The Pickup

“When all preparations were finished I informed the customer and received coordinates of the pick-up point. It was a citadel deep in null-sec. The intelligence I got was that hostile gate camps were set up to intercept ships flying out of that system but not in, so it was rather easy to get there. On my way to the citadel I had an opportunity to inspect the camps, using the cloak, of course. They mostly consisted of frigates and cruisers with an occasional battleship. Each camp had a pair of interceptors which, I bet, were equipped with instalock; that’s where your LCQ coding efforts would pay off. Also, I was amazed at the scale of our opponents’ operation; on my way the camps started three jumps away from the destination, and I guess all other escape routes were covered in a similar manner.”

“If they had such force at their disposal,” wondered I, “why didn’t they attack the citadel?”

“You need something bigger than a cruiser to bash a well-defended citadel, and from what I saw they simply didn’t have that kind of firepower. I believe they were waiting for reinforcements. Anyway, I safely made it to the citadel, and I can tell you it was a tough nut to crack – someone had invested a hell of a lot of kredits in setting up its defences. And the boys there were extra cautious – even though they positively identified me and gave me a docking permission, they locked Victorieux the very moment I dropped the cloak just to show that they were ready if I intended to do something stupid.”

“When I docked, I was told to stay on the ship and wait for the passengers. They didn’t waste time and a few minutes later I saw a group of people walking down the boarding tunnel. All of them but one were dressed in some kind of paramilitary uniform and were heavily armed. Normally, I ask my passengers to surrender their arms for the duration of the journey, but something told me it would be a waste of time to insist on it in that case, so I let it slide. The VIP, the only one without a uniform, was in the middle of the group accompanied by my old acquaintance Alf.”

“Alf?!” exclaimed I, “But I don’t understand. To meet you for contract signing he had to somehow get out of that system. And if he could do that then why the VIP couldn’t?”

“I had the same question for Alf,” nodded Gerhardt, “He smirked in reply and said he had his own ways; then he made a gesture as if he plugged a cable into a socket and pointed at his back.”

“And what was that supposed to mean?” asked I.

“That he was also a capsuleer,” replied Gerhardt.

“So if he was as good as you at escaping the gate camps, why did they have to hire you?” I still didn’t understand.

“Oh, don’t you see? He didn’t have to break the blockade. On the contrary, all he had to do was appear in the middle of the gate camp in his capsule,” Gerhardt looked at my blank expression and laughed, “What do you think would happen next?”

“They’d blow him up! And that would be the end of his journey. Why are you laughing at me as if I am saying something silly?” I demanded indignantly.

“Sorry,” Gerhardt raised his hands in a pacifying gesture, “it is quite evident to capsuleers, but I forgot that the rest of the world didn’t see it the same way. Remember what I told you about the ‘reincarnation’: after the capsule is breached, the capsuleer’s brain is scanned and the mind snapshot is sent to the cloning facility. So a few minutes later Alf would find himself in a safe place in hi-sec.”

I stared at Gerhardt, absorbing the information, “You know, I was stupid. I had all the information and could have come to that conclusion, but it simply didn’t occur to me that death could be used as a mode of travel. It is so counter-intuitive.”

“It is. Even for capsuleers voluntary death is not something they would undertake easily. But in Alf’s case the stakes were high, so he had to do it,” said Gerhardt with a tone of respect, and then resumed his story. “Once everyone was on board, I personally checked that they were strapped in their seats as we were going for a rough ride. Then I returned to my capsule and the fun began.”

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