If you are new to this series here is the link to Chapter 1 Part I.
Chapter 5, Part III – Contact
“Nice to meet you, thanks for the lift.” As my ass hits the seat he guns it swerving away from our pursuers. “I’m Guy. Are you military?” It’s hard to tell with the mix of BDU and Hawaiian pattern, they normally don’t go well together. He turns right at the end of the block and begins to circle around the block.
“Yes.” He notices me looking at his shirt. “Things have gotten a little more lax in the past couple of months.” He starts driving slowly and looking towards the Audi dealership. “You don’t mind if I take a quick look do you? I saw a bunch of them devouring something and I want to check it out.” I shook my head and dug into my pack pulling out the 1911. “There’s another M16 in the backseat if you know how to use it.”
“Yeah, copy that.” I tuck the 1911 into the map compartment in the door and reach back to retrieve the M16. Pointing the muzzle down into the floor I pull the charging handle back revealing a round seated in the chamber, ejecting the magazine and pressing on the rounds making sure it’s full. There’s just enough give showing it’s topped off at 28 rounds, more would usually cause a jam from the increased pressure on the spring. We drive around the corner and pull to a stop on the side of the road. With the bug running he hops out to take a look. Standing up out of the Bug I’m able to cover him. Leaving one foot in the Bug I wonder to myself if I could jump into the driver’s seat from my side and what the easiest way possible would be in case things head South.
Running back he yells to me. “Just a deer.” Then with a little chuckle, “they’re devouring it.” Several Zombies were running behind him. Well not running really, but running for Zombies.
“What year is this Bug?” We got in and he zips off maneuvering around the Zombies.
“ ‘63, it was the Colonel’s. He had been refurbishing it at the motor pool during his spare time and when the EMP hit everything stopped working. Then when the Virus hit we came under some heavy losses including the Colonel. There’s only a few of us left, I had been in the motor pool helping him rebuild it. It took me about four months to realize this thing wouldn’t have any parts affected by an EMP so I went down to the motor pool and she fired right up. Of course I had to push start her, but after letting her run for a bit the battery charged up fine.”
“What base were you at?”
“Point Magu. Know it? The naval air station.”
I nodded. “Yeah, that’s where I’m heading now. Is there anyone left there? What the Hell are you doing in Westlake Village?”
“Yeah, there’s six of us there.” He started laughing. “Why am I in Westlake?”
“Funny story. Okay, so I got this puppy going again and I remembered I had ordered a part from a buddy I knew here at the VW dealership almost 9 months ago now. He had called a couple of days before the EMP hit and said he was able to find the part and it had just arrived, so I thought I’d drive over and pick it up.”
“You drove over to Westlake Village by yourself to pick up a part for a ’63 bug you ordered nine months ago? And still decide to pick it up during the apocalypse?” I couldn’t tell if he was the dumbest guy in the world or the coolest.
“Pretty funny huh?!?” Chuckling again. His hair was growing out and he’s pretty fit. He’s roughly the same height as me but hadn’t suffered the same effects of starvation. He looked to be about 6’ tall and about 185.
“What part did you need to get?” I’m getting thrown back and forth in the Bug a he blasts through an intersection dodging a couple of Zombies. Reaching back he grabs a box and tosses it on my lap. Inside is a rounded thin piece of metal. It takes a second but it dawns on me it’s the horn lever. “You risked your life for the horn lever?” He nods with a cheshire cat grin.
“Pretty cool huh?”
Looking at him slack jawed. “Don’t get me wrong I’m happy you were in the area.”
“Well the damn lever was the last thing I needed to finish the restoration, I couldn’t just NOT finish the job, I mean I knew the part had come in and it was way fucking expensive!”
“Sure, I get it. But you know that money really doesn’t mean anything any more.”
“I had put it on my credit card. You know how much interest is gonna be on there when the lights come back on?”
