This is #20 of Endangered and is titled Not Even the Apocalypse Can Stop Us Shopping. It is part 8 of Volume 2.
With the city officially gone, due to the riots, the scattered groups of survivors make a last push to the Franklin Mills Mall. Meanwhile, Jame's group, who had already arrived, go through the entering process, and begin settling down in safety. The issue debts mall leader Jonathan Walsh.
Not Even the Apocalypse Can Stop Us from ShoppingEdit
“Well, here we are.” James proclaims to the others, while he himself looks on. They could see the mall standing behind the sign, and it looked like it was gonna be a little bit of a walk to get there; but they made it, safely. Next to him, Sandra and Haruka glanced over at the mall, with Haruka starring in slight wonder. She’s never been to this mall, or most of the malls in the area, so this is the first time for her. It looked pretty great, in her eyes. “Alright, ugh, what’s the nearest entrance.”
That’s the thing about the mall, there are six different entrances, with each being separated by color; red, blue, aqua, yellow, orange and green entrances. However, before he could find out which one is closest, Sarah steps in and points to something with one hand, and taps James with the other. “Yo Dad, read the sign.” She says, to which he cranks his head in the direction she’s pointing.
“Use the yellow entrance.” He reads the sign, which was right next to the welcome sign, aloud. “Alright, where’s the yellow one.” James didn’t know about the mall, as he often just went to a place like Men’s Wearhouse or Old Navy; he didn’t really care about clothes, which was pretty much all the mall was. Sarah, who he dropped off at the mall a lot, only snickered at his question.
“Just follow me.” Sarah takes charge, since the mall was the natural habitat for a teenage girl. So taking a step forward, Sarah begins to walk down the road that leads to the back of the mall. The three adults, having nothing else to do, follow the teenager; putting the fate of their journey in her small, little hands. With Sarah in front, James follows closely behind, with Haruka and Sandra walking side-by-side right behind him.
“So, this place is bug, huh?” Sandra asks Haruka, who nods. It was completely true. Despite only being limited to one floor, the mall had at least two hundred stores, twenty anchor stores, and was 1,600,000 square feet. Probably was one of the biggest malls in Pennsylvania.
“Yeah, Ms. D, it’s pretty darn big.”Haruka replies back, surveying the area. There had to be lots of extra room in there, and just maybe, Sandra and her could get one of those extra room. A big one, too; in this giant place, they might be able to test on the infected and not only find it’s origins, but a cure. “Just wondering if we can work here.”
“I think we can, but--”
“It depends if the others want us to, or not. Right?” Sandra nods in response to Haruka’s question, to which Haruka only sighs. She doesn’t understand why people would be mad at them bringing in some infected and studying them. What harm would be done? If anything, it would be helpful and not dangerous. “I don’t see why they would want to stop us. I mean, we’re trying to find out what started all this. Hey, it might even give us some sort of cure.”
“It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. People are scared, and some of them do not even know it.”
“I’m scared too, but this isn’t about being scared. It’s about finding answers.” Haruka said. Now, Sandra agreed that they should at least try to get answers, but unlike her friend, Sandra knew where people are coming from. She wouldn’t be shocked if the person in charge denied their request to study the infected individuals.
“I get where they’re coming from.” Sandra shrugged, slightly. “I’ll put it this way, if you were being hunted down by some mad-man, and you were in clear danger, would you risk your life to find out why he is chasing you or would you find somewhere safe to stay?”
Haruka doesn’t respond, instead just continuing to walk besides Sandra. “Exactly.” Sandra says once more.
“The thing is, though, this isn’t a crappy hollywood film, where you have choice A or choice B. There’s always more options out there.”
“And what would the third option be there?”
“Get the jump on him before he gets it on you.” Haruka smirks, finding it funny how people never seemed to do that in horror films. Instead, they just ran, screamed, and hid in the most obvious place. If Haruka was being chased by a freak and hid in an obvious place, like a bed, reality would check right in and she would be gutted. Sandra gives a light smile, which represents he finding it funny.
“In all seriousness though,” Haruka says, “ the only way we can cure this is if we find out we’re trying to cure, and where it came from. So that means we gotta get all close to it and have some ‘scientific fun’ with it. So peeps just gotta put their fear aside, for once in their life.”
“I agree with you. Look, let’s try this. We’ll settle down, see what the place is like, then we’ll work from there.”
“Sounds good-and-dandy to me.” Haruka mimics in an old ‘american country girl’ accent, while Sandra turns her attention back to Sarah and James, who were right up-ahead. In that moment the four pass the movie theater part of the mall, with the sign of AMC - 24. Although the movie entrance was boarded up, Sarah hoped the movie theater was still active inside.
“Yellow entrance is right around the corner.” Sarah promises, and in only a mere thirty seconds her promise comes true, as the yellow entrance comes into view. The yellow entrance was simply a normal double door, but the walls and archway were yellow, and in the middle of the arch was Franklin Mills; then at the top, was the image of a key with string.
“What’s with the key thing.” Haruka asks.
“You know Benjamin Franklin?” James asks, to which Haruka nods; she was familiar with the name and some of his achievements. “Well, the mall is named after him, and the entrances are based off some of his work, or stuff related to him. The Red has the Liberty Bell, Orange has ink and feathers, I think.” He looks at Sarah for confirmation, to which she nods. “Green has Bald Eagle, Aqua has squat, and finally, Blue and Yellow are based off his kite experiment.”
“Pretty much an experiment to learn more about lightning and electricity. Don’t really know, but it involved a kite, I know that much.”
“So interesting.” Haruka sarcastically says, before yawning; James lets out a smirk before going on.
“Anyways, the Blue has a cloud with a lightning bolt, and Yellow has a key with string.” James finishes his little history listen, to which Haruka gives a mocking, but playful, clap.
