Lost to the Next Level (Part 2)
“So, what’s it going to be?” the Koopa Paratroopa sneers at the plumbers and Toads just beneath him. “Save the princess? Or save the town?”
Mario scowls, “How about you put a sock in it?” and he gives the red Paratroopa an uppercut to the face.
The Paratroopa tumbles backward in the air, feathers falling out of his wings. “Ack! You are so screwed! I’m out!”
As the Paratroopa hastily flies away, Russ T approaches the brothers. “I suggest you make quick work of rescuing the others.”
“But, what about your town?” asks Luigi, “We could still make it back and…”
“The princess is of utmost importance,” Toadiko interrupts, “but thank you for the kind gesture.”
“Besides, I know of a few shortcuts around the kingdom” Russ T continues.
“And I know someone who can get the message to them quickly,” Husk T pipes up.
“Alright then,” says Mario, “my brother and I will continue the rescue operation. Stay safe!” The brothers split up from the three Toads in opposite directions. Then they stop by some yellow blocks to collect Fire Flowers.
Unbeknownst to the brothers, a periscope-like Warp Pipe keeps a watchful eye on them from high into the clouds. And looking through that pipe is none other than Bowser. The Koopa King laughs, “You puny plumbers think you’ve got this in the bag? Well, now that I’ve got plenty of practice, let’s see what this ‘negative’ energy can really do!”
As the brothers pocket their Fire Flowers in their dimensional pockets, the ground trembles. “What the…” starts Luigi.
“Breaks over then,” says Mario, “we got to get moving, now!” The two run across the Mushroom Plains. Holes and chasms begin to form. Chunks of the ground tear open. Some pieces float into the air.
“Not so fast!” Bowser smirks as he clenches his fist.
The brothers skid to a halt as a deep trench rips around them. Before they can even react, the chasm stretches out many meters wide. “Aw, man! How are we ever going to jump across this?” says Luigi.
Mario looks over the edge disappointedly. Then he looks up and spots a warp pipe suspended on a blocky platform. “Up there. Maybe we can get out that way…” He tries jumping up to reach it, but to no avail.
Bowser laughs, “That’s it, Mario. Dance. Dance, forever!”
“Let me try…” says Luigi. He also tries jumping to the Warp Pipe.
“You almost have it” says Mario.
Luigi also struggles to leap to the Warp Pipe. Suddenly, the green plumber bonks his head hard on something invisible in the air. As Luigi rubs the top of his head in confusion, a brown block materializes in the air.
“That just might do it!” Mario exclaims. He leaps onto the block, and then just makes it to the Warp Pipe. Luigi follows suit, and together they slide down the pipe.
“What?” Bowser cries, “I didn’t put that there? Where did that block come from?” He taps his foot as he thinks this over for a second. “Now how will I know where they went?” Then he smirks, “Of course. I’ve left plenty of traps across the Mushroom Plains. Sooner or later, they will fall before my power!”
General Toad sits himself on the steps in front of Peach’s Castle. He puts down the clipboard he’s holding and looks up to the sky. Wispy clouds float through the clear blue sky. For a moment, the edge of his mouth begins to form a curve for a smile. But then he frowns once more. Some eyes begin to sprout on the clouds. Then, a grey mass of clouds begins to take shape over the Mushroom Plains.
“The good ol’ days will never return at this rate…” he murmurs.
Suddenly, a Toad runs up to him. “Sir! A messenger has come, specifically for you! Something to do with the Toad Council.”
The general bolts to his feet. “Say no more! Where is he now?”
The Toad leads the general over to a mini camp. A purple Toad huffs and gasps as he hunches over a log bench. When the general approaches him, he looks up. “Never thought I’d run to you, but this is serious.”
General Toad looks at him with a tinge of disgust. “Well, never thought I’d be listening to a runaway, but since you’re a good sport for others, I can definitely make an exception. Now, what’s the news?”
