In times of peril one hope remained; it was the Great Vampire King’s ultimate weapon. Bonding with bodies of metal, creatures serving as familiars became a power unto themselves, and when combined became an unstoppable body known as the Fang Empress.
The five robots – Blue Wolf, Yellow Beetle, Pink Spider and Green Mountain Lion, with Red Bat to lead them – burst through the ether and into the streets. They charged between buildings, leaping into the air to catch the individual members of Fang Force. Five for five, each with a vampire guardian at the helm, the familiars converged in the city square.
Blue Wolf and Green Mountain Lion twisted until they became legs. Yellow Beetle descended to form the torso, and opened its wings to reveal a chest. Pink Spider followed, split down the middle to unfurl so that legs and fangs became fingers; its abdomen unleashed great arms that folds around the shoulders. Last of all the Red Bat landed, curled its wings and folded into the robots chestplate. Its head shifted back to reveal a woman’s face; the face of the Fang Empress.
Whether in Milestone City or Crescent Valley, the construct was a vision of awe. If anything could bring the Abyssal Titan to its knees, it was Fang Force’s greatest weapon.
“Let’s show this thing what we’re made of!” Gold Fang roared.
However, the transformation was not complete. The machine took its first steps and paused.
“What on earth?”
“Now I’ve seen everything.”
“Nobody told me about this!”
A beam burst from its chest, and liquid gold poured down its length. Shimmering chrome as bright as the sun permeated every corner of the Fang Empress, elevating the robot to something grander than it was.
“We no longer fight as Fang Empress,” Lindsay said. “Behold! Shining Empress!”
Its golden sheen radiated across the city, so bright that even the monster blinked. The Abyssal Titan and the Shining Empress stared each other down. It was the deciding stage between two beings beyond comprehension with the fate of all life hanging in the balance.
Gold Fang gripped the throttle, and offered a silent prayer for the innocent souls in the crossfire. She even prayed for Glimmer Girl whose power carried them, for she too was among the helpless.
She pressed the stick and roared into a charge. The Shining Empress raised its shimmering arms high and cut into the void. The Abyssal Titan did not react as the machine’s arm sunk into its torso, but wailed as the limb ripped from its insides.
When light failed to conquer darkness, one simply needed more light.
The hardest thing was to lay back and do nothing. Even if Lindsay had a portion of my power, I knew I could do more. Maybe that’s why some people don’t like heroes, I thought; trusting the fate of tomorrow to someone else was a reminder of how little control we have.
Tanya must have read it on my face, given the way she kept pulling up my blankets. “Now you know how I feel,” she said.
The gash along my chest itched and pulsed, but was more irritating than it was painful. I peaked under my shirt to see inflamed skin, but no cut. Funny, it felt like a cut. Spike explained that was the nature of Fantom’s weapon; that sometimes it wounded the body, sometimes the soul, sometimes both. Glimmer Girl’s holographic form could recover, but not my spirit.
The little bat dragged an old TV out of storage. It was older than I was, and twice her size, but she managed to prop it on a side table and turn it on to one of the news channels.
“We’re coming to you live from Crescent Valley’s central business district, where as you can see two colossal – I can only call them ‘monsters’ – appear to be engaged in some life-or-death duel! What this means for residents I can only speculate…”
The Abyssal Titan pressed into Fang Force’s shining robot, resisting blows and responding with its own. Contact sent both reeling in pain, but only long enough to mount the following attack. For both to exist in the same space was wrong on a primordial level.
“Shining Empress and the Abyssal Titan are opposites, antithetical to one another,” Spike said. “Even the smallest touch negates their power, and annihilates them both. It’s just a matter of who can outlast the other.”
“I have to do something,” I said. My feet met the ground, but when I tried to stand I fell into a heap. Great.
Tanya propped me up and led me back to the bed. “Cool your jets, hero. Even at full strength you’d get lost out there, like a firefly in a tornado.”
“It’s not a question of strength,” Spike said. “Glimmer Girl is a font of power; greater than any I’ve seen! It’s more her vessel is weak, especially in its current state.”
“What are you saying?” I asked. “That being human is holding me back?”
The little bat became flustered. “No offense to human beings, of course! I have a great admiration for your kind, fragile though you are!”
Tanya scratched Spike behind the ears, letting her know that there were no hard feelings. “Too bad we can’t channel more of that power into another vessel,” she said.
Spike pulled fiddled with her tiny fingers. “Well… there is one way…”
Whatever it was promised to be weird, but I didn’t care; so long as I could be part of the action.
Lindsay was at her limit. Every blow to rattle the Shining Empress resonated in her bones. The familiars were in pain, and by extension, so was she; but the animal spirits weren’t about to quit. The least she could do was honor them by fighting to the last.
The Abyssal Titan lumbered, and fell to one knee to avoid the next blow. With Shining Empress exposed, the monster then plunged its claws into her abdomen. The two clashing powers exploded with searing light, sending a jolt of pain throughout both.
Gold Fang screamed. The sensation was like nothing she’d experience before; far beyond pain.
“Centrifugal alignment compromised,” Pink Fang said.
“Lower mobility down to thirty-nine percent,” Blue Fang added.
Yellow Fang slammed his fist on the console. “One more blow like that and we’re locked in place!”
“Waiting to fall like a domino,” Green Fang said.
