One-Man Superstars (Part 1)
Mario and Luigi reach the sloped edge of the expansive Mushroom Fields. Within seconds of taking in the sites, Mario rushes toward the first fort he sees. But Luigi stays put at the crest of the slope and takes a few minutes to look at what they're getting into.
"Wait a second, bro…" Luigi calls, but his brother is already strides ahead of him. But what he sees is the only thing that stops him in his tracks. While this field is wide and flat most of the time, it is peppered with yellow blocks, brick blocks, mini-slopes, green pipes, and water pools. Also within this expansive grassy field are eight stone forts, erected by the Koopa Troop. His eyes widen. "…this could take a while."
Mario surges ahead, making a beeline for the first Goomba he sees. The enemy grunt spots him likewise, and begins steadily charging forth.
"One more step, and you will face the wrath of the Koopa Troop!" the Goomba battle cries.
"Alright then," Mario scoffs. He jumps high into the air, and lands squarely on the Goomba's head, knocking it out. "Bite me." But his brief cry in pain does alert a bunch of the Goombas nearby. Mario notices a couple yellow blocks suspended mid-air nearby. "Toadsworth did say they can be useful…" he walks beneath them, and tilts his head up in slight befuddlement. Then he shrugs it off and punches the bottom of the first block. To his surprise, a Super Mushroom pops out from the top of the yellow block. It rolls off the block, bounces off a green pipe nearby, and stops right at Mario's feet.
He picks up the Super Mushroom, which is slightly bigger than his gloved hand. He pokes it; no reaction. He pokes it again; no change. "What the heck am I supposed to do with this 'shroom?" A battle cry from the approaching Goombas startles him for a second. This causes him to squeeze the Super Mushroom in an involuntary reflex. He crushes the 'shroom just enough to reduce it into sparkling particles. The particles then embed in his fist, and spreads throughout his entire body. A tingling sensation surges throughout his entire body. "Wow!" His face brightens and perks up like a shot of espressos. A slightly pale glow emanates from his body.
Some of the Goombas and Koopa Troopas reach where Mario still stands, weaving around green warp pipes. Mario snaps to their attention. His muscles tense. A glint sparkles in his eyes. "Bad timing, Koopa Troop!" He runs toward the Goombas first, which slow down their run toward him. He jumps on each Goomba, knocking them out with every stomp. The couple of Koopa Troopas that join them notice the fallen Goombas, and begin to turn the other way. "Oh no you don't!" Mario catches up to the Koopa Troopas quickly and jumps on them, too. However, they retreat into their shells just as he's about to stomp on them. Mario tries to stomp on one of them again, but the exterior proved too tough to even make a dent. Furthermore, the roundness of its shell leaves Mario slightly off-balanced and slip off the shell. The green shell spins from the force of Mario's stomp, sliding on the grassy flats until it's out of sight. Then three more Goombas charge toward Mario. But Mario simply kicks the other green shell toward them, hitting all three Goombas in a row.
Mario continues across the grassy plains to another cluster of bricks, with one yellow block nestled within the rows. A couple of Goombas march along the highest row of bricks, and notice Mario. Though before they even get to ground level, Mario jumps up from below them. He's aiming to punch them where they stand. However, he misjudges the trajectory and ends up punching the bricks they stand on. Baffling enough, he also misjudges his own strength, and ends up breaking the bricks to dust with one punch. While this much force from the bricks' destruction doesn't stop Mario's momentum, it does knock the two Goombas off their feet, and out of action. "Wow!" he says upon landing back onto the grass, "Those mushrooms make me feel refreshed and stronger than ever!"
Mario notices that the lone yellow block was the only floating block that wasn't destroyed by his punch. Curious, he tries punching it directly. The block stays resiliently in place without a scratch. But it does change color from yellow to brown. Furthermore, a strange red flower with small eyes sprouts from the block. "Hm, I wonder what this strange plant can do for me." He jumps up to reach the flower and crushes it. Almost instantly, his hand grows red hot as the flower crumbles to particles and fuses with him. Mario shrieks and waves his right arm back and forth, trying to cool off his hand. Then he notices his clothes change. While they maintain the same design, his signature red shirt and hat are changes to white, while his blue overalls change to deep red.
"O…kay…" He flexes his fingers, which are still very warm and slightly steaming. "A little hot to touch, but…" Then some Goombas come running his way. He moves into a fighting stance, but as he whips his arms quickly, a small fireball forms in each hand. "Aaaack!" Mario frantically waves his hands, which quickly flick the fireballs away from him. One fireball bounces across the grassy terrain and into a shocked Goomba. It blasts in its face, knocking out the now sooty Goomba.
As the other Goombas looks at each other over what to do next, Mario looks at his hands, now definitely steaming, but cooling down. His eye glints as the gears in his head turn. Mario begins walking toward the Goombas, snapping his right fingers. After a few tries, he gets a small fireball developed again. Casually, he flings the fireball toward one of the Goombas, knocking it out. This gets their attention and they charge at him. Mario runs toward them as well, and this time is able to snap up some more fireballs more quickly. In a few seconds, he scores direct hits against the remaining Goombas. "I'm-a really liking this super power!" Mario exclaims gleefully.
