Disclaimer: Bethesda made New Vegas. I only write fanfiction.
Author's Note: First New Vegas story. I decided to concentrate on the Legion. They're an interesting bunch. I also thought it would be fascinating to get into the mind of the courier that would choose to help them and why, particularly a woman. Whereas it would have been fun to write a character that started out some evil watch the world burn type of individual I want someone who is as normal as you and me to have to grapple with the complexities of the Legion and follow every step of the way as her mind struggles with their methods and why she finally decides to join them. Oh, and plenty of Vulpes in later chapters. Hopefully it will be a fun and emotional ride. Enjoy and R&R! Feedback is delightful. I'll put a good word in for you to Caesar if you do. -wink-
Imperium et Libertas means Empire and Liberty
Audaces fortuna iuvat
(Fortune Favors the Bold)
A Single Step
She was lost again. In the fading light of day the pip boy's screen bathed a harsh green light over her face as she considered the map for the twentieth time that day. She had started in Nipton earlier that morning, before the sun had even risen, for she could not contain the clenching anticipation in her stomach. She couldn't even pinpoint if she was more nervous or excited. In her entire life she'd never dared to do something of this magnitude, nor figured herself capable of it. Since her youth she'd tried to play it straight and keep to herself. She'd been raised to follow the laws, be a decent person, and she'd even begun a life of her own, taking that damned job as a courier. It had been going very well until…
Regardless of the past she was here now, making the decision that she knew would shape the rest of her life, and most possibly the lives of everyone else in the Mojave wasteland and beyond. She'd always prided herself on knowing the right choices to make and when to make them. It was just a surprise that when that legion soldier had approached her on the strip, inviting her to meet with Caesar in that smooth voice of his, that she had replied, without even blinking that she would accept that invitation. A few months ago she wouldn't have even entertained the idea of politely lying to the man and would likely have told him to go fuck himself. Yet there was something about him, this Vulpes Inculta, that weaved strands of intrigue around her and she'd been unable to say no to him.
It should have worried her that the only reason she had considered dancing over the line onto Legion territory had been not because she had any particular interest in the Legion, oh no, she knew nothing about them except for their methods of punishment, but because of a man that had mystery stamped all over him had asked her to come. Sure, it had been only because Caesar had asked him to deliver the invitation (and he had mentioned that little worm Benny would likely end up there, too), but she didn't care. Between the meeting on the strip and their first encounter in the ruined little town of Nipton she couldn't get him out of her head. Never in her twenty-something years had she met a man that radiated such an intimidating, yet elegant flair. He could have been the devil himself all she knew.
Scarlet's finger tapped the screen, her nail making a dull clicking as she did so, and followed the road that she was on. She was here (she tapped again) and Cottonwood Cove was here (tap) and about twenty minutes ago she'd been there (tap, tap) where she'd been attacked by some feral ghouls that looked like they'd wanted to rip her to pieces and make her into courier sushi. With a curse she saw a path, a narrow little valley that led through the hills down into the cove and the river where she was supposed to meet Cursor Lucullus at the ferry. She had completely missed it.
"Fuck." She whispered to the wasteland, her hand coming up to palm her face. She was too tired and so goddamned hungry. Her body had been tense enough that morning that she'd skipped breakfast, hoping that the nauseous feeling would go away, and as the day progressed she'd had no time to stop and have a snack. Her stomach was empty, it was getting dark, and she had completely missed her turn.
This better be fucking worth it. She grumbled as she turned the map off. She had considered the option that the Legion was what it seemed to be, a bunch of freaks wearing weird armor and traipsing around the Mojave burning settlements and preaching bullshit. If that was the case her plan was to smile and nod and praise their brilliant tactics then get the hell out of there and never go back. Now she was hoping they weren't or she was going to be really pissed because of all the trouble she was going through to find them. They had at least better give her an opportunity to beat the living hell out of Benny. You're a dramatic fucking bastard, Caesar, so you better put on a good show.
Behind her she heard a few rocks tumbling down the face of the high cliffs, and then a few lumbering footfalls, heavy and inhuman. She paused in her thoughts to listen, hand reaching for the .357 pistol she had hanging from her hip. More rocks falling, a familiar hissing sound, and she propelled herself forward just in time to avoid a lunging attack from a fire Gecko that meant to take her head off. She hit the ground and rolled, her foot catching the ground and spinning her so she could face her reptilian foe. The gun in her hand lifted, fired. One, two, three shots and the beast was down.
