And we begin with the game’s introduction. The opening tutorial doesn’t count, that’s just a tutorial, so we start at the moment we meet William Grey, protagonist and hero. You have no idea how pleased I was that his name wasn’t a variation of “John Jackson”. This fills the spot of the opening scene, up to the impact onto the island, wherein the game’s version kicks back in. It’s written in the first person, told by Will Grey.
A word to the wise, if you’re planning on starting a freight haulage company, base it in Nassau. It’s beautiful, warm and there’s not much in the way of local law enforcement to double check every damn thing you’re contracted to carry. Hey, there’s a reason the pirates loved it all those years ago.
It’s also a good place to go if you just want to get away from the world, which God knows I did back when I was there just before the war. I’d had a bad couple of years, culminating in getting drummed out the Air Force. I won’t go into details, but considering the fact that everyone knew a war was brewing with the fascists, and that a fresh set of grunts was probably going to be very useful soon, it should suffice to say that it wasn’t a simple matter.
When you’ve been a pilot, the only thing you know how to do is fly. You could have been to an Ivy League school, born with a silver spoon in each orifice, but once they let you fly nothing else matters. When they take that away from you, or you make them take it away from you, you can’t help but find a way back, even freight haulage.
Don’t get me wrong, I like hauling crates around the world, but it’s stressful. Money is always tight, and breaking even is the best you can hope for. There’s always someone cheaper, with a shinier plane and blonde hair, ready to steal your customers, and even the most understanding bank will only extend credit so far. I suppose that is how it all began really.
It’s not good business to limit what you can and can’t carry, but I’ve always been wary of government contracts. From time to time I’d get approached by suspicious men in trench coats, or people in finely pressed suits that are precisely the wrong things to wear in the Nassau weather, and they’d always offer me a handsome sum of money to ferry a disproportionately small package for them. I always declined, but there’s only so long you can turn away paying customers before the wolves start knocking at your door.
The package was big this time, which was actually relaxing in a weird way, although the assertion that a special courier was required to oversee the whole thing seemed unusual. If they wanted whatever it was guarded then why didn’t they have the military ship it? The government never cease to confound, they even took out the contract under the guise of an obvious front company. No-one would name their company “Smith & Smith Exports”.
They delivered the package about an hour before the courier arrived, a perhaps to allow time to load it onto the plane where it would be safe from the fallout. Clearly, the government doesn’t understand the work ethic of the self-employed pilot. I had only just finished wheeling the crate from the gates to the plane when a black sedan pulled up behind me. It was polished to a shine, not a hint of rust, and the wheels crunched across the gravel in a mocking tone, as though no other vehicle matched up to this one car. It pulled to a stop and she got out.
Most men have ghosts from the past, but very few have them thrust upon them out of the blue with no conceivable means of escape.
She feigned ignorance, but Eva was never one to go into a situation blind. At the time I was too stunned to realise this, but in hindsight it should have been the first sign that something was wrong. She was as beautiful as I remembered her being from all those years ago, with that British twang adding a touch of the exotic to her. If a woman comes from far away it’s rather hard to resist her.
But that had been a long time ago, and now she was cold. Back then she had been vibrant and exciting, but I had hurt her and that warranted little more than a snide remark and an icy glance. She never was big on forgiveness, but I would have thought a couple of years might have at least taken some of the sting out of it.
We exchanged few words, her momentary display of surprise allowing the following exchange:
And that’s about all. I loaded the plane as quickly as possible, ignoring the telling looks from my friend and navigator (whose name I am leaving out of this record as a means of respect). I’m not sure where she went, but until we were ready to fly she was noticeably absent. Made things easier for me, I suppose.
We set off as soon as the plane was loaded, even thought it was getting dark and the weather was less than ideal. I could have postponed the flight, it was well within my rights as a pilot to do so, but the thought of a whole night of judgement from the ex was scarier than the prospect of flying into a storm, and harder to deal with. Besides, it was a simple trip, and a proper storm was exceedingly unlikely. I’d drop the crate (and the girl) off quickly and be back in Nassau with enough cash to pay off my debtors and have enough spare for a colourful drink.
It took karma about an hour to catch up with my hubris. The sun had finished setting by this point and, shock of shocks, I had flown right into a storm. Ordinarily I could have flown around it, or even turned back, but a combination of British Death Glares and disputed airspace meant that the only option was to plough straight through, into the Bermuda Triangle. In a thunder storm. At night.
I wasn’t a superstitious man at the time. The Bermuda Triangle’s mysterious powers didn’t seem particularly plausible at the time. Hell, the only evidence that anyone really bothered to use was the strange disappearance of the USS Cyclops, and with that sort of name I had expected it to have smashed into a rock or something. You don’t expect the captain of such a ship to have much in the way of depth perception. The other disappearances were just as easily attributed to human error as some paranormal phenomenon, especially when it came to the various aircraft that had vanished.
The storm went bad quickly, visibility becoming a serious issue. I was using the frequent lightning strikes to scout ahead, although the one advantage of flying into such a storm is that most pilots are intelligent enough to make a detour, leaving you a clear path. So it came as a shock when something sped past the cockpit at a fantastic speed.
It moved so fast that I barely caught more than a glimpse. It didn’t look like any aircraft I had ever seen before, and I didn’t spot anything I could identify as an engine. A black disc, somehow in flight. For a moment I assumed it to be a trick of the light, the lightning dazzling me and causing me to misidentify a stray reflection on the windscreen, but Eva shattered that illusion.
She squealed and turned to me for an answer, but before I could give one the engines gave an almighty stutter. Perhaps they’d been clogged by rainwater, or perhaps my constant failure to get the damn thing serviced had finally caught up with me, but for whatever reason, the engines had died. I tried in vain to restart them when the lightning struck again and out of the darkness loomed a spire of rock.
Evasive manoeuvres were futile at this point, but I tried anyway. I swung the plane to the left as best I could, gambling on the strength of the wind to give enough of a push to save our lives. It wasn’t enough. The turn was too sharp and into too much wind, the tail section swung round and smashed into the spire, shearing it off completely. The cargo and my friend disappeared into the darkness, along with two thirds of my aircraft, and what remained began to spin uncontrollably.
We pin-wheeled through the air for what felt like an eternity, the thick darkness being punctuated by thunder. I tried to counter the spin, but the lack of a tail section made the entire thing little more than a vain attempt at survival, having to do something because you feel you should be rather than actually having anything to do. It’s automatic, the human mind can’t accept a sudden and imminent death, it has to fight.
There was a final crack of thunder, and through the lightning and the nauseating spin I saw what looked to be an island directly ahead. We were going to hit it, and at this speed I wasn’t sure we could survive the impact.