Check out the opening scene from my submission to the awesome Afrofuturist space opera, Dark Universe: The Bright Empire, titled, ‘My Sister’s Keeper’.
As Kiara felt herself lifted over the balcony of the 100th floor residence of Skyler Pace, she wondered how far her insides would fly when she hit the steel walkway below. She didn’t scream (Moons don’t scream if you didn’t know), or yell (Moons definitely didn’t yell), but she felt her stomach do a series of backflips as the wind buffeted her face. Besides, Mr. Pace was doing a lot of yelling himself, hurling a litany of curses and obscenities at her as she fell to her impending doom.
Cursing and throwing women off balconies. The wind continued to play havoc with her maroon headscarved afro and stylish dress flapping like some perverse flag in the wind. Guy sure knows how to show a girl a great time.
Maybe women falling from the sky was a normal thing in the less than savory area of the metropolis known as Ziara City, as life continued at its normal mad pace below. Cloud breaking ivory skyscrapers towered over the residents running out to a night of fun and debauchery, while hover cars whisked them to and fro between the gleaming moonlit buildings.
The lights of illuminated holo-screens advertised their latest wares for sale, sometimes alternating back to the latest news of conflict coming out of the outer rim. Some of the laughing citizens glanced up as the reports of piracy in the nether reaches of the Empire or the latest rumors of backroom Cassad government dealings. Most kept it moving towards the neon tinted vid screens that drew them into the poshest clubs and bars that the city had to offer. No, women plummeting to a grisly death was nothing new in one of the many crimes infested hubs of the Cassad Empire. The authorities would just clean it up come morning.
“Zene, I’m falling from the building! Respond!”
All she could hear was static coming from the ear piece. Fine time to choose to wear a nice dress rather than her body armor, which came replete with such do dads as personal shields, and a hover pack system which could have helped a little with her current predicament.
Kiara’s stylish flats had already flown off her feet by this time, as the winds still played havoc with her now tumbling body.
Damn, those cost a bit.
Her blood pumped, adrenaline continuing to build to crazy levels, causing a massive thumping in her chest.
“Zene! I need you now! NOW!”
The wind whipped at the stinging tears now streaming from her eyes. She watched as massive space liners and small personal transport planet jumpers entered the domed edifice of the local Intergalactic Space Hub in the distance. The multi-spherical structure housed the incoming and outgoing vessels of all types, and it was there that Zene was running base ops for this little “throwing young women” from balconies shindig.
For the second time in her life, Kiara began to worry. Not since she’d held her mother’s hand, as she’d wasted away from the Phost virus had she felt so helpless. She’d exchanged gunfire, and knife fights with some of the worst and unhinged the Empire had to offer. She’d ended many a life, and created long-standing bounties on her head for those she’d left maimed with her signature plasma Mangbetu blades.
Mama and Dad, I’m sorry. Zene deserved better.
Every nerve in Kiara’s body began to fry with the force of a hundred electrical currents, there was a sudden tug at her back, and everything went black.
“Zene, I’m falling from the building! Respond !”
The younger Moon looked up with a frown from the holo screen which projected Kiara’s life signs and com chatter. It was now lit up like the bright lights of Ziara City.
“Say what?!” Zene yelled, already moving towards the dropship housed at the top of their Terhical class ship the N’Nonmiton. She climbed the ladder, closed the hatch below her, and tore as fast as her legs would take her to the pilot’s seat. Turning her sister’s com on the PA system of the dropship, all that she could hear was the mad rush of wind and static, causing her to tap frantically on the ships console.
Simple op my ass.
Zene hit a variety of switches, illuminating the opaque holo dash in front of her, bringing up all of the life signs of the sky bound vehicle. She grabbed her two handed throttle, and punched a nearby button to activate the release from the N’nonmiton . The mini-ship (which Kiara had affectionately deemed the Iton) released its clamps from the mothership, blasting off into the nighttime sky. Two space bound cargo ships swerved just in the nick of time to avoid missing the vessel as it blasted towards the skyscraper.
“Toler , I need you!” Zene yelled over the whine of the ships engines, as she pushed the ship to its limits.
“Always here for the Moon ladies,” the ship’s AI system responded in its gravely and baritone voice. “How can I assist?”
“Seems big ‘sis has gotten herself into a spot of trouble.”
“What else is new.”
Zene forced the smile off of her face as Kiara’s static filled voice called out over the PA system,
“Zene! I need you now! NOW!”
Even Toler, in all of his disembodied awareness caught what had created a pain of worry in the pit of Zene’s stomach.
She’s afraid, the pilot thought to herself.
She yelled, “Toler, scan ahead to the Mali Tower! We’re getting closer but all of this cross traffic is playing havoc on my visual!”
A moment’s pause. More hover vehicles coasted to the side in the wake of Zene’s pushing of the dropship to its limits.
“I have her. On visual now.”
And there, plastered across the smaller view screen, her sister dropped like a rock, and the ground approached fast. Zene was going to get there faster.
“Zene, what do you need me to do? At this rate we probably won’t be able to catch her in the ship itself.”
