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“You know”, said Aristophanes Brown, walking arm in arm with Alexia Laplace along a quiet stretch of the Thames near Richmond, “this is had been the most appalling summer for bees I can remember. No wonder the flowers have been dismal.

The moon-a-muck, trailing behind Carina on a lead, in its doggy disguise, hooted to itself. It felt that songs, not bees, ought to be the key to a successful summer bloom.

Alexia admired the winter waterfowl out on the river, then looked up to take in the graceful sight of a swan in flight, no doubt searching for inspiration for her design and gadgetry.

“This is true Ari, although I’ve never figured you for a botanist. It’s been a year short of colour anywhere where our moon-a-muck hasn’t sung its song.”

The moon-a-muck skipped along, delighted to hear its name in conversation.

“Well, at least we won’t get stung” Aristophanes opined.

“That is small consolation for world starvation when all the crops fail, Ari.”

“Surely not, my dear?!”

“Surely too. Without these pollinating insects, we are, to be frank, bloody well doomed.”

Alexia adjusted her flaming hair, and lit a cigarette.

“Do we know what’s behind it?”

“No, I don’t. But if we don’t find out, then no matter how much our mucky sings, we are going to be eating each other in a few years.”

They walked on in silence.

Not so many miles to the North West, under the grounds of a family country estate just outside of Oxford, a man releases a thousand bees from an enclosure in an underground chamber where there buzzing echoes with apocalyptic feedback from the concrete walls. Then another thousand. And a thousand more. And he wades through the swarm, happily allowing himself to be stung as his mind homes in on the centre of the galaxy.