View Full Version : A Mercenary's Life

August 13th, 2018, 04:04 PM
People in my line of work have been around since the dawn of professional militaries, and have gone under just as many names as banners throughout history. Along with time-and-place-specific labels of historical renown like Condottieri or Landsknechts, we've been known by various names like "hired guns", "sellswords", or more recently, the obscure and politically-correct "private military contractors", along with a variety of less flattering labels for our profession. The exact label by which we describe ourselves remains a matter of personal preference, but within our own circles, we prefer not to muddle waters or maintain illusions for what we really are. We are mercenaries - folks who kill people for money.

Now, some of my collegues will no doubt argue against such a blunt assessment of our profession, but let's be honest, what we do really ultimately boils down to that. Whether we get paid money to kill people that our customers want dead, to keep our customers from getting killed by people who want them dead, to protect their material assets from getting destroyed, or whatever other reason one would want to hire an outfit of mercs for, it all fundamentally involves killing other people at some point. It's nothing shocking or reprehensible, it's just a fact of life in our line of work that all of us have to come and face sooner or later.

People outside our rather closed and secretive community tend to have a lot of misconceptions about us and our work. Journalists and bleeding-heart liberals tend to use "mercenary" as a word of abuse, implying that we are all a bunch of heartless murderous unprincipled cutthroats without a conscience who'd kill for money, turn on our employers and even each other the moment a better offer than our standing contract was made, and sell our own mothers for the right price, as their new owners can no doubt attest. Others view our profession with a degree of romantic naivette, as misunderstood and unsung heroes and adventurers who kick ass, take names and earn a fortune instead of medals and monuments in reward for their services. Both of them are dead-wrong. And then there's the people whose opinions really matter, certain pragmatic folks who recognize our uses and have the means and the need to contract our services, our customers. Their personal opinions on our sort may differ just as greatly as those of ordinary citizens, but they certainly don't make a habit in letting that bother them, as they usually have way more than just offended sensibilities at stake when they seek us out. For them, we are just another asset that has a certain price to it, and to us they are clients that we may or may not choose to do entreat with. Nothing personal, just business.


Truth is, we mercs are just like every other professional. Just like the journalists who deride us are professionals who get paid for stirring up controversy and writing emotional articles that everyone wants to be shocked and outraged about. Just like the liberals and activists who get paid for being shocked and outraged, figuratively and sometimes literally. Just like your dull Average Joe office rat who gets paid for spending the best years of his or her life in an office cubicle making someone else rich, just like Tim the Groundskeeper sweeping the sidewalk next to your house, Jane the Schoolteacher that your eldest kid adores, or like you who gets paid for doing something to make a living. What we do is no different - we take a job, we get paid for doing it, and use that money to pay our bills just like you or anyone else. That doing our job often involves killing people and risking the same for ourselves is only part of the deal - same as for soldiers, policemen and security guards.

Perhaps the biggest popular misconception about us is that we are all amoral unprincipled sellswords. If anything, our profession calls for perhaps fewer, but more stringent principles than even soldiers of national armies. The chief principle of which is "Never screw over your employer", unlike the way certain detractors like to depict us. First and foremost, because it's bad for business. Given how the contemporary public opinion and national and international laws are generally unfavourable towards our profession, we cannot exactly put out an open advertisement promoting our services, so the success of our marketing (and therefore our income) depends almost exclusively on reputation. Screw a reputable customer over once, and that may very well be the end of your business. Screw over a disreputable customer, however, and that might very well mean the end of your life as well. Our loyalty might be for sale, but once sold, it is usually just as firm, if not firmer, than that of any sworn state army soldier - at least until the contract is complete.

One thing that is true about mercenary life is that it is not the romantic, glamorous life of adventure seen in movies and novels, and it certainly isn't for the idealistic and faint-hearted. By signing a contract with an outfit, you essentially consent to spending the next five years of your life risking your hide for no cause other than money in the world's most wretched and miserable shitholes that no sane Westerner would ever agree to set foot in. You will see a lot of heartbreaking, gut-wrenching shit that will almost surely break any faith you might have in humanity, presuming you had any to begin with, and you will not be able to help. Because you aren't one of those bleeding-heart do-gooder Western kids from sheltered backgrounds who come to places like this as volunteers, thinking that they'll be making a difference - you are a professional who is here to do your job, and very often you will be doing that job for the very people responsible for the wretched state of the native residents here. Whenever you are tempted to help them, you will have to remind yourself that it is not them, but your employers who are paying you, and oftentimes you will be paid for making life even harder for those poor wretches you might be tempted to sympathize with. Always remember - it's nothing personal, just business.

Another popular misconception I've often had to deal with is mercenaries being predominantly employed by various shady organizations and enterprises. That may be partly true - mercenaries are indeed employed by anyone who can pay them. Sure, crime syndicates, terrorist organizations and various tinpot dictators and warlords are among our customers, but the most frequent and best-paying employers are in fact legitimate and outwardly-respectable organizations like international corporations and national governments, the very biggest of them being - surprise, surprise - the United States government. It is precisely because of customers like these who need to preserve their reputation in the face of a public opinion and legislature unfavourable to mercenaries that the term "private military contractor" was concocted for. Uncle Sam needs someone to handle his shadier jobs without military involvement, and a contract is put out. Uncle Sam (or any other national government) needs to protect his interests in the Third World without sending boys in uniform to die? Again, a contract is put out. A transnational corporation's mines, oil pipelines, employees or whatnot are being harassed and damaged by native rebels? The word is out again, and PMCs flock to the call.

