About the Book
Mariska Cooper is a twenty-two year old student/waitress by day, feared vigilante by night. She and her best friend, Lucas Forsythe, lead the Guardian team, a ragtag group who battle the thriving criminal community in Toronto, Canada. Mariska, grieving the loss of her teammate and love of her life Lisa, throws herself into her work and focuses her mission on keeping the city safe.
Alana Pierce, a savvy businesswoman in a high powered oil company, pulls Mariska from her self-imposed exile and brings light back into Mariska’s life. But Alana holds secrets of her own that can endangered them both.
Mariska paused at the bus stop, her gaze falling on the graffiti tags littering the glass shelter. She looked up from her inspection of the eyesore on the bench as the bus pulled up in front of her. The bus was crammed with passengers already. After allowing the others waiting at the stop to get on first, she decided it would be less hassle to just walk the ten minutes to the subway station. Her cell rang as she walked, and she fished it out of her pocket as she zoned in on the fresh fruit stand across the alley.
“Hey, what’s up?” she asked Lucas as she stepped across the side street. She flipped the bird to a disgruntled driver who had been trying to make an illegal turn off Main Street, his speeding car missing her by inches. “Where’d you learn to drive? Asshole!”
“You’re such a classy lady,” Lucas said.
Mariska traded a dollar for a mango at the fruit stand and headed for the Victoria Park subway. “Don’t make me kung fu you.” She tucked the mango into her bag for later. She brushed some hair back from her face. Even at nine a.m. the humidity of a Toronto summer morning was near unbearable. The spandex vest under her t-shirt didn’t help either.
“Pssh, like you could. Anyway, we have a problem.”
Mariska checked her watch. “How big a problem? My midterm is in forty-five minutes.” She turned off Main Street and walked north towards the subway station.
“Bomb threat on a subway train,” Lucas said. “Police got an anonymous tip that the good detective Perkins was kind enough to pass on to us.”
“How kind of her,” Mariska said. “Where’s the train now?”
“Coming down your way. You’ve got maybe a minute and a half.”
“Damn.” Mariska closed the phone, shoved it into her pocket, and sprinted for the subway. She maneuvered between two pedestrians, calling out “sorry” as she spun around the steps, taking them two and three at a time. She flipped her Metropass to the toll booth guy then vaulted over the gate, only to realize for a heart-stopping moment that she didn’t know which train the bomb was on. Lucas, ever the picture of preparedness, was already ringing her phone again.
“Westbound, car 1519.”
Mariska bounded up the steps of the escalator and reached the top just as she glimpsed the train heading towards her in the tunnel. “One of these days I’m going to ask how you get all this crap done before you go to work in the morning. It’s not slowing down.”
“There’s a virus in the subway control system. I’m trying to get in but the train control program is locked down. It’s not going to stop!” Lucas said. Furious typing was audible in the background. “I’m trying to hack in and give control back to the transit system, but you’re going to have to get yourself on that train.”
Mariska closed the phone and tucked it into her pocket. She looked around the platform, noticing the dozen or so people scattered around. Everyone was focused on the oncoming trains. Perfect. She unslung her backpack and pulled her mask out, a spandex face mask that concealed her from the bridge of her nose down. She tugged the mask into place and grabbed three shurikans from the front pouch of her bag. Hopefully the small throwing stars would be enough to get the job done. They had done well enough for the samurai of old.
“This is such a bad idea,” she muttered as she watched the front of the train rush by. It wasn’t going full speed but it was fast enough to mess up her day if she miscalculated.
She threw the first star. It skipped harmlessly off the rearmost car. She let loose the other two. They lodged solidly in the metal plating but not shattering the window as she hoped.
“Damn damn damn.”
The car was nearly at her now and picking up speed. She picked up her backpack, at least twenty pounds of textbook goodness.
She launched her backpack at the window of the last car, shattering the weakened glass to give herself a way in. She sprinted after the departing train, long legs eating up the distance. She took hold of the edge of the window and hauled herself into the car just as the train cleared the platform. She landed shoulder first on the metal seats, then rolled to the floor. Wincing, she stood and looked at the bewildered occupants.
