Authors: Andy Griffiths
Then, behind them, Zack noticed another silhouette appear in the doorway.
It was Eleanor.
Zack tried to signal to her not to come in, but it was too late.
âThere you all are!' she exclaimed. âI've been looking everywhere for you! I was starting to get worried.'
Silas turned and began stumbling towards his daughter.
âRun Eleanor!' yelled Zack. âHe's not your dad! Not anymore!'
âWhat are you talking about?' said Eleanor.
âHe's a zombie!' yelled Zack. âCheck his bum!'
Eleanor's eyes suddenly grew wide with terror. She started to back away but it was too late. The zombie-Silas grabbed her arm.
Eleanor tried to break free, but the zombie-Silas was too powerful. He pulled her arm to his mouth, saliva dripping from his lips. But before his teeth could break Eleanor's skin, a dark shape flew across the room and wrapped itself around Silas Sterne's face.
It was Mittens!
Silas dropped Eleanor's arm and concentrated on trying to remove the cat from his face.
Eleanor swung her bumgun through the air and brought the butt of it down hard on her father's head. Silas staggered backwards towards the centre of the room.
Zack looked across the room to see Gran pinching both of the Kicker's cheeks at the same time. The Kicker leapt backwardsâwithout realising that he was on a collision course with Silas.
Zack acted fast.
The Smacker was standing in front of him.
He pulled the sauce bottle out of his belt and squirted it in her face. She was so surprised that she staggered back towards the centre of the room as well.
The zombie-bummified bum-fighters all collided in the middle, knocking themselves out at the same time.
âSTRIKE!' yelled Zack's bum.
Zack tossed the sauce bottle high into the air and watched it spin. He caught it, licked the sauce from the top and tucked it back into his belt.
âGood work, soldier,' said Gran.
âI thought I told you all to stay in the bum-mobile,' said Eleanor.
âMittens got out,' Zack said.
Eleanor shook her head in disbelief. âSo you risked your life for a cat?' she said. âHow could you be so dumb?'
âShe's a good cat,' said Zack. âShe saved your life!'
âMy life might not have needed saving if you hadn't disobeyed my orders, you idiot!' said Eleanor.
âLanguage!' said Gran.
âLanguage yourself!' replied Eleanor.
âRemember your manners, soldier!' said Gran. âYou're completely out of line!'
Eleanor was about to reply when she heard Silas groan.
âOh no,' said Zack. âThey're coming to. What are we going to do?'
Eleanor looked wildly around the room. âThe simulator,' she said. âWe can lock them in until we
figure out how to dezombie-bummify them. I'll take Silas. Zack, you grab the Kicker. Can you handle the Smacker, Pincher?'
âNo problems,' said Gran, flexing her fingers.
Zack, Gran and Eleanor dragged the three heavy bum-fighters up the steps and clamped them into the simulator seats.
Then they locked the door.
âBetter run a program in case they wake up,' said Eleanor.
Zack opened the control panel and scrolled down the list of options:
SEA OF BUMS DIVE
GREAT WINDY DESERT TREK
BROWN FOREST PICNIC
GREAT WHITE BUM HUNT
Zack smiled. They all sounded deceptively pleasant.
But he knew better.
He'd been killed in every single one of them.
Over and over again.
He punched â
'. Despite the crapalanche, UFBs, brown river, bum-piranhas, poopigators, and sewage fall it offered excellent skiing and some of the most stunning simulated scenery Zack had ever virtually experienced.
The display offered a range of difficulty levels from one to ten. The control was already set at level ten.
That's odd, thought Zack. He was probably the
last person to have used the simulator and he was only a rookie. Rookies never went past level three. Why would the Kicker have had it on level ten?
Zack shrugged, set the time period for UNLIMITED and pressed the start button.
âBum voyage,' he said. âThat ought to keep them out of trouble for a while.'
He turned to Eleanor and Gran.
They were sitting slumped against the wall, exhausted with the effort of dragging the Kicker, the Smacker and Silas into the simulator.
Zack was about to sit down when Mittens suddenly leapt onto Zack's bum.
âAaaggh!' yelled his bum.
âAaaaggghhh!' yelled Zack.
Eleanor grabbed the hissing and wildly clawing Mittens by her tail, and pulled her clear of Zack's bum. It was obvious what had happened.
Mittens had been zombie-bummified as well.
Eleanor climbed the steps of the simulator and started unlocking the door.
âNo!' said Gran, jumping up.
âSorry, but I have to do this,' said Eleanor. âThis cat has been zombie-bummified! The simulator is the safest place for it.'
Gran nodded sadly.
Eleanor threw Mittens inside and slammed the door shut.
âGood riddance to bad rubbish I say!' said Zack's bum as Zack dabbed at its bite-wound with a wad of toilet paper.
âPut a cork in it!' said Gran, wiping a tear from her eye.
âLanguage!' said Zack's bum.
âWe'd better get back to the bum-mobile,' said Eleanor. âIt's too dangerous for us to stay here.'
They left the classroom.
On their way back to the bum-mobile, Zack had an idea. âBack in a second,' he said. Before Eleanor could object, he ran up the hill towards what remained of Silas Sterne's mansion.
Zack had found out enough about the true identity of his parents to become very worried about them. The coincidence of their being away âon tour with the orchestra' at almost exactly the same time that Silas Sterne had gone to Uranus seemed somehow more than a coincidence. But Zack needed to find out for sure.
