Oldtown Junction came with a lot of memories. Just a few short years ago, Lindsay was a senior, wandering the markets after school. Some of her fondest memories included standing at the ice cream stall with her friends, and taking a little too long sampling the flavors.
It was on the faces of statues that the spirit of those memories twisted to horror. What manner of monster would do such a thing? And to leave a wanting child without a mother.
Lindsay summoned her bravest smile and offered the little boy her hand. “Let me take you somewhere safe,” she said. “Then we’re going to do everything we can to fix your mom. Okay?”
He wiped the snot from under his nose, but appeared no less confused. “But… but she’s a statue!”
“Then we’ll un-statue-fy her,” she said.
It took all she had not to betray her assuredness. What right did she have to make that kind of promise? Perhaps she wasn’t ready to let go of hope. So, Lindsay decided, she would do everything she could. It wouldn’t do for a kid to suffer for her optimism.
Driven by instinct, Lindsay snatched the boy in her arms, and tumbled to safety in the arms of another. A million pricks pierced the air, leaving a spray of needles where she’d been crouching. She looked up to see Cassius on top of her, and not a second too soon.
The other fangs sprinted to her side; Luther, Vincent and Drake. They glared at the rooftops, where a sickly gray creature on legs like sticks cursed his bad aim.
Lindsay propped the boy back on his feet. “Go,” she ordered.
“But my Mom…” Another bout of tears welled.
Lindsay braced his arms. “She’ll be fine,” she said, as brightly as she could manage. “We’ll protect her, no matter what. But you need to be strong for her, and keep yourself safe. Give her a reason to come back.”
This time she was determined. The hope in her heart wasn’t only her own, and it shone in her words; enough that a little boy found the courage to flee. She was the Red Fang, and she had a duty not only to protect people in body, but their hearts as well.
No sooner had the child started across the yard that a second spray of needles erupted from above. Fast as lightning, Vincent grabbed a nearby sandwich board and hurdled it into the line of fire. The needles thudded into the wood, obliterating the offer of a discount turkey sub.
The boy ran, and he ran, and he ran, until finally he was clear of the street.
Lindsay grit her teeth. “You’d attack a little kid?”
“A small sacrifice for a greater cause,” the monster declared. He launched with frail, silver wings flapping, and jumped from statue to statue on his pointed toes. Spindly fingers covered in fine hairs ran over his work as though he owned the souls he’d captured inside.
“My name is Qimos,” he said, and readied his stance for battle. “Prepare to meet your end!”
The heroes stood in a line with grim determination. They clutched their crucifones and flipped them open to dial six-six-six. As one they cried out the incantation:
Lindsay cried, “Red Fang!”
Cassius barked, “Blue Fang!”
Luther snapped, “Yellow Fang!”
Vincent hummed, “Pink Fang!”
Drake snarled, “Green Fang!”
Ominous clouds gathered from the sky in an array of colour, engulfing one of the defenders. They were transformed, wearing gloves, vests, boots and helmets in their individual hues of the rainbow. Each bore a bright red cape over their left shoulder; a symbol of their loyalty.
“Maybe you’ve never heard of us,” Red Fang said. “Immortal guardians of justice; night’s defenders of the innocent?”
Qimos scoffed. “Fang Force…”
“Oh, then you have heard of us,” she continued. “In that case, consider yourself warned!”
They charged, claws bared, fuelled by a collective thirst for justice. Of all the evil they had seen, to rob so many of their humanity was the most heinous. With all their strength, Fang Force unleashed a flurry of blows against the wicked insect.
In a battle of five against one, Qimos had no intention of being cornered. The monster snickered, and with a push of his tiny foot knocked one of the statues – a jogger – off their balance. Gravity did the rest of the work, and pulled the helpless victim toward the inevitable.
“Don’t let them fall!” Green Fang threw himself beneath the figure. He caught the jogger, and the brunt of his weight; enough to knock the air from his lungs.
For a monster there was no more amusing display. A kick here and a push there sent unprotected statues to the ground, so fast that the guardians could barely keep pace. The Fangs twisted and danced, giving their all to keep the former humans pristine, and took more than an adequate time to set the bodies down.
Fang Force had their arms full, literally. Pink Fang balanced precariously between two teetering figures, far enough apart so that he stretched to the farthest reaches; Green Fang rolled to make sure his didn’t fall; Blue and Yellow fumbled to stop a domino chain, while Red Fang dragged another from the action.
“If only Lord Nihilex could witness this!” the monster cackled.
The heroes were more than distracted; they were at the mercy of their own compassion. What better time than to spit another rain of needles down upon them.
Red Fang jumped in the path of the statue. That would have been the end of her if Yellow Fang hadn’t shielded. However, he too was protected by the stone encrusted likeness of an elderly woman. His blush radiated from behind his mask.
“She can’t be statue-fied twice,” he explained.
