Merc Rule 11: It’s better to be a coward missing an ear than a fool missing his whole head. -French Hicks
Mercs don’t much like the notion of cowardice. There’s worse things, though. Like being lowered in a pine box while your crew stands around arguing over who gets your effects. French Hicks ain’t the biggest jellyfish across the Red Frontier, but he’s damn sure the most famous. You might wonder why folks would keep hiring a known coward. Simple. Frenchie’s got a nose for a bad situation. Sure, he might hike up his skirts and run. But not unless the outcome is sure to fill him full o’ holes or see him lowered into one.
Real story here is about how Frenchie lost his ear, and how it coulda been much worse if he didn’t cut out when he did. Now, I wasn’t there, but Spivey was, and this is how he tells it.
He, Frenchie, and Stab McKay were running a job in the Southern Wilds. Were trying to stop a shipment of stolen Draconian guns from making it to that eight-year-old war chief. His Supreme Invincible Emperorship, the Eternally Victorious Lord of War, Julio Juarez Jr., and his gun-totin’ death squad guerrillas.
So, Spivey and crew had just caught up to the Draconian’s armored convoy when an ambush party damn near sideswiped ‘em. A giant rig rumbled out of the trees, twin engines, four smoke stacks, eight spiked wheels turning the jungle to mulch. And who’s standing on the hood? None other than His Supreme Invincible Emperorship, a cigar dangling from his mouth. The four-foot warlord was swinging a five-foot machinegun, hip-firing at everything in sight. Bullets whizzing by on all sides, a hunk of hot lead grazed Frenchie’s ear and tore it clean off.
If Frenchie was waiting on a sign from the Almighty, that was it. He wrestled control of the wheel away from Spivey, spun their jeep around, and blazed a trail through the jungle without so much as a backward glance. Make no mistake, if Frenchie had stuck around, all three of their heads would be decorating Juarez’s famous head spikes. His Supreme Invincible Emperorship filled the convoy with smoking holes and swiped the Draconian weapons. He might be a pint-sized war chief, but that little bastard built a pyramid from the skulls of his fallen enemies.
So Frenchie lost an ear, but they made it outta there with their heads. Stab and Spivey still give him hell about how an eight-year-old blew his ear off. How it’s probably skewered one of Juarez’s necklaces. Stab even wrote a poem about it.
But as much shit as they give Frenchie… it sure beats wearing his head on a spike.
—Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc
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