Week 4

Sulking, skulking, Orso stalked the forest after his defeat. How could he get revenge? Unaware, he approached the destruction zone.

Strange sounds from the crater startled him. He froze, alert for danger. Voices, shouts, rapid clickings—slowly, Orso crept closer.

The young he-bear could not believe his eyes: The crater was full of creatures like Putin! They were small, and walked on their hind legs.

Unlike Putin, the creatures were completely covered with strange, smooth pelts, but Orso was sure they were the same: Not Bears!

The Putin-animals moved deliberately through the crater, examining the clicking boxes they held in their paws, calling out to each other.

“The whole area is highly contaminated!” one shouted. “Obviously,” another replied, turning away, “but what do you suggest to contain it?”

Orso watched silently as the creature walked out of the crater toward the trees where he was hiding, and placed his box on the ground.

As the Putin-animal began marking his territory, Orso saw his chance: He lunged forward, took the box in his mouth, and ran!

If he could lead these creatures back to the Great Den, Orso could prove that Putin was one of these others, and not a bear at all!

Spittle flecked the metal box as Orso crashed through the woods. He looked back once to make sure the creatures were in pursuit: They were.

Orso charged into the clearing before the Great Den, spat the box onto the ground, and bellowed the Gathering Call. Bears raced to assemble.

Ursa and Putin were the last to arrive, just as the strangers burst into the clearing. “What have you done?!” Putin cried in anguish.

“Look!” Orso roared, “Putin is like them! He is not one of us!” The bears looked back and forth, bewildered, from Putin to the others.

Before he could say more, the humans raised the sticks they carried and pointed them at him. Small explosions burst forth, and Orso fell.

“Fire!” screamed a human, and the slaughter began. Bears turned to flee, only to fall in heaps of bloody fur. But Putin attacked.

With his judo skills and near-superhuman strength, Putin tossed the humans like salmon from a stream. But he was one against many.

Then he saw Ursa, surrounded by humans aiming sticks at her. “Beloved!” she cried out in terror. Putin dove between them. “Run!” he shouted.

Bullets tore into his flesh as Ursa turned away and fled into the forest. “She is safe!” he thought, as he collapsed onto the ground.

Putin knew the men would be more interested in capturing him than pursuing another bear. He looked at the slaughter all around him.

Putin wept.

One of the men slammed his gun against Putin’s head: Darkness. Another held out a Geiger counter. “Off the charts,” he muttered. “Take him!”