Super Mario Adventuria: Journey of a Thousand Jumps

One-Man Superstars (Part 3)

Mario jumps down to chuck the Goomba, who was disguised as the Koopa King, to safety. Then he catches up to Luigi and the five former captive Toads, who sneak out of the castle fort before any of the Koopa Troop catch them.

“So what was the Koopa Troop going to do with you guys?” Luigi asks Captain Toad, who is the only Toad among the five who’s wearing a backpack.

Captain Toad shutters. “I…we, don’t know. We can’t even think of what horrible things that Koopa fiend might do!”

“Does said Koopa King have a name?”

Toad sweatdrops and swallows hard. “His name is Bowser.” The other Toads shiver a bit. Toad leans in toward Luigi, and Mario as well once he catches up to them. “His name hasn’t been shared publicly yet. So don’t share this tidbit unless the officials say so.”

The group remains quiet until they get outside. No Goomba or Koopa Troopa catches sight of them. The sun still shines in a morning position, though nobody notices. Mario, Luigi, and the Toads retreat behind some nearby bushes.

“Ah, I like these bushes” says one of the Toads, “they feel as fluffy as clouds.”

Mario turns to Captain Toad. “So, how do you know this ‘Bowser’?”

Captain Toad grows very pale, if that was even possible. “I…saw him…it’s more personal than I would have liked.”

“Okay, understandable. And you never knew that that ‘False Bowser’ was-a guarding you instead of the real king?”

“Yeah. He sounded real from outside our dungeon.”

Mario thinks to himself for a moment. “So, there are-a seven more castles like this one. We have to rescue the princes. Are-a there more imprisoned Toads?”

“Unfortunately, yes. I don’t know precisely, but at least a dozen…no, dozens of other Toads like me were captured.”

Mario takes another moment to think. “Well, this sums up our quest in a nutshell.”

One of the other four Toads steps forward. “Wait, what about our home, Toad Town? Our escape will most likely alert the Koopa Troop, and send forces to attack our capital again!” The other Toads nod nervously in agreement.

“You’re-a right. How about one of you be the messenger to let us know if such an attack threatens…Toad Town, or the castle? My brother and I will be running between the castle forts, so whoever among you is-a really good at darting amongst enemy territory should be picked. So, which one of you will it be?”

All but Captain Toad take a large step backward, while the lone Toad just stands there petrified of the perils.

Mario smiles and points at Captain Toad. “Great! You seem to know enough about the enemy anyway. Hope you’re-a as fast as you are brave!”

Toad gulps, as the other Toads roll their eyes or groan to themselves.

“What is your name by the way?”

He takes a couple of seconds to realize he was spoken to. “M-my name is Toad, sir.”

The brothers look at each other. “Easy enough to remember,” says Luigi as he turns back to Toad. “Just keep your backpack on or something. It’s kind of hard to distinguish between you guys sometimes.”

“…k…” Captain Toad walks behind the other Toads, who briskly walk in the direction of Toad Town.

“I think we should split up, Weegee. It will let us cover more ground.”

“I think so, too, bro. Just be careful.”

“Same to you.” The brothers run off in different directions, with Mario heading toward the castle by a lake, while Luigi runs toward a different castle.

Princess Peach wanders around her cell, using the faint pink glow around her gloved hands to look at any finer details along the walls and floors. “Seems the Koopa Troop knows how to build a prison well. Not a single crack in these stone walls.” She walks back to the center of the room. “I guess I’ll have to make one.” She closes her eyes. The faint glow around her hands begin to spread up her arms…

Mario is busy in the grassy planes jumping and dodging green-shelled Koopa Paratroopas.

“How does this guy jump higher than we fly?” exclaims one of the Paratroopas, as Mario jumps on each of the other Paratroopas.

“Maybe if you stopped hopping around like a chicken with your head cut off, maybe you’d actually fly better” Mario retorts.

“What the heck is a chicken, ack!” Mario jumps upon the Paratroopa, knocking it out.

Mario looks out toward the lakeshore close by. “Now, how am I going to get across this lake?” He glances over to a Warp Pipe conveniently nearby. “Perhaps this might take me somewhere…” He runs up and leaps into the pipe without a second thought.

