The wolf’s ears perked at the chime from his phone. Putting down his notebook and pen before tapping the earpiece. “Yeah?”
“…Look I know you’re new but we have regulations. Please follow them.” The voice on the other end of the line sounded tired, but professional.
“Sorry Watchdog, right. Muratrice here, what’s up?”
“Better at least, Muratrice. We’ve had a report of a suspicious vehicle across the canal. You’re closest response. I know your shift is ending soon; just look in on it before police arrive.”
“Jesus, you don’t mean The Glebe do you?”
“Fuck no, not your jurisdiction.” The rich neighborhoods get full time Heroes, after all, “It’s the Experimental Farm.”
He couldn’t help but snort at that.“That fucking museum? I went there as a kid once. What would-”
“Don’t ask me,” the voice in his ear clearly had been having a bad day, “we’re sending you to go find out. Assignment given, I’ll be monitoring. Watchdog, Out.” The line didn’t go dead, just silent. It felt more like being on hold with tech support.
“Confirmed, thank you.” he replied, to silence in return. His quiet evening of rooftop homework had been put on hold to deal with work. A long sigh escaped his lips before he tucked the book and pen into his bag, soon followed by the comfortable clothes he’d been wearing over his suit. The beaten up backpack then stowed against an air conditioner unit for safekeeping.
A cold night’s breaze washed over the wolf, and the shiver it brought made him dig back into the bag. He’d rather break uniform than catch a cold. Besides, he liked his coat.
Muratrice stood up and took a moment to stretch. From atop his vantage point on the Mackenzie building he could even see some of the lights of the farm. Whatever was going on wouldn’t keep him too long, but the night had been quiet so far and the distraction from his schoolwork was welcome. It’s a quick hop to the ground, at least for a Super with his benefits, landing hard on the grassy space behind the building before standing and walking towards the canal.
While no direct complaints had been made, the university’s groundskeepers had been giving him quite the stink eye lately and he’d much rather not have made their days harder than they needed to be. No, for now the wolf was taking a polite stroll through the night air.
Once across Colonel By, and off campus property, he broke into a sprint. Dirt and faint green sparks churned up with each step as he gained speed and stride lengthened. There was no way he could have cleared the canal in one jump and students told horror stories of the kind of sick you’d be getting from a dip in there. Instead a short detour along the bank took him to the locks.
The wolf took one last step before launching across the gate. An unpowered step turned into an undignified stumbling roll onto the other shore, but better having damaged his own pride rather than the locks’ mechanisms. Besides, they would have taken it out of his paycheck anyway.
He found his feet under him again, powers pulling the dirt up and propelling him back into the sprint. In moments he was in the farm’s outer greenspace. Trails of green lightning sparked off his feet with each step.
Prince of Whales was mercifully the only street between him and the farm proper, and crossed in a single stride. While most people could easily overlook the churned-up earth he abused for his momentum, people often tended to ask uncomfortable questions about similar destruction in poured concrete or roofing tiles. The old gravel driveway of the farm’s access road was an easy choice for him to use to bleed off the velocity he’d gained, grinding down a few loose rocks to dust in a long skid of his boots rather than breaking bones on a hard landing.
He brushed said dust off his boots before taking a few normal steps towards the collection of old buildings. The farm still did some research those days, but it’s not a high-tech lab. Why would Aurora feel like a Super needed to be present for whatever petty crime might be going on? He’d stopped busting vandalism charges when he’d graduated from highschool.
“Watchdog, Muratrice on site. Further intel?” He took a moment while waiting for a reply to further pat down his fur and adjust his suit. It was too snug in ways he’d always felt uncomfortable about, but he couldn’t keep wearing the hoodie and beaten up biker pants of his teens. Proper heroes need to look the part, after all.
“Black van, witness reported two occupants. Possible matches to powered criminals, not locals though.” Watchdog sounded a bit more awake at least.
“Who even was this witness anyway?”
“Confidential.” Watchdog chided him, although he could hear a small chuckle in the crackle of the call.
“Oh come on! What are you even here for?” He grumbled before starting into a quiet jog towards the nearest parking lot to start his search.
“…Fine. Timmies drive through,” ah, there’s the chuckle. Someone actually calling the cops after a weird customer. “Let’s see here. Odd revealing clothing. Paid by app, but the account technically doesn’t exist? He wasn’t clear on the details.”
“Oh no. Raver kids are stealing the Greatest Canadian Secret?” Muratrice grinned, rewarded with a rare laugh from Watchdog. “But I guess every dastardly villain slips up eventually- Oh, I see the van!”
