(HVZ) Tempest Testimonies 004: Fall 2010 - The Mutant Squirrels of Athens | Part 4

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The clowns are out. The mutant squirrels of Athens rustle through the leaves. And I join two of the wolves for a stand off with the horde. But midweek mission is fast approaching.

"Shit, its them? Already?"
"Oh, those are the guys I read about on the forums!"
"So are we going to scripps or not?"
"Screw that! The clowns are out there!"
"Yeah, I see them. But they're just zombies, its not like they're specials."
"No, those are clown zombies. We don't normally see them before midweek. This is unnatural, and I really just don't like it!" 
"It also means the rest of the horde is near!"
"When did they even get a chance to clown up?"
"We could always loop around the bottom, go up richland, take Bentley, and get in scripps through the amphitheater."
"It sucks because we came all this way, but whatever. I left early for a reason." 
"All in favor, say Aye."


Bo-zed in 2011.

Of the four humans huddled against the window, three voices rang out in unison. "Aye!"

It was now about four days into our game. Still Prior to midweek, but there were enough zombies out to make daytime travel scary. And it was getting dangerous out there. Especially for the solo players who were not affiliated with any strike teams. Or for people who were the sole survivor of their strike team. We broke our huddle from the window and left in single file out of the Baker cafe, then descended back down the escalators. I had no idea what any of their names were. Hell, I still don't. But when its halfway through the game, and you are still alive, any survivor you meet out there is your blood brother or sister. I didn't need to know their names, I just knew that they were the only humans I had seen all day, and that one of them needed to get into scripps for a class or something. And I was dead set on getting him there alive. It wasn't the first time I'd seen the clowns out and about in the game. Hell, I think I did see Zedster the Jester when I was stuck on the library wall in 2009. But playing a full game is way different in atmosphere from dropping in on the final two nights of a game. 2009 felt like an action movie, where it was always dark on set, the horde was constantly out for blood, and I evolved from a scared college kid who had no idea what I was getting into into a warrior who died in a blaze of glory. 2010, I had arrived when patient zero took my brother away from me, and I was left to figure out how to survive on my own. I had to learn a completely different skillset, and I was getting pretty damn good at it. I was invested in the survival of those around me, and felt dread whenever a familiar face was plucked from the living, only to come charging at us the next day. 

It all felt much more real than 2009 did. For I had seen the game organically unfold before my eyes. So seeing Bo-zed out and about in the daylight like this was kinda surreal. Unsettling, even... As I stepped on the Escalator, I made another glance behind me to make sure we weren't getting shadowed through the building. And when I got one last look at them, I noticed they were surrounding a fellow Zombie. Chase from the looks of it. And as the line of sight vanished, I thought I saw them do something that made their fellow zombie... Really uncomfortable. What was that about? What did it mean?

It's really hard not to think of the Bo-zed Clowns when I remember the old era of HVZ in Athens. They were a beloved part of our game for so long. Every strike team had a counter team that they had a strong affinity with. Razor and Red-Team. The Wolves and Ragnarok. For Tempest? In the old days we were compatible with a lot of strike teams. But there was always one unlikely unofficial strike team that like us was struggling to get recognized by the mods. And that was Bo-zed. Although that bond didn't really start to flourish until sometime well after the 2010 Fall game. Back then, they were... Well, more like harbingers of the end times to the humans. You rarely saw them without an enterouge of some sort. Everyone knew where they go, the hord isn't far away. And when you saw them fully clowned up outside of missions, you really didn't want to be in the area. They were just another element of the game in Athens. And we occasionally see some of them meander into our game every now and again, but without the make up. Still, Bo-zed is out there somewhere. Silently convening to enforce the clown copulation act of 2011 every time any Athens mod so much as mentions the word "Time Machine." And I'd like to think they're still out their, terrorizing poor Chase by tagging him in creepy clown pictures to this day. For old time's sake of course.


