Shadows of the City
DARK GUARDIAN: SHADOWS OF THE CITY
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.
Copyright © 2017 by Ammar Habib
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author(s).
For more information, please visit:
Other works by the author include:
Dark Guardian: A New Dawn
Memories Of My Future
To learn about Ammar’s works and to know what’s coming up, please subscribe to his newsletter at:
A Message for You
I’m truly honored to share Dark Guardian: Shadows of the City with you. This short, standalone story takes place between the first two novels of the Dark Guardian Series, Dark Guardian & Dark Guardian: A New Dawn. I wrote it so that readers considering the series will get a taste of Ethan Daniel’s adventures as The Guardian, the vigilante feared by every criminal in Crown City.
For those that may be new to the series, this story takes place after Ethan has donned the mask of The Guardian. Using The Guardian as a symbol, he is leading a movement and battling against the corruption and crime that has plagued his city and country. This story follows him after he hunts down a deadly gang in the sewers who have kidnapped a doctor.
At the behest of readers, I hope to publish many of Ethan’s shorter standalone adventures and battles as one-off short stories. I continue to find the creation of this series to be a personal quest that is every bit as transformative as Ethan Daniels’ own journey. I was just out of high school when I started writing this series and the process of writing it and navigating the creative and business side of the writing world continues to be an adventure.
I’d like to end by thanking you. An author is nothing without his readers and I truly appreciate your support. I do not take it lightly that readers select my work out the countless works available. I look forward to the honor of hearing your thoughts someday. If this is your first time reading any of my works, thank you for taking a chance on it. And for those that have read my other works, I truly appreciate your continued support. Enjoy!
Dark Guardian: Shadows of the City
The last bloodied corpse dropped to the dirty floor, joining the countless bodies littering the gang’s den.
Minutes ago, all the men had been alive as they rummaged through their new stash of firearms. But then he came: The Guardian. It was the vigilante—the legend—that every criminal in Crown City feared.
The lights flickered. Then his cold voice drowned out their voices. Slowly turning, they saw him standing at their lair’s entrance. Concealed in the shadows of his darkened hood and cloak, he stood tall with a long dagger in one hand and a throwing knife in the other. His masked eyes looked directly at the gang’s leader.
He gave them a choice to surrender. They didn’t take it.
The Guardian charged right at them. Moving with inhuman speed and attacking with perfect precision, he cut down every single soul with his sharpened blades. His blows were brutal. Swift. Merciless. The gang didn’t have a chance. None of them did. Not against him. Not against this ghost that haunted the nightmares of every thug and goon in the world’s largest city.
Bullets lit up the room and curses shook its walls. But they couldn’t gun or beat him down. Not with their weapons or numbers. He cut them down as if they were flies, his blades merciless. The thugs dropped dead one after the other. Some by his daggers and some as they were thrown into friendly fire. And the last man standing was the leader, Raul. With his back against the wall, Raul’s empty pistol quivered in his hand as he aimlessly pointed it at The Guardian. The vigilante took his time, stalking up towards his prey with his bloodied dagger clenched in his tight fist.
Raul begged for mercy, but his cries went unheard. The pistol dropped from his hand as he promised information. It didn’t change his fate. With one brutal motion, The Guardian drove his blade straight through Raul’s heart, its tip ripping out of the gangster’s back and into the wall. He left the blade there for a moment, watching life leave Raul’s eyes before wrenching the blade out and letting the corpse slump to the floor.
The battle ended as soon as it began. The Guardian still stood tall. His foes didn’t.
Just like countless other gangs over these past few months, this one disappeared into the night. But it’s what they deserved after the lives they had destroyed in their greed and quest for power.
The fight now over, The Guardian sheathed his bloodied daggers on his belt. He turned away from the corpse. Under his red and black mask were the eyes of Crown City’s famed son, Ethan Daniels. His gaze falling back onto the dirty, darkened den, he slowly readjusted the throwing knives hanging from his belt. His fitted tactical suit mirrored his mask’s pattern and displayed his perfect physique. The grey cloak still hung from his shoulders and he again threw the hood over the back of his head. Russet boots covered his feet while brown gloves went up his forearms, nearing his elbows.
There was some blood splattered on his uniform, but none was his own. He had been lethally fast, his inhuman agility and strength outclassing his foes at every level. Stepping over the corpses and back towards the entrance of the gang’s hideout, The Guardian came to a halt as he heard a buzzing in his ear.
“You copy, Ethan?”
Hearing the voice of his closest companion, William, The Guardian touched his earpiece. “I read you.”
“We’ve got a situation. Officer Mason called it in.”
“We’ve got a missing doctor. A psychiatrist named Dr. Paul.”
“Where’d he go missing?”
“On his way home from church. He’s the doctor who was helping rehabilitate the men who used to be a part of—”
“Pierce’s gang. I know. Pierce had been gassing his men with hallucinogens and toxins, mutating their physique and making them crazy. Crazy enough to follow his madness. Pierce is a psychopath.”
“You mean ‘was’. Pierce is dead. There were eyewitnesses.”
“But never a body.”
There was a pause on William’s end. “What happened with Raul and his pack?”
The Guardian’s gaze drifted back onto the corpses. “It was a dead end.”
Atop of a sleek, black motorcycle, The Guardian sped through Crown City’s highway. His cloak and hood wildly flew in the air behind him as the rush of wind beat against him. The speedway was nearly empty of any other vehicles. As Crown City had grown accustomed to over the last few years, the streets were almost bare at this hour of night. For being the largest city in the world, Crown City’s night life was a deserted one. The only ones on the prowl were criminals and street thugs.
But things were slowly beginning to change.