As Mario slips down the pipe, his ‘pipe sense’ detects water near the other end, coming up fast. “Crud!” Mario stretches out his arms and legs and tries to stop sliding down with his hands and feet. But he barely even slows down before he reaches the flooded opening of the Warp Pipe on the other end. Mario takes a deep breath and holds it. With a light splash, Mario dives feet first into the lake.

Mario thought he’d have a hard time seeing anything underwater without goggles. But to his surprise, he can see as clearly as he was on dry land. Little seaweed patches, coral-like columns, and blocky rocks are strewn across the bright blue lakebed. “Wow! The East River never looked this good!” He shakes his head. “Can’t stop now. Got to get to the other end of the lake, and get near the surface so I have breaks to breath.”

Mario propels himself diagonally forward and upward using his legs and occasionally some strokes with his arms and hands. Along the way, schools of red and white fish with big lips swim in the opposite direction. But as long as he gets out of their way, they pay little mind to the plumber. He makes it more than half-way across the lake, and yet never broke the surface for air. “Huh, I must be getting better at holding my breath.” He notices some coins strewn across the lakebed. “I think I still got enough air to help myself a bit.” Mario swims back down and reaches for the coins. But just like on land, these coins dissolve into his gloves as soon as he touches them. “Oh well.” Just a little further ahead he spots a Warp Pipe along the shores of the other side of the lake. “Perfect! A quick escape, and still with air to spare!” Mario glides toward the pipe, and slips through to the surface.

Meanwhile, a white squid creature spots the plumber entering the pipe. It darts toward an idle school of those fish. He exclaims to them, “Hey, Cheep Cheeps! I think I spotted that agent who’s been trying to sabotage the Koopa Troop…”

Mario jumps out of the Warp Pipe, and onto a small island in the middle of the lake. He takes a moment to look down at his clothes, which are still pretty wet. “Hm, not bad, and I can feel my clothes slowly drying. Good!” He walks toward a bridge, which leads to the other side of the lake, and the second castle fort. “Wow, this part feels easier than the first section!”

Suddenly, Cheep Cheep after Cheep Cheep come leaping out of the lake. At first, they either clear the bridge, or they flop a bit before dropping back into the water. But the school quickly reaches where Mario stands. “Mama-mia!” Mario books it across the bridge. Cheep Cheeps fly every which way like a storm of flies. Water splashes almost up to the bridge. Panting, Mario lunges toward the castle fort, darts into the front entrance, and slams the door behind him.

“Made it!” he pants. Then he notices some Koopa Troopas staring at him from the bottom of the entrance steps. “Pardon my hasty entrance, fellas. It was-a raining fish out there!” A brief bout occurs, but Mario makes quick work of the Koopas with a few simple stomps and kicks.

He confidently steps on through the castle, when he comes across a large lava pit. Fortunately, some blocks float above the pit. “Alright,” he exclaims as he jumps onto the first set of blocks, “nothing a little precision jumping can’t fix…” just as he reaches the climax of his leap, a fiery ball with two dotted eyes jumps out from the lava. Mario flips out, but just manages to stay out of the way of its range. As Mario lands safely on the blocks, a few more fireballs with eyes jumps straight up and down from various spots across the lava. “Oh great! I think I prefer those fish again!” He continues his jumping strides, quicker but careful. Only when he gets to the other side of the lava pit does he stop briefly to catch his breath.

Without another word, Mario runs further into the fort. He jumps through a longer hall of Firebars, across a deep pit with lifts, and by a small coin bin. Then as he avoids a couple of lava puddles, a fireball flies from the direction he’s heading. Mario ducks into a stone trench, wiping some sweat from his face. Once ready, he runs into the open room.

There before him stands another Bowser, in a near identical room as the previous False Bowser was fought in. “So you fared well against my Podoboos, huh?” the Koopa scoffs.

Mario gets into a battle stance. “I’ll admit. They were-a more difficult than your fireballs!”

The Koopa King crouches down and blasts another fireball. This time, Mario is ready. He jumps over the fireball, and runs up close to the Koopa King. The tyrant tries throwing punches at the plumber, but Mario simply sways his body out of the way. The Koopa King tries to trust his whole weight straight at Mario’s head, legs first. With a glint in his eyes, Mario slides between the floor and the clumsy flying Koopa King. Then he makes a dash to the switch placed right before a steel door, just as before. One button press later, and the steel bridge collapses.

