Brutus trained all throughout his time at Camp Vulpe. He quickly learned that there was no such thing as 'me time' in the Legion. Free time was almost nonexistent, and when the rare occasion of free time presented itself, he was expected to work on things like his armor or hone his weapon skills, Mars forbid he fell behind in that. Vegetius would probably tear him a new one, quite literally depending on his mood. Brutus was the strongest out of the batch of recruits he came with, being the oldest. The horn sounded, and all the boys stopped sharpening their wooden machetes and marched, single file, a tent on the outskirts of the camp, and stood to attention.
It was time for their daily lessons. Magister Garius, a relatively short man compared to other legionaries, with a slim but toned figure and a very obvious limp, was already outside the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is nothing but a larger tent, but it did get the job done. In class, the students are taught the Latin language, and are indoctrinated in the Cult of Mars.
"Long ago, in these very lands, there lived a nation. A nation of war, a nation of peace. A nation of freedom, a nation of tyranny. A nation of love, a nation of hate. That nation was known as the United States of America. It was contradictory in every way imaginable. Though its leaders talked of being the 'peacekeepers of the world', they, too, fell into warlike barbarity and brutality when resources ran scarce. They relied on technology, they relied on their nonrenewable resources, such as oil and coal.
This was their downfall.
When their resource mines ran out, they looked towards the rest of the world. But alas, they found nothing but empty mines and angry citizens, angry that their profligate lifestyle was disrupted, angry that they had to do something for themselves, by themselves, for once. They turned to one of the only places in the world that still had their precious resources that made their country run.
But it was controlled by their enemy, China. A deadly war the States barely won erupted, further depleting the already scarce resources. The United States further divided itself, patronizing and segregating its own citizens. It turned from its Founding Fathers' beliefs, and with it, their legacy was tarnished. The streets were patrolled by corrupt police, and deadly robots. Rebellions were squashed, but more and more sprung up.
Finally, in the distant land of Alaska, a land of cold and strange white substance, the Chinese invaded. They lost. Fearing the collapse of both their nations, it happened. Mars was dissatisfied by the deplorability and degeneracy of both the nations, and commanded their leaders to turn Mars' gift to the world against each other.
Mars' Gifts, deadly bombs that destroy cities flew across the world, striking their targets. The aftermath of Mars' orders can be seen to this day. Look outside the tent, and see the scorched wastelands of Arizona. Deathclaws, radscorpions, radroaches, mutfruit, geckos. All have been aftermath of Mars' blessing upon Terra. Mars' Gifts did not eliminate all life, however.
Some survived. The strong and righteous survived. Either out in the wasteland or in Mars' temples underground, they survived. After years, decades, even, they emerged from the underground temples to survive in the wastes once more. Mars gifted some of them with certain weapons that prove useful, and others with resistance to his Gifts' aftermath.
However, most turned away Mars, and continued on with their profligate lifestyles, forming tribes and small towns. However, 40 years ago, Mars had had enough. His subjects were not following his righteous command, and he was going to do something about it. He sent his son, Caesar, to us 40 years ago, to cleanse the wasteland once more, and to provide humanity with civilization once mo-"
Garius was cut off by the blowing of a very loud horn, louder than the training horn or even the lunch horn. Confused, he stepped outside. "What is the meaning of this?" he asked incredulously at a recruit.
"Didn't hear?" the recruit said with a hint of excitement. "The Legate is said to have been visiting the camp." Looking at Garius' surprised face, he added, "No, not the Malpaise Legate. He is still out West, scouting western Arizona for the river Caesar told us about. It's Legatus Heremus."
"Alright, boys, pack it up. Don your best armor and weapons, and stand to attention at the front gates. The Legatus is coming, and we need to make a good first impression.
The little legionaries obeyed his orders, and took their armor. Brutus' armor was made of a too-large football chest and shoulder plate, made of red old-world plastic and rusted metal that somehow survived the Cleansing. It was given to him by a recruit legionary, who didn't need it anymore after he outgrew it years ago. Brutus modified it with wooden spikes on the shoulder pads and a Gilded Taurus on his chest for good luck during battle. His helmet was the standard-issue football helmet, and his pteruges was ripped from a scuffle with Latium a week ago. Brutus' machete was made of a line of razor blades welded together and to a street sign, with all paint scrubbed off meticulously. The handle was an old chair leg, filed down to better suit its new purpose.
