A/N: Hey guys! (If you're there!) This is my rendition of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It's for The Element Commander and PitFTW's Novelty contest. Not that many participants so far, but so far there have been some pretty promising ones!
Anyway, if you've read the book already, here's one disclaimer - I will never, ever be able to do justice to such an amazing story. I'm not trying. This is just a tribute to one of the greatest stories I've ever been forced to read in a literature class.
For those who haven't read A Tale of Two Cities I highly urge you to! But if you're like me and hardly have patience for the classics and the language associated with it, I hope you read this anyway - Trust me, it is an amazing story. There is mystery, romance, death, despair, and hope.
The world that I've set this in is an AU of sorts. Parisea represents France and Nintaindo represents Britain. The universe I've set this in is slightly steampunk just to make the take on this classic slightly more original. Also, all Smashers in this story will appear to be human. That means people like Bowser, Kirby, Fox, Wolf etc. will all be human.
Pairings include - Captain Falcon x Samus, Marth x Peach x Ike triangle.
Anyway, without further ado, here's the story!
I, Lady Paprika, do not own anything associated with Nintendo which includes its characters, settings and anything that falls under its ownership. I also do not own A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens or any quotes that I may have inserted here that belong to him.
The beat of the horse's hooves against the dirt road felt comparatively slower to Peach than her own erratic heartbeats. Today could be the day. Sitting primly in the carriage with her gloved hands folded neatly across her lap, she stared at Luigi who was sitting in front of her, their knees nearly knocking into each other for every bump the carriage made. She may have been facing him, but she was not really looking at him. She had not looked outside at all since the carriage had started moving. The stench was enough to make her understand not to look at the scenery that greeted her outside.
Luigi gave her a mustachioed smile - more perfunctory, she thought, than anything else. "Samus owed a debt to him, you know. He found her on the streets and took her in when nobody else would. Her information cannot be false if he cared for her."
She only nodded, thinking of the woman who sat in a corner, knitting furiously as if she had no more time left. She had been strange, quite different from Peach. Where Peach was incredibly soft, this Samus Aran had been incredibly hard in both how she looked and her mannerisms. But Peach had been inclined to think that Samus had given her the right information.
Lost in her thoughts, she did not speak again but after several minutes of silence, she heard the driver command the horse to slow down and finally stop. Exiting the cramped carriage with assistance of Luigi, she stared ahead of her, biting her lip. She had commanded herself not to hope, but she couldn't help the way her hands began to shake. She might find him here and even though she willed herself not to, she couldn't help the way her legs went warm and cold at the same time. The way they yielded and unyielded, wanting to turn around and bolt but daring her to inch forward.
Luigi grasped her hand, as if sensing the conflicting emotions that skittered across her mind and together they both read the title of the building that towered over them ominously. The building was about twenty stories high and a huge, gray cement wall surrounded the building. Barbed wire was coiled around at the top to warn the innocent away and to prevent the damned from escaping.
Shadow Moses Institute for the Imprisoned
She took a deep breath and walked towards the prison.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The streets were littered with corpses rotting on the streets - there was no place to bury them if anybody cared to even identify the bodies in the first place. The air was enough to make any foreigner gag or vomit from the sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh - but most of the working class of Parisea could not smell the stench, and they did not glance at the bodies - they were far too busy trying to find food that the rats had not gotten to already.
Inside Blue Falcon, the pub where Peach and Luigi had just visited early that morning, sat Samus and her husband, Captain Falcon. Captain Falcon was the one taking orders, and handling the register. Samus was sitting in one of the grimy booths. In her lap, there was a half completed yellow scarf. She was deftly knitting red into it, calmly yet furiously fast. A muted storm.
Next to her, a short, nearly bald man was talking to her. He was dressed in shabby clothes and he was clutching one of those Pikmin dolls that had gone out of fashion ten years earlier. If you looked closely, you could see dried blood on the front of his shirt and on the Pikmin doll. It used to be yellow, but now it was a dull, rusty red. "Killed my son, 'e did. Ness was my only joy in th' world." His squinty eyes squinted even further as if he was trying not to cry. The image was hard to erase and he suddenly found himself unable to continue.
His wife had left him two months back when it was clear that he wouldn't be able to provide for his family. All he had left was Ness who never complained, who patiently bore through the days where he'd only have half a pear to eat. He had been dragging that Pikmin doll along through the muddy streets, searching for a metal stick when the car had come by lightning quick. He had seen the whole thing happen of course - knew what was going to happen a second before it did, early enough to witness the way his son's eyes did not register what was happening, but too late to give any kind of warning.