The Koopa King has barely even stood when he falls once again, now in the lava pit. Mario looks down at the lifeless body of the king floating in the lava pit. Then, a small door opens on the belly of the False Bowser, and a Koopa Troopa stumbles out. “I was sure my king could move like that” he grumbles. Then he looks up to the plumber, frowns, and raises his arms over his head. “Alright, I surrender. Now could you please help me out? I’d prefer not to be a Dry Bones just yet.” Mario sighs and helps the Koopa escape with a couple of jumps.

While the Koopa Troopa walks away, Mario turns to the steel door. He goes to open it. About half a dozen Toads look up to him.

“I’m-a here to free you guys. We’ll sneak out the back and you can make your way back to your town from there.” Mario takes another look-around. “The princess isn’t here with you either?”

One of the Toads shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Mario. But our princess is in another castle.”

Luigi encounters a couple of Hammer Bros jumping back and forth between different floating brick blocks. They throw hammer after hammer toward the green plumber.

“Do you guys ever run out of hammers?” Luigi exclaims.

The Hammer Bros just laugh and continue throwing their barrage of hammers. Fed up, Luigi carefully makes his way under a set of blocks one of the Hammer Bros is standing on. With one strong punch from beneath the block, the Hammer Bros loses his balance and falls to the ground, dazed. The other Hammer Bro jumps onto solid ground, readying another hammer to throw. But Luigi jumps onto its head before it even gets to pull it out.

Luigi wipes his hands together, and then eyes a spring. “Huh, what’s this doing here?” Luigi carefully climbs onto the spring, testing its springiness. Next, he tries some light jumps in place, and the spring gives his jumps some extra height. “Kind of like a trampoline!” Feeling extra giddy, he tries one large jump. The spring sends up way higher than he was expecting. Waving his arms, he tries to grab hold of anything. He falls helplessly back down, and lands feet first on a Goomba. As the Goomba cries out in pain, Luigi rebounds into a brick block before landing on solid ground.

To his surprise, a vine sprouts from the block, growing higher and higher until it reaches the clouds. But then his attention goes back to the stomped Goomba, who is surrounded by some of his compatriots. One of them turns to Luigi, “You gone and done it this time! He’s out but good, mad man!” The Goombas charge toward Luigi. Striken with grief and panic, Luigi jumps up to the vine and climbs it.

“Not again, not again,” he endlessly moans as he mindlessly climbs the vine. He keeps on climbing until he can climb no more. He keeps his eyes shut and hugs the vine close. “That was careless! I got to be more careful, and not be such a klutz! Or else…” a gust of wind ruffles his hair and nearly knocks off his cap, had he not instinctively reached up to hold it in place. But this snaps him out of it and he opens his eyes.

“Woah!” he peeps as he realizes he had climbed so high that he and the vine stick above the clouds. Coins stick out of the clouds in great quantity, but that is the least of his concern at the moment. “Great. Just great. Now I’ve got to climb all the way back down.” Just as he makes his first few careful steps back down the vine, his foot touches a cloud. To his even greater surprise, it feels pretty solid. “No way…” He carefully puts his whole foot down on the cloud while still holding onto the vine. It still stays on top. Then he tries the other foot. It, too, stays firmly on the cloud. With a deep breath, he lets go of the vine. He doesn’t drop through. He sighs, “Thank goodness!” He then walks across the overstretched cloud. Nothing but coins and clouds as far as the eye can see. “Wait until Mario finds out about this!” For a while, he just walks across the cloud, admiring the scene. He kicks up coins along his walk, but they shrink into nothingness upon contact.

Then Luigi reaches the edge of the cloud. He leans over and looks down below. He spots the castle fort he was heading toward. “Wow, this turned out to be a great shortcut, too! Now, how am I going to get down…” A strong gust of wind nudges him from behind. As much as he tries to rebalance himself, Luigi falls over the edge of the cloud. His arms flail again. To his marvelous luck, he grabs onto the legs of a passing Koopa Paratroopa. The surprised Paratroopa flaps his wings as hard as he can to counteract the sudden extra weight, until his wings break off from the strain. Fortunately, they both were mere feet from the ground when they both land on their backs.

Luigi gets up first, and stands before the entrance to the castle fort. He walks in, and immediately notices Firebars and Podoboos suspended over skinny but deep lava pits right near the entrance. “Great, more fire. Just what I always wanted!” He takes a deep breath and carefully jumps across each Podoboo path and Fireball swing carefully. As he goes further into the fort, he navigates around the dispersed Podoboos and Fireballs.

