The drones had already flattened the western side of Toad Town. They continued blasting away at the lovely decor of the city.
The drones wasted no time in destroying as much of the city as they could. Without shelter, the citizens would be helpless. More and more shots were fired, and more and more carnage followed.
Meanwhile, some Toad kids were trying their hardest to get to shelter, but to no avail. A drone had already caught up with them. As they turned around, they saw the large, catlike robot charge its energy cannon. Just as it was about to fire, it was shot down. The drone growled and ran off.
Behind the Toads stood a giant, sixty-foot-tall robot, in the shape of a Toad. Where the feet should have been there were large tank treads. The fingers were actually missiles, and one of the spots on the Toad hat was a cockpit windshield. Inside, piloting the weapon, was Toad. Long guns protruded from the eyes, with smoke billowing out of the barrels. The kids cheered as Toad steered towards the other drones.
Just as another drone was preparing to take out Rowf's Badge Shop, the Mecha Toad wheeled up. It shot off a couple of missile fingers and the drone limped off. "How do you like that?" Toad boasted. "Who else wants some?"
Toad drove up to where two drones were preparing to fire. Toad extended the eye guns and cocked. The drones exchanged glances, then quickly ran off. "Aww," Toad snickered, "nobody wants to play with me!"
As Toad continued forcing back the drones, those remaining formed a large group. Each one charged its energy cannon and prepared to fire at the Mecha Toad. They fired. After a series of bright flashes and explosions, the Mecha Toad was still standing. "Now it's my turn," Toad said. The mouth of the robot opened and out popped a gigantic missile. Toad pulled a lever and the missile fired. A huge explosion was seen, and only a handful of drones remained intact. They quickly retreated. "Ha! See ya, pals!" Toad cheered.
Bowser 52589 wasn't very pleased when he heard the report from his troops. "Sir, the drone army invading Toad Town is retreating," one of Bowser 52589's generals nervously reported. "They were beaten badly by some kind of robotic defense mechanism."
"What?" Bowser 52589 yelled. "They were beaten by the Mushroomers?! Where did they get that kind of technology?"
"Our only guess can be the Koopas," Bowser 52589's general continued. "Also, the Mario Bros. and the Koopas have escaped into the desert. Their tracks pointed westward, but cut off after a short distan-"
Bowser 52589 slammed his fist on his desk. "They could be anywhere in that vast desert!" he shouted. "Prepare a search party! Deploy the cyberbats! I want them found!"
Mario and Luigi slowly trudged along under the blazing heat of the hot sun. Behind them, the Koopas followed.
Mario suddenly stopped when his foot didn't find ground to stand on. He struggled to regain his balance, and fortunately did before plummeting into the vast canyon valley below them. "Careful there, Mario," Luigi said, helping Mario regain his balance.
Bowser stepped forward and looked at the vast canyon below them. They looked down at the far end of the valley and saw a large, ancient structure not too far off. "It's-a the Mushtemple Ruins," Mario said.
Suddenly, they heard a horrible metallic screech behind them. They turned and saw a twisted, metal creature flapping wildly in the air. It appeared to be in the shape of a bat. And it was definitely after them.
Bowser ducked as the cyberbat swooped down at him. It barely missed, but came around for another pass, this time at the Mario Bros. They quickly jumped aside and the bat missed yet again. Bowser then noticed that "Virtex Industries" was written on the side of the bat. It belonged to Bowser 52589. It turned back around, but this time, Bowser was ready. He let out a huge burst of fire from his mouth and the bat was hit head-on. However, it was completely unfazed. It opened its robotic mouth. No sound came, but Bowser's Koopa guards were blasted back by a wall of force. "It has a sonic boom!" Ludwig yelled, ducking aside as the metal horror came at him. Ludwig was struck on the head, but it wasn't a significant injury to a quick-healing Koopa.
The bat unleashed another sonic wave, this time blasting Bowser's guard unit right over the cliff edge. It then went towards the Mario Bros. but was intercepted by another fire blast from Bowser. The cyberbat decided to make Bowser its primary target. It unleashed more sonic energy, stunning him. The bat swooped in, grabbing Bowser by the shoulders with its metallic claws. It then flew down into the canyon, with Bowser dangling helplessly from its feet and Ludwig and the Mario Bros. watching helplessly from the top of the cliff.
The cyberbat decided it was time to terminate its dangling victim. It flew towards the opposite canyon wall and swooped up, just high enough so that it wouldn't sustain damage, yet still low enough for Bowser to be struck by the cliff edge. He braced himself as he smashed chest-first into the cliffside.
Bowser struggled to stay conscious as the bat lifted him up and continued to fly low over the rocky landscape. It headed towards a rocky outcrop, once again flying high enough to sustain no damage and low enough to injure its victim. But Bowser remained conscious, refusing to let himself black out.