Months ago, Ethan and William began their war against the corruption and crime that had plagued Crown City and its nation of Tripton for too many years. Bringing together some of the nation’s most influential citizens, they began a movement against the nation’s unjust rulers—a movement led under The Guardian’s symbol.
Ever since then, The Guardian worked tirelessly cleaning up the streets. As one of the wealthiest men in the nation, Ethan used his resources to help the less fortunate. And wearing the mask of the vigilante, Ethan fought night and day in this seemingly endless war against the underworld and corruption.
Not even a month ago, he had again served the government a wake-up call when he murdered a senator in broad daylight. That senator had butchered a woman the night before in an effort to hide a dirty secret. After that, the government strengthened its Martial Law on Crown City in an effort to quell the marches that continued to put an ever-growing strain on the economy. However, all the generals, officers, and soldiers knew better than to follow through on their threats of shooting into crowds that wouldn’t disperse. The Guardian eliminated any soldier or officer that harmed a citizen, leaving no respect for this so-called Marital Law.
Even criminals were on the run. Dealers like Raul’s gang were turning up dead every night. The power structure of organized crime continued to diminish with each passing day. Street by street, The Guardian was systematically wiping crime out of his city. With his superhuman strength, speed, and arsenal of weapons, these common street thugs remained no match for him.
But the darkness seemed to be retaliating. The longer Ethan fought, the harder the enemy battled back. Along with that came the crazies, the lunatics like Pierce. They crawled out of the shadows of this city.
And Ethan was the only one who could put them down.
“Long night, officer?”
Hearing the cold voice, Mason turned around to see The Guardian step out from the shadows. In the church’s mammoth nave, Mason stood next to the front-most wooden pew a few feet away from the pulpit. The high ceiling and tall walls surrounding them were the crux of medieval, gothic architecture. With only a few lights on outside of the sanctuary’s illumination, most of the grand hall was dimly lit at best.
The Guardian took a few steps to close the gap between Mason and him. There was nobody else in the expansive chamber. However, the lights of numerous police vehicles spilled in through the weathered rose windows that decorated the church’s walls. Fast falling rain continued to pelt the windows and walls, continuously echoing throughout the building.
Mason peeled off his police cap and ran his free hand through his short hair. Young for his rank, his face displayed the stress of the job. Being an honest cop in Crown City was not a task for the weak-hearted. “You ever thought of using the front door?’
Stopping in front of the officer, The Guardian looked down at the pew Mason stood next to. “Is this where he sat?”
“According to the priest this is where Dr. Paul always sat when he came.”
The Guardian’s eyes set back on the officer. “What’s the situation?”
“Dr. Paul came here like he did every Thursday. There’s no mass, but enjoyed being here when it was quiet. The priest says that Paul would pray for his patients. He did his prayers, sat for a while, then left.”
“The priest heard a scream and a thud right when Paul went out the doors. By the time he got there, Paul was gone.”
“Not at first. The storm is making it tough to spot clues. No security cameras here either. But then we discovered that they’d taken him underground into the sewage system. It’s the fourth kidnapping done like this—where the victim is taken underground I mean. Every time—”
“The victim washes out of the sewers dead. Executed,” The Guardian finished. “Paul disappeared nearly an hour ago. He doesn’t have long.”
There was a flash of thunder that caused the church’s very walls to tremble, but neither man flinched. Mason slowly nodded, digesting The Guardian’s words. “We sent a team down there after them. But it’s a damn maze. This city is old and the labyrinth down there shows it. We’ve got people working on it—”
“By the time they discover anything, Paul will be dead. Pull your men back.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m going after him.” Reaching under his cloak, The Guardian kept his eyes on the officer. He revealed a small device and tossed it to Mason.
Mason caught it before glancing down at the apparatus. “What is it?”
“I’ll keep in touch through it, and it’ll let you track me.” The Guardian turned around. “Once this is done, destroy it. Try to use it to track me after tonight or find out who I am and it’ll be the last mistake you ever make.”
Without another word, The Guardian left.
William sat before the master computer in The Guardian’s extensive lair. The enormous base of operations was shrouded in darkness, save for the bright lights emitting from the three mammoth screens in front of William.
Making a sound, the screen immediately pulled up several boxes of information. One was an image of Dr. Paul. The middle-aged, dark-skinned psychiatrist’s hair was a mix of black and white. His face was slightly overweight, but clean-shaven. Under the image was some basic information. A native of Crown City, he’d attending medical school and ran his medical practice here. A few years ago, the city had hired him to try and rehabilitate the prison’s mentally insane criminals. So far his work had proven effective to an extent.
A second box displayed the headshot of another man: Pierce. The lean man’s face displayed a large tattoo of a scythe on his left cheek. Just like William conveyed to Ethan, Pierce was presumed dead according to the police records that pulled up alongside his picture. It was nearly seven months ago that a firefight erupted between his gang and the police, resulting in him blowing himself up before his entire gang was either taken down or arrested.
William skimmed through the police report. Everything looked to be in order, save for one thing. It was the officer who confirmed the death: Shaun O’Hara. The name suddenly brought a vile image of the deceased officer to William’s mind. O’Hara was as bad as they came in the police force, a corrupt officer in every sense of the word. From bribery to abusing his power, he’d been involved in everything. Everything including the death of William’s wife nearly two and a half years—
Shaking his head, William forced out the memories of his past. He’d slain O’Hara months ago. But the fact that O’Hara was the one who confirmed Pierce’s death called everything into question. Pressing a button on his keyboard, William kept his eyes on the screen as he waited for a voice to come out of the computer.
Hearing Ethan, William replied as he quickly punched away on the keyboard. “You were right. Pierce’s death was confirmed by O’Hara. That means he’s likely still alive.”
“He won’t be after tonight.”
“Are you after him?”
