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Regrettable Day

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As she was led through the shelter door, Georgie took one last glance back over her shoulder. London looked just as it always had, but with the missiles in flight it might as well have been radioactive glass already.

Then the door closed behind her, and a second door, and a third. Unresisting, she allowed Adam to lead her down two flights of stairs, and then into a lift, a ramshackle mechanical affair that seemed to descend forever before finally stopping. More doors followed, stencilled with serial numbers and code words that meant nothing to Georgie.

On the far side of the last door was a concrete chamber, its roof vaulted, its walls lined with tin cans. In the middle was a large object covered by a canvas tarpaulin.

"Mr Adamant. Miss Jones." Georgie jumped at the sound of the voice, but relaxed as Simms appeared from behind a stack of tins. "I heard the balloon had gone up."

"It undoubtedly has," Adam said. "Miss Jones, time is of the essence so I shall have to keep discussion to the essentials. This bunker is part of a complex constructed by the Government against the situation we are now in: an all-out atomic bombardment. On the balance of probabilities, it is thought that it may survive such an attack."

Georgie tried to shake off the dazed feeling that had settled on her. "So instead of being blown up we'll be buried alive," she said bitterly.

"There is a vital difference. As you may recall, I have already survived the latter fate once. I shall attempt to do so again."

"I don't see—"

At a gesture from Adam, Simms pulled the canvas off the bulky object in the middle of the chamber. Georgie's uncomprehending gaze took in the network of tubes, compressors, pumps and radiators, and settled on the flat space, covered by a heavy perspex lid, where two people might lie side by side, in the manner of effigies on a tomb.

"Oh," she said. "Oh."

Adam checked his watch. "In... less than two minutes, civilisation as we know it will end. Perhaps humanity will end as well. But even if it does not, the world will have no need for you or me. Not, at least, for some considerable time."

"So you're going to hang around until someone needs you again." Georgie looked at the lid, and shivered. "I thought you said being frozen was supposed to send you completely mad?"

"Both the Face and I survived the process with our reason intact. But such a journey may be more bearable with a companion." He held out his hand. "Shall we?"

The lights in the bunker had long since gone out, and from time to time the chamber was shaken by the sound of distant detonations far overhead. Still, making his final checks by torchlight, Simms felt satisfied that the cryogenic process had reached a stable state, as intended. Within the perspex cover, a single block of ice now surrounded the two figures, lying hand in hand.

In other circumstances, Simms might have composed a limerick. Maybe he might, when he had used up some of the food and there was space to write on the wall. There were enough supplies here to last him a lifetime, by the most generous estimates.

Instead, he briefly touched his cheek where Georgina had kissed him a tearful farewell.

"So it'll all be down to whoever finds and defrosts the pair of you," he said. "I wonder if they'll have any idea what they're letting themselves in for?"