Author : Geoffrey Cashmore
Regret. That was new.
My life had been built into a shape where regret had no place. I only had one purpose – my entire existence leading up to it – and it wasn’t just me – I couldn’t even guess how many others were involved; working behind the scenes so that everything came together at the right place. The right time. Just so I could say that one word…
You wouldn’t believe there was anything special about Lenko. Not to look at him, anyway. I actually thought he was a little too stupid, even for a Senate candidate, but that shows you how much I know.
Fifteen years in the satellites, ferrying him from one station to the next while he built his popularity. Stuck in that ugly Behemoth without even any view-screens except for the docking cam. Not that there’s anything to see up there. Black space. All the stations, one just like the next.
There wouldn’t have been any regret back then. Every time he came back on board Lenko would slap me on the shoulder as I secured the airlock and tell me “not long now, Cormac. Not long now until I’m in the Senate and we can finally go down to the surface. Then it will all have been worth it.”
I’d nod my head and smile like the loyal servant he’d always taken me for.
And then one day it finally happened. The vote came and Lenko was a Senator.
The transmission with the access codes arrived straight away and I docked the B at Threshold – the only station I’d never been to before. We stepped through; inside the atmosphere for the first time. It had actually worked.
There were a few technicalities to sort out but within an hour we were in the car pool – and there she was.
Lenko was saying something about the honour the people had bestowed upon him and the privilege of becoming the first off-worlder to make it to the highest level of the legislation, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off the Zephyr. Perfect smooth lines, no jutting stabilizers or thrust pods. She gleamed in pale yellow – the first thing I’d ever seen that wasn’t the plain grey of spaceware.
The command centre was familiar – I’d done plenty of time in the simulators – but when we slipped out of the launch chamber and saw what seemed like the whole planet stretching around us on the view-screens, I could hardly breathe.
Even Lenko shut up for a minute to look out at it.
The low-level flight plan was pre-programmed for when we hit traffic closer to the surface but up there I could pull her in big banking arcs, punching the boosters just for the feel of it.
When we dropped in below the marker a little indicator on the panel started to blink and the automatics cut in. We drifted into the traffic flow and crossed the sprawling cityscape until the Senate building came into view. That was when I really started to feel it. All the years of preparation and biding my time, waiting.
I ran my fingers over the controls of the Zephyr.
Lenko was getting all choked up as we started final approach. We could see the Senators lining out in their bright blue robes on the docking point, and in the middle of them all – out there in broad daylight instead of hidden away in the depths of the palace – Garlania, the President. She was actually smiling as we touched down and the airlock opened.
Regret. It was the last thing I thought I’d ever have to deal with. Not for that fool Lenko, not for the bowing and scraping Senators who would inevitably be caught in the blast, and certainly not for the bitch Garlania.
As I speak the control word and feel the chemical reaction of the deadly device planted in my guts begin to mount, my one regret is that I only got to drive that beautiful car just once.
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