Ordinarily on a Day Z server, the cars and bikes and buses and ATVs are long gone by the time I ever get there. I check the spawns, if I’m passing, but there is never anything there but an empty patch of concrete and the faint suggestion of mocking laughter on the wind. I found a blue pushbike in the middle of a field one time, and had a happy ten minutes weaving down the road like a rural drunk before crashing it into a molecule or something and coming to a dead halt. Improbably, the hull light was flashing red and a procession of zombies was following me like kids chasing an ice-cream van, so I whispered a tearful goodbye, patted the saddle and ran for my life and never laid eyes on another working vehicle.
Until I found The Quad.
This was weeks of realtime later, on a different server, ten minutes fresh from spawn, on my way to another appointment with another dead and beanless destiny. There it was, just sitting on a hillside.
“There’s a bloody quad here.”
The buddy on teamspeak I was on my way to meet was five or six minutes down the coast. He’d just passed a jerry can a few hundred yards back.
And there’s a petrol station just over there.
I hid in a bush, staring at the ATV through Makarov iron sights, in full hair-trigger shoot first and teabag the corpse mode, while my Martin got the juice. I never shoot first, which means I mostly never shoot back. I’m an easy pickings carebear noob. Hugs, not 1366 slugs. But this was different. This was an actual, working vehicle. This was ours you bastards.
Aching long minutes, and then Martin arrived, sloshing. We fuelled it up and got on, still a little unsure of whether it would work. With a tap of the W key, it started. Elation. Then fear. In the grey dawn on a ragged hillside a little outside Cherno, across the echoing miles the engine roared out: “THEY’RE OVER HERE! Come bandits! I want to be ridden by a real man. A killer! I’m so hot for killers. Kill them and take me, right here, I’m yours!”
My forehead started to itch like somewhere someone was stroking rifle crosshairs across it. So we buggered off in no short order, off a dirt track into the woods and away from the wretched hives of scum and villiany along the coast. The afternoon was glorious, tooling around with a mate on the back and the wind in our hair, the whole map suddenly within reach. Stop, loot, fuel, shitzombiesbacktothebike and away again. Life was good, with nothing to worry us but a hull just in the yellow, and the omnipresent threat of murder by unseen bandits.
Eventually we parked it up, work tomorrow, time for bed, off into the trees far far from the road. Inching the quad backwards and forwards until it was deep in a copse of fir trees. Check from the road. Damn, handlebar is clipping through. Over a bit, left a bit. Good.
We logged out. Martin, a few minutes later, pressed the wrong button and accidentally logged back in. And there was a guy, in a ghille suit, sat on the ATV. Facing the other way.
Martin is like me. Never shot at another player. A give peace a chance carebear pussy noob. He was like me, anyway, but this was ours you bastards.
What other choice was there?
The corpse contained a perfectly balanced loadout of top-end gear and ammo. Bushwookie outfit, exotic rifle with thermal scope, knife and map and compass and matches and everything else an upwardly mobile survivor of the apocalypse could ever want. The guy was clearly hacking. Certainly that was the party line. Less guilt about the kill that way. If he wasn’t hacking, how else did he find the quad so quickly. Right?
We got maybe another hour’s use out of the ATV the next day. I got myself shot up by a bandit the next time we stopped at a supermarket, and went on a suicide run around the back of his position on the second floor of the flats, randomly falling over and passing out on the pavement like a murderous drunk all the way. I think I would have had him too, but the hammer hit on an empty chamber with a disappointing click and he sent me raging to the menu screen. A random server fart winked the quad out of existence before Martin’s eyes, and the dream was over.
A few days later we had a private server. The vehicles were all right where they were supposed to be, no empty concrete patches, no being sniper-ganked by a fiend with a scoped rifle from half a mile away every five minutes. A couple of hours and we were rolling four deep, a convoy with two ladas, a jeep and a bus. Through the night, honking the horns and hooting into the microphones, I’ve never laughed so much playing a videogame. Over the next couple of evenings we managed to flip, explode and just plain lose the cars respectively, and someone got the bus irretrievably wedged somewhere like that bit in Austin Powers. After that, we loaded up the Lingor custom map, and spent a week seeing who could get the highest killcount. We cleared a thousand, before it all went to shit in the noonday sun outside an army barracks.
We haven’t played Day Z since. We’re waiting on the standalone release. From Rocket’s blog updates, it looks like there are all kinds of wonderful new additions, the new loot system, changing your pants, it all looks great. But they’re all incidental, inconsequential upgrade. There’s only one real goal left for me now.
I want a goddamn helicopter.