A long time ago there was a saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” That made more sense back when every child in the country went to school five days a week and learned their history from a big room full of books. Of late it can be a mite hard to find a history book that hasn’t been burned or rotted through, so it seems like the good folk of the wasteland are doomed to repeat a lot of history’s mistakes.
There’s a certain man in Nevada who is deliberately repeating history’s mistakes. Calls himself Caesar, spoken by his followers as Kaizar. He’s not the first to go by either of those names. A good two thousand years ago the first Caesar ruled an empire on the other side of the world – that Caesar probably never even imagined that there was a whole continent over here full of new people to enslave.
Well, this new Caesar of the post-apocalyptic world is out to finish what the first one started. Rather than aiming to restore America to what it was in the days before the Great War, Caesar is forging a new nation, using the Roman Empire as some form of twisted inspiration.
That’s a funny idea for someone to get in their head, of course this Caesar had an unconventional upbringing. He was born in 2226 out West in the Boneyard, the ruins of what used to be Los Angeles. He didn’t stay there long, his mother took him away when he was just a baby, and raised him with the Followers of the Apocalypse. Despite their name, these “Followers” aren’t one of those doomsday cults, they’re just a group of do-gooder intellectuals who try to preserve the knowledge of the old world.
They also keep records about the present, so we know all there is to know about who Caesar was before he declared himself Emperor. He used to be a bright young man named Edward Sallow. He was chosen to go on a Followers expedition to study the tribespeople of the wasteland, and perhaps he was a little too intelligent and educated to be sent out among the savages. He viewed them with a mixture of sneering contempt, and misguided pity. He felt it was his duty to civilize them at any cost.
In a stroke of irony it turns out that those uncivilized lands had some books from before the war; books that weren’t reduced to a pile of ash. Rare historical records, including an account of the original Caesar’s war in Gaul. Sallow could have seen the history of Rome a warning about an empire that was doomed to fall. But, instead, he saw something of himself in Caesar, and decided to follow his example, even if it meant knowingly repeating the mistakes of the past.
The Romans described in those old books were, by the standards of their time, the most civilized group in the known world. So mighty was their Empire, they even had it better than most folks today. Food, fresh water, roads and libraries. The problem is that only some Romans had it that good – their empire was built on conquest and slavery, and the people on the bottom rung of society had it about as bad as a molerat in a Deathclaw den.
Under the new title of Caesar, Edward Sallow forged the tribals of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado into an army patterned after the Legion of Rome. Their entire society was converted to the war effort, and they used merciless strategies to decisively end their conflicts. Eighty six tribes in all, and each one they encountered was either assimilated or annihilated.
The men who survive are forced to become soldiers in the Legion. All traces of their original tribe are eradicated and these slave soldiers have but one option in life: To die in the service of their conquerors. With each new victory the Legion grows in number, leaving behind no one to oppose them. In his own way, Caesar is bringing order to wasteland, one genocide at a time.
The women of conquered tribes are not allowed even the dignity of dying in combat. The Legion’s strictly regimented society forbids such equality, no matter how skilled those women may be as warriors. This rigid separation ensures that half of the Legion’s forces fight, while the other half breeds the next generation of slaves.
Caesar would say that slavery is a fitting punishment for the weak and cowardly members of the defeated tribes, a chance for them to prove themselves of worth in their new life. A compelling argument, but nothing can justify being born a slave. Children born into the Legion are separated from their parents, given no knowledge of the culture of their ancestors, and identify themselves only as one small part of the vast Legion. They are all destined to die in Caesar’s servitude.
Caesar’s love of the old times and martial virtues does not prevent him from arming his men with weapons developed in the twenty-first century. If throwing javelins at their enemy won’t get the job done, then the Legion will reach for assault rifles or even more advanced weaponry. They do prefer to fight hand-to-hand whenever possible and some of the Legion’s men carry kinetic energy hammers and ballistic gauntlets enhanced with twenty first century technology.
