Deigning to be a Generalist
by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Dr. Stanislav Kozik did not want to hunt toxic, Jupiter Spiders. He was, likewise, disinterested in pursuing other arthropods from that world, especially Jupiters oversized, allegedly sentient, lobsters. As per the diamonds, which purportedly formed in that planets atmosphere, he was sufficiently dispassionate to let the warrior scientists harvest them in his place.
In truth, Dr. Kozik had only agreed to board the spacecraft because of Hedvika. She had taken Stanislav Jr. with her to her mothers house and had threatened to stay there until either Stanislav became a galactic hero or he found a way to pay their overdue mortgage. If, in the interim, a cosmic accident or a street thug took his life, shed be consoled by his insurance payout.
Dr. Caleb Jones had laughed about the matter while enjoying whiskey sours with his buddy, Stanislav. In Dr. Jones esteem, Stanislav had no business on the spacecraft since, for all purposes, he had already lost his wife and child.
Putting his arm around his tear-shedding friend, Caleb Jones had signposted that Hedvika had used Stanislav for seed and weed. The former need, as evidenced by their son, had been met. The latter, could no longer be met because Stanislav was in arrears. In a warped sort of way, it made sense that Hedvika had discarded her scientist-husband.
Stanislav had sobbed harder upon hearing Calebs revelation; he fit in nowhere. Not only was he bereft of family, but in his universitys biology department, he was the lone generalist.
Dr. Kozik was disinterested in botany and zoologys subfields; his passion was theoretical biology. It was fine for Caleb to specialize in phytopathology, for Dr. Owen Brownstone to be an expert in marine biology, for Dr. Donna Weiss to be an authority on bioinformatics, and for guest lecturers, like Dr. Laura Whitfield, to focus on astrobiology.
Stanislav, contrariwise, chose to focus on broader questions. Namely, he and Harvards Dr. Kevin Benin had worked together on statistical methods for cancer epigenetics and on sequencing autism data. Dr. Koziks grandfather had died of throat cancer. Dr. Benins dear friend, Dr. Davis Totana, had a brother was on the spectrum. While Benin and Koziks broad studies were highly utilitarian and much praised, they did nothing to aid Stanislav in feeling as though he had a professional coterie.
Such sentiments aside, Caleb warned Stanislav that spaceships were prisons in which people literally rocketed away from all meaningful relationships. Whether or not astronauts were popular or Earth didnt matter; space travel eliminated all of their human connections. In fact, space flights were so psychologically dangerous that no one, counting from the days of Goliath and Scatback, and discounting Dr. Whitfields stowaway experience, made solo journeys. It was mad for Stanislav to want to do so.
Accordingly, on behalf of Stanislav, Caleb and others of Stanislavs associates had tried, futilely, to sue: the university, NASA, and additional government agencies - those good hearts meant to get their adored coworker grounded from intergalactic travel. They held him in the highest regard and regularly voted, both within their school and in professional assemblies, to award Stanislav the greatest honors. Whats more, even Dr. Koziks graduate students lauded him to administrators and on various online venues. That Stanislav was an unlovable sort was open to question; only Hedvika had ever believed or said as much.
The rest of his social spheres efforts notwithstanding, Stanislav sent himself hurling toward the Solar Systems cold extremes. Since his mission was privately funded and since he was a mentally competent, consenting adult, no lawsuit could stop his trip. Neither he nor his sponsor cared that his rocket carried neither fuel nor machinery for a return flight. Stanislav figured his sacrifice would make him a hero to his son. For the time being, little else mattered.
Stanislavs mission had been designed to create redundancies that could verify other scholars findings. An hour after he sent communications containing that sought after, authenticating data, i.e. until the time when those signals were received on Earth, asphyxiation overtook him; only enough oxygen had been allocated to enable him to fulfill that single task.
As he died, the generalist did not think about: his students, his colleagues, his research associate, his friend Caleb, why an unmanned ship was not sent in his stead, or why corroborative data were needed at all (Dr. Whitfield had already completed fieldwork documenting Jupiters fauna. In fact, shed even imported alien eggs before disappearing from academia. Whats more, Dr. Jhanna Bithrop, of Princetons Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, had successfully retrieved gemstones from Jupiters atmosphere.) Rather, he obsessed over his estranged wifes chrysanthemum-scented breath and thalia-smelling sweat.
Hed never know that Hedvika would forgot to tell Stanislav (Hedvika would stop using the Jr. suffix), that the child had been was conceived within marriage, to a caring father. The biologist would also never appreciate that he was cherished.
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