Merc Rule 28

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

Merc Rule 28: Step on a landmine once, get a cybernetic leg. Step on a landmine twice, get new glasses.

Landmines ain’t the friendliest of man’s devices. They’ll chew you up and spit you out every chance they get. But it ain’t exactly like they’re out to get you. No, they’re content to sit around minding their own business until you give ’em no other choice. So when you step on one, you ain’t got anyone to blame but yourself. And if you live to step on another one… well, it’s high time you start rethinking your methods. Or profession.

During our visit with Scav Harrison me and Spivey decided to help him get his scrapyard in order. After an encounter with a couple of them Kabukimono fellas, Wreckage—Scav’s fifteen-foot demolition automaton—damn near turned the place upside down running ’em off.

Cars were crushed and flipped on end. Tankers stove in and rolled over. Neatly piled columns of tires scattered to the wind. Once a gargantuan wrecker bot like that gets involved, there’s no telling what kinda mess will follow. 

Figured the least we could do was help put things to rights. ‘Specially considering Wreckage saving our lives is what turned Scav’s organized scrapyard into a disorganized scrapheap. Not that anyone could tell the difference. That, and Scav had a bunch of new recruits with him. Youngsters he was teaching the trade. If there’s one thing me and Spivey can’t resist it’s an opportunity to give a bunch of tenderfoot greenhorns hell.

Ol’ Scav dubbed his group of ruffians the Scrapsmiths. On account of their smithing abilities, and the fact that they build everything out of… scrap. Never said it was a clever name, but it suits ’em right down to the ground.

One o’ them boys was missing a leg, a greasy-haired kid by the name of Gordon Havel, or Hovel. Either way, the others called him Rat. Scav was fitting him with a cybernetic replacement cobbled together from salvage pulled from the guts of some old junker. 

Turned out this was his second prosthetic. Kid was helping Scav sweep the wilderness south of the city for mines. Lost his leg and damn near lost his three-legged dog. If you’re sensing there’s a joke in there, there is, it’s coming. Anyway, Scav built Rat a new leg and the kid went right back out and got it blowed off again. Bringing us to the leg he was being fitted for presently. 

Spivey looks at the kid, then his dog, and says something akin to, “So, you mean to tell me you stepped on a mine twice? With the same foot? Even a three-legged dog only does that once. And I’m willing to bet that one ain’t done it yet.” We all have a laugh about it. ‘Cept Rat, he’s eyeballing Spivey like he ain’t heard anything less funny in his life.

Now, Scav can weld cybernetic legs outta crankshafts and tailpipes all day. But obviously, he’s got better things to do. So he lets me and Spivey sit Rat down, go over the mine-sweeping protocol.

“Move slow. Probe the ground with a nice long bayonet. Sweep left and right. Stay behind your three-legged hound.” You know, the obvious stuff. But we’re also giving the kid a hard time. “Make sure your metal detector is turned on. Don’t step on an exposed mine. If you do, make sure you step on it with the same leg as the last two times.” That kinda thing.

The kid can recite the protocol backwards and forward like he wrote it himself. Ain’t no reason he should be tripping these mines. Until he goes running off to tell Scav he’s ready to head back into the fray and catches his foot on a hubcap that a blind man could see with his cane.

Spivey flashes me a crooked grin. Turns out Rat is blinder than my elbow. Can’t see farther than his nose, but is too stubborn to tell anyone.

So Scav breaks out the old torque wrench and blowtorch and solders up a mean pair of adjustable goggles. With a set of fancy lenses he can swap in and out ’til he’s got the proper focus. Scav don’t do anything half-assed. Or it might be he felt bad after learning he was sending a blind kid into a minefield. Whichever it be, he adds a few extra lenses for “special” magnification. Hell, these goggles are so damn powerful Rat can see folks eating crackers in bed in Tranquility on a clear night. For those of you living under a rock, Tranquility is that Dominus Magna mega-city in the night sky keeping La Madre Luna lit up like a bowl full o’ stars.

Needless to say, Rat’s got the best vision in the bunch now. And that boy can sniff out a mine as good as the three-legged dog keeping him company. Can’t hear worth a damn, though. But that’s how it goes when you’re stepping on mines instead over ’em.

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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