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Good thing I had taken a pair of the goggles from one of the Legionaries I killed.
I'll definitely need them through this…
The blast wave came behind me from the south, shaking the ground as the wave of shock and awe ripped by throwing up pebbles and whipping up a cocktail of dirt and dried plant life into my nose and mouth. The wave then reversed itself, making the world look suspended in time. It all came crashing down as the wave hit me in the chest like a hammer, sucking back up into the mushroom cloud several well distanced miles behind me.
It was eight hours ago I found the envelope containing the evacuation orders for this small section of Arizona desert. That's how long it took the Legion to detonate a nuclear device. In their own territory.
The incredibly bright light died and all that is left is a mushroom cloud several miles high. This isn't some Manhattan Project nuke. This one is obviously a combination of Cold War and post Great War tech. Still in the same position I was after the return shockwave, I head off to the North continuing on a trail only my eyes can see….
A small town glints in the distance, a good ten miles away seated along the edge of a cliff. If I've been following the Legion evacuation orders correctly, this town should be crawling with them. Hopefully there will be some caravans to blend into, maybe even join if they are headed west towards the New California Republic.
Three hours later…
Screams and grunts could be heard all around as walk up to a town full of crimson. These screams are notably female ones, meaning the Legion has slaves here. As I skirt around the edge of town, off of the road, I can see the slaves. All one hundred of them.
The sight before me could be compared to the Nazi death marches during the holocaust. The slaves, all women, are being herded like animals out of the town to my right. To the east. Each slave has a Legionary at her side, presumably her owner, as they kick their property. The slaves have large packs over their shoulders, obviously to big for them as they are hunched over moving almost at a crawl. Talk about filthy…. by the looks and the stench as the mass goes by, these slaves have never bathed as each slave is a varying shade of dirt, blood, and feces. Covering my nose, I back away allowing the slaves and their owners through. I'll walk into town the opposite way of the herd.
A fierce guard is at the makeshift gate, that appears to be chain link fence posted across an old set of wheels so it can be easily rolled open. The guard who warmly greets me looks to be around six and a half feet tall, wearing bright red and black armor coated with gold at the bottom signifying his rank. His face is covered in a dark mask complimented by a large set of jet-black goggles across his eyes. Brightly colored feathers poke out the top of his helmet, making him a Decanus.
"Halt civilian. Sate your business!" he shouts, even though I'm standing only a few feet away.
"On my way through," I say, keeping my head up, body straight, "What town am I in?"
Show no weakness towards the Legion, and they may just respect you.
"No town, civilian. This is Camp Thorn of Caesars Legion! We are moving our men to another area along with the slaves. You are not permitted to enter. LEAVE!"
As I'm about to protest what the Decanus said to me, thinking "It's just going to be left now? I can't poke around what you filthy Legion leave behind?" something tells me as I look at the six Legionaries with their attention now turned towards me that I should comply.
It's not that six or seven Legionaries are hard to take, I'm a big guy, mind you…. They are more so simple to drop in open ground, but here in hand-to-hand combat with this many is suicide. Legion loves getting up-close so their poorly equipped, fanatical recruits can actually do damage with their makeshift weapons instead of antique firearms.
I take my time backing off, making sure to keep eye contact through his goggles. Taking the scenic rout to the east where they're taking the slaves, I notice something. Besides the Legionaries I encountered at the gate, and the few more still inside the small 'camp', a squad sized group have congregated around a small building twenty yards out from the slave road on the other side from me. Among those loitering are some Legion Veterans, drinking from their own makeshift hydration packs. The door on the shack throws open, and a NCR Ranger comes flying out unconscious. The Ranger laying face down, gets a beautiful kick in the ribs by the Centurion coming out after him. The men in front of the Centurion snap to attention and give a firm Legion salute.
"Get this fucking profligate, and behead him in the river! Let his blood flow downstream like the might of the degenerate troops!" said a screaming Centurion. I could barely hear him say this over the moaning of slaves on the road….
As the Legionaries remark to the commander at the honor of carrying out such a task, I swiftly make my way to the back of the slave column and get onto the right flank of the men outside the shack taking care of the ranger.
"NCR Ranger this far inside occupied Arizona?" I thought. "I bet he knows what's going on here. The reason he's most likely here is for the goddamn nuke test."
