Jagger surveyed himself in the mirror and sighed. This uniform was just not going to cooperate, he could see that now. First the boots had refused to accept a shine, and now the jacket wasn't going to fit over his shell. With a sigh, Jagger removed his armored shell and resigned himself to wearing the infernal Dress Green Coat by itself. Well, Jagger thought, now let's see if it fits. He looked at his reflection in his full-length mirror and saw that the coat fit perfectly when worn as it should be. There was just one thing wrong.
"Argh!" Jagger bellowed as he removed the coat and hurled his shell at the doorway. "I forgot my battle-ribbons and medals!"
"I know you're a little upset, Jagger," came a baritone voice from the doorway of Jagger's cliffside home, "but does that mean I have to dodge armored shells every time I walk in the door?"
Jagger did a double-take at the interruption and saw General Flutter standing at the doorway holding the shell Jagger had tossed over his head. "Sorry Sarge," Jagger sighed, referring to Flutter by his nickname from his days as a First Sergeant, "I just... well, I just can't stand this uniform. I'm used to a battle shell- I mean, we were born with shells- but this ridiculous coat-"
"Is the dress uniform used in this regiment and I'm not going to have my Executive Officer welcoming a dignitary in anything less!" Flutter interrupted, ending the discussion. "Now, let's see if I can give you a hand with those medals."
"Right." Jagger agreed, placing his coat on the table in front of him and removing from the wall the gold-framed plaque that held his medals. "So Sarge, what's up with this ceremony?"
"I told you, We're welcoming an important dignitary- that citation chord goes on the left shoulder- and we're going to make sure we treat this as a formal greeting, which means dress uniforms, unfortunately."
"I know that, Sarge, but I still don't know who this 'dignitary' is supposed to be."
Flutter looked up from the uniform at Jagger for a moment before replying, "Alright, but keep this quiet. Monstermama is on her way back."
"Monstermama?" Jagger demanded, nearly ripping all three stars off of his shoulderboard. "I thought she was hiding from the Troop!"
"She is, and keep your voice down, genius. But the Troop is looking all over the world for her, and she's running out of places to run to. So, she decided this is the safest place for her, Besides, she said she had urgent information to deliver."
"I see," Jagger replied, fastening the last two medals onto his coat. "So, does she know that we've made a few... changes around here?"
"If you mean like rebuilding the city on terraces, no. But all the more reason she'd be safer here. Even if the Troop does find her and try to get to her, they're not getting into Monstro City without an airship, some heavy firepower, and an adept-level Magikoopa."
Jagger decided not to point out the fact that the Koopa Troop had all of the above. Instead, he buttoned his coat and looked at his reflection once more to check himself out, then continued. "So you think that she's coming here because she thinks we have time to be her personal bodyguards."
Flutter stood up straight and declared, "Think what you want, Jagger, but she is the owner of the land this city is built on. More importantly, she was one of the few people willing to risk her life to provide a haven for Koopa Malcontents, and we're going to make sure she feels perfectly welcome."
"Which leaves only one problem," Jagger muttered gloomily, "this uniform. It's too tight and the coat looks like a skirt."
"Maybe that's why it's called a dress uniform," Flutter jested, "Now come on, the Landlady's escort should be arriving in minutes." And with that, the two Koopa Generals stepped out the door of Jagger's cliff-home and onto the terrace overlooking Monstro City.
It was a grand sight, Jagger decided. The city had been carved into the side of a cliff face in such a way that the citizens could not be dislodged without a fight. The city could not be bombed from the air, because it was built almost vertically. It could also not be surrounded and besieged, because there were entrances at the top and bottom of the cliff, and besieging armies on both ends would not be able to communicate with each other. In addition to the fortified design, the city had also been shielded magically to prevent Magikoopa Adepts like Kamek from being able to effectively use their magic. Most importantly to the people of Monstro City, at the top of the cliff loomed the barbed electric fences and anti-airship Bullet Bill Turrets of Fort Monstro, preventing an enemy from sending, for example, an army of walking explosives to rain down from the top of the cliff. From the upper-level Terrace where Jagger's home was, one could see the entire city and the valley below, and it was a grand sight indeed.
"So how's she getting here, Sarge?" Jagger asked, "Does she have an airship?"
"She's being carried by a flight of Malakoopas," Flutter replied.
"Carried?" Jagger repeated, confused. "She's being carried, as in, manually picked up and carried?"
"There was no other way to get air transport for her, and ground travel was too risky and would take too long. So she agreed to this."
"Her information MUST be urgent," Jagger muttered, and the two generals walked up the flights of stairs leading to the landing pad at Fort Monstro.
Jazzman von Koopa sat in his room playing his saxophone absent-mindedly, trying to get his mind off of the events of the past month. Trying, that is, to no avail. Jazzman had been, in the course of a month, placed in command of a doomship and ordered, along with Ludwig, his twin brother, and Karma, his sister-in-law, to attack Yoshi's Island, where he had been raised.
