Mario and Bowser: Frenemies Forever 2 (Redux)

Rambo Mario (Chapter 14)

Disclaimer: Mario and co belongs to Nintendo.


Captain Toad reached around blindly before he found the lantern switch. Its orange glow exacerbated his dull headache. That was probably the best he could hope for after yesterday's events with Luigi. Speaking of that plumber, he was quite a partner and he'd leave it at that, uncannily good at following maps a consistent amount of degrees off, redolent of someone too comfortable with improperly calibrated compasses. He noticed Luigi's empty green sleeping bag besides him. The toad unzipped his red sleeping bag and slowly crawled out, covered in day old cuts and bruises. His bandage wrapped feet had stopped bleeding which was great, their adventure was long from over. It was foggy in the south western quadrant of Giant Land, nothing above but white. Everything felt more uncharted than usual without the brigade The Captain was accustomed to, more perilous in the face of obstacles and trials. Giant Land had no lack of such.

A twig snapped. The Captain paused his set up of the camp as something rustled in the bushes. He scanned around pickaxe in hand before something yanked the tool from his palms.

"Gotcha." Materializing behind him, Luigi dangled the pickaxe from a handmade green vine lasso. A bandanna of blue denim was wrapped around his forehead and he was topless, only sporting some spare pants he'd brought along, tucked into his hiking boots. "You have to stay vigilant!" he advised cheekily. ".. Not a morning person?"

Captain Toad's countenance became even more flat and dead like a Mummy-me. He jabbed a stick into some meat on a plate he'd prepared and held it over the fire bouncing in his humble little firepit. "I suppose so, Mr. Luigi."

Luigi sat opposite side of the fire crisscross style. "We're better off than you think. All Mario and I use to have were rocks to sleep on. Rocks! Well, you slept into the afternoon and we need to move on. How much longer is that Tayce T. impersonation gonna take?"

"Until this thing I killed yesterday isn't raw."

Luigi watched the flames jump around and gave himself the time to rest from training all morning. He'd dread the pressure of living up to Mario's work in any other situation but this adventure felt different for reasons he couldn't discern. Maybe it was the high stakes, but he really had to give it his all. "Hurry up already. You know I ate something raw a few minutes ago!" Luigi subtly puffed out his hairless chest.

"Don't do that. You might get sick," The Captain droned.

"I was talking about berries you spoilsport!"

On the hunt for Bowser they continued. Hidden piranha plants clamped onto their legs while they avoided suspicious huts nestled among the forest on the way to for the river ahead, the body of water flowing through the kingdom of Giant Land. Luigi and Captain Toad hauled a small raft of logs they spent the night on to the river bank and took the plunge. They were violently pulled a five miles down by unpredictable rapids. They became drenched hanging on for dear life and avoiding Boss Bass. Quickly they approached a tall dam of rocks and were going to crash.

"Abandon ship!" Luigi let go to dip in the river while the raft was torn apart by the boulders. He rose and paddled, looking around. "Stan? STAN?" Heart in his throat, he spotted the Captain atop the dam and rushed to his aid, tossing rocks aside to uncover the toad from the pile, then shaking him.

He regurgitated a stream of water. "Mr. Luigi..thank you... But it's..Captain Toad.." he gasped. "And what is-?"

He lifted up from an old thwomp camouflaged underneath him. Their two black eyes fluttered, coming to. Branded on a spike was a faded Bowser emblem reminding Luigi of a temporary tattoo. It took them a dozen tugs to eject the stone baddie from the rubble and get him on the muddy shore line.

"Thanks," the thwomp grunted, groggily righting himself. He saw the duo and looked at them funny. "Lemme take you two to Bowser's camp right now!"

Still shaking the water out his ear, Captain Toad mirrored the expression. "Excuse me?"

"You coming or what?" The thwomp rose in the air a short distance and slammed back down, 'walking' deeper into the forest.

Soon they followed the path of thwomp sized intentions in the ground heading north and close the boundary line of something guarded by a barb fence and cameras. A bright spot light aimed around in an erratic pattern. Eventually Luigi had to 'go', just missing the opportunity in the water. He trailed behind to finish business, then sprint to catch up. One step on the main path again and Luigi wandered past a laser, causing an alarm to sound.

"For the last time get away from my house and stop stepping on my property and stealing my land and peeing in my plants!" The house rumbled as someone charged down stairs and then out of the doors with massive earth quaking steps.

Having nowhere to run, Luigi braced himself and got ready for the medic bill. "I'm here for the princess and not Bowserrrrrr!"

