Week 45

When the Commander was anxious, he had a habit of nervously picking out earwax with his pinkie and then shoving it into his mouth.

While waiting for his masters to finish their opening prayer, the Commander was digging into both ears. Dr. Antonosky just shook his head.

“Control yourself, fool!” the doctor hissed, terrified the Council would hear him. “Do you want earwax to be your last meal?”

He winced, broken ribs making even a whisper painful beyond measure. “I’ll be lucky if I’m merely executed,” he thought.

He glanced again at the Commander. “I hate that mind- controlled idiot!” he glowered. “I never should have let him drive the van!”

The Commander made a frowny face like a farting Basset Hound, removed a finger from his mouth, and whimpered, “Are we going to die?”

Before Antonosky could attack him, howling, a terrible voice thundered from within the Lodge. “Enter, Turd Children!”

As a gesture of supplication, the two terrified servants entered the giant hall on their knees, licking the floor as they crawled forward.

They reached the end of their masters’ table and stopped. There was no use trying to lie or even stretch the truth: The Fetid Lord knew.

The Commander felt a breeze on his neck, and suddenly a saber blade was poised beneath his Adam’s apple.

Holding the weapon was a short, muscular man with ferocious eyes, a relative of Genghis Khan. “Permission to kill them, my Lord?”

“Denied,” said the Fetid One. “We will hear the details of their failure, and then we will cast judgment.” Khan slowly lowered his sword.

Antonosky looked at Yeltsin, sitting on the floor licking himself clean like a Cocker Spaniel. He’d also failed the Order—once.

Reluctantly, the Doctor began his story, telling how they had successfully abducted Paul, only to be chased down by Putin.

The Commander interrupted, pleading. “The War Bear, your Malevolence—when enraged, she’s unstoppable!” A rotten odor was the only reply.

When their story was done, the two servants knelt silently, eyes on the Lodge’s black-and-white checkered floor, awaiting their fate.

There was only silence from the masters. They never conferred in front of underlings, but held their debates on the Astral Plane.

The Doctor prayed to any listening dark forces to spare his life in exchange for servitude. “I beseech thee—kill the fat one instead of me!”

The Commander looked at Yeltsin, with his collar and chain, happily lapping at his bowl of vodka, and thought, “Maybe it won’t be so bad.”

Meanwhile, in another dimension, the members of the Order held their Conclave of Evil.