Plumber Premier (Part 1)
"The Mushroom Kingdom. Our land was once a peaceful place. Then, everything changed when the Koopa Troop attacked!"
"For generations, our people have waged war with the Koopas and their allies. Up until about a few years ago…life has been a battlefield. Now…nothing. It's like they vanished."
"But they're still out there. I know it! The Koopa King thinks he's so smug just sitting on his throne, the little gears grinding in his head, as he's plotting…scheming…and when we least expect it...BA-BOOM!" General Toad slaps his thin rod against the projector screen. "One clean swipe off the map is all we'll be! We're just sitting ducks in our isolated capitol..."
"Ahem…", whispers the princess, who was standing a few feet off to the side.
General Toad squints into the darkened conference room, just barely seeing the outline of the seven assembled Toads trembling in fear. "Er…excuse me. Well, I think I'll let our princess take it from here."
Peach steps up in front of the projector screen, facing her worried subjects. "Now, the Koopa Troop has been inactive for over a decade now, and even before, their numbers had been mighty low since they had a change in leadership. Although the Mushroom Wars have diplomatically ended, time has not healed old wounds yet. So it is best to assume that…the Koopa King…could strike again!"
The Toads murmur in agreement.
"Since he still has no physical kingdom," Peach continues, "and no other kingdom has reported any sighting of his current encampment, it is to my estimation that they have crossed into the Valley of Desolation".
Now the Toads really begin to speak out to each other. One of them turns to her and asks, "Even if what you say is true, are you sure we are ready?"
"Yeah," pipes up another Toad, "I mean, Donut Plains is still unstable, many non-Toad citizens remain unchecked for legality, and your father…" Everyone goes silent after bringing him up.
"I know," sighs Peach, "I've been newly appointed, and I have huge shoes to fill after everything my father's done for our kingdom up to his dying breath. But that is why you are here. With your collective knowledge and experience with the Mushroom Kingdom, I need that kind of help if I am to lead our troops to the inevitable. Our Mushroom Kingdom has survived this long, and we can still end this scathing struggle!"
"Here, here!" the Toads chant.
"Alright, now listen up!" barks General Toad, "The princess and I have discussed an operation that will require stealth and nimble prowess. I ask for the enlistment of a relatively small task force, whom I will lead to the Valley of Desolation, and discover once and for all what those stinkin' Koopas are planning. So, do I have the council's approval?"
The Toads looks at each other for a brief moment. "We hope," responses one Toad as the others nod as he speaks, "that you, and the princess, know what we are getting our citizens into. That said, we will approve to act upon your plans immediately."
"Thank you," Peach sighs in relief, "and I can assure you, that whatever happens from now, this Koopa King and his followers will once and for all be…"
Meanwhile, in another place, in another world entirely, two young men have just finished tightening up the last of the sewage pipes in a Brooklyn apartment basement. The one with overalls clad in red and a blue cap and shirt climbs down a ladder, meeting up with the other with overalls clad in green and a brown cap and shirt, who carefully crawls out from under some pipes. The two walk over to one side of the room where they left their supplies, and slide their backs against the wall side by side until they are sitting on the floor.
"Phew, well done, bro!" says the one in red, "Third customer today; a new record."
"Not to mention, this particular one had multiple plumbing issues!" The one in green groans, "What's their deal anyway? They ding their pipes, call us over, and then go on vacation?"
"Oh, are-a you not feeling 'nuff to snuff' now?" teases the red one.
"Okay, just because you were born two minutes ahead of me, doesn't mean I'm too young to keep up with you!" the green one playfully replies. "And I could've easily reached that pipe near the ceiling better than you did."
"If you're still irked about having to crawl under those lower pipes, I'd have you know that you are much more nimble and…smaller to reach those tight spots."
"Nah, I wasn't…I'm irked. But I am starving right now! It's been hours since we last ate!"
"Ha ha, just like always! Come one," The two stand up, lifting a toolkit in each hand. "Let's-a go out for some lasagna you always love!"
"You mean the lasagna you always love!" laughs the green one as he elbows his brother in the gut. They both laugh as they head out of the basement and onto the streets of Brooklyn, New York.
That night, they take off their caps and change out of their work clothes, putting on more casual attire, with their respectively colored ties. The brothers head down to Brooklyn Bridge Park to meet up with some childhood friends at their favorite restaurant: Segale's Eat-Alia. At the restaurant desk entrance, the brothers are greeted by two Japanese employees.
"Hello, Mario," greets the younger one with glasses. "Luigi, glad you guys could make it again!"
"Hi, Shigeru." replies the one in the red tie. "Wouldn't miss it!"
"Hello!" replies the one in the green tie. "So, we aren't getting into as much trouble as last time, are we?"
"Well fortunately no," chuckles Shigeru. "Our assistant manager here, Minoru, managed to talk things out with Manager Segale, and while we had to cough up quite a bit of cash to finally keep him moot last time, Minoru broke an even deal to give us the special seating."
"Don't forget," Minoru chimes in, "that it was also a good thing Pauline is a persuasive speaker."
"Speaking of her, let's-a not keep her waiting," says the one in the red tie, "nor waste those good seats you guys won over."
"Well said, Mario" says Shigeru, "Right this way!"
"Finally, food!" cheers the one in the green tie, "Thanks again, Minoru!"
"Your very welcome, Luigi" Minoru replies as he prepares to greet the next group of customers.
