Episode 10

The Causative Factor

“A professional who perceives the limits of his own profession. I am amazed, Doctor. However, if your analysis is doomed to superficiality, then what are you trying to diagnose when you have a patient with mental or emotional problems, the illness or the cause of the illness?”

“Both,” Benbow responded promptly. “The treatment—I hesitate to use the word cure—depends on the causation as well as whatever physical ailment happens to be present. Naturally, it's the causative factor that I find most intriguing.”

“Naturally,” she teased him. “I imagine you must have your hands full, being the only doctor on a destroyer full of young, virile, tightly wound military men with nary a woman in sight.”

“Not as much as you might think,” Benbow answered with a twinkle in his eyes. “We keep them busy to the point of physical exhaustion. The trick is to get to port every so often and let them blow off steam in a reasonably harmless manner. I suppose one day they'll install an automeds dispenser, and I'll be out in the cold.”

“I'm a little surprised,” York said, honestly this time. “I would have thought that the tensions of space and the long periods of living in such a closed and compact environment would cause considerable stress.”

“To a certain extent,” admitted Benbow, “but rather less than you might expect. The spinward crews are selected with considerable care.”

“Care or conditioning?”

Benbow smiled. “Both,” he admitted.

As they talked, York found herself coming to like the doctor. He had a nimble mind that leaped from subject to subject with ease. And his uncharacteristic lack of curiosity about what she was doing on the ship suggested to her that the captain had warned his officers against asking any questions.

During a pause in one of his mini-soliloquies, this one on the possibility of whether machine sentience was truly possible or not, she asked, “Do you happen to know where we are travelling?”

Benbow brought his eyes up slowly, and York saw the green held flecks of yellow. “I haven't been informed,” he stated blandly. “But I suspect you do.”

“I did notice you rather adroitly avoided any subject that might touch on my reason for being here.”

“Captain's orders. Besides, it's readily apparent that you are an intelligence operative.”

“Am I that obvious?”

“A female civilian coming aboard just before an emergency run? It's either intelligence or nobility, and if I may say so without causing any offense, you don't have either the entourage or the demeanor of a member of a Great House.”

“Or the luggage, I suppose. Which reminds me, Doctor, I need to ask for your assistance in your professional capacity.”

“I am at your service, Miss York. What kind of help do you require?”

“As I suspect you will understand, I was in a bit of a rush prior to boarding.” She met his eyes, then blushed and looked away. “So, you see, I did not have an opportunity to prepare for my monthly cycle.”

Benbow smiled and raised a hand. “Say nothing more, Miss York. I understand, and I am pleased to inform you that Draco is prepared for all eventualities. I will bring the necessary supplies to your cabin after I make my morning rounds.”

“Thank you so much, Doctor.” She raised her coffee cup to him in a mock toast. “I do appreciate it.”

He raised his in return and grinned. “Think nothing of it, Miss York. It is a rare pleasure to have such a lovely and charming passenger aboard.”

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A Mind Programmed: The Causative Factor