Category Archives: XIII. AS ABOVE, SO BELOW

Week 59

Antonosky rustled his copy of Izvestia with irritation and tossed it onto the café table. “Such stupidity!” he thought.

Clearly, there had been some sort of attack on President Putin’s inaugural celebration, but that’s not what the media were reporting.

They said a circus helicopter had crashed into the Bolshoi Theatre in a tragic accident, and a number of frightened animals had escaped.

Putin himself had bravely rounded up the animals and saved many lives, although a few blond gymnasts from the Duma had been eaten.

But all the celebrity guests had survived—although Gerard Depardieu was in isolation in an intensive care hospital somewhere.

Antonosky made a mental note: He would use his medical credentials to try to trace Depardieu and get access to him, or to his records.

But really … did anyone believe anything the Russian media reported any more? Well, if not, so what? What could anyone do about it?

More troubling, to Antonosky, was the apparent failure of the Order to anticipate the attack. And who were the attackers?

Was the Red Tsar not omniscient? Antonosky shivered as a shadow of doubt flickered across his consciousness; he put it out of his mind.

Just then the door to the café banged open and the Commander entered. He still had some trouble controlling the muscles in his limbs.

His gait was stiff, his movements jerky, but in many ways the Commander appeared more “normal” than when he was first reanimated.

His speech was clearer, and he hardly drooled at all. He had developed an unfortunate taste for dung beetles, but was otherwise presentable.

Most people just assumed the Commander had had a stroke, and that was fine with Dr. Antonosky.

If The Order found out he’d reanimated someone without authorization … Antonosky shuddered again. At least Kanye West owed him a solid now.

The Commander yanked out the chair across from Antonosky, collapsed into it, and stared at the Doctor without speaking.

“Thank you for coming,” Antonosky began. The Commander grinned hideously. Ignoring him, the Doctor continued. “I have a job for you.

“I want to know who attacked Putin’s inaugural celebration. Of course, you don’t have the … uh … resources you once had at the KGB …”

The Commander grunted. Antonosky waited a moment, then continued. “But I expect you are still in contact with some operatives … “

The Commander stood and looked down at the Doctor with his mouth agape. A thin strand of spittle leaked from the corner of his lips.

“Mila!” he said, as he turned and staggered toward the door. “Mila.”

Week 60

Mila was deep in Hive Mind when she became aware of a minute disturbance in the connection.

Not Putin: Now that he was living in one of the Official Residences, he rarely came to their apartment.

Living alone allowed her to spend entire days sitting on the sofa, connected to Hive, even when she was not reporting to the Green Mother.

She was living alone, yet more than ever she felt she belonged; for the first time in her life, she truly belonged.

But there it was again: A slight break, like a crackle of static, again and again. What could it be?

Mila detached reluctantly from Hive, scattering the swarming cockroaches that had completely covered her body.

What was that odor? As she opened her eyes, her old KGB training was the only thing that prevented her from crying out in alarm.

Looming over her stood the Commander, calmly crunching on the roaches he had plucked off her body. “Good!” he said.

“You always make best food. Selyodka pod shuboy—yours is best. Best cook, best agent.”

Shocked, Mila said nothing. The Commander had caught her with Hive! What if he knew about Mantis? What if he knew she’d been a double agent?

But he merely stood, staring blankly, chewing placidly on a carapace. Did he even recall that she’d retired? How his stroke had changed him!

She remembered what he’d been when she first met him—a KGB Commander! His tailored suits, his Sobranie cigarettes … he’d seemed so worldly.

Now she wished she’d taken back his key to the apartment, so many years ago … He’d never used it again, until now. Why was he here?

For news of Putin, of course. Mila tried to think of something to say. She hadn’t seen the President in weeks, except on television.

And after all their years together, Putin had not even invited her to his Inaugural Celebration! True, their marriage was a sham, and yet …

Your assignment,” the Commander said, as if reading her mind.