Finally, he reaches a room similar to the one Mario faced False Bowser in, complete with the switch in front of the steel door, and a Koopa King standing between him and said switch.

The Koopa King scoffs. “Ha! So this is the annoying agent sent to rescue the princess? You hardly look the part! You’re beneath me!”

Luigi crouches down, scowling. “You know, I get called that a lot from bullies like you. You’re no different!” He makes one giant leap, right over the flabbergasted Koopa King, and onto the switch.

“How did you…” But the bridge collapses beneath him, sending him straight into the lava pit. After about a minute, a black-shelled creature with a tiny head crawls out of the False Bowser.

Luigi smirks, “Serves you right…” But then he thinks back on the Paratroopas and the Goomba he put to great harm. He jumps down to rescue the Buzzy Beetle. He kicks away the creature in frustration, and then gets the steel door unlocked. Over a dozen Toads stay huddled in a corner of the room. “It’s alright, guys. You’ll be safe now. By chance, is the princess with you?”

The Toads come toward their dungeon entrance, and one of them responds, “Sorry, but our princess in is another castle.”

Luigi leads the Toads out the back of the castle fort. “I hope Mario is having better luck than me…” He says to himself.

Mario runs across the grassy plains, while a Lakitu throws Spiny Eggs at him from above. The eggs uncurl into grown Spinies.

“Stomp on these, you Mushroom sympathizer!” the Lakitu jeers.

Mario just keeps running as fast as he can while keeping his arms crossed over his ducked head. He tries to focus his ‘pipe sense’ underground. Finally, he sense a warp pipe just ahead which will lead him to an underground tunnel. “About time!” He leaps into the Warp Pipe, just as the Spinies surround him.

Princess Peach continues to concentrate in her cell. The pink glow extends even further across her mid-section and down her dress. “Steady…” she breathes.

Mario escapes from the underground tunnel. Then he leaps across another section of Mushroom Gorge to reach the castle fort he was heading for. He walks in with no enemies to welcome him. Continuing on, he walks ahead and takes the lower route at a forked hallway pass. A little further ahead, he comes across a Piranha Plant, snapping its jaws at the plumber. He simply laughs this off and walks around the pipe. “Alright, ‘Koopa King’, what’s your catch this time?” But after weaving around a Firebar, he finds himself at another forked hallway like before. “Ah, a deeper fort I see…” He continues on, weaving around a Piranha Plant and a Firebar. But then he comes across yet another forked hallway. “No, this can’t be the same…” He takes the same lower route again, and once again comes across the Piranha Plant, the Firebar, and the forked hallway in cued order. “Dang it, it is!” He leaps up to the higher route this time. To his relief, he comes across narrow gaps in the floor where he was expecting the Piranha Plant. “Okay, done with that” he exclaims as he sprints across the holey stone floor.

After avoiding another Firebar, he comes across a three-way path. “Oh no, please not this again!” He tries the left path. But he ends up right where he started. “How do they do that?” he vents, before trying the middle path. But once again he ends up back at the three-way. Now sprinting in frustration, he takes the lower path.

After a while of encountering nothing, a flaming ball flies at him. He dodges it, “Finally!” He runs into the familiar large room. “Okay, Koopa King, how did you…” He stops, caught off guard.

The Koopa King does still stand before him, but he looks…off. He had gray scales, yellow hair, a green underbelly, and a lack of horns. “So we finally meet!” he grins.

Mario clenches his fists, but still looks perplexed. “So this is-a the real you?”

“Of course! You dare doubt the great and mighty Koopa King?”

“So you don’t have horns?”

“What? Of course I have…” he rubs his head with his hand and gasps when he smoothly runs his hand across the top. “I…I got them...removed! But that doesn’t mean I’m any less sharp!” He lunges as the plumber, baring his teeth and claws. But Mario jumps over the charging Koopa King and hits the switch. With a roar, the Koopa King falls off the bridge and into the lava pit. As Mario expects, it was a False Bowser he was fighting, controlled by a Spiny this time.

After saving the Spiny from the lava, Mario goes to free the Toads from their dungeon. “The princess?” Mario asks one of the Toads at they walk out.

“Sorry, but our princess is in another castle” he replies.

