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Codex Immortus: Voin Zhenshchina

 

Soho, London, 1961

 

Verily, 'twas a most pleasant summer evening, with long shadows from dusky red sun, and the air, in those days, was not quite so $£%" as it had been in years before or years hence. This was London, greatest city in the world. Home to the swinging sixties and everything most splendid that circled that decade of style and hedonism. 

 

Club Immortus, London, was the oldest of the Clubs, and arguably the most splendid. Paris had better food, Freedom City had better function. But the club in London had a lovely feel, of warm old wood, crackling fire, and musty smoke. The Library was full of wonderful old tomes, some extremely rare editions, and even some very dangerous eldritch texts that would threaten the brains of any reader. 

 

Mr. Murk had money and contacts everywhere. Operating from the shadows, he had tendrils in many pies. Much of it was due to hard work, grind, experience, and canny judgement, mixed with a true skill in making friends (or in some casing exerting leverage on useful enemies). His visions of the future had, of course, considerably helped. 

 

An invite had been sent to Voin Zhenshchina, for an evening drink. The Ministry of Powers had been most helpful in procuring this invite.

 

Steak and wine, straight from Paris. Mr. Murk waited patiently in the dining hall, mulling over his Russian. A bit rusty, but still there. 

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Klara Svoboda was annoyed. Not by the invite this was an unusual opportunity if the rumour were true, but by the way in which she'd been informed that she would be attending one of those grey suited gentlemen that the civil service seemed to have in abundance. The fact that it had interrupted a planned date, and that fact that this sometimes backward culture would let them call it a date, had not improved her mode. The only good thing was that an angry seven-foot-tall woman striding purposely through the streets didn't have to worry about anyone getting in the way, people were quite keen to get out of her way!

 

By the time she'd gotten to the club she was much calmer, taking time to smooth down her checked plaid dress, which thanks to her height was a fashionable mini skirt, and checking her hair before walking into the room to meet this mysterious gentleman.

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Mr. Murk

 

For the time being, out of the sunlight, Mr. Murk was clothed in the murk, softening his features. He looked like a blind old man in a tweed suit. A human being. He would discard this cloth in time, but his appearance was not best for first impressions. 

 

"Good evening, madam. Thank you so much for coming" he smiled at Klara when she arrived in the dining hall of Club Immortus. He looked straight at her, followed her movements, despite white milky blind eyes. 

 

"My name is Erasmus Murke, so glad you could come. I am a lawyer, by trade. Businessman, too..." he explained, ordering some wine (Merlot) from the attendant. 

 

"Madam, you are a most intersting woman!" he said broadly, relaxing in the leather chairs of the dining room. "I have heard much about you. Quite the history, I am sure. *Would you prefer Russian, such a wonderful language! forgive me if I am a little out of practice...*"? he asked, in Russian. 

 

He spun the accent in subtle ways; giving it the tones and inflections of the Russian lands that Voin grew up in. A feeler, to see if his suspicions were correct!

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<"Thank you for inviting me. And whilst some might call me amazing and a wonder, just Klara will be fine. And Russian isn't my mother tongue, but it seemed right to use at the time. You speak Russian very way by the well Mr Murk."> her accent was neutral with no real regional accent

 

"But as we're in this wonderful city let us use English." her English only carried a faint accent "I am surprised that you do not know my stories, the papers seem to love to tell my scandalous tales of my unnatural desires."

 

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Mr. Murk

 

Mr. Murk nodded quietly, slipping into English. "Oh I know the stories. Some of them might even be true, I dare say. But I have cannot say any desire is unnatural, merely cruel, kind, or pleasurable, it is only the former that concern me" he explained. 

 

"Nothing really shocks me after witnessing the indulgences of Pope Alexander VI" he explained. "And I have seen much of similar". 

 

The Murk melted away, and he appeared as he was. Homo Nandethalensis!

 

"My name is Ebenezer Murke, although I was not born as such. I have had many names, and was born fifty thousand years ago. I am immortal, and, as I understand it, so are you..."

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At Murk's sudden reveal caused an unusual reaction in Klara who looked quite pleased with herself.

 

"So the stories were true after all! As the stories go thousands of years ago the Shamans and those of learning would meet and discuss peace between the wandering tribe in the shadow of the Golden Mountain in what is now Altai, or as the Soviets call it Gorno-Altai Autonomous region. It is said that at some of those gathering a strange looking man would walk among them and talk of peace, or at least his principles had spread among the wise." the way she told the tale it obviously held a special place for her

 

"Thanks to that wisdom our city is at peace and death has not darkened it doors for longer than this country has existed."

