In bygone years these lands had tall tales of folk heroes like Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan. Little yarns about big men. They helped children believe the world was a more magical place than it really was. Lately, folk don’t need to tell campfire stories to make the world seem… interesting.
Travelers will still find a few pre-war posters and postcards about the Sierra Madre scattered around the wasteland, and every now and then some crazy old scavenger scrawls “Gone to Sierra Madre” along the highway before wandering off into the desert to die on a fool’s quest. Hundreds of years ago, foolhardy men would head out West into these hills in search of gold, but the prospectors these days are panning for pre-war prosperity.
The Sierra Madre is an Old World resort whose opulence is said to be perfectly preserved through the apocalypse. It was built by an industrialist named Frederick Sinclair, for the highest of high society. Makes the New Vegas strip look a back alley in Junktown. An oasis where the lucky could win a fortune at the roulette table, see the biggest celebrities in the world like Dean Domino, or promenade with up and coming starlets through quaint Villas.
It was an exclusive, far-off vacation spot. Suspiciously secluded for a tourist destination, as though Sinclair might have had some ulterior motive for building it. The great War struck before the place could have it’s grand opening. Maybe that was Sinclair’s plan all along, to spend the apocalypse with the movers and shakers. Or there could have been some quieter, more personal meaning behind all the grandeur.
Finding the place offered a chance to let go of your troubles, whatever they are, and start again. For folk who never got a fair shake in life, a chance to begin anew is more valuable than gold, water, or even caps.
Plenty of people have heard the call on their radios. A sultry siren’s voice telling them of the opportunities the Sierra Madre holds. Those who follow that voice disappear into the wastes. Could be that the fabled casino is so wondrous that no one wants to leave, or it might be that anyone who heeds that call ends up cashing out their chips the hard way. Others have trekked out into the deepest wilds of the wasteland, only to be turned back by a cloud of poisonous red mist that kills those who try to enter. Somewhere within that cloud they are certain a treasure awaits.
There’s an abandoned bunker near the banks of the Colorado river – used to be a Brotherhood of Steel outpost, but lately it’s been used by an undetermined individual. Someone who’s been to the Sierra Madre and brought back a few souvenirs from what looks like a mighty interesting vacation. A safe full of shiny chips with the Sierra Madre logo on them. Jars of toxic red goo that must be related to that mysterious red cloud. Even more interesting is an art deco vending machine with the same logo.
The thing is a lot more advanced than a simple vending machine, though. Lots of machines will take in a handful of coins and spit out treats, but that vending machine from the Sierra Madre was the pinnacle of what the Back When times had to offer in terms of luxury.
Some of the schematics brought out of the Big MT show prototype matter recombinators that operate along similar principles as that vending machine.
Maybe the people who built the resort thought that these machines would let them run the place with their own currency. Replace the old paper money with something more intrinsically valuable. No need to stockpile junk when you can make whatever you need right on the fly.
In the hands of altruists like the Followers, or the New Canaanites this would be a boon to humanity, but the man who is most likely running things at the Sierra Madre is definitely not a humanitarian.
The location of the Sierra Madre was lost centuries ago, but those vending machines and other tech were developed by the Think Tank at Big Empty, and surely the exact location of the casino could be found somewhere inside Big Empty. A while ago a few people caused a big ruckus there, and among them was a former Brotherhood of Steel elder named Elijah.
Elijah had the technical know-how to uncover all of the Think Tank’s secrets, so he is without doubt the one person who could have discovered the location of the lost casino, and learned the nature of the treasures within.
There was a time when Elijah meant well. Suppose the same could be said for the Brotherhood on the whole, but Elijah took the Mojave chapter of the Brotherhood on a particularly dark path. Before he became Elder, he was a Scribe. His role with the Brotherhood was to research technology, and figure out how to restore whatever gizmo the paladins discovered on their expeditions. He was a genius, even among even the Brotherhood’s bloodline of technophiles, and he rose to the esteemed rank of Elder in the Mojave chapter.