“Thank you for the such interesting history lesson, Mr. Benjamin.” She speaks like a schoolgirl, and James lets out a small smirk, before turning his attention toward the mall that sat right up only a few footsteps ahead now. From this distance James could feel a different type of air, like misty air, swish into their direction, and it even smelled better. He could already tell this place was different.
Arriving at the glass doors that led into the safety, the four proceeded to look through the looking glass. This certain hallway seemed a little empty, minus for the tables that sat a few feet behind the doors. There were a few lines of tables, with only one area to pass through the tables. On the tables were scattered papers, then he saw the few people there. There was about three people at the tables, with each one being at a different one; there was five in total. “I guess this is it.” James remarks, while tucking his pistol away and opening the door. Like a gentlemen, he let the ladies in first, before entering himself.
Once the door shut behind them, the fresh, air conditioned air breezes onto the sweaty group, and they each feel like sighing in relief. As they do, the three people from the table lookup and put on a smile for them. “Hey there,” the one man from the middle table announces to them, “you four look out of it.”
“Long walk up here.” James says, making his way toward the man, who appeared to be the one with more authority of the other two people. The man was fairly good looking with medium height, brown hair, caucasian skin, and dressed fairly good. But his best feature were his eyes...his blue eyes. They were like the color of the sea on a bright summer’s day, or like what Sarah would describe them as, ‘The bluest blue of all the very blues’.
“Well, you know what they say, the destination is what’s best.” The man extends his hand over the table. “Name’s Jonathan, Jonathan Walsh.”
“James Benjamin.” James shakes his hand back, and once done, Walsh moves to shake the others’ hand, and so they can introduce themselves.
“Well, nice to meet you all.” Walsh takes his hand back and secretly wipes it across his jeans.
“So are you the man in charge here?” James asks.
“Yep, yep, that’s me. The mall has been in my family for decades. I just got the deed for it about year or so back.” Walsh smiles but the group, already tired from the trip up here, just want to get by him.
“So can we enter or..?” Haruka drags on the ‘or’, while also giving a hand motion.
“Oh yeah, sorry for dragging it on. But yeah, anyone is free to enter, you all just need to do a few things.”
“What things?” Haruka asks, while taking her spot next to James at the table; Sandra and Sarah, however, just drift off behind them, as they were more silent than the other two. “Like test or something, because I haven’t exactly had time to study.”
“Course not, this isn’t a ‘you pass the test or get the hell out’ kind of place. All you gotta do is stand still, put on a big smile, and Ms. Ravens over here will take your picture.” Ms. Ravens, standing at the table to Walsh’s left, lifts up a camera. “Then you just gotta write your name under the picture.”
“Why?” James asks.
“You see, we want this place to help get lost friends, or loved ones, together. Know what I mean?” They nod. “So, we get your picture, you write your name under it, and then we place them on that table over there.” Walsh points to the table down to his right.
“So when someone goes over there, they can see if one of their lost ones made it or not.” Walsh finishes, to which James nods.
“Thank you kindly.”
“But what happens if you get to many pictures and the table overflows?”
“Then we just start putting them on the wall. Simple, really.”
“And how often do you update it?”
“Whenever new people come. Now I get you all might wanna take a look at it, so the faster we get this done, you guys can.” Walsh claps his hands together. “So shall we?”
After that it was pretty simple. Walsh’s friend, Ms. Ravens, would take their pictures and put them on a hard drive. Then Walsh simply put the pictures on his laptop and printed them out for the group, to which they proceeded to write their names on their respective pictures. Once done, Walsh simply smiled and collected them. “See, wasn’t that hard.” He said while collecting the pictures. “Now be my guest and take a look at the pictures. After that, Ms. Collins will take you to get your tents--”
“Tents?” Haruka interrupts.
“Yes. Tents. We got this place closed off and people set tents up there, because naturally, we can’t just give them a room with beds. You can either get your own separate tents, or share, it doesn’t really matter to me.”
“Understandable.” James says. “Anything else?”
“Of course we got more rules, but now’s no time to explain them, I gotta work. So around eight tonight you all just gather up in the cafe, where I’ll give the rundown.” Walsh says. Every Night he likes to gather the newcomers in the cafe, gives them the extra rule rundown, and all that. “Any other questions?”
The four look at each other, but all are in agreement with the rules. “No, Mr. Walsh.” Haruka speaks up after a few moments.
“Alright then, we’re all on the same page.” Walsh backs away from the table and extends his arms, like he’s some savior showing them the entry to paradise. “Well then, without further due, welcome to Franklin Mills."
“So about how many people are here?” James asks while walking down the entrance hall with their tour guide, Ms. Collins, with his arm around Sarah, and the two women behind them. Ms. Collins was pretty young looking, in his mind anyways. With long brown hair, a medium lengthed, dark, yet mesmerizing brown eyes, she was a pretty young, and he estimated she was around twenty five.
“I think about fifty at the moment.” Collins replies. “To be honest, I’m not really sure.”
“Fifty?” Haruka asks surprised about how little people are there. “When we were coming up here, the highway was packed with cars, figured they would come here.”
“I thought so too, but nope. The highway was full of people just trying to get to that bridge, I’m guessing they were going off to distant relatives or something.”
James shrugs. “Makes sense. But hey, that leaves more room for us.”
“Yes, that it certainly does.” Collins says, whilst looking around. “The tent stand is right up ahead.”
The group makes a turn down a hallway, and instantly see the people of the zone. But, it wasn’t like he expected, not at all. Instead of people being happy about being alive, or spending time with their loved ones, it instead looked like a fallout post-nuclear conflict. People were slumped up against the wall, with most having their head buried in their arms, as they complained about their lives. Pulling Sarah close, James could overhear their complaints about life, and it was depressing. “I feel so alone”, “My family’s dead”, “I didn’t get to say goodbye..”, were among the mutters and cries that he heard.