Think, think, think, think……
“Toler, remember running Zoda’s Belt? Salvaging that ore with the shields? At minimum setting.”
Silence as the AI ran the computations through its system.
“Raising shields to their minimal level. Have the impact be on the starboard side. She’s going to need immediate medical assistance after this.”
Zene grimaced, “Well, it beats being splattered across the ground.” She brought the ship into a hard descent, being pushed backwards into her chair. Warning lights and alarms chimed in the small vehicle as she drove the ship down, gloved hands gripping the throttle. By this time, she saw her older sister closer, falling to her certain doom.
As the Moons are always apt to do, Zene pulled a miracle out of nowhere. With a final dip, she angled the small craft right above the heads of a group of passerby’s who fled as the engine’s exhaust pushed out major blazing plumes of air, hovering above the steel walkway of death. Kiara hit the slightly juiced up shields and bounced off the hull, causing her impacted shoulder and arm to break with the electrified impact.
She would’ve yelled out in pain but the elder Moon was already out like a light as the shielding played havoc with her body, bringing the sweet mistress known as unconsciousness. Kiara flipped like a ragdoll into a nearby crop of trees, and hit the grass carpet with a sickening thud.
“I need you to take auto pilot duties Toler.” Zene collected her ROU-24 sidearm and the med pack stashed in the above console.
“Course already set back to the N’Nonmiton. I have the engines primed, and we’re set to head off planet.”
“Life saver as usual Tol’ my man.” Zene headed out the craft’s side hatch.
Laser fire erupted all around her, causing the younger Moon to immediately rush to whatever cover she could find. She felt the impact of a large plasma blast that buffeted the side of the Iton, which spiked worry in her. The dropship could only take so much damage, and the Moons were limited in terms of escape options at the current moment.
No response from her friend through their comm channel. She continued to run, hoping the ships automated repair system would be enough to handle whatever her attackers had thrown at it. Zene felt the continued blasts whiz by her duster, which flapped behind her.
Kiara’s gonna kill me if I get blood on daddy’s jacket.
“Get out the way!” Zene yelled at the people standing in confusion as arms fire littered the area.
The younger Moon, ducked and dodged between trees and shrubbery in her mad dash to get to the prone body of her sister. The shorter of the sisters, and faster, Zene used the confusion to pull out her weapon, laying down blaster fire of her own as the crowds continued to disperse
She felt herself clipped on the side by an errant blast from her attackers, creating a short but loud burst blazing sensation on her left side. Zene fell to the ground holding the hit area, grateful that her body armor was doing its job. She’d be lying if it didn’t hurt like hell though. Dropping the med-pack to the ground, Zene took a moment to run her free hand over her corn rowed head in consternation. The freckled face, chestnut skinned bounty hunter thanked the Gods that she’d taken the time to put on her emerald tinted synth’ body armor. The well insulated nano infused armor usually did a good job of taking a couple of hits, but that was it.
The scorched area where the blast had hit was testament to that.
It was a graze. Just a graze. Kiara needs me. Get the hell up. They’re reloading. Getting closer. Area’s a little more open here. People are still in the way of fire. Get the hell up.
Standing up with a newfound burst of adrenaline, Zene snatched up the med pack, stumbling to the nearby set of parked hover cars, returning more cover fire over her shoulder.
There were three of them, two bruisers, ornate face tattoos and all. One carried an automatic blast rifle, and what Kiara was fond of calling the “the Eradicator”, perched on the shoulder of the larger of the duo of biggun’s. The last was a smaller guy, a maniacal glint in his cybernetic eyes, as he peppered the area around her with his shots from a pretty stylish RC-50 hand cannon. Seemed like the law of averages always determined that it would be two big guys, and one smaller dude yelling orders like some yappy little animal.
Zene turned and threw a few well-placed shots at the trio, causing them to jump behind a holo booth.
Being a part of the Moon Crew, Zene was used to being outmatched, outclassed, and just plain ‘ole out. It was a given, sort of set in stone in the grand scheme of life in the Cassad Empire. The Moon girls reveled in it, as it usually gave them that much more drive to get the job done.
This however, was something new for Zene. Her sister was always there when things got tough, laughing all the while as they punched, kicked, shot, or conned their way out of these hard to tackle situations. By this time, Zene perched herself behind a parked hover vehicle nearby and used this vantage point to see her sister in the shrubbery. Now Kiara was lying prone on the ground nearby, her chest barely rising. The Terrible Trio was perched behind the holo booth on the other side of the park. The more protective plasma shielding usually attached to her utility belt was still in the ship, being left behind in her rush to get to her sister.
Where the hell are the authorities ?
As if reading her mind Shorty Doo Whop (Zene was the resident name giver of the Moon Crew) yelled out from his hiding place, “Don’t expect no one to come saving the day. Mr. Pace saw fit that we’re gonna have a private sit down. The mister is on his way down, but wanted us to make some introductions.”
Want to read more? Head here to get your copy of Dark Universe: The Bright Empire.