Legacy, Part One: The Ice

From the Story Arc: Legacy

Next Story in the Arc: Legacy, Part Two: Gravity by Red Saviour (Saturday, March 11, 2006)

(posted Saturday, March 11, 2006)

((Reader’s Note: This is the final chapter in the stories of Red Saviour and People’s Blade))

Ivan Ivanovich Medvedev stood under the aurora borealis and let the lights chase away his thoughts. His perfect memory had ceased to be an asset in his exile; he had no wish to recall Lysinko’s rants, Stalin’s paranoid delusions, or the Great Patriotic War and the Cold War that followed. He longed to forget Afghanistan, Chechnya, and particularly the devious schemes of the World Communist Order, who had severed his ties with his beloved Motherland.

The arctic cold could not chill him, but the icy madness in Malice’s eyes froze his blood.

How had he slipped so far from serving the proletariat? Every move in its context made perfect sense – accompanied by an epiphany of realization that it was the only way to further the goals of Communism. The Worker’s Paradise.

And he was the Worker’s Champion.

The world believed him dead. His self-imposed exile to the stark ice crags of the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility – hundreds of kilometers from a land mass, constantly shifting, yet as ancient as a mountain range – ensured his solitude would not be interrupted. It was ironic that the foremost servant of the Russian people would end up in a place so remote that no person of any nationality shared it with him. No scientists, spies, or adventurers. He had found the ideal hiding place.

Yet a man with eidetic memory cannot hide from the past. He spent a year reliving the details of his life, from a lover’s sigh in 1925 to crushing Nazi Elefant tanks in 1942, from KGB intrigue in 1967 to Cold War rallies in Red Square in 1980. Once done, he dared to return to key moments and invent new histories: marriage, family, retirement; or adventure, exploration, space travel.

The events leading to his faked death troubled him the most. Little Bestla, so serious in her mixed loyalties; Mojiotok, confused and serious; and Red Saviour, Natalya Nikolaevna, who grew to hate him as his plan to make her independent from the fools in the Kremlin slowly succeeded. She could have been a loving niece – even had been, once, before her child’s intuition sensed his dissembling nature.

He left them all behind to fend for themselves, they who dodged bullets and battled monsters for a living, they who never needed him at all. CCCP, greater than its parts, a creature of the heart and Russian soul, not of his political maneuvering.

One day on the ice he realized that he was preparing to die. His body, superhuman thanks to the experiments of Lysinko, would continue on for another century, yet his soul laid on its deathbed. That left suicide, something he found repellent, a closing of a shadowy door that he was too meek to open. So how could he anticipate death?

Months later, as he meditated on the aurora and the stars peeking through it – nature’s own abstract canvas – he spotted two bright stars where he’d seen no stars before in his year of studying the northern sky. After a moment’s observation, it became clear that they were in motion; in fact, growing larger as if approaching him.

Here comes my death at last. The thought flitted through his head like a wry grin, even though his face had become impassive in the frigid air.

He had brought with him a high-powered rifle and a stock of ammunition, largely for hunting. He had a spear for ice fishing. He needed neither to protect himself, he who could tear through a building as if it were a hedge.

What could it be to come to kill me?

The lights grew in size, and he saw they were a collection of stars, grouped together on two human forms. Their approach quieted the howl of the wind and the fizzle of the northern lights and the gnashing of the ice flows.

Medvedev was a committed atheist, yet the figures -- female, he was sure – struck him as being angelic. What a grand final irony, he thought, to have my last bastion of belief struck away at death.

Their descent had taken a full minute. At last they hovered before him, two women composed of space and stars. Their faces were indistinct in the darkness, though stars outlined their features as if a sculptor had worked with the night sky to make his masterpieces. They did not speak. Medvedev’s eyes struggled to find human characteristics in their glittering bodies.

Then he noticed the sword hanging from the hips of one of the star-women. At once her face became recognizable, as if with dream logic.

Xiao Fei Li, the People’s Blade.

The last time he had seen her was in Russia, in the company of Red Saviour, Petrograd, Mojiotok, and the other departing CCCP heroes. Elegant and confident, she smiled patronizingly at his open resentment of her, a Chinese, embedded in his Russian organization. At the time, her polite coolness shook him: it seemed to come from a persona far, far older than he – and far older than the twenty year old girl in front of him. He resolved to have her assassinated as soon as the time was right.

Now she appeared to be older than the Earth itself.

People’s Blade opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. He strained to hear her, as though dream logic had indeed taken hold, but she moved her lips in silence. She paused, and the stars creased with a look of consternation. She cleared her throat, a strangely modest sound coming from a being of such inhuman qualities.

“Medvedev xiansheng, nin hao ma.” Even in this unearthly state, her Chinese politeness remained. She had addressed him with the honorable “you.” Her words came more slowly than any Chinese speaker he’d heard, and with an eerie resonance, as if the wind had called his name.

“Greetings to you, Xiao Fei Li,” he said in perfectly recalled Chinese. “You surprise me. No one on Earth could have found me here.”

“I’m not of the Earth anymore, as you can see.” She inclined her head with a smile. “We have both changed since our last meeting.” Her companion said nothing, but her bearing towards Fei Li indicated some kind of attachment.

“Indeed. You appear as the night sky.”

“And you appear as a coward, something I’d have not expected from the Worker’s Champion.” It was like being insulted by a cloud.

“You travel a long way just to insult me, General.” He let his former contempt (so easy to remember) creep to the surface. “When will you stop interfering with Mother Russia?”

“Mother Russia.” She paused as if he’d used an unfamiliar term. “Ah, yes. Your country. Forgive me. Human concepts have become tenuous to me. I’m fortunate you speak Mandarin, for I’ve lost my other languages.” She indicated the other woman. “Qing cannot understand them at all.”

Worker’s Champion sighed. “I am alone here. Why do you trouble me? Do you want revenge?”

“Bu shi. No. Quite the opposite. I wish you to perform a service for me.”

He shifted his feet on the ice. The star-women still hadn’t touched the surface, floating six inches above. “The answer is nyet.” He knew he was mocking her with the Russian word, but declined to translate. “I am not on vacation, and I’m not leaving the ice.”

“I must insist. My time is over on this world. The Celestial Dragon has summoned us to his court. I try his patience by ignoring the call.” Medvedev thought the northern lights swelled at the mention of the Dragon’s name. “But I have an obligation to fulfill on Earth, even as I lose the ability to perceive human events. Thus I need a proxy. A champion.”

“Very funny. I am no longer the Worker’s Champion, woman. This ice is my home. Leave me in peace.”

Fei Li’s head tilted back, as imperious as an Empress. “If you refuse my request, I will do just that.” She withdrew her sword, the infamous Jade Emperor’s Whisper, like a moonrise. It, too, shone with starlight, though the metal of the blade glinted underneath.

“So, this is about revenge after all,” he said. A wild joy filled him. The sense of destiny he’d felt when he met the diminutive girl now became clear: she would be his executioner. This clash was inevitable.

He cast off his polar bear fur cloak and stood tall. For a warrior, this last fight would be the ideal death.

“Come, People’s Blade. See if you can pierce this old wolf’s heart.”