Veronika found herself pressed against the wall in the Much Smaller Elevator, just enough room to press an antique button for the fourth floor. She pressed it and took the three minutes the elevator took to climb a single story – maybe she should’ve tried the stairs again – studying the Very Small Elevator.
The paneling was old and, in few places, dinged deeply, but the trim was still in good shape and the little bits of brasswork, including two brass sconces which made the space even smaller, was bright and beautiful. The floor looked like marble, and the ceiling, which was surprisingly high for the tiny size of the elevator, was arched and embossed in a pattern that looked like fleur-des-lis.
There were numbers one through ten and B, G, S, and U on the button pad, far more than the Bellamy appeared to have – although she thought perhaps S was sub-basement, that didn’t tell her what U was.
At least there was nothing, as far as she could tell, moving on its own (other than as, say, an elevator was supposed to) or otherwise particularly strange about the elevator, other than that the lifts in this place appeared to believe that there were more floors than the architecture believed in.
She pushed her cart out as soon as the door dinged anyway – a minute was too long in such a cramped space – and looked around. To the left, she was in what seemed to be a non-public area, stacked with boxes, each of them labelled with what she thought was a name, a number, and something that in theory would have been a date
The boxes went up on thin metal shelving all the way to the ceiling – a surprising distance away – although she could see something like a catwalk perhaps 10 or 12 feet up. They were everywhere.
Veronika resisted the urge to peek into one. Not right now, at least. Maybe later? Maybe once she was sure she had the job here.
Forward were more boxes, although she could see sunlight – it looked as if it were coming through stained glass windows – somewhere in the distance.
And to the right was a curved wall with a curved door and a curved sign above the door which read Reprography. Below that – which was in very large text with an artistic drop shadow which had its own fainter drop shadow and so on – read, in slightly messy handwriting, “enter at your own risk.”
Well, that was this whole job, wasn’t it? She pushed the door open and pushed her cart through, mindful of pit traps, paint traps, pratfalls, or trip wires – some of the AV sorts she had known in previous jobs had been a little bit weird and had a bit of a strange sense of humor.
She walked into a room so ordinary she was momentarily disappointed. Neither lasted long. But for the first impression, she was looking at a desk made of old wood, a stack of projectors on rickety shelves behind, and a series of microfilm and microfiche readers set up with equally rickety chairs. Inside, you could barely see the curvature of the room, until you noticed that everything, including the counter and the chairs, was built to echo it.
A woman stepped up from behind the counter, her black hair in an untidy bun piled atop her head. She was wearing a black shirt with a grey speckled waistcoat, and her skin appeared speckled with black and white dots, as if she’d been spending too much time with toner, which perhaps she had. “Oh, you must be the new one. I heard someone told Clarice that someone told Diane that we had someone new and that she was part of the Bellamy.”
Veronika held out her hand. “Hi, Veronika Bellamy. I’m here doing the new-trainee finding mission, of course, and I’m looking for – “
“Hold on.” The woman shook her hand very quickly, something beyond perfunctorily. “I’m in the middle of putting a projector back together. Two!” she called off to the side. “New Girl’s here.”
Veronika waited, as had been suggested. The woman glanced back at her. “Two’ll be here in a moment. I’m One. If you run into Four, just, uh, be nice, all right? I think we’ve got her doing something with stacking boxes this week, but Three’s mostly been taking care of that. And you – you said you were Veronika Bellamy?”
“Yes, that’s me. As far as I’m aware, it’s a distant relation, if any. Though I haven’t traced my family tree.”
“Oh, don’t say that in Genealogy or you’ll be there for a month. You’ll know everything there is to know about your ancestry all the way back to the first cavewoman, though of course there weren’t really cavewomen, but they might find one down there anyway; they can find anything. But the trick is to not let them turn you into a skeleton while they dig up the skeletons in your closets.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Right, here’s Two. Two, she needs microfiche.”
Another woman walked from behind a stack of cabinets. At first glance, she was identical to One, including the lack of color. At second glance, she was a bit paler than One, even her blacks grayer, and her hair was, if anything, untidier.
Twins for the reproduction department? Clever, Veronika had just thought, when Two sighed.
Veronika blinked. “Get that enough that you can read it on faces, can you?”
“Get it enough that I can guess it when your face doesn’t show it.”
“Quadruplets, then?” One had said Three and Four as well.
“I don’t get that half as much. What were you looking for again?”Want more?