Blog Tour: Assured Destruction by Michael F. Stewart

Today we're happy to be a part of Tribute Books' blog tour for Assured Destruction by Michael Stewart. 

Assured Destruction Book Summary: Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.
Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They're stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose their livelihood.

When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.

Excerpt from Assured Destruction:

If you ever have to get  a  job,  don’t  do  sales.  I  hate  sales.   And  this  woman  is  an  example  of  why.

“I   am   Mrs.   Roz   Shaftsbury   and   this   hard   drive   will   be  destroyed,”  Mrs.  Roz  Shaftsbury  says.

It’s  weird  how  she  announces  her  name,  but  it  does  mean  something  to  me.  I  sit  next  to  her  son  in  half  my  classes.  I’ve   never  seen  her  before,  though,  and  she’s  dressed  in  what  looks   like   twenty   foxes   sewn   together   and   is   wearing   red   heels—I   would’ve  remembered—that  fox  is  snarling  at  me.

I   guess   because   she   walked   into   a   dingy   warehouse   with   concrete   floors   and   bare   beams   and   the   worst   Feng   Shui   in   the  world,  she  assumes  we’re  after  her  credit  card  information   rather  than  to  earn  enough  money  to  buy  pizza.  But  come  on,   I’m  a  sixteen-­‐year-­‐old  girl,  not  a  ...  well  ...  not  a  crook.

Roz  leans  in  and  stares  at  me  so  I  know  she  isn’t  even  asking   a  question;  this  is  a  threat.  Erase  the  hard  drive,  or  else.

I   want   to   salute   and   say,   “Yes,   ma’am,   your   son’s   secret, torrent   downloading   will   be   deleted   forever.   His   Ivy   League   future  is  back  on  track.”  But  then  she’d  realize  I  actually  know   her  son,  Jonny  Shaftsbury,  and  I  see  no  point  in  tipping  her  off.

“Oh  yes,  assured  destruction,”  I  say.  It’s  what’s  written  on   the   sign   above   her   head   and   it   helps   me   keep   snide   remarks   to  myself.

“Some  computer  recyclers  just  wipe  hard  drives,”  Roz  adds;   her  fingernails  scrape  the  laptop  casing,  sending  shrill  echoes   through  the  warehouse.  “I  want  this  shredded.”

With   a   hint   of   a   European   accent,   she   says   it   like   she   researched  the  subject  on  Google.  If  she  had,  she  would  also   know  wiping  a  hard  drive  works  perfectly  well  and  then  it  can   be  reused.  But  this  is  a  woman  wearing  foxes,  and  in  retail,  the   customer  is  king  or  ...  er  ...  dark,  evil,  dead-­fox  queen.

I   point   to   the   shredder,   which   squats   in   the   corner;   it   works  like  a  paper  shredder  but  instead  of  chewing  up  paper  it   munches  metal.  Chop-­‐chop  is  spray  painted  across  its  lip.

“Good,”  she  replies,  but  her  hand  lingers.

I  slide  the  computer  off  the  counter  with  a  smile  and  carry   it  over  to  the  shredder  for  show.  Shaftsbury  forks  over  cash— this   woman   really   doesn’t   want   to   leave   a   trace—it   all   feels   ridiculously  covert.  I  narrow  my  eyes  and  hunch  my  shoulders   as  if  I’m  doing  something  shady.

She   huffs   and   stomps   out,   twirling   her   foxes   and   leaving   the   smell   of   her   sugary   perfume   behind.   I   stand   nonplussed.   I   would   have   thought   she’d   want   to   see   the   shredder   do   its   work.  At  least  take  the  certificate  of  destruction.

I  hate  sales.

If   she   wasn’t   such   a   bitch,   I   probably   would   have   popped   the   hard   drive   in   the   shredder,   hit   the   big   green   button,   and   assured   the   destruction   of   the   last   few   years   of   Jonny’s   life.   But  since  I  know  Jonny  doesn’t  have  a  chance  of  making  it  into   an   Ivy   League   school,   I   don’t   feel   too   guilty   about   checking  under  the  hood  to  see  if  it  is  indeed  the  Jonny  Shaftsbury  from   my  high  school.

In   every   kid’s   hard   drive   are   pieces   of   themselves,   which,   if  someone  is  prepared  to  take  the  time,  can  be  puzzled  back   together   to   live   again   on   what   I   call   the   Shadownet.   That   someone  happens  to  be  me.

