The morning of April 4 in the Sarasi year 64,128 A.D. was a tumultuous one, as the last snowstorm of a late winter battered the land ferociously. Perhaps it was fate that a tall, snow white-haired, 36-year-old man picked such a day to arrive at his office in the Imperial Palace in Birubuto. The man’s name was Lord Fortinbras, Prime Minister, Lord Chamberlain and Minister of Defense of Sarasaland. A report of his recent mission was due, and Princess Daisy Rose was not one to be kept waiting. “I regret to inform you, Your Imperial Highness,” he began his report, “that the mission was a failure. It was not only a failure, but the aerial warship Archangel had to be towed back to its hangar, and the Easton Air Force and their carrier fleet are at the bottom of Seaside Harbor.”
“Then explain something to me, Fortinbras,” prodded a petite brunette wearing a custom-made Sarasi Army uniform and a silver tiara. “Why exactly are you back here in Birubuto, while the Chai Air force is on its way to Toad Town to finish the mission you just failed?”
“I’m only here to see to the reassignment of the Easton Air Force’s survivors and to make sure that a detachment begins the repairs of Archangel,” Fortinbras assured Daisy. “After that, I’ll be back out there where the fight is going to be. Besides, the Ministry of Defense and the Legion Commanders need to hear about the ship that attacked us, not to mention the new weapons she used.”
“You mean that Fallen Angel airship and those new Bullet Bills?”
Fortinbras nodded. “I see you read my report.”
“Yes, I did,” Daisy replied. “And I couldn’t help but notice that Luigi’s part in the fight wasn’t mentioned anywhere.”
Fortinbras bit his lip. He had hoped he wouldn’t have to admit to Daisy that former Captain Luigi L. Mario had saved the day. "Luigi's brief command went well, uncontrollable events aside. He has been relieved of his temporary commission, and returned to Toad Town to accompany Peach's delegation to Monstro City, finally."
"I'm glad to hear it, Fortinbras," replied Daisy. "I take it, considering the 'events' in question, that your opinion of the Prince Consort has risen?"
At the words 'Prince Consort' Fortinbras winced. "Yes, Your Highness, but only slightly, and respecting him doesn't mean I have to like him. Furthermore, I do wish you would stop talking as if you two are already married."
Daisy leaned across Fortinbras's desk and slowly, as one explaining something to a small child, whispered, "We are, Fortinbras." She emphasized her point by placing her left hand on Fortinbras’ desk, displaying a simple gold ring with a single diamond in it.
Fortinbras gave himself a mighty slap in the forehead as he saw the ring. "I don’t believe it," Fortinbras complained. "When did this happen without my knowledge?"
“Do you remember,” Daisy said, grinning, “that when the Easton Wing left for Seaside, Luigi’s ship stayed behind for a day...”
“While the captain tied up a few so-called loose ends,” Fortinbras groaned. “That’s what those loose ends were, isn’t it?”
"And what happens," Fortinbras countered, "if Luigi doesn't come back from this fool-hearty assault Peach is planning to launch from Monstro City?"
"Oh, Luigi will return," Daisy mused, looking downward and placing a hand on her stomach. "He has to."
Fortinbras slid his hand from his forehead down to rest under his chin and wrinkled his nose as he looked quizzically at Daisy. "What do you mean he..." At that moment Fortinbras saw Daisy's hand, and realization came over him. Daisy didn't have to look up to know that the loud "Thump" she heard was the sound of Fortinbras' head impacting the wooden floor.
It was a peculiarly calm day outside
Bowser’s Keep on Vista Hill. No lightning adorned the sky, and the red
smoke that poured forth from the chasms beneath the fortress was thin enough
to let the sun show through just a bit. “This weather’s enough to make
your scales crawl,” King Bowser Koopa muttered to Kamek, the Magikoopa
Guildmaster, as the two of them marched into his command room where his
seven sons, his daughter, and his daughter-in-law were waiting. “As you
were,” he said off-hand to the Terrapin guards before they had a chance
to go through with the usual protocols when he entered the room. “Guards,
At Bowser’s command, the two armored Troopa soldiers saluted and left the room, closing the heavy red iron doors behind them.
“Is everyone here?” Bowser addressed the group as he counted their faces. “Good. Now then, I’ve called you all here to discuss an important problem.”
