Carrying on from my last post, we have another short story based on one of Joseph Conrad’s works. This time, the work in question is his novel Lord Jim. In short, it deals with a young man who believes himself honorable and brave who is devastated when, in a moment of crisis, he lacks the courage and conviction that he thought he had. The event haunts him afterwards and, trying to distance himself from it, he seeks a second chance to redeem himself. But this combination of his pride and guilt leads him to tragedy.
This short paragraph doesn’t do the novel justice by a long shot, of course, and my short story which is a modern homage to it is too simple and small in its scope to go anywhere near to matching it. However, all the same, I found it an interesting experiment to take part of the novel, along with some of its ideas and themes, and transplant it to a futuristic setting. The result is 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man, always keeping his own company and, for a fresh-faced youth at the peak of his physical health, he seemed oddly withdrawn, eschewing the pleasures and pursuits of others his age.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?”
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