In short, most of our employers are completely legit. Their reasoning might be just as, if not more, questionable than that of criminals and terrorists at times, but that's not our business to judge it. We get paid for doing the job, end of story. Most mercs prefer to stick exclusively with legit employers, if only because they are less likely to try screwing you over or put out a hit on you for knowing too much of their dirty secrets (though it's certainly never off the books entirely either). Working for legit customers also provides a degree of legal immunity - with the current international laws being what they are, formally being in the employ of a government or a recognized company never hurts if things don't go quite as planned. Those who end up working for disreputable folks like drug cartels, warlords and terrorists usually represent the low end of the mercenary community, having either ran afoul with the law openly before and hence lost any hope of a legitimate employment, or simply not good enough to be hired by a more reputable outfit.


The world we work in can be broadly divided into the same First, Second and Third Worlds used in political discourse, each being different in the kind of employers, jobs and working conditions to expect.

The First World, being a place where media can make or break anyone's career and where public opinion matters greatly, is the most demanding place for a mercenary to work at. This is where the really big money is, but where the rule of law is also the tightest, so only the best and biggest can expect to graduate to this level. Outfits operating predominantly in the First World are usually PMCs of international renown, companies circulating billions annually. Work in these companies is strictly legit and by-the-book, at least officially, all participants being formally registered and certified. The most common job that one can expect to get here is VIP protection, which often involves travel and presence in other parts of the world.

The Second World with its generally more pliable legal systems and laxer adherence to the word of law is where the majority of the world's mercs these days come from. Mercenaries in Second World regions can generally expect formally-legit employment, albeit by organizations and individuals with less than pristine past. The line between a politician, intelligence operative, businessman and a gangster here can be very blurry - you can never tell for certain which of the four your prospective employer is, and oftentimes he might even be all four at the same time. Same is true for the mercs in the employ of such people - they may easily be a formally-registered security company and the enforcers of a criminal syndicate at the same time without fully being either. Working and living conditions in the Second World aren't much different from the First World these days, but the situations one might face in the line of work tend to be much more unpredictable.

Lastly, there's the infamous Third World, roughly spanning the area 30 - 40 degrees to both sides of the equator, where "the climate is hot and people are brown". This place is the proverbial Wild West, where much of contemporary mercenary activity takes place, and where pretty much anything flies. The quality of your life and work here will depend strongly on who your employer is - and here it might be pretty much anyone ranging from the CIA looking to overthrow a democracy and install a dictatorship to your friendly neighborhood cannibal warlord wanting to protect his newly-acquired mine of blood diamonds and finding his outfit of crack-snorting child soldiers inadequate for the task. Your jobs will consequently be just as diverse, ranging from repelling RPG-toting pirates in flimsy boats attempting to hijack your customer's supertanker for ransom to taking out a rival warlord's outfit of armed peasants and child soldiers, with a little bit of good old-fashioned pillage, rape and genocide thrown in just for good measure. In many ways, this is the land of opportunity. You can strike big, such as when a Western intelligence agency or transnational corporation hires your outfit to stage a coup in some God-forsaken dump in the ass end of the Third World, and make a fortune. But you might just as well end up screwed over, either by your employer or through a fuck-up of your own - in which case you'll most probably wish you had saved that last bullet for yourself. One thing that all of the Third World has in common is that the locals here aren't in the habit of fucking around with elaborate pretenses like justice and human rights, certainly not after you've pissed on the wrong shoes.


Finding work in the mercenary business is easy enough these days if you know the right people - which you most probably do if you've served any significant time in the military before. Although many companies accept those completely new to the life, and some even make their money specificially from training new mercs for other outfits, in most of the high-end companies, a decent previous military experience is usually a must. The best-paid outfits will usually only hire ex-special forces operators. A middle-tier merc can expect relatively boring assignments, such as guarding industrial facilities of Western companies in Third World nations, while the bottom end (usually themselves native to these nations) tend to end up working for drug barons, warlords and other unsavoury characters that more respectable mercs are loath to deal with.

As with every profession, mercenaries too have their etiquette, developed mainly for practical reasons. Asides from obvious and self-evident rules like the aforementioned loyalty to customers, the most obvious rule is "Never make it personal". As contracts expire, mercs may often find themselves employed by rivals of their former employers, and against former allies and friends in the same business. In such a setting, it is vital not to make things personal, and if violence is required, to get it over and done with quickly, cleanly and professionally. It is, after all, only business, and it is not prudent to burn any chances of future employment or cooperation by making things personal simply because you and a former employer or ally happen to be on the opposing sides on one occasion. Of course, that is easier said than done, so keeping your cool and professionalism is always a must. That is something that both mercs and employers adhere to, and how you tell true professionals apart from diletants. Sometimes, a former employer (most often a Third Worlder of questionable repute) will feel betrayed if you exercise your right of free enterprise and take up a contract with a rival of his, and make it personal by putting out a bounty on you, no doubt intent to punish your perceived betrayal in any of a number of creative ways. Such people don't make good customers, even if they pay well, and proper professionals consequently strive to avoid their sort. A merc will likewise alienate fellow mercs and employers alike by embarking on personal vendettas over losses suffered in the line of work. Such situations are essentially inevitable, and all who have picked up the mercenary trade ought to know the risks involved, so a merc who takes the loss of a buddy during an honest job personally is essentially unfit for the profession.


