Episode 9

A Mirror of the Mind

A single occupant was reading a tablet over breakfast when York entered the wardroom. Around fifty, he had close-cropped gray hair and a strangely thin nose that took up too little space in his broad, square face. Like the captain, he had the seamed, leathery skin of the career spacer.

Glancing up, he caught sight of York and quickly rose, greeting her with a little bow. “Welcome to the wardroom, Miss York. At least, I presume you are Miss York. Unless I mistake my guess, you are our unexpected guest. I'm Vic Benbow, ship's doctor.”

“Daniela York, freeloader by courtesy of Captain Hull,” she replied. She nodded as he graciously indicated a seat for her and sat down in it.

“Have you had breakfast?” Benbow asked.

“Not in several days, I'm afraid.”

“Then I insist that you join me on strictly medical grounds.” He glanced at Osborn. “You can leave Miss York in my hands, Mr. Osborn.”

“I'll wait outside,” Osborn answered, a little stubbornly.

York winked at the deckhand. “I'm touched. We've known each other less than a kilosec and already he is devoted to me.”

“I expect you'll attract more than a few devotees on this voyage, Miss York.” Benbow sat down himself. “You have an effective monopoly, after all.”

“How fortunate for me.” She nodded to Osborn. “It's all right, Mr. Osborn. I promise not to overpower the doctor with a butter knife and use him as a hostage to take over the ship.”

“I'll wait outside,” the young man repeated, unamused.

He left the wardroom. As if in response to an unseen signal from the doctor, a white-jacketed steward appeared.

“Wallu, this is Miss York,” Benbow introduced her. “She'll require a hearty breakfast. But I would advise coffee first. Miss York, do you concur?”

“Absolutely, Doctor.”

“We have Vegan steak today.” The steward suggested. “Perhaps with an egg?”

“Two, please. Sunny.”

As the steward bowed and departed for the galley, Benbow tapped his tablet. “I was reading a fascinating article on the peculiar architecture of Castoris, one of the first planets settled in the Pollux sector. Are you interested in architecture by any chance?”

York recognized the doctor was merely asking the question as a conversation piece to bridge a potentially awkward moment. “Not particularly, but I always enjoy travel and seeing new sights.”

“I have the belief that architecture offers one of the best keys to a culture,” declared Benbow.

“I hadn't thought of it that way.”

“I suspect few people think of it at all.” The doctor slipped comfortably into a discourse on architecture in general, relating it to streams of culture. He spoke easily and well. As York understood it, his theory was that planetary environments influenced the forms that human buildings took, which in turn shaped the cultures of the people who occupied them.

“Architecture therefore can be seen to reflect the subconscious of a people,” he concluded. “In many respects, it is a mirror of the mind.”

“Fascinating, Doctor,” York told him sincerely. “You're not a psychomedic by any chance, are you?”

“Why yes, that is my specialty.” The doctor paused for a moment as Wallu returned with York's breakfast. Once the steward withdrew, he continued. “The human mind is the great mystery of the universe. The deeper we delve into it, the more ignorant we find ourselves to be. But your guess was a logical one, which suggests to me that you possess a keen and observant mind.”

“Merely luck,” she suggested.

“I very much doubt that.” The doctor smiled at her. “But I shall keep the rest of my diagnosis to myself.”

“All good, I hope. It sounds like you enjoy your work.”

“How can I not? It offers new facets every day. No two minds are alike. No two streams of thought run entirely in parallel.”

“And yet I find human motivations to often be depressingly alike. Profit. Power. Fame.”

“Are they? I don't believe so. Not when those motivations are boiled down to the final analysis of their causation. Only the acting man can assign any meaning to his actions. His observers are left in the dark, and can do little more than guess about the causes from the consequences.”

“So you're saying that the analysis of another man's motives is not truly possible.”

Benbow shrugged. “It is possible, within limits, but one must never forget that the analysis is always incomplete and superficial.”

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A Mind Programmed: A Mirror of the Mind