The Red Imported Fire Ant

As opposed to the the Domestic variety?  They must have hailed from somewhere at some point- had to be indigenous before they became invasive… Looks like they came from South America originally…   Lest I appear to any readers as being cavalier about invasives, let me assure you I am not.  But we really can be our own worst enemy sometimes…  the “Bighead” or “Asian” Carp that is knocking on the door of the Great Lakes system is a real threat and brought to us courtesy of the catfish farmers down south… who started introducing this species into their catfish ponds to help keep them clean.  One flood later and poof, the genie’s out of the bottle and there’s  only so much we can do to stop them.  Another example is the Buckthorn Plant… deemed a noxious weed in Minnesota by our own DNR, various versions can still be purchased over the counter at you local nursery or home center…

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But, but, but… I thought Abbey already retrieved a specimen?  I’m so confused.  Whatever.  And hey… I have an idea.  Why don’t you both board the Helicopter and have Cal fly you up there?  I’m sure he could hover precariously as you both execute a tetherless rappel (I just made that one up…) which to the uninformed would look like two people leaping out of a helicopter onto a small outcropping.  No risk there…

Kabuki Theater

It just occurred to me, looking at the pained and manufactured expressions on the faces of Mark and Abbey, that they are styled after Kabuki

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While Mark maintains the Trailian visage (seen in panel one) more that anything else, we have also seen him, through facial expressions, go for other emotive states- irony, sheepishness, cluelessness, anger, all the way to ‘hey I just made a joke here…’ But that’s nothing compared to Abbey’s transformation in both emotion and facial shape between panels two and three…  Anger to sadness and resignation almost in mid sentence.

So as it becomes apparent that the ants have taken the high ground, and therefore have strategic placement advantage, I’m guessing that Mark and Abbey will be climbing the same precarious slopes that Abbey earlier slipped and fell down.  Good luck with that!

Abbey, why don’t YOU just write the story…

…seems that you have done all the research…  and it seems as though the USDA database is replete with details…  about the comings and goings of every American (we assume they are American, heck, they looked American…)  Is anyone else concerned?  So with finger wagging, Abbey recounts all the details of the “mystery…” which leaves us to wonder, “what’s next?”

And are we to believe that every ship that puts into a given harbor is given a thorough inspection for invasive species?  Drugs, I understand, but invasive species??  What with all the fresh fruit loaded onto cruise ships throughout the world, are they inspected?  I suppose so.  But it appears that in the U.S. we more concerned with human trafficking than invasives…  but depending on what side of the immigration argument you are on, invasives can come in different shapes and sizes…

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But a quick check of the procedure in New Zealand suggests that the inspection is quite thorough… including a six-step biosecurity inspection and clearance…  So it’s conceivable that the ants were discovered upon reaching New Zealand and a complete history of their travels documented!  How could I ever have doubted!!  But how on earth do you live on a boat, no matter how big, with ant colony??  ick.

And I’m sure… a picnic lunch…  we all know what they really did on those white sand beaches…

Your Pilot, Mark? Really??

Geez, Mark you really are full of yourself, aren’t you…  Are you just trying to impress Abbey, or what?  Your pilot?  Please. In the span of an afternoon, Cal has not become yours…  Abbey Powell, breathless in the presence of The Trail, isn’t helping with all this…

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And what’s with all the sudden vegetation?  Fully grown palm trees and flowers?  This was a rocky, volcanic outcropping until you showed up and then poof!  Cue the Palms!

As the rotor spins…

With various forms of wildlife enjoying cameo roles (hearkening back to the Trailverse of old) we see the long-shot approach and the eager anticipation that is meant to create a modicum of expectation for this story.

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With the island not shaking anymore, and Abbey back on her feet with her glasses on, Mark makes his grand entrance (with Cal’s help, of course…)

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I will say it again- what’s missing in all this is the bad guy (or gal) that threatens to lay waste to fragile ecosystems, to poach rapaciously the innocent fauna that might be hanging by a thread.  While I should probably care about invasive species and man’s role in spreading them around, there’s no story line in it.  At least not for me.  Bring back Big Mike, or the corrupt Senator’s aid, or Dirty Dyer the Rhino Horn trafficker,  or that skinny milquetoast who wanted to mine titanium oxide from the Great Dismal Swamp…    anything… please…

…sigh…

OK, kids,  we’ve seen this before…  Abbey Powell taking a bad step, and a random earthquake RRRUUUUMMMMMBBBBBLLLLLEEEE…  at least this is more plausible here than in the cave story.  Appears that Earthquakes are a daily thing in Hawaii, although registering only 1.0 – 2.0  on the Richter scale…

Abbey Powell needs to have a word with James Allen.  If he going to feature her (a real person with a life, presumably with ambitions,) she can’t allow him to continue to portray her as a stumbling oaf…  Hey, I mean, I have daughter, probably about Abbey’s age, trying to make her way in the world of science, and this kind of portrayal helps no one…

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So pick yourself up and dust yourself off, Abbey… blow the coral dust out of your nose and pretend this never happened, right??

Coral Atoll?

According to TC, I mean Cal, this is an unstable volcanic formation… shows what Abbey might know… or the Narrator for that matter.  And Abbey, to whom exactly are you speaking?  The Horseshoe Crab in the foreground?  But it’s comforting in its own way to have her talking aloud to herself, in time-honored Mark Trail fashion…

So as Abbey waits patiently for Mark to arrive, apparently leaving the details to take care of themselves, (Today?  Does that mean morning, afternoon, or evening? Did Abbey stay there guarding the island in the meantime?) we are left to wonder how she made a positive ID on the type of ant they are dealing with… and whether, ultimately, this is going to call for the inestimable resources of the USDA to mount an offensive against it…

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And by “scour the island” you mean what?  Oh, OK, probably just what it sounds like…  in my search for meaning and inspiration I will grab at any possible double-entendre that might appear…