[AC] Anthology 2: Dragonfly: Paths Of Destruction (Lost Legacies Part II)

Artifice Comics artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Feb 16 11:32:41 PST 2004

>>From Artifice Comics:


Anthology 2:
"Paths of Destruction"
(Lost Legacies Part II)
By Bill Castonzo

	November 25, 1959

	Henry Burke III stared out upon the endless expanse of stars
twinkling amongst the black sand.
	"It wasn't always this way, you know."
	Burke turned, the arid winds catching the tails of his cloak and
flicking them playfully upward toward the pale desert moon.  The few
grains of sand riding the night breeze scraped unnoticed across the
rooftops of the sparkling city before finally being carried to rest
amongst their brethren on the nearby mountainsides.
	"Oh?" Burke said, raising an eyebrow and causing his domino mask to
shift slightly across his skin.
	"This was the land of my ancestors."
	Somewhere in the distance, over the din of the insomniac city, a
coyote sang his song to the moon.
	Burke studied his companion, whose attire of merely a single thick
blanket waving gently in the breeze looked even more curious than
Burke's spandex on the rooftops of the neon city.  The young Native
American man hugged his robe tighter around his naked form, his eyes
lingering thoughtfully upon the blanket of artificial stars which
masked the desert.
	"A proud place...Of harmony with the spirits of this world.  I still
see it sometimes, in my deepest dreams.  Somewhere beyond all this."
	Burke could feel the sorrow in the young man's words, but said
nothing in response.  Below them, a sinful city went about its
rituals, indifferent to the lament of two of the world's champions
upon its rooftops.
	"This places changes more each year, and it's never for the better. 
It's all business nowadays," Burke commented, recalling a far more
recent time when the city could be called different. "Used to be
innocent, this town.  Well, as innocent as you could get, given the
circumstances.  I mean at least nobody tried to mask their sins with
silk sheets, classy suites and corporate sponsors.  The evils of
unchecked capitalism and ambition."  Burke paused, in his own solemn
	Now it was Burke's companion who could sense a sadness, yet he stayed
silent as Henry looked longingly over the valley.
	"All business nowadays in America..." Burke remarked thoughtfully.
"Ever since the end of the war, from Las Vegas to superheroes, it all
went to big business.  I guess that's the way the world's becoming. 
You can't even tell who the bad guys are anymore, you know?  They're
all around us...Our bosses and our role models, running our businesses
and governments.  Taking down the guys who twirl their moustaches and
wear their long underwear with sheets around their necks doesn't make
a spit of difference nowadays."
	Burke sighed heavily.  The Native American listened intently to the
older man's words, but offered no insights of his own.  His hard-edged
face remained indifferent, but something stirred beyond the
	"That's why I want to leave, get away from all the beauracracy of
this damn country," Burke continued. "Leave the bullshit behind and go
someplace where I can make a difference...Help to shape the way things
are, as they should be.  Create a good place to live."
	"I would caution you to be careful with such endeavors," Burke's
companion said softly. "Despite intentions, they often tend to lead to
more suffering than you would otherwise imagine."
	Burke looked quizzically at the young man, realizing the sadness he
fought to hold back from both his face and his words.  Henry saw the
look of longing in the young Native American's eyes as he gazed out
over the twinkling city, and began to understand.  The wisdom of
centuries of pain.
	"The place of your ancestors..." Burke whispered, letting his eyes
drift over the valley. "And yet you still protect them..."
	"Protect whom, Mister Millennium Man?"
	"The people who live in this valley now.  The people who live in this
city, paved over the bones of your people."
	"It is hard for you to understand?"
	Burke thought of speaking but instead clenched his lips, letting
silence settle upon them.  His gaze wandered upward.  The sirens from
street level brushed against Burke's ears, failing to draw his
attention away from the night sky, muffled by electric luminance.
	"You spend your life amongst the stars but never take the time to
look at them..." Burke whispered to himself.  If his Anasazi companion
had heard him, he made no indication of the fact.  A moment passed.
	"There is life in all things, Mister Millennium Man," Burke's
companion stated softly.
