Week 37

Murder Cat woke to the sensation of C-4’s postage-stamp-sized tongue lapping at his nose. He opened one eye as big as the little dog’s head.

The big cat snorted, sending C-4 tumbling, but the little dog only yapped gaily and hopped over to wake Black Ops. They were on the coast.

The Lada overlooked the lip of a sea cliff hundreds of feet high. A steak of white snow traced the edge of the prominence like a chalk line.

In the frigid distance lay islands of rocky, jagged peaks separated by miles of iceberg-dotted, steel-colored water. Putin drank it in.

Welcome home,” he said, without turning to look at his companions. They all were quiet before the magnificent vista.

“I’ve arranged for Gazprom to acquire drilling rights here. Our base will hide below the rigs like a dragonfly naiad hunting in the weeds.

“Of course, during the Cold War we dropped quite a bit of nuclear waste in the Kara, but I’m sure it’s fine now. It’s a strong Russian Sea.”

In the weeks that followed, supplies began arriving on Gazprom trucks. The drivers saw a small barracks, but never met any of the workers.

The animals began each day with a logger’s breakfast, Putin flipping flapjacks and serving up his famous fresh-clubbed baby seal sausages.

After the meal, they headed down to the dock where their construction mechs were arranged like action figure accessories on a store shelf.

All day, Black Ops and Murder Cat shuttled materials down to the seafloor, while Putin and Snowy welded their fortress’s hull.

On shore, C-4 chased barnacle geese; sometimes Putin would put the little pup in his diving suit and let him crawl around while he worked.

Slowly, the base began to take shape: a brutalist version of Tatlin’s Tower with only its tip protruding above the seafloor.

Though Putin soon went back to Moscow to assume his new FSB responsibilities, he returned frequently for impromptu black site inspections.

The team labored tirelessly, making the interior as luxurious as the exterior was spartan. Snowy spent weeks just on the bathroom frescoes.

One day, months into the construction, the steady routine was interrupted by the blare of the base’s perimeter alarm.

Black Ops was first to the sonar room, and shouted over the intercom, “Two bogies coming in hot! Six meters in length. Could be torpedoes!”

Snowy charged in and slapped the button to deploy countermeasures. No use! The incoming masses dodged them, and kept coming.

Murder Cat raced to the valve room, prepared to close parts of the base if the hull breached. “Brace for impact!” cried Black Ops.

But there was no collision. The intruders stopped suddenly, floating and bobbing just outside the base. Then came a gentle tapping.