“I’m entering the sewage system now. No doubt his gang will be with him after the major breakout in the prison’s psychiatric wing two months ago.”
“Turn on your tracker—never mind, I’m receiving it now. I’m pulling up the schematics of the sewage system. I’m also picking up that somebody else is on the tracker’s frequency.”
William’s eyebrow rose. “You trust him?”
“I’ll need him. For tonight at least. Pull up any information we have on Pierce’s gang. I need to know what I’m up against.”
“Already on it.”
The murky water surrounding Ethan’s boots felt thick. A mix of liquid and gunk, it resisted every step he took. The circular sewage tunnel itself was brick walled and nearly ten feet tall. The bricks were weathered after decades of service and the whole place reeked. Dim lights occasionally lined up the sides, but many of them were flickering or barely functioning.
But he trudged forward. Some rats scurried around the edges and he stepped over some dead snake skin. Nothing he didn’t expect. This part of the sewer was a long straight tunnel, but it’d soon break up into several passages. By that time, William would have a lead. Ethan slowly traversed the tunnel as he kept his senses sharp. Pierce wasn’t an idiot, even in all his craziness. He’d know that The Guardian would come for him sooner or later and would have a plan.
In the distance, he caught the sounds of a sewage outfall. The running water nearly mimicked a small waterfall. As soon as he heard it, a face shot into his mind. It was the light waiting for him at the end of his mission’s dark tunnel:
It had been months since he last saw her beautiful face. He remembered standing on the bridge of Swan Park right next to a small waterfall. He remembered her unexpectedly meeting him there after his mission as The Guardian began and promising to wait for him. He remembered giving her the ring and the warmth of her embrace.
Every night, every time he closed his eyes, she filled the void. He felt her warmth… her love. He felt the touch of her hand and witnessed the glow of her beautiful, smiling face. It was almost as if—
Hearing a buzz in his ear followed by William’s voice, Ethan’s thoughts were quickly dispersed. “How is it down there?”
“Dark and dirty.”
“I guess that’s what’s to be expected.”
“I’m linking my feed now.” Ethan pressed a button in his earpiece. In the next instant, everything he was seeing through his mask was being streamed onto the master computer in the warehouse.
“You’re right. It is dirty. Bet it stinks too.”
“You’re welcome to join me.”
“It’s a tempting offer.”
“Schematics pulled up?”
“Crown City’s old and the sewage system is what you’d imagine. It’s a maze.”
“What are you thinking?”
“I’ve got a most possible route pulled up. If travelling as a group and taking an unwilling hostage, they wouldn’t go into the deeper water areas. I’m sending the route to you.”
Reaching into his belt, Ethan produced a small tablet computer. The screen came to life with a layout of the sewage system. A red path appeared in the next instant, indicating the most likely path the gang would have taken. Along with it appeared several orange and a few yellow paths indicating alternate routes.
“Which one are you planning to follow?”
Staring at the screen, Ethan waited before replying as he continued pressing forward. “If Pierce’s gang is operating from underground, I doubt they’re living in the sewers. The city’s sewage system is old—and that means it’s contaminated with disease. Pierce could use it as an escape route but his base of operations would have to be somewhere less dirty.” Ethan paused. “The sewers are linked up to a part of the subway, but that’d be too conspicuous. One of your paths shows where the sewers link up to a series of ancient crypts. That’s where he’ll likely be.”
Ethan latched the device back onto his belt. “Patch me into Mason.”
Ethan’s voice changed. Any friendliness in it was replaced by the cold voice of The Guardian. “Mason, are you seeing my location?”
“I see you. One of my men has pulled up the files on the previous victims found in the sewers.”
“Bryan Hodge. 52. Lawyer and advocate for the humane treatment of the mentally ill.”
Arriving at a fork in the tunnel, Ethan followed the path on the left without missing a step.
“Warren Mayberry. 43. Priest.”
The tunnel barely held any illumination. Ethan drew out a flashlight and kept it aimed in front of him as he continued trudging through the murky abyss.
“Cody Hamburg. 39. Police officer.”
“Got it. I may have a lead on the gang’s location. Keep tracking my signal.”
“Do you need backup?”
The water was getting a bit deeper, nearly to the top of Ethan’s boots. And with it, his cloak grew soaked and heavier. In a fluid move and without missing a step, Ethan unlatched his cloak and let it fall into the gloomy waters below. He took his hood off as well, carelessly tossing it aside.
He wasn’t far from the crypts now. Ethan already had an idea of which way Pierce would have taken the doctor. A gang his size, nearly twenty men or so, would have a limited amount of options for a hideout. Once he found the gang, Ethan’s problem would be getting the doctor out quickly to avoid getting him injured.
The lights here were worse than before, most of them no longer working. Thankfully, his eyes easily adjusted to the dark. Ethan felt something brush by his boot. It was slick and long. But he didn’t slow down. Continuing through the ever-darkening abyss, Ethan touched his ear. “Did you hear what Mason said about the victims?”
William’s voice quickly answered him. “Yes. It’s the exact same information we had.”
“I was just keeping tabs on the wrong person. Should have known that Pierce would go after the doctor and not the prison ward next.”
“What do you mean?”
Ethan stepped into a smaller sewage tunnel that broke away from the main one. This one’s lights were mainly working. “Pierce is killing off anybody who tried to help his men while they were in prison. The lawyer advocated for prisoners like Pierce’s gang to be treated as mentally ill and not criminals. The police officer used to transport his men to and from the ward where Dr. Paul tried treating them. And the priest visited them often, trying to get through to them and help Paul in his work.”
“You know this how exactly?”
“It’s my business to know. Psychotics like Pierce feed on a sense of empowerment. He lives off of his men’s mindless loyalty to him. It gives him what every person truly wants: a sense of purpose.” The water was deeper than ever before. But he trudged forward. “Without his gang, he’s nothing but a shell of a human. All those victims tried to rehabilitate his men in one way or another. They threatened Pierce’s world order. And because of that, they became his enemies.”