The boys learned how to weld not long after their Uplifting, and were told to make their own weapons. No weapons would be supplied to them, but they were given ample materials to make it from. Latium was a natural at welding, making him the resident blacksmith. Dinners were the main currency among the boys, as real denarii were hard to come by for the children. Latium had many, many extra dinner rations those few weeks, and when the time came to inspect the weapons, Brutus' contubernia was the best in the camp.
Latium adapted well to the new lifestyle, and it showed. His once fat body was almost completely replaced with one of a strong young man, with defined muscles and even a more defined jawline. His armor was made almost completely from scratch, with wood-reinforced gecko leather comprising his chestplate, along with the other standard issue items such as the helmet and pteruges. His machete was completely made of metal, much to his chagrin on particularly hot days. A gecko leather grip solved this problem, to an extent. An old-world pipe formed the handle, while the blade was of a lawnmower blade, which was welded onto said handle. He didn't care much for machetes, however. He thought them to be too 'weak'. Instead, he fought with his homemade trident. It was his pride and joy, and took a very long time to complete. Sneaking some scrap metal from the scavengers' stash, then told he didn't actually needed to sneak when he was inevitably caught by Vegetius, he spent a very long time on his pet project. All his free time, as little as it was, was spent on his project. Vegetius cared little if his students slept, as long as they let him sleep. They will deal with the consequences themselves. So Latium visited the forge at night, and stayed there until sunrise working on his project. At last, two days ago, it was complete. A handle of wood, and the prongs made of strong old-world gunmetal, and the head made of steel, it was absolutely his pride and joy. Though it was a lot bigger than he can handle effectively, he knew he would grow into it, and then it would be absolutely formidable. A wooden replica of his trident was used in the arena, albeit smaller so he could actually handle it. He actually won some tournaments with its reach, though most of the time it is a hindrance. If they manage to come closer than the trident will allow, he was almost always dead meat. Since they could not have more than one weapon in the arena, he usually just used his wooden machete.
Tiberius, on the other hand, needed a bit more adjustment from his profligate life to his new one, unforgiving as it is. He was not as strong or fast as the rest of his comrades, nor was he as tall or imposing as the others. But he did have one thing, and that was intelligence. When Decanus Vegetius' lights went out, Tiberius fixed them so fast Vegetius was sure he was going to shock himself. Tiberius didn't even know how he knew how to fix it, as he had never done anything of the sort before. Nevertheless, he became the resident handyman, even surpassing some fully-fledged legionaries in his prowess. His armor wasn't as well-made as Latium's, nor as effective as Brutus', but what is was, was imposing. A large metal plate was draped beneath the leather tunic, with large rail spikes poking out of the chest and shoulder pads. He painted the face of Mars on the front, and the Gilded Taurus on the back. His 'kill' count was painted on his helmet, with kills being victories in the arena. Currently, it was up to 14, which was nothing to scoff at. Arena tournaments were held each week, and with him only being there for 5 months, it was respectable. He never won one of them, mind you, but he does get pretty far, with his highest being in the semi-finals versus someone from another contubernium, Marius, who was a very formidable opponent. He didn't fight with a machete, unlike his peers. Instead, he chose to fight unarmed, to show the older and taller boys he wasn't a coward. Metal plates strapped to his knuckles were his weapons of choice, and he was not a foe to be reckoned with, although he used ones with wood instead for arena fights. They were supposed to be non-lethal, of course. He fought with intellect, not brute strength, no pun intended. He watched his opponent's fighting style, and exploited it. Brutus learned the hard way when he swung his machete at Tiberius, who dodged it and punched him in the groin. Writhing in agony on the ground, Tiberius pulled him into a choke hold and held tight until Brutus lost consciousness. Latium beat him, squarely, but that defeat stung, in both ways.