Jazzman sighed. There was no way he or Karma would have attacked Yoshi's Island, but they had worried about Ludwig, Bowser's eldest son. It had been a great shock to both Karma and Jazzman when Ludwig suggested they "take steps to ensure that the mission was less than successful". However, the mission that the three rebel Koopalings had intended to accomplish, to land on Yoshi's Island and establish a treaty with the Yoshi's, had been stopped by Bowser's third son, Roy, in an act of stupidity unrivaled in the history of the modern world.
Of course, Jazzman thought, that stupid move DID turn out in his favor this time... sort of. Roy's doomship had attacked and crippled Ludwig's, Karma's, and Jazzman's once he somehow found out about their rebellious intentions, and set off toward Yoshi's Island to complete the attack himself. However, he never made it. A mile off the coast of Yoshi's Island he was shot down by a plasma cannon of unknown origin.
Unknown, Jazzman thought with a grin, to everyone else. Geez, Bowser's gonna be ticked when he finds out who that was.
At that moment, there was a knock at the door. "C'mon in," Jazzman called. On cue, Jazzman saw the half-Yoshi, half-Koopa visage of Karma A. Koopa present itself at the doorway.
"So, Jazzman," Karma began casually, "what's up?"
"Not a lot," Jazzman replied, "just blowin' on my sax a little. What're you doin' here this time o' day?"
"Well," Karma answered, "I came here to ask you a couple of questions that've been weighing on my mind since we got back from the Yoshi's Island mission."
"Like what?" Jazzman entertained, putting his saxophone in its case.
"Well," Karma sighed, as if looking for just the right way to begin her interrogation, "what was it that shot down Roy's ship? I know you know."
Jazzman fell backwards out of his chair. "W... what?!" he stammered. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh c'mon, you mean to tell me that Roy's story about a plasma cannon from somewhere on Yoshi's Island is true?"
"You were there. Believe your scanners if ya don't believe me."
"I think the scanners were wrong." Karma leaned closer to Jazzman. "And I think you know what it really was. I mean," she leaned back into her chair as she spoke, "where'd the Yoshis get the kind of magic and machinery it would take to build a plasma cannon, let alone one so powerful it could take out the Crusher?"
Jazzman sighed and looked at Karma. She had always been able to tell when he wasn't telling the full truth. "Okay," he capitulated, "It's like this. Have you heard of Warlord Monstro?"
Karma nodded. "He's the one Monstro Town was named for."
"Right," Jazzman agreed, "but there's a lot more to that story. Y'see, Monstro was the top dog of the empire under Morton I, but he was kicked outta his position when Bowser took the throne. I guess Bowser was afraid Monstro's sense of honor'd get in the way of his plans. Anyway, for whatever reason, Monstro found himself unemployed, and he wasn't too happy about it. 'Course he was hoppin' mad when he found out that Bowser'd taken the throne by assassinating his father. He left the empire in a hurry, destroying everything of Bowser's he could along the way. That was when he set up a safehaven for people on the run from Bowser, or anyone who wasn't happy with Bowser's politics- especially if they were Koopas."
"And that's Monstro City," Karma interrupted.
"Right," Jazzman replied, "except it was Monstro Town then. 'Course, you already knew that. Anyway, after a while Monstro got tired of running a town, so he signed the job of running it over to a Toadswoman everybody called Monstermama. Three days later, he disappeared, and that's where the history books end the story. Now, here's the fun part." Jazzman looked around to make sure nobody was listening before continuing, "He left that day for Yoshi's Island, and he's been living there ever since. He's in hiding from Bowser, but all the Yoshies know about him. Now, I've seen the guy myself, I've even talked to him, and I remember that he always carried a plasma cannon around with him, mounted on a pistol grip. That cannon's so powerful that I'd bet a year's pay it could put a hole in the side of a doomship from a mile away. In fact, I'll bet that's exactly what happened; it was Monstro who shot down the Crusher."
Karma stared at Jazzman as if deciding whether she believed his story or not. However, she didn't get to make her decision because at that moment, Ludwig burst gasping through the door.
"Vee have a problem," he proclaimed, lapsing into his Romanian accent as he always did under extreme pressure, "Bowser's launching another attack on Monstro City, and it begins today!"
"Say what?!" Karma squeaked. "How? Why weren't we-"
"Vee are not being sent on this mission, Roy is leading it. He vill take the Crusher and-"
"Calm down, daddy-o," Jazzman intervened. "Now, slowly, what's the buzz?"
Ludwig took a deep breath and explained, "Roy has been ordered to take the Crusher, the Jester, and the Hot Rod on an attack mission into Monstro City TODAY! They will launch in two hours."
"That is a problem," Karma agreed, "Can we warn Monstro City?"
Ludwig shook his head. "There is insufficient time."
"Why don't we sabotage the ships?" Jazzman suggested.
Again Ludwig shook his head, "No, we cannot get on board. The only way we will be capable of stopping them is with a direct assault from our ships." He paused before continuing. "The problem is..."
"That we'll blow our cove,." Karma finished. "Great. So we have to either let them have Monstro, or come out of hiding and leave the castle permanently."