There was a long pause on William’s end. “Does the fact that you know exactly what a psycho like Pierce thinks ever worry you?”
Ethan ignored the sarcasm. “I need you to meet me, Will.”
“What do you need?”
“If Pierce is—wait.” Ethan came to a halt, looking down at the deep water surrounding him. “There’s something—”
Out of seemingly nowhere, the water erupted. Three figures violently bursted out from under it as their roars echoed through the tunnels. Only a mere few feet away from The Guardian, the dirty water splashed onto him as the walls quaked with their primal roars.
But The Guardian didn’t move an inch, not even flinching.
At first The Guardian mistook them for men—but they were monsters. Inhumanely built, their upper body muscles were disproportionately large compared to their towering bodies. Their faces were mad, eyes wide and wild. They loomed several inches over The Guardian, muscles tense and limbs nearly quivering with unrelenting rage. Their open mouths seemed to be foaming as they stared down at their masked foe. They all wore nothing but torn pants, leaving their powerful torsos to be fully seen. Even their teeth were sharpened.
There was a long moment of stillness before William’s voice cut into The Guardian’s ear. “What were you saying about Pierce again?”
“He fed his men growth hormones and toxins. Inhumane ones.” The Guardian’s voice was unchanged, masking any shock. He took a small step back. Then another. “Looks like he made these three overdose.”
The three mutants charged at The Guardian simultaneously, roaring like rabid dogs.
The Guardian didn’t make a move, didn’t even flinch until they were right on top of him. “Made them mad—”
The Guardian ducked down to dodge a swipe, feeling it graze inches above from his skull.
“—as psychotic as him—”
The Guardian sidestepped another blow. And then leapt over a third.
“—but as strong as ten men.”
The Guardian landed back into the murky waters with a splash as another mutant arrived upon him. But The Guardian didn’t dodge this one. Stepping up, The Guardian powerfully grabbed the fist midflight, stopping it right in front of his face.
“Luckily, so am I.”
Grabbing the mutant’s arm with both hands, The Guardian mightily picked him out of the water and hurled him head-first into the wall. The mutant’s skull smashed into the bricks, loudly and violently breaking into them.
Stooping low to avoid another blow, The Guardian stepped up into his next opponent. The mutant sent down a haymaker, but The Guardian easily swatted it away. The Guardian followed through by delivering a succession of quick blows to the mutant’s stomach. Each one forced the mutant to let out a bellow of pain. As his foe took a step back, The Guardian didn’t relent, viciously slamming his forehead square into his foe’s face.
The third mutant came from The Guardian’s side. Sidestepping a backhanded swipe before avoiding a second blow, The Guardian robustly kicked him in the chest to send his foe into the waters before turning back to the bloodied mutant. Face full of blood, the mutant leapt at The Guardian, its shadow falling over him. The Guardian didn’t hesitate. With a flash of inhuman speed, The Guardian drew out a long dagger and slashed open the mutant’s throat. The neck was stiff, but the blade cut through it just the same before the falling corpse missed The Guardian and splashed back into the murky water.
The mutant The Guardian had kicked away roared as it came back at him. The Guardian barely dodged the first blow, but the second struck him square in the face, nearly sending him sprawling. But The Guardian kept his balance. The strike was powerful enough to put down any man, and more than enough to leave The Guardian’s head spinning. Drawing a small pellet from his belt, The Guardian backed up to dodge another wild swing from his opponent.
The Guardian kept backing up, avoiding one swipe and blow after another. With every one, his foe become increasingly enraged, its piercing roars ringing in The Guardian’s ears. The Guardian efficiently attached a pellet from his belt to the hilt of a throwing knife. Stepping up, he ducked to avoid a strike before knocking his foe back. The Guardian immediately backed up, increasing the space between him and his opponent before launching his knife. It struck the mutant right in its thick abdomen a few feet away. The Guardian immediately turned away and shielded his face.
In the next instant, an explosion engulfed the mutant. The deafening blast lit up the dirty walls and shook the very tunnel. But when the flames dispersed, the mutant was sinking into the waters below.
Feeling something from behind him, The Guardian turned as the first mutant leapt at him. His eyes were madder than ever before and blood seeped out of his head wound. The Guardian tried jumping back, but he was too slow. The mutant’s long claw cut across The Guardian’s chest as he aggressively bit into The Guardian’s shoulder with his sharpened teeth.
“Gah!” Momentarily consumed by the burning sensation, The Guardian immediately slammed his fist into the mutant’s skull, forcing his foe to back away.
“You’re hurt!” William’s words rang in The Guardian’s ears.
The Guardian ignored the anguish and dodged another blow before slamming his boot right into the mutant’s chest. His voice didn’t show any pain, only focus. “Not as bad as he’ll be.”
The mutant came at The Guardian again. The Guardian ducked down before rising back up and viciously slamming his open palm square into the mutant’s throat. The Guardian’s foe let out a gurgle as it staggered backwards. The Guardian didn’t relent. He simultaneously slammed either hand into both sides of the mutant’s face. Then his neck. Grabbing the mutant by his head, The Guardian brought his face down and into his knee.
A crack sounded off at the collision. Keeping his foe’s face down, The Guardian drew out his bloodied dagger and immediately ripped it through his foe’s skull. He kept it lodged in there for a moment. Taking a deep breath, he wretched the blade out and let the corpse join those on the sewer’s bottom.
“How bad are you hurt?”
The Guardian did not even look down at his wounds. Instead, he stepped over the corpses, sheathed his daggers, and continued on his way. “Claw was nothing new. But his bite ran deep. I’ll live.”
