Chapter 53: Soothsayer
Everyone who needed to fly to Washington (twenty-five wolves in Jake's pack plus a handful of puppies associated with them, thirteen wolves with imprints and puppies in Becky's, and the entire Golden Coven) fit onto the Volturi private airplane we appropriated, but just barely. Most of the puppies sat on laps, and many of the vampires stood in the aisle. We would shed a lot of our passengers in Washington, move on to Québec and drop off more, and then go to Florida with our standard operating crew. "We're going to be doing a lot of traveling for the next few months," my mother told me. "If you don't want to see all the buildings go up, we can drop you off in Québec..."
"No, I'll come along," I said. "It's a historical bunch of days."
I sat between Jake and Ashleigh, my ostensible guards for the day, although Jake had only put the twelve-year-old on duty because he was pretty sure we weren't going to be attacked on an airplane.
I slept on the way, and when I woke up, we had nearly landed.
It was rainy at the tiny Forks airport where we landed, so the vampires didn't need extra daywalking clothes. After we'd all disembarked, Pera hid everyone (including, grudgingly, my mom) so we could travel quickly. We went first to the Cullen family house, but then our primary construction workers (Benjamin, Emel, and Addy) took off with Becky's pack to get started on rebuilding La Push. Later they'd double back and scout out the intended capital site on the plot the Cullen family owned in town. (A lot of it was planned to go underground, so the original house would stay intact, but there was also enough acreage around the house that there could be outbuildings and the like.)
Since the capital wasn't going to unfold before our eyes immediately, a smaller group, consisting of me, my parents, Renata, and Jake split off. A second wolf guard was deemed unnecessary for the day as long as I stayed within range of Renata. The five of us unhid to drive into town in one of my dad's cars from the family garage.
My grandfather had no idea we were coming.
"Do you worry we're going to give him a heart attack?" Jake asked, as we turned onto the street; I'd never been to the neighborhood, but remembered it through my dad's memories among others. I fidgeted as we went up the street.
"Among other concerns," my mother murmured. "I don't think calling ahead would be much of an improvement in that department, though. This way we have a doctor on hand if he does come down with some sudden surprise-related malady." She gestured with her head at my father, in the passenger seat.
"You suppose he'll be home?" I asked. "He probably hasn't retired yet. He's only forty-eight." After a pause, it occurred to me, "Hey, you made your parents grandparents before they were forty-five. And you didn't even grow up as fast as me."
"I rule the world and I am allowed to be slightly hypocritical," said my mom loftily, although there was a hint of laughter in her voice. "Anyway, you're familiar with why you were born when you were instead of later, Elspeth. Are you in a hurry to have kids?"
"No," I said. "I'm not even sure who I'd have them with." Jake was the obvious candidate, but it wasn't like that with us and I hadn't been brought up in the environment Quil's imprint Claire had, to consider it automatic. I supposed there was plenty of time to figure things out later if and when the type of his affection changed, or mine did.
"Then there's no cause to complain, is there? Anyway, I think he'll be home at this hour, unless he's taken to working much later than he ever used to." She made a thoughtful clicking noise with her tongue. "Which is possible, depending on how he coped with, um, my death, and Billy's and Harry's... I wonder if we should have brought Harry along."
"I think he should be a separate surprise after Grandpa Charlie has gotten through the first one without dying of a heart attack," I opined.
"You're probably right." We pulled onto his street.
His police cruiser was in the driveway.
My mom cut speed and crawled up to the house, then finally shut the car off at the curb. "Now the question is who to put front and center when we knock on the door," she said.
"I'll go, if you want," I said. "It's sort of my job."
"Charlie's not exactly a member of the Public with whom we are Relating in a conventional matter," she said. "But sure. You can ring the bell." She opened her door and stepped out; everyone else followed suit. "He doesn't think you're necessarily dead, anyway; Carlisle told him you went missing, back when I found you in 2006, but Charlie hasn't gotten any followup information since."
"He might not recognize me," I said.
"I think he probably will," my mother said.
"For one thing, he knows what year it is," murmured Jake.
We reached the front step, and everyone else clustered behind me as I raised my hand and pushed the doorbell button.
"Just a minute!" called Charlie's voice from inside. He sounded tired. After a short wait, the door swung open.
