Pulitzer Prize-winning author Julia Keller continues her Dark Intercept science fiction series with Dark Mind Rising, a thrilling, speculative murder mystery set in a chilling future where citizens believe they're free after years of emotional surveillance only to discover a killer is targeting their deepest fears.
When the state is no longer watching, what will you give to feel safe?
New Earth, 2296. Two years after the destruction of a universal surveillance system called the Intercept, New Earth struggles to keep crime under control. The citizens are free, but not protected.
Violet Crowley, the eighteen-year-old daughter of New Earth's founder, has opened Crowley & Associates, a private detective agency, to handle the overflow from the overburdened police force.
Violet's first casea death written off as a suicidebecomes an obsession. Soon a series of similar deaths leads Violet to believe the Intercept is not only still runningit's in the hands of a killer.
“In this fast-paced book, Julia Keller shows she’s at the top of her gameand her game is creating chills and absolute terror.” New York Times bestselling author R.L. Stine
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A Twitch in Time
Something weird was happening.
There it was again. A little crease of feeling, right behind her eyes.
Nothing serious, just annoying.
Amelia Bainbridge shifted in her seat. She glanced around the tram car at the other passengers. Was anybody else reacting? Was it some kind of glitch in the propulsion system, making the car bump and shudder? Nope. They all looked perfectly normal.
In the entire sixteen years of her life, she had never experienced anything quite like this. It wasn't painful, but it was definitely distracting. Something ... moved. Something shifted at the edge of her thoughts, right on the outer rim of her mind. She tried to ignore it, but she couldn't.
It was coming even more frequently now, that jittery, fluttery thing, filling more of her head.
And just like that, Amelia's perfectly ordinary ride — the same one she took to school every weekday, traveling high above the bright serenity of New Earth — took a nosedive toward the strange and dark.
Stronger that time, more insistent. Like somebody had spun a dial from five to six.
Now the dial jumped from six all the way up to eight. Or maybe ten or eleven.
Once again, just to be sure, Amelia looked around the nearly full car. She sneaked a glance at the skinny old guy across the aisle two rows up, and at the girl roughly her own age, with reddish curly hair, in the row behind her. And once again, nobody else seemed any different, nobody else was reacting. So nobody else was feeling it. They all appeared to be doing what she'd been doing until just a few seconds ago when the weird twitches came along: enjoying the ride on another gorgeous morning on New Earth.
The tram traveled at a phenomenally high rate of speed, but it did so with such scintillating grace and absolute balance that there was no lurching, no bobble, no rocking back and forth; there was barely a sense of motion at all. The car followed the long sweep of elevated track with a whisper of perfectly modulated acceleration.
Someday, Amelia wanted to create things just as sleek and sparkling as this tram system. In her case, it would be buildings. She wanted to be an architect so that she could design amazing structures that would make people look up and utter a soft "Wow." And even though she got a bit discouraged sometimes because all the cool stuff had already been created — or so it seemed, which she knew wasn't really true, but New Earth was filled with intimidating wonders — she loved gazing out the window and dreaming. Any window would do.
The buildings she'd create one day flew out of her head, replaced by increasing confusion. And fear. The twitches were at it again.
She shook her head, trying to clear it.
Her desperation increasing, Amelia fetched a series of shallow, rapid breaths. Was she getting sick or something? Were these flu symptoms, maybe? The flu made you dizzy, right? This twitching thing could be the first stage.
People didn't usually get sick on New Earth. The serious, most-dreaded diseases were quarantined on Old Earth. If you didn't go down there, you'd be fine. The few maladies that did creep their way up to the shiny new civilization floating above the broken planet were annoyances — colds, allergies, and the like. And even those would soon be eradicated. Amelia had read a story on her wrist console just last week about Shura Lu, a young physician on the verge of developing a cold vaccine.
Until then, people had to put up with being a little bit sick now and again. Maybe that explained this twitching business. After class, Amelia would head straight home. Take a nap, maybe. Eat some soup. Whatever. Her mom would know what to do for her.
