Popple and Crump: The Magnificent Heist
Chapter 1: Popple and Rookie Ride Again!
As many a Mushroom Kingdom native would know, Rogueport is stuffed to the gills with problems. For some, it's the fact that most of the city looks terrible: with it's dreary rocky sidewalks and walls contaminated by litter and graffiti. For others, it's the constant fear of being sucked into the on-going gang war between the Pianta Syndicate and The Robbos. And of course, there's the fact that the city is stuffed to the brim with unsavory types: thieves, swindlers, cut-throats, and people who are just plain rude! But for others, Rogueport is a land of opportunity if your moral compass is murkier than the local water. For people like Popple the self-proclaimed Legendary Shadow Thief, the influx of unsavory types was a breeding grounds for grand opportunities like this one.
"Hey bartender, gimme another round of Chuckola Cola or else I'm gonna die of thirst, see!" Popple demanded, slamming his fist on the wooden table at the far end of the inn's barroom.
"Yessir, coming right over." Podley the Beanish bartender replied, staring up from the glass he was polishing. As he fumbled around for the bottle of the legendary soda, Popple leaned back in his chair and stretched, suppressing a yawn as he stared out the window. 'Cripes, this guy has one heck of a tardiness problem! I better not have screwed up by hiring this so-called "mechanical genius!'
"Your drink, sir." Podley announced, walking over with the bottle and pouring a healthy amount into Popple's glass.
"Well thank you, mister! Y'know, the people of Rogueport are a heck of a lot nicer than others give'em credit for, y'know what I'm saying?" Popple asked as he grabbed his glass and downed a good amount of it, the wonderfully bold berry flavor tickling his taste-buds with it's fizziness as it poured down his throat.
"I appreciate the kind words, sir. If you need anymore, I'll be at the bar polishing more glasses..." And with that, Podley left Popple to finish his drink in peace and quiet. He glanced out the window for what was probably the fiftieth time this evening, and saw a rather portly looking fellow heading for the bar. 'Well finally! I thought that old fatty here would never show up at this rate!' Popple thought as his hired help barged through the door, stumbling clumsily in as he looked around, the thick goggles he was wearing conveying a sort of clumsy emptiness in his head.
"Hey people, LISTEN UP!" the fat man roared into the bar, getting the attention of the local thieves and sailors who were trying to drink away their problems for the night as they stared at him. Popple cringed at this display of stupidity, HE was supposed to be his new rookie? Not only did he stick out like a sore thumb thanks to his red cape and odd black outfit emblazoned with a large X on the front, but his thick goggles and purple hat just barely suppressing a pair of horns helped the guy stand out even more in a crowd, as opposed to the scrawny, unremarkable Beanish Popple who tended to blend in with crowds. "I'm told that a certain Legendary Shadow Thief wants to see me because he values my genius, and is waiting for me in this dingy little bar! So you're gonna tell ol' Crump here where he is, or he's bringing the pain!"
"Oh, Popple?" a sneaky little Mouser squeaked from the bar, "He's over there."
"Oh, thanks! And uh, POW! I'm out!" Crump said as he headed over to Popple's table, pulling up a chair as he sat, causing the ancient seat to creak under his girth.
"So I take it you're this Lord Crump my informant told me about, eh?" Popple asked as Crump nodded enthusiastically!
"Buh huh huh, that's right!" Lord Crump guffawed, "The second-in-command of the X-Naut army himself graces your presence... well, the former second-in-command at least."
"X-Nauts? Never heard of 'em." Popple yawned as Crump's eyes widened from under his thick goggles.
"Never heard of us? Man, were you born yesterday or something? The X-Nauts were only the biggest, baddest gang in the Mushroom Kingdom! Hey, bartender!"
"Yes?" Podley asked, not looking up from polishing a plate.
"You've heard of the X-Nauts right?"
"Nope. Can't say I have."
"WHAT?! Oh for the love of-"
"Will you be quiet you big moron?!" Popple hissed as he clamped his hand over where he assumed Crump's mouth was, "Is subtlety a lost art on ya? Huh?"
