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Family Matters: The Society Book 4 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 30567

Updated: 2019-06-11 14:52


Chapter 11

Russell held the door open and Ivy stepped onto the smooth marble covering the atrium floor. 'If Hamilton just explained the issue on the phone I wouldn't be so worried, ' she thought as she continued inside. She noticed Russell looking around as though expecting an attack and realized she wasn't the only one worried about this meeting. Beside her, he felt tense enough to vibrate, like an overly tight wire in a wind storm.

'Better just get it over with, ' Ivy decided since she knew nothing she could say would calm either of them. Her feet made no sound as she crossed over to the security desk.

'My shoes aren't wet and squeaky from the snow and I didn't wear heels, ' she said, justifying the unnerving silence.

When dressing that morning she thought that Hamilton might call them to the office as soon as they arrived, but somehow she couldn't make herself wear office clothes. She took time with her hair and makeup and put on a nice blouse, but no matter how long she stared at the rest of her original ensemble she couldn't make herself put on either the thin slacks or skirt that matched the blouse or any of her slick soled dress shoes. Even the flats she packed looked like they would gain no purchase on the floor if something started chasing her. She instead chose shoes she could run in and added nice jeans. While the jeans weren't bullet proof, the material was thicker than the slacks and covered the entire leg, which the skirt didn't.

'And while there might be something with a gun down there, most things in the basement fight with claws and teeth.' The jeans might not be much protection, but they were the best she had. 'Besides I think Hamilton would frown on full out body armor.'

When they reached the security desk she noticed the guard was the same one she put on duty when she left. His name badge read Bert. He looked a lot like the maintenance golems. All of them were named Ted and wore the same janitor friendly coveralls and pleasant demeanor. While the previous guard was human, after his betrayal and death, the post was empty.

Since Ivy wasn't in a position to hire anyone to fill the spot, she asked Jane for a replacement. It turned out there were several golems built as security guards in storage, all named Bert, and one was dusted off and sent forward. She was certain there was something besides the clothing to separate the Berts from the Teds, but Ivy wasn't sure what it was and didn't know who to ask. In general, Ivy tried not to think about the golem storage too much as it seemed insanely creepy, like storage for life sized and very real looking dolls.

On her last visit, before things went haywire, Ivy cast a charm on herself that allowed her to see the magic binding the golem together. Despite time passing and doing nothing to recharge the charm, Ivy could still see the swirls of magic surrounding the guard and holding him together. The points where the bindings connected, and where he was most venerable, glowed a soft gold.

Ivy could see that there were fewer protections on him than Vlad and that he would be much easier to take apart. She tried to shake the thought from her head and ignore the softly glowing spots of gold. While she knew they weren't human, it still felt wrong to think about disintegrating him when he wasn't attacking her. It made her feel vaguely sociopathic.

'Either that charm was permanent or it is sticks around until it is removed, ' Ivy thought focusing on the spell instead of its effect.

Burt looked up from his desk at their approach and smiled warmly at Ivy. It was a far cry from the previous guard who scowled and made her feel as though she was already guilty of a crime, even if she didn't know what that crime happened to be. Even though she found it strange for the guard to seem so pleasant, Ivy smiled in return.

"Welcome back Dr. Chambers, " the guard said.

"Um…Thank you, " she replied, startled. She hadn't expected the guard to recognize her.

"Will you be going to the office or down to the archives today?" He asked as he held out the clipboard for her to sign in. Ivy picked up the pen and added her name to the visitors list, checking the clock on the wall to add the time.

"Upstairs for now, " she told him. "Possibly to the archives later, " she added not knowing what her trip entailed.

"Sounds good, Dr. Chambers, " He handed the clipboard to Russell who added his name and the time to it. "You let me know if you need assistance while on the premises."

"Thank you, " Ivy said.

The guard nodded and looked to Russell. While still looking pleasant, he didn't seem as welcoming as when he spoke to Ivy, which she found strange. As a council adjunct, Russell had far more reason to be in the building than she did. "Will you be joining Dr. Chambers or do you have business of your own to complete?"

"I will be joining her, " Russell replied. The guard nodded, accepting Russell's response.

"The elevators are located on the right, " The guard told them. "Have a nice day Dr. Chambers."