There was a period of silence as every eye fell upon Ludwig. "I am afraid so," he conceded.
Karma and Jazzman looked around at the castle. "Well," Jazzman sighed, "at least I don't have much to pack."
Karma nodded her agreement. "So we'd better start getting ready to launch now if we're gonna be ready in time to cut the invasion off."
Ludwig raised a hand to silence them. "There is one more detail," he began. "The invasion is being led by two Magikoopa Adepts."
"Two?" Karma asked, confused. "I thought Kamek was the only one in military service."
Ludwig shook his head and responded, "Bowser has ordered Adept Kammy to assist in this matter."
There was a general gasp of horror as that information was delivered.
King Bowser Koopa could not have been more maliciously gleeful as he sat in his command room staring at the incoming video of Monstro City on his viewscreen. He had just met with the all clan leaders of the Koopa race, and he had successfully negotiated- at long last- the treaty that named him supreme lord of all Koopa clans, Emperor of the species. On top of that, he was about to crush the rebel stronghold that had been a thorn in his side for almost a year, and there were murmurs throughout the Empire that the Mushroom Kingdom was on the verge of being forced to surrender. Life, he decided, was good. It will take more than those two pesky Humans to stop me now, he thought.
The thought of the Marios made Bowser stop short for a moment. They had been unusually quiet for the last several months. In fact, they had not conducted a single raid since...
... since Jazzman came to the castle, he thought with a sneer. Perhaps there is significance to that. I'll have to consult that miserable freak later. In the meantime, he grinned at the concept of his impending victory, there is work to be done.
Bowser's thoughts were interrupted when the viewscreen suddenly changed from an image of Monstro City to the aged and twisted visages of two hooded, bespectacled old Koopas: Adepts Kamek and Kammy. "Guildmaster Kamek reporting, my lord," saluted the Koopa on the right, "our troops are in place. We are prepared to begin."
Bowser grinned. "Excellent," he snarled, "I'll deploy the doomship squadron immediately. As soon as they arrive, you are to begin your bombardment. Headquarters out." The two Magikoopa Adepts bowed and vanished from the screen. Bowser tapped a green button on the control panel in front of him and spoke into a microphone. "Roy, you and your brothers take your ships and rendezvous with the invasion force at Monstro City, now!"
In seconds Bowser was rewarded with the satisfying roar of supersonic engines powering up in the hangar below him, followed by three red streaks of light shooting off into the sky in the direction of the rebel fortress. Bowser leaned back in his chair and sighed with satisfaction. Roy, Iggy and Lemmy couldn't possibly fail this simple task, even if Ludwig had. After all, Roy may not have been as skillful a commander as Ludwig, but he was more ruthless, and attacked without regard to himself or his troops. He was certain to bring back Flutter's head on a plate. Now all that was left was...
... What the?
"What is that noise?" Bowser demanded of thin air as he attempted to determine the source of the rumbling sound coming from below him. "It sounds like a... but that's Impossible!" Bowser ran to his window in time to see three more red streaks departing at what he decided had to be Mach 4 in the direction of Monstro City. The Koopa King fumed as he stormed over to his desk and slammed his fist onto the intercom button. "Hangarmaster, what were those three ships that just left?"
"They were Amadeus, Free Bird, and Peacemaker, sir," answered a very confused Koopa Troopa on the other end of the line. "Did you authorize that launch, my lord?"
Bowser breathed a deep sigh as the reality of what had been occurring since the last mission to Monstro City finally began to sink in. I should have known, he thought. In fact, I did know, I just didn't believe it. "No," he spoke to the Hangarmaster, "but don't worry about it. I'll take care of it. Bowser out." Bowser tapped another button on his control panel and picked up the intercom mouthpiece again. "Wendy," he spoke slowly to his only daughter, "I want you and your brothers to prepare for an emergency search-and-destroy mission. You're going to assassinate a rebel leader."
"Oh, nice," Wendy replied sarcastically. "Who's the target?"
Bowser gritted his teeth as he answered, "Baron Ludwig von Koopa."
"Detail," Flutter called over his shoulder as the flight of Malakoopas carrying Monstermama approached, "attenTION!" Instantly, the heels of the ceremonial guard standing behind Flutter snapped together. "Alright boys," he whispered aside to his commanding staff, "the sooner we get through with this, the sooner we can leave."
"And the sooner I can get out of this ridiculous coat," Jagger muttered.
A moment later the dust was blown off the landing pad by the flapping wings of descending Malakoopas. They descended in staggered rows of seven and five until the last rank had landed. Finally, a lone Malakoopa with a Toadswoman strapped to his shell landed and began to untie his peculiar burden.
"Finally," the Toad sighed, "that's the last time I fly THAT way." She paused to take a breath and her eyes fell upon Flutter and Jagger. "So," she greeted, "I see you two are still kicking around."
Flutter grinned and began his formal greeting. "Welcome to Monstro City. On behalf of the citizens of this settlement-"
"No need to bother with the protocol, General." Monstermama interrupted. "I've always preffered low-profile arrivals anyway. You didn't need to get all dressed up either."
