Orphic Phantasia

13: A Scientific Investigation

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“You can’t just—this is—this place is an important historical relic!”

“If this is a relic, what the hell are you?” Lysander jabbed Chris’s stomach with a podgy finger. “But relax, already. I haven’t done anything. I was just having a browse, like Randy Man there.”

Lance had only just noticed their guest. “Hey, little dude! You having fun? Where’s Ange?”

“He’s looking for someplace.”

“Someplace?” Chris crossed his arms. ‘Someplace’ sounded like trouble.

“Yeah, someplace. Got a problem with that? Worried it might ruin your archaeological expedition?” He looked on the verge of hysterics, but then Lysander Goodfellow always looked on the verge of hysterics—and most of them at Chris’s expense.

“I’d be more worried about the repercussions of breaking and entering if I were you,” Chris offered. “You never know where the Sophist Aristocracy might be hiding.”

Lysander shrugged. He’d never been one for authority, even when that authority had his best interests at heart. “What’re they gonna do? Arrest me? I’m pretty sure you could wrangle me outta that, right? Anyway,” he tapped his ear, “sounds like Ange is ready to rumble. See you geeks later.”

Before Chris could protest, the imp scuttled out of sight, cackling all the way.

“Shenanigans,” said Lance.

“Which means we’ve got a job to do,” said Chris. Lysander Goodfellow was, after all, his responsibility.

“C’mon, dude, they’re just kids. They’re not, like, thieves. No way will they break-and-enter.”

They found Lysander’s scooter parked outside a house a short walk from the illuminated estate. The front door was ajar.

“Maybe someone left the front door open on purpose,” offered Lance. “Then it’s not breaking and entering, right? That’s just accepting an unspoken invitation!”

Judging by the way the ash covered the hallway, Chris had to wonder if Lance was right. He cast his light into the gloom. The infiltration ran deep into the rooms beyond and even up the stairs. It was so thick in places that he could make out Lysander and Angelo’s footprints. He turned to the environmental controls by the front door.

They were dead. A house like this, he reasoned, shouldn’t be without power, even if its occupants had abandoned it some fourteen years ago. He made a mental note to check the power supply in the basement once he had dealt with the troublemakers.

He sent Lance to follow Angelo’s footprints, which led to the back of the house, while he cornered Lysander, who had gone upstairs. It was always easier to deal with him when there was no one else around. A short way up the stairs, however, and the layer of ash thinned out, taking the imp’s trail along with it. Thankfully, some quick hearing adjustments allowed Chris to track the sound of his rummaging around to a small bedroom.

“Where is the damned thing?” he was saying to himself. “Stupid diary.”

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You’d pretend you were a science fiction hero too, if your real job was babysitting.