Luigi continues through the plains, and spots another castle fort far into the distance. “Perhaps third time will be the charm…” Just then, a bullet-shaped missile with eyes and hands comes flying straight at him. Luigi jumps over it. Then another Bullet Bill comes flying at him. Luigi jumps a bit early and lands on the missile creature itself. Fortunately, his stomp sends its trajectory toward a group of Goombas, blasting them away. He spots another Bullet Bill coming.

“This might be a good time for another power-up.” Luigi looks around, avoiding as much conflict with the Goombas, Koopas, and Bullet Bills as he can. Then he spots a yellow block floating in the air. “Hope this has that ‘Fire Flower’ like before.” But when he strikes it, a jumpy five-pointed star comes out. “Alright, what’s this thing now?” Luigi goes after the jumpy star, when an incoming Bullet Bill closes in. “Shoot, no!” Luigi lunges and just touches the star as the Bullet Bill makes impact.

An explosion follows. The Goombas, Koopas, and Hammer Bros come by to witness what they hit. But when the dust settles, Luigi still stands there, unharmed. The plumber looks down at himself, and notices how his body sparkles in a white light. “I feel…” he grins, “…powerful!” Luigi makes a sudden sprint, kicking lots of dirt up and into a bunch of the Koopa Troop nearby. He leaps and runs further than he ever could before. “This must be the rush Mario has been talking about feeling!” He bounds with glee as every enemy that tries to touch him rebound and go flying. Even Bullet Bills explode on impact, and there isn’t even a scratch on his person to show for it.

Luigi begins to close in on the entrance of the castle fort. Suddenly, his momentum slows, and the sparkling gleam dims. Luigi stumbles forward and skids to a halt in front of the castle, knocking away the Spinies in front of the castle fort. He lifts his head up and groans, “I guess this star power is only a temporary rush.”

Luigi brushes the dirt from his clothes and enters the castle. Once again, Fireballs, Podoboos, and lava pits litter the hallways. He continues on until he makes it to the familiar large room. “Alright, Koopa King, I’m ready to…” he stops, grins, and bites his lip.

While this Koopa King does have the posture, large shell, horns, and claws, his body and head look more like an alligator.

“Hahaha! You stand no chance now, plumber man!” The Koopa King sneers.

Luigi can hardly cover his mouth to stop laughing. “W-w-what are you supposed to be?”

“I’m King Koopa!” He flexes his muscles. “You’ll wish you’d thrown in the towel once I’m finished with you!”

Luigi bursts out laughing, shedding a tear. “Alright, alright! Let’s fight and see what you got!”

The Koopa King charges toward him first, but Luigi jumps back out of the way. “Put up your dukes! There can only be one green ringmaster in town!”

“You’ll have to catch me first!” Luigi leaps over the Koopa King, knocking his taped crown over crooked.

“Why you…” The Koopa King lunges at the plumber again. He jumps over him once again, but the tyrant keeps running across the bridge…and toward the switch!

“Hey! I thought we were going to fight a fair fight!” Luigi begins running after the switch.

The Koopa King swerves around as he stands right before the switch. “Like the saying my grandfather told me: cheat, beat, and be merry!” He activates the switch with his foot.

As the steel bridge collapses, Luigi makes one long leap toward the Koopa King. He barely gets a hold of the stone ledge, preventing a nasty fall into the lava pit.

“Hahaha! Looks like you are at the edge of defeat! I think I’ll make minced meat out of you with this lovely ‘grill’ we got down there!”

“You’re sick!” he gasps, “You say you’re a king, but all you’ve done is pick on the helpless and eliminate your threats.”

“It’s a dirty job, but somebody gets to do it!”

As the Koopa King relishes his near victory, Luigi gets an idea. “Alright, you win. Toss me into the fire. Heck, make me into your midnight snack. But at least it beats getting poisoned.”

The Koopa King stops laughing. “What was that?”

Luigi dramatically moans, “Oh, what an utter nightmare it would be if I were fed something laced with poison! How I am relieved to hear you will end my life with a lighter sentence!”

“That’s a cruel, rotten, disgusting idea…I love it!” The Koopa King bends over and grabs hold of one of Luigi’s arms tightly. “I’ll take you over to the prison, and I can feed you some special Poison Mushrooms I know of!”

The plumber grins. With a mighty tug, he leaps and twists his body until he quickly wraps his arms and legs around the tyrant’s arm. The sudden extra weight sends the Koopa King and himself falling over the ledge and into the lava pit. Fortunately, the Koopa King lands shell first, with Luigi standing triumphantly on top.