“Y’mean Kooky over there?” chimed Bowser’s third son, Roy, with an accusing glance at Ludwig, the senior of the eldest twins. “It’s about time. I told ya, he’s wit’ da rebels. He even-”
“I, and I alone, will determine who in this room is involved in rebellion,” Bowser snapped at Roy. “And if you’re referring to the Yoshi’s Island assault, I seem to recall that Ludwig and company are not the only ones guilty of treason, as is evident by your presence there in the first place.”
Roy sat back in his chair, quite subdued by the rebuttal, leaving Ludwig with a smug grin on his face.
“But as for you, Ludwig,” Bowser pointed an incriminating finger at Ludwig, “I’m still investigating you: you AND your pep-squad,” he waved his hand disgustedly at Karma, the Yoshi-Koopa hybrid sitting beside Ludwig, and Jazzman, Ludwig’s twin brother. “And if I find any sign whatsoever that you’re involved with Flutter, or any other rebel for that matter, your punishment will be harsh and prompt.” As Ludwig, Karma, and Jazzman exchanged indifferent glances, Bowser allowed himself to cool down for a moment. “But that’s not why you’re all here. The reason you’re here is simple. We have a new enemy, stronger, more cunning, and more dangerous than the Mario Brothers: the Cult of Belome. Kamek, explain.”
“Of course, Milord,” Kamek complied as he stepped to the front of the room. “Less than a week ago, I was at the headquarters of Boostercorp for a diplomatic assignment, as well as a business meeting. While I was there Lady Valentina... volunteered the information that Boostercorp had been losing ships and sailors to a group of pirates calling themselves the Cult of Belome. However, the real threat didn’t become apparent until Lord Bowser and I pieced together the true motivation behind the Cult’s attacks.”
“Which is?” Ludwig asked with disturbed interest.
“The Cult intends to fulfill an old prophecy,” Kamek answered, “reviving Belome by means of humanoid sacrifice.”
As murmurs began to ripple through the conference room it was Lemmy, Bowser’s second son, who asked, “What are we doing about it?”
“We’re going to stop them,” Bowser answered. “We’re going to wipe out the Cult of Belome before they get the chance to revive the beast.”
“How’re we gonna do that?” questioned Morton Koopa Jr, the second youngest. “I mean, how are we going to track them all down? They’re probably all over the world, and I’ll bet they’re all operating in secret, and-”
“Yes, Morton,” Bowser interrupted the young Koopaling before he could get going, “they’re an underground organization, but we have one clue as to their whereabouts.”
“And that clue is?” inquired a very suspicious Karma.
“We know they operate on the seas around Booster Harbor,” Bowser answered. “So that’s where we’re going to start looking for them. We’re going to divide the Doomship Fleet into three squadrons and patrol the seas around where Booster’s ships have disappeared looking for signs of Cult activity.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” replied Karma. “You mean you’re going to mobilize all nine doomships on the basis of a hunch? Do you even have any idea what we’ll be looking for? Besides, won’t they notice nine Imperial Doomships flying around and go into hiding?”
“We know exactly what we’re looking for,” Bowser replied. “Any ship in those waters that doesn’t belong to Booster. If you see such a ship, you’re to destroy it. Any questions?”
“Um, yeah,” Jazzman spoke up for the first time, “I got a question. What if we see a ship that’s not workin’ Booster’s gig and cancel their act, then find out it wasn’t these Cultists? I mean, we might get ‘em, but we’ll get a whole lot o’ innocents too.”
Bowser thought for a moment, seemingly attempting to ascertain the point behind Jazzman’s question. “So what if we do?” he said with a shrug. “I fail to see where the problem lies.”
Jazzman swallowed hard. “Right,” he said uneasily as he sat back in his chair. “I gotcha.”
“But Father,” Ludwig interposed, ”you still have not answered Karma’s second question. Won’t the Cult discern our intentions? It is highly unlikely that the nine vessels in question will go unnoticed.”
“Oh, is it so unlikely?” Bowser returned. “Think about it Ludwig. You of all people should know the solution to that problem.”
Ludwig looked sideways at Bowser. “If you are alluding to my stealth system, it is still untested on this scale. There is no evidence that the device will function within desired parameters.”
“On the contrary, Ludwig,” Bowser replied. “There’s more evidence than you realize. Kamek, show them.”
