"So you're leaving, Jagger?" came a voice from the door, "Going to rejoin the Troop, eh?"
Flutter's face, usually a mask revealing
no emotion at all, was a mosaic of surprise and disappointment as he stepped
into the small one-room hut carved into a cliff wall. "I'd be lying," he
began, "if I tried to say I
understand, Jagger. I mean, you'll be leaving your home where peace is the norm, and going to work in the army of an oppressive monster with-"
"King Bowser," Jagger interrupted, "is not an oppressor or a monster," he paused, as if he was unable to say what was on his mind, "and this isn't my home."
Flutter's eyes darkened. "Believe that if you want," he warned, "but remember, I was in Bowser's honor guard, I've seen what he's really about."
The two Koopas stared at each other for several minutes, neither one saying a word, each looking for a weakness in the other's argument.
"Jagger," Flutter finally said, "you're a good man, I hate to see you making a decision you'll regret later." And with that, the First Sergeant turned on his heel and stepped out the door.
Jagger tried to start packing again, but he couldn't get his mind off his short conversation with Flutter. Jagger had always seen Flutter as a Koopa who understood duty and loyalty, but if that was so then how could Flutter be so blind? He had seen Bowser first hand and he still wouldn't accept what an honorable king he was. What's worse, Jagger thought, was that this meant we could even wind up on opposite sides in a full-blown war! It was a well-known fact that Monstro Town was in close contact with the Mushroom Kingdom, and the Koopas were absolutely bent on conquering the Mushroom Kingdom at all costs.
Well, thought Jagger sternly, that's
just how it'll have to be, and he began packing again. At least, he was
about to when a hubbub of noise from out in the town square attracted his
attention. Curious, he went
outside to see. What he found was a gathering of people all trying to see over each other's heads toward Bowser's Keep. Weird, thought Jagger as he climbed up on top of his doorway and looked. Jagger did a double-take as he saw what everyone was looking at. It was a large black mass moving along the ground toward Monstro Town. No, Jagger corrected himself, it was an army of
"Do you see them, Jagger?" Flutter
said from above him, "Do you see the
army coming our way?"
Jagger nearly fell off of his perch atop his doorway at the interruption. "You could've warned me you were flying around up there," Jagger rebuked as he looked up to see Flutter, "and yeah, I see 'em. Must be some kind of ambassador's escort or something. Either that or they're headed to Barrel for training."
Flutter rolled his eyes. "Jagger," he groaned, "do you know what a Bob-omb is? It's a walking powder keg programmed to self-destruct and destroy whatever it can by doing so. You don't train it and you don't send it to escort ambassadors," there was a deadly earnestness in his voice as he added, "and they're not headed to Barrel, they're headed to Land's End. And do you know what the only possible target they could find in Land's End is?"
Jagger hesitated before answering, "Well, we're the only settlement here." He paused, still not accepting what Flutter was implying. "But why would Bowser send Bob-ombs here?"
Flutter didn't answer. Instead,
he unfurled his wings, saying, "Think about what I told you earlier." Then,
as an afterthought he added, "And I would advise you to prepare yourself
for battle." With that he flew off to
prepare his troops for the confrontation he feared was at hand."
King Bowser Koopa looked down from his command room at the invasion force steadily marching toward Monstro Town. This, he thought with maniacal glee, will teach them to go AWOL on me! Bowser grinned at the prospect of 500,000 Bob-ombs marching into a sparsely defended town of defectors. The only defense they had was that ridiculous Sky Troopa wing, Bowser thought back to the first time he'd entered Monstro Town, and Flutter won't know what hit him! Bowser clenched his fists as he remembered Flutter, the elite Sky Troopa who had mysteriously vanished six years ago, was presumed dead and had been given a hero's funeral. Bowser fumed as he remembered what had gone through his mind when he first saw Flutter in Monstro Town along with an entire town of Koopa soldiers who had fled the Koopa Troop searching for peace. Well, let them enjoy their peace, Bowser thought, his heart filled with hate, while it still lasts!
"Ludwig," he called to his eldest son, "prepare your doomship for departure," he grinned evilly as he added, "you're going to send the citizens of Monstro Town a little appetizer before we run those Bob-ombs down their throats!"
"I'm telling you," Flutter stood up in the town meeting to say, "they're on their way here and we need to prepare."
