"Blast it," General Flutter bellowed as he swept a stack of papers off his desk. "That's the fifth time this month!"
"What is it, Sarge?" asked Lieutenant General Jagger. "What happened this time?"
Flutter closed his eyes and silently counted to ten. "What happened," he replied with as much calmness as he could muster, "is that we just lost the Bean Valley Squadron."
Flutter slowly nodded. "They were ambushed over Seaside by a doomship- looked like the Amadeus- and there were only twelve survivors. And those twelve just sent me their report."
Jagger raised his eyebrows. "It looks to me, Sarge," he noted, "that our squadrons are attracting a lot of unwanted attention from the Koopa Empire. If we keep suffering this many casualties... and if our forces take TOO much of a beating, it could mean..."
"I know, I know," Flutter nodded, his fists clenched as he muttered the one word he had feared for three years, "invasion."
Meanwhile, Ludwig paced the deck of his doomship, the Amadeus. A Terrapin ran up to him and saluted.
"What is your report?" Ludwig asked without even returning the salute.
"We still need time to prepare, Baron. The troops-"
"Need I remind you that you are behind schedule as is?"
"But Baron Ludwig, we-"
"You have your orders! If you cannot carry them out, we shall have to find a replacement."
The Terrapin gulped. He knew exactly what Ludwig meant by "replacement".
The Terrapin snapped to attention. "Right away, sir!"
Ludwig watched the Lieutenant as he left. "Commandant," he said over his shoulder to his Rocky Wrench Commandant, "refresh my memory. What is the purpose of invading this town?"
"I'm not certain, Baron," replied the Commandant, "and it seems that a division of Bob-ombs would be a more effective first strike."
Ludwig nodded. "My thoughts exactly," he clipped. He turned back toward the deck of the ship and narrowed his eyes. "In the meantime," he snarled, "we will continue swatting Flutter's flies at every opportunity."
All of a sudden, they felt something hit them. They were under attack! Ludwig threw himself to the deck and looked around. "General Quarters," he shouted, "all hands to-"
"Um, Baron sir?" interrupted the Commandant.
"What is it?" Ludwig demanded.
"Sir, that was turbulence."
Ludwig froze for a moment, and stood up. "Good grief," he sighed, "my nerves are frazzled from being behind enemy lines."
"Frazzled," chuckled the Commandant. "Is that the technical term for your condition, sir?"
Ludwig turned slowly toward the Commandant and glared at him. Feeling his Baron's glare, the Commandant stopped laughing very quickly. "Sorry, sir," he apologized, snapping to attention.
"At ease. And in the future I would endeavor to avoid advising me about the usage of technical terms."
Ludwig watched as the Commandant went elsewhere on the ship.
"Now then," he muttered to himself. "Back to the matter at hand..."
Ludwig began to pace the deck, planning his next act of genius.
"Okay," Flutter snapped to the squadron of Sky Troopas before him, "your mission, which you have accepted by attending this briefing, is as follows. The first flight is to fly reconnaisance ahead of the rest of the unit to see if there are any enemy targets that seem to be likely places to launch an attack on Monstro. If so, they will fly over each one and drop a charge over it to mark it for assault. After reports indicate the first flight has begun their return to base, the rest of the squadron will advance and attack all marked posts. Remember, our purpose is not to mount an offensive, but to counter the enemy's. Any questions?"
There was silence from the Troopas.
"Excellent," Flutter nodded, "there is just one more thing. The final bit is that you may see Sky Troopas that you once knew before we all deserted. You must not hesitate to kill them if they see you. Believe me, you'll be doing them a favor." Flutter surveyed his troops for a moment before adding, "Well, you have your orders, now LET'S MOVE! Jagger you're with me. Fears, you stay back and defend the town. Everyone else, form up and Lock & Load!" Flutter turned on his heel and walked into his headquarters building with Jagger behind him. "Jagger," he said over his shoulder, "I'm worried about you."
"Why worry about me?" Jagger asked. "I'm not thinking about going over to Bowser's side anymore. Not after what he did to us last time." He shuddered.
"I suppose so." Flutter sounded doubtful. Flutter closed his eyes and added, "But there are those who were less loyal to the troop then you who claim that the Bob-omb assault wasn't even authorized by Bowser."
Jagger stood there confused. "You mean to tell me," he inquired, "that people think... well, what in blazes DO they think?"
Flutter shook his head. "I don't know, Jagger," Flutter responded, "I just know that there are those among us who seem to want to go back. In fact..." his voice trailed off.
"In fact what, sir?" Jagger asked.