"Sorry." Crump sighed as Popple shook his head.
"Man alive, I hope my informant made the right choice in getting in contact with you, ya fat lug! So anyway, I take it you know why you're here, eh?"
"Well, I was told that you needed my amazing technological skills and combat prowess, eh?" Crump boasted, flexing an arm muscle as Popple rolled his eyes.
"Yeah yeah, I did. But I take it you didn't know the REAL reason I had you haul your fat butt over here, eh?"
"Well if there's some other reason, it's lost on me, bub!" Crump shrugged as Popple reached into his pants pocket, pulling out a fancy looking envelope and two tickets. He removed a fancy looking letter from the envelope, and placed it on the table in front of Crump.
"Well fatty, I'm sure even you've heard tales about the many heists and capers that I've pulled off over the years! After all, I'm quite famous in criminal circles across the globe, see?"
"Well, before that Bandit pal of yours got in contact with me, I had never heard of you, bub!"
"I imagine you're not the type to get caught up with your current events, eh? Well never mind, at least my exploits got SOMEONE'S attention, 'cause I've got this letter over here, see?" Clearing his throat, Popple picked up the envelope and began to read it out loud.
"Greetings and Salutations, my little Beanish friend! If you have come in possession of this letter, it means that you have been deemed worthy enough to register as a blip on my radar! As you see, I am a notorious thief over in my home country the Moonbeam Kingdom! Let me tell you, it is the most beautiful place in this planet with it's old-timey architecture, natural beauty, famous lunar views... and of course, it is home to all sorts of riches, treasures, and things just ripe for the taking! So let me ask you this, oh Popple the Legendary Shadow Thief, from a criminal to his fellow, would you be interested in a little... event I'm cooking up? I do not wish to spell it out exactly since for all I know, this letter could be seen by the wrong people and thus land us both in a heap of trouble! So in a month's time, come seek me out over in the humble port of Half-Moon Harbor in the Moonbeam Kingdom, I will be waiting in the local tavern known as the 3-Up Moon with my fellow conspirators. Enclosed with this letter will be two tickets for a boat ride to the Moonbeam Kingdom, one for you and one for your partner in crime as I have known that you are often in the company of a "Rookie" of sorts. I hope you seize this opportunity, because it would be an honor to meet you and it is always a shame when people fail to answer the door when opportunity comes knocking! Cordially Yours, The Gentleman Rogue!"
"Oh boy," Crump snorted, "This guy sounds like a real pretentious dweeb, don't you think? I mean, what kind of guy calls himself "The Gentleman Thief" if they're not some pretentious snob?"
"That's not the point! The point is, I've got two tickets for a boat ride to this Moonbeam Kingdom place, and I'm in desperate need of a Rookie to tag along with me, see?"
"Oh man, you're actually inviting me to go this thing with you? Whoo hoo!" Crump bellowed as he bounced out of his chair and did a happy dance that caused the floor to tremble. Popple's eyes widened, mortified at this ghastly sight before him.
"CUT IT OUT!" Popple roared as Crump stopped his merry jig, wishing he could either beat Crump to a pulp, have the earth swallow him up and save him from this embarrassment, or a mix of both, really."If you keep on drawing attention to yourself like that, you're not only gonna miss out on the honor of being my Rookie, but I'll also knock your block off, see?!"
"Sorry Popple." Crump sighed as he plopped down onto his seat, "I just never get invited to anything, I think it's really cool that you want me to come along!" Popple shrugged as he downed another mouthful of Chuckola Cola.
"Well, I need a new Rookie anyway so why not take you along, see? I mean you've got the brawn, I've got the brains, we'll be two indestructible peas in a pod, see? So you golden?"
"Totally! I mean, I totally need a place to run off to now that I've kinda had my last chance with Grodus!" laughed Crump.
"Grodus? He was your boss, right?"
