Merc Rule 42b: Never trust anyone who consorts with a man in a poncho.
First, let’s make sure we all remember Rule 42: Never trust a man in a poncho. If there’s any question on that rule, take a quick gander at it and come back.
Now, most fellas in ponchos work alone. Mercs ain’t exactly lined around the block to partner up with ‘em, on account of their proclivity for skullduggery. But when they do, you can expect that whatever dirty bastard they’re running with knows the game. That’s right. You see a pair of mercs huddled together, and one is sporting a poncho, it’s safe to assume the other is privy to all the tricks up their sleeve.
Enter Roach Wheeler and Huckster Souza. Dirtiest merc duo since Snake Matthews and Daisy ‘Bloodlust’ Ortega. Roach always has his eyes peeled for a five-finger-discount. And Souza, she’s a certified silver tongue. That slickster can hawk anything for twice its worth in gold. Figures, the best con man across the length of the Red Frontier is a woman. If there’s so much as a three-cup shell game, she’s got a hand in it. And a fast-talking show-woman like that is the ideal distraction while Roach steals the teeth right out your mouth. Classic misdirection.
The first and last time me and Spivey sat through one of Souza’s smoke and mirror acts we learned the hard way. She was peddling some experimental phosphorus rounds. Said it was “buckshot the like of which you’ve never seen. Sprays fire from the end of your shotgun like dragon’s breath.” Me and Spivey were enamored by the whole presentation. First, ‘cause Souza’s the kinda woman that’s hard to take your eyes off of. Second, ‘cause she whipped out a scattergun and demonstrated the product. Lit up the sky with a twenty-foot flame.
By the end of the night we bought two crates of the stuff. But it cost us more than be bargained for. I wound up missing a pocket watch. And Spivey was light one boot knife. Never even saw Roach or his sticky fingers. Needless to say, we hang a bit further back from the action any time we see him and Souza working their grift.
Not every merc in a poncho is pure scum. And not everyone standing next to ‘em is an accomplice… No, sometimes they’re a victim.
And that’s a damn good reason never to work with one. Not to mention, it calls your character into question. And among mercs, that’s a rare enough thing as it is.
—Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc
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