Mario and Bowser: Frenemies Forever 2 (Redux)

Brutality and complexity (Chapter 13)

Disclaimer: Mario and co belong to… (see bottom for spoilers!)

Author note: Edited now to properly reflect the chapter title. Enjoy.


Ludwig felt rejuvenated for the first time in the last twenty-four hours. Spending the afternoon in stiff economic class benches did nothing to take away from it. He was not one to penny pinch on the regular or ever if given the option, but he had little recourse when he'd left his wallet and the credit cards inside in the ruins of Bowser's Castle. He wondered if in Sky Land his father had taken over and claimed the kingdom's castle nestled gently in the cloudy aerial landscape by now. Wonder grew into worry and worry towered and became fear and then fear toppled over into crushing dread... With that he'd successfully drained away all of the tranquility he'd built up over the train ride. Ludwig knew he was adept at sabotaging himself out of happiness but he was really out doing it this time.

Ludwig rose his head from the travel pillow as a yawn escaped him. Get a grip, the general reminded himself. He was traveling to Poshley Heights to meet the revered 'Villain Council' by way of the Excess Express. Now get excited already! -The way his brother Lemmy, his secretary, might chime over his shoulder in his uniquely half irritating half adorable way. He took an sip from his sparkling beverage in the cup holder. They were reaching more upper scale territory he noted. The ride was getting smoother. Indeed he had reason to be ecstatic. This honor that would have obviously been his years ago if 'Super Mario Maker' had not ruined his life that fateful day. Curses to Mario and that 'undo' button shattering the dreams of his perfect castle level... Soon Ludwig spotted out the window a marble water fountain embedded among rows of neatly trimmed green grass and vibrant genetically altered purple fire flowers. He was at his destination and he couldn't wait to shed the Phantom of the Opera like disguise he'd used to keep out of the public eye. At least it worked well, repelling other passengers and causing the attendant to stare at him strangely.

Perhaps they weren't so judgmental, instead perplexed at last passenger exiting the locomotive with their arms full. Ludwig was trying to be generous for the family with the bags of goods, so stuffed it towered above his tied back blue hair. Swaying back and forth and vision hindered by the mask on his face, his foot caught a high spot on the brick road and he dropped and busted what would have been Wendy's sparkling water. Ludwig caught his reflection in the sizzling mess and scowled, feeling absurd. That was why he did not 'do' generous. Disguise free, the remainder of the time before his special appointment he spent on himself. He explored beautiful multistory Victorian buildings, the stores, the inns, the clubs. Oddly he never spot buses or taxis. Some posh walker would spot a koopaling in their midst occasionally but the zapper he carried with him would seal their lips in a hurry. He discovered a humble library tucked away from the touristy areas. His attention was caught by the 'EX' on a book jutting out a corner shelf but it was no 'Ex spatio obiecti specialem'. It was a cheesy book on exes. He chuckled dryly and then drifted into dejectedness. Nothing a jog couldn't fix.

Sprinting in overhead sun, Ludwig was starting to perspire as he crossed a stone bridge leading to a granite polished city building. His moment had arrived. He weaved between various flag poles erected. Some toad officers allowed him into the empty halls of the building where each step of his echoed.

"This way Commander Ludwig Von Koopa. We apologize for the promised banquet being canceled. What was going to be our food truck was reportedly hijacked by the team of doctors that used to work at that Mushroom Kingdom hospital. The one the princess use to own."

"That is no issue." Ludwig ignored his stomach rumbling, the small meal from the train thoroughly worked off while running all over town to clear his mind.

"The Council is impressed that your forces have the princess apprehended even with your restructuring situation," the magikoopa continued, leading Ludwig up some spiraling hardwood stairs. He turned his head with a smirk. The koopaling tensed but his guide moved the light conversation along, eventually escorting him to the top floor where there was only one large imposing door ahead. "Usually those Marios would have made a move by now."

"They are likely occupied with the Mushroom Flu problem. All according to plan," Ludwig replied. He shook the guide's hand and that was that, so he entered on his own. The eerily featureless wood panel room was medium sized with a high ceiling but no furniture. In the middle stood the Villain Counsel, magikoopas in robes of red, blue, green, and white. They spontaneously clapped when he entered.

The koopaling flushed. "..I don't suppose I was expected to have an acceptance speech, was I?"

"No not at all," they assured him. A magikoopa with a long grey goatee approached with a box containing a gold badge with a detailed engraving of a skull and crossbones, aventurine accents in the backdrop and a ruby in the eyes of the skull. 'Mega in ultimum exitium villian' was etched underneath. The thing Ludwig sought for the last five years was now in his grasp.

And he felt...

His cursed brain was at it again. At a time he should feel triumphant and proud a question was burning through his chest. One he might finally be able to get to the bottom of due to being at a specific place at a specific time.

Ludwig glanced back up at the counsel before he could talk himself out of it. "Thank you. Very much. May I ask, does so-and-so permit visitors?"

The group of elders paused with some suspicion. "You can find him at..."

...

