Authors: Andy Griffiths
An enormous bum.
An enormous white bum.
An enormous white bum with most of the skin on its right cheek missing and its many deep layers of blubber on fire.
This was no ordinary bum.
This was the Great White Bum.
And it wasn't happy.
In fact it was furious.
Furious at having had its dream of total bumination of the Earth ripped from its grasp at the last moment.
Furious at all the bums on Earth who had let it down by abandoning the bumcano just when it was about to blow and knock out every human being on the planet.
But, above all, the Great White Bum was furious at Zack Freeman, the chief architect of the predicament it now found itself in: hurtling through spaceâhalf dead, on fire and too weak to stop itself.
âHow could I have been so dumb?' it wondered aloud. âI should never have trusted those Earth bumsânot only are they weak and stupid, but they have minds of their own. What I need is an army that won't question me. An army that will obey me. An army as ruthless as myself. But where in the univarse am I going to find such a force?'
The Great White Bum shrugged sadly and blinked.
Then it blinked again.
Although the light from the sun was very weak, it could see something in the distance.
A blue planet.
For a moment the Great White Bum was confused, mistaking the planet for Earth .Â .Â . but as it drew closer it realised that it wasn't Earth at all.
It did, however, look strangely familiar.
Slowly it dawned on the Great White Bum that it had been here before.
Ahead of it was Uranusâone of the planets that we know on Earth as a âgas giant', and not without good
reason. The planet Uranus consists almost entirely of gasâa large proportion of which is methane, responsible for giving the planet its distinctive blue colour.
But Uranus had not always been this way.
Many millennia ago the Great White Bum had arrived on Uranus and encouraged the bums of the peaceful Uranusian population to rise up and destroy their owners. But although initially successful, the plan had later backfired. Freed from their owners, the Uranusian bums had multiplied out of control. In the process they had overwhelmed their planet with enormous clouds of gas, gradually choking all forms of life with lethal amounts of methane. Realising that they would be the next to go, the Uranusian bums fled their dying planetâbut they were doomed. As they entered the depths of space they were snap-frozen dead, their carcases forming nine thin rings around the planet. At that point the Great White Bumâimpervious to both the deadly methane and the ravages of interstellar travelâslipped silently across the solar system towards a small blue planet .Â .Â . and began the long, slow process of world bumination all over again.
But that was then.
This was now.
And as the Great White Bum got closer to Uranus it began to smile.
It realised that not only did Uranus offer a means of halting its freefall through space, but that its rings could also provide the very army of bums it needed. With this army it could return to Earth and finish what it had started with the bumcano.
As the Great White Bum hurtled towards Uranus, it was well aware of the univarsal law of physics known to bums, bum-fighters and schoolchildren throughout the univarse:
Methane + Flame = Explosion
Only in this case the Great White Bum realised it would be a slightly different, slightly bigger equation:
WHOLE PLANET FULL OF METHANE
= REALLY HUGE EXPLOSION
Just exactly how really huge this explosion would be the Great White Bum had no way of knowing, but it did know that the explosion would create an incredible stench.
A stench, no doubt, that would be smelly enough to wake the dead .Â .Â .
At that moment James and Judi Freeman, one of Earth's top husband and wife bum-fighting teams, were leaning over a table in the middle of their intergalactic bum-mobile, about to dissect one of the bums they had just retrieved from the Uranusian rings.
James and Judi had been sent to Uranus by E-Mission Control on a top-secret E-mission to take a closer look at the rings surrounding Uranus.
According to images sent back to Earth by the space probe
, on its February 1986 flypast, the rings appeared to be made up of bums.
âBum scalpel,' said James.
Judi picked one up from the tray beside her and placed it in her husband's trembling hand.
James Freeman wiped small droplets of perspiration from his brow as he studied the bum on the table in front of him.
He'd dissected many bums in the course of his bum-fighting career, but never one as strange as this. It was a blueish-black colour with a jelly-like consistency. It reminded him of the large domed jellyfish that he used to find washed up on the beach when he was a kid.
âAre you sure we should be doing this?' said Judi.
âOf course I'm sure,' James said.
Judi frowned. âBut our orders were just to take a closer look. To retrieve a sample specimen if possible. E-Mission Control didn't say anything about dissection.'
James drew in his breath and looked at his wife. âThat's true,' he said. âBut then E-Mission Control didn't know whether it would be possible to retrieve one in the first place. Don't you realise the importance of what we have here? The magnitude of our discovery? This is the first proof of extraterrestrial bum life! It's our duty to find out more about it before we take the risk of bringing it back. It could contaminate the whole planet!'
âWhat about our bum-mobile?' said Judi. âWhat about us? What about our son?'
âZack is not here,' said James, patiently.
âThat's my point exactly!' said Judi. âHe's back on Earth. All alone.'
âHe's not alone,' James said. âHis grandmother is looking after him.'
Judi snorted. âSometimes I wonder who's looking after who,' she said. âWhat if something happens to us?'