	"Please, no Mister," Burke interrupted.
	"This offends you?"
	"No, it just sounds funny, 'Mister Millennium Man.'"
	"It is our way to pay such respects to men like yourself.  Do you
have another name by which you would prefer I call you?"
	Burke hesitated.
	"Do you have another name besides 'Dragonfly'?"
	"Peter.  Peter Clearwater," the Anasazi answered in turn, eliciting a
sense of guilt in Burke for witholding his own name.  But things were
complicated enough, and he had only just met this fellow hero.
	"You spoke of the life of all things," Burke said, his gaze drifting
back out into the night. "How does that matter against the deaths of
however many thousands inflicted upon your tribe?"
	"All life matters," Peter answered, his eyebrows momentarily dancing
upon his face as he registered Burke's words. "You of all people
should know that.  My life, your life...All the life you see before
you, harbored in this valley.  Death, while often tragic, is at its
core merely another function of life."
	Burke shook his head incredulously.  In the distance, the fires which
remained as a testament to that night's battle were barely discernible
from the sparkling grid of artifical light.  Burke shivered as the
soft desert breeze again tickled his cloak.
	"The elders of my people teach of the spirits of this Earth," Peter
said. "The web of life to which all things, from the rocks to the
insects to the people now of this valley, are innately connected. 
There is nothing more sacred than the preservation of that web."
	"It's still hard for me to understand," Burke said. "I mean, despite
what your beliefs might dictate, how can you not be angry?  How could
you not want to just turn your back on all of this...This bastardized
mockery that has been made of your homeland?"
	"As you would turn your back on this country for want of more
innocent a home?"
	Burke did not reply.  The Anasazi took note of Burke's emotion, but
did not press the issue further.
	"It's simple, really," Peter smiled sadly, refocusing on Henry's
inquiry. "It is not my back to turn."
	"To answer your question, Mister Millennium Man, yes I do often find
myself angry, knowing in my heart that this land is rightfully mine
and my family's.  But this destiny was not mine to choose.  It was the
spirits of this desert...The spirits of my elders which appointed to
me the powers of Dragonfly, and the responsibility which those powers
carry.  I must honor that responsibility."
	"You could have chosen to use your gifts to reclaim your homeland for
your people," Burke protested.
	"I could not," Peter answered gravely, apparently somewhat shaken by
the fellow hero's words. "For such an undertaking is not meant for me.
 The spirit of the world, of the universe, moves as it will.  It is my
charge only to listen to what the spirits have to tell me...This power
I have, it is beyond such petty, selfish motivations as that which you
suggest.  This power bears with it a destiny I must fulfill, in the
name of my ancestors and the great spirits of the Earth."
	"Your destiny is only what you make of it," Burke replied, almost
with a laugh. "Now, don't get me wrong, it's better off that you
	"No man can choose his destiny," Peter interrupted, his voice low and
powerful. "Destiny chooses us.  Despite your skepticism, I assure you
that your destiny has already been chosen, borne from the spirits
which first bestowed upon you your abilities and lost somewhere within
the great wheel of time."
	Burke almost chuckled in dark mockery, but instead thought the better
of himself.  Predestination was a belief clung to by the weak, an
unwanted leftover of ancient, less educated times meant only to stifle
the initiative of ambitious men.  Henry Bruke was sure of it.  But yet
he still found himself staring with glassy eyes at the great rolling
silhouettes of the distant mountains, contemplating Peter's seemingly
ignorant words along with the dark sands of the quiet desert...That
endless expanse of black sand...
	The great black beach under a fervent sun.
	Burke choked on his own breath, and shook the inexplicable vision
from his mind.  Las Vegas swam quickly back into his view.
	"Fate be damned," Burke said indignantly. "I choose to help people. 
I choose to use my gifts as I will."
	"Such power as that which you and I possess is beyond the
machinations of men," Peter replied. "But you do not let yourself see
the patterns which nature has drawn, both for you and all those around
you.  You are using your powers as a shield, a shield from the very
truths which they carry for you.  You are blind, Mister Millennium
	Burke scowled at the Anasazi, who was easily half of Henry's age.