Ludwig's snout was carpet burned, royally so. The sting took away from the throb radiating from the back of his head. He resisted glaring at the guard that bludgeoned him after his opening statement of 'We have your daughter so answer my questions right now' was.. the wrong one. Ludwig rose to his knees and remained there to conceal anymore hint of fiendishness in his demeanor.

"Let me try again. I am aware I am the son of your daughter's kidnapper but I am not here to pester you. I only have a question." Ludwig then bowed respectfully, wary of the spears aimed at his back by guards. Everyone knew The Mushroom King lived out of town in Poshley Heights, but no one including himself knew that the precise location was not in a castle but a lavishly furnished albeit hidden inn. Very curious. "A certain person worked for Bowser Castle when I was just a small child. Though few records show this, I can testify that he worked closely with the philanthropist Dr. Mario to alleviate my people from the first outbreak of Mushroom Flu. Eventually he went on his way, but I recently found that he worked in your castle before coming to us. Why did you fire Dr. Theodore V. Koopa?"

The Mushroom King, a hefty human with a dyed black beard, spotted mushroom hat, and red robe sat lazily in a cushioned chair listening, strikingly calm in the face of an adversary until the end. The mentioning of Dr. Professor made his face harden and after a long moment he answered, "Dr. Koopa was the best in his field, very meticulous and quick. Well spoken. Learned." He paused with a flicker of dread. "But soon I could notice insidiousness flashing in his keen gaze before his manner returned to the state of which I allowed him in my castle among my household, a jovial and talented individual who happened to be a koopa. He was even a wonderful cook! But soon enough, my suspicions were proven about ways of your kind."

Ludwig slowly rose up. "So what did he do exactly?"

The king sized him up steely. "Is this much undeserved attention inadequate for you?" He sighed. "The young doctor bedazzled many with the heinous proposal that he could prove the link between toads and humans. I caught a glimpse of his upcoming vile experiments and knew I had to protect my family from him or anyone of his sort. Away he went!"

Ludwig grinned, impishly seizing the opportunity to draw out what was now so obvious beneath the King's clean pious surface. "Of course, King. I shudder to conceal the defects in Dr. Prof. Koopa's character, however I can't help but to also be very appalled that you subtly attribute such atrocities to his koopa nature and not his isolated wickedness. Think of life from an 'enemy species' perspective. We were only allowed full integration in the Mushroom Kingdom a few decades ago, and in some of the more remote Mushroom territories it is still said that those retched monstrous koopas will kidnap you in your sleep or some such other crime. How does that make us feel?"

"Koopa," the King said sharply.

Ludwig stood up straight. "-Free willed adult toads who thank the stars that they're 'good' people so-called entertaining, yes, their young children with scary tales that deface us! -And we are expected to be tolerate with it lest we, well not I as I am not a citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom and would not wish to be, but you get my point, be labeled as one of the 'bad' koopas. My point is, we have a life of brutality and complexity, forced to choose between our dying Old World Koopa Kingdom ways or assimilating into the hypocritical 'I see no species' moment and your Mushroom citizen's customs are major component of it. Now imagine the irony of I, a commander for Bowser, advocating the fact that not all koopas and koopa species are soldiers of Bowser and do not deserve to be treated as such and that you and the toads should not be allowed to mask their prejudice under their nationalism!"

"Koopa! Get out of my sight!" The King interjected violently, resembling a venomous snake ready to strike despite what his slothful exterior usually conveyed. Six guards closed in on the Koopaling who bit his tongue.

Ludwig steadied himself. "My apologizes! One final question, pertaining to the tale tales mentioned before. You see in Dark Land we actually have a similar urban legend. They say that the real reason the Koopa Kingdom at the time fell ill with Mushroom Flu was because... your toads poisoned us."

That created a cacophony so great, Ludwig wasn't sure if a bomb had gone off or not. He'd later rationalize something like such may have been a better escape strategy and wouldn't have concluded with being on the losing side of whatever happened, blacking out for a moment then waking up tangled in his own jacket on the scorching sidewalk of the secret passage the Villain Council tipped him on. He crawled onto his feet and dusted himself off, the aching sensation all over eerily similar to when he tried once and only once to crowd surf during one of his concerts. Adrenaline still pumped through him from the raw emotion he was able to spout and before a powerful political rival at that... So that nagging feeling was correct. Peach's family had secrets. Normally he would think of devious ways that could be leveraged in the future when he was back with the Koopa Troop, but just then the Mega Villain badge sprung to mind instead as he brushed against it in his pocket while wandering in the streets. He'd forgotten about it. It was all that consumed him forever it seemed and, less than an hour after obtaining it, he'd forgotten...

He'd consider the ramifications of such after he stopped wandering around.

Trying to find a point of reference in the surprisingly massive city, Ludwig noticed he had unchecked messages on his phone, his backup one rather, since the first was lost somewhere in Toad Town.. It was a roaming one way message from a tower labeled 'WW63195x'

"BZZT-Hey. This this on? Listen, you koopas will get enough of taking over my land and stepping on my property. I can't wait 'till you're gone. My shed that your father used as a marriage hall burned down and you are ALL playing for it! FYI I'm doing this favor for ya, firing up my old radio tower that sucks up all the electricity because some brat, Larry I think, paid me gold coins. Think it was supposed to be secret. Now his message to you, punk: something big attacked Sky Land and your shipping truck slaves got washed away at Isle Delfino. Bowser is now in Giant Land, my home, where they DON'T belong!" The message terminated.