The cyberbat then swooped over a small, rocky crevice, similar to a miniature version of the canyon. It dropped Bowser, who growled as he hit the jagged, rocky ground. The ground slanted inward, towards a very unstable rock formation. Bowser rolled down and skidded to a stop at the inward-most point in the cleft.
He breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the bat was gone, but the relief didn't last long as Bowser's heavy rolling had knocked loose several large stones, which rolled down the slanted rockside. Bowser once again found himself on the edge of his consciousness as the rocks landed in the center of the crevice, on top of him. Bowser then discovered why this crevice was so unstable: it was the ceiling of a large cave below. The rocks Bowser was lying on broke away, falling down into the dark, moist cave. Bowser fell with them. This time, he did lose consciousness.
Ludwig looked teary-eyed when he saw the cyberbat carry his dad out of sight. He struggled to his feet and looked to the Mario Bros., who were also a little disoriented after the attack. "Come," Ludwig said, with determination in his voice, "we must reach those ruins."
Bowser woke with a jolt as he felt the pangs of cold water on his face. He was in a large underground lake of water inside the cave. He began to swim towards the surface, needing air, but it was not an easy swim as the crumbling rocks from above pounded into the murky water all around him. Bowser had to work hard to avoid being trapped under those rocks. If they fell on him, they would likely force him to the bottom, drowning him. However, there were also sharp stalactites falling from the unstable roof of the cave. Several stalactites zipped into the water, making cuts on Bowser's arm as they went past. Bowser opened his mouth to growl, but the only thing that came out was a cluster of bubbles. He had to reach the surface! Several more stalactites slashed past and Bowser gave out another silent growl.
Just as he ran out of breath, Bowser's head broke through the surface. He gasped for air and immediately swam towards the shore. He soon reached it. Before he pulled his whole body out of the water, he collapsed, gasping for breath at the water's edge, listening to the pounding of the rocks as they splashed into the water.
Bowser sighed when he saw that the cyberbat hadn't followed him into the cave. But Bowser thought too soon, as the twisted metal robot soon swooped down into the cave, letting out a horrible screech. "Oh no you don't," Bowser whispered. He summoned as much strength as he could muster up and let out a stream of hot fire, not at the bat, but at the ceiling. Large boulders, blazing with fire, crumbled down on the bat, who screeched as the fiery downpour drove it into the water. Large columns of steam rose from the dark waters as more fiery rocks poured in. Yet somehow, Bowser knew, that wasn't the end of it.
Bowser 52589's general grimaced when he saw that the transmissions from cyberbat 1q0f37*65 had ceased. What made matters worse was the fact that it had failed to eliminate the Koopas and the Mario Bros., and had even resulted in Bowser's whereabouts becoming unknown. "Keep monitoring those transmissions," the general said, nervously. "I... *gulp* shall inform His Excellency."
Much to the general's surprise, Bowser 52589 was not mad when he heard of the dilemma. "Good," he said coolly, "we know where the Mario Bros. are, and Bowser is lost and alone, with no guards. He is also too wounded to fight, and is far from the Mushtemple Ruins." The general sighed with relief at Bowser 52589's unexpected patience. "Deploy the drone army," Bowser 52589 continued. "We cannot let the Mario Bros. beat us to that temple weapon."
The Mario Bros., plus Ludwig, continued to walk in the direction of the temple. They all knew there was no way to the other side of the canyon, and they had already given up calling out for Bowser. Their only hope was that someone would be at the temple that could help them. "Wait," Luigi said, putting a hand to his ear. "Listen."
Mario and Ludwig listened and heard the faint sound of marching. Soon, the sound got louder. The threesome turned and saw a huge army of drones marching down in the valley below. They were headed in the direction of the Mushtemple Ruins. "Well," Mario said, looking down into the valley, "at-a least they're-a way down there." Suddenly, a rock shifted out of place from under Mario. It rolled down the cliffside and fell down into the valley. It struck a drone on the head, causing it to look up. When it saw the Mario Bros. looking down, it let out a loud screech. The drone army halted. They all looked up and saw the Marios peeking down. "Well," Mario repeated himself, "we're-a way up here. What could they-a possibly do?"
Suddenly, one by one, the drones turned and marched towards the canyon wall. They continued marching... straight up the wall! "Oh boy," Luigi said.
"How are-a they doing that?" Mario asked.
"Their feet must be magnetic!" Ludwig said, astonished. He stared with awe at the approaching drones. "What marvels of technology!" he said. Luigi shook him out of his trance and they began to run.
Several drones had already reached the top of the cliff by then. They charged their energy cannons and fired. Beams zipped all around the Mario Bros. and Ludwig as they ran desperately towards the temple. More and more drones made it up the cliff and the Marios ran all the faster. "We have to climb down to the temple!" Ludwig shouted. Suddenly he tripped over a rock in the ground. He fell, and shots rang all around him. The Mario Bros. turned around, but knew they wouldn't make it in time. The drones were too close.
