The Karachi by Hamish Spiers

Our By Prescription Only: Themed Writing short story and essay showcase on the theme of Regret continues this week with a piece by Hamish Spiers. Hamish contributed the Trans-Atlantic series of shorts over the summer which I’m sure a great many of you enjoyed. Check out his personal site linked above for a whole lot more by Hamish.

With gusto: The following story is entirely a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, events, etc. are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in the following works of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. Some stories in this showcase contain adult themes, so reader caution is advised.

The Karachi by Hamish Spiers

The orbital docking rings of Keplar 186-F can challenge even seasoned pilots. The world that I’ve called home for the past five years is one of the earliest Terran colonies and its facilities, while adequate, are often antiquated and the docking rings are so much so that they are almost incompatible with modern vessels. As such, most visiting ships’ agents will pay a small fee to have a local pilot dock their precious freighters and transports for them. For the operator with a ready supply of good pilots, it’s good money. Especially when the large freighters come in as so happened that day.

With most of my other pilots otherwise occupied, I sent out Johann, a newer pilot on my staff but a man who had shown a real aptitude for the work. He was a quiet man, always keeping his own company and, for a fresh-faced youth at the peak of his physical health, he seemed oddly withdrawn, eschewing the pleasures and pursuits of others his age. I wanted sometimes to break him out of his solitude – but for his sake, not mine. I never held it against the man.

That day I watched on my viewscreen as Johann brought this particularly large vessel in, hooking it up with docking clamps with deceptive ease. A less sure hand could easily have breached both the hull of the ship and the walls of the docking rings but seeing Johann as he came back into my office to collect his commission, I doubt he broke a sweat. I watched with no small measure of pride as he left, thinking that here was a pilot with a promising future, when I saw another man just entering the office, watching my own gaze and then glancing at the retreating object of it.

To my amazement, I recognized the new arrival and I extended a hand in warm greeting. “Bernard. I didn’t know you were the ship’s agent.”

He smiled. “And I didn’t know you sent the pilot, Philippe.” He glanced over his shoulder in the direction that Johann had gone. “Have you had that man long?”

His tone gave me pause. “Why?” I asked, feeling somewhat on guard. “Was there any problem with the docking? Was he rude to you in any way?”

Bernard frowned and shook his head. “No. No, I can’t say there were any problems. I have no complaints but I do wonder for your sake. We go back to the academy, you and I, and although we’ve clearly taken our careers in different directions…”

“But we’ve both squandered our piloting skills,” I said, smiling.

Bernard’s frown faded for a moment too. “Yes, we’ve certainly let them go to rot, haven’t we?” The levity, however, didn’t last. “But I think you don’t know who that man is.”…

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