Ludwig's head was spinning still when he found the library again. He lunged in for local newspaper up front and emitted a loud exclamation skimming the topic of Sky Land being victim of that 'Bowser Bomb gone wrong'. The editors noted that that explanation was starting to seem less accurate when Isle Delfino reported the same unnatural sky phenomenon and yet had no weapon sightings. This occurred all yesterday for a greater shock to Ludwig. On autopilot he found a cab waiting the library's curb and got inside the late model sedan. "Take me to the Mushroom Kingdom!" he ordered, and it drove off, the koopaling never recalling that Poshley Heights wasn't supposed to have a taxi service.

...

Secretary Ming of the Chai Kingdom, a short roketon scurried on foot to the backside of Daisy's castle, now home of a two-hundred foot deep trench excavated by servants in a mad treasure rush. Daisy's dozens of hired hands, paid workers and not volunteers as Sarsaland had no toads to be toady, kept digging in a perpetual motion, not responding to Ming's calls. If he needed proof they'd gone insane, he had it. He would normally request help from the other generals, Yura, Roar, and Tao, but since their temporary replacement 'General Sǐwáng' entered the scene he couldn't get them to do anything but drool, sometimes literally.

Accustomed to being ignored he returned to Daisy's castle and his office when someone knocking on the front bamboo doors forced him back to the front. Eagerly he swung it open and there were three haggard looked individuals, a whomp, a toad, and a shy guy.

"Nǐmén hǎo?"

"Why you just standing there? You need doctors don't you?" Dr. Terrace spoke up.

"MKDCU?! No!" Ming shook his head, flashbacks of that time Daisy only had the mildest sinus infection playing in his mind. That group flipped the entire castle upside down.

Nass T. nudged the whomp to shut him up. "I'm nurse Nass Toad, head nurse of Isle Falsa and this is my crew. We are not invasive- unless we need to be. You've never heard of it? Here's our representative."

A fourth person revealed themselves from the side and it was a Sarasaland boarder officer that smelled about as bad as the other three. "Daisy approved of us- I mean them some time ago."

"Ah. Go go. But not there!" Ming dragged them all inside and away from an ajar door he'd only then noticed. Officially hiring additional help was perhaps the most authoritative thing he'd been allowed to do in a while. He could continue the trend by being extra responsible and figuring out who meddled with that door.

Inside that room Ming could see a red led clock on the wall blinking '00:00'. He flipped a switch, illuminating the storage room with Daisy's still new vanity that didn't match the color of her room, a present box from the Crystal King, and a punching bag, also a dusty key rack labeled 'Weapon Storage' with the sliding card key missing. Ming kept the keys to the actual switches for their artillery so why would only the card be missing?

...

Mario sprung out of bed at the sound of banjos, not wanting to be ice bucketed. "I'm awake!" He sighed in relief and then dropped back under the covers for a few more minutes of rest, unsure when he'd ever dozed off. Thank Eldstar it was only the radio alarm this time.

Soon a group gathered at the barn to meet the doctors. The lab was somewhat cleaned up from last night to be presentable and demonstrative. Tables were filled with test tubes on racks, a green liquid bubbling fiercely with in. The capsule what occupied the back left corner of the barn had grown a posy of red and yellow wires since yesterday, looking ever more completed yet dangerous. The white boards were etched on from top to bottom in various formulas and notes in various handwriting.

"We've compiled it the way Dr. Mario would have. I totally met him one time and he loved my work," Professor X-naut boasted smugly.

"He was such a great guy to help the old Koopa Kingdom back then. What does he do now aside from the Smash brothers thing?" Dr. Topper wondered out loud.

"Why do you need to know?" Jr. Troopa countered.

"It doesn't matter, associates. All of our work will mean nothing if don't have his notes.." Dr. Toad crossed his arms, the most gaunt of the doctors.

Meanwhile there was some whispering from the back of the pack. There were a slew of uninvited attempting to take peeks in the barn, precisely where Yoshi was chaperoning. A bumpty in a lumpy wintry coat and a lined fur hat waddled out the doors while writing something down on a yellow legal pad. Yoshi kept on his heels, hunching down to blend in with the green corn stalks. The bumpty froze skittishly after stalk was snapped.

"Stop!" the dino yelled. He scared away the goonies nearby. The bumpty ran and five steps later was smacked in the back of the head with a spotted yoshi egg, making him eat a mouthful of soil.

Shortly after, "Why were you listening in on us, huh, baddie?" Mario planted himself face to face with the shivering penguin chained to the wall of the old western prison cell. The entire village seemingly gathered around at their wall of Koopa Troop spies, the bumpty and the two koopas held since yesterday. Shy Guy ranchers riding ostros were tutting to and fro spreading the news like a wildfire.

"This was on him." Yoshi shook the jacket and a plethora of little things flung out of it, keys, sticks of gum, coins, breath mints, a suspicious radio, and notes.