“Now who’s the main green man!” Luigi exclaims. Then a series of loud bangs reverberate along the False Bowser’s belly. Luigi jumps back to the ledge by the steel door, just as a Lakitu flies out of the chest on his cloud and down the hall.

Luigi shrugs, and then opens the dungeon door. A few Toads were leaning against the steel door, and now tumble into one pile. “Oh good, you’re safe. Is this everyone, and is the princess with you?”

A Toad with a raspy voice answers, “Sorry mister, but our princess is in another castle.”

Princess Peach calmly meditates as her whole body is aglow with a faint pink aura. The two torches left in the dungeon room flicker and almost fizzle out.

Mario zigzags across the grassy plains toward the next castle, jumping on all sorts of Koopa Troop members and hitting many floating blocks along the way. As he gets close to the fort, he collects his third Fire Flower, with the other two carefully latched to his belt loops. “Better save them for the fight with the Koopa King.”

He runs into the castle fort entrance, jumps across Firebar gauntlets, and reaches the familiar room with a proper looking Koopa King ready for battle. This one looks a bit poutier, and holds a hammer in each hand.

“Hmph! You don’t look like a special agent to me” the tyrant says flatly, “What agent would wear that sort of getup?”

“Maybe the plumbing gear is-a in season this year” Mario replies, “A bit more comfortable than toting a bag full of spy gear.”

“A spy with bright red and blue? Please! Your uniform is clad in brighter colors than a superhero. What sort of hero are you?”

“One that will take you down!” Mario grasps one of the Fire Flowers and turns into Fire Mario. He throws a couple of fire balls at the Koopa King. But the tyrant simply flings one of his hammers, timely targeted at both fireballs and extinguishing them.

“And what will you gain from helping what remains of the Mushroom Kingdom? Money? Fame? A princess in hand?”

He stops for a moment. “Well…I don’t know…I sort of like the spirit of adventure, and…”

The Koopa King chucks his other hammer at the plumber. Mario just barely jumps out of the way and almost topples into the lava pit below. “You’re quite the quipper. But when it comes down to the wire, you have no grasp on reality.” The tyrant charges toward the plumber. “How will you survive in a land that you have no idea what is real or not?”

Mario steadies himself, shakes his head, and stands his ground. “By fighting fire with fire!” He snaps up another round of fireballs and tosses them at the Koopa King. The tyrant snarls and shakes his head in bewilderment, but keeps speeding toward him. Mario keeps up his fiery onslaught, throwing fireball after fireball. Finally, just as the Koopa King makes it centimeters away, he stops. The Koopa King clutches his head as he roars in pain. Slowly, his body burns away. Before the plumber flops a slightly charred Blooper.

Mario sighs and steps over the remains of the False Bowser. “Eh, I never was the sushi type anyway.” He walks passed the switch. He looks back toward the Blooper, which has just inched off the steel bridge on the opposite side of the room. “Ah, why not?” He hits the switch and goes to unlock the steel door. He walks in and finds a single Toad in the room.

Mario heaves a great sigh as the Toad longingly waits for an answer. “Hi, I’m-a Mario. Let me guess, you’re the only one here and the princess is in another castle?”

The Toad nods.

Luigi frantically jumps across the grassy plains as Hammer Bros and Bill Blasters fling projectiles in his general direction. Only when he leaps through a Warp Pipe does he get a brief reprieve. Unfortunately, the pipe plunges him into an underwater reservoir. Luigi gets a quick gulp of air before dipping into the water.

While he is relieved that the water is lukewarm, the wildlife is anything but. Within seconds, teams of Bloopers are after him. Nothing seems to slow the Bloopers down, until he escapes back up a Warp Pipe.

But the chase isn’t over yet. Barely catching his breath, Luigi gets chased by Cheep Cheep leaping out of the waters and onto the bridge that leads to the next castle fort. Luigi screams as he frantically gets to the main entrance and shuts the door behind him. As he hyperventilates, a group of Goombas and Koopa Troopas stand wide-eyed before Luigi.

“Don’t you dare even start with me!” bellows Luigi. The sight of a strangely dressed man with bulgy-eyes was enough to scare off the soldiers of the castle fort. The plumber takes a couple of minutes to catch his breath. “I don’t think I can take another marathon like that again…even with the extra spring to my steps.”

