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.


3. The Announcer and Jobs

Lacey screamed again.

The voice had seemingly come from nowhere, the flow of the words injected with crackling static. The gentle, shopping-centre-background music had disappeared.

"W - Who are you?!" yelled Sycamore at the ceiling. "Why are we here?"

"Patience," purred the voice. "For now, you shall know me as the Announcer. You are here for a little experiment of mine."

"What are we, guinea pigs?!" screeched Joseph.

"To me, yes. I am conducting a test on a human teenager's will to survive. Every so often, I shall make an Announcement of a new task and time limit, along with the location of the equipment needed. Either complete that task in the time limit, or one of your number shall die. The person shall be picked at random."

"How - ?"

"I have my ways of killing, Joseph Avery. Some clean and subtle. Some, not so much. You should find supplies in any of the shops here."

"You - !"

"Good luck."

And the voice cut off.

Joseph made a violent hand gesture at the ceiling. Most of the others seemed to be in shock. Sycamore, however, was intrigued by something else. The voice had seemed at first to have come from nowhere, but on closer inspection, it sounded like it had come from specific directions. She cast her eyes around for a few moments before they settled on certain black boxes placed in corners on the upper and lower floors. A tannoy system?

She scrambled to her feet, walked up to them and touched them gently. They were made of thick black plastic, affixed to the wall with wires, the fronts perforated like ghetto blaster speakers. So this was how the Announcer had spoken without being seen.

"Right!" She clapped her hands together and spun round. "We need to assess our skills."

"What are you, an army sergeant?" sneered Ramona.

"I could be," Sycamore said, indicating her camo jacket. "But since my number of memories is down to nada, I don't know. What I am suggesting is that we group together and take on certain roles so we know who to go to when in need - like a gymnast for reaching high places, or a doctor when we hurt ourselves." There were no protests. "OK then. Is anyone particularly good at something, taken a course in something - ?"

Melanie, the redhead, raised a hand. "I'm training to be a nurse, and I've already taken several First Aid courses. I could be medic."

"I've won six trophies each in gymnastics and karate," Ramona said grudgingly.

"I weightlift," offered Joseph bluntly. "And I'm good at wrestling."

"Right then!" Sycamore said, trying to sound bright. "Melanie is our official medic. Ramona, you could maybe be our stealth fighter - ?"

"A ninja? You're kidding."

"Shut up, Max," snapped Ramona. "I'm okay with doing that."

"Stealth fighter it is. Joseph could be our kind of - attacker? Main fighter?"

"How about brawler?" Joseph said, looking smug.

"Uh, sure. Aaron, you are...................?"

"I'm a swot, basically," Aaron muttered. "Not much use."

"Brains, then. We'll come to you for knowledge."

Aaron smiled.


"I'll be the damsel in distress," Lacey said, fluttering her eyelashes. "Oh, help me, I'm being eaten by a dragon!"

Max mimed fighting a beast while Lacey cowered theatrically.

"Seriously, please."

"I'll be the pretty face, then," Lacey said sharply. "I'm pretty useless otherwise."

"Um..........we'll leave it there. Max, how about you?"

"Comedien? Court Jester? Mascot?"

"Mascot it is."

Max made a choking sound. "I didn't know you'd take that seriously!"

"Too late now. Max is our mascot."

"Gimme an M! Gimme an A! Gimme an X! M-A-X MAX!" Joseph pretend-cheered in a girly voice.

"Button it, Joseph. Ash, what would you be happy doing?"

Ash shrugged.

"Er, fine. We'll come back to you later. So, Melanie is medic, Ramona is stealth, Joseph is brawler, Aaron is the brains, Lacey is the......um.......pretty face, Max is the mascot, Ash has yet to pick a job. I think we should probably pick a leader."

"Me!" said Ramona immediately.

"Let's nominate someone other than ourselves," Sycamore said firmly. "Anyone?"

"Well, it's obvious isn't it?" said Aaron quietly. "She was the one who woke up first and made us say who we were. She's given us the jobs. Sycamore, wasn't it?"

Sycamore nodded numbly.

"Sycamore's leader then," Aaron said, in a 'case closed' tone. "It's only logical. Any disagreements?'

Nobody said anything.




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