There were some mighty inhospitable places in this world even before the war. Deserts that could sear the life from a man as fast as any radioactive crater, rivers so polluted they’d catch fire, and lawless lands ruled by brutal fanatics. It was a bad enough place that some people even looked forward to the apocalypse; a chance for humanity to start over and build a new society that was worthy of its people’s loyalty. There are some folk who are proud to wear the flags of the new societies that have appeared in the aftermath. The Brotherhood, the Enclave, New California Republic – even some slaves in the Legion who are proud of the bull symbol embroidered on their clothes. But the flags of the old world are still out there for travelers who care to look. The red, white and blue, and the stars and stripes appear all over the Mojave. They’re a code. A message for someone. Can’t say who they’re for, but the man who made the marks isn’t shy about making his presence known.
He traveled throughout the Mojave as a messenger of the Mojave Express out of Primm, concealing his role as one of Caesar’s Frumentarii. He calls himself Ulysses. That’s a name from the old Roman times, and one that belonged to a general who fought in one of America’s most bitter wars: Ulysses Grant. The Mojave’s Ulysses named himself after this general, a hero who united two nations under a single flag. America’s flag on his back is a symbol of that dedication.
That is just one example of his beliefs. Ulysses is a man who respects symbols. He spent his life trying to find one that he could be proud to wear. It began with the tribe he was born into, the Twisted Hairs. They wore their hair in braids to symbolize their life and achievements, and Ulysses has honored that tradition throughout his life, even after the tribe was assimilated by Caesar’s Legion.
He’s a loyal man too, and that is a both a virtue and a curse in the Wasteland. Despite seeing his tribe betrayed and enslaved by Caesar, Ulysses still remained loyal to the Legion. Give that man a cause, and he’ll fight under its flag.
He carried the symbol of the bull with him throughout Nevada and was the first in the Legion to discover Hoover Dam, where he spotted the Rangers from the New California Republic. The Rangers had their own flag, their totem was the two-headed bear of the NCR. These were men who shared his respect for symbols, and Ulysses knew that the bull and bear would battle to the death over that dam.
He didn’t fight in the battle for Hoover Dam himself. Caesar had sent him further West to cut the NCR’s supply lines. Interstate 15 used to be a highway where cars and trucks rolled at speeds faster than a deathclaw on Jet. Two centuries after the war, it was known as the Long 15, and it saw its fair share of traffic with brahmin carts bringing food and ammunition to NCR soldiers. The road served as a jugular vein for the bear’s two heads.
Shortly before the NCR clashed with the Legion at the Dam, Ulysses was out by the Long 15, in a town called Hopeville. That’s the sort of name they liked to give places back before the war. Putting the word “Hope” in the name didn’t save the place when the Great War struck, though. Got hit pretty bad, and it took years before folk started settling back in. Seems there was a courier who frequented that route on trips between California and the Mojave. Funny that Ulysses and this other courier could walk the same roads for years and never meet face to face, but that other courier helped build up Hopeville and neighboring town of Ashton. The place was looking mighty promising a few years ago thanks to the work of that one courier.
Ulysses saw the symbols of the old world in that restored community. He realized that the stars and stripes had the potential to be greater than the Bear and Bull combined. Hopeville and Ashton could have been a new home for him, free of the war between the Legion and NCR. A starting point for a nation that was worthy of his loyalty.
But hidden away under those towns was a secret. No one knew that back before the war, they were actually used to hide missile silos. Those atomic warheads had slept nice and quiet for two hundred years, like mythological beasts from a primeval past. Whatever old world talisman was supposed to wake them for the Great War never arrived.
Well, it didn’t arrive until a couple of years ago. Without warning, the missiles started launching and exploding, right under the towns. It was the second time Armageddon, and it ripped the land open, torn the streets, filled the ground with invisible radioactive fire, and sent up dust storms that could skin a man alive. Why did they suddenly detonate, after all that time? The only person who made it out of there was Ulysses, and whatever he knew about it, he’s kept to himself so far.