"Hi," I said, trying to look friendly instead of apprehensive. Charlie appeared to have aged more than five years in five years, but other than gray peppering his temples and worry lines fanning out from the corners of his eyes, he looked like I remembered him through others' eyes. "Can I help y-"
He saw my parents, standing behind me and Jake.
He scrubbed at his eyes with his knuckles, and looked again, and I said, "I'm your granddaughter, Elspeth. Everything is a lot better than you thought it was. Can we come in?"
Charlie blinked at me, and looked at my mom and my dad, and did a double take at Jake. He spluttered something, then backed out of the way to let us by.
We all filed in and sat ourselves around the living room, except for Renata, who stood behind the sofa that held my parents and looked intently at the wallpaper. "Hi, Dad," my mom said softly after an awkward silence.
"Where were you?" he asked.
"All over the place," she said. "I was at La Push when it burned. They did try to kill me. But it turns out I'm more immortal than I thought."
"Then why...?" Charlie asked, but he couldn't complete the question, and just stared helplessly.
"If you'll let me," I murmured, and I started to tell the whole story, beginning with how my mom had survived and going on with where my dad was during this time, explaining how she found me and why she didn't contact anyone to let them know she was alive, what Jake and his fellow massacre escapees had done, and finally the series of thrillingly earthshaking events beginning the previous May. I mostly used words, but I did tentatively push across summaries of a few complicated background concepts, like mental footnotes, and I showed him images of some relevant faces.
Charlie listened with grave, rapt attention, although he did shoot an annoyed look at my mom when I related that he'd been kept in the dark for his own safety. She muttered, "It worked, didn't it?" under her breath, but I was pretty sure her dad didn't hear.
"So," said Charlie, when I'd gotten to the part that explained why we were in Forks, "to summarize all the things I've been misled about. My best friends' tribe wasn't wiped out, just mostly wiped out, with the survivors working for the enemy or going on a secret camping trip across the country with some girls they kidnapped -"
"I don't think the girls would agree with you," protested Jake.
"Claire Casey's a child, it doesn't matter if she thinks she was kidnapped," said Charlie, "that's not the law. Thea Singer -"
"Thea Parker," I said. "She married Darren. They have a son."
"Thea," said Charlie, "was also a minor at the time. Do you have any idea how long her parents forced her case to stay open after she disappeared? Refused to believe that she'd been on the rez, had all manner of unkind things to say about young Mr. Parker, thought something else had happened to her, and I guess they were right, weren't they? Emily Young was an adult, Kim Connweller and Maureen Keller had both squeaked over their sixteenth birthdays when they vanished, but legally speaking -"
"Legally speaking," my mother began, but Charlie cut her off with a sharp one-handed gesture.
"I did hear the part where you declared yourself queen of the world, Bells," he said, "and I suppose I can't stop you doing whatever you like, protecting whoever you want from legal consequences because there's some magic explanation, but I'm saying the Singers and the Caseys and the Youngs and the Kellers - no Connwellers left to complain, now - aren't likely to welcome your lot as heroes."
"Those girls would have died, or been taken to Volterra, if their wolves hadn't saved them," my mother said.
"They could've let their families know they were all right. You could've let your family know you were all right," Charlie said.
"I had no way to know if you were being watched or not," my mom said. "Would you have wanted me to risk alerting the Volturi to my survival so you could know about it? They had Alice, and there was a six-month period before I found Elspeth where I was easily visible to her - if they'd known I was alive they could have had a more thorough strike team on me in hours. Then I would be dead. Same with the girls, except the pack knew they were being chased and periodically attacked - giving the Volturi more incentive to use their families as bait would not have been helpful to anyone, because the wolves would not have let the imprints endanger themselves for their relatives, so the Volturi would have followed through on any relevant threats!"
"I'm sure you've got paragraphs and paragraphs of justifications," said Charlie, holding up a hand in a calming gesture, "and for all I know you're absolutely right and this was the best anybody could do under the circumstances. I'm not saying anybody should've contacted anybody else, necessarily. I guess all told I'm not angry about it, for myself. I'm saying you could've, and they could've, and none of you did, and this will annoy some folks."
"Fair enough," my mother sighed.
