100 Themes 006 - Break Away

This has always amused me :D I've often wondered why the Gherkin looks that way, and this is the answer. Pfft, yeah.


006 – Break Away

The day that London took to the stars in search of a new planet to colonise began much like any other. The sun rose, bringing life to the city, and people shook cereal into bowls in hundreds of hungry households. The Underground, the clogged arteries of a dying corpse, were crammed with bored commuters, fanning themselves with ragged copies of free newspapers. The smell of coffee brewed fresh in a hundred different imitations rose to the heavens.

The plan had been in place for a while, of course; the buildings had been constructed years in advance, and when the message came through it finally explained a few things. The Prime Minister, a corpulent ex-barrister in his fifties, had been in on it of course, and his Cabinet; all important figures had been instructed to be at work on that day come-what-may.

The Gherkin, not its real name of course but no-one used that, was the first to raise its blast shields. The building had been designed with circling spirals of concrete and glass, not unlike the rifling on a bullet. With a rumble that disturbed pigeons as far away as Walthamstow the whole building seemed to turn, and hard metal irised over the windows. Within a minute, the process had begun on other tall buildings. The Shard, complete after years of hard work, was suddenly a spike of metal, a nail pinning the sky in place; St Stephen’s Tower, home to Big Ben, was packed with Members of Parliament who had been taken on an impromptu tour of the facilities, all at once. The metal seemed to fold out, cleverly hidden under the stone fascia of the tower. The bells tolled once before they were silenced by the airtight seal.

Skyscrapers became metal monoliths, and then the vibrations started. With a searing light and a deafening sound, the buildings began to rise into the air, blue-green jets scorching the pavement as they broke away. Like obese synchronised swimmers suddenly discovering antigravity, the flock of rockets powered upwards. All over London the various entrances to the Underground burned as the excess flame washed through the tunnels.

From the window, the Prime Minister watched with grim satisfaction as those buildings not included in the evacuation plan crumbled, their foundations gone, the people in them not lucky enough to be important. He turned to the Secretary of Defence.

“What’s the status on the missiles?”

The man had the good grace to look upset. “They’re inbound, Prime Minister. Thirty seconds.” Both men watched as the remains of a once-proud capital tried to withstand the bombardment from an angry Switzerland, tired of coming into the spotlight as more and more UK bankers based their tax havens there. The Prime Minister sighed and shook his head.

“Well, that’s that,” he said, and went to his desk. Almost immediately, the window behind him, three-times reinforced against hard vacuum, made a small sound. A tiny crack appeared in it.

Both men crowded round it. “Who made the windows?” the PM demanded.

The Secretary of Defence shrugged. “China. We outsourced it, sir. Couldn’t afford it after the Olympics.”

The older man waved a hand dismissively. “Get one of those engineer chaps in here, yes? Sort it out.”

The Secretary of Defence licked his lips nervously. There was still time to jump, there were parachutes. “Can’t do that, sir; we had to lay them off. Couldn’t afford them after the-“

“After the Olympics, yes. Well, make preparations to seal this room off, then. Drop the internal blast doors. Do something about that hissing noise while you’re at it.”

The Secretary of Defence opened his mouth to explain why he couldn’t do that, then nodded and left the room at a run.