It was more than Lindsay knew what to do with. She had no solutions. Like the Great Vortex King said, what good were words when the situation called for action?
Gold Fang drew a deep breath. Their position was bleak, but they weren’t defeated until the final blow. Maybe it was only seconds away, but for those few seconds she made the choice to hope.
“Don’t stop now,” she said. “We’ve got a world to save!”
Shining Empress raised her fists and clasped them together. With all her weight and momentum the machine brought a blow crashing down onto the titan’s back, driving it into the asphalt. Every inch of the creature’s body drank the earth, swallowing chunks to be distributed across the Abyssal Realm. It rose with a hungry yawn, and arched upright for another round of combat.
“We don’t stop,” Lindsay said, as much for herself as for the others. “We won’t stop…“
Fortunately, Fang Force were not alone.
It was a feeling I’d never forget; my body was a million points of light, floating across the city and into the heart of a storm. But I wasn’t afraid. Whatever force I was connected to – the same force that made Glimmer Girl what she was – burned like it always had; except that I didn’t have a body anymore, or insides, so…
My consciousness spread over countless particles pooled together in a single form. Where I once had legs I had a handle, and what was once my waist solidified as a hilt, emblazoned with Glimmer Girl’s symbol. My chest, arms and head became streamlined as an arcing blade the size of a small building.
Gold Fang gasped. “No freaking way!”
Of all the impossible things to happen to a hero, never did I imagine becoming a luminescent sword.
The Abyssal Titan reached out with an all-consuming limb. Its fingers curled under the hilt as it tried to make me its own. A burst of light sent the thing reeling, and nursing a greedy hand that shifted between realities.
The Shining Empress paused, as though unable to grasp the vision before them. Geez, did I have to spell it out for them?
“Quick! This is your chance!” I cried. Don’t ask me how I did that without a mouth.
“Glimmer Girl?” Gold Fang still couldn’t believe it.
Not that she had to be told twice. The giant robot took a firm hold around the base of my new body. It was an ideal fit; we were made for each other, literally. Energy flowed into the Shining Empress, and its strength back into me with a light show blinding anyone brave enough to look on.
The monster faltered. If I didn’t know better it was like that the doorway to despair feared for its survival. To project that realization upon an unfeeling manifestation spoke to a power never dreamed.
Gold Fang thought for a moment. “I’m going to call you ‘Glimmering Justice Striker’!”
“Call me whatever you want,” I said. “Let’s send this creep back where it came from!”
We moved as one mind, one body; five pilots, five familiars, and me. Together we could do anything, like banish a dark dimension. Shining Empress clasped my handle, and I offered myself to her. Charged with the power of creation itself we came down on the Abyssal Titan, slashing through insubstantial flesh, and turning the vacuum on itself.
It shrieked with an inward voice, and sucked the dark clouds from the sky. Falling both backwards and inwards, its limbs disappeared into its body and became nothing. Its head followed, along with the eyes that blazed without life. A natural absence appeared where it once stood, allowing the dusk to return to Crescent Valley.
We won. The Abyssal Titan was defeated.
There’s a sense of unreality that comes once the adrenaline cools. One minute the world was ending, and the next it wasn’t. Save for the largely cosmetic damage left to the city, and when Glimmer Girl’s power faded from Lindsay’s system things were back to normal.
“You okay?” Tanya asked.
How was I supposed to answer that? Being a hero and an adept was weird enough; becoming a weapon for a giant robot was next level.
“The sooner we get home, the better,” I told her, but that wasn’t true. When Lindsay and company emerged from the castle gates in everyday clothes I couldn’t help but smile. The hero life was lonely at times; now it was less.
Lindsay approached with all the world’s joy beaming through her. “Thanks for your help,” she said. “Are all team-ups this fun?”
I smirked. “‘Fun’ isn’t the word I’d use.”
“We saved the day,” she said. “Sure, things were a bit hairy for a while, but we made it through.” The grin turned wicked. “Besides, you got to be a sword! How cool was that?”
I tried to frown, both at her and at Tanya, but it didn’t hold. “I wouldn’t say ‘cool’, either.”
Tanya elbowed my side. My fault for being glib, I guess.
The other vampires gathered around, and took turns shaking my hand. They were as serious as they were grateful. Lindsay was lucky. You couldn’t ask for a better group.
Cassius was first. “You fought bravely,” he said.
Vincent followed. “Perhaps we’ll meet again someday soon,” he said.
Luther was next, and grinned from ear to ear. “We couldn’t have done it without you!”
Drake unfolded his arms and clasped my hand. “Do me a favor,” he said. “Next time you see that Red Wraith guy, kick him where it hurts.” Like I’d ever waste the chance!
And then there was Lindsay. She bounced, giddy with excitement. In the comics heroes cement a friendship with a handshake, but not her. Lindsay threw her arms around my neck and clung with all her strength. Gods help me, I held her back just as tight.
“Thank you,” she said. “You taught me a lot.”
“Like you don’t have to be fearless to be a hero,” she said. “Well, I guess I already knew that, but it’s always good to have a reminder. You know?”
I nodded. “You reminded me that I’m not alone in all of this.”
Tanya cleared her throat.
“You know what I mean!” I said.
We laughed and we laughed for longer than the joke was funny, and then we laughed some more; we laughed like the old friends we were all destined to be.