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Gary hated life. He hated this flight, with the screaming kid right be-fucking-hind him, the stewardesses who looked like they were all on work release and looking for a chance to escape, and the barely adequate overhead lighting. He hated the snorer next to him. He hated his ex-wife ("separated", my left nut!), his job which he was pretty sure he would be fired or demoted from as soon as he landed and reported in to the office, and he hated novas.

Fucking novas. His new manager, and former best friend Steve, was a brand-new nova, one perfectly form-fitted into corporate culture. His star was going to rise high in the company sky, and Gary was still a struggling regular human being. Had there been a wall growing between them? Yes, in fact there had, and Gary would be damned if he'd take all the blame for it. Fucking corporate mutant. Sure as hell, Stevie-boy was looking for a way to get rid of that Gary-shaped boat anchor around his career, and this flight would culminate in either a golden handshake or a corporate reshuffling.

Gary hated being sick all the time. Doctors told him it was stress, but stress sure looked and felt an awful lot like an ulcer, a perpetual head-cold, insomnia, heartburn, and a sense of everyone watching him, taking notes about him while he wasn't looking. Something was wrong, and the assholes in the HR Department were likely going to use his sick days as an excuse to do whatever they were going to do to him.

But really, Gary hated those moments where there was a lull in the activity, because inevitably they allowed him to fixate on how shitty his life was, and how it had nowhere to go but down.


Yep. Going down, spinning around, and now everyone shrieking like the goddamn little kid. Air masks dropping. Pilot trying to keep calm. And of course, never a nova around when you'd actually want one of the tumor-brained bastards to help out.

And hey, wasn't that the runway just below them? Sure, why not.

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It was roaring and red and pain, and then...

Suddenly, Gary just stopped hurting. It all felt like pins and needles, just on the surface of his skin. He realized he was holding his breath, and that his lungs weren't screaming for air. He opened his eyes, and between the light and smoke, he regretted it. But only for a moment.

He was holding something. It looked like a rag doll...except it wriggled, holy shit! It was a baby, the one that was behind him. Gary turned around, and quickly turned back. No way there was going to be a parent-child reunion. Fuck, that was nasty.

He unbuckled his belt, and stood up, tucking the wriggling infant into his arms. It was a baby girl. She looked at him and, once she caught his glance, stopped wriggling and crying. (She'd been crying this whole time, why wasn't it giving him a headache? Had he gone deaf?) He started walking, anything to get out of this smoke and fire and roaring and stench.

He wobbled for a bit, then started walking normally down the runway. The tarmac near the plane felt hot and tacky. But the baby girl curled up in his arms, and yawned. The sirens and the people running and screaming didn't phase her in the least, and Gary wasn't too concerned either. He almost didn't notice when the ambulance pulled up to him, except the guy ran out and sprayed powder all over him.

It was a fire extinguisher. Apparently, he'd been burning. Still, Gary wished the asshole had thought to look and see if he had a child in his arms or something. That powder couldn't possibly be good for a kid. Still, the medic was yelling at him, and Gary just wanted to go and get a drink (well, several drinks), so he decided to hand the little girl off to the medic and keep walking. Hell, the kid had to need medical attention more than him, they'd just been through...

A plane crash...

The plane had crashed. Him and that kid, they were probably the only survivors. How the hell..?

And that was when the headache hit. Gary hated headaches, and this one felt like the birth of a second head inside his skull. Sadly, he did not black out.

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It was a slog to the airport bar. People kept trying to stop him, ask him questions, but he bulled on through until he saw the tacky oak paneling, the plastic tropical plants, and fancy mock-arch entrance he'd seen from all the other airport bars. Some archaic dance hit or another was blasting, and a couple of attractive women who looked like they'd need a cab were out there dancing with each other, not interested in him or any other male company that evening.

Fuck 'em. They needed to kick off their heels and dance until their ride came, he needed some lubrication. The bartender looked at him, and got right to business. Good man, he might get a tip.

He had a shot and a beer, and was frustrated when he couldn't feel himself relax. Steve-O was going to teleport over to talk to him, and he needed some fortification. His 'best friend' was no doubt going to use his newfound charm to persuade Gary not to take legal action against Biocorp. Bastard would probably try to get him to go to work right away, without taking any time off or doctor's visits. He ordered another shot and a beer, and waited for the magic.

Well, he saw some magic as, right in the middle of the dance floor, a doorway (minus a door) opened up, spilling a flickering light and Steve The Wonder out, and then folding closed on itself. Steve had an immaculate-looking suit (of course!), and something in a clothing bag. Steve quickly saw Gary, Gary did a tenth-hearted wave, and Steve came briskly over to him. He even smells like he just came out of the shower, Gary grumbled to himself. How is it that people keep believing life is fair?

Steve knew Gary well enough to just cut the crap and get to business. "Okay, crash-test, I talked to some people here at the airport. You're needed by both the local police and the local news. Apparently, not only did you survive an airplane explosion that killed almost everyone else, but you saved an infant girl who, you may want to know, appears to be mostly okay. And, bad news first, you need to pull your shit together and get changed from that outfit into," and here he hefted the clothes bag he'd carried through his magic doorway, "this, because you represent Biocorp Multinational and need to make a good impression. Then we need to discuss your mandatory time off."