Ludwig tried to stand, but it was no use. His ankle had been broken. The drones marched forward, so close to their first victim. Just as the lead drone raised its claw to strike, it was intercepted by a blast of hot fire. Ludwig looked towards the source of the flame and saw... Bowser! He was alive! Bowser continued to breathe fire in the direction of the drones. "Go on," Bowser yelled. "I'll hold them off." The Mario Bros. looked to each other and nodded. They quickly ran towards the temple.
Ludwig began to breathe fire in order to help his outnumbered dad. However, the drones' armor coverings were too tough. Ludwig then remembered that he always carried his wand. Every Koopaling had his/her own wand, and Ludwig's wand happened to be the most powerful. He charged it up and zapped several of the drones, which exploded on contact with the magical energy. However, it didn't last long, as the Koopas soon discovered that the drones had their own energy shields. Large energy bubbles surrounded the drones and Ludwig's shots glanced right off. He didn't know how much longer they could keep this up.
Kooper sighed when, once again, they came to a blank wall. "I just know it should be here," he said.
"Hey, I know!" one of the strange little green Goombas accompanying the Koopa said. "Let's retrace our steps!"
"We've done that five times now!!!" Kooper shouted.
"Tough luck," the other Goomba said.
Kooper sighed. "Maybe it was all just a myth."
Suddenly, the threesome heard a loud rumbling sound outside. "What was that?"
Ludwig knew it was useless. He used his wand to relieve some of the pain in his ankle and began to run towards the temple. Bowser followed behind. "How did you escape the cyberbat?" Ludwig asked as he ran.
"Well," Bowser said, "it wasn't easy. Let's just say he stepped into the wrong hot tub." Bowser ducked as an energy bolt shot over his head. "He dropped me into a cave that led out here."
Ludwig smiled, but the grin was lost when he saw the treacherous path down the cliffside. The Mario Bros. were slowly making their way down, but Ludwig knew that he and his wounded father wouldn't make it down in time to escape the drones. They only had one option. "Jump!" Ludwig yelled. Bowser and Ludwig leaped, quickly drawing themselves into their shells for a less damaging landing. They hit the ground with a thud and came out of their shells. They had made it. But would the Marios?
Bowser Koopa could no longer act patient. The Mario Bros. were taking too long making their way down the canyon wall. Bowser could see the drones lining up on the cliff edge, preparing to fire.
Mario and Luigi were carefully climbing down the cliffside, but they both knew it wouldn't be fast enough. Mario slipped when he didn't find a foothold. Fortunately, Luigi caught him by the foot. Various items in Mario's pockets plummeted to the ground below. "Aw, man," Mario sighed, "that was my last Jammin' Jelly!"
Luigi managed to pull Mario up just in time to dodge energy blasts exploding all around them. The drones were firing! "Jump!" Ludwig yelled. The Marios had no other choice. They leaped from the canyon side and landed hard. The two Brothers helped each other up, then joined Bowser and Ludwig in running towards the Mushtemple Ruins.
* * *
Kooper struggled to keep his footing as the ground shook. Something strange was going on outside. Kooper heard the sound of explosions. "Outside!" he yelled, beginning to head for the temple entrance. The two strange Goombas scurried to catch up. However, in the rush, one of the Goombas tripped on a rock jutting out of the stone floor.
When Kooper turned around to help the Goomba, he saw that he hadn't tripped on a rock, he'd tripped on a switch! The large, stone wall behind them opened up to reveal a secret passageway! "This way!" Kooper shouted. "The ancient treasure must be in here!"
* * *
The drones began to head down the cliffside, constantly shooting off their energy cannons.
The Marios and the Koopas were almost at the temple entrance, energy bolts nipping at their heels. Mario and Luigi dove for the entrance. Bowser and Ludwig made it in as well, just in time. The drones had reached the ground. "Go!" Bowser shouted. The Marios began to run down the long, narrow corridors.
"But King Dad," Ludwig said.
"No buts," Bowser replied. "You're the only one who knows all of that sciency stuff. The Marios'll need your help. I'll hold off the drones. Now go!!!" Ludwig rushed off after the Mario Bros. as Bowser began to breathe fire towards the drones.
* * *
Kooper could hardly see in the dark halls ahead. Soon, he and the Goombas came to what seemed to be an ancient courtyard. At the entrance were two huge, golden statues of what looked like ancient Toads. The Toads held leashes, connecting to two statues of Goomba slaves. "What the?" Kooper said.
The two Goombas stepped forward. "Allow us to introduce ourselves," one of them said.
