Week 69

After Putin left the briefing room, the Pals sat frozen in glum silence. No one knew what to say or do.

“I will go to him,” Pulpo Paul thought finally. He heard the others thinking it was useless, but no one spoke the words aloud.

The psychic octopus turned and began the long journey to Putin’s quarters in the far wing of the Fortress of Opulence.

It would be a brisk 15-minute walk for most of the Pals, but Paul, in his walking suit, took more than an hour before he reached the door.

Putin’s angry thoughts were like a physical presence battering him as he stood in the hallway, but he knew he must not give up.

“Open the door,” he thought. “It’s me.” He felt his thoughts failing to penetrate Putin’s rage and tried again. “I must speak with you.”

The psychic cephalopod felt that Putin had some awareness of him standing there. “It is urgent!” he thought, more emphatically.

“It is urgent that you speak with me now. Open the door, or your Great Mission will surely fail!” He detected Putin hesitating.

“Without the Pals, you cannot succeed. You know this.” Paul could feel Putin standing on the other side of the door, waiting.

“Speak to me now, or lose them all forever!” Pulpo Paul thought, putting all the urgency he could into his psychic transmission.

“I will not open the door,” Putin thought. “But tell me what you have to say.” The octopus breathed a sigh of relief.

“I understand why you are angry,” Paul began. “You believe Snowy disobeyed you.” “I do NOT ‘believe’ it,” Putin interrupted, “it is true!

“I ordered her to stay behind! They all knew this. It was not only Snowy—they ALL disobeyed by taking her on the mission against Depardieu!”

“Then I must tell you,” Pulpo Paul thought grimly, “they did not so much disobey you as they obeyed ME.” He waited, but Putin did not reply.

“I told Snowy to go. I told the others to take her. I looked into the future and saw the death of Murder Cat if she was not there.

You have carefully recruited every one of your agents, and you know you will need them all if you are to prevail against the Great Threat.

“Without Snowy, Murder Cat would have plunged to his death; without Murder Cat, we would all be doomed.” Pulpo Paul paused.

You wish to punish them for their disobedience, to take out your anger on them in painful ways. But if you must punish someone, punish me.

“I am the one who is to blame. But do not destroy your team—do not do harm to the Putin Pals! They are our only hope.”

Pulpo Paul stood in the hallway, waiting for a reply from Putin, but there was none. The octopus floated patiently in his walking suit.

It was many hours before he gave up and began the long trek back to his aquarium quarters.

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