Kamek stepped forward toward the open window and gave a signal to a Boomerang Brother waiting outside. “My Lords and Ladies, observe the North Tower.”
As everyone turned their eyes toward where Kamek pointed, the northmost tower’s spire began to become transparent. Soon to follow was the balcony, the tower shaft, and finally the base of the tower. After a moment the now-transparent tower faded from view completely.
“I took the liberty of installing a copy of Ludwig’s prototype in the tower,” Bowser explained when the wave of murmurs running through the room subsided. “But this was just a test-run. I’ve ordered engineer battalions to install the same devices in each of your ships.”
“But the problem of the day, the million coin question, the dilemma-” Morton would have continued in like fashion for days had Wendy O. Koopa not forcefully applied her elbow to his ribs. “Will they work on our ships? I mean, doomships are huge compared to that tower.”
“I must concur with Morton,” Ludwig agreed. “The structure on which you have demonstrated the device is minuscule next to our vessels.”
“They’ll work,” Bowser assured the Koopalings. “I’m sure of this. Now, are there any questions?” The room was silent. “Excellent. You have twenty-four hours to prepare your ships and divide yourselves into squadrons. Dismissed.” As everyone got up to leave, Bowser caught Kamek by the shoulder. “Not you, Kamek.”
When everyone but Bowser and Kamek had left, Bowser began to pace slowly in front of the window, hands crossed behind his back. “It’s not hard to guess which three of them will be the first to separate themselves from the rest,” he declared flatly.
“Indeed, Milord,” Kamek replied.
“When Ludwig and his cohorts deploy,” Bowser elaborated, “once Ludwig’s engineer battalions have repaired Fallen Angel, I want it to accompany them as an 'escort'. Keep a close eye on them.”
“The Baron will know, Lord Bowser,” Kamek cautioned, “that we’re on to him. After all, Amadeus is capable of standing on its own without an escort.”
“Let him know that then,” Bowser commented. “If he thinks we expect him to sabotage the mission, then he won’t. If he never planned to to begin with, then it makes no difference.”
“As you command, My King,” Kamek answered. After several moments of complete silence, Kamek took a few tentative steps toward the window. “There’s something else, isn’t there, Milord?”
Bowser took a deep breath. “Look out this window, Kamek, and tell me what you see.”
Kamek walked up to the window and surveyed the black towers, the pointed spires, and the fortified walls of the Keep. “Power, Milord,” he answered after a few seconds. “This Keep is a city unto itself, and a fortress that only Mario and Luigi have ever breached.”
“Power indeed,” Bowser replied, nodding faintly, “but at what cost?”
Kamek looked bewildered. “What do you mean, Milord?”
“The world calls us an ‘Evil Empire’, Kamek,” Bowser explained. “Did you know that?”
Kamek looked back out the window. “I did, Milord.”
“I’ve spent many nights pondering that, and I’m left with one simple question.” Bowser looked sharply toward Kamek. “Are we?”
Kamek thought carefully about how to answer that question. “It seems to me,” he finally answered, “that you already have an answer in mind.”
Bowser hesitated before admitting, “Yes, I do have an answer, but I want to hear what you think.”
Kamek’s reply came quickly. “I’m an ambassador, Milord. My opinion is limited to the one I’m to express in foreign halls, but I naturally can’t bring myself to think we’re evil.” He looked cautiously at Bowser and returned the question. “What do you think?”
Bowser poured over the question in his mind. Should he tell his most trusted advisor what he really thought, or shouldn’t he? At length, he decided the answer was yes, he should. “I think we are.”
Kamek stood in silence for a while, unsure how to respond. “Well,” he inquired finally, “what does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” Bowser shook his head as he spoke. “I don’t know. What does it mean to you?”
Kamek turned back toward the center of the room and began to pace absentmindedly. “What I know, Milord, is that Belome is evil. If, as you suggest, the world is right about us, are you suggesting Belome and his cult are our natural ally?”
Bowser chuckled. He and Kamek both knew that the answer had to be ‘no’, but the old Magikoopa made a good point. “That’s just like you, Kamek: always pointing out the other view, always playing the devil’s advocate.” He looked back toward Kamek. “The Cult of Belome is a force I fear to identify with. If we’re evil, then they’re far worse.”
“Worse than the ‘Evil Empire’, Milord?”