"I need a name," she replied in a flat voice, slamming his thoughts back into their little booth. She slid the bright red yarn over the sharp edge of one needle, looping it neatly.
The man - who had introduced himself as Olimar - bit his lip, and rubbed at his pink, squashed nose. "I dunno. But 'e gave me this." Olimar shifted slightly as he extracted a coin from his grimy clothes. He slid it across to Samus who stopped her knitting to inspect it. It was a silver coin. "Said it would compensate my loss." In his mind, he'd seen the wink of silver as that man flipped it towards him. He hadn't even seen his face because the man did not exit the car. He had simply rolled his tinted window back enough to toss the coin into the dirt before zooming away, leaving Olimar cradling Ness's head to his chest. As if that would help staunch the flow of blood that was coloring the street and the Pikmin doll that was slowly turning red. Olimar hadn't washed it yet.
Samus's jaw twitched but apart from that, she gave no indication of having heard the tremor of outrage and defeat in his voice. Instead, she asked, "Could you describe the car? Did you get an ID?" Olimar knew why she was asking. Only the bourgeoisie owned cars, and if Olimar's story was true, then the man must have been very wealthy indeed. They knew that only a wealthy man would think they were being generous by paying a silver for a young boy's death. They had no hearts.
Olimar squinted his eyes. "The car musta been blue, I think. As for the ID, I only caught the last four bits. I think it was Q-U-1-S. Sorry if that don't help you but I got no place else to turn. They said you was the best."
Samus's face - which was a mask of steel this whole exchange softened slightly. "I am." She took the silver coin in her hand and ran the pad of her thumb over its slightly raised surface. She stared at the emblem that was shaped in the form of a hand and frowned at it. She faced Olimar again. "I can't give back your son, Olimar for a son is indeed an irreplaceable thing." She gripped the coin in her fist tightly, before she gave a faint smirk. There was something hard about it, as if she didn't know how to smile any other way.
"But this monsieur was right - this silver coin will indeed compensate for some of your loss. You did the right thing coming here."
Olimar slumped in his seat, as though he were relieved that he passed some sort of test. He'd get his vengeance.
Eventually the knitting slowed down to a gradual halt and Samus stood up.
Time for work.
He was closing his eyes, trying not to listen to the quiet squeaking or the way their tiny claws tapped against the worn out stone floor as the rats skittered across the tiny room. He dreamed of that beautiful blonde woman with those worried blue eyes. As if she were searching for something that would always be out of her reach. He hadn't seen the sky in two weeks, and somehow he'd forgotten how it had looked like. He imagined they were the color of her eyes which was something he hadn't quite forgotten yet. Searching, searching, never quite present. Out of his reach.
"Sir Lowell, they are calling for you."
He didn't know a single thing about her, not even her name.
Marth reluctantly creaked open his eyes and looked up at the dark outline of the guard who had addressed him with that name. He tried not to hate the man who was only doing his duty. He grit his teeth and stood up, wobbling on his feet slightly and hunching over. He wasn't used to sitting in a room which was as dark as a starless night. He also wasn't used to rooms in which he couldn't stand properly. Or rooms in which he had to stand in a corner to pee because there were no toilets. For God's sake, he was not used to a prison.
So he was quite relieved when the guard called him. Better death than this abominable place, he had decided a long time ago. Anything was better than this. Willingly, he got up, careful not to hit his head against the ceiling. He'd already hit his head on that blasted ceiling more times than he could count. Once outside, he realized it was late afternoon judging by the light that streamed through the windows. He squinted as his pupils began to reluctantly adjust to the light. He barely had to the time to stretch his legs before the guard shoved him out into the courtroom.
He wished he had time to prepare himself. He did not want the jury or court to try him while he smelled like piss and he was dressed in clothes that he had not changed in nearly two and a half weeks. Not to mention, his hair was probably a mess and he'd probably be blinking stupidly inside the courtroom as well trying to adjust to even brighter light thanks to all the lights.
Stumbling forward almost blindly, with only the guard to show him where he was going, he tried to remember bring his wits together, but for some reason all he could think back on was the day he got captured. He had spent two weeks in confinement trying to figure out what had happened. He knew he had been convicted for treason but he had no idea of what treason he had committed. He could only conclude that he had been framed. His frown deepened at the thought.