	"That's a rather presumptuous statement," Burke spat.
	"No," Peter answered, his conviction remaining steadfast. "Even now,
you refer to your abilities as 'gifts,' yet all the while you lament
the paradox of myself helping those who would hurt me and my people. 
It is a paradox all those like us, all so-called 'superheroes,' face
throughout our lives.  Gifts, you say?  Thatt is a burden I would wish
'gifted' upon no man.  Would you?"
	Burke remained silent.
	"Make no mistake that these...'gifts'...are a burden, Mister
Millennium Man.  For they shape our lives from the moment we acquire
them, and continue to do so until the day we die.  You must realize
that there is meaning in all things, and that which you may call an
accident or a coincidence, another may call a small manifestation of
cosmic providence.  In the end, regardless of how you acquired your
power, that power irrevocably lays out for you a destiny beyond your
	"Beyond my control?" retorted Burke. "These powers are mine, Mister
Clearwater.  This identity is mine.  I created Millennium Man."
	"Did you?" asked Peter. "Or was he always there, lost in the wheels
of time?"
	Burke responded with only a sneer, for the first time prominently
showing his distaste for riddles and cryptic words.  Peter remained
	"Millennium Man is a path," Peter said. "Just as, for myself,
Dragonfly is a path.  The power guides us down these paths.  But
neither is who we are."
	Again, Burke was silent, and refused eye contact with his companion,
though he very consciously displayed his irritation upon his face.
	"Answer me this, Mister Millennium Man.  When you die, will you still
be Millennium Man?"
	Burke's head lolled slowly away from the desert as he turned back
toward the young Anasazi shaman.  He studied Peter's chiseled
features, contemplating the question.  No answer came to him.
	"Do you believe your powers live on with your spirit?  That they are
such a part of your true self?"
	A vision of sunbolts passing harmlessly through the pearly gates of
Saint Peter's Heaven manifested itself inside Henry Burke's mind.  He
saw his gaudy tights and flowing cape amongst a multitude of majestic
white robes.  He realized how ludicrous it seemed.
	"No," he finally answered.  Peter sighed, perhaps the greatest show
of self-satisfaction a man so humbled before his own beliefs could
	Burke's eyes closed.  His mind felt violated.  A moment passed.
	"The animals are restless tonight," Peter said, squinting into the
	"You can hear them?" Burke asked softly.
	"If I listen.  There is a communion in all things.  As I said, it is
the spirits, the primal essence of this world, which guide me.  I hear
the howls of ancient wolves and the thundering of ancient herds.  They
sense the presence of evil things here."
	"There is always evil here..." Burke muttered, turning away from his
companion and leering down upon the bright city.
	"Your contempt is obvious."
	"Shouldn't it be?" Burke snapped, his facetious words mocking Peter's
pompous sense of intuitiveness.
	"Contempt for that which makes you whole?"
	"Spare me..." Burke growled. "I can hear this argument on the six
o'clock news, whether or not the presence of heroes encourages
	"One does not breed the other...But both must exist.  It is the way
of all things."
	"Now what the hell does that mean?" Burke said. "Listen, friend, I
flew over halfway across the country to stop the Lord of Lament from
killing half the people in this damn city.  You and I got that done. 
What I <b>didn't</b> come all this way for was to get lectured about
my supposed ignorance by some punkass Indian kid probably on some kind
of peace-pipe-hashish-induced power trip."
	"Why do you disrespect my people...?"
	"Don't change the subject!  Do you realize you're talking in damn
circles?" Burke shouted, stepping menacingly toward the shorter man as
his irritation bubbled over. "First you tell me that I'm too stupid to
realize that becoming Millennium Man is actually some divine path, but
now you're saying that stopping evil is pointless...So is that my
path?  My path is to be pointless?!  It's all bullshit."
	"I meant only that a balance between good and evil must be
maintained," Peter said softly. "Perhaps that is the path down which
the spirits guide you..."
	"Or?" Burke snapped, sensing that the Anasazi had yet to finish his
thoughts.  Peter's voice became dangerously low.
	"Or perhaps you are so consumed with yourself that you are too blind
to recognize there is something larger at stake within the destiny of
your power."