Hobby?  Art  form?  Sad,  pathetic  plea  to  garner  friendship,   even  virtually?  Sure,  I  am  guilty  on  all  counts.  Maybe  I’m  even   addicted  to  it.  I  can  pick  apart  the  private  lives  of  others  and   don’t  need  to  worry  about  what  they  think  about  me,  or  whether   the  profiles  I  create  for  them  are  going  to  walk  out  one  day  and   never  come  back  like  my  dad  did.  Shadownet  is  my  permanent   family.  The  only  thing  I  can  be  sure  will  stick  around.

“Janus,  why  aren’t  you  working?”  The  voice  of  my  mother   rings   with   the   sing-­‐song   tone   she   uses   when   she   senses   I’m   about   to   do   something   wrong.   She’s   in   the   back   playing   with  money.

“I  am  working.  Don’t  harass  your  unpaid  labor,”  I  return  in   my  own  sing-­‐song.  She  has  a  beautiful  voice,  though,  and  mine   is  like  that  woman’s  fingernails  on  the  casing.

“Room  and  board  qualifies  as  paid,  deary,”  she  continues  in   a  fun,  easygoing  lilt.  I  love  my  mom.

Luckily  a  doctor  came  in  an  hour  before  Jonny’s  mom,  so  I   pop  the  shells  off  his  computers,  pull  the  hard  drives,  and  run   the  shredder.  It  makes  a  series  of  clunks  until  the  hard  drives   catch  in  the  teeth,  then  it’s  like  listening  to  a  car  crash  in  slow   motion,  metal  sheering  and  plastic  splintering.  I  cover  my  nose   at  the  reek  of  lubricant  and  acrid  metal.  My  mom  will  hear  it   and  never  know  that  one  more  hard  drive  didn’t  quite  make  it   into  Chop‐chop.  For  now,  I  tell  myself,  choking  down  the  guilt.

Poking   about   the   new   laptop,   I   can   see   it   isn’t   old—three   or   four   years—but   then   I’m   not   hoping   for   baby   pics.   I   want   secrets.  Secrets  are  power.  I  first  realized  how  powerful  when my   mom   wouldn’t   tell   me   why   my   dad   walked   out   on   us.   I   wonder  about  it  every  day.  And  about  what  he’s  doing  right  now   and  whether  he  thinks  of  me.  The  hard  drives  I  fail  to  destroy   are  my  secrets,  and  no  one  knows  about  them,  especially  not   my  mom.

I  slip  the  hard  drive  into  the  front  pocket  of  my  overalls  and   smile  at  the  next  person,  who  lugs  a  behemoth  of  a  television   he   probably   paid   ten   grand   for   a   decade   ago.   He   now   has   to   pay  us  to  take  it  off  his  hands.

Finally,  it  is  eight  o’clock,  and  I  can  quit.  My  mom’s  still  in   the   back   office   with   her   head   in   a   spreadsheet.   I   know   we’re   not   making   much   money,   but   Assured   Destruction   is   all   that   keeps  us  from  the  food  bank.  Still,  we  manage.  I  work  a  lot  of   hours  and  have  ever  since  my  dad  abandoned  us.

I   pat   the   hard   drive   in   my   pocket   and   dream   about   what   secrets   I   will   find   within   its   folders.   It   being   the   end   of   the   month,   I’ve   got   a   couple   more   hours   before   my   mom   rolls   away   from   her   computer   and   comes   looking   for   me.   She’s   in   a   wheelchair   due   to   her   Multiple   Sclerosis,   otherwise   known   as  MS.
I   lock   the   doors   to   the   warehouse   store   and   wheel   the   television   and   shells   of   computers   to   the   staging   area   at   the   back.   Fenwick,   our   forklift   driver   and   all   around   handy   dude,   will  skid  them  and  add  them  to  the  next  shipment  out.  Fenwick   looks  like  a  pro  wrestler  ten  years  after  retirement—built  like  a   truck  but  starting  to  fall  apart.  I  haul  some  of  the  lighter  items   off  the  cart  to  make  his  life  easier  but  balk  at  the  television.

