Authors: Andy Griffiths
Zack nodded. He watched Eleanor move quickly across the yard and up the hill towards Silas's quarters. He turned back to his gran who had already installed herself in the cockpit.
There were so many questions Zack wanted to ask her that he could hardly decide where to begin. As it turned out, he didn't have to.
âIf only your grandfather could have seen all this,' said Gran, waving her hand across the control panels. âHe would have been amazed.'
âGrandpa was a bum-fighter as well?' said Zack.
He had never known his grandfather. He'd died long before Zack was born.
âOh yes,' said Gran, her eyes misting up. âPercy was a great bum-fighter. One of the first, you know. They called him the Wiper. He could wipe out a bum from up to a kilometre away.'
âReally?' said Zack. âWhat happened to him?'
Gran dropped her voice. âThere are some bums that you should never try to wipe, Zack,' she whispered. âPercy found that out the hard way. He was killed by Stenchgantor.'
Zack gasped. âThe Great Unwiped Bum?'
âYes,' said Gran. âYou know of it? It lives in the Brown Forest.'
to live in the Brown Forest,' Zack corrected her.
Gran's eyes widened. âYou mean .Â .Â . it got wiped?' she said.
âNot exactly,' said Zack. âI killed it with the smell of my dirty socks.'
Gran stared at Zack. âYou killed Stenchgantor?' she said.
âYes,' said Zack, âand the Great White Bum.'
âSo it's true!' said Gran, nodding her head.
âWhat's true?' said Zack.
âOnce,' said Gran, âon a deserted country road, many years ago, Percy and I met a blind bum-feeler who offered to tell my future by feeling my bum. I was wearing a fake bum, of course, but Percyâwho always enjoyed a bit of a jokeâmade me hand it over. She hailed me as the forerunner of the greatest of all bum-fighters. I assumed she meant my
sonâyour dadâbut I never took it seriously. Your dad is a good bum-fighter, Zack, but not a great one. He's too gung-ho. But never, even in my wildest dreams, did I suspect that the bum-feeler might have been referring to you.'
Zack's head was reeling. âDad's a bum-fighter?' he said.
âYes,' said Gran. âAnd your mother.'
âBut I thought they were musicians!'
âNo,' said Gran. âAt least not anymore. They were recruited at the conservatorium when they were students. They just use the orchestra tours as a cover for secret bum-fighting E-missions. They're on one right now.'
Zack felt his stomach drop. A terrible thought came to him. There were two bum-fighters on Uranus .Â .Â . on a secret E-mission.
âWhere are they now?' he said, his mouth dry.
âI don't know,' said Gran. âTheir E-mission was top secret.'
âBut why didn't they tell me they were bum-fighters?' said Zack.
âI wanted to tell you, love,' said Gran, touching Zack's arm, âbut your parents wouldn't let me. Because of your poor showing in the Junior Bum-fighters' League they figured the bum-fighting blood had stopped with them. I said that it would probably just come through later in life, but of course, there are no guarantees and they insisted. They thought that if you weren't a bum-fighter then it would be kinderâand saferâfor you to be spared the terrible burden of responsibility that comes with
bum-fighting and be left simply to live a normal life. In the end I had to agree.'
Zack shook his head, struggling to take it all in. If everything Gran was telling him was true then it would explain many things, such as how he'd been able to defeat two of the most dangerous bums in the world with no training whatsoever. But it didn't explain why he'd failed so badly in the bum-fighting simulator.
âGran,' said Zack, âhow do I know that what you're telling me now is the truth and not just another story?'
Gran smiled. âHave you ever wondered about the similarity between my name and the name of the town?'
âSometimes,' said Zack, âbut I just thought it was a coincidence.'
âIt's more than a coincidence,' she said. âThe town was named in my honour.'
âReally?' said Zack.
âYes,' said Gran. âAfter Percy died, I decided that if the world was going to stand a chance against bums then we had to get organised. I formed the world's first bum-fighting team with two of Percy's best friends: the Forker and the Flicker. Together, we pretty much invented modern-day bum-fighting.'
Zack nodded. What she was telling him matched exactly with what he'd read about Mabel's Angels on the backs of his bum-fighter trading cards. It had to be true.
There was a sudden commotion in the bum-mobile. Zack heard Mittens screech and smelt his bum yell. His first thought was that the zombie bums had
broken into the bum-mobile, but then he realised that it was just Mittens and his bum fighting.
They were having a stand-off at the rear of the bum-mobile. Zack's bum had four deep scratch marks across its right cheek.
âWhat's going on?' said Zack.
âI didn't do anything!' said his bum, trying its best to look innocent.
Mittens was poised ready to attack again.
Zack's bum bent over, ready to blast Mittens.
âNo!' said Zack.
But he was too late.
Zack's bum let fly and Mittens was blown hard against the hatch. So hard, in fact, that the force of her body blasted it open and she flew outside.
âZack!' yelled his Gran. âYou were supposed to lock the hatch!'
âSorry, Gran,' he said, âI forgot .Â .Â .'
âYou've got to be smarter than that, Zack,' said Gran, launching herself out the hatch.
âWhat are you doing, Gran?' called Zack. âWe can't leave the bum-mobile! Remember what Eleanor said?'
âNo, I forgot,' said Gran.
âBut it's too dangerous!' said Zack.
âThat's exactly why I have to save Mittens!' said Gran. âIt's no place for a cat! I can't just leave her out there!'
Zack glared at his bum as he quickly pulled on a pair of bum-fighting overalls, secured his bum-fighting belt around his waist and grabbed a toilet brush.
âI hope you're happy!' he said to his bum as he climbed through the hatch.
âMittens started it!' said his bum.
