Hidden Mall 70: Better than Others

The stores moved behind them.  Abby tried not to turn around, but found herself peeking.  She could see the Little Panda grind to a halt halfway between the Little Italy and the Subway.

She turned back to the security office, feeling absurdly guilty. “They wouldn’t move when there were people here. ¬†They don’t like being looked at.”

“I’m not sure if that’s more or less creepy,” Olly admitted. ¬†“It makes them like Weeping Angels that are… shopping.”

Abby took a breath. “I am not thinking about that right now.” ¬†She opened the door to the security office, half expecting to be hollered at by some guard who had been watching — well, not the mall, clearly.

There were cameras; there was a door.  There were control boards like a sound room.  There was a chair. But there was nobody in there.

Abby cleared her throat. “Ah. ¬†Hello?”

The screen nearest them lit up: white screen, black text.

HELLO ABBY.

“I, um. ¬†I see I’m expected.”

KNOWN.  THE ABBY ARE KNOWN TO US.

The screens around the main one flickered and changed images.  All, as far as she could tell, in this mall, but all different.  Oh, that was an Abby.

“And the Liv?”

HELLO OLIVIAS.

The screens showed a variety of Livs, most looking unhappy.  Abby winced.

“Thank you. ¬†I want to talk to you about — about other Abbies.”

YOU ARE THE FIRST I  HAVE SEEN HERE IN SOME TIME.

The screens flickered again; now they were all empty, the stores moving around in a lonely dance.

“Who was the last Abby with?”

AN UNCONSCIOUS VICTORIA.

The image appeared over four screens, giant: Abby walking into the security office, pushing Vic in a wheelchair. ¬†That Vic didn’t look healthy at all.

Abby swallowed. ¬†That didn’t bode well. ¬†She shared a look with the others. ¬†“Did, ah. Did she ask you to do anything?”

SHE DID.  AND I AGREED.

“Shit.”

“Wait.” ¬†Olly leaned forward. ¬†“For how long?”

CLEVER.  ALWAYS CLEVER.  FOR THAT FORMATION.

“Formation. ¬†Oh, the mall.” ¬†Some of the other screens were showing her a particular layout. ¬†“Olly? ‘Via, Liv?”

“On it.” ¬†A pencil scribbled somewhere to her side.

“So, can you tell me what you agreed?”

NO, THAT IS OUTSIDE OF THE AGREEMENT.

“Of course it is,” she muttered. ¬†“Because that would be easy. ¬†Of course. ¬†Okay. Let’s see. ¬†Can you make an agreement with me?”

THERE IS A PRICE.

She watched as some of the other screens shifted and changed. ¬†They looked – they looked like there was a sale going on. “What sort of price?”

THIS IS A MALL.  WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PRICE IS?

“Well, if I knew… Money? ¬†No! You want to be filled, oh, lordie, that sounded wrong.”

I WANT TO BE FILLED.  THAT IS RIGHT.

“I don’t know how many of us I can find…”

YOU WILL SHOP.  THE FOUR OF YOU.  AND IF YOU FIND MORE, YOU WILL SEND THEM HERE TO SHOP.  YES?

“Well, if you tell me how to pick your door in specific, yes I will. ¬†Assuming shopping in your stores doesn’t eat us or poison us or otherwise hurt us.”

WE DO NOT HURT PEOPLE.  THIS IS A MALL. MALLS ARE FOR PEOPLE MOVING ABOUT AND TOUCHING THINGS AND TALKING.  FOR PEOPLE.  NOT FOR HURTING.

“Glad you think so,” Abby muttered. ¬†“So. We’ll shop. You, in turn — can you tell one Abby from another?”

YES.  YES, YOU ARE ALL DISTINCT.  BUT NO. SOME OF YOU ARE MORE DISTINCT THAN OTHERS.

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