Flutter took another breath as if standing in defiance of the cold truth of what he was about to say. "Jagger," he declared, "I believe we have a spy!"
"A spy?!" Jagger exclaimed. "You can't be serious!"
"I'm afraid so..." Flutter sighed.
"Well who can it be?"
"Haven't a clue... but it has to be someone fairly high up in the chain of command, or at least a friend of someone up in there."
"But we're not supposed to share anything with civilians!"
"Well, you know we're a little lax on regulations. I just hope we haven't been TOO lax..."
"Wish I knew who it was," Jagger muttered.
"Me too," Flutter replied. Then he looked towards the young Terrapin. Jagger had once been one of Bowser most loyal Troopas. Could it be perhaps that he...? Flutter shook his head to get rid of his doubts. He was just being paranoid. If he couldn't trust Jagger, who COULD he trust?
"You okay?" Jagger asked the Sky Troopa.
"Yeah..." Flutter said slowly. "Yeah, I'm fine. Let's move out!"
This is what I live for, thought Ludwig as he surveyed the deck of his mile-long vessel. This is what my life revolves around. Ludwig clenched his fists. It had been HIS fault that the Bob-omb assault on Monstro Town two years ago had failed. Well, thought Ludwig, it won't happen again. "Commandant," he called out.
"Sir," answered the stout little Rocky Wrench behind him.
"I want a combat readiness report from all decks, all sections immediately."
The Commandant saluted. "I'll have it by the end of the hour, sir."
"See that it is so, Commandant."
He drove his claws into the armrests of his chair and scowled. Oh, what a punishment Bowser had put him through! Even though he gave that excuse of faulty machinery, Bowser had locked him in the dungeon for two months. Well, that was behind him now. Now there was no meddling twin brother to stop him from his finest hour.
"Helm," he said, sitting up in his command chair, "ETA (estimated time to arrival) to Monstro Town?"
"Um, sir, we're not ready to invade."
"I'll decide that, Lieutenant!" snapped Ludwig. "And who said anything about invading yet?" Ludwig grinned his one-toothed grin and commanded, "Stealth! Helm, set course for Monstro Town at Mach 3. We're going to have a little chat with our friend."
A weird shadow stalked through the shadows of Monstro. It fired a sleep-dart into the sentry on duty and snuck into headquarters. When there, it rifled into the hidden files and extracted a choice one. It then quietly slunk out again.
Flutter muttered to himself in exasperation. Imagine forgetting the file! It only contained the most vital information they had! "Must be losing my edge..." he mumbled. Soon he came to the sleeping sentry. "Hey!" he yelled as he shook the young K-9 by his shoulders. "What's the idea of sleepin' on the job?"
He soon discovered, however, that the sentry was in a much deeper slumber than he had thought, and the dart sticking out of his neck left little doubt why.
"Oh no!" Flutter yelled as he ran into the room. A quick search proved him right. "The file's gone!"
Flutter blew his whistle and all
Troopas, Terapins, Terra Cottas, Paratroopas and elite Sky Troopas and
Malakoopas who weren't on duty assembled in the town square within seconds.
Flutter walked forward and
surveyed the regiment from the doorway of headquarters atop a cliff.
"Stand at," he bellowed, "EASE!"
Flutter paced as the eyes of his troops turned toward him. "Troops, we have a traitor in our midst." He waited for that to sink in before adding, "He's been feeding information to the Koopa Empire for weeks, and now he has taken our most highly classified file," he took a deep breath, "the plans for the Avenger."
There was great murmuring and whispering among them until Flutter blew his whistle again.
"What is this? We're supposed to be soldiers here! Now I want to know if anyone's noticed anybody acting suspicious lately." There was a long silence. "Well?"
There was silence until a Terrapin snapped to attention and took a step forward.
"Yes," Flutter acknowledged.
"Sir," shouted the terapin, "Staff Sergeant Silverblade, sir."
Flutter nodded, "Continue, Sergeant."
"Sir, continued the Terrapin in a normal voice, "I saw..." his voice trailed off and he looked around nervously, "I saw Jagger poking through files unordered the other day."
Flutter trembled slightly under the influence of temper. Why that no-good, low down, rotten bit of dust! He would get what was coming to him, that was for sure... But now he had business.
"Very good. Prepare to move out."
As the troops moved to their positions, no one noticed one soldier slinking away from the line.
"Did you obtain the files that we required?" Ludwig asked.
"Right here," his companion said with a grin as he handed them over.
Ludwig looked through them for a moment until he was satisfied that they were indeed the correct files.
"Did you have any difficulties?"