A smile cracked her lips as that wave of adrenaline-fueled arrogance crept its way in her chest. Serves it right, trying to come up behind her like that to…
Something slammed into her from the side, knocking her flat onto the ground and she could feel a throbbing pain shoot across her arm where a second gecko had flashed its claws down it. Scarlet scrambled to her feet and snatched up the gun that had been knocked from her hand and continued to back pedal as she attempted to get a clean shot, but it kept lunging and hissing at her, moving too swiftly for her to make a straight line in her sights.
"Stay still you cocksucker!" She shouted. This was turning out to be an obnoxious fucking day. First she'd run into a whole group of ferals that had nearly left her bleeding to death near some kind of Brahmin farm, and then there was the NCR troopers she'd run into outside an irradiated city, who for a few moments had scared the hell out of her, thinking that they had to have known what she was up to and were going to shoot her dead on the spot. After that was her delightful little detour into nowhere. All of this on an empty stomach accompanied by a headache the size of the Grand Canyon. "Fuck you, fucking lizard!"
She fired anyway, too pissed to care if a few shots went wild. Some of them had to hit. Luckily they did and it fell, causing a poof of dust around its body as it landed. She gave a relieved sigh, but wasn't foolish enough to believe it was the end. Her eyes scanned the area and she saw a few more up on the rocky outcropping. Before they, too, had a chance to notice her she turned and headed off towards her destination again. It wouldn't do to be late for a talk with the mighty Caesar because she was in the belly of a mutated lizard, wouldn't do at all.
Scarlet reached Cottonwood Cove without any more trouble. She even enjoyed the walk down the path. Even before she reached the bottom she could see the crystalline waters and the bustling legionaries. Before she stepped clearly into view she stopped and watched for a few minutes, her heart thudding deeply in her chest. She could hear the rushing of her blood in her ears and she realized that she was afraid. She clenched the Mark of Caesar that she had stuffed in her pocket.
"This mark will grant you passage through our lands," Vulpes had said. He had promised her safety.
"Yes, Scarlet," she whispered, "but he's also the man that had an entire town tortured, burned, crucified." But he was also the man that did it because he had felt that the town had been unworthy because of disloyalty and moral corruption. Was that the kind of man that would lie to her?
Her lip stung and she gasped. She'd been biting her lower lip hard as she thought about her situation. She supposed it wasn't too late to turn around and go back to New Vegas. The Legion would never have to know how close she'd come to their lands and neither would anyone else. She could just forget about the whole thing – and then she saw his face in her mind and heard the cruel sensuality of his voice.
Goddamnit, the things she did for men.
Recalling the cool demeanor of his face, the confidence that surrounded him, she forced herself to stand straighter, calm the shaking in her hands and set her mouth in a thin determined line. She was here because of him, because she wanted to learn more about the kind of man he was, and the kind of people that he hailed from. "Awe Caesar." She mumbled to herself and began to walk towards the settlement.
To her surprise many of the soldiers didn't even pay attention to her as she strode purposefully through her ranks. In fact some of them just merely greeted her with appropriate Legion greetings. One man did step in her way as she neared the dock, cutting her vision off from her destination. "What are you doing here, profligate?"
"I have business with Caesar." She told the man, and as she spoke the fluttering fear began to leave her. There was courage in her tone, and boldness. The mark was retrieved from her pocket and she held it in her hand for him to see. "I've been invited to speak with him."
The soldier standing before her looked shocked. "You must be the one Cursor Lucullus is waiting for. I do not know why Caesar has called someone like you, much less a woman. However, that is not my place to question, continue on, but remember, mark or no mark there will be eyes on you every step of the way."
"I intend no harm to your camp." She replied, "nor do I wish any harm upon the Legion's leader. I am here because I felt it would be disrespectful to decline an invitation from such an esteemed person."
He regarded her for a few moments before stepping out of her way and allowing her to pass. She fought the urge to look back, but knew she must continue to appear confident in their eyes. The Legion despised weakness, and in a way so did she. If she could not at least walk the walk then she did not deserve to be here.
"Cursor Lucullus, I presume?" She inquired of the man at the end of the docks. He had been gazing out at the water until she'd spoken and slowly turned his head to look at her.
"I am. What business do you have?"