"Who's that?" Charlie asked, nodding in Renata's direction. Renata was observing the progress of a housefly along the baseboard.
"My bodyguard, Renata," my mom said. "I swiped her from the previous administration. I'm trying to get in the habit of keeping her around whether I think it's necessary or not. I have a different one too, who's on vacation at the moment."
"You do? Who?" I asked.
My mother looked at me, and sighed, and for a flicker of an instant I realized I knew the answer to the question, and then I decided it didn't matter. Charlie looked at us, appeared to conclude that this was some sort of inside joke, and let it lie. "Moving on in my summary to make sure I got it all," he said. "Bells, you weren't dead, you were just set on fire and they didn't double-check... Edward, you weren't dead, you were just captured and, er, stored, in Volterra... but Bells, you thought he was dead, and, you wandered around until you stumbled across Elspeth in a park in Michigan... you grabbed her without explaining to your in-laws because you didn't want anyone to know you were alive and you wanted your little girl... you ran around more or less at random bringing her up until you ran afoul of the Volturi's wolves in Iowa... Elspeth got picked up by Jake's pack and got imprinted on... Bells, you weren't recognized but got set on fire again..." He shuddered. "...and recovered and met up with Elspeth and Jake's pack in New York, but the hiding witch didn't let Elspeth out and wouldn't let you back in after your incident..." He went on with a summary in basically this vein, getting the key points right. He seemed vaguely suspicious of Jake, probably regarding the imprint just like my mom had been, but let it be (probably expecting that she'd have checked it out).
"That's about the size of it, yes," my mom said when he got to the part where we were on a tour of the world to build Golden Coven outposts at strategic locations around the globe and were putting one in Forks.
"Have you told Renée?" he asked.
My mom shook her head. "Florida's our stop right after Québec. We'll visit her then. Then Norway, and so on."
"Did it cross your mind to call ahead instead of turning up in Jacksonville to surprise her?" Charlie asked.
"Crossed my mind, yes, seemed clever, no," my mom said. "Especially since Renée knows even less than you did. She'd think it was a prank call, or maybe an escaped mental patient who sincerely believed some very weird things if Elspeth did the talking. Elsie's good at making herself believed, but doesn't outright force it."
Charlie chewed on his lip, considering this. "You're just all going to show up on her doorstep together?"
"If you have a competing idea, I'm willing to listen," my mom said.
"D'you want me to go along?" he offered.
"If you want to join us on our architecturally contributory tour of the Earth, you are more than welcome," my mom said. "I'm not sure if you should come along to visit Renée, though. It's not exactly customary for you to fly down to see her and might not lessen the impact any."
"You're right, it's not." He paused a moment, then said, "Wait, how did you know we weren't getting together regularly to talk about you, or something, in the last five years?"
"I know the password to Renée's e-mail and have been looking at it occasionally," my mom said.
"Oh." He sighed. "I suppose you'll want me to follow you lot around for safety reasons and will badger me about it until I change my mind if I just want to stay here?"
"The offer to turn you is still good," she said tentatively. "Then it would be reasonably safe for you to stay put."
"My answer's still no thank you, Bells. Doesn't appeal."
"I've got a witch working for me who can make sure it doesn't hurt..." she said enticingly.
Charlie shook his head. "I'll just join the world tour to forestall the safety objections rather than... fanging up."
"We don't have fangs, and even if you want to come with us, planes are a lot more comfortable as a vampire..." she coaxed.
He shook his head again. "No. But stay a while. I've got a daughter to catch up with and a granddaughter to get to know." He looked at me like he didn't know entirely what to make of me. "Your other grandpa never brought you down to visit. Didn't want to be seen in town looking too young. I was going to come up the end of May that year and meet you, but then... you were gone."
I wasn't sure if I was supposed to apologize for that. I'd been all of six months old when my mother had found me, not an instrumental decision-maker even with accelerated maturation. "I'm looking forward to getting to know you too," I said instead of an awkward "sorry".
We hung out at Grandpa's house for the rest of the day, making less consequential chitchat. I wound up talking about myself a lot, although my mom chipped in with some stories that I'd borne witness to as well. My dad didn't have much to add, as he'd spent most of the intervening years doing nothing but listen in on the hubbub of Volterra's aggregate consciousness. Jake talked a bit about his time with the nomadic pack.
