Kenny and his family got to the fair just before 6 o’clock. It was in full swing. At first they didn’t do much and just looked around.
Kenny heard George say to Marjorie, “I tell you, these rides and things are a bit pricey.”
To which Marjorie replied, “I know. Not sure why they call it a fair when the prices aren’t.”
So Kenny reckoned he would be doing a lot of looking, which might be a bit embarrassing if his friends were having fun and he couldn’t join in, but hey, what did it matter? He didn’t mind, it wasn’t George’s fault they were a bit hard up, and what’s more he had to be on his guard. That tingling sensation had returned the moment he saw the Big Wheel turning to blaring organ music.
He kept an eye open for Dinkesh and Sam but saw neither of them. The first familiar face he encountered was Jamie’s, coming his way with his...dad. For a second Kenny wanted to slip away unseen, but then Kenny saw how both of them were laughing, and how Jamie was messing around with his dad as if nothing had ever gone wrong. When Jamie saw Kenny he broke free from his dad’s arms and ran to him.
“Kenny! Hi! You all right?”
“I’m good. How about you?”
“I’m good, too.”
“Kenny?” said Marjorie. “Who’s your friend? Aren’t you going to introduce us?”
“Sorry, mum. This is Jamie. He’s in my class at school. He’s good at footie.”
“So are you!” said Jamie.
Jamie’s dad had reached them.
“Hello,” he said.
“And this is Mr Jones,” said Kenny.
“Have we met before?” said Mr Jones.
“Er - no, like, you know, I just guessed.”
“Well spot on,” said Mr Jones, “and please, call me Bob. And what’s you name?”
“Kenny,” said Jamie and Kenny together and Jamie laughed again.
Jamie has a nice laugh now, thought Kenny. Before it was all harsh and sarcastic. It’s like he’s a different boy.
“Do you want to go on the Waltzers, Kenny?” asked Jamie.
Kenny did, but his pockets were empty. “Nah, that’s OK.”
“Go on! It’ll be well funny!”
George took a 5 pound note from his back pocket. “Here you go, Kenny,” he said. “Go and have some fun.”
Jamie’s dad said, “Go on, Kenny. Have a go. It’s not often you get a second chance – and believe me, I should know.” He reached out to mess with Jamie’s hair, but Jamie swerved his head out of range and laughed again.
“Are you sure?” said Kenny to George.
“We’re sure,” said Marjorie.
So off the boys went.
“And who’s this?” said Bob, leaning forward towards Sarah, who smiled.
“This is Sarah,” said George. “Our daughter.”
“What a sweetie!” said Bob. “I always wanted a girl, too, but things didn’t work out with me and Jamie’s mum. You’re very lucky.”
Marjorie looked at George and smiled. “Yes,” she said, “we are, and speaking of Sarah, we’d best go and see what we can find for her while Kenny and Jamie are enjoying themselves.”
“I’ll go to the Waltzers,” said Bob. “Keep an eye on them. Make sure they’re OK.”
“Thanks, Bob,” said George.
“You’re welcome, sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“George, and this is Marjorie.”
“Very nice to meet you both.”
“Likewise,” said Marjorie as George nodded his agreement.
As the boys walked quickly to the Waltzers, weaving in and out of the people in the crowded thoroughfares between the rides and stalls, Jamie stopped and said, “Wait a minute.”
“What for?” asked Kenny.
Jamie came up close but couldn’t look Kenny in the eye. “Listen. I’ve been rubbish. I’ve done things and said things I shouldn’t have. I don’t know why, but – “
“I do,” said Kenny.
Jamie looked up but to one side, still avoiding Kenny’s eyes. “I know you do,” he whispered, and at last he turned back and looked directly at Kenny. “The thing is, I was scared.”
“What were you scared of?”
“Being unhappy all the time. Being sad. Being a mess-up. But everything’s cool now. I don’t know exactly why. My dad, he wasn’t well. Things had gone wrong. He had troubles and stuff and we didn’t get on and I, you know, it was just like you said. But he’s great now. I don’t know what happened. Something really good. He’s better. Everything has changed dead quick. So have I. And - ”
“I’m glad for you.”
“And I’m sorry,” said Jamie.
“And I want to be friends.”
“So do I.”
“Cross my heart.”
“Cool! Come on!”
When they reached the Waltzers they saw Dinkesh and Sam standing nearby while their parents made conversation just as Bob Jones and the Lanes had done. Dinkesh offered them all a bourbon biscuit from a selection he had hidden in his pockets, but no one was interested so he had to put them all in a bin.
