Crescent Valley was no longer the single street township to which Cassius and Luther were accustomed. Several generations had nurtured the ground level establishments into spires that reached for the sky with more windows than there were people. More fascinating still were the colors that saturated them on posters with bold script. And then there were the lights on every corner, inside every building, in all the hues of the rainbow.
Even the Great Vampire King, for all the wonders he possessed, would have stood in awe, and yet the residents of this place regarded it as mundane. Perhaps, given time, Cassius and Luther would do the same; but it was not to be this day.
Lindsay took them, one in each hand, and dragged them into a clothing store, the floor of which spanned several times the size of a paddock. Never in their life had they seen so many identical garments in one place, sized for varying body types, including their own.
“I… I don’t know where to begin,” Cassius said.
Luther regarded a nearby item on a hook. He appeared puzzled at first by the short sleeves, and more by the graphic printed upon what he supposed was the front. It was a caricature of an American bulldog with a spiked collar, surrounded by the words ‘WHERE MY DAWGZ AT?’. So affronted was he by this unusual garment that he could not even appreciate the softness of the cotton from which it was stitched.
“Leave everything to me,” Lindsay said, before drawing them deeper into the dizzying new retail world.
What followed was a fashion whirlwind wherein silk and lace went the way of the Dodo. In this new era muted and minimalist were the orders of the day, and through it the two vampires were molded into the mark of modernity.
Cassius emerged from the latest of a series of changing rooms utterly transformed. To him were assigned a buttoned shirt with an open collar, a cerulean sweater, navy blazer, and pressed slacks as sensible as the short back and sides style of his hair. He fussed with his lapels, cursing his inability to peer into a mirror, which also caused a great deal of fuss with the barber.
When Luther returned it was with his straw colored hair slicked back in a moppish length, together with a tee shirt, mustard patchwork flannel shirt with rolled sleeves under a gray knit hoodie, and fitted black jeans to emphasise lean, powerful legs. To be unsure of his appearance was torture for him also. How was he to know whether he’d adapted to contemporary style?
Lindsay clapped her hands and bounced in place. At least their ‘Master’ was happy. “You two look great!”
The two vampires regarded one another, peering up and down to absorb every inch.
“A bit plain,” Luther remarked of his companion, “but it suits you.”
“Just your style,” Cassius retorted, “assuming you ever had any.”
“Both of you, be quiet,” Lindsay smirked. “I know this’ll take some getting used to, but once you get to know the twenty-first century you’ll realize how great you look. Now, what should we do next?”
Neither of the vampires spoke. Rather they stood expectantly, waiting for their Master to decide.
“You guys are being creepy,” she said. “Hello! Earth to Cass and Luther! I said what should we do next? I’m open to suggestions.”
Again the two were silent, and stood in wait.
“Will one of you please say something?”
“You told us to be quiet,” Luther said.
“You were bickering.”
“And we did as you commanded,” he said.
Lindsay folded her arms and huffed. “That’s taking what I said a bit literally, don’t you think? I may be your ‘Master’ or whatever, but you don’t have to do exactly what I say all the time.”
“Actually, yes, we do,” Cassius said.
That had to be a joke, surely. Lindsay laughed. The other vampires didn’t. She studied their expressions for a hint of a smile – something, anything, to tell her that it was a joke. Neither of them gave way.
“Tell me you’re kidding,” she said.
“We’re kidding,” Luther said, seriously, “but only because you told us to say that.”
“As the latest in his blood line you have the power to bend any of us sired by the Great Vampire King to your will,” Cassius explained in monotone. “All that’s needed is your word.”
The idea was absurd, and yet it made sense. Why else would they listen to her if she didn’t have some kind of power over them?
Lindsay scanned the store for others. There were only a handful of people around, mainly staff or moms with kids. They seemed safe enough.
“So, Luther, if I told you to stand on one leg-”
“Please don’t make me stand on one leg,” he muttered.
Lindsay beamed. “Nope. You’ve gotta do it,” she said. Her voice took an ominous resonance. “Stand on one leg.”
Though he was not at all pleased about the fact Luther did as instructed and lifted his left foot from the ground, then pivoted to the right so it could support his weight. He groaned in the knowledge that this was but the first test.
“Cassius. Do a backflip,” Linsday commanded.
The conservatively dressed vampire did just that. Once vaulting from the ground he threw his head back, shifting the momentum of his body so that his feet turned in the air. He returned to the ground in a squatting position and raised a brow, as if to ask if his Master was satisfied.
Lindsay eyed them both with skepticism. Backflips and the like were easy. What she needed was a challenge that mattered, and only one thing sprung to mind.
“Okay,” she said. “Now… kiss.” Her eyes flashed, yet Lindsay was not aware of it.
She expected hesitation, but none was forthcoming. Still perched on leg Luther took Cassius in his arms, and Cassius him in turn. The two vampires tilted their heads; their lips parted and…
“Okay! I don’t actually want you to kiss! And you can stand on both feet!”