The   whole   place   is   filled   with   racks   of   old   computers,   televisions,  and  electronics.  But  we  don’t  actually  recycle,  not   anymore;   we   do   better   just   collecting   a   fee   for   the   drop   off   and   letting   the   larger   companies   do   the   hard   work.   The   only   business   where   we   still   actually   do   anything   is   destruction.   People  don’t  like  to  think  you’re  shipping  their  data  anywhere and  all  it  takes  is  a  shredder.  I  know  when  a  doctor,  lawyer,  or   accountant  walks  through  the  door,  they’re  carrying  the  next   pizza  I  can  order.

As  I  take  the  stairs  to  the  basement,  cool  air  slides  up  my   thighs.  It’s  like  descending  to  a  lake  bottom  on  a  hot  summer’s   day.  Goosebumps  bubble  over  my  arms  and  I  slip  on  the  sweater   I  leave  across  my  chair.  To  me  the  hum  of  the  computers  and   server  is  a  Buddhist’s  meditation.  Knots  at  my  neck  unravel.  I   sigh  and  sit  in  my  rolly  chair,  feeling  a  little  closer  to  the  Internet,   which  to  me  is  the  same  as  enlightenment.  My  chair  needs  to   be  rolly  because  I  have  seven  terminals  in  a  ring  network.  I  am   like   a   starship   captain:   I   kick   out,   the   chair   rattling   over   the   floor  to  the  first  terminal.

From  the  screen,  a  cartoon  version  of  me  stares  back.  Black   straight  hair,  overlarge  dark  brown  eyes,  pale  complexion,  and   a  pointy  chin.  It  looks  like  me,  but  without  the  zits,  and  in  real   life  my  neck  isn’t  only  an  inch  wide.

As   I   shift   the   mouse,   it   takes   me   to   my   home   blog:   JanusFlyTrap.  When  I  built  the  site,  I  was  trying  to  think  of  a   cool  name  and  spotted  all  the  wires  tangled  at  the  hub  of  my   network  like  a  web.  Six  other  computers  all  link  to  mine  and  to   each  other.  One  dysfunctional  family.  And  like  any  family,  each   part  has  its  own  personality.

On   my   right   is   Gumps.   Gumps   is   my   conscience,   my   grandfather,  my  confidante,  my  Magic  8-­‐ball,  all  on  the  oldest   motherboard  I’ve  ever  seen.  The  computer  is  pre–Internet  and   so  Gumps  isn’t  connected  to  the  others,  but  I  still  see  him  as   the  closest  thing  I’ve  got  to  flesh  and  blood,  the  only  person  I   can  really  trust.  His  display  is  green,  and  rather  than  sporting   an  avatar,  he’s  just  a  blinking  dash.  Don’t  let  appearances  fool   you,  though.  He’s  with  it.

I   type:   Gumps,   8‐ball   question:   should   I   search   around   in   Jonny’s  files?

I  programmed  it  to  recognize  key  terms  I  enter.  The  response   is  immediate.

Answer:  Janus,  the  ball  is  in  your  court.

He  speaks  in  idioms,  which  is  nice  because  it  leaves  me  to   interpret  his  answers  however  I  want.  Exactly  what  I  imagine   grandparents  are  for.

I  set  the  hard  drive  into  a  casing  I  have  for  this  purpose  and   turn   on   the   unit.   This   could   be   interesting.   A   year   ago   Jonny   asked  me  out  and  I  turned  him  down,  mostly  because  life  was   crazy  with  my  mom’s  illness  and  with  taking  care  of  the  business   while   scraping   by   at   school.   Then,   just   a   few   months   ago,   Fenwick  caught  Jonny  snooping  around  Assured  Destruction— it   was   a   bit   too   close   to   stalking   for   me.   Jonny   could   barely   look  at  me  in  class  afterward.  If  he  ever  came  around  again,  I   joked  that  Fenwick  should  feed  him  to  Chop‐chop.

On   the   computer   screen,   a   series   of   folders   appear   in   the   file  tree.

I  was  right.  It’s  Jonny.

Let  the  fun  begin.


Buy Assured Destruction:


  1. Thanks for hosting, Kelli. I really appreciate your spreading the word. If anyone's interested, we've got a huge giveaway too.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and for providing the link! :)

  2. Kelli, thanks for sharing the first chapter of Michael's YA novel. It's hooks you right into the story, doesn't it? :)

    1. That it does. ;)

      You're welcome--as always, it's an honor to work with Tribute Books!


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