Too Much by RevdKathy
Bethlehem Colony was in a far flung corner of Federation controlled space. Almost as if people didn’t want to know it existed. Which probably they didn’t.
Health care had rendered such places long since obsolete. Well, almost obsolete. The days of penal colonies such as Tantalus was long gone. ‘Criminally and incurably insane’ was a forgotten category. People preferred not to know that there was still a tiny, tiny minority of patients who failed to respond to treatment.
But out there, in a far distant corner, was Bethlehem Colony. Not a hospital. Nor really a prison. Euphemistically called an ‘asylum’: a place where people went when they needed to be kept safe.
The staff at Bethlehem were hard working, decent folk. But no-one pretended they wanted to be there. It was hardly a posting liable to get you attention. And there were no promotion opportunities. A dead end post, watching over dead end patients.
The man sat at his desk and stared into space. He wished he could forget how long he’d been at Bethlehem colony. He wished he could forget anything. But forgetting wasn’t in his repertoire. That was his problem. Century after century and every single moment carefully recorded.
He remembered back to the beginning: his Father. And the woman he’d called ‘Mother’. In a way it was their fault. The time factor was not something they’d considered.
He remembered his early days at college. He hadn’t fitted in then, despite his best efforts to blend. No-one had treated him as ‘normal’ until his first posting.
He remembered that, too. His first Captain: a warm, brave, serious-minded man who’d taken the young lieutenant under his wing, and helped him come to grips with his basic humanity. Dead now, of course. Long, long ago.
He remembered the bright enthusiastic engineer. They’d worked together to solve so many problems: one with the spark of genius and inspiration, the other with a limitless capacity to process information and sift through data. They’d had some brilliant times on that first posting.
And others, too: the fierce Klingon, who’d actually respected him for his physical prowess. Respected him! Maybe the first person who had.
And the gentle, empathic counsellor, who had been the first to try to understand the huge issues of his identity and strange collection of responses.
And the girl. Tasha. Funny that after millennia she still mattered.
When they admitted him to Bethlehem, they’d taken all his belongings ‘for your own safety’. He wasn’t sure what they’d thought he’d do with a desktop hologram, but he resented that loss. He’d like to see her again.
Of course, Bethlehem had to exercise their ‘duty of care’. The place was carefully constructed so there were no ligature points, though he doubted he could hang himself. And no sharp objects, though cutting his skin would not make him bleed. He was a ‘risk’, carefully assessed after his so-called ‘attempted suicide’.
They didn’t understand. How could they? Their lives were so short: maybe a hundred, a hundred and fifty years. Little enough to leave them always wanting more, always wanting to extend their lives by one more year, one more day, one more minute.
But what about him?
He’d had friends. He’d loved people. And they’d gone. Every single one was dust.
And he’d achieved so much. With a positronic brain capable of almost limitless calculations he’d advanced science, engineering, medicine. He’d researched history, studied the arts, learned psychology.
And finally, he’d run out of things to think. So he’d turned himself off.
They didn’t understand. To them, that was ‘suicide’, sign of a disturbed mind. They deactivated his ‘off’ control, and tried to ‘treat’ him. But you can’t medicate a mechanical body. And talking therapies come to an end when there’s nothing left to say. He couldn’t make them understand: he’d simply lived enough.
So here he was, in a Nice Safe Room on Bethlehem Colony. One of the very few ‘severe and enduring’ psychiatric patients. One of the ‘intractable’ cases.
He shuffled in the chair. It gave him something to do. And stared at a blank wall, having seen everything else.
What else did you do, when you had too much time?