The next scene of Ruby Descent Chapter 3, “The Canary In Coveralls”, is up and ready 🙂 In this segment, Lily meets Mr. Marlow to discuss the alarming discrepancy she’d found in Zora. While she struggles to contain her growing attraction and fondness for her dashing boss, a new crisis arises in Security.
She hummed to herself as she walked, her footsteps keeping time with the music in her head. Songs always welled up from a place deep inside of her, a gift she’d possessed all her life. During the dark, grim years of the Great War, when she and her family had been prisoners in the water ration camps of the Kaezer, singing had often been her only hope and relief. Music elevated her to a better place, where somehow everything seemed brighter. Even sad songs moved joy within the often restless corners of her heart. The melody to her latest piece strengthened her, and helped straighten her mind in spite of the troubling news she carried to Mr. Marlow.
The lobby swarmed with the hustle of pre-docking. Lily smiled and said ‘good day’ to each guest she passed, as was proper. She’d prefer to say ‘hello’, believing it more natural and genuine, but she stuck to what Cunningham and hotel management wanted. When she reached the concierge desk, she tapped her access code into the security panel beside the staff door, and strolled in.
As soon as she stepped into Mr. Marlow’s office, a streak of silver fur and robotic titanium flashed toward her in a single leap. The static sputter of an electronic purr greeted her. Mr. Vincent pranced in a circle, tail caressing her. He hugged her legs with his small, agile body, almost tripping her in his enthusiasm.
She knelt to scratch his ears, grinning when he rubbed his face vigorously against her hand. “Good day, Mr. Vincent. I’m excited to see you, too.” She reached into her coveralls pocket and unwrapped the napkin of salmon she’d brought.
The cat meowed as if it were a feast of the gods, swatting for the treat with an eager paw.
“That’s right, Your Majesty, I know what you like.” Lily laughed, and fed Mr. Vincent his seafood addiction.
Mr. Marlow entered from the guest service area, and chuckled when he saw Mr. Vincent scarfing down the fishy prize. “You spoil him far too much, Miss Fairpoole, though he loves you for it.”
“Good day, sir.” Lily stood and wiped her fingers on the napkin, then tossed it into the nearby wastebasket. “Have to keep the boss satisfied, as I’m sure you know.”
“Don’t we all?” Mr. Marlow grinned and shook his head. “But on a more urgent note, I received your message with the code from Zora. What’s this discrepancy you’ve found? I’m not very savvy with all of your programming jargon.”
“I’ll explain, but you won’t like it.” Lily sat in the desk chair opposite of Mr. Marlow’s, and activated the holo-display on her wristcom.
“I’d appreciate it. Please proceed.” He leaned against the desk and folded his arms, stroking his clean-shaven chin in thought.
He was so dashing, so tall, and his kind, soulful eyes were sweet as honey. She put on a focused scowl to disguise the warm flush which rose at his closeness. The holo-display flickered an inch above her slender wrist, her red canvas sleeve bunched at the elbow. With a swipe of one finger through the image, she accessed the suspect code and magnified it.
“This here’s what we call a rogue fragment. A loophole, if you will, which allows certain diversional commands to manipulate the system. If the user has the proper clearance, that is. Currently, only you possess the executive pass which might allow someone to insert this shifty little worm into Zora. Either you, or someone snooping around our mainframe, would have to physically plug this snippet into an access terminal. Now you see my concern. If it wasn’t you, sir, then who the hell has been messing with the Ruby?”
“I can assure you I had nothing to do with this.” Mr. Marlow stiffened his posture and paced a few seconds. His features lined sharp in concentration. “This is most strange, and unsettling. There is one other who has such high access to the lift’s database, and that’s Mr. Cunningham. But why would he create a loophole to direct our sub-set of Zora?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, sir.” Lily turned off the holo-display, and scratched her head as she pondered the possibilities. “Has there been anyone in upper management aboard the Ruby between our shifts lately? The code must have been inserted within the past week, as it wasn’t there when I did the mandatory status scans after our last descent. This was likely installed during the down-time before launch.”
“Not that I’m aware of.” Mr. Marlow’s hazel eyes studied her, melting her to the core. “I’ve an appointment to meet with Cunningham when we arrive at the Royal Crown. I’ll ask him if he knows of any unscheduled access. Perhaps it’s merely another oversight on the part of a lazy programmer, failing to log their work properly. We both know it wouldn’t be the first inept person to forget such a crucial formality.”
Lily sighed and lifted her thin black brows. “Unfortunately, you’re right. Well, I’ll wait to hear from you once we land. Thanks for putting heads together with me over this one, Mr. Marlow. I really appreciate your insight.” Putting heads together…what would it be like to actually do so, his arms around her, and have a taste of those enticing lips? It had been a good while since Lily’s last lover. After her Daddy had died, she’d wallowed in grief and solitude for almost three years. Mr. Marlow was the first man to catch her fancy since she’d climbed back into the good side of life.
Nope, don’t even go there. He’s your boss, and formal courtesy is how he wants it to stay. Still, the way Mr. Walter Marlow fidgeted at the slightest hint of flirtation made her wonder if he liked her as much as she liked him. Lily could never contain the desires of her heart for long. She lived by the moment, and flew by bold expression, dancing uninhibited with every breath she drew. Maybe someday she’d risk the chance to find out what he felt for her.
Mr. Marlow coughed, averting his gaze, and returned to his position behind the desk. “Will you and your companions be performing again on this descent?” he asked.
She caught her breath. “We are. Lily and The Hard Knocks will play for the not-so-elite in the Steerage Lounge, while the creme of society carouse in the Scarlet Ballroom for Everblue.” She paused, and tossed her most coquettish sideways grin and glance. Just testing the waters again. “Will you come and watch, Mr. Marlow? You promised you would one of these times, but you’ve never seen us. All the other crew members have. I’m startin’ to feel disappointed.”
His jaw clenched, muscles in his throat dodging as he gulped. He adjusted his sparkling red bow tie and tossed his capable shoulders. “I’ll be there, Miss Fairpoole. What time will you go onstage?”
“Early, since the party will take all my time after the drop,” she said. “I plan to take my first break three standard hours in. Think you can manage that?”
“Certainly,” he said, and rested his arms across the desk. Even under the stiff sleeves of his tuxedo jacket, his muscles were a tempting sight. “I’ll make it a point to attend this time. I apologize for not coming sooner. I lose myself far too often in my duties.”
“It’s alright, sir. Your dedication inspires me…” It was an awkward comment. She regretted it and bit her lip, turning to the door. “I better get back to work. Thanks again, Mr. Marlow. Keep in touch when you find out more from Cunningham.”
Before he could reply, a loud ringtone jarred on his wristcom. A simultaneous warning notification beeped on her own–an emergency signal from Mr. Paynter. Her attention slammed to the new crisis while Mr. Marlow answered the call.
“Marlow. What’s the situation, Mr. Paynter?”
Mr. Paynter’s voice sounded calm on the hologram, but his furrowed face foretold trouble. “Better get down here to Security on the double, sir. This isn’t good.”
“I’m on my way.” Mr. Marlow hurried toward the door, smoothing a floppy strand of hair back into his well-combed set.
“He needs me to go, too, according to this alert,” Lily set, her pulse thumping.
“Roger that. Let’s hurry, Miss Fairpoole.”
They departed to the lowest guest level, matched in steady stride.