The first draft of Scene 1, Chapter 4 from “Ruby Descent” is up 🙂 Castor Blane is the Director of Martian Enterprise for the powerful water purification corporation Everblue, and the younger brother of its mad and despotic CEO, Silas Blane. Castor and Silas are the sons of the late Richard Blane, who was the first Executive Officer of the Administration, and one of the most influential leaders to unite the solar system under one banner of freedom and equality after the War with the Pruessian Empire. They are two of the most powerful and famous celebrities in the known worlds as a result. Fifteen years after the War’s end, a new form of empire has emerged through corporate corruption. Silas has manipulated and violated his way to ultimate control, and Castor is one of a defiant few who dares to take a stand against it. Castor knows everything his brother has hidden from the public, and with the help of some skillful and experienced friends, he’s about to take the ultimate risk, to expose Silas and bring true freedom to society once and for all. The trouble is, there are many personal difficulties facing Castor as well. His beloved wife, the popular holo-cinema actress Ethlyne, has betrayed his trust, and broken his heart. Can the pieces of a shattered dream ever be mended to their original happiness?
“The smallest voices are the most important, my friends. Every living thing wants to be heard, to be acknowledged, even those which seem the most insignificant. When we bend an ear to listen, the most beautiful words spill from the mouths of those underfoot, the ones who wait on the sidelines, who labor crushed and weary. No more will they be ignored! This is a new day, and we will rise on the harmony of all beings, all songs, every breath drawn in the name of liberty and triumph for our human family.” — From the Inaugural Speech of Richard H. Blane, first elected Executive Officer of the Administration
Castor hunched over a cold stainless steel desk in the passenger cabin of the shuttle, scratching a pen across paper. Forehead resting on one palm, his dark brown undercut curtained loose and uncombed around his cheekbones. Thoughts flurried like a showgirl through the shadowed circus of his mind. The words on his page rambled, a desperate attempt to grasp his feelings in verse. He paused a moment to read the progress.
“One painted mask concealed another,
A veiled veneer;
Can a lover be merely a brother,
And a fractured heart still sincere?”
Rubbish. He’d never been a good poet, though laying lines on a blank surface usually soothed him when he was troubled. Not this time. With a sigh, he crumpled the paper into a tight, furious ball, and hurled it into the trash bin.
He twirled the pen between two fingers and stared at the display screen above the desk. The timer monitored the shuttle’s progress. They’d departed the hideout in the Belt twenty-nine hours ago. Eight hours remained to rendezvous with Thomas and Joan’s contact, and only a few hours after that until the Ruby’s descent. Soon he’d have to face his older brother again, and the reunion he dreaded most of all–meeting his wife once more. His gut performed a queasy leap into his throat when he pictured Ethlyne’s face. Old anger surfaced, and he bent the pen until it snapped in two. The pieces lay split on the desktop, ink spilling like dark blue blood between them. The sight satisfied him somehow, and he delayed wiping it up.
The Everblue party was the most important event in the solar system, but not for the reasons most assumed. The truth about Mars would soon prevail, and the ingenious Goodridger device would be given freely to the worlds, away from the despotic grasp of Silas. Castor chuckled to himself. It would be the ultimate revenge. Silas would have no way to evade this trap, not when every Net channel in the solar system would be tuned in for the revelation. The very weapon his brother wielded in blatant manipulation of the masses would soon backfire.
If only their late father had survived to see this. Things might have turned out very differently. After Richard Blane’s death in a horrible car accident, Silas had lost his common sense, and had now become a monster. Once, years ago, Silas had been courageous and honorable, his goals aimed at humanitarian efforts, such as helping Father unite the off-world colonies and bring an end to the Great War fifteen years ago. As a boy, Castor had loved his brother, and had idolized him in many ways. Now, there was no one else in the worlds whom Castor detested more.
Painful emotions returned when Castor thought of his brother and his wife together, bringing up so many tortured questions. Why, Ethlyne? It could have been with any other man in existence, and I might come to understand, and even forgive you. Why did you consort with the very beast we’re up against?
Betrayal of the most devastating kind had driven a rift between Castor and the woman he cherished. Everything was confused, tangled into a labyrinth of half-hopes and suspicious assumptions. His state of denial had done nothing to cover the torment. He wished he was a stronger man, able to open up and face the consequences. Unfortunately, his resolve wilted every time he thought about it.
