Tacoma, Washington, 2076

Red Lion Hotel

It was one of Eiger's down days. She didn't have them often, but once in a blue moon they happened. Laying in a bed shared with someone the night before was one of the reasons she felt the way she did. It was a small, trivial reason which in and of itself was meaningless, however kicked off a train of thought that snowballed into how she felt currently. The man from the night before, who she believed was named Alex, however the mild hangover gave her cause to draw her memory into question, laid beside her, his body perfectly aligned to hers as they both laid on their right sides, facing the white wall. He was still asleep, like the hotel itself, and the dense smog was jet black outside the window; even the jumbotrons weren't on at this hour. She flicked on a clock in her eyes to see it was three in the morning, and she could feel it, the three A.M. sickness. Despite having the comforter pulled up to her shoulder, a draft from seemingly nowhere washed over her and chilled her. The dark, midnight blue of the room was tranquil yet disturbed by the rushing of her head as if the room was sagging.

She moved her right hand across her chest and rested it on top of Alex's hand atop her breast, and ran her left hand softly along the white stucco. She focused on the coarse sensations in her palm, trying to distract herself from the feeling of warmth coming from Alex's body pressed against her back. She didn't want to notice it, didn't want to feel comfort in it, didn't want to realize that this fling was the most intimate encounter she's had in years. She wanted to reject the creeping realization that she had never formed lasting relationships, that the lifestyle she was trapped in had kept her running so fast and so hard that she ran by her prime without even realizing it. She tried her hardest to be an emotional armadillo and failed, and a vacuous pit of sour agony ate away at her stomach.

As hard as it was, she suppressed the welling in her eyes and the pain in her gut, then gingerly crawled over Alex to get out of bed without waking him; lucky for her he slept like a rock. She found her underwear in the dark and slid on a pair of sweatpants before making her way to the bathroom to wash out the grotesque tasting amalgam of whisky, semen, and smog. She gargled mouthwash and was halfway through a thorough brushing when a pair of low, hollow beeps buzzed from the front door.

The door was chained and opened only a few inches, just enough for Eiger to show her face while keeping her body hidden. On the other side was an aged Japanese human man with a head of thin, greying hair and a deep blue pea-coat.

"Eiger," he stated as fact, not a question. "I am Akia Mercedes. You killed my son," he held out a wool gloved hand with a strip of red plastic placed precariously between his fingers. "Two thousand, as you were promised, plus another three, for the difficulty my son caused you."

She slowly reached her right hand out and gingerly took the cred-stick, keeping her eyes on him just in case. She already put the head of her toothbrush between her molars in case she had to snap it at a second's notice and use it as a shiv.

"Thank you, Akia," she said after having pulled her hand back behind the door.

"I don't want your thanks, trog. I'm only fulfilling the contract you agreed to. Don't think my son's death will go unaddressed."

She snapped the brush. With a quick flash, she shoved the sharp end of the hard plastic stick into the man's neck, immediately releasing a stream of arterial spray at the door. The plastic stick stayed embedded into his flesh, and she moved her left hand back to behind his skull, then slammed his head into the door repeatedly. The sound of metallic springs and rustling of blankets piped up behind her, along with the panicked, hoarse cursing of Alex. She only stopped slamming Akia into the door once the solid thuds turned to a moist splotching, and something warm and wet began streaming over her hand.

"H…holy shit, Eiger! What the fuck did you do?!" Alex blurted out while stumbling up to her, still nude.

"Alex," she said while putting up her bloody palm to him. "Don't start."

"What did you do?! What was…is that…blood? Oh god!"

"I did what I had to, kid. Now, I need you to keep quiet about this. Can you do that?"

"I…I…oh god…" he began stepping back from her, shaking his head.

"Alex! I need your cooperation here. Can you keep quiet about this, or not?"

