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Just guess the magic number

Robyn, Jill, and Lilith were kept in an old clinic at Hanford used to treat radiation sickness. They were apart from Mike, because Pharmadigm didn't want any hanky-panky. Jerry was still a convict and kept apart from everyone. Technically, Lilith was now equipped for hanky panky, but things were moving too fast and that sort of thing was on the back burner.

Jill said, Jerry and Mike have started their run, so now it's our turn.

You're up, Robyn, Lilith said, but Robyn still didn't understand how the plan was supposed to work.

The clinic was partitioned into two large rooms of roughly equal size, a main room intended for daytime activities, and a separate ward in the back where the girls could sleep. The only exit was through the day room, but at night the girls were confined to the night ward and locked in.

There was a hexadecimal keypad, a four-by-four square with sixteen buttons numbered 0 through 9 and A through F. Robyn also knew from listening carefully that the code was always four taps. But the Pharmadigm people were careful never to let their "residents" see what they were tapping.

The problem was that there was a ten second delay after trying a number before the red light would reset to the yellow light and it was ready to accept another try. Robyn figured if she started at 8:00 PM and went all through the night to 8:00 AM she would just be able to do the whole range from 0000 to 0FFF. It would take sixteen nights to go through the whole set, assuming she didn't make a single mistake, and her hands didn't cramp up, and she didn't despair of the whole operation.

Just start doing it, that's the important thing, Lilith told her. You'll see what I mean after you begin.

Robyn shrugged and started pounding combinations, one after the other. And when she did, she could sense something like a tower of future moments stacking up on top of each other. Each moment was an attempt to punch the combination. This tower ended in a moment of joy, eight days later, when she hit the right combination and the door unlocked. And the joyous number was 76FC. She read it right out of her memory of the future, but that memory hadn't presented itself until Robyn started trying to punch out.

So Robyn entered 76FC and got the green light. There was a click, and the women stepped out into the muted light of the rest of the clinic, hoping it was deserted for the night. It was. But there was a closed-circuit television camera in the main room of the clinic, so now their captors could see them making the escape attempt and would come calling very shortly.

Lilith said, Ain't precognition grand? But let's hope they aren't so paranoid over security they have a separate combo for the outside door, with another number to precog, because we'll never get out of here.

They aren't, Robyn said, they didn't. You'll see. 76FC. Green. Go. They were out of the building.

It wouldn't do to have the "volunteers" locked up inside the clinic in the not-so unlikely event of a fire, so for fire safety and also as a precaution in case they did get out, a guard was posted in a shack nearby with bright lights flooding the doorway. The escapees stood there illuminated like deer frozen on the highway. Fortunately for them the guard wasn't expected to just stare at the outside of the clinic for the duration of his watch. Just staying awake was sufficient, it seemed. So he had his back turned, hunched over a newspaper. Robyn, Jill, and Lilith crept around the outside of the clinic as quietly as they could until they were exactly 180 degrees around from the guard shack, then they headed straight out in the long shadow of the building.

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