"I am in agreement with the First Sergeant," came the surprisingly powerful voice of Jinx, the tiny dojo master, "the storm respects no fool. If we fail to prepare ourselves-"
"But what if it isn't an attack?" Jagger interrupted, "What if this is just some sort of display of power?" There was murmuring as the crowd heard this.
"You're forgetting, Jagger," Flutter interrupted, "that isn't Bowser's way. He attacks unforgivingly, he doesn't take prisoners, and he doesn't display his power unless he's-"
"Sergeant Flutter," came the urgent voice of Flatton, Monstro Town's resident Thwomp, "there's something happening in Seaside! Come quick!"
"I'm on my way!" answered Flutter as he ran out the door with half the citizens of Monstro Town on his heels, eager to see what the ruckus was about. However, Flutter and Flatton, being a flying turtle and an enchanted block of sandstone, were much quicker, and able to leap to higher ground from which they could see Seaside.
"D'you see it?" inquired Flatton.
"Yeah, I see it," answered Flutter ominously, "a Koopa Imperial Doomship. And it's already on the ground."
"It's a good bet," Furthered Flatton, "that they're mounting an invasion of Land's End from that side too."
Flutter nodded his agreement and leapt down to tell the others. "What Flatton and I have just seen," he called, silencing the crowd, "is a doomship landed at Seaside." He paused to let that sink in before continuing, "I think it's fairly obvious now that Bowser's motives are not friendly. Now, when they get here, I say we prepare to give them a welcome they won't soon forget! Who's with me?"
There was unanimous cheering from the crowd below. Unanimous, that is, except for one Terrapin standing on the outskirts of the crowd wondering how the situation could have gotten so out of hand.
"Okay Kooky," Jazzman von Koopa said as calmly as he could manage, "explain to me why we're here again."
"I have already explained our motivation to you," his twin brother Ludwig sighed, "however, it is highly unlikely that explaining one more time would be hazardous to my health. We are blocking the escape route from Land's End as part of a bi-directional tactical assault on the settlement of Monstro Town."
"Uh huh," Jazzman replied slowly, "and what'd these cats do to us?"
"They are rebels," Ludwig replied matter-of-factly, "they have departed without leave from the Koopa Troop because they are unwilling to serve in the armies of my father."
"So, they don't think daddy-o's such a nice guy," Jazzman said nodding, " 'magine that." Jazzman paused for a moment to see if Ludwig would react. "I don't know, Kooky," he continued, "somethin' about this plan's just not jivin' the way it should. I mean, we're just goin' to pick up and shoot at these people just 'cause they're not workin' the same gig as us, and you think everything's swingin'?"
Ludwig paused to consider what his brother had just said. Apparently, Jazzman noticed, because he started badgering Ludwig again.
"Kooky," Jazzman said to his brother's face, "I can tell your heart's right, but your heart and your head ain't playin' the same three bars, and it's makin' the music sound reeeal bad, daddy-o."
Ludwig looked at his brother for
a moment, then looked away. "I have my orders," he said, ending the discussion.
With that he walked toward his control panel and pressed the Intercom button.
"This is Baron Ludwig von Koopa," he said into the mouthpiece, "all ground
personnel prepare to disembark and begin your advance." Ludwig hung up
the mouthpiece and looked at his brother. "I have my orders," he repeated,
"and I have every intention of carrying them out. You would be wise to
do the same," and with that he
turned and walked off the bridge of the doomship and onto the main deck, leaving Jazzman to consider what he should do now.
"Hurry up there, you," shouted the ship's Commandant of Troops, a stout Rocky Wrench, "the Baron will be here any minute now, and I want you all armed and in formation at the boarding point when he does. Now move!"
"Is there a difficulty of some kind, Commandant?" came Ludwig's voice from behind him, "Because if you are unable to motivate your troops to do their duty then I may be forced to replace you," he raised his voice so all present could hear him, "with somebody who will find new ways to motivate them!"
There was silence on deck as the Commandant stammered, "N... no, no sir, B... Baron sir," and turned to face the uneasy battery of ground troops. "Now you heard the Baron, MOVE!" The troops obviously needed no further prompting as they hurried about their preparations.
Ludwig turned toward the nervous Rocky Wrench in front of him. "Excellent work, Commandant," he said in a tone in his voice that suggested the incident had never occurred, "how do you do it? Now I want this battery of troops deployed within the hour so we can liftoff and advance to Monstro Town. It would serve no tactical purpose for a doomship to arrive after the Bob-ombs have already completed their assault."
