Home > The Devil You Know (Mercenary Librarians #2)

The Devil You Know (Mercenary Librarians #2)
Author: Kit Rocha

 

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To Claire and Sarah.

You believed we could do it.

So we did.

 

 

June 1st, 2069

I met my data courier today. If hell exists, I’ve surely secured my spot there for agreeing to this.

The girl is all of seven years old and already fluent in six languages. She’s studying astronomy and just started integral calculus. The scientists are excited. Few of their subjects have adapted to the procedure as well as DC-031.

I’m supposed to forge an emotional bond with her over the final year of her training in order to ensure her loyalty. It would be so easy to rationalize. The child deserves a parental figure. I can almost convince myself that following protocol would be a kindness to her.

But there’s no kindness in what I’m about to do. The TechCorps have already stolen her childhood. On her eighth birthday, I’ll be conscripting her into a war she can’t possibly comprehend, one that will very possibly kill us both.

Any warmth I could give her would be a self-indulgent lie. I am not her mother. I am not here to save her. I’m a soldier in a silent rebellion, and she’s my best hope of surviving long enough to see it through.

Perhaps someday she’ll forgive me for turning her into collateral damage.

The Recovered Journal of Birgitte Skovgaard

 

 

ONE


Mozart was the perfect music for a heist.

Over the years, Maya had made an in-depth study of the ideal music for every moment. Too many people considered pre-Flare orchestral music to be the sole domain of the rich assholes and their fancy ballrooms up on the Hill. To them, it was the music of tuxedos and gowns and placid recitals. Despite being raised by those rich assholes, Maya knew the truth.

Elfman was excellent for a fun, rollicking bar fight. Zimmer was the only choice for a shoot-out. Holst had all the melodrama necessary for an elaborate jailbreak. She liked Tchaikovsky on stakeouts and Williams for safecracking.

But to accompany the adrenaline of a daring heist?

Mozart. Requiem in D minor. Dies Irae.

Accept no substitutions.

“Status report.”

“Hallway’s clear, boss,” Conall replied from beside her. “I’ll have the door unlocked by the time you get there.”

“Acknowledged.”

Conall’s fingers clacked noisily over his keyboard, echoing in the confined space of the van. He swore the sound of the antiquated tech soothed him. After a couple missions with him, Maya knew the unique click of most of the keys on the damn thing.

N-E-T-S-T …

Exhaling, Maya deliberately shifted her concentration back to the music. The choir chanted with escalating intensity, the Latin so familiar that it melted into background noise. As the sound of Conall’s typing faded, her brain stopped trying to interpret either the keystrokes or the lyrics.

She resumed her survey of the security cameras, scanning the facility for any guard a few minutes ahead of his rounds or any scientist who’d decided to stay late. She’d memorized their routines during mission prep, setting their complicated schedule to music. The guard in C-block rounded the corner to the soaring sounds of the violins. Trumpets announced a distant perimeter check. She could feel the rhythm of the building, the movement of the people inside.

A complicated, dangerous dance. Her very favorite kind.

“I can’t believe I still haven’t talked you out of the Mozart,” Conall muttered as he switched to swiping at a display tablet to his left. “I’m telling you, if you have to stick to the old, extremely dead guys, there are better options.”

Maya made an amused noise as she watched the perimeter guard swipe his ID at the farthest checkpoint. A few seconds ahead of the music, but nothing too dire yet. “You want me to switch to an even older, deader guy.”

“Respect the Haydn.” Conall grimaced. “I mean, if we have to go classical. I don’t understand why you’re obsessed with it. Some nice seventies techno, now…”

Her own lips twitched into a grimace. Techno from the 2070s was good for exactly one thing—thrashing it out in a throng of people in one of the dance clubs that lined the perimeter. Some nights after she and Dani came home, she’d lie in bed staring at the ceiling, her heart keeping time with the throbbing bass that seemed to echo inside her head.

At least the echoes drove the voices away.

On the screen in front of her, the A-block guard swiped his key at his checkpoint. She counted the seconds until the chorus lifted in the next verse.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus …

Her brain provided the translation out of habit. I sigh, like the guilty one. Latin had been the first language they’d locked into her brain, the first she’d internalized to the point of effortless comprehension. Irritating, since she’d mostly seen it in technical documents. Not even scientists sat around using conversational Latin.

Maya could, though. That was what the TechCorps had built her for. Maya could speak dozens of languages with the fluent ease of a native speaker. She’d been an expert in astronomy by nine, advanced mathematics by ten, programming languages by twelve, and cryptography by sixteen. She’d been picking away at biochemistry when …

When.

Culpa rubet vultus meus …

Maya shuddered as the translation drifted through her. Guilt reddens my face.

She wasn’t the one who should feel guilty about the abrupt termination of her education. No, that burden lay on the shoulders of the woman who had raised her—Birgitte Skovgaard, vice president of Behavior Analysis for the TechCorps. As an executive in the sprawling corporate conglomerate that ruled most of the Southeast, Birgitte had enjoyed almost unfathomable power. She could have lived a soft life of luxury. Instead, she’d used Maya’s perfect memory to organize a rebellion.

A failed rebellion. Biochemistry still made Maya think of blood and death and fear and pain and all the reasons she hated the fancy fuckers up on the Hill, in their expensive suits, souls empty as their eyes glittered with greed.

There was a reason she’d never gone back to studying it.

Supplicanti parce, Deus.

Maya tapped her comms. “The A-block guard is ten seconds behind schedule on his rounds. Watch the corridors up ahead.”

Nina’s voice whispered into her ear. “Got it. Window’s narrowing.”

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