"You too Bert, " Ivy said as she stepped towards the elevators.

If anything his smile widened. Russell gave the guard a strange look, but kept his mouth shut as he followed Ivy to the elevators. Ivy decided to do the same. She pressed the elevator button as soon as it was in range. When the elevator dinged open they got inside. Bert was still smiling at them from the guard's desk. Ivy smiled back until the doors closed.

"That was a bit strange, " she said, her smile falling away.

"I never thought I'd miss Mr. Surly Guard, " Russell said.

"Maybe that's what Hamilton meant by malfunctioning, " Ivy said. "They are too… jovial…welcoming?" She thought about it as the elevator rose. "And familiar, " she added. "I don't think the other guard bothered to remember my name no matter how many times I came to the building."

"This one didn't bother with my name, " Russell pointed out.

"No, I guess he didn't." Nerves once again fluttered in her stomach.

"He barely even looked at me. Do you think we'll need to go into the archives?" Russell asked.

"I'm not sure, but I thought it smart to let the guard know it was a possibility. I didn't want him hunting us down because we went to the wrong floor."

Ivy had a brief mental flash of the smiling Bert hunting her through the darkened corridors of the archive level and shuttered. She was certain the smile would be extra creepy then and even more certain it would remain plastered on his face while he attacked. She tried to banish the thought from her brain.

"Besides, " she told Russell. "I need to return the files." She ran a hand along the strap of her laptop bag. "Which I left in the car, " she remembered. They were too bulky to fit in her laptop bag and she hadn't taken them into the apartment with her luggage which meant they were still stashed under a blanket in the back seat.

"Probably not a good idea to be carrying them now anyway, " Russell said. "He could use them as an excuse to get angry if something else is wrong that he can't yell at you for."

As Russell knew she requested the files and took them out of the building without permission from Hamilton, Ivy nodded in agreement. If something was wrong Hamilton couldn't actually blame her for, he could take issues with the files instead.

"Although it might be good for him to have a focused target, " she added.

"There is always later, " Russell said. "I'm sure you'll manage to irritate him at some point."

He grinned and she shook her head. "Are you saying I'm irritating?"

"Nope, " Russell said. "I'm saying mages are a touchy lot. It comes from all that sneaky behavior. It makes you constantly irritable."

Ivy rolled her eyes. "We're not sneaky. We just don't run directly at every problem attempting to bite its throat out." Despite her protests, Ivy knew that Russell was partially right. No matter what she did, there was always the possibility that Hamilton would become irritated with her before they managed to escape back to Wildwood.

'And I foolishly though that after being assigned to build Wildwood I would be allowed to work there, ' She thought as the elevator slowed to a stop.

Hopefully Hamilton's malfunction wouldn't take long. While the others could grow the plants and tend the animals, most of the products they produced came from Ivy's personal stash of spells. While others could replicate her actions, most of what she did required fire magic to work properly. At the moment they were caught up on the orders, but more were coming in everyday and if she didn't stay on top of them, their business venture could be buried before they truly launched it.

Ivy tried to put concerns from home away in the back of her mind in a box marked later. It was harder than she thought it would be. 'Probably because it is more comfortable to think about than whatever Hamilton wants.' Deadlines she was used to dealing with. Malfunctioning golems, not so much. The elevator doors dinged open and they stepped out into the main front office.

While Jane's rece

med.

'I am not staging any sort of coup, ' she thought and hoped she radiated earnestness at her clan head.

While she didn't think Hamilton was a terribly bad person, even if she would never consider him a friend, she knew he did not share or relinquish either power or authority. Hamilton worked his way to the top as far as politics went in The Society and he wasn't going to step back. Having spent just a few hours feeling a fraction of that responsibility, Ivy thought he was welcome to it. She also thought anyone who wanted the job, let alone wanted it enough to fight for it was probably insane.

Ivy was startled from her contemplation of Hamilton's sanity by Russell leaning forward. "Do you think someone tampered with them, the way they tampered with Vlad?" Russell asked.

Ivy jumped slightly in reaction to his question. Even if she hadn't admitted it, even to herself, when Hamilton mentioned malfunctioning golems, her thoughts immediately went to Vlad. A change of clothes and a pleasant attitude was a far cry from hunting her in order to kill her though.