It was problematic, because he understood the reasoning behind being framed. He was perhaps one of the most hated men in Parisea after all. It was why he had fled to Nintaindo after all. The last thing he expected was to go to prison in Nintaindo however. All he wanted was a fresh start.
He blinked again, his train of thought breaking off as he realized they were finally in court. He snuck a glance at two men he had never seen in his life before - a man with flaming red hair and eyes that almost looked as red as his mane. Scaly green tattoos covered his arms and when he opened his mouth to give his name - Bowser Koopa - Marth could have sworn he had seen fangs rather than teeth.
The man seated next to him looked even more intimidating. His hair too was red, but it was combed back with smooth and controlled precision. He had dark, almost greenish skin. His bushy orange-red eyebrows were furrowed over his eyes but he was smiling serenely. He gave his name as Ganondorf Dragmire. Marth had never seen either of them in his life.
He looked to his right and sitting next to him was a tall man who looked almost too burly to be his attorney. He hadn't caught his name when it was being announced because he'd been thinking about what he could have possibly done to end up in court. The wig sitting on his head however - the white long curls that indicated he was a lawyer - indicated that this was the person who would be making his case. There was an extremely guarded, yet bored expression in his eyes. He sat casually back in his seat as if he looked almost bored. Marth noted his black court robes were extremely rumpled as if he hadn't cared to wash them in days.
Marth's stomach plummeted. He wad dead all right.
His attorney stood up and when he did, he swayed on his feet as if he were on a rocking ship. Marth stared at him in horror. Was this guy actually drunk?
But when the man spoke, his speech sounded clear. "Permission to begin, Your Honor?"
The judge up in front - a man with a light brown hair and intelligent green eyes nodded. Marth studied him. Even though he had a fox-like face, those eyes showed fairness. Marth only prayed that he was exceptionally merciful today.
He was staring at the metal green pipes in front of him, trying to figure out which way to connect them. Pipes were incredibly easy to put together once you understood them and he understood them remarkably well. He slid a hand across one of their cold metal surfaces. The pipes were his anchor, a warp tunnel from the thoughts that had once picked at his mind.
What was he thinking about again? He picked up a screwdriver and attached one pipe to the next. It probably wasn't important. Nothing mattered but these beautiful, simple tools. So simple, so straightforward. The art of plumbing had saved his life in prison, of that he was sure. He knew he had to have held a different profession before since he picked up on plumbing in prison, but he wasn't sure what it was and anyway, did it even matter? Let him play with his toys.
And then the door opened and a flood of light made him cringe away, latching onto one of the pipes before he retreated to the furthest corner. The darkness was safe, he reasoned. It was what he had known for most of his life. The darkness, the pipes. Everything before that was irrelevant.
He froze, gripping the pipe tightly. He couldn't remember when he'd been called that. Papa... papa... it was a title only reserved for fathers. Impossible. He was no father. No life existed before the pipes.
This girl, whoever she may be, had the wrong person.
"Papa?" And yet again, there it was. He did not want to look at her, oh heavens no. Didn't know the last time he'd really seen anybody interact with him. The guards never called him, "papa." His name was three-six-four.
"Don't be scared." The voice was meant to be low, soothing. As if this mysterious girl was trying to coax a frightened animal. But he heard her voice catch on the word, "scared."
She was scared wasn't she? Maybe she needed pipes in her life. Maybe she was crazy and that's what was calming to three-six-four. Maybe that's what made him stretch out a little into the light to the speaker in question.
She was beautiful but he did not recognize her. It was too dark. "It's me," she said softly. "Peach."
The name sounded so familiar. So, so familiar. It hurt him terribly to think about it... Think about the pipes, three-six-four, he told himself. He looked down at the pipes and his mind began to calm down.
Until she put both her clammy palms on either side of his face and forced him to really look at her. "Daddy," she said, and she looked on the verge of crying with the way those periwinkle eyes turned a deeper shade of blue. "Don't you remember me? I'm your daughter."
He wanted so badly, so very badly to look back at the pipes and the way they worked intricately but she would not let him, as fragile as she looked. So he started from her lips which were pressed together tightly and shaking, up to a dainty nose which was red. For some reason, the eyes were hard to look at. He mustn't focus on those yet. So he looked at how her blonde hair was almost golden. Once upon a time he'd seen hair like that. So familiar...
Almost of his own volition, his hand went to his breast pocked and finally slipped it out. At first it looked like a golden thread. But he felt it through his finger, the fineness of it, the smoothness. It was hair. His wife. He reminded himself that he'd had a wife. He was dimly aware of that, of her...
