Week 70

“I grow weary of your failures, Yeezus. You preen and strut, you challenge your elders at this very table, and yet you fail us.”

The Red Tsar’s voice was flat, without emotion. It was a sign that he was furious. In this mood, there was no predicting his actions.

“Fetid Lord, you a god, I’m a god, everything I do, everything I say, is equal to what I bring to this family,” Kanye West replied.

“We all know I’m the most exciting, the most impactful, the most creative member here. I’m the heir to Warhol.”

“How dare you!” interrupted robot scorpion Walt Disney. “You’ve not debased American culture half as much as the Plastic Man did!”

Disney swung his tail toward Kanye, bringing the speaker on its telson within inches of Yeezy’s face.

“Warhol never failed us, not one mission. You couldn’t even interrogate an invalid! And why did you fail? Because of a mosquito!”

“It was a monster!” blurted Kanye indignantly, his face hot, eyes bulging. “Don’t you judge me, Mouse! None of you could have succeeded!”

At the beginning of the Order’s meeting, Kanye had told his story of the kaiju mosquito’s attack, but the other members were incredulous.

Though Mantis was a known threat, the Order had not encountered Hive forces for thousands of years, and details of its agents were scarce.

Trying to defend himself, Kanye seized on this truth. “None of you know! None of you were there. I’m the only one who saw it!

“That thing burst through the hospital wall like it was paper! At first I thought it was Guy Fieri, but then I saw its nose was too big.”

“Mmmh mhm mmhh hmm,” Cheney said. Kissinger unzipped the mouth of his gimp mask. “Thank you, Henry. But Yeezy, why did you kill Depardieu?”

Kanye paused. He would not admit the killing was an accident, a reaction to being terrified, would not admit it even to himself.

“There was no reason to make him talk. He was already talking to that tiger nurse like they knew each other. That tiger spoke Belgian!

“Most likely Putin staged the attack himself, to train his animals. I killed Depardieu to send a message!”

“Likely staged, yes. But now we don’t know for sure, do we?” asked Kissinger. “We are an organization that prefers certitude to assumptions.

“Now we have only your assessment to rely on, only your story. There were no other witnesses, correct? Just you, the tiger, and the nurse?”

Kanye paused and looked at Kissenger. He never knew when the old master strategist was leading him into a trap. Did he know …?

Of course, Dr. Antonovsky had been there, but he’d made Kanye swear secrecy, and Kanye was in his debt. But if the Order already knew …

Week 71

Kanye could not risk betraying the doctor. Better to continue with his lie and hope for the best than to admit to it now.

No,” Kanye answered, giving Kissinger the same face he used on Kim when she asks if he still talks to his ex-girlfriends.

“Like I said, the tiger nurse jumped out the window and the other nurse ran away. She was probably paparazzi, they’re always following me.”

“Your assurances don’t reassure me,” said Cheney. “For your sake, I hope you are telling the truth,” he snarled menacingly through his mask.

“Enough,” said the Red Tsar. “We have other business to attend to. We will accept your story as true, Yeezy, but you failed us nonetheless.

“There are consequences for failure, but the they will be mitigated because of the information you have provided about Mantis’s forces.

“For the next year you will wear only Ed Hardy shirts, pleated khakis or cargo pants, and either Crocs or sandals with black socks.”

Kanye grimaced. “That’s not even normcore. But fuck it, I can make that work.” He nodded in assent. “Your punishment is just, Putrid One.”

“Yes, it is.” The Red Tsar was about to move on, but then turned back to Kanye as if remembering a minor detail. “And you’ll be castrated.”

Yeezy was dumbstruck, while Cheney stifled a laugh. “Moving on,” said the Red Tsar, “The Lord of the Sleeping Menace will give his report.”

All the Order members—except Kanye, who was staring forlornly at his crotch—turned to face George Takei. “Thank you, sir,” he said.

“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. The time of his slumber, however, is drawing to a close. This we all know.

“The high priests of his cult live deep in the Tian Shan mountains, and we have spies who have infiltrated their camp.

“The priests are waiting for a sign. Cthulu speaks to them in dreams, and will announce when and how to raise sunken R’lyeh from the sea.

