Veronika made herself stop reading. She glanced apologetically at Two. “It’s, ah—“
“I’m getting paid,” Two shrugged cheerfully. “The problem is, you want to finish this test before you’re old and grey. Look, 1860, you can come back to it. Or you could take it out, too?”
Veronika wavered. “I could…” She had her own magnifier, of course. Not because she’d ever walked off with microfilm or microfiche…. just for reading very small things which weren’t reduced to 1% of their original size….
“I’d better not,” she concluded. “I should try to be here a week before I start signing things out.”
“Oh, no, go home every night, even if it’s just your apartment on site! Don’t ever try to stay here a solid week — even we don’t do that, and we’ve got multiples!”
Veronika blinked. “I meant, have been working here for 5 business days?” How did this place work? Do people really—?”
“Mostly only acquisitions. Always trying to live up to Field Team A, you know.”
She glanced down at the microfiche. The well-preserved bodies of Field Team A. “I can, ah. Imagine. All right.” She slotted the card carefully back into place and kept flipping. She’d gotten to the right year and the right month, only to find a solid series of red-edged cards.
Two leaned over her shoulder. “That’s June 1879? Must’ve been an interesting month.”
“What, um. What constitutes a special-event circumstance?”
“Normally things like, ah, to be banal, coronation of a new King or Queen, maybe a major blizzard or tornado or typhoon in the area. Something like a major supernatural occurrence can be flagged, too, uh, the Whitehalgh Haunting Deaths? That’s definitely red-card territory. So’s the North Ntonrith Upon Chinwent Sinkholes and the Children of Keldwike Bridge.”
Veronika felt like she was being tested. She’d heard of the Whitehalgh Haunting Deaths, of course. She wracked her memory. “North Ntonrith Upon Chinwent Sinkholes — oh! That planned community just went slooorp into the ground — oh, no, did I really just say sloorp??”
“You did.” Two grinned so widely, Veronkia could see that her mouth, too, was greyish. Her teeth were very white indeed, however. “You did, and it’s beautiful. Don’t worry, you’re in Reprography. We’re not all buttoned-up here like in some departments.”
Veronika’s eyes unwillingly went to Two’s vest, which was very nicely buttoned, albeit a little splattered. Two snorted.
“Metaphorically. Also, if you caught us on a day where we were moving stuff around, a new delivery of something to be miniaturized, for instance, there would be no buttons to be found and all hands on deck.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. So, mmm, none of those were around 1879, although I’m not certain about the — oh! That was the feral children report. That was fairly recent. Well, in my lifetime, at least.”
“Very good.” Two snickered. “And even better, because you realized it was a quiz. No, none of those were in the 1800s at all, but I can’t think of anything in — oh. Oh, Mariyam, you bitch,” she whispered. “Oh, I remember. Here.” She hip-bumped Veronika out of the way; staring at Two’s suddenly-paler face, Veronika didn’t interfere. “Look, if you’re still here in a week, either the way we count things or the way you do, come back, and I’ll tell you about 1879. Mariyam’s being a little bitch with this one, though, and that is not what you need on your first day. That’s like making you handle live intake your first week here—“
“Well, I encountered Live Intake, but… there was just a dog down there.”
“Good. Good, the one time that Mariyam did that and it was more than dogs, the girl ran out the back door and we never heard from her again. If you’re going to bolt, by the way, use either the main front entrance or the one you came in. It just works better.”
“I’m not going to bolt.” Veronika nodded firmly, more reassuring herself than Two. “I — all right, I am not going to invite trouble and say ‘I can handle anything’.” She flushed; she’d been about to say just that. But she hadn’t, that was the point. “I think I can handle this. I handled Alice,” she added, feeling a little ridiculous.
“Oh, good for you. She’s chased off more than a few. And I bet you handled the Barbie section, which doesn’t really look ominous — “
“I did, and… yeah. Barbies are all well and good, but there was something—“ She frowned. She had no word for it, aside from supernatural or occult, and neither of those seemed proper. Not when those were probably just departments around here. “Something something about them,” she ended lamely. “And not like Alice,” she added.
“Ugh, exactly. I’m serious, it’s a good sign if you can handle Alice. I barely can, and I’ve been here — forever.” Two shuddered melodramatically. “I hate going to Ancient Acquisitions. Luckily, Ancient means there’s not much they have that counts for our department, though there was this one — okay. So. Here.” She pulled out a card — not red — and handed it to Veronika. “Tell Mariyam — okay, don’t tell Mariyam, I don’t want you to get in trouble, but that was shitty. That was top-level shitty, and she has done some pretty shitty stuff in her day.” She closed the cabinet and, though it hadn’t been locked when they got there, locked it. “All right, come on back to the Repo desk and we’ll aim you on to your next one. Also, I think we have some really good scones, and we didn’t let Four cook them. Actually,” Two added, wrinkling her nose, “Four is pretty good at cooking, it’s just the joke. Because she’s, mmm—“
“A little blurry?” Veronika hazarded. At this rate, she was going to be stark raving mad by the end of the day.
That was all right, though. She’d heard that was a good quality for some libraries and archives, and it was beginning to look like the Bellamy was on that list.
“Ha. Pretty much, yes.” Two wended through boxes and cabinets, leading Veronika past something labelled original type and three boxes labelled copyists’ desk, parts 1, 2, and three.
“So.” Two fished under the desk, nudging One over — side by side, you could see the differences in splatter patterns. “What’s next?”Want more?