Eleanor landed the butt-mobile on the Academy landing strip.
From the ground, the devastation appeared to be even worse.
Illuminated by the ghastly red glow of the fires, it was clear that most of the buildings had been pounded from about and severely damaged.
"But how did the butts break through the rind of fire?" said Zack.
" I don't know," Eleanor said. "Butts are usually terrified of fire."
"That's right, we are," said Zack's butt. "If we're living, that is. But the zombie butts are dead. They can't feel pain, so maybe they're not scared of fire."
"But I saw a movie once," said Zack, "and the zombies in that movie hated fire."
"This isn't some dumb movie, Zack," said his butt.
"This is real life!"
"Stop squabbling, you two," said Eleanor. "We have to find out if Dad and the B-team are all right. I'm going out to investigate. Zack, I want you and your grandmother to stay here."
"Oh no you don't soldier," said Gran. "I'm coming with you. You're going to need an experienced butt-fighter out there."
I am an experienced butt-fighter," said Eleanor.
"Fiddlesticks!" said Gran. "I've got more experience in my little finger than you have in your entire body."
"That's precisely why I need you to remain in the butt-mobile," said Eleanor. "If anything happens to me, then you can take over E-mission command."
Gran's eyes lit up as she looked into the cockpit of the butt-mobile. "Yes," she said, nodding. "I think that's probably for the best."
Eleanor climbed out of the pilot's seat and began to prepare herself. She pulled on a large pair of butt-kicking boots and selected two medium-sized buttblasters. Then she pulled down two buttcatcher belts. She slipped one around her waist and threw the other around to Zack.
"I believe this is yours," she said.
Zack caught the belt and smiled. "Thanks," he said, putting it on. He took the ketchup bottle out of his jacket and hung it through a loop on the belt. Zack thought he'd better hang on to it. He still couldn't see how it could possibly help him to save the world, but the Blind Butt-feeler had been right about him not being finished with butt-fighting. So she might yet be proved right about the ketchup.
At last, Eleanor was ready. She turned to them and issued final instructions. "If I don't return in thirty minutes, I want you to take off without me," she said. "Go to the nearest butt shelter and hook up with whoever's left. But don't try to fight the zombies on your own. Understand?
"Understood, soldier!" said Gran, saluting Eleanor.
Eleanor returned the salute and then looked at Zack.
"Zack?" she said.
"Maybe I should come with you," he said.
"No way!" said Eleanor. "You stay here, keep out of trouble, and look after your grandmother."
"I thought she was supposed to be looking after me," said Zack.
"Don't argue," said Eleanor. "If you hadn't run away, then I could have been here to help defend the Academy."
"I didn't ask to be rescued," said Zack.
"And I didn't ask to rescue you," Eleanor replied, climbing out of the top of the butt-mobile. "Thirty minutes, right? And don't forget to lock the hatch behind me."
Zack nodded. He watched Eleanor move quickly across the yard and up the hill toward 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.