The hellish journey that Mario had taken that night had almost finished him off; the chaos in his head had somehow manifested into a physical pain that now rested firmly in his stomach. Nevertheless he had made it and now was sat across from Pauline in a bar of her choice (as usual she is calling the shots here), a deflated cappuccino before him, and a feeling of relief that the situation hadn’t yet overcome him.
Pauline was as collected as ever, Mario had always known her for her level head and was amazed to this day how she had convinced the public to anything otherwise. Dedicated to her role, braver than the bravest of us… Yet she looked weaker than he’d ever seen her before, the cigarette normally held nonchalantly in her fingers betrayed a tremor that was shooting through her arm every few seconds. Right now she was not playing her part, and the belief that she would never act anything but herself in front of him gave him the courage to continue in his behest.
She gave him the courtesy of saying his piece, letting all the worry and dread out of him as he gave out meek orations that attempted to blame her for his troubles in his indirect, goodie-two-shoes fashion. But her patience was endless and she would not interrupt until he had finished moaning and fallen into that sad silence she knew so well these days. She simply sat before him and bided her time by slowly puffing away on her cigarette. Mario kept speaking but she could tell he was almost through and after one final accusatory outburst against her moral fibre, he finally became unintelligible and his voice trailed away.
She sighed. The last few years particularly had taken their toll on her. The renewed interest in the whole Donkey Kong affair 30 odd years ago had forced her to act where the so called hero could only panic. The identity of the real Kong, the theme park, mini’s playing their parts while the main cast spout friendship, not to mention the re-enactments; she had worked hard to erase any and all suspicions and she couldn’t believe that even now, Mario had let her down.
“My dear Mario…” she began and the uncertainty rose up through him now as he contemplated whether rage or a glimpse of their old flame would follow next. She didn’t have the spirit for either any more… “You knew Kong’s love for me would one day be a problem. I told you to silence him. He would have been happier that way no doubt. Poor creature… But you made me believe he’d been taken care of Mario. What am I to do now?” She had nothing left to offer the man, he’d already taken her life, something which he’d never really grasped before. “You and your scams have killed many people, Super Mario, only their flesh lives on as punishment for their transgressions”. She took another drag of her cigarette to mask the sob that had risen up her throat.
Mario had nothing to reply with. He knew she was right, she’d always been right and he had never done enough to thank her. His happiness, his beloved Peach, would never have been his without her. But to end a life, one which essentially doesn’t exist any more, could he bring himself to commit this crime too.
He exhaled, allowing all his worries to flood away from him. There was only one solution. He told Pauline plain and simple that he would find Donkey Kong and he would kill him. Pauline was only half convinced at this conviction but another issue had arisen that she knew poor Mario had been avoiding. What about his brother? How much did Luigi now know? However, before she had even a chance to ask the question, a disturbance was heard behind their booth, the doors to the bar had been flung open in haste and Mario, alarmed now, ran out the building with the distinct feeling they had been overheard. Pauline watched the man leave with full knowledge as to what, or more appropriately who the disturbance had been, and she began the peculiar act of shedding tears she could never shed, a deficiency she believed was a result of the sins she will never be able to share.
Outside, Mario stumbled across his worse fear. Their spy had gotten away; fled when the oath to kill had been made, yet in their haste they had lost a hat outside the door, green with an L emblem adorning the front. A conflict began in Mario at this moment, raging harder than any battle he had ever fought since his rise to fame. It disturbed him to think that in an instant he must choose between having his crimes revealed to the world, or his brother’s life. Yet what he found ever more disturbing was that his arms were pulling on his Tanooki suit without direction, his legs were already sprinting after their prey, panic fuelled adrenaline taking over and Mario already knew where this night was to take him. No matter what, he would always remain the hero who triumphed over Donkey Kong. With a skilful leap he took to the skies in search of his brother…
Thanks for reading the very first Smash Vault. More will follow in the not too distant future.