Before Putin was gone, Paul had contacted the other Pals and relayed the message. Then he began the laborious donning of his walking suit.

One hour and fifty-six minutes later, Pulpo Paul arrived in the briefing room to find all the other Pals assembled and waiting.

Putin nodded, and began the briefing. “The time of our Great Test draws near. Let’s review what we know. Murder Cat—the lights.”

The Tiger flipped the switch, the projection screen came down, and Putin began a PowerPoint presentation: He loved PowerPoint.

“It doesn’t matter,” Snowy said gently. “We understand the situation, we know what’s happening.” Murder Cat turned on the lights.

Putin sulked for a moment, then continued. “There is one further, complicating factor. The Order has captured my ex-wife.”

“Ex?” Snowy asked. Putin sighed. “They think I will try to rescue her, although I see no reason to do so. Our marriage was a sham.”

For someone facing the possible extinction of the Earth, the War Bear looked remarkably cheerful. “Our team is strong,” Putin continued.

“We are stronger than when we fought the Giant Kaiju Peacock Mantis Shrimp. You have trained well, and I am proud of you.

“But, realistically, we are not strong enough to defeat both Mantis or the Order by ourselves. And so, I have a plan.”

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