One of the papers being scattered around brushed Buckenberry's shoe. The young helper of Mario caught it. "Let me get Toadette." Toadette had been moving back and forth from here to Peach's castle with the other toads all morning to manage their clean up effort. She texted him back instantly saying it's Koopanese and that it was a rough translation of the science formulas from the white boards. Buckenberry relayed that info, sending a shock wave through the crowd. Professor X-naut broke from the crowd to lock the doors on the barn with a heavy old bolt.

"I knew those blasted computers would do it one day!" the x-naut exclaimed wildly.

Dr. Toad groaned, "Morris, he didn't use a computer to steal our notes! Just his eyes."

Dr. Goom added, "And if we actually used the PCs as I proposed to contain our notes, this wouldn't have happened."

"You know darn well one of us would have flushed a flash drive down the toilet, or done something else to screw it up!" Dr. Topper teased.

"Momma mia!" Mario exclaimed. "Focus everyone. We'll just put he bad guys in the- Hey are you listening?"

"-We got a spot on Mt. Rugged where there's this big 'ol overhang and we dangle criminals over the canyon and whack'em with sticks," Vick said, one of many hospital staff lingering around for drama. "The kids used to be all over it like 'lemme whack 'em pard!' Think that'll work?"

"I remember that." Jr. Troopa nodded. "But, nah. Too much set up. I mean I could totally lift those iron bars if I had to but it's been a long day. Yep. I'm definitely didn't sprang something the other day because I didn't have a spotter for my dumbbell set. No siree!"

"Blast you, Junior," the patooie plant shot back. "We can use the Mecha-yoshis then, pard. They ain't gonna glitch I promise."

"We ain't saying nothing!" The hammer bro Bowser spy said.

"We don't know nothing either!" the other added.

A small white boo with a black ten gallon hat and a red bandanna over their mouth appeared on the scene with a cool 'whoosh' effect. Mario, forgotten about by then, saw trouble a mile away. The boo's expression was passive but something about them silenced everyone they crossed. Soon all eyes were on the boo diddly.

"Watch this," they said, low gritty like. "You wanna see someone talk? I can make them." The boo spun to the prisoners and back again to the crowd, gaining a smirk that twisted into something more cruel. "By the power of Eldstar!"

With a clap of thunder out of place for the sunny sky, a bolt of lightning came down and struck the spies with a bright flash. Spectators uncovered their faces. All three were burnt badly, the bird without a protective shell taking the brunt of it and turning completely crisp. Witnesses gawked before it became rousing praise around the morbid sight, half out of wonder, half of fear.

The spectacle became more intense when the two koopa spies had barely survived after all. Desperately they scurried through the crowd and into the prairies. Vick whistled and engines revved up from a stable nearby. Cyborg dinosaurs knocked the doors down with their squeaky wheels and tracked the trail of the escapees. Mario heard a shrill zapping noise. Wheat stalks began to fly up from an isolated spot in the field, then another. Lasers were being shot, fires were starting, people were panicking, ranchers were carrying water buckets and everything became chaotic in the rural square.

"TriggerHappy McBoo, we need to talk," Mario said, calmly tapping the fiend from behind.

The boo diddly spun to him, nodded once and vanished.

...

A blanket of dew covered the ground and insects buzzed. The air was clear and new grass sprout under the ashes of Bowser's storehouse fiasco from last night. Warm rays were broken up by the canopy while Peach planted herself in the fragmented light. She had this solitude because of an emergency family meeting being held off somewhere. At this point, she dropped pretending to be imperturbable and she didn't want Toadsworth to see her so unprincess like. She was longing for Mario now. Despite her being the native and him the foreigner, it was he that anchored her, so lost in her own world before. Furthermore she was plain frustrated, witnessing Bowser's forces botch the execution everything from the sleeping routines to the bathroom situation made her want to scream. She would have if far enough away from camp. She returned before that creepy Sentry #11 watchdog could rat on her and sat at the camp fire indignantly. She almost discreetly made a call to her father, no one seeming to realize she clearly had a working cellphone with battery, to let him know she was okay. Eventually she decided against. Something had changed from two days ago when she so eagerly extended her affairs to him for support. Now it felt like she needed to get though a problem on her own for once.

Deep lines in his face, Bowser plopped down on a stump, far enough he thought for privacy with the family. "A bunch of ya'll wanted to discuss some things, so let's do it."

"Larry and Junior are both trying to sabotage your plans," Lemmy tattled. "Together even!" He felt he was almost becoming Ludwig, a nightmarish realization, and he would have to get on a trampoline some time and dance to techno to gain his old jive again.

"I know. Larry is grounded forever. What else?"

"Junior doesn't get a punishment?!" Larry blared.

Bowser sheepishly spun to him in the far rear. "Oooh yeah him too. Got thrown off for a second. Junior rarely misbehaves. Next?"

"I got something to say. King Dad, I'm getting annoyed that you don't let me do nothing!" Roy said. "Dis kingdom or any of 'em coulda been in the bag if you'd lend me half da army!"

