After that, Veronika and Amanana talked about far less important matters. They discussed the artifacts that had recently come into Supernatural and the Occult, and Amanana talked about her time at the front desk. They chatted about the Fillion and people they both knew from there, and the very annoying Brain Display they had both been disappointed by in their own time – “I mean, there were brains, yes, but I expected it to be somehow – well, more” – and about the Live Acquisitions room.
“Are there – I mean – well, I mean-“
She shouldn’t have had trouble asking the question, but she did still hesitate.
Amanana’s smile was far too sympathetic. It made Veronika want to get defensive again.
But finally she made herself ask the question, since Amanana seemed content to wait.
“The Live Acquisitions. What sort of Acquisitions does the Bellamy get? I mean, I know dogs, but-”
“Oh, all sorts of things. There’s been horses and cats- most of the cats simply belong to the Archive now. They keep down a lot of other pests; it’s considered good form to carry a little kibble around with you and a dish for the cats, though they do well on water from the fountains-”
“Where do they pee?” The question slipped out as, horrified, Veronika pictured cats eliminating on priceless manuscripts.
“Usually in the courtyards. There’s a few boxes here and there for them, cleverly hidden. Cats know what’s good for them, and no intelligent cat would piss on anything important, here in the Bellamy. I mean, some of this stuff bites back.”
“Uggh.” Veronika wrinkled her nose. “But what about – what about Live Acquisitions?” she asked again.
“Not usually people, if that’s what you’re asking, or other sentient beings, though we did get a demon once. If you look closely, you’ll notice one of the cages has all the seals to hold in any sort of Hellish being – or out.” She made a face like she’d tasted something bad. Veronika’s eyes went back up to her horns. She could guess, but she wasn’t going to ask.
“Not usually people.” That, she felt fine asking. “So – what does the Bellamy do when they acquire a person?”
“Depends. If they have the skills appropriate to some part of the Bellamy, they get put to work. If they don’t… well, that’s rare. Usually people at least try to give donations they think will be useful. They’re not always right, of course – what people think an archive needs vs. what we actually need are some interesting lists – but most people try.”
Veronika put her head in her hands and said nothing for a while. She tried hard not to think, either. It did no good to give herself a break only to ruin it by panicking because she couldn’t stop considering the implications.
“I believe… I believe I am going to shelve that to consider on another day,” she declared after a few moments. “If that’s all right?”
“It is not only all right, it’s encouraged. There is only so much any one person can be asked to process in a single day. Have a little more of your snack,” Amanana added. “And a little more water. ”
“I’m going to be sloshing,” Veronika complained.
“Well, then it’s a good excuse to show you the facilities on the way to the skeleton wing, yes?” the woman winked at her. “The things I would suggest not putting off until the second day – or later – are, let’s see. The skeleton wing, of course. The ghosts, you did well with that. And the inconsistent geography, although it can be pinned down with some effort.
“I think, also, you need to accept that everyone here is more than a little eccentric, but it’s hard to act like that’s unusual. You’ve worked at the Fillion, and before that–?”
“Before that, I worked at our local archive-and-library, really more of a local museum with some books one could sign out. And there was school, of course, University and everything that comes before. And I worked for the family doing this and that.” The answer came out so smoothly that Veronika hadn’t realized she’d given Amanana her pat answer, the one for job interviews and nosy relatives who really needed to bugger off.
And, from the look on Amanana’s face, it hadn’t been exactly unobvious. “I see.” She sipped her water and watched Veronika’s face.
It only took her a moment to duck her head and huff. “I’m sorry. Our local archive is a very small deal, you know, a refurbished house, but my great-grandmother helped fund it- that one’s not a Bellamy, by the way, she’s a Weatherford – so it was easy to get me a job there. I started that when I was old enough to see over the counter, as a page, and stayed there on summers and holidays until I finished college.”
“So the Bellamy is your third job?”
She hesitated. It was certainly easy enough to say that.
“The Bellamy is my third archive position. The rest of it… I’d rather not talk about on my first day here.”
“I see.” Amanana smiled sympathetically. “Then say no more. We’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other. Assuming, that is, you’re planning on staying on?”
“If I make it through my first day? Of course I am!” Veronika gestured around. “This place may be insane. It may have tried to kill me already. But it’s the Bellamy. There’s no way I could leave without peeking in every nook and cranny and learning everything there is to know about it – well, a finite number of nooks, crannies, and secrets,” she hastened to add. “Not every one; I do hope to retire some day.”
“As do we all.” Amanana followed that slightly ominous-sounding statement with a chuckle. “The retirement package, I’m told, is amazing.”
“Oh?” She was pretty sure there was some sort of story there. She was also pretty sure Amanana wasn’t going to tell her the whole story.
“Well, I only know one archivist who’s retired. You know what they say, though, old archivists never die, they just get renewed.”
“I’d heard ‘they just lose their references,’” Veronika put in.
“Well, you’ve met Lady Knight-West. I imagine eventually we do lose our references, but it’ll take us quite a while. The retirement program – should any of us take it- hooks into some of the Bellamy’s, ahh, odder abilities -”
“Time travel, that sort of thing?” Veronika risked.
From the look on Amanana’s face, she’d actually surprised the woman for once.