"Vwe are descendants of an ancient line of Goombas," the Goomba began. "Our ancestors inhabited zis temple. It vas once called Toadstool Palace. Ze Toadstool Palace vas built by ze early inhabitants of ze Mushroom Kingdom, ancestors of ze Royal Family. Even ze Princess Peach is a descendant of ze early Mushroomers."
"Vwe, ze Goombas," the other Goomba chimed in, "vwere ze slaves of ze Mushroom people."
"Yes," the other one continued, "but zere vas an enemy zat ze Mushroom people didn't expect. A tribe of highly sophisticated turtles, not unlike yourself," the Goomba said, pointing to Kooper.
"The Koopas," Kooper whispered.
"Yes," the Goomba rambled on, "Your kind waged war against our people. Zey vanted our power source, vich ve hid inside zis temple. Zat is why ze temple is now a ruin. However, ze Mushroomers used zese secret passages ve are inside of to hide zemselves from total annihilation. Zat is why zey survive today. However, ze Koopas never gave up trying to exterminate ze Mushroomers, all because of ze ancient power source hidden in zis very temple. Zat is why you had to prove yourself vworthy of our trust."
Kooper rubbed his chin. "But why do you trust me?" he asked.
"Because," the Goomba replied, "ze ancient prophecies foretold zat ze temple power source vwould only allow itself to be operated by a certain chosen one. Zat chosen one vwould come from ze clan of ze Koopas. You are ze only Koopa who understands ze ways of ze ancients, so you must be ze chosen one."
"Well," Kooper said, "I'm honored. Now then, let's proceed."
* * *
Lt. Goober rushed through the long, empty corridors of the drone control ship. He hurried up to a metal door. Approved by a retina scan, Goober scampered into the control room. In front of him was Bowser 52589's commanding general. "The emperor wishes to speak with y-"
Goober never finished, because at that point Bowser 52589 stormed into the room. "General Arkane," he yelled, "we have received reports that the Mario Bros. and Bowser have already reached the Mushtemple Ruins!"
The general nervously stared into space. "Well, sir, we're working on preparing a landing party."
"No!" Bowser 52589 yelled. "I don't want any more failure from you imbeciles! Accelerate the ship! I'm going down there myself!"
* * *
Kooper and the Goombas walked throughout the courtyard of the buried temple, staring in awe at all of the marvels around them. There were ancient vending stands, dried-up fountains, and lovely statues all around the courtyard. When Kooper reached the end of the courtyard, he noticed another dead end. Kooper searched for a switch. There wasn't one anywhere. However, Kooper did notice a strange-looking keyhole in the center of the wall. "We need the key to get inside," Kooper said.
One of the Goombas reached into his trench coat and pulled out a small, golden statue of a spiked Goomba. "Zis is ze key," the Goomba said. Kooper reached out to take it, but the Goomba pulled it back. "First," he said, "vwe must know vwhy you seek to find ze power source."
"I merely wish to study and learn about it," Kooper replied. "I am a seeker of knowledge, not a seeker of power. Honest!" The Goomba held up the golden Goomba statue, and it began to glow. "Ze key says zat you are indeed trustworthy." With that, the Goomba handed Kooper the key. He stuck it in the slot, and the wall opened up to reveal another secret passageway. They entered, and the wall closed behind them.
* * *
Bowser knew that he couldn't hold the drones off much longer. He used his fire breath to create a wall of flame, blocking the drones' path. However, with their energy shields surrounding them, they passed through the flames without any damage. Just as they prepared to fire, a huge shadow passed overhead. From behind the mountains surrounding the valley, a giant, rusty metal doomship flew into view. Beneath it, Bowser could see a small object dropping. He knew he would be no match for both the drones and their control ship, so he retreated into the temple.
* * *
The Mario Bros. and Ludwig halted when they came to the wall at the other end of the courtyard. "Now where do we-a go?" Mario asked.
Suddenly, they heard footsteps behind them. They turned and saw-Bowser. "Quick!" Bowser yelled. "Bowser 52589's coming! We have to go before it's too late!"
"It is too late," an evil voice growled behind them. Bowser 52589, along with two armored Koopas and Lt. Goober, stood behind the foursome. Bowser 52589's guards held up blasters and aimed them at Bowser's gang. "I wouldn't move if I were you," Bowser 52589 said. He walked up to the stone wall in front of them and noticed the little hole where the Goomba was supposed to go. He grabbed Goober.
"Whoa! What are you doing, boss?" Goober whimpered.
Bowser 52589 smiled and stuck Goober into the slot, and the wall opened up. "I can't breathe in here!" Goober said, his voice muffled from being inside the tiny opening. Bowser 52589 pulled Goober out, then led his captives into the dark halls that were ahead.
* * *
Kooper and the Goombas carefully made their way along in the dark passages. "It's like a maze," Kooper whispered. Suddenly, Kooper saw a well-lit room not too far off. "This way," Kooper pointed. The Goombas followed.