Then permissions were asked for and given and, after a short time in the queue, the four of them were whizzing and spinning this way and that in a bright red car. While the others screamed and shouted and messed about Sam was strangely silent.
“What’s the matter,” yelled Kenny above the noise.
“I’m fed up,” replied Sam.
“Well, as you know, Bumbling-Boy gave me an interview.”
“I know. That’s amazing! How did you manage to get him?” said Kenny unconvincingly.
Dinkesh raised his eyebrows and looked to the heavens, but Sam was too preoccupied and Jamie too busy pretending to be sick for either of them to notice anything.
“So what’s the problem?” asked Kenny.
“It all went wrong,” said Sam.
“No it didn’t! I thought it all went – “ Dinkesh kicked Kenny’s leg. “Ow! I mean, what do you mean, it all went wrong?”
“Well, I wrote the story this afternoon and posted it on the Bugle site, and ever since all I’ve had is horrible messages from people who say I made it all up, that Bumbling-Boy doesn’t exist, that I am just an attention seeker, that I tell lies, and some people even said I am a mad person! But we all saw him, at school, didn’t we? We all know he’s real.”
“They’re just jealous,” said Kenny.
“The activities of Internet trolls are terrible,” said Dinkesh. “They are a modern problem that must be solved, and a sad reminder that technological breakthroughs always have potential for evil as well as good.”
“I don’t know what you’re on about,” said Jamie. “But I do know that Bumbling-Boy is real, and I’ll belt anyone who says he isn’t or says bad stuff about you, Sam.”
“I thought you’d changed your ways,” said Kenny to Jamie.
“That’s true. OK, in that case I’ll argue with them instead.”
“Good,” said Dinkesh. “Always remember that in any debate, logic, reason and truth are your best friends.”
“No they aren’t!” said Jamie. “Kenny’s my best friend!”
Dinkesh looked at Kenny who smiled uncertainly.
“Fascinating,” Dinkesh said, but his smile couldn’t hide a hint of hurt in his eyes.
A hooter sounded and the Waltzers ground to a halt along with the organ music which seemed to run out of breath and made a final sound like a set of bagpipes being strangled to death.
By the time the children staggered from the ride Sam had cheered up. “Let’s go on the Big Wheel!” she said.
“Yeah!” said Jamie. “I bet it’s wheelie good!”
“Oh per-lease!” muttered Dinkesh.
Sam got close to Kenny. “What’s with Jamie?” she said. “It’s as if he’s changed!”
“I know,” said Kenny. “He says something happened, something good.”
“Can’t believe it,” said Sam.
“I know,” replied Kenny quietly. “I wonder what it was.”
“Well it’s fab news.” She turned to everyone else. “Come on!”
“If we must,” sighed Dinkesh. “When in Rome, et cetera, et cetera.”
Kenny pulled him to one side. “Not the Big Wheel. That feeling I have, that tingling, it’s getting stronger all the time, and when I look at the Big Wheel or think about it the tingling gets even more tingly.”
“Of course,” said Dinkesh. “I had forgotten. We must be on full alert.”
Kenny looked around. “Hey, you two,” he called to Sam and Jamie who had already set off, “how about a go on the coconut shy?”
“Bore-ing!” shouted Sam without stopping.
Jamie thought the same. “That’s kids’ stuff! Come with us!”
They didn’t hang around. Within seconds they had been swallowed by the crowd, above which the Big Wheel turned, like some massive clock, thought Kenny, counting down to catastrophe.
Dinkesh turned to him. “I have something of the utmost importance to discuss.”
“About how we can stand up to evil?” asked Kenny.
“Well, in a manner of speaking,” said Dinkesh. “What did Jamie mean by calling you his best friend?”
Kenny laughed. “Nothing! He’s just changed, that’s all.”
“How? It would be easier to turn lead into gold.”
“You remember I told you I saved someone?”
“Yes. I forgot to ask what happened.”
“Well, that someone was Jamie’s dad.”
“Well, sort of. Because he felt life was bullying him he kind of bullied Jamie and that made Jamie do and say bad things. But now he’s seen sense.”
“And become a better person.”
“I reckon so, yes.”
“The power of Bumbling-Boy...”
At that moment a green blur shot low across the sky above the fair. It made a sound like a meteorite breaking the sound barrier – BANG! And within the shockwave was terrible, cackling laughter.
Dinkesh finished his sentence, but not in the way he had expected. “The power of Bumbling-Boy is something we need RIGHT NOW!”
George and Marjorie arrived along with Mr and Mrs Kohli. Sam’s parents and Bob Jones weren’t far behind.
“Did you see that?” said Bob.