“Uh, yeah. Okay.” Makes perfect sense I thought staring straight ahead. I wasn’t gonna say it but I’d be willing to bet there’d at least be a grace period or something when it comes time to pay the balance. We were traveling past the housing development around Westlake. My wife and I had almost bought a house up here about 10 years ago. The houses are abandoned and already look neglected. Doors left open, broken windows. Cars destroyed in driveways where people had scavenged for anything they could find.
“You might need to do a little security in a minute. For some reason it’s a hot zone up ahead. I can’t figure out why they cluster together so much but we gotta head up past the lake and it goes right by them.” Rolling down the window I slide the M16 out resting the muzzle on the edge of the wing window. “Were you in?”
I’m not really sure what he’s asking.
“The military? You look like you know how to use that.” Nodding towards the rifle.
“No, wasn’t in the military. Long story. I’ve trained with a carbine. I had an M4 before the ban. Are you taking Decker Canyon?”
He shook his head. “No, too many curves and way too steep. Great view, but too windy. We’ll go up Potrero Road and then the base is pretty much right there.”
“What are you guys doing for fresh water? The base is right on the ocean.”
“Good question, we had three 10,000 gallon tanks of reserve when the EMP hit but that went quick with the 500 personnel we had on base. After the virus hit the herd dwindled down and it started to get interesting. At first we tried getting the desalinators working but they were all fried then we discovered the still. One of the guys in the supply depot had a still and was making moonshine. We took that and used it to purify salt water but that took a Hell a lot of fuel and we realized it was pretty inefficient so we started working on solar.”
“You guys have solar?” I didn’t think solar equipment would’ve survived the EMP.
“Well everything got fried, but we uncovered an old analog volt meter and were able to read that the solar panels were still creating voltage so we put a bunch in parallel till we were able to power a small desalinator. We produce about 10 gallons a day which is just about enough. We tried to charge some batteries but the problem is all the charge controllers are fried so you have to keep a close eye on the batteries and sometimes they explode.” He slowed as we approached the turn onto Potrero Road. “Get ready.”
Directly ahead of us are about 100 Zombies in the middle of the road tearing into each other and bouncing off one another. It looks like a mosh pit from the ’90’s. Coming to a stop several turn towards the noise from the VW exhaust pipe. Mack stands up out of the vehicle and starts taking shots into the crowd. “ZFC! Come on suckers!” He screams. I’m sure he has a plan, not exactly what that plan is, but I follow his lead and begin firing into the crowd. “Good, lets go around.” He puts the bug in reverse and does a wide turn. Heading back up the road way we came there’s a gap in the white picket fence running parallel to the street.
“Why didn’t we just go through the opening before hitting the pack of them?” It made no sense to me, however the bug is handling the grass trail rather well. The yard we’re going through is about 100 acres, more of a ranch than a yard really but these properties in Westlake were more for show than for work. The rich Southern Californians had bought up all these properties and made them Gucci Ranches, they had ranch hands and horses but they were all just for show. Every house along Potrero road is lined by a matching white picket fence. The properties are so big that one home owner actually bought the fence company because it was cheaper to just buy the company outright rather than pay them to install the fence.
“We could’ve gone through first but the ZFC was infesting the other side where the exit is.” I saw what he meant, when we approached and fired on them it drew them away from our only exit out of the fenced yard at the other end.
“Got it. What the Hell is ZFC?” He started laughing at me.
“Zombie Fight Club! Sometimes we’ll plant something to draw them in and take bets on who gets their arms ripped off first. Of course we sit back and watch from a good distance because when they get going, they can get pretty crazy.”
We turn back on to Potrero road and sputter away from the crowd of Zombies. Looking back there’s one stumbling behind us with no arms. Occasionally along our journey we pass a lone Zombie either in the road or within the fence of the ranches. As we pass they raise their heads being alerted to the sound signature of the VW exhaust. The picturesque road leads up to the pass separating the Valley from Camarillo and as we ascend cresting the top of the hill it begins to get cooler. I hang my head out the window and let the wind blow through my hair. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt for a long time. This is the most relaxed I’ve been in months, my senses have been on high alert and my body is tired from the stress.