The ones who weren’t slumped against the wall alone were walking down the halls, with whatever loved ones they had. He watched what looked like a young couple walk by, but instead of being young and dumb like they should be, they had the life drained out of their faces, and they instead looked like ghost who had no one to haunt. This looked more like a graveyard of non-dead people, not a safe-zone. James had no idea what to expect but he definitely didn’t expect this. “Why are they so sad?” Sarah asked James quietly, not wanting anyone to overhear.
“Because it’s been hard on them.” He leaves it vague, not wanting to say how hard it probably was on them. Instead, he just puts his arm around her. “Just don’t pay attention.”
After walking through the hall of despair, the four and their tour guide arrived at the tent stand. It wasn’t just a tent stand, however, and it instead worked as a type of ‘Supply Center’. Taking the place of an old shop, it now holds the supplies that help the survivors. Ranging from tents, water, food, and even clothes, it holds almost anything to help others.
“So, this is the supply center. As newcomers, you are all issued an optional pair of clothes, food, water, and tents. Now, you guys can pick your own pair of clothes, if you want, but I’ll get the tents for you.” Collins explains. “So, are you all gonna stay together or--”
“No, no. Seperate’s fine.” Haruka interrupts and explains for them, to which Collins just nods and digs through the tents corner. After a few minutes Collins takes out two, wrapped up tents.
“Alright, so here’s one,” she hands one to Haruka, “and here’s the other.” She hands the last one to James. “So do you guys need help getting to the tent hall or would you prefer to go on your own?”
“I think we’ll find it pretty easy,” James says, “thank you for the offer, though.”
“Sure thing. Now just take some water and food, and you can go set up a spot for yourselves.”
“Alright, thank you.” James thanks, and the others soon follow, before they retreat to get some food and drinks. After they each grabbed one fruit and one water respectively, the four made their way out of the store, but James had one more question. “You never told us your name, by the way, Ms. Collins.”
“Oh, well, it’s Samantha, or Sam, it’s up to you.”
With his hands firmly on the steering wheel, Reyes mostly keeps his attention on the task that’s in front him. Sure, once and a while he would glance at the people in the car, but mostly just drove. It’s been an hour or so since the incident...since he put that gun in fuckin’ Joel’s mouth. He can still feel the look in Joel’s eyes; it wasn’t one of fear, no, it was much more memorable. It was pride, but worse, the pride of a man refusing to admit he was wrong. But Joel did give it was very all, all the way to his end of course.
While driving, Reyes has a perfect view of his bloody, red hands; even if Reyes poured an entire river onto them, the blood would still be completely visible in his eyes. He denied it so many times, but even he knew just how right Joel was. Reyes knew he could never wash the blood off his hands, or the deeds he committed; but he could still come back from them, right? He came a long way since his days in Mexico and he wanted believe that he changed, that maybe, Reyes actually left “the game”. But once someone enters the game, there is no way out. Even Reyes, who moved to a new country, couldn't escape the game he joined as a teenager. Maybe, just maybe, Reyes was always destined to be a criminal…
But he couldn’t be. Most criminals would have fended for themselves, right? Instead Reyes was out there trying to help people, so that has to be worth something. However, he only got to help three people; he tried helping more, but they rejected him, just like Joel said. Still, the people he saved seemed alright. He had a good look at each of them, and he has his opinions on each of them. The cop, Ethan, was like the dude in charge. He was the one who had the gun experience, fighting experiences, and well, seemed like the dude in charge.
The front man, Michael, was the man who talked and kept people calm. He was a nice man, who had lots of hope, but there was still a depressing vibe about him, that Reyes couldn’t just pinpoint yet. There was more than meets the eye with Michael.
Than there was Tate, whom he barely had a read on. Tate, who has barely spoke, was obviously depressed about something, and it had to be something big. Reyes didn’t know exactly, but judging from the bloody wedding ring on his finger, he had a accurate guess.
“Yo, mate,” Michael suddenly rips Reyes from his thoughts, after snapping next to his ears, “you alright there?”
“Yeah...why wouldn’t I be?”
“I’ve been trying to call your name for like the past--two minutes.” Reyes cranks his head sideways, to see all nine eyes on him; hell even Tate was looking at him.
“Oh….well what is it?”
“We, well Brash mostly, was wondering where you’re from?”
“Your name, Young. It sounds...familiar, I don’t know.” Ethan says from his back seat, where he fiddles with the pistol in his hand. He goes from fiddling with the clip, to cocking it, to checking ammo, to just holding it. Reyes, who had just noticed it, gives him a ‘are you crazy, motherfucka?’ type look. Ethan scoffs, slightly. “Relax, it’s on safety.”
“Better be.” Reyes states, only, instead choosing to let the other question linger on for a minute. Michael laughs under his breath a little bit.
“You already forgot the question, or you purposely not asking it?” Michael asks. Michael was a complicated guy; most people who been through the shit he has would be lurking around about life, and while Michael usually does that, he has some sort of life-energy vibe to him. It’s like the natural outgoing and energetic man tries to escape once and a while.
“I’m from Mexico.” Reyes soon answers, while giving the men a glance. “Happy now?” He rudely asks. Despite his slight cold, hard exterior, Michael could see right through it. Sure he may be a prick on the outside, but inside he was either hurting or too afraid to let people in, something Michael could easily relate too.
As silence enters the car, Ethan thinks about the last name. Young. While he himself has never been to Mexico, Ethan knows people there and he swears the name Young came up once or twice. “And, Mr. Cop, don’t you dare ask for my green pass.” Reyes finishes, clearly seeing how now wasn’t the time for ‘civil patrol’ duty. Ethan, in response, chuckles under his breath, while still thinking about the name. Reyes, noticing Ethan’s deep thought, just turns away and prays he doesn’t remember anything about the Youngs.
“So it looks like we got three foreigners in this car.” Michael breaks some of the awkward silence. “I’m Scottish, Tate’s Norwegian, and you’re Mexican.” He explains to Reyes.
