Restored to full strength and beyond, Qimos moved across Crescent Valley with steps as long as city blocks. His stringy digits lashed at the masonry, tearing through the face of buildings. The void’s chill radiated from him, frosting the windows, and biting the unfortunates who landed in his path.
From his renewed proboscis he spat needles like iron girders. They shot into the street, and turned up the pavement. Pitiful creatures ran outside to avoid the collapse of their refuges, and those on the street fled for cover. Nowhere was safe!
“Take him from all sides!” Blue Fang barked through the comms.
The familiars charged from every corner of the intersection, running and scuttling, and pounced. Yellow Beetle charged at the feet, Blue Wolf the legs, Pink Spider latched to its back, and Green Mountain Lion struck from head on. Their combined force was sure to bring the enemy down, if only they could only land a blow.
Qimos sprang into the air, leaving the machines victim to their own momentum. They crashed onto asphalt and tore up the streets. It hardly seemed worth the effort destroying the city when Fang Force was doing it for him!
His lace wings unfurled and buzzed. Qimos vaulted into the air, far from the reach of the familiars. He snickered and found a new perch atop the Commerce Center, the highest structure in Crescent Valley.
“You’re going to have to do better than that,” he teased.
The machines jumped into the path of needles as he spat, risking their own metallic hides for the sake of others. Sparks flew, claxons wailed, and the familiars struggled to stay on their feet. Their pilots clutched the controls, pressing through what they could of their familiar’s pain.
“Yellow Beetle can scale the building,” Yellow Fang said.
“So can Pink Spider,” reported Pink Fang.
“And with a running start Green Mountain Lion can reach him,” added Green Fang.
They moved with all the speed they could muster. Thin legs stuck to the silver panels as insect and arachnid familiars pulled themselves ever upward. Meanwhile, the large cat circled the nearest dozen blocks, measuring the distance for a run up.
They all thought about Lindsay, though were all too proud to admit it. She was their fire, and without her Fang Force did not burn as bright. Her absence rattled their bones, but they endured.
“Take him down!” commanded Blue Fang.
Yellow Beetle and Pink Spider reached the higher echelons of the structure, but no sooner than Qimos was in their reach he launched into the sky, buzzing on furious little wings. He took refuge on a nearby radio tower. Green Mountain Lion pounced through the air, meeting only the space where the monster was moments ago.
Qimos unleashed another barrage of needles from his new vantage, along the side of the last. The familiars lost their grip and fell to earth. Each struck with monumental force, shaking the earth.
Blue Fang howled. “No!”
The familiars lay motionless and on the verge of ruin. The nudge of Blue Wolf’s steel nose prompted only the barest signs of life.
Qimos stretched tall and fluttered his wings. “And now to finish you,” he rasped. The monster’s high, squealing pitch echoed toward the horizon. “In the name of Lord Nihilex!”
Lindsay groaned. Watching TV was like a special torture. It was bad enough seeing Fang Force in battle without her; worse when Spike changed the channel to ‘get her mind off it’.
So much for that plan.
The ‘statue-fication’ had engulfed her arms and legs, then her shoulders and hips. Her neck and torso didn’t leave much freedom. She hobbled across the floor, having to drag her limbs as she did. Nobody had ever struggled so much to reach the remote.
The little bat fluttered around her, and fought in vain to guide her back to the sofa. “Please, Lindsay. We’ll find a way to fix this, but in the meantime you need to rest!”
“How am I supposed to sit by when the guys are getting their butts handed to them?”
Spike perched on top of Lindsay’s head. She folded her wings and summoned her best matronly expression. “I seem to recall someone telling the others to trust in their own abilities,” she said. “Perhaps you should do the same.”
“I did trust them,” she said. “I do trust them,” she corrected. “But they need my help! I’m the only one who can summon Red Bat!”
The pair stared the other down. Lindsay may have been ‘Master’, but even leaders needed to be put in place now and again. Though Lindsay had one card remaining, which so far hadn’t failed hr.
Her expression softened, brow upturned, eyes wide, and a pout trembled her lips.
The little bat pulled the wings over her eyes. “No! That’s not fair!”
“But what about Cassius?” Lindsay said. “And Luther, and Vincent, and Drake?”
“They can take care of themselves!”
Spike padded her tiny foot against Lindsay’s forehead as if to make her point more clear, but it lacked conviction.
“I promise to take it easy,” Lindsay reasoned with a hum. “All I need to do is transform and sit in the Red Bat’s pilot seat. Once we form Fang Empress, the others can do the rest. Don’t you think that’s fair?”
That was the problem. It sounded entirely too fair! Even if it meant placing Lindsay in the line of fire at her most vulnerable.
Spike lowered her wings and frowned. “Fang Empress would help,” she admitted.
Lindsay grinned. “Great! Yes! Exactly!”
“But how will you become Red Fang when you’re like… that,” Spike added.
