Hidden Mall 66: Questionable Information

Abby didn’t think her mouth could get any dryer, her throat and more choked, but that phrase – that idea – where the one who’s killing the Abbies is – made her feel like her mouth was full of sand.

She tried to clear her throat and found herself coughing instead.  Liv fumbled in her bag until she managed to press a water bottle into Abby’s hands.  “Here, here. Why didn’t you – here, drink.”

Abby sipped the water slowly.  “Yes – thank you, Liv.” She sipped more.  “I want to find the Abby that’s killing the rest of us.”

Shit, was that secret information?  Was I not supposed to say that?

From the look on Yadira’s face, she thought perhaps it had been a secret.  At least, she thought Yadira probably hadn’t known it before.

“So.”  The woman steepled her fingers.  “This puts me in an awkward position.”

“How so?”  I’m the one that’s being murdered over and over again.  How does that make YOUR life awkward?

“The ways that one would stop a traveler – that is, you or your friends Olivia here, or the Victorias or Sandras – are different than the ones one would stop a denizen of the malls as a whole.  And I know them, which means I am admitting I know how to stop you.”

“Well.”  Abby cleared her throat.  “We are trying to stop me.  Someone who could be me, someone who was a lot like me at some point, but diverged.”

“I still think you’re the one that diverged.”  Olly’s mutter was rebellious, somehow. Abby patted her hand and hoped that would be enough.

“You are.  But such methods could be used to stop this version of you as well.”

“Well, lots of me have been stopped.”  Abby frowned. “When we get out of here, I may spend a week trying to figure out a proper grammar for dopplegangers and mirror-universe sorts of things.  The language is clumsy.”

“It is.” Yadira’s agreement had that look that adults sometimes got around Abby and Liv.  It sent a surge of longing through Abby; they should be back in the town library at home, not here, in some weird back-door mall, trying to figure out how to stop herself. “So.”  She steepled her fingers. “This is not going to be easy, but I will tell you what I know, and I’ll hope that, if you see me again, you’ll remember me fondly.”

Abby looked for some honesty or something to distrust in Yadira’s face, but she couldn’t really tell anything.  “I hope,” she tried, “that whatever you tell us makes us remember you fondly.”

“Ha.”  The laugh had almost no relation to humor.  “So let it be, then. The first information: travellers such as yourself cannot harm each other.  Many free agents, such as myself, who cannot travel can also not harm you or be harmed by you.”

“But-” ‘Via’s expression was unreadable, but her tone sounded lost.  Abby patted her shoulder, realizing as she did so that she was more or less comforting someone in their inability to kill her.

“On the other hand,” Yadira continued without real pause, “the malls can kill travellers, or those like us, agents.  There are bound agents of the malls and those can kill you as well.  Plants and non-sentient parts of the malls can kill travellers, too.”  She held up a hand. “There is a trick to this. Each mall, even those that seem ordinary and part of your childhood world, can be convinced, argued with, set against your enemies.  You go to its nerve center – in most malls this will be the security booth, although in a few it will be a small news-stand – and there you discuss matters and negotiate as you see fit.”

“So.”  Abby drank a little bit more water as she thought about this. “We need to talk to the malls and ask them to help us.  And the Abby we’re chasing – already knows this?”

“It seems very likely, yes.”

“And has probably already talked to the malls.”

“That, also, seems likely.”

“This is going to be tricky.”  Abby sighed. “But I guess it’s what we do.”

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