Welcome to Part 4 of the expanded Tempest Testimonies. My coverage over some of our stories from 2010's fall game continues. We've officially hit that part where I can't say what day they happened, but there are a few things i remember happening while I was still human. We're getting close to my death in game, and what Cole was up to the whole time. I'm glad you guys seem to be enjoying them so far, and I'm sorry for triggering some of your traumatic zedling horde flashbacks. For those of you from other schools, or those who have never heard of the game of Humans vs Zombies but find these stories an interesting read, welcome, and I'm happy to have you here. For my fellow HVZ vets who were around in 2010 and are having a fun time drifting through memory lane, throw some memories my way. All of your memories of the game help me fill in the gaps of my own. I'd love to get more chances to shine the light on other strike teams and what they were doing, I just don't really remember too many of my encounters with Ragnarok, J-con, and other teams. It may be the story of my strike team, but HVZ is an expanded universe. So far a lot of this has just been my story, because Geoff doesn't remember a lot, and Cole doesn't really have many stories to add until the end. But is a collective of stories. Its begger than one person, one team, or even one campus. Its all of us, and that's part of why I find our game so compelling. So here we go.



Athens Squirrels

The Mutant Squirrels of Athens.

There are many things that HVZ players just accept as a part of the climate of their game. In Athens? Bad weather. Bo-zed. Zedlings. Drunks on Court Street asking you the same five questions over and over again. And mutant squirrels. You see, the little woodland critters in the city of Athens Ohio are kind of... Unique. Like to the point where they are regarded as being an entirely different species from other squirrels in the surrounding woods. You see, they eat food. Human food that is. For some reason or another, they decided that human food was better than the thousands of acorns found on the college green. And it was abundant, because drunk college students have a tendency of dropping it food, setting it down somewhere and forgetting about it, or passing out with it in hand. And while they will still try to bury acorns, because that is deeply rooted in their psychology, they are just as likely to pick up an acorn and run at you, jump, do a 180 while throwing the acorn at you as a way of saying "Gimme that burger!" Suffice to say, they aren't as human shy as most of their... Normal counterparts. But their stomachs are evolved to eat human food. Yeah, its kind of an affront to nature, and it kinda gets sad when the students go home for summer break, because they are nearly starving by the time they get back, but they help keep us on our toes, especially durring autumn games. 

They'll rustle through the leaf piles on the ground sounding very similar to a charging zombie, causing you to reflexively spin in alarm all like "Crap!" (Thus giving the zombie in a near by bush an opening.) And when you rest your back to a tree, they like to drop on your head, causing you to freak out, allowing them ample time to grab that DP Dough you have on your lap, and allow a nearby zombie to move in closer unnoticed. I guess what I mean to say here is the mutant squirrels of Athens are completely on the side of the zombies. The most skilled zombies have learned how to use squirrels to their advantage, as those squirrels will provide zombies with amazing misdirectional distractions. A lot of people who come down for invites don't believe me when I talk about it, and I admit, it sounds entirely ridiculous. But then an out of towner goes home with an experience. Or they talk to other Athens HVZ veterans. Then, its a different story.

I say this all now, because I didn't understand that back in 2010's game. There I was trudging up cambodia with a strike team in the middle of the night, shining flashlights into the side bushes, and making our way up slowly. It was cold enough to see your breath, but not cold enough for the zombies of the day. We split our little group in half as to take both branching stairs, then by the time we met up where they converged in the middle of the hill, we were out of the bush ambush territory. So we walked into the clearling and started to catch our breath before finishing the cambodian climb. I kept surveillance behind us, watching the stairs we had just climbed while another human fiddled with his phone to check something on the forums. Just then, something darted through the crispy leaves, causing us to snap around and face our guns. A light shined on a squirrel as it poked its head above the leaves. We heard a stick snap in the other direction, but when we checked, we could see a deer in the woodline. "Okay, so what did it sa-" Something busted out of the leaves that were piled in the direction of the squirrel, and it had a bandana on its head. Before I knew it, someone was dead. I had barely let off the shot just in time to save a would be second victim, but the damage had been done. The zombie laughed and welcomed her new compatriot to the horde as she took off her bandana. He looked in disbelief, but as the adrenaline came down, all the pieces clicked. "Alright. Guess I died to a squirrel. First time for everything." He accepted his fate with a shrug, then handed his mavs to one of his teammates. I think it was Terry who first told me that the squirrels are always on the side of the zombies. I never really understood what he meant until that moment. 