Flutter glanced sheepishly at Jagger, only to be rewarded with a piercing I-told-you-so glare. "I... see," he stammered. "Well, please follow me. You did say you had urgent information, didn't you?"
"Oh, of course!" Monstermama exclaimed, snapping her fingers. "I almost forgot. General, you should be expecting a group of diplomats from the Mushroom Kingdom to arrive later today to discuss a plan to cripple the Troop."
"Uh... wha... what?!" the two generals stuttered in unson.
Monstermama nodded. "Mario and Princess Toadstool will be arriving today to review your regiment and inform you of some quote-unquote 'interesting information' their intelligence has gathered."
Flutter and Jagger stood dumbfounded for a second before Flutter managed to find the speech capacity to stammer, "I... see. uh, um, well, we'll prepare for their arrival. Please, er, follow me and I'll escort you to your room." Monstermama nodded and accompanied Flutter down the walkway into Monstro City under an arc of steel provided by the regiment's ceremonial guard.
When they were out of earshot, Jagger turned to Hover and Flatton, his two division commanders, and whispered, "I want you two to make sure that there is a full squad of armed guards at every entrance and exit to this city and the base as long as Monstermama and that reviewing party are here. If the Koopas find out they're all here, they'll launch an attack with everything they've got, so I don't want any spies getting in and finding out that we have 'guests'. Understood?"
"Yessir!' Flatton sounded off in the contrabass voice that all Thwomps possess. Hover, the Parakoopa commander of the regiment's air division, merely saluted.
"Excellent. Dismissed," Jagger commanded tersely. Hover and Flatton were in the process of leaving when the ground began to shake: lightly at first, but it only got worse. "Strange," Jagger commented, "there's not a faultline anywhere near Land's End." As he looked around to try to determine the source of the quake, he glanced in the direction of Bowser's Keep and saw something that made his skin crawl: the quake was being caused by the sonic boom from three doomships dropping to subsonic speeds, and they couldn't have been more than two miles away from the city. "Battle stations!" he shouted over the noise of the civilian population in the city below. "All citizens, take cover!"
In an instant Flutter appeared over the top of the cliff, accompanied by all the aerial troops he could pull together. "Take flight," he ordered, "engage any enemy Paratroopas on sight, but avoid the ships." As suddenly as they had appeared, the small force departed to try to stop a massacre like the one the city had narrowly averted before, leaving Flutter behind to command the base. "Jagger," Flutter shouted. Seconds later, Flutter's executive officer was standing beside him. "Jagger, I want you to make sure that all the civilians are indoors, then report back. This could get messy."
"Crusher to all craft," ordered Roy Koopa from the bridge of his doomship as the squadron approached Monstro City, "break formation and open fire." The malevolent youth paused for a moment before adding with relish, "Target the civilian areas."
"This'll be fun! Ehee hee hee heh heh heh," cackled Iggy, Roy's brother and commander of the Hot Rod, with maniacal glee.
"All I wanted to do was join a traveling circus," whined Lemmy in contrast from Jester.
"Oh, quit your blubberin' and start attacking!" barked Roy. "We're about to meet resistance, and I want as much damage done as possible before the old coots start their fireslingin'." He closed the comm link and sighed. If their were any two commanders who could foul this mission up, they had to be those two.
"Lord Roy," reported Roy's Rocky Wrench commandant, "we have incoming. Enemy Malakoopas at twelve o'clock."
"Deploy interceptors," Roy replied, "take 'em down."
No sooner had Roy's commandant echoed this order than the Crusher rocked wildly from one side to the other, causing alert klaxons to go off all over the ship.
"What the...?" Roy demanded. "When did Monstro City learn to shoot back?!"
"General," shouted a terrapin lieutenant as something disturbing appeared on his radar, "you'd better take a look at this!"
In the blink of an eye, Flutter was standing behind the soldier staring at the radar. "Report," he instructed tersely.
"S-s-sir," the lieutenant stammered, "three more doomships just dropped to subsonic speed just outside the city. One of 'em's Amadeus, and I've never even seen the other two before."
"Terriffic," Flutter cursed, "bloody terriffic!"
"It gets better, sir." the lieutenant continued in a wavering voice. "If this radar is right, they just opened fire on the other three!"
"Just great," cursed Flutter again, "now they're..." At that moment the words began to truly register in Flutter's brain. "Come again, Lieutenant?" he half gasped, half shouted.
"I don't know why, sir," the lieutenant replied, his voice dripping with genuine confusion, "but they-"
The lieutenant was interrupted by a snarling <beep-beep beep> from his console. He turned away from Flutter to see what bizarre thing had happened this time, stared at his reports in disbelief for a moment, and turned his gaze back toward Flutter. "S-sir," he slowly whispered, as if not believing it himself, "we're getting a radio signal from Amadeus, and it sounds like a warning."
"Well patch it through! Let's hear it, soldier!" Flutter answered.
