She came out of the shower feeling a little more relaxed and a lot more certain. The Olivias were waking up,and Abby noted that they had found some small wheeled suitcases and packed up all of their purchases — except an outfit laid out for Abby.
Liv knew her tastes. She smiled and changed while the three stretched and moaned.
“That,” ‘Via muttered, “is the best night of sleep I have ever had.”
“Ditto.” Olly touched her toes and reached up to the ceiling a couple times. “Wonder if there’s breakfast before we head on.”
“I feel like — I feel like we’re being bribed,” Liv admitted.
“I think—” Abby put her feelings together carefully “– I think it’s lonely. I think it’s encouraging us that malls can be nice?”
“Well.” Olly slid down into a split. “We showed it people can be nice. It’s a fair trade.”
“I suppose.” Liv buttoned up her shirt. “You don’t think we’re taking advantage of it?”
“No.” Abby shook her head. “Everything it gave us, it gave us willingly. It wanted us to shop. It wanted us to eat. And we’ll send more people here when we leave here. Speaking of, we have to stop by the control room for directions before we leave.”
“Breakfast?” Olly repeated.
“I saw a bagel place. Bet we can get something there.” ‘Via tugged the blanket on her bed back into place. “WIsh we could just stay here —— but we’d never get home if we did that.”
“We’d never stop the — the other Abby from killing people, either,” Abby murmured. “And even if it is mostly me, and most of me are jerks….”
“We should still stop her.” Liv caught her hand and squeezed it. “You’re still people. And I don’t believe all Abbies are bad. It’s just impossible.”
“Thanks, Liv. Thank you.” She hugged her friend tightly. “Okay. Bagels.” She smoothed down her new clothes – more than she’d ever have been able to afford, back home, even if they did have a slightly European flair to them. She had a feeling, if she ever got home, she would care a lot less about being made fun of for her clothes.
The bagel shop, like all the food shops, seemed to be automated. Their bagels and muffins and coffees rolled out on a conveyor belt, warm and fresh-smelling and, when they sat down and dug in, absolutely delicious.
“Staying here forever is beginning to look like a really good idea,” Abby muttered.
“Well-” Olly looked almost shy. “There’s nothing saying we can’t make it a home base, is there? I mean, the mall said it would help us get back here, right? So we could just… come back here at night? And then go back out again?”
“Olly – Olly, you’re brilliant. Thank you.” Abby found herself grinning. “Okay. We can do this, then. Everybody full? Let’s use the bathroom that actually has running water and let’s get going. Mall Diplomacy Go.”
THE TRICK TO GETTING TO THE MALL OF YOUR CHOICE IS THE STORE NEAREST. FOR ME, YOU WISH TO BE CLOSEST TO BED, BATH, AND BEYOND — WITH IT ON YOUR LEFT. TAKING THE TOPMOST OR BOTTOMOST DOOR OPENS THINGS TO YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS DESIRES AND TO THE DEEPER CURSES OF THE MALL.
“Oh, good.” ‘Via shook her head. “That’s great, we’ve been looking at the deeper curses of the mall.”
YOU LIKELY HAVE. YOU GIVE OFF THE RADIATION OF HAVING BEEN VERY DEEP INTO THE MALL. HOWEVER, IT LED YOU HERE. NOW, YOU SHOULD LIKELY AIM FOR STORES THAT YOU ENJOY.
“Radiation?” Liv squeaked.
NOT THE SORT THAT KILLS. MERELY, LIKE SUNLIGHT, A THING ONE SENSES.
Abby cleared her throat. “Thank you, Mall. We’ll return. And we’ll send others here as well. Thanks so much.”
THE PLEASURE IS INDEED MINE.
“All right.” Abby looked between her friends. “‘Via, you go first. Favorite store?”Want more?