Like outlaws or something.

I don't really remember the context behind why this was happening, but there on the south green in the back of the area with the catwalks (We call it the dirty south), I found myself inside an 'H' shaped dormitory with Jate, Matt H, (another one of the wolves), and like two or three others. One of which was a member of Strike Team: Ragnarok. When all of the sudden, Jate got a text. I was trying to get something out of the vending machine at the time, and I heard him say "Huh!" with a snicker. He turned towards us and said "Heads up, hordes outside." For some reason or another, this horde was there specifically to off Jate. So after grabbing my soda, I walked out to the back door where I could see quite a few zombies standing from the glass. "Yup. There's zeds alright." I affirmed. The one in the center looked left and right, motioned for them to circle around, then back at us. 

"Looks like we're stuck for now." Someone said. I just smiled and continued to drink my beverage while Jate reloaded his clips. We got to talking for a while, just laughing and joking around. About twenty minutes had passed, and I think it was Matt who checked, but he didn't see anyone. "Okay, its probably a trap, but we need to get going. So Andric, want to help me clear them out?" Jate said. "Oh... I guess." I said nervously, but with a shrug of my shoulders and a final swig of the dew, I threw the can in the trash and primed my blaster. Matt grabbed both of his Mavericks. "We're doing this." he told us. Now I am one of those cautious types of players who will only engage zombies if necessary, so I was feeling pretty nervous about throwing myself at the horde. Picking fights at the time was out of my comfort zone. I prefered it to have them come to me. But we were in this situation together, and I wasn't letting my wolf brothers go in alone. The other humans bid us good luck, and ventured to higher floors. So it looked like it was just going to be Jate, Matt, and I. Soon as we creeked open the back doors, three zombies stepped into view. The one who had led the horde there went on to announce; "Come on out, Jate! We've got you surrounded! Are you ready to die?" He glanced to his left, then his right and motioned with a nod. We threw the doors ajar, then walked out. "Not today, asshole! Bring it!" Jate responded. The doors slammed shut. The thing was, we realized something that made us a bit relieved. Though we didn't vocally communicate it, if the horde was surrounding the doorm, they had spread themselves rather thin. There were three exits. Two of which out front, with one going to the catwalks, and one on ground level. And the one in the back. We knew that we only had about a third of the horde to worry about.

All we had to do was defeat them before they even had the chance to summon all the zombies from the front side, and we were scott free. Knowing this was our chance, we stood with the door to our back, spread apart. We allowed the zombies to come in the brick alcove with both wings of the dorm protruding to our right and left. I let a shot go first when they were in range, hitting my mark. He took off his bandana, then yelled "Horde up!" And like that, seven or eight more zombies came sprinting around the corner. We held hour ground firing foam into their ranks, and taking them out before they had a chance to lunge. Then after we cleaned them all up, we started to sprint forward, with eyes on both corners. "Clear!" I called as I checked right to make sure there weren't zombies lingering behind them. After hearing Matt echo me, Jate spoke up. "Alright, lets collect our darts and get crackin." The three of us ran back to collect our darts, and then circled wide around the parameter of the dirty south to our right, careful to avoid line of sight from the rest of the horde in our escape. From there, we ran off into the sunset, ready to raise hell another day. I didn't realize until about halfway through writing this, but yeah, I hear the western cowboy music playing in the back of my head too. :\

Day 5 - "I miss ONE day...":

It took me longer than it should have to remember why I couldn't remember Midweek Mission. And that was because I just wasn't there. I had a job. Back then it was 10 hour shifts for 3 days a week at the Gap distribution center. And while I had managed to get Friday and Saturday off, I didn't have the PTO hours to cover Thursday. I live in Lancaster, and worked in the Obetz area of Columbus. So I had to make a return home on Wednesday to sleep. But in Athens HVZ? Leaving town doesn't put you outside of gameplay. Anytime you are outside, you are in play, and expected to wear your bandana. Even out in Lancaster. Even in the parking lot at work. And you know, I was kinda entering the height of paranoia at that point, since I knew for a fact that there was a growing number of zombies who wanted me dead. I wouldn't have been surprised if one of them used Geoff to track down my work place, and plotted an ambush in the parking lot for me. So naturally, I had a sock in hand when I walked across the asphalt. Nervously checking between every car I passed. Checking bushes and trees, and even the insides of the glass doors before entering.