“At least we know you’re headed in the right direction.”
The Guardian readjusted his wounded shoulder, feeling the blood oozing out of it. “There’s a point of entry before a large underground chamber.”
“I see it.”
“Meet me there. And bring your gun.”
“Twenty minutes tops. What’s the plan?”
“To bring down the house.”
Standing by his parked vehicle, Mason held an umbrella to shield himself from the fast falling pellets of rain. Each one broke against the shield with a loud thud as he held the umbrella steady. Countless officers stood around him, but there was not much to be done. Not with the order from The Guardian to not enter the sewers. Then again, none of the men were truly clamoring for a chance to go down there.
The fact that Mason was again taking orders and collaborating with the vigilante who’d killed police officers, soldiers, and politicians ranging from beat cops to generals and senators felt… strange. In fact, The Guardian had slain some of Mason’s own superiors known to be corrupt. The entire police force knew that Mason, along with most other good cops in the city, worked with this vigilante. But nobody tried anything. They knew better.
Mason didn’t know if it was wrong or not. He knew that he was assisting a vigilante in committing murder. But on the other hand, all those The Guardian had slain up until now were known—
“Mason, do you read me?”
Hearing the familiar and unsettling voice he was still growing accustomed to, Mason quickly replied. “I hear ya.”
“I’m sending you a location. It’s a sewage outlet. Meet me there close to Crown City’s dam. Forty minutes. I’ll have the doctor.”
“How are you going to send me the loc—”
“I’ve patched into your GPS system. Sending the coordinates now.”
Mason stopped himself from responding to that breach. Instead, he slowly nodded. “I’ll be there. Have you found Pierce yet?”
“I’ll be face-to-face with him soon.”
His boots remained drenched, but the sewers were behind Ethan now. These ancient, brick-walled crypts were nearly barren and dry, save for some water drips here and there. Cobwebs surrounded Ethan on every side. The floor was littered with decaying bugs and rodents, while some living ones scurried across the ground.
There was complete silence, an eerie silence, save for the echo of his steps. There were no lamps in this area, leaving him to be encompassed in a blackness that was only broken by his flashlight. He kept it aimed at the shadows in front of him. But his heart remained steady. His senses knew that there was no evil concealed in the darkness—not yet anyways.
Pierce’s gang could not be far now. All these tunnels led to several larger chambers. One of those would be housing the gang. Ethan knew that the doctor would likely still be alive. If Pierce was going to simply kill him, he would’ve done so outside the church. He wanted to punish the doctor. After all, following Pierce’s “death” the doctor had tried to rehabilitate Pierce’s gang before the breakout. Pierce would torture him, torment him. And then, he’d gift the doctor death.
Ethan followed the dark passages as they took a slight turn to the left. His shoulder had grown a bit colder and more blood stained his tactical suit, but he ignored it. After these past months of endless battles, he’d received countless worse injuries. It didn’t matter. What mattered was ridding the city of another gang, another threat to the peace Ethan fought for.
William climbed to the bottom of the ladder and into the ancient crypt’s tunnel, immediately arriving face-to-face with The Guardian. Slung across William’s back was a FN Tactical Rifle. Not missing a beat, William tossed a few small explosive pellets towards his comrades and Ethan caught them effortlessly.
Unlike the passages Ethan had travelled through minutes earlier, this part of the maze was dimly lit by a few lamps hanging from the walls every fifty meters or so. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for both of them.
William quickly threw a black ski mask over his face. “Sure this is the right way?”
Ethan lobbed an item William’s way. Catching it, William stared down at the broken watch in his hands. The metal was freshly polished, a contrast to the ancient catacombs surrounding them.
“Does it look like it belongs in this place?”
William shook his head before dropping the watch. “The doctor left it as a clue? Smart man. How far away do you think they are?”
Ethan looked down as he attached the explosives to a few of his throwing knives. “500 meters.”
“You saw them?”
“Good enough. What’s the plan?”
“Priority is to rescue the doctor. They’ve bunkered down in a large atrium. From the entrance we’ll be going in from, it’s about a seventy foot drop. I’ll move in. Grab him as quickly as possible. You cover from up top.”
“You think the entire gang is like those three… I guess men, that you faced?”
“Likely so. But no matter how strong a person is, a bullet works just the same.”
William un-slung his rifle from his back and took it into his hands. “No truer words have ever been spoken.”
The massive chamber was illuminated by lights hanging from the walls and countless burning torches on the floor. A central point that connected numerous passageways in the crypt, this ancient atrium nearly measured forty meters wide.
At the bottom of the pit, amongst the flames, stood nearly twenty-five men. But they were not normal men. Like the men Ethan faced in the sewers, they were mutated by countless tests and chemicals. They were no longer recognizable as men, their bodies disproportionately strong as some of them possessed the strength of ten men.
They chanted wildly, as if they were a mad mob at the burning of a witch. With every passing moment, the gang’s rancorous voices intensified. The fires reflected off of their wild faces and bodies, casting their long shadows onto the floor and bricked walls. Some of them held up rusting machetes and blades while others wielded firearms. Their mad, wide eyes stayed trained on the prisoner huddled in the middle of the pack. It was a scene horrific enough to drive fear into the heart of any man or woman.
At the center of the crowd, a Dr. Paul remained chained and shackled. Some blood ran down his dark skin. Hours ago, he sat in church praying for a solution for his patients. Now, he was at the mercy of men he once tried to help.
And above the doctor stood the leader of the pack: Pierce. Unlike his men, Pierce’s body had not been mutated. But his eyes were madder, almost demonic. He roughly held the doctor by his hair, keeping him from falling over. His free hand held a long, sharpened scythe, the weapon mirroring the one tattooed on his cheek. Its sharpened edge stayed aimed at the prisoner’s throat.