I've got to save him if I can…
Its slow going, as the Legionaries take turns fireman carrying the Ranger, slowly making their way down a steep cliff face to the river down below. Its turning into sunset quickly so I remove my goggles, the Legion men doing the same.
Keeping to their right, I'm presented with the problem of getting down the same cliff without attracting their attention. They're making enough noise themselves, hooting and hollering at getting to behead a Ranger. We are far enough away from the slaves now, so that it's safe to assume we are alone. It's just me, and four soon to be dead Veteran Legionaries.
It takes about twenty minutes to get down to the river in the canyon below. I stayed in the shadows as the sun fell, and kept away from any dried plant life. They make no notice of my presence.
It's now dark out in Arizona, snuggled down in to a canyon. Two of the Legionaries light torches, placing them a few feet from the river.
"Good, they'll be fire blind," whispering under my breath.
I maneuver myself into the best position so that the targets are not too spread apart. Two Legionaries on the riverbank with the Ranger in the gravely sand, and two setting up a small camp. These men are seasoned veterans of the Mojave campaign, and can fight with the best. Don't let them get close...
Their armor is sheets of metal, draped between red fabric, with seemingly heavy helmets snugly strapped to their heads. Each man adorns a large red stripe on his helmet. Noting this, I silently remove the magazine from my .45 and eject the hollow point round from the chamber, as I slowly cycle the weapon. I put a magazine in with black tipped rounds, signifying they are armor piercing. I'm going to punch right through some Legion body armor. I can't help but grin a little…
I sight in the Legionary closest to me. He is currently busy hammering in a spike for a tent, chatting with his comrade on the other side of the tent, who is also hammering. I put his head at the end of my illuminated sights, only about ten yards away. The only sound is a muffled CLUNK as the round penetrates the side of his helmet, just below the ear. The suppressor screwed into the end of my .45 did its job. I had timed the shot just right too. The moment the second Legionary drove his hammer into the metal spike, I fired, concealing my shot even more than my weapon already did. The second Legionary takes no notice to his friend slumping to the right, as I put a round straight through his forehead.
"Why did you stop work-" started the first vet to turn around. He noticed the men dead on the ground and made the dumbest choice possible. Instead of rushing ashore and heading away from me to find cover, he chooses to further distance himself by wading into the river! Just as he is splashing around trying to get away from the torch light, I send two armor piercing rounds downrange into his back just under the left shoulder blade.
During this, the final Legion vet takes a hold of the Ranger and puts his machete up to his throat.
"I'll do him in, right here! Back away where ever you are profligate, or I spill this pigs blood into the river!"
As I am about to slowly move left towards the tent the later Legionaries were building, I see a glint of light reflecting off of the torches near the Rangers right boot. As I focus in squinting my eyes, I see the Ranger is awake, and driving a knife into the stomach of the Legionary holding him. The Ranger slowly slides the knife up and down, making the Legionary flail horribly, and choke on his own blood. He takes the blade out and quickly moves behind the Legionary in a reverse plowing the blade behind the Legionaries head into his brainstem.
They both splash into a heap in the river. Not knowing if the current is strong here I rush down the bank ten yards, past the tent, and into the river.
I can see the outline of a body, and grab a hold of its right arm. Hoping I've got the Ranger, I pull him the few feet to the shore. I drag the body into the torchlight and quickly note the tan camouflage of the Rangers you see around the Mojave. Looking at the NCR patch on his arm, I can see his face is badly bruised and covered in blood, despite just being in the river.
He has again lost consciousness.
I try to shake him awake, but nothing responds except the shallow rise and fall of his chest.
I pick up the heavy Ranger, and begin hiking. It must have been around a half hour before I stopped, and put him down. With still no sign of consciousness, I begin pitching my tent.
I distanced myself from any Legionaries in the area by heading in the opposite of the known forces.
With the day recently gone and the bright moon now occupying the sky, I move the ranger into my complete tent. Taking him out of his battered uniform and as carefully as I could, putting him into a spare sleeping bag, I take out a can of beans and wait. I look and the Ranger and wish for him to wake up so he can tell me his tale, spill the 'beans' on what the hell's going on out here in the Mojave desert. Before I can however, I close my eyes and succumb to my own fatigue.
I fall into a deep sleep…
Chapter 3: Armageddon coming soon.