"Yeah! He was the leader of the X-Nauts, a real nasty guy with a mean streak a mile wide! You see, he wanted to find these Crystal Stars so he could resurrect an ancient demon thing so he could take over the world, you know? Problem was, that demon didn't really take too kindly to him ordering her around, so she zapped him and BOOM! Headless! Don't worry though, he got better-"
"Get to the point, ya blabbermouth!" Popple hissed, wishing he never asked Crump about Grodus.
"Oh, sorry. Well, I've been taking care of him along with a few other X-Nauts that survived our base getting blown up, and... well, I kept screwing things up: I would regularly drop him, spill food on him, drench him in water during cleaning sessions... he kinda had it up to here with me and sent me out on my butt. But you know what? I'm glad I get to start over with you!" Crump explained, giggling a bit nervously when he saw Popple's mouth twist into a frown.
"So let me get this straight, you kept screwing up, so your boss gave you the boot? And I'm supposed to be dragging you around as my rookie?"
"Uh... yeah? Whoa, don't look at me like that!" Crump hollered as Popple balled up his fist, "You fired me because I'm a good fighter and technician, right? Look, I can prove myself to you, I'm done with screwing up! Honest!" Popple lowered his fist and turned his yellow eyes skyward to reflect on this.
"Well, I'm a pretty good in a scrap if I do say so myself! But I'm more of a skinny beanpole, while you're a big lug with some pretty mean looking guns, you could really save our necks if we got caught by the fuzz and forced into a fight. And uh, you said you're a technician, eh?"
Yep!" Crump replied cheerfully, "I made not one, but TWO awesome fighting robots, I made a powerful bomb called the Superbobomb, and I even made our security system!"
"Hmm... well, if my informant thought you would be what I needed when he went scouting and his word matches up with your... oh fine, you're tagging along, okay?" Popple sighed, deciding that a dim-witted yet powerful and tech-savvy Rookie was better than none.
"OH BOY! Man oh man, you won't regret this Popple! Crump squealed with joy, bouncing up and down in his seat before it gave out and crumpled beneath him, drawing everyone's attention to their table while Crump scrambled back up. "I'm okay guys, I'm okay!"
"I think I'm already regretting this." Popple sighed as he stared down at his now-empty glass. "Hey bartender, gimme a refill! I'm going to have to drink away the pain of having this headache tagging along..."
"Coming, sir." Podley said as he grabbed the bottle of Chuckola Cola.
"Alright Crump, if you're going to be my rookie, you're going to have to call me boss, got it?" Popple snapped as Podley refilled his glass, taking a swig of the wonderful drink.
"Sorry there boss! So uh, when do we leave for the Kingdom?"
"Tomorrow! It's been almost one whole month since I got acquainted with this here letter, see? The plan is that we're gonna crash at this inn tonight, and get up to catch our boat first thing in the morning. So, you have enough dough on hand to rent out a room?" Popple asked, rolling his eyes as Crump shook his head.
"Sorry boss, I burned all my cash on taking the Excess Express over here, and there was my meals on the train..."
"I'll cover you tonight, okay? But you better hope this here Gentleman Rogue guy's willing to cover your expenses, because I ain't sharing any more of my hard-earned moolah, see?" said Popple as he reached into a sack of money and placed ten coins over in Crump's hand. "Now go and pay up, let the nice lady upstairs you're bunking with me, see?"
"Gotcha, Boss!" Crump said, doing two imaginary gunshots with his fingers, "And with that... POW! I'm out!" Spinning on heel, Crump ran off to the staircase, causing loud thumping sounds as he stomped up... until Popple winced upon hearing the sound of splintering wood and Crump crying out.
"AW GEEZ! Boss, can you help? I'm stuck!" Popple set his glass down and hid his face in his palms as a couple of Pianta sailors rose from their seats to help Crump get free from the stairs.
"I swear to god, this guy had BETTER be worth palling around with, see?!" Popple growled as he downed the rest of his beverage in a few huge gulps. "BARTENDER! Hit me up, and this time give me the whole bottle!"