Excerpt for Conflict: A Study in Heroic Contrasts by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Conflict

A Tale of Heroic Contrasts

The First Episode of Archetypical Musings

Brian K. Morris

RISING TIDE Publications



Conflict

Brian K. Morris

Original Freelance Words edition Copyright © 2014 by Brian K. Morris

Revised Rising Tide edition, Copyright © 2018 by Brian K. Morris

Published at Smashwords


Edited by Cookie Morris

Art Director: Trevor Erick Hawkins

Original Cover © 2014 by Brian K. Morris

Smashwords Cover © 2018 by Cookie Morris



All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission.


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Brian K. Morris / RISING TIDE Publications

Lafayette, Indiana

www.RisingTide.pub


Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.


Book Layout © 2016 BookDesignTemplates.com


Conflict/ Brian K. Morris. – 2nd ed.

ISBN 978-0-6922515-9-1



Contents

Author’s Introduction

Conflict

About the Author

Author’s Introduction

Many authors speak of "getting into a character's head." How do we mere mortals delve into the psyches of those who possess powers and abilities far beyond our own meager talents? What might we find them pondering during the times of their greatest dismay, their rare quiet moments, and their most awesome triumphs?

Would their thoughts flow like poetry? How unwavering might their ethics be? When did they cross the threshold between being a mortal and a titan? Were their musings different when they were completely and unashamedly para-human, as opposed to disguising themselves to fit in among us lesser beings?

How similar are they to us? How alien might they truly be?

Legends of old like Gilgamesh or Hercules or Paul Bunyan are to us what Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Captain Marvel or Batman will be to future generations. They represent a heroic archetype that is familiar but could really apply to many other characters. The ubermensch from beyond our Solar System, the baby raised by a different species who takes on their most powerful attributes, the patriot who solves the country's problems with a rousing speech and a crippling left hook, there's more than just one heroic figure that fills each archetype, but not as many as there will one day be.

So how could I present these stories, keep them familiar and relatable, present them to strangers to the comic book world to enjoy and at the same time give a grin and a knowing wink to the initiated?

I've adopted a style here that's a little more purple, shall we admit, than what I use in my Kindle Worlds pastiches or regular novels, such as Santastein or The Skyman Battles the Master of Steam. It's as much a writing exercise for me as I hope it will be entertaining for you. Future offerings will contain different literary styles that I hope will reflect the hero's (in a non-gender specific sense of the word) inner workings and still be fun to read.

And the names have been omitted to add to the fun while keeping the lawyers at bay. That's how we roll.

Archetypical Musings is the first of what I hope will be a series of short stories exploring the super-heroic mindset. Whether you gave up comic books long ago or are still reading and enjoying the four-color adventures of our modern titans, I present these stories for your enjoyment.


May the zephyr winds that blow on high always lift your cape.


Brian K. Morris

July 2014


Conflict

I am contradiction and conflict. Hear me roar!

My boot heels sound like gunfire on the deserted street of the big city. I am as far from the lights and joyful noise and energy and life of the downtown as I am from the dimmest light in the night sky. This neighborhood that once knew such pleasures of life generations ago has been neglected and overrun with the bottom-feeders of society.

He used to live here. This is where I pick up his foul spoor.

I was created by immortal hands to be perfect and blessed by now-unfollowed gods to be wiser, faster, and more powerful than they themselves could ever be. I was sent to the civilized world to lead mankind from their barbaric ways. Men and women of power deny themselves their dreams in the hopes of a moment of my attention while evildoers pray I never learn of their vile presence.

But to me at this moment in time, no one is more important than a little girl who is lost, torn from her mother's embrace. Young lady, I shall find you! I swear by all the gods above and below. You shall be returned to your mother and your delinquent father brought to justice.

Their eyes rake over me from their hiding spots, fearful and wanting. The vermin all wish me gone, but I won't leave until my mission is done. Some fantasize me as helpless before their wonton urges, powerless and compliant. I am anything but either … just ask my mother.

The young girl was barely out of grade school for the day when her out-of-state father stole her for purposes unknown. He once lived here before the mother of his child successfully worked to free herself and her daughter from poverty's relentless grasp. In the process, she also liberated herself from the father of her only baby and his self-indulgent, self-destructive ways.

It would make sense that the girl's kidnapper would flee to familiar territory. Thus, I am here in the hopes of challenging his macho arrogance, compelling him to defend himself against a "mere woman."

When the Amber Alert went out, I felt a moral obligation to search for the girl. My fellow crusaders for justice attempted to talk me out of this quest, hinting that my abilities were better suited for larger tasks.

Reuniting a daughter with her loving mother? If there's a greater mission on Earth, I've yet to find it.

My armor is a costume that clings to my body like a second skin of primary colors. Red and blue silks caress the fluid curves of my form as my scarlet boots cling to my calves and ankles. My clothing shines like neon under street lamps that wring the final ergs of light from their yellowed bulbs. The only exterior sign of darkness that I wear are at my wrists, pitted metallic reminders of the price of submission and the cost of liberation.

"Where is she?" I call out. I wait for an answer that I don't expect. "If I have to tear down every building on this street to find her, you know I can do it."

A deadbolt slides home to my left. Before the echo of that sound can decay, I hurtle towards it just as a second lock engages. Before the third deadbolt slides home, my boot sunders the door into matchsticks.

The punk backs away, clawing at his worn leather jacket. The fabric's original sheen is gone, marred by old food stains and crudely-drawn gang symbols, sigils of protection in one kingdom and a death sentence if seen in another. His snarl reveals a lack of pride in his rarely-seen smile and his sweat stinks of chemicals.