“Police are still 30 minutes out.” All mirth was gone from his voice now.
“Be careful.” Watchdog added before returning to silence.
Muratrice slowed his steps as he approached the van. The rather unassuming vehicle sat alone in the farm’s visitor parking lot. A cursory examination of the van turned up empty seats, but faint steam came from the hood in the late autumn air. They’d not been here long at all. He pulled out his phone, taking a photo to send to Watchdog before his ears perked at the sound of a raised voice.
“Watchdog, I hear them. In pursuit,” he growled into the earpiece while his phone returned to his pocket.
“Looking up the plates, seems like a rental. Will get you more.”
The silence felt welcome now as the wolf hustled forward. He reached the corner of a barn before the voices became clear.
“… you can’t be serious.” The voice was feminine, a hint of an accent that Muratrice couldn’t properly place.
“Look, I had a coffee in one hand and a donut in the other! Don’t blame me for wanting to finish my snack.” He hazarded a quick peak around the corner as the second voice replied.
The pair were strolling through the farm, not even trying to be hidden. The second voice came from a short, rather round figure with a tail that seemed to rival the rest of her mass. The former was a more imposing figure, not much taller but with a second set of legs.
“Watchdog!” Muratrice hissed as quietly as he could while ducking back out of sight, “Perps sighted. Two, female, looks like a skunk? Other is tauric, orange fur.”
“Repeat, Murat-ce?” Watchdog barked into his ear, the call’s quality dropping rapidly, “–those descriptions -ran pla—s, high thr-at leve-! Do n-no–t–t- en-g-!-a-!—!!” Muratrice quickly ripped the earpeace away with a yelp! The line cutting out into a harsh static and whining noise.
“There, see, jammer’s on.” The skunk said to her companion, “You know it’s not actually stealthy to just jam all signa-”
“Shh. Did you hear something?” The taur’s voice was low and tense. Muratrice instinctively held his breath.
“No? You’ve got good ears if you can hear this baby turn on.”
“No, there’s someone here.” There was silence for a long moment before the faint thump of footsteps headed back towards Muratrice. A glance behind himself showed nowhere to hide, but that was not his only option. He bit his lip, dug his power deep, and pulled a pillar of dirt up under one foot. The moment he could reach the barn’s roof he kicked the tower back down away from the approaching woman.
The taur glanced back and forth in the darkness before she turned back to the skunk standing under one of the few lights scattered among the farm’s buildings. Muratrice tried not to stare at the volume of white chest fur visible in her open jacket, contrasted against the blue on her cheeks and tail. His heart rate rose at the most important detail of the woman’s outfit: the magenta glow of RCGs, a near matching pair to those worn by the taur who’d been so close to finding him. He’d been told they are some kind of smart-glasses with ties to a villain terrorist organization. How they ever got to be legally distributed had always confused him. There were more and more of them around; even a few of his classmates wore them from time to time.
“Probably just a cow.” The skunk giggled, getting an amused snort in return. “Hey I heard they’re working on a new milking machine! Maybe we should…borrow it? Megs would love it!”
“After you’ve had a go, you mean, Waterfall?” The taur returned to her friend and Muratrice finally got a proper look at her. She’s a red panda with a dark coat draped over her long form and the clothing visible under it, which appeared to be made out of mostly fishnet.
“Oh I’m sure you’d love that, but sadly we have a job to do.” Waterfall fell in step with the taur and took a long sip from the coffee in her hand. Muratrice gave them a few moments to get some distance before he dropped down from the roof. He froze at the sound of a faint disgruntled “moo” of a cow heard through the wall, one that was rather unimpressed with being woken up by his noise.
“Ah, you’re right.” The taur laughed without even turning around this time and bumped her flank playfully against the skunk’s side. “Seems they want to keep their milker. Besides, I don’t think we could fit it in the car, let alone into KDS without anyone noticing.”
“As if you don’t enjoy the challenge of trying to fit things in.”
“You’d know, you slut.”
The pair continued on and Muratrice found himself feeling more and more awkward, like he was spying on a date rather than a crime in progress. He felt himself blushing and tried not to listen to the flirting jabs. Instead his efforts turned to digging through memories of his Aurora introductory course. These two had to be from the Korps, although he hadn’t heard of any activity from them in Ottawa lately. Most of what he knew came through news from Toronto, a few big name villains thinking they’re untouchable, and those idiot thugs from OH just helping prove them right. The wolf snarled at the thought of it all. “What the fuck are some Korps goons doing here?”