The goomba skid to a stop a foot away from him. A switch flipped he became a flat faced yet brilliant looking mushroom, believably responsible for the impressive array of electronic surveillance and satellite dishes in the middle of nowhere. "I see you are indeed a hero with such outerwear. Like an action star! I would know my guest, I incessantly watch reruns of the old classics. Please excuse my spectacle before, the oppressive Koopa Troop are utterly detestable to me!"

Shivering, Luigi peeked through the crack in his fingers. "Umm. Who are you?"

"Richard Goomba Sr. PhD and not the one that visited Mushroom Kingdom hospital East, that was my son with the MKDCU. Is there anything you need my guest?"

Luigi observed that the doctor's yard was like a jungle in itself, high grass and curious antiques spread about. Something caught his eye. "Well.."

A deranged shirtless man on a vintage chunk of steel, a WW63 era motorbike with an engine roaring like it was born yesterday, burst into camp making enemies squawk and flee. All they had against him where slingshots at best as he rode by jousting them with a heavy duty plunger, also an WW63 antique. He was Rambo Mario, not leaving a single baddie standing without a face full of decades old toilet water.

A hammer brother stumbled out of the outhouse. "That's Luigi! Get backup!" Captain Toad then swung down from the tree above knocked him out. The toad had been waiting for Luigi to show up, imagining the delay was bad berries.

All of the foes at the camp's gate defeated, Luigi revved up the bike before the astonished toad Captain. "Pick your jaw up and hop on!"

...

"...That's how you lose fingers, trying to peep into boss' treasures while I'm in charge." A long jagged edged knife lay beside him as a silent warning. The actual chests were tucked away deep in the room, in a 'safe' place and away from the inquirers.

"B-but we're running out of toilet paper! Please please please please-" the koopa subordinate continued endlessly.

He paused, taking a deep breath that made his listeners on edge. "Open it then. Keep bothering me and I'll-"

"Be my guest, Sentry," the third person in the cabin snapped. "Tell me. What is your real job?"

"-Terrorizing you all!" The lakitu suddenly stabbed the wooden table before him with the blade, making the koopa and magikoopa jump. "Now scram! I claimed this cabin because someone left a pedicure kit in here and I'm gonna use it gosh darn it!"

The koopa and a magikoopa stumbled out of the deepest cabin in Camp Bowser, near the storehouse that burnt.

"Nice try!" Luigi knocked their heads together while Captain Toad kicked the door open again. They both caught the grizzled lakitu hitman gingerly filing his ugly curled nails.

Sentry 11 lifted his head up, only mildly alarmed. "A half naked Mario brother and a toad. Interesting."

They both charged him so he rolled backwards, knocking the pink foot tub containing nail files and bath salts in their way. As they climbed over the clutter, the lakitu nimbly sprung onto his cloud to attack with spiked balls. He went around the table, to them the size of a huge dinette set. Luigi ducked and used his lasso to knock away the spikes raining down. As his kind was known for, the lakitu got the slip out of the window. A second later, they heard a click on the door. Captain Toad rushed to it and tugged. Locked. He swung his pickaxe but it bounced off and created a thin spidery fracture through the steel.

Captain Toad groaned at first but then changed subject. "Since we are immobilized Mr. Luigi, where'd your motorbike come from?"

"A Mega Goomba recluse that's a retired doctor, has a skeleton of a human in his home, suspiciously next to the photo hung up of his ex wife, collects war memorabilia, has a pretty good stereo, and watches people take a leak in his garden.." Luigi knocked on wood to feel how dense the door was. "Ever sent off a flare before?"

...Leaning around a tall, old, and tired oak even older, taller, and more tired than him, the liberated thwomp was flabbergasted how quiet the camp became in mere minutes. Just last night he was cooped up with the Koopa Troop on night watch as so-called 'Thwomp #3', gambling for the prize of the peanut butter sandwiches someone snatched from Kammy's picnic basket like the rest of them, inwardly wishing Bowser went down in the fire at the store house. It'd had been easier that way, but espionage in Dark Land was never easy. He made his way past the unconscious koopa bodies until the ground shook. He gaped at a the old BeanBean battle tank rolling through the camp gates.

"Tally-hoooo!" Richard Sr. screeched. The tank spun and fired at an empty hut that exploded into flames higher than the canopy.

"Crazy loon!" the thwomp barked, picking himself up. "This is Agent 999 of Super Spy HQ, stop that! Stop that right now- hey!" The agent squeezed his eyes shut as another golden bullet bill whizzed over his head and exploded on a building.

"I'm on a koopa scum hunt. WHERE THEY AT?!" Richard went on belligerently.