Purple Toad takes a sip of water, then replies, “Half the Toad Council is saved. They found me…told me to warn you…” He takes another sip, his eyes saggy. “The Koopa King has an army heading back to attack, again! They’ll come any minute!”
General Toad barely moves. Then he turns to the Toad who helped him. “Alert Toadsworth; he needs to stay in the castle where it’s safer. And for everyone else: battle stations once again!” He turns to Purple Toad and slaps the cup of water he’s holding upwards. The splash of water perks Purple Toad up. “And I’ll need every able body on deck! You going to run away a second time?”
Purple Toad blinks, then shakes his head. “No, sir. I’ll stay.”
“Good. Now let’s get moving!”
“Hey, bro? Is it just me, or does it seem like all the clouds and bushes have eyes on us?” says Luigi nervously as he follows Mario through the Mushroom Plains.
Mario glances about. “Yeah…as long as they’re not Bowser’s eyes, I think we’re okay.” But when he looks back down, he stops for a moment. Both plumbers notice the ground turn from their lush green shades to a dull brown tone.
“Let’s press on…” he murmurs.
Suddenly, the wind begins to pick up. The brothers hold a hand to their caps, while running onward. But as they go over the dirt hills, the wind increases to gale force.
When they near a steeper hill, Mario slows up while Luigi presses on. “Geez, what’s with this wind now…” he says. But just as they reach the top, Luigi gasps as he nearly walks into a deep trench that divides the hill they climbed. Then…the winds change. Now blowing at their backs instead of their faces, Mario is the first to nearly fall forward. He bumps into Luigi, who nearly falls into the trench had his brother not grabbed a hold of his overalls. “(phew!) Thanks, bro.”
Mario glances ahead as they stop in place. He notices the hill plateaus a little, with a series of wide trenches dotting the way across. “You know, with the wind this strong, we might…” But he is interrupted when the wind changes in the opposite direction again. The two duck to the ground.
“What now?” Luigi asks over the howling wind.
“We wait until the wind changes again. Once it blows at our backs, we run, and jump the trenches.” For a while, they wait. And wait. And wait.
Finally, the wind changes in the benefit they were looking for. “Let’s a-go!” Mario shouts as the two bolt with the wind. They run up to the first trench, a little hesitant at first, but make the leap. The wind helps give them the extra push to make it across.
As the two begin to jump the second trench, the ‘all-seeing pipe’ Bowser uses sticks up in the area. The Koopa King squints as he spots the brothers almost make it across the plateau. “Hmph! Looks like they are making it through my wind trap. Well, if I can’t snare them in the air…” He makes a long horizontal swipe, as if tugging something in front of him. “…then perhaps the sea can!”
As Mario and Luigi jump the final trench, the side they land on suddenly morphs into a steep incline. The brothers slip down the slope of the plateau, and fall into a lake. They sink to the bottom of the lake. “Where did this water come from?” Luigi blurts out.
Mario shrugs his shoulders. Then they swim toward the surface. But along the way, some gray Cheep Cheeps take note of their presence. They swim toward them like a confused mob, which gets the plumbers to swim faster. Just before the Cheep Cheeps reach them, the brothers leap onto the shoreline. The two stay crouching as they take a moment to catch their breath.
“Well, at least we won’t get chased by those things again” says Mario. Suddenly, a series of splashes come from the lake. The two look behind them. A bunch of Bloopers suspend in the air, as if maintaining buoyancy.
“Uh oh…” gasps Luigi. Then the Bloopers ‘swim’ toward the brothers, who in turn high tail away from the lake. “Quick, find a Super Mushroom!”
Bowser laughs as the Bloopers stay on their tail. “Ah, I could watch this all day!” Then he hears something crash from the Koopa Troop camp. He sighs, “Well, I’ve got to go set my final trap…before my soldiers might ruin it.” He waves his hand behind him, which makes the telescope pipe vanish into the ground.