“It’s still unclear when the signal will come, but our spies say the intensity and frequency of the priests’ visions have been increasing.

“It is only conjecture, but they expect the signal within the next year, maybe within the next few months. We have very little time.”

“We should attack the priests!” Byan Khan interjected. “Kill them all. Slay every cult member wherever they hide, and end this!”

“I could arrange for this cult to be put on the Disposition Matrix,” said Cheney. “A few cruise missiles, and no one’s left to free Cthulu.”

“Or just take them quail hunting,” quipped Kanye bitterly, trying to regain some dignity after learning he would be losing his manhood.

“No,” said the Red Tsar. “Cult members are merely symptoms. We must strike at the source of this disease. We will remove the tumor itself.

“Mantis’ ship will be here soon. We will trick the Hive into attacking R’lyeh, destroying Cthulu before he awakens.” “Oh my,” said Takei.

Week 72

Mila sat quietly in the darkened apartment, sunk forlornly in the cozy chair, the vodka bottle on a side table next to a half-empty tumbler.

Half empty, or half full? “Fuck that shit,” Mila thought, solving the philosophical quandary by slugging down the fiery liquid in one gulp.

She closed her eyes and pretended the roaches were coming to connect her to Hive, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen.

It might never happen again! A tear trickled from beneath one eyelid and meandered down her cheek. She was banned: Mantis had banned her.

Before it died, the giant Kaiju mosquito had reported her presence in the hospital room, and she could not explain why she was there.

She could never admit she had been spying for humans, that she served a master other than Mantis, that she was a double agent.

Or perhaps a triple agent! She had taken the assignment for the Commander, for old time’s sake … for the excitement of working again.

But who did the Commander serve? Surely the FSB knew where Depardieu was held, surely they had their own sources of intel.

Their own doctors would handle interrogation right there in the hospital, so why send her? The Commander must be working for someone else.

Gradually she drifted into sleep, into a happy dream of being covered with a million roaches, feeling the Green Mother’s love.

Into her dream came a repeated gentle pinching on her upper arm … the roaches were biting her … Mila awoke with a start.

The Commander! In her apartment again, standing over her again, pinching at her arm. “Where are snacks?” he asked.

Still groggy, Mila just stared at him. “Last time you had snacks, good snacks,” the Commander repeated, drooling slightly.

“Snacks!” Mila shouted. Furious, she pushed his hand away and stood up. The Commander took a step back. “You call them ‘snacks’?

“Those roaches were my connection to Hive, to Mantis! They were my only way to reach the Green Mother! Snacks! Snacks!”

Mila stepped forward and pushed the Commander, who staggered backwards, his face a dull mask of incomprehension. “You!” Mila shouted.

“You ruined my life! You put me undercover as Putin’s wife, for years! You took from me my youth, and any chance of knowing real love!

“And when finally I found love, when I knew the Green Mother, you took that from me, too!” Mila paused, her eyes wild. “YOU!” she shouted.

Mila slammed a fist into the Commander’s slack stomach. He grunted and bent forward; she grabbed his ears, smashed her head into his face.

The Commander lost his footing on a throw rug and fell to the floor. Mila grabbed the vodka bottle and began bludgeoning his face.

As each blow landed, she shouted a single word: “You! You! You! YOU!”

Week 73

Finally, Mila stopped. Panting, she looked down at the Commander, unrecognizable, lying on the wooden floor. What had she done?

She absent-mindedly wiped the blood from the vodka bottle onto the skirt of her housedress. She should have found out who he worked for.

Now there was no telling who might come looking for him. She would have to dispose of the body, and quickly. She considered her options.

It wasn’t her first time; she was a highly trained agent. She was just beginning to form a plan when a roach scuttled across the floor.

The Commander’s hand shot out, grabbed the insect, and stuffed it into the bloody pulp where his face had been.

He wasn’t dead! Mila moved to the comfy chair, pulled out the Makarov pistol from beneath the cushion, and fired three shots at close range.

Before the echo of the shots had even subsided, the Commander had rolled onto his side and appeared to be trying to get up.

Still not dead! Mila ran into the kitchen and got the heavy cleaver she used for chopping beets and cabbage.