...Some distance away, Luigi put his ear to the exterior wall, occasionally fanning the smoke leftover from their homemade chimney flare. "You hear something? Just want to be sure since that lit bob-omb you handed me without warning made my ears ring and-"

Captain Toad stifled a laugh as he 'strategically' chipped at the rotting chest they'd found in the corner next to the bathroom stall. "Do not interrupt Mr. Luigi. This is delicate, one wrong move and-" The axe handle snapped and the flat heavy blade smashed his toe. He cursed loudly.

Luigi darted from the wall to the opposite corner. "Sounds about right! Quick get over here!"

There was a huge bang at the wall being torn in two and falling flat, taking half of the roof with it and sending the mega sized bricks and logs in the sky. Once the dust cleared there was the cannon of the tank aiming at the opposite wall that remained standing. Luigi's back was against it and his chest rose up and down rapidly, teeth in his head clattering.

"T-there were no koopas here. It was us, doctor!"

The small circular hatch opened and Richard Sr. in a combat helmet emerged after a tight squeeze. The pipe fell out of his mouth. "My goodness! This is where they kept you captive?"

"Yes! Locked us in. Thanks for.. Oh snap!" Luigi saw a little pale arm sticking out under wreckage. He slung off what he could. The Captain was found on top of the wooden chest, shattered from the force of his body into a pile of gold coins, broken glass, and a wad of old notes. "Captain!"

"Call..Me..Stan.." The most important pieces slipped from Captain Toad's hand. There was an old map of Dark Land, Magikoopa rites, and a yellow writing tablet.

Luigi was just noticing Dr. Mario's signature on one of the papers when Agent 999, the thwomp they'd just rescued, barged through the door frame still standing somehow, eyes bloodshot. "You're all under arrest!"

...

"If you think the disasters follow you buddy, are you bringing it to Toad Town on purpose? You know I have family here. I take offense to that."

"-Well I-"

"Nah just kidding. They're all dead."

"Well I!-"

"Nah just kidding again. Ha ha. They moved last year. Ha ha..."

Ludwig then needed some fresh air, cranking the window to let the warm breeze flow through his hair. His company was not his ideal, but he was assisting him in traveling to Toad Town in their replacement ride, a large company truck. A part of Ludwig was content because despite the weighty matters on his plate the light was on the horizon. A sad flicker, but illumination regardless.

Ludwig spoke again, "-Agent, I never explained did I? I need cooperation from Mario and associates, as you informed me that Mario is still in town and he sent his brother in pursuit of my father in place of himself, so I need to pull an assembly together to tackle my mysterious foe collectively-" Ludwig paused while the owner of the vehicle they were 'borrowing' made a sound from the trunk. "Speaking of which, he can breathe back there, correct? I refuse to share a murder charge with you. I am not fully convinced you do not already have one, Agent!"

"..." Agent M began to giggle behind the wheel. Flying down the road they passed under a sign stating that the next exit was 'Starman Lane'.

"Never mind. Take... that road!... Then let's travel along so and so.."

The pink boo pulled off the exit and into Toad Town, driving along until they were a block away from the post office. They parked on the curb. "Here? You sure buddy?"

Ludwig exited the vehicle, lingering in the door. "I'm sure. Thank you for this favor you were under no obligation to do for poor me, but I'm not your buddy. Please, don't start," Ludwig nearly laughed. "Oh and can you perhaps wait for me?"

Toad Town was not demilitarized like Poshley Heights so he had a bullseye on his head the moment stepped away from the car and everyone could get a look at who he was. A koopa jogger with a bandage on the back of his head going down the sidewalk pointed at him and jumped on his phone. Rotten mushrooms spontaneously battered his head from out of thin air, or more specifically from the apartments above his head occupied by toads glaring at him from the windows. He dashed inside the post office. Parakarry was behind the desk dealing with high stacks of overfilled cabinets towering to the ceiling. A bulging satchel ready to go hung on a rack to his right.

"Rain, snow, sleet, you get it," he greeted, busily grabbing letters. "What do you need to send off?"

"My message to Mario: I, Prince Ludwig must meet with them urgently!"

The mail carrier gave a start when he rose his head and faced the koopaling for the first time. "..I'm really backed up. You will have to deliver that on your own, sir," he advised, trying to mask apprehension.

Ludwig put his claws to the desk and leaned forward. "Are you certain?" he pressed.

Parakarry pulled down a black mesh visor over the desk, closing up right in Ludwig's face. "I am indeed, sir!" With a mischievous smile, the mail carrier whisked himself out the office. Ludwig was forced to egress and discover that his 'buddy', the secret agent's vehicle had vanished, leaving only the oil puddle.

