Merc Rule 44

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

Merc Rule 44: Flattery will get you halfway… Money will take you the rest.

Not every merc can be convinced to do every job. Naturally, some of us are in more demand than others. And it’s for that reason that the more famous of us may require a little coaxing. In part, it depends on the job. But there are other more important factors. Take flattery, for instance. Every merc likes to hear stories about how great they are. There’s no sweeter sound that the tales of our accomplishments. Like honey in our ears. But there’s an exception to every rule. In this case, that’d be the sound of coins clinking together. So when flattery doesn’t do the trick, or only gets you halfway–just far enough to get ’em to listen–money will get you the rest of the way.

No merc can refuse the right price. And buttering ‘em up first only makes it easier. So when in doubt, toss some dough on the table. O’ course, some mercs are yellow bellied bastards and require heaps o’ coin to get ’em to stick their necks out.

Just so happens I have a story about one such coward. And by now you should know his name. French Hicks.

Me, Spivey, and Frenchie were on the road to Neo Babylon. Every so often a fella’s just gotta make the trip to the city of neon lights and endless pleasures of the flesh. They’ve got three story brothels–or cabarets, as they like to call ’em–with more skin than a tannery. Women of every race, creed, and color. A plentiful assortment to keep any man happy for a long time. And bars, eateries, and arcades by the dozen. Enough vices to carve a permanent smile on your face.

The idea was that the three of us were due some R and R. We’d earned a pile of coin, and it was finally time to kick back and suck the golden teat. So the three of us traipse into a joint called the Cat Scratch Bordello. One of them three story numbers I was talking about earlier. We’re haggling with the madam and just about have our evening accommodations worked out when we hear a scream across the lobby.

The madam, gives us a look. One that says she’s expecting a little pro bono work from three famous mercs.

“You fellas are famouse across the whole Red Frontier. I’d love to see you in action myself,” she says. Me and Spivey exchange glances and I’m about to speak up when Frenchie cuts me off. I do love some flattery.

“We’re not here on business, ma’am,” he says.

She bites her lip and hesitates. “We’ll pay you,” she says. “500 marks.”

Frenchie shakes his head and continues browsing the girls like he’s looking at a menu.

“And tonight’s stay on the house,” she adds.

Frenchie don’t flinch.

She sweetens the deal. “Three nights stay, on the house, and the 500 marks.”

Frenchie cocked an eyebrow. “We’ll stay as long as we like. As you say, on the house. You’ll pay us 500 marks each. Plus, you won’t ask us to work again as long as we’re visiting for pleasure. And we take care of your problem in such a way that no one dares stir up trouble while we’re in the building.”

The madam stiffens her chin but nods in agreement. It’s the best deal we’ve ever negotiated on a job. Hell, maybe the best deal we’ve ever even heard of. And we were the beneficiaries of it. We’re being paid to stay a brothel for God sakes. And just like that, me and Spivey dub French Hicks our official negotiator.

Not five minutes after the deal is struck we’re kicking down a door and roughing up some Kabukimono son of a bitch who got a little too physical with one of the girls. It was a simple job, one that didn’t precisely require men of our talents. We got out our guns and knives, but that Kabukimono fella recognized us well enough we didn’t even have to use ’em. We went ahead and tied him to the rafters anyway. Didn’t wanna come off as too soft. Left him up there two days, teasing him with knives and guns, until the piss-awful stench of him was enough that he needed to be on his way. When we cut him down he thanked us, and we made him promise to tell others he’d been spared. Otherwise, we’d track him down and make him wish he’d been born a woman.

The madam didn’t have any problems after that.

It was Frenchie’s shrewd negotiating that earned us our week of heaven. And that’s why I say words will get you so far, but it’s cold hard currency that buys commitment every time. ‘Specially that from a merc. Though, in this case, the currency was a bit more than coin.

-Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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