One-Man Superstars (Part 2)
Mario and Luigi jump from giant mushroom cap to giant mushroom cap as they head across the gorge. They take down some Goombas and Koopa Troopas scattered about with simple stomps. Then they find a couple of yellow blocks, each with a Fire Flower inside.
“Hold it!” Luigi waves his hand to Mario just as he is about to crush his Fire Flower. “Maybe we should hold on to these until we reach the fort. We might not get as many chances to collect these before we face the Koopa King.”
Mario pauses for a second. “You’re-a right.”
So the two continue on, delicately holding on to the Fire Flowers so as not to crush them. They still check other blocks, but only coins come out when they hit them. As they almost reach the other side of the gorge, a flock of Koopa Paratroopas spot them from high above.
“Hey, I think those are the two agents the Mushroom Kingdom sent to get the princess!” says one of them.
“I think you’re right” says another.
“Let’s get ’em!”
Mario and Luigi hear a whirring sound, like flapping wings. They look up and spot half a dozen Paratroopas diving toward them, fast. The two instinctively duck as the Paratroopas wiz a meter over them. But they circle around and try to hit them again. Mario jumps up, while Luigi jumps far to the side. The Paratroopas form a horizontal line as they arc down to hit the brothers. Mario jumps too high above their flight path, and even scores a direct hit on one of the middle ones. On the other hand, the Paratroopa on the right side of the line nearly clips Luigi as he’s jumping out of the way. This forces him to bend his body to narrowly avoid being hit, and he falls to a lower-level mushroom platform.
“V-formation, now!” says one of the ticked Paratroopas.
The Paratroopas dive once again, this time in a v-formation. The leading Paratroopa directs their flight path toward Luigi, who has only just sat up, still holding the Fire Flower in his right hand.
Mario can see the Paratroopas coming in fast toward his brother…really fast. “I don’t think I can make it to him in time!” He leaps toward his brother regardless. “Luigi!”
Luigi looks up to see the Paratroopas closing in just a few meters away from his head. “Yow!” He dips backward, holding up the Fire Flower as best a shield he can muster with both his hands, and braces for impact.
But in his panic, he squeezes the Fire Flower a little too tight, and like a tube of toothpaste. Instead of dissolving into Luigi, a fan of flames bursts out of the Fire Flower. It hoses down all five Paratroopas unsuspectingly caught in its radial blast. They shriek and try to fly away as best they can. Unfortunately, their wings become too charred to work properly, and they fall into the gorge below, screaming in despair.
Mario lands next to Luigi, both in shock at what just happened. They look down toward the Fire Flower in Luigi’s hand, which crumbles to dust.
“I…I just…killed…” Luigi’s hands shake uncontrollably. Tears begin to weld in his eyes.
Mario stands there in shock for a second, and then turns his attention to his brother. “Hey, Weegee.”
Luigi stares into the distance, muttering to himself.
Mario shakes Luigi’s shoulder. “Weegee?”
Still no response.
Mario crouches directly in front of Luigi. “Hey, Luigi! Look at me!”
Luigi begins to focus and stops muttering for a moment.
“What you did back there was-a in self-defense. They were-a going to hurt you, maybe kill you too. Remember, this is-a war going on. There has-a never been a war with no casualties. All we can do is get up, and move on. If it helps, I will-a always be here to help you. But we cannot stay here. So can you be strong enough to move on?”
Luigi takes a while to wipe his tears. “Okay. I think I’m good now.”
Mario smiles and helps his brother back to his feet. “Good. We’re-a right in front of the fort. I’ll take the lead, you cover my back, and we’ll walk out of there okay.”
“Okeydokey” Luigi weakly agrees, giving a half-smile.
The two of them reach the other side of the gorge at last, climb over a dirt mound, slide down the nearby enemy flagpole, and charge toward the Goombas guarding the gate.
Captain Toad paces back and forth in his dimly lit dungeon room. He stops for a moment to look at the other four Toads he has as his cell mates. One of them is slumped against a wall. Another is playing a sad tune on a harmonica. The remaining two are half-heartedly trying to flick pebbles at other small stones set up in a circle.
“Ugh, we’ve got to get out of here!” Toad runs in place, looking frantically around the room. Other than a couple of torches and locked steel door, there is nothing but stone walls, stone ceilings, and stone floors. “Aw, who am I kidding? There is no way out! Especially not with someone guarding the entrance!”
The wooden gates open wide with a bang. The Goombas inside look to the entrance of their fort. Mario and Luigi literally jump in, stomping on each one of them as they head down the stone steps. Within a minute, only one Goomba groggily tries to stay conscious.
Mario turns to Luigi. “Feel a bit better?”
“Kind of, yeah” he shrugs.
Mario turns to the woozy Goomba. He then stands before it, leaning over so it can’t look away. “Okay buddy. You mind telling where the Koopa King is? Or the princess?”
The Goomba half-smirks. “Why don’t you hop, skip, and jump that way and find out?”
The brothers look ahead where the Goomba is gesturing. Down a long narrow hallway, lava pits are intermittently placed between groups of rotating lava bars. “Well,” sweatdrops Luigi, “that much is expected of the Koopa King.”
Mario takes in the view of his new obstacle course, and then jogs toward it. “What have we got to lose?” He now squeezes the Fire Flower still in his hand, turning his clothes into the fire pattern. Mario leaps over the lava pits and the first fire bar.
Luigi hesitantly looks and waits before he leaps. “Wait up!”