“Indeed, Kamek. Worse by far.”
“Legion Commanders,” Fortinbras addressed the three generals standing before him the following morning in his office while simultaneously holding an icepack to his head, “you’ve all read my report, and you’ve heard my account of Kamek’s new ship. My question is, what do you propose we do now?”
The room was silent as the three looked at each other, wondering who should speak first. Finally, it was a broad-shouldered, dark-haired officer sporting a carefully trimmed mustache and a nameplate that read ‘Julius’ who stepped forward. “Our air power was cut almost in half by the destruction of the Easton Wing, not to mention the blow inflicted on our troops’ morale when Archangel went down. If Bowser launches a full-scale invasion of Sarasaland, I don’t think we have the aerial strength to combat this ship and the Doomship fleet.”
“Agreed,” Fortinbras nodded. “So what do you suggest?”
“We can’t beat them in the air,” Julius replied, “and our navy is still comparatively untrained, so there’s only one option left. We need to mobilize the Army and attack them now, before they have the chance to attack us.”
“Wait a minute,” Fortinbras cut him off. “How much of the Army are you suggesting we mobilize?”
“We must mobilize the entire force, Milord,” Julius clarified.
“Julius,” Fortinbras protested, “when you say ‘the entire Army’, do you realize you’re talking about an entire population? I can’t deploy everyone in the Four Princedoms into an invasion.”
“Lord Fortinbras,” declared a shorter, younger general with brown hair and a nameplate reading ‘Cassius’, “I must concur with Legionnaire Julius. At worst, the Koopas are already planning an invasion of Sarasaland, and there will be enemy troops on the ground within weeks, in which case we’ll need our forces armed and ready. At best, we have one chance and one chance only to crush the Koopa Empire before they do.“
“Brutus,” Fortinbras implored the one general who had not yet spoken, “if there is one man here who can breathe a much-needed dose of common sense into this meeting, it’s you.” As Fortinbras said this, all eyes turned to Brutus to await his response.
“With all due respect, Milord,” Brutus said apologetically, “I have to say my colleagues are correct. We must mobilize with all possible haste and strike now.”
Fortinbras shook his head and laughed faintly. “Et tu, Brute? Very well. If the three of you are in agreement, I’ll agree to your proposal, but I should point out that we’re just as unlikely to beat the Koopas on the ground as in the air.”
“What are you suggesting, Milord?” quarried Julius suspiciously.
“I’m simply saying that if this gambler’s-throw of an invasion is going to work, something must be done to increase the combat-strength of our troops.”
“Again, Milord, I ask-”
“I’m suggesting,” Fortinbras interrupted Julius, “that we reopen the Super Scope project.”
The shock that settled over the room was almost tangible.
“Lord Fortinbras,” snickered Julius, “surely, you can’t be serious. The Super Scope project was a complete and total failure. It would be a waste of our time to-”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Cassius, “but what’s the Super Scope project?”
Fortinbras turned slowly toward Cassius, wondering for a moment if he had heard correctly. “Oh, that’s right,” he recalled, “you weren’t a member of the High Command at the time. Well, the Super Scope project was our first attempt to duplicate the effect of a Koopa plasma cannon. The experiment culminated in the construction of a single, portable prototype.”
“A prototype,” Julius emphasized, “that disappeared before we could ever test it. The pieces of it were later found on Yoshi’s Island after it apparently auto-detonated. We have no idea if the confounded thing even worked.”
“It DID work,” Fortinbras affirmed. “Princess Peach has provided me with records containing detailed accounts of Mario M. Mario using the Super Scope during what Mario called Operation Yoshi’s Safari.”
Julius was silent.
“And how effective was this Super Scope, according to these accounts?” Cassius pursued the subject with interest.
“Effective enough,” Fortinbras answered without answering. “Let’s leave it at that. Now, gentlemen, I’m presenting this as a motion from the commander of the Birubuto Legion, and asking for a second. As you all know, I could use my position as Minister of Defense to push this through parliament, but I’m not. If you can unanimously agree that this is a bad idea, then I’ll accept your judgment.”
“I, for one, Milord,” Julius answered quickly, “think this is an absolutely ludicrous idea.” Having voiced his objection, he turned to Brutus for support.
“I must agree with Legionnaire Julius,” Brutus attested. “The Super Scope project brings with it too many risks.”
