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"The Sarian government measures abilities on a 10 point scale. It is a combination of the strength and the ability type itself that spurs a certain score. And before you ask, the answer is no-the government has never someone with a score of 11."

-Dr. Ambrose, recorded lecture from Ace Abilities 357, Southern Pellora University

Later that night, I sat in the dark kitchen and ate some potato chips hidden in one of the cabinets. The easy glow of the moon poured in from the picture window looking out over the backyard. As the crunchy saltiness burst over my tongue, I watched the strong breeze brush through the trees out back.

That window was in a terrible position. Anyone with a decent shot could sneak into the line of trees and shoot clear into the kitchen.

Someone had scooted the chairs to the edges of the island instead of along the long side as designed. I snorted. The designer probably never figured a bunch of overcautious government agents would move in. Or build a bunker underground.

Unless...the bunker came first and the house second. I made a mental note to find and pester Leonger about it later.

A small snick and prick of my bracelet had me glancing down at it. Tony and Dr. Freed had assured me there would be no more malfunctions of the device. And after a bit of internal debate, I'd had Marlee do a quick test for me. She'd been eager to do so as if she could see the fear deep in my stomach. But after using her ability to prove she was in the clear, I was reassured and had Dr. Freed snap it back on.

Now, the silver metal gleaned from the light in the window. Despite what I should feel after the bracelet malfunctioned-betrayal, nervousness, fear-all I could feel was a cool relief that settled deep into my bones.

The bracelet worked. Until now, a part of me hadn't believed it did. While Tony couldn't explain why it'd malfunctioned-whether it was the explosion, Marlee's abilities, or a combination of a few outside factors-I still found all my tension leaving me.

The bracelet worked.

I didn't have to be frightened that my ability would get out of control.

My eyes traced the grass outside. Then my vision started to blur.

The first sob burst out of me before I could halt it. A keening sound followed. I shoved a trembling hand against my lips to hold it in.

I didn't have to be afraid.

I wouldn't kill anyone. Not when I had the bracelet.

A shoe scuffed in the doorway.

Panicked, I immediately burrowed into my folded arms. Not a second later, a warm, strong hand encompassed my shoulder. "You okay?" Brayden asked.

I nodded into my arms.

Brayden must've accepted that answer because the other island chair squeaked as he scooted it out. "That was some day," he admitted.

I took a few seconds to calm myself and bring it all together. Next time I chose to get emotional, I'd lock myself away in one of the guest rooms in the bunker where no one would bother me. Where it would be safe to lose it for a bit.

When I finally sat up, Brayden made no comment about the redness of my eyes or the visible fragility of my emotional state. For that I was grateful. He probably couldn't see enough in the dark to notice the redness of my eyes, but with the way the moonlight brightened the room, I had no surefire way to tell.

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