Veronika considered being offended, or, at least, she thought about considering it, but there was something about the way Amanana laughed that said she meant no harm.
“Oh, oh, that is delightful,” she said, just when, despite her feelings, Veronika was about to actually consider getting offended. “That is such a beautiful way to put it. I believe I am going to write that down, if you don’t mind? If you ‘re okay with being quoted as saying that?”
The residual irritation faded. “I’m glad you liked it.” Veronika was smiling again. “Go ahead and quote me, if you’d like. I imagine I can’t be the only one to feel that way.”
“Well.” Amanana’s expression went to something slightly more serious. “Well, it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to someone new. I mean, ues, on occasion, there are new people still. But most of them don’t make it all that far anymore. You know, I’ve heard some of them don’t even make it past the front desk training?”
Veronika’s eyebrows lifted. “Seriously? How can someone not manage to make it through that? It’s – it’s a front desk. I mean, unless there are guests, patrons, who want to eat one as well.”
“Not often, at the very least. But there are, well, there are the donations. And some of our patrons, while not generally interested in eating the staff, can be, well. Interesting.” Amanana chuckled. “However, no, most of our attempted new hires make it at least to the second half of the day. And then, well. You’ve seen quite a bit already.”
“Yes.” Veronika smirked at Amanana. She wondered how many times the woman managed to complete sidetrack conversations. “Which leads me back to my question. Which is: what is this damn thing meant to be testing? It’s not just one’s ability to find one’s way around a place with illogical geography and possibly sentient elevators. Any good archive has some of that. It’s certainly not just the mundane ability to learn where things are. Which leads to: either a very cynical attempt to weed out staff who won’t survive, which does make me wonder what Miss Haas tells the staffing agencies. It can’t be ‘Oh, I’m sorry, our sunny window ate them.'”
“Would you believe Mariyam did try that once? Not the window, it was, ah. One of the skeletons. Of course the staffing agency didn’t believe her.”
“Mmm.” Veronika noted that and kept going, not letting herself get sidetracked again. “Or it’s a way to let a number of the department staff – such as you – meet the new candidate and opine on them.”
“You are clever.” Amanana lifted her teacup in salute to Veronika and took a long sip.
Veronika mirrored the movement.
“You are very good at making someone feel so good that they don’t notice your complete lack of answers,” she offered, trying to look as smiling and cheerful as the other woman.
“Oh!” That netted her an adorable pout. “You noticed, however.”
“I have been getting – mmm.” She considered how she wanted to phrase things and decided for honesty. “Increasingly irked. And while I am not irked at you, I’m hoping you might tell me something, even if that thing is ‘I unfortunately cannot tell you anything.'”
“Oh, but wouldn’t that be so annoying?” Amanana clucked. “I do try not to be annoying.” She steepled her fingers and considered Veronika over the tips. “Well, then, the short answer is ‘yes’ and the long answer is ‘no’ and I will indeed tell you a little more than that. First, while you said ‘weeding out,’ I do believe Mariyam does hope she can keep all her candidates alive. There are still at least three staffing agencies that won’t work with her anymore, though. She once resorted to sending me to convince one of the better agencies – now that was interesting.” Amanana high, light giggle invited Veronika to giggle along with her, and so she did.
“So it’s more spooking them? Don’t run off through the wrong door, that sort of thing?”
“Oh, you really have run into people giving all the wrong advice, I’m sorry. I mean, yes, of course, try to run through the front door, but you’re not really going to run, I don’t think. But yes, most – and I do mean most, almost all – potential staff to not make it through this first day. And I tell you this not to be depressing, but to explain how rare you are already.”
“I get the feeling I might want to be flattered by this.” Veronika considered her tea, considered the woman in front of her – definitely a woman, whatever else she might be – and considered her tea again. “I have a feeling that’s not quite how you mean it.”
“Well, let’s be honest.” Amanana tapped her fingers against each other. “If you make it through today, you will be out of out, say, a hundred. Maybe closer to five hundred, but I don’t think it’s gotten quite that high. The things you’ve mentioned to me already mean you’ve chosen not to run, not to quit, not to let yourself be taken in, by any number of things that have eliminated – a poor choice of words, perhaps, but far too apt as well – too many of your predecessors. So you wanted to know what the purpose of the test was.”
She picked up her own tea and sipped it slowly while Veronika waited, trying hard to be patient, trying not to scream, which would not at all be helpful. Then she nibbled on a little sandwich, before sipping yet a little more tea. And then, and only then, she smiled sadly at Veronika.Want more?