He muttered something incoherently while shaking his head. The room was spinning and her head began to ache more and more as she tried reasoning with him. The burning white behind her eyes got worse as she continued attempting to coerce silence out of him. Her fists tightened, her teeth clenched, and when Alex attempted to bolt passed her out the door, she juked to the side and slammed her fist into his nose hard enough to reduce the front of his skull to jelly.

Shit. What a damn fine mess.

Eiger rubbed her temples as she strolled over Alex's body to her dresser and donned a clean set of clothes, some skinnies, a grey t-shirt, and socks. She unchained her door and pushed it open with a decent application of force, enough to push Akia out of the way. Her head quickly swiveled side to side down both ways of the hall, then once she saw she was alone, reached out and dragged Akia inside her room by his arm. She shut the door behind her and rang up Fionn on her commlink.

"Eiger?" he sounded raspy, no doubt woken up by her call. "What can I do for you at this hour?"

"Sorry to disturb you, sir, but I would like to arrange a VIP trip with your escort service. Two waiting for pickup at the Red Lion hotel, room three-twelve."

"Oh, sure thing; I'll send a pair of escorts over."

Eiger hung up and was already in stride over to her bed. She removed the two layers of pillow cases from both pillows, and began holding them under the ice machine down at the end of the hall. She quickly filled all four cases to the brim with ice, and deposited them into the bathtub in her room. Each trip she made, her fingers grew increasingly numb and began to tingle. Without the sense of touch and the world tilting around her, she ended up dropping one of the cases. She cursed under her breath and moved on, adding more to the tub. She carried the pair of bodies to the tub and put them on ice to wait until the escorts arrived, then went back out to pick up the ice she dropped. She got down and started putting the cubes into a case, only to feel her balance waver for a brief moment and lean forward, putting her palm out on the carpeted floor to catch herself. The irritating surface of the carpeting poked her numb fingers, and she clenched her fist in reflex to the sudden pain shooting through her hand. She supported herself on her knuckles while the sour feeling returned to her gut.

Eiger recomposed herself and carried the remainder of the ice over to cover the bodies in the tub. She exhaled heavily while sitting on the lid of the neighboring toilet, and slapped her hands on her thighs to quickly force feeling back into them. Against her better judgement, she looked back at the battered, raw face of Alex. She was happy when he bought her whisky, told her hollow praises, and even though she knew he was just trying to get down her pants, she appreciated the compliment. She wondered why he had to be so difficult, and wished he could've just shut up and reasoned with her. He was an alright guy, she thought, and now he's face down in a tub of ice; how long before she ended up in a place like that?

The room's doorbell rang again.

"Hello? We're from Fionn's escort service, anyone home?"

Eiger sighed. "Come in, the door's unlocked."

The door slid open, and she tuned her ears to their conversation. Their voices were indicative of a young black man and a sonorous Chinese man.

"Shit, good call on the second bag," the young voice said.

"Yeah, damn. Think we should get the mop?"

"Neh, it's carpet, see? We got plenty for that, but where…" the voice trailed off.

"In here," Eiger projected. "I put them on ice."

A black dwarf in chinos and a green hoodie turned the corner with a large Chinese troll behind him in a mesh top and torn up jeans with his dermal spikes piercing through both.

"I can process the bodies; I just need the tools. You two focus on the rug."

"Yeah, no problem boss," the dwarf said while pulling his duffel bag from his back and handing it over to Eiger.

The troll opened his bag and began splitting various cleaning tools with the dwarf; bleach, lime, cloths, ammonia, detergent, bottles of water, and they began working away. Eiger's bag was filled with pliers, clippers, plastic bags, cling wrap, limes, and matches. She began using the pliers to pull both sets of teeth from the mangled giblets of their faces and relocated them to a plastic bag. Once both sets were put in and the bag was zipped, she opened a second bag and laid it on her lap while using her hands to lift the corpses palms and clip their fingers off at the uppermost knuckle. The fingers fell into the bag, and she did the same with their toes, eyes, and genitalia. Once done removing any quick identifiers, she began the awkward process of mummifying them in cling wrap without taking them off the ice bed. After a few minutes and after her back began to hurt from being hunched over for so long, she plopped back down on the lid and pushed on her back with her right hand, causing a few barely audible pops.