“So?” Reyes asks, not seeing the joke, or whatever conversation Michael was trying to make.
“Well….actually, I don’t even know. Just trying to start a conversation.”
“Why?” Michael shrugs at the question. He was a very strange person. Sometimes he embraced silence to think about himself, but other times he pushed silence away. “You want to talk? Let’s talk about how the país is moribundo out there, because last I heard, that’s what all the culo fresco kids are talking about.”
Nobody responds, instead just sitting there, with Michael being the only one to look at him, while Ethan stares out the window and Tate is lost in his goddamn mind. “Alright, I guess nobody wants to talk then.” Reyes mocks.
“Well, there’s only one problem to what you said.” Michael points out.
“Yeah? And what’s that?”
“We don’t speak fuckin’ espanol.” Ethan exclaims, expressing the language's name. Reyes chuckles, deciding not to exclaim on what he said. “In case you didn’t notice, this is America, where people tend to speak english.”
“Lo que usted diga…..policía americano estúpido.” He keeps his tone low on the last one, yet internally leaves it loud enough for Ethan to hear. Ethan only sarcastically chuckles and leans back in his seat.
“Whatever.” Ethan mutters, clearly annoyed, yet Michael can’t help but smirk to himself about it. Meanwhile, Michael looks down at the map he has and sees where they are, and how far away the mall is. Close.
“Any road, we’re almost there.” He annonces aloud, before letting the silence fill the car this time.
“Hey, Dre. You alright?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Dre asks, although he doesn’t have his full attention on McCoy, instead keeping half of it on the road in front of them. The so-called “shortcut” that Lara proposed instead turned out to be an area that resembled Haiti after an earthquake. Wrecked cars were crashed into buildings, and some buildings were even collapsed; misery just plan out reeked the area. So Dre was really focusing on trying to slip the car through tight spots and navigate around the junkyard.
“Well...you haven’t been yourself, persay, for the past few days.” McCoy says rather awkwardly, as it was a little awkward to mention. The dude lost his parents, who he treated bad, and McCoy has his guts to say he’s been acting awkward. Dre, however, doesn’t take this to offense and just waits for McCoy to continue.
“And, you were pretty outgoing back there. So I was just wondering if you were just acting that way or..” He lets the “or” dangle on for Dre to answer. In the backseats, both Vicky and Lara head their headphones on and were in their own little world, so McCoy wasn’t worried that they would hear this personal conversation.
“If your asking if I’m over their deaths, than no. I just didn’t want my ‘depressing vibe’ and shit like that to affect them.” Dre shrugs, not really knowing what he’s saying. He just really didn’t know how to put it, so he hoped that explained it enough.
“Alright, cool.” Yeah, it wasn’t really cool, but McCoy just didn’t know what else to say.
“And what about you, nigga? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you more outgoing.”
“It’s the ‘apocalypse,’ man. I’m gonna have to get out of my comfort zone, right?”
“Eh, I guess. But that’s a bullshit answer so…”
“Shut up.” McCoy smirks. “Well, I guess same reason as you. I mean, they seem to have their lives on the upside, unlike us. So why would I bring it down with my ‘depressing vibe’, as you said it. Get what I’m saying?”
“Sure, nigga. Sure.” Dre focuses back onto his driving, while McCoy slumps back into his seat, observing the area they’re traveling through. They were going slower here than they would be on the highway. “How the hell is this a shortcut…” Dre mutters to himself, and McCoy was wondering the same thing at first.
“According to this thing,” McCoy holds the map up, “once we get out of this place, we should practically be right there.”
“Yeah, ‘practically’.” Dre mocks the term, to which McCoy just shrugs and goes back to looking out the window.
Meanwhile, in the back, Vicky and Lara just kept to themselves. Both having their separate headphones in, the two girls just kept themselves occupied with whatever they were doing. Vicky, having picked up a laptop and a few dvd’s back at the mall, was in the middle of watching an episode of Girls, some HBO show. Yeah, it wasn’t the best show, but it was enjoyable at least, and she could relate to some of the main characters. She was in the middle of watching the tenth episode of Season 3, where Felicity Jones is guest starring.
Then there’s Lara, who instead of watching a tv show, was listening to music on her Iphone. Shadow of the Sun by Audioslave. The thing about Lara was that she didn’t have a specific music genre, and instead drifted into all of them, except for Country. Country was just damn stupid, to her, and most sane people, anyways.
This was pretty much the setting for the next six minutes. Vicky watched her show, Lara jammed to music, Dre drove, and McCoy just observed his settings.
After getting the car out of the junkyard, which took another surprising five minutes, Dre immediately picked up their pace by cranking up the speed to seventy, and only a few minutes later, Dre thought he saw a mall in the distance.
“So, boys, this is how it’s going to go.” Ryker announces, hand behind his back, as he walks across the room, acting like he’s on a stage. His audience are members of the Vernon gang, the ones who remained following the outbreak. There was a decent thirty people, however, some of them weren’t to pleased about Ryker killing their boss……..to put it short, the fifteen ones who took a stand are currently laying down on the street six stories below.
Ryker’s own men, who were his before, stand at the entrances of the building, rifles in hand; they followed Ryker here, on his orders. “I’m in charge now, sound good?” The fifteen ones who remain of Vernon’s gang are kneeled before him, and each refuse to look at him in the eyes, out of fear. “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
They all look up immediately, and Ryker smiles in their fear. “So, things are going to be different. As I stated earlier, I am the one in charge. So, naturally, you’re going to do what I say. Are we clear?” No one responds. “Are there any questions? No?”
It was in that exact moment that one of the men slowly raises his shaking hand, afraid to ask and afraid not to ask. Ryker looks at the man, the scrawny black man, and chuckles to himself. It was a mixture of disgust and something humorous to Ryker; maybe it was because he was the only black person there. “What?” He demands to know.