"Oh no, quite the opposite. They have no idea who the traitor is... in fact, Flutter seems to think it's Jagger!"
"Hmm..." Ludwig smiled. "How ever did he arrive at that conclusion?"
"I couldn't begin to imagine..." the Terrapin smirked.
"Very well, now get back before they notice you. Keep this up, and you will be very well rewarded, Silverblade."
"Yes sir!" Silverblade saluted.
Silverblade turned on his heel and strode out of Baron Ludwig's command room. After he was gone, Ludwig narrowed his eyes and whispered to his Commandant of Troops, "Yes, he WILL be rewarded... with his ETERNAL reward!"
"Is that wise, sir? He did help us out a lot."
Ludwig spun around to face the commandant. "He has also spent quite a bit of time among the Monstro regiment, and I doubt that he can be trusted after being exposed to their treasonous ideas."
"His treasonous ideas?" Ludwig heard someone mutter behind him. "Look who's talking..."
Ludwig spun around to face a group of Koopa Troopas behind him.
"I demand to know who it was that was whispering behind my back this instant!"
There was absolute silence broken only by the shuffling of feet and nervous glances.
"I am awaiting the treasonous Troopa to come forth!"
No one responded.
"Very well, I'll find out who it was. In the meantime, I must discuss something with the commandant. All of you are dismissed."
The Troopas gladly dashed out the door. Ludwig turned back towards the commandant.
"Now then. First of all, Commandant, if the Troopa who foolishly decided he was entitled to an opinion other than that provided by ship's protocol doesn't step forward in the next hour, I want the entire bridge crew replaced."
"What shall I do with the current crew, sir?" asked the commandant.
Ludwig merely glanced over his shoulder and countered, "What do I do with faulty pieces of equipment? Crewmen are no different, Commandant. Let no one forget that."
The commandant swallowed hard and gasped, "Yes sir."
"Now as for these files: I understand they are blueprints for something. It might be interesting to see what. Come look, Commandant." The commandant walked toward Ludwig and looked at the closed folder he was holding. As Ludwig opened the folder, the origin of the blueprints was clearly visible.
"A Doomship?!" they both whispered in disbelief.
"How is that possible?" Ludwig asked. "They don't have anywhere near the skills and materials required!"
"Well regardless," said the commandant. "The blueprints are here."
"Hmm... this is not what I had expected..." Ludwig bit his lip. "I have to report this to Bowser." He looked around him, and added, "In the meantime, Commandant, let us prepare to attack the town before they have time to counter our efforts again."
"Yes sir." replied the commandant, saluting, and he stepped off the bridge onto the main deck.
"What?!" shouted Jagger, incredulously. " You can't be serious!"
"I'm afraid so, General," replied Silverblade. "By order of General Flutter, you are confined to quarters and relieved of duty until further notice."
"This is ridiculous! I heve to-"
"Please sir, don't make me place you under arrest as well."
"I demand to speak with General Flutter immediately!"
"I'm afraid that's not possible. The general is far too busy to speak with you right now. However, he will be able to by tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow?! You expect me to just sit around 'til tomorrow?!"
"I'm afraid you don't have a choice, sir. Now please come with me."
Jagger grudgingly allowed himself to be taken to his quarters under armed guard. "Can I even know what I'm charged with?" he demanded of Silverblade.
"Suspicion of treason," replied Silverblade impassively. "That's all I'm authorized to tell you."
"Suspicion," Jagger muttered, "that's rich. I'll wager Flutter doesn't even know about this. I swear, if Flutter didn't authorize this I'll have you discharged for it."
You won't get the chance, thought Silverblade with a smirk.
Silverblade locked the door and walked away to give his report to Ludwig.
Jagger sat stewing in his room.
"Suspicion of treason... I don't believe this! Flutter wouldn't... he
COULDN'T have authorized this!" He continued to grumble and gripe, until he noticed something. "Hey... what's that hissing noise?"
He tuned his ears to try to isolate the sound. After a few moments he did a double-take and ran to the nearest window. "It couldn't be," he declared, watching a trail of smoke following seemingly nothing through the sky. "If that's an engine trail, where's the ship it's attached to?"
"What is wrong with the stealth system?" Ludwig demanded of the commandant.
"I... I don't know, sir, we're venting exhaust even through the cloak field. I don't understand, our trail should be hidden." He looked at Ludwig in horror. "If they can see our engine trail... they can find us!"
His suspicions were confirmed by a resounding THUD as something exploded against the side of the ship.
"Lower stealth," Ludwig commanded. "Enough hide-and-seek. We will stand and fight!"