“Yes, yes, I know!” Mila turned away and walked toward the side table where the vodka was. “Our marriage was just my undercover assignment.

“But, still …” her voice trailed off as she filled two glasses. Still, she had fulfilled all the duties of his wife … for years …

“No,” the Commander said. “Your assignment now. The …” He paused to shape the difficult word. “In-aug-ur-al … party. Not an accident.”

“No circus accident … an attack. You find out who, why. You are best agent, you will find out. Tell no one else, tell only me.”

Mila blinked, then raised a glass in salute to her former Commander and downed the fiery liquid. “Da,” she said. “I will find out. For you.”

 

WEEK 61

Meanwhile, in a secret palace deep below the Forte di Belvedere, Kanye West was arguing with a group of the most powerful men in the world.

As he spoke, Kanye looked urgently at each of his fellow Order members in turn. He was pleading the case against Cheney and Kissinger.

“We’re led by the least noble, least talented, least respected, least respectful people—politicians. Period.” He jabbed a finger at Cheney.

Cheney sneered like a scolded camel and gently rocked in time with the many pumps and motors that kept him “alive.”

Kanye was warming up, getting into the rhythm of his oration. “How, Sway? You ain’t got the answers. I’ve been doin’ this more than you.

“You ain’t been doing the education. You tryna give me advice, but you ain’t spend 13 million of your own money to try to empower yourself.”

Cheney scowled at the insult, but he knew West had spent 13 million US dollars of his own fortune to clean up after the Inaugural disaster.

Cheney and Kissinger, as Lords of Surveillance, had failed to anticipate the attack, or to identify the assailants. It was a major failure.

Kanye paused for dramatic effect. He was making his move, trying to seize power from the old guard, boldly challenging the Politicians.

“What I care about is if you’re an artist and you work hard as fuck and the streets say that you deserve that shit.”

Kanye’s theatrics were more than Cheney could bear. “Go fuck yourself,” he barked, interrupting the Louis Vuitton Don’s speech.

Cheney wanted retaliation, he wanted revenge to cover his shame, and he didn’t care who the target was: It was time to feed Moloch.

“The Order does not require the love of the common man, the Order requires respect. I’m not sure Mr. West understands that.

“I think you all, increasingly, will realize that what we have here is a group of barbarians, and that they threaten all of us.

“We have intelligence that Gerard Depardieu initiated the attack on Putin. He’s currently being held under police watch at Botkin Hospital.”

Cheney turned to face the Red Tzar, lowering his eyes as he spoke. “My Lord, we should retrieve Mr. Depardieu and find out what he knows.”

The Red Tzar turned away from Cheney, towards Kanye. “Important public men like yourself are not ‘common men.’

Of course, history alone can show how important a public man has been. It is not heroes that make history, but history that makes heroes.”

The Fetid Lord turned to face the other members of the Order. “Now is not the time for petty rivalries. This will not alter our plans.

“The Politicians will be punished for their failures. Kanye West, you tell Mr. Depardieu I’d like to have a word with him.”

“So sayeth the Fetid Lord!” cried robot scorpion Walt Disney and in unison all the members of The Order responded: “So sayeth the Red Tzar!”

WEEK 62

Mantis crouched in repose, thinking. Her thought images were multi-dimensional, like the vision of a compound eye.

She considered the latest report from the meat creature, Mila. Finally she had new information, useful information.

Throughout history, as the Hive conquered planet after planet, there had always been some inferiors who tried to join them.

Some thought betraying their own kind would save their own individual selves from the conquerors. That thought was erroneous.

Others had a better understanding of Hive, of the beauty of being an insignificant part of the whole. They gave themselves willingly.

This She allowed—up to a point. It was sometimes useful to have direct reports about the Inferiors from one of their own kind.

In only one instance had She ever allowed a non-Insekt full communion with the complete Hive.

That one had been allowed aboard the Mothership, had received knowledge of their plan, had comprehended all … and had betrayed Her.

