Psion Alpha
the same team for certain reasons.”
    “I’m
not Marie and you’re not Al. Put me on your team, Sammy.”
    He
closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see the pleading in hers. “It’s not as
simple as you’re trying to make it seem.”
    “Then
tell me what I’m missing.”
    “I
can’t.”
    “Tell
me, Sammy!”
    He
blurted out the answer before his sense of reason told him to keep his mouth
shut. “I don’t want you around me on a mission.”
    His
answer stunned her. He winced at his own words. He hadn’t meant to sound so
cold and blunt. She shook her head, her mouth still open in shock as she got up
and went to the door in silence. He watched her go, knowing in the timespan of a
half second what would happen if he didn’t stop her. She’d be so mad she’d end
their relationship. He would be hurt and crushed, but so would she. They
wouldn’t speak for weeks, possibly months. Then Sammy would go on his mission
regretting how poorly he’d handled the situation.
    Or
he could tell her why he didn’t want her on the mission.
    He
put his hands over his face and said the words he had to say. “I’m a Thirteen.”
    After
the words came out of his mouth, neither of them spoke. Sammy’s hands still
covered his face, so he couldn’t see what Jeffie was doing. Had she left? Had
she stopped? He didn’t look. Then hands touched his shoulders and wrapped
around him in a hug. Sammy started to cry. The disgust, humiliation, and
self-loathing he’d held in the last several weeks finally broke him. He hated
himself and what he represented. He was nothing without his anomalies, even the
most filthy one of them all.
    “Are
you—are you sure? When did you find out? Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?
What does this mean?”
    Sammy
couldn’t get a grip on his emotions. All he could do was shake his head while
Jeffie rubbed his chest soothingly and whispered words of comfort to him.
    “Breathe,
Sammy. Talk to me. It’s okay.”
    He
let her hold him until he was ready to speak. “I—I don’t know what it means long
term. You know? Does it mean I’m going to struggle with keeping my sanity? Will
I inevitably turn into one of them? I want to talk to Doctor Rosmir or
Commander Byron—I’m pretty sure they both knew—but now I have no chance at that.
I want to know what will happen. I want to know why they didn’t tell me!”
    He
pounded his fist against the table, and Jeffie jumped. The board game fell off
the table, and pieces and cards scattered onto the floor.
    “I’m
sorry. I didn’t mean—”
    “You
don’t scare me,” she said. Cupping his face in her hands, she kissed him. “I’m
not afraid of you. You may have the genes for the anomaly in your DNA, but not in
here.”
    She
touched his chest with her fingertips.
    “The
night we flew here from Orlando, you pulled that bullet out of me. I thought I
was going to die. Not because of the pain, but because I’d just watched Kobe
and Kaden.… ” Tears welled up in her eyes. “And there was so much horror inside
me, I couldn’t take it. Then you put that bullet into my hand, and I realized
that you’d suffered through so much worse. I decided if you could deal with your
mountain of torment, then I could cope with mine, too.”
    She
pressed his chest even harder with her fingers.
    “To
have gone through what you have and still be you takes great strength. That’s
what matters, Sammy.”
    He
nodded. The words were nice to hear, but rang hollow. He’d seen the visions,
seen what he could become. The nightmares wouldn’t stop, nor the twilight trips
to throw up in the toilet. The anomaly had already begun to taint him. He had
dragged his friends to Orlando not to save his parents but to kill two people.
He had wanted to kill Toad on the way to Wichita. He unleashed a bit of the
darkness inside him after seeing a Thirteen kill that girl in a bedroom in
Akureyri. The darkness was real, and sometimes it seemed to be winning.
    Jeffie
moved her fingers

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