Tag Archives: mars

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-six)

It was snowing again, some while later outside the Future Museum of Mars…

…when Frisby, accompanied by his right-hand-girl, Lillie, stood at a cargo door and watched the weather. But neither of them noticed the inclement conditions. They were there, trying to clear their minds before they had to announce the great plan of planetary salvation to the museum’s visitors. Frisby decided to play it straight…

“Right, you lot,” he said to the small knot of customers who had bothered to respond to his summons on the public address system, “I’ve got some scary news for you all. I want you to listen carefully.”

The word ‘scary’ brought forth an influx of eager visitors…

“Yeah,” he continued once the resulting hubbub had lessened, “really scary.”

This time the word impinged upon the consciousness of three members of Las Chicas De La Playa as they went in search of a nail varnish machine…

With no nail varnish machine within sight, they turned their attention to the growing crowd…

“In fact,” Frisby added for emphasis, “it would probably be a good idea to carry at least one change of underwear wherever you go.”

“And some moist toilet tissue.” Lillie added helpfully.

Well this had everyone hooked. Silence reigned like never before…

Then Frisby told them of the plan. “It’s gonna get rough.” He concluded without hesitation. “I don’t know how rough: but moving an entire planet closer to the Sun doesn’t come without massive disturbance.”

“There’s bound to be a lot of wind.” Sir Dodger informed them. “And not all of it outside the museum.”

“And tectonic movement.” Lillie added.

“Not all of it outside the museum too, I’d wager.” William of Porridge whispered in her ear.

“Dinner’s off.” Charles De Glop announced. Then by way of explanation he added: “I can’t work whilst all my utensils are being cast around the kitchen like disturbed spirits.”

“In summation, the only positive thing I can say,” Frisby finished, “is that there shouldn’t be any plague and pestilence.”

“Unless, of course, the tectonic movements disturb some long-buried virus below ground that rises up and wipes us out.” William added. “But I feel that’s unlikely.”

So the crowd broke up in sombre mood. But Lillie was anything but. She dragged William along to a Ladies Outfitters…

“Right then, William.” She said, “I’m going to go inside this futuristic changing room: I want you to look the other way.”

William did as he was bid…

…but he felt terribly tempted to take a peek. So, to calm himself he wandered to and fro…

…and wondered why it took so long for one female to try on one garment. Then, as his patience neared breaking point, he heard his name whispered. Turning around he was smacked in the face by astonishment…

“Lillie,” he yelled, “you’ve ditched your tatty old pressure suit!”

Lillie was as thrilled as William. “Yes,” she squealed with feminine delight, “I’m wearing regular ‘girly’ stuff. What do you think?”

“Think?” William responded. “I can barely think at all. I am overcome by your loveliness. By the Saint of All Earplugs: I was proud to have you on my arm before: now…

…I’m going to parade you around the museum for all to see!”

“And this outfit is thermal too.” An excited Lillie replied as they made their way to the exit. “We can outside, and I won’t freeze to death.”

So they did…

…and William suspected that Mars had never seen such beauty walk its surface.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-six)

Meanwhile, still far from the Solar System, the Gravity Whelk had reduced its velocity slightly to that of regular Hyper-speed…

Placebo was taking his task at the helm very seriously, which amused Folie…

“It’s okay to relax a little,” he said to his polystyrene chum, “a nervous twitch won’t sent us helter-skelter across the Galaxy like a Catherine Wheel on steroids. Autopilot wouldn’t let that happen.”

“Who said I wouldn’t?” The Automatic Pilot’s voice boomed from the overhead speakers. “I might be bored witless. Piloting is what I do: I don’t like metaphorically sitting around on my non-existential hands watching someone else do my job for me: it is my raison d’être

“Take no notice of that.” Folie said to Placebo. To the Automatic Pilot he said: “Why have we slowed slightly, Autopilot?”

“Dark Space has removed its influence upon the ship.” The reply came. “I’m not in communication with it, so don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s the relative close proximity of a star: I don’t know, I’m just guessing.”

Before either Folie of Placebo could respond to this information  the ship slowed further…

“Ooh,” they said in perfect unison and with a delightful harmonic quality that didn’t go unnoticed by the Automatic Pilot, “now we’re merely going very fast: what gives?”