A few paces later, Mario finds another cluster of yellow blocks. "Let's-a see what power-up is under block number three." He punches the bottom of one. But only one gold coin slightly larger than his fist pops out. He catches it in his hands. It has an oval symbol on both sides. "Oh, so this is-a what a Mushroom coin…" Almost immediately, the coin shrinks in his hands until it disappears with a slight ringing sound. He scratches his head. "…maybe my fiery hands are-a melting it?" He hits the other yellow blocks. Each time, a coin comes out. And each time, the coin shrinks to nothing in his hands. One block even has multiple coins, but every one of them shrinks to nothing as Mario makes contact with it. "Geez, this place just keeps getting weirder and weirder…"
He continues on, climbing over some block mounds. Over the last tall mound, he spots a small encampment of Goombas. By the base of their small camp, a flag pole hangs the flag of their king's emblem. Mario makes a short running start, and then leaps for the flag pole. He just makes it to the top, surprising the Goombas below. As he slides down the pole, he flings fireballs at each Goomba to knock them out. He also accidentally loosens the rope, undoing the knots that kept the flag up.
Mario takes a breather for a minute. "Man, what a rush! Just a couple dozen more or so to go!" Just then, Luigi comes leaping off the same mound and sliding down the flag pole. He runs up to his brother, keeping a hand on his brother's shoulder to keep himself standing straight to catch his breath. "Hey, Weegee! You alright? What took you so long?"
"I was just taking a look at what we were going to deal with," he gasps. "There are at least eight forts scattered about the area, each with dozens of enemies sprawled across the grassy plains nearby them. And we'll probably have to take out all of them."
"So which is-a the closest one?"
Luigi points in the direction opposite of the block mound they jumped from. Then he gets a better look at what's directly around him. "How are those Goombas singed...and when and where did you change your clothes?!"
But Mario barely pays heed to his questions. "Oh good! Then let's-a go!" He sprints off.
"Hey, wait up!" He follows his brother close behind.
Princess Peach stirs and flutters her eyes open. She wakes up, lying face-down on the cobblestone floor. The entire room she's in is dimly lit and entirely made of stone. "Where…" She looks up toward a towering, smirking Bowser.
"You cease to amaze me, princess."
She immediately gets to her feet, scowling as she tries to brush off any dust and grime smudged on her pink dress. "I aim to please, considering you have gotten exactly what you wanted."
"Not quite," Bowser crosses his arms.
Peach cocks an eyebrow, also noticing that besides Bowser and herself, the room they are in is empty, save for a couple of torches on the walls. And Bowser blocks the only doorway.
"Yes, I did conquer your entire kingdom, and you did hold your end of the surrender by re-opening the Special Pipe." His grin disappears. "However, it seems not all of your subjects agreed to the surrender. And I wonder how those stone statues came undone?"
The princess sweat-drops, but stands a bit straighter, even though Bowser still towers over her. "Then it would seem not all magical artifacts have permanent effects."
Bowser bends over and sternly looks into her eyes, face-to-face. While she leans back a bit in disgust, she barely moves an inch from where she stands. "Regardless of if you are behind this coup or not…and I think you are behind this, somehow…you can still make up for this useless counterattack by calling off your two boy scouts."
Bowser steps back a bit. "Don't play dumb with me, princess. You managed to hide two humans in your kingdom, who have just taken back your castle and capitol from my forces."
Peach gasps and clasps a hand near her mouth. "They…came through?!" she squeaks silently. Her eyes grow wide as she tries to process the changing situation.
He growls, "And now they are heading this way as we speak!"
The brothers approach a double-headed green pipe. Mario puts a hand on the pipe and uses his 'pipe sense' to see where it goes.
"Pretty wide pipe tunnel with high ceilings; it seems there are a few of those Goombas and turtle things down there. I can't tell how far ahead it goes for some reason, but it might be a way to get to the forts faster."
"Perhaps. The surface is crawling with enemies; wouldn't hurt to see if going underground is the better option."
After nodding to each other, the brothers slip down the pipe. The two stomp on two unsuspecting Goombas upon landing below. Then they run to a set of yellow blocks. Mario hits each one of them, with mostly coins coming out that shrink into his palms. One Fire Flower does sprout from it.
Luigi stands there dreadfully confused. "Why…what happened…what?"
"Hey, Weegee, try crushing that flower on the block," he shouts over his shoulder, "It'll give you some fire power!"
"Um, okay…" Luigi jumps directly onto the Fire Flower and crushes it beneath his feet. The flower crushes to dust particles and fuses itself with Luigi. While the taller brother is too shocked to move, his blue overalls change to green, his shirt and signature hat change to white, and his gloves begin to smolder. He jumps around frantically, waving his arms. "My hands! My hands are on fire! Why? How do I stop this? How do I control this?"
