Ursa: How could he have forgotten? Putin clenched his teeth, enraged at his own weakness. He’d let the White Room steal her from his heart!
She must be alive—he’d seen her run to safety. But instead of searching for her, he’d lived the pathetic life of a bureaucrat.
His lips curled to a snarl as he thought of the wasted years, going to work like a loyal drone: File paperwork, torture a dissident, repeat.
Instead of Ursa, with her thick, lustrous fur and intoxicating bellows of pleasure, he’d had Mila, the sad cow. Putin screamed in rage.
He slammed open the throttle, his own furious roar meeting the Yunker’s howl as it delivered 32.8 mighty horsepower to the pavement.
Faster! He could not fly fast enough! His self-loathing was a caged beast straining inside his skull. His skin burned in the cold air.
Despite his rage, Putin was no outlaw, and he slowed the Yunker as he entered a small, shabby village north of Novosibirsk.
By the roadside he saw a small boy clutching a potato and weeping loudly. Though he was desperate to reach Ursa, he could not ignore this.
He stopped his iron steed and strode toward the child. As Putin approached, the boy’s eyes widened and he took a timid step backwards.
“Do not be afraid, mal’chik. What troubles you?” Putin asked kindly. The boy hesitated, then looked up into a spruce tree and pointed.
Putin gazed up into the highest branches; at first he saw nothing, but then his keen eyes spied movement through the dense foliage.
There among the needles was a bedraggled, frightened Toy Poodle. “He chased a squirrel and became stuck,” said the boy, his lip quivering.
“Please, please save Malen’koye Der’mo,” pleaded the boy. Without a word, Putin began climbing the tree, as gracefully as a tiger.
When he reached the tiny pup, Putin smiled and stretched out his hands saying, “Be calm, little friend, I am here for you.”
But as soon as his fingers grazed Der’mo’s knotted fur, the pathetic creature burst into flames. Putin recoiled in horror.
Looking down, he saw that his hands had an eerie phosphorescent glow. Radiation! No wonder the boy was frightened. “I’m a monster!”
Putin slowly climbed down the tree. He had killed a Poodle! He could imagine no greater crime. The boy sobbed as Putin stood before him.
What could he say? Sorry? Putin had no use for pathetic words. He gently took the potato from the crying child. It baked in his hands.
He handed the steaming spud to the boy, who smiled and began to eat. But even this was not enough to lift his mood: He had killed a Poodle.
With a heavy heart, Putin climbed back onto the Yunker, started the engine, and pulled away. As he rode, the glow of his skin dimmed.
Seeing this change, Putin steeled himself. “For Der’mo’s sake, I will learn to control my terrible power, and use it only for good.”