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Mr. Murk

 

Mr. Murk swam in the success, but did not drown in it. "I am pleased" he said slowly and with gravity. 

 

"Yes, stories are true. Not all of them, and rarely complete. How they twist and mutate through the ages" he chuckled a little. "I do not attempt to correct them, and I sometimes nudge them away from truth. For I operate in the shadows, not the sun" he explained. "You might appreciate why" he added, indicating his blind opaque eyes. 

 

"And for the most part, such efforts reap reward, as you note. Alas, the world is changing, and I must change too. I cannot leave the shade, the gloom, at least, not yet, but it is perhaps time to push rather than nudge. And times will bring greater changes, both threats and marvels" he explained. 

 

"I can see the fog of the future, despite my blindness. Perhaps because of it. I have made preparations for centuries, studying law and philosophy, developing business and a spider web of contacts. I fancy I shall need them all in times to come" he said, pouring Voin some of the merlot that arrived. It took some fumbling, but after fifty thousand years he knew how to handle his blindness well. 

 

"May I ask what you plan for the future? Or do you plan at all?" he asked with a smile.

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"Please at least allow me a moment, it's rare that I get to meet a true legend." there was for a moment a genuine smile on her lip

 

"There is one flaw in our paradise, comfortable as we were there was little desire to help those outside the city. We watched the chaos going on in the world and did nothing, after the slaughter of the Great War I couldn't just sit and watch. So when those hateful men in Germany came to power I had to do something, and I still would even though it cost me dearly." she paused and gathered herself for a second

 

"This country isn't perfect but it seems to be willing to change, the young want something new after the war. Whilst officially I help keep the country safe from meta's, I shall speak up about those who cannot love those that they choose."

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Mr. Murk

 

"Ah yes, I know of what you speak" said Mr. Murk, sadly. "Modern society - ha - a name of hubris - has diminished much cruelty and horror, and yet somehow managed to contrive new forms" he sighed. 

 

"But change is inevitable. What form will it take? I wonder. And sometimes, I see". 

 

He ordered steak, rare, from the waiter, who seemed to know that Erasmus would order thusly. The polite middle aged, thin man, full of attentiveness, turned his attention to Voin. "And the lady? We will attempt to procure whatever you may wish. Fresh from Paris! Excellent cook!"

 

Mr. Murk waited for Voin to take her order, smiling with a touch of enigma. 

 

"Perhaps when you have ordered, you can tell me your thoughts on being immortal..."

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After a few minutes of thought, Klara ordered a simple Chicken salad before turning her attention to the question at hand.

 

"I'm not yet two hundred yet whilst I've watched most of the planet I've never experienced those places. Once the Ministry trusts me enough to I hope to travel around the world, especially America. Fancy spending time in a city full of superheroes!" there was genuine excitement in her voice, for all its trouble this world hadn't ground her down yet.

 

"And when the technology is available, or I can once again travel home, I'd like to have some daughters of my own. If I manage to meet the right woman of cause."

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Mr. Murk

 

"It will happen" said Mr. Murk, confidently. "Unless the world is destroyed or subject to one of the myriad of disasters that are now possible" he added, more bleakly. 

 

The food arrived, and it was of fine calibre, fresh from Paris. Club Immortus was not known for its food, but its food was certainly above average fare, without excellence (by and large). And it did indeed have a Parisian touch. Mr. Murk was of course quite experienced in eating blind, using his nose and touch to work. 

 

"I hope you will be instrumental in avoiding disaster. You certainly seem to have the will and strength to be so instrumental" he explained, savouring the rare steak and the comnplex wine. 

 

"As, I hope, so will I, although I lack direct strength" he conceded. "Another issue does lurk within my heart, however. The fate of the immortal in the mortal world. Many consider it blessed. I am not convinved, yet thankful I have seen the marvels of the modern world, and the diminishing of life's horrors that go with them" he explained. 

 

"Irrespective of the benefits or otherwise of immortality, it leads to problems. The world is still ruled by passions, and envies. We are vulnerable to injustices, both in judgement and execution, and few will defend us from these, if any. We must be held to fair account, but therein lies my concern...will we be?"

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"I might have been trained to fight but I'd like to think I'm an agent of peace. I hope to usher this world to be the peaceful paradise like my home."

 

For a few minutes she was quiet as she eat some of the most excellent food and listened to Murk's pitch.

