Pulpo Paul opened his eyes and looked around with interest at the Astral Plane.
As a young octopus, he had developed his psychic powers by studying mind control with the squid of the Himalaya.
His cephalopod sifu had taught him the technique of suspended animation, but never before had he availed himself of it.
He knew his body was in a tank in the back of a yellow Lada nearing the Kara Sea, but his consciousness was here, which was also everywhere.
He would have liked to explore, to go further into this state of being, but he was wary of meeting others.
For a moment he saw a flickering image of a man, ten feet tall and glowing with gold, but he let it go and gently returned to his center.
Now that he had experienced this, he knew he could return another time. For now, his goal was to maintain the death-like state of his body.
If time existed on the Astral Plane, some of it would have passed. Pulpo Paul remembered that one could take on any appearance here.
He wondered if he would like to appear as something other than his earthly form. The question floated in and out of his mind for a while.
Gradually, without any direct intention, he began to change appearance. He grew slightly taller, his tentacles became two arms and two legs.
His beak became a nose, while his eyes remained a cold, icy blue. Wisps of near-translucent hair appeared on his head.
He looked down at himself and noted that he had become human, his lower half encased in fabric tubes but his upper body bare.
The smoothness of his naked chest was pleasing, he thought, admiring his human muscles in a rather abstract way. Then he realized …
“∏ ̈†ˆ ̃¡!” he exclaimed in his native tongue.
Of all possible forms in the universe, he had just taken on the one most dangerous and deadly!
But he could not allow himself to feel the terrible shock and fear at what he had just done, he had to maintain his suspended state.
Humming Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers,” Paul gradually calmed himself, slowly changing back to his earthly appearance.
Elsewhere on the Astral Plane, others felt a momentary disruption, a quick temblor that passed before they could focus on it.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Putin and Snowy were carrying Pulpo Paul’s tank through the Fortress of Opulence to its place in the Great Hall.
“You’re sure he’s not really dead?” Murder Cat asked doubtfully. “This is just one of Paul’s amazing powers,” Putin replied.
“Once his consciousness returns to us, we will all meet to discuss how he will help us defeat the greatest threat the Earth has ever known!”