Plumbers, Under Construction (Part 3)
"Princess? …princess…princess!" Toadsworth whispers to the sleeping Princess Peach. However, she still gentle snoozes. Toadsworth now slightly pokes his walking stick on Peach's shoulder. "Princess, wake up."
"Zzmm…wha?" Peach stirs a bit before slowly half-opening her eyes. She sits up and rubs her eyes. "What time is it?"
"It's early morning, princess." Toadsworth spreads some nearby curtains, letting light into the room. "The sun is rising, and the diplomatic conferences are today. You must be prepared for their arrival. In fact, the king of the Pipemaze Kingdom is on his way in an hour."
"I know." She stretches a bit. "Actually, I just had my first meeting, with some Subcon residents."
"Really? Oh, right, they live in the dream world. So, how did it go?"
"Well, in short, they will not be giving aid to us against the Koopa Troop."
"Oh, blast it all! Why would their leader not be interested in our endeavors?"
"Well…their leader passed away…"
His face grows red with embarrassment. "Oh…my apologies to my earlier outburst. Are they alright?"
Peach pulls off the covers and sits on the side of the bed. "The citizens are in mourning right now. It was a bit of a struggle to keep my dreams from being suppressed by their emotions. In the end though, they wish us good luck, and they will try to get through their depression to be ready the next time we may be in great need." Peach stands up. She is wearing a full-length pink nightgown. "Anyway, you're right to wake me up. I have a packed schedule to keep, and a day full of meetings." She walks over to her private bathroom. "Wish me luck!"
The group of eggplant beings step toward Mario and Luigi. The brothers reach for their hammers hanging in their belts.
"Why now?" moaned Luigi. "Why me?"
"Okay, when I meant there to be trouble, I seriously didn't mean right now" protests Mario.
"Of course not," Luigi says sarcastically as he rolls his eyes. "We got more pressing things to worry about…like figuring out where the heck these Eggplant Men came from!"
The Eggplant Men run toward the brothers at that moment. In response, Mario whips out his hammer and whacks one off to the side. Seeing one of their fellow selves go limp from a mallet wallop, the rest of the Eggplant Men scatter.
"Oh no you don't!" says Mario, chasing a few in one direction.
"Get back here, you!" cries Luigi who chases a couple others in another direction.
Meanwhile, in the office tower, Foreman Spike stands in front of a window, looking out and down toward the two brothers chasing the Eggplant Men. He grunts and grits his teeth in disgust. Then he walks over to his desk and picks up the phone to dial a number.
"It's me" he says flatly into the phone.
"Gee, I have so many friends in New York, I couldn't possibly tell who you are" jibes a voice on the other end. "Okay, okay, I know your temper. What's up?"
Spike growls. "Listen you! I got some good news and some bad news." He walks back to the window, eyeing Mario chasing down an Eggplant Man. "Good news: I think I found our individuals who can use our power source."
"Excellent! Who is it…I mean, who are they?"
"That's the bad news; they are a couple of my employees, and one of them is a real pain in the gut. Worse still, they're on to us."
"Well, that sucks for you. It's been fun while it lasted, too…"
"Now you hold your ass down!" roared Spike, "Neither of us is walking out of this while the other takes the hit! And I'll have you know that I'll rat you out before you do!"
"Hey, hey! First off, I never said I was leaving you! There's too much potential destruction to waste right now. Second, you know I ain't a rat! I take offense to that!"
"Just zip that lip and continue finishing up those explosives. We need that done now!"
"Finishing the last one as we speak. So, what about our little pests? Need help up there once I'm done down here?"
"Hell no! I don't what anyone seeing your face around here! Not even me! I'm sending my minions out to buy us some time. You stay put!"
"Wait," squeaked the voice, "no way! I'm c…"
But the foreman hung up before the client could finish his sentence.
"I'm sorry, Princess Peach, but after our own tumultuous establishment, we do not wish to be involved in global matters. Especially for our own princess."
"I understand, minister" sighs the princess, "It still means a great deal to us that you came for this meeting."
"Of course." And the minister departs from the underground room without another word.
Peach leans back in her chair. She sits in a small, dim room with only a semi-long table and two chairs. Two Toads from General Toad's brigade stand on either side of her, slightly behind her.
One of them holds a scroll and a pen, checking off a list. "That puts the Waffle Kingdom also under the list of kingdoms that wish not to help outright" he says.
