You’ve never looked fear in the eye? Let me tell you about my experience with Link Dead, ace online pilot.
Nobody knows where he’s from, or what he’s supposed to do for a living. We just know that he’s online constantly. I remember seeing him in Tribes 2 all the time, usually at the helm of a Thundersword Bomber. Then he appeared in Battlefield, flying the big bombers on the Market Garden map. He was mysteriously silent for a while, until PlanetSide brought him back. We don’t know where he’s from in real-life, but from snippets of conversations or forum posts we’ve learned that he plays games with an old computer on a rickety card table, with his cable-modem precariously balanced on the same subwoofer where he rests his feet. He games with an old flightstick that has two sticky buttons and a missing trigger that he’s replaced with a little red button from Radio Shack. When the action is hot and the combat furious, he’s known to kick his cable modem off of his subwoofer. And no matter what game he’s playing, we all know him by one name:
Link Dead: Ace Online Pilot.
Most action games don’t know how to handle it when a player momentarily loses connection while flying an airplane or spacecraft. Some keep the same heading and speed, then suddenly correct themselves when the player reconnects, and out of nowhere the craft is a few hundred yards to the left and facing a different direction. Others stutter, or stop the craft’s mid-air movement altogether, defying the laws of physics for a few precious seconds. Sometimes the pilot himself simply dies on the spot, leaving the plane to drift of its own accord while his passengers scramble to situate themselves at the controls.
Typically, all of the above would happen to you … if Link Dead was the pilot.
There I was, in the ball-gunner position of Link Dead’s Allied Bomber, and we were sweeping high and steady over the town in Battlefield 1942’s Market Garden map. The sun is shining and the anti-aircraft fire is light. We swing around and then come in low from behind the enemy base, dropping a line of devastating bombs all along the enemy tank column. Suddenly, the plane lurches sideways and I hear the engines throttle down: Link Dead was momentarily AWOL.
In my mind’s eye I can see him at home, cursing as his cable-modem clattered to the Kitchen floor and the lights winked and turned red. Urgently he kicks back his chair, an old rolly office deal with clear plastic packing tape holding the foam inside of the many rips. He drops to his knees onto the linoleum, crawling on all fours to plug his cable back in and hit the reset button. He hits his head on the way back up; the card table wobbles back and forth unsteadily.
Meanwhile, our bomber begins to lose altitude and pitches forward ominously. The remains of the German armor column swivel their big guns at us. Stormtroopers rush forward with panzershrecks in hand. I fire my machine guns frantically as our engines sputter and the ground lurches toward us at a 45-degree angle. Ahead of us, the Arnhem bridge looms, sickeningly close – we’re too low! We’re not going to make it over! The tanks behind us let loose a murderous volley of shells…
When out of nowhere, Link Dead, Ace Online Pilot, is back in the game! The engines click and roar immediately to full blast as though they’d never slowed down. The horizon jerks and then levels out; we’re facing up and not down. We tap against the bridge supports with a shower of sparks before rocketing into the sky, while a half-dozen tank shells explode uselessly against the surface of the bridge in our wake.
And somewhere, far away, Link Dead reaches between his legs and scoots his mangy chair across the linoleum and back up under his rear before sitting down again. He rubs a loving finger across the worn duct-taped handle of his beloved flight stick, surveys the damage done to the German lines, and nods happily. He decides to buzz the Allied church in celebration. He angles in toward the steeple, aggressive, but completely in control … and then kicks over his cable modem again.
Link Dead: we salute you!
One of these days, one of those card table legs will give out, and you’d better hope not to be one of Link Dead’s passengers then.
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