As virtual assistants go, Aura was a very nice companion – cheerful, bubbly, with a touch of self-deprecating humour. One could confuse her with a live person if a conversation was limited to small-talk and ship matters. She explained that all my work had to be done on that ship and I was totally isolated from the rest of the world for the next two weeks. Gerhardt made sure that I had everything I needed: food, computer and even a software model of an LCQ controller to test my code. The controller model was several orders of magnitude slower than the real thing but was good enough for testing purposes.
All in all, the arrangement wasn’t any worse than some of the assignments I had before during which I didn’t leave my apartment for weeks at a time. If you throw in a bottle of Scotch as a job perk, it was the best workplace I had had in years. So I cracked my knuckles and got down to work.
I won’t bore you with the details of the next 14 days. Let’s just say that I was overly optimistic in my work estimate. I planned for a normal 9-hour workday, but I found that my LCQ programming skills got a bit rusty over the years, so I had to work, figuratively speaking as I was in space, from dawn to dusk. Not sure I’d be able to complete my job in two weeks if I worked from home, but the lack of distractions on the spaceship proved to be propitious for the slow and deliberate work of an LCQ developer. If that was the reason why Gerhardt organised my workplace in an abandoned spaceship, then I was ready to add prescience to the list of capsuleers’ powers.
Finally, the day had come when all new functionality was implemented, the tests were good and I was ready to try the program on a real LCQ controller. I asked Aura to let Gerhardt know that the development was over and he could fly back to pick me up.
“Get ready,” said Aura, “we are about to leave.”
“You mean he is not far away?”
I looked through the viewport and was stunned by the scene: a huge, beautiful spaceship was materialising before my eyes from empty space.
“What kind of technology is that?” I asked in awe. “I knew spaceships were fast, but I didn’t know they could teleport.”
“It’s not teleportation,” chuckled Aura. “What you see is dropping of CovOps cloak, the one that you have been busy programming all these days. Gerhardt has been around for a while; he just didn’t want to disturb you.”
“This ship is awesome. What’s the model? I haven’t seen one like this before.”
“Oh, these ships were specifically made not to be seen. This is the only type of a luxury space yacht equipped with CovOps cloak and immune to stationary warp disruptors. It’s called Victorieux.”
“This little beauty must cost a fortune!”
“It does. The last sale price in Jita was 195,642,610 ISK. But Gerhardt didn’t buy his; he built it himself from a blueprint – much cheaper.”
One Hundred Ninety Five Million Six Hundred Forty Two Thousand and Six Hundred and Ten Inter Stellar Kredits… Even if it was twice cheaper, it represented a level of wealth that even on my pretty well-off planet would be considered filthy rich. How does one get that kind of money if not from inheritance? Just by piloting ships? Or by building them? I had more questions for Gerhardt.
In the meantime, a familiar pod, or should I say capsule, detached from Victorieux, crossed the short distance between the ships and emerged from the floor. The liquid drained from the cabin, Gerhardt walked out, nodded to me and started dressing.
“So, you are a capsuleer,” I started a conversation, stating a bleeding obvious. “Why didn’t you tell me when we met?”
“It wasn’t relevant, but also I didn’t want to scare you away,” explained Gerhardt. “There are people who wouldn’t deal with capsuleers for any money, and you were my only chance to get this job done. You, LCQ programmers, are a rare commodity.”
“Huh, probably not as rare as immortal cyborgs who fly multi-million-dollar ships with a power of thought. By the way, do you really live forever?”
“Kind of,” smirked Gerhardt.
“What do you mean, ‘kind of’? You either do or you don’t.”
“It’s complicated. Look, if your code works and all goes well I promise I’ll answer all your questions. Now, about the code, is it ready?”
“Yes,” reluctantly I returned to work matters. “All regression tests are green and the new function works as per spec. All you need now is a field test.”
“Excellent! Grab your bag and let’s go. Do you know how to use a jetpack? We need to move to the yacht.”
“Can’t I just stay here while you are testing?”
“No, we need to fly to another system, a nice quiet place in null-sec where I constructed a test rig near one of the gates.”
I gasped, “Did I hear you right? Null-sec? Null Security system? Lawless space where even CONCORD is helpless and where one can get shot just because someone didn’t like the skin of his ship? I am not going there for any money!”
“Oh, come on,” smiled Gerhardt, “it’s controlled by a friendly corporation, so there is little chance of hostiles. Besides,” he winked, “by now you should have become accustomed to that ‘lawless space’.”
“What do you mean?” I asked suspiciously.
“That’s where you’ve spent the last two weeks,” replied Gerhardt and handed me a spacesuit.