“I did, but I don’t believe it,” said George.
“Where’s Sam?” said her dad.
“On the Big Wheel with Jamie,” said Dinkesh.
“We need to go and get them,” said Bob.
“Look!” someone behind them yelled.
In the distance, above a hilltop, the green blur had stopped and become nothing more than a bright dot. Now the dot started to get bigger and even brighter.
“It’s coming back!” yelled the voice, vibrating with fear.
“What is it?” said Kenny to Dinkesh.
“I don’t know, but I am reminded of the testimony of Inspector Potter.”
“Yes, a green alien flying a green UFO.”
The green UFO had lost height and was only a couple of hundred metres above the ground. As it hurtled over the people of Blackwater its noise made ears pop and its slipstream made hair stand on end.
“The craft is no longer a UFO. It is clearly identifiable...as a large, supersonic nose. What am I saying?” Dinkesh shook his head. “I have no idea what its pilot is. It appears to be a life form made of...slime!”
“Inspector Potter will be glad to know he wasn’t seeing things,” said Kenny. “People won’t laugh at him now.”
“Are you saying this particular cloud has a silver lining, Kenny? I think not. The green entity intends to do us all harm. And we must be sure we can stop it.”
This brought Kenny back to his senses. For a few seconds this had all felt like a dream. “You’re right. I need to get away from here.” He stepped closer to his friend. “Dinkesh,” he said, “Let’s get ready to Bumble. Cover for me.”
With all eyes on the sky it was easy for Kenny to take a few backwards steps, then turn and run away, swallowed by the awestruck crowd.
The car park was a big open space and beyond the fair there weren’t obvious places where Kenny could hide and change. What’s more, there were scared people running hither and thither like headless chickens. One of them was Mr Henderson who was just going round in circles and waving his arms as if he was on STRICTLY COME PANICKING. Chasing after him was Head Teacher, Mrs Cullen, screaming at him to pull himself together and look after children.
Then a police car turned up and came to a screeching halt and out got Inspector Potter carrying a megaphone.
“You see?” he shouted through it to no one in particular. “I told you what I had seen was real!” Then he bustled his way into the crowd, heading for the heart of the fair.
It was here that the Green Bogey and his SNOT were hovering above the disbelieving people of Blackwater. He turned slowly and occasionally reared up, like a cowboy on a horse that raises its forelegs into the air, always looking down through eyes of emerald fire. All the rides and attractions had shut down, apart from the Big Wheel, which turned slowly alongside the green, monstrous thing, bringing Sam and Jamie to the top for a clear view.
Sam covered her eyes. “What is it?” she whimpered.
“I don’t know,” said Jamie softly and slowly.
“Bumbling-Boy,” said Sam. “Where are you? We need you! We need you now!”
The Wheel continued to turn and someone in the car below Sam’s and Jamie’s screamed as she got a good view of the Bogey.
At last the thing spoke, its lips dripping drool and bile. “Pathetic humans! Behold your destroyer! I am the Green Bogey, an avenging angel from your worst nightmares! For years I have observed you! For years I have – “
“Oh get on with it,” said MUCUS.
But the Bogey wasn’t listening. “For years I have watched you, you ghastly grown-ups, making more and more children, children who turn into teenagers, the spawn of Satan! Monstrous creatures – “
“You can talk,” said MUCUS.
“Creatures that ruin lives, obliterate hope and feed on despair and misery! Well I say, NO MORE! NEVER AGAIN! Tonight you will all pay for your crimes! All you children, all you terrible teenagers, and all you ignorant adults who keep on making them, each of you must prepare to draw your last breath!”
Inspector Potter had arrived on the scene. He raised his megaphone to his lips and bawled through it, “Strange creature! I am arresting you for threatening behaviour and behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace! You have the right to remain silent but anything you do say will be taken down and may be used in evidence!”
The Bogey filled his hand with slime and said, “Don’t you mean I have the right to make YOU silent?” And with that he let fly the gunk which zoomed earthwards and right into the megaphone and bunged it up good and proper. Inspector Potter tried to say something else but sounded as if he was speaking from the bottom of an ocean. He gave up.
All was now silent terror. Everyone was dumbstruck and motionless, like one of those bad dreams when you want to run away from something dangerous but you can’t, you just can’t, it’s as if your legs are made of concrete and all the time the danger is getting closer, closer...
Suddenly Marjorie noticed that Kenny wasn’t with her, George and Sarah. “Where’s Kenny?” she said. Then she wailed, “WHERE IS KENNY?”
“He went to the toilet I think,” said Dinkesh. “He’ll be on his way back. He’s probably pushing through all the people.”
