Collision:The Alliance Series Book Three

By: Emma L. Adams

CHAPTER ONE



ADA



“There’s a ghost in Jeth’s computer!” Alber’s shout came through the open window of the attic room, just below where I lay on the roof. Groaning, I rubbed my eyes. I hadn’t meant to fall asleep up there, but it was peaceful, even with the distant roar of London traffic and the smell of exhaust fumes. And for once, my sleep was free from screaming nightmares. I slid out of the improvised pillow-nest I’d made, picked up the pillows and the paperback I’d been reading, and climbed back into my room through the window. My seventeen-year-old brother Alber stood in the doorway, blinking at me with contact-less violet eyes.

“You were asleep on the roof?”

“I dozed off,” I said, shutting the window behind me and dropping the blankets on the bed.

Alber shook his head. “You’re mental. It’s freezing out there.”

I shrugged, though I was barefoot and wearing pyjamas, which didn’t help. “I had blankets. What’s going on?”

“Jeth’s computer’s freaking out. We reckon it’s a ghost.”

“Of course. How’d you figure that one out?” I put slippers on and followed my brother down the rickety ladder from the attic to the landing. Loud swearing came from behind Jeth’s slightly-open door. He cursed at full-volume, in Karthonic, the language of his homeworld.

“No other explanation. If Jethro the genius can’t figure out what it is, it has to be a ghost, right?”

“Wait, he really doesn’t know what it is?” I pushed Jeth’s door further open and went in. “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

“Very funny,” said Jeth, tapping the screen. The floor around his leather-backed computer chair was a tangle of wires hooked up between computers, monitors, and dubious-looking pieces of shiny offworld technology. My older brother was a certifiable genius who worked in the Alliance’s tech department. Since we’d moved into this new house, he’d claimed the biggest room to set up all his computers. And I’d asked for the attic. If I couldn’t have my old room, with the stars I’d painted on the ceiling, a window that opened onto the roof was more than enough to make up for it, even though I couldn’t see the stars here in the middle of the city.

I leaned in to see the screen, which had frozen on a blank page covered in what looked like white squiggly lines. “What did you do to it, anyway? Did you put parts of offworld tech in there, by any chance?”

Jeth was forever messing with different worlds’ technologies to see what would work on Earth, and he’d created devices even the Inter-World Alliance didn’t possess. Not that it was entirely legal.

“It was working fine until a few minutes ago,” said Jeth, rapping his knuckles on the monitor. “Whatever it is, it’s totally locked down the computer. I can’t fix it.” He slapped the desk with the side of his palm. “Dead. Dammit!”

“Wow,” said Alber, lounging against the doorway. “Chill out.” At a distance, he and Jeth could have been related. They were both tall, tanned, and fair-haired. Nobody would have guessed they came from different universes.

“I was working on something important,” Jeth muttered. “And yeah, I did put a couple of… enhancements in there. But it’s worked fine for the past year!”

“RIP, computer,” said Alber solemnly. “Shall we say a few words in its memory?”

“Shut it,” said Jeth, regarding the screen with a forlorn expression, as though he’d lost a beloved pet.

“What in the world is going on?” Nell came upstairs and peered round the doorway.

“Jeth killed his computer,” said Alber. “We’re in mourning.”

Nell sighed, running a hand through the strands of hair straggling loose from her bun. “It’s almost quarter past eleven. Ada, didn’t you say you were meeting someone at half past?”

“Ah, crap,” I said, taking a step back and tripping over a wire. I steadied myself against the side of the desk. “Lost track of time.” I backed out of Jeth’s room and all but flew up the steps to the attic. Fifteen minutes to make myself look presentable before I went to New York.

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