"How are you gonna do that when I don't even have enough minions to keep the outhouse's toilet tissue stocked? Huh?" Bowser barked back. "What did you really have to ask?"

Roy paused for a long time before leaning back against a tree 'cooly' and turning his head. "Nothin'..."

Morton closed shut the diary his face was buried in moments before. "May I mention that I have a startling discovery like when I found Junior's missing pet chomp by reading every morning newspaper for a week until that one koopa reported Mr. Chomper as lost? Zheng Koopa was a quizzical author and explorer and his life parallels ours. Remember when I was in the book club that was down the block, not to the left where someone stole my wallet, but to the right where I found a one-hundred coin bill? Long story short, I received this book and would you know, the exact terrors of Zheng are our own? He was stalked relentlessly, King Dad and us too! What tragedy, calamity, disaster will happen next? An earthquake? A bomb?-!"

"Morton!" Bowser shook him out of the daze. "Last I checked we ain't him so it's fine! This isn't the first natural disaster and we're not the first kingdom relocate a few times either! Those mythical old stories don't make sense, so get your freaking heads on straight!" He stooped to one of his sons in particular. "I haven't had any trouble out of you the whole time now that I think about it. He's now y'all's role model."

Iggy kept tinkering with his watch project. Progressing ever closer to competition, no one knowing what that might entail but Iggy himself, the wires from it were tamed and the watch face could open to reveal circuitry. It would almost seem he was detached from reality utterly but he did a quick thumbs up letting them know that he was only slightly detached, his normal.

Lemmy rose his hand. "King Dad, I agree! He shows the true Koopa Troop spirit, resilience, fearlessness, and he loves being mean!" He glanced over to his 'twin' who did not even acknowledge the comment.

Wendy had a stank face him that became into a cute little pout when Bowser turned his head. Lemmy wanted reprimand her for being unctuous but was cut off- "Me too daddy, don't I? I got everyone flagged for the fake articles. And and- oh let's forget about rebuilding here and just move over to Water Land. Peach might warm up to it since it's not filled with disgusting bugs and crazy people and etc," the koopaling princess explained, nervously playing around with her gold bracelets.

Bowser stood up from Iggy. "That's… not stupid!"

"But daddy! I don't want more brothers and sisters!" Junior whined, stomping his feet in miniature imitation of his father.

Bowser picked up and cradled the six year old. "Aww, that's all you're worried about? Don't son! (Anytime soon at least..) Okay? Now we know the plans so let's get back!"

Larry watched them leave. He miserably kicked a rock so hard his foot stung. The oblong pebble skipped across Iggy's feet, the older brother ignoring such.

Larry sat next to him on the fallen log and sighed. "Iggy. Do you want dad to marry Peach?... Bro, listen to me!" Larry waved a hand in his face. "If you're now out here ballin' as they flippin' role model or whatever like that makes you an enemy to me now 'cause they ain't getting married not on my watch! Ya feel me?"

Iggy turned to him. "Would a gearmo and a X-Yux ever go on a date?"

"...I can't control that?"

"Correct. You can't control things in life sometimes."

One by one droplets rolled off of Larry's cheeks and pattered on the woody forest floor, all of the tears he'd held in since yesterday and frankly even longer. He shook trying to hold them back in vain. "Dude! Shut up! This could mean my future right now and.. and no one gets it!" He sighed heavily. "Ya probably think I'm just trying to be an annoying brat but it's not like that! I actually want dad and all of us really to be happy for once. Dad thinks he wants Peach. I've really spoken to her now and she's actually cool, but they wouldn't be a match. I think dad like, just likes the ideal of having her, you know? And all of us are conditioned to be yes men to dad's stupid plans so that this thing never ends. We could really be doing something other than kidnapping princesses. I paid attention in school. There's no real reason why we need to do that. It ain't medieval times.." He turned to his brother. "Like, Iggster, don't you wanna be rich? The amazing junk you build all the time could do that. All we do in the Troop is break it cause we're stupid or leave it forgotten in the basement because it doesn't destroy plumbers good enough. And personally I wanna be a.. forget it. I missed my chance wasting time pretending to be something I'm not!" He squeezed his eyes shut. "It's all freaking stupid! I'll be stuck here forever as a loser!" Larry was jolted by someone patting him on the shell.

"You didn't let me finish Larry-chan," Iggy said soothingly as he could. "As the anime Cowboy BoomBoom teaches, if the universe doesn't want something to happen, you punch the universe in the face. -Okay maybe that is not perfectly applicable but I have translated all scientific principles from that totally realistic fan favorite show that was appropriate to my project, and some not appropriate, but this invention when completed might prove if since the universe is really really old, to put it in laymen's terms, it may or may not be malleable by minuscule entities like us. Such will be definitively determined if I prevent what happened on the hill Friday!" he declared, voice steadily raising to a exuberant shout.

Larry sniffled his nose and nodding to whatever that babble was, Iggy's energy contagious. "Now you really got me tripping. What are you talking about? In English!"