"At least a couple have said that they'd give us some supplies to help fight the Koopa Troop" says the other Toad.
"We must still hope for at least one kingdom's full aid" says Peach. "Our numbers may not be enough to withstand our enemies if we stand alone."
"In that case," says the Toad with the scroll, "our next guest is from…actually, the Beanbean ambassador said they can't make it. So that makes the ambassador from the Banana Kingdom next…"
Luigi knocks out the last Eggplant Man, right back in front of the office tower. Mario runs back up to him.
"Got them all?" asks Mario.
"Oh yeah," says Luigi, "but I think we caught the attention from almost every other construction worker; most of them unfriendly."
Mario frowns. "Great; more enemies. Hey, Weegee? Is it just me, or are you barely exhausted, even after all that running around the site we just did?"
Luigi looks puzzled. "Actually, yeah. Weird, although I have no complaints about that."
"I've-a never felt this invigorating, not since…we attacked the Shellcreepers' lair…" Mario gasps. "Oh no! What if these new plant men are-a related!"
Luigi nearly drops his hammer. "Oh no no no no! We better not go through this again!"
Mario puts a hand on his shoulder. "And hopefully we won't. Look, let's-a go have a chat with our favorite foreman, and see if he knows how to put a stop to this before things get any worse."
Just then, dozens upon dozens of Eggplant Men spring out from behind all sorts of places. The purple vegetables scramble in every direction, knocking materials over, sabotaging power tools, and chasing after the construction workers.
"You know, you really should stop staying things like that!" says a worried Luigi.
Mario quickly glances over the chaos happening around him. "Okay, new plan. You go talk with your construction buddies. See if you guys can create a blockade of sorts and keep these guys in. We don't want any of them escaping into the rest of New York!"
Luigi grows a bit pale. "Okay, but what about you?"
"I'm-a going to have a bit more than a chat with the foreman!" And with that, Mario runs to the office tower.
Mario is immediately ambushed by a few Eggplant Men before the first ladder. His trusty hammer dispatches them quickly. After he climbs up the first ladder, he looks back and sees a bunch of Eggplant Men bumping and tripping over each other at the bottom.
"Good. Looks like they can't climb ladders." Then something small and hard knocks off the back of Mario's head. He turns around and sees a dinosaur-like shadow running around a beam. Mario chases after the creature, turns the corner of the beam, and swings out his hammer. "Gotcha, you…you…" Standing before him are three, weird, new creatures. They sort of look like wrenches, but are as large as an Eggplant Man, and have their own set of arms and legs sprouting out each end. One end of the wrench, where its head presumably is, shapes up to be its mouth, with a set of eyes resting on top. "…wrenches?" Mario flinches in disbelief, which allows the Gotcha Wrenches to leap at him.
Mario runs up a few sets of ladders in hopes of evasion, but unlike the Eggplant Men, the Gotcha Wrenches are capable of climbing the ladders. The pursuers also try to throw little bolts at Mario. "Okay, how about I throw a wrench of my own at them!" After he finishes climbing another ladder, Mario takes his hammer at the ready. When the three Gotcha Wrenches start climbing the ladder, Mario gives it one strong whack! To each of their surprise, one whack was all it took to send the whole ladder crumbling down. "Huh!" Mario scratches his head. "Thought it'd take a few more hits to knock it down. I guess 'wrecking' has its uses."
Mario looks up to the top floor, seeing that he is only a few floors away. Unfortunately, a few more Eggplant Men and Gotcha Wrenches are also waiting at the top, and coming down. "Here I go again!" Mario lets out a battle cry and runs up the ladders. Swinging his hammer wildly, he knocks over each foe that dares to approach him. He also crushes a couple of door frames, dents a few beams, and knocks down another ladder. Under half an hour, Mario makes it to the top floor.
Mario looks over the balcony, and sees the other construction workers. To his relief, they begin to fight back against the Eggplant Men. The heavy machinery is used to block all the exits. Luigi leads a few construction workers toward a newly arriving mob of Gotcha Wrenches.
"That's-a my bro!" smiles Mario. Then his face hardens. "Now, the foreman!" He curses under his breath. He approaches the office door and opens it. It creaks a bit as it opens…but otherwise not a single other sound. Mario hesitantly steps in. "Hello?" No response. Mario looks around the room, but finds it mostly empty, with the exception of an empty desk and chair. "Mr. Foreman?"