“What--what happens if we want out?” He asks, with his eyes falling flat of Ryker’s.
“Out? As in, leave?”
“Yes, sir.” Ryker scoffs the man’s response, and just slowly walks over to him. Vernon’s other guards don’t say anything and just watch as Ryker walks over, with the scrawny guard scared. Soon enough, Ryker was standing right in front of him, and he didn’t look happy.
“C’mon, look at me, son.” He says calm and professional, with a soothing voice. “Don’t be scared. Just look at me.” The guard shakes and slowly looks up, meets Ryker’s dark eyes, then looks back down. Ryker sighs.
Before the guard can realize what’s going on, Ryker has already pulled out a pistol and hit him across the face with it, sending him to the ground in pain. “I said,” He says with much more power and anger this time, “look at me!”
The guard looks up at Ryker, with his now bloody eye, and Ryker smiles. “There ya go.” He says, now back to his soothing voice. “Was that so hard?” The guard shakes his head. “Now why do you want to leave?”
“I….I wanna go see my mom.” He says, slowly and reluctant. “She’s out west and--”
“Your mamma? You wanna go see your little, negro mama?”
“Does she know about this?” He nods. “Does she approve of this life?”
“S--she always wanted me to leave but…..I never did, and now the world’s falling apart, so...I thought maybe I could--” Before the poor guard can finish his sentence, Ryker grabbed him by his tie and pulled him onto his knees, with one arm. Now on his knees, the guard looks at Ryker, who only shakes his head.
“Do you think she wants to see your disgusting ass? I mean, who would ever disobey their own mama.” Ryker mocks, and even chuckles to himself, before standing to his feet and pointing to some random guard. “You.” The random guard looks at him. “Would you disobey your mama?”
“Good, good.” Ryker turns back to the scrawny guard, who is scared for his life now. Ryker was taking so much pleasure in that. “It seems your friend over there wouldn’t do it, so he seems smart. Is he smart?”
“Alright, cool, cool. Now, back onto your little question, there are two problems.” Ryker gets onto his knees and pulls his pistol out once more, where he firmly sticks it into the guard’s mouth. All the other guards are to busy shitting their pants to help.
“Now, you see, loyalty is a very important thing, and you can’t even obey your own mama. That already tells me you’re a coward, so truth is, I don’t even want your black ass here.” The guard gulps, as Ryker’s pistol still sits inside his mouth. “Now this second one, is your worse problem. Truth is, my cowardly friend, there is no way out.” Immediately upon saying that, Ryker pulled the trigger on the scrawny guard, and his body fell to the ground without even making a hump.
Standing onto his feet, Ryker just wipes the blood off his face, without a care in the world. “Any other questions?”
“Alright I’ll take an...iced tea, and she will take a coke.” James says about Sarah and himself, while sitting at the restaurant table. After finally finding a place in the tent hall (which was more crowded than he thought) to set up, James finally had the luxury of getting out of those dirty, bloody clothes, and instead took on the flashy appearance he prefers with his suit. Sarah, as well, managed to get better dressed, and currently, was sitting next to her father. Across from them were Haruka and Sandra, who were looking at the menus.
“Alright, I’ll take a…...lemonade.” Haruka says, while scanning through the small menu. The items were not to her usual fitting, as it was very different from a Japanese menu and selections. She was getting used to it, however.
“Iced tea.” Sandra says, folding up her menu and putting it back on the table, having selected her main course already, as well. Their waitress, an older lady who wears old-styled clothing, just nods and writes down all the suggestions on her notepad, before heading off, leaving the four alone.
Following getting their tents, the four were awed how civilization is still there. While most stores are still shut down and blocked off with their gates, some have instead went back to their business. Numerous restaurants are open, with some of them being turned into bars, due to the increase in drinking. Other stores have opened their doors to people again also, like clothing, music and movie stores, with the nearby Barnes and Nobles also being turned into a library too. There were even plans to set-up the movie theater again, according to some; and although the movie theater was displaying no movies, the general area was still open to the public.
Currently, the four came to this restaurant to have dinner, as an act of goodbye. Having got to the mall and safe, they decided to just go their own separate ways, as they all got different goals there. So this dinner not only acted as a goodbye, but a thanks from Haruka and Sandra, since the Benjamins picked them up off the road when others refused too.
“So…...is this free or do we actually gotta pay?” Haruka asks aloud, a thought that’s been in all their heads. Sure, Sandra and Haruka had their wallets in their purses, but after this, where would they get paid?
“Truth be told, I got no clue.” James shrugs. “But hey, if it’s free, then looks like it’s good on both of us, right?”
“True that.” Haruka says, before a slight silence hits them. “So, I actually got a question, if you don’t mind me asking.”
“You’re white, and she’s latino, I mean not to be rude, but is she your biological daughter or….” Sandra nudges her to shut up, to which Haruka flinches. “What? I have just been wondering.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” He says, in response to her weariness to ask the question. “And, no, technically I’m her uncle, but…..yeah.” He decides not to continue after the ‘but’, and just puts on a smile, as does Sarah. “But, hey, screw genetics and all. I raised this little rascal, so I’ll take the luxury of calling her my own.” Sarah chuckles a little at the word rascal, but that quickly turns into a smile when James puts his arm around her, to signify that she is his.
“Aww, how sweet.” Haruka smiles back, clearly seeing the bond between the two. They’re not even real father and daughter, yet, they were closer than most biological parents and their kids. Sandra, who was watching outside, takes a look at them and just stares, refusing to show what she’s thinking. Watching the father-daughter duo be happy just made Sandra wish she could have had that same bond.
“So, I got a question for you guys too, actually.”
“Well, ain’t that a twist for events.” Haruka chuckles at her corny joke. “Lay it on me.”
“What exactly are your plans?” James overheard them talk about some sort of plan a few times in the car, and earlier today when they said they couldn’t hang out with the Benjamins a lot. James was never one to barge, but these plans of theirs must be pretty big.