"I am the Courier." She explained, hating the way it sounded coming out of her mouth. It was a stupid way to be known, especially when she wasn't even a courier anymore. "You've been expecting me."
The Legion's home camp was officially called Fortification Hill and she believed that it was a most fitting name for the place. Boarded stairways wrapped around the raised ground as it wound ever up to the topmost plateau. That was where she'd find Caesar's tent, his throne room. She was a little disgusted with herself that she managed to ignore the heavily burdened slaves that struggled throughout the area, the looks of lost sorrow written upon their dirty and haggard faces. But it really was all too easy, especially when the only thing she had to do was keep her eyes straight and focus on the soldiers she was passing, the boards on the ground, and the edges of the inclines so she wouldn't fall and break an ankle, or worse. She'd feel like a damned fool if she made it all the way here just to trip and kill herself.
As she walked she heard whispers about someone called 'the burning man.' She had never heard that phrase before and figured it was some kind of Legion-unique myth or history. Scarlet couldn't tell which one because some people whispered the name in fear, others muttered about it like it was idiocy. Perhaps she would ask, if time permitted and things went well. There was a part of her that knew that it probably wasn't any of her business, but she'd always had that damned curiosity streak in her. It didn't do her well to know there was something out there she didn't know anything about.
The guards at the top let her pass into Caesar's tent and she smoothed her clothes nervously before entering the main room. She felt naked without her guns and other usual items. The guards at the entrance of the fort had taken nearly everything from her, minus the few holdout weapons she'd managed to slip by. She hoped nothing would happen for her to need them. She didn't keep them out of disrespect; she kept them because this was a funny damned place and in the wasteland you were a fool if you gave up all your weapons. Hell, she hated to hand them over at places like the casinos in the Strip, much less to a group of war hungry soldiers who might just turn on her if events didn't go as planned.
At first she almost didn't recognize Vulpes Inculta. Every time she'd seen him up to this point he'd been wearing something completely different. Now the two images snapped together. He was wearing his legion armor, but the canine hide headdress was gone. A sneer twisted his lips as she entered, his arms crossing over his chest as she approached. For longer than she intended her eyes lingered on him, watching the way his muscles moved beneath his skin, studying the curves of his face. At least there's something pretty to look at in this place. She thought to herself. She returned his sneer, but with a playful addition, "fancy meeting you here, Vulpes."
She turned her attention to Caesar himself who, at the moment, looked nothing more than an older man, graying silver hair. In another setting he might have appeared even amicable. "Hello Caesar. I do believe you wanted to talk to me."
"Ah, the Courier of the wastes." He greeted. "You've been quite the news maker the last month or so. I would expect nothing less from a woman who rose from the dead and tracked her killer across the Mojave."
"You seem to know a lot about me then."
"Not everything," he admitted, "but I know enough to understand that someone like you could do much good for someone like me, and an army such as the Legion."
"Why would I want to help you?" She asked. It was a bold statement from a woman in the middle of a man-dominated world such as the Legion's. If it hadn't been for the inquisitive tone she used it might have also been taken as a challenge of his authority.
Caesar luckily did not see this as a challenge, at least not of his leadership, nor of his ways, because he only chuckled (although the other soldiers didn't seem impressed with her mouth), "because you, like us, hate the wasteland as it is now. It is nothing but a pit of snakes and vile excrement. People using other people, death, sickness. The Legion wants to take control and change all that. I want to lead the world into a rebirth, united with one ideal."
"And what ideal would that be?" She inquired, her tone casual as her eyes drifted across him, his guard, the tent. "All men are created equal, except of course those that would make good slaves and the women intended to service you like cattle?"
"I expected your narrow-minded view, but I do not hold it against you. Your mind has been tainted by the wastes, by the stubbornness of its inhabitants to hang on to its old ways. They do not see that these ways led the entire planet to slaughter and ruin."
"The bombs you mean?"
"Precisely. Everyone wants to return the world to its former glory. I say, what is the point of bringing back an old regime that apparently didn't work."
"You may have a point, Caesar," she said, and she was noticing that every time she spoke she said his name as the Legion did, not as the outsiders did, "but I would require a little more than your own twisted version of the 'I have a dream' speech to bet my chips on you… so to speak."
"And what would you require?"
