We’re done discussing human remains for the time being!-
“You broke her. One, you broke her, and she was nice.”
“Oh, come off it, she was too nice to be real. If she’s a little broken, maybe she’ll be more -“
“More real? You’re saying that and you’re you and you’re saying that to me and-“
“Not broken,” Veronika interrupted. She was still crouched on the floor. She was still holding her face in both hands. She didn’t really want to move. She hadn’t really wanted to interrupt; the interaction between the two of them was fascinating. But – “I’m not broken.” That was important. “I’m angry, and I’m… understanding something, I suppose. And I’m angry.”
“You said that already.”
“No, she said it differently the second time, don’t you ever pay attention?”
Impossible to tell which was which without looking; they had the same voice. Veronika looked up. “Your voice copied better than your image.”
“You should see our livers,” Two quipped. “Thank Carlson, you’re not broken. Angry is – angry is good.”
“Why is angry good?” She felt like a fool, down on the floor. Slowly, Veronika unfolded back to her feet. She was surprised to find both Two and One taking an elbow and helping her up – up and away from the skeletons.
“Because,” One answered for her sister/copy/twin/duplicate/clone? “for one thing, it’s an active emotion. Or two emotions, I suppose. And for another, what is the quote? ‘If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention?’ I believe that second angry means that you’re paying attention, which speaks to your chances of survival here even more than you breaking the sunbeam’s grasp.”
Veronika looked between them. “You want me to… you want me to be angry, no. You want me to be paying attention. You want me to pay attention because you want me to survive.”
“Both. They feed into each other.” One nodded, a very bare smile crossing her lip. “If you’re the sort that pays attention, that’s good for the Bellamy. Sometimes, Miryam just hires people because they’re, well, because they have an archival skill. That’s great, of course, we’re an archive. But you need more than archival skill to survive the Bellamy, and,-“
“And the Bellamy needs more than archivists,” her sister/clone/duplicate picked up. “Bellamy needs, well.”
“More people like us,” One snorted. “And obviously, we can’t just…”
“Duplicate ourselves.” Two snorted identically. “Like we said. Our livers.”
“Your livers. Right.” Veronika straightened out. “You do realize that if you two happen to be putting me on about any of this, I am never bringing you any of our family wine. And that is actually a punishment.”
They shared a look. One nodded politely at Veronika. “Then it’s good we’re not putting you on. We’ve done that, of course, but not with people who, not with people who were handling things well, if that’s any consolation.”
“Not consolation,” Two corrected. “Because we haven’t done anything to her, except you were a little rude to her. More like reassurance.”
“I swear, I did not put a dictionary in the – anyway. We’re going to walk you to Supernatural and Occult. There aren’t that many more dangers this way, but, uh. I’d rather be sure. And then we can put in a word for you with Amanana. She’s, ah, interesting.”
“Interesting?” She glanced over to One. “You, you are saying someone is interesting.”
“Well, she is – she is interesting. She doesn’t run Supernatural and Occult all of the time – our department is one of the only ones that stays with the same people all the time, and that’s because nobody wants to deal with it but us.”
“Well, also because-” Two made a gesture that seemed to indicate something. Veronika could guess that it was because they were duplicates, but it could have meant that they were short, comparatively, or just smarter at technology, or had bad hearts. Veronika discovered that the idea of trying to figure out which just made her tired.
“Tch. Come on, I thought we agreed we wanted Veronika to stay.” One smacked Two on the shoulder. “Don’t be all mysterious and weird right now, save that for the tourists.”
Two sulked. Veronika didn’t bother to stifle a small giggle.
That, weirdly, made Two stop sulking. “I guess it’s a bit silly, isn’t it? You’ve already guessed it, or close enough. So Amanana, she likes reactions, so you don’t have to hide yours if you have one or anything, but just – well, if we tell you, she’ll be annoyed. Come on, this way. Oh, see this line of boxes?” Two turned a bit to point at a row of boxes that were painted with a red line. “That’s the safe point for the sunbeam… thing.”
Veronika blinked. “You just changed subjects three times in one breath,” she muttered. “Red line.” She looked over the line again. “Because you can’t put up a wall.”
“It gets aggressive.” Two made a face. “I know, I wish we’d get rid of the thing, too. Maybe now that I tell Miryam that it’s been eating people, eating trainees, well, no, of course not, we always knew it did that-“
“We tell her it tried to eat Miss Bellamy and she might think differently,” One countered. “Maybe we can shutter the damn thing or stick it in a ritual circle or something.”
“I wouldn’t want to be on the team that had to work with that. At least it’s not a reproduction,” Two added. They were walking Veronika through the passages of shelves of boxes, taking seemingly random turns. She wondered if she was meant to be distracted from the specifics or if this was yet another test.
She glanced at the boxes she was passing. Something about Pompeii. She caught her breath and glanced at Two. “An unsolved murder in Pompeii?” she murmured.
“Or something else unsolved,” One answered. “They’re not all murders. They’re not even all unsolved cases. Some of them are just storage. A lot of them are just storage.” She gave Veronika a strange look – strange even for her, as far as Veronika’s experience went. “Unsolved murders?”
Veronika flushed. “I don’t know where that came from. I honestly have no idea. I just looked at the boxes and thought – this time, not the first time – I thought unsolved murders.” She wrinkled her nose. “That’s not normally like me.”
“It’s not all that far off,” One admitted. “We didn’t pass the sign that said this part was unsolved crimes, but that’s where we are. I don’t think, ah. I don’t think it’s a bad sort of not normal,” she added considerately. “I think that you’re just getting a feel for the Bellamy. It talks to you – and that’s a good thing. The ones who stay for any length of time, it talks to all of us.”
“You realize -” she swallowed slowly. “You realize that’s what they say about the archives, and they don’t say it as a good thing? Be careful. You spend too much time in places like that and they start to talk to you. It gets under your skin.”
Her university advisor had told her that, actually. Twice, in slightly different wording, and then once in a very short form when do you want me to check up on you? To make sure that you’re still you?
Both One and Two were looking at her. “And what do you think?” One asked her quietly.
“I think – I think that if I turn left here, I’m going to be in the Supernatural department.” She looked between them. “And I think that the window won’t catch me again. But I still think you ought to get rid of it.”
“We,” Two corrected her, but she was doing something that was almost a smile. “We ought to get rid of it.”