Having averted contact, both Cassius and Luther withdrew from their embrace. Whether they were relieved or disappointed none could say. The only certainty appeared to be Lindsay’s power; one which gave the young woman pause. Bossing around minions who couldn’t help themselves was more than a little unsettling.
“You’ve proved your point. I believe you,” she said. “But if I ever tell you to do something you don’t want to do just tell me.”
They nodded solemnly in front of the other shoppers, but Lindsay wasn’t convinced.
“You have to promise me,” she said.
“I promise,” Cassius told her.
“As do I,” Luther added with equal sincerity.
“I guess that was also kind of an order,” Lindsay mused, “but if it means I can trust you to keep me in line then I’m glad I made it.”
The vampires said nothing, but their appreciation was clear. Lindsay smiled at the pair. If she was going to be their Master, then she would be a Master both kind and generous. It was the least they deserved.
They walked through the city hand in hand with Lindsay dragging them from the middle. Despite the rushing of cars and pedestrians, Crescent Valley seemed a peaceful place, utterly unfazed by the looming evil below their feet. Even Lindsay appeared content, happy to put aside thoughts of Lord Nihilex and freaklings to enjoy a hot dog with her friends. So infectious was she that Cassius and Luther also managed to smile.
However, it was not to last.
A chorus of screams rang out from the next street, followed by tremors. Lindsay forced the rest of the dog into her mouth, and chewed as she sprinted toward disaster. Reason dictated that one should move away from danger, but impulse drove her on. She was the scion of the Great Vampire King, after all; his guardian spirit was etched on her over generations.
After pressing through a sea of wild civilians, they came to a clearing in the street, where two by three by four freaklings poured from a gaping shadow in the air. The shambled to their feet, radiating an unholy aura antithetical to light, and flailed their arms in a rage. Left and right they pounced, tearing at everything they could get their hands on, from cars to mail boxes to traffic lights.
Without sparing a thought Lindsay clutched her crucifone and flipped it open. She dialled the numbers 6-6-6, as did the others.
“You boys ready?”
Cassius and Luther grunted in reply.
“Then let’s do it!”
As one they cried, “Soul Awaken!”
A storm raged around, drawing mists of power over them. In an instant they were transformed from street clothes to uniforms; tight black suits with bright vests and helmets, along with matching crimson shoulder capes as a display of fealty. More than human, more than vampires, the three were Fang Force!
Red Fang smirked and bore the claws of her glove. “Let’s show these jerks the welcome they deserve!”
The three flew into the mass. How dare they invade Crescent Valley! How dare they steal the peace of innocents! Blue Fang pounced low, knocking the freaklings from their feet; Yellow Fang struck centre mass and sent them flying; while Red Fang knocked them down with a flurry of kicks. Each blow was in defiance in Lord Nihilex’s will, and felled the freaklings as quickly as they appeared.
Lindsay smirked under her mask. “Is this all they’ve got to throw at us?”
“Don’t speak so soon, Master,” Blue Fang huffed.
“This is only the beginning,” Yellow Fang agreed.
The leader launched into the air, and came down hard using freakling faces as steps. They stumbled over one another, leaving them open to her claws. The awkward pile collapsed into dust.
“Lindsay!” she crowed. “Don’t call me ‘Master’! Call me ‘Lindsay’!”
She stopped when a voice boomed down the street. “Lindsay, eh? What a lackluster title for the Great Vampire King’s successor!”
“What the heck?”
Fantom answered her confusion with the edge of his blade, sending the Red Fang to a shameful heap. No satisfaction appeared upon his half mask. He wasted no time in bringing his sword down. The scion rolled from his path, proving that she wasn’t utterly helpless.
Blue and Yellow Fang drew away from the freakling, and turned their attention to the larger foe. While the freaklings had numbers on their side, this newcomer had skill, speed and strength equal to their own.
“Fantom,” Yellow Fang snarled.
“I was wondering when you’d show yourself,” Blue Fang said.
Red Fang groaned. “What’s a Fantom?”
The villain stole a moment to preen, drinking in their disgust. He eased back, cleaning the blade of his symitar between the fins of his gauntlet. Somewhere in the blank half of his face he grinned, baring teeth as black as his birth place. Face to face with the new Fang Force he poised for the next, but certainly not their last, glorious battle.
“I am the first son of the vile Queen Lacuna,” he said. “Chief among the generals under the abominable Lord Nihilex, and centuries old adversary of the Great Vampire King! But above all else know this; that I, Fantom, am your destruction!”
He cast his arms wide, raining destructive force on the world around him. What power! The sheer presence of Fantom twisted metal and shattered windows. It sent vampires flying through the air, helpless against him. How could they fight when they could not stand?
Red Fang struggled to her feet and groaned. “You think you’re so tough?” she spat. “I might not be a ‘Great Vampire King’, but I-”
Her thought was silenced by the hilt of the monster’s blade. Red Fang’s body collapsed to the ground. Her uniform evaporated, leaving Lindsay exposed to the enemy.
Fantom leaned down and hoisted the young woman over his shoulder. It was almost too easy. With a weary sigh he turned to the portal. Upon entering the pathway closed. His mission was complete, and once more Fang Force was without a Master.
To be continued…