In a moment, the unmistakable voice of Baron Ludwig von Koopa was heard over the command center speakers. "This is an advance warning to all citizens of Monstro City," the Baron stated with no more emotion than someone reading the weather. "You are about to be attacked by two Adept-level Magikoopas. I repeat, TWO Magikoopa Adepts. All citizens and personnel are advised to take shelter immediately."
"Order all citizens to the inner caves," shouted Flutter in horror. "Captain, raise the mage-sheilds! Colonel Draco, have your battalion-"
"General," the lieutenant interrupted, "We have a problem."
"What now?" Flutter demanded.
"He did say two Adepts, right?"
"That's what I heard, lieutenant."
"Well, sir, the mage-sheilds were only designed to withstand bombardment from one, and only for a short time. We can't possibly shield the city from two, and fight off a doomship squadron at the same time."
Flutter gritted his teeth, cursed again, and issued an order he never thought he would hear uttered in his regiment: "Get me the Amadeus on a secure channel."
The KDS Peacemaker was under attack.
The rebel ship had been the last one of the three to arrive in
the sky over Monstro City, and the advantage of surprise had been squandered by the time it had
arrived. Now, the only thing standing between Peacemaker and the cannons of Crusher, Jester, and
Hot Rod was the quick thinking and force of will of Jazzman von Koopa. "Fire 'em up," Jazzman
ordered his paratroopa commandant, "they're about to start shootin' again, let's not give 'em a
chance to do any damage."
The commandant saluted, passed on
the orders, and braced himself for the inevitable jolt of
cannonballs impacting the ship, and he was not disappointed. No sooner had the main cannon been
extended when the ship shook violently and sparks flew from every control panel as concentrated
plasma surged through the ship's systems, followed by the deafening "Thumpa Thumpa Thud" of
hundreds of pounds of lead crashing into the rebel doomship's wooden hull.
"Return fire: target the flagship,"
ordered Jazzman's commandant. Instantly, the ship's main cannon
began to snarl its chilling snarl and a mighty blast of white-hot plasma mixed with pure magic poured forth from the weapon's maw. The blast was not forgiving as it burrowed into the side of Crusher,
and Roy's monstrous doomship began to spiral off course, narrowly avoiding a collision with
Amadeus. Sensing weakness, the Peacemaker's cannoneers immediately began to ruthlessly
pummel their former assailant with a plethora of lead and brass projectiles in an attempt to cripple the ship and give themselves a chance to focus on Jester and Hot Rod.
Then, as Jazzman quickly took stock
of the situation, the sky began to darken. Clouds covered the
sun, bathing the land in darkness, and lightning lashed furiously at the ground around Monstro City.
One by one, crewman and officer alike began to look up from their stations and stare openmouthed
out the forward window. It took only a moment for Jazzman to realize, to his horror, what was
happening. "Kamek," he muttered.
"Evasive maneuvers," shouted Ludwig,
cutting General Flutter off, "avoid the darkened air mass." As the Amadeus
rolled sharply Starboard to avoid a blast of fire from the ominous darkness
to engulf it, Ludwig looked back at the viewscreen in front of him. "Are you still adamant, General, in
claiming that I jest? The evidence is before your very eyes. Now I would advise you-"
"I don't need your advice, Baron,"
Flutter clipped, "I need you to get rid of those Magikoopas! I'll
handle the doomships myself!" As if in testimony to Flutter's boast, a flight of Sky Troopas swooped
across the deck of Amadeus on their way toward the damaged Crusher.
Ludwig gritted his teeth. "We haven't
the time for dispute, General," he snarled in a tone that would
make his father cringe, "your city is under attack, and I am, quite simply, your only hope. Observe
your almighty antiquated Sky Troopas if you doubt me." Ludwig adjusted his viewscreen to give General Flutter a glimpse at the Sky Troopa flight that had so valiantly assailed the Crusher, just in time to witness their merciless slaughter as bolts of Kamek's Black Lightning ripped through their ranks. Satisfied that his grim point was made, Ludwig returned Flutter's view to the bridge of Amadeus. "I trust, General, that you will now agree."
Flutter did not get to respond,
because at that moment waves of Black Lightning ravaged the
command post of Monstro City, cutting Flutter's communication line. "I guess they're on their own
now," Ludwig's commandant commented flatly.
"Not yet, Commandant," Ludwig insisted, "not yet."
Jagger pulled himself dazedly up from the ground. "Wh... what happened?" As he looked around and saw his Terrapin troops grappling with Koopa Imperial soldiers where only bricks had been until a moment before, he realized what had happened. "Kamek," he muttered. "Kamek and his transfiguration blasts." Fuming, he spotted an unlucky Imperial Troopa and charged it. It was dead before it realized it was being attacked.
We need to re-form, Jagger thought as he took stock of the situation. They've got us too scattered around to put up a fight. In moments, Jagger charged to the highest ground he could find, drew his saber, and waved it against the darkened sky. His well-trained division of Terrapin soldiers recognized the signal and hastily fell-in behind Jagger, forming a block of shelled, armed, and extremely miffed Koopa Rebels. The ragtag militia Kamek had managed to raise up from the bricks was no match, and they quickly fell. Satisfied that the current problem had been solved, Jagger looked around for the source of the trouble, and he soon found it. There, standing not 200 yards in front of him, guarded by a troop of Sledge Brothers, stood Kamek, with his eyes turned skyward at the aerial battle. Jagger grinned, thrilled at the prospect of an entire brigade against Kamek and his guard. He couldn't pass up an opportunity like that.