That just about pushed Gary over his limit. "You're fucking kidding me, right? Tell me, boss, that you're fucking kidding me! I just somehow got up and walked away from a makeout session with the Grim fucking Reaper, dragging a little kid in tow with me, and you're sitting here telling me I've got to be concerned about the fucking public image of my fucking corporate masters, when you and I both know I've used up all my luck for the rest of my life, and if I go in front of those cameras, I'll fucking blow it. You're the fucking perfect corporate employee, Steve. You are the fucking image of Biocorp. You handle this shit! I should be going to the fucking doctor, because sooner or later, the alcohol will kick this fucking adrenaline haze I've got, and then I'm going to be in fucking agony. I know it, and you know it."

Steve, long suffering Steve, corporation-perfect Steve, Steve with the magic lump in his head, sighed. "Gary."

"Fuck no, Steve. That's fucking ridiculous, and you know it. Can these fuckers be any more callous?"

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Patient Steve, saintly Steve, long-suffering Steve allowed Gary to go on ranting and whining for about another 10 minutes. "Gary. Are you done? Because if not, I will cup my hand and stick it down my pants. I will proceed to urinate on said hand. Then, I will pull said hand out of my pants, still cupped, and slap you so fucking hard with it that your children will be born with handprints on their faces that smell of piss. Before I do that, I will ask one of those ladies over there," and he pointed to the two dancers, both of whom were now staring at Steve open-mouthed, "and I will ask them to record it on their OpPhones and put it on OpTube. I will make sure that everyone in the office knows the address for it. I don't want that, and I assume you don't, either."

Maybe it was the absurdity of it all, maybe it was Steve's dry-yet-lilting delivery that made him sound like Mr. Rogers mated with a college professor, but suddenly Gary started cracking up. Hard. Fucking Steve, even when you needed to choke the shit out of him, he could always make you laugh.

Steve visibly relaxed, and started chuckling. "Okay, good. Laughter is good. Now listen up, my favorite little misanthrope. I do not have time to hold your hand and wipe your tears away. You are, believe it or not, very fortunate. Your life is about to change radically, and we need to get you through these interviews. If you do well, this will not only save your career at Biocorp, but will allow you to write your own checks. At the very least, those 'ridiculous' health-packages you pay so much for, the ones with the golden nova-centered benefits that you bitched so much about, will make your life so much better. And..."

"WAit, wait. What? Nova health benefits? What the fuck does that have to do with me? I just got lucky for once in my life...no. Oh fuck, no. Steve, tell me you're shitting me."

"I will do no such thing. Look at all this booze you've been drinking." Steve gestured, and Gary looked at all the shotglasses and the pitcher of beer in front of him, suddenly cognizant of how much he'd been putting away. "And yet the man before me is as irascible as ever, wound up tight as tight can be, stark screaming sober. And this after surviving a plane crash that at the very least should have given him broken bones and third-degree burns. Don't even ask me how the little girl survived. And I'll bet any money you're drinking to take the edge off of a headache, and you're probably starving. Am I right so far?"

"Well...shit. Uh, hey wait a minute, did my...Eruption... cause that plane to crash? Because that would just fucking blow. Oh, Christ..."

"Actually, no it did not. It was, in fact, caused by another nova on board the plane whose powers apparently escaped his control. Some wannabe Teragen asshole who apparently barbecued himself. He was being pursued by some government types, and I guess he panicked. But there is a chance that his misfortune triggered your fortune, and that's how we will spin this to the press. Which reminds me!" Steve, in full showmanship mode, presented the garment bag to Gary. "Get to the restroom and change into this. It's a modest Eufiber suit that I guarantee you'll love, because you'll probably never need another suit again. Just concentrate on what you want, and it'll adjust. Very comfortable! Now go on, and do the comapny proud. I'll take care of your tab."


The interviews, with the cops, the Feds, and the press, were a blur, but apparently a successful blur. Steve seemed happy enough.

Gary seemed...well, not tired. Not wound up, but he couldn't sleep. He didn't feel the least bit exhausted. He stayed up until dawn the next day going through two packs of cigarettes, staring at the sky. Eventually, he accepted that all the luck that eluded him his entire life had decided to make an appearance. No one, he hoped, was around to see him break down into tears.

He didn't bother changing out of the Eufiber suit, just changed the style a bit. Steve was waiting for him, to talk about a mandatory vacation and a day spa/training camp for novas that the company had decided to invest in. Looks like he was going to be the test case. Well, there were worse things, and he was getting paid pretty handsomely.

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Poke. Prod. X-ray. Urinalysis. Colonoscopy. "Drink this." Over and over again. Even had a test of some guy with a bulge in his forehead stare at me intently, like I was a modern art sculpture or one of those Magic Eye pictures from when I was a kid. I was getting slightly irritable; I didn't need to sleep, but apparently my brain was still adjusting to that. And porn can only do so much. Apparently, alcohol has limits now as well.

I ended up spending the whole damn day there. I guess they didn't believe what they saw, so they decided to redo some tests. I pitched a fit, and they let me have a well-ventilated room to smoke for a bit.

Finally, they were done, and they told me what I already knew: I was inhumanly healthy. I could most likely not worry about small-arms fire, even at point blank range. Nor poisoning: my node apparently was working overtime to purify my precious bodily fluids of germs and poisons. I could regenerate from damage, assuming something actually hurt me.

When I asked them how long I had to live, they had no real answer. According to their tests and best analysis, I could conceivably outlast the sun.

I deeply regret not being able to drink. Apparently, if it gets too much? I could go walk to the bottom of the ocean for a long nap, assuming I ever got tired enough to actually sleep.

They can't trick my body into dorming down, and they don't have any sedatives that my hyper-healthiness can't overwhelm and filter out.

No more sick days, ever. Suddenly, I'm not as happy with life as I was.

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