Iggy's wide smile waned. "...You confided in me so let me be 'straight' with you as you'd put it." He sat the invention back into his lap and paused with foreign sobriety. "Two nights ago..." he abridged the tale of Friday, "and long story short, Zoo had an item that a Dark Star spawned from. It attacked that night and it only logically makes sense it attacked Sam and Slam and us again at Sky Land. I guess King Dad shuffling us around like Morton's broken iPod is good actually because we can dodge it if we're quick enough. I know we totally can't keep running forever, like a season of a great series.. Sorry sorry," Iggy went, catching himself. "So I'm going to try to fix that night."

Larry picked his jaw off the ground as it set in. Anguishing, and he then buried his face in his palms. "Even if we have to move around we could have went over this crap back home! We could be traveling around in an organized fashion, not this hot steam'n mess!"

Iggy quickly draped his arm around him. "It's okay. Reason with me, I was not sure about the attack pattern until now and I'm close to completion so it may not matter! Even if I knew immediately at the outset when we had our full Troop, imagine the chaos. It's like opposite day with us sometimes, we would have killed each other infighting before the dark star did it. One of the top Dark Land professors once said advancement is a slow process and the direction not clear until it smacks you in the face. Or maybe Kammy said that when she forgot her glasses.. Anyway, you can't go from zero to 160,495."

Larry said after a pause, "A car that fast would be pimpin'." He smiled at his genius older brother cheekily. "But I get it. I guess it's easy to mouth off 'bout what we coulda shoulda in hindsight so don't get too twisted over it." Larry got off the log and crossed his arms. "And thank you for being real with me. I, I really appreciate that. Do I want to know where that oddly specific number came from?"

"The theoretical max velocity of my rocket prototype I was working on before our castle combusted irreparably. It would have impressed all of the attractive females and Lemmy had already promised to test it for me with that giant circus helmet he has.." Immediately that name sparked something them both. Iggy regretted it.

Larry began to look peeved all over. "Uhg, I wish that Lemmy heard what I said. That dude will bend over backwards twice to not offend anyone and yet he was there with you and Luddy and ain't said crap? Freaking circus loving dweeb keeping his lips sealed to look good..."

Iggy flushed. His reservations with Lemmy manifested not in any direction confrontation, not his style anyway, but by him ignoring Lemmy. He was actually surprised none of the family noticed their distance when they'd be stuck to the hip every typical weekend. No one was really themselves lately, explaining the phenomenon. He just hoped Lemmy didn't become the clown in the family in a different way than intended.

...

Back in the village forces surrounded a solder under suspension of espionage. After Bowser pushed through the crowd he approached Thwomp #3, apparently an imposter caught by Sentry 11. The lakitu handed over an electronic messenger from the thwomp, undoubtedly well used recently.

Bowser growled while pocketing the device in his shell. "Be honest and things might be a little less painful, spy. How much did you spill to Mario aligned idiots? Did you get into our treasury chests?"

The thwomp resisted the urge to shudder. Upon closer inspection he was much to aged to have been a legitimate hire. "I don't work for Mario and I wasn't interested in your tacky junk treasures." His tone was guttural with an unanticipated Mushroomy accent. "I wanted dirt on you and it's been relayed already ages ago. The world knows you're stinking up Giant Land. You freaks do what you want now!"

Sentry 11 flashed a crooked grin, missing a few teeth on the sides. "Hey Boss, let me handle this one. I use to be a hitman before I joined the troop and there's a.. special technique I haven't gotten to do in much too long." He rubbed his hands together.

"Great. Get lost with the traitor. The rest of us got new plans-"

"Oh and I found this too, Boss. The princess was using this thinking we were too dumb to see her." The next object the sentry presented was pink with rhinestones, Peach's cell.

The princess on the outskirts of the wicked gathering felt the ground give way under her.

Bowser gawked at the glittery phone before pocketing it as well. "How did this go on for so darn long? Kamek? I thought you could detect sneaky stuff? Eyes in the back of your head, or third eye or however you said it?!"

"Lord Bowser, that was me in my prime and in our comfortable castle with all of my books and scrolls and helpful sticky notes on how to do my rites. Now I'm doing well if I can keep my specs from fogging up. Besides," the magikoopa replied with mild offense, "I had to leave behind my scepter back at the castle. Without it I'm-"

"-Yeah yeah. Forget I asked ya, gramps." Bowser waved him off in irritation. He would leave Camp Bowser as is for now while moving his personal fleet, princess included, to the tropical paradise of Water Land as his daughter suggested. She was rarely one to get so involved lately but he didn't think it over too hard. Change was good and things could only go up from there.

...

Ludwig played around with the weighty Mega Villain badge in his paws during the lengthy taxi ride. At first it began to pall him and now it in fact spawned contempt. Everything leading to this moment now was of questionable worth and finally Ludwig was brave enough to not force himself out of that state of mind. A bump in the road made it fall from his loose grip and bounce under the seat in front of him. He shed his jacket so he could stretch and blindly reaching for it, eluding the crumbs and dust caked down there, he brushed against something black and spherical, a bob-omb. Reluctantly Ludwig ignored the implications of his cabbie, a stubbly faced but mundane red boo having that. The sooner they got to the Mushroom Kingdom the better. Then he could stealthily use one of their warp pipes to get to Giant Land and.. he wasn't sure.

