Alliance – Chapter 1


Teaser Tuesday – With only 4 weeks until release day, read chapter 1 here! Chapter 2 will be available next Tuesday – enjoy!

CHAPTER ONE

The inky night sky weighed heavily with stars. The air felt cool against my clammy skin. My heartbeat quickened when I saw a shadowy figure standing in front of me. It had its back to me and was wearing a long, black hooded cloak, but somehow, I knew it was a Grey. I could feel it under my skin, deep in my bones.

We were in a forest, surrounded by tall trees stretching up towards the stars, a gravel pathway beneath my feet. As I followed the figure along the path, an eerie chanting whispered in my ears, sending chills skittering across my skin.

Strange white symbols hung in the air like puffs of smoke. They weren’t like the Aethian hieroglyphics or the symbols Thesulia Prime had left in the cave. These symbols were made up entirely of lines crisscrossing each other in elaborate patterns. I reached out to touch one as I passed, but my fingers glided straight through it. Holograms.

The trees parted, and we arrived in a clearing. I swallowed a gasp. In the centre was a large silver spaceship. Smooth seamless metal, much like Dray’s ship, which Jack had shown me last year, but this one was more of the traditional UFO shape. And it was bigger. I couldn’t see the source, but it was bathed in bright white light, causing the entire ship to glow. On the top was a dark dome of tinted glass. I shivered. Were more watching from inside?

The Grey reached the ship. Now we were closer. I noticed a few small panels dotted along the side of the ship, adorned with more of the lined patterns. I watched as the Grey brushed its hand over the panel, and three black dots appeared, forming a triangle. The Grey pressed the dots, its hand appearing to sink into the metal. To my astonishment a door appeared. With a whoosh, a gangway unfolded before my eyes. The Grey ascended into the ship. Doubt swirled in the pit of my stomach, but I followed as if on autopilot, my actions someone else’s.

Inside was dark. The gangway led up to a narrow passageway with small glowing lights along the floor. I followed the Grey up the passageway, passing a series of closed metal doors on either side. Right at the top we entered the dome. It was much bigger than it looked from the outside—the size of my entire front room. Inside was a large control area filled with monitors, video feeds, multicoloured blinking lights, and more holograms. An enormous window looked out to the clearing in the forest.

The door closed behind me with a soft click. I spun around—the door was no longer there, just a smooth metal wall.

Panic flared in my chest. I ran to the window. Jack stood outside looking up at the ship. Hammering on the thick tinted glass, I called his name, but he just stared up at the window. A low whirring sound filled the dome, and I watched in horror as we began to move, slowly rising upwards.

No!

I ran to the window slammed my fists on the glass, screaming for Jack at the top of my lungs, but he didn’t move. He couldn’t hear me. I might as well have been at the bottom of the ocean.

“Eliza?”

My head jerked up. I was in my bedroom, my history homework spread out on my bed in front of me.

Daisy stood in front of me. I blinked. I must have zoned out.

It wasn’t real, I told myself. Though as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t fool myself into thinking it was nothing. Thanks to Conscientia, the alien consciousness hidden in my head, I was pretty good at telling the difference between a vision and an ordinary dream. So what was it this time? A warning? A premonition?

“Are you okay?” Daisy studied me, her bright blue eyes sharper than any normal eight-year-old’s.

“Yes,” I told her, straightening up. “I must have fallen asleep or something.”

“Doing homework is boring,” she said with a small grin.

“Oi cheeky, have you finished yours yet?”

“Yes, I asked Mum to check my spellings, but she’s too busy arguing with Dad.”

I gritted my teeth. I don’t know why Daisy even asked her. There was more chance of hell freezing over than Cindy Taylor checking homework. “It’s okay, I can do it.”

On the bed, my phone lit up, playing Dead Trivia’s “Reckless Romance”.

“It’s Jack.”

Daisy scrunched up her face making kissing noises, and I poked my tongue out at her. She retreated to her bedroom giggling. “I’ll come and check your homework in a minute,” I called after her.

“I’m quitting. I swear to you, I’m quitting,” Jack said as soon as I answered the phone.