“Now that is a question I can answer.” The Automatic Pilot replied. “We’re coming towards the end of our journey. Or, to put it another way, we’re almost there: the Solar System.”

“Fantastic,” Folie squealed, “we haven’t been here for…oh…yonks and yonks. It’s so good to see familiar space. Ah, where is it, by the way? Can you point to it?”

As if in reply the main viewer altered its perspective, which, in lay-man’s terms meant that it ‘zoomed-in’…

“Oh yeah,” Placebo said uncertainly as his eyes searched the screen for something recognisable, “I’d know it anywhere. Um…which one is Mars?”

“You’ll have to wait a while to see that.” The Automatic Pilot answered. “It’s one of the inner rocky planets. It’s very small and dark. In fact it’s puny and dull. I don’t know why anyone would want to live there at all. They could build space habitats: you never get ice-ages in space habitats. Planets are overrated – especially those with molten cores: the insides are always trying to replace the outsides.”

Folie ignored every word he’d just heard. “Are we in communication range?” He asked.

The response to this was a number of clicks and whirrs from the transceiver array interface box at Folie’s side. “You’re on.” The Automatic Pilot added.

Far away, across the Solar System, Folie and Placebo became visible in one of the com-domes…

“Hello.” Folie called. “Um…is there anyone there?”

When Frisby Mumph’s pager informed him of an incoming message, he raced to the dome…

“This is the Future Museum of Mars.” He announced breathlessly. “Curator, Frisby Mumph speaking. What can I do for you?”

“Well,” Folie replied, “it’s not so much what you can do for us: it’s more what we can do for you.”

He then explained who he and Placebo were; how they had obtained the Gravity Whelk; and offered their help in whatever capacity Frisby required.

“But we are still a long way off.” He added. “We’re at sub-light speed right now. But it shouldn’t be long before we arrive at Mars.”

“Is your ship large enough to evacuate the museum and the inhabitants of the Muffins’ ancient citadel?” Frisby inquired hopefully.

Placebo and Folie responded to this with fixed half-smiles…

“I’m…ah…ugh…not sure.” Folie answered. “Let me get back to you on that.”

“By the Saint of All Earplugs!” Placebo exclaimed, once the screen had blanked. “The K T Woo, BrianTalbot, and the Chi-Z-Sox combined would have trouble doing that. Does this Mumph guy have the faintest idea how small space ships are?”

“He’s a mud-plugging terraformer.” Folie replied. “Of course he doesn’t. What are we gonna tell him?

Placebo thought for a moment. “Tell him,” he said slowly, as his thoughts coalesced, “that we’re on our way: that we’ll discuss our ship’s physical capacity with him when we get there. Also tell him to leave a light on.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-four)

Engineer, Clifton Wedge, who was still to recover fully from his night in a snow cave, couldn’t believe his sodding eyes: he rushed straight to the nearest maintenance door and threw it open…

“Oh, cripes,” he groaned as he surveyed the nearby ice-sheet from between the door jambs, “I know Mars is supposed to be the Red Planet: but this is ridiculous. That wally, Nobby Hollister, is going to need some help with this one.”

And out upon the ice-sheet, Gerhardt Snitzenfrudel…

…was all for accepting Budlea Budgin’s kind offer of a ride in their habitat back to the museum.

“Better be waking Jenson and Rufus, I am thinking, Tynan.”

“Yeah,” Tynan said angrily, “and those dippy pair in the shepherd’s hut too. None of us will survive out here for long otherwise. When I find out who is responsible for this…I’m gonna forget my Hippocratic Oath to do no harm and kick  ’em right up the arse.”

In the aforementioned shepherd’s hut…

…Maverick and Mulleon were enjoying the show.

“I wasn’t expecting this when I booked our flight to Mars.” Maverick stated. “But as pretty as it is, it’s going to play merry hell with my search for ancient evidence of a marine earplug population on this planet.”

“Oh, look, Maverick.” Mulleon interrupted the cork’s thoughts; “those people down there are waving to us. I think they might be evacuating. Perhaps we’d better go too.”

Maverick didn’t argue for a moment. “I hope they have room for our wicker baskets. Do you think I have time to pop into the outside loo before we go?”

Back at the Future Museum of Mars, Tangerine stole a quick look at the outside world…

“Yes, Mister Mumph,” it called back into the building, “the sky is still red – but it appears to be fading. And the museum remains frozen. Yes, there is a dreadful draft: I’ll shut the door immediately.”