"Third Brigade," Jagger commanded, "saber, CHARGE!"
It took a moment before Jagger was rewarded
with the sight of thousands of Armored Terrapins charging the small company
of Sledge Brothers. In a few moments, they would descend on the Adept's
guard like a flood, wiping out the lot of them- and just maybe, Jagger
thought with relish, Kamek himself. Yes, there was a chance that this could
be the Adept's last battle. Soon, Jagger thought, soon: Just a few more
...just a few more moments...
...just a few...
Just at the moment when the Rebel Brigade was upon their target, the sky faded from black to a blinding red, and the ground began to rumble with a deafening noise like some great chained beast attempting to break free. Jagger's troops hesitated for only a moment at the unexpected turn of events, but it was a moment too long. Jagger's knees gave way as he watched the ground beneath the charging force open wide and swallow Rebel and Imperial alike, leaving only two grinning, hooded figures hovering over the gaping maw of the pit. One was Kamek, and the other...
Jagger felt like a cold ball of lead had been forced down his throat and into his stomach as he recognized the other as Kamek's former apprentice, the dreaded witch, Adept Kammy.
"RETREAT!" he shouted in a voice that was heard over the roar of plasma cannons and Bullet Bills overhead. "All personnel, return to base and take cover!"
Jagger turned, along with two brigades of Terrapins, toward the protective walls of Fort Monstro and ran like the very Abyss had unleashed its full fury upon the battleground. Before some of them had even had time to turn around, a torrent of red flame poured forth over the lead brigade, burning most of them alive. The lucky ones were dead before they knew what had hit them.
Few were lucky.
So this is how it ends, thought Jagger as he ran at the center of the retreating mob, swallowed by the ground, or burned to a crisp. Jagger had scarcely had time to wonder which it would be before another blast poured forth from behind over the entire corps of survivors.
I pity the Reaper, thought Jagger, I pity the one who will have to tend this monstrous harvest.
"Ma'am," reported Karma's blue-shelled Parakoopa commandant, "the city's mage-shield is failing."
"I know, I know," Karma hastily replied. Desperate for some way to give the besieged city one more shot, her eyes darted around the ground below until they found what they were looking for. "There!" she exclaimed, pointing at a vast chasm that had not been there a moment before. "Target that area with everything we've got!"
"Ma'am?" questioned her bewildered commandant. "Why that? It's just an impact crater."
"No," Karma corrected, "it's too deep."
The commandant was unconvinced.
"It's no impact crater," she explained, "and it wasn't there before, so that tells me it was magically created, and Kamek'll be nearby."
The commandant was still unconvinced.
"DON'T QUESTION MY ORDERS, PIG! I SAID FIRE!"
The commandant was convinced. "Target that chasm," he commanded, "and fire all weapons."
Instantly, the darkened sky lit up like noon, filled with plasma discharges and exploding Bob-omb canisters, all flooding into the jaws of the chasm that had swallowed an entire rebel brigade moments earlier.
Let's see Kamek's magic get 'im out of this one, thought Karma with a gleeful grin that bordered on sinister.
"What is that Imperial schitzo doing?!" Flutter bellowed as he beheld the almost humorous spectacle of one of the mysterious "new" doomships opening full fire upon, well there was no other way to describe it: a big hole in the ground. "Doesn't that idiot realize what a waste of fire that is?"
"General," cried one of two Terra-Cotta guards, bursting into the command room and interrupting Flutter's thoughts, "General, you need to take a look at this!"
Flutter started to ask what was so important that it should require his immediate attention in the midst of a battle, but the question was answered as he looked upon the disfigured face of a half-dead Terrapin brought in on a stretcher by the guards. Flutter stared hard at the Terrapin for a moment, trying to recognize the turtle, whose injuries were so brutal that even his shell, mostly burned away, hung on his blackened flesh only by the armholes. It didn't take long for the chilling reality to set in.
"Jagger!" he moaned in horror at the sight of his friend in this state. "How..."
Jagger, with great difficulty, raised a hand to silence Flutter. "I... i... it's Kamek," he stammered, "he's..." Jagger gritted his teeth and let out a howl of pain as he attempted to finish his sentence. "He's... landed. He's on... the ground, about..." Jagger gritted his teeth again.
"It's okay," Flutter coaxed, "take your time Jag, just-"
Flutter was cut off by a shower of sparks as the primary lighting system blew out, hit by a blast from Hot Rod, and the lights in the command room exploded.
"For King Morton's sake," cursed Flutter as the emergency lights came on, "can't you keep that forsaken swine off me for just a minute?!" Flutter took a deep breath, turned to Jagger, and continued. "Okay, Jag, I need to know, how far is Kamek from the city?"