Since the crack of dawn, he had been out on some secret government assignment Project Equinox had given him, and evidently it wasn’t going well. “That guy is something else,” he continued. “I thought we’d come to some kind of unspoken understanding, but no. Apparently I am the only one on the entire planet Earth who can take care of a nest of Wealloth’s and—what a surprise—it just so happens to be down a sewer! A complete setup. I know he’s your dad and everything, but why we are having Equinox boss us around like we are the ones that need their help is beyond me.” He made a pssh sound. “I’m not even bothered about them calling the shots. If that’s what makes Clark Anderson feel like a big man, fine. But today was one step too far.”

“Okay, breathe,” I said.

He exhaled then gave a soft chuckle. “Sorry, it’s just been a long, horrible day. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Clark was doing this on purpose.”

“But you do know better?” I asked.

“That has to be what this is about. He is up to something and using this farce to keep me out of the way.”

“Like what?” I wasn’t humouring him. Despite his paranoid rant, Jack had good instincts, and it wasn’t exactly like my dad was the open and honest type.

“I have no idea. But I’m on to him now, so it won’t take long to figure it out,” he said thoughtfully.

“Well, whatever you do, wait until you know for sure before you tell Freddie. The last thing we need is him trying to help you out and getting himself in trouble again.”

Equinox had arrested Freddie, Jack’s fellow Syonian best friend, when he hacked their files searching for information on Thesulia Prime. My dad had authorised his release, but he made it clear he wouldn’t be able to pull those strings again.

“Equinox have this new guy, Lockford—”

“A new guy?” My hand tightened around the phone. After Riley had come to town, duped us all, then tried to kill me thinking I was my sister, anyone new threw up a red flag.

“Don’t worry. Maya’s checked him out, and I’ll keep an eye on him. He’s more than likely part of Clark’s plan to keep us busy. Lockford is an ex-army guy and clearly not a fan so far. I’ve not copped that much attitude since I met Dane.”

“Sounds delightful,” I said wryly.

“He spent the whole day throwing his weight around and actually referred to Syonians as ‘your kind’. Can you believe that? Equinox need to send him on an antidiscrimination course or something. I reckon the army fired his bossy arse. I’m telling you, the bloke’s a complete drop kick.”

I bit back a grin. “I love it when you go all Aussie on me.”

He chuckled. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Are you coming home soon?”

“We’re just wrapping up now. I’ll stop by your place on my way back. I don’t feel like going home.”

I knew why.

Dray.

Almost a week ago Dray had turned up at Ridgewood looking like he had gone five rounds with Conor McGregor. He collapsed on our doorstep and had been unconscious ever since, but not before he delivered the terrifying news of who had put him in that state—the Greys. We assumed that was what he had meant anyway—“Greys” was the only word he’d said before he passed out.

“Still no change?” I asked him the same thing every day, and he always had the same reply.

“Nope.”

I sank down on my bed. “Jack, what are we going to do?”

“Don’t worry. He’ll wake up.”

“I am worried.” I paused. “I had a vision.”

“What? Why did you let me go on about my day?”

“It sounded like you needed to get it off your chest.”

He was quiet for a moment, then said, “Tell me what happened.”

I explained following the Grey into the spaceship, being trapped. The line was deadly silent as he listened.

“Anything else?” he asked once I finished.

“I don’t think so.”

“How are you feeling now?”

“I have a headache, and I’m a bit light-headed, but I’m okay. Jack, what do you think it meant?”

“If you’re asking if I think it was a premonition, then no. Absolutely not.”

I bit my tongue. I couldn’t tell if he really meant that or if he was refusing to allow himself to believe otherwise.

“Take it easy. I’ll be around soon.”

***

I checked Daisy’s spelling homework and managed to avoid Mum and Stan—who were busy bickering over who had finished off the vodka—while I heated up some of the spaghetti bolognaise I’d made Daisy earlier. I took it back up to my room. Thankfully, the headache that had been pressing on my temples since the vision had begun to fade. I had a message from my friend Scott, so I flipped open my laptop and called him over video.

“Oh, look at you!” Scott said the instant his bronzed face appeared on the screen.

“What?” I asked, glancing at myself in the small self-view window at the bottom corner of the screen and tucking a few loose strands of hair into my messy bun.