He entered the front door of the mansion and headed towards the first door on the right.
He'd only been in Silas Sterne's office once before. That was when he'd first arrived at the Bum-fighting Academy. Silas had called him in and personally congratulated him on his success in defeating the Great White Bum. Zack remembered being completely overawed by the experience.
All around the room there had been pictures of the Bum Hunterâsome of him in action, some of him posing with other famous bum huntersâalong with a range of certificates, awards and trophy bums, which
he'd had stuffed and mounted on the wall. Zack remembered being particularly impressed by a rack of bum-harpoons ranging from the ultra-modern (laser sighting, self-sharpening head) to the ultra-primitive (a sharpened stick with feathers sticky-taped to the end).
Now, however, like the classroom, Silas's office was a mess, bearing all the signs of a great struggle. The harpoons were scattered all over the floor, pictures and awards cracked, and the trophy bums torn off the wall and ripped apart to reveal their feather and horsehair stuffing.
Zack bent down and picked one of the photos out of the rubble.
He wiped the dust off the cracked glass and saw the Bum Hunter with his arm around a woman who looked exactly like his gran, except without the wrinkles. At the bottom of the frame was a small brass plate inscribed with the words âMe and the Pincher: Siberian Crater 1927'.
Zack searched through the rubble until he found a filing cabinet marked âTOP SECRET E-MISSIONS: DO NOT OPEN'.
Under normal circumstances, Zack would never have even considered disobeying an instruction like this, but whatever the circumstances were, they were definitely not normal.
He pulled open the heavy drawer and flicked through the files past a bewildering array of bum hot spotsââBOTSWANA', âBUMBAY', âSMELLBOURNE', and âTHE NETHERLANDS'âuntil he came to a file marked âURANUS'.
Zack pulled it out.
It didn't take him long to find the E-mission statement (âThe purpose of this E-mission is to investigate the makeup of the rings of Uranus'), but it was the personnel list directly underneath it that made his eyes widen and stomach sink:
âI thought so,' Zack said quietly. He folded the piece of paper and put it carefully in the top pocket of his bum-fighting overalls.
He desperately wished there was some way to contact his parents and get them to come home. But Uranus was two-and-a-half billion kilometres away. It was clearly impossible.
And yet Zack knew Silas Sterne had been recalled from Uranus a few weeks earlier to help deal with the unfolding bumcano crisis. If he'd been contacted from Earth then there
to be a way to get in touch with his parents.
Zack searched the office for a clue.
But he found nothing.
He was about to give up and leave when he noticed a red button behind a small frame of glass on the wall behind the door.
He studied it closely. There was a small plaque attached. It read:
SPECIAL BUMERGENCY TRANSMITTER
To be used strictly for urgent recall of
bum-fighters on E-missions in case they're
needed back on Earth to help deal with a
bumergency such as a bumcano crisis, zombie
bum invasion or something like that.
1. BREAK GLASS
2. PRESS BUTTON
Zack knew exactly what he had to do.
He broke the glass.
He pressed the button.
A square section of the wall slid away to reveal an illuminated screen. A keyboard slid out from underneath it.
âWelcome to bumergency recall,' said a computerised voice. âPlease type in the names of the operatives you wish to recall and supply a brief explanation.'
Zackâwho was not quite as deft with his fingers as his granâtyped as fast as his two-fingered style would let him.
TO JAMES FREEMAN AND JUDI FREEMAN,
please come back immediately. Earth is being
taken over by zombie bums from Uranus.
Love, ZACK FREEMAN (your son).
P.S. The Great White Bum is dead! I harpooned
it and Silas Sterne nominated me for the Bum
Hunters' Hall of Fame.
P.P.S. Gran told me everything.
He pressed SEND, pushed the keyboard back into the wall and ran to rejoin the others.
Zack arrived back at the bum-mobile to find Eleanor fuming.
âYou'd better have a good reason for just running off like that,' she said. âDon't you realise how dangerous this place is now?'
âYes,' said Zack, âand I'm sorry, but I had to find out whether the bum-fighters who went to Uranus with Silas were my parents.'
âAnd?' said Eleanor.
âThey were!' Zack said. âSo I sent them a message telling them to return immediately.'
âWell, that's just brilliant!' said Eleanor sarcastically. âWe really seem to be getting on top of the situation here.'
âIt could be worse,' said Gran.
âHow on earth could things possibly be WORSE?' yelled Eleanor. âZombie bums have come down from Uranus .Â .Â .'
âLanguage!' said Gran.
âI meant the planet,' said Eleanor.
âAnyway,' Eleanor continued, âthese zombie bums are attaching themselves to people's bumsâwhether the bums are real or false doesn't seem to matter to themâall they care about is turning people into eating machines so that the bums can grow really big.
Now, not only are zombie bums impervious to pain butâjudging from what I saw when I rescued you bothâthey have regenerative powers that allow them to put themselves back together again after being blasted apart. This, according to my calculations, makes them pretty much indestructible. Am I correct?'
Zack and Gran nodded.
âAnd just to make things really bad,' said Eleanor, barely pausing for breath, âwe've just lost three of the most experienced and best bum-fighters in the world. So would you please explain to me how things could possibly be any worse?'