For starters, you'll have to forgive me. Searching for any details on 2010 is real hard. Our facebook presence starts in Spring of 2011 for Athens HVZ, and everything before then is completely nuked from existence, along with the forums. I have some evidence and screenshots that are probably on my photobucket, but as I am literally too poor to spend the five bucks to reactivate the account, they might as well be gone. Likewise, the pic in the thumbnail could only be retrieved as a google image thumbnail, copied, pasted, resized, and with a tint thrown over to make the details more easy to see. It makes it hard to place when certain events happened, what missions happened in what order, and when my stories fall in parallel with them. But this mission I do remember pretty clearly, so I could start here. What I forget is whether the next mission happened later in the day, or on the next day, as its an important one for me to cover, and res leaders had missions separated from the main missions back in the day. So I apologize for the abrupt ending here. Anyways, let us begin.
Day 2: The "Artifact", the Brain, and the Bluff.
There was something about that old frat house that didn't contain heat very well. As I occupied a couch in a room with a pool table in the back of the first floor, I was largely left alone. Thankfully, I had my trench coat to keep me warm and use as a blanket. So, I was fine, until I woke up, and my feet landed on cold wooden planks. I yawned and stretched, then began to put my gear together. Geoff's Recon and leftover darts now sat in my gear pile. I went ahead and equipped the Recon, then divided up the darts to refill my raider drum, which was placed with the bulk of the darts in the backpack. After sliding the recon bandolier over my shoulder, and equipping the trench coat, I then slid the backpack straps around my shoulders. I worked to put my boots on while one of the house dwellers walked through the room to the kitchen, giving a greeting. It was about 11am, but in those days, I was more accustomed to waking up at noon for a third shift job. What sleep I was able to get there must have purely been from fatigue. With both boots on, I started to fill a dump pouch with darts while the smell of coffee poured out from the kitchen. The guy leaned out, watching me gear up, and asked "Are you still alive?" I strapped the pouch to a small plastic ring on the right strap while affirming him. "Yeah. Geoff died last night, but I'm still human." That brought my arm to my bandana, which needed to be retied to fit my upper arm. "Right on. Hayes is still alive too." He concluded. The surface level banter continued for a bit with one of my brother's roommates. But I was hungry, so I said my goodbye and headed out.
Out on the outskirts of town, I was far enough from the action that I didn't need to worry about danger very much, but with one zombie living in the place, I had to do a thorough search through all the trash on the front porch, and the tall grass off to the left side to make sure I wasn't going to be ambushed. For now, Geoff was no longer my brother. He was a zombie. One who's pattern of hiding and ambushing I had grown to know quite well, just from growing up with him and playing all kinds of territorial sword fighting and nerf war games in the past. Thankfully, it appeared as though he wasn't there. As I walked down Lancaster street, I maintained my vigilance, just in case. But hunger was beginning to take over, and my guard dropped. Since the game was played 24/7 as long as you were outdoors, with the Athens game having no boundaries, it meant getting food was a dangerous endeavor, if you decided to go with court street. Inactive zombies would camp in Wendies, Chipotle, or Whits until they respawned, places like Wendies in particular were the absolute worse place for humans to decide to eat in. It usually meant that they would have to put up with an ambush every time they left, if they entered at the wrong time. And since next to Wendies was an alley that linked directly to the heart of Tarp Alley, it was very easy to hide a horde. The human players had coined the infamous phrase "Fuck it, let's go to Wendies". Basically meaning that they had lost the willpower to resist the temptation of fast food, and no longer cared what stood between them and their greasy "Meal of Convenience".
