Dark Universe: The Bright Empire/ ‘My Sister’s Keeper’, by Robert Jeffrey II

Check out the opening scene from my submission to the awesome Afrofuturist space opera, Dark Universe: The Bright Empire, titled, ‘My Sister’s Keeper’.


Planet Ziara

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.

90th floor.

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.

80th floor.

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.

70th floor.

“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.

60th floor.

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.

50th Floor.

Her blood pumped, adrenaline continuing to build to crazy levels, causing a massive thumping in her chest.

“Zene! I need you now! NOW!”

40th Floor.

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.

30th Floor.

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.

20th Floor.

Mama and Dad, I’m sorry. Zene deserved better.

10th Floor.

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.

“Toler! Respond!”

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.

Break out the fake hacking, techno, martial arts, and black leather! Why a Matrix relaunch could work.

I’m a huge fan of  The Matrix, and from a creative side of things, an even bigger fan of the overall universe/ concept of the property. On the other side of things, I’m lukewarm to outright “will turn the movie off because I’ve been bored to tears” when it comes to Matrix: Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions.

The movie, along with a few other creative sources, propelled me into my career as a writer of all things super heroic, epic, sci-fi, and all around kick ass.

So when I heard that Warner Brothers was giving some thought to possibly restarting the franchise, I thought I’d just share a few opinions. Really trying not to rant here.

There’s enough of that on the internet, so call this a “calm laying out of ideas/ thoughts”.

Original Recipe or Crispy is the true answer we seek……

-In the second movie Col. Sanders, I mean The Architect, established that there had been other “One’s” in the vein of Neo.

He explained that fights/conflicts like the ones of the Matrix trilogy had happened before, suggesting that this was sort of an endless loop.

So like it or not, the Wachowski’s left the door open for more stories to possibly be told for a concept which they no longer completely own (when they sold the idea to New Line Cinema/ Warner Bros.).

Unless they signed a kick ass deal which put the complete rights of the franchise in their hands, then WB always had the possibility of telling more stories in this universe without them, and they inadvertently (or maybe that was their plan from the beginning) provided a really solid jumping off point for future stories to be told.

It would be nice for Warner Bros to bring them in on a creative front, but legally speaking, they probably aren’t obligated to. Definitely sucks, I know.

Or not, which leads me to my next point……

-As much as I love The Matrix (one of my favorite movies of all time and a trend setter for modern sci-fi film) the subsequent sequels were a’ight to just horrible. I’m not a huge fan of the Animatrix as a whole. Enjoyed some of the shorts. Others just weren’t my cup of tea.

So any other stories that could be told in this universe, which is extremely expansive, should be told probably by someone else.

I like Sense 8 well enough, and even enjoyed that Channing Tatum roller skating in the sky space opera movie they directed, but with the subsequent Matrix sequels and other movies they’ve directed since then (though I hear Speed Racer has a cult fan following) I’d rather have them on as producers, or hands off, sort of in the vein of Lucas and the current round of Star Wars.

-There are some awesome creators who can tackle this material in the form of screenwriters and directors who could kick ass in this universe, and I think they deserve a chance to tell stories set in the world of The Matrix. Once again, look at the Star Wars franchise, and the hiring of such modern/ talented storytellers as J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, Phil Lord and Chris Miller to continue to expand this universe.

Heck, I’d be up for writing an expanded universe comic for The Matrix.

Warner Bros: hit a dude up.

-I think between this possible relaunch and the burgeoning Harry Potter film-verse restart with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, I feel that Warner Bros. is trying to get a viable franchise in their hands because the DC film-verse is currently just not cutting it.

Though the Matrix movies steadily got bad in quality, they still made a crap ton of money, and that’s all these studios care about.

-Lastly, don’t do a reboot. Just pick up with another The One as suggested by Col. Sanders. Create a new story, new conflict, higher stakes, etc.

That’s about all that I have. Just a few opinions.

Please discuss below, share, and be civil. 🙂

Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018.

I hated and loved this year in the same breath. At times my anger towards this year has grown to mountainous proportions, leaving me in a  valley of grief, frustration, and anger. At other times, I’ve been so filled with elation that I can feel myself about to burst with happiness.

My father died this year after battling cancer for a number of years. My Dad. The Q Dog. The New Yorker. Columbia University graduate. Worked on Harold Washington’s campaign. The guy I could talk politics with to the wee hours of the night. My protector. A father. A husband. A brother. A friend. The man who supported me in all of my nerdy endeavors, and helped to cultivate my love of comics, sci-fi, fantasy, and all geeky/ creative things.

I miss him so damn much I find myself at times breaking down. That’s where the valley of grief and hurt come into play.

It’s getting better though.

On the other side of the coin, this was the year that we successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign for a second/ larger print run for Route 3: Vol 1. The year where folks stepped up and put their money behind a seemingly unknown comic book series, and just took a damn chance on us. Then the book was nominated for a Glyph Comics Award. There’s that elation part.

To follow this up, I was chosen for the 2017 DC Comics Writers Workshop. After my second year of applying, I’m chosen along with five other talented writers amongst a field of THOUSANDS of other applicants.

Once again there’s that elation part. That I’m getting closer to my ultimate dream of making a full time career out of writing. A career where I can take care of my family, and just be happy with what I’m doing for the 9-5.

But guess what life has to say? F’ that noise. Found out about a month or so back I’ve getting laid off of my full time job.  My third lay off since I’ve been out of college, from a job where I was at for three years. From a job which literally was just to pay the bills.

I’m ranting now. I know. That’s what this year has felt like. Just one long rant with seemingly no break in sight.

At the end of it all though I’m probably more at peace now than at any time in my life. There’s that overarching concern of getting a job, but I’m not worried. I can do this.

So let me just leave you with this: life can be excessively crappy. Like “kick you down to the ground, and laugh at you while you try to climb back up” crappy.

At the end of the day though the way you handle the crappy moments is to just exist, and do you. That’s why the worry, and concern are now to a minimum. I’ve made it my goal to find a CAREER and not just a JOB. It’ll be difficult as heck, but I’m going to move forward and stay out of that valley.

See you later 2017.

Hello 2018.

DC Comics Writers Workshop :-)

Well this happened. 🙂

From The Hollywood Reporter

How DC Is Betting on Tomorrow’s Comic Book Talent

“With high-profile comic book projects like Dark Nights: Metal and Doomsday Clock waiting in the wings, it might come as a surprise that DC Entertainment is looking even further into the future. Wednesday sees the announcement of its Class of 2017 Writers Workshop, featuring six writers taking part in the company’s initiative to promote new talent inside its line-up, and to the industry beyond.

Heat Vision can exclusively reveal that the writers participating in this year’s Writers Workshop program are Magdalene Visaggio (Kim & Kim, Quantum Teens Are Go), Sanya Anwar (1001), Joey Esposito (Pawn Shop, Captain Ultimate), Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Last Sons of America, Warlords of Appalachia), Robert Jeffrey (Route 3, Radio Free Amerika), and Ryan Cady (Big Moose).

The Writers Workshop is one of two parallel programs making up the larger DC Talent Development Workshop initiative (the other being, perhaps obviously, an Artists Workshop program). 2017 is the second year the initiative is in full-swing, with last year’s launch following a 2015 pilot program.”

The instruction that I’ve received over these past few weeks has been invaluable, and I’m going to do my best to make you guys and gals proud. Thanks to DC Comics for this opportunity, and many thanks for all of the well wishes and support. 🙂