Fortinbras looked at Cassius. “Legionnaire Cassius, it falls to you. Do you or do you not feel we should reopen Project Super Scope?”
Cassius glanced to either side of him at the other two legion commanders before looking back toward Fortinbras. “Milord,” he proclaimed, “I agree with your motion.” As the words left his mouth, an exasperated sigh was heard from Julius.
Fortinbras beamed, his eyes practically flashing with fiery excitement. “I knew one of you would see things my way.” In the excitement he nearly dropped the icepack he was holding, giving Julius an excuse to snicker under his breath. “Well, the motion is seconded. Brutus, Julius, I’ll need all documents concerning Project Super Scope on my desk by 1800 hours today. Understood? Dismissed.”
As he dismissed the legion commanders, Fortinbras turned his attention to a report in front of him. It was from the Corp of Engineers concerning the repair of Archangel. The report was so grim that Fortinbras was almost grateful for the interruption of someone clearing his throat in front of him. Fortinbras looked up from his desk to find Brutus still standing exactly where he had stood through the meeting. “Legionnaire Brutus,” he addressed the general, “is there something else?”
“Well, first off, Milord,” Brutus began a bit uneasily, indicating the icepack Fortinbras held to the side of his head, “I wanted to ask about that.”
Fortinbras skulked. “It’s nothing. I just got a bit careless earlier this morning and hit my head.”
“On what, if I may ask?”
Fortinbras removed the icepack from his head and dropped it onto his desk. “Well, if you have to know, this floor.”
Brutus was unsure how to respond.
“And as with a great many problems in Sarasaland,” Fortinbras grumbled, “I can blame it on Luigi. Or should I say now... His Highness, Prince Luigi.”
“With respect, Milord, how did Luigi have anything to do with you hitting your head?”
“Because if it hadn’t been for him,” Fortinbras half-screamed, “then Her Imperial Highness wouldn’t have had such revolting news waiting for me when I got back, and I wouldn’t have passed out in shock and hit my head!”
Brutus struggled to keep from laughing. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said between muffled snickers, “that you didn’t know about Princess Daisy and Luigi’s wedding?”
“No,” Fortinbras said through gritted
teeth, forcing himself to remain
calm, “in point of fact I didn’t. I don’t know how they managed to keep something like this hidden from me, but they did. But that’s not the worst part of it, Brutus.”
Brutus shook his head, no longer able to keep from grinning at Fortinbras’ disgust over the situation. “I’ll take that to mean you also heard that Her Highness is expecting a child.”
“Don’t mention that to me, Brutus. Don’t mention it.” Fortinbras held up his hands as if to block the words from reaching his ears.
“My apologies, Milord,” Brutus chortled. “Well, I’m sure you have a great many reports to read. So, by your leave, I’ll be in my office looking up the Super Scope files.”
“Yes, fine. Anything. Just go, Brutus.”
“Yes, Prime Minister.”
Three days later, Kamek and his Sledge Brother guards stood on the bridge of the newly refitted air juggernaut Fallen Angel. “Are the engineer battalions clear of our take-off route?” Kamek asked the guard serving as logistics officer.
“Yes, Guildmaster,” answered the guard unemotionally. “We’re clear for launch at your command.”
“Initiate launch sequence,” Kamek ordered, and the ship came to life with the noise of the engines powering up. But Kamek wasn’t interested in it. His mind was occupied by what he considered to be matters of greater importance.
“Victory was within my grasp,” Kamek didn’t realize he had spoken audibly. “I was a breath away from crushing Luigi, and I didn’t even have to look for him. He came to me. If it hadn’t been for the guardian...”
“Guildmaster,” the Captain of Kamek’s Guard spoke up, just loud enough to interrupt Kamek’s thoughts, “what did you say?”
Kamek did a double-take and looked up toward the towering soldier. “Oh. Pardon me. I didn’t realize I said that out loud.”
“Yes, guildmaster, you did. And, if I may pursue the subject, you said something about a Guardian.”
Kamek frowned. This, he decided, was the problem with hiring intelligent help: they asked questions. Until now he had managed to keep this a secret from all except Lord Bowser, but now he had let that one, single word slip. He could, of course, have just ordered the Captain to keep silent and never speak of this again, but what good would it do to have the Captain formulate his own story in his mind, no doubt complete with all manner of... of... “I’m speaking of the Star Road Guardian, Captain.”