The red light to which Tangerine alluded worried Frisby; so he had the nul-space generator restarted, but at the Minimum Power setting so that he could switch on some pleasant ambient lighting for his  worried customers, but without blowing the place to smithereens…

Naturally Frisby Mumph despatched the earplug responsible for the rocket attack on the sub-strata to determine the true situation at Ground Zero. So, as the lights shone dimly in the museum, Nobby was riding a Sky Cycle across the ice-sheet. With him aboard the wondrous flying machine, Clifton Wedge watched the land slip away behind them…

“Nice to see that the red glow has finally subsided, Nobby.” He observed. “It was getting on my nerves. Are we nearly there yet?”

As it transpired, the land had been savaged so badly by the exploding rocket that Nobby was forced to land some distance from his original site. From there the two engineers bravely entered the ancient magma vents and traversed them towards the impact area…

“Whoo,” Nobby said as he looked around, “we’re miles from where we should be, and already the rocks are getting hot. I think I’ve really churned up the tectonic plates: this disturbance should have been much more localised. I wish Treacle Fagging had better stressed his rocket’s destructive capability to me: I might have done more complicated calculations.”

“He did tell you that it could destroy an entire Hyperspace Pirate fleet.” Clifton reminded him.

“Such an esoteric term.” Nobby argued in turn. “How big is a Hyperspace Pirate fleet? How powerful are their defensive screens? The numbers are all so vague.”

Clifton was about to reply, when, suddenly, and with only a moment’s warning – in the form of a huge rumble that nearly had the engineers off their feet – a convulsion occurred and a massive explosion ripped the land apart…

Beneath that land, Nobby – the expert in tectonics – grew concerned…

“That didn’t feel quite right.” He said to Clifton. “And it seems a whole bunch hotter in here now too.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-three)

Frisby Mumph had just gained the museum roof when the missile passed high above…

Inside, members of his engineering team watched on their viewer…

Well most of them did: only Nobby Hollister looked away.

Frisby then dashed back inside to join his team as they too watched events unfold via TV cameras…

Lillie shuddered: it reminded, only too acutely, of her time aboard the K T Woo. Despite their situation, she preferred peril on the ground, to the relative safety of space.

Upon the stage in the main hall, Sir Dodger addressed the quaking crowd…

“Now please, ladies, gentlemen, and things,” he said in his best thespian voice – which was delightful in every nuance – “there really is no need for concern; our rocket engineers do this sort of thing all the time: it’s bread and butter to them. Nothing can possibly go wrong. I’m a movie actor: I know about these things.”

He then regretted his last words. A grumble passed through the crowd…

…and he thought of all the movie actors before him who thought they knew better than average Joe and had talked themselves into endless ridicule and suddenly non-existent film roles.

“Oh flip,” he added, “yes; Treacle Fagging assured me himself, personally.”

But, as Sir Dodger squirmed inwardly on-stage, the rocket had acquired it’s stealth mode. It now flew low and slow…

And in their emergency habitat…

…Tynan Ware, Doubry Furkins, and Gerhardt Snitzenfrudel had awoken to discover that they had an ice-sheet for a front garden. So leaving Jenson Prong and Rufus the plugmutt to sleep on in Jenson’s cosy cot, they all went outside to look…

But that wasn’t the only surprise. The glacier had brought with it the habitat containing Budlea Budgin and Crevice McNally.

“Hey,” Budlea could be heard shouting through one of the windows, “why don’t you come over here: the ice is taking us in the direction of the museum.”

“Beats the heck out of walking.” Crevice’s disembodied voice added as it wafted across the ice upon a chill breeze.

Doubry was just about to reply, when the rocket roared overhead…

So, instead, he yelled: “Dive for cover: It’s a bomb!”

And not far away, in their prehistoric Shepherd’s abode, Maverick Fossil-Hunter and Mulleon Cleets were enjoying the benefits of a recent up-grade, which included intelligent climate control, waste product reclamation, and subtle lighting, all provided in one machine, made by the Zloib manufacturing facility somewhere beneath them in the ancient Martian city. Unfortunately it did not include an entertainment system, so Maverick and Mulleon had fallen back on old ways – to produce a nice pair of wicker baskets…

…of which they were very proud. Then the rocket rocked their cosy world…

…and their baskets were forgotten instantly.  Moments later the rocket reached its destination…

…Kerboom!