The room was well-lit due to an abundance of torches lining the walls. Other than that, the room was completely empty. However, the thing that interested Kooper the most was on one of the walls.
On the wall, there was an enormous painting. Kooper studied it carefully, taking in every detail. "Zis," one of the Goombas said, "is ze Wall of Prophecies. Zis is vere ze ancients vould record zeir legends."
Kooper looked at the painting. On the far left side, there was an image which looked exactly like the Mushtemple Ruins. Above the image of the ruins, there was an image of a large, cannon-like object. Flowing out of the cannon were painted lightning bolts. Just to the right of the temple painting, there was a pair of squiggly lines, which Kooper guessed must represent the canyon. On the other side of the canyon was the image of a thousand catlike creatures. Above them was a flying ship. And above the flying ship, there was a painting of a purple dragon. The lightning bolts from the temple canyon were striking the cat creatures, and the dragon appeared to be roaring in rage.
All of a sudden, the wall became very hot. Kooper and the Goombas stepped back, just as the wall exploded in a burst of red heat. Bowser 52589 stepped forth, taking the place of the dragon in the picture. "Well, well," he said, "if it isn't the intrepid young archaeologist." He lifted his hand into the air, and Kooper began to float up. "I believe you have something that I require," Bowser 52589 said. With that, Bowser 52589 called the Goomba statue out of Kooper's shell and into his waiting hand. Then, with a flick of his finger, Kooper was sent flying back into the wall behind them.
Bowser 52589's guards grabbed Kooper and the Goombas and shoved them into place with the Mario Bros., Bowser, and Ludwig. They followed Bowser 52589 through more corridors, constantly being forced to go by the Koopa guards behind.
They soon came to another wall with the keyhole. Bowser 52589 stuck the Goomba statue into the slot, and the wall opened. "I thought you said I was the only one who could use the key," Kooper whispered to the two Goombas. They couldn't answer, since 52589's guards signaled for them to stop and be quiet. Kooper then saw why.
In front of them was a giant room that looked similar to an airport hangar, except with stone walls. Instead of being lit by torches, the ceiling was covered in fungus that glowed and produced its own natural light. In the center of the room stood a giant machine. At the front of the machine was a small control panel, jutting out from the base of a giant energy beam cannon.
Bowser 52589 signaled for the guards to release Kooper and Ludwig, then he walked towards the control panel. He pressed several buttons, but nothing happened. He pulled Ludwig over. "Tell me how to operate this," Bowser 52589 growled.
"Never!" Ludwig shouted.
Bowser 52589 growled and began to develop energy in his hand. "Just do it, Ludwig!" Bowser yelled.
Bowser 52589 smiled. "Looks like your old man's finally come to his senses. Now, I suggest you hurry."
Ludwig looked around at the control panel. He pushed several buttons, but nothing happened. He couldn't find an on button anywhere. He looked underneath the control panel and found yet another strange keyhole. "You need to use the key," Ludwig exclaimed.
Bowser 52589 held out the golden Goomba statue. When Bowser 52589 approached the weapon, the statue's golden color began to fade. He bent down and stuck it into the keyhole, only to be blasted back by a wave of energy. He struck the wall and was knocked unconscious. The statue, however, remained in the keyhole.
Using the momentary distraction, Bowser knocked 52589's guards unconscious and stole their blasters. Kooper pulled the key out of the slot and the key shone with golden light. Kooper stuck the key back in the slot, and the machine turned on. The buttons on the control panel lit up.
"That's what you guys meant," Kooper said to the Goombas. "Only I can activate the machine." Ludwig, under Kooper's watchful eye, pressed several buttons on the control panel. The machine lit up, and the roof of the temple opened up. The main cannon part of the weapon extended itself through the opening and began charging.
"Hold it right there!" came a voice from behind the good guys. They all turned around and saw Lt. Goober. "Don't make me hurt you!" Bowser smiled and held up the blaster he had taken from Bowser 52589's guards. "I'm warning y-ooooooouuuuuu!!!" Goober yelled as the blast sent him flying away.
Soon, the machine was fully charged. "Fire at the drones," Luigi shouted over the noise of the weapon.
Ludwig pressed a few more buttons, and a huge wave of energy shot forth out of the cannon. The drones outside didn't even have enough time to charge their energy shields before they were blasted into a million pieces. "Woohoo!" Mario yelled.
* * *
General Arkane stared at the computer screen in front of him with disbelief. On the screen was the image of the temple outside opening up, and the weapon extending. "Emperor 52589 must have reached the weapon," he said. However, when he saw the blast destroy the entire drone army, he realized that Bowser 52589 was not controlling the weapon at all. And that meant...
"Charge the energy shield!" Arkane shouted to the troops controlling the drone ship. He ordered it just in time. The weapon charged up once again, and fired towards the ship. The force of the blast rocked the rickety ship. Fortunately, the energy shield seemed to be holding. "Advance the ship!" Arkane yelled. "We need to pick up the Emperor!"