He walks up to his Koopa Troop camp, whom are consolidating their belongings in the center. Along the edge, a wagon of goods has fallen apart due to a broken wheel. A Goomba and a Koopa Troopa argue between each other.
“How the heck could you be so clumsy? You just had to tow the Bill Blaster next to my wagon, not on top of it” the Koopa Troopa yells.
“Well, I don’t exactly have the hands to pull carefully!” the Goomba retorts sarcastically.
“Oh, don’t give me that! I’ve seen you carrying food rations no problem! In which case, how…”
“Enough!” grumbles Bowser as he steps up to them. The two go quiet immediately. “Just keep the stuff from blowing up. We’re leaving now.” Before they can respond, Bowser turns their backs to them and makes it to the center of the gathering.
A Lakitu floats up to them. “The princess has been hauled to the new fortress, sir.”
“Awesome! And the remaining Toad prisoners?”
“Locked up in the base with the other squad on guard. They also have mentioned having someone chosen to man the special Bowser suit.”
“Alright! Let’s capitalize on this good fortune and move out!” He raises both his hands. As he strains every fiber of his body, a vortex of wind surrounds the Koopa Troop. The soldiers huddle up nervously as the tornado envelops them without harm. Dust and plants swirl around them. When everything settles, they vanish from the site, with only a dirt-gritted imprint in their place.
Captain Toad crouches nervously behind some house rubble. A couple of Toads jog pass him, calling out new recruits. When the coast clears, he runs across the street toward another reduced building. “Just a few more blocks until the front door of the castle. I’m almost safe…”As he slips behind the rubble, on the other side of the path, he trips over something he did not see. After picking himself up, he looks back and sees a yellow Toad sleeping on his side.
The Yellow Toad stirs. He sits up and rubs his eyes as he squints toward Captain Toad. “What? Is the fighting over already?”
“Oh, sorry! Were you hiding, too?” he whispers back.
“No, I just wanted to finally sleep. But, yeah, I’m not much of a fighter.”
“Hey, if you want, you can come with me to the sewers beneath the castle. It may be a bit dank, but at least we can hide there.”
“And take a nap?”
“As long a nap as you’d like.”
“Good enough for me.”
“Okay then.” He peaks over the rubble, spotting the castle fairly close by. Then he turns back to Yellow Toad. “As long as we’re not spotted, we should go…”
“And what are you doing?” says a voice on the other side of the rubble.
Captain Toad jumps back with a yelp. “Nothing! Nothing! Just…l-l-looking for…something…”
A blue Toad comes around the pile of rubble to join them. “As if! I’ll bet you two are trying to hide from General Toad!”
“What?! N-n-no, I…”
“Ugh, I’m just going to take a quick nap, if nobody minds…” mumbles Yellow Toad as he lies back down.
“Ha, you guys are in so much trouble!” the Blue Toad smirks.
“W-w-well…” Captain Toad pauses for a second. “Wait a minute, what about you? The registration is in the other direction. So, what are you doing here?”
He sweat-drops. “Well…I’m in no hurry. B-b-but I do want to help. My sister is with the others in the shelter, and I want to help make this town better for her…”
“That’s good to here!” barks a gruff voice.
Captain Toad and Blue Toad both jump in surprise. Standing right behind them is General Toad. A purple Toad is also standing a bit further behind him.
“You in the blue; I need you to come with me. And you!” He holds Captain Toad by the arm, as Blue Toad worryingly follows. “You may be my red color, but I’m not going any easier on you! Especially if you’re going to cower like the little wimp you wish to be! And you!” He shouts extra loud toward Yellow Toad.
“Hm? Wha…again…” moans Yellow Toad as he sits back up.
He sighs. “Just wake up and follow me. The more cooperation you guys give me, the faster we can put up our defenses…”
Meanwhile, in the Bowser Base, a red Koopa Troopa approaches a green Koopa Troopa around the corner of a hallway.
