I’ve completed the first scene revision of Chapter 2 of “Ruby Descent”. Things have changed since the first draft. I’ve expanded the POV from just Walter’s alone. Now Ethlyne and Castor Blane, as well as Lily Fairpoole, will all have their own POV chapters. This next installment opens as the glamorous yet shy holo-cinema starlet, Ethlyne Blane arrives at the landing platform before the big descent. Within hours she’ll attend the Everblue party, and see her much-missed husband Castor once again. It’s been so long, and the pieces of her heart have yet to be mended. Only time will tell if a broken love can be restored to the bliss it once gave. The music is a very appropriate song for this forlorn character, by Caravan Palace. The image is of Mary Nolan, silver screen goddess who greatly inspires Ethlyne Blane.
Ethlyne caressed the stem of her wine glass with sylphlike fingers, the delicate scroll of her wedding band clarion against the crystal. She stared out the circular shuttle window with her chin propped on one hand. Stars glistened somewhere out there, but the glare of the cabin lights obscured their shine. Only black, fathomless, the eternal maw of space. Endless possibility waited in those depths, though hope was a rare commodity these days.
“Mrs. Blane, would you care for an hors d’oeuvres?” The Custodian unit’s veneer sparkled as it presented a tray of gourmet tidbits.
“Why not?” She sighed, and helped herself to a piece of sweet fig crostini. Best to eat light. Trim and girlish by nature, she’d nonetheless indulged more over the past two months. The waif figure she was famous for in her many holo-screen roles had filled here and there, womanly curves flowing along the seams of her gown.
Her agent hounded her daily about her figure. Right before this flight, he’d summoned her to his office, and asked if she was expecting. What nerve. Granted, their current film required her to look the part of a half-starved Earth girl during the tragic years of the great War. But when Mr. Yates cornered her so, demanding her private details with passive scorn, she’d stormed away in rage. How dare he be so rude?
In truth, she didn’t know if she was with child yet. She delayed going to the doctor, because she dreaded the result. If she was pregnant, who would the father be–her husband, or her brother-in-law? Tears stung the edges of her blue eyes, but they didn’t fall. They never did anymore. She’d cried them all out by now.
Snaps yapped and squirmed in her lap, burrowing his squat Pekanese nose against her arm for attention. She ran her fingers through his coarse white fur in distracted reverie. Her little dog always cheered her up. If it weren’t for Snaps and Ginger, she’d have no one left. Animals had always been her closest friends. Few people were worth allowing into her life. Only Castor occupied the tormented shrine of her well-guarded heart.
She’d been two long, dreary months without her husband, and she missed him with every ounce of her being. He’d be at the Everblue anniversary party. He had to be. If Castor didn’t show, Silas would rend his younger brother to the sinew.
“Fifteen minutes to dock. Please fasten your restraints, and secure all belongings in the proper compartments.” The on-board system spoke in a pleasant tone, polite and prodding, a trait programmed to be so humanoid it annoyed her.
“Sit still, and be a good boy,” she said, kissing Snaps on the head. “You’re not a belonging, but we have to be safe.” The dog whined as she placed him into the compact kennel beside her.
Dr. Truman, the attendant veterinarian she’d hired for this trip, snored in the plush first-class seat across the aisle. No need to wake him. The longer she could go without hearing his snide, whiny voice, the better. Silas had recommended this vet for Snaps’ recovery after surgery, and Ethlyne regretted not choosing her own. Dr. Truman unnerved her in a way she couldn’t explain, a hunch beyond her usual disdain for other humans.
Mustn’t dwell on it, now. She had to be strong, composed. Keep it all together, dear. Silas must never know of the secret Snaps carried. The very fate and future of the known worlds rode with her sweet little pup. Once she got Snaps to Castor, only a single descent remained. The festivities aboard the Ruby lift would provide the perfect cover. Until then, everything depended on her discretion, and her ability to act the part. It was her innate talent. Shouldn’t be a problem when facing Silas, but she knew all too well of his methods. Her entire life was wrecked after what happened two months ago.
She placed a hand over her belly, her mind wandering. Under the sleek ripples of her satin bodice were the strange, savage marks her brother-in-law had etched into her skin. A circle of primal tattoos encircling her navel. What they meant, or why he’d scarred her so, she couldn’t guess. The whole night they’d shared was a blur of half-recalled nightmares and intoxicated shame. She cringed at the memory. Had Silas planted more than just these marks into her? Could his child now rest beneath her trembling palm? She couldn’t remember exactly what had happened, which distressed her even more. And Castor wouldn’t speak to her unless it was for their ongoing plot, though she could hardly blame him. Everything was her own fault.
Engines wailed, thrusters a tremor through the shuttle’s framework. The interplanetary vessel careened toward its docking platform at the edge of Earth’s gravity well. Snaps cowered behind his grated confines, pouting head on his paws. She hoped Ginger was okay in the trailer, somewhere down in the cargo bay. Her darling horse was too big to be at her side. If Ethlyne had her way, Ginger would fly first-class, too.
They landed with a jolt and skid across the platform. The shuttle lurched forward a moment, then drifted back as the hundreds of robotic tethers outside laced in a giant snare to halt it.
“Here we are,” she told Snaps, sticking a finger through the kennel gate to tickle his ears. “Are you ready for the soirée of the century, baby?”
Snaps licked her, bringing a smile to her face.
Yes, Castor had to come to the Everblue party. Silas was but one reason. The other was, everything they’d worked for, all their plans to smuggle the Goodridger to Earth, needed the key Snaps carried to succeed. Castor would come for the vital piece, and Ethlyne wouldn’t give her dog over without seeing her husband’s face again. Perhaps, when she could look into his pale blue eyes, beseech him with every desperate plea she knew of, he might come to reason. He might believe her. Maybe she finally could reach him, and try to mend the shattered remnants of the happiness they’d once shared.
She wished so fervently to believe it. There were a few more traps to evade first, a few more masks to wear, before she could be with her husband once more. She focused herself for her imminent meeting with Silas. The most treacherous game of all had begun.