Even though he escaped, there are still some souls living in the ruins of Hopeville. The NCR soldiers and Legion troops who were fighting over the place when the warheads blew are trapped there now. The radiation changed them, mutated them into something akin to the ghouls we have in the rest of the Wasteland.
The harsh sandstorms flayed them alive, but their mutation kept them going even with their skin scoured off. Their red, exposed flesh marks them as the unfortunates who survived a second apocalypse, and their rage unites them against anyone who enters their land. Their identities as NCR or Legion are gone. The only vestige of those former lives are the scraps of old uniforms they wear.
Luckily, they grow weak when they stray from the radioactive soil of this place they call The Divide now. Few people have laid eyes on them except for a couple of couriers and a foolhardy storyteller in rusty power armor.
Ulysses managed to escape with his hide intact because of the automated medical technology in the Divide. The place was full of robots, including those little floating eyebots that the Enclave used to have out East. There must have been pre-war machinery in the Divide that could duplicate the eyebots, and modify them to do the work of auto-docs.
After climbing out of the ruins of the Divide, Ulysses was still loyal to Caesar for a time. Before he took his final trip back to the Divide, he was sent by the bull to the Great Salt Lake in Utah. There he manipulated the White Legs tribe into doing Caesar’s will. He would inflict the same fate that had befallen his own tribe onto the White Legs, all to kill one man.
Joshua Graham was one of the few men that Caesar feared had allied himself with another tribe in the area, so Ulysses taught the White Legs how to wage war with Roman brutality and twenty-first century weapons. The White Legs were unaware that their alliance with the Legion would eventually be their undoing, and they hailed Ulysses as a hero, and honored him by mimicking his braided hair. They still wear it that way today, unaware that he considered it to be a mockery of his dead kinsmen, the Twisted Hairs.
His days of meddling with the tribals of Utah might have been the breaking point of his loyalty to the Legion. Not long after that he took to wandering the wasteland pursuing his own goals. He set about destroying the new America that seemed hell bent on repeating the mistakes of the old.
He knew that a weather station in a place called the Big Empty was connected to the sandstorms in the Divide, so he trekked into the deepest parts of the wasteland to find it. There he braved the roving bands of lobotomized slaves and attack robots to restore the Divide, and maybe the spirit of America too.
He left his marks while he was there, but he didn’t leave many more after that. His travels must have taken him all over the Mojave and beyond, but all we know is that he was in the town of Primm recently. The log books at the Mojave Express office there show that he was hired to take something important to the New Vegas strip, but he turned down the job. Some other courier took the package, whatever it was.
After that, Ulysses disappeared back into the Divide. He left a series of messages behind him as he went, most of them addressed to another courier. Courier Six. Maybe that’s the same courier who used to travel through the Divide years ago, or the courier who took that last job at the Mojave Express. Whoever it is, Ulysses was calling them to the Divide for some reason.
Maybe someone answered that call already. A mushroom cloud went up over the sky near Hopeville a while ago. Could have been Ulysses settling a score with that courier, although he’d have to have one Hell of a grudge if it involved nuking that town for the third time.
Ulysses has seen his tribe destroyed, his new home shattered, and loyalty spurned. He turned to the old world when the new one failed him. He’s a man who could make any spot in the wasteland his home, but he chose to stay in the Divide because of what it symbolized for him.
Lately there’s been a person out there in the ruins above Hopeville, keeping a lonely vigil over the broken land. Has the lean body of a messenger, and wears the flag of the Old World on their back. It might be that other courier wearing a duster like the one that Ulysses used to wear. Or it might be Ulysses himself. After years of living only for his hate, he might have made peace with himself, and the courier. Decided to keep watch over the Divide and prevent the raging red-skinned monsters from trying to enter the Mojave. The wasteland has enough problems already, and lots of folk would find it comforting to think that Ulysses has come to the end of his journey, delivered his final message and is content to stand guard over one place for a while.
Ulysses was one of the greatest assets the Legion had, but even he was far from the deadliest. The Bull and the Bear have clashed twice over the Hoover Dam, and each time the Bull horns were sharped by some of the most dangerous killers to ever roam the wastes.
But that- is a story for another day…