Suddenly, a blue-shelled Paratroopa came running up to Ludwig bearing an official-looking sheet of paper. "Baron," the turtle shouted, "incoming report from headquarters." The turtle handed the paper to Ludwig, who read over it carefully, his face turning purple as he read.
"That is not possible!" he shouted as he finished. He then tore the paper in two and hurled the pieces off the side of his ship and stormed back onto the bridge, leaving the Commandant, the messenger-Troopa, and all others who heard very confused.
"Sergeant Flutter," called Flatton as the first wave of Bob-ombs poured over the cliffside into Monstro Town, "they're here!"
"Already?" roared Flutter incredulously, "How? Never mind, just get yourself and these other civilians indoors. Double-time there!"
Flutter's next command was cut short by a deafening series of explosions as the Bob-ombs hurled themselves against the walls of the cliff dwellings and self-destructed. Flutter looked at the top of the cliff wall to see rank upon rank more falling into the small town-square. He needed to think of something quickly, or the town would be overrun.
"Sergeant Hover," he called to the purple-shelled Sky Troopa on his left, "get the wing here, double-time!" Hover saluted and flew off to assemble the Monstro Town Sky Troopa wing. "And you," Flutter continued, "get these-" he was interrupted by a scream from the ground below. He looked down to see a circle of activated Bob-ombs closing in on a green-shelled Terrapin who was attempting to hold them back with a saber. He was putting up a valiant struggle, but the Bob-ombs were closing in, regardless, "JAGGER!" Flutter screamed, as if it were some sort of battle cry, and swooped down upon the scene. He kicked one of the Bob-ombs out of his way as he grabbed Jagger by the arm and lifted him off the ground just as the remaining Bob-ombs hurled themselves at the spot where Jagger was just standing and exploded.
"First Sergeant, are you nuts?" Jagger asked incredulously, "I mean, you just kicked an armed explosive out of your way! Do you know what could've happened?"
"I know what would've happened to you if I hadn't," Flutter replied as he set Jagger on the ground near the door to the bunkers inside the cliff, "and that wasn't an option, kid." At Jagger's puzzled look he added, "One day you'll understand that I didn't leave the Troop to betray my people, I left to save them from Bowser's betrayal." Having said this, Flutter flew quickly away to begin his counterattack on the Bob-ombs, leaving Jagger with a lot to think about.
Flutter looked around from his post high in the air. "Where are they?" he wondered out loud, "The Monstro Wing is supposed to be the fastest-" His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of beating wings. He looked behind him to see the valiant Sky Troopas of the Monstro Wing descending with explosives of their own upon the Bob-ombs still atop the cliff. "Yes!" he shouted victoriously as he swooped down to lead the assault.
"Glad you could join us, sir," greeted Hover as Flutter arrived, "for a minute we were worried that you might have gotten caught in an explosion."
"You can't get rid of me that easily," Flutter joked, "Now then, left flight, deploy, now!" As he said this the Sky Troopas to Flutter's left dropped their explosives on the Bob-ombs below. There was a brief pause, and a resounding BOOM as the explosives hit the ground and destroyed an entire rank of the walking death machines. "Odd," mused Flutter, "shouldn't they have exploded and taken out the rest when they got hit?" Flutter was about to fly low to take a closer look when a shadow fell over the battlefield. Flutter looked up to see a doomship gliding at low altitude over the town, cannons ready. As Flutter saw this he said the only thing his brilliant military mind could think of: "Oh, CRUD!"
"Ludwig," Jazzman pleaded as he looked down from the bridge onto the helpless denizens of Monstro Town, "don't do this, please. If you start rainin' fire on 'em now it'll be a slaughter." Ludwig stood motionless at the controls. "Look," continued Jazzman, "haven't we done enough? I mean, the joint is packed with Bob-ombs, and there's still those cats we let off back at Seaside. There's no need to do this."
"I am fully aware of the ramifications of the actions I am about to undertake," was all Ludwig said.
Seeing no way to convince his twin that what he was doing was wrong, Jazzman stood by, watching helplessly as Ludwig prepared to open fire on the defenseless town below. Finally, one last tactic came to him. But will it work, Jazzman thought as he watched his brother at the controls.
"Extend the main cannon." Ludwig called into the intercom mouthpiece.