Since I was not a student, however, and on the opposite side of town from all the dining halls, options for breakfast weren't as readily available for me. The closest options near us were limited to Miller Chicken and Dairy Queen. And since I didn't know Miller Chicken existed yet, that meant I had to walk in the direction opposite to town. Up Columbus Road on sore feet and sore calf muscles. I had arrived, ordered a cheeseburger combo, and hydrated myself. No ice cream. I was already cold, and needed something substantial to give me the willpower needed to walk back into town. Then when I was ready, I took the downhill walk on Columbus street, then followed it well into town. Even passing Court Street, with my blaster primed and checking all six directions at once of course. I had to make a stop at the Pyramids, a hookah bar run for the students and by the students. It was supposed to be a primary hideout for Tempest. Unfortunately, right now, it was a zombie haunt. I knew Geoff was in there. I just wanted to say hi, before venturing somewhere out to find human players. As soon as I laid a hand on the knob however, a face slammed against the window with a purple bandana around the head. And it wasn't Geoff. I kicked back, poising my blaster. The door creaked open slowly as a thin, somewhat gaunt face of a zombie grinned at me. "Come on in! We were expecting you!" He said in a creepy manner. Then stepped aside, motioning with his arm inward. In order not to risk him getting both feet outside of the safezone as I approached, I sprung in with a single leap. Thankfully, most of the customers were non-players.
The Zombie introduced himself as Trevor, and went on to explain that I showed a faster reaction speed than most of the humans coming in or going out of the establishment. In fact, he wasn't even able to launch an attack before I was ready. Alas, normally the Athens assault consisted of another zombie hiding in the parking lot off to the side of the bar, and while the humans were distracted by the one at the door, the back one would slide in and get them. Trevor explained this to me as he guided me back behind to where Geoff was. And there was Geoff, toting around that marshmallow brain, still in its packaging. I bought a mountain dew, then sat with them in the back, watching the street traffic. Every so often, Trevor and Geoff would look at the window, alerted like a pair of dogs, then one would run towards the front, while the other would duck and slide to the emergency exit. But the humans would always walk past.
Geoff in 'Mids'
Finally, a human did enter the establishment, but with Trevor in the restroom, I ran up to him and told him the situation, then opted to leave with him. A mission was coming up anyways, so I needed to stick with someone. As we left, Geoff and Trevor ran at us from behind, but we were far enough away that we had ample time to turn around and blast them. Removing their bandanas, they bid us fairwell, and left for the mission location, as the zombies were expected there sooner than we were. And yes, for those in the community who are wondering, Trevor is Anna now, but that happened a few years later.
The player escorted me to the human location. To be honest, I don't remember most of the missions and what they were about, but this one had us going to West Green under the catwalk in order to retrieve an artifact of some kind. It was different from what Athens missions usually entailed, because it had zombies on defense, guarding an artifact by using touch respawns. The humans simply had to grab it and run. Simple mission, but boy was getting there complicated. So under the catwalks in West Green, there are basically four ways to get inside. One was through the East, which was the direction most of the players were coming from, so it was where most of us entered from. Myself included.
The problem was, most of the Zombies had expected us to go that way, and so we met resistance as soon as we entered the alley. I remember being caught quite off guard by how many zombies we were up against, with this being the second mission. Although back then, the horde grew their numbers mostly through daytime hunting, not missions. Likewise, they kept running around the corner and respawning. So while there was only about 17 zombies at this point, it felt like more. Especially when we managed to get a foothold into the alley.
I didn't get to fire too many shots at this point, but that changed once we breeched the alley, and our front line peeled off to reload. So that white bridge between the two buildings where the humans were entering from was actually a group of double lined brick pillars. The top serves as a walkway between the Arc (Academic and research center) and Irvine Hall, I believe. But as we were traveling under it, the problem with pillars in HVZ (as any vet of the game will tell you) is, they're a great location for zombies to use as cover and pop out from either side at any humans entering. Stripping them of their most valuable advantage: Reach. Meaning it was a bit a of a game of tug of war between the humans and zombies for control. But we finally managed to get all the zombies that were hiding behind them running back around the corner, and got a defensive line on the other side before any of the fresh spawns could get into them.