The Captain looked confused. Kamek knew what he was thinking. He was wondering what the Star Road Guardian had to do with the recent escape of Luigi L. Mario from Kamek’s grasp. Suddenly, the Captain’s eyes grew wide as he made the connection. “Is that what snatched Luigi away and killed the rest of the bridge crew?”
Kamek nodded. “It was indeed the Star Road Guardian.”
“And you knew this from the start, Guildmaster?”
Kamek wrinkled his brow. “What makes you say that?”
“Because as soon as that light disappeared you started talking about ‘I’ll take care of it,’ and that kind of thing.”
Oops, Kamek thought. He waited a few seconds before answering. “You’re right. I did know it was the Guardian. And that probably makes you wonder,” Kamek anticipated the Captain’s next question, “how I planned to ‘take care of it.’ Am I right?”
It was the Captain’s turn to nod.
Kamek sighed. “Take a seat, Captain.”
With that, the two Koopas walked to the center of the bridge and took their
usual seats at the command and control stations. “Forty-five years ago,”
Kamek explained, “when I had just begun my apprenticeship under then-Guildmaster
Kaman, I was observing the night sky as part of my astrological research
when I observed a falling star. I barely even took note of it at first,
but the following day I was walking by the exact place where I saw it land
and found a peculiar glowing rock in the shape of a
perfect five-pointed star. I was curious, so I took it back to my study and, well, studied it.”
“A shooting star, eh?” The Captain noted. “That sounds like a wish-star from the Star Road.”
Kamek shook his head. “That’s what I thought at first, but that would have been a six-pointed star. After several days and nights relentlessly searching for an explanation why it fell into Dark Land and not onto Star Hill, I discovered its true origin. It was an actual piece of the Star Road itself, chipped from the Road by some great power.”
“Any idea what this ‘great power’ was?”
Kamek shrugged. “I have no idea. It could have been one of Tatanga’s early incursions onto the planet. Or maybe it was one of Smithy’s much earlier attempts to break through. Whatever it was, it chipped a piece off of the Star Road and sent it crashing to the surface. It was such a small piece that the Guardian, apparently busy battling this force that was attacking the Star Road, didn’t notice it for several years. But by that time, I had learned everything that a mortal could hope to learn about the fragment.” The old Magikoopa held up his wand and pointed to the orb on the end of it. “It’s in here.”
“That’s where your gift of Divination comes from, isn’t it, Guildmaster?”
“Indeed, Captain. That’s exactly why the Guardian found it necessary to track down this chip. However, I wasn’t willing to part with it, and the only way the Guardian could have taken it back by force would have been to kill me, since only then will my wand disintegrate and expel its contents. The Guardian, however, is forbidden to kill a mortal unless said mortal is a threat to the Star Road.”
“But weren’t you, Guildmaster? I mean, you had a chip from the Star Road.”
“Yes,” Kamek said with a malicious grin, “but the Guardian couldn’t afford to let his superiors know that, so he wouldn’t be able to justify killing me without admitting he had been clumsy and negligent. When I realized this, getting rid of the Guardian proved to be an easy task. I simply warned him not to interfere with my business, or I would let his superiors know exactly where my Gift came from.”
The Captain nodded. “But if that’s true, why’d the guardian choose now to risk having his dirty secret let out by poking his nose in where you’ve told him not to?”
“I don’t know that,” Kamek admitted. “But the Guardian did say I’d need Luigi’s help-and I quote-’if the Cult of Belome has their way.’ Somehow, I get the feeling there was a lot more at stake than the life of one meddlesome Hoo-Mon.”
The Captain turned back toward the front of the Bridge. “I’m in way over my head,” was all he could manage to say.
“We all may be, Captain,” Kamek returned. “We all may be.”
“Jester to Hot Rod,” Lemmy Koopa called over the ship-to-ship radio as the nine Doomships lined up in the colossal hangar beneath Bowser’s Keep. “Are you ready yet? The Amadeus squadron is launching now. We’re up next, if Roy will just get his stupid ship ready.”
“I’m workin’ on it, ya ball-ridin’ freak!” came a disgruntled voice from another ship on the same channel.
“This is gonna be wild, Lemmy,” Iggy Koopa responded from Hot Rod, ignoring Roy. “We’re about to unleash some real fireworks.”
