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Aberrant: The Middle Children of History - March 23rd, 17 Minutes into N-Day [Complete]


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Looking over the railing of the Outdoor Observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, Samuel Erickson had never missed his parents so much since their death nearly two years ago.

They'd died in '96 leaving him an orphan at 17 years of age. After several months as an official Ward of the State, he'd turned 18 and had enrolled in a Computer Networking course at TCI University in NYC as soon as he could.

Samuel had never been cool, or talented, or even attractive really, and for much of his young life he had retreated into books and his own fantasy world for solace. The death of his parents had only compounded this problem and he'd become all but a recluse by the time he turned eighteen. But once he'd become "an adult" and had started attending college he'd felt a powerful desire to socialize, make friends, and do what college kids (even ones taking a Computer Networking course) are supposed to do: party. So for the past several months he'd been making a real attempt to be at least likeable and sociable enough to be tolerated at social functions. And it had actually seemed to be working for the most part. Until last night.

He'd been invited by one of his (much cooler) techy friends, Jerry, to a party out in Brooklyn, and it had turned out to be a real hoot. After about two and half hours and way too much alcohol Sam had actually started to feel loose enough to chat it up with a few of the female party attendees - something he rarely did - ever. At first, his attempts seemed to be meeting with no small amount of success, by his standards. This meant, of course, that the girls he talked to didn't immediately blow him off or walk away or insult him. It did not mean that they showed any real interest in him. But Samuel didn't have real high standards in this regard so he was feeling pretty good about himself, and it was at this point that he made his mistake.

He walked (with a slightly drunken wobble in his step) right up to one of the prettiest girls at the party, got about halfway through his initial introductions, and puked all over the floor at her feet. Big time Party Foul. Needless to say, the girl (who's name he never learned) became more than a little upset at this belligerent display and roundly (and very loudly) berated him in front of all those gathered around. This in turn attracted the attention of her boyfriend (and Sam never learned his name either) who had immediately gotten right in Sam's face.

Samuel was completely humiliated by the rapid deterioration of events as it was, but to have the girl's much bigger, better looking, and obviously more confident boyfriend suddenly pushing and shoving him only made things worse. The boyfriend actually dragged him bodily out of the party and kicked Sam out the door. Then he proceeded to beat him for a good half a minute before leaving him to pick himself off of the ground and find his own way home.

Sam got all the way back home to his dingy apartment and all the way into his bathroom before he finally broke down. A more rational Samuel probably would have realised that his life had been looking up for some time, but Sam had a bad habit of letting his emotions decide his course. And in the wee hours of the morning, badly drunk and freshly beaten, all Samuel could think about was that he was alone and unloved in a hostile world, with no family and nothing really going for him. If he'd retreated into the black depression that hit him and had succumbed to his fatigue he probably would have woken up many hours later with a bad hangover and, like the rest of the world, would have been caught up in awe of the events that would soon overtake everyone. But the anxiety that overcame him and the pain of his injuries (which were really only minor) kept him awake all through those bleak, gray hours of the night when a person's hope is particularly susceptible and Sam finally came to a decision.

So here he was on top of the Empire State Building on the morning of March the 23rd, 8:45 EST, thinking about how long it would take him to fall all the way down and trying to screw up the courage to find out. He'd seen the contrail in the sky, and was vaguely aware of what had caused it, but in his present state of mind the destruction it represented seemed only to reinforce the pointlessness of his existence. He'd proceeded undeterred to his destination, paid the fare and ridden the elevator up, and now here he was at the top of the world.

Samuel took a breath and looked around. It was now or never. The Observatory would be crowded soon enough, and he didn't want to cause a scene (and was oblivious to the impossibility of this even as he thought it). He gripped the railing for an instant and hesitated.

Then he pulled his flabby body over the fence as quickly as he could, moved quickly to the edge of the building, and leaped. In the instant he went over the edge all of his senses crystalized in fear as he hovered in the air over the streets far, far below. Behind him someone screamed, time started again, he began to plummet downward, and his head exploded. Samuel Erickson had erupted.

The pain in Samuel's head rapidly grew until it overshadowed all other concerns, including his imminent impact with the ground, and in an instant his body reacted. His entire body, but most importantly his skull and thus his pain-wracked brain, grew and expanded and made room for the unbearable pressure in his head until it dropped to more bearable levels. To Sam it looked more like everything suddenly shrunk by more than half, and he was still trying to wrap his mind around this phenomenon when he realized that he was no longer falling, he was flying. Actually flying! As he floated down through the air he caught his reflection in a pain of glass and nearly jumped right out of his own, scaly skin.

As has already been mentioned, Sam liked fantasy stories and the characters he liked the best were dragons. He liked the good dragons most of all, but any dragon was good enough for him. He found himself identifying with the way that dragons were often hunted or persecuted in stories, but wishing that he had at least some of the strength of those dragons. But it didn't look like he needed to wish any more because the reflection he saw staring back at him was that of an honest-to-god dragon. Samuel didn't feel so depressed anymore, or all that afraid either, but he was really starting to question his sanity.