She made yet another frantic assessment of the other people riding the tram. It was just before nine A.M., so most of them were probably on their way to school or work.
A few seconds went by without a twitch. Amelia took a deep, relieved breath. Maybe it was over. Maybe the twitches would never come back. She relaxed. She let her head fall back against the cushioned seat, and she looked out the window again. The car was zipping across an aquamarine sky. The Color Blenders had done a nifty job today.
Each horizontal section of track was connected to a vertical strand of wire thinner than a human hair. The wires were made of a stunningly robust alloy developed by Arianna Prokop, chief engineer of New Earth. Every few feet they rose stealthily from the surface of New Earth, so fine that they were virtually invisible against the silver hills of the horizon. When viewed from the ground, the track looked as if it were attached to nothing at all, as if the tram system had simply materialized by magic and now wound in and out of the clouds in an elegant aerial cloverleaf. Tram cars swooshed along day and night, ferrying the people of New Earth with crisp speed and frictionless efficiency.
The car glided to a stop. The double doors jumped apart with a hiss, letting in another three passengers: an old woman in a floppy gray hat and two young children, a boy and a girl. Floppy Hat kept a hand on top of each child's head, shepherding them toward the trio of seats across the aisle from Amelia. The old woman sat in the middle, a kid on either side.
The doors smacked to a close, resuming their tight seal. The car oozed forward toward its ultimate destination, Mendeleev Crossing.
Amelia watched the newcomers out of the corner of her eye, wondering if Floppy Hat was the kids' grandmother, or maybe a friendly neighbor who had agreed to take them out for the day. There were lots of museums in Mendeleev Crossing, art museums and history museums and science museums. Amelia could spend hours hopping from museum to museum. Her mother used to take her there all the time. Now she was old enough to go on her own, and so she'd call her friends and —
Amelia's happy thoughts vanished. Anxiety roared back in. She tried again to focus on something else.
They were entering Hawking, the capital city of New Earth, which lay between Amelia's home in Higgsville and her school at Mendeleev Crossing. She saw Floppy Hat pointing out at the tall, skinny spires outside the window, murmuring a history lesson to the kids about the construction of the buildings when New Earth was still young.
The twitch expanded into her shoulders — or so she felt. Amelia looked at her right shoulder and then at her left, and she saw that they were still. So it was all happening in her mind. An invisible quiver traveled up the right side of her face, starting at her jaw and forking toward her temple.
Her lower lip began to tremble, the way it sometimes did when she was starting to cry — but she wasn't starting to cry. She was too scared to cry. She reached up to feel her lip. It was perfectly still.
Everything was happening on the inside, not the outside.
Amelia let out a short, sharp little blurt of a sound. Not a yelp, exactly, and not a cry, but a sort of half burp.
That attracted the notice of one of the kids. He whispered something to the old lady. She put an arm around him and drew him closer to her, as if she — she, Amelia Bainbridge, who'd never hurt anybody in her entire life, who felt bad if she accidentally stepped on an ant or a spider, especially because they'd been so carefully bred up here on New Earth — was dangerous.
She was losing control of herself. Her knees banged against each other. Her arms and her legs jerked and stuttered — and yet, when she looked down, she saw that her body was completely still.
The only thing that had changed was the tiny bruise in the crook of her left elbow. She could swear she saw a small blue flash there. Once, twice.
And still the twitches continued.
Something had its hands on her brain and was squeezing tighter and tighter. The twitches had linked up to make a single long chain of unbearable hurt.
I want to die.
Never before had such a thought occurred to Amelia. Her life had not been totally painless — nobody's life was perfect, right? — but overall she had it pretty good, and she knew it. She had a tight circle of friends. She was doing fantastic in school. She was making excellent progress toward her dream of becoming an architect. She loved her mom. She even loved her annoying little brother, Jeff.
So life was great.
Life is terrible.
I want to die.
