While the winds of the Gobi Desert normally blow toward Beijing, in a surprising twist, some fully-armed and armored survivors of the 53BCE Battle of Carrhae marched out of a westward-bound haboob on a bright, sunny morning, long after deploying eastward toward the ancient town of Liqian, a remote town in Yongchang province, just this morning. They said they were looking for Marcus Crassus, whom they universally referred to as “simiani inanis” (“a conceited ape”) and were quite disappointed to be told that he had already been assassinated at a confab with the Parthian Army more than twenty centuries earlier.
Upon seeing 21st century transport trucks on the highway they were following, Laertius Barbecanus, the surviving Tribune for the 356 troops (about four and a half centuriae), sputtered “Irrumabo, ubi sumus?” (“Where the f–k are we?”) He gave a quick order to his troops, who immediately formed a defensive testudo and launched a few pilae (battle darts) at the road monsters. A brief intervention by this reporter resulted in handshakes all around and the bewildered truckers proceeded on their way.
According to Barbecanus’s report, his Cohort VI had engaged with a ragtag band of Parthian soldiers, lost a few hundred troops to the Parthians in a set piece battle, chased them into the mountains and lost track of them, ran into a dust storm, wandered a bit more, and got completely lost themselves while they survived on looting, pillaging and foraging. Engaging in more than a few rolls in the hay with some local villagers who were kind enough to take them in, they were hired as mercenaries to defend the local village, which then became known as Li-Jien.
“I’m sure we left behind our share of spurius (bastard children),” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “Well, now what do we do? If the Roman Army has gone down the cacatorium, we need something to do. Who’s in charge?”
When told that his troops might consider either the U.S. Army or the U.S. Marine Corps, Barbecanus’s eyes lit up. After the promotional literature was translated into Latin and classical Greek, the centuriae all liked the idea of learning to use new weapons and transportation methods, although they thought the pay and benefits could be improved. They agreed that it sounded good, took a vote, and asked to visit a couple of very confused US Army and USMC recruiters.