Gaze trained on his crowd, Pierce’s commanding words drowned out the chaotic voices of his gang. “This man wishes to cure you! I say we don’t need to be cured. This city needs to be cured!”
His words were followed by a ruthless uproar. The followers raised their weapons as they hooted and hollered. Every syllable drove a dagger of terror through the Dr. Paul’s heart, forcing him to shut his eyes tighter.
“And the cleansing will continue with this devil! This fake prophet! This dog who wanted to make you mortal again! Who wished to strip you of the gifts I bestowed on you!”
The thunderous chaos only grew with every word Pierce uttered. It filled the chamber, echoing through the catacombs and crypts. The chaos fed on itself, growing uncontrollably.
Pierce’s blade drew nearer to the doctor’s throat. His voice barely outdid the chants and cries of his followers. “Will anybody stand for this man?”
From above them all, a cold voice showered down—a voice every criminal in Crown City feared. “Me.”
The Guardian suddenly landed at the center of the pack. A few feet away from Pierce, he remained crouched down. Every gaze was on him as silence fell over the gang. As their voices died away, The Guardian slowly rose to his feet. Without his cloak or hood, the belts around his waist, forearms, and thighs that housed all his throwing knives were fully visible. As was his fitted, red and black tactical suit.
“You want to cleanse the city?” The vigilante’s cold voice contained no mercy. “Start with me.”
There was a moment of peace. Then it began.
With blinding speed, The Guardian sprang forward and grabbed Pierce by his hair. He powerfully yanked him away from the doctor like rag doll and slung him into the crowd. The gang leader’s feet left the floor before he roughly collided with two of his men, tackling them both to the ground.
Swiftly twirling around, The Guardian unsheathed a long dagger as one of Pierce’s mutants charged him. The clang of blades rang loud as The Guardian’s dagger met the mutant’s machete. The blade’s trembled with the impact of the blow. Ducking to avoid the second swipe of a machete, The Guardian stepped up into his foe and drove his dagger through the mutant’s throat.
The mutant’s eyes rolled back as blood spewed out of the wound. Ignoring it, The Guardian wasted no time in wrenching out the blade and turning around. As a second foe came upon him, The Guardian sidestepped three quick swings before forcefully kicking the mutant square in the chest. The mutant stumbled backwards as The Guardian dodged a third foe’s blow. Without even looking his way, The Guardian knocked his foe back as a fourth mutant leapt at him from behind.
Turning around while jumping back, the vigilante’s dagger blocked several swings of his opponent’s machete. Finding an opening, The Guardian sliced open the mutant’s thick arm before slashing his opponent across the chest. The mutant roared in pain as blood seeped out of his bare chest’s long gash.
Two more foes charged from behind The Guardian. He ignored them as he masterfully battled three others in front of him. But before those two arrived within five steps of him, two bullets whizzed out of nowhere and split open either of their skulls. Their heads jerked violently to the side before they collapsed.
From high above, William remained perched at the entrance of a tunnel as he stared down through his rifle’s scope. He quickly spoke into his earpiece as his finger pulled the trigger again. “Get out of there, Ethan.”
Down below, The Guardian crouched down to barely dodge a wild haymaker from another mutant. His foe’s momentum carried him right passed The Guardian. Without looking back, The Guardian stabbed the mutant right in his guts before forcefully yanking out his blade, leaving the mutant to die in unbearable agony.
Knocking away another mutant with a blow from his forearm, The Guardian reached out and grabbed the shackled doctor. “Hold on!”
A mutant suddenly grabbed The Guardian from behind, attempting to wrestle him down. The mutant’s mammoth arms wrapped around the vigilante’s chest as he tried to crush the life out of him. But The Guardian violently threw his head back, smashing his skull into the mutant’s face. With his opponent momentarily stunned and forced to let go, The Guardian aimed his wrist cable at the bottom of a raised platform nearly thirty feet above them.
He fired off his cable. The hook cut through the air before perfectly latching onto the platform. As more mutants converged onto The Guardian, he swiftly kicked two more away before again grabbing the doctor and being whisked into the air.
High above the gang, The Guardian held the doctor against his side with one arm as they swung towards the other side of the pit. The rush of hot air surrounding them beat against his masked face. A few bullets fired out of the crowd towards them. The projectiles whizzed right by them, some only inches away. But none touched them.
As they fired away at The Guardian, the mob tried to keep up with him in vain. A mutant near the pack’s rear was suddenly shot in the skull by the sniper above. He collapsed straight down. Another one was blasted in the leg. By the time he hit the ground, a second punctured his chest and then a third went straight through his skull. But the mob did not notice or slow down, too focused on The Guardian.
Roughly landing on the dirty floor, The Guardian instinctively pushed the doctor onto the ground behind him as he gained his balance and turned to face the oncoming gang. The pack of mad dogs rushed him, closing in fast. The Guardian stood firm as he reached at either belt around his forearms.
“W—what are you doing?” the doctor’s voice rang with fear. “We n—need to ge—t out of here!”
The Guardian unsheathed four throwing knives as he answered without looking back. “Not while this scum are still alive.”
Without any hesitation, The Guardian launched the four projectiles. They tore through the air faster than any bullet. In the next instant, they all cut into their targets. But before the four wounded mutants even received a chance to scream, the explosives on the end of each knife set off simultaneously.
The entire atrium was momentarily lit up as if it was in broad daylight. The blasts nearly consumed the entire gang. Above the violent explosions echoed the cries of the men set ablaze or consumed by the detonations. Many were killed off by the explosions themselves, but a few were left to burn in its aftermath. Those men collapsed onto the ground, their bodies set ablaze.