 

"I do not consider myself above those who are not gifted with immortality, and whilst I might not agree with all of them I will abide and submit to there laws. I will defend and enforce the law for everyone be them mortal or otherwise."

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Mr. Murk

 

"I doubt peace will rule every day, or every heart" replied Mr. Murk, sadly. "Wars may happen less, but their days shall be horrific like none before". 

 

"The law, yes...the law. 'Tis the best of things, by my estimation. Its follies whilst present, small price to pay for its fruit" he explained. "I do not propose that the flesh nor soul of an immortal is above a mortal one, nor beyond it. Merely different in its possibilities" he explained. 

 

"Consider death. If you had to, would you save a young man of twenty, or an old man of ninety, if forced to choose? And why so? True, you may say that the young man has yet to live, and in this sentiment, I would agree. But how do we define having lived, I wonder?" he mused. 

 

"By what metric do we make these calculations? I would not have any man die, no matter their crime, no, not one. And yet the death penalty is here. What years of life would an immortal lose, if sentenced to death?"

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"Philosophy huh! I was always more of a warrior than a scholar but I try my best." she managed a quick smile before becoming more serious

 

"I have not been in this world long but I have seen many people during the war. Some people can be ninety and never have lived whilst someone of eighteen might have lived a full life. Though I admit that might be due to the way that war tends to accelerate such thing. But in the moment I wouldn't spend the time to judge their quality of life I would try to save those that I could and worry about it later."

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Mr. Murk

 

"An evasive answer" replied Mr. Murk, with good cheer. "Nothing wrong with it, but it was evasive..." he chuckled slightly. "Most would do as you, at least, most worth talking about. Alas, I have lived enough time to have been put in decisions where the only decision is what is the least worst thing to do" he sad slowly and sadly. "Sentiment might direct the heart at that moment, but can be the engine of later lamentation". 

 

"I will speak my concern here. Envy can lead to the lust for blood. And the lust for blood can lead to death. I am concerned with protecting the lives of all, and yet, the ramifications of killing an immortal weigh heavily on me". 

 

"But this may seem arrogant to you. Yet, in an infinite life, one has infinite chance to redeem. It is not a question of if one redeems, merely of when one does. As can be said of any quality. It is not a question of if we will do something, but of when. This leads to complexity..."

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"Evil might be too strong a word but I've met men like that, shook him by the hand ad allowed them to parade me around as a Peoples Hero. If I had known what he had done I would probably have ended his life there and then!" she sipped her drink to calm herself, even now it was obviously a raw wound.

 

"I thought the Soviets would be better than most, what with it's principles in theory being similar to my home. Most of the people are apart from a few bad eggs, but those eggs tend to be the ones in charge. But I guess I'm getting off track again!she managed a chuck before continuing

 

"If an immortal became a tyrant like that I would do all that I could to stop them, maybe even kill them if possible. But then I guess it comes down to Quis cutodiet ipsos custodes?"

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Mr. Murk

 

"Mmmm. I would do all I can to stop them, too. Not kill them, unless I had too" he answered. 

 

"As you say, who watches the watchmen? And so on, ad infinitum. For is it not the case, that whoever watches the watchmen must then be watched themselves? The problem is only solvable with a circular pattern, that of democracy, or having no watchmen at all, the form of anarchy. Myself, having lived with both, I see both have merits, but anarchy is vulnerable to the rule of strength. I would chose democracy. An accountability to all..."

 

"But more than democracy, I would chose. Law! A code! Something directed and not dictated by passion" he said, showing passion himself. 

 

"Passions are the root of cruelty and of love. And how we love cruelty when we are cruel. How cruel can love be, when we are in love. I would not constrain them, but I would give us all some protection from their dangers" he explained, finishing his meal with an elegant smacking of lips. 

 

"Have you considered the danger of immortality? The potential for promethean torment? Not only are you easily dehumanised, but your agonies could be unending..."

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"My homeland has had centuries of experience of near immortality and whilst we love as deeply as anyone else, though much more enlightened than the outside world. In all that time we've had no problems of anti-social people. I'm proud of all of our achievements, apart from the unwillingness to help the world at large."

 

She chews on the, as advertised, excellent food for a few moments before adding.

 

"Though this world does have a way of getting under you skin, I guess it's much easier to be an angel in paradise!"

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Mr. Murk

 

"It is indeed" agreed Mr. Murk, ordering coffee. "I am not of palate for desert, but please help yourself. The cheese is excellent, if I might make suggestion" he offered. 

 

Patting his mouth, he continued on the matter. "My profession, for the last century or two, has been that of law. And...other things" he explained, a touch of the cryptic in his words. 