Watchdog would have had some input, as much of an ass as he could be, and Muratrice wished for the experienced aid of his handler. The wolf pulled out his phone again to confirm, but there was still no signal at all.
A faint thump drew his attention back to the villains, “…oh I’m sure, Waterfall. What was it that girl said? Oh yes. ‘You should see the thing she does with a showerhead’ I believe.” The taur had pushed the skunk up against the side of the building ahead of him. Muratrice felt his snout burning with a blush that was only getting worse by the second.
The red panda closed what little space was left between the pair. Waterfall’s head tilted back and let out a moan. His breath caught in his throat as the taur’s gaze turned to meet his own, her mouth still clamped against her partner’s neck.
There was a soft clatter against the ground next to him. It took him a moment to realise the rectangle of faint light was his phone! His eyes widened as they turned up to meet a pair of pink visors turned his direction. The silence hung in the air for a long few seconds, finally broken by the red panda.
“Can we help you?” She asked flatly as her hand freed itself from the depths of Waterfall’s shirt. Muratrice struggled to find words for a moment before doing his best to seize the initiative.
“Stop right there-…” he trailed off, not sure how to hide the embarrassment in his voice. This wasn’t how he’d been told these sort of things happened.
“Yes?” The red panda’s face cracked into a smirk. “Oh, were you going to say ‘criminal scum’? I’ve not heard that one yet! In the wild I mean.”
Waterfield rolled her eyes, still pinned against the barn wall. “Foundation darling, you really need to let that go.”
The wolf cleared his throat loudly to get their attention again. “I’m with Aurora-”
“Yeah, we see your suit.” The giggle in Foundation’s voice made his hackles rise.
“Yes. I’m going to have to ask you both to leave this propert-”
“Can’t, job to do.” She interrupted again, her attention turned towards him as Waterfall slipped out of her hands. “What’s your name, love?”
“Muratrice.” His voice came out in a growl, knuckles clenched. She was far too relaxed and he hated it. He was the one who was supposed to be in control here!
“Nice to meet you,” cut in Waterfall. Her finger pointed down at his feet. “I think you dropped your-”
Green sparks shot up with a large chunk of dirt, the wolf’s hand snatching into the loose soil.
“-phone.” There was another heavy silence, but this time one Muratrice was familiar with at least. The corners of the taur’s mouth pulled up in a grin, as her skunk companion started talking again. “Right. Well, I’ll let you two get on with it then?”
“You’re not going anywhere.” Muratrice takes a step forward, only to find Foundation’s body between him and Waterfall.
“And who’s going to stop her? A cute little thing like you?” The red panda’s stance widened. By his guess she’d be just a few inches shorter than himself, but there was a lot of mass in those hind quarters. His eyes trailed back to that long twitching tail…
He shook his head sharply and chastised himself for even looking. This was going to be a tough fight without even knowing what sort of powers she has. “Damn right.” He snarled at her, tucking his phone away while settling into a fighting stance. “I don’t know what you want here, but you’ll have to-”
“‘Go through me first!’, right?” Foundation visibly sighed, and tilted her head back towards Waterfall. “Go ahead, I’ll catch up after this!”
“Have fun!” Came the skunk’s reply as she slipped down past the corner of the barn and out of sight.
He’d not waited for Foundation to turn back before lunging, his fist aimed straight for her head. The taur leaned quickly out of the way before stepping back to make some distance. “Oh what’s this? Aurora teaching you to take cheap shots?”
The wolf turned and raised his fists right back into the stance he’d been taught. “Oh and you Korps goons play fair?”
“Only when your side does.” She shrugged and Muratrice’s gaze was drawn to the sheer volume of fur on display even in the cold air. Even the Korps insisted on form fitting sex appeal. Even criminals had a brand these days.
“Fair by your standards then?” He pushed the thoughts aside, soon followed by his body as Foundation swept in with a punch of her own. The kick that came behind it barely dodged as he danced to the side.
“You’re right darling!” The playfulness hadn’t left the taur’s voice even as she planted an elbow firmly into his gut. “By my standards I’d call you fair!”
He grunted, rolling with the hit and dug into the soil with his power. Only a few loose stones and hard dirt, but it would have to do. A look of surprise crossed her face a moment before the ground under Foundation punched up into her underbelly. The two both staggered apart, catching their breath.
“Oh that’s a nasty trick for such a cute hero like you to do!” The teasing tone in her voice set his teeth on edge.
“…are you flirting right now? Really?” He barked out, his power pulled loose stone and debris into makeshift claws around his right hand.