"I want to know more about the man that wants me to work for him, more about the army that I might serve in – oh, and I mean serve in not serve for. I didn't survive a bullet in the head just to hand myself over to someone as a slave."
"There is a thin line between bravery and stupidity, my dear, and you do know that I could have you collared, branded, and shoved in the slave's pen before daybreak if I so chose."
Instead of being threatened she was amused and merely smiled at the leader, "yes, but then you wouldn't get from me what you want. Whatever that is. I would have already been thrown into your slave pen if that is what you wanted of me, but I am standing here, talking to you. That means I have more value than a mere slave to you. Now, tell me about yourself, Caesar, and how you rose this magnificent army of yours, or I will turn around and walk away. I've already died once, I suppose I am not afraid to die again."
There was a terrible silence that made her think her bluff had failed. Then she heard him begin to speak. He was telling her his tale, how he was born in some place far from here, was left with a struggling mother, had joined the Followers, and then his fateful mission that led him to birth the idea of the Legion, the one where he'd taken the first tribes that he was supposed to study, but instead showed how to fight and acclimated them together. The war machine rattled on until the Legion was like a snowball straight out of hell and here he was today.
"Hm. That's a very interesting story." She said truthfully. "There is still much to learn about your ways before I decide completely to join with your cause, but that with time. As of now I would be most interested in hearing what you called me here for. This is not a mere meet and greet."
"True. I have in my possession something that has cost you very much. A particular platinum chip."
This got her attention. It was then her eyes swiveled to the right side of the tent where she'd noticed Benny. Until then she'd ignored him, believing if she did so it would punctuate just how insignificant he really was to her. He looked deliciously fearful, bound and on his knees, surrounded by men that would take his head off without so much of a blink of the eye. "Then you retrieved it from him."
"I did. Since you've been inside the Lucky 38 I will assume that you know more about this than most. I will also assume that Mr. House has asked you to get it and do something for him. I am asking you to not do it. There is a bunker beneath our feet that holds the sigil of the Lucky 38, and we believe that this chip is the key to getting inside."
"It very well may be." She betrayed no sign of it being the truth or not. "If it is?"
"I want you to go inside and destroy everything you find. House wants what's down there and I intend to stop him. His hold on the Mojave needs to end. His haven for vice and moral debauchery must be put down. The beginning of that lies in that bunker. Would you help us?"
She thought hard for a few minutes. She didn't like Mr. House; that much was clear. She smiled and pretended to give a damn about his little plan but she hated the pomposity of his very presence, but the second that Yes Man had informed her of another way she had been willing to take that. The idea of taking over the Mojave was a temptation at the very least. If she did what Caesar was asking she was closing the door on that possibility forever. Hell, I wouldn't make a very good leader anyway. She finally decided. She may not necessarily agree with Caesar and his Legion but she did think that House had to be stopped so it seemed for the moment their plans ran parallel. "I'll do it. I'll destroy Mr. House's toys. In exchange I want the option to walk away if I so choose when it is done."
"Granted. If you do this for me I will owe you a favor in kind. If you decide to leave you may do so. I however want to impress the difference you could make if you were on our side."
"Time will tell." She replied. Unless there was something she wasn't seeing about them she couldn't imagine herself siding with the Legion. Of course, she couldn't see herself siding with the NCR either. They were the lesser of the two evils that plagued the Mojave, but they still didn't have what it took to do any good. They had been better off without the distraction of the republic in their face. Most likely she would kill Mr. House's plans, thank Caesar for his hospitality, and then get the heck of dodge before he changed his mind.
Caesar stretched out his hand and within it was the chip. "There is a building that leads down into the bunker. I'll have one of my men take you there. From that point you are by yourself."
Scarlet came forward and took the chip. It felt warm in her palm and she closed her fingers around it. She had almost expected a choir of angels to sing and a bright light to shine upon her when it was back in her hands. It had caused her so much discomfort since she'd first encountered it. Now she had it back, and instead of it causing her any more trouble she was going to use it to get back at those that had torn her life to pieces because of it. Her eyes flickered up to Vulpes, remembering the way he had taken out his own brand of justice on the people of Nipton. It was time for Scarlet's justice now. Mr. House would pay for his flippant disregard of her pain due to that damned chip and his plans. She'd also destroy Benny's plans of taking over the Strip, too.
The balance of the world had changed. In her hand she held power itself. For once in her life she had true control over what happened. She discovered that she liked the feeling.