Category Archives: IV: SIBERIA

Week 19

The sun filtered through the fir trees, and warmed the dome of Putin’s bald head. He stirred, and noted the absence of Snowy’s gentle snore.

Jerking upright, Putin swept his gaze across the landscape, but saw no sign of his slave bear. “A runaway!” he thought, burning with rage.

Visions of hunting down and killing the treacherous bear filled his mind, but were interrupted by sounds of rustling branches and snuffling.

Snowy emerged into the clearing with two flopping salmon the size of snowshoes in her mouth. She’d been up early, catching breakfast.

Dropping the fresh fish at Putin’s feet, Snowy backed away, keeping her eyes on the ground as she did so. He nodded a curt acknowledgment.

“Have you eaten yet?” he asked her. Eating before the Master would be a punishable offense. “No, I’ll eat after you finish,” she replied.

Her answer pleased him, and he rewarded her with one of the salmon. The imposing she-bear waited patiently as Putin dined.

Once Putin was full, Snowy quickly snatched her shimmering fish, great jaws devouring the arm-length salmon in a savage gulp.

Glancing up, Snowy thought she saw a smile flash across Putin’s face. Lowering her head, she approached to remove his fish bones.

As her nose reached the scraps, Putin stopped her with a sudden command. “Look at me, she-bear!” Obediently, Snowy raised her head.

Their eyes locked. Putin’s weathered, sun-reddened face was a mere claw-length away. Neither spoke as they continued to stare, unblinking.

Neither noticed a persistent buzzing, growing ever louder, or felt the giant wings battering the air, or saw the approaching shadow.

Too late! A hideous Kaiju Demon Mosquito hovered over Putin and jammed its blood-sucking proboscis far into his shoulder!

Putin swung his head aside, but was unable to escape as the massive Kaiju pinned him to the forest floor and sucked his radioactive blood.

Putin grimaced and glowed brighter with the pain. Snowy took one look at his tortured face, then gauged the size of the hovering mutant.

Without hesitation, she lunged at the insect monster’s bulging eyes, pitching forward and ripping off one of its wriggling antennae.

The Kaiju twisted away but Snowy followed, slashing with her massive claws at its soft abdomen and swollen thorax.

The monster screeched and detached from Putin, dripping all the black stuff from its belly and spraying drops of blood as it flew off.

Putin lay limp, face down on the ground, bleeding heavily from the wound in his shoulder and gasping.

Snowy quickly rolled him over and saw that his eyes, though glassy, were tracking her movements. At least he was conscious.

Though too weak to speak, Putin knew that Snowy had just saved his life. He looked at her and decided: Snowy was to be his War Bear.

Week 20

As Putin recovered from the attack, Snowy’s training commenced: 24 hours a day, interrupted only briefly by snacks and naps, he taught her.

Gone were the relations of master and slave, for the two were now master and apprentice.

Snowy proved a worthy student at every turn, and set about each task with an unshakable single-mindedness, as if born for the training.

Each day, Putin grew more impressed with her courage, intelligence, and strength. He’d known only one other bear of such merit.

In combat, Snowy could unleash a fury of terrible power. Putin fought hard to control his radioactivity while battling her, and loved it.

Here, after years of stagnation in dreary Moscow, he was finally free. In the forests Putin was reborn, a beast in the wild with his charge.

One day, while bowing before a bout of sparring, Putin spied a weakness in his student’s posture. The old brawler attacked without mercy.

Pouncing forward, Putin drove his knee into a bruise on Snowy’s hind leg, a fresh injury from slipping on wet river stones.

Snowy roared in pain and frustration at her mistake. She shuffled backwards quickly, shaking her head and rolling her shoulders.

The two combatants circled each other slowly. “Attack me, Snowy,” Putin instructed calmly. “Strike with the School of Minnows style.”

Putin settled on his haunches; a moment later Snowy dropped low and slashed with her claws while leaping forward.

Putin casually stepped to the side. “What was that, an exhibition?” he asked “We need emotional content.” He tapped his head for emphasis.

Embarrassed, Snowy tried again, snarling and swinging her paws wildly. Putin again stepped aside, and shook his head.

“I said emotional content, not anger. Try again.” And she did. Snowy never stopped trying, listening, and improving.

She learned the many defenses and attacks of High Bear style, Lonesome Cub style, Bursting Berries style, and all the others Putin knew.

As her body grew into a perfect weapon, so was her mind honed to razor sharpness. Snowy studied espionage and stealth as much as fighting.

Putin barely noticed the days passing as he focused on his pupil’s improvement. This task was all-important, though he knew not why.

In time, though, the hazy outline of the future began to cohere, and Putin could see the broad strokes of his next adventure.

There was evil in the world. Chernobyl, the White Room, Insect Kaiju—Putin knew the world teemed with malevolence.

But he could fight it! He had strength forged in adversity, the mighty forces of radioactivity coursed through him, and … he had Snowy.

Putin would find others, and together they would crush his foes. With a menagerie of elite fighting animals, he would be unstoppable!

Week 21

One night, Putin called for rest. He and Snowy sat beneath the rocky overhang, eating berries in the dim glow of Putin’s radioactivity.

Sharing a feeling of quiet contentment, neither spoke for a long time. Finally, Putin broke the silence. “Snowy, I must return to Moscow.”

The young War Bear said nothing, waiting for her Master to continue. “My wounds are finally healed, and you’ve learned all I can teach you.”

“Every day I see more clearly that there is a terrible threat to the world, and only I can fight it—but not alone! I need you to help me.”

Deeply moved by her Master’s words, Snowy stood and bowed until her nose touched the ground. Putin nodded thoughtfully.

“And I need others, as well. I need a cadre of highly trained animal agents … Also, I need information. And that is why I must go back.”

Putin sat silently, a faraway look in his eyes, as he recalled his life. How had he come to be a KGB chief? He realized he did not know.

It was after the White Room … They must have placed him in that position for a reason. But why? There was so much he needed to find out.

He would never learn anything unless he returned to Moscow, so he would go. But the thought of leaving the forest filed him with sadness.

There was no need to tell her anything. After the weeks of training, he knew his War Bear would do whatever he asked, without question.

“Let us sleep now,” Putin said softly. “I will leave in the morning.” They lay next to each other on the soft fir branches and slept.

At dawn, Snowy brought salmon for their breakfast. They ate quickly, then began the long hike to the edge of the forest.

It was near midday when they reached the trailhead where Putin had hidden the Yunker—it seemed a lifetime ago.

Carefully, so as not to dent the extremely thin metal of its fuel tank, he lifted the motorcycle from its hiding place.

He brushed the leaves off the machine as he gave Snowy her instructions. “Do not go back to our camp; stay on the move and out of sight.

“Continue to practice daily. Also, I want you to look for others who might join with us, others who could train and fight as we do.

“And one final thing—” Putin paused and looked sternly at the War Bear. “You are not to have any contact with your … with Orso.

“None whatsoever. Not for any reason, not under any circumstances.” His skin began to glow a dangerous shade of green.

Snowy said nothing, but bowed her head in acquiescence. Putin was satisfied that she would obey him, and his green glow subsided.

Having given his commands, Putin mounted the Yunker, started the engine, and began the long ride west to Moscow.