Ludwig muttered in German as someone was rushing him from down the block. The snifit in police uniform then revealed a taser. "...Oh, what is- bbbbbbppppptttttttttt!" the koopaling sputtered while electricity ripped through his entire body. His blue hair stood up, he wet himself, and seconds later he was out.

...

The yellow faded notebook was plopped on a table after the trophies and war conquest medallions were brushed aside, also the ashtray, the remote to the alarm system, and the other remote to the other alarm, the remote to the remote, and more clutter. Sadly this was the cleanest room belonging to the goomba doctor.

"'I want tuna for today, I want a sandwich too." Luigi read a little farther down Dr. Mario's stream of consciousness in written form. "Last week's pay only fifty coins, but this is the recession… Items used for Megavitamin X: Sulfate, so and so..' That last one. The secret ingredient is koopa scales!"

"I could see that.." Richard Sr added. The mega goomba the checked under newspapers covering his windows in a paranoid fashion.

"Yep, they didn't have the technology back then to- Why am I speaking to you people?" the thwomp agent complained, tied up on the couch with extra thick extension cords. "I knew you were looking for that missing part for Mario and now you have it, so let me go!"

Luigi discreetly folded the note. "So you were pretending to work for Bowser to get it yourself?"

"Not exactly, I do this in general to keep HQ on top of the fool. Bowser has no records so no one ever notices an extra thwomp. Only got caught cause this new situation put the troop in closer quarters than usual."

"Mmmm mm mm?" asked Captain Toad, muffled by a suffocating but essential neck brace Luigi was kind enough to make for him. He'd never question the green plumber's abilities again, at least not outwardly..

"What about the storms, lil toad? HQ ain't cracked that code yet. To be honest I was offsite 'n I didn't see roofs peeling with my own eyes either. I just know it comes out of no where and includes lots of thunder."

"Hmm. So you're Agent 999 at your HQ, but who's Lieutenant Stone then?" Luigi held an ID they'd combed from the rock baddie.

"I am. That's my real title and even when I slip, the koopa's dumb as bricks. We're done? My butt itches and I want to go home."

Luigi checked his watch, remembering green pipes in Richard's backyard. "Doctor, thanks for the hospitality and the cool bike and the tank rescue and this weird bullet souvenir you say you pulled from your own heart in the war, but we're on an urgent mission and all and I noticed you had something we can use to get out of here quick..."

...

"Be on guard, pards. We were once delivered a barrel of Ukiki and I was the only guy that could keep the lid down," Jr. Troopa said to Mario and a few of his staff lined up against the South gate that split the territory from Toad Town. The teenager followed up with additional tall tales as they half paid attention, impatiently awaiting for a mystery crook to be handed over by the Toad Town justice enforcer Snifit Patrol. No one knew much of the masked vigilante's origin and were only told to keep an eye out for a silver futuristic car, precisely the one speeding closer down the dusty path. It missed their wide open gate and smashed through the sturdy closed one beside it.

"Dern it! I just fixed that!" Probabilly yelped.

Mario coughed from the red desert dust while the window rolled down. "Mario! I caught a good one this time!" the snifit inside the vehicle said. Mario's memory was jogged only then.

The plumber then shifted towards the dark tinted backseat window. "Is it that thing with people like Birdo again? It better not be!"

"No no no no no. I, yeah, I learnt my lesson! And the restroom thing too..."

"And Peekaboo badges aren't illegal either, even if you can kinda see people in their underwear with it!"

"Nooo! Ha ha. Just see! Drum roll pleeeease!"

The window rolled down and they gave a start at Ludwig von Koopa's dazed and slumped over figure.

"Ludwig?" Mario began, "Why aren't you with Bowser?"

He snapped awake. "Mario!? I mean, of course! Uh- I will explain and quickly: There is a 'dark star' we are quarry to, we being everyone involved in my Mushroom Flu plot that was fulfilled Friday. This includes even Sam and Slam, remember what happened to Hotel Delfino? Maybe not, the local news is congested and someone would rather hear a tawdry sales pitch than incline the ear to the pain and suffering of islanders thousands of miles away... So where 'we' go is marked to get attacked by catastrophic gale forces and I need your help to resolve this and save my family's lives. I'm alone because I decided to travel to Poshley Heights for an award, one that is in the company of cheep cheeps currently and I no longer care about such. I WILL fix my mistake. Whether I intended to or not it began with me and now it must end with me. Am I clear?"

Mario and Jr. Troopa continued to stare.

"Soooo, want me to bring him into town down here?" Snifit Patrol inquired.