To defend myself, I place my fists on my hips and allow him to stare at me, at my unattainable features. As his projected desires and his terrors fight for dominance, I permit him to reach for his weapon.

Years of poor decisions lead to more of the same. His addictions leave his abilities almost to that of a child's as the mouth of his pistol wavers like his resolve. He tries not to meet my gaze as he pulls the trigger.

Growing up in a nation of loving warriors, we challenge death by turning it into our amusement. We reduce the sting of death by converting its instruments into game pieces. We transform survival into recreation and defeat the final sleep's hold upon us.

Instinctively, I compute the velocity of the projectile, the angle of deflection, my reaction time versus the muzzle flash and in the fight to live, I smile at this hoodlum's presumption.

The bullet tears forth from the weapon, spinning straight and true for my midsection, I raise one of my metal gauntlets and deflect the bullet's path towards the ceiling. The second and third shots rebound into the floor. He fires towards my heart and I bring up my other wrist to return the projectile along a path that runs mere centimeters from his left eye. This startles him sufficiently that he pulls off one last shot, this one careening towards my face.

Perhaps it was over-confident of me, but I deflect the bullet off one gauntlet, towards the other which in turn sends the slug flying towards his weapon. Less than a heartbeat later, the deformed lump of metal tears the pistol from its user's grasp. Deprived of his so-called advantage and a crutch to his imagined power, the man falls to his knees, his hands clasped tightly as he pleads for mercy.

I whisper the girl's name in tones that rebound from the walls like shrapnel. "If you know where she is –"

A leer crosses his face. "What'll I get if I do?"

I lean forward, wrinkles adding shadow to my porcelain features. "Instead, ask what you'll get if you don't."

He swallows a lump of fear, an act I shouldn't enjoy as much as I do. I lean closer to the man, almost choking on the smell of stale beer and decay. "Where is she?"

Summoning up the last of his false courage, the punk says, "You can't make me talk." He sneers with false confidence, "I know everythin' that goes down in this part of town. So whaddya think you'll get from me?"

I pull my greatest weapon from my belt and whisper, "The truth."

The weapon gleams in the poor light, almost as if it emits its own illumination. He can't avert his gaze from its golden glow as I loop it over his shoulders and yank it taut. His arms now might as well be paralyzed for as much as he can move them or want to. His eyes go glassy and a corner of his mouth lifts in the purest high he could ever feel, one I hope to never have to inflict on him ever again.

"Where is the girl?" I demand to know, not just ask.

"No idea, lovely woman. I have no idea who'd know." His yellowed teeth almost glow in the light of his bonds. "I was just foolin' with ya."

I pull my cord from around his body with the speed of a hummingbird's wings. The abrupt return to reality brings tears to the tough's eyes. He silently pleads with me to return him to his state of unnatural honesty and the bliss that comes from it, but I already turn on my heel and hurt his pride by ignoring him. I demonstrate my latent cruel streak in forsaking him.

His eyelids flutter, keeping tears of disappointment at bay. The weapon reveals all truths and many of the ones we keep hidden are the most unbearable of all.

Little do I realize the potentially unfortunate consequences of my actions. Even before his tears dry, he is on his phone, contacting his cronies, probably chronicling our encounter. And did he just take a picture of the two of us together to post on the World Wide Web?

My sin is that I don't really care what he does. I have other priorities.


* * *


The villain saw everything he needed to see from miles away. He readied himself for the inevitable combat. He ducked behind the fully-stocked bar, disinterested in the contents of the mesmerizing rainbow of alcohols.

His specially-created machine hummed and the power cord appeared to be firmly attached to the outlet. The villain nodded with satisfaction. He smoothed down his oily hair, wiping his hand on his precisely-tailored slacks as a veil of darkness slowly formed around the device and slowly spread until it enveloped the entertainment area.

Smoothing out the windsor knot in his necktie, the villain prepared himself to become a host to his new entertainments.

His smartphone buzzed for attention. With a swipe of his stunted finger, the screen came alive with a picture of a disheveled young man trying to grin bravely as a goddess scowled behind him.

Just at that moment, the front door of the apartment opened and two people entered. The father tugged at his kidnapped daughter's forearm, dragging her into the main living room of the apartment. He wore the same clothing from two days before that he seized from a dresser drawer in haste. She wore the latest garish garments as dictated by her favorite mall stores and her ill-informed peer group. He sweated with barely-repressed terror while she sniveled and dragged her palm across her teary eyes.

The host drank in their fear. His opiate flowed freely, as invisibly as a breeze, but as tangible as a gale racing over the Atlantic. He luxuriated in their raw emotions and like with a vampire, they bled to add to his power.

His sadistic amusement was merely a bonus.

The game now begins, he thought, and just in time, as he peered into the phone's screen. Come to me and let's dance once again, my princess.


* * *


Once outside, I contact my peers in the hopes that they fare better than I.

From a secret home beyond the reach of most men, the detective tells me he's found nothing. "They're laying low," he growled. "Too low. Probably already had a store of supplies waiting. Most kidnappers don't have so much forethought going into a crime like this, so my guess is it's a pro. I'm checking to see if someone's bought a large supply of food recently in the vicinity of the abduction. I'm also monitoring the social media sites. A lot of these guys love to brag about how much smarter they are than the rest of us."

He pauses, and you can almost hear him thinking. "Your boy runs true to form. How disappointingly predictable."

An orphan himself, I know the detective shall work harder than anyone alive to make certain the young girl will be saved and then safe.

Then another orphan speaks into my earpiece from another galaxy. His voice calms, soothes, as it always does, a trait that gives no evidence that it belongs to a man whose very existence rewrites the laws of Physics. "I'm a little busy at the moment, but if I can help, I'm there."


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