My biggest takeaway from today’s short, edge-of-space flight by Jeff Bezos in his Blue Origin rocket was not one I expected. It was the realisation that there must not be any supervillains on Earth, because today was an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an evil supervillain to kidnap and the richest person alive and hold him for ransom, and the opportunity was absolutely squandered. The guy was literally floating slowly down from the sky, wrapped up in a box! I’m really disappointed.
Now, I should mention right away that I am in no way advocating for anyone to kidnap anybody. It’s very illegal and morally reprehensible, so don’t do it. That said, if there were people out there with the particular combination of moral flexibility and ambition that would lead them to attempt to kidnap and ransom arguably the greatest potential ransom-generating prize anywhere, this was again, the chance, and everyone blew it.
I mean, think about it: earlier today Jeff Bezos, a man who has an obscenely large fortune of (by some estimates) 205 billion dollars, just floating slowly to the ground in a capsule, out in the middle of the Texas desert.
Dude was practically gift-wrapped. A daring team of evil villains could have asked for a five or 10 billion dollar ransom, and it would have been paid without a second thought.
So, just for the sake of a thought experiment, let’s consider how such a kidnapping could have been pulled off.
The key point here is the landing of the Blue Origin capsule in the desert, which was a nice, slow, gentle descent, buoyed by three parachutes and then a cushion of air when the capsule was within six feet of the surface.
You can see the landing happen in the live feed here:
Now, let’s note something: from the time the capsule touched down to when the first support vehicles arrived (also note that there are EV Rivian trucks in there), about three solid minutes elapsed. Plenty of time to make something happen.
So, for three minutes, that capsule, with its four occupants, sat there alone in the desert. The location of the general landing area was well-known before the flight, and is in a huge open swath of desert. Even better, the actual location of the landing was near a road not too far from a larger state road, State Highway 54.
So here’s what I think a person who wanted to kidnap Jeff Bezos could have done:
The basic idea is to actually catch the capsule right before it hits ground. Based on the speed it was descending and the size of the capsule, this should have been possible with a pretty conventional truck.
An open-topped box-type truck (maybe with a cargo box that flared out at the top a bit, filled with some energy-absorbing materials) could have been sourced and stashed somewhere near the expected landing area weeks before the launch.
The crew to drive the capture truck could have been out there in the desert, possibly disguised as a maintenance vehicle from this nearby agricultural site:
Someone would likely need to be paid off at the agricultural site to answer questions if any security people checked, but hey, you gotta spend some money if you want to do things right. Besides, we’re buying trucks and other equipment and making plenty of other bribes. This won’t be cheap.
On launch day, the truck would have been ready to go, keeping tabs on the launch status and getting in position to intercept the capsule before the Blue Origin team; they’d need to get into position pretty quickly, which might mean having someone on the inside at Blue Origin to relay information about the precise projected landing site.
This will be tricky, but I think if the kidnappers had someone on the inside to get them close enough to the expected area early, they should be able to have enough lead time.
OK, so at this point, speed is of the essence. Once the capsule’s trajectory is observed, the capture truck breaks cover and speeds out to where it’s going to land. The key here is to capture it BEFORE it actually lands, by positioning the truck — suitably prepared for the desert terrain — under the capsule to catch it.
Cameras inside the cargo box pointing up will help guide the truck driver — I see a two-person team, one watching the capsule, one driving. I think this sort of thing, with a properly trained team, should be possible.
They likely have some kind of tracking on that capsule, yeah? We’ll need some way to disable that. I bet that’s possible. In the montage where the team is assembled, we’ll be sure to get a cool hacker person with, like, a signature hat, to deal with that.
If they capture the capsule just before it touches down, that would give the kidnappers between three and four minutes of a head start before any Blue Origin vehicles arrive on site.
Once the capsule has landed in the truck, everyone will see what’s going on, and they’ll be on alert. While the area wasn’t surrounded when the capsule landed this morning, the state highway was closed, and in our scenario there will be some police and other security in the area.
That’s why we need to make things hard for them.
The truck with the capsule will speed to a predetermined point (that farm thing, maybe? With all the irrigation circles?) where a number of identical trucks, each with a fake, fibreglass mock-up capsule inside (to confuse helicopters and other things looking from above) will be waiting. A lot of smoke bombs will be at the location, too, to block all visibility in the area as each truck takes off on its own, route, in all different directions, to act as decoys for anyone chasing the truck with the capsule.
While this is happening, the truck with the real capsule will be making a beeline to a nearby secure location, and the decoy trucks will need to be doing all they can to draw law enforcement and other security away, to the point of one of the decoys rendezvousing with other vehicles to make a plausible show that it’s the actual one, complete with people in similar flight suits (which we have seen prior to the launch) being pulled out and into other cars.
When the real truck makes it to the warehouse or wherever, as quickly as possible Bezos is taken out of the capsule and put into another vehicle. The rest are left in the capsule, and the truck is moved somewhere obvious, to both distract from Bezos’ removal and so the non-Bezos people can be recovered with minimal fuss.
We don’t want anyone getting hurt, after all. The kidnappers just want a measly few billion from Jeff Bezos, that’s all!
So, at this point, the kidnappers should have Bezos in a car, and they need to get him away from everything as fast as possible.
Getting him into Mexico is likely their best bet. I’m no supervillain, so I’m unsure of the sorts of resources they have available, but I bet a small plane on a private airstrip is very possible, as are the necessary bribes to get a plane over the border and landed somewhere in the heart of Mexico, where he can then be transported somewhere really secure.
I’d still send out a decoy car and maybe even a decoy plane or helicopter, just to keep everyone very confused, and all this time at least some of the decoy trucks should be very obviously attempting to flee. Whoever is driving those will likely have to be paid a lot, and they will know nothing of the rest of the plan.
I know there are a lot of details that would need to be sorted out, and to make this work, the evil kidnappers would have had to start setting things in motion months and months ago.
But that’s what any decent supervillain would have done! It’s appalling, just appalling, that no enterprising bad people even seem to have tried to kidnap jeff Bezos.
Hell, knowing how Amazon is run, I bet they could have found a lot of help at the Amazon warehouse in El Paso, which could have acted as a staging site for some of the prep, or maybe a way to source the trucks.
Now that I think about it, someone on the kidnapping team should have been on the inside at Amazon and set up a cross-promotional thing with multiple Amazon trucks being on-site; those would have become the capture and decoy trucks!
So many possibilities!
Of course, it didn’t happen, and I know that’s good. No one was kidnapped. But, from the perspective of a kidnapper, it’s hard not to see this as a once-in-a-lifetime kidnapping opportunity that’s been absolutely wasted.
I’m not mad at you, supervillains of the world, just disappointed.