Teenage hacker, Janus Rose, doesn’t care about the moral choices of living multiple lives online, until the real life consequences of her actions enslave her to the local PD’s High Tech Crime Unit, forcing her to become the very creature hackers hate, a spook.
Jan owes the world nothing. Her father left without a word. #BIGSECRET Her mother has progressive Multiple Sclerosis. And Jan juggles the need to complete homework with the need to keep pizza on the table, running the family computer recycling business. Living in an industrial park with crappy Feng Shui, Jan’s pretty sure that the only one she can depend on is herself. Maybe. And yet, just because she knows how to code, people seem to think they can depend on her to save their butts and solve their crimes.
Jan does take short cuts. She skirts the shadows of what’s right and wrong. But she has to; if she’s not multitasking then she fails out of school, or the family loses the business, or someone dies …
It’s a brave new world. Welcome to ASSURED DESTRUCTION.
“I’m looking for Mrs. Rose?” the cop says. A pin on her uniform tells me she’s Constable Williams.
She looks Hispanic but speaks without an accent. I search for suspicious challenge in her brown eyes but find none. The officer straightens her shirt, which has ridden up on her bulky gear. What happens if you have big boobs and need to wear a Kevlar vest?
“That’s Ms. Rose,” I reply. “One second.” I turn. “Mom! Cop here to see you!”
My mom’s chair squeaks with each rotation of its wheels as she emerges from the back room. Between the mousy hair and the chair sounds, I sometimes see her as a little rodent. In a good, cute way. Evidently I take after my father.
“Yes, officer?” my mom asks, rolling up to the counter.
“Have you had Family Planning Clinic as a customer?” the cop demands.
“What regarding?” My mom frowns.
“I’m investigating the release of their client list. Are they a customer of yours?”
My mom shoots a look to me, but the bottom has dropped out of my blood pressure. I press my hands into the counter and try to remain upright. What’s going on here?
“I don’t know,” my mom says. “When would it have been?”
“About four months ago.” The police officer checks her notes and nods again.
My mind is grinding, four months ago … sure, okay, yes, I do remember. A man with three computers and a laptop. I flip back through four months of the certificates, which are written in triplicate, and tear out three.
“Here you are!” I hold them up. “Certificates.” I fan them.
“What’s this about, officer?” my mom asks.
“Family Planning Clinic has reported the theft of confidential data. They said they recently upgraded their computers and had the old ones shredded. Here.”
“It’s an abortion clinic, isn’t it?” My mom claps her hand over her mouth. “Oh, I feel terrible for those women. This is dreadful.”
“We did shred them!” I wave the certificates. “Here’s proof. These are the certificates of assured destruction.”
I remember, though, the hard drive of the laptop wasn’t one of them. The man hadn’t paid for that to be shredded, and I’d taken a look through it before sending it out for recycling. Hadn’t I? Maybe I’d left it in the drive for a day first, but that shouldn’t matter. No one has access to Shadownet except me. Should I tell them about the laptop drive? It was just recycled, not even wiped. I totally remember the laptop because it had a big happy-face sticker on the lid. Our hands are clean.
“Can I have copies of those?” The officer asks.
I jog into the back and run the photocopier. I can barely breathe. Something is very wrong here and I’m beginning to see a pattern. Shivers rattle down my spine, and it’s all I can do to keep standing. Before I know it, I’ve run fifty copies too many, and guilt surges in me about the trees I’m killing. Tears well in my eyes and I clear them before heading back to hand the copies over.
After the officer departs, my mom doesn’t leave.
“They were destroyed, weren’t they, honey?” she asks.
I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
“Yes! The three computers from the clinic got spaghettified.” And it’s true, so why do I feel like I’m being hunted?
After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults. His most recent project, The Terminals, has been optioned for television by Sudden Storm Entertainment.
Michael lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife and four daughters. He tries very hard to keep life an adventure both on and off the page. Please come find me on Goodreads.