Fang Force underestimated Chorack, just as the insect anticipated. It was a mistake made by most foes, and some allies – including Lord Nihilex – but he would show them; he would show them at all!
It wasn’t until Chorack moved in for the final blow that they ever realized their folly. What they judged as weak, pathetic, and utterly disposable proved their destruction. Chorack would have giggled if he didn’t reveal himself in the process.
With duplicates hidden around the castle, the insectoid creature was in an ideal position to strike. One in particular skulked the hall along the path of the hard-faced vampire clad in blue. ‘Cass’, they called him; an average name for a truly average individual.
I’ve seen paint drying with more charisma than this guy, Chorack thought. I bet he thinks mayonnaise is too spicy!
Though unaware of the roach’s presence, the vampire was still perturbed. He leaned against the wall, sniffed, and stared through a stained glass window. Was he upset? It didn’t appear so; or perhaps he had a cold. No matter. His standing there made for a ripe target, or would have if another, more flamboyant vampire hadn’t intercepted him.
Vincent offered a friendly smile. “How do you fare, Cassius?”
He nodded, and continued to bore holes with his gaze.
“Is everything alright?” said the one in pink.
Cassius’s face hardened more, if such a thing were possible. “Fine,” he said.
“You look concerned,” Vincent said.
His expression remained locked. “I always look like this,” he said, and sniffed again.
Vincent cocked an eyebrow. “Allergies?”
What an insufferable bore, Chorack thought, and scraped his legs against the brick. How could one man achieve such ridiculous levels of dull?
“Actually,” Cassius said, “I have some concerns regarding the security of the castle.”
“What sort of concerns?” Vincent asked.
“As it stands we have nobody guarding the familiars,” he explained. “Lord Nihilex or any one of his minions could sneak into the catacombs beneath the castle and turn them against us.”
Vincent blinked. “We would be helpless!” His companion nodded, solemnly.
What an opportunity! Chorack subdued his excitement and pressed closer to the wall. To think, the Great Vampire King’s most powerful weapons were vulnerable to attack! All it took was an enemy bold enough, cunning enough, to make a move. By the Lords of the Abyssal Realm, Chorack swore that it would be his name that went down in infamy.
“Do you think an attack is likely?” Vincent continued.
“No,” Cassius said, “but you can never be too careful. I’ll go down to the catacombs myself and make sure the familiars are secure.”
“Do you need help?”
The stoic vampire shook his head. “You have your own frivolous concerns, I’m sure.”
Vincent recoiled in offense. “Of all the nerve!” It was all the attitude he cared to endure, and prompted him to strut furiously in the opposite direction. The sooner he could escape that kind of obnoxiousness, the better.
Unfazed by the encounter, Cassius stood and walked with purpose in the other direction, eyes fixed ahead. Even if he weren’t as focused, he never would have spotted Chorack behind one of the pillars. Once he passed, the roach followed.
Lord Nihilex will reward me handsomely, he thought, and dreamed of the accolades he’d receive.
Luther frowned at the door. No matter how many times he knocked Drake wouldn’t answer.
“I know you’re in there,” he said, and knocked again. There were only two doors connected to the room, and one lead into a closet.
He rattled the knob, only to find it locked. Luther’s frown set deeper. The thought occurred to him that Drake wanted privacy; but why lock the door when he could simply instruct others to leave? Then again, he might have been overthinking things.
Frustrated with the circling thoughts, the vampire decided to press through. His strength made short work of the handle, the hinges, and the door itself as it splintered into pieces. Next time, he decided, he would break in with more care.
Looking around the room he found it was empty. Drake should have been there – he had a show to prepare for – but all that filled his chair was the green leather jacket he wore that morning. How curious.
That was when he heard sounds from the wardrobe; muffled cries and thudding. Luther approached with caution, and drew the dividing curtain to one side. The vampire balked, for there, bound and gagged on the floor was his cohort, kicking the wall for attention.
“What are you doing down there?” Luther asked.
Drake rolled his eyes. How was he to answer with a sock stuffed in his mouth? Luther removed the tape holding the gag in place.
“Who would torture someone,” he coughed, “with the taste of his own feet?”
Luther set to work on the ropes. “What happened? Did someone do this to you?”
“Of course someone did this to me,” he snapped. “In fact, several someones did this to me! They looked exactly like that… that…”
The first set of knots went slack in Luther’s hands, allowing him to unwind the rope. “Exactly like what?”
He then became aware of the chattering and clicking from the heart of the changing room. Luther turned to the several human-sized insects with multiple arms raised high. Their dark wings fluttered in anticipation, when as one they descended on the pair.
Drake screamed as he did the last time, only now he had Luther acting as a human shield. The swarm came thick until they could no longer see.
Though Lindsay would have loved to help Drake complete his costume, she had a schedule to keep and a group to run. For the better part of an hour she guided a batch of tourists through the castle, fascinated them with myth, and delighted them with historical trivia. They moved high and low through the winding corridors before returning to the central foyer, where the likeness of the Great Vampire King stared down upon them.
“Legend has it that when the clock strikes twelve a great evil will beset mankind,” Lindsay said, ever more confident in her tale. “Flames and darkness and destruction!” Her arms rose with the scale of her story. “And on that day, the Great Vampire King will return to defend us with his power.”
The lights went out as they should. The group gasped, and so did she for their benefit. Resonance from hidden speakers shook the air. A low frequency, barely audible to the human ear, set the visitors edge.