“You have that spellbound look only someone head over heels in lurve has.”

“Shut up,” I said, feeling my cheeks heat.

Scott cackled. “Relax, I’m joking. Sort of. I think it’s great. As long as he is treating you right and keeps making you smile like that, I’m happy.”

Scott was one of my closest childhood friends. He moved to Cyprus with his parents when we were fifteen. We chatted over video all the time, and after Dane and I broke up I even managed to visit last summer. I miss him every day.

“Am I ever going to meet him then?” he asked, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

“Stick around. He’s on his way over.”

He blanched and fanned himself. “Now I’m panicking!”

If I was honest, I was nervous about Scott and Jack talking. I knew the second Scott laid eyes on Jack he would be all over him, which was fine, but I also knew that the instant Jack discovered how loose Scott’s lips were with anything related to Eliza, Jack would be getting his fill of cringeworthy stories from my early teenage years.

“Anyway, tell me what’s going on with Amy? Any chance of Kate and Richard patching things up?”

My face fell as I shook my head. Scott knew about Kate’s affair with Riley and that Richard had thrown her out. He didn’t know the rest of the story, of course: Kate and Riley had been possessed by aliens from the same species as Daisy called Thesulia Prime. While she was possessed, Kate had tried to kill Jack and abduct Daisy. Once it was over, Jack had wiped her memory of the alien part, but after the affair Richard had still thrown her out.

“Doesn’t seem likely.”

“That’s so sad.”

“I know. They always seemed so solid. Amy is heartbroken. She’s still refusing to talk to Kate.”

Scott replied with something, but the screen distorted and his voice cut in and out.

“Scott? Can you hear me?” I wiggled the mouse about and pressed a few keys.

“Eliza?” Scott’s face reappeared on the screen, his voice clear again.

“That’s better. I can hear you now. So, what about you? How’s Zafer?”

Scott grinned from ear to ear. After playing the field and enjoying the Cyprus nightlife, Scott had started dating Zafer, the new waiter at his parents’ restaurant. He had fallen for him big-time, and from the cheesy grin on his face I assumed it was still going well.

The screen flickered, and Scott’s voice cut out again. “Scott?”

“…amazing… so happy…”

“Scott, I can’t hear you. The connection is terrible. I’ll call you later in the week.”

The screen was still flickering. He was saying something, but the sound was completely incomprehensible now.

“Take care. I love you,” I called hoping he could hear me.

I closed my laptop, took it to my dressing table, and plugged it in. The charge light flickered and then went out.

“Piece of junk,” I muttered, unplugging it completely. The last thing I needed was for it to catch fire and burn the house down. Mum and Stan’s new online gambling hobby meant they could now lose money without even leaving the house. I’d probably need to spend my savings on bills again this month rather than forking out five-hundred quid on a new laptop.

Not long afterwards Jack arrived. It wasn’t late, but he still opted to climb through the window in order to avoid my mum and Stan.

He had calmed down since our earlier conversation, but I could tell from the set of his shoulders that his irritation about today was still simmering under the surface.

“Hey. I wish I could have gotten here sooner.” Jack gaze still made everything else disappear for me. His grey eyes, burning like liquid metal, turned my insides gooey.

Glowing eyes were an Aethian trait. Many, like Freddie, who had naturally violet eyes, used contact lenses to disguise them. Jack was half human, so his didn’t glow brightly like the others, but for someone as closed off as him they were strikingly expressive.

He bent down and kissed me. Fresh from the shower his skin smelled like soap, and his dark hair was still damp, curling at the ends.

“You smell good.”

“I should. I used up all the hot water and an entire bottle of shower gel to get the stench of Wealloth mucus off my skin,” Jack said with a scowl. “Your dad took the piss sending me down there to clean out nests of alien bugs.”

“You should talk to Rick about it.”

“Yeah I will.” He ran his fingers gently across my forehead. “How are you feeling now?”

“Like I really need that holiday we talked about,” I said with a faint smile.

“Why don’t you stay at my place tonight?”

“Ridgewood might be a mansion, but it doesn’t compare to a tropical beach,” I said teasingly. My gaze drifted to my bedroom door. “Besides, I don’t want to leave Daisy.” I gave Jack a sheepish look. “I know what you think, but I’m trying to loosen the reigns. In my defence, when ancient aliens try to kidnap your little sister—who also happen to be related to her—you’re going to be a little nervous.”

