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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 Jupiter’s oversized, allegedly sentient, lobsters. As per the diamonds, which purportedly formed in that planet’s 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 mother’s 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, she’d 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 Caleb’s “revelation;” he fit in nowhere. Not only was he bereft of family, but in his university’s biology department, he was the lone generalist.


Dr. Kozik was disinterested in botany and zoology’s 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 Harvard’s Dr. Kevin Benin had worked together on statistical methods for cancer epigenetics and on sequencing autism data. Dr. Kozik’s grandfather had died of throat cancer. Dr. Benin’s dear friend, Dr. Davis Totana, had a brother was on the spectrum. While Benin and Kozik’s 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 didn’t 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. Whitfield’s stowaway experience, made solo journeys. It was mad for Stanislav to want to do so.


Accordingly, on behalf of Stanislav, Caleb and others of Stanislav’s 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. What’s more, even Dr. Kozik’s 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 sphere’s efforts notwithstanding, Stanislav sent himself hurling toward the Solar System’s 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.


Stanislav’s 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 Jupiter’s fauna. In fact, she’d even imported alien eggs before disappearing from academia. What’s more, Dr. Jhanna Bithrop, of Princeton’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, had successfully retrieved gemstones from Jupiter’s atmosphere.) Rather, he obsessed over his estranged wife’s chrysanthemum-scented breath and thalia-smelling sweat.


He’d 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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