The Human Element

Characters: Dr. Robert Stadler


Dr. Robert Stadler pressed his palms to his eyes and wondered how much longer he could stay awake. There was no one else in the science lab. He had not wanted to go to sleep and had come here to continue work on the project which was now on everyone’s mind. The had accessed all the data the engineering department had pertaining to the recent death of one of the crew–the first casualty of this ill-fated mission. A death not in battle; a pointless death, caused by his fellow crewmen in a failed attempt to find some manner of protecting the ship from an enemy whose nature was still unknown.

Stadler had studied all of the information he could find on organic technology. The engineering department had been trying to mask the organic portions of the ship by sending electric pulses through the tissue. It was not even certain what kind of enemy they were up against, or whether it was attracted to organic material, but the entire crew was whistling through graveyards, making wild guesses about “what was out there” and how to combat it. And now one of those guesses had left a man dead. The engineering department felt responsible and was trying to discover exactly what had gone wrong. They had not asked science for help, but Stadler felt there were certain things he was better equipped to do. As a trained geneticist, he might have a unique perspective on a ship which was half alive.

He took a sip of his coffee, now cold, and called up a breakdown of the organic genetic sequence on his viewscreen. When he noticed his eyes beginning to blur he wondered if his mind might be doing the same. Perhaps he should attack the problem fresh in the morning. He reached up and gently massaged the back of his neck. He almost wished they would go ahead and encounter whatever was out there. But he knew it would come soon enough. And they would have to be ready.

He took another sip of coffee, rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, and continued on into the night.