Yoshi, the blue and yellow toads, and Toadette were at the checkers table for a team game out at a isolated area of the land, in the shade of the water tower and away from the bustling town square or Southern hospital. The game was Buckenberry and Toadette's red side verses Ala-Gold and Yoshi's black side. The dino was having much more fun an expected, and it took his mind off the stinging electric burns from confronting Booigi. Yoshi made random moves whenever it was his turn and judged if it was a good or not from their reactions. The thought it might be checkers they were playing, but then again they were stacking pieces up to five high and incorporating extra parts he didn't think belonged, like promotional figurines.

"Gold Fish!" Buckenberry said, shoving his Mini Peach against a Mini DK.

Toadette made a face. "Wrong game, Blue. Anyway Mr. Yoshi, what's wrong with living with us at the castle? I heard you're already searching for something down town?"

"I love helping you all restore it, its not that, but Peach will get rescued and might not want an old dinosaur around." Besides the place was half underwater currently, he thought, and these toads loved the party at night.

"I understand. Avoid Hotel Mario for sure! There's Melon Bugs all over the darn place and they don't care."

"Oh I will." Yoshi made another move. His side had more than theirs so that had to be good he guessed.

"Mr. Yoshi," she approached shyly, "If it's not intruding..."

Yoshi tore his gaze from the cluttered game board. "No, it isn't. We just broke up is all."

Buckenberry gasped. "Nooo way! The rumors are true? You must have choose wrong, cause no sane girl would dump you. You are a super popular hero and a friend of Mario and green? That's the second best color after red. You know that makes you a ten, right?"

Yoshi smiled uncomfortably. It was more like Birdo chose wrong in him. His heart was with someone else and always was, even if he was obscuring that fact from himself. Now he wasn't entirely superficial like she had the impression, judging from how they'd spoken that morning to discuss splitting property. Maybe he didn't know her favorite color- not pink apparently, and take shots in the dark with his gifts to her- she preferred Android phones in actually, but he did pick up on the big details. She knew her priories of a stable life, she was introverted, she had a rare true grace, even when infuriated with a knuckled headed fiancé like him, she valued the small things like a beautiful view of the sunset over a home that was closer to a convenience store. Most importantly, she was content to make a guest appearance in a game or two of Mario's, but not ALL of the main series ones. She was a catch and someone out there was perfect for her. It just wasn't him.

That was quite a package for a bunch of toad kids, so he condensed it to, "Just make sure you are being honest with who you are and what you want."

"...Hear that brah?" Alagold, who seemed to listen the closest, asked the blue toad. "I saw your latest profile on LevelGrindr."

Buckenberry's eye twitched. "I'm all those things."

"Oooh, I'm looking at it now. It says you're six-two and 250lbs? -What, soaking wet and in heels?" Toadette laughed, scrolling on her phone.

"Grrrrr!"

"You know we love you," she teased, pinching his blushed cheekes.

Yoshi made a move on the board before Buckenberry could flip it in the air and ruin the game. Based on Toadette and Buckenberry's simultaneous groan, the dinosaur realized that he'd just won that very interesting game.

The noises they'd been hearing for some time got louder, pipes clanging. Yoshi craned his neck upwards at the water tower where the vibrations originated. They abandoned the game at the table and leaped out of the way as the tower emitted a deep gurgle. A spot on the ground got darker before a spout of water shot up high in the sky. It happened in another spot as they ran frantically towards the nearest help, which was a phone booth a block down caked in dust from lack of use.

Yoshi and all the toads crammed inside while geysers kept popping up. A notice stamped inside stated 'Need help? Holler at Mario here... Or here, pard,' with two numbers listed. One number was Peach's castle phone and one Mario's cell. Yoshi shoved a coin into the receiver and made his call. "Mario pick up! The pipe's gone bad!"

"Hello? Yoshi?" Luigi answered on the other end. Yoshi forgot that number also routed to a house phone of theirs for backup. "Cool timing, I just got here. What's going on again? Actually, listen, tell Mario the secret thing is koopa scales! Okay? Koopa-"

Yoshi couldn't catch the end, the old phone blared static in his ear. The call disconnected when a geyser erupted underneath them all, sending the booth up and away to the 'moon'- actually a nearby billboard advertising a Broadway adaptation of Super Mario Galaxy. It still hurt though.

...

Splash! Lemmy rose to the top of the water. "Geronimo!" he said after the fact. Deep in paradise, this was the Koopaling's fifth dunk in the water with a palm branch as his spring board.