"That's Foreman Spike, sir, to you!" growls a familiar voice. Mario whips around and lets out a muffled yelp. The door slams shut. There before him stands Spike, who was standing behind the door. In his left hand he holds a mallet over three times the size of Mario's own mallet.
"My, my." Mario swallows hard, but keeps himself composed. "What a big mallet you have."
"Oh, you noticed?" Spike seems to relax a bit, but still looks cross. He shifts his mallet from his left hand to his right. "On of a kind, and custom-made myself. All the better to wreck things with, little man."
Mario's face grows red. "You mind explaining what's-a going on here?"
"So what's the matter now?" The foreman walks around Mario. "All I hear and see is rapid progress. Efficiency to the max."
"You really don't know? Your injured workers? Tools getting broken? The strange creatures, who are-a right outside as we speak I might add?! You aren't that stupid; I know that you know something's up! So spill it!"
The foreman scowls briefly, before standing right in front of Mario. "Here's the thing. I'm the foreman, the boss, around here. And it is my job to make sure my company's job gets things done. I also have a right to keep a few trade secrets hidden for the sake of competitive survival."
"And it is-a my right, as a worker and employee of your company, that I know what you might be up to when it concerns my health and safety. And I just got a few beatings already from 'work' today!"
Spike sizes Mario up and looks him up and down. "You look pretty healthy for someone who has taken a few beatings." Then he grins. "Alright then, I'll tell you. I'm working on a large scale, secret, demolition project, and these creatures have been appearing because of it."
"What project? And are-a those...things...yours or not?"
Spike's grin grows larger. "That depends. Besides that, my project is catching a bit of a snag. There's a bit of an 'anomaly' I don't quite know about, and if I can't keep it in check, I won't be finished with my project."
Mario grows irritated. "So what is-a this 'big project' you have trouble with?"
Spike's grin grows even larger. "Tell you what. Since you think you're such tough stuff, how about you put your mouth where your muscle is?"
He stands back, confused. "Wait, you mean…"
"We show each other off in a test of strength and speed. If you win, I'll tell you a bit more of my plan. But if you lose…you get your punk face off of my premises."
"Hm, fine. Sounds fair enough…what's-a the conditions, though?"
Spike lets out a quick laugh, and then turns around toward the entrance door. "If you follow me onto the roof, I'll show you our little 'bonus' session."
Peach slouches back in her chair as the last ambassador leaves the room.
"I'm sorry, princess," sighs the Toad with the scroll, "but every last kingdom has passed up the offer of a proper alliance. A few have been nice enough to give us materials, but other than that…we're on our own."
"Well, at least we got some extra supplies and information we can use to at least ride out a potential war." Peach mutters.
"And with that said," says the other Toad, "I think that wraps up all our meetings for today! Can't wait to get out of this secluded bunker room!"
Peach half-smirks, "That would be nice…" Her face hardens. "Unfortunately, we still have one more meeting left."
Both Toads look at each other in confusion. Then the Toad with the scroll asks, "What do you mean? I don't have anyone else listed on…"
"I contacted him via a secret message, with a precise time and location. He's coming here…and if I'm right, any minute now." Her face grows dark.
"Wait, who? Who is it?" pleads the Toads. Then a thumping sound is faintly heard outside the steel door. The room quickly goes as silent as a mouse. A minute later, the door slowly glows red. A bit of heat comes through the room. "Oh no! Not him!" shriek the Toads. The door glows nearly white hot. A bit of sweat comes down Peach's brow, but she reseats herself as composed and dignified as possible.
Suddenly the door bangs open, unhinging itself from the frame, and falls straight down and flat on the floor. The two Toads immediately duck behind Peach's chair and cower in fear before they even see him. Peach nearly flinches, but holds herself together with even more effort. The bit of dust clears, revealing a large yellow fist that punched a huge, circular hole where the door once stood.
"Gwahaha! You have guts for inviting me here like this, I'll give you that dear princess! But if you had known who I really was, you would have made the door a bit bigger!"
Peach sits there almost lost in thought. Then her expression grows stern. "So you are the new Koopa King the kingdoms have trebled in fear over?"
Bowser tromps up to the other end of the table, shaking the room itself. His head nearly scrapes the ceiling. He bears a smug grin. "Not just new. I'm the Koopa King. Never sell your opponents short. Learned that from my father. And I hate my father! So, you are the new ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom?"
"A-a-actually…" stammered one of the Toads behind Peach's chair.
