Colin James

Australia

Doctor Using Digital Tablet

Jeff H.

USA

Jeff H. is a high school English teacher. He blogs with his wife, a dietitian, about writing and food at https://batchandnarrative.com/.

The Real McCoy

 

They’d had a mishap: a dimensional anomaly replicated the doctor during beam-up and now there were hundreds of him–copies, twins, whatever you’d call it–though only one of the doctors was theirs. The other men all had subtle differences, as the chief engineer explained.

“Subtle?” the captain questioned. “How so? How subtle?”

“Well,” came the reply, “the new doctors have personality inconsistencies–they all look just like our man, but they don’t act like him. Some of them are nice.” The chief showed the captain footage of one of the doctors bumping into a crew member in a narrow hall.

 

“Excuse me,” the doctor said in the most agreeable of tones, no sarcasm or pique detectable. He stepped aside and motioned for the crew member to go first.

 

Back in engineering, the captain shook his head.

 

They began to sketch out a plan, but an hour later and they received even worse news: the anomaly was growing rapidly, and with dire consequences. They had three days to send all the doctors back through to their exact places of origin, or else the anomaly would reach critical mass and the ship–and soon after the very fabric of space and time–would be torn apart!

And most importantly, they had to figure out which doctor belonged to their ship and was staying put.

 

The captain called for a yellow alert. Then he pulled over a chair, and the chief engineer pulled up the ship’s entire surveillance system. They watched and watched; a doctor in the mess hall passing the salt, another doctor in the hydroponics bay singing to plants as he watered them, and in sick bay, a doctor giving a blanket to a cold patient and then lovingly tucking her in. It was enough to make you sick.

 

The science officer arrived. The trio replicated cup after cup of coffee, the medical staff–which was friendly despite the impending catastrophe, due to refreshingly jovial leadership–provided them with other stimulants. Anyone not running essential duties was conscripted to the cause. But few knew the doctor as they did, and every doctor they monitored was the very picture of pleasantness and humor. As a result, the footage made them bloodshot and haggard, and as time went on the challenge seemed more and more hopeless. Their doctor was nowhere to be found–red alert, prepare for the worst, the ship and universe were doomed!

0600 hours on the third day: the few remaining senior officers said their goodbyes on the bridge. Behind them, a screen showed a young ensign bolting towards a turbolift.

“Hold the doors,” the ensign yelled, “I need to get to an escape pod!”

A doctor had just stepped inside. He scoffed and hit the turbolift’s rapid close button. The ensign bolted faster. The doors slammed shut and the ensign slammed into them. There was a wet crunch, then a painful howl filled the air as the ensign bounced to the floor. And from inside, a surly yell: “I’m a doctor, not a door stop!”

 

The captain jumped up. “What a jerk!” he exclaimed. “Re-route that turbolift to our location this instant!”

 

The science officer raised an eyebrow.

 

Smiling, the chief engineer did as ordered.

 

And everyone else, thankful for the young ensign–who was crawling on the ground, reaching out dumbly for pieces of shattered teeth as he bled across uniform and carpet from a nose smashed badly to one side–breathed big sighs of relief and congratulated each other on another job well done by the fleet’s most hard-working, enlightened, and valiantly selfless crew.

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