I WANT TO DIE.
The sentence exploded in her mind like a Thought Bomb. In its wake came another noise — a rising scream that ricocheted off the inside of her skull again and again. She couldn't stop herself from visualizing small, awful things like cold rain and soiled floors and moldy food and crushed bugs and smelly kitchen drains and dirty windows. And big, awful things like death. Her grief was cataclysmic. It was gigantic and devouring. It seemed to scoop up all the sorrow that had ever come to her — every minor disappointment, every small loss, every failure, every time she had ever felt lonely or confused or embarrassed or afraid — and shouted the details back to her, again and again, louder each time.
New Earth wasn't pleasant. It was disgusting. It was horrible. It was a dead, doomed place.
All of the good things in Amelia's life dropped over the edge of her brain, never to be seen again. They were replaced by the idea of oblivion — of erasing herself, of not being here at all. And self-destruction seemed like a tremendous relief. It seemed logical and rational and ... inevitable.
The beautiful notion of nothingness filled every fissure and crevice of her heaving brain.
Fleetingly, Amelia wondered if the other passengers could hear the needle-sharp scream, the one that was jabbing holes in her brain. She didn't think so. Nobody else looked any different at all. So it was true: She was alone. Trapped inside her mind.
I want to die.
The word die scuttled like a poisonous lizard back and forth across her thoughts, its tail whipping and showering her with acid drops of despair.
I want to die.
I want to die.
I HAVE TO DIE.
I HAVE TO —
The door slid open. This was the stop for Hawking. A young woman in a long purple coat stepped into the car.
Amelia bolted past her, nearly knocking her down, running headlong toward the space created by the sprung-open doors.
"Hey," the woman called out. "Hey, what the —"
Amelia didn't pause on the platform. She didn't even slow down as she crossed it, shoving more people out of her way. There were angry shouts and grunts and a few startled shrieks. Still Amelia rushed forward.
When she reached the waist-high white metal barricade bordering the platform, the final threshold before a yawning three thousand–meter gap from the track to the surface of New Earth below, she gripped the top rail with her left hand and leaped over it with ease.
For a moment she was suspended in the air, her head twisted back toward the passengers on the platform, as if to give herself the gift of one last look at the living, a final reminder of what it had been like to be human — the pain and the joy, the questions and the contradictions, and the fierce, simple beauty that crowned it all.
The people on the tram that day — the people who watched, even though they didn't want to — would later say that Amelia Bainbridge had appeared to be smiling.
And then she dropped into the vastness below.CHAPTER 2
Crowley & Associates, At Your Service
"Vi? Vi? Hey, Vi!"
Violet Crowley refused to respond to the very familiar — and very annoying — voice. It flew out of the room connected to hers, sailing through the open door and settling on her thoughts like ... like ...
Like a pesky fly.
Her thoughts drifted. Why did New Earth even have flies? No matter how many times Violet's father claimed there was a good reason for it — We must continue to promulgate species diversity, my dear, and rigorously maintain standard biological archetypes blah blah blah — Violet's thought was always the same: So you had the chance to build a perfect new world exactly how you wanted it and you included FLIES?
Violet still hadn't answered. She hadn't and she wouldn't, because she had told Jonetta a thousand times — okay, more like a million — not to call her Vi.
Vi was not her name. Her name was Violet.
How hard was that?
"Hey, Vi! Viiiii!"
Violet shook her head and narrowed her eyes. She pushed a hand through her thick dark-blond hair. She was frustrated all the way from her fingertips down to the soles of her shoes. At present, those shoes were piled up on the rickety desk. Her left foot was stacked on top of her right foot, although a few seconds from now she would be switching things up and her right foot would be stacked on top of her left foot. And then back again.
Which means, Violet reassured herself, it's not like I'm sitting here in my office doing nothing. I'm not totally motionless. You could even say I'm keeping busy.