“Eh, nothing really.” Haruka shrugs. Usually she wouldn’t mind spilling the beans on her upcoming experiments on infected, but James would probably laugh at it and call her insane; so she’d rather just skip that part and keep it to Sandra and herself. In a quick glance, Sandra and her meet eyes, and Haruka can sense she’s feeling the same thing. “Just girl stuff.”
“Wait, do you hear that?”
“I think--I think my bullshit detector is going off.” James can’t help but smirk, as Haruka gives a sarcastic laugh, while Sandra just rolls her eyes, but he can see her chuckle very, very lightly under her breath. “You guys some secret CIA agents or something, and you’re here to find the cure to this?” He jokingly asks.
“Eh, something like that.” Haruka shrugs, smirking, but James can see she won’t spill the beans, and Sandra won’t either; so he simply raises his hands in defeat. “Alright, alright. If you don’t wanna say, then don’t say it.”
“Alright then, we won’t.”
“Fine then. But until otherwise, I’m going with the CIA theory.” It was only a moment after James spoke that moment the waitress come back to collect their dish orders. James ordered a classic steak, Sarah got some sort of ravioli, Haruka got sushi, and Sandra got a chicken salad. Looks like they all were different kinds of food people.
Another twenty minutes later, the four had already finished their meal, with most of their plates empty at the point, along with their cups. Also, they received confirmation that the meal was in fact free, meaning the women didn’t have to waste the last remaining money they had; although, Sandra was nice enough to leave a few bucks as a tip, even though it’s useless now, she just wanted to feel the old normal routine again.
After the waitress took away their plates and cups (and kindly thanking Sandra for the tip), the four just sat there for a moment, letting the food rest in. After a few minutes it was, surprisingly, Sandra who spoke up. “Anyways, thank you, both. For helping us and all.”
“You guys don’t need to thank me, alright?”
“Yeah we do.” Sandra replies back. “We came across a lot of...jerks, who just kept driving, but you didn’t. So, whether you like it or not, I’m gonna thank you.” She says, politely, to which James smiles.
“The damn so-called ‘apocalypse’ ain’t gonna make me ditch two little ol’ girls on the road, that’s for sure.” James says, while Haruka takes a look at the clock. It was getting sort of late and the girls still wanted to explore the mall.
“Alright, well, we gotta be going.” Haruka stands to her feet, throwing on her purse, while also extending her hand toward James.
“So this is goodbye?”
“We’ll see you guys around.” She says, while James gives her a firm handshake. She was tempted to say thank you, but he probably wouldn’t accept it. “Pleasure meeting you, Mr. Benjamin.”
“You too, Ms. Saito.” James releases his grip and goes to shake Sandra’s hand as well. “And you too, as well, Ms. Dufraine.” Haruka and Sandra both gave Sarah a quick handshake, and said their final goodbyes, before walking out of the restaurant, James watching them go. “Keep in touch!”
“Aye aye, Captain.” Haruka calls back, putting a thumbs up in the air; and just like that, they were gone. After seeing them walk out of the distance, James turned back to Sarah, who only smirked to herself.
“What’s up?” He asks, to which she only looks at him.
“If they’re gonna keep in touch...you can still get their numbers--or, tent number, I guess.”
“C’mon, Dad. I just wanna help you--”
“If you wanna help me, then you should buy me a fancy car.” James chuckles, to which Sarah only rolled her eyes. That was classic James all right; always giving help, but never accepting it.
“Would you look at this, Vics. Not even the apocalypse can stop us from shopping.” Lara cracks, while walking side-by-side with Vicky, just observing the mall. They got here a little bit ago, and after doing the picture stuff, got the tents. They just decided to bunk with Dre and McCoy, and after they found the spot, left their bags there and went to go explore; they were nice enough to let the boys set up the tents.
“Oh yeah, because we can so get a lot here.” Vicky remarks about all the closed stores, to which Lara only shrugged.
“They don’t gotta be open, exactly.”
“I guess I’ll just add robber to your ever so ‘great deeds’ list.”
“Must be one-hella long list.”
“I think I meant bad deeds, not good. Sorry for the mixup.”
“Okay then, fuck you too.” Lara chuckles, while observing the area around them. Vicky, as well, couldn’t help but notice the certain kind of vibe to this area. The two girls walked down two hallways already and so far they were the only non-crying their eyes out people. Every twist and turn there were people on the floor, mopping, or people crying while walking past. It felt...awkward; and Vicky could even feel some of their eyes watch them with envy.
“So what do you think of the place?”
“Honestly, it’s not exactly what I thought it would be. I mean, I get people been through shit and all, but I didn’t think it would be this depressing. I swear I saw some girl crying about her kid dying a hall back.” For once in a while Vicky saw a glimmer of sadness in Lara’s eye, like she was actually taking all this to heart. “You?”
“I get what you mean. I mean, I knew it wasn’t gonna be like some garden of Eden and be paradise on earth, but I was expecting something….better, I don’t know.”
“Yeah, yeah. Least we won’t be staying long, right?” The question hangs in the thick air, echoing right into Vicky’s head. However, Vicky chooses not to respond and instead retreats to her thoughts, where she thinks carefully about what to say. The road trip really was a nice idea, really was, but Lara asked at the wrong time. Vicky may have said yes but it was just in the moment; she trashed a mall with her best friend, had a blast, and had adrenaline pumping through her veins, so when Lara was prompting her to say yes, she sorta just did it.
But over the past day, Vicky had time to think about that more. Yeah it sounded fun and all, but thinking realistically, they wouldn’t even make it out of Pennsylvania; hell, even out of the city was a feat. She should've just been honest and say something like “Yeah, I’m not going”, but she saw the look in Lara’s face. It wasn’t her usual carefree look, but instead something more hopeful, like she was excited about this trip; like it gave her some sort of hope about life. To say no right there would crush Lara, and Vicky couldn’t do that to her; she owed Lara too much.