“Hey, come over quick! Those heroes are in view!” says the red Koopa excitedly.
“Oh, no way am I missing this!” the green Koopa replies.
The two rush over to a room in the castle, blocked off by a Firebar on two, opposite sides. A bunch of other soldiers of the Koopa Troop are already present, and crowd around a wide Warp Pipe. It works similarly to Bowser’s periscope-like Warp Pipe, and has the capability to get a good view of the area in front of the base.
Sure enough, within the barren expanse that formerly was the green-filled Mushroom Plains, stand Mario and Luigi. The Koopa Troop inside the base watch with glee as the plumbers struggle to avoid maroon Piranha Plants.
“Man, they’re getting chewed!” laughs a Goomba.
The plumbers also get bombarded by a barrage of Bullet Bills.
“Yo, shoot them down! Shoot them down!” says a Hammer Bro between shoving mouthfuls of bagged snacks.
After managing to pass by the carnage, strong winds begin to slow them to a crawl.
“Yeah, Lord Bowser’s handy work strikes again!” cries a red Koopa Troopa.
Then, the brothers reach a series of huge pits blocking their way to the base. With the wind still groaning and their muscles aching, the two try to use a series of springs placed sporatically.
“Look at those loons!” laughs a Buzzy Beetle as he rolls onto his back shell. Sure enough, everyone begins to roll on the floor and hold on to themselves from laughing so hard. Especially as they witness the plumbers flailing about in the air as they struggle to push against the wind currents. But because they are so busy laughing, they miss seeing the brothers eventually get to the other side of the blustery pits and enter their base.
One Koopa among them sits up, still laughing. He tries to wipe some of the tears out of his eyes. “Ah, what a riot! I’ll bet the two never make it to the front door…” As he absent-mindedly looks up, he notices two figures standing by one side of the room. He rubs his eyes again. Standing there are Mario and Luigi. The two heroes lean over, catching their breath. Their clothes are torn and caked with dirt. But their eyes burn with an angry fervor.
The Koopa Troopa’s eyes dilate. “Uh, oh…” but he is too late to react. Although some of the Koopa Troop stopped laughing in time to spot Mario and Luigi, the two plumbers already jump upon them. One by one, they fall beneath the might of their stomps, like fish in a barrel. Within minutes, the fight is over, and the two heroes continue their way out of the room.
“So who do you think they have held captive here?” asks Luigi as the two jump precariously across a lava pit.
“Don’t know,” says Mario, “depends on whether the ‘Bowser’ we face is real or fake.”
The two enter the largest room in the base. It is built much like the other boss rooms they encountered so far, only much larger in scale this time. A grated door falls behind the doorway they just came through. There before them stands the Koopa King. At first, the two plumbers quickly get into a fighting stance.
“Tremble before my might!” boasts the Koopa King, “And burn in the cinders of your doom!”
The two heroes relax a bit and roll their eyes.
“A fake…” they both mutter.
False Bowser charges at them first, but the brothers easily run out of the way. “Clunky legs…how does he run like this?” the fake king mutters. Then he pulls out a couple of hammers. Although the brothers tense up, ready to jump, False Bowser looks at the two hammers he holds. Then he shrugs and tosses them behind him, over the edge of the platform. “Heck, why even use these…” He winds back and takes a deep breath, flames building at the back of his throat. “…when I can do this?” He bellows a column of flames across the platform.
The size and ferocity of the flamethrower catches the brothers off-guard. The two jump in opposite directions, although the flames lick their legs. Mario falls onto his stomach, writhing in pain as he curls up around his legs. Luigi crookedly lands on his feet, wincing, but faces False Bowser nonetheless.
False Bowser laughs, “Ah, now we’re playing with fire! Although, it doesn’t seem quite fair that I’m outnumbered two to one. I know!” He snaps his fingers. An aura of flame surrounds him as six columns of flames spread out from where he’s standing. As the fire dies down, six more identical False Bowsers appear in place. ”Now…we’re even!”