At the moment, the only thing higher on Violet's list of Things That Would Drive Any Sane Person Crazy than Jonetta's inability to remember her name was the Headache. The Headache was no ordinary inconvenience. No simple pain. It was much, much worse than that. She'd stayed out too late the night before — and the night before that and the night before that — dancing at Redshift, her favorite club on New Earth. Which naturally resulted in the exceedingly icky reality of the Headache.
Violet grimaced. She blinked a bunch of times. The sun rippling in through the window behind her kept the Headache revved up. It also spotlighted the very few — and distressingly dingy — objects in her tiny office. The smart play would've been to pull the curtain shut. But the window didn't have a curtain. Curtains cost money.
The real truth — and Violet knew this deep in her heart, even though she'd never say it out loud to anybody, except maybe her best friend, Shura, or her second-best friend, Kendall — was that the core source of her frustration wasn't a lame nickname. Or sunshine. Or the price of curtains. Or dancing too much. Or the knock-knock-knock pain of the Headache.
Or even the crinkly document in her grip, the one she'd been reading when the first infuriating Vi had come buzzing her way from the outer room.
The problem wasn't any one of those things. Or even several things. It was everything.
It's my whole, entire, miserable life.
Violet restacked her feet again. And one more time after that, too. She was feeling more than a little lost these days. She was moody. She was restless. She was jumpy.
She glanced down at the small blue bruise in the crook of her left elbow. Frustration was a massive emotion, a thrashing, rattling, towering one. The Intercept was surely having a blast right now as it — She caught herself.
There was nothing to see in the crook of her elbow. No blue flash, no crackle of heat from the tiny chip embedded there. Not anymore.
Which, in a weird way, made her feel even worse.
Because nothing had turned out the way she'd thought it would two years ago, when the Intercept first lay in steaming shards and the world seemed new again, filled with wonder and promise.
What a joke. These days, everything — everything — seemed to be part of the same general mess.
Exhibit A was the very document she held in her hands right now. It was a bill, a bill she couldn't pay, and it squirmed with numbers that were stunningly ugly. They attested to the grim reality that Crowley & Associates Detective Agency was deeply, dismally, and perhaps irretrievably sunk in debt. Most bills were zapped directly to consoles, but when you didn't pay on time, they came at you from another angle. And the paper parade started up.
Jonetta Loring's infuriatingly sweet-as-pie voice and that ridiculous nickname.
Enough already, Violet thought. Time to lower the boom. Time to head out to Jonetta's desk and deliver the ultimatum: If she called her Vi ever again, that would be it.
Violet unpiled her feet and yanked them off the desk. She jumped up, side-arming the paper bill to her right. It fluttered to a landing in the corner, joining a pile of similar-looking documents with earlier date stamps that made the same general point as the one she'd been reading:
Girl, you're dead broke.
* * *
There it was again. Violet barreled into the outer office. She'd set up a wobbly desk for Jonetta and plunked a second-hand computer on it. The computer, like the desk, was a mostly broken-down piece of junk that Violet had foraged from the Refuse Sector over in L'Engletown, with a keyboard that occasionally delivered a mild electric shock.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dark Mind Rising"
Copyright © 2018 Julia Keller.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. A Twitch in Time,
2. Crowley & Associates, At Your Service,
3. The Dare,
4. Home Is Calling,
6. Rez's Request,
9. Shura Lu, M.D.,
10. Wendell's End,
11. Statute No. 293874-A-392876,
12. At the Station,
14. Pattern Recognition,
18. Secrets and Lies,
19. The Peanut Butter Principle,
20. Olde Earth World,
21. A Last Glimpse,
23. Gray Area,
24. Prisoner Number 57681299-17-WZN,
25. Dance Fever,
26. Oliver's Final Ride,
27. Hangover City,
28. The Key to Everything,
29. Rodney to the Rescue,
30. Peril in the Park,
32. Into the Storm,
33. Sara's Revenge,
34. Ride at Your Own Risk,
35. Rachel's Star,
By Julia Keller,
About the Author,