It was Lindsay’s worst nightmare realized. She feared, not for herself, but for those in her group; innocent tourists seeking a harmless fright, not a real one! Her life with Fang Force crossing into theirs was something she would never forgive the monster for.
Chorack stalked the tour group like a wolf does a flock, herding them to a corner. Their fear was palpable, like the air waiting to be devoured. How vulnerable they were, just waiting to be picked off.
“Which one of you will scream the loudest?” he said. His options were myriad. Would it be the little old woman, or the nerdy one with glasses? The short one with the curly hair seemed a good choice, and was shivering in her heels.
Lindsay roared and tackled the giant cockroach. She did so with animal force, roaring like something from the wilds. A collective gasp escaped the group when she lifted a sword high; a sword lifted from a nearby coat of arms decorating the wall.
“You don’t get to harm these people,” she seethed. “This is my tour group, and they are under my protection!”
A round of applause erupted, along with a series of clicks and flashes. Never once did Lindsay take her eyes off the enemy, or the glint of her sword pointed at him. Red Fang or not, the young woman had a duty.
A single punch sent two, three, four roaches flying into the far wall, but more came barreling down the closet to fill their place. Luther lashed out with everything he had, fighting the creatures a dozen to one, while his costume clad brother kicked from the floor. In the flurry of the swarm there was nowhere to move but back against the wall.
“Do something!” Luther barked.
Drake shielded himself from the blanket of insects. “I would, but my hands are literally tied!”
Luther snatched the other vampire’s binds and lifted him over his head, bringing Drake with them. With strength imbued by the beetle familiar he tossed his teammate over the cockroach mass and to the other side of the room.
With cat-like reflexes, Drake bounced off the wall and hit the carpet with a roll. He fended the roaches away with a flurry of kicks, and scratched whatever was in front of him with both hands hobbled together.
“What was that?” he hissed.
“Trying to get you clear,” Luther grunted over their clicks. One arm formed a barricade and lifted the roaches from their feet, but others scuttled below to the vampire’s more… vulnerable regions.
Chorack clicked. “Even if you make it out of here, there won’t be much of you left!”
Though blinded by pain, Luther threw his weight against the enemy, and pressed several against the wall. The others clawed at his back; he could do little more than endure. He’d withstood worse, he told himself.
“Go!” he cried to Drake.
However, standing between Drake and the exit were at least another five; more than even he could take with his hands bound. The vampire threw himself at the throng, but for every inch forward the mass of cockroaches dragged him several back.
“There’s too many of them!” he said. “We can’t fight in so small a space!”
Luther flexed. The cockroaches poured on him with all their might, but it was no use. Pain bounced off him like drops of rain. For those few moments he still drew breath, Luther was invincible.
He charged at the wall. Brick shattered into dust, and the sudden opening offered him freedom. Like a man with a wish to live he sprinted through it, dragging roach after roach with him.
“You can defeat me one on one,” the monsters said; “but my numbers are endless! You’ll never take us all!”
Drake stumbled out of the debris and to his comrade’s side. It was a simple matter for Luther to free him now that they had some space. The fact that they were surrounded, however, was a whole other matter.
“Are you ready to fight seriously this time?” Luther teased.
“Only if you are,” he said.
For every move that Chorack made, Cassius was two ahead, no matter which of him moved. He struck, the vampire blocked, feinted, parried, twisted with a sharp elbow to the roach’s sternum. His opponent turned to the other cockroaches and landed another series of strikes, just to keep them on their toes.
Chorack collapsed into the garden wall, humiliated, but far from defeated. He launched back into the fight, only to be side-stepped and slapped around. A pair charged from either flank, only for the vampire to use their momentum to his advantage in a collision. Who was this enemy that he could so easily anticipate his movements?
“It’s just as I thought,” Cassius said. “You have multiple bodies, but only a single mind. You’re distracted.”
A sharp boot left brought the last of duplicates down, leaving a collection of cockroaches writhing on the ground. They were too pathetic for Cassius to step on further.
“I’ll bet that right now my friends are fighting you in every corner of the castle,” he continued. The vampire’s boot pressed down on the neck of the nearest foe. “Your attention is more divided than it’s ever been. That’s the only way to explain such a weak performance.”
The utter gall of him! In all of his days Chorack had never been so insulted. All who’d ever spoken down to him soon lay defeated; this one would be no exception.