Lastly, as to why we do what we do, it's pretty much the same reasons anyone can come up for their profession, but mostly it is for the money. Because we too have bills to pay, because a lot of us have families to feed just like ordinary people, because working as a hired gun for a private employer pays a shit-ton more than regular military service, and because we too hope to have enough money to travel around the world doing nothing when we grow old. For that end, we simply choose to do what we already know ourselves to be good at, and like it or not, our services will always be in demand just like those of farmers, doctors and gravediggers are.

Olly Buckle
August 27th, 2018, 09:42 PM
Sorry, but I found it repetitive and I felt it did not tell me anything my common sense would not have. Mercenaries I have known have learned their craft in the regular army, I reckon that is probably fairly universal, no employer other than a regular army is going to take one on as an apprentice to gain work experience in that field.

The one I knew best was an ex para who had a 'disagreement' with the police which made it expedient for him to 'go on holiday', so he worked as a mercenary in Southern Africa for ten years, it is not always for the money.

The best way I can think of to improve it as a read is to make a statement and then give an example, such as:-

A hired killer is interested in killing in the easiest and most risk free way, for example, knowing a lorry load of enemy soldiers is due down a road he will pick a section with a ditch next to it, mine the ditch, then open fire on the lorry as though starting a standard battle. The soldiers will pile out and into the ditch for cover, whereupon he blows the mine and picks off the survivors.

It sets a scene and tells a little tale rather than just relating a series of facts, and as you writre in first person you can make it even more immediate; 'I remember...' :)

Good luck, I hope this helps.

August 27th, 2018, 11:37 PM
I thought this came across as very weak as far as storytelling or information gathering is concerned.

Loose the word "We" You can only share with others what you have done, not what others have done, with any real authority. It comes across and generalizing and paints to wide a scope to have any impact.

You also forgot to mention the shear boredom of waiting for something to happen or make something happen, the real 2 percent of what any soldier does. You also failed to talk about the lack of places to spend your money in third world shit holes. Unless you spend it on drugs booze and whores ,you can come home just as broke as when you signed on or live like a monk for the term of the contract, another parallel between that standard military service.

Most full time mercenaries don't function in very well in everyday life. Touching on some of the personal sides to what you wrote about would have more impact if it was self revealing, not written as a text book.

Ralph Rotten
August 28th, 2018, 02:18 AM
You certainly have the gift of conversational writing. Your text is written clear and concise, and there were only a few spots where the flow didn't work right (some conversational things like 'surprise surprise' don't translate well to written form.)

But I wasn't sure if this was an informal prologue, or first person narration for a story. What's it going to be used for?
My only critique would be to work on your economy of words.

August 28th, 2018, 05:37 PM
Hi CyberWar. This is not my genre, but I'll give it a go.

It's hard for me to place your character and what this monologue is all about. I mean, it reads almost like a question and answer session, but there is no interview going on as far as I can tell. There is a lot of information here, and a lot of redundancy. I say this because I recognize it. :) One of my writing techniques (for lack of a better word) is that if I can say something twelve different ways, I'll probably try thirteen. I struggle against always coming up with a better way to drive a point home, so I know that need when I see it in others.

Just like the journalists who deride us are professionals who get paid for stirring up controversy and writing emotional articles that everyone wants to be shocked and outraged about. Just like the liberals and activists who get paid for being shocked and outraged, figuratively and sometimes literally. Just like your dull Average Joe office rat who gets paid for spending the best years of his or her life in an office cubicle making someone else rich, just like Tim the Groundskeeper sweeping the sidewalk next to your house, Jane the Schoolteacher that your eldest kid adores, or like you who gets paid for doing something to make a living.

Also, some of your sentences are overlong. Shorter sentences might have more impact. Example:
Because you aren't one of those bleeding-heart do-gooder Western kids from sheltered backgrounds who come to places like this as volunteers, thinking that they'll be making a difference - you are a professional who is here to do your job, and very often you will be doing that job for the very people responsible for the wretched state of the native residents here.

Try something like this: "Because you aren't a bleeding-heart do-gooder. You didn't come from a sheltered background to volunteer, thinking you'll make a difference. You are a professional, here to do a job, sometimes for the very people responsible for . . ." I think you get the idea.

I don't know if this is a story line, a background piece or an intro to something, but your writing shows some promise. Keep working at it, read it out loud to yourself to catch the repetitions and see if you can whittle things down a bit. Thanks for the read, CyberWar. :) Keep at it.