Lounging in a beach chair planted on the largest cay, 'Bowser Island' now, the King Koopa stretched his arms. Roy was still out with what was left of his army and his other kids were doing whatever. He grew tired of reflecting on what to do. It gave him a headache. It was so much easier to not think, just do. Just doing meant things got done, and getting thing done was the point of life, right? Bowser turned to the princess to his left, chained to a identical beach chair. She gingerly pat her forehead with a white cloth. She'd liquified nearly as the tropical sun beamed down, yet she'd adamantly refused to change out of her long pink dress.

"What?" Peach replied to his gaze curtly.

"Getting uncomfortable? Want a fan or somethin'?"

"I could use less 'fans' if you are included in that."

Bowser gave a snort. "Cute. Anyway, we can't sit on our butts forever. I'm tired of swimming everywhere so let's start with some transport," he ventured. "Er, I heard there's a legendary canoe around. Ever considered like a love boat or something?"

Toadsworth's tiny hands squeezed the bars of his cage. "Don't pestering her, you mad man. Tut tut! Give her a break."

"Shuddup old man!" Bowser rose, fist balled.

Kamek under a palm tree was snoring in his snug wearable blanket. Subconsciously the magikoopa shut up.

"-I mean my future old man- forget it! Gahhh!"

Roy and the squad marched through the shallow blue water connecting the various islands raising their spoils: palms, paddle boards, small crates of supplies, and lastly the Water Land king's long green robe. Roy dropped it before his father, letting it gently fall into a bundle. "We ran 'em out so quick dey were just diving into da drink to get away. Then we chased 'em some more, beat em, etc. So, yeah.."

Bowser examined the garment with nods of approval. "That's golden, son." He noticed Roy sticking around digging his feet into the sand. "So what's the problem? I gave you stuff to do like you wanted and now you're looking being a sourpuss yet again."

"..It's nothin'."

"Then act like it."

Lemmy swam backstrokes around Wendy who floated on a tube sipping lemonade and Morton silently tubing and reading a novel. He swam back to shore and idly dried off his body and long rainbow hair with a towel, lost in thought as some of the Troop marched around gathering resources from the island. He couldn't shake it or ignore it. He'd quickly developed a big brother instinct and it was going off. Maybe it was something else too. Guilt.

...On another Water Land cay a fifteen year old leaned against an empty ramshackled toad house. Larry watched rolling waves or fantasized about being in a speeding sports car, waiting for a call back. Iggy kept his company earlier before walking off with his ambitious watch invention thing. That fringe of hope his older brother had didn't totally convince him, but it was a dampener over the blaze inside of him. When this was all over they'd have to hang more. They had all the important shared interests: video-games, internet, hot girls, gadgets, fighting, and pranks-

"-BOO! Hehehe! What are you doing?!" Junior popped out of nowhere.

Heart racing, Larry shoved him back. "You little dweeb! Quit doing that!"

"Oww! You were gonna be a- what's that word? Re-bal, aren't you? I'm gonna tell!" the koopa child countered.

Larry squeezed his eyes shut, counting down from ten to calm down. He only made it to five. "Again just shut up you stupid brat! If only you knew who's really rebelling around here! Tell on me then! King Dad takes you to a retarded little beach now you're back on his side? Just GTFO. I never needed your help anyway!" He heard his screech voice amplified by the water around them. He had an epiphany.

Junior covered his mouth with a flush. "You're being so MEAN!" he squealed.

"I know. I'm sorry. Whatever. Don't piss me off then," Larry attempted to backtrack. Of course Junior wasn't the real problem here, just a repeater of family rhetoric. "Shh!" He picked up his cell as it rung with a simple bell noise. He was basic like that. "Hello Mushroom Caterers? Yeah put the order in for the wings, the ribs, the booze, everything. Bring it to Water Land, can't miss us. Gotcha baby. Bye."

Sentry 11 slowly rose over the horizon. His balaclava was missing, revealing a round and very pale middle aged lakitu face graced with a greying fuzzy little mustache. It was too late to hide for both koopa adolescents.

Instead he floated by. "Just wait till boss hears how Green Mario found the old base and I had to lock him in with our loot," he muttered. "The Kingdom's budget? Zero."

Larry slowly followed him, waddling though the shallow water connecting the kays. "Well that's what's credit cards for! You know bout that don't ya Junior?" he tackled on to humor his little brother, and also dissuade tattling on him for 'bad words'.

"Oh yes, I love those." Junior cheerily flashed his father's Master Plan card. Many expensive toys were snuck onto the platinum slab of plastic without Bowser noticing.