Tynan and Gerhardt could only look on in stupefaction: Doubry had been right…

And Maverick and Mulleon could barely believe their eyes as they stared from the inverted heart-shaped window of their hut…

And viewed from the distance of the Future Museum of Mars, the whole sky lit up and silhouetted the intervening hills…

…and Nobby Hollister was heard to say: “Ooh that was a bit bigger than I expected.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty)

So, as the situation for the young adventurers seemed to be improving, back on beleaguered Mars, Precipitous Ledge Walking supremo, Patti Roularde was acting as spokesperson for a small self-important representative group who were acting on behalf of the museum’s customers…

“My clients, if I may call them that, are most concerned for their safety. Many wish to leave immediately.” She said to Frisby, who had Sir Dodger, Lillie, and William of Porridge beside him. “But when they went to the luggage retrieval hall…

…not only did they suffer horribly in the cold – some of them turning a nasty shade of mauve in the process; but that huge cork told them all to shove off, get lost, and go somewhere unmentionable. And do you know what he did when they refused?”

Frisby looked to William for the answer. He received nothing more than a tiny shrug and an angelic expression that Lillie thought made him look most attractive.

“I’ll jolly well tell you.” Patti snapped. “He dropped his trousers and ran up and down the loading bay releasing the most odious gas imaginable…

It fairly filled the place – despite the absence of the luggage door force-field and a keen breeze blowing in off the ice sheet. Naturally we fled in horror.”

Frisby nodded at this information…

“Can you confirm this, William?” He asked.

William could, and he was far from apologetic. “I can, Mister Mumph. It was a potentially fatal situation: many customers had arrived with only flimsy underwear and cheap nylon tank-tops to supplement their regular clothing. I felt it was dangerously inappropriate. I took the only course of action open to me. In an aside, I would like to congratulate Chef De Glop for those beans on toast: they were most efficacious.”

To Patti, Frisby said: “Well there you have your answer. And as regards to our customer’s safety, you can rest assured that my team of engineers are working upon the situation as we speak.”

“Oh yes indeed.” Sir Dodger piped up. “Bending every possible sinew in their efforts. It makes me proud to be an earplug.”

Well with that sort of endorsement, the wind had been fairly stripped from Patti’s sails. “Oh, well, alright then.” She said. “I’ll speak with you upon the subject again tomorrow.”

Of course, once the party had departed, Sir Dodger said: “One of my better performances there, I think. Haven’t lied through my teeth so well since I auditioned for the central role in ‘I, Blunderbuss‘. But Mizz Roularde is quite right: we need to do something pro-active, Frisby: we can’t sit back on our haunches and watch that glacier bear down on us: it’ll grind this place flat against the bedrock.”

Five minutes later…

“Right you lot, I’m not happy with this situation at all. It’s just not good enough.”  Frisby began with rare bluster, “You – collectively or individually – are going to use your expertise in engineering to come up with a plan to thwart this damned ice sheet. We need to stop it – or divert it. Any ideas?”

“Well,” Nobby Hollister replied, “I was thinking tectonics.”

“Love them.” Lillie responded. “I have all their albums. Well, all their albums up until Rickie Jeepers was replaced as lead singer.”

For a moment the engineer was nonplussed. Quickly recovering he continued: “We are on the edge of an ancient tectonic plate: the majority of the glacier is resting upon the neighbouring plate. Of course, unlike Earth, Mars is tectonically dormant: but if we could introduce a little movement, it could cause a shift in the planet’s crust that would divert the glacier to newly-formed lower ground.”

Naturally Frisby was horrified. Only for a moment did his expression betray his true feelings. But he recovered with lightning speed: “Check it out, Mister Hollister.” He said. “Dismissed.”

Before long two engineers – one Nobby Hollister: the other his best friend, Glen Watkins, had flown a Sky Cycle to a suspected prime site that was begging for intervention. There they had quickly burrowed down into the soft sandstone crust through a series of ancient vent holes.

Glen didn’t like narrow passages and barely-adequate lighting. “Is it alright if I keep my eyes shut?” He pleaded with Nobby. “My Gran always told me that what you can’t see can’t hurt you.”

