Merc Rule 25

Written by J. D. Wiley --- Art by J. D. Wiley

Merc Rule 25: Merconomics: Inflation is what happens to the heads of young mercs and the waists of old ones.

Every merc’s acquainted with economics well enough to reckon his worth and his price. ‘Specially when the two ain’t the same. Naturally, the more a merc thinks of himself the more inflated the price. Thus, mercs with big names tend to run more coin. Some deserve the rate. Others ain’t worth the time it takes to shake hands.

No merc alive believes their worth higher than a young merc, the thick bastards. On the other end o’ the spectrum… the old ones ain’t often willing to get in front of bullets for anything less than what they feel is fair. Problem is, the older they are, the more valuable their life is to ’em. And that tends to drive up the price of “fair.” ‘Cause unlike the young fellas, they ain’t invincible anymore.

The trick’s finding a merc in that sweet spot. A fella who knows his proper worth. Ain’t got the inflated ego that makes the young’ns such a pleasure to deal with. Ain’t got the inflated waists keeping the old ones from being worth their price.

Reminds me of the last time I visited the Bitter Bullet to have a drink with my nephew, Rooster. He and Ginger had just bought out Uncle Ox. So I elbow up to the bar and witness an argument between a kid on the rise, and one of the most famous mercs to ever grace the Red Frontier.

Kid named Flea. And who else, but ol’ Hammerhead Ozzie? Flea couldn’t have been more’n ten at the time. A real tough sumbitch, though. Knew the trade inside and out. Hell, the boy was practically raised by patrons at the Bitter Bullet. You pick up a thing or two just sitting around the mercs attracted to the Bitter Bullet.

The kid’s trying to find his place in things. Been running the odd courier job for Rooster and Ginger. Delivering the morning wanted papers to the other merc guilds. Sweeping up the bar, collecting the casings left behind. Learning his way around the minigun on the barback when Ginger will let him watch her break it down. And doing it all the way you’d expect a grown man to.

But a ten-year-old ain’t a grown man. No matter how savvy he is.

That hunched ol’ dust dog, Ishrat, hobbles in. Dreadlocks hanging from his turban damn near dragging on the floor. He’s offering a job escorting his merchant caravan down through the bayous to Atlantica Combine. Flea offers up his services and Ishrat lets out a creaky laugh. Rooster convinces him to give the kid a chance. Ishrat shrugs, asks the kid his rates. Without missing a beat, Flea tells him he’ll do it for whatever the ol’ goat’s paying all the seasoned mercs in the convoy.

Now, fair is fair. But you gotta be realistic.

Ishrat’s hired on Maddog McLaren, and some others that’d chew that boy up and spit him out to shine their shoes.

Ever the wasteland sage, Hammerhead Ozzie cranes in. Tells Flea he’s gotta earn his price before he asks it. Flea puffs up all eighty-five pounds of his wiry frame and meets Ozzie’s eye. Says, “If you can charge the rate you were worth ten years ago, I can charge the rate I’ll be worth ten years from now.”

Ishrat’s a bit taken back. I am too, being honest. Even that big bastard Thaddeus King blinked. Maybe even smiled a little, around the eyes. Ozzie just scratched his chin and conceded.

Ishrat, the ol‘ goat, he adjusted his turban and put a hand on Flea’s shoulder. “You are being wise beyond your years. But I am not paying you what I am paying Lobo and McLaren.”

“What’ll you pay?” Flea asked.

“I am paying half,” Ishrat replied.

Flea didn’t hesitate. Just thrust his hand out and spat on it. And the deal was struck.

Flea might be the exception to the rule. The kid might’ve been worth his asking price. But employers ain’t real apt to fork over coin until they know what they’re getting. It’s basic merconomics.

Whether you’re hiring out or hiring on, you gotta understand inflation and adjust your price accordingly.

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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