The Merchants were a small group of drug dealers with no real aspirations aside from getting rich selling and taking drugs, only using their powers to make their line of work less risky. As such, they were never able to carve out much of a following in Brockton Bay, and did not engender much respect among other cape teams in the city.
In the aftermath of Leviathan and the collapse of the ABB and Empire Eighty-Eight, the Merchants seized the opportunity and shifted their operation, expanding their territory into the Docks and folding the dregs of society into their ranks. In an attempt to bolster their forces, the Merchants held dangerous gladiatorial matches in order to trigger and recruit more parahumans.
As a small-time gang with little ambition, they didn't warrant much PRT attention in comparison to other threats at the time. After their sudden growth following Leviathan's attack on Brockton Bay, the PRT began taking the Merchants more seriously. They made efforts to stop the Merchants from spreading their influence and interfering with the recovery efforts of the city.
Formed when various drug dealers and users gained superpowers. Were relatively small-time. They operated from an abandoned tourist shop modeled after a lighthouse.
In the aftermath of Leviathan's attack, the Merchants took over the Docks. People fell in line with them due to the lack of utilities, public services and supplies. Shortly afterwards, the Merchants began attacking city infrastructure, the airport, grocery stores, and malls and seized medical supplies and food as they came in.
Skidmark tried to capitalize on the new membership by forcing trigger events and distributing "powers in a can". One of these events was raided by Faultline's Crew, who stole the power vials and defeated the Merchants with ease. The public loss dealt a blow to Skidmark's reputation.
The Merchants were later completely wiped out by the Slaughterhouse Nine during one of their rallies, ending them as a gang.
Joined after Leviathan. Could create telekinetic whirlwinds with debris. Killed by the Nine.
↑Spray paint had been used to draw the same crude symbol on both the side of the eighteen wheeler and the concrete wall separating the beach from the Boardwalk above. A capital ‘M’, with two taller lines drawn vertically through it much the same as you’d do with a dollar sign. The Merchants. - Excerpt from Infestation 11.1
↑ 2.02.1-The Merchants ( Not much known about them. Or even the new recruits from the Cauldron formula )
The Merchants are a group that never took off. They don't have high aspirations, they just use their powers to make a risky business less risky, selling drugs. They're economically depressed types in an economically depressed area, making what money they can off people with very little money to spare. Bit-rate dealers (Skidmark), white trash (Squealer), and people down on their luck, trying to fix their situation in life and failing (Mush).
The people who took the formulas are more of the same, and were mostly throwaway characters. - Comments by Wildbow on information regarding secondary characters, on Reddit
↑Another group arrived, and it was like you could see a wave of distaste wash over the faces in the room. I had seen references on the web and news articles about these guys, but they weren’t the sort you took pictures of. Skidmark, Moist, Squealer. Two guys and a girl, the lot of them proving that capes weren’t necessarily attractive, successful or immune to the influences of substance abuse. Hardcore addicts and dealers who happened to have superpowers. - Excerpt from Hive 5.1
↑ 4.04.14.2Weld took the folders and opened the one for the Wards, glanced through it to memorize the faces of his new team. Then he went to the next file, “Then the top priority as far as opposition goes is… the Archer’s Bridge Merchants? Superpowered drug dealers. A Shaker 2, Tinker 2/Mover 3 and a Shifter 4. These aren’t big numbers. Am I missing something?”
“Context. They’ve become a rallying point, representatives and leaders for those on the lowest rungs of society. Too many civilians who were the have-nots think allying with the Merchants is a way to become the haves. People that were angry, disenfranchised or both have gravitated towards the group, are seeking to overturn the social order.”
“So they’ve got, what, a following of homeless?”
“Brockton Bay doesn’t, or didn’t, have many that you could strictly call homeless, as there were so many abandoned buildings to squat in. When the Endbringer attacked, he chose the area with many of these buildings.”
“I think I remember, yeah. The area where the fight started didn’t exactly look upscale.”
“The sad irony of this is that the defending parahumans protected that area, while other locations were leveled by the tidal waves. That area, known to locals as the Docks, was not under the control of any organized crime or villain organization even before the attack. After the battle’s conclusion, it was swiftly occupied by the Merchants and growing numbers of their followers, and is now one of the areas with reliable shelter. Not entirely, but more than many. By the time our local heroes were finished with search, rescue and minimizing damage, their number of followers had reached a critical mass. In the past several days, they’ve begun attacking the city infrastructure, the airport, grocery stores, malls and they’ve repeatedly seized medical supplies and food as they come in.”
“So a big priority will be safeguarding incoming supplies from relief efforts, protecting key areas of the city so it can recuperate from the disaster.”
↑It's worth stating that one of the underling ideas driving the formation of groups and ideological factions in the Wormverse is the notion that some people get a voice where they otherwise wouldn't. Give an immense amount of power to a (relatively) random section of the population and you'll see certain shifts in the overlying sentiments.
All the more so when you think that a parahuman with aspirations might latch on to an idea, concept, or group to get reputation, resources, and contacts. - Comment by Wildbow on Sufficient Velocity
↑ 7.07.1When Grue stopped the van to let us out, I realized why we were walking. Our stop was a bridge with bus stations on either side. Problem was, it seemed the ABB had decided to cut off this route – the bridge had been reduced to rubble. Large orange and black detour signs with blinking lights barred entry to the shattered bridge, and similar measures had been used to cordon off the piles of rubble below.
Tattletale leaned out the open window and pointed, “See that tower, there? Looks like a lighthouse? It’s an old tourist shop that closed down a decade ago. It’s where the Merchants – Skidmark and his crew of dealers – hung out, before the ABB expanded and forced them out. You’re supposed to meet the others there.”
I looked and saw the building she was pointing at. It didn’t look much like a lighthouse, but whatever. “Gotcha.” - Excerpt from Hive 5.5
↑Skidmark was losing. It was obvious from where I sat, and I could see his changing expression as he saw Mush collapse beneath Gregor’s sludge and realized he had no friends left. Gregor, Labyrinth, Faultline and the red-haired woman were all in action, and Skidmark was pretty much alone at this point.
I hadn’t seen Newter or Spitfire, and I couldn’t be sure if he was okay or not. Sure, the Merchants could have hit him with weapons rather than their bare hands, but he was quick, he had his tail, and he only needed to touch someone to drug them out of their minds. Spitfire might be the one babysitting Labyrinth somewhere out of the way.
It had to suck for Skidmark, losing like this. He’d risen to power based on a streak of good luck and momentum rather than any talent, deed or ability. Now it was falling apart. He’d lost, he’d had his ass kicked in front of the bulk of his followers, and he would likely never regain what he’d had. Not that I felt bad for him. There was a kind of justice to it. - Excerpt from Infestation 11.7