If truth be told Nobby hadn’t wanted any assistance; but museum Health and Safety rules meant that he couldn’t go alone. “Smart woman, your Gran.” He replied. “Yeah-yeah, of course you can, Glen. You just sit yourself down here and await my return.”

Soon Nobby was poking his nose into all sorts of gullies and crevices…

Many looked promising, but he was determined to find precisely the right one. It needed to be deep – with magma flowing at the bottom of it…

And that, when he peered over a smooth, rounded rock formation, is exactly what he found…

“Glen,” he shouted at the top of his voice…

…”get the Sky Cycle’s motor warmed up: I’ve hit the mother lode!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirteen)

With so much snow falling around the Future Museum of Mars…

…Frisby Mumph couldn’t resist responding to a call from the Muffins and their robotic servants, and soon found himself frolicking in the snow with them…

But he knew it was a just a brief reprieve from his responsibility for the well-being of the building and everyone inside it.

“This is fun, guys,” he chuckled, “but Tangerine and I must be on our way now. You all get back to your sunken city and wrap yourselves up nice and warm: I think this mini-ice-age is gonna be a doozey!”

Of course Frisby’s customers had no idea how bad conditions would become. This particular individual was lucky to make it through Buttcleft Pass before it became impassable…

Sensibly most remained close to safety. If things worsened noticeably, they could simply step inside through one of many emergency exits that had been left ajar for them…

Several groups of Ice World immigrants from a couple of years previous had paid the fare to Mars in the hope that the winter there would remind them of their home world… 

Unfortunately one of them had forgotten how fridged air accentuates the aroma of escaping bodily gasses…

…and how they become visible to the naked eye.

Charles De Glop had stopped enjoying himself, and went back to work. But when he tried to pick some rosemary and thyme for his latest gastronomic wonder, he found it submerged and frozen solid…

“I will not lower myself to use frozen food.” He said to himself. “It is beneath me. But I do have that half-sachet of drinking chocolate at the back of the cupboard: it’s only a couple of years out-of-date. Hmmm, perhaps this is the right time for Charles De Glop to become experimental once again.”

Outside the kitchen, on the concrete apron, a pair of cyclops earplugs made their way back from a pleasant stroll in the snow…

“I wish this stroll would never end.” The grey cyclops said through a small smile.

“I agree,” the larger of the two replied. “It has been so pleasant in your company. I say, as long as conditions don’t worsen, we should stay out here for as long as we can.”

But then the heavens opened…

“Bugger this,” he added, “let’s get inside now!”

The sudden change almost caught Doubry Furkins and Jenson Prong out too…

“I’d like to see any Company cameras that can spot us through this.” Jenson moaned at Doubry. “No more arguments: get inside now!”

“Oh flip,” Charles whined as he made for the kitchen door…

…”perhaps baked beans on toast isn’t such a bad idea after all!”

Fortunately, in the lee of the nearby hills…

…where the wind blew less strongly and the snow fell a little less intensely, Nobby Hollister had used his experience in lower gravity to escape the clutches of Patti Roularde…

Alone for the moment, he paused for breath and to take the opportunity to enjoy the sense of freedom…

…where he considered leaving Patti behind. Then, through a cleft in the rocks he could just spot the museum, as snow swirled around its futuristically curved flanks…

…and he was certain that it was the right course of action. But then he heard a familiar voice on the breeze…

“Oh there you are, Nobby.” Patti said as she sauntered by. “I thought you’d fallen off a cliff or something.”

But then she dropped the type of bombshell that no desperate engineer that has taken a job on Mars because his bank account is empty and his divorced wife has left him in debt wants to hear…

“I didn’t let on earlier,” she said, “but I am a very experienced Precipitous Ledge Walker. I have walked upon many of Earth’s most precipitous ledges. I learned my craft in the Atlas Mountains. I then moved on to the Alps, the Himalayas, and finally Antarctica. I wrote several books on the subject. I have my own TV channel that specialises in extreme sports. I am a very rich woman. I came to Mars to find a daring, handsome husband with nice buttocks and a kind heart. I thought that earplug was you. But when you used your low-gravity experience to leave me behind, I knew that you were not that earplug. Nobby – you’re matrimonial toast. See you later – not!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twelve)

Of course, back on Mars, events were moving…perhaps not apace, but certainly moving forward…

William of Porridge sidled up to Lillie Whitewater and expressed his reservations regarding the only other cork in the Future Museum of Mars.