"I'm not sure how you're planning to present the sudden return of inhabitants to La Push," Charlie said while heating up some microwaveable dinners for himself and Jake, frowning at Bella.
"That's largely up to Becky. I'm not taking a direct managerial role with her pack or Rachel's," my mom said. "That said, after we've got all the capitals built, we're going to live in this one first, so anyone who spots a wolf and questions the sighting with enough persistence to find something more incriminating can be directed to our Public Relations office. Québec's site is a bit more remote, less likely to attract notice."
"I was thinking more of the fact that the arson of the place is an unsolved federal case than the fact that most of the people living there will be wolves..."
"It's an unsolved federal case because the Volturi had a sufficent number of feds in their pockets," my mom said. "One apparently does not operate a secret vampire government for thousands of years without some remarkably extensive political leverage, which I've conveniently inherited if I need it. I delegated that particular mess to Santiago, who was handling it for my predecessors and is in the correct department already."
Charlie blinked. "I... see."
"You'll get used to me ruling the world eventually, Dad," my mom said, patting his arm and winking.
"I'm not so sure," he muttered. "Most little girls who say they want to take over the world don't actually do it, you know."
"Anyway," she said. "We have one more surprise that you... I'm going to say "might"... like."
"Another? Bells, how many shocks am I going to take today?" Charlie said wearily.
"I'm pretty sure that this is the only other major one," she said. "It's about the Clearwaters."
"Go on," said Charlie, when the sentence didn't, by itself, cause his hair to turn white.
"Well... they're alive. Leah and Seth and Cody are all alive in the usual way - the wolves in Volterra, Cody with Jake's pack till recently. Harry and Sue are a more complicated story."
"I'm listening," said Charlie.
I took over. "Harry and Sue stayed behind when the Volturi attacked La Push. Aro, who used to be one of the people ruling the world, could copy a person's entire memory into himself by touching them. He did that to Harry and Sue, and then had them killed. But, by accident, we found out that when I - or Addy who copies powers - send a lot of vampire memories very quickly to a human, they wipe out the human's original memories. That happened to a bunch of people back in Italy, with all the memories Addy had at the time, including all the ones Aro had collected last she checked. Two of the humans it happened to saw themselves in the mirror and thought they were vampires who'd been dead a long time. There were four others who hadn't recognized themselves as anyone in particular. We got their families' permission, and I used them to... bring back Harry and Sue."
Charlie blinked at me. "So... Harry and Sue are alive... but in the bodies of some Italian people who were caught in an accident... who Addy basically killed."
"Right, although while Addy doesn't have anything in particular against killing people, she really didn't mean to kill those ones," I said. "You wouldn't recognize Harry and Sue now if you just saw them. I had to put a lot of makeup on them to make them react to the mirror properly and it's all off now."
"Are they going to get turned into vampires, er, again?" Charlie asked.
"They haven't said, one way or the other, which they want," my mom said. "The two people who were resurrected without help both want to turn, and we picked out the other resurrection on behalf of the body's wife whose criteria didn't include that, so he doesn't. The other survivor of the accident is being cared for at home by his son without being turned into anyone else."
The topic drifted away again, and I fell asleep, flopping onto Jake in the process.
When I woke up, I was in a bed that, after a moment, I recognized as being in my mom's old room in Charlie's house. Most of the distinguishing possessions that she hadn't taken to Norway with her were boxed up, but the furniture was where she'd left it. My mom was sitting on the bed, between me and the wall, and my dad was standing on the bed's other side; each had hold of one of my hands, which they released as I sat up. "Morning," I said, noting that Jake was snoozing in my mom's old chair, slumped over the desk, and Renata was counting the threads in the curtains or something. "What'd I miss?"
"More chat," my mom said, "and Dwi let us know that everything Benjamin and Emel are going to do for La Push is done. They've started on the capital."
"I guess there won't be that much to see as they're doing most of it underground," I remarked.
My mom nodded. "And most of the underground is done now. The outbuildings haven't gone up yet, though, so you can watch those."
"Where's Grandpa?" I asked.