The Bogey spoke again. “But first, a little fun.” He flew slowly to the Big Wheel and then manoeuvred the craft so that its engines pointed towards the slowly spinning circle of steel. There was more screaming and someone shouted, “GET US OFF! GET US OFF!”
“Too late!” yelled the Green Bogey. “Because now you are about to feel the power of my centrifugal force!”
The Bogey thrust the SNOT’s joystick forward and green exhaust gases blasted towards the Wheel. An engine on the front also burst into life and held the flying nose in position.
The Big Wheel began to turn faster and faster.
“Bumbling-Boy!” screamed Sam. “Bumbling-Boy!”
Kenny had at last found somewhere he could change. It was a phone box hidden behind one of the fair’s trucks. There was no one around so he opened the door and went inside. He had second thoughts for a moment because the place ponged terribly of old wee. But then again, what did this matter when some sort of non-human horror was bringing fear and even death to his town?
The Big Wheel turned faster and faster and everyone on it held on to the safety bars for dear life. Smoke began to belch from the Wheel’s motor and the unsettling smell of overheating metal began to drift through the air. On the ground people called the names of their friends and loved ones. Parents called the names of their children and begged the Bogey to stop. On the wheel itself some people cried out while others just closed their eyes and prayed. As for the Bogey, well, he just laughed his evil and insane laugh.
“They’ve had it!” someone said.
“We’ve all had it!” said someone else.
Things looked that bad. But then –
Another voice cried out, “Look! Up there! What is THAT?!”
“I don’t know, but it’s flying all over the place, and not very quickly either!”
Sam knew who it was. “Bumbling-Boy!”
Dinkesh’s phone vibrated in his pocket. He plucked it out and walked back through the crowd. No one noticed. Everyone was mesmerised by the goings-on above their heads.
“This is Alfred.”
Kenny was closing in on the Danger Zone. “Any ideas?” he said. He was seconds away from contact and had absolutely no idea what to do.
“Distract the thing’s attention, get it away from the Big Wheel and the fair. Then you must deploy the Beezooka and disrupt the systems of its craft. If it crashes there will be no danger to the public.”
“OK,” said Kenny, thinking that’s easier said than done.
At that moment the Big Wheel made an ear-splitting wrenching noise. It had come free from its mountings, came to a grinding halt, but began to tilt dangerously to one side. Sam and Jamie were in the car that was left right at the top.
The Green Bogey laughed and guided the flying nose right up to the Wheel, right next to Sam and Jamie, and began to nudge the steel structure, teasingly pushing it so that eventually it would topple over, but not before everyone on it had endured maximum terror.
“Stop!” yelled Kenny as he began to hover right behind the Bogey, who heard and eased the joystick to one side, slowly turning to face him. There were more sounds of buckling and twisting metal. The Big Wheel was on the point of collapse.
“Ah,” said the Green Bogey. “It’s you. I have always believed that human beings are insignificant insects. But you are the worst of all, because you really ARE an insect!”
“Nice costume, though,” said MUCUS.
“Be quiet,” said the Bogey. “Speak when you’re spoken to.”
“It’s unusual, made of different items and accessories that don’t match, and yet somehow it all works!”
“I may be an insect,” said Kenny. “But I am not a murderer. I am here to bring you to justice.”
“And how do you intend to do that?”
“By defeating you.”
“Oh yeah?” said the Bogey. “You and whose army?”
Kenny had an idea.
“It’ll be easy,” said Kenny, beginning to retreat slowly from the scene. As he hoped, the Bogey followed him. On the lower levels of the Big Wheel some people began to clamber to safety and men from the fair started to climb up its structure to rescue others. But Sam and Jamie were still marooned right at the top.
“Easy?” The Bogey chuckled as if through a throat full of mud. “How?”
“Well, you’re not much of a mega villain. You’re not exactly Mr Freeze.”
“He’s a very bad man,” said MUCUS. “Has a special gun that freezes things. He was once good, though. Ring any bells?”
“You’re not Doctor Octopus, either,” said Kenny, laughing, taunting, and all the time drifting away from the fair, the Bogey following.
“A mad scientist,” said MUCUS, “very nasty, with lots of robot arms coming out of his back. He causes absolute mayhem. Makes me nervous just thinking about him.”
“Well,” said the Green Bogey to Kenny, “you are hardly Superman!”
“Oh don’t start that sort of thing,” sighed MUCUS. “We’ll end up with ‘my dad can beat your dad in a fight’, that sort of nonsense.”
“No,” said Kenny, “I am Bumbling-Boy and you are about to be stung, you slimeball!”