"I've stepped up in place of my late father, the former king of the Mushroom providences" the princess interrupts.
"Ah yes, King Toadstool. I've been told stories of how your father oppressed and ostracized those like my kind." He growls in a peeved way. "We Koopas don't like to talk about him too fondly. And I hate how you got me to bring up my father again!"
"Then why don't we talk about your people. What do they want? What do you want?"
Bowser grins again. "Ah, that's easy. They want what I want. And what I want is to reclaim the lands that belong to my kingdom!"
She swallows, but remains firm. "If domain in what you're after, perhaps we could negotiate a deal?"
"Not wasting time. Love it! You see, I was going to have to drag a lot of my troops toward your capitol, but if you're willing to surrender so nicely…"
"Wait, surrender? You want my entire kingdom as your own?"
"Of course! It would be a waste of my ancestry if I don't take down my number one adversary."
"Then what of the other kingdoms? I've heard reports that your troops have been bullying other lands."
"Laying down the terms, please. Some of those kingdoms need to know their place, and keep out of affairs that the Koopa Troop must do."
"And what are your terms related to me?"
"Glad you ask! Either you surrender your kingdom willingly, capitol and all, to me, or we might have to reenact the Mushroom Wars a generation ago!"
The Toads yelp. Peach nearly raises a hand to her mouth to muffle a gasp. "No! We can't go through with that again!" she panics to herself. "But, the castle and Toad Town are the only lands we actually control. Surely, the rest of our kingdom would suffice enough…"
Bowser slams his fist on the table, nearly breaking straight through. "It's all or nothing, princess! I want your castle! I want your riches and lands! I want it all!" Small flames lick off the sides of his mouth. "I've prepared my return for nearly my whole life! I need a more permanent place to stay, fitting for a king. And I've been to many kingdoms and other worlds," Bowser and Peach glare at each other for a moment at the mention of 'other worlds', "but nowhere is there more power and resources as the Mushroom Kingdom. I have every right to claim what rightfully belongs to the Koopa Kingdom!"
Peach grows cross and fearful at the same time for a minute. Then she sighs, "I am sorry for any wrongdoings my father might have caused to your kind…"
Bowser crosses his arms. "Hmph! Might?"
"…but my most important duty is to protect my people from harm. And I hope we can make still make some sort of fair treaty…"
Bowser roars, silencing Peach and nearly causing the two Toads to faint. "You know, I thought I'd be a reasonable guy, come over where you tell me, and then you hand over what I need, no harm no foul. But nooooo! You still get as hung up as your father probably was for the sake of protecting what you don't deserve. Well, no more mister nice Koopa! I'm out!" Bowser stomps grouchily to the opening in the wall, and then turns back one more time. "And I'll still get what I want, one way, or another!" And with that he leaves for good with a scratch mark on the walls from his claws.
Peach barely moves a muscle for a whole minute. The Toads slowly and carefully peak out from behind her chair, still quivering in fear. "W-w-what now, p-p-princess?" squeaks one of the Toads.
Peach snaps out of it. She waves her head back and forth, holding her palm against her forehead. "Man, a bit too bratty, he is! But he'll be prepared." She stands up, and adjusts her crown. "Come. We must prepare, too!"
Mario follows Foreman Spike to the roof of the office tower. Once Mario stands ready, Spike puts his first two fingers in his mouth and whistles. Almost immediately, a few Eggplant Men climb onto the roof with aid from Gotcha Wrenches. They stand fairly attentive to the foreman once they all get up.
"So these are-a yours!" exclaims Mario.
The foreman ignores him. "You guys…set up arrangement #4.5!"
The minions gather around a nearby pile of cement bricks, and begin to organize them. Meanwhile, an Eggplant Man walks with Foreman Spike over to Mario. Spike puts an arm over Mario's shoulders, and locks him in a tight grip. All three of them face out toward the whole construction site. "Okay, chump, here's the deal." Spike digs his free hand into his left pocket, and pulls out a large, gold coin. "See this beauty?"
"Yeah," Mario nearly chokes, but then looks puzzled. "Wait, I've seen that before…"
Spike glances skeptically. "Doubt it. It's from a…foreign friend. Anyway, the challenge we have right now is finding this coin." He passes the coin to the Eggplant Man, and it scampers back to the others. Mario tries to turn his head, but remains stuck in Spike's grasp. "Whoever finds it first wins the deal. Now, don't worry; we only have to look on this roof. And I don't know more than you do of where it will be hidden, so don't jerk me off for being a cheater! All sound chipper to you?"