When they met back at base Bowser had decided to not cry over spilled Moo Moo milk and would make Water Land the new Dark Land. He directed a layout where a platform could go, a fortress, and more, before learning that his stuff was looted back at Giant Land and his army was halved yet again. The island shook like a volcano awakening and the flames from Bowser rivaled the heat of one.

"I knew it! Mario was practically next door and you thought I was overreacting!?" Bowser lashed out. "EVERYONE ASSEMBLE. NOW!" The tropical island got packed with every mook the Koopa King still had to his name. "We're having the wedding to night and NOTHING will stop it. NOTHING!"

The koopa paratroopa slowly approached the dark spider web filled corridor. He had a limp from an old injury but his stance was strong. The human plumber gave him a nod and then closed the door, sealing them in. A broken valve was just before them, gushing and flooding the room.

Then Mario turned the valve with light effort. Something rumbled before the water stopped. One eyebrow rose. "...That was easy." All of the plumbing jobs he'd taken on were. What was more concerning was how numerous they were, the backlog of work orders going back years.

Probabilly wrapped half a roll of thick duct tape around the dripping spot. "Usually is, Mr. Hero. If half the folks 'round here had a brain, I wouldn't have a job!"

Mario gave him handshake, pitying the single janitor of the entire region it seemed. Once out the corridor they received a round of applause.

Mario rushed to one of the tallest in the crowd, hugging him tight.

"Big bro, all these acres of outdoors and somehow I knew you'd be inside instead, fixing a toilet or something," Luigi teased. "You told Yoshi to call for me?"

"No. Thought he was with the toads. He stays at the castle now. But I've been busy. Someone apparently dropped their Mario Galaxy Note 7 cellphone down the city's main septic tank or- or something.. Who the heck would do that?" People began agreeing with the famous hero. Vick at that moment quietly escaped the utility home, whistling and hoping no one would notice. Mario shrugged. "Ah whatever. Mistakes happen."

...Eventually they spotted their friends twenty feet in the air, stranded on a Mario Galaxy billboard walkway. No one knew where a ladder was because they didn't use them down South ever, except maybe Probabilly who was on lunch break and without a phone. Mario personally searched until he found a ladder stored away in a barn two large prairies away. It seemed old and wobbly but it was 'reliable as they come, pard', he was assured. He thought they'd just said they'd never seen it before.. So the four standing and shivering in front of the colorful Broadway show graphic could be rescued at last. The plumber wanted to shoot up there himself, but was advised it was better to let them descend. He could see the impact impression on the billboard from the ground, cringing. Like a comet hit it, to fit the theme. Blue and Yellow Toad slid down the ladder daringly and Toadette hesitantly. She insisted she didn't have a heights problem afterwards. Last was Yoshi, missing a boot.

"Mario, it's all right. We're okay," Yoshi said with a smile. He latched on to him, ignoring the sweat Mario was drenched in from running all over the place. "You did what you do best. Thanks."

Luigi gracelessly walked up in the middle of their moment, got too close to Mario, then held his nose. "Umm.. whenever you're ready can we get on that koopa scale secret ingredient thing? And someone just told me Ludwig is locked up down here right now. What else did I miss?"

...

That's when Kylie Koopa gave up eavesdropping on Mario and crew from a secluded bundle of desert cacti and bushes that aggravated her allergies. The water tower area was her old hideout before the impromptu waterworks, now too soggy to be of use. As evening rolled over the South, there were little to no lamp posts for her to see her strictly handwritten notes, never getting big into the digital thing. 'Prince Ludwig visits Toad Town' was a head line cooked up as she checked her phone messages. She had a cryptic tip to meet someone in the moo moo field..

"Babe. Aren't ya happy to see me?"

Kylie almost turned around and left without a word but something in his tone convinced her otherwise. "I didn't need your help, Mitch."

"Any word on Sarasaland?"

She put a hand on her hip. "I was busy dealing with local stuff. But no."

"You needed my help," the toad chuckled. He rolled his wheelchair over the uneven terrain, dirt furrowed for future crops.

Kylie trailed him, carefully stepping over the trenches. "How'd ya even get here?!"

"Babe, it's 2019. Everything is wheelchair accessible now.."

"Mitch! That ain't what I-"

The toad stopped and smiled inexplicably. "Boo, there you are, bud."

At his prompt, a boo diddly appeared before them a rosy face, shivering in the air. "Uh, I knew Luigi was back and I wanted to see him but then.. I messed it all up earlier when I got mad and… D-don't tell Luigi I'm here! I'll figure something out!"

"I know you will. Now scram, kid."

Kylie blocked her ex's way before he could move on. "The heck is going on? 'TriggerHappy' is now another intern of yours?"