Shigeru leads the brothers over to a secluded room, with a decorative fireplace, a large window view of the East River, and a table with plenty of room for four. Waiting for them at the table is a young woman in her mid-twenties, with long and flowing burgundy hair, lavender eyes, and a long, pale red skirt.
"Mario! Luigi!" shouts the young woman as she stands up to greet them, "It's been too long!"
"Ah, Pauline!" says Mario, "Your tour has brought you back home?"
"Yes! Well, for now it has. And what a better way to return home than to spend the first evening back with old friends!"
"Well, at least you haven't forgotten the Mario Brothers' favorite dining spot" says Shigeru. "I prepared our drinks and bread already, and Minoru will come by soon to take our orders."
Before the others sit down, Mario graciously pulls out a chair for Pauline. Minoru shortly arrives, taking orders from each of them. When he returns half an hour later, he brings a specialized pizza for Shigeru, pasta for Mario, lasagna for Luigi, and a clam sauce for Pauline. Before long, they start to chat as much as eat their own food.
Mario is telling the others about a trip to the beach on a very hot day with his brother. "…so Luigi got up off his reclining chair, looked all over the beach, and wondered why everyone else was-a complaining of sunburn. Then this girl came by and asks how he managed to keep his skin so light. But he got so flustered from the attention that his face turned red as the sun, and she thought she was-a mistaken!"
Everyone laughs; even Luigi joins in the laughter, while also going a little red in the face with embarrassment.
"Could you pass the olive oil for my bread roll, Mario?" Pauline asks.
"Sure thing" says Mario, as he passes the vial over to her on his left. He then turns to Shigeru across from him. "So Shigeru, how have your college classes been going?"
"There are going pretty well" he replies. "Botany has so far been my favorite extra curriculum, but I am still giving my full attention to my main classes. Someday soon, I will become a world-class software designer." He finishes his sentence while striking a Superman-like pose.
"My, my!" remarks Pauline. "Your unbending spirit hasn't changed since our days in the orphanage."
"Oh yes" says Shigeru as he reclines back in thought. "Fond memories. All those adventures we had together. Our fearless leader 'Super Mario' led us through strange worlds those years. But I bet you guys have had great adventures now that you finished college yourselves. Pauline, from all the traveling you have spoken about, it sounds like you've been to more places than any world leader!"
"Oh no, that's not true" she says bashfully, "I've only been to maybe a dozen or so major cities in America, and perhaps a couple countries afar. I'm still young in my freelance profession, so I've still got so many more places to go, and sights to see."
"Your resume is quite impressive regardless" says Luigi between mouthfuls of lasagna.
"Speaking of which," she leans over to Mario and puts a hand on his lap, "thanks again for helping me with the commercial pitch. The C.E.O. was very pleased."
Mario blushes a bit, "It was-a nothing. Playing that 'Mr. Video' character was-a surprisingly seamless"
"Yeah," says Luigi, "when it comes to my bro, no one has more style in front of an audience."
As the conversation goes on, Mario starts to take more and more interest in the food in front of him.
"So what about you two?" Shigeru asks, "Has your plumbing business been 'smooth sailing' still?"
"Oh yeah" Mario looks up from his plate. "Luigi and I are-a still in it."
"I think we've become the most popular plumbers in Brooklyn now" says Luigi.
Shigeru adjusts his glasses. "Are you still thinking about joining a major league sport?"
Mario smirks a bit as he puts his utensils down. "Perhaps. I…I just can't decide which one to choose."
"Well, good things come to those who wait. If you rush it, it probably won't lead to good results."
Their dinner raps up with all smiles, and Mario and Luigi head back to their apartment. As the two get into their pajamas and get ready to sleep, Luigi notices Mario is a bit more silent than usual, siting on his bed.
"What's up, bro? You've been a little quiet since our dinner reunion." Luigi walks over to his own bed next to his brother's, sitting right across from him. "Hey, aren't you glad Pauline's back?"
Mario smiles a bit. "Well, yeah I'm-a glad. That's-a not it, though."
"So what is it?" Luigi snaps his fingers. "I got it! I know what you need: more plumbing! You always had a knack for plumbing, and I'll bet that rush of adrenaline from three clients in a row has worn you out big time. So how about…
Mario waves his hands in front of him. "No, no. I mean, I guess, but…" he sighs, "I just feel like something's-a missing. Something that leaves me incomplete. I thought it was plumbing, and don't get me wrong, we're good."
"We're super good!"
"But now, I think that isn't quite my calling." Mario stands up and paces between their beds. "I need something bigger. Something grander. Something that keeps me on my toes. Something like…like…"
"An adventure." Mario turns toward his brother, smiles, and nods. Luigi stands up to face his brother. "Mario, we've been through everything together. And you know, that I know, that you've always been good at just about anything you put your hands on. And you are a great leader. Remember those times we ventured through the ventilation shafts to get goodies for the other kids?"
"Yeah, those adventures were amazing."
"Well, I may have used to be an adventurer like you, but now, I've found happiness in the simplicity of life. We can still find little mini-adventures around New York."
"True," smiles Mario, "it does feel like almost everything extra-ordinary happens in New York."
"See? Adventure is out there. Just you wait." The two get under the covers of their beds. "I'll bet that tomorrow, your true calling will come."
Mario laughs, "I hope you're-a right, Weegee. Good night."
As the two go to sleep, and dream of better days, a sink in another apartment begins to rattle…