I had three friends there. Rashad, Zuki, and Daniel. And Zuki had noticed. He knew what was up. This white guy has a bandana round his arm, is nervously checking his back ever five seconds as if expecting to get ambushed. It was obvious. So when he sat down beside me in the cafeteria, waiting waited for clock in, he jabbed my arm. "Hey, dude. When did you join a gang?" He asked. I looked perplexed. "Excuse me?" I asked. "You know, a gang. You got that bandana, you looking like your expecting to get jumped by rivals... I don't know what the sock ball is or. But take my advice. Don't bring that shit to work and get out before you do something stupid." Now Zuki is from Maryland. His family is from louse, giving him a dark skinned asian complexion, and his manner of carrying himself always kinda told me he had seen some shit in his hometown. Rashad looked at us from across the table. Black, christian, deep voice, wise beyond his years. Really good kid, but he comes off as rough, strong and silent, when in reality he was just shy. So he looked a little alarmed, just giving me an evil eye and a slow nod for No. Danial snickered. Small town guy like me. Scandinavian decent, reddish beard, dry sense of humor, and apparently the only guy who remembered what I told them the prior week. "No, he's doing that zombie thing, isn't he? Assholes vs zombies or whatever." I couldn't help but laugh when I realized what it looked like from these very different sociologic perspectives. "Ah, shit, no. Its the zombie thing. I'm still in game play anytime I'm outside." I went on to explain my story thus far. What the game was like, how my brother had perished in opening night, and how I was still out there, dodging clowns, zedling hordes, and ambushes. Zuki and Danial looked at each other. "So, theoretically, if one of us brought a bandana, we could tag you when outside, right?" Danial asked. "Well, yeah, if you read the rules." I said. A sly smirk spread across Zuki's face. "I have a bandana in my car." He said. I started to freak out. I did not need that kinda stress at work.

So I worked as a merchandise processor in the Picking department, which is a fancy way to say I got paid to be the worlds highest class hobo. I had a shopping cart with two totes on it, and an MK Ultra device that the 'gubberment' strapped to my wrist that would tell me where to go and what to pick. So I would walk across concrete all day and fish around in cardboard boxes to loot clothes. Once done, I would take the tote to the line and stash it away, where the conveyer belt would carry it off to lands yonder. I blame aliens. It was an awesome job, but the 45 minute commute sucked, and one of the guys brought in a pedometer to see how many miles a day we would walk. It averaged around 10 miles across concrete, and you had to walk fast to keep productivity up, which kinda wears you down after a while. But it put me in good shape for HVZ. I had stopped hurting by day four, but I was noticeably starting to slow down compared to normal. All that walking and running in up hill both ways in Athens must've drained me more than I thought. At each break, I would text people in game to check on their progress. Because Midweek was coming basically happening while I was there, I felt bad that I couldn't be there.

I was missing midweek mission. I had been told before that midweek was about the time when the real meat grinder missions took place. And it's usually the moment in game when the balance of numbers between the humans and zombies shifts in favor of the zombies. So I was practically biting my nails, hoping that my surviving friends in the Wolves, J-Con, Ragnarok, Da Bears and Red-Team were doing well. By third break, the mission was already over, however. And Jate, Megan, and most of the other wolves were dead. They'd already lost Stephen on the mission prior, but this basically spelled the end for my main freeplay strike team to accompany. Geoff had gotten to me durring the BFG mission, telling me how a couple of the humans thought his brain was the BFG, and how he basically had to wrestle it away from them inactive. And still no word about where Cole was. When I finally got home and looked over the forums, I was noticing a lot more green names than orange. Part of me dreaded going back. But the part of me that died in that 2009 game in a blaze of glory was aching with excitement. It was getting real.

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