“Would you rather I not? Am I too much of a handful for you already?” She almost seemed offended. A large huff of a sigh escaped her, again drawing attention to the dark fur of her chest.
And to the pair of holsters that rested under it, previously hidden by the dark and her coat.
“…you’re staring, Muratrice. ”
“Shut up, Foundation! Don’t you think Waterfall would be jealous?” He flexed his newly formed claw, having expected her to lunge. He was disappointed.
“That she’d not got first go, you mean?” The taur smirked as she caught the flash of confusion and embarrassment across his face. “Darling, if you want we could get her involved too! A nice night, just us g-”
“I said: Shut! Up!” He dove in again with snarl. The Korps agent was frustratingly nimble. Each barely landed hit returned more forcefully in kind. It finally dawned on him; her movements and tone. “Stop toying with me, you bitch!”
“And damage that adorable face of yours?” Her tone dropped the playful air and she grabbed him by the elbow. The world became a blur before the breath was knocked out of his lungs, a large paw pressing down on his chest and pinning him to the ground. “No I’d rather not.”
She leaned down to bring her face close to his own. The weight made it hard for him to breathe. This was bad, he was in over his head. The pink glow of the RCG was so close he could make out the strange symbols and text that flickered across it, but he’d be damned if he knew what any of it meant. Close enough to see her eyes dart to the side before he’d even pulled the wood siding from the barn wall with his power.
Foundation had gotten cocky and there was no time to dodge as the plank caught her square in the side of the head. The taur was sent reeling into the block of frozen dirt he forced up into her underside. Muratrice pulled himself to his feet and held the plank against his arm like a shield. The exertion of his powers leaving him light headed.
“Go fuck yourself, Korps bitch!” He wheezed out before finding himself pushed onto the backfoot.
“Fine, we’ll play your way, Muratrice.” Foundation’s attacks were nearly impossible to read, using her body’s mass to full effect now. It was clear she was far more skilled than he was. He’d never even had training for fighting someone of a different morphism while she could read his every move.
He was panting for air when he’d finally got in a lucky punch with his stone fist. The taur was sent sprawling and for a moment he felt a swell of pride before she rolled up onto her feet again. A gun pulled free and aimed in his direction.
He barely raised his arm before the wooden shield was shattered to splinters. Muratrice was knocked down by the force and was quickly losing the focus to control his powers any longer. In truth, he only had the strength left to roll over onto his back.
“Stay down, Muratrice.” Her breathing was laboured, but stabilizing quickly. He couldn’t get up even if he wanted to, she didn’t need to hold him down and she knew it. “You’re done and I’d rather not hurt you more.”
“Fine.” He eventually grumbled, to which she returned the weapon to its holster. His wounded pride stung worse than his battered body. At a loss for words and breath, all he could muster for further comment was a growled “Bitch.”
“Points for effort dear, but not much for brains.” The taur’s voice slid back into a teasing tone, but there was nothing he could do about it now. “You really need to work on your banter. If you’ll excuse me though, dear, I need to get going. Waterfall’s already back at the car.”
Foundation went so far as to blow a kiss at the beaten down wolf before she disappeared back the way they had come. He doubted she’d even seen the middle finger he’d given her in return.
Muratrice panted for breath and gingerly touched his side. Pain shot up his spine and he was glad no one was around to hear the noise he made in response. He’d been shot, but at least there wasn’t blood. A glance around found a small pink bean bag laying not far away. Somehow it felt even more insulting.
He didn’t bother trying to get up, instead rooting in his pockets. His search was rewarded with the beaten husk of what had been his phone. A long sigh escaped his lips.
“Of, fucking, course.” He growled, returning the broken device to his pocket before taking the effort of hauling up into a seated position. The wolf’s ears caught the sound of the Korps agents’ van kicking to life. As best he could tell, they had taken the same gravel road out west that he’d taken to come in. The engine’s noise was lost in a rising flood of sirens and light, Police cars screaming up the easten entrance road. The first two were a pair of old Crown Vics that slammed to a stop not far from Muratrice’s undignified seat. More vehicles piled in as the first officers hesitantly approached the injured wolf.
“Aurora Squadron, Mutatrice. They got away.” He called out as clearly as he could, but the officers spread out to sweep the area anyway. A wide shadow of a man came to check on the wolf directly. Backlit by the flashing lights, Muratrice found it hard to read his expression. “Sorry.”
The officer’s initial reply was lost to Muratrice in the faint haze of pain and fading adrenaline. He shook his head loosely before the man spoke again. “I said, my partner is calling you an ambulance, miss.”
“Ah,” Muratrice sighed heavily, “good.”