"-Tell me something, Prince. How did you invent that tornado thing that flipped Dark Land upside down?" the driver asked, curiously eyeing Ludwig from the rear view. He lowered the volume on the talk radio station.

Ludwig felt a wave of heat in his face, scrambling for the least incriminating explanation. "Don't let the rumors mislead you. It was not a projection or a subordinate of mine, though I venture it was perhaps sentient, but what happened was real and out of our control. Very much so."

"I hope that badge was worth this big ol' mess! Sucks even your workers Sam and Slam payed the price too."

Ludwig tuned it out that as a long river running along the road sparked something in him.. "...Please, stop the vehicle!"

They skid to a stop on the road's shoulder. Ludwig rushed out and ran to the water's edge, launching the forsaken Mega Villain pin as hard as he could. In slow motion it sunk into the water and disappeared. Everything about him in that instant felt lighter, like the noose around his neck loosened he could breathe again. Taking just another moment to collect himself he leisurely returned to the car, fiddled with the greasy tattered backseat belt, avoided the suspicious stain in the seat- and glanced upwards to find his very own engraved orange NES zapper aimed eye level.

"Nice heat you're packing buddy! I like how you can really feel the weight. Solid trigger too."

Ludwig took a deep breath. "I fail to understand why you choose now to rob me. I do not possess much. Not anymore!"

"You got enough for me, hehe. Plus river's convenient for your body. Now GET OUT!"

Ludwig slid out and trudged towards the grass shore, arms raised. Instantaneously the red boo was at his back.

"Now what did your janitor have to do with the first storm?! How did he win your competition? How is Bowser controlling it?" the boo snarled down his neck. "Speak up!"

Ludwig wasn't sure he was more dazzled by the robbery in broad daylight or the assailant's insistence on that other matter. "Easy I beg of you! You lack perspective, the underling Zoo didn't mean to- We didn't- Okay, it was all a mistake! It was all a mistake and it is my fault and I would have fixed it possibly if-" The koopaling's eyebrows lowered. "-If you didn't ruin my day further. How are you privy to these facts?"

"Ha ha ha. Bout that. I've been tracking your scaly behind since you left Sky Land. Anyway, there's a few hundred miles of water here and it'll be hard to find aaaalll your pieces scattered about!-"

"You are despicable!"

"Thank you." The boo bowed. "Last words?" he laughed.

Nearly at the water's edge already, Ludwig dared to turn his head at the boo. Seeing him so clearly now he was underwhelming. Just a middle aged and slightly sloven if unhinged red boo. "May I get acquainted with you before the end? Name?"

"What?.. Oh it's Trevor." The boo pressed the zapper into his back.

"You look like a Trevor."

"Ha ha. That's what my parents said. Know what else they said I looked like? A problem. Know where we're going with this? I get you're stalling for your life because they all do that," Trevor continued clinically. "-And it makes sense. I find much delight in getting to know the victim now that I think about it. Makes the souvenirs in the back of my freezer more memorable..."

Ludwig struggled keep his poker face. "..So my question was who do you like better? Mario or- who's that green one?"

"Green Mario."

"That's not quite right."

"Aren't they both Mario?"

Ludwig took another breath before his trembling became too noticeable. "What is the full name of Mario's brother?" he pressed gently.

"Just messing with ya. He's my fav. Mario's brother is Luigi..Mario!"

A loud violin chime startled the boo, originating from Ludwig's phone. The koopaling activated the voice assistant when he first got out of the car and catching the term 'Luigi Mario' it did what phones did best, at least according to Ludwig. Make annoying noises at the worst of times. Ludwig brought his elbow down on the boo's head and flung him in the water. Ludwig bolted back to the car to find the keys missing. He jumped back out and began to trace the ground for them, getting blindsided by a hard punch. Ludwig's head smacked backwards on the pavement.

"Geh zum Teufel," he groaned. He knocked Trevor off and shot a fire ball his way. The boo turned invisible and reappeared on the other side of him. Ludwig kicked him against the car and something clicked loudly. The wheels began to roll on the car, like the brakes where shot the entire time. It gained speed quicker than they could chase it down the steep hill and bounced off the curb, careening into the water. It splashed and sunk quickly.

They both stopped in the middle of the street, Trevor in particular panting heavily. "That was a company car, idiot! I am so fired, man."

Ludwig turned to him in disbelief, cursed, and then punched him straight in the face. "Listen carefully scoundrel! I do not care! I must prevent a super powered being from taking away everything and everyone I love and I'm running out of time due to people like you! Piss off!"

The boo got off the asphalt, rubbing his eye placidly. "First of all, nice hit. Secondly, we know buddy. This was just my signature interrogation technique. Don't tell anybody but I'm actually Agent M of Super Spy HQ in Toad Town. We were trying to make sense of what's going on with you and your family and I was doing better than any other agent until whatever just happened. That wasn't scripted! Now we have a long ways into town. Drats. I hate freaking walkin.." he trailed off.

Ludwig felt a dizzy sensation watching the boo float down the street. It was just too much, but by Eldstar's will he had to go on. He had to, he repeated to himself, if only to mend what he'd so callously shattered two days ago.

