[Zachary Wallace is a tall weathered man who has spent the years of the Zombie War at the fringe of the system. He is famous for supplying large amounts of raw material, and his advertisements to hire Reclaimers, mercenaries who go into the Wasteland to recover raw material for the economy. He pays well, but his casualty rate is often high. I caught up with him in a gated community he helped build. His house is stocked with electronics and high end furniture. He offers me a drink of 30 year old Scotch, obviously looted from the Wilds. I accept it of course, it has been years since I have had a good glass of liquor.
[How did you get started? And why do you continue?]
I won’t lie, I like the money. I get to roam around, see the sights, and I get first pick. I have some of the best gear around. I also make my own, so that’s a plus. Again, I get first pick for raw materials I find.
The recycling program is what gave me the idea. The first wave of new Construction and rebuilding was built on the steel bones of all the California cars that were no longer needed. As we advance across the land to retake the continent, we need an ever growing list of things to maintain the war effort, more metal for weapons and general industry. More precious metals, gold for computer parts, copper for wiring, shell casings etc. More of everything. I and my crew go out and find it, and bring it back, and sell it to the highest bidder.
Don’t call me a profiteer. I pay my men well, and we have helped solve a lot of logistical problems. The lawsuits I have ongoing will be decided in my favour. I do not negotiate with idiots, even heavily armed ones.
Anyway, my system, is pretty simple. We have copies of every store ever listed on the internet. I have a complete North American Google Maps download from before the fall, and yellow pages, white pages and any other retail, construction, consulting, water treatment, electronics whatever stored on my laptop. So as we move through an area I know what stores and businesses are in the area. Some of them may be looted and stripped clean, but most of the time if the building is still standing, I can get computers, hard drives, cd-roms, flash drives, technical manuals. All good research and resource technology to bring back to the logistics folks.
For more non-zombie equipment I can get units whole, we box them up, load a module and ship it West. I love shipping containers! And each rail link reestablished means I get paid faster.
[How did you get started in the “business”?]
laughs “I had the only vehicle that ran, and I cut deals with some hippies to use their hybrids, gotta love California. My truck is a modern version of a WW2 gasifier car. The idea of using biomass, or coal has been around for a century. The world shifted to oil and gas because it was cheap. As the oil ran out and the price went up the thought of using gasification technology came back among the fringe folk. I had got one as a joke, I liked the thought, and was working in waste management, so I actually got paid to drive. Before everything went to hell I was looking to go into business turning garbage into electricity for a profit. The truck was a demo model, a talking point and easy PR, TV soundbite candy.
When the dead started to walk and everything fell apart I piled into the truck, loaded it up with food and ammo and headed West. I could grab chunks of trash and wood from the side of the road and keep rolling. I followed a military unit rolling west. They punched a hole and I scampered along behind them.
Once I got to California I had something I could trade, electricity. The back of the truck had a gen set and I could charge batteries, laptops, I made ice and sold that. I used trash for fuel, grass cuttings, hedges, anything. That’s the advantage to a high temperature thermal cracking power source. It is sort of like that thing in the back of the Delorean, you remember Back the Future? That Mr. Fusion thing, home energy.
Anyway, I was handing out cdroms of the designs for the gasifier and trying to get the army to listen to me. I’d already told them there was no way I was handing in my truck. It was exempt from the order because it did not rely on gasoline, so I provided transportation to my neighbourhood. I moved into a nice house as a guest and in exchange I helped build them a unit for the back of their house so they had power. The gentleman, he was a rich industrialist, pre war, had a lot of land and businesses. He helped me gather together a group of people to make a business of powering homes.
[It has been suggested by some of your critics that you provided power to the elite first, to curry favour and get rich.]
[Nods], yeah pretty much. What, you thought I would be all noble and say that’s just where I ended up? Hell no, I provided power to the working class folks the first night I rolled to town, and some smart ass corporal was trying to take my truck. I showed him the fuel was wood and trash, and got the hell out of there, drove up to a nice house, asked around, and turned on the power for the stereo. I even heated their pool.
The Amy never cared about the tech either, All lasers and Lobos, I got some systems in place in poorer areas, a deal I made with the backer. The hybrid cars I could charge at the homes.
We got involved in one of those Community Self Sufficiency programs, and had the ground picked from the best folks. The computer geek had a disc of the Global Village construction sets. It was just conceptual stuff, but there were a lot of designs. He had a rep rap printer, but not a lot of plastic to make anything. We made do though. We could trade power for what we wanted. Hot showers and clean clothes. We converted some engines to run power systems, but they were not the best thing to use.