Luigi screams in a panic. Mario still lies on the floor, but he musters up the strength to pop a Super Mushroom from his pocket dimension. As he gets up, Mario calls out to his brother, “I’ll distract him…er, them. I feel a lot better. You go hit the switch.”
Luigi snaps out of his shock. “O-Okay.” The two switch spots on the platform, with Mario lunging head-on between the seven False Bowsers.
“Ah-ha! Welcome to my flames of disaster!” The fakes roar in unison as they all spew flamethrowers at the red plumber.
Luigi runs up to the edge of the platform, near the door to the dungeon room. He looks around, expecting a switch that would open the door and cause the arena platform to fall apart. But strange enough, there isn’t one. “Hey, I can’t find one!” Luigi cries back to his brother.
Mario frantically jumps away from each jet of flame. He precariously balances himself on two of the False Bowser’s heads before he has Luigi’s attention. “Well, there must be one here somewhere!”
“Yeah, where you’ll never find it!” laughs the False Bowsers. Mario continues to jump about, but even when he lands a hit, it hardly fazes them.
Luigi runs along the edge of the circular platform, looking around desperately for any sort of switch.
Then the False Bowsers have Mario efficiently surrounded. “Even if I did know where they put it, I’ll have you baked in time for an afternoon snack!” One of them sneaks behind the plumber and grasps his arms. Then he pins him to the ground.
Finally, Luigi spots a switch stuck to the wall of the room. He takes some steps back, minding the gap of lava between the arena’s edge and the wall.
Six of the False Bowsers stand in a semi-circle around the plumber, smirking. “It was a decent fight, but I’m more eager to watch the world burn in the wake of this war.” One of them smacks their lips together with a gleeful grin. “Hope you like extra crispy!” The six False Bowsers reel back as they charge up another round of flamethrowers. Mario tries to wiggle himself away, but the seventh False Bowser has him in too tight a grip.
At this moment, Luigi sprints up to the edge of the platform. He makes a huge leap, tucks himself in, and hits the switch with his feet. Then he back-somersaults off the switch and back onto the platform.
The whole room rumbles, enough to make the False Bowsers pause. Then everything is quiet, except for the bubbling lava around them.
The False Bowsers looks confusingly around. “Weird. I was told the switch was supposed to send a shock…”
Suddenly, a surge of electricity races down the chains holding up the platform. Luigi instinctively jumps into the air, while Mario tries to lift as much of his lower body off the ground as possible. Unfortunately for the False Bowsers, they hesitated long enough for the electricity to pass right through them. All of them grumble in pain. Six of them begin to smolder, then disintegrate into flame. The lone False Bowser vibrates violently.
“N-n-n-o-o-o f-f-i-i-z-z-z-z-z-z-l-l-e…” moans False Bowser as his eyes go blank. Then he falls flat on his stomach with a huge thud.
Luigi runs over to Mario, who is also a bit stirred by the electric shocks. “Are you okay?”
“Mama-mia…” he replies hazily.
Just then, the door to the dungeon opens, with a pathway between it and the arena rising from the lava. Luigi pulls out a Super Mushroom from his pocket dimension. “Here, take it before we go help out the Toads.”
Mario loopily grasps the Super Mushroom, crushing it. As his numbness fades away and his eyes begin to focus again, four Toads step out of the dungeon.
“By-boogity! So this must be how those other Toads felt like to be freed!” cries a blue Toad with swirly glasses.
“Eh, about time if you asked me,” grumbles a red Toad.
“Oh, hush you!” says an old green Toad, “You had almost gone mad like the rest of us in there!”
A green Toad with blue shades signals for them to halt. He adjust his shades as he looks at Mario and Luigi, standing up before them. “So, you must be the famed heroes we are to thank?”