* * *
"They've got a deflector shield!" Ludwig shouted as the energy from the cannon glanced off of the drone control ship. "We'll have to find some other way of destroying it!"
However, they were too preoccupied to notice that Bowser 52589 had woken up. "If I can't have that weapon," he yelled, "nobody will!"
Ludwig and Kooper leaped out of the
way just as a beam of red energy shot forth from Bowser 52589's mouth.
It struck the weapon, causing a massive chain reaction. Energy from the
machine began shooting everywhere, destroying anything it hit. Bowser ducked
just as a bolt of energy shot towards him. "It's time to leave!" he shouted.
Bowser 52589 pulled a small device from his shell. He pushed a button and a beam of green light surrounded him. It lifted him into the air, into his ship, which was waiting overhead. Bowser, thinking fast, leaped into the beam. The Marios did too, just as it disappeared. That left Kooper, Ludwig, and the two Goombas to fend for themselves. "Zis way!" one of the Goombas yelled.
* * *
General Arkane nearly had a heart attack when the entrance to the control room burst open. Bowser 52589 stormed in. "Get this ship out of here!" he yelled. General Arkane frantically tapped several keys on his computer.
* * *
Ludwig tripped when a massive explosion rocked the Mushtemple Ruins. Kooper helped him up, only to be thrown to the ground half a second later by another tremor. The whole place would soon be destroyed, and so would they if they couldn't get out. They quickly made their way through various corridors. They soon came to the ancient courtyard. "Oops," one of the Goombas said, "I dropped my Slurpee!" Kooper jumped out of the way just as one of the golden Toad statues toppled to the ground. Kooper, Ludwig, and the Goombas walked around it, but then the other Toad statue fell, blocking the only way out.
"We'll have to climb over it!" Kooper yelled. And they would have to do it soon, because the tremors were causing the floor around them to break away.
The floor broke apart like thin ice, breaking into segments. Ludwig quickly jumped from segment to segment until he made it to the statue. He leaped on and began to climb. One of the Goombas' section sank down into a bottomless pit. Fortunately, the other Goomba grabbed him by the trench coat. "Zanks," the Goomba said. They hopped onto the statue and Ludwig helped them up. That only left... Kooper.
"Where is Kooper?" Ludwig asked. He looked around and saw that Kooper was standing on the last section of ground standing, and that piece of ground was slowly sinking away from the statue. "Jump!" Ludwig yelled. Kooper summoned as much strength as he could and leaped. Ludwig grabbed his hand and pulled him up. "Wait a minute," Ludwig said, "I just saved a friend of Mario." Ludwig slapped himself on the forehead.
"Yeah, and thanks!" Kooper shouted. "Now let's get out of here!"
The foursome made it out of the temple just as it began to crumble. They got a safe distance away and watched as the temple crumbled in on itself, the cannon still emitting energy. With a bright flash of light, the Mushtemple Ruins exploded, and all that remained quickly sank into the deep pit that it left behind. "Well," Kooper said, "the weapon served it's purpose in destroying the dragon's army, so the prophecies were fulfilled. Then, since it had no other purpose, it sank into the sands from whence it came."
The Goombas looked at each other. "Now vat do ve do?"
Kooper sighed. "Who's up for charades?"
* * *
Bowser 52589 stared at the viewscreen. On it, he could see where the Mushtemple Ruins once stood. Now, it was nothing more than a hole in the ground. "So," he whispered, "that's the end of Bowser and the Mario Bros." Suddenly, Bowser 52589's computer gave off a beeping noise, signaling he was getting a message.
* * *
Bowser 52589 entered the main hangar of the drone control ship. General Arkane was waiting, with a huge army of Koopa Troopas. "Sir," he said, "we've gotten reports of several foreign objects entering the same tractor beam that you used." Suddenly, a door at the end of the hangar opened up. A large figure stepped into the room. "So," Bowser 52589 growled, "you managed to escape after all."
Bowser slowly walked forward. "Halt!" one of Bowser 52589's soldiers said, pointing his blaster at Bowser.
Bowser slowly lifted his hands into the air. "And just where are your little buddies?" Bowser 52589 snickered.
"Right here!" Mario yelled. Bowser 52589 and his troops looked up to see the Mario Bros. standing on one of the catwalks above the hangar. They each held a Fire Flower. Aiming at the guards surrounding Bowser, they ignited their items, blasting the Koopas back.
Bowser 52589's other troops began to fire at the Mario Bros. "Leave Bowser to me," Bowser 52589 growled at General Arkane. With that, Bowser ran into the hall that he came from, with Bowser 52589 following.