"That doesn't make sense, " she said. She shook her head. Russell and Hamilton both looked at her.

"It's happened before, " Russell said. "I know you don't want to think about it…"

Ivy waved away his sympathetic tone with an impatient gesture. "Getting a golem to defy Hamilton's wardrobe choices would be a practice. Something you would see if you could do before you tried something big, like forcing an archival guard to leave its post and go on the attack. It's not something you would do after you managed to manipulate Vlad. It would be going backwards or deciding to attempt something subtle, which doesn't seem like the person who manipulated Vlad. There was nothing subtle about that."

"She is right, " Hamilton said. The set of his shoulders relaxed slightly and Ivy guessed that had been on his list of nightmares lately as well.

"Of course, " Ivy was forced to concede. "It could be a different person."

"Which would make this a preliminary to a larger attack, " Hamilton said. He nodded to himself.

"How many people do you think are attacking?" Russell asked. The tone was lightly amused, but she could see the worry in his face.

"Well, we don't know if the person who changed my files and attacked my assistant is the same one who sent Vlad after me, " Ivy said. "It could be, but it doesn't have to be."

"The attack on your assigned assistant was rather crude when compared to the manipulation of the archival guard, " Hamilton said. "It is entirely possible there are two separate ...minds at work."

Ivy was fairly certain he didn't want to say either groups or factions, as that would imply a greater number of people involved. One rogue could be hunted down, a movement would be harder to end. As she was hoping there weren't any people left to be involved, she couldn't really complain.

"Don't golems have to report in?" Russell asked. His eyes narrowed as though he was trying to recall a distant memory. "The receptionist on the Shifter Clan floor reports to Hackett and when he asks the Shifter archival guards for a report, they give them. Can't you just ask your receptionist to report and have her tell you who she has had contact with since she began…malfunctioning?"

Hamilton shook his head and snorted a laugh. "Typical wolf approach. Confront the problem head on. Run straight at it and snap it with sharp teeth."

Ivy frowned, even though she said much the same thing to Russell in the elevator. From Hamilton, it irritated her. "While that is their style, wouldn't it work in this case?" Ivy asked.

"Defending your husband's honor?" Hamilton asked.

"Just being logical, " Ivy replied before Russell could open his mouth. "Asking Jane to report would be a logical step. Even if she didn't tell you who…adjusted her programing because she couldn't, then the gaps should be able to tell you something. I would think that you could program the golem not to say something, but would someone give them a false report to file? Can they be told to lie?" She didn't think programing a golem was exactly like running a computer program, but she was more familiar with that terminology than the terms the earth mages used and it seemed appropriate.

"No, " Hamilton replied. "They can't be told to lie. They can't make up anything. If they were told not to say something, it would simply be a gap in their recitation."

"Which would tell you something, " Ivy said.

"It would, " Hamilton answered. He didn't look happy.

"So wolf logic isn't that bad in this instance?" Ivy said.

"No, " Hamilton replied. "The logic is sound. It just didn't work."

"You tried it?" Ivy asked.

Hamilton pressed his lips together forming a tight hard line and for a moment Ivy thought he wasn't going to answer. "Yes, " he finally spat out. "It was…ineffectual."

"Ineffectual?" Ivy repeated.

Hamilton sighed heavily. "Perhaps it would be best to show you." He stood up and motioned for Ivy and Russell to remain where they sat. "I'll bring her in and you will see what I mean." He looked at the two of them, his eyes shifting from Ivy to Russell and then back again. "Normally I would ask you to leave as this is Mage Clan business and a …dysfunction of this sort could cause wider issues, especially now. I know I don't need to tell you that at this time in particular we can ill afford those issues. Given recent events I can understand why you would wish to remain by your wife's side, but I trust this will remain confidential?"

"As long as it doesn't affect the pack or my clan, " Russell answered.

Hamilton appeared to be thinking it over. "It shouldn't, " he decided. "Or if it does it is because the golems utilized by the Shifters have similar problems and will need to be dealt with in a fashion similar to how this is handled."

"I can keep this confidential then, unless it becomes an issue for us, " Russell said.

Hamilton nodded. "Wait here then. I will make sure things are settled then bring the golem in."

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