Merc Rule 30: A merc feels truly alive when holding a live grenade. Unless they hold it for more than three seconds.
Billie Rocket-thumbs is a self-taught demolitions expert, which is a rare thing. Seeing as natural selection tends to do its job keeping the rest of the population safe from them types. As you might imagine she’s, shall we say, a “volatile” sort. Add to that, a ready supply of home-made explosives and a penchant for razing things to the ground, and you have a concoction for a woman who can clear every room in a five-mile radius. Whether she aims to or not.
Billie apprenticed herself out to Boomer Daugherty, self-proclaimed “King of Kaboom.” I don’t think there’s anyone else vying for the title, considering none remain that dared argue. And Billie’s heir to that throne. Anything she didn’t already know about blowing things to kingdom come, she learned from that madcap. Things like “precision, potency, and panache” as Boomer was fond of saying. Not that flair is a required trait among demolitionists, but it don’t hurt none either.
Billie might be young, but me and Spivey agree we ain’t ever seen a more clever hand at explosives. We knew it was risky to hire her on, but we needed a merc who could topple a five story building without scraping the two on either side. Well… that, and ol’ Boomer Daugherty wasn’t available. Nor soon to be. Seeing as “the king” kaboomed himself into confetti on his last outing.
We were helping the Alexandrians clear the Rift, the sunken area at the southern end of the cradle. Hit by quakes and the like back in the old days. There’s buildings reaching to the clouds all angled into each other like the Almighty was playing dominoes. Some ready to tip at the slightest breeze. Ain’t exactly the safest place for settlers and common folk, so the Alexandrians brought in the best mercs in bloody business to help ’em find a solution.
That’s Spivey and yours truly.
And me and Spivey, we turned around and contracted the best demolitionist we could find. Which more or less brings us current.
So me and Spivey are looking up at this skyscraper. It’s wedged in tight between two others that look to be holding up some important bits of scenery. Billie assures us she can knock it down without waking the other two. “Precision potency, and panache,” she says. And I’m about as far from sure as I’ve ever been. But I ain’t about to tell her that. I figure if me and Spivey stand far enough back, the worst that can happen is we bury half the Rift and don’t get invited back. On account of their being no one left to invite us.
But when a tough job needs doing it’s better to get it done than live with the fear of it. I draw the short straw and help Billie get her explosives all rigged up, while Spivey checks the buildings. Makes sure they’re all cleared of local urchins and vagabonds. Collateral damage has a way of injuring a fella’s reputation.
After about twenty minutes holding a bundle o’ red wires while Billie strings blues ones, threads greens ones, and splices yellow ones, we’re about set to blow. The building is packed with enough high-explosive to send it to the moon. That’d be the “potency” she was referring to.
Spivey wanders back in and gives us the all clear. Billie leads us a safe distance away, hands us a grenade each, and pulls out a hand-held rocket. Warning bells are going off in my head.
“The hell’s all this for?” Spivey asks.
She smiles. “Pinache.”
Me and Spivey got ourselves a five-star pucker situation. Sphincters sucked so tight, if I had a barstool to sit on, there would have been four wooden legs hanging out my ass.
Billie doesn’t bother loading the rocket in a tube. She sets a fuse to the end, lights it, then without warning pulls the pins out our grenades. Never had a merc do that to me before, but rest assured, nothing prepares you for the rush that comes with it. “Throw ’em in yonder doorway on three,” she says.
One… Two… Three. We hurl ’em in.
Billie’s rocket sprays sparks out the back end, blows her thumbs clean off. Her eyes get the size of dinner plates, but somehow she manages to keep that rocket steered straight before she lets it fly.
It leaps outta her hands in a corkscrew of smoke and fire. The pair of grenades clank and roll about the doorway, and the rocket joins ’em a moment later. Two explosions happen in an instant. The grenades and rocket, altogether, the three of ’em like a firecracker. And then the bigger one. The true one.
In a flash my vision’s seared white, and I’m flung back to the ground. Blast would’ve blew my teeth out my ass if it weren’t clench so tight. A wave of smoke and ash rush over us. By the time my ears stop ringing, Spivey’s pulling me to my feet, and the building in question was nothing more’n a pile of rubble. The two on either side undisturbed.
Billie was already bandaging up her hands and wearing the biggest, most shit-eating-est grin I ever seen. “Precision,” she says. All I could think when she said it, was how she blew both her thumbs off. But again, I wasn’t about to say so.
Anyway, Billie Rocket-thumbs used her share of the spoils to have Scav Harrison fit her with a pair of prosthetic ones. So now, the lass is not only the new “King of Kaboom”—she prefers that to Queen—she’s also impossible to beat at thumb wrestling.
—Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc
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