The Traitor had fled—to Earth, of all places! Traitor! She clicked her mandibles in fury and excreted a caustic fluid.

If he thought to save that sad planet, his thought was erroneous. She had planned merely to reconquer Earth, but now …

Now She would destroy it!

But first, the Traitor must be captured. Only he had the requisite knowledge and power to organize a successful defense against the Swarm.

True, her old foes, the Order, had once driven them away, but their power had lessened over the centuries since that time.

Their power had dissipated as much as their ambition had increased: They no longer sought to save their planet, but to rule it themselves.

Puny humans, with their reanimated dead and their mechanical servants! Yet She did not make the mistake of underestimating the enemy.

She had first thought the attack on the Traitor was the Order’s attempt to capture him for themselves, but now it seemed otherwise.

The Mila creature had reported that the attack was organized by non-humans, the so-called “animals,” but this appeared unlikely.

The Traitor sought out “animals.” He used them and took advantage of their powers and abilities. Why would they turn on him?

No matter. The Order would eventually attempt to capture the Traitor, as would She.

The difference was that the Hive would be successful. But now … now the Green Mother hungered.

The moment She became aware of hunger, a soft young beetle scuttled up, ready to be eaten. She felt his gratitude as she crunched into him.

 

WEEK 63

Meanwhile, Putin brooded in his stateroom in the Fortress of Opulence below the Kara Sea. The magnificence of his quarters was unfathomable.

He stood before a massive window onto the sea, thick gold latticework connecting huge glass triangles. The floor was meteorite-shard mosaic.

Putin stared out into the icy depths of the Kara, the water lit by the Fortress’ spotlights, inky blue quickly fading to impenetrable black.

His mood was as dark as the abyss before him. The Pals’ victory over Orso’s forces meant nothing compared to the pain of Snowy’s betrayal.

Of course, Putin did not believe he’d actually needed her help to defeat the Bear King, but still it troubled him that Snowy had hesitated.

It was Black Ops who assisted him. “The goat!” Putin thought. Not his war bear, not his protégé; in the end, it was the little pygmy goat.

Putin’s stomach tightened as he thought of the look in Snowy’s eyes while she vacillated between helping her father, Orso, or her master.

He was angry: He’d failed as a sensei, a general, even a foster parent … a father. The word stuck in his mind like a bone in the throat.

Yes, a father! Did he not serve in loco parentis to all the Pals? Snowy was his child, as much as the others were … or, perhaps … more?

No. Snowy was Orso’s progeny, not his. It was the Bear King’s greatest advantage, perhaps his only advantage. And yet …

Putin turned from the window and gazed at a picture attached by magnets to one of the French doors of his Meneghini La Cambusa refrigerator.

It was a pastel drawing of Snowy tending to his wounds after the Kaiju attack, drawn by the war bear herself. “Yours always,” she’d written.

Putin’s hands balled in rage and he swung around, slamming his fist into the four-inch–thick tempered glass window. A small crack appeared.

“Damn!” Putin thought when he saw the fracture. They’d have to replace the whole pane. He should not have lost control like that.

What to do? What to do? It was a rare moment of confusion. All he knew was that, despite his frustrations, he did not want to lose Snowy.

Even if Snowy still had some loyalty to Orso, it mattered little. Orso was an annoyance, but not an adversary. There were greater threats.

Putin did not know exactly what the threat was, but he saw portents in his dreams: Dark cavernous spaces, ghoulish incubators, scurrying.

No, Putin needed Snowy for battles ahead. Still, there would have to be consequences. Mercy could be useful, but discipline was essential

He’d remove Snowy from active duty. There was still finish work to do on the Fortress; when it was done, she could fight again.

“Completing all the planting in the grotto and then building the hockey rink will take a couple weeks, at least.” he thought.

Nodding to himself, Putin strode to the door. He’d tell the Pals at once: It was time to prepare for their next mission.