The contubernia, along with every other legionary in the camp, were lined up next to the door, prepared to greet their Legatus. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the old, wooden door creaked open. In came a man unlike any Brutus had seen before. His helmet was adorned with plumes of ornate feathers, in a pattern unlike any he had ever seen. The crimson feathers, along with the violet and the black feathers, were blowing in the wind in the most magnificent way. Heremus' face was that of a middle-aged man, with a salt-and-pepper beard hugging his face. His aquiline nose fit perfectly with his sharp, accusatory eyes, that didn't gaze from his objective. His armor was fitted perfectly to his form, a full-torso bronze armor piece, bronze gauntlets, and thick leather underneath. His pteruges was lined with bronze, and his boots looked to be pre-war military boots, judging by their quality. The armor was painted almost fully in Legion crimson, and the Gilded Taurus was shown proudly in the center of his chest, and it was quite literally gilded. It shined in the desert sun, proudly showing off how well its owner cared about it. His sword was the most impressive of all, with the gilded handle and the blade. The blade was large, forged from the finest old-world steel, being half its owner's already impressive height. Intricate markings were etched into the sword, telling of its rich history and its conquests. The numbers 'CLXXI' were etched into the blade, no doubt its kill count.
"Where is the Centurion of this camp?" the Legatus asked, his voice booming over the legionaries.
"Greetings, Legatus Heremus, sir. Welcome to Camp Vulpe." Centurion Augustus said, quickly. "These are the men of the camp. But, may I ask you, what is the meaning of your visit?"
Heremus scowled at the Centurion, and replied to him with, "I was told to come here by Lord Caesar himself, as we will begin conquest north of here very soon."
The Centurion looked dumbfounded, and tentatively asked his superior, "W-when exactly is soon, my Legatus?"
"Damned Legatus, not telling us until the last minute. 'Conquer this, take over that'. Couldn't he have told us this at least a month ago? For Mars' sake, he could've sent a damn messenger!"
The Centurion ranted on and on to his Primus Decanus, who only sat there and nodded obediently. Then, after he had worn himself out, he drank a glass of water sitting on his desk and continued. "No matter. We shall conquer the tribes to the north quickly. What is the status of the century, Decanus?"
"The men are prepared, my Centurion, and ready to fight. The children may have some trouble, but the coming battles will give them much-needed experience."
"Very good, Decanus. Dismissed."
The decanus extended his arm, parallel to the ground, in a Roman salute, and quickly marched out of the Centurion's tent, leaving the Centurion to sit at his desk and slam his head into it repeatedly.
"March, march, boys. March like your lives depend on it!"
In a way, they did. Decanus Vegetius marched alongside his disciples, knowing that if he did not train them in these final days, they might not survive the coming battles. The children were to be sent in with the Prime Legionaries, after the recruits. This way, they are protected by the older, more veteran legionaries, and also get a chance to prove themselves in the heat of battle. But this will not matter if they cannot even march 10 miles in the scorching sun.
"Let's get a move on, Marcus, we don't have all day!"
Brutus, Tiberius, and Latium were all marching together, and talking amongst themselves.
"Did you see the Legatus?" Tiberius said, giddily.
"We all did, but how about the Taurus on his chest?" Latium responded, equally as giddy.
"And his sword!" Tiberius added.
Brutus wasn't much for talking at the moment, however. His brothers in arms had forgotten where they had came from. Though the Legion tried to erase Brutus' memories of his past tribal life, they couldn't. In his heart, he was still Radroach. In his heart, he was the son of Yao Guai, not the Legion. But the Legion does not know what is in his heart, did they? Perhaps they did, but nothing could change the way Brutus felt about his past. No amount of brainwashing can change his past. A twinge of guilt went through his body as he remembered his father, lashed to a cross, like a degenerate. Brutus had seen people lashed to a cross in the months he had been Legion, and they were all scum. Thieves, raiders, junkies. Nothing more than shit caked to the desert floor. But his father was also lashed to a cross. Does that mean that he was a degenerate? And if Yao Guai was a degenerate, his child, Radroach, Brutus would be a degenerate as well. Those were the rules, were they not? While his friends walked behind him, excited about the coming battle, Brutus was dreading it. For if he spills blood for Legion, then he must be Legion, is he not?