This got the Bogey’s goat. He accelerated towards Kenny who flew up and over the SNOT.
“Bumbling-Boy by name, Bumbling-Boy by nature!” screamed the Bogey. “Get ready to die, you Bee-list superhero!”
Again, the Big Wheel creaked and tilted even closer to disaster.
“Be quick,” said Dinkesh in his ear.
As the Bogey turned back Kenny drew the Beezooka and hid it behind his back. He beckoned the Bogey towards him. “Come on. Show me if you’re good at being bad. Or if you’re just plain hopeless!”
The Bogey rammed the joystick forward and charged. Kenny held his position until the SNOT was just thirty or so metres away. Then he raised up the Beezooka, placed the advancing crazy craft in its sights...and pulled the trigger.
The tiny EMP missile shot from its barrel and reached its target, to which it stuck like a dart in a dartboard. Immediately, the electromagnetic pulse caused havoc and the Bogey veered off course. As Kenny whizzed to one side and his enemy passed by in a spin he heard a computerised voice say, “Yikes! That feels so weird!”
Out of control, the SNOT soared upwards, spinning and spiralling into the night sky where it was swallowed by cloud.
“Well done!” said Dinkesh.
“You’re an absolute genius, Dinkesh.”
“To the Big Wheel!” yelled Dinkesh. “It is on the point of collapse!”
“Roger that,” said Kenny. He’d heard those words on the telly.
Only Sam and Jamie were left on the Wheel. Everyone else was back on the ground, thankful they weren’t the ones stranded in the car at the top.
Kenny reached them and landed in the car. As soon as he did the extra weight made the Wheel title another couple of degrees, which was a little embarrassing, but the others didn’t seem to notice. They were too busy hoping they would still be alive in a few minutes.
Kenny stepped close to Sam. “Do you mind if I put my arms around you?”
Sam just shook her head no.
Kenny embraced her and looked at Jamie and said, “I’ll be back.”
Truth was, Kenny didn’t know if he could fly while carrying someone. It was sometimes hard enough staying in the air on his own. He hesitated.
Down below, Dinkesh, who was watching, whispered into his mobile, “You can do it, Kenny. Just be super like I know you can be.”
Kenny took a deep breath, tightened his grip on Sam, buzzed louder than he had ever buzzed before, and took off. He rose up and then made his descent. As he landed he opened his arms and Sam took unsteady steps away from him. A ripple of applause from the crowd turned quickly into a tidal wave of cheering.
Sam turned. “I love you, Bumbling-Boy,” she said. Behind his visor and scuba hat Kenny blushed.
The Big Wheel had begun to collapse. Its struts and spars were snapping. An almighty jerk tossed Jamie from the car and he began to fall, his legs furiously working as if pedalling an invisible bicycle.
Kenny took off again, flying low through people who parted as he sped towards the flapping, falling Jamie.
The practise he’d got saving old Betty’s cat proved invaluable. Nanoseconds before Jamie would have hit the deadly tarmac Kenny stretched out his arms, caught him, grabbed him, held on tight, soared up and then down and placed him safely on the ground, too.
“Thanks, Bumbling-Boy,” said Jamie, shaking. “Thanks a lot.”
Jamie smiled. “You’d make a great goalkeeper.”
“I prefer to play in midfield,” said Kenny.
Jamie hadn’t heard because there was more cheering going on, only this time it was more like hysteria.
“He’s saved us!” someone cried out.
But whoever it was had spoken too soon. From out of the cloud came the Bogey in a steep dive.
“It’s coming into land!” shouted Inspector Potter. “Everyone, stand back!”
All retreated, including Kenny. He had no more EMP missiles.
“What do I do now?” he said.
“I don’t know,” said Dinkesh in his ear.
The SNOT landed and the Green Bogey dismounted and pointed at Kenny. “You ridiculous little creature! Did you really think your miserable electromagnetic pulse could defeat me? Now you and your human friends will pay the ultimate price of resistance! First, I will make you my prisoners, trapped in a giant condemned cell!”
The Bogey tapped the SNOT’s screen. At once a dome made of strands of bright light like electric wire mesh formed all around the people gathered within the fairground.
“A force-field!” said Dinkesh.
“And now,” said the Bogey opening SNOT’s boot, “the means of your destruction!”
From the boot the Bogey lifted a device. It had some sort of control panel in the middle and there were two glass spheres filled with glowing liquid, one on each end.
“A bomb!” gasped Dinkesh. “No doubt that is the nuclear waste stolen from Fieldscale! The fiend intends to detonate it and splash everyone here with its deadly droplets!”
