Rowan and Jason turned away from the pitiful and disturbing sight of the rows of caskets. Neither had any desire to stumble across anything else that might be those vaults.
"Can you hear that?" Jason turned to Rowan when a low, quiet groan echoed through the dingy cellar. He peered through the doorway that lead into the room housing the boiler. "Shit!" Rowan peeped round his shoulder and saw cracks in the ceiling radiating from the damaged hatch. They both watched in horror as the cracks spidered across the ceiling, then split suddenly into rifts. "Shit! Rowan! Down!" Jason grabbed Rowan and threw her into the wall before diving over and flinging himself on top of her. Rowan screamed and sobbed as plaster, rubble and wood crashed down around them. Deafening clangs and smashes could be heard from everywhere as mouldy furniture and iron gates came avalanching down from the floor above them. "Fuck! We're going to be buried!" Jason screamed. "Keep down Rowan!" He screwed his eyes shut reflexively and squeezed himself round Rowan's body.
Brian, Stewart, Alan, the Chief, Terry and the technicians stared at the blank, static filled screens in stunned silence, as did the entire nation.
"Oh my God." Brian whispered.
"Natural death conclusion taking on a whole new meaning, eh?" Stewart was shaking from head to foot. "This can't be happening. Shit."
"I need to ..." Brian's phone rang as he was reaching for it and his hands were shaking uncontrollably as he answered it. The silence betrayed the shock that had dropped onto the studio like a lead blanket and all that Brian could hear was Patrick Adams' unsteady breathing. "No visual here sir." He half sobbed, eventually.
"Try the first floor ceiling cameras." Adams said quietly. "If the floor's caved in it might reveal that cellar level."
"What?!" Stewart bellowed. "Yes I heard that. Give me that phone or so help me I'll fucking throttle you." He knocked Brian clean off his feet with his elbow. "Enough! You fucking warped son of a whore! Get someone out there and do it bloody quickly!" Tears of sheer rage and grief sprang up in Stewart's eyes. "You've caused the deaths of two kids, you bastard! Don't make it any worse by filming their bodies."
"I need the cameras on them." Adams snarled. "I don't know who the hell you are but do not tell me how to handle this. I need the cameras on them because I need to know a safe rout to where they are. Do you honestly think I'd film the demise of two of my stars?"
"Your ... your ... what?!" Stewart screamed. "You are one sick shit-sucking arsehole! Your pathetic Show means nothing now. It's not your place to find a safe rout, I think your part in this is over, bastard
"They're alive!" Brian shouted in relief. "The picture isn't brilliant but the ceiling cameras are picking them up."
"Thank Christ for that." Alan looked at the screen and saw movement.
The ear-splitting avalanche subsided into a crumbling spattering of debris. Jason's jacket was shredded to ribbons and had it not been leather, his back would have been mincemeat. Blood streamed from a gash in the back of his head, staining his blonde hair crimson. He groaned and tried to move and felt bricks, rubble and splinters shift from his body. An ominous numbness in his right hand suggested that it was broken, somehow, and he winced as a sharp pain shot from his twisted knee. He struggled and pushed outwards with his elbows and lacerated back to loosen enough rubble to be able to move more freely. The last, thick layer of plaster dust and grime stung his eyes and burned his lungs, but at least he was alive. He grabbed Rowan by her underarms and dragged her free of the debris. She was cut and bruised and filthy but she was alive too. Jason looked at one of the solid iron gates that had crashed to the floor. The only reason it hadn't fallen directly onto them is because it had dropped at an angle. It was now propped up against the wall under the weight of two, heavy solid ceiling beams and chunks of masonry that would have crushed Jason and Rowan like bugs.
"You're bleeding." Rowan croaked.
"Rowan! Bleeding? What, again?" He smiled through his terror. "Quite a chunk of the ceiling's collapsed. Look you can see the upper floor." Jason nodded to the splintered edges of a gaping chasm that used to be the ceiling. "You OK? Knob question, I know. Broken bones and the like? I think I've shattered my hand and twisted my knee."
"My shoulder, but I think it's just twisted. You're a heavy bloke." Rowan staggered to her feet. "Oh shit." She stared at their miraculous gate shield. "I bet that's heavier than you."
"Just a tad." Jason nodded. "We need out of here incase that gate gives way." He lead Rowan towards the smashed shelves and caskets, their contents were now part of the collapse debris.
"Jason?" Rowan was looking at a dented and battered name plate. Robeson, Noah. "Look, I'm not religious at all but this is awful. These were people."
"I know." Jason nodded sadly. "No one deserves this, no matter what they did. All we can really do is tell the authorities when we get out. They'll come for them, Rowan. They won't just leave them here."
"You're right. You won't can go much further, Jason. You're limping pretty badly there and you're bleeding all over the place."
"So are you." Jason nodded. "Come on. I'm sure we can find somewhere a bit better than here to rest." They gave the nameplate one last look, before edging further along the cellar.
"That was a close one." Patrick Adams said sombrely to his stunned audience. "Or was it?" He turned to the screen and a distorted, flickering picture flashed onto it. "As you can see, they're alive. Of course they are! I'm not in the habit of ending peoples' lives!" He smiled brightly but his audience wasn't convinced. "I'll let you into a little inside secret. Note the iron gate." He pointed to the screen. "It would simply not be possible for that to fall like that, ladies and gentlemen. It's a prop." The audience deflated en masse in relief. "Don't misunderstand me, our guests there don't know that. That was not staged." At least that wasn't a lie! "However, you can see for yourselves that the accepted levels of expected injuries, no matter how minor, are becoming quite random and unexpected. This is Real TV afterall. You have to admit, our stars have given us one hell of a show, but their safety is of the utmost importance to us."
"You'll keep that running, mate, I'm warning you." Noah Robeson's grandson was in tears. "Props my arse! Safety my arse! You didn't control that, you prick! Look at the state of that place!"
"Yes! You leave that where it is Adams! Real TV remember? We have a right to see your stuff-ups too!" Another man shouted.
"They don't need you handling their safety, you jackass!" A woman yelled. "They done just bloody fine up to now."
"Get Security to this studio." Adams whispered down his communicator, without dropping his smile.
"Sir, Mr Charlton says a car is on it's way for the Police Chief. He also asked me to stress that his phone was forced from him and that he'd never presume to take that action himself." Phyllis Delaney said calmly.
"He'll presume and take exactly what I pay him to presume and take. So the Police are away from the remote site? Tell Charton to keep running. If he doesn't, this lot will kill me."
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