It was about now when I took position in front, in order to repel the zombies, and allow the humans a chance to go through the pillars. Again, I kinda want to stress how much a game changer it was jumping from an stock raider to a modded one, because it seemed that not only did I have much better range, but also I was much more accurate. It seemed like every time I pulled the trigger, I sent one running back around the corner. Never did I need to use slamfire, because I had the room between us to prioritize my shots. Of course by now, after the twelfth time of seeing the same zombie lunge at me again and again, I started to realize that we needed to keep pushing. The zombie spawns were infinite, and it was taxing on ammo.
Thankfully, since I wasn't spamming slamfire, and instead able to whittle away at priority targets, my effectiveness on the battlefield had drastically increased. And by now, I started to notice that the zombies were going after the humans with less firepower on the front. After a while though, I started to notice the front lines were eroding, and people were running away, with the bulk of our firepower lagging behind, showing some reluctance to refresh the front ranks. Funny story though, I was out of ammo. And the other guns in front were mostly mavs, old 90s nerf guns, and nightfinders, who were reluctant to advance with me. My next move was actually somewhat calculated for the sake of morale. I realized that if I would have disengaged to run back and replace my ammo drum, morale would have broken, and the entire front would collapse. That of course would lead to the back using the excuse to withdraw. That would of course allow the zombies to retake ground we had spent all those darts, and a few lives to claim. So, with sweaty palms shaking in anxiety, I called for reinforcements to get their god damn asses up front, while holding the front by merely pointing the raider at people who showed the body language that they were about to charge.
Most would halt mid charge and backpedel when they noticed my plastic barrel poised at them. They had learned my range by now, and likely due to fatigue, they had decided to be a little more careful with their lives to save themselves from the constant running back and forth. With no ammo and no choice but to Feign that I was still in complete control over the situation, I held firm. Poised in the front of the pack as if I still had enough darts and willpower to back up my performance. I felt completely vulnerable. Lucky for me? They took the bluff. And eventually a group of humans did make their way up, and I allowed them to pass, while still maintaining posture. Once the line had filled infront of me, I ran back to the pillars, and switched out my ammo drum from by backpack before running back. Honestly, holding the front with absolutely no ammo easily makes the top ten for scariest experiences in my HVZ career. They say 60% of a fight is psychological. And centuries of warfare have boiled tactics and strategies down to breaking the spirit of an enemy to surrendering before the real fighting takes place. To this day, I am thankful that HVZ is played between real humans, and not actual zombies.
The humans had finally taken the corner, and by now we were able to see a series of poles on the ground. These were what the zombies were using as a touch respawn. The humans faced off with the zombies, but were a bit confused as to what to do. When word spread that we needed the artifact, which was located between the poles, people took notice of that brain that my brother was running around with. And then I heard word spread that they thought the zombie with the purple short was carrying the artifact, I immediately had to roll my eyes and insist that it wasn't. I went ignored. And when Geoff accidentally dropped it, a human ran up and shot him. "He's down, everybody in!" Someone shouted. Geoff had indeed removed his bandana, but when a human tried to steel his marshmallow brain, he ran up and snatched it back out of their hands. "Don't take my stuff." He said in a monotone. Then he ran back to touch one of the poles in order to respawn. Finally, a group pointed to the center of the pillars. And a group quietly peeled from our back to circle the Ark.
By now, the zombies were getting really tired, but they still defended that artifact fiercely. We had condensed our forces, and the concentrated fire power helped, but we were running out of ammo again, and had no openings to run in and grab the thing. I had made a few attempts myself, but each time, I got chased off. Most of the zombies were now inside the poles, holding onto one to avoid from getting picked off, and watching us. Both sides eyeing any weaknesses to exploit. Thankfully the stalemate didn't last for ever, as a group ran in from behind, forcing the zombies to fight on two fronts. Their divided forces allowed the back group to push in and grab the artifact while we kept them pinned down to their respawn pulls, shooting any who risked letting go. The mission was over.
I don't know which strike team was responsible for the flanking maneuver back in the day, but I am thankful it paid off. Unfortunately after mission debrief, humans needed to dart sweep in double-time, since the zombies were still active. But we had managed to get out of there with minimal casualties. Even if there were quite a bit more zombies than when the mission began.