I waited until the couple approached the door, and, as the Doctor was ready to ring the bell, I opened it, catching them both by surprise. I smiled, shook hands with the pair and invited them in.
"Please be so kind as to leave your shoes in the alcove," I instructed.
Ms. Szott and Dr. Samuels removed their footwear, and I guided them into my living room. I noticed that the Doctor's eyes were observing everything, and his brain was probably cataloging what he saw. Of course, he was an excellent psychiatrist and would not miss a thing.
"I have a collection of fine teas and coffees," I said, motioning the pair to two luxurious easy chairs, "as well as bottled water. If, at anytime you require refreshment during my sanity interview, please feel free to ask."
"What makes you think that this is a sanity interview?" asked the Doctor, taking his seat and smiling.
"Why else would you be here?" I responded.
"Pilot Kryston," began Ms. Szott.
"Please call me Artur. I am retired."
"Very well," she said, adding a smile, "I will do that. Now, Artur, you were a Chief Pilot for BNSF Trading and Transport. You made six voyages into deep space onboard transports. On your first voyage, you left Earth and travelled here, to Tau Ceti IV, where you made your permanent home. Correct?"
"Correct," I responded, smiling.
"You graduated the Academy," added the Doctor, who had a pleasant and soothing baritone for a voice, "and made your first voyage at Earth Standard Age twenty-three. You made, I believe, a total of six voyages in deep space, being promoted for each voyage. This means, using the Hawking equations, you spent twenty-one years in space. But, using Hawking's equations again, with Tau Ceti IV as the reference point, you are over 1,900 years old. Correct?"
"Doctor," I responded, "I don't feel a day over thirty-five."
My attempt at humor did generate some smiles among my guests, and that pleased me.
"Please tell me," asked the Doctor, "how you felt after your first trip? And may I address you as Artur?"
"Yes, you may," I said, answering the second question first. "The first trip was a bit of culture shock. We were transporting some technology and colonists from Earth to Tau Ceti IV. We were in deep space a bit over two years. Now, imagine, Doctor, finding that the latest technology you brought from Earth is two hundred years old when you arrived at you destination. It would surprise and shock anyone."
"I suppose so," added Ms. Szott.
"Now," I continued on, "that was really not a problem with me. The problem was the adjustment period. Two years at Zero G causes certain muscles to atrophy. So it took a good three months to learn to move about in normal gravity again. In addition, there are the changes in language and customs that must be learned. It takes time. However, I am a good student. I learned quickly."
"Why Tau Ceti? Why did you choose to relocate your home to this planet?" asked Ms. Szott.
"I fell in love with it the second I started to move about on it," I said. "It's so very earthlike, and so pristine. I was in heaven. I decided to retire here. I knew that I would have more than enough money after several trips."
"And you were wise with your investments," added the Doctor, with a smile.
"Wisdom had little to do with it," I laughed. "There aren't many places to spend money in deep space. Besides, deep space crewmen and crew women are viewed as gods and goddesses on most planets. In between flights, during our downtime, we were given the finest hotels and best food and drink, all free of charge. I had my pick of women. We were considered super-beings for bringing a ship through deep space intact. I spent very little money on shore leave."
"But you did spend money learning the ancient art of SCUBA," said the Doctor with a smile.
"And I was glad I did," I added. "It's a most rewarding hobby, even if it is expensive. However, what I spent on SCUBA was a pittance compared to what I earned over six voyages. Hardly a drop in the bucket, so to speak."
"There were women on the crews," said the Doctor. "Wasn't there physical intimacy on the voyage?"
"Somewhat," I responded. "A woman would usually couple up with a male shipmate. Sometimes she would have two lovers, but group sex did not occur on any of my voyages. Although I have never tried it, I have heard that Zero G sex is fabulous. At any rate, there is something about the quiet and darkness of deep space that dampens the sex drive, so to speak. I know it did for a lot of the servicemen and servicewomen on the trips."
"But for you, Artur," said a smiling Doctor, "it was the joy of scholarship."
"Yes, it was," I said. "That, and my book collecting and writing. Did you know that my history of BNSF is considered landmark?"
"Yes, we did," added Naomi Szott. "We did research you thoroughly before we came her. Artur, we would like to interview you again next week. At corporate. Pick a day; we will interview at your convenience. BNSF wishes you to make a seventh trip."
I remained quiet for a while. I had made six trips into deep space on the transports. The record had been four. Now, BNSF was asking me to make a seventh. I would have to think this over carefully. I was supposed to be retired.
"We will, of course," said Naomi, smiling, "make this final trip more than worth your while."
"Let's schedule the next interview," I said. "At that time I will make my decision."
It was agreed that, during my next interview, I would decide whether to take on a seventh voyage or not. I escorted the pair to the door, watched them don their shoes, and get into their car. Then I went back to my study to continue with my reading.