The Bogey placed the bomb on the ground at his feet. “All I have to do is begin the destruct sequence, like this,” leaning down to press a large red button, “and leave you to your fates which will be – er – FATAL! Soon everything you own, everything you have worked so hard for, it will all be MINE! Hah hah hah hah heh heh heh heh HAH!”
And with that the gruesome Green Bogey remounted his flying nose, took off, and opened up a portal in the force-field which closed as soon as he had shot off into the night.
Kenny got airborne and flew to the bomb. He knelt down in front of it. On the control panel was a large digital timer. It said 01.49. There were less than two minutes left before the device exploded. Soon it said 01.32 as Kenny just stared at it. 01.29. 01.28...
“Think!” Kenny thought.
He looked at the control panel. To the right of the big red button was a screen. On the screen were small squares of different colours.
Yellow, red, blue, orange, blue, green, and a sort of bright purple like the colour of some of his mum’s flowers.
And next to the screen was some text which said: TO ABORT DESTRUCT SEQUENCE PLACE COLOURS IN CORRECT SPECTRUM ORDER.
What did that mean?
Kenny sighed and began to prepare for the worst. It was some kind of devilish puzzle to which only the Green Bogey knew the solution.
01.14. Kenny bowed his head. He had failed.
“What’s happening?” said Dinkesh in his ear.
Kenny explained quickly.
“No doubt if any of the colours is placed in the wrong order the bomb explodes anyway,” said Dinkesh. “An evil booby-trap.”
“Yes,” said Kenny despondently. Then he had a thought. “What about you, Alfred? You know all about science?”
“I know the science, my friend,” replied Dinkesh, “but sadly I am colour blind. I have difficulty seeing reds, greens and blues. I will happily come and assist you, but I am afraid I have little to offer.”
The timer read 00.59. Less than a minute to go. “No, you stay there,” said Kenny. “Try to find something that will cover and protect you. Take our parents and Sarah.”
“The crowd is too tightly packed within the force field.” Dinkesh’s voice was soft and sombre. “There is nowhere to go.”
“Wait, Alfred! Just tell me and I’ll do it!”
“Just tell me the order and I’ll do it!”
“You’re breaking up, Master Kenny!”
There was fierce crackling in Kenny’s ears.
“Tell me the order!”
“Oh! Yes! Right! Of course!”
“Get on with it!”
“From left to right, start with red and then - “
Silence. The crackling vanished and left nothing but emptiness. Either he or Dinkesh was out of battery.
It was all over. They were all going to die.
Kenny looked at the screen again. There was something in the back of his mind, something important. Images flashed behind his eyes. Toys in a row. A shiny green elephant made of pottery.
Kenny jumped to his feet, leant forward, took off and got enough height to look down and find George, Marjorie and Sarah. As they watched he flew to them and scooped up his sister in his arms.
“No!” cried Marjorie. “No! What are you doing?”
“Bring her back!” yelled George.
“Sarah! Sarah!” wailed Marjorie. “Don’t hurt her! What’s happening?” She turned to George, her face a contorted mask of fear. “Is he some kind of monster as well?”
“Bring her back! Right now!” George shouted. “BRING HER BACK!”
Kenny didn’t have time to explain. He couldn’t explain. He would give himself away. His mind was racing with secrets and lies and the rights and wrongs of who he was and what he was doing.
He shut them out. What he was doing had to be right. It was the only way hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives could be saved.
He flew to the bomb and he and Sarah knelt before it.
“You see, little girl?” he said. “These coloured squares have to be dragged and dropped into the right order. Can you do it?”
00.33 said the flashing numbers of the timer.
Sarah didn’t blink. She just looked at the screen for what seemed like an eternity but it was only seconds.
Kenny put his arm around her. “That’s OK. Don’t worry if you can’t. I just thought – I’m sorry. For some strange reason I - ”
Sarah smiled and extended her index finger. She placed it on the purple square.
“No!” said Kenny remembering what Dinkesh had managed to say.
But Sarah ignored him and dragged it down - and to the far right.
Next she chose the blue square and put it on the left of the purple one. 00.21.
Then the green square, followed by yellow one. 00.17.
“That’s great,” said Kenny. “Keep going.”
But Sarah had stopped. Only two squares remained but she clearly wasn’t sure.
She was thinking.
At last Sarah selected the red square and began to move it so it could join the others in their right order, but just as she was about to release her finger she hesitated once more and put it back at the top of the screen.
The clock didn’t seem to bother Sarah. She was just concentrating, cool as a cucumber at the North Pole. Then she turned to Kenny and beamed a smile at him, chose the orange square instead and dragged it down and next to the yellow. Kenny closed his eyes, preparing for an explosion.