For poor Luigi, his trek to the Koopa King isn’t over. He finds himself running around in circles on at least a couple of occasions before he reaches the final, lava pit room. The tyrant looks like the familiar Koopa King, except he wields a hammer in his right hand.

“Alright, Mr. ’Stache,” starts the Koopa King, “You’ve made it this far, but you will…”

“No!” Luigi interjects, “I just ran through missile fire, hammer wielders, those Blooper things, raining Cheep Cheeps, and a maze straight out of some Penrose illusion! I’m fed up with your wild goose chases, so just tell me right now if you have the princess or not, you fake!”

“Hey! Prisoner identity is a private policy! So while I can’t give you names, why don’t you take these instead!” The Koopa King throws his hammer at the plumber in an arc, and immediately spawns another hammer in his other hand. Luigi sidesteps and bounds away from each hammer as the Koopa King throws one after the other. “That’s it, plumber. Dance. Dance!”

“That’s it!” barks Luigi. He rushes recklessly toward the Koopa King. Caught offguard, the Koopa King jumps instinctively out of his way. This allows the plumber to run straight to the switch and slam his feet onto it. The Koopa King falls into the lava pit, but a Hammer Bro leaps out of the head of the False Bowser before it lands in the lava.

While the Hammer Bro runs away, Luigi grumbles as he unlocks the door. Over a dozen Toads are crammed in this dungeon. The plumber in green sighs, “I know; the princess is in another castle. Come on, we’re getting out of here.” The Toads look at each other as they file out of the dungeon and into a secret back entrance. “Once this adventure is over, I’m ready to head for home” Luigi mutters to himself. “Now I just need to meet with Mario at the rendezvous point.”

Bowser impatiently waits for a Koopa Paratroopa to enter his stone room. “Is the retaliation force ready?”

“On their way to Toad Town as we speak, sire!” squeaks the Paratroopa.

“Good! We got those ‘agents’ running around our encampment, our best chance will be a surprise attack while they’re distracted. What do we know about those agents anyway?”

Paratroopa pulls a notepad out of its shell. “Let’s see here…from our widespread reports from our other troops, we do know enough to get a good idea of what we’re up against.” It clears its throat. “Only two individuals have been identified as the agents. They seem to be human, like the princess. They wear strange clothes, with the closest description seeming to be a plumber’s getup. One is short and wears red clothes, while the other is taller and wears green clothes. The red one seems to be the most decisive and difficult to combat. He also seems to be the leader between the two. However, the one in green is no slouch either, as he seems to be the most unpredictable and potentially the most dangerous. Both of them have very similar abilities, with the most prevalent powers being super jumping, super strength, and unaided enhanced endurance. One more thing…they can manipulate power-ups…”

Bowser’s eyebrow twitches as he grumbles to himself. “Not fair! It takes years of training and gifted abilities to do that!”

“…and they appear to be able to collect coins in a pocket dimension, like you can. So…”

“No!” The Koopa King roars, “I refuse to believe that there are any other Star Children besides me and the princess! There has never been any indication that there would be other ‘players’ in the decades-long battle between Toads and Koopas!”

The Paratroopa whimpers, “Of c-course not, sire! These are merely eye-witness supports. I’m sure you can be the best judge of these ‘plumbers’, should you see them yourself.”

Bowser begins to walk out of the room in a huff. “I’m sure I will. If that red one is as determined as described, he will no doubt reach this fort soon enough…”

Mario and Luigi meet up behind a lone tree among the grassy plains.

“You haven’t seen the princess at any of your castles yet, did you?” Mario asks.

“I’m sorry, Mario, but the princess is most likely at the last castle” Luigi replies sarcastically.

Mario half-heartedly laughs. “Yeah, seems like we’ve-a been played for chumps. I just hope we didn’t take too long until…”

Suddenly, Captain Toad comes frantically running toward them. “Mario! Luigi! Emergency!”

“Oh no, is the capital in danger again?” says Luigi.

Captain Toad stops in front of them to catch his breath. “Yes! The Koopa Troop is at it again, and their not taking prisoners this time!”

“Then lead the way!” says Mario. “The princess we’ll have to wait just a bit longer...”

Princess Peach’s pink aura begins to glow brighter and brighter. Finally, she opens her eyes. “Okay, I’m ready to escape!”

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