Diddy sat on the porch of his treehouse and curiously tore open the letter. It wasn’t often that messages arrived from so far away as to be brought in by carrier pigeon, and he was eager to find out what it contained. Hopefully something to liven things up, he thought. Things had been all too quiet since those old family friends the Tigers had arrived on their summer break, distracting the Kongs from their usual wanderlust as the clan did its best to keep the guests entertained.
Diddy tugged out the note impatiently and started to read.
"Dear Diddy," it began. "Help!!!"
Now this sounds promising, he decided.
It turned out that the message was actually from his old friend Timber, son of the Kongs’ holiday guests -and the young tiger had found himself in quite a bit of trouble which, for once, wasn’t even his fault. Diddy frowned. Then, once he’d carefully read the note through a couple of times, he sat back and gnawed thoughtfully on a finger as he gazed out through the early morning jungle mist.
He’d been asked for his help, so his intentions to zip off as soon as possible were never in doubt. The question that preoccupied him now was whether or not he should draft in some extra help, just in case... after all, this Wizpig that Timber had mentioned didn't sound like a menace to be taken lightly.
Eventually he decided that his friends Banjo and Conker would still enjoy the adventure even if it turned out that their services weren’t needed, so the young ape dug out a pencil stub from the mess of his bedroom and hopped back into his seat, whistling for Squawks - his own makeshift carrier pigeon - as he began to scribble out a couple of messages of his own.
A few short hours later and Diddy was on the first leg of his journey, haring off at high speed toward the fringes of the jungle. A couple of Kremling spies lurking behind a boulder watched him go suspiciously.
"Hey - where you think he going?" asked Krunch.
His crony frowned. "Why?" he asked.
"What if he going fetch others? Fight Kremlings?"
The second Kremling thought about this, and realised what Krunch was about to suggest.
No way. I not going," he said, and turned and bolted into the undergrowth.
Krunch rolled his eyes. "Hopeless," he snorted. "I go after him, then," he bellowed after his cowardly colleague. "You go tell boss - see what he think of that, huh?"
And with that, Krunch lumbered off through the trees in the wake of the distant speck that was Diddy, grumpily swatting aside vines as he went.
Meanwhile, Timber was trying to calm the excitable Pipsy so that he could understand at least part of what she was saying.
"He said he’d help us!" she squealed, making Bumper and Tiptup wince as the pitch of her voice soared in and out of hearing range. “He said he wanted to find a champion to go in and kick out that horrible pig once and for all!"
"Slow down, Pipsy," Timber urged, trying to make sense of her words without upsetting her. After all, this whole business had been harder on the little mouse than any of them, Wizpig’s unwanted intrusion having left her family homeless.
"Who are you talking about?" Bumper asked curiously, leaning forward.
"Taj! The Genie!" she babbled, wheeling to face the startled badger. "He said he’d help! Really, Bumper, he did! I just saw him!"
Tiptup blinked. "The G-Genie? B-but nobody’s seen him for f-fifty years," he protested.
"I know! I know! But I just did, I promise!"
Timber frowned, thinking this through. "That means he must have been kicked out of the mountain too," he reasoned. "After all, we’ve seen what that pig’s spells can do..."
They all thought of the huge, leering Wizpig mugshot that had been stamped into the mountainside overnight. Then they thought of the racecourses, the island’s pride and joy, all of which had been magically sealed off - and that brought them to thinking of Drumstick, their friend and the island’s champion racer, who had gone to challenge the intruder to an honourable race and hadn’t been seen since. What could have happened to him? It was a total mystery.
"We could really do with Taj’s help," Pipsy prompted.
"N-no argument there," agreed Tiptup, nodding even more nervously than usual.
Timber scratched his head. "Well, I guess you’re right," he sighed, "especially if we’re going to get this mess sorted out before my parents get back."
He was beginning to wish that they hadn’t left him in charge. His first chance to show that he could be a responsible family member rather than a mischievous little scamp at least some of the time, and what had happened? An oversized intergalactic bully had dropped in uninvited and taken over the whole island, vandalising the scenery, shutting down the famous racetracks and stranding Timber’s friends out in the cold. And of course there was whatever had happened to Drumstick...
"Well, if that Genie wants a champion, I say we all get practising," Bumper grunted, getting to his feet and snapping down his racing goggles.
"Good plan," Timber agreed. "Come on, guys. Yeah, Tiptup, even you. Help should be on its way soon, but we can’t just sit around waiting - let’s get out there and do what we can!"
And just hope that Diddy doesn’t mention any of this to my parents...