“Um . . . I hate taking the bus?” She shrugged at an older man who was staring at her. She cleared her throat, picked up her backpack, and headed for the front of the car.
Mariska stepped in between the cars, ripping her shirt from her body and letting it fly in the wind as the train picked up speed. She had on her blue spandex vest—one of the earliest incarnations of her Guardian gear. Unlike her new Kevlar and leather suit, it was easily concealable beneath her clothes for the occasional daytime crisis. She tugged on the snaps at the base of her neck, unfurled a large hood, and pulled over her head. The top half of her face was concealed beneath the shadows of the hood as she opened the door to the next subway car and walked in. All eyes turned to her, some in recognition, others discarding her as simply one of the numerous oddly dressed people in the city.
Mariska pulled her sunglasses from the side of her backpack and put them on—the yellow tint of the lenses bringing a certain crispness to her vision. She placed the ear bud in her ear as she walked and turned on the video feed, nodding at passengers who cleared the way for her.
“I’m online,” she said, the video transmitter also acting as an audio transmitter, giving Lucas a real time account of what was going on around her.
“Yeah, I’ve got you,” Lucas said. “Are you in 1519?”
“Calm yourself, I’m nearly there.” She opened a second door and crossed over into the next car. “Any information on who we’re dealing with?”
She lightly shook the hand of a little girl who reached out to her as she passed. The toddler gave a shrill giggle at the contact, and Mariska smiled. She liked kids.
“No clue, the tip came in anonymously to the PD,” Lucas said. “Sorry about the short notice. We’re just lucky you had your appointment with the Doc this morning.”
“I’m trapped on a train with a bomb,” Mariska said in a low voice so she wouldn’t alarm the other passengers. “What kind of mental definition of ‘lucky’ is that?”
“Yeah, ’cause that was mature.”
“Whoever is doing this is going for maximum effect,” Lucas said. “The viral program has the train scheduled to stop at Bloor and Yonge. If the bomb goes off in that station . . .”
“I know.” The casualties would be catastrophic. The station was one of the busiest interchanges on the line, and it was peak operating period. Someone definitely wanted some attention. “We need to minimize damage. If this goes bad, you can’t let the train make it that far along the line.”
“I know. I’m working on stopping the train. The police are evacuating the stations as quickly as possible. You just worry about the bomb.”
“Well, jeez, don’t you have something hard for me to do?”
Mariska blew out a breath, looked into car 1519, and saw two armed men flanking what she presumed was the bomb.
“Two men?” Lucas sounded incredulous. “Amateurs.”
Mariska scanned the other occupants of the car and focused on a man with a hand concealed beneath a newspaper and another who was much too calm. He was either an emotional dunce or a co-conspirator.
“Focus. Besides, I count four.” Mariska pulled out two shurikans from her vest pocket. “Ah, jeez,” she muttered as she caught sight of the wrist leashes that held a string of kids together.
“I’ve got a lot of preschoolers on this train, Big Brother. I think it’s some kind of field trip or something.” She shifted to get a better view. “There’s got to be at least twenty-five kids in car 1519.”
“They’re not handling our resident villains very well.”
One boy, nearly purple in the face, was screaming at one of his caretakers. The woman was busily trying to hush him, fear written across her face. One of the gunmen moved towards the boy.
“Be careful,” Lucas said.
“Copy that.” Mariska opened the doors to car 1519.
The men turned and aimed their guns at her.
She let loose the shurikans. One knocked a gun to the ground and the other sank deep in the other gunman’s hand. She ran for the pistol and kicked it away as the man reached for it. In one fluid motion, she grabbed him by the back of his collar and drove her knee up into his chin, snapping his head back. He landed in a boneless heap.
Mariska dropped her heavily booted heel onto the other man’s wrist, forcing the gun muzzle down and away from the passengers. She let her momentum carry her forward, her elbow driving into his temple and putting him down for the count.
“Guardian, look out!”