“What were you looking for, again?”
Veronika could tell when the subject was being changed. She took it before she annoyed Two any further.
“Microfiche of an article on Hammondsport, it’s supposed to be from, let’s see, from The Bellamy Gazette, really? From 1879 – June 14th, the morning edition. Ah.” She cleared her throat. “Sorry. I’m Veronika Bellamy.” She offered her hand.
Two shook it firmly. “Hi, Veronika. I’m Two, of course. The Gazette microfiche are this way. They don’t do two editions a day anymore, just one a week and that’s mostly online, just about 300 copies to really dedicated subscribers, but back in the day, you could get a lot of interesting stuff from the Gazette. I love reading the really old articles when I’ve got some free time.”
“That sounds amazing. You like it up here, then?”
“I do,” Two affirmed. “It’s a good department if you like old things and old technology. I have a Guterburg-style press downstairs. It’s amazing. Really hard to get type for these days, but we have a couple classes come through every year and practice on it. And then, of course, the ditto and mimeograph machines and – there’s a lot,” she concluded. “You can copy anything.”
Veronika raised her eyebrows. She could see the opening. Should she take it? “Anything?”
“Well, okay, our actual cloning department is off-site, and they’re having a hard time with some of it – I see that look. I’m not pulling your leg.”
“I don’t think you are, ” She protested. She hadn’t decided if this was an elaborate scam, and if so, what the goal of it was. Or, for that matter, exactly how she should react, whatever she decided. “So.” She matched Two’s smile as best she could. “Is there an original?”
Two chuckled. It gave the impression, without outright confirming, that Veronika had picked the right tack. “That, that is the sort of question you’ll have to wait until we know you a little better to get an answer to.”
“Is is that so?” There was something about the woman that made her relax. That might end up being a very bad thing, depending on how office politics worked around here, but she’d just have to be more careful not to forget herself. “Then I have one other question. Does Miss Haas know?”
She was rewarded with another chuckle, this one a little wry. “Miss Haas doesn’t care. As long as we only fill in one time sheet, she doesn’t have to worry about it. Paperwork. One time card, one employee.”
“How does that work out for you, then?” Veronika found herself perhaps a little too curious. “With – One mentioned you, herself obviously, and Four?
“There’s four of us,” Two confirmed. “And that’s two more questions, not one more,” she teased. “But I’ll answer it. Overtime. Lots and lots of overtime. If sometimes it adds up to more than 24 hours in a day, well considering how the Bellamy works, it’s no surprise that it’s time sheet system can handle that.”
“I see.” Veronika wasn’t entirely sure that she did, but she saw enough for the moment. “Thank you. I like understanding.”
“Well, you took a job at the Bellamy. You made it through the first half of the day. That’s a pretty good indicator that you like knowing things. If you didn’t,” Two admitted, “I’d be a little worried about you.”
It left an awkward silence, two which Veronika could only respond with a polite smile. She wasn’t even sure how one was supposed to go about answering something like that.
Fortunately, Two didn’t seem to have that problem. She plowed ahead as if she hadn’t just made Veronika a little confused. “So you’re here for microfiche, let’s see, let’s see.” She peered at the paper on Veronika’s cart. “You know,” she confided, “some people think of this is more of a personality test than a finding test, per se. After all, you only have to find to the departments. And, I know, that can be hard enough. It can get super tricky, especially with some of the more obscure departments. But it’s not like they make you pull these things yourself.”
“And I’m grateful for that,” Veronika answered smoothly. “I am. I think if I had to figure out every department’s filing system, I really would be here for a week before I managed to find everything on this list.”
“You’ll have it all eventually,” Two assured her. The smile the woman gave her was not at all reassuring. “But for now, this article from the Bellamy Gazette. That’s fun, because you get to learn about the Gazette while you’re learning about Reprography. Miss Haas is pretty good at these things.” Two tapped on a big metal file cabinet. “This is the Gazette from 1850 through 1900. Chronological order; if you see a card marked with red, those are special-event circumstances. Those can’t be taken out of Reprography without an escort — that’s me, One, or Three, not Four, or it could be Gilda Longcrest, but nobody’s seen her in years. So let’s hope that this one isn’t a red-card, mmmm?”
“Oh, I don’t know, I could use some company on this trip,” Veronika demurred. “You or Three could wander around laughing at my inability to find my way anywhere while escorting your red card.”
“That would be something, all right. We could really rack up the overtime that way! All right, here we go, you want this cabinet.”
Veronika had not handled microfiche since school. The thin cards of shrunken text on plastic had their own smell, their own feel. These felt slightly different — more durable, somehow, and with an aging-plastic smell she remembered only from the most ancient of archives.
She peeked at a couple out of curiosity — she could read the header even at 1% of original size, definitely the Bellamy Gazette, and the main headline, which said NEW BONES NEW BODIES. “Clever headline,” she murmured. “There’s a reader around here somewhere, I assume, and down wherever Miss Haas checks over this ‘test?”
“Oh, we have readers for everything. Microfilm, microfiche, slides, negatives, clay tablets, plaster castings, you name it.” Two handed her a hand magnifier. “This’ll do for what you want, though.”
The magnifier let her check the date — the new bones article was August, 1860. “Close.” She took a moment, but only.a brief moment, to read the beginning of the article.
The Bellamy’s Acquisitions Field Team B has done it again! The bones had not yet been processed for display, as they arrived just this morning, but the field team has brought in a complete Stegosaurus skeleton, as well as a very well-preserved egg, presumed to be from the same dinosaur.
This amazing find comes from the Eddleton — Carey Dig in West Beckdinham, and is notable not just for its completeness but for the location in which it was found — that is, with the very well-preserved bodies of the original Field Team A!
Oh dear! I believe the fate of Team A may be something of a warning… Well, Veronika is curious about things, I just hope not too curious.
Veronika combines her curiosity with a well-developed common sense and some good old no-nonsense initiative. Plus, she’s reasonably good with people. I think she’ll be fine, at least in the long run. 🙂
Very well-preserved bodies, huh? Just how long has Team A been missing for?
By what timeline?