"Hey! You two almost done?"

The dwarf spoke up first. "Yeah, just finishing up on the door. Evening out dents isn't as easy as soaking up blood, y'know? But yeah, we're almost done."

"Well I got two for the VIP room at the bottom of the pacific."

The dwarf poked his head into the bathroom again. "Two…humans?"

"Yep," she said, then tossed him the bag of their clipped extremities. "Take that to Organ Grinders, closest thing I got to a tip right now."

"Alright, thanks boss."

Throwing people away was something she had done before, but never gotten used to. She helped the two load the bodies into the back of their truck, mainly for the dwarf who had trouble lifting either of them, and they wanted to get the bodies out before anyone in the hotel woke up. Eiger had her jacket, plastic layer, and goggles protecting her as she loaded the body into the back of their truck, and her attention was drawn by the truck's blue-tooth ringing. The dwarf gave it a command to answer.

"Finally you answer; have you picked up the VIPs yet?" it was Fionn's voice.

"Currently wishing them our best," Eiger said.

"Oh, Eiger, glad you're here. I forgot to ask, who's going for a trip?"

"Some guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Akia Mercedes."

Fionn was silent for several seconds.

"As in…the yakuza boss?"

"The very one. He actually gave me what his son owed me, by the way; his boy skipped on paying me in the first place."

"Why don't you go with the escorts? I'll meet you three at the pickup."

The dumping spot was at the end of a pier out of the way of most normal folk. The difference between Fionn's VIP escort service and a donation to Organ Grinders was simple: his was for VIPs. Alex was a nobody, and could easily be sent over to Grinders without raising any eyebrows, maybe even fetch a few hundred nuyen for the parts, but when a yakuza boss needs to be disposed of, in Tacoma of all places, Fionn's discrepancy was the only thing you could trust. Eiger got out with the escorts and walked to the end of the pier where Fionn looked out at the black horizon with a faint brown light hitting his back from the sun cresting the horizon.

"Damn fine mess you kicked up, girl," he said while pulling a cigar from his leisure coat pocket. "You smoke?"

"No thank you," she held up her palm and turned to look at the horizon with him.

He shrugged and put it back into his pocket. "I know what you did to Takeo, Eiger; the sharks left enough of him to identify," Eiger was silent, and he turned to face her with a wry smile. "Atleast you did better with his dad eh?" he chuckled.

"I'm sorry, sir, I know I fucked up."

"Fucked up? Eiger, c'mon, don't you know how these sushi-dicks work? You didn't fuck up, you created a power vacuum, which means…" he leaned in. "You created opportunity! Think of how much work up-and-coming yaks will put out now!"

She kept stone faced while a chill of relief ran down her back. "Well, I'm always looking for work, sir."

"That's the spirit! Here," he handed her a plastic, blue card he seemed to pull from his sleeve. "Premium access to the club, you drink? Blow? Fuck?"

"Sometimes."

"Fantastic, sister. Show this to the bartender at the Julius Nightclub, he'll hook you up."

Fionn pointed over to a Lurssen Mobias, coated with white paneling and dock-side grime, lined with cyan and violet neon wires hanging in loops around every level of the ship. She took the card and slid it into the front pocket of her jacket, under the plastic layer. The troll stumbled up from behind, a body on each shoulder, dragging rope-bound cinder-blocks behind them. She turned to him and watched with cold eyes as the bodies were loaded onto a small Corsair Panther to be dropped a few miles out. She didn't care much, and that worried her.

"Sure, Fionn, I'll be there. Will you have work available soon?"

"Always, sis', always for you."