The Lungfish Expert

Name: Dr. Delacourt S. Poppet

Position: Test-tube cleaner, Resident Lungfish Expert.

Qualifications: PhDs in Comparative Genetics of Sarcopterygians, Archaebiology, Gender Studies. Postdocs in Molecular Barcoding, Ecosystem Engineering, Bedouin Nautical Literature, Synthetic Biology, and Interior Decorating.

An oversmart underachiever in a world that does not, shall we say, put a high premium on intelligence, Poppet spent two decades in grad school waiting out an abysmal job market that steadfastly refused to improve. That strategy ran dry a few years back: every scholarship used up, every student loan renewed to the limit.

A year ago, Poppet’s luck briefly changed when he snagged a post at one of the world’s top labs in Computational Genetics. It changed back when he realized that no matter how many papers he wrote, his boss would always claim senior (and frequently, sole) authorship. That particular professional relationship ended with three solid jabs onto said boss’s nose. Now, in addition to having a criminal record, Poppet will never work in his chosen field(s) again.

Not on this planet, anyway.

He’s finally scored a contract position as a lab assistant at an exo-agro outpost on Mars. He was filling out the requisite online paperwork for that post when a couple of official-looking suits snatched him from his cubby and fast-tracked him onto the Gadfly. As our story begins he’s still not really sure why. After quizzing him about his doctoral work (Poppet is, in fact, the world’s foremost expert on the genetics of Protopterus aethiopicus, not that that’s ever done him any good), the suits told him a berth had opened up unexpectedly on some new top-of-the-line ship that was breaking orbit the next day. Poppet wasn’t about to turn down the chance to get to Mars in days rather than months, and on a bleeding-edge prototype no less. Used to being perennially stuck back in Economy with the rest of the cattle, visions of First Class danced in his head.

True to form, though, his initial excitement evaporated when he actually laid eyes on the cramped, stripped-down confines of Gadfly’s cabin. Seems like he’s going to be cattle after all.

It’s pretty much the story of his life.

Picture: Kim Holm