Chapter 3 Scene 1 of “Ruby Descent”

The first scene of Chapter 3 of “Ruby Descent” is up! Here we meet the fabulous Lily Fairpoole, the brilliant Head Engineer and Director of Tech for the Ruby lift. Respected by the crew for her incredible abilities and kind nature, Lily enjoys her position, and all of the perks and challenges that come with it. A discrepancy she’s discovered in Zora alerts her. Everything seems to be normal on the surface, but her gut instinct smells trouble. With docking and the Everblue party in the near future, it won’t do to have anything awry. The entire crew knows they have to be at their very best. The song/video is by none other than electro-swing diva Alice Francis, who is one of the biggest inspirations for Lily’s character.

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So much to do. Things wouldn’t be half as crazy if the Admin shutdown hadn’t thrown her off. Lily scanned streams of data in her display visor, inspecting the stability of all channels to Zora. Like luminous bubbles in a champagne glass, information packets flowed past her vision. She flicked and twirled two fingers in air to navigate, and spoke her access commands in steady monotone.

“User passcode: jazzsiren 29LMF. Keysector G15-20, Red exec column, line 43.087…” She pinpointed a narrow section of code. “Aren’t supposed to be there, are you? Unless someone inserted you via direct link. We’ll see what Mr. Marlow thinks. Highlight. Copy to local device, and copy-send to inbox: Marlow1.”

Her wristcom chimed with double acknowledgment. She sent the suspicious code to Mr. Marlow as a heads up, though she needed to tell him more in private. Her instinct never led her wrong, and the signature address she’d found rattled every alarm bell. Always better to get a second opinion before assuming too much, and Mr. Marlow was the most practical mind aboard the lift.

She had to alert Mr. Randall Paynter too, as a matter of protocol. That crotchety bastard deserved a kick in the ass for his lackadaisical attitude on the missing report, and for his obnoxious manners in general. Mr. Marlow kept Randall on a tight regimen after several recent mishaps, but Lily still found it difficult to contain her temper around the cagey Director of Security.

Yawning, she removed the visor and set it on her workbench. The shop was a mess after her scramble to sync the lift back to Zora. Though it was a compact room, like most of the cabins aboard the Ruby, Lily organized her space well. Tools and interface hardware hung in neat rows along the plain white walls, spare robotic parts stored on a collapsible rack. Her myriad panels and holo-displays for system access flickered with shifting icons and code. This was her world, and it was as perfect as she could make it.

She’d worked as the Ruby’s Head Engineer and Director of Tech for three months, and she loved it. Challenges and novelty were always afoot, much more fulfilling than the dull programming jobs she’d had before. And aside from Mr. Paynter, she liked and respected her fellow crew members.

Especially Mr. Marlow. She couldn’t help flirting with him a little. He got flustered to adorable when she threw him sidelong smiles. Mr. Marlow was a good man, polite and loyal, and he intrigued her to no end. He had a strong fighter’s build, such masculine arms and broad shoulders. Sometimes she imagined what he might look like without a shirt on, but always pushed the distracting thoughts from her mind. Had to stay professional, no matter how attractive the boss was.

She wiped her hands off as best she could, but her greasy, callused fingers were inevitable. The work was hard, but she prided herself on managing so many important functions of the Ruby. It allowed her to use all of her abilities, including her singing voice. Aside from her technical position, Lily performed with her jazz band in the Steerage Lounge twice a month. A fantastic arrangement, and she fancied herself the luckiest singer in the universe to have such opportunities, all in one swanky red space elevator.

As she turned to the door, she paused. Mustn’t forget her access adapter. The sly little device was still attached to her display visor, and no one must ever discover it. She pried it off of the visor, and dropped it into the pocket of her red uniform coveralls. The latest in mobile hackware, the adapter was illegal to possess, let alone use. It would earn her a one-way ticket to jail and a huge fine if got caught. However, Lily knew many tricks. First thing any good hacker learned was to dance around the Admin trackers and surveillance programs.

Lily used the device only for crucial situations while at work. The latest disconnect from Zora was one such dilemma. Thanks to her illicit skills, she’d soared through the system and re-established the link in a fraction of the time. Mr. Marlow had told her to use every override possible, though she couldn’t tell him of her true methods yet. Maybe someday, when she could fully trust him with the secret.