"About a mile..." Jagger wheezed, "a mile... outside the sh... shield perimeter and... and... c... closing."
Flutter paused a moment and mouthed a quick prayer, then began again. "Who's in charge in your place?"
Jagger only looked bewildered.
"Your division," Flutter clarified, "who's in charge of it now? I need to know, Jagger."
"General... F... flutter," Jagger coughed after almost a minute's silence, "I have no division."
"What do you mean 'you have no division'?" Flutter demanded. "You went out there with three brigades behind you, now who's in command of them?"
"D...d..." Jagger started to speak, but the pain was so intense that he could scarcely even force out a syllable, "Dead," he spat at length, "all... dead."
Flutter's eyes glazed over and his knees gave way. "They're wh... what?" he gasped.
"Kamek and Kammy got to them, sir," explained one of the guards. "The general's third brigade is lying at the bottom of that hole out there," he stated as he pointed toward the great void where Flutter had beheld such a bizarre scene a moment ago, "and out of his first and second, there are maybe twenty survivors total, and they all look like this."
Flutter staggered to his feet and swallowed hard as he absorbed this information. "Get the general to the infirmary, double-time," he ordered the guards. "Comm, get me a line to whoever's commanding that doomship out there."
Before the communications lieutenant had time to process that order, the ground rippled once more from a sonic boom as three huge crafts dropped through the sound barrier, and a distinct, high-pitched voice overrode the city's comm system and projected itself from the command room's speakers. "This is Princess Wendy Orora Koopa," sniveled the voice, "commander of the KDS Imperial Belle. In the name of King Bowser Koopa, Emperor of the Koopa Race, Lord of the Underworld, and Master of all who hear this ultimatum, I command all Koopa soldiers engaged in rebellion to surrender immediately and unconditionally, and prepare to be detained."
Flutter clenched his fists and spat every curse that came to his battle-hardened mind at the sound of Bowser's daughter. "Sir," reported the radar operator, "it's true, it's Imperial Belle, along with the Espio and the Rambler. They've brought the whole fleet, and they've got us surrounded.
"Yeah!" crowed Roy from Crusher's bridge, "Alright, we got 'em now!" Roy shook with delight as he beheld the battered fortress, overpowered rebel ships, and retreating rebel armies on the field below. "Now," he began addressing Lemmy and Iggy on his conference screen, "I want you two to find the mage-shield generator and take it out so Kamek 'n Kammy can move in for the kill."
Lemmy, Bowser's second son, looked undecisive. "I dunno about this, Roy. I mean, aren't we supposed to be the good guys? And still, we're not exactly fighting fair here. I mean, six doomships against-"
"Will you jus' shuddap 'n shoot?!" Roy roared. "I don't care about fightin' fair, this is a war! Now find that generator and shoot!"
"Yes, brother," acquiesced Lemmy meekly.
"Now," Roy muttered, "if those idiots can just-"
Crusher shook from the force of another plasma blast, interrupting Roy's thoughts.
"For the love o'... can't they keep that idiot Ludwig quiet long enough for us to close in?" Roy complained, "I mean, his ship's a garbage scow even without the battle damage!"
"Milord," answered the Sledge Brother commandant, "that blast wasn't from Amadeus."
"Then who WAS it from?"
"If this readout is right, it came from a hill about a half-kilometer off the Starboard Stern."
"W... what?" Roy stuttered, "What's a plasma cannon doing out there?"
"Lord Ludwig," interjected Ludwig's jubilant commandant, "you were right. Look!" The commandant adjusted the Amadeus's viewscreen and focused in on a nearby hilltop, where stood a massive, hulking, brutish gray Koopa pointing a plasma cannon larger than the body of a Hammer Brother in the general direction of Crusher."
Even Ludwig, who made it a point never to disbelieve his eyes, could not contain his shock as he beheld the viewscreen and recognized the unmistakable figure of Monstro, the renegade Koopa Warlord. "Had I not seen it, Jazzman," he declared as if his twin were standing next to him, "I would have thought it impossible, but you were correct. He IS still alive, and there he is."
"But for how long, sir?" warned Ludwig's radar controller, "Crusher's headed his way, apparently interested in seeing who crashed the party."
"We shall see that Roy does not get the chance to find out." Ludwig announced defiantly. "The Warlord's sidearm is not the only weapon of mass destruction present on this battlefield, and I dare say now would be a fine time to employ the ones in our own possession."
Amadeus's gunner grinned, revealing a mouthful of grim teeth. "Now," he hissed, "you're talking in MY language."
"All I wanted to do was join a circus," Lemmy whined from the bridge of Jester, "I never wanted any part of this empire, this war, or, well, any of this. I just wanted to be a traveling clown."
On the conference screen, Roy fiercely rolled his eyes. "Radar," he sighed to his radar operator, "check out that hill. And you," he snarled at Lemmy, "need to shut up and get to shootin'! I see Amadeus coming up fast off our port flank and you ain't doin' squat about it. I can't do everything myself, y'know!" Roy paused as his helmsman dodged a view choice shots from Amadeus. "I mean, I swear: between your complainin', Big Mouth's babblin', Wendy's whinin', and-"
"Monstro!" gasped Roy's radar operator in horror.
