Welcome to the New Normal

Besmirched

Heroing loses a little of its shine.

A Denny McCloud Story

Thursday, 27 May 2027
Denny’s apartment
Way late

Denny gratefully mounted the stairs to her place and locked herself in against the world. The battle with Virginia Briggs and getting hauled off for beer afterwards by Brute Force was all a bit too much.

Dude, I don’t even like beer.

Her blinds were lowered and the city lights painted stripes across her floor. It was very film noir and despite her fatigue, Denny took a moment to enjoy the effect before turning on the lights. The ceiling was high, the carpet and tile flooring recently installed, and the space … Her studio apartment was empty save for a cot in the corner to sleep on and a card table as a work surface.

Got room to breathe in here.

Denny dropped her bag on the card table and stepped into the bathroom to shower the day off her. As she washed up she reviewed the day’s events and frowned. Where had Virigina Briggs gone when she’d ported? How did she take her condo with her?

She took the whole freakin’ building. How powerful is she, anyway? And are we on her shit list or what? Is there a way to block someone from porting to where you are? Or am I gonna have to worry about her showing up out of nowhere and putting all of us in a world of hurt?

The shower held no answers and Denny shut the water off dissatisfied. Walking out in nothing but a towel was a pleasure she still hadn’t gotten used to, like a lot of freedoms that came of living alone. She pulled a fresh change from her duffle bag and that reminded her of her dragon. Leaving off dressing for the moment, she fished her dragon from her costume and examined it under the breakfast bar lights. The smudge she’d noticed earlier was still there and tilting the origami to the light, she could see it was somewhat shiny.

Graphite, maybe?

She touched it with a fingertip, felt something slick and greasy, and pulled back, startled. Nothing hurt so she rubbed the smudge with her thumb. The black stuff came off easily, leaving hardly a sign on the dragon.

Feels weird, though. Not silicone … not bike grease. What the hell is it?

The idea that it could be something nasty from Virginia Briggs slithered through her thoughts and squicked, Denny grabbed the soap and washed the stuff off at the kitchen sink. Her hands were wrinkled like prunes before she dared stop. Her origami dragon stood watching from the bar counter and she wondered if the next time she summoned it if it would have that mark on its hide.

And mark or no mark, what’s it mean that it even showed up? Where did the black crap come from? Is it like the black from the Angel porting? Or is it something else? Denny leaned against the sink and stared across the room and kicked herself for being an idiot. You should have waited until you could show Mom. She might’ve known what that crap was. Hell, Den, for all you know, you’ve just washed a mutagenic agent down the drain and sea monsters will start surfacing in the water treatment plant.

She rubbed her thumb and forefinger together, hoping to detect any loss of feeling or worse, sudden onset of pain or numbness.

Nope. Just waterlogged. And paranoid.

Denny had approached the hero business as something of an adventure, something exciting. Shiny new territory to explore along with her shiny new apartment, her shiny new prospects. But now? Denny’s inexperience took the shine right off everything. Thoughts about Briggs and the smudge and what it all meant chased around in her head long after she’d settled down to sleep.

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