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18 Battle Ready

 Mark cautiously went out stepping into the back corridors of the mall. The corridors are about 3 meters wide, more than enough for two trolleys to pass side by side and still leaving a wide margin. There are a lot of doors varying in sizes and colors for some reason.

He did not find any zombies for now. The corridors ran along the outline of the mall and thus, it had many corners. Even though he can't see anything of danger in the straight corridor he was in, he can't say what the corners had in store.

Still, traces of devastation are present. Several trolleys blocked some parts of the corridor and many wrecked and overturned boxes that spilled its contents out littered the floor. Blood marks stained the floor and walls and there is even a large puddle of blood not far from him.

He looked to his left which goes towards the south. He saw the fire exit sign hanging from the ceiling at the mid-point of the corridor with the arrow pointing to a single door at right side. Just beside a door he saw a blood covered corpse sat on the floor with its back leaning on the wall. Blood continued to drip from exposed wounds on the arms, neck and legs creating a blood puddle on the floor.

He moved closer to fire exit and noticed that the body is quite familiar which he immediately recognized. It is one of the gangsters he let go.

"It looked like the other one managed to get away."

He noticed the red footprints on the floor. All of the footprints led towards the door in large strides. It seemed that all the zombies present here earlier are fast moving ones which he found plausible.

As he inched towards the door, he noticed how badly mangled the gangster's body was and wandered why he was left there and did not turn.

Then...

BAM!

He swung his metal baseball towards the supposed to be dead gangster's face at it sprung up to attack him.

"I won't fall for that."

Mark said as the gangster zombie who was pushed several steps away finally ending up dead, without any more chance of standing up again.

Probably...

Ensuring that the gangster totally stopped moving, he peeked through the glass window on the door. Seeing that there is nothing outside, he opened it and cautiously stepped outside. What greeted him is the stale warm air blowing strongly unbefitting the current season. He took a quick look around him disregarding the devastating scene he can see from afar.

What he focused looking for are the possible threats, escape routes and things that can be used.

Where he stood now is a flight of stairs hugging the walls at the back of the mall facing a large parking lot. The stairs continued down below ending about two meters above the ground. At the end of the stairs, there is a retractable ladder which is still suspended upward.

Mark noticed the commotion just below the ladder. There is a group of zombies crouching on the concrete encircling something. The zombies are eating something which is not hard to imagine what. Just behind the group, he noticed baseball cap that started to roll away getting carried by the strong wind.

To his right, he found another set of ladders attached to the wall. He looked up and saw that the ladder ends up at the edge of the mall's rooftop.

He then looked at towards the west wing and saw another flight of stairs similar to what he is currently standing on.

Confirming that there are no dangers at this part and finding a good route to take, he decided to go back. But as he entered the mall once more, screams echoed from the northern side of the corridor. Hearing the screams, he not making any noise anymore and immediately dashed towards the northern side past the cinema entrance not to check on the screams but to overturn the trollies that littered the corridor.

He arranged the overturned trollies and together with the heavy boxes, he managed to quickly build a waist tall barricade blocking the corridor. The barricade isn't likely to stop anything going above it but its purpose is not to stop but to hinder.

"AHH!!! HELP! STOP BITING ME!!! AHHH!!"

The screams are getting closer along with loud running footsteps of more than ten people.

Mark turned around and ran back to the cinema with haste. He opened the doors loudly immediately getting the attention of the people inside. As they looked at Mark, thought he still looked calm, they can feel the urgency of the situation.

"What happened?"

Ange immediately asked as Mark came close. Mark looked at the girls then towards the male employee quite a distance away and the cinema door that is now barricaded with different kinds of furniture. He also saw the unconscious gangster which is now being guarded by the employee. He signaled the employee to come closer and turned back to the girls specifically looking at Mei who looked better that earlier.

"Zombies are coming soon, we need to leave. Is she good to go?"

Hearing that there are zombies coming, the atmosphere tensed up. Then Paula answered his question.

"We managed to help her clean up her body to some extent but she needs to take a bath, badly."

Mark nodded at her reply.

"Can't we fight them?"

The boyish Ange asked.

"We can but..." Mark purposely cut his sentence.

"But what?"

"Well end up as zombie food." Mark smiled.

Ange felt she was being played with.

"The fast zombies should be at least a dozen, if we are lucky, about more than thirty I think? Anyways, get ready, we're leaving."

Even though he just said that nonchalantly along with a little joke, Mark managed to shake them to the core. That's just too many after all. And just how is he sure that there would be that many?

Everyone stood up and picked up their things. Mei, though still having a hard time moving also stood up. She did not have anything to carry with her, not even clothes so she is ready to go somehow. She is only wearing the jacket Mark lent her which turned into one-piece clothing due to their difference in stature.

The employee also arrived close by carrying the unconscious gangster on his shoulder.

"What should we do with him?"

It's not the employee but Ange who asked the question while pointing at the unconscious guy.

Mark then turned towards Mei who stepped back in a hurry and hid behind him when the employee came closer. On the other hand, the employee also did not dare come close for some reason that baffled the other girls.

Then they heard Mark mutter and they saw him do a troubled face palm.

"Andro and Gyno, what a bad combination."

Everyone is confused.

"Mei'er, what do you want to with him?"

Mark asked Mei.

But she looked surprised and stared at him for some reason. She then looked down contemplating on his question. Though she is not aware of it, she started grasping the hem of Mark's shirt and started to shiver a little.

Then Mark's voice cut off her line of thought then she felt his hand patting her head and then she started to calm down.

"Just remove the chains and leave him here."

Hearing what he said, everyone except Mark and Mei changed expressions. Leaving the guy, his death would sure become inevitable. Still no one said anything in opposition.

Mark took of the chains while frowning.

'Just how long would this guy spend sleeping?'

He brought the chains with him and left the unconscious gangster sitting in the middle of the cinema.

He then distributed the weapons he gathered from the gangsters. He gave the bat to Ange, and the iron pipe to the employee. He wanted to give the others a weapon but Paula is in charge of helping Mei move while the mother is carrying her daughter and of course, Mei is in no condition to fight but he also doubts that she had the ability to. Then, both the icepick and the machete fell in his hands for his use. He slid the icepick through his belt and held the machete in his right hand while his left hand held a revolver. The shotgun hanged over his side and the large duffle bag hung on his back.

He looked really battle ready while being under Ange's envious gaze.

The group then moved towards the emergency exit of the cinema.