"Yeah," Roy noted absent-mindedly, "him
too. I mean, how-" by this time, the two-syllable word had finally registered
in Roy's not-so-quick brain. "What, what did you say?" he whispered, as
if afraid even to hear the
dreaded name of the fallen Warlord.
"See for yourself, sir," quavered the tiny Troopa as he focused the viewscreen on the hilltop in question Curious to see what all the fuss was about, Jester's radar operator followed suit. There, just as he said, stood the massive, gray muscular figure of a Sledge Brother. The viewer focused so closely that even Warlord's false eye was visible to the entire bridge crew of Jester. From the scowl on his face it seemed almost as though he knew there were Imperial eyes upon him, and he was not pleased about it.
"Target that hilltop," Roy whispered fearfully, "with everything we've got, and fire before he gets off another shot."
The reply Roy got was a mighty explosion at the back of his ship's bridge, courtesy of Baron Ludwig von Koopa and the Amadeus.
"Evasive pattern 6!" Roy cried in desperation, "All Imperial craft, back us up immediately!"
"No can do," whined Wendy from Imperial Belle, "I've got that halfling in my face. AAAAH! Get off of me, freak!"
"Oh, Roy," apologized Morton Big Mouth Koopa Jr. from Rambler, "that's a big, monstrous, incredible no-can-do: a no-no: a scientiffic impossibility: a-"
"Make your point!" shouted Larry, Bowser's youngest, from Espio.
"I'm tied up, occupied, and busy avoiding, defending myself from, and otherwise dealing with Jazzman, Ludwig's twin, the Forgotten Prince, the impostor, the-"
"Lord Lemmy," noted Jester's commandant worriedly as Morton continued his analysis of the situation, " Monstro appears to be eyeing us as his next target. As Lemmy's mind raced to determine the best possible course of action, Roy pointed it out to him, in the most subtle and eloquent way possible.
"Retreat!" shouted Roy over all the noise. "All craft abandon mission and return to hangar immediately."
The terrified Koopa commanders didn't need any more convincing than that, and in moments they were bound for the safety of Bowser's Keep. Free Bird gave a short chase but soon fell back, apparently unwilling to pursue the imperial fleet outside the range of Monstro's cannon. On the ground, Kamek and Kammy realized quite quickly that their air support was gone, and they returned under cover of Kamek's shadowing charm to Bowser's Keep, taking the darkness that had covered the noonday sky with them. The odds had been against it from the start, but the Monstro City rebels had won the day.
"ARGH!" Flutter screamed as he thrust the chin-strap of his flight goggles into his mouth and began to munch fiercely. After the day's events he officially no longer knew which way was up, and the strain of the befuddling sequence of events was beginning to leave its mark on him. "I suppose now you're going to tell me that really IS Warlord Monstro out there!"
"It's true, General," Monstermama clarified from the doorway, "that's what that 'interesting information' was that I told you about, and he's traveling with the delegation from the Mushroom Kingdom."
Flutter glanced through the command room's parascope at the hilltop where stood Monstro, and saw several human figures standing beside him, among them Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach Toadstool of the Mushroom Kingdom, along with Her Royal Highness's Honor Guard.
"Stand down from alert status," Flutter ordered, "and prepare to receive the delegation."
"Sir," noted a crewman, "there are still three doomships out there, and they're requesting docking clearance."
"That's right, isn't it?" Flutter thought out loud, "Well, put me through to Baron Ludwig."
In an instant, the familiar face of Ludwig von Koopa graced the viewscreen.
"Baron," Flutter began, almost laughing at the irony of it, "am I to understand you're requesting docking clearance on my base?"
"You are to understand that, General," Ludwig answered with a nod.
"Well, Baron," Flutter answered, crossing his arms, "I'll probably be remembered by the history books for this as the stupidest risk-taker in the planet's history, but I'm going to grant your squadron docking clearance on one condition: before you or any of your crew set foot in Monstro City I would just love an explanation of what in Good King Morton's name is going on here!"
"We were ambushed, Lord Bowser," Roy whined as he attempted to justify his defeat. "Monstro was there. I don't know how, but Warlord Monstro was on the battlefield! Ask the others if you don't believe me."
On the other end of the vid-window, Bowser stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I believe you," he nodded, "I was watching the battle closely, and I am aware of Monstro's presence." He paused a moment before continuing, "He was an unforeseen element. There is always an unforeseen element," he clenched his fist and added, "and next time, the unforeseen element will be in our favor. All the aces in the deck have been played, save one, which Fate has seen fit to deal to me, and I intend to play it in the next round."
Roy furrowed his brow in an attempt to understand this riddle-like speech. "What ace are you talking about?" he questioned suspiciously.
Bowser grinned malevolently, revealing all three rows of his merciless teeth, before answering, "To aid us in the next battle, we are going to raise the Destroyer Apollyon from the Abyss!"
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