“And there we were,” Solmund said, “I was going around, loading up my six shooter, had them all out in front of the saloon, Pete’s dynamite buried beneath the soil, and a single step – BOOM, they all started booking rooms in Satan’s motel. I started shooting, too. Brains were everywhere, messy stuff, you wouldn’t like it. The worst part is obviously the cleaning up afterwards.”
“You got that right,” said the red hair girl, “that’s Powder Gangers for ya, they die the messiest death.”
They were in a bar. An NCR bar, Solmund sat right next to a red hair girl with at least two dozen bottle of whiskey laid out on the table. They were drinking, and drinking hard. The redhead called herself Rose of Sharon Cassidy. And yes, Sol didn’t get any of that either. Strangest name he’d heard all year that’s for sure. Folks around called her Cass, though, don’t know why, strange girl. She wore a leather jacket over a red plaid shirt and a pair of jeans. She had a cowboy hat made from straw.
“So things ‘round here treating you alright?” asked Cass, she was nearly drunk now. She was a good drinker. She could probably drink a whole barrel and still not get drunk. That was some mad skills. She said she’s been in a couple of fights while drunk as well, although Sol wasn't sure whether that made her more dangerous or just another harmless drunkard.
Of course, this was the NCR Outpost. People around wouldn’t be so happy if Sol started spitting out hate speech about NCR. They'd probably send troops from back home, report him to California and the whole Western world will walk through that Long 15 gate and give him at least a million and a half slaps to the face, each slap from each citizens. One from Cass as well.
“Well, things are alright around here,” Sol said, “Been talking to Major Knight, seems like an okay fellow.”
“Yeah? You had business with the Major?” Cass asked.
“I was asking to dispatch troops to Primm, a town not far from here. Got convicts running all over the place. Maybe get an NCR sheriff down there. Also I was looking for a pardon for one of the prisoners, figured Primm could use the extra hand. Maybe finally NCR can start doing some good around here…” Cass didn’t hear that last part, she was too busy gulping down the liquor, “Things could be better though, the cars below the two statues are just a pain in the butt, especially for the caravan.”
“I hate those statues,” Cass almost yelled, definitely drunk now, “Have I ever told you the story of Long Dick Johnson?”
“Yes, several times actually,” Sol said.
“Great! I’ll set the scene, 2257, Johnson came into a bar in 188 Mansion, and said ‘I wanna build a statue, a statue to honor me because I’m a tall Richard and here’s my Long Richard. HA-HA.” Cass laughed aloud. Sol didn’t laugh though, he wasn’t anywhere as drunk as Cass was. And before long, Cass passed out on the table, spilling the Whiskey all over the floor.
“Alright,” Sol sighed, “I suppose I ought to go to the Crimson Caravan like you told me, maybe I’ll be able to find your caravan papers. Sweet dreams Cass.”
Sol liked Cass, she was a carefree person. She had a certain spark of life in her that reminded him of some of his old ranger buddies back in Baja. These were real rangers, pure 100 percent Desert Ranger, without any of NCR stains on them. They used to sing around camp fires, Marty Robbins’s Big Iron, and some of them played Frank Sinatra’s Blue moon using the harmonica. Those were the good ol’ times…
“What happened here?” Solmund was shocked.
“Don’t worry, I won’t have you put on a cross like these filthy degenerates, it’s good that you happened by. I want you to witness the fate of this town… look at it, take it in…”
The town was in complete ruins, there was nothing left. The trees on the side burnt down in the middle of the road, there were spears thrown everywhere. In the middle of the town was a bonfire as huge as a house. It burnt the street and the buildings. The worst thing was of course, the bodies. They piled up like Black Mountain. NCR, Powder Gangers, it didn’t matter, they were all the same. Dead.
Solmund recognized the uniforms immediately. Football gears with red crosses on them. The red flag with the golden bull emblem. This was the hooves of Caesar’s Legion. There were at least 10 of them standing before Sol. The one in the middle wore a wolf hat, with thick black shades. He spoke with a soft voice:
“Do you see it? Do you see Nipton?”
“But… but…” Sol stuttered in horror, “but why?”
“Why else?” He said calmly, “Anyone who lived on Nevada’s land knows just how horrible a place Nipton really was. I am called Vulpes Inculta, Frumentarius of Caesar’s Legion. And I am here to teach a lesson to the wasteland, to the people… to the Profligates.”
“What?” Sol yelled in shock, “What possible lesson do you have here? Killing these people, slaughtering an entire town.”
“Where do we begin?” Vulpes said, “That they are weak and we are strong? That much is known already. No, the true lesson to be learned here is corruption. Nipton was a town that served all comers; it didn’t matter to them, as long as they have caps or paper bill in their pockets. NCR, Powder Gangers, Legion outcasts. The people here did not care. A town of whores. The town is a perfect example of what an NCR state is like. Corrupt, divided, and self-serving. They must be punished, for we are the Legion. And betrayal is a crime that demands punishment. That’s when I announced that these people, whores, gamblers are going to play their favorite game: they were going to draw lotteries. Each one of these degenerates grabbed their tickets, hoping that they and they alone would be the one to be set free. This is what the NCR had become, and this is the price they must pay.”
“By slaughtering innocent people?” Sol retorted.
“Innocent? Hardly, not by a mile,” said Vulpes, “Only a fool would call these people innocent. They are children of sin. They are too far gone. They are begging to be destroyed. And destroy them we did. In their places, a new better society of people will flourish. But first, the NCR must learn a lesson.”
Solmund looked Vulpes in the eyes with a blank expression, he didn’t know what to do. Vulpes only smiled.
“I know what you’re thinking, drawing your guns and thinking you can kill all of us,” said Vulpes calmly, “No, don’t even think it. We are much stronger than you, we are Legion. Even if you managed to kill us, Caesar’s wrath will be upon you. So I suggest you remember this day, remember this town. A lesson is to be learned here.”
And like that they walked right passed Solmund, one by one, each Legionary carried a stern look. A cold pair of eyes. Sol couldn’t even work up the courage to draw his pistol.