“Look, I’ve been thinking about that….” She lets it drag on for a minute, before going back on, “I think we should stay here for a little bit.”
“Why? We both agree this place is crappy.” As she said that, ironically, a dude walked by and gave her a annoyed glance. Lara simply flipped him off, while keeping her attention glued on Vicky.
“Yeah, it’s crappy--okay, more like shitty, but we need to think about this.” Lara was about to ask another question, when Vicky kept going. “We gotta think about this idea a little bit more, see if it’s still a good idea.”
“Good? I think--”
“We don’t know what it’s like outside of the state. I say we stay here, get freshed up and energized, and wait for news on rest of the country. Then, if you still think it’s a good idea, we’ll go. Besides, imagine what the guys will think if we just ditched them.”
It wasn’t the answer Lara was hoping for, instead hoping for more of a ‘Fuck yes, lets go right now’ answer. She sighed to herself, however, she did see the reason in it. Maybe if they just stayed a few days, or week, then they could leave. “Lara, I swear, alright.”
“Alright, alright. I guess we’ll stay a little while.” Lara didn’t fully agree with it, but since she owes some debt to Vicky, she goes along with it.
“Nigga, I’m telling you, we hit the jackpot.” Dre remarks while leaning back against his sleeping bag, inside the tent. It took them a little bit, more like ten minutes, but they got the tent set up. It was pretty roomy, even with all the stuff laid down. McCoy and Dre had began setting up their stuff, while just throwing the girl’s stuff into the corner.
McCoy, who was just laying down on his sleeping bag, gives him a glance like he didn’t have a clue about what Dre was saying. “And how’s that?” He asks.
“Dude, look around you.”
“I still don’t see the point.” McCoy exclaims, forcing Dre to give a slight shake of his head while chuckling under his breath. He then proceeds to point to the girl’s stuff at the corner of the room.
“Bro, we’re bunking with older women; fuckin’ seniors, man.” Dre explains to him. “Us freshman are bunking with two, hot seniors. Do you see the point now, dumbass.” He asks, joking about the dumbass part. McCoy just chuckles while rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, we’re gonna hear all the gossip now, right?” He mocks, to which Dre gives a sarcastic laugh.
“I’m jus’ sayin man, this is the jack pot. If I knew the apocalypse was gonna let this happen, I wish it happened earlier.”
“I feel bad for them already.”
“Nigga, I bet you’ll be digging through their panty and bra bags when they’re sleeping.” Dre laughs, while McCoy just gives him a ‘really?’ look; McCoy was definitely back in his serious mode. With the look McCoy gives him, Dre just puts his hands up. “Damn man, I’m just fucking with you.”
“You alright?” Dre asks, to which McCoy only shrugs. “Touchy subject?”
“Seems like it.”
“I think you’re bullshittin’ me.”
“Can you just go back to that silent mode of yours?”
“Nope.” Dre chuckles. He doesn’t know what it is, but after arriving at the mall, he feels like himself again. Like that missing piece of hope just overcame him again, and although he still thinks about his parents, he managed to push it to the back of his head. “Wait, lemme guess.”
“There’s nothing to guess.” McCoy says back, but Dre guesses. After a moment he thinks he has an answer, but it’s one he doesn’t think is true.
“Don’t tell me that you never had a girl.” McCoy doesn’t respond. “Bro, you did have a girlfriend, right?”
“What the hell. You’re nineteen man, you’ve had to have a girl, or even a date, at some point.” McCoy shakes his head. “You’re not homo, right?”
“Course not.” McCoy chuckles at the response. “I just never found the time for stuff like that, always found being by myself easier.” McCoy shrugs, not really caring, while Dre just stares at him. It’s never occurred to him about McCoy’s background, and now that he thinks about it, he’s always seen McCoy sort of alone. Hell, Dre might be his only friend.
“Michael Nicholson.” The four introduce themselves to the man at the counter, having just entered the mall. Jonathan Walsh, the man, gives them each a handshake, minus Tate who just stands there with his hands in his pockets. Luckily they arrived safely, but Michael wasn’t concentrated on the basics right now, instead dying to know if Sarah was there or not.
“Alright, well, welcome to Franklin Mills. I’m Jonathan Walsh, the guy in charge here, as I would say.” Walsh welcomes them with open arms, to which they just nod, but they are not as cheerful as the others. “Now--”
“Look, I’m sorry to cut in, I just got a question.”
“Oh. Then, Michael, yes?” Michael nods. “Please, what is your question?”
“Is there like a list or something where I can see who is here.” He asks impatient, appearing to tap his foot against the floor, making an echo sound.
“Oh, well yes, Mr. Nicholson.” Walsh says, pointing to the wall of pictures and names. “You may check over there for--” Before Walsh can finish, Michael was already running over there, leaving the others behind; Walsh just gives an annoyed cough.
“He’s looking for his daughter, so, he probably just wants to get the answer already.” Ethan explains about Michael, to which Walsh nods.
“Ah, okay, okay. Well, anywho, let me finish explaining about the mall here.” Walsh explains to the three, while Michael arrives at the wall. Blocking out all other noises besides the sound of his own rapid breathes, Michael scans through every picture that sits on the table and wall, knowing he just needs to see her one picture to know she’s safe. He looks, and looks, and looks, until seeing a picture on the wall. A teenage girl with latina skin, ginger hair, and amazing eyes. It was Sarah.
Quicker than he ever thought he could run, faster from when he was in the city, Michael runs from the entrance tables and into the heart of the mall, in search for Sarah. “Sir!” Walsh shouted after him. “You need to get your picture taken and--”
“Mr. Walsh.” Ethan cuts him off. “I don’t think Mike is expecting anyone to come looking for him.”