When the blasts settled, the five mutants left continued their charge, too lost in their blinding rage to slow down. The Guardian did not flinch, unsheathing both his long daggers. As the first mutant came within a few steps of him, he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t move. Not when the mutant was ten meters away. Not when he was five. Not even when he was a step away and brought down his machete.
The mutant’s head suddenly jolted to the side as a sniper’s bullet ripped through it. Blood splattered onto The Guardian, but he remained undeterred as the mutant collapsed dead.
Ignoring the corpse, The Guardian weaved to the side to dodge the second mutant’s blow. In a fluid move, he squatted down and sliced open the man’s leg. With his opponent off balance, one of The Guardian’s daggers drove straight through the mutant’s torso. The mutant howled in pain. But then The Guardian’s second blade split into the back of his foe’s neck.
The Guardian yanked out the daggers as the final three mutants arrived upon him. But before the first one had a chance to strike, two bullets from above punctured his chest in quick succession. He howled in pain as he hit the ground on his back. And no sooner did he fall that a third bullet ended him.
The Guardian loudly blocked one of his foe’s machetes with his dagger as he kicked his other foe in the guts. As the second foe keeled over, The Guardian turned back to the first one. The mutant attacked with amazing speed. Before The Guardian could react, the mutant powerfully picked him up and tackled The Guardian to the hard ground. As he did, the mutant’s blade cut into The Guardian’s side.
The mutant landed right on top of The Guardian, his primal face only inches away. His roar rang in The Guardian’s ear. His rough hand clenched around Ethan’s throat, crushing down on his trachea with no mercy. For a moment, Ethan could not break the hold—he couldn’t free himself as the mutant mercilessly strangled him.
A voice suddenly rang in Ethan’s head, momentarily drowning out the mutant’s snarl. It wasn’t William. It was Katrina.“Get up, Ethan!”
Ignoring the pain, The Guardian found his strength, grabbed the hand on his throat, and shoved it away with all his might. The vigilante powerfully head bunted the mutant square in the forehead. Grabbing the mutant by his face, The Guardian slung him off as the vigilante let loose a vicious growl.
Flipping back onto his feet with his daggers in hand, The Guardian sensed his second foe aiming a rifle. Weaving side-to-side with his inhuman agility, The Guardian dodged the first few. But then a bullet caught his already wounded shoulder. And a second ran through the edge of his thigh.
The mutant’s gun ran dry and the two converged on The Guardian once more. They were too close for William to risk the shot, leaving The Guardian with only his strength to defeat them. Dodging a blow and then another, The Guardian backed up and kept both his enemies right in front of him. Both mutants armed with a machete, they attacked relentlessly. But he batted away or avoided every blow. Nothing could be heard as they fought under the dim lights save for the earsplitting clangs of their blades.
Seeing an opening, The Guardian stepped up. Viciously cross-facing one mutant with his elbow, The Guardian leapt up and slammed his boot against the other’s skull. The Guardian didn’t hesitate in seizing the opportunity. Turning back to the first mutant, he mercilessly drove his dagger straight up the mutant’s skull. The dagger split in from the base of the skull and its bloodied tip ripped out of top.
Wrenching out the blade, The Guardian avoided a blow from the last remaining mutant. He followed through by ducking down to avoid the machete’s swipe. Stepping into his foe, The Guardian lowered his shoulder and slammed it into the mutant’s guts. The mutant stumbled backwards, giving The Guardian just the chance he needed. One dagger plunged right into the mutant’s stomach while the second stabbed through the side of his skull and violently bursted out of the other end.
The Guardian held it there for a moment, watching life leave his foe’s eyes. With a final roar, he yanked out the blades and let the corpse join the rest of its comrades.
Ignoring the doctor’s wide eyes, The Guardian turned to the last person in the room: Pierce. The mad dog’s leg was limp as he crawled right by his men and towards an exit. His movements were frantic, desperate.
But there was no escape for him.
Aiming his wrist cable, The Guardian fired it off. In the next instant, the hook cut right into Pierce’s leg. It latched onto his bone. Pierce howled in unbearable pain, but his cries fell on deaf ears. The Guardian began reeling the cable back, dragging Pierce towards him like a helpless fish on a hook.
And as he did, The Guardian’s voice echoed through the chamber. “It’s time. Time to pay for your sins.”
The police’s helicopter hovered outside of the raised sewage outlet. Its propellers nearly deafening, the chopper’s open side faced the darkened drainage only a few feet away from the running water as it flowed out of the tunnel and sixty meters below.
Wearing a monkey harness, Mason leaned out of the open door and stared into the tunnel. They’d arrived only moments ago. Within a minute, it’d be the appointed time The Guardian ordered him to be here. Rain continued to pour down in waterfalls from the heavens. It splattered against the helicopter, rattling it. Keeping his eyes trained on the sewer, Mason was completely soaked within a matter of seconds. He tried to stay focused as he raised one hand in a vain attempt to shield himself from the rain.
It didn’t take long.
Mason finally saw The Guardian break out of the abyss. Walking atop of the raised path next to the water flow, the victorious vigilante slowly made his way towards the helicopter. Alongside him, the doctor leaned on The Guardian for support, his exhausted head remaining bowed.
The police officer hardly believed his eyes for a moment. The Guardian had truly found the doctor. The pilot brought the chopper a tad bit closer as The Guardian arrived at the edge of the tunnel. Reaching forward, Mason and another officer grabbed ahold of the doctor and brought him onboard with one hefty pull.
The other officer immediately set upon strapping the doctor in while Mason kept his gaze on The Guardian. “What about Pierce?”
“He shared the same fate as his gang.”
Mason knew what that meant as he watched the vigilante take a step back into the dark sewer tunnel. There was a moment of silence. “…thank you.”
The Guardian turned around.