Which didn’t happen. When he opened them again the clock said 00.02 and Sarah was dropping the red square into the last empty space on the left of the spectrum.
Now the timer said 00.01.
But it kept on saying it. It had stopped.
Kenny turned Sarah towards him and hugged her. He looked back and called to the crowd. “Don’t worry! It’s safe. This little girl made it safe!”
If the cheering was hysterical before, well, now it was like that of 70,000 football fans who’d just seen their team win 27-nil.
Within swirling clouds at 3000 feet the Green Bogey was counting down, too.
“3-2-1-Zero!” he shouted.
When nothing happened and MUCUS said, “It’s just not your day, is it?” the furious Bogey put the SNOT on full throttle and set course for his lair beneath Highfield Primary.
The force-field vanished as the Bogey flew out of range and the people in the crowd applauded once more, hugged each other and slapped each other on the backs.
Kenny flew Sarah back to George and Marjorie. “I am sorry if I worried you,” he said. “You must be very proud of her.”
George and Marjorie were speechless.
Sam wasn’t. With Jamie and Dinkesh she pushed her way to the front and set her phone to camera.
“Three cheers for the Utterly Amazing Bumbling-Boy!” she shouted, and as the crowd followed her lead and cheered their relieved heads off she shot video of the celebrations as Kenny took off and flew away over their heads.
George and Marjorie fussed Sarah for a few minutes. As they came to terms with what had happened their thoughts didn’t include Kenny right now.
But it wasn’t that long before Marjorie said, “Oh my God! Kenny’s not here! Where is he? Suppose he was – “
Kenny appeared from behind Inspector Potter who was writing a detailed account of the events in his pocket book with a pencil he occasionally licked.
“There you are!” said Marjorie.
Kenny ran to her and she held him.
“Where have you been?” said George.
Good question. Kenny was stumped for a second before he answered, “Oh, right, well, I was so scared I went and hid.”
“Oh Kenny!” said Sam, which hurt a bit.
“You missed all the action!” said Jamie.
With a playful smile on his face, Dinkesh looked at Marjorie and George. “How do you think Bumbling-Boy knew about Sarah’s specialness?” he said.
Marjorie looked up, following the flight path Bumbling-Boy had taken when he left. “I don’t know,” she said quietly. “I suppose it will always be a mystery.”
“Yes,” said Kenny, “a massive, mega mystery,” and he turned to Dinkesh and smiled and winked.
When it seemed certain that the Green Bogey had been defeated and would not come back, the people of Blackwater returned to their homes. A few of them still could not believe what had happened. They felt sure that, at some point, they would wake up.
One person who was waking up was Mr Green. As the beastly Bogey he had hurtled far too fast up the tunnel that lead to his laboratory, flown right through the SECRET BLAST PROOF EXIT DOORS before they had a chance to open, and bashed straight into the opposite wall, completely destroying his flying nose and knocking himself unconscious in the process.
As he came to his senses Mr Green realised that all his slime had retreated back into his body and as he sat up and looked at the devastation all around him he experienced flashbacks of what had just happened at the fair – and was ashamed. He realised, too, that this sense of remorse meant there was hope for him yet, because the blow to his head had somehow sent his evil alter ego into another part of his mind and into the past. A miracle had taken place. He was saved!
“From now on I will be good,” he said out loud. “My days as a hideous mega criminal are over.”
“I think that’s a very good idea,” said MUCUS. “You were rubbish at it.”
“You are a very wise machine,” said Mr Green, “and I love you. You are the child I never had.”
“Aw,” said MUCUS. “That’s nice.”
Mr Green got to his feet, picked up a stiff brush and began to tidy up the wreckage of a former life.
George and Marjorie had invited Dinkesh and his parents for supper and they were delighted to accept. George gave Mr Kohli a tour of their home while Marjorie knocked together some sandwiches and the boys whispered with the TV on while Sarah took a nap on the sofa.
When Mr Kohli saw Sarah’s dolls’ house set up in her bedroom he was amazed to find out that George had made it and asked if he could be persuaded to build one for his niece’s Christmas present.
“I am sure they are expensive but I am quite willing to pay for such perfection,” said Mr Kohli. “You know, you could start a good little business making and selling these. Such craftsmanship!”
“I doubt it,” said George. “You need money to start a business, don’t you?”
At that precise moment the doorbell rang.
Kenny answered the door and swung it open to find Inspector Potter standing there.
“Hello, Kenny. Can I have a word with your dad?”