He shook his head seriously. "Nah. We're hitting our deadline and I need to do something dangerous, maybe impertinent, but it needs to be done 'cause I'm the only one who knows how deep we really are in this. As usual. I'll probably get hurt again too knowing my fortune lately."

She breathed out slowly and fixed her gaze off at the jagged silhouette of the hills. "And that's the problem, brother. When Jelectro was playing games with me I was madder than a red chomp, but then I found out it was all because you tried to protect me from that Zoo freak. That rocked me like Corona Mountain! I can't lose you after all we've been though! Even if we went our own way years ago, can't you see that we need to work together on this one? Whatever's going on is crazy brother, so let me in before you finally kill yourself! You aren't invincible. You aren't no starman!"

"You're right, babe," he started gently. "I'll share my 'scoop' with you. Just this time. Wheel me up to the top of Mt. Rugged and then you'll see exactly what my research topic has been." He tone eased into something darker, intoxicatingly alluring.

Kylie fought against the tear threatening to roll down her face, emotionally conflicted with him as routine. He still did this to her embarrassingly. "We'll see then." She flushed. "Five minutes at the top and by then you better catch me up or I'm dragging you back down."

Up the winding path they went under an orange red sky. After the trek and with the assistance of some elevators, they were at the flat top of the mountain, devoid of tourists for the hour, and could see the vast landscape below, only a few lights twinkling from the rural landscape.

"Happy?" She panted, leaning on a tall boulder. A visitor's sign on it stated 'Watch yer step, pard!'.

Mitch rolled a little farther towards the East with his eyes closed. Kylie could then feel energy in the air. He'd done such a thing to solve the mystery of the mystery boxes when they were still dating in college, but she didn't know his abilities were still that sharp. She dove down right away.

"YOUR MEDDLING IS FOOLISH, MORTAL."

An invisible force knocked them both back, tumbling many times across brambles and pebbles. Kylie tucked in her shell could have taken a power nap she felt in the time it took to plummet into a little drainage pit at the bottom of the mountain. Adrenaline pumping she saw an outline in the dark of a wheelchair bent in half and a body sprawled face down next to it.

Mitch groaned when she eased him out the trench. "I'm o-okay, babe."

Kylie scanned him, chest thumping. Her hands were damp. "Mitch you're bleeding!"

"Like I said I'm okay." Kylie thought she saw him smirk. "Hardly felt it. Half of me is paralyzed anyway, remember babe?"

Then she rolled her eyes.

...

On the other side of the globe General Ming had done every unimportant activity he could to pass time. The missing card key would on intrude his thoughts once or twice while dusting Daisy's sports trophies or filing paper work, but it was never a priority until work was finished and he could evade it no longer. He decided to risk going outside and checking their weapons bunker a short walk from the castle. Immediately something sidetracked him, dark cloud like smoke right over an old crumbling temple. He'd never worshiped there and didn't think anyone had in a long time, yet someone had the audacity of burn something there and likely get him blamed? Not on his watch!

He marched up the stairs where moss and smooth stone intertwined and then in between cracked stone columns where there was the center roofless opening. He smelt no smoke and heard no crackling as he got closer to the swirling formation in sky.

Ming froze. General Sǐwáng was at the eye of the vortex above, a bombshell koopa with a monocle and a dark goatee in a Victorian suit. The rocketon had a few seconds to discern that this was an ambassador and that he was making a bad first impression before he was struck with a bolt of black lightning.

General Sǐwáng leisurely strolled up to the unconscious secretary of Daisy's with a ornate walking stick. "Jolly good. I was looking for this!" he said in a deep but posh and decidedly English tone. He pocked gladly the key to the missile launchers in the weapons bunker.

...

Ludwig had hummed Reprisal in A minor from start to finish for the second time, indicating he'd been locked up in Southern Mushroom Kingdom for hours given how long his piece was. Not being taken seriously made him seethe until the crack of light grew from the closed cell door. It was Mario.

"Turns out you're promoted, koopa! Come on!"

Ludwig was dragged outside and to a peculiar barn, the agricultural building glowing faintly green. Ludwig, despite his intellect, could not fathom any feasible reason why that would be so.


To be continued..

Created: 7/9/19, 7/10, 7/11, 7/12, 7/15, 7/17, 7/18, 7/22, 7/23, 7/26, 7/29, 7/31

8/1, 8/4, 8/22, 8/23, 9/1, 9/2, 9/15, 9/30, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3

Edited: 6/5/20

Again: 12/29/20

What again? 5/19/21, 5/20/21

I dunno 1/7/22, 1/9