The smile faded. Having stone arms and legs was the one part of Lindsay’s plan that required work.
“Could you, um, grab the crucifone from my pocket?”
Spike did just that. She fished the device out, and clutched it awkwardly in her arms. With one free limb she hopped along Lindsay and brought the crucifone to her shoulder.
“Now flip it open,” Lindsay instructed, “and dial ‘six-six-six’.”
“I know how it works,” Spike protested, but did as she was told. The machine glowed, active and awaiting command.
“Soul awaken… Red Fang!”
Clouds from the ether seeped into the clock tower and spiraled around the young woman. The costume formed around hardened fingers and toes, creating a Red Fang as immobile as her alter-ego. She hobbled toward the exit, marking the floorboards as she went.
Lindsay bowed her head. “Red Bat, if you can hear me, I need your help now more than ever. Please, please, join us in our time of need!”
A shrill call rang out through the sky, as though waiting for her. It wasn’t too late!
Spike perched on the Red Fang’s helmet, and as she flapped generated a deep purple mist. They tumbled into it together, and were transported through space.
Red Fang into the pilot’s seat, unable to straighten herself. She shifted uncomfortably until she was facing the controls. With frozen limbs, she was still unable to grasp the control.
“I don’t think I thought this plan all the way through,” she said.
“Don’t worry! I’ve got this!” Spike latched onto the stick, leveraging her weight to draw it back. The familiar beat its great metal wings, and arced toward Crescent Valley.
Lindsay beamed under the mask. “Nice work!”
In seconds they sighted Qimos. He was perched on top of another building, just out of reach.
The insect leered upon seeing another enemy; an enemy that, like the spider, made a meal of his mosquito brethren.
Blue Fang roared over the comms. “Lindsay! What are you doing here?”
“Saving the day,” she said.
Yellow Fang grunted from his own beaten machine. “You’re supposed to be resting…“
“There’s a time for resting, and a time to push; or did you forget?”
Using his own words against him. She could practically hear his grin through the receiver.
Nobody else was game to argue.
“Then there’s no time to waste,” Blue Fang said. “Form Fang Empress!”
Yellow Beetle, Pink Spider and Green Mountain Lion rose to their feet They gathered in the heart of the city, moved past their own twisted metal. Together they combined, with two mammals forming the feet, the beetle transforming into the torso, the spider opening into a set of arms, and the bat shifting into the chest and head. Even when broken, Fang Empress was a marvel of technology.
The machine peered to where the insect was gloating. “You may be bigger, but I can still move faster, fly higher!” He buzzed, and took to the clouds on lacey wings.
Lindsay sat motionless in the cockpit with arms spread wide, giving the others little room to move. Spike sat in her lap, and was the only one able to move between controls.
“Oh, man. You’re in bad shape,” Green Fang said.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?” Pink Fang asked.
“You guys just do what you need to do. I’ll keep up,” Red Fang said. “Besides, I’ve got Spike helping me out!”
“I won’t let you down, Miss!” the little bat chirped.
The fight was far from over. Even with their combined strength, Qimos had the advantage.
Needles sprayed down, shredding everything in their path.
Fang Empress buckled. For all her power, she was still composed of tattered familiars, struggling to stand. The needle string ran through her already weakened limbs.
For every advance they made, Qimos was another three ahead. It was hopeless! Not even Red Fang gave them the winning edge.
“You don’t stand a chance!” the insect buzzed at them. “All you’re doing is delaying your destruction! It is inevitable!”
Inevitable or not, Fang Force pressed for all they had. It wasn’t the first time they’d faced impossible odds. If they were to meet their end, it would be with a courageous heart.
The Fang Empress rediscovered her balance. There would be no more running; Qimos would no longer lead the chase. The great machine summoned the long, curved blade from the ether – the Fang Striker – and held tight to their position.
“Are you challenging me?” Qimos demanded. “It would be merciful to finish this now.”
The heroes steeled their nerves. Fang Empress contorted. Gears and mechanisms clicked into place like old bones. Then, a great set of wings unfurled from her back; wings like those of the Red Bat, but greater – wings that carried the Great Vampire King into countless battles.
The great construct took the air, soaring through her natural element. It bore down on Qimos, dropping the great sword down on his head. Shining steel pierced the insect, breaking the cohesion of its unnatural flesh.
With a high pitched buzz the monster dissipated into the void, back into the nothing from which it crawled.
Red Fang exhaled. A weight from her chest, despite her limbs.
Another weight followed. The cold stone under her suit flushed with warmth. Her arms dropped, now soft, into the flesh and blood appendages that they were meant to be.
“I’m… I’m free!”
Cassius, Luther, Vincent and Drake threw her arms around her as if for the first time. They clung with all their strength, though Luther held back, only just. Even Spike landed in the middle, determined to encapsulate as many of them as she could in the short wings.
To be continued…