"Still asleep. We're going to take him with us when we go look in on the capital after he and Jacob wake up. The official story among humans will be that he's retiring young on some unexpected family money and going on a long trip around the world - which happens to be exactly true."
We waited around, talking about nothing in particular, for the wolf and the human to get up, and then we all piled into Dad's car (I had to sit on Jake to make room) and drove out to the first capital complex of the Golden Empire.
Watching Benjamin and Emel put up the buildings was sort of eerie. Benjamin pulled stones out of the earth and shaped them so they fit perfectly together without any need for mortar. Whatever Emel was doing, I couldn't really see; it mostly took place inside the walls, although I did get to watch her sending the scrap metal she'd been provided in through the holes Benjamin provided, and each dollop of it moved like a flying mercury snake under her command. Addy had Benjamin's power copied, but wasn't working directly with him, instead constructing separate buildings. I explored in the tunnels, but they weren't lit - Emel could do wiring, but not conjure lightbulbs - and my darkvision wasn't good enough to make out much interesting detail. It was mostly a series of oddly angular caves at this early stage anyway, as Esme hadn't gone through with carpet glue and attractive sconces.
When I climbed up the stairs out of what would later be the entrance to the PRPR department, everything was just about done, and Esme was on the phone with a glazier ordering window glass. We left her behind to do her work, and Carlisle to keep her company since his ethical consulting could be done remotely if there were any call for it this early on, and the rest of us returned to the airport to fly to Québec.
In Québec, we again built on land that came with a preexisting Cullen house, although there was more room and so more of it was above the ground, and the house itself wasn't incorporated into the design. We lingered long enough to make sure the wolf village section was livable for the eight wolves and dozen puppies who would move in. (The poor puppies were so jetlagged that they'd probably have slept on the stone floor, but this was widely deemed a poor idea.) The village was big enough to hold Jake's whole pack, but most of them came with us to Florida.
The site that they'd wound up picking in Florida wasn't particularly close to Jacksonville, so we left the builders to their work while we took a trip to Renée's house in a rental car. Charlie didn't come along; it was just my nuclear family plus Jake and Renata again.
I didn't have anyone's memories of the house in Jacksonville. My mother had been there, one time when they weren't home, that was all. My father had seen a couple of photographs of Renée and her second husband, Phil, and my mom had talked about them some, but that was all the knowledge I had of them.
Timing the trip for when Alice said it would be cloudy, my mom drove again - Jake pointed out that it was typical for bodyguards to do the driving, and my mom pointed out that she was the only person who knew how to get there - and pulled in to the house after about an hour and a half on the road. There were two cars in the driveway, so we parked on the street and, once again, I rang the doorbell.
Phil answered, and obviously had no idea who any of us were: he'd met my mother, but only as a human with hair; he'd probably looked at my parents' wedding pictures but had no reason to have studied them enough that he'd recognize my dad; and he had no way to identify me, Renata, or Jake. Phil himself was only thirty-six, a good deal younger than Renée, and looked like the photographs I remembered secondhand: he was in decent shape, as he still played baseball, and looked out on the world from a boyish blue-eyed face. "What can I do for you?" he asked our odd assembly.
"Hi, Phil," my mom spoke up.
"Do I know you?" he asked, looking at her quizzically.
"We need to talk to you and Renée. It's good news," I said. "Is she home? Can we come in?"
"Honey!" Phil yelled up the stairs. "There's two teenage girls, a teenage boy, and a man and a woman here with what they say is good news and no visible scriptures! They know our names! I'm a bit confused!"
"Coming," Renée called down. My mother twisted her hands together with a rocky scraping noise at the sound of her voice.
"We're not missionaries," I assured Phil hurriedly, wishing I'd used some phrasing other than "good news".
"Oh. You're sure? She tends to like missionary visits," he said.
"I'm sure," I said. "Sorry."
"Well, matter of interpretation," chuckled Jake. "Peddling immortality's usually a hallmark..."
My mother burst into helpless laughter at this suggestion and was still grinning when Renée shuffled down the stairs. She looked like a much older version of my mom, except with lighter, curlier, and more existent hair, and hazel eyes rather than the warm brown I'd inherited from my mother's human self. After joining Phil at the door, she looked at us, appeared to find us as a group vaguely familiar but not enough to comment, and said, "So what's the good news, then?"