General Arkane, being a Paratroopa, flew up and hovered over the Mario Bros. Pulling out two blasters, one in each hand, he rained laser fire down all around Mario and Luigi. Luigi pulled out two Starmen. Using one, he threw the other to Mario. Absorbing the Starman power, Arkane's shots glanced right off of the Mario Bros. Ceasing the futile laser assault, Arkane reached into his shell and pulled out a cluster bomb.
He tossed it down onto the catwalk that the Mario Bros. were standing on. Just as it hit, the Marios leaped up onto some pipes up above. However, their Starmen power had run out. Arkane flew up towards them, firing off his blasters.
Summoning all of their jumping ability, the Mario Bros. elegantly dodged all of Arkane's shots by jumping among all of the pipes and catwalks. But Arkane hadn't become Bowser 52589's commanding general for nothing. In all of Bowser 52589's army, he was the most skilled weapons expert.
Just as Mario was about to leap to another pipe, Arkane blasted the pipe Mario was leaping for. Instead of landing peacefully on a pipe, Mario landed with a thud on one of the catwalks below. Luigi quickly helped him to his feet just in time to dodge Arkane's fire. They leaped over the side and landed on the hangar floor just as the catwalk they were on was blasted into a million pieces by another one of Arkane's cluster bombs. However, Bowser 52589's troops were still down there. They quickly surrounded the weakened Mario Bros.
* * *
Bowser ducked as Bowser 52589 shot off another bolt of energy. He quickly dove behind a pile of machinery, but 52589 effortlessly blasted it out of the way. But Bowser was ready. He let out a huge burst of his fire breath. The blaze knocked Bowser 52589 back into a small elevator-like chamber. But just as Bowser prepared to let out another flame, Bowser 52589 used his magic energy to fly up the hollow chamber. Bowser ran in and activated the elevator lift, not willing to let Bowser 52589 escape.
* * *
"Don't you have any more items?" Mario asked as Bowser 52589's troops surrounded them.
"I'm all out!" Luigi said.
"But I dropped all of mine in the canyon!" Mario exclaimed. On instinct, Mario reached into his pockets. But what was that? Mario felt something. He pulled it out. It was a Thunder Rage! Just as Bowser 52589's troops prepared to fire, Mario held up the powerful item. It began to glow, and all of a sudden bolts of lightning came out of nowhere, striking Bowser 52589's troops unconscious. Even General Arkane was blasted out of commission.
Luigi smiled. "Nice one. Now let's-a take out this hunk-a junk!" With that, the Mario Bros. headed for the main engine room.
* * *
Bowser stepped into the dark room, filled with all kinds of strange machinery. It looked like the inside of an alien ship from a sci-fi movie. On either side of the room, there were large pods filled with green slime. Bowser 52589 was nowhere in sight.
Bowser walked forward. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a shadow move from behind one of the slime tubes to another. Bowser dismissed it as nothing, but changed his mind just as he was blasted in the back by a bolt of energy. If it weren't for his tough shell, Bowser would have been mortally wounded.
Bowser 52589 stepped out from behind the tubes, smoke surrounding his hand. He began to charge more energy, but decided he'd rather fight it out fairly.
Bowser struggled onto his feet. "So," he growled, "it's a fight you're after, huh?" He turned to face his rival. Bowser 52589 pressed a button on the wall next to him, and a small panel slid out of the wall. Sitting on it were two objects that looked like sword handles. Bowser 52589 picked one up, and Bowser took the other. Pressing a button on his handle, Bowser 52589 ignited an energy sword. "Ahem- Star Wars ripoff!" Bowser muttered under his breath.
"Oh, shut up and fight!" Bowser 52589 shouted. Bowser activated his sword and blocked a blow from Bowser 52589.
Bowser was never a very good sword fighter. He used as much strength as he could to block Bowser 52589's savage blows. Bowser was sweating profusely, whereas Bowser 52589 seemed to actually be enjoying it. "Oh, come on," Bowser 52589 taunted, "you know you can't defeat me! I'm much stronger than you'll ever be!" Bowser could sense that Bowser 52589 was simply trying to cover up the fact that Bowser was putting up a good fight.
"Let's face it," Bowser 52589 continued, "you're a failure." Bowser jumped back as 52589 stabbed forward. "You could never conquer the Mushroom Kingdom," Bowser 52589 rambled on. "You couldn't save yourself and your family from disgrace, just like you couldn't save your oldest son from destruction." Bowser then remembered that he had left Ludwig in the temple.
Not knowing that Ludwig had escaped, Bowser let out a roar. "That's right," 52589 kept on, "the temple is now buried in the sands, and your son with it." Bowser roared and fought with more strength now than ever. He struck out with furious blows, putting Bowser 52589 on the defensive. 52589 now began to break a sweat, putting out hasty blocks and parries as Bowser wielded his sword like the most skilled expert.
