Merc Rule 32

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

Merc Rule 32: Heights ain’t particularly dangerous. Unless you fall from ’em.

Every merc has a fear or two tucked away someplace dark where no one is like to discover it. Saving me, o’ course. We Lemieux’s ain’t afeared of nothing. We’re piss poor liars, though. Anyway, I learned that Spivey ain’t exactly fond of high places.

Ol’ Scav was helping the Alexandrians put more infrastructure in the Cradle. What with the new militia–the Solid-cast Soldiers–running around clearing buildings out. Funny how quickly a band of murderers and thieves shape up into law bringers and keepers of the peace when you allow ’em to loot the areas they clear of rats, dogs, and the occasional group of subterranean cannibals. The Cradle was turning into a regular cultural center. A metropolitan haven for world-weary travelers.

The powers that be reckoned it was time to implement a courier system to help bring civilization to the overgrown jungle of concrete and ruin. And they reckoned right.

A place like the Cradle, full o’ high buildings and dense vegetation ain’t exactly the easiest to navigate for newcomers. Or even seasoned outdoorsmen, like yours truly, for that matter. And without the proper transportation, each little district might as well have been a land unto itself. Everything from legal documents to love notes, grilled cheese sandwiches to fusion cells needed a method of conveyance. A unified delivery service if you will.

And wouldn’t you know, it was Scav’s idea to run zip lines and rope bridges between all them skyscrapers. Fastest way to navigate an uneven three-dimensional space, he says. And I’m apt to agree.

Naturally, that required folks who don’t pale at the idea of tip-toeing through the clouds. A team of bonafide daredevils suited to the task. Fellas who might’ve been born with feathers in another life. Scav lumps me and Spivey in for the job. Fame can be a bitch that way. And me and Spivey ain’t mercs to turn down work. ‘Specially for a friend.

Only one small issue. Prior to said task, I wasn’t aware of Spivey’s proclivity for avoiding the lofty reaches. Hell, I can’t recall a job that required us getting on so much as a three-rung ladder. So you can imagine my surprise when we get atop this swaying twenty-four story building and Spivey starts shaking like a dog shitting a chainlink fence.

Oh, he puts on a stoic face, but I can see right through him. Spivey says, “It ain’t the heights that scare me, it’s the prospect of falling to my death.”

So one of these young bucks named Reggie says, “You mean to tell me you wouldn’t be scared if you was sure you wouldn’t fall?”

Spivey frowns and gives a nod like he’s never been more certain of anything in his life. But I know he’s just signed his name on the dotted line. ‘Cause while Spivey was hunkered down with his head between his knees trying not to pass out from vertigo, I was helping these boys fire harpoons across the breach.

Reggie picks one of the further anchor points, tosses a harness over the cable, clips it to his belt, and zips across like a flying squirrel. From the other side he calls, “Well, I’d say it’s safe. Come on across.” All the while he’s grinning like his grandma just left him the farm.

Spivey turns the color of bird shit and swallows a lump in his throat the size of a fist. He looks at me, hoping for some way out. I just shrug. “You’re the one that said, it wasn’t the heights.”

He clips himself to the line. And the last things I hear as he zips across is something colorful about what a bastard I am for not having his back. Then he hollers at me from the far side. Invites me to join him.

“Not me,” I says, “I’m afraid of heights.”

After what I just seen, I figure it’s better to admit these things up front.

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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