Merc Rule 27: Few things are as terrifying as a man in a wig and dress running at you with a sword.
The Kabukimono are a dangerous sort. Street samurai embracing the bygone culture of their ancestors. Ruthless tycoons that clawed their way across the Red Frontier by intimidation and force. The proud bastards get around in garish kimonos, wild kabuki wigs, and never go out without them fancy swords.
That’s where the trouble starts.
Ran into a couple of them fellas up north in the Cradle. Me and Spivey went up there to see that structural marvel for ourselves. See what all the fuss was about. We took the sparkling water right to the outer rim. A great dam, miles and miles across. Like sailing into the beyond and looking over the edge of the world. There we gazed over the precipice. Saw why they call it the Cradle.
An ancient city lay in the bottom. A lost civilization, just like the stories tell. Buildings tall as the ones in Babylon. Maybe taller. Crumbling and covered in a jungle of vines and lush overgrowth far as the eye could see. Like something out of a dream.
Scav Harrison and his Scrapsmiths worked with the Alexandrians to build a home for some thousands of settlers that found their way there. Me and Spivey, we figure we might as well pay ol’ Scav a visit while we’re taking in the sights.
We make our way down. Find Scav in his junkyard arguing with a pair o’ them Kabukimono fellas. They’d brung him a busted hoverbike to mend. We overhear something about the jumpjets being damaged on descent into the city. Scav is telling ’em it’ll be a few days, and they’re trying to up the time table.
Scav shrugs. Tells ’em he can only do what he can do. One o’ them bastards pulls his curved sword on the ol’ timer. A katana. Scav don’t flinch. But that’s about as much as me and Spivey are willing to put up with. We unholster our shooters and make ourselves known.
Bad move. The other fella, a great big one with a cybernetic arm slings down his sword as well. A razor sharp thing the size of a refrigerator door. His mechanical arm comes to life in a whirl of glowing pixels. All oni demons and ancient warriors.
I’m mesmerized, but Spivey claps the hammer back on his .45 long colt and starts slinging lead. The bullets go wide on either side of him. Ricochet all through the junkyard. I’ll be damned if I’m not agape every time I see one o’ them deflector blades at work. It’s technology like that what keeps the Kabukimono at the front of the herd.
That big bastard just grins, raises his giant slab of sword, and lumbers off after us. Crimson wig waving, kimono billowing out behind him all the way. Being chased by that big man in a dress is about as scared as I ever recall being.
Lucky for us, there’s a reason Scav ain’t worried. He whistles and a pile of smashed cars rise in a hump amid the heap of vehicles. Junkers and scrap fall away like pebbles from the rising mound. As from some great insect burrowing up from the earth. A giant automaton emerges. Like some brutish, machine god of pistons and metal from ages past. One massive fist is a junkyard magnet. The other, a pair of pinchers the right size to crush a man.
Wreckage, ol’ Scav calls it.
The automaton rolls vehicles from its path, easy as a merc moving chairs before a bar fight. Wreckage crunches its way after the big fella with his sword raised. Levels its magnet hand, and the Kabukimono’s blade goes spiraling toward it. Tore me and Spivey’s pistols free too. But that don’t bother us none, seeing as how Wreckage just saved our asses.
Them two street samurai kissed and made up with us pretty quick after that. Didn’t have much choice.
I forget the little fella’s name, but the big one was Kamikaze Mifune. You never forget a man like that. ‘Specially when he’s bearing down on you with a sword the size of a full-length mirror. And gleaming just as deadly bright. That’s why I say few things are as scary as being charged by a Kabukimono.
One that rates slightly higher, however, is witnessing a giant automaton take our weapons like we were a pair of squabbling children. But that’s another Merc Rule altogether.
—Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc
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