Planetfall: 6

Dr. Suhas Kumaran regarded himself in his bathroom mirror. A few more wrinkles, a few more gray hairs since he boarded the ship almost a year ago. The additive in his tea that Dr. Boeckmann had prescribed for him was helping with the bags under his eyes. He had been sleeping better.

As he unpacked his shaving kit, he stated a security code to himself in the mirror. A small light appeared in the lower right hand corner, followed by a screen revealing itself. A text prompt appeared.

Sir, did you need something?

Kumaran lathered up his soap, and began applying the foam to his face with the brush. "Manu, could you please distribute a message to the rest of the team?"

Certainly. What is the message?

He finished applying the foam. He took out his straight razor. He smiled. Old technology, an affectation even a century ago. But nothing else was quite sharp enough.

Is the blade funny? Sergeant Pang doesn't seem to think they're funny. I disagree, though.

Kumaran began to shave, delicately holding the blade to his throat. "Take the following statement down for distribution. 'To my colleagues'…no, make that 'To my friends', that might be more appropriate."

Are the team members your friends? But Señor Enriquez yesterday called you-

"Yes, thank you Manu, just take down the message."

To my friends.

The blade carefully swept up to his jaw line, his hand steady, neatly clearing the white foam from the dark brown skin. "I realize what I am asking of you. I know that there is a good chance that some of you will not be coming back from this mission. This is why I have made a last minute adjustment to the plan."

Recorded. An adjustment, sir?

Kumaran continued. "I will be accompanying the expedition in person. Enriquez has found clearance for an additional exosuit. None of you has said anything, because you are professionals, and you all will do your duty. But I know that some of you think that I am being careless with your lives."

Recorded…

He stopped briefly, finishing the left cheek. "I know that you're one of those people, Manu. This message is for you too."

Recorded.

"Don't record that. 'There is risk in exposing ourselves, even slightly, to the anomaly residing within 2474. I understand that. I will be sharing that risk with you. I believe in this plan, and I credit Dr. Qasim with her part in it. Whatever happens, is going to happen to all of us.'"

Sir…

"Keep recording Manu. 'We'll discuss the details in the mission plan on the trip down to the surface.'"

Kumaran scraped the last of the foam off. All that remained was the smooth skin of his cheeks, and a neatly trimmed mustache.

"I ask…I ask that you save a copy of this message in your secure personal directory. You know that we're going to be dosing ourselves with some very powerful amnestics as part of this operation. If something happens to me, you may not remember how we left each other. So please, keep this message, and understand that I have complete confidence in every one of you. I am proud to have led Rho-19. May we all witness the new start that awaits humanity on this planet."

Sir. Who is going to lead the failsafe operation if the mission is not successful?

Kumaran dried off his face with a towel. He looked back in the mirror.

"You are, Manu."

With all due respect-

"No. No more of that. Of all the operatives assigned to 2474, you are the one with the most experience. You're going to need to coordinate with Overwatch Command if this goes to hell. I've already left a communication with O5-7. We didn't build AIs just to stand between us and cognitohazards, you know. Use your judgment. I will be counting on you if I don't come back."

"Don't record that either."

Is that all, sir?

He began buttoning up a shirt. "Yes. Go ahead and transmit. I'm going to go take care of a few loose ends."

Dr. Kumaran, one more thing.

"Yes, Manu?"

If you survive, and return to the ship after the mission, you will be able to grow an entire beard.

"…yes. Quite astute, Manu."

Good luck, sir.

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