She tapped her ID into the access panel beside the door, locking the shop behind her. Mr. Marlow’s office was on the other side of the level, a short stroll along the administrative and VIP suite corridors. Red was everywhere on the Ruby. True to its name, the lift flaunted its jewel theme with no excess spared. It was Lily’s favorite color, another reason she liked her job.

Brass, platinum, copper, and chrome accents meandered along the embellished frames and split columns. Retractable chandeliers and artistic figurines were firmly bolted, stored in safe compartments when the Ruby dropped from its charging platform, halfway through each descent. She always marveled at the genius behind the lift’s construction. It was a work of art as well as innovation, and she was proud to be on the crew.

Miss Ruthie Gale passed Lily in the corridor, a bevy of housekeeping robots trudging in tow. “Good day, Miss Fairpoole. I want to thank you for getting us back to Zora so fast. Great job, as always” The chirpy young flapper grinned, her bright brown eyes and bee-stung lips framed in makeup a little too dark for employee dress standard. Mr. Marlow never reprimanded Miss Gale for her sleights of policy, for she was a dedicated and reliable worker.

“Good day, Miss Gale. You’re welcome. I always try to do my part.”

“And how!” Ruthie shouldered her bag of cleaning supplies. “If only my duties were as exciting. One more round of cabin inspections on Level Three, and I’ll be ready for the dock.”

Lily smiled and tucked a stray black curl under her headband. “Good to hear. If you need any extra units to help, my Custodians are available to you. Just give me a buzz.”

“I will.” Ruthie beamed. “Thank you. It’s like you said before. I’ve got your back, and you’ve got mine, right?”

“Absolutely. Only way this tin can on nano-fiber rope moves up and down is because we’re a team.”

Ruthie paused, studying her. “Are you nervous about this party and the top cats we’ll be catering to? I heard the Blanes will be on the descent. Can’t hardly believe such important celebrities will be aboard our little Ruby soon. We’ll all have to be at the top of our game to impress.”

“I’m not nervous about the party,” Lily said. “What does concern me is the discrepancy I found in Zora. I hate to cut this short, but I have to speak to Mr. Marlow before docking begins.”

Ruthie’s face always formed a pout when she pondered things. “A discrepancy? Uh oh. Well, I have faith you and Mr. Marlow can fix it. Keep in touch if you need me for anything, okay?”

Lily nodded her gratitude. “You know it. Catch you later, Miss Gale.”

Miss Gale continued to finish her last inspections, and Lily turned the corner toward the concierge and main lobby. On the way, she passed the kitchen. The delicious smells of Mr. Wetzel’s culinary creations wafted into the hall. Lily’s stomach rumbled, and she peeked inside.

Mr. Wetzel flurried about from range to skillet to saucepan, obsessing over the careful ministrations of his robotic cooks. The ends of his auburn hair frayed beneath the edge of his white chef’s cap, his demeanor a constant state of the jitters. He was a perfectionist to a fault, but his talents for cuisine and coordinating social events were unparalleled. His deep-set gray eyes skittered in Lily’s direction, and his nervous expression eased to a smile.

“Good day, Miss Fairpoole,” he said. “Are you hungry?”

“Good day to you as well.” She stepped inside, feeling sheepish, but she was starving. “I am, but I don’t have time for a plate. Mind if I just have a bite of something?”

“Of course not.” Mr. Wetzel gestured to a tray of appetizers on the prep island. “Please help yourself. It’s the least I can do to thank you for saving me. With Zora down, I fell behind. So far behind, nearly a disaster. But you saved the day, as always.”

“Thank you, sir.” She grabbed a morsel of the seafood roll, and noticed the platter of smoked salmon lox alongside. Grabbing a napkin, she wrapped a piece of the fish inside, and put it in her pocket. Mr. Vincent’s weakness was salmon, and she never refused a chance to spoil the tyrannical feline overlord of the Ruby. With a farewell and another hearty thanks to Mr. Wetzel, she hurried on to Mr. Marlow’s office.

Author: Holly Gonzalez

At a young age, Holly began telling stories, dreaming up characters, and creating worlds. She writes speculative fiction, poetry, and children's books. During her school years, she won numerous writing contests and awards and was featured in her high school literary anthology. To date, she has self-published several short stories and poetry. Her current works-in-progress include a decopunk novel, and a weird western trilogy. She lives in Spokane, Washington, with her husband, Stephen, and a facetious tuxedo cat named Vincent.

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