But Mario continues on past more lava pits and lava bars, jumping and ducking while hardly slowing down. “Oh, sorry bro!” he shouts behind him, “I’m-a kind of have a rhythm going, so it’ll take a bit before I slow down.”
Just then, a huge fireball with a flaming tail hurls toward him. “Mama-mia!” he gasps as he quickly ducks into a shallow pit. A deep laughter echoes not far down the hallway.
“What happened?” cries Luigi, a bit further back.
Mario takes a second to take his cap off to wipe some sweat off his forehead. “I think I found him!” Mario shouts back. Then he leaps back up and heads a little further down the hallway. That is when he comes face to face with him.
In the large, rectangular room stands the Koopa King, with his yellow scales, sharp claws and teeth, and fire-engine-red hair. The two of them stand on a steel plank a little wider than the Koopa King.
“Hahahaha!” laughs the Koopa King, “So this is one of the special agents sent by the Mushroom traitors? Ha! You look fitter to be cleaning the sewers!” A light flame flickers in the back of his throat.
Mario smirks. “Oh yeah?” He sparks a fireball in his right hand. “I’ve-a got extra fire power, and if you’re-a only twice as good as your soldiers, it won’t be enough!” He flings the fireball toward the Koopa King.
The Koopa King grins, then belches a much larger, long-tailed fireball in Mario’s direction. The smaller fireball bounces right into the larger fireball, getting absorbed and hardly slowing it down. Mario grows wide-eyed as the fireball hurls straight toward him, making a direct hit.
“Ha! You call that fire power?” he scoffs, “You’ll have to do better than that to beat the Koopa King!”
But to his surprise, Mario still stands before him, unmoved. His arms braced in front of his head, and his clothes return to their original colors. Mario is taken aback a bit surprised and relieved.
The Koopa King clenches his fists and crouches low. “A bit flame-resistant, eh? Then how are you at taking on an extra few tons of awesome!” He leaps into the air, aiming directly where Mario still stands.
Mario snaps right back into action. He runs straight out of the way. While the Koopa King makes the steel plank tremble a bit, Mario quickly eyes a switch just before a steel door. Without a second thought, he continues speeding toward the switch and jumps onto it.
The Koopa King turns around and spots Mario jumping onto the switch. “No! That’s a last resort!”
Too late. Mario stomps down on the switch. Gears whir within the stone floor directly beneath the switch. An axe comes swinging sideways out of the floor, and slices the plank clean. A chain of explosives detonate across the plank. The Koopa King waves his arms and legs in a panic, but falls into the lava below before he can get out in time.
Mario wipes his hands together. “Well, that seemed too easy!” He turns to the door, which begins clicking into an unlocked position. “Now, let’s-a see if the princess is-a alright.”
Captain Toad and the four other Toads jump a little as the clicking of the dungeon door startles them. “Oh no! What does the Koopa King want now?” Captain Toad settles down a bit. “Wait, what if this is our rescue?”
The clicking stops. The steel door slowly swings open with a few creaks. There in the doorway isn’t the Koopa King. It isn’t a Koopa Troopa. It isn’t even a Goomba. Instead, a smiling human male, with blue overalls, white gloves, a red shirt and cap, and a mustache stands before them.
Captain Toad beams, hesitantly walking toward the man. The slightly short man’s smile starts to fade away, but remains alert and content nonetheless. “Are you here to save us?”
A smaller smile spreads on his face. “Yes. I just took out the Koopa King out there for you. I’m-a Mario.” He extends a hand out to Toad.
He and the other Toads jump up in delight, cheering. Toad takes Mario’s hand and shakes it. “Oh thankyouthankyouthankyou Mario! You have no idea how grateful we are! You must be the famed hero that was foretold!”
Mario sweatdrops and puts his other hand behind his head. “Aha, I don’t know if I’d go that far. Anyway, I’ve-a been sent to look for your princess. I heard she was-a in a castle like this. Is-a she here?”
Toad frowns and shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Mario. But our princess is in another castle.”
Mario rubs his forehead, taking his cap off with the other. “Oh right! There were seven others. Darn it, I felt sure she was here. So if the Koopa King is guarding you, then who is guarding the princess?”
“Hey, bro?” Luigi shouts from outside the dungeon. “You might want to have a look at this.”
Mario and the five Toads rush out of the dungeon and meet up with Luigi, who is standing over the edge of the huge lava pit the plank was placed over. Down below, the Koopa King floats on his back in the lava, smoldering and…with his head clean off?!
Everyone gasps as a pale Goomba hops helplessly on the belly of the Koopa King suit. “Please get me out of here!” it pleads, “I promise not to bite!”
“So all this time we had a mere Goomba guarding our cell?” exclaims Captain Toad.
Mario is taken aback, trying to get a grasp of the situation. “One down, seven more castles and potential Koopa Kings to go!”
“Mama-mia!” sighs Luigi.
Kamek flies before Bowser, who stands just outside his castle-like fort. “Are they all prepared?” the Koopa King asks.
“Indeed, Your Readiness,” says Kamek. “All your selected soldiers have been given the proper instruction manuals to build their own deadly machinations in your likeness. The agents won’t know who they face until it is too late!”
“Bwahaha! Great. Now, fly back to my permanent residence, and see to it that it is set for my return.”
“Right away, sire!” Kamek flies off immediately.
Meanwhile, Princess Peach still stays crouched on the floor and facing away from the door to her dungeon. After much concentration and effort, she finally gets her clasped hands to glow a faint pink.