Welcome to the New Normal

A Denny McCloud Story

Wednesday, 14 Jul 2027
Power Analysis, Inc.
03:00 AM

It was no use. Sleep just wasn’t coming. Every time Denny closed her eyes, she could see the man on the boat.

On fire. Screaming.

She sat up and stared at the bars of light the blinds painted across the room. Light versus dark. Black and white. When the team got the call from Global Frequency, the plan had seemed pretty simple. Cut and dried, really.

Stop the boat. Foil the arms deal. Send the bad guys to jail.

Nowhere did it say they’d be sending anyone to the hospital. Life and Death. Good versus Evil. Which side of the line was she on? Had she crossed it? If not, would she? If so, when?

You have a power. You’re supposed to be responsible with it. You weren’t. A guy is in the hospital because you didn’t think it through. If he dies, does that make you a murderer? If it’s not murder, then what is it? Assault with a deadly weapon? Denny fisted her hands in her hair, wishing she could make her head shut up … make that man’s screaming stop. Splitting hairs over terminology won’t make him any less hurt. Burned is burned and you burned him good. It happened on your watch, with your dragon, on your orders. It’s your fault. Own it.

Denny blinked and found her phone in her hand. When had she picked it up? Its screen was lit, her mother’s number under her thumb. It would take a single tap and …

What am I gonna say? Hi Mom, I know it’s late but I just wanted to tell you I nearly killed a guy. I don’t know if he’s going to live or die. What did you do today? Denny shoved out of bed and crept downstairs to the Zen Garden. It wasn’t far. She knew the way. Beyond the garden lay the city, whose people she’d sworn to protect. Until now, she thought she’d done a reasonable job doing just that.

Hadn’t she?

Too fast. It’s happening too fast. Everyone else knows what to do. I’m still making it up as I go along. So, what am I doing? Denny stared at the moonlit trees and rocks of the garden. Apparently blowing everything off by going to a movie with a guy I’ve only just met. So responsible. Way to go, Den.

Truth to tell, she’d gone to The Gutter hoping to immerse herself in something normal. Buying comics, hanging out with geeks. You know, normal. Not running around in a costume, keeping my identity a secret, getting tangled up in superhero-wannabe stuff. For a few hours, she’d been able to forget what had happened on the river. When Drew held her hand, it went away. Then the call came in and it all came back.

Now Mark’s dead, Miriam’s laid out, and Cassie’s missing. Alexander and Deirdre are doing what they can at their end and Jason … He’s gone all douche rocket on us. Geez, when did he get so wrong? Or has he always been like that and I was just too dumb to see it?

Had he not, Denny knew she would have gone to him to ask his advice. After all, he had decades of experience on her, was a superhero, and was a shrink on top of it. If anyone knew how to sort out someone’s head, it would be him. Which made his change in demeanor so damned weird. Denny had seen him in action as a psychiatrist: calm, professional, discreet. He handled the clients who came into Power Analysis with a deft combination of sympathy and discipline. Now?

Something’s wrong. He’s not right. I can’t go to him with this.

Her hand hurt. Looking down, she realized she still held her phone. Her knuckles were white and she loosened her grip. Can’t call Mom or Dad either. Can’t tell them that their only kid’s a total fail-bot. She looked over her shoulder into the lobby behind her. Well, not a total fail-bot. I know how to answer the phone. Maybe I should just concentrate on that.

Right?

The night held no answers. Just the moon and the stars and more doubts than she could handle. Sighing, Denny gave up and went back inside to check on Miriam and Tyler. That was something else she was tolerably good at—fetching coffee and sandwiches for people who needed them. She shoved her phone into her pocket where it tapped her leg as she walked, reminding her of choices she could have made and hadn’t. Denny tried not to dwell on them as she got the first pot of coffee for the day started. The way things stood now, they would probably need it.

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