...

Down South any and all enemy species dwelling in or around the shanty town and even north into Toad Town were briefly under suspicion of being a secret spy. Old prejudges threatened to ferment but there was no real basis for paranoia many concluded. Crop fires were extinguished, robotic yoshis were locked back up, a certain patooie nurse was reprimanded again, and everything calmed down. Mario closed in on the boo in the ten gallon, waiting until the best time to confront them. They were hiding on an abandoned ranch tossing axes into an old rotting fence for practice.

The plumber approached with extra caution. He'd met up with Yoshi about this and what they discussed completely changed his direction. "Excuse me. Hi. It's me Mario. Just wanted to talk to you."

Booigi slowly spun around, face flat yet still giving off that chilling sensation like before.

"So.. Aren't you Boo? Boo Diddley? Before I sent Luigi off he was worried sick over you and he'd be glad to know you're okay. If you'd calm down and head back with us at the-"

"It's Booigi the Second and I'm fine here." Booigi tossed an axe and struck the bullseye perfectly. "What did you think of my performance before?"

"It was something alright, but you know that's not our style. Luigi would agree."

Booigi was about to toss another axe when they froze, weapon in the air. "Gaaah! Shut up! I do everything for him!"

"Fine! Fine!" Mario fled the scene before he got zapped or impelled. He returned to the Southern Hospital where Yoshi waited under the shade of its porch. Mario leading him back out onto the streets explained, "I located the guy with the hat and scarf! You were right, it was Boo all along."

They continued to the sorta creepy trail leading to Booigi's hideout. It was away from the shanty town or hospital or any cabins and thus away from any sources of help. Mario shook his head when they got there, and hesitated to step on it again, as if it was a booby trap rigged to go. "We can't have a loose cannon like that. They had the crowds mesmerized at first then wild next. It was crazy, like a Bowser Party."

"I agree but at least the Bowser spies aren't an issue anymore."

"Only because TriggerHappy McBoo murdered that Bowser crook."

"So that's an issue?"

Mario whipped his way and stared at him. "...Yoshi, yes, yes it is! First I'm forced by an injury to sit around in hillbilly county managing groups of others like I have some boring office job and now I can't even keep everyone organized and safe 'cause of killers like that!"

Melting into the ground almost, Yoshi said, "I'd know about that, wouldn't I?"

Mario softened, regretting his blunt tone as usual. "It was different for you. Besides when I say killer I don't mean literally anyone. I mean... Forget it."

Yoshi sighed. "Right, sorry to be a drag. After everything that happened just yesterday I'm still, you know..."

Yoshi found himself in Mario's embrace, the only thing so far he discovered that could break up the dark cloud within him. "And I'm here to help with anything you need." Mario then slyly added, "Now let's pay Triggerhappy a visit. With body armor this time."

...

Mario was running late. Kylie Koopa wore a trench in the ground pacing under the local water tower. Sometimes she'd enter the spy car that brought her in the rustic territory for some air conditioning. Mr. Jelectro waiting in the drivers seat did not say a word to her. She supposed the noki was indeed exiled to the couch last night. What a bump on a log. By contrast she could nearly burst like a bulky bob-omb from excitement. She dashed to meet her guest half way.

"Mario great to see ya. When I first got in town why was there a mob of folks carrying torches and pitchforks and scythes?! I know a lot of the locals are farmers but.. So anyway we got Sarasaland on the line brother, from Daisy Castle. I worked with some Toad Town spies to do something special and who else deserves the honor than Mario!"

Flabbergasted, Mario took the receiver from her. He didn't attempt to explain why he had bruises all over from some recent altercation with a curtain ten gallon hat wearer. He could make out General Yura, Roar, and Tao in the background.

"Hello? It's me, Mario."

"MARIO? HA HA OLD CHAP, JUST GOT THE WRONG NUMBER. MEANT TO GET CASTLE KOOPA. TA TA," said a grating unfamiliar voice.

Mario froze, eyes darting between Kylie who mirrored his expression, to the unreadable noki and not getting the announcement he wished for that this was some sort of joke from either. "Who is this? And how did you mistake my number for Bowsers?!" he demanded the beeping disconnected tone.

One possible explanation came to him quickly. He lost an old cell phone of his years ago in enemy territory and some of its data got leaked, including his address book. For a little while there was some mix up because he had Bowser's number saved under his own name as a crazy idea to keep his friends from knowing when he was calling his rival. Well he shouldn't feel too bad. Bowser told him once he had Mario saved under 'Buttercup' to throw off his family. Now that was a dumb idea, and also a strange tangent just then...


To be continued..

(spoilers) Disclaimer: Annnnnnd the answer is…. Nintendo! Did you guess right?

Created: 7/4/19, 7/6, 7/9, 7/10, 7/22, 7/25, 7/28, 7/29, 7/31, 8/4, 8/21, 9/1, 9/2, 9/13, 9/15, 9/18, 9/24, 9/29

Edit: 12/28, 12/29/20

Finally finally fixed I promise, gosh!: 5/19/21

Uh minor stuff: 1/7/22