Week 99

The Pals waited solemnly to hear what Putin would say. Pulpo Paul looked from one to the other, foreseeing their roles in the future battle.

There were Peaches and Herb, the twin narwhals; Murder Cat—Paul smiled, thinking of the big Siberian Tiger as the Happy Warrior;

Black Ops, the pygmy goat munitions expert; C-4, the inexplicable apricot Toy Poodle, now flea-free and back from her banishment;

and finally, Snowy, the white War Bear, first among equals, proud of having given an eye in the service of Putin’s quest to save the Earth.

Paul nodded. Putin was right, they were an elite fighting force—but how could they hope to defeat the forces arrayed against them?

Only one thing gave them an edge in the Final Battle that was fast approaching, and that was Putin himself.

But Paul knew the odds, and he also knew that not all of them would survive the coming cataclysm. The knowledge brought him great sorrow.

He sometimes wondered whether his psychic abilities were a gift, or a curse. Seeing the future was a tricky business.

It was not like opening a book and simply reading the text of what was to be. No, it was more like tuning in an old Zvezda-54 radio set.

Sometimes the impressions came in clearly, but sometimes there was a lot of static, which he did his best to interpret. Paul sighed.

If only he had stayed in England! Weymouth was a perfectly nice aquarium; probably they would have had some attractive female octopuses.

Paul looked sadly at his atrophying hectocotylus. But he had always known he was different, that family life was not for him.

He had never known his parents. His mother died shortly after he was hatched, his father was just an anonymous spermatophore in her oviduct.

There was nothing to keep him in Weymouth, and so he’d moved on, to the Continent, to Oberhausen—also a nice place.

But life in the tank was not enough for him, he was too intelligent, he was bored. He was too smart for his own good, as it turned out.

Paul reviewed those painful episodes—the gambling, the involvement with the Galician mobsters, the celebrity, the death threats.

What could be simpler for someone like him than picking winners in football? They’d set it up so carefully, preparing for their big score.

He threw a couple of Euro 2008 results to make it more believable, then hit every winner of the 2010 World Cup—up until the final.

He was supposed to pick the Netherlands. His partners would have made millions—and celebrated with a pulpo gallego dinner.

Instead, he picked Spain. He had nothing to lose, and there was a chance that Putin would get to him before either the mob or the Order did.

That’s what happened, of course. Now here he was, a criminal gone straight, an octopus helping to save the world: He owed it all to Putin.

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