[So why did you leave California and go back into the wild? Why not just make a good living providing hot water and music to the rich?
Generators! We needed good generators for the power systems. See there are two parts to the system, the first 'cracks' the fuel into a gas, and then the generator or engine burns it. We could get some engines from the cars being recycled, but I wanted the higher end, more efficient gen sets, and they were being snapped up by the military. And they were crying out for gasoline and oil production. Dumbasses! They STILL don't get it. (Shakes head)
So in the course of setting up the business I had a computer programmer guy who had hauled all his computer gear to the guest house as well. He had the databases, and every old school game you could imagine. He never used the data, he just downloaded it, and stored it. Anyway, I had him set up a searchable database of stuff just outside the controlled zone. The google treasure map app. I had some strings pulled and I took a half dozen guys in two hybrids and two gen set trucks and we got out of the safe zone and into the wild. Things were still a little shaky and people were able to get out, not that anyone wanted to leave.
So the first trip was pretty easy. We headed to a construction rental company and a job site and grabbed 4 generators on trailers. We had to shoot a lot of zombies at one place, but we had a lot of ammo. We also got smaller generators from one construction site, and a couple of welders.
It was on the ride home that things changed. We had towed the hybrids and ran power into them to charge them as we drove the trucks. We used the hybrids for quiet recon when we got to a location. All the cars had hitches with small trailers, we could grab something small and portable and haul it back to base camp.
On the way back West we stopped in a small town in the foothills. We were cruising around looking for a spot to set up camp and screwed up. We bunched up and got caught in a snarl of traffic accident. The problem with having trailers attached to everything is they are a bitch to back up. We tried to back up quietly but we were not used to handling the cars yet. We started to hit stuff with the trailers.
The noise brought out some zombies and their moaning attracted more. We did not want to get trapped in the cars in a swarm, so we piled out, started shooting everything in sight, which brought down every zombie for miles. People were freaking out, but thankfully I had hired an ex-Army guy named Dave and he started screaming instructions in a voice that made you do what he said, no questions asked. One of the storefronts still had a door intact, and a security grill. He had that thing popped open in a minute, we grabbed food and ammo from the trucks, ran in and locked the door and closed the security gate. He even had a padlock and motorcycle chain to lock it up again.
There was a zombie in the store, the shop owner I guess, he had died sitting behind the counter. Why he had kept the store open during the crisis I will never know, maybe he was waiting for someone to come home, or come to the store, I don't know.
It was a jewellery store. That's what we holed up in. The zombie crashed the glass, but there were bars on the doors and windows. We had carried in a couple of cases of ammo and food, so we set about killing zombies for hours. In the end, the dead could not reach us for the corpses piled in front of the storefront.
We stopped shooting, and after a few hours the remaining zombies lost interest and wandered off. During our wait we all suddenly looked at each other and then at the cases and realized there was a hell of a lot more out here than generators.
We stripped the place, found keys, cracked the safe and took all the gold and jewellery. We got the cars charged up the next morning, and killed more zombies, but we got out of there and back to the safe zone.
Then the Army was interested in hearing from us. We handed over a welder and several smaller generators, and two of the big ones to the Resources folks. I explained about the gold and handed in a bunch of rings for use as raw materials. Of course we never mentioned the stuff we kept for ourselves.
After that we got a permit to bring back material. We were mercenaries, but nobody called us that, we just had a very efficient self sufficiency program. We got a guy to live and work at the border point. We brought stuff to the border, had a hot meal and a couple days of rest, and headed out again. We had a couple of converted shipping containers moved to the border post. It had laundry facilities and showers. We let the military guys use it. The generator and heat exchanger burned wood and trash. They used to have refugees gather stuff every day to fuel it.
Once the reconstruction began we expanded what we brought in. Let's be realistic, as a culture we were designed for having too much, too much food, too much stuff, we had so much stuff there was a business in Storage Lockers, to store the stuff you could not fit into your McMansion. So there was a lot of stuff to bring in.
Now I know you have heard of the great fires and all the ash and how everything burned. It's true, a lot of cities did go up in flame, huge sections of cities went up, but not everything, and when you have a million square miles with a bit of stuff in every mile, you end up with a lot of stuff.