There was no time to argue. Qimos rushed the pair, landing blows to their exposed flanks. Yellow Fang’s heart stopped in his chest as the grandma slipped from his hold, much too quick to grab again. A quick foot snagged her before she landed, though left him open to the cheapest of shots. Qimos dropped to his knees and delivered an uppercut between the hero’s legs.
Red Fang could only imagine that kind of hurt, though felt it well enough to wince on his behalf. “That’s low, even for a bad guy,” she said, and laid into the monster with kick after kick.
The others joined her, and Yellow Fang found his feet again. He waddled the first few steps, but pushed through it. Qimos would not humiliate them a second time.
“Two of us should move in from behind and clear the statues from his path,” Pink Fang said.
Red Fang nodded. “Good plan. Luther, Drake, get on it! Cassius and Vincent, you’re with me!”
As Lindsay ordered, so did they follow. While two cleared the field, the others took Qimos; Blue Fang charging low, Pink Fang from above, and Red Fang dead center with a well placed boot. For every block the monster made, another guardian found an opening, and drove into it with all their power.
The monster smacked the pavement face first, and rolled away clutching his nose. He stumbled between a row of stalls.
“Three on one! That’s no fair!” he cried.
“We might have given you an honorable battle if you hadn’t pulled innocents into this,” Blue Fang said.
Qimos shook his head, violently. “I don’t need your pity! I just have to thin out the herd!”
Needles flew in every direction, prompting the vampires to hide. They ducked behind stands selling fallafel, churros, and garden furniture made from discarded car parts. Spikes thudded into the hard surfaces, and showed no signs of letting up.
“Is it me, or are these generals getting stronger?” Pink Fang groaned.
“It means that Lord Nihilex’s getting desperate,” Red Fang said. “Let’s show him what we think of his big guns!”
The rain stopped, and another sound caught their attention; crying, from the same little boy that she’d told to run.
Lindsay cursed her luck. A battlefield was no place for a kid!
Qimos hummed. “Is there no sweeter sound than a child’s suffering?” he mused. “Don’t worry, little one. It’ll all be over soon.”
Without thought Red Fang bounded from behind the table. Sure enough, there was the boy, standing in the open with tears and snot running down his chubby face. Every sob was like a beacon, screaming for danger to find him. Danger inched closer as Qimos marched toward him. Even if the kid ran, he wouldn’t be fast enough.
The monster’s nose twitched as he readied an attack. “Goodnight, sweet child, and count yourself lucky. You’re being spared of Lord Nihilex’s dark reign over this world!”
Lindsay sprinted at speeds no human could reach on their own. By then it was too late; another spray erupted from the monster’s ugly face. She pushed, harder than she’d ever pushed before, and leaped to pull the boy from their path. She’d never reach him in time, but she could stop the needles from reaching their target.
A hundred pricks pierced Red Fang’s armor. The pain was negligible, but perhaps that wasn’t the point. Her skin drank the spikes until they were a part of her. The effect was immediate.
Lindsay’s joints became rigid. Her steps were solid and clunky without movement in her ankles, and her fists were fixed in position. They weighed more than the rest of her body, throwing her off balance.
Her uniform vanished to reveal the young woman beneath. She teetered back and forth, fighting for balance. From the furthest extremities the curse took hold, transforming her from flesh into stone.
The remaining guardians gathered around. Even through their masks, their alarm was clear.
Green Fang clutched his helmet. “No, no, no, no – tell me this is not happening!”
Pink Fang nursed her stony hand. “Lindsay, I don’t know how to tell you this…”
“I know,” the young woman said. She forced a panicked laugh. “He got me. He got me good.”
Qimos stroked his chin. “The transformation should have been instant. Maybe your vampire powers are protecting you, but not for long! Soon you’ll be a statue, and Fang Force will be without a leader!”
Sober realisation washed over them, so heavy that not even Lindsay’s assurances could sway their mood. Strange, that she should be the one most affected, yet she was the one to offer comfort.
The heart of their team was vanishing before their very eyes, and once she was gone they would be lost. What were they without someone like her banding them together?
Yellow Fang flexed. “We don’t need a leader to know you’re done for!”
Though his words fell on deaf ears. No sooner had he caught up to the monster than Qimos disappeared into a dark portal. Whatever his plan, it hardly seemed to matter. The damage was done.
Lindsay fell backward into Blue Fang’s arms. The others raced to her like eager siblings. It might have been cute if the situation weren’t so dire.
“Is the kid okay?” she asked.
They cleared the path to where the little boy stood, frozen in fear. Yellow Fang knelt beside him, and placed a hand upon his shoulder.
Lindsay smiled. “Do me a favor, and bring his Mom back, okay?”
Luther tensed. Even now, her concern was for others, not for herself. Was her life worth that of a child? Lindsay would say so, and Luther trusted her enough to agree in practice. Yet he still hesitated when swallowing despair.
Stone crept further up her wrists and ankles. Time was moving against them.
To be continued…