Jack held up his hands. “Hey, I didn’t say anything. I understand.” His lips lifted in a small grin. “But perhaps escorting her during her lunch break at school was slightly OTT. I’m just saying.”

“I did that once,” I protested. “On her first day back at school. I was worried.” I knew it was ridiculous, but knowing they were out there made me nervous.

Jack’s expression grew serious. “I know you were. But they’ve gone.”

“Are you sure?”

He raised an eyebrow. “That they’ve gone?”

“That it’s the last we’ve heard of Thesulia Prime. Don’t you think they’ll come back and try to move Daisy again? If she really is the last one of them to produce that hexlln chemical to increase life span, then she will always be in danger.” Just the thought of anyone trying to hurt Daisy or take her away had me breaking out in a cold sweat.

Jack hesitated. I watched his face and knew he was trying to decide whether to be honest. The truth won. “I’d be lying if I told you I thought they’d just forget about her. But,” he added quickly when my face dropped, “they can’t get to us. They are too far away. It will take them a kajillion years to get here.”

“What about wormholes?”

“Nuh. There’d be no way for them to coordinate something that complex. And say by some absolute miracle they did, they’d never get near Earth without us hearing about it first. So try to stop worrying.”

“How?”

“How what?”

“How will we hear about it? From Aether?” I knew I was fussing, but I needed to go over all the possibilities from every angle. When it came to Daisy, we couldn’t be too careful.

Jack shook his head. “Unfortunately, we are relying on Equinox for this one. They have reset the barriers with some extra sensors. Maya is working on some ideas of our own. Freddie will have to talk you through the science stuff himself, though, because when he explained it to me I thought my head was going to explode.” He lifted his gaze to mine, and I smiled. I trusted him, and I didn’t believe he was just trying to placate me.

“Feel better?”

I nodded.

Tilting my head to the side, I watched him sit down at my dressing table. A knowing smile spread over his face.

I eyed him suspiciously. “Why are you grinning like that?”

“I know something else that will make you feel better,” he said. “I have a surprise for you.”

“What kind of surprise?”

His grin widened. “A surprise so good, it’ll make up for anything I have ever done wrong in the past and anything I’ll ever do wrong in the future.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Nothing is that good.”

“I beg to differ. Now close your eyes.”

I did as he asked and waited, expecting him to kiss me or something silly, but my eyes flew open when I felt something light touch my hands. I looked down to see a printed off email with a familiar logo.

I gripped the paper. “Are these what I think they are?”

“If you think they are tickets to the Hurricane Festival this weekend where that band you like is playing, then yes.”

I squealed with delight, and Jack clamped his hand over my mouth, laughing.

“Shhh, they’ll hear us.”

I stared at the tickets. Dead Trivia was my favourite band ever. “Oh my God!” I started squealing again. “There are two tickets. Are you coming?”

A look of horror flashed across his face. “Hell no. The other ticket is for Amy.”

“Jack! This is insane. They must have cost a fortune. This festival sold out weeks ago. I’ve been dying to get hold of these.”

“I know. I do listen to you, ya know.”

I gave him a look. “Really? Because I thought you tuned me out when I talked about, and I quote, ‘that daggy bunch of posers’.” My impression of him was rather accurate, even if I did say so myself.

“I must have been in a bad mood that day.” He gave me a rueful smile, and I laughed.

“So, how much were they? I’ll pay you back.”

He shook his head. “They are a present.”

“But Jack, it’s too much. I’ll give you the money—”

He pressed a finger to my lips, cutting me off. “You do get how presents work, right?”

“Yes.”

“I wanted to do something nice for you.”

“Well, I really appreciate it,” I said. Putting the tickets on my bedside table, I sat on his knee and wrapped my arms around his neck.

“Yeah?” he murmured, running his fingers through my hair and gently tilting my head to look at him.

“How did I get so lucky?”

He chuckled at my question, but I was completely serious. My lips found his and any thoughts of Greys, Dray, or visions drifted from my mind.

****************

Come back for Chapter 2 next week!

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