Already down the hall, Michael sprints through the hall, looking at every face as he does so. He runs and runs and runs, with some people even giving him a weired out glance, but Michael keeps running. He didn’t give a shit about what people thought about him right now.
After running past one of the clothing stores, he saw someone. Standing at the front of a clothing store was a latina skinned girl, ginger hair, and some normal clothing; it was Sarah. Just like that his world turned from shit to a beam in heaven, as his face light up. “Sarah!” He shouted across the hall, running over while doing so. “Sarah!”
Sarah turns, hearing her name, and sees him running toward her. It was Michael, her father. “Michael?” She asks to herself, until finally seeing it is him. She just stands there, shocked, as Michael gets down and hugs her; the biggest hug he’s ever gave anyone.
“Sarah..Sarah, oh my God.” He hugs her tight in his arms, running his hands across the back of her head. Sarah freezes, not knowing what to do, as Michael cries into her shoulder. She hugs him back, but has no idea what to even feel. “Sarah..I thought--” He stops, instead hugging her tighter and letting more tears out, as he kisses her cheek. “I love you, honey. I love you, so much.”
For the first time in a while, Michael can't help but smile, feeling a sense of happiness in him right now; he just wished this moment could last forever. Too bad Sarah didn't feel the exact same, instead feeling more awkward.
While this scene unfolds, Reyes watches from down the hall, seeing how happy Michael is. He did this, Reyes was the one who got Michael to this mall; and Reyes can’t help but smile lightly, feeling good.
“In here.” Lisette opens the front door to the house, after doing a basic lock picking. The house was nothing special, just being an empty suburb home, although this one was still intact, unlike others. Lisette stands there and holds the door open for Anahi, and even holds it open for Daniel, but closing it and locking themselves in. “Alright, we’re good.”
Backing away from the door Lisette takes a look at the other two, with Daniel taking a spot on the stairs, while Anahi collapses onto the couch, sighing in relief; she even drops her gun onto the floor. “Not bad.” Anahi remarks about the house, to which Lisette chuckles at her, from the way she was acting.
“I was a model. Models don’t walk.” Anahi reminds her, while adjusting the pillow behind her. Lisette, seeing that Anahi’s position looks nice, lowers herself on the opposite couch, resting her head back on the seat. “Feels nice, don’t it?”
“Yeah, damn nice couch.” Lisette sighs. “Should have a nice rest tonight.”
“And, hopefully, we should make it to the mall by noon.” Lisette exclaims, to which Anahi smiles, while Daniel shows no emotion, instead just sitting there. “So, you got anyone you want to find there?” She asks Anahi.
“Eh, not really. You?”
“Nope.” Lisette shrugs, before looking toward Daniel. “What about you, Dan?”
“What about me?”
“Have anyone to see at the mall?”
“Oh, come on."
"There isn't." He bluntly replies, and unknown to him, Anahi does a mocking, silent impression of him. Lisette silently chuckles, before going back to Daniel.
"You lived here for a while, right? There’s gotta be at least one person that you know.” Lisette says, knowing there’s gotta be someone Daniel knows. However, the way she says it makes Daniel think about something; something big. He was a major mob boss in Philly, which means there’s gotta be someone out there that recognizes Daniel Brown. Someone who might want to harm him.
Daniel gulps to himself, as this revelation comes to mind. Without saying a word, Daniel walks upstairs, ditching the girls, and makes his way into the nearby bathroom, locking the door behind him. Once in, Daniel is lucky to see shaving cream sitting right on the sink, and a razor on the cabinet. If he wanted to keep himself safe, then he had to take some precautions.
Slowly Daniel picks up the razor and shaving cream, and stares at the two items in his hands. He had to make a new him to survive. He sighs, lightly, before getting down to business. After wetting his beard and applying the shaving beard, Daniel looks at himself one more time in the mirror before sliding the shaver across the cream covered beard.
A few minutes later there he was, now without a beard, staring at himself in the mirror. In his opinion, he did look different, and didn't have that Brown touch. Once he changed up his hair style a little bit, he would look like a different person. However instead of having a devilish smile like usual, he just sighs.
Now there was the name part. He knew they were probably going to need his name at some point, and he couldn't just give Daniel Brown, so that had to change. Personally, he loved the name Daniel, so he isn't going to change that; but the last name had to go. Scratching his now shaved chin, Daniel ponders what last name he could use.
After digging into the back of his head, Daniel finally comes up with his new last name. Valentine; it was based off Valentine's day, which was Isabella's favorite holiday....too bad he was always to chicken to ask her.
So here he is now; Daniel Valentine, his new name; as of now, Daniel Brown is dead. The only thing now was convincing the girls on why he decided to shave randomly, but that shouldn't be too hard.
“So, how they fitting in?” Ryker asks his guard, Gabriel, while he sits in his master living room, relaxing. Gabriel stands at the door in a black suit, hands folded, and eyes plastered on Ryker, like the perfect guard.
“Scared, but besides that, alright, sir.”
“Great.” Ryker exclaims, while stretching out on the couch, in normal, old clothing. Even someone like Ryker has to relax once and a while. “Keep them that way.”
“Yes, sir.” Gabriel nods, not losing his position. “So, may I ask a question, sir?”
“Go ahead, my friend.” Ryker allows, since Gabriel was his closest guard; hell, closest thing he had to a friend, probably.
“How does it feel?”
“How does what feel?”
“Having...all this power, sir. With getting all the mob bosses out, you’re owning this shithole with an iron fist. I mean, you gotta feel good, right? Having all that power for yourself?”
“Oh, Gabriel, it does feel good, but you’re wrong about something.” Ryker chuckles while standing to his feet, and walking over to Gabriel. Gabriel watches as Ryker puts his hand on his shoulder, and smiles.
“W--what am I wrong about?”
“It’s not just for me, Gabe. It’s for my cause.” Ryker smiles, before walking away, leaving Gabriel alone before he could ask what this cause of Ryker’s is.