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It barely takes a second for Errand to realise his mistake and now, he too, is trapped in the cramped midsection of the space capsule. Just him, the freeze dried corpse he is investigating and a countdown to oblivion as the capsule's auto programme kicks in for re-entry into the atmosphere of the mining planet below. 'Shit!' He glances at the dried eye sockets of the corpse, 'Welcome to my world.'.
Above him, in the geostationary orbiting Mining Platform, the rest of his team are at work as the small capsule uncouples from the docking umbilical and fires its thrusters.
'Is he meant to be taking the capsule into orbit?' Rage asks, peering through the grimy porthole of the makeshift forensic laboratory to the capsule fast disappearing from view.
'What?' Growman looks up from his test results and stares at Rage.
'The capsule's moving away.' Rage points to the porthole as Growman leaps up and runs over to look. 'Oh no. No, NO!' Growman grabs Rage by the shoulders and propels her towards the hatch to the lower deck. 'Get to Anya as fast as you can, get her take out the Multi-Grab and try and retrieve him. I'll see if the Mining team have any kind of communication system rigged up with the capsule. How far out is Lake?'
'Too far!' Rage yells over her shoulder as she lowers herself through the hatch to the lower deck. 'He wouldn't get back before the capsule hits the atmosphere! Why would Errand uncouple it?'
Growman pauses momentarily trying to work out if there is any reason but can only conclude it's some kind of pre-programmed function that has been accidentally triggered. 'He wouldn't.' He replies tersely, 'Hurry! Now where in this heap of space junk is the comms room?'
Eighteen hours earlier at the Space Force Forensics HQ...
Super Commander Maeve Peacehart leans, slightly menacingly, over the virtual galaxy operations table towards Lieutenant Korel Errand and smiles the paper thin smile of a veteran politician.
'You see, Errand, this is more than a simple UFDO (Unidentified Flying John Doe), the Mining Corporation have asked for us to work this case. I don't know why Mining Security aren't dealing with it. They claim it's from outside their territory, flown in on a tanker and they've called us in. Just a routine, easy UFDO. But there is never anything easy about the Mining Corp. So I'm sending you and your team in to clear this all up.'
Errand shrugs. 'Could just be a UFDO, often they get snagged on the long haul space tankers in the shipping lanes. When the tankers are on autopilot and the crew in status. No one realises till it docks a month or six later. Most likely an observance jettison gone wrong.'
'They are opening a worm for us.'
'Opening a wormhole to retrieve a piece of space junk?' Errand whistles at the extravagance. 'And they're paying?'
'Yes. Like I said, there is never anything easy about the Mining Corp. You will depart with your team at 05.00hrs. Take a full forensic shuttle, I want nothing left to chance. And I want answers.'
Errand can sense the tension in the Super's manner easing as she hands over the case to him. Now it is his problem. His and his team's.