Think back to your house, and what it could mean to California as it tried to rebuild and fight the Zombies. We go in, check for zombies, clean it out. Corpses out to the curb for disposal. Furniture, if it was antique, and we learned, we shipped it. Ikea stuff, burn it for fuel. Cutlery, ship it, it is metal, Fridge, stove, washing machine, hot water tank. All needed for food and hygiene and a bitch to make. Ship it. TV's for the geeks, computers, phones and chargers. Extension cords, your tool box. Not a lot of places making Craftsman hammers anymore, and everyone needs a crowbar for up close and personal zombie defence.
Riding lawnmowers, goddam, we sent hundreds of those back. Good solid motors in those, the Army used them for something or other.
Clothing, if clean and serviceable. Not a lot of polyester being made these days. Clean underwear from your sock drawer. The average house, even post Zombie looting is a thrift store of gear the West needed for reconstruction.
Then we get into guns, ammo and advanced tools. We would find a house with a freaking metal shop in the basement, hobbyists with complete setups. My computer geek guy was going through the wayback machine and finding threads and seeing if he could cross reference DIY threads with people and send us to locations.
Finally we could remove the shingles on your roof and tear the house apart from the inside out, all the dry timber, tear it down, rip the nails out of it, and put the 2X4's through a chipper. Wood chips into the gasifiers for heat and electricity. I was burning a tonne of stuff a day or more. And do you have any idea how much a house weighs? Fuel was never MY problem, only the Army's. Peckerheads.
Stores had been looted pretty hard in the beginning, but a lot of the ones we went to were not looted, because who loots a bulldozer? Or a crane? We needed cranes and pickup trucks and tow trucks. Rolling metal, they would put them into use, or melt them for scrap.
But you know what I really like? Those malls at the edge of town, with a Wal-Mart, a Home Depot, A Target, movie theatre, bookstore and those member stores, and an electronics store. You know those cookie cutter In-fill options at the edge of every town of any reasonable market size? Why did I love them? Laptops. When the power goes out people loot the hardware store for lights, batteries, tools, even lumber for fuel. But when the lights stay out and the Dead are walking around, not a lot of looting goes on involving laptops or big screens. So we go in and get a hundred laptops and upgrade parts. Parts that they do not make anymore. That is money right there man, and I can sell you a garbage burning system to power up the whole system and give you hot water as well.
I love suburbia. In-fill is my bread and butter.
[Stories have been told that you set up a base outside in the Wilds, and sent a lot of material there first. That you took first pick?]
Absol-fucking-lutely. You want to be like that fucking corporal and take my truck? We were out in the boonies and we were on our own for days on end, so we made a mobile base that we could relax in.
So we had 6 container trucks, the kind that can pick up and drop off the 40 yard containers for storage units. They carried Standard 40′s, 40 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. We would roll in and set up in a parking lot. We would enclose an area with 6 of them, This gave us a 56 foot wide and 80 foot long square. We parked next to the units and climb up ladders into the inside. This was a portable fort.
Noisy though at night, they’d bang on the sides. So you stand on top and shoot them. Or we’d just drive over them.
So the permanent base was made up of containers, and there are millions of them around. And we built a big compound out of them. Same principle, just bigger. We lived in them on the inside of the compound. So we set up another of those community improvement fabrication shops inside it. So yeah, we could take material melt it down and ship ingots back west, or make material we needed out in the wilds.
The great thing about the global village construction set is that you can make anything you need with the machines. So all my gear was built as needed, or we kept gear we needed for the Wilds out in the Wilds.
The Army made use of the shipping containers. They filled them with rocks and made forts out of them. We did that too, we had one section made with an opening, and it lead up a ramp, and the ramp dropped into a grinder.
[And you started a railway company?]
[Laughs] Sort of. I read a book years ago, Emergence it was called, about a plague that killed everybody but a few people. And the survivors are trying to get across the country, only the roads are blocked with cars. So one guy goes to the rail-yard and gets the pieces to those supervisor pickup trucks that can lower wheels down onto tracks and take the pickup along the railway line. So we mapped out a safe section of track and we could bring material to crossings and load it onto a pickup truck hauling a couple of modified trailers full of stuff. Only a few tonnes at a time, but this was at a time when a few tonnes of stuff was a few tonnes more than anyone had. We would set up a reclamation base at the edge of town and ship stuff by rail to get around blocked roads. One time we were lifting cars onto flatbeds and hauling them away for the great car recycling effort. The road into town was blocked solid, so we just shipped everything away, took us a couple of weeks, but it was worth it.
So if you don’t like waiting for stuff, come on out and get your own. I am always hiring. That’s why I am here. I am offering good pay, good food and a chance to make a difference.
Truck system inspired by
I want one
Global Village Construction Set