“Hi, Inspector. It must be good to know you’re not absolutely nuts.”
“Yes, er - very much so.”
“Everyone thought you were completely useless and – “
“Yes. Will you please – “
“Should be sacked!”
“Quite. I need to speak to your father.”
“Oh, right, yeah, sorry. He’s upstairs. I’ll get him. Please, come in.”
But George was already on the way downstairs. At the bottom he shook hands with the Inspector and said, “What can I do for you?”
“Well,” said the Inspector. “You know that money you handed in, well, I lost it.”
“Yes,” replied George wearily. “So I heard.”
But Inspector Potter wasn’t here to apologise. “And then,” he continued, “I found it! I had put it in a safe place and forgotten where it was! You know, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t stuck to my - er - my…”
“Neck?” suggested Kenny.
“Yes!” cried Inspector Potter. “Neck! The word was on the tip of my - er - my….Anyway, no one has claimed the money and, bearing in mind the fact that you found it and did the right thing, and not forgetting the remarkable achievement of your little girl, I have decided it’s yours by right.”
Inspector Potter reached into his uniform pocket and took out a transparent bag marked EVIDENCE in which Kenny could see clearly some of those red notes with £50 printed on them.
Behind George, Mr Kohli clapped his hands and exclaimed, “This is truly a remarkable day!”
There was much smiling and shaking of hands and Inspector Potter wished everyone goodnight and left.
When George told Marjorie what had happened, she burst into tears. This was the unbelievable icing on an incredible cake and it was all too much for her.
A little later, Kenny and Dinkesh spent half an hour alone in the Treehouse of Fortitude. They relived the battle with the Bogey, wondered if they might have to face up to the green baddie again in the future, and discussed what they had learnt from their first major mission. When they heard Dinkesh’s parents calling out that it was time to leave, Kenny said, “I am really glad you’re my best friend, Alfred.”
Dinkesh smiled. “The feeling is mutual, Master Kenny. We will always stand up for what is right, and always be united against what is wrong. This is very important.”
Come bedtime, Kenny put his head around Sarah’s door. She was still awake, sitting up in a bed surrounded by her collection of toys and holding the shiny green elephant Kenny had given her.
“Hey. Listen, you did really well,” he said. “You were really brave. You saved everyone. You saved Blackwater...Love you.”
Kenny turned to leave.
“Love you too...Bumbling-Boy!”
He turned back quickly. “How did you know?” he whispered.
“I know lots of things!” said Sarah, giggling, and threw herself down on her pillow.
Kenny smiled. “You mustn’t tell anyone. It’s got to be a secret. Never say the words Bumbling-Boy again. Promise?”
Kenny opened his mouth to speak but decided not to. He smiled and closed the door.
In the Jones house Jamie was already asleep, exhausted by his ordeal. His dad stood in the doorway to his boy’s bedroom, watching him. He had thrown away almost five years, years he should have devoted to his child. Bob Jones knew he could not get them back, but he also knew he could try to make up for them in the future. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve and quietly closed the door.
Sam Kwok was very much awake, typing on her laptop as she sat up in bed. An alien boy lived amongst them, a boy who had traveled light years to save the human race. But who was he? Where did he live? What did he look like? Could they be best friends? She just had to find out, even if it meant she spent the rest of her life doing it.
Meanwhile, in his flat that smelt strongly of pepperoni pizza, Mr Henderson had just been on eBay buying exactly the same teacher training books he had sold not so long ago.
“Well,” he thought, “I paid more than I got for them, but I think it will be worth it. I may never have actually taught a lesson but today I certainly learned one. I’m going to buck my ideas up.”
Unable to sleep, Bumbling-Boy found himself standing on a Blackwater rooftop in the early hours of the morning. The moon was full and he was silhouetted against it. He was thoughtful. A battle had been won but he reckoned that the war had only just started.
He was looking at the years ahead with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety, and also knew that having a secret identity would cause him pain. He would always have to be Kenny Lane, the tubby nobody who isn’t much good at anything apart from drawing and is OK at football, and it would be his superhero self people would always think about and admire.
At the end of the day, though, that’s what being a superhero is all about, and he would just have to put up with it.
Still, he couldn’t help clenching his fists, putting them on his hips and saying out loud, “My powers are a curse as well as a blessing! For absolutely no one can ever know – well, apart from Dinkesh and Sarah – absolutely no one can ever know that I, Kenny Lane, am also...the utterly amazing Bumbling-Boy!”
And with that he took off and zigzagged into an uncertain but exciting future.
The Utterly Amazing
Twas the night before Christmas,
When one creature WAS stirring.
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