Once in a leadership role, he defied the Brotherhood’s traditional approach. He sought to improve technology, rather than merely catalog it. He pushed for new, more dangerous weapons. Ones that could unleash mass destruction on the foes of the Brotherhood. After all, their isolationism left them few in number and devoid of allies. A trump card was needed.
When the Brotherhood discovered an old world solar power plant called Helios One, Elijah was convinced that it would give him the weapon he would need to put the Brotherhood at the top of the Mojave’s food chain.
Even a mind such as his requires time and study to fully comprehend such a masterwork of engineering. Unfortunately Helios One was also coveted by the New California Republic. Elijah couldn’t let go, and forced his soldiers to endure a siege while he struggled to unearth the arcane secrets of Helios One.
It was ultimately a futile effort that wasted lives on both sides. The Brotherhood abandoned Helios with its mysteries still unsolved, and the surviving members of Elijah’s chapter retreated to their base.
Elijah, however couldn’t accept the defeat, and set off to the far corners of the wasteland in search of other means to see his Brotherhood take revenge on the NCR.
Many members of the Brotherhood felt betrayed by his disappearance, others presumed he was dead. A few, who genuinely believed in him once saw this as the final step in his decent into madness. Among his protege’s were a pair of younger members of the Brotherhood, who tried to see the good in him, even though he had repeatedly interfered with their happiness. He placed his interests ahead of their young love, and that would only be the first of many injustices he would inflict upon one of these women in the name of the Brotherhood.
While the Brotherhood of Steel had access to amazing technologies, they were still limited to what they could find in the ruins of the Old World. Elijah knew that in the days leading up to the Great War, there had to have been inventions that weren’t released to the public yet. Secret prototypes, and forbidden research that even the Brotherhood could not unearth.
He found an array of unethical scientific goodies scattered all over Big Empty. The place was a giant toy box for him, containing the kind of reprehensible devices that would ensure his next group of subordinates would be even more loyal than his Brotherhood underlings. Among them was an advanced form of bomb collar, similar to the ones used by slavers, but with additional features that would reward teamwork, and punish treachery.
At Big Empty, Elijah discovered another form of pre-war gizmo that never made it into mass production – Holographic emitters. These devices were miraculous even two hundred years ago. There’s still a working prototype at Big Empty for those who want to behold this wonder for themselves, but the only place where they were widely-used was in the Sierra Madre.
The man who built the Sierra Madre, Frank Sinclair used them for security purposes. The holographic security force was composed of pure energy. Invulnerable, and deadly. They don’t need armor, they don’t need guns. And badges? They don’t need no stinking badges.
They originally had the benevolent purpose of protecting the inhabitants against the potential dangers of the pre-war world, but in the hands of Elijah, they could be used as an army to wreak havoc on an already chaotic Mojave. With an army of such soldiers he could slaughter the less civilized cultures of the Mojave, and even fend off the New California Republic.
The mysterious red cloud around the Sierra Madre is no naturally occurring phenomenon. Certainly an invention of the devious minds at Big Empty, perhaps intended as a weapon to be used against pre-war China. In Elijah’s control it would mean indiscriminate death to anyone outside the safety of the Brotherhood. Or a fate worse than death if that cloud has mutagenic properties.
If Elijah is out there in that lost city of gold, looking for a way to rebuild the glory of the Brotherhood and take revenge on the NCR, he’d do best to heed the words of that sultry dame who invited him there in the first place. “Let go”. Let go of his vengeance, his humiliation, his losses. Those who can appreciate what they already have, have no need for stories of buried treasure. Besides, if there is anything the Wasteland can teach us, it’s that things that reside in the past best stay buried there.
The wasteland holds more stories than any one person can experience. Over the decades of my life, I’ve walked from one end of this continent to the other, and back again. My own role in the wasteland’s history isn’t as interesting as that of the Vault Dweller, or as exciting as the Chosen One, but it is a long story, and definitely one for another day…