Pre-Orders and an Excerpt – After The Fires Went Out: Amends

So the pre-orders are up at most retailers for the eBook of After The Fires Went Out: Amends.

 

The big day is Wednesday, July 22nd, which for your math and/or calendar fans, is a week from today.

So here’s the first few bites of Amends (keep in mind that it’s a spoiler if you haven’t read the first four books of the series):

 

 

It feels like the first day at summer camp. Not a good summer camp, mind you, but one that could go either way between forced labour and hockey-mask-themed axe murders.

Considering I’ve dragged my pretty carcass to the site of the New Post Massacre, across a few rivers from the old indenture plantations of Dave Walker… I guess if things go bad I’ll be lucky if all that happens is a recomm-mandatory gig mining moose guano.

It’s possible that the general unpleasantness of the work might save me from all the standard questions about my father.

No, I don’t know if he’s still alive. No, I don’t hang around with his whole gang of McCartney Lakers.

Today is the first time I’ve seen any of them since the attack on our place at Coleraine.

Turns out I didn’t really miss them.

 I’d ridden up from Toronto in a redneck motorcade, two pickup trucks and a couple security guys from Kensington in olive-green uniforms — the Canadian Auxiliary Army being the latest incarnation of our various post-Fire militias — leading in one of those canvas-topped jeeps that look cool but would probably roll right over if it hit a junebug.

It isn’t fall yet, not really, since the trees that have leaves instead of needles are all still green; it looks a lot like summer, even if the harvest is set to start this week.

I’d worked last harvest, actually; we didn’t have enough biodiesel or enough electric combines to make up the gap, so it was many-hands-make-light-work for a lot of it. Wheat was the priority for the mechanized stuff, so I spent two weeks hand-gathering corn along the Grand River.

It felt weird not being there to pitch in, but it’s not like a few commission blowhards would have made all the difference.

Most of the people I’ve come up with — blowhards or otherwise — are total strangers; I’d seen a few of those faces here and there, during the attempted love-in after First President Paquette signed the neutrality treaty with all three versions of the United States. Those faces belonged to two forty-something men who’d worked with Payton Yallow in the good times, and Leyden Decker in the bad… probably two men who had no business representing anyone, really.

Not that I knew what they should have done otherwise.

I mean, I worked with Decker, too, in a way. Not that I knew he was a total shit. But it’s not like I’d ever stood up and spoken out against his stupidly bad policies.

Maybe I have no business being here.

Not that I ever had anything more than my last name and my hopes-to-be-prominent fiancé.

What has Cassy Jeanbaptiste actually done on her own?

Do I even know where to find my goddamn bootstraps?

 I suppose the security guys messaged Matt Kazimierski with our ETA, since he’d parked his own pickup — a white heavy-duty — on Highway 11 to wait for us, right by the turnoff sign for Ch. Hanna Rd.

We don’t put “chemin” at the front of roads in Toronto; I think we pride ourselves on not speaking any French. (Says the girl who’s a quarter Haitian.)

Our little caravan stopped, and Matt hopped out of his truck and ran down the line. Passed the jeep and the first pickup, and right to the passenger side of the second.

Right up to me.

He gave me a ridiculously big smile.

I opened the door and climbed out.

“Cassy,” he said, “it’s great to see you again.”

“It’s good to see you, Mister… uh, Matt.”

He grinned. “First name basis… I like it.

I laughed.

“Did you want to introduce me to everyone else?” he asked.

“I don’t know everyone else,” I said.

“Quiet trip?”

“Well, I know the guy driving this truck.” I motioned to Darrel Meek, the sanitation engineer who’d mostly talked about basketball on the way up.

So I introduced the two, and then we all went over to the two men in the first truck, the compromised assholes from Kensington, neither of whom were big fans of my father, or, by association, of me.

The woodenly handsome Rob Danzart had apparently been the “Minister of Public Works” in the Yallow/Decker regime, while the vividly less attractive Arjun Gehlot had been “Minister of Education”.

I’m not sure how much educating had gotten done in the two years after the comet, but I’d seen first hand how little we’d had in the way of infrastructure improvements.

From what I can tell, those two “public servants” have been more interested in pumping themselves up, at the cost of never accomplishing anything important, and, of course, the necessary political requirement of putting everyone else down.

Including my father, the current target for their bullshit. I wonder how much of that is because I’m here?

The two security guys introduced themselves with only their last names, which I presume is an attempt to seem like a couple of badasses. Honestly, I don’t care enough to ask for more information about Brodeur and Muzyk.

“We’ve got a crew at McCartney Lake,” Matt told me, as he walked me back to my seat. “Been setting up living spaces for over a month now.”

“Back at the old hacienda,” I said.

He nodded. “It’s definitely been strange. But it’s still one of the best spots left up here.”

He opened my truck door for me, all gentlemanlike, and once I’d gotten in and he’d gone and climbed back into his pickup, he took the lead in the procession, bringing us north five or ten more kilometres before turning right onto Nahma Road, making the jog around the burnt-out town of Cochrane.

Darrel Meek was talking about local tryouts for a Toronto-based NBA “Protest Team”, whatever that means; instant regret that I hadn’t asked to ride with Matt.

I’d already known we would be detouring around Cochrane; suggested routes didn’t go through the places that were destroyed. We’d already taken the newly-marked detour around North Bay on the way up, another — and much larger — place that hadn’t made it through.

But still, I wanted to see the town of Cochrane.

It was such a big part of my father’s time up here, part of almost everyone he’d known in the north, Sara Vachon and Fiona Rees, and Matt, of course.

Is it weird that I have more interest in seeing a dead town than spending time with anyone who actually made it out of there?

God. I sound like a teenager.

I feel like a teenager.

We followed the road until it what was apparently the last junction, where the main road seemed to bank left, and going straight started looking more like someone’s driveway.

Not long after, Matt stopped his lead truck at a railway crossing.

He climbed out and made his way back to my door.

Darrel rolled down my window.

“This is where the bridge to New Post was,” Matt told me. “Someone blew it up, probably Ryan Stems.”

I don’t know if he realizes that I’ve read all of the journals. You’d think he’d know that, but… I guess it’s not something people really think about.

I’m not sure Matt’s read them; otherwise, I think he wouldn’t be so gentle on good ol’ Robert Jeanbaptiste. It’s not like Dad painted a particularly flattering picture of Matt Kazimierski.

“Can we keep going?” Darrel asked. “I’d really like to take a shower.”

Matt chuckled.

“No showers?” I asked.

“No, there are showers,” Matt said. “Just not as hot as people like. Er… not yet.”

“Oh.”

“Can we go?” Darrel asked again. “Please?”

“Yeah, we’ll go,” Matt said. “Keep your pants on.” He gave me a little smile. “Want to ride up with me? Then I can give you the tour without pissing everyone else off.”

“Sure,” I said, unsure if I was sending the wrong kind of signal.

“Thank Christ,” Darrel said.

 

 

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