The emergency breakers came to life. A deep red hue flooded the room. Lindsay, in the midst of her award-worth performance, did a head count of the group. They were all present and accounted for. “I-I don’t understand! What is this?”
Deep, guttural vibrations rattled their bones with each toll of the bell. The volume permeated everything, from head to toe and beyond.
The clock tower rang until the twelfth strike, and then stopped. With silence there was calm, followed by a burst of light and-
Lindsay grimaced and searched the secret entries located around the room. This was the part of the tour where Mr. Nowack or one of the new ‘volunteers’ would jump out and give the tourists the scare of a lifetime. Except they didn’t.
“Where on earth is Drake?”
“Is everything alright?” asked one of the group.
She waved them off. “Fine, fine, fine. Just thinking.”
Perhaps, she wondered, Drake had gone off to do his own thing. He was a free spirit, after all, and jumping out at tourists seemed like the kind of thing that was beneath him. If that was the case, Lindsay decided, he wasn’t being a very good friend.
“I guess we’ll move on,” she told the group. “If you’ll just follow me, we can-”
Her presentation was cut short by the sudden appearance of a walking insect; one far more terrifying than a man in a cape. The gathering screamed and ran for the stairs. Lindsay froze.
“Choker!” she gasped. “Or… Roachie! Or was it Co-”
“Chorack,” the monster clicked, inching closer. “It is the last name you’ll utter before your untimely end!”
In full view of the tour group, and with no thought for a ‘secret identity’, Lindsay dived into the pocket of her vest for the crucifone. She flipped it open and dialled the numbers 6-6-6, only to receive no response in kind. How? Why?
“No powers to help you this time,” Chorack cackled. He charged for the woman, who even in her moment of weakness braced against him. “You’re mine!”
It was a curious path the vampire followed in order to reach the catacombs. He weaved between hallways, and moved up and down countless steps. Chorack followed, always two steps behind and careful not to make a sound. Surely there was a more direct path to the familiar’s hiding spot, but forcing the issue would be of no help to him. The vampire had to lead in his own time.
After descending a case of stairs, the one known as ‘Cass’ came to a small door leading to a courtyard. He sniffled again and stepped out, leaving the door open behind him. Curious that one of such uptight sensibility should do something so careless, though it made it easier for Chorack to keep in step.
The insectoid moved to the ground floor and poked his head outside. There, facing away, was his quarry, feet planted a foot apart in the middle of the tiled ground. What was he doing? To the East was another entrance, but the vampire made no move toward it.
Chorack hunched low, curious but cautious.
“You can show yourself now,” Cassius said.
The monster near jumped out of his exoskeleton. He’d never been detected before! Yet somehow the vampire was aware of him without turning to look.
Chorack stumbled into the open. “No!” he clicked. “That’s not possible! How could you know I was here?”
Cassius tapped his nose. “‘Allergies’,” he chided. “My familiar is the wolf, and in exchange for his partnership I’ve been granted an enhanced sense of smell. Inopportune on the nights Luther is scheduled to cook, but is ever so useful for sniffing out rats, or roaches as the case may be.”
“But the other one said…” The realization struck, and what passed for a heart in the monster’s chest plummeted into his thorax.
“My conversation with Vincent was not as it appeared,” the vampire explained. “Even now he’s in the process of repairing the crufifone network, while I distracted you with a tastier morsel.” A wry half-smile cracked his stone expression. “There are no catacombs under the castle, by the way.”
Chorack flew into a rage, and stomped on the ground like a petulant child. None had ever caught him until that moment, and as a result he was spoiled. To think, his perfect record was tarnished by a mere vampire!
“You’ll regret that!” Chorack clicked.
The creature clapped his hands together, several pairs at a time. Cassius didn’t so much as flinch when Chorack’s body split in two and another monster emerged. He split again, generating a total of four biped cockroaches to face alone.
“If that’s the way you want it,” the vampire grunted. Though reserved, he still presented as one equal to a fight.
If Vincent nursed a bruised ego it did not show. He ran up the stairs of the clock tower two at a time and bounced into the open space. Everything appeared as normal, save for one conspicuous absence.
No sooner had he called her name than a paw banged at the wall of a waste paper bin. “Yes, hello! Is that you, Vincent? Could you give me a hand, dear? I’m in a spot of bother, you see!”
“I do see,” he said, and removed the heavy tomes sealing her inside. Vincent lifted the bin upside down and with a shake the little bat popped free. He combed the disheveled fur between her ears. “Are you alright?”
Spike cooed and nuzzled into his hand. “Keep doing that and I will be…” Then he stopped.
“Later,” Vincent said. “Someone’s done something to the crucifone network, and I need your help getting it back up and running.”
The little bat shook her head. How long was she trapped, and what did she miss? She fluttered to the corner with great urgency, and opened the doors to a small black cabinet. Inside was a machine, once smooth with polished wood and a solid copper aerial, now in pieces with sparks flying from it.
She clutched her little paws to her chest and gasped. “Without the central console your crucifones won’t work,” she said. “Neither you, Lindsay or the others can become Fang Force!”
“Can you fix it?” he asked.
Spike nodded. “Yes, but… it will take some time.”
Vincent scratched behind her ears, prompting another happy squeak. “Don’t worry. We’ll give you all the time that you need.”
To be continued…