“Yeah, that’s us,” Mario replies.
The green Toad grins, ”Amazing! You’re certainly more intriguing than those jousting fellows I grew up with on cartoons as a kid”
“Ugh, let’s not talk about that!” mutters the red Toad. He slyly approaches the plumbers and reaches out to shake Mario’s hand. “Hello, I’m Shmarr T. The self-proclaimed geek is Mushbert, the one in blue is Toadbert, and the old timer is Chanister T. We’re the highly esteemed members of the Toad Council. I hope we can work together to be rid of those barbaric Koopas.”
“Um, yeah, that is the plan, eventually,” Mario says slowly.
Chanister T clears his throat. “As much as we are very grateful for our rescue, there is someone else that we must see safe first.”
Mario lets go of Shmarr T’s hand. “Of course, the princess!”
“Do you happen to know where she might be?” Luigi asks.
Shmarr T frowns as he crosses his arms. “Unfortunately, she was split up from the rest of us. The Mushroom Plains are bigger than you think, so she could be anywhere.”
“Actually,” pipes up Toadbert, “I did see a castle with spires a bit of a distance from here.”
“You mind showing us the direction?” says Mario as he leads the Toads on a way out of the base.
“No problem, by-boogity!” cheers Toadbert.
As the group leaves the arena room, a small fire poofs out of the mouth of the False Bowser. Pointy black eyes glare at the group from the flame as they go out of its view. But instead of following them, it jumps into the lava and ‘swims’ to a crack in the wall.
General Toad leads Captain Toad, Blue Toad, Yellow Toad, and Purple Toad toward the outskirts of Toad Town. A wall of stone about their height comes along the right side of the town, with some spears spaced out along it, and a trench on each side. About every few yards, groups of a few Toads stand in some hastily erected forts by the wall.
The general brings the four to one of these forts. A lone green Toad is already standing in it, hunched over a table with a map. The green Toad looks up when they approach, but he frowns.
“Here you are. Four co-soldiers should help you here” says General Toad.
“No offense, sir,” says Green Toad, “but I either don’t know anything about them, or more than enough to tell a slacker when I see one…”
“What? You want to fight the Koopa Troop alone, soldier?” the general points off into the distance. The five of them look where he points. Not too far off, several tents are planted, with a flag with the emblem of the Koopa King flying eerily above them. Many soldiers of the Koopa Troop stand in rows, jeering and taunting the Toads with battle cries. The five Toads gulp in unison.
“No, sir…” sighs Green Toad.
“Good. Because we’re going to need all hands on deck! And, whether you like it or not, you five are going to have to make yourselves quite familiar with each other. Or else!”
Mario, Luigi, and the four Toads reach the main entrance doors, left open a crack. “Now, be careful,” says Luigi to the Toads, “the Mushroom Plains has been going crazy these past few moments, so stay close to us.”
“Duly noted,” says Chanister T.
Mario and Luigi open the base doors as Toadbert immediately starts looking straight ahead toward the horizon. “So I saw this castle with pointy spires. Very tall, by my estimate.” Toadbert glances toward the rest of the group, who are staring in awe and fear. “What…” then he looks up. “Oh, there it is. Huh…”
Towering right in front of them is the very castle Toadbert described, complete with countless Bill Blasters aiming straight at them.
From the highest window, Bowser looks down at the puny heroes. “You’re in luck, princess!” He gloats over his shoulder.
Princess Peach stands in a cage hanging from the ceiling. She grips the bars as she grits her teeth. “Stop this madness! All this power…it’s not right!”
Bowser laughs, “Spat all you want, but I’m about to use this negative energy to wipe your newfound heroes off the face of the world!” He raises his hands, as if cuing a choir. “And you get front row seats to their demise! I hope you’re watching.”
Peach keeps her eyes on Bowser’s arm motions intently. “Oh, I’ll be watching all right…” she mutters under her breath.