Holding out his hand, Mason’s words stopped the vigilante. “Wait. Can I offer you a lift?”
Without looking back, The Guardian replied. “Maybe next time.”
William entered the warehouse’s main chamber. As normal, most of it remained shrouded in darkness, save for the master computer’s large screens as it worked on locating some known criminals in the city. But two more stations were also illuminated. The first were the display cases that showcased several variations of The Guardian’s red and black tactical suit. There was some fresh blood visible on one of the glass case’s handles. Next to the displays, under the same lights, rested the armory. It consisted of countless firearms, from high-powered rifles to simple handguns. Along with them were an assortment of daggers, throwing knives, smoke pellets, explosives, and several other weaponry of The Guardian.
The other illuminated station was the medical area. Under that spotlight, Ethan sat on the medical bed as he stitched away at his shoulder wound. Shirtless, his nearly perfect physique was covered in countless bruises and healing wounds. Ethan mended the wound as if it was second nature, hardly even seeming to think about it. His face was a bit unkempt after not having shaven in the past couple of days, making him appear slightly older than his mid-20s self. And his eyes seemed tired.
Arriving at a halt near his friend, William finally broke the silence. “You look better than usual.”
Slightly smiling, Ethan glanced up from his work.
“Crazy night, wasn’t it?” William crossed his arm. “Crazier than usual I mean. Usually it’s just gangbangers and thugs. Tonight it was… mutated freaks. Quite the escalation.”
Ethan remained silent for a moment. “Those people, Pierce’s gang, are a side of this city that dwells in the shadows. They’re the worst kind of devils, the kind that do evil just for the pleasure of it. Corrupt politicians can be jailed. Even punks like Raul can be reasoned with. But… scum like Pierce. That’s where the true battle lies.”
William watched Ethan glance away for a moment.
“I fear that the longer this war goes on, the more people like Pierce will emerge from the shadows of Crown City.” Ethan took a deep breath. “And the innocent will always pay the price.”
“But at least tonight was a success. Pierce is—”
“Success?” Ethan shook his head. “Three men already paid the price before we finally caught Pierce. I hardly call that a success.”
“You can’t put every murder on your conscious.”
“It’s my duty. My responsibility. That means the failures are too.”
Silence followed Ethan’s words as William thought on them. There was no getting to Ethan when he was this moody. Reaching into his pocket, William produced a small photograph. “I think this is the photo you were searching for the other day.”
“When was I—”
William held his hand up. “I know you well enough. Maybe this’ll brighten your day at least.”
Ethan gently took the picture into his slightly bloodied fingers. He stared down at the woman in it. Her black locks hung freely. Her slender figure was covered in a blue dress and her fair-skinned face was strikingly beautiful as she smiled at the camera. Ethan remembered this photo—he remembered capturing it himself when he and Katrina sat at the lake’s shores. The waters were so peaceful that day… everything was peaceful that day. But it all felt like a dream now. Seeing Katrina smile through the photo, he momentarily forgot all his pain, a part of him again captured in that dream.
“Thanks, Will.” Ethan tore his gaze away as he gently set the photo beside him. “I don’t think I could do this without you.”
“I’m sure you’d find a way.”
Reaching out, Ethan placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder. His gaze held a flash of gratitude. “I mean it, Will. Truly. You keep me safe from falling victim to this darkness, keep reminding me that I’m not alone.” Ethan glanced down at Katrina again. “That there is a light waiting for me at the end of this tunnel.”
“Now you’re making me blush,” William joked. “Hope you’re not going on another patrol.”
Ethan shook his head. “I’ve got a meeting with Jonathan. One of the officials the law firm was prosecuting—Erik Kane—got away.”
“So now you’re going to deal with him?”
“The law had its chance. Now, Kane will have to deal with The Guardian.”
“If you’re not going to rest, at least sit down for a few more minutes.”
Rising to his feet, Ethan ignored the statement. “But we did learn something important today.”
“Other than the fact that sewers really stink?”
“Mason. We can trust him. He destroyed the tracker as soon as I delivered the doctor to him.”
“It was a test?”
“I guess that’s worth something.”
“In a city like this, every ally counts.”
William wordlessly followed his friend towards the display cases.
“We’ll need every single one we can find if we’re going to win this war. The mission is only beginning. Before it ends, every devil hiding in the shadows will try and stop us.” Stopping in front of one of the displays, Ethan stared at the uniform looking back at him. “And we’re the only ones that can put them down.”
To read the previous chapter of Ethan’s journey, please check out:
To read the next chapter of Ethan’s journey, please check out:
Dark Guardian: A New Dawn
About the Author
Ammar Habib is an award winning & bestselling author who presently resides in his hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas. Writing has always been a passion of Ammar’s. He enjoys crafting stories that are not only entertaining, but also have something useful to say to the reader.
Novels by Ammar include:
Dark Guardian: A New Dawn
Memories Of My Future
To sign up for Ammar’s newsletter and receive updates on his writing, please visit:
To learn more about Ammar, please visit:
Ethan Daniels is The Guardian, the vigilante who haunts the nightmares of every criminal in Crown City. After a gang of sadistic, mutated thugs kidnaps a psychiatrist, Ethan is forced to chase after them. His hunt leads him through Crown City’s ancient crypts in a race against time. But what Ethan will find in the darkness is a danger he has never faced before, one that displays the worst part of the city’s underworld—the devils dwelling in the shadows. --- Set between the first two novels in the Dark Guardian Series, Dark Guardian & Dark Guardian: A New Dawn, this standalone, short piece story elaborates on some of Ethan Daniel’s struggles as The Guardian as he attempts to thwart the dark forces that have ruled over Crown City for so long. At the behest of readers, I hope to start to publish many of Ethan's shorter adventures and battles set between the series' novels.