âI don't care who started it,' said Zack as he left the bum-mobile. âBut as usual I have to finish it!'
âDon't leave me here all by myself!' said his bum.
But Zack was gone.
His bum jumped up and chased after him.
Zack could hear Gran calling Mittens.
She was over near the classroomâor what was left of it. The windows were all smashed and there were holes in the roof, but at least it was still standing.
Zack headed over, his feet crunching on broken glass and splintered wood.
There had obviously been a battle of titanic proportions. It was inconceivable that Silas and the B-team could have lost, but then, where were they?
Zack heard another sound. It was coming from somewhere behind him. He glanced around to see his bum following him from a safe distance. âCome on,' said Zack, feeling a little sorry for it. âHop on.'
His bum ran up and reattached itself.
Zack reached Gran. âAny sign of Mittens?' he asked.
âNo,' said Gran. âYour bum scared her pretty well.'
He heard a muffled cry.
âWhat is it?' said Gran.
âListen!' said Zack.
They heard a low plaintive sound.
âIt's coming from inside the classroom,' said Zack.
They cautiously climbed the steps.
At the top Zack pushed the door open with the tip of his boot.
The room was a complete shambles.
As Zack's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was shocked to see a huge piece of the roof, surrounded by plaster and rubble lying in the middle of the room. Above it was a large hole through which the stars of the night sky were clearly visible.
Bookshelves had been overturned and copies of The Bumper Book of Bums were strewn everywhere. The model of the bum was now just a mass of plastic shards and splinters. Bum-fighting charts lay ripped and trampled on the floor.
Only the virtual bum-fighting simulator remained intact.
As for Mittens, she was nowhere to be seen.
Then they heard the sound again.
More clearly this time.
But it wasn't a cat.
It was a person groaning.
And it was coming from under an overturned bookshelf that was covered in roof rubble. Sticking out from the end of the bookshelf were two huge bum-kicking boots.
Zack smiled. He never thought he'd be so happy to see the Kicker.
âWho is it?' said Gran.
âIt's the Kicker!' Zack said.
âNever heard of him!' said Gran.
âHe's a bum-fighter,' said Zack, kneeling down and starting to clear the rubble off the top of the bookshelf. âDon't worry, Kicker, we'll have you out in no time.'
Gran knelt down with Zack and began to help him. Pretty soon they had the bookshelf clear.
âOkay,' said Zack, grabbing one end of the shelf while Gran took the other. âOne .Â .Â . two .Â .Â . three .Â .Â . lift!'
They lifted the bookshelf up.
The Kicker was lying on his back, covered in dust.
Zack and Gran leaned the bookshelf against the wall and, grabbing a hand each, helped the Kicker to stand up. He was in a bad way, swaying back and forth, as if any moment he was going to fall back down.
âStand up straight, soldier!' said Gran.
The Kicker looked at her, dazed, as if she was speaking a completely different language.
Zack took the Kicker's arm and helped him to stand. This didn't seem like the Kicker that he'd come to know and fear. All the fire seemed to have been knocked out of him.
âWhat happened?' said Zack.
The Kicker shook his head and shrugged as he swayed.
Gran stepped forward. âSnap out of it, soldier!' she said, pinching his cheeks roughly.
Zack winced. You don't do that to the Kicker, he thought.
But Gran continued undaunted. âYou give up, they
win,' she said. âYou don't give up, there's still a chance.'
The Kicker's only response was to open his mouth. A long trail of saliva fell to the floor.
Zack was shocked. Then he had a terrible thought. He looked at the Kicker's bum. It was enormous. No wonder he was having trouble standing. He'd been zombie-bummified!
Before Zack could warn Gran, however, the Kicker grabbed her hand, drew it to his mouth and sank his teeth into the flesh in between her thumb and forefinger.
But not for long. Zack watched as she quickly formed her finger and thumb into her trademark pincer shape and, as the Kicker opened his mouth for a second bite, she reached in and pinched his tongue so hard that blood spurted out of his mouth.
The Kicker staggered backwards with surprise, lost his balance, and crashed to the floor.
As if it was happening in slow motion, Zack saw what he had to do. He jumped on top of the Kicker.
But he was too slow.
The Kicker launched a double-legged donkey kick which caught Zack in the stomach. Zack flew across the room and crashed into the blackboard.
Zack watched helplessly as the Kicker spat out a mouthful of blood, struggled to his feet and advanced on Gran, backing her into a corner of the room.
âYou wouldn't kick an old lady, would you?' said Gran.
The Kicker spat out another mouthful of blood and continued his advance on Gran who stood firm,
her arms fully extended and pincer-hands snipping the air.
As fierce as she was, however, Zack didn't like her chances. But there was little he could do to help.
Suddenly the door of the classroom banged open. Zack looked up to see two large silhouettes filling the doorway. He breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was Silas Sterne and the Smacker.
Silas immediately launched himself into the room and grabbed the Kicker around the waist in a rugby tackle. They hit the ground hard. Silas quickly over-powered the Kicker and sat on top of him.
âWell, well, well,' said Gran. âIf it isn't Silas Sterne!'
Silas looked at her without speaking.
Gran frowned. âWell? Is that any way to greet your old teacher?' she said.
Silas dribbled as he clumsily got to his feet.
Zack's stomach sank.
Silas Sterne's bum was huge.
He hadn't tackled the Kicker in order to stop him from eating Gran. Silas had tackled the Kicker because he wanted to eat Gran.
Zack turned to look at the Smacker. Her bum was huge as well.
âWatch out, Gran!' yelled Zack. âThey're ALL zombies!'
At the sound of his voice, Silas and the Smacker turned towards Zack. The Smacker lurched towards him. Silas began staggering towards him as well. The Kicker resumed his advance on Gran.