Realizing that Bowser was gaining the advantage, 52589 used his power to leap up into higher parts of the ship. Once again using the elevator lift, Bowser followed.
* * *
The Mario Bros. quickly made their way through the ship. However, they soon came to a path that led two ways. "Which way do we-a go?" Mario asked. Luigi looked around and saw a map. On it was a red arrow marked "You are Here". The path to the engine room was left, so the Mario Bros. headed that way.
* * *
Bowser exited the elevator onto a narrow walkway that hovered over a deep pit. He stepped onto the platform, but Bowser 52589 was nowhere in sight. Bowser carefully made his way across the platform.
All of a sudden, directly in front of him, Bowser saw a red laser blade stab up through the path. Bowser ignited his blue blade just as Bowser 52589 flew up onto the walkway. They began fighting once again.
At one point, both of their blades blocked each other. Locked in position for several seconds, the blades' energy crackled and hummed. Bowser pulled back, and 52589 stabbed forward. Leaping backwards, Bowser barely dodged.
However, Bowser 52589 had lightning quick reflexes. As Bowser was leaping back, 52589 sliced through Bowser's exposed blade handle. The top half of Bowser's handle, including the blade, fell into the pit. Bowser was left with just the bottom half of his handle, which he quickly tossed aside. Bowser jumped back just as 52589 sliced down hard. While Bowser 52589's blade was down, Bowser kicked out hard, striking 52589 in the face.
Bowser 52589 stumbled back, dropping his sword in the process. As soon as he regained his balance, Bowser 52589 began to develop a ball of energy in his hand. Realizing what that meant, Bowser punched 52589 in the face. Stumbling back once more, Bowser 52589's energy beam missed. Taking advantage of the momentary disorientation, Bowser shot out a burst of fire breath. The flames did little damage to Bowser 52589, who punched back at Bowser. He was sent back by the sheer force of Bowser 52589's strength. Had it been a normal Mushroomer that was hit by the punch, its face would no longer be recognizable.
Bowser, dazed and bleeding from 52589's powerful blow, had to summon as much strength as he could to merely raise himself up on his elbows. But Bowser 52589 had already prepared for the final strike. Using his energy beam, Bowser 52589 blasted Bowser over the edge of the walkway. Laughing evilly, Bowser 52589 headed towards the control room.
But he didn't notice that, just beneath the platform, Bowser was hanging on to the steel frame supports. Unfortunately, he was using all of his strength just to hold on. He was too weak to climb up.
Fortunately, just as Bowser was about to run out of strength, a white-gloved hand reached down and hauled him up onto the platform. It was the Mario Bros.!
"Come on," Luigi said, he and Mario hoisting Bowser onto their shoulders. "We need to reach-a that engine room."
* * *
Still pleased with his victory over his hated rival, Bowser 52589 strolled into the control room. General Arkane, looking quite charred from his quarrel with the Mario Bros., was waiting. "Sir," he said, saluting, "we should be ready for the warp to Virtex soon."
Suddenly, the ship's intercom beeped. Bowser 52589 pressed a button, and Bowser's voice played. "Hey there, skippy!" Bowser 52589 growled in disbelief at the sound of Bowser's voice. "Glad to hear me?"
Bowser continued. "Oh, your engines were looking a little rusty, so I called in a few 'plumbers' to tune things up." At that, the ship shuddered.
"Sir!" one of the troops yelped. "Our engines are malfunctioning! We're losing altitude!" Bowser 52589 slammed his fist down in rage.
"Gotta go!" Bowser said. "I'll send you the plumbing bill later."
"Grrrrrr!!!" Bowser 52589 growled. "THAT BOWSERRRRR!!!"
* * *
Kooper clapped his hands eagerly. "I spy something... brown!"
"The desert?" Ludwig said.
"How'd you know?" Kooper exclaimed.
"THAT'S BECAUSE ALL THAT'S AROUND US IS DESERT!!!" Ludwig yelled.
Suddenly, they heard an explosion. Kooper, Ludwig, and the two Goombas turned to see fire and smoke coming from Bowser 52589's ship. It was on a collision course with the mountains. From beneath the ship, however, the foursome saw a small object descending. It looked like a small landing craft. It landed in a cloud of sand. Kooper and the others hurried towards the crash point. Just when the craft was in sight, the foursome could see three figures slowly advancing towards them. Ludwig immediately recognized the largest one. It was Bowser! And the Mario Bros. were with him! Ludwig ran up to his dad, smiling. Kooper and the two Goombas followed. The Mario Bros., Bowser, Ludwig, Kooper, and the two Goombas cheered as Bowser 52589's smoking ship disappeared behind the mountains. "Yeah! Take that, creep!" Mario shouted.
Kooper turned and looked at the two Goombas, his new partners. "When we get into town," Kooper said, "I'm getting you guys as many Slurpees as you can eat!"
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