Silverblade looked skyward as the Amadeus de-cloaked.
"What is that idiot doing?!" he screamed. "He was supposed to come in under stealth!"
"I would very much like to know how you knew that," came a voice from behind him.
Silverblade turned and gazed in horror at General Flutter.
Flutter, rather than listening to his explanation, merely stepped toward Silverblade, snatched his saber from him, and used it to decapitate him. "Go get Jagger out of that cell," he told a nearby Malakoopa, "and tell him to take command of the infantry division. We'll need his skills against that thing."
"Yes sir!" the Malakoopa responded, and rushed off to get Jagger.
"I can't believe I ever suspected Jagger..." Flutter sighed guiltily. "But I'll worry about that later. The battle is about to begin."
On the bridge of the Amadeus, Ludwig looked down.
"Awaiting your orders, Baron," said the commandant.
"Fire," Ludwig replied.
Just like two years ago, there was a deafening roar as a blast of plasma and raw magic shot through the ship's cannon and hit the ground.
"Target the headquarters," Ludwig ordered, "No! Better yet, target the cliff homes.
There was a deafening explosion, but not from Monstro Town.
"What was that?!" Ludwig screamed.
"You're not the only one who can use spies, Baron," said a Paratroopa from behind him.
"YOU! You were the one who was whispering behind my back!"
"You really are a genius, aren't you? Well, wish I could talk longer, but General Flutter is waiting to hear from me."
Before anyone could react, the Paratroopa jumped overboard and zipped out of sight.
Ludwig clenched his fists in a hatred that was beyond words. "Find out what that... CREATURE did to my ship, correct it, and lay waste to this town. If there are any survivors down there, I'll make sure there are none up here!"
Ludwig's crew scurried to their posts to carry out orders, but before they could begin to check for the sabateur's "present" there was another explosion from the side of the ship.
"That was a cannon impact!" Ludwig exclaimed. "Where'd that come from?"
"I'm glad you were ahead of them, Jagger," complimented Flutter from the bridge of the Avenger. "But how and why did you build this without my knowledge?"
"I suspected we had a spy for some time," Jagger explained, "but I knew that if I told you, there would be the risk that they would find out I was on to them, and they would become more cautious. So I had a few known-loyalists help me build this in Bean Valley. As for the plans," he grinned, "they were a fabrication from beginning to end. They'd've done Silverblade a whole lot of no good."
Flutter laughed at the irony of it all. "So how did you find out who the spy was?"
Jagger grinned back. "My spy told me."
"Way to go Jagger," Flutter grinned. "Now let's show these guys how REAL soldiers fight!"
"Yes sir!" Jagger saluted.
There was another round of explosions on the Amadeus.
"WHAT'S HAPPENING?!" Ludwig screamed.
"It appears that they have Bob-omb cannons, Baron."
Ludwig clenched his fists. "Very good, Watson!' he rebuked, "Now why aren't we returning fire?"
"Sir," the Commandant apologized, "the main cannons are out."
Ludwig's jaw dropped as he comprehended his situation, and his eyes narrowed. "Then bring us in closer," he ordered, "and board them."
Another series of explosions rocked the deck.
"Sir, I don't see how we're going to be able to get in close enough. They're firing like mad."
"WELL WHAT CAN WE DO?!" Ludwig screamed. "JUST SIT HERE?!
Ludwig's eyes widened with realization. "Commandant," he whispered, "have the Fire Brothers open fire upon that ship. We'll ground it."
The commandant repeated this order to the crew. Instantly the ship's Fire Brother guards scurried up to the deck to breath their deadly breath upon the rebel airship.
The plan worked. The Avenger's wooden hull was set ablaze, and its engine core exploded. However, the explosion took out Amadeus's weapon systems.
"Brace for impact!" shouted Flutter as the Avenger hurtled toward the ground. There was scarcely time for his order to be carried out before the massive aisrhip hit the ground with a series of deafening explosions, then all was quiet and dark.
Ludwig grinned a satisfied smile as he watched rhe malcontents' ship burn. They had gotten what they deserved. "Take us back," he ordered. "Our work here is done."
"Sir," countermanded the commandant, "the ship wasn't destroyed."
"I know, but it is grounded, and the troops couldn't have survived that crash."
"Then why, sir," questioned the Commandant, "am I picking up lifesigns on my scanners?"
Ludwig stood, dumbfounded. With the weapons down there was no way to finish the job. He couldn't fire, and he couldn't order a boarding without risking the lives of his own troops. Then, he had an idea.
"Then we'll land this infernal machine right on top of them!"