Samuel wouldn't know the exact specifics of his measurements, or even of his form, for some time yet, but his body had morphed into a quadrupedal, winged dragon more than fifty feet in length and a full twelve feet at the shoulder, with a long serpentine neck that could raise itself another sixteen and a half feet above that. He didn't know it at the time but his "wings" were actually a pair of fully functional extra limbs that he could use as an extra pair of hands (or weapons) when not using them to fly, and his long dragon tail was nearly as useful and much more dangerous as a weapon. His massive head was longer than most people's entire upper bodies, with saucer-sized serpent's eyes gleaming a bright golden in the morning sun, and a maw that was filled with long, dagger-sharp fangs.

In a nearly dream-like state Samuel glided for a few hundred yards down 5th Avenue, causing no small amount of panic in the streets below, and finally came to a surprisingly graceful landing near the corner on West 30th Street. All around him terrified pedestrians were scattering in all directions, with cars squealing, swerving, and even stopping to unload their equally terrified occupants so that they too could flee on foot. Within the space of moments several accidents had taken place and the entire area was in chaos.

Perhaps it was the emotional stress caused by witnessing a giant dragon alighting on the street corner ahead of him just as he was in the middle of snatching an unsuspecting New Yorker's purse and interposing itself between him and his planned escape route (probably it was), but within moments of Samuel's first successful landing a man later identified as one Jonas Huddleston (who later took the moniker "Snowman") - a petty criminal and general troublemaker - erupted. The pain and trauma caused by his own eruption, combined with the overall sense of fear of the giant dragon in front of him and the fear that he was going to be caught and arrested for theft, caused Jonas to instinctively lash out. It was later determined that the freezing wind that Jonas summoned started up a good half kilometer up 5th Ave, but at the time all anyone knew was that the entire street was suddenly struck with hurricane force winds and that the temperature had suddenly dropped to something more appropriate to the middle of winter than the middle of spring. Then the snow started to fall....

Samuel turned out to be the primary focus of Jonas's quantum-powered rampage, but the hurricane force winds caused no small amount of property damage in the surrounding area, and dozens of injuries to bystanders ranging from minor to serious. Before Samuel had time to fully understand what was happening or why, he was hit with the force of a train by a blast of wind and ice that knocked even his massive form into the nearest building and partway through its wall. Struggling to his feet, Samuel was immediately struck by another of Jonas's blasts and sailed several meters through the air before crashing into the ground (and not a few cars). Though his outstretched body did strike a number of bystanders, most had already fled by this point and the severe winds had cleared out most of the rest, so Samuel only struck a few pedestrians as he fell, and he didn't land directly on any of them. So while his fall injured several innocent bystanders, a fact that bothered him greatly almost immediately, no one was killed.

Jonas was screaming his lungs out in pain and adrenaline-charged fear during all this, so it was not difficult for Samuel to pinpoint the source of the next blast and successfully dodge it. By this time NYPD had managed to track down the "flying lizard" that had been sighted by hundreds of alarmed New Yorkers, and several squad cars came to a squealing halt just in time to witness Jonas Huddleston obviously firing a blast of ice and wind from his fingertips at a real life, and bus-sized, dragon. Stepping out of their cars, the officers aimed their firearms at the two fictional-characters-come-to-life and demanded they Freeze! One of the officers panicked immediately after this and fired off a round at Samuel, which bounced harmlessly off his impenetrable hide, but which further aggravated the already pain-enraged and moderately delusional Huddleston. Jonas immediately fired off another of his ice-blasts at the NYPD officers, hitting on of their squad cars full on, and sending it and the two officers taking cover behind it sailing through the air for dozens of meters, only to crash horribly into other vehicles along the street in a mass of twisting metal and broken flesh. Later investigation determined that both officers were probably dead before they hit the pavement.

By this point Samuel had had time to come to some sort of temporary grips with his own situation and to realize that someone needed to end this entire mess as quickly as possible. He had completely and utterly forgotten his intention to kill himself only moments before. Leaping on the petty thief with amazing speed and grace for something so large and out of proportion to his surroundings, the gigantic dragon swatted Jonas with one powerful forepaw. In the instant of impact Jonas Huddleston summoned up some sort of "wind shield" that blunted most of the force of Sam's attack, but that didn't stop it. Jonas crumpled to the ground and instantly the winds died out and the temperature rose rapidly, almost alarmingly, back to its previous levels.

The remainder of the original NYPD officers were back on their feet and pointing their sidearms at the two new-born novas, and an increasingly large number of backup units were arriving each second, so that Sam found himself at the wrong end of a small army's worth of firearms. Somehow he knew that he wasn't really in any danger from the bullets, but the thought of being in trouble with the law was more than he wanted to deal with after everything that had happened to him in the last several minutes. Suddenly, Samuel wasn't quite so keen on his new form and wanted very badly to go back to being a harmless, normal human being. But he’d already gotten one wish today, and it had saved his life; it didn’t look like he was going to get another, as he stayed exactly the way he was, twenty-foot long tail and all.

Not sure what else to do, Sam just leapt straight into the air, using all of the massive strength available from his newly massive legs. Almost before he realized it, he was several hundred feet in the air, and the small army of New York law enforcement was rapidly shrinking, far beneath – and behind – him. As he looked down, he saw the East River below him and, still operating largely on instinct, he unfurled his enormous wings and made for it.

No person or organization on the planet would report seeing the monstrous lizard again for over a year. As for Samuel Erickson, he had, for all intents and purposes, succeeded in his mission, and was effectively dead to the rest of the world.

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