"Do I look familiar at all?" my mom asked in a whisper.
Renée blinked at her, a confused look descending over her face, before saying only, "Yes..."
"It's me, Mom," my mother said.
"I... I don't understand," Renée murmured.
"She's your daughter Bella," I said.
"Can we come in?" my mom asked.
Renée's lack of independent recognition of any of us meant that she could get the revelations one at a time: that her daughter was alive and a vampire. That her son-in-law was also alive, and also a vampire. That I had been born, and was a half-vampire, which explained why I was not yet six and looked like a youngish seventeen. That Jake was a werewolf, imprinted on me, and the son of Charlie's (really dead) best friend. By the time that had all been revealed, Renée was looking with great trepidation at Renata, like she might be a long-lost ancestor and also a pagan deity there to grant her three wishes. She seemed an odd mix of disappointed and relieved to find that Renata was only another vampire inherited in the capacity of bodyguard from the deposed prior government.
Renée didn't give my mother any grief about leaving her in the dark. She was too ecastatic that we were alive. She took in the information about the new rulership of the vampire world with very childlike enthusiasm, actually clapping her hands when she heard that the builder witches were, as we spoke, building us our third capital complex an hour and a half away from her home. "Oh, we have to go see it," she said, turning to Phil.
Phil seemed too thrown by the whole "vampires exist" thing (less so by his step-descendants being alive) to say much, but he did nod mutely when his wife said that in his direction.
"Actually," my mom said sheepishly, "I think it would be best if you came with us... more permanently than just a visit to the Florida complex. I'm concerned that someone might target you to get at me. It turns out that, enforcing a no-murder law among vampires? Not a good re-election strategy. Not that I was elected. Benevolent despot here. My point is that I want you both safe, and I don't have a brilliant way to keep you safe here, unless you want to be turned into vampires, which I would be more than happy to arrange but I don't think it would be any more conducive to living your normal lives. Not in sunny Florida."
"Oh, my," Renée said, clasping her hands and frowning thoughtfully. "We can't just go on as we have? Phil works..." I remembered from my mom's description that Renée had been a kindergarten teacher in Phoenix, but - it was unclear whether from lack of trying - had not found a job in Florida. Apparently that hadn't changed.
"I'm past my peak," demurred Phil. "They've already started talking about retiring me. If you want to go, honey..."
The couple continued to lob the question back and forth, engaging with it like it was a choice instead of a necessity along the lines of the Witness Protection Program. My mother sat silently, rather than point out that she couldn't in good conscience let them refuse. There would be a chance to say that if they didn't agree on their own.
Phil seemed to consider traveling with the Golden Coven to be a matter of fairness: Renée had given up her daughter living with her so she could travel with Phil, and it had been some time and Phil's career was imminently no longer a obstacle, so it was only appropriate that Renée now get a chance to travel with my mom instead.
Renée didn't seem to want to make a definitive choice either way. She waffled, and finally my mom took one of her noncommital remarks as a "yes", and cut in with, "I'm so glad to have you with us, Mom. We're probably going to head out tomorrow, and go to the site in Brazil."
"Brazil, oh my," said Renée.
"You won't have time to do much touristy stuff this time around, but we'll stay longer in the future," my mom said. "Would you like some help packing? I can also ask Esme, my mother-in-law, to stop by here and grab anything you don't take now. She's following behind us at a bit of a lag to make additions to the capital complexes."
"I - oh, all right," said Renée, laughing, and we spent the rest of the day prowling the house for various items she wanted and stuffing them into suitcases and laundry baskets and whatnot. My mom made subtle insinuations that being a vampire was really awesome - and she showed off a little in the course of helping her mom and stepfather pack - but kept it to a light background thread of conversation. Renée seemed intrigued by the idea but frightened by the permanency, and Phil appeared to be a little shell-shocked yet, too much so to have the conversation.
Renée got on the phone and made excuses to various persons and institutions about cancellations for future plans - lunch get-togethers, yoga class, volunteer work, and a lecture she'd intended to attend at the local community college. Phil had less of a social calendar, but did need to make a few calls about work, as it was the middle of baseball season. He seemed kind of annoyed that no one made a fuss about his sudden desire to go to Brazil.