 

"I have come to believe that it is the finest philosophy, or, if you will, the least worst one. Certainly not without flaw, but a useful tool. With this is mind, I have prepared a codus immortus. A club, if you will, of immortals who have a code of practice or honour, to shield us from undue passions of the mortal world, both in terms of prejudice of thought, and prejudice of action.."

 

A  touch of drama in his voice, he continued. 

 

"I for one, do not wish to be captured, tortured, and dissected ad infinitum - quite literally ad infinitum - for the secretes of immortality!"

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At his recommendation, Klara takes a few minutes to examine the dessert options and chooses something suitably indulgent. It also gave her time to consider Mr Murk's comments.

 

"All of my family are warriors since my Great Grandmother, and possibly before though I don't know sure, it's all that we've trained to do. Whilst the city hasn't been threatened in generations it's a job we've taken very seriously."

 

She pondered for a few second before adding.

 

"What the saying they have when all you have is a hammer? I'm not sure you idealistic organisation has the need for a warrior"

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Mr. Murk

 

Mr. Murk sat back, sour in mood. "Lamentably, war is the only thing that will stop war" he grunted. "I like it not, but when the sword is at your throat, you wish you had a shield!" he explained, almost smiling at the words. 

 

"I am not a warrior, nor ever will be. It is true that over the many centuries I have inevitably been in a few fights and scrapes..." he began, pointing to the scar running down his face. "And whilst I have never studied or applied myself to the martial disciplines, I have picked up a few things on the way, as one does"

 

"But my...organisation...as you say, would not turn away a sword or a shield, or you, on the basis of having no need for you. In truth, we need nobody for we are not an organisation. I am talking about a code. Perhaps, if you wish, a club, or society. The most one could say about owning it is that I run this building. Manager, you might say" he said, stroking the leather arms of the chair. 

 

All in all he was pleased with club Immortus. 

 

"You could use several words for this code, from cabal to secret society to social club. I am not sure any truly fit..."

 

 

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"We always made sure that those who may one day decide war were those who didn't want to fight, the problem with anything is once you know how to do something it's your solution. Blessed are the peacemakers as they say."

 

She dug into her pudding for a while before adding

 

"It sounds like a wonderful idea and I wish it every luck, but..." she paused and smiled before adding "What's that phrase It's not you, it's me? I want to experience this world and discover my place in it, I want to know if I worth joining such a thing. I may still decide that I want nothing of this world and return to my home never to return."

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Mr. Murk

 

"That is a wise position, madam" nodded Murk. "From your own perspective, at least. I would imagine the world would be at loss if you did return and insulate yourself from it. But, it is a decision for you, not for the world you live in". 

 

"The world is a soup of mixed flavours. Dark, complex, bitter and sweet. If I may be so bold, by advice would be to taste and savour all it has to offer. Do not recoil from the sour, and let such tastes inspire you for better things. It is easy to become cynical, especially with centuries on your shoulders" he sighed. 

 

Such was his never ending battle. 

 

"For me, it is love that drives me. The finest of all emotions. The simple empathy that one has for another. The universal solvent for any sticky problem" he said, a smile on his face. 

 

"Mayhap then, it is not the time for you to make consideration of the Codus Immortus? Mayhap then, you need to consider the world before considering this small part of it?"

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Klara stood and offered her hand to the man who until a few hours ago had been nothing but a legend.

 

"If you need my help, codex or no, don't hesitate to contact me through the new Ministry of Powers."

 

She 'd helped transform the Ministry after the war and she was proud of what they'd achieved so far. Plus it meant she got to spend lots of time around Tracy, which was a lovely bonus.

 

"I promise I will keep your idea in mind, and when I'm ready I will consider signing your pact. If I decide to shall I leave a message at this place, or do you have an address I might contact you at?"

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Mr. Murk

 

"This little club will suffice, madam" smiled Mr. Murk, doffing his bowler hat. 

 

Perhaps then, we might meet again once you have seen enough of the world to refine your opinion of it? I am sure you will have a most interesting time in doing so. There is a lot of it to see. But then, you have a lot of time to see it in!" he added. 

 

He gave a little card with his name on. Erasmus Murke. A law company. "If you do ever need my services, as a Lawyer, or indeed for anything else, I would be most happy to help. Free of charge" he offered. The card was elegant and had an antique style, and had address and contact numbers on. 

 

"Until then, madam, I bid you good day. Or year. Or century. Perhaps even longer!"

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