“Yeah,” Lemmy replied halfheartedly.
“Sounds great. Geez, all I wanted was to be a clown.” Lemmy’s thoughts
were interrupted by the sounds of the three Doomships of the Amadeus squadron,
led by Baron Ludwig, beginning to lift off. As Iggy’s eyes raced insanely
from Ludwig’s Amadeus to Jazzman’s KDS
Peacemaker to Karma’s KDS Free Bird, Lemmy’s attention was diverted to one specific ship in the squadron. It was Karma’s Doomship, the Free Bird, the most powerful in the fleet except Amadeus. “Hey Iggy,” Lemmy addressed his brother, “take a look at that halfling freak’s ship.”
“Yeah,” Iggy answered. “It’s soooooo cool. I’ll bet she can cause some reeeeeal havoc with that ship. Ehee hee heh heh heh...”
“Yeah, sure Iggy,” Lemmy stopped his brother before he could become too disturbing. “But there’s one thing I don’t quite get. King Dad doesn’t trust her, right? In fact, he hasn’t trusted her since she first showed up at the castle. So why did he let her build one of the strongest ships in the fleet? Wouldn’t he normally’ve had it impounded as soon as he realized how tough it was?”
“Who cares?” Iggy dismissed him, dementedly watching Free Bird extend its cannons, flexing its proverbial muscles. “With all those cannons she’s gonna have fun, Fun, FUN!”
“Yeah,” Lemmy sighed, “’til Daddy takes the Free Bird away.”
Seaside Town was unusually quiet the following day. Perhaps it was because the residents were still tired from cleaning the wrecked Sarasi Easton Carrier Fleet out of their harbor. Perhaps it was because the sailors who normally would have docked at Seaside gave it a wide berth after the Koopa assault on the harbor a few days prior. Perhaps the town was as busy as normal and only seemed quiet compared to the now-familiar noise of Sarasi sailors and pilots running this way and that, which the residents had gotten used to in recent days. Whatever, it was, the quiet was a welcome change to one man living in Seaside. The man was Martine, High Priest of the Cult of Belome, and he had important matters requiring his attention. “So, Sister Raini,” he said to the pale Belomite priestess sitting across the table from him, “I’m curious. How did you get here unnoticed?”
“I came to this port with the Chai Air Force as a newly commissioned Lieutenant, High Priest,” was the priestess’s answer. “During my off-duty hours I slipped off the carrier and hid in the town until the fleet left.”
“Then wouldn’t they list you as AWOL?” Martine continued questioning. “You took a great risk to come here.”
“It was worth the risk for a chance to serve the High Priest as an acolyte,” Raini replied subserviently. “Besides, soon the Devourer will rise, and it won’t matter how the Sarasi Air Force lists me once the world knows the Dark Peace of Oblivion.”
“Long Live Belome, Devourer of Souls,” was Martine’s answer to this bold statement of Belomite doctrine. “But for now, you should exercise more caution. Great Belome has not yet been revived, and there are powers in this world who would stop at nothing to see our cause fail.”
“Surely those powers cannot prevail against us, High Priest,” Raini announced defiantly.
“We are indeed close, my child, to our goal. However, the powers at work in this world are formidable indeed, and some-namely the Koopas-are beginning to see us moving about in the shadows. We will need great strength if we are to defend ourselves and our cause, and finish our task.”
Raini looked confused. “What kind of strength, High Priest?”
“There is an old saying, ‘power comes from the barrel of a gun’,” Martine explained as he rose from his seat and stepped to a chest across the room from the table. “And that is exactly the kind of power of which I speak.” With that, Martine opened the chest, revealing a shipment of Golden Bullet Bills bearing the Boostercorp label.
“Those are Kamek’s new weapons!” Raini exclaimed, leaping from her seat.
“Exactly,” Martine replied with a sinister grin, “and we may soon be blessed with yet another of the weapons of our enemies.”
“What do you mean, High Priest”
“I just received a note by carrier pigeon this morning saying Sarasaland was reopening an experiment of their own called Project Super Scope.”
“This must be a new development, High Priest,” Raini said slowly, “because I never heard anything of it. Where did this carrier pigeon come from?”
“It came,” Martine answered, “from a very, very reliable source at the Sarasi High command: Brother Cassius.”