I fell asleep before we started back for the capital site, and when I woke up, my mom was holding me in her arms, just like she had when I was little.
It was near the end of August when we put up our capital in Australia and finally came full-circle back to Washington.
Esme had outdone herself. I had a cute little office all to myself in the PRPR section, which was close to the tunnel leading to La Push. (The part of Jake's pack that stayed with the Golden Coven instead of living in Québec lived there while we were in the area, rather than the Washington capital having its own village attachment.) Alec, Santiago, and Rosalie, the other permanent employees of the department, also had offices, and there were several spare rooms for later expansion and miscellaneous purposes, and one for Alec to oversee suitably-anesthetized turning in. (Addy had pushed for a control group on Caius's hypothesis about the pain of turning causing improved witchcraft. Everyone had ignored her.)
As soon as we were all set to settle down in one place for a while, Didyme, John, Harry, and Sue all wanted to be turned. Sue had declined the opportunity to have eggs harvested - "Three is enough," she said - and Didyme's surgery had been and gone, using the equipment that was already there leftover from my mother's years previously. Charlie and Renée and Phil were all opting to stay human, for the time being, although I thought Renée in particular might be wending her way to a change of heart.
At any rate, Alec did his job very quietly, standing almost perfectly still for three days straight and holding his power in place while his charges changed, periodically asking me to replenish his stack of books. I did a little entertaining for the future vampires - sending them memories in real time of random things like movies and attractive scenery - to prevent them from being too dreadfully bored, although every vampire I asked said that being bored was still an overwhelming improvement on the old procedure.
I busied myself by writing up informational pamphlets and, when my mom had approved them, running off stacks of them with our new copy machine. The PRPR office's entrance was the one closest to the street, so anyone who drove up and happened to be curious would see it first. People who literally just came in off the street were to be turned away without receiving any pamphlets and told that the complex was an exclusive private spa, but if they arrived with some inkling of what was going on, they might as well get a more complete understanding.
While we'd been gone, all of the imprints with living family in the region - Claire, Emily, Maureen, and Thea - had been reunited with their families, and those were some of the first people I met in my official capacity. The only one who wanted to be turned into a vampire was Emily's younger brother - everyone else just came in to learn more about who and what they were now related to (or, in Claire's case, not exactly related to but inextricably associated with). Or to scream at me for lack of anyone else to rage at. Claire's parents kicked up enough of a fuss that I had to turn them over to Santiago. I'd expected something of the kind from Thea's family as well, but Thea herself was more effectively able to intervene in that matter and I didn't see them at all.
My mom's policies called for Emily's brother to be turned away. He wasn't a witch, wasn't anybody's mate, didn't want to work for the Golden Coven, and Sam - his closest supernatural relation, by virtue of being his brother-in-law - was not interested in vouching for him. And we were already processing applications from a half-a-dozen vampires who'd found human mates since our takeover and didn't want to risk antagonizing us. Alec's services were free, but he could only cover so much area at a time, and Addy could only double our capacity. More problematic still was getting access to an adequate food supply and systematizing the control of newborns who weren't allowed to eat people nor kill them to cover up accidental exposure. I told the brother to reapply in six months, by which time we expected to have a better idea of the rate of application and the difficulties of scaled-up newborn-wrangling, and sent him home.
At the end of my office hours, which lasted from just after breakfast to four in the afternoon, I (and Jake and whoever else was guarding me for the day) usually loitered around what would have been a throne room if it had contained any chairs. My mom and dad spent much of their time there, handling the running of things, and I liked listening in and occasionally submitting input. Sometimes I sat with Alice for a while instead, and let her show me the jerky swirl of images she collected in the course of making her eye checks. Once I tagged along with Vasanti as she made arrangements to open a slaughterhouse within commuting distance of the capital, so that the vampires could get access to fresh animal blood on a regular basis without the ecological risks of hunting.
Jake and I had a little house in La Push, and usually, when I was ready to go to sleep, he would watch a few hours of my dreams - and then stand aside when he was ready to go to bed himself, to let my parents see the rest.
I still usually can't remember my dreams, but I'm told, and have every reason to believe, that they are happy ones.