Eight teenagers wake up in the middle of a large shopping centre with no idea how they got there.
Sycamore, Joseph, Ash, Aaron, Melanie, Ramona, Max and Lacey learn quickly how to survive - do what the announcements over the tannoy say or die.


4. Boom

"Where are the vegan foods?"

"I'm sorry?"

Melanie looked at Joseph, unimpressed, her arms folded. "I'm a vegan. All this stuff in here is meat."

"Yeah, 'cause it's Billy Beef's Butch Diner," Joseph said, frowning. "It's my favourite place to eat. And what the hell is a vegan?"

Melanie looked ready to hit him.

Tension between the teens had been growing all day. Since waking up, Sycamore had organized them all to find a place to get food. Aaron had tried to convince them all to find a health food store, to no avail. Ramona wanted the Cheese Canteen, which stank of old feet. Arguments had ensued, until Joseph had found his favourite cafe. It was raising some problems.

Sycamore was just about ready to throw herself over the railing on the top floor when the tannoy system crackled into life.

"Good afternoon, my little test subjects."

"Afternoon, is it?" Ramona scowled.


"Oh." Ramona had obviously not thought further on her argument.

"Continuing, I have my first task for you."

Sycamore's ears pricked up.

"Sycamore, Ash and Ramona are to go to the downstairs ladies' bathrooms and fill one of the stalls with plastic explosive. Joseph, Aaron and Lacey are to fetch the explosives from Mr Macho's Suit and Tie Superstore, on the top floor, top shelf, second on the left. Melanie and Max are to stay by the water fountain on the ground floor. One amongst you has knowledge of explosives. I want this person to blow up these toilets. You have ten minutes, starting now. Good luck, and remember the consequences."

The Announcer's voice fizzled out.

There was a long silence.

"I don't believe that guy," Ramona said at long last. She had her arms folded, her face unimpressed. "He's bluffing. That's a really dumb and pointless thing he wants us to do. He wouldn't really kill one of us."

"He did lock us in here," Melanie pointed out. "Why wouldn't he kill?"

"Let's just do it!" Sycamore said hastily. "Joseph, Aaron, Lacey. That suit shop, top floor, top shelf, second on the left. Go get!"

Aaron and Lacey sped off obediently, Joseph only resisting a moment before sprinting after them.

"Mel, Max, go down to the fountain. Ash, Ramona, follow me."

"At your service, G.I. Josephine," Ramona sneered, mock-saluting, but she followed all the same.

The ladies' toilets stank of disinfectant and unmentionable things. Toilet paper littered the dirty floor, and the mirrors above the sinks were steamy and sprinkled with ancient fingerprints.

They waited five minutes, Sycamore anxiously leaning against the cleanest sink, tapping her foot. When she felt ready to explode from anxiety, Joseph, Aaron and Lacey came pelting in, carrying armfuls of what looked like cables, an "on" button, clips, gold cups, and putty.


Sycamore looked round in amazement. The voice was high and girly and sweet. It certainly wasn't Ramona or Lacey.

Ash stepped forward.

"That is Composition C-4, a dangerous plastic explosive. Give me it."

"No way!" Joseph held the bundle tighter. "Back off, little girly."

"Wait!" Lacey butted in. "How did you know the name of this stuff?"

Ash gave her a weird look. "My dad and grandad taught me about weaponry and bombs when I was five. I got the nickname Ash for a reason."

Before they could interrupt again, Ash seized the explosives and started setting it up. Her hands moved, creating magic underneath her fingers. Before long, the bomb was set and placed carefully in the end stall. Ash was an odd girl. She hadn't spoken until she had seen those explosives, and suddenly she was Miss Outgoing.

"Everyone to the farthest point you can get from this bathroom," Ash ordered, and everyone shuffled out.

The group sprinted past Max and Melanie, who began to question, before their arms were seized and dragged, accompanied by hissed "quick!"s and "hurry!"s.

"We've got ten seconds!" Lacey shrieked.

The took the dead escalators three at a time, and pounded to the back of the last shop at the end of the second floor, Count Dracula's Fancy Dress. They crouched in a huddle, hands over ears, as Ash stabbed down on the remote trigger.

There was a muffled boom. After about twenty seconds, a shock wave rippled through the store, sending witch hats and pixie boots and fairy wands shooting backwards like jet rockets, and their hair flying back. Sycamore found herself whipped in the eye by Melanie's ginger locks.

"He must have padded out the bathroom," Ash murmured, almost to herself. "Otherwise this whole place could have gone kaboom."

They emerged, hesitantly, from the shop. They began to walk - the cautious slapping of boots and and trainers against smooth cold floor - to the centre of the top floor, just by some of the broken escalators.

There was a very, very long silence.


The Announcer sounded grim.

"Your first task did not go so well. You were two seconds over the time limit."

"What? Two sec - ?" Ramona started, but Sycamore clapped a hand over her mouth, listening intently.

"Therefore............well, you all know the rules."

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