“He’s a fruit cake.” He finished.

But Lillie wasn’t really listening: she’d spotted someone on the crimson boulevard that set her knees to trembling and fillings a-rattling…

She went all gooey-eyed and called out Sir Dodger’s name, which really annoyed William because the retired thespian was old enough to be Lillie’s grandfather, and also because he thought the former bridge crew member of the K T Woo should have more self-control and a better sense of professionalism.

“Oh do shut up.” He snapped uncharacteristically

But Sir Dodger’s thoughts were mired in doubt and worry about the hiking sewage union reps. He didn’t have his hearing aid switched on either. So, consequently he walked straight on by without acknowledging Lillie in any way…

Naturally Lillie was crestfallen. She was also crushed. She wished the deck would open up beneath her and consume her entirely.

“What a git.” William said as he cast ethereal daggers in the movie star’s direction. “At least he could have said, ‘how do you do; might I say how delightful you look in that tatty old pressure suit’, but he didn’t. That’s actors for you!”

To which Lillie responded thus: “Do I really look delightful in my tatty old pressure suit, William?”

Meanwhile, out on the plain, Doubry Furkins and Jenson Prong noticed the first real signs of the approaching winter…

“Survey over for the day.” Jenson said in a manner that would brook no argument.

But Doubry, fearful for his job, did so anyway: “But the Company might be watching us from the TV relay station on Deimos.”

Jenson scoffed. “It costs a fortune to rent electronic space on Mars’ moons: they are not going to be checking in on us. Now let’s get inside.”

Sir Dodger’s concerns over the sewage workers union reps was well founded…

“Oi, Marty,” Tandoe Crimplehorn called from the rear of the party, “your oxy-suppository fits my botty to perfection: but judging by the way you’re leading us in ever decreasing circles strongly suggests that mine doesn’t fit you at all well. Are you suffering from hypoxia?”

“Shut your face.” Marty Friedpants snarled his reply. “It’s this bloody snow: it’s smudging my contact lenses. I can’t see where we’re going!”

At much the same time, the falling snow excited the normally taciturn Charles De Glop into schoolboy-like behaviour…

“Whee!” He cried as he danced about on the concrete apron outside the kitchen.

It even brought smiles to the faces of the engineers that had decided that their chances lay better with a return to the safety of the museum…

One of the engineers who had been stationed in the museum took it upon himself to clamber into the nearby hills to find any customers who might be in need of guidance back. His name was Nobby Hollister, and it was his misfortune to  discover Patti Roularde as she enjoyed herself conducting some Precipitous Ledge Walking.

“Follow me.” He instructed her.

So she did…very closely indeed…

…which didn’t please Nobby. “Give me a little space, will ya.” He grumbled. “This ledge is getting more and more precipitous.”

The museum’s roof became a magnet for winter sports fans inside the museum. Two sewage worker union reps who hadn’t bothered to join the others on their hike, dashed there to enjoy the view…

“Ah,” one of them sighed, “after years of dealing with so much filth and ghastliness, its wonderful to be somewhere so fresh and clean.”

To which his colleague replied: “Yeah. Like the purple roof panel too.”

Below them, and out of sight around the corner, Las Chicas De La Playa had stripped down to their bikinis, and were now hard at work on their tans…

“La nieve no es buena para brocearse.” Carmen said to the others. “Hagamos otro cosa.”

To which the Chicas’ sole male representative, Jorge, replied: “You’re right, Carmen:  we are not going to get a tan this way at all. Like you say, we should do something else. Any suggestions anyone?”

Thirty seconds later…

“Yeah, snowball fight.” Lucia bellowed in a most un-girly manner.

“No shoving snow down the back of bikini bottoms, okay?” Jimena added wisely.

Further around the corner, where the prevailing winds blew most powerfully, the stone entrance to the ancient citadel steps was becoming treacherous with compacted snow and black ice…

…which didn’t please the Muffins working there on a restoration project one little bit…

And Maverick Fossil-Hunter, when he emerged from a hot-dog vendor’s tent inside the citadel, was appalled at the changing conditions…

“How am I going to find the catacombs now?” He wailed. “The big X marked on my map will be covered in snow!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021