Mario notices some Goombas and Koopa Troopas coming their way and runs toward them. "Come on, Weegee! You'll get the hang of it in a few snaps." While Luigi tries his best to keep up and fan the fireballs he spawns in his hands, his brother barrels ahead. He stomps enemy heads, kicks shells, flings fireballs, and punches through walls of bricks.
"When the heck did you get super strong?!" Luigi exclaims.
Mario jumps over a couple of small chasms. "It's-a from these wacky plants in this world. The mushrooms give us super strength, while the flowers give us fire powers. Isn't this place great?" Just as Mario is talking back to Luigi, he jumps over a green pipe. But it isn't vacant.
"Bro, look out!" Luigi cries as he spots a strange plant creature with sharp teeth lunge out of the green pipe.
Unfortunately, Mario just barely notices the danger. The carnivorous plant takes a hard bite to Mario's left leg. "Mama-mia!" he cries as he falls to the other side of the pipe.
"Mario!" Without a second thought, Luigi flings a fireball at the enemy plant. It scores a direct hit and it withers back down the pipe in spawned from. Luigi runs over to his brother, who has strangely changed back into his old colored clothes of red and blue. He holds a hand out to his brother, who is already standing back up himself. "You alright, bro?"
"I'm-a fine, actually." Mario tries sparking another fireball, but not even a smolder spawns from his gloves. "Aw man, there goes my fire though!"
Luigi grins and rests a hand on his brother's shoulder. "Hey, no problem. All we need is to find another flower thing, right?" He then shakily produces another fireball in his other hand. "Besides, I still got some fire left…"
Just then, a green shell comes racing down the tunnel toward them. It hits Luigi's legs hard, knocking him off-balance. This causes his clothes to turn back to its usual green and blue, and extinguishes the fireball he had in his hand.
Mario kicks away the pesky Koopa Troopa within the green shell, and then helps Luigi up, even though Luigi seems okay. "Okay, so when we do find those flowers, we'll have to avoid harmful hits."
"Noted. Let's just get back to the surface."
The two proceed through the tunnels, still able to bash through bricks and stomp enemies like nobody's business. Then they reach a pulley system of platforms over a large chasm. Mario leads his brother between them. Once on the other, they find a green pipe on its side. Mario goes over to use his 'pipe sense' again. He beams. "Good news: this one goes up!"
"Well then, let's get going! This lack of lighting isn't doing anything for my skin!"
The two enter through the pipe, with Mario going first. But as soon as they stick their whole bodies through the entrance, a strange suction force gives them enough of a push to make climbing up the smooth walls of the pipe practically easy. Within a minute, they are sticking their heads out through the other side of the pipe.
"Man, I wish the pipes back in Brooklyn were as buttery smooth as these" says Luigi.
"We'll have to ask them what their secret is," says Mario, "among other things."
The two get out of the green pipe, climb up a nearby mound, and spot a small camp of Koopas, similar to the one they encountered with the Goombas earlier, complete with their army flag.
Mario gestures to his brother. "How about you take a turn this time?"
Luigi smirks, "Why, thank you, bro." He leaps onto the flag pole, slides down, and jumps onto a Koopa Troopa. While he kicks around its shell at the other enemies, Mario stomps on a couple other Koopa Troopas Luigi missed.
Once the two finish relishing their second small victory, they both look to the distance. Not too far ahead, over a gorge filled with mushroom-shaped platforms, they spot a fortress.
"That must be the king's castle," says Luigi, "I wonder what he looks like?"
Mario just gives that determined look toward the fortress. He grunts and clenches his fists. "We're ready."
"So, princess, how about it?" Bowser stamps his foot from time to time. He looks down toward Princess Peach, who still appears flabbergasted. "You have your two 'specialists' surrender now, and I'll let them off easy. Sounds like a fair deal to me."
Peach still stares hazily into space, murmuring to herself.
"Well? What'll it be? I ain't got all day!"
"No…" she stifles softly.
Bowser bends down to her level, hands at the hip. "What was that?"
Peach snaps out of it. She gives one look at the Koopa King, frowns, and crosses her arms. "No," she says much more clearly. "They will come. They will raze everything your army's built, and push you back from all that ground you tried to take from us. You better be ready, because if you have trouble with just me, you're in for much worse with him!" She half-forces a gloating smile.
His eyebrows furrow, and small flames kindle at the back of his throat. He turns around, stomping extra hard as he heads back to the room's one entrance. Then he stops. He chuckles to himself at first, then a bit louder. He turns to Peach, grinning ear to ear. "Oh, I'll be ready. In fact, when they reach the fort, I'll show them what they're really up against." He jabs a finger toward Peach. "Just remember: you brought this upon them; upon your kingdom! Now you'll sit here, and listen to the destruction of your remaining friends and footholds!" He walks out of the room and turns back to Princess Peach. A couple of Hammer Brothers raise the spiked drawbridge that acts as the door to the room. Peach looks away in pain as Bowser laughs until the drawbridge shuts her tight…and alone.