	Henry Burke III fell dumbstruck at the gall of the young Anasazi. 
For a long moment they stood with eyes locked, awash in the pale
yellow moonlight and rimmed in the faint neon of the streets below
	 "Do you know how many people I've saved on this 'selfish crusade' of
mine, kid?" Henry snapped caustically. "This is
ridiculous...Ridiculous I'm even listening to this..."
	Yet something in Burke's mind just would not let the argument go.
	"So what about the Lord of Lament?" he pressed. "I mean, what the
hell is the path of his power?  That you and I find a way to negate
his mind-scrambling, beat the shit out of him, and throw him in an
ECPO facility?  Is that his divine destiny?"
	"Perhaps you and he are not so far seperated," Peter answered, his
voice still dark and low. "Realize, no man is born evil.  It is how
one responds to the motions of one's life that molds his true nature. 
The Lord of Lament responded poorly to the gauntlet laid down by his
power.  He will pay for it.  To ignore the responsibility, the path,
of power...That is evil."
	"I don't like what you're implying here," Burke growled.
	"Good," said Peter. "Then I know you are listening."
	Burke leered at the Anasazi contemptuously, contemplating just flying
off at that instant.  Yet even under the cold eyes of a man of Burke's
power, Peter did not falter.
	"A man's destiny always makes itself apparent, if he allows himself
to see it.  But when one has stagnated upon his appointed path, and
will not allow himself to travel further, the paths of others will
intertwine with his own, as did ours with the Lord of Lament's.  It is
the infinite complexity of life's web." Peter's eyes narrowed. "But if
the traveler still cannot fulfill that which is appointed to him...The
spirits may then call him back to them."
	Burke's eyes narrowed.
	"Is that a threat?"
	Unnoticed to Henry Burke amidst his steadily growing emotion, a tear
then rolled lazily down Peter's face, punctuating his sudden wash of
	"You misunderstand," Peter whispered. "I would not threaten you.  It
is a warning.  For tragedy is all that can come of such events.  And
the greater the power...The greater the importance...The greater the
	"This is all bullshit," Burke spat, turning away from Peter.  He
whipped his cloak alongside him, its dark shape snapping angrily in
his wake as he approached the edge of the roof.  A soft glow
encompassed his person. "I'm needed back in New York, I'm sure.  See
to it that the Lord of Lament is shipped safely to ECPO."
	"Of course," the young hero said softly, struggling to be strong
under the weight of his own crippling emotion. "I thank you for your
help this night.  Many more lives would have been lost at the hands of
this Lord of Lament were it not for your intervention.  I am in your
gratitude, Mister Millennium Man."
	"I'm sorry?" Peter said, looking to his fellow hero with confusion.
	Burke grunted a weary sigh.
	"My name is Burke." He half-turned to look Peter in the eye. "And I
expect you never to seek me out."
	"As you wish, Mister Burke.  I thank you again."
	Henry Burke said nothing.  He ascended quickly into the heavens,
leaving in his wake the transluscent shimmer of his personal sunlight
as the only farewell the Anasazi would receive.  He admired it sadly.
	Henry Burke III and Peter Clearwater would never meet again.
	Dragonfly looked to the moon and let his robe fall from his naked
form.  His body had already begun to change.  His muscles slowly
pulsated in powerful growth while his skin hardened and turned hues of
green and brown.  The membranous wings sprouted from the array of bone
fragments which appeared along the top of his spine while his long,
stiff tail flowed seamlessly from the bottom.  His hawkish nose
retracted into his face as the flesh of his eyes bulged and divided
into compound insectoid orbs.
	A sacred ancient ritual, performed by only one man of each
	Peter took the form of neither man nor insect, but rather a unique
combination, a form bestowed upon him by the great spirits of the
desert.  As the transformation ended, he called out to them in his
native tongue, his baritone voice quavering in a serenade joined
faintly by distant coyotes.  Together, they sustained the tribal
rhythm of an ancient song sung for fallen soldiers.
	High above the Sierra Nevada, the man they sung for shed silent
tears, for reasons he did not even know.

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