A wife. She had the same hair. He brought the strand of hair to the strange girl in front of him. They matched almost - His wife's was lighter and probably must have faded with age. The girl in front of him was alive after all.
The pipes on his workbench were calling to him so badly. But instead he finally looked, really looked, at her eyes and found that they matched his wife's exact shade. It had to be impossible.
"Peach?" He had once had a daughter he had named after his wife when she died in childbirth. His life, his joy. But that had been so very long ago. It was hard and painful to remember... but he could remember it all. The details were still very fuzzy, very disoriented, but they were becoming sharper.
"Yes, daddy! It's me!" Peach said, and the palms of her hands slid off his face to wrap around his neck as she buried her face into his neck and began to sob. "I finally found you. They kept transferring you and I thought I'd lost you, but I found you. Now we can leave this place."
"Where are we?" he asked as if in a trance. As if he could not quite believe what was going on. The girl standing in front of him was no longer a gawky fourteen year old but had pushed into an eighteen or nineteen year old. "How long has it been?" These were questions he only vaguely wanted to know answers to.
"We're still in Parisea, father. It's not safe for either of us so we'll be going to Nintaindo. It's just across the border and all of our servants are already there."
"But why move? This has been our home for so long, my dear."
Peach's hands clasped his tightly when she withdrew from her embrace. "You must understand, father. Parisea is not the place you knew before. It's been five years. Anybody with a decent amount of wealth has already fled. The streets are bloody, the peasants are starving but money won't give them anything. The queen and king do nothing but eat their cake and go on holidays and so the proletariat are angry and they want blood. Parisea is not as it once was."
"So we must... flee? But surely, I'm a doctor so I am part of the working class..."
"Trust me father, the poor have been turned to rabid dogs. They will attack you whether you are responsible or not. It's not a place for you nor I to be."
He looked at Peach, the way her eyes glinted earnestly. Through one eye, he could see her clearly. The other had lost its perfect vision awhile back and he'd lost his monocle in prison awhile back. Then she added something else, that made all hesitation and thought slip away. "The revolution is on the brink. Some say it has already occurred." She said it so softly, as if she had almost sighed it.
He looked down at his pipes glittering seductively in the dim lighting before he looked up. They were beckoning at him, telling him that only they understood him. They told him they had all the secrets of comfort and love.
"All right," he said finally, looking up. "Lead me away to Nintaindo."
Her shoulders sagged in relief as if she didn't think he would agree and she would be forced to stay here forever. "It's only a couple of hours away. Once we reach there, I'm afraid we'll have to go into the courtroom to sign some papers..."
Doctor Mario closed his eyes and tried not to think about the home he was leaving. The home he had forgotten for five years and had only now just remembered. He still wasn't sure what to make of all this. He just wanted to drift off into a sleep in which he was jumping in and out of pipes to a place less scary...
"Will the prosecutors, Bowser Koopa and Ganondorf Dragmire please present their witness for questioning?"
Bowser turned around and nodded once to the squat man with a hooked pink nose and thick eyebrows. He waddled towards the witness stand and after swearing himself in, the lawyer, who called himself Wolf O'Donnell, began to question him. Marth had nearly cursed aloud when he saw the wolf-like man. He knew that Wolf was one of the very best lawyers as well as the most expensive. If Marth had still associated himself with the Lowells, then he would have been able to hire him. Marth dug his fingers into the skin of his palm until he felt pain. He prayed silently, cutting a deal with God. If there was any way he got out of this alive, he would find that blonde woman and find out what troubled her so deeply. Perhaps then, he figured, this would be his repayment for being acquitted. He would find her and he would help her.
"What is your name?"
The court began to mutter a little. Wario was a very wealthy businessman. Nobody knew how he'd become wealthy in such a short amount of time, but it was quite clear that he was not born into his opulence. He lacked the grace and manners of the wealthy.
"Can you tell us where you were at twenty-one hours, twelve minutes on April the fourth, one-sixty seven AT?"
Wario licked his lips, briefly locking eyes with Bowser and Ganondorf then began to recite as if he'd memorized all his lines. "I was walkin' down the street, walkin' my dog yeah? Then all of a sudden, I saw him." And here, Wario pointed at Marth.
"Could you clarify, please? So we could record this down on paper?"
"That man. Marth Lowell. He's Parisean, isn' he? Makes sense..."