Every time he tried to confront Ethlyne, his feelings boiled into a convoluted mess, and the right words to ask her eluded him. Even now, as he tried to write them down, an immense wall drove him mute, making him a fool. He’d never had an easy time expressing himself when his emotions unraveled, and Ethlyne had never done anything so treacherous as this before. It was like an assassin’s strike in the middle of his happiest dream, a shock so complete and profound that his very existence had fragmented. Only pieces remained, and he didn’t know how to begin putting them back together. Broken, like this pen, like the glass which had shattered across their bedroom floor on that awful, fateful morning.
It had been barely two standard months ago, yet it seemed as if years had passed, so far had Castor distanced himself from the memory. He’d departed for a week of meetings and conferences on Farswept a week prior to the tragic discovery. As the Director of all Martian enterprise for Everblue, Castor’s job kept him on the move, thus he was often away from their estate on the surface colony of Secundis. It had never been an issue before. Ethlyne was a solitary person, preferring the company of her horse and her dog to most other people. Castor never had reason to worry about her being alone, or to distrust her in any way. Their living arrangement had worked well.
He now wondered how long the deception had been going on behind his back.
It should have been a joyous morning. He’d taken a leave of absence from work and come home early from Farswept. It was Ethlyne’s birthday, and he’d brought a special gift for her.
He walked into the bedroom. She usually liked to sleep in, but he wanted to surprise her. Giddy with eagerness, he told the light to come on, cradling the gift in his hands. It was an Indolasian fighting fish. Fish were often difficult pets to maintain, the cost of water being too high for most people, but this one was in a small ornate bowl, and required little upkeep. Most women preferred flowers, or jewels. Not his darling wife. Ethlyne lit up in the presence of anything that had fur, scales, or feathers.
He’d found the fish at a market stand in the spaceport on Farswept, and it made him think of her. It was pretty, its long black fins, edged with vibrant red and orange.
The light turned on, illuminated the scene before him, and burned it forever into his mind. Their bed. Their room.
Ethlyne sat up, clutching the covers to her bare chest. Her vivid blue eyes squinted in the sudden brightness.
It wasn’t his wife that surprised him and caused him to drop the fish, drifting so lazy and content in its tiny aquatic world. It was Silas–naked. In bed. With his wife.
These three realizations had struck Castor like the tones of a loud, brash bell, jarred his skull, alerted him to the absurd and shameful truth, as the fish flopped and gasped among broken shards at his feet.
Ethlyne saw Silas, and cried out in terror. She scurried off of the bed, pulling the blankets with her, and crouched in the corner.
Silas, his lean, tattooed body exposed entirely by the move, merely shrugged and smiled.
For a brief moment, he wanted to drive his fist through his older brother’s face. But it was quickly overcome. Disgusted, bewildered, in a daze of disbelief, Castor left the room as quickly as he could. He ignored Ethlyne’s anguished sobs, and didn’t look back.
For three weeks afterward, he’d isolated himself. Ethlyne called him every day at first, swearing she didn’t know how it had happened. Her messages were tearful, frantic.
He deleted them all.
She’d then become angry. At Silas, and at herself most of all. These messages he hadn’t even bothered to listen to all the way through. Deleted, every last one of them. Never had he been so alone, so humiliated, so torn. He even began the process for a divorce.
Only one thing stopped it. Ethlyne sent him a letter–a real, handwritten letter, such as in the days before the Net. She knew him as well as he knew her. He loved anything old-fashioned, having a passion for genuine nostalgia from simpler times.
“I don’t know what happened,” the letter read. “Please, believe me. I miss you, and I love you. Come home to me. I’m waiting. I’m sorry.”
He wept for an entire afternoon. He’d been hiding among his various offices on Mars, applying himself to his work with unnatural obsession. His employees surely hated him for micro-managing things, but he didn’t know what else to do.
Her letter had weakened his pride, and he went to visit her on Secundis. It was tense, awkward. Neither of them had much to say, and only stared at each other. She’d reached for his hand over a quiet, terrifying breakfast table. Her pale fingers drifted like soft clouds onto his own.
He wanted to touch her again, to believe her, but he couldn’t yet. With an icy glare, he’d shoved himself away from the table, and departed in a sullen rage.
Ethlyne had up to that point been his partner in every way, sharing in his plans to overthrow Silas before the travesty of her infidelity. It was too late to reverse events, even if she had betrayed their scheme to Silas. Things were already in motion. The Goodridger was in the hands of Castor’s secret allies and companions, the mercenary spies Mr. Thomas Knolls and Ms. Joan Hunter. Their goal to deliver it to the homeworld rolled forward now, as he rode this shuttle with them to undertake the most dangerous venture of his thirty-three years of life.