There was silence on the bridge. "Well," Ludwig rebuked, "what are you waiting for? I gave you an order."
The computer displays flickered.
"Now what?" Ludwig sighed.
"We seem to be losing power, Baron," came the response. "I'm not sure it would be a good idea to land on them... we might not have enough power to lift off again."
"That is the price we will pay,"
snarled Ludwig. Yes, he thought contentedly, this will be our final vengeance.
With no weapons it comes down to the oldest of all battle tactics, mass
against mass. In that
primitive equation, Amadeus reigned supreme.
"Oh..." groaned Flutter. "What happened?"
A cacophany of beeping and alert sirens came from the helm.
"What...?" he muttered as he painfully pulled himself over to the control panel. To his horror, he saw the Amadeus descending. Any second now, they would be ground to dust.
Fluter frantically entered the engine ignition sequence.
"Unable to comply," came the computer's voice.
Flutter activated emergency power and tried again.
"Unable to comply," came the voice of doom once more. "Loss of engine drive."
Flutter cast his eyes toward the descending Amadeus and cursed. Ludwig had won. There was nothing he could do.
Then, he had an idea.
"Maintain speed and heading," Ludwig ordered as the terrified Troopa crew attempted to break off from their suicidal course.
"Baron," called the commandant, "look!"
Ludwig afforded himself a glance out the forward window. To his horror, the Avenger was moving. It was escaping.
"Increase speed!" he commanded. "Don't let them escape!"
"Sir," whispered the commandant urgently, "if we increase speed there will be no chance of survival for us."
Ludwig simply picked up the commandant
and hurled him out the forward window to his death. "Increase speed," he
repeated over his right shoulder. The terrified Troopa helmsman immediately
obeyed. Ludwig looked back out the window just in time to watch Avenger
lift off and hurtle toward Monstro Town. "Flutter," he muttered under his
breath, "I curse you. I curse you to the flaming pits of the underworld."
Flutter had won. He, and his ship, would survive, while Amadeus would not.
Ludwig chuckled at the irony of it. The advantage had been his from the
beginning. And still, the cosmos were not forgiving. Our defeat was
written in the stars, Ludwig decided, it must have been. How, with a fair chance, could we have lost to this scum?
It was Ludwig's last thought, for at that moment, the nose of the Koopa flagship struck the ground, sending a series of explosions rippling up the ship.
The celebration in Monstro Town lasted long into the night. The destruction of the Amadeus, the death of Ludwig von Koopa, and the new (albeit battered) Monstro Town doomship were all on the forefront of everyone's mind. Goomb's shop was packed with happy customers, buying up like it was Christmas. And of course, there was a banquet in honor of the heroes of the great battle, the fearless crew of the Avenger!
Flutter lowered his glass and chuckled at Goomb's children, who were gawking at Jagger and the others and bombarding them with questions about the battle.
"Didja beat him in the head?"
"Didja bite his nose off?"
"Hold on!" Jagger yelled in desperation. "One at a time!"
"Hey, I gotta question," said a young K-9. "How didja get the ship ta move if the engine was broke?"
"Yeah, that's a good question," Jagger wondered, turning to Flutter. "How did you get the engine working, General?"
Flutter put his glass away. "Well,"
he began, "the computer told me that the engines wouldn't work. I asked
it why, and it said that they were disconnected from their power supply.
Well, luckily she's a small ship, or I
wouldn't have had time to do this. Anyway, I opened up a hatch to the engine, and sure enough, there was a big piece of pipe that connected the power source to the engine missing."
"What'd ya do?!" the young ones asked, excitedly bouncing up and down.
Flutter grinned, remembering the simplicity of his solution. "I grabbed Jagger's sword and shoved it in place of the pipe. The computer did the rest. Lucky thing the pipe and the sword were both the same size. Of course, now that I think of it, it's lucky that it didn't explode."
Jagger laughed at the ridiculous solution that had saved their town. "And you said that carrying a sword was ridiculous in modern warfare."
Flutter paused, and grinned. "So I did, didn't I?"
"That's our General," commented Goomb sarcastically, "Always counting on his luck." Goomb shook his head. "Flutter, how did you ever survive in Bowser's Guard?"
Flutter grinned, and leaned forward as if to whisper a secret to Goomb and Jagger. "By carrying a Bullet Bill cannon instead of a sword," he said flatly and lifted his glass. "To the Avenger," he cheered. And with that, the citizens of Monstro toasted the bold crew once more.
None of them even noticed a lone Malakoopa slinking out of the party in the direction of Bowser's Keep.
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