Of course, Takei did see the cockroach, for it was he who had put it in the bag. It was his task to ensure Mila could communicate with Hive.
He pretended to be oblivious, however, and quickly excused himself, for he was due at a meeting on the Astral Plane.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, another mystic traveller also was preparing to enter that mysterious realm. Pulpo Paul exhaled deeply.
Since the first time Paul visited the Astral Plane, while faking his death to escape the Oberhausen aquarium, he had returned many times.
The Astral Plane was a place of profound mysteries, a dojo for honing his psychic skills. He closed his eyes, and felt himself ascending.
Paul awoke on a towering sea cliff, sharp black stone capped with emerald grass, thrusting up out of the white froth of sapphire waves.
Though he could float anywhere in his natural form, Paul preferred to travel incognito. He pondered his options for a moment, then chose.
The cephalopod disappeared in a puff of smoke; when it cleared, he stood as Yubaba from the movie “Spirited Away.” Paul loved that movie.
He examined himself for a moment, admiring his comically oversized proportions, then floated into the air and over the landscape.
First, Paul traveled to a great swamp, where he had befriended a six-dimensional sentient slime that was teaching him about time travel.
After a lesson about the McFly Paradox, Paul said goodbye to his teacher and floated away to explore a distant corner of the Plane.
Beyond a vast desert stood mountains of unfathomable height and a valley forever in shadow. Paul felt compelled to see that gloomy place.
He flew for what felt like days, but time was different on the Plane. At last he came to the valley’s edge and saw a distant light.
It was a bonfire, and as Paul moved cautiously closer, he saw figures gathered around it. A knot tightened in his digestive organ.
Paul changed form again, becoming a harmless balloon drifting in the wind. Such sights were common on the Plane because of the clown herds.
He flew closer to the group, straining to hear the faint voices carried on the wind. The figures around the fire were clearly visible now.
Paul saw a man holding a halberd astride a horse, a large bird, and a figure ten feet tall glinting in the firelight as if made of gold.
Paul froze: He’d found the Order. He had not known they’d be here, but somehow his instinct had led him to this place.
He was in great danger, but this was also a great opportunity. Octopuses are cunning hunters, and Paul felt the thrill of stalking his prey.
The voices grew louder … “The time is near…” “… never expect our attack …” “The animals will die, and the Vessel will be ours!”
No one noticed the red balloon drifting gently overhead, silently observing, listening closely to their every word.