Easiest escape ever. Desk Man programmed the outside cams to record and loop. The Ladies followed directions. So they walked out through the museum, and all they had to do was wait until a patrol vehicle was past, and fiddle the back gate locks and alarms. A short hike to the car.
He drove off down side streets before he turned his headlights back on.
"I've got to say I'm really impressed that you ladies really did stay quiet. I'm Igor, and I'll be leaving the city in six days. You are welcome to come along, or if you have a safe place to go to, I'll drive you there."
Uncertain glances and head shakes among them.
"Or stay for a few days and think about it. I'm a fan of planning, myself." He paused. "Umm, if you aren't comfortable giving me your names . . . just think up something you'd like to answer to."
A turn and a short block to the highway. He got off one exit late, and back tracked to the warehouse.
He was frowning as he pulled into the warehouse.
"Ladies? Can you speak?"
He got out of the car, and they did the same, looking around at the uninformative space.
"Nod if you understand me." Four nods. "Mentalist compulsion? No? Phyisical?" Uncertain nods. The oldest mimed drinking.
"Right . . . well, this will be interesting." He walked over to the work table. "Each of you take a small sip of this. Sorry, but I wasn't really expecting to have company and I've only got four glasses and this is the last clean one . . ."
"This stuff has a terrifying number of healing impressions, and I hope it's just a side effect, not something anyone put in on purpose . . . but it's got an aphrodisiac impression that'll knock your socks off."
The older woman snorted.
"Yeah. So, just exert some control, and don't be offended if I reject you, but I have a young woman I'd like to go home to with a clear conscious. Well, clear of that particular misdeed."
He poured half a glass and handed it to the oldest.
She took a mouthful and passed it on, as her eyes widened and her breathe caught. She eyed him hungrily, blushed and stepped back. "Holy . . . I can talk!"
In minutes there were four of them jabbering away, one of them crying, all of them watching him and variously blushing, licking their lips, reaching and then snatching their hands back.
"It's just an effect of the potion. Just take a deep breath and keep telling youself it's just chemistry. Right?"
They seemed to be getting a grip, so he relaxed.
"Well, let's try this again. Hi, I'm Igor, which isn't actually my name. How about some nicknames for your four?"
The oldest nodded. "Blondie."
Hey you? Axel grinned, and they all leaned toward him. He got his face under control.
"Well. The magic potion strikes again. If it works like it has so far, you're going to have horrible hangover in the morning. So I suggest a light dinner." He looked dubiously over at the stuff on the sink counter. "Did I mention I wasn't expecting guests for a day or two?"
Over crackers and cheese they told him all about it.
"They thought that the wife chips would have used the least ammount of the zivvy." Blondie frowned at him. "The zivvy comes in small pods. One per chip. Cyborg and Exec plates have two chips, but very good control of where the wires go. Everything else gets one chip. They thought the lower number of wires getting zivvy the second day would mean there was a larger reseve in wife chips than servant chips."
Axel boggled. "Were they going to remove your chips for that left over Zivvy?"
"Yes." A casual wave of her hand. "Carefully, to not spill any."
Zwerg, Dwarf, the short one nodded. "They didn't think we were likely to survive . . . and since we'd be unchipped, they'd be sure of it."
"We're all widows, you see." Hallo Du grimaced. "My husband owned a store. I managed it for him, he was very old, and after he died, it all became the property of the state, as did I. But the details take time and I continued to run the shop without him for some time."
Nods around the table.
"My husband was a doctor. I took over the billing, the supplies, the staff. I kept doing it for the junior partners while they tried to figure out how to buy the clinic back from the state. They could not afford me, as well." Blondie shrugged, looked away.
Shy nodded. "Herni had no relatives within three degrees, so the state took the restaurant and me."
"So we were to be their first experiment." Hallo Du shivered. "They thought perhaps with four used wife chips they could get enough zivvy to wire up a portalmaker."
"So is their Cybernetics Center in that same old building?"
"One of the eighteen, at least one each on every continent, in the megaplexes."
"Ah. Of course." Axel eyed them. "You know, with your business acumen, I'd really like all of you to come with me."
They eyed him thoughtfully . . . or maybe suspiciously.
"I'm an abolitionist. Legally I can't free you. In practice, I can let you go your own way, and with financial backing. I hadn't thought about stores and restaurants, but someone who knows the business side of a medical clinic? Blondie, I will try to presuade you to work for me. And I suspect you others as well."
"But right now, I need to sleep, because I've got to go out again tomorrow night for my last survey." He looked around. "Hmm. Maybe I'll sleep in the car. There are two matresses in one of the front offices . . . a couple of chairs . . . hmm. I'll go shopping pretty soon."
They were looking exhausted, and thankful he'd brought up the subject.
He washed all the glasses, slugged his dose of the wine, then cranked back the front passenger seat of the car and slept like a log. Woke around Noon to the sound of retching.
Right on schedule.
He walked around dispensing anti-nausea, and anti-hangover impressions and made them drink water.
"I'm going to go shopping. Relax, stay inside." He bit his lip then got out his computer and hunted for TV broadcasts . . . yeah, standard here too.
"Channel Five, for the news." Blondie slumped down in one of the reception area chairs. "I hope they aren't looking for your pretty car."
"Umm, good thought. I'll take the truck." He paused as the iconic picture of Siberia Max--the massif silhouetted against the sunset, with the lights of the city around its base--popped up on the screen.
"Negotiations of the terms of annexing Siberia Max are proceeding, and we expect access to their zivvy supplies by next week. In other news, contact with Tier Two Bismark has cut off, with a report of their third Plague victim."
Axel shook his head. "Damn."
I wonder if the Enemy is still spreading the Plague, or if this is something left over, something, a canned drink perhaps, imported from somewhere else. I swear I need to be paranoid about everything.