Caesar is the absolute ruler of this army, and disobedience is punished with death. A slow death. The Legion burns people alive, crucifies them on poles along the roadside, and forces them to fight to the death in duels for Caesar’s amusement.
Failure is punished with equal cruelty. Every member of the Legion knows that it is better to die in battle against the enemy than to stand before Caesar in shame. Even his highest ranking commanders, his Legates, can suffer his wrath.
A few years ago Caesar proved this when his army came upon its first worthy opponent. The New California Republic. Even as the Legion was spreading Westward, the NCR was exploring territory on their own Eastern border. The two nations clashed on the banks of the Colorado river for control of the Hoover Dam in 2277.
It proved to be the first defeat for the Legion. The NCR has the biggest, most organized army in the wasteland, and their Rangers are some of fiercest, most cunning fighters in the Wastes. The NCR feigned retreat across the dam and led the Legion to the town of Boulder City. Back when there was a town there.
The place is a graveyard now, filled with the bones of Legion soldiers who charged to their own doom, certain that the NCR was fleeing in terror before Caesar’s might. Caesar himself would have been clever enough to deduce that this was a trap, but he had delegated the task to one of his Legates who failed to see that the NCR was only pretending to run. When the Legion reached Boulder City they found enough explosives to level just about everything in town.
Even with the loss of over one hundred soldiers during the battle, the NCR managed to rout the Legion and secure the dam and leave the Legion stuck on the other side of the river. The Legate who organized that disastrous attack learned just how terrible Caesar’s fury can be.
He was one of Caesar’s oldest friends, Joshua Graham. They met back before Edward Sallow started calling himself Caesar, but that did not earn Graham any mercy. For his failure in the Battle of Hoover Dam, he was set on fire and thrown down the biggest hole in the wasteland. The Grand Canyon.
There are tales of people surviving all sorts of fates. Men mutated into blobs of goo without dying, cyborgs that are more machine than man, hell there’s even a lucky bastard that survived having a tree growing through his brain. Then there’s Joshua Graham. People swear that they saw a “burned man” walk out of the Grand Canyon not long after the Battle of Hoover Dam. Might have been Graham, might have just been an old ghoul out scavenging. Either way, the possibility of Graham still being alive is just one more worry for Caesar these days.
Like any Emperor, Caesar knows that his military must constantly consume new territory. The Legion produces little, and has left nothing but destruction in its wake. The only way for it to survive is conquest. But now the Legion is stalled, camped out on one side of the Hoover Dam while the NCR waits on the other.
Caesar can appreciate the potential of the Hoover Dam. It can generate enough electricity to power the Empire he intends to build. For now though the Legion prepares a massive force to take it from the NCR.
Legionaries cross the river in small groups on barges, and have established some camps on the Western banks as a brazen affront to the NCR’s authority. There are enough Legion soldiers West of the Colorado river to cause plenty of trouble for settlers and soldiers out there. They need a fresh supply of slaves, although the Legion will sometimes burn whole towns to the ground and torture the citizens to death as a symbol of their might.
The horrific tales of these attacks help reminds people in the West that the Legion is coming eventually. Caesar sees the NCR as a personal challenge, as though everything that’s happened West of the river for the last two hundred years all happened just so Caesar would have a worthy foe to defeat, and he’s definitely up there in that fort of his, planning for the next battle at Hoover Dam.
But the dam is only the first part of Caesar’s plan, though. He doesn’t intend for his army to roam the land indefinitely; he wants to found a new capital city for his empire, and just a stone’s throw from the dam is a town that already has a lot in common with ancient Rome. It’s a decadent cesspool of every vice that a body can desire.
A New Rome.
A New Vegas.
A place where the walls are high enough to keep out the worst critters the wasteland can throw at them, and the streets are safe to walk thanks to an army of security bots. Not to mention a plentiful supply of leggy showgirls and roulette tables. The problem is, New Vegas already has its own tyrant. He’s been there since before the bombs fell two hundred years ago, and he plans to stay there for two hundred more.
But that- is a story for another day…