The psychiatrist and the executive drove slowly back to the BNSF building at the star port in silence. Not a word was exchanged between them. They entered the starship compound, traveled to corporate headquarters, parked the car, and rode the elevator to Naomi Szott's spacious office on the forty-fifth floor. The office was in the northwestern corner, and was bright and airy with two full-length windows. Naomi had her secretary make some coffee, and the two settled in for a talk.
"Do you think he is insane, Doctor?"
"I'm not really sure," Doctor Samuels responded. "I would love to get a good look at what he has in his library. Since he uses books, it is impossible to track his reading habits with the resources of the central library."
"And the recommendation of the psychiatric society still stands?"
"Yes, Naomi. A full workup after the second trip, and forced retirement, whether the individual is crew or officer, after the fourth. Chief Kryston has made six trips. A seventh may push him over the edge," responded the Doctor as he accepted his coffee from the secretary.
Naomi Szott paced the room slowly, looking at the floor and holding the mug in both hands. It was obvious she was in deep thought. The Doctor merely sipped his and watched her. BNSF Transport had to make a powerful and far-reaching decision considering the mental health of their deep space transport crews.
"Tell me again, Doctor," Naomi asked, ceasing her pacing and sitting behind her desk, "why you feel the forced retirement is necessary."
"We're not really sure," began the Doctor. "We've noticed that every officer or crewman, without exception, builds an extremely quiet and dim home after the second voyage. Artur Kryston was no different. You saw how dark and silent his residence was. It may have to do with the effects of deep space over an extended period. We really need to do more research. But a ninety percent suicide rate among retired and some active crewmembers should be alarming. We've done our part to keep it quiet, as has BNSF, but this really has to be investigated thoroughly."
"I know," said Naomi. "Did you see the latest?"
"A crewman blew himself out of an escape lock," said Naomi, looking at a folder. "No pressure suit; no nothing. Just opened the lock, decompressed the chamber, and fired off into space. Of course, he was dead instantly. But why that action, done in such a rational and controlled manner?"
"There was a paper published on Earth, which arrived here on the last transport," said Dr. Samuels. "The psychologist who wrote it believes that it has something to do with prebirth memories. There is a silence and darkness, similarly to what one experiences before birth when existence is only in the womb. It is calm, safe, and quiet. But not enough research has been done to reinforce this."
"But his mind is active, as his writing and publishing shows. And he is fond of underwater diving for a hobby," commented Naomi. "He is out in the fresh air and sunshine."
"For a period, yes," said Dr. Samuels. "But once in the water, the light dims. Even at 5 meters, the light dims."
"We offer him the seventh voyage," said Naomi. "We make the offer during the next interview. If he refuses, we go find someone else."
"That does not prove his sanity."
"True. But what other choice have we?" asked Naomi.
Dr. Samuels finished his coffee, stood up, and left the office, returning the mug to the secretary. He had a bad feeling about this affair. And he felt genuinely sorry for the crews and officers of the deep space transports.