In a shadowy gust the cockroaches vanished, leaving only one scrambling to his feet. With renewed vigor, Chorack lunged at his foe, laying into him with more fists than anyone could block. He hit, he struck, and he beat with all the fury coursing under his shell, and drove the vampire into the garden corner.
“You will eat your words,” the monster roared and clicked. “Then you’ll choke on them, and you’ll never speak again!”
It was a brutal assault, bereft of forgiveness. Chorack pressed into him with a hatred never known to his enemies; they’d all fallen before having the chance to inflict so deep a wound. Cassius, he decided, would be the first and the last.
The vampire rolled clear and redoubled his stance. Just then there was a screech from his pocket. Cassius smirked. He reached for his crucifone and flipped it open, never once looking away from his opponent.
“Are we ready?”
“Stand by,” Spike chirped from the other end.
Chorack lifted his head and scoffed. “So, Fang Force has their powers back. Congratulations. Too bad you’ll not have the chance to use them!”
And then came the noble cry; “Think again, stink-breath!”
Lindsay charged into the courtyard, and she was not alone. Vincent, Luther, and Drake in the vampire costume followed, and fell into line with her and Cass. Fang Force were assembled once more, facing the cockroach menace for a second time.
“I’ve got to admit, you really pulled a fast one on us,” the young woman said, “but you don’t get to fool us twice, let alone five times.”
She placed a hand on Cass’s shoulder. “It’s not about numbers,” she said. “It’s about working together. Five on one or five on a hundred; it doesn’t matter unless you can work as a team.”
“Save the moralizing,” Chorack clicked, “and prepare to meet your maker!”
As one Fang Force drew their crucifones, and as one they dialed the numbers 6-6-6. Then, as they had so many times before, they called out the incantation.
From out of the ether, clouds gathered and the five winds raged. They encircled the bodies of their hosts, and transformed them into the guardians reflected in their hearts. In red, blue, yellow, pink and green they were shaped, and marked each with the bat, wolf, beetle, spider and mountain lion. Bright capes billowed, flashing their loyalty in the color of blood.
“We are the immortal guardians of justice,” Red Fang declared; “night’s protector of the innocent! We are Fang Force, and we will judge your fate!”
The five stood poised for battle, until Yellow Fang lost his composure.
“Oh my, Lindsay! What you just did was really cool!” he said. “Did I use that right? ‘Cool’?”
“Yes, you used it right,” Pink Fang told him.
“So cool,” Green Fang echoed.
Even Blue Fang nodded in agreement. “Yes. It was very cool.”
The young woman laughed. “Wow, thanks! Where were you guys when I was in high school?”
For a delightful moment they existed in a world without Chorack, until the insect stomped his feet. “Do you really think you can ignore me and get away with it? I’m going to squish you all, like you squished so many bugs! And then I’ll-”
Their sentiment was made manifest, five fists came together and knocked the monster from the courtyard. They struck hard, they struck fast, and with a force so great that the cockroach flew over the mountains.
Lindsay gazed at her hand. “Whoa. I didn’t know we were that strong!”
The others chuckled. “We are,” Vincent said, “and so much more.”
Lord Nihilex stared into the crystal ball. By all logic he should have been angry; he was always angry when Fang Force interfered with his designs. Yet to have sent a fool on such a mission, he couldn’t help but anticipate failure. It was only by principle that he snarled at the image before him. No words came immediately to the forefront.
None dared to speak. Vultera and Feareus bowed their heads, fearful that even the slightest sound might shift the tone in the room. Fantom, however, lingered around a post. He too had seen the folly in sending an insect to do a general’s job.
Wiseman, typically, remained silent; except this time he didn’t.
“If it would please you, my Lord…”
The shadow conqueror leaned forward. Even he was unsure of what he had just heard. If Wiseman had chosen to speak without being addressed, then the issue was of some importance.
“What is it?” Lord Nihilex asked, more curious than he was anything.
He spoke with words as fine as sand, and whispered them harshly into the chamber. “As we near the peak of our powers, there is another, perhaps more effective way we can utilize Chorack’s abities.”
Certainly something to consider, given the source. Lord Nihilex pressed his fingers together.
“Do what you must,” he commanded.
The ancient sage turned to his crystal ball, and set about his dark business.
To be continued…