âRelax,' said James. âThe bum is dead. It's a routine dissection. Nothing more.'
Judi shook her head. âI wish Silas hadn't been called back to Earth. He'd know what to do.'
âI know what he'd do,' said James, impatient to begin the dissection. âExactly the same thing that we're about to do. Let's just get it done and get back to Earth. We'll be home before you know it.'
Judi shrugged. She knew it was pointless to argue with James when he got like this.
She pulled her bum-mask up over her mouth and nose. James did the same.
He tried to steady his shaking hand.
It wasn't so much fear that was making his hand shake as the awesome sense of occasion. It wasn't every day you got the chance to dissect an alien bum. In fact it had never been done before. By anyone. Ever. He was about to make history.
James positioned the point of the scalpel at the top of the bum's crack and made an incision.
âThat's one small cut for a bum .Â .Â .' he announced. âOne giant cut forâ'
âJust get on with it!' said Judi, impatient for the dissection to be over so they could start for home. They'd been away too much lately, and she was
growing tired of it. Under the pretext of playing in the wind section of a symphony orchestra, they completed three or four secret bum-fighting E-missions each year. But she missed her little boy. He wasn't even that little anymore. He was twelve, and growing up fast. Although their work was vital to the security of the world, she was worried about him. Twelve was a difficult age. She wanted to be there for him in case his bum ran away like hers and James's had when they were the same age. She wouldn't have worried quite so much if her son had inherited a little of their bum-fighting talent, but he'd failed the entrance exam for the Junior Bum-fighters' League three times. Whatever his talents were, she figured, they obviously didn't include bum-fighting.
âThat's strange,' said James, frowning. âI've never seen a bum do that before.'
âDo what?' said Judi, leaning forward.
âLook,' said James, making another incision in the strange blue bum. âYou can't see where I just cut.'
James Freeman put his scalpel down, wiped his brow and shook his head.
The flesh on the bum appeared to have repaired itself instantly.
âLet me try,' said Judi, âafter all, I did get a B plus for bum dissection at the Bum-fighting Academy.'
James made a face. âOkay, hot shot,' he said, handing her the scalpel.
Judi ran the scalpel expertly down the length of the crack and around the bum, neatly severing it in two with a quick flick of her wrist.
âNice one,' said James, nodding approvingly and
prodding one of the halves with his finger. He had to resist an urge to pick it up and throw it, just like he had done with the pieces of jellyfish all those years ago on the beach.
But as Judi and James studied the two halves, their eyes grew wide.
Judi grabbed James's sleeve.
âLook!' she said.
âWow!' said James.
Right in front of their eyes, the two cheeks slid towards each other and formed back into one bum.
âI thought you said it was dead,' said Judi.
âIt is!' said James, picking up the scalpel again. âBut its flesh still retains the power to repair itself. Do you realise the possible applications of flesh like this for bum-fighters? You could be blown apart by an atomic bum and then just put yourself back together again!'
Judi shuddered, reaching out to stop James from cutting into the bum again. âNo,' she said in a low voice.
James looked at her, suddenly realising how worried she was.
âJames,' she said quietly, âit's not safe.'
âHow can it not be safe?' said James.
âI don't know,' said Judi. âBut it's too weird. I say we get rid of it. It's too dangerous. We don't even know if it's dead.'
âOf course it's dead,' said James. âThere's no pulse, there's no electrical signals .Â .Â .'
âIt may not be alive,' said Judi, picking up the bum and carrying it over to the emergency expulsion chute, âbut it's certainly not dead.'
âBut don't you see?' said James, moving around the table to try to grab the bum from her. âTogether, we can make history!'
âYes, but at what price?' said Judi. âWe're just regular bum-fighters. This is way out of our league! Let E-Mission Control send a specialist team up here.'
Judi was about to press the button on the chute when her attention was caught by a fiery objectâa long way from the bum-mobileâpassing through the innermost ring of Uranus and heading straight for the planet's surface.
âWhat in the univarse is that?' said Judi.
âLooks like a comet,' said James, pressing his nose against the glass.
âA comet?' Judi said. âOut here?'
âI don't know,' said James. âWhatever it is, though .Â .Â . it's on fire .Â .Â . and Uranus is full of methane!'
âSo is yours,' said Judi, âbut I don't go on about it.'
James ignored her. âUranus is about to explode!' he shouted.
âHow dare you!' said Judi, raising her hand to slap his cheek.
âI mean the planet!' said James as he grabbed her hand and pulled her to the floor of the bum-mobile.
For a moment there was complete silence.
Then a massive explosion rocked the ship.
Had they been looking out of the porthole instead of lying down with their faces pressed to the floor, they would have seen a rare and extraordinary sight.
The explosion of a planet.
But while they might not have seen it, they certainly felt it and smelt it.
A blast of intense light, heat and stench rocked their spacecraft.
As Judi flattened herself against the floor of the bum-mobile, her only thought was for their son Zack, and how sad it was that she would never see him again.
She closed her eyes and waited to die.