“Millennia ago, Earth was a colony in an empire of alien Insekts, the Hive. Humanity was enslaved, toiling from birth until death.
“The Hive devoured the planet as a swarm of locusts does a field of maize, while humans cleared forests, hunted animals, mined metals.
“One day, a group of men laboring in a cave uncovered a strange idol. Touching it, they inadvertently summoned an ancient god.
“The Old One was a being from a universe far greater than ours, and its arousal caused a psychic explosion of terrible power.
“Most of the men died instantly, liquified brains oozing from their ears and noses as they slumped to the dirt. Only the strongest survived.
“From this awful being, the miners learned of magic—an irrational technology with transdimensional science beyond their comprehension.
“These men became a band of powerful sorcerers, and worked secretly and tirelessly to organize a resistance to their alien overlords.
“When the uprising finally came, humanity suffered devastating casualties. But eventually they triumphed over the Hive.
“By the time the final Insekt ships withdrew, only three sorcerers still survived. They debated how to use their great capabilities.
“Rather than rule from above, they chose to guide mankind from below, subtly using their wisdom and magic. They called themselves the Order.
“Centuries passed, the original members indoctrinating a successive generation, and those teaching others still.
“In time, however, the secret society changed. Members, increasingly drawn from the ruling class, grew to disdain humankind.
“The Order forsook its original mission to guide, and instead began quietly to rule. Members discussed re-enslaving the world.
“Meanwhile, the Hive did not forget its defeat. It sent spies to Earth, and soldiers to probe the Order’s weaknesses.
“The Order remained vigilant, fighting Insekts in small skirmishes, both on Earth and on other worlds. Queen Mantis observed, and planned.
“And in another time and space, parallel to our own, a third power began to salivate over the potential taste of this blue-green world.
“A Great Old One, rival to that which had enlightened the first members of the Order, slowly roused from slumber, compelled by vast hunger.
“This creature longed to feast on suffering, devouring not just planets, but galaxies. It was a threat to both the Order and the Hive.
“When the two foes learned of its existence, they formed a truce, and combined ancient magic with alien technology to build a super weapon.
“But their project was not completed. Before the weapon’s gestation period concluded, it escaped the Hive’s Brood Ship. The weapon …”
Just then, Putin’s story was interrupted by a deafening groan and the shrieks of bursting steam pipes and ripping steel.