It's worth a gamble, decided Jazzman. "If Karma were here," he murmured just loud enough for Ludwig to hear, "she'd have a fit."
Ludwig paused what he was doing at the mention of Karma's name. "What... what did you say?" he asked, turning to face Jazzman.
"I said," coaxed Jazzman, "that if your Met was here, she'd go nuts at what you're about to do, daddy-o." Jazzman stared at Ludwig for a few seconds that seemed like hours, waiting for his reply.
At length, his reply was cut-off
by the voice of the ship's gunner over the intercom. "We are prepared to
fire, Baron," he boasted, "and awaiting your orders." Ludwig stared at
the intercom as if he had never seen it
before. "Sir," came the gunner again, "we cannot fire without your orders." Slowly, Ludwig stepped over to the intercom and picked up the mouthpiece.
This is it, thought Jazzman, c'mon, Kooky, say it. Just say "abort" and it'll never've happened.
"Transfer weapons operations to the bridge," commanded Ludwig, "I will control the firing process myself."
Jazzman's heart sank in despair. He was about to do it. Ludwig was about to slaughter an entire town full of innocents, and there was nothing he could do about it. Well, thought Jazzman, daddy-o sent me to play along on this gig to learn how they swing here, and I'm learnin' more than I really wanted to. Maybe the cats back at Yoshi's Isle were right about these people.
Ludwig raised the targeting mechanism to his eyes and scanned the battlefield below until he found a suitable target, and pressed the button on the controls marked "Lock."
"Target acquired," came the computer's
voice, and Ludwig hit the Fire
button. "Firing in three...
There was a thunderous roar as a terrifyingly powerful energy bolt shot through the barrel of the main cannon and struck the ground below, followed by an Earth-shaking Ba-BOOM!
Despairingly, Jazzman moped to the window and looked down on the town to see...
... What, he thought as he gazed upon a huge crater at the top of the cliff containing the charred remnants of a Bob-omb battalion.
"Kooky, what-" Jazzman stammered, "I mean, I thought..." he looked at his brother, confused, "So how're ya goin' to write this one off?"
Ludwig looked absent-mindedly away as his hand found its way to the targetter. "Oops," he murmured as he ripped the focussing mechanism out and hurled it out the nearest garbage chute, "it would appear that an individual has sabotaged the weapons array. Oh well." he looked at Jazzman, grinning, and Jazzman grinned back as Ludwig pointed his doomship back toward Seaside to gather the invasion force and return to Bowser's Keep.
"Is everyone alright?" Flutter inquired as he stepped into the residence of Goomb, the shopowner.
"Just fine, First sergeant," Goomb answered nonchalantly, "we've been prepared for this day since Bowser first discovered we were here." He walked over to one of the solid-rock walls and commented, "These are six feet thick!"
"It looks like you had more insight than anyone in the town," Flutter mused, "Did you ever think of joining the regiment? You're just the kind of leader we need."
"No," Goomb disagreed, "We already have just the kind of leader we need, General."
"General?" Flutter looked confusedly at Goomb, "No, I... I-"
"I think," interrupted Goomb, "that protecting the town against a half-million Bob-ombs is grounds for a battlefield commission."
"I second that," came a voice from
the door. Flutter turned to see Jagger holding two shoulderboards each
bearing four silver stars, with Hover and Flatton standing on either side
of him. "And I'll tell you, General," he continued, "that the town has
already voted on this, and the vote was unanimous. So," he began a standard
Koopish commissioning speech, "by order of the citizens of this settlement
of Monstro Town, you, First Sergeant Flutter, are hereby requested and
required to accept the rank of General, with all the authority thereof,
effective immediately." Jagger stepped toward Flutter, placed the stars
in his left hand and snapped to attention. "Present," he called over his
right shoulder, "ARMS!" Hover saluted, and Flatton,
having no hands or arms, remained motionless.
Flutter clicked his heels together and returned the salute. "I hope," he began, "that I can count on my board of command here," he motioned toward Jagger, Hover, and Flatton, "to help prepare the town in case this happens again." He turned and looked sternly at Jagger, "But then again, I suppose you'll be returning to the Koopa Troop, won't you?"
"No sir," Jagger shook his head, "You were right about Bowser, and I can't believe I didn't realize that." he paused before adding, "And you were right about something else."
"What's that?" Flutter inquired.
Jagger smiled as he answered, "This is my home."
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