pi’s eye, and he quickly batted it aside. “What, you gonna shoot my dog now!?”
“Your dog just killed a shitload of animals!” He raised the gun again. “We don’t even know if it’s a dog!”
Pi blinked, and looked at Rufus, who looked back at him.
Then Rufus began to run straight towards them.
“Shoot him,” Pi said through gritted teeth.
Axel closed his left eye, and squeeze the trigger.
With a whimper, Rufus flopped limply onto the ground, lying askew on the grass. The slight twitches of his body told Pi he wasn’t dead yet - if it was really Rufus at all - and quite dazed from the shot.
“I’m sorry,” Axel said. “He might have killed us.”
“He still might,” Pi said, taking a step back.
Rufus quickly got up, and without any sign of a bullet wound or damage whatsoever, continued running towards them.
Axel fired off more shots, all making contact but doing nothing to Rufus aside from making him flinch. He screamed as the corgi leapt and tackled him off his feet...and began licking his face happily.
Pi took a few more steps back. “Okay, so maybe he’s not dangerous. Can’t be sure.” He grabbed the door to the bunker in the side of the hill. “Danny!” he shouted, his voice echoing down the corridor. “We’ve a little problem!”