The Head of Psychology spoke up. “No, sir, Lt. Ethel apprised us of the situation. We are here to serve the mental wellness needs of the Bord, who–”
“Okay, Dr. Exposition,” Clerk interrupted. “Anyways, the Bord infestation is very dangerous, as they are very adept at manipulating your emotions. Please use the Buddy System. Any questions, just refer to me. I’ll be up on the Bridge making preparations for our arrival at Deep Dish $9, but I can help you with anything you may need. Psychiatrists, start your engines.”
Dr. Exposition was a little frustrated that he didn’t get to finish his sentence. Then again, nobody ever seemed to want him to go on too long…
Captain Clerk arrived on the Bridge, nervous (his normal state of mind) but hopeful, now that the Psychology Department was working its way through the Bord problem. It didn’t solve the mystery of the extra floors, or fix the wifi or the plumbing, but at least it was going to save the crew from certain depression.
He was greeted by the Communications Officer. “Captain, we’ve received a subspace communiqué from the starbase.”
“Most of it was the usual — Welcome to Our Starbase, local attractions and restaurants, and so on — but there was one thing I thought I had to warn you about.”
“Yes, Mr. Tolstoy?”
The Ensign took a deep breath. “Admiral Nezbomb is there to give us our yearly inspection.”
Is it August already? “Noted, Ensign. Any word on our staff adjustments?”
“Yes, sir. Most of our Senior Staff is returning, but we’re getting a new First Officer, and, I think, a new Engineering Officer as well.”
And an inspection. Swell. “Thank you, Ensign.”
Clerk sat down in the Big Comfy Chair and sighed. Admiral Nezbomb was a lot of things to him — mentor, father figure, hair loss consultant — but his well-earned reputation as a hard-nose put the Captain ill at ease. Having him to do the yearly inspection this year was going to make things difficult. At least he’d stopped doing white glove inspections of the Engine Room years ago. Many careers had been ended with the words “I spent all week polishing those warp drives!”
The next several hours went relatively well, with Captain Clerk overseeing Operation Make This Ship Look Presentable while fielding the occasional question from the psychiatrists hard at work on the Bord situation. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, until–
“Captain, you’re needed at the Brig.”
Clerk looked up from the Operation MTSLP spreadsheet. “Um, is this urgent? Can I–”
“Sir, we are down to the last Bord, and he is refusing all treatment. All attempts to rehabilitate have failed. We’ve tried everything.”
“Well, if you’re down to the last one, take a break and try again in a little while.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, sir. He’s the most powerful one, the ringleader. At least a quarter of our rehabilitation work has been on doctors trying to treat him.”
Hoo boy. “I’m on my way.”
When Captain Clerk arrived at the Brig, he noticed that there was more padding than ever duct-taped into place. All this, for one guy? How bad is he?
Dr. Exposition greeted the Captain. “Thanks for coming so quickly. He’s been a real prob– issue. Most of the Bord we dealt with didn’t take much counseling to overcome their depression and all, but he’s very resilient and resistant. It’s been all we can do to keep him at bay.”
“So everybody else is fine?”
“All right, I’m going in.”
“Alone, Captain? I’d advise against that.”
“Well, Doctor, if he hasn’t listened to the psychiatrists already, I doubt he’s going to now. Maybe this is the different approach we need.”
“Okay, sir…” Exposition said nervously. “Still, it’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”
The Doctor handed Clerk a huge tablet.
“Vitamin D? Really?”
“You’re going to need a lot of sunshine to get through this, Captain.”
Clerk turned dramatically toward the Brig’s door. The security guards dutifully peeled back all the layers until they finally reached the actual door itself, with opened with a whoosh. Clerk slowly walked inside the room (immediately hearing furious re-taping) to see…
…6 of 1.
Somehow I knew it’d be you. “So… we meet again, eh? How are ya, son?”
The Bord remained silent, pouting and looking at the floor.
“Look, we’re going to have to work through this, and we don’t have much time. The ship’s falling apart, but we’re about to reach a starbase for repairs. But we can’t have somebody like you spreading misery around and going all wet-blanket on us. So what can we do — what can I do — to help get you over this?”
“They’re telling me to be Not Depressed. I don’t want to be Not Depressed.”
“There’s a lot to be said for happiness, kid.”
“6 of 1. My name is 6 of 1.”
“Okay, okay. Listen 6…” Clerk stopped to gather his thoughts for a second. “Many times people wallow in misery, just like pigs wallow in mud–”
“What’s a pig?”
“Never mind. Anyways, I’m saying, you stay there because it’s all you know.”
“I know lots of things. Biology, pharmaceutical engineering, art history, hypercrocheting…”
Work with me here! “I mean, you get stuck in certain patterns that are familiar, so you don’t deviate from them. Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes it’s not okay, like debilitating my crew and all that. Can you find it in your heart — or corresponding organ, if you have one — to do that?”
“But… I’ll miss the comfort in being sad.”
“I know… but you could find new comforts, perhaps. Maybe… maybe you could stay depressed without bringing anybody else down?”
“Well, that’s kind of what I do, man.”
“Please, 6. I got a ship to run, and you’re a swell fella and all, but you’re a danger to us, and we really need to, like, not have that danger. Don’t get me wrong, I like you, but you can’t be mopifying my crew.” Boy, did I ever watch too many After School Specials.
6 of 1 sighed heavily. “I guess…” he said weakly.
“So, you’re gonna quit this, then?”
“Yeah… I’ll quit it.”
Clerk felt a palpable lifting of mood in the entire room. “Thanks, 6.”
6 shrugged. “Whatever.”
“So,” the Captain said after somewhat of an awkward silence. “Where do we need to take you? Is there anywhere you need to be? Where do you call home?”
6 responded slowly. “I don’t really have anywhere else to go. We got kicked out of the Bord Cubicle for being too much of a drag.”
Achievement unlocked. “Well… I guess you can stay here, as long as you don’t cause any trouble.”
With astoundingly effective puppy-dog eyes, 6 of 1 looked up at Clerk. “Oh? Really?”
“Thanks, man. That’s the best thing anybody’s ever done for me.”
“I’ll talk to Security about getting you a room. A new area has just opened up, so finding one shouldn’t be too hard.”
Clerk and 6 of 1 emerged from the Brig, to everyone’s shock. 6 was even smiling a little.
“Captain!” Flüshaht exclaimed as he walked up to him. “How’d you do it?”
“Sometimes you just need a lot of sunshine to get through it.”
“That makes no sense, Jimi.”
“You say that like you’re surprised.”
The camaraderie was interrupted by Clerk’s communicator beeping. “Captain speaking.”
“Sir, we’re arriving at the starbase now.”
Captain Clerk’s stomach did a flip. “I’ll be right up.” Here we go loop-de-loo…