Marth closed his eyes, sucking in his lower lip. He bit as hard as he could down on the lip. Every time he was addressed as a "Lowell" he wanted to throw something against the wall and hear it break.
"Objection," a voice to Marth's right called out quietly. "He's supposed to stick to the story, not pass off judgments of his own."
The judge - Judge McCloud - raised an eyebrow at Wario who shrugged. "Sustained. Stick to the facts, please."
"Right. Well I saw him and he was meetin' up with some Pariseans, yeah? Saw him pass some information. A sheet of paper, really. And on the sheet, I could see the official seal of Nintaindo on it. So it had to have been some government paper, yeah?"
Wolf narrowed his eyes. "And how did you know they were Parisean?"
"They were wearin' that stupid emblem. You know the one."
"How did it look like?" Wolf pressed. "Describe it to us, if you will."
Wario waved an impatient hand. "It was a blue dragon with wings outstretched. Saw the tattoo on his arm."
Marth groaned inwardly, but tried to remain calm on the surface. The blue dragon represented Parisean Intelligence Agency. Mentally he cursed himself a thousand times and glared at Bowser and Ganondorf. What had he ever done to make enemies of them? He was more angry than frightened.
As if he could hear Marth's thoughts, a sly smile lit up on Wolf's face. "Thank you, Wario. That will be all."
Fox shifted in his seat and peered over at the defendant's side. "Would the defendant like to question the witness?"
With a flourish, Marth saw the man beside him stand up and hoped, not for the first time that day, that he was competent enough to make a compelling case. "Most certainly." He circled the desk to walk towards Wario. "Mr. Wario, isn't it? Wasn't there a scandal about you in the papers a couple of years ago about accepting a bribe-"
"Objection!" Wolf snarled, and Marth thought that if Wolf were a canine, his hackles would have been raised. As it was, he already looked wolf-like... or was that just his nickname? "The inquiry has nothing to do with the case at hand!"
"I'm merely questioning the witness's honesty, particularly when money is involved," he shot back. Marth noted that Wario had become flushed, but oddly did not comment.
Fox frowned and though he looked like he wanted to say otherwise, he said, "Sustained. Please keep the focus of the questions on the case at hand."
Undeterred, the defense attorney asked, "Mr. Wario, how did you see this tattoo?"
Wario shrugged, "Well, I saw them show him somethin' on their arm but I couldn' make out what it was. So I followed them to the pub on Fifth Avenue, and one of them pulled their sleeve back while I was sittin' there not even three meters away."
Marth's defense attorney rubbed his jaw, as though contemplating what to say next. "Interesting. you said you couldn't identify the tattoo while you saw Marth supposedly exchanging information. How far away from them were you when you saw this happening?"
Wario frowned. "Probably about fifty meters away. Why?"
"So how can you be sure that who you saw was Marth?"
Wario rolled his eyes as he retorted, "Never met anybody else with blue hair. Have you?"
"I'd like you to close your eyes for just a moment, Wario."
For one moment, Wario glanced at the burly man suspiciously. Marth could see him thinking about the request and finally seeing no way past it. He closed his eyes.
And it was then that Marth understood his attorney's strange request. He was taking off his court robes to reveal clothes that were similar to Marth's - disheveled and blue. He finally yanked his lawyer's wig off to reveal combed back hair...
...and it was the exact shade as Marth's.
There was a collective gasp upon the audience and the jury - even Fox looked slightly surprised. Annoyed that he couldn't see anything, Wario opened his eyes and for a moment looked slightly confused.
"Could you tell who the real Marth is between him and I standing twenty meters away?"
Wario swallowed and Marth could see beads of sweat starting to form on his forehead. The knot that had been twisting into more knots in his chest finally began to lessen. He finally understood what his defense attorney was doing.
What followed next was the loudest silence Marth had ever heard. He could tell what Wario was thinking. On one hand, he wanted to say that he could easily identify who the real Marth was. But the jury would see through the lie because the likeness between Marth and his defense attorney was extraordinary. Even if he lied, Marth knew that the case would be won.
"Answer Mr. Greil's question," Fox finally said, breaking the silence.
"You two are very much alike..." Wario said, though it seemed like the words killed him to do so.
"So," Mr. Greil said, as he began to replace the wig on his head. "Would it be prudent of me to say that from a distance of fifty meters you could not tell the difference between Marth and I?"
Marth didn't have to hear the answer to know that he would be walking out a free man. Once again he thought of the blonde woman's blue eyes.
He smiled. He had a promise to God to keep.