"No sweat!" Mario croakes.
An Eggplant Man comes back to Spike's side. "Ah good, it's ready!" He turns around, finally releasing Mario from his arm choke. Mario gasps and rubs his neck a few times. When he looks up, he sees around twenty stacks of cement bricks laid around the roof. Spike takes out his giant mallet. "You might need a hammer for this" he chuckles.
Just then, Luigi comes climbing onto the roof. "Hey bro, you here? The blockades around the perimeter are holding up so far, but…" he looks at Mario and Spike, then toward the Eggplant Men and Gotcha Wrenches huddling in a corner, and then toward the piles of cement bricks. "Did I miss something?"
"Actually, you've arrived just in time" says Spike, "Just make sure you stay out of the way while I beat your brother!"
"Don't worry, Luigi," Mario affirms, "This is just a contest; a contest I will win."
Luigi smiles warily, but remains standing off to the side. Mario whips out his own hammer from his belt.
"Whenever you're ready, go for it, and I'll be right behind you!" boasts the foreman.
Mario eyes one of the concrete piles in the middle and focuses all his attention on it. Then, without a word, he sprints. Mario runs straight to the middle pile, his hammer raised back over his head. As soon as he reaches the first pile, he brings the hammer down. With one mighty whack, the cement crumples to bits. Mario looks down at the shattered pile for a moment, pleased at his quick work. Even Spike, who also just crushed his own cement pile, stops a moment, flabbergasted.
Both of them snap out of their amazement, and dig their hands quickly through the cement shards. But no coin appears. Spike moves to the next pile first. Mario looks at the other piles, eyeing each pile. Spike makes quick work of the second pile and swings his hammer onto a third. When he moves on to the forth pile, he looks over to Mario, who is still glancing between the remaining piles.
"You giving up already, slacker?" the foreman laughs.
Mario clenches his open hand, his fist giving off a faint glow. Then Mario smiles. "Hardly; in fact, I never felt more pumped!"
Mario springs to life. Within seconds, Mario makes quick work of his second pile, and then eclipses the third. Spike and Luigi are taken aback.
"Wow, how did he get so fast?" gasps Luigi.
Barely slowing down, Mario smashes his forth pile, then a fifth, and a sixth. Spike finishes his forth and crushes a fifth. But Mario stays ever quicker than the foreman, crushing three more piles against two of Spike's.
"No! What the hell's happening?!" roars Spike as he beats down another pile. Mario gleefully and feverishly breaks down two more piles. The coin has still yet to be found, and one cement pile left. The two contestants standoff, making quick glances between each other and the cement blocks.
"Yaaaaaaah!" They both cry out and sprint toward the last standing pile. To the foreman's grief, his speed barely comes close to matching Mario's. With one final bonk, Mario swings down the hammer. The cement stack shatters, and the large gold coin comes flying into the air. It lands a short distance from the crumpled pile. Without even flinching, Mario jumps off of Spike's chest, rolls across the floor, and picks up the coin as he jumps back onto his feet.
"You did it, Mario!" cheers Luigi as he runs up to his brother.
"Yep, I got it!" says Mario. "And now," he turns to the foreman, who clutches his stomach, "it's-a time you kept your end of the bargain."
"Nrgh! Fine," Spike grumbles, "about the big project of mine. All I'm saying is the big project is for all of New York."
"Sounds kind of big," Mario crosses his arms, "even for you. When are you finishing it?"
"Then next phase…will begin today, soon."
"Wait, how? How are you going to pull that off?"
"With a little outside help."
Mario and Luigi stand back a bit, starting to get worried. "From who?"
"That would be me!" says a squeaky voice nearby. The brothers and the foreman turn toward the source of the voice. The foreman groans bitterly, while Mario and Luigi are taken aback with fright.
"Woaaaaa!" the brothers scream.
Standing before them is a giant, anthropomorphic mouse, almost double Mario's size. He has gray fur, a round head on an even rounder body, and pink inner ears. What's even weird is the fact that he's wearing pink gloves, pink stretchable sneakers, and black, pointy shades. Wrapped around by his long thin tail is a strange, glowing cube.
"A rat?!" Luigi startles.
"I'm not a rat! I'm a mouse!" retorts the creature. "The name's Mouser, and you are too late to stop our plans now!"