Several hours later, Mila was still dismembering the Commander in the bathtub. The plastic poncho she’d pulled on was covered with blood.

No matter how she chopped, it seemed each little piece of the Commander’s flesh had a still-twitching mind of its own. зомби? No, that…

She ran the shower to wash the blood down the drain while she filled another bin liner with chopped meat, and did not hear the door open.

When she glanced up, Putin was standing in the bathroom doorway, poker faced, watching her. “Shit!” she hissed.

“Well,” Putin said, glancing about and taking in the bloody scene. “Rough day?” “I should have known he was working for you!” Mila snarled.

“He? Who?” Putin asked curiously. “The Commander, of course!” Mila snapped. Putin blinked. “The Commander? You killed the Commander? Here?”

“It was a moment of weakness,” Mila admitted. “I should have done it elsewhere, and I should have found out he was working for you.”

“He wasn’t,” Putin said flatly. They looked at each other: Who, then? “More to the point,” he went on, “who do YOU work for?

“I saw the photo of you, disguised as a nurse, in Depardieu’s room. I came to find out about that.” “The tiger was your agent?” “Yes.”

Mila thought quickly. Now that he was President, Putin would have access to many files … She decided to tell some—but not all—of the truth.

“I am a retired KGB agent, like you,” she began, “except that I am not President.” “Of course,” Putin nodded. She wanted to smash him.

“Like you,” she went on, “I reported to the Commander for many years.” “Really?” Putin smiled, “And what sort of work did you do?”

Like a blow from a vodka bottle, the realization struck her: He didn’t believe her! The smug bastard still had no idea who she was!

Week 74

With great difficulty, Mila controlled her rage and gave Putin a tight smile. “I worked under cover for many years, both here and abroad.

“Of course, my primary assignment for the past 30 years has been to portray your wife.” “What?” Putin said. She decided to twist the knife.

“When they brought you to Moscow, after your time in the White Room, they had to build an identity for you. I was assigned to be your wife.”

Putin blinked again, and Mila was pleased to see a faint green tinge rise from his collar and spread over his face.

“You were assigned …” he said. “Of course,” she replied. “The Commander always chose me, his top agent, for the most difficult jobs.

“To live under cover for years, watching you, looking for any sign that you might be recovering your memory—this was my work.

“Officially, I’m retired now. I have my secret pension, my meritorious service medal …” “Meritorious service …” Putin repeated, staring.

“Yes,” Mila nodded, “but sometimes I miss the work. Not playing your wife, but the real work. So when the Commander reached out to me …

“I agreed to help him for old time’s sake. I assumed it was official. But in the hospital, I realized he could not be working for the FSB.

“I should have asked more questions. I should have found out who he was working for now.” With a sigh, Mila bent to tie up the bin liner.

“How much do you know?” Putin asked. “How much about what happened to me?” “Only as much as I was allowed to know,” Mila replied bitterly.

“I alerted them when I thought you might be recovering your memory. That’s when they sent you to Chernobyl, for another ‘treatment.’ ”

Putin stood, silently watching his wife pack the remains of his former boss into garbage bags. She was quite efficient, he noted.

“And so,” he said at last, “our marriage was an assignment.” “Right.” “Then … you … you never …” Mila shot a sharp glance at the President.

No, he didn’t care about her, he only cared about whether or not she had ever cared about him. At that moment she hated him more than ever.

“Do you think I enjoyed what you made me do … in the marriage bed?” she asked cruelly. Putin’s cheeks began to glow a bright green.

“I did not understand myself then. As you say, I had received ‘treatment’ at Chernobyl. But I know myself better now.” He paused.

“We should divorce,” he said. “Fine,” Mila replied. “Triple my pension.” “Apparently you killed my former boss when he came to visit me.”

“Double it, then.” “Done.” Putin watched as Mila carefully stripped off the bloody plastic poncho and stuffed it into a fresh bin liner.

“You should burn that garbage in the building incinerator,” he said as he turned to go. “Of course,” his soon-to-be-ex-wife replied.

That afternoon the street was full of the hungry homeless, all drawn by the delicious odor of roasted meat wafting down the block.