A sense of panic woke Draughton naked in a hotel bed. The weight of the countless rooms above and below and around gave him a vague claustrophobia. The glowing neon light warmed the dark room with blues turning to purple to red and green. The walls hummed with an ambient frequency of electricity, water, and air that no one recognized anymore. That is, unless they were waking up in a strange room with a vicious hangover.
Olivia lay on her back with her head on his chest and her legs intertwined with Draughton’s. She was surprisingly light for her strength, but it was undeniable that she was perfectly sculpted. She lit two cigarettes and put one in Draughton’s lips. The other, she kept for herself as she got up from the bed. Even without her heels, she walked like a cat: silent with predatory intent. In one fluid motion, she took a robe from the chair to cover herself with an elegant spin and took a seat. The motion shrouded her in a circle of smoke. Her crystal eyes stood out from her almost silhouette and locked on him through the dimly lit room. For a moment Draughton wondered if they could fit a camera in there.
“Morning,” she said crossing her legs and flicking an ash into a plastic hotel tray. It read The Partridge.
“No mornings on Luna,” Draughton said with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He covered his eyes in shame and pain. The events of the previous night came to him in segments. She had come on to him as soon as they arrived at the room. Draughton couldn’t resist the sleekness of her form. Her energy and beauty was an intoxicating mixture with the booze in his liver. Draughton couldn’t bring himself to stop her and she was incredible.
Now, in the morning Draughton quickly remembered that she was a spy, or at least claimed to be one. Who knows what kind of information she wanted to record or access? Where were the cameras and what did they see? Draughton’s eagerness was foolish. “Why are we at the Bird?”
“The Bird, as you call it,” she said, for the first time since he had known her, had soured slightly. “Has been in my family for generations. You are a guest if you don’t mind. Besides, you took the offer, the intricacies were up to me.”
The Partridge, colloquially known on the street as ‘The Bird’, was a trillion credit enterprise. Part of the densest metropolitan area on Luna, The Partridge is where the elite would stay when they visited. But no savory elite spent long spats of time in Luna City. Anyone with character stopped by on some sort of campaign trail or fundraising run, shook some hands, kissed some babies, and caught the next shuttle back planetside. The city had a long standing reputation as a haven for gangsters and GID agents.
Draughton ashed his cigarette in a half finished water glass on the nightstand. “It would make sense that an heiress to a title such as that would be a shoe in for a hush hush White Fire job, huh?”
Olivia was quiet for a moment without moving except to take a slow, deliberate drag of her cigarette. “Graduated Imperial Military academy, fifth percentile in my class. Worked as a Galactic Information Directorate field operative for a handful of years, but when I heard of some opportunities open up, I decided to go for the job that paid better..”
Draughton smiled with his teeth. “And I suppose that’s where White Fire comes in.”
Another pause. Draughton felt a nerve. He didn’t glee in poking it, but he needed leverage where he could get it. Olivia continued, “If you’re asking if they hire out of the same pool, it could be said that Whtie Fire shares a lot of investors with the GID and require a lot of the same skills. But if you’re suggesting I was given my post as a token, I assure you that I am one of the best agents either organization has seen in a decade. I bled for my position, and I will bleed anyone who questions whether I am deserving of it or not.” She puffed her cigarette and shook her head. Her glowing eyes never moved from Draughton. “Any more presumptions, you want to make?”
“Convincing,” Draughton said with raised eyebrows. “But really, this could all still easily be a ruse. ”
“Easily? You’re right Samuel. You got me, I took a room out at the Partridge on fucking credit.”
“Unsanctioned, shadowy investor?”
This elicited a soft laugh from Olivia. “Samuel, if there that there’s any ‘unsanctioned, shadowy investors’ out there that don’t have GID clearance or White Fire what makes you think they would go through the trouble of pulling you out of the gutter?”
“Ouch, but alright,” he said, pushing off the covers and beginning the search for his pants. “Alright, I’ll admit, this may not be some sociopathic plan just to torture me rather than dragging me out to an alley and shooting me. Assuming this isn’t some grand, hideous display of gaslighting, what exactly would White Fire need from me?”
The neon lights reflecting off her eyes diffused in the smoke. Dark mechanisms worked behind them. Draughton got the uncomfortable sensation that they were quantifying him, sizing him up like a mantis about the bite the head off her mate. “Breakfast,” she said.
“Breakfast?” Draughton said locating his shirt with broken buttons, shaking it out and sniffing it for puke.
“I’ve got a change of clothes here for you. Those are all ruined.” She put out her cigarette and began collecting her things. “But you’re going to have to clean yourself up first though. You have somebody to meet.”
“My boss,” she said turned to the bathroom.
The implications ran through Draughton’s swollen neurons. “And who the fuck is your boss?”
He heard the shower turn on and she casually yelled out the open door, “The Houndmaster.”
Draughton almost lost this breath. “Your boss is the fucking Houndmaster?”
She stuck her head out and hung her robe on the door. “Yes, a man who doesn’t like to be kept waiting. It would be faster if we showered together.” She added a wink.
Aghast and confused, Draughton had begun to enter a perpetual state of disbelief. Perhaps he had died the night before and he was in some strange purgatory. He sniffed his shirt. It definitely still smelled like vomit. He looked at the door and realized he wouldn’t even know how to get out of here if he tried. So he did the only thing he could do. He shrugged, dropped his shirt, and went to get cleaned up.