Zuma sighed a bit, putting the last of her laundry into the washer. She stood up from her basket as she closed the door and looked around. A laundromat was not ideal, but it was the best she could do right now. The black-footed cat stretched idly, before slotting a card into the machine.
The washer read the chip in her card and displayed the remaining credits on her account.
Sighing, the spotted feline put in the detergent and started the washer up, watching as the display deducted the cost of using the machine from her total. If she could live at headquarters she wouldn't have to put up with this, but that was mostly reserved for the heroes who couldn't pass as regular anthros out of costume. As she snatched her card free of the washer and started to pocket it, something caught her eye.
A tall dog wearing a shirt just a bit too snug for his hefty frame made his way with an empty basket over to the wall of driers. The black Labrador had on torn jeans that hung on snugly to his hips, just sagging a bit, causing the legs to bunch up and partially eclipse his sneakers. His hair was died a vibrant, almost pastel purple, and had been allowed to grow out a bit from the root from how much was black was showing underneath. The purple puff draped over one side of his face, kept out of his eyes by the blue frame of his glasses.
But it was none of these things that had caught the cat's eye. A distinctive color was peeking out from under the hem of the too snug shirt. Zuma knew it well, and focused her eyes on that spot.
The dog reached to open a drier on the top row, reaching in with both arms to scoop the warm fabric free. This motion pulled his shirt up along the curve of his belly.
Zuma stared. Her instinctual reaction, which she'd initially hoped to dismiss, was proven true. This dog had the mark of the supervillain ParaBolt on the side of his belly. It was impossible to mistake. It was two silver line segments that didn't quite connect at the bottom and spread out further as they went up, with three stylized colored arcs of lightning between them; a Jacob's ladder with a red, yellow, and green bolt connecting the two sides. The insignia stood out starkly against the black fur.
As the dog dumped the whole load into his basket, he grasped his hem and tugged the shirt down.
The feline narrowed her eyes and walked away from her machine, stalking right to him. She stopped about a foot away from him and cleared her throat.
The Labrador had gone still as she approached, but acted as though he had only just noticed her as he turned his head far enough for his uncovered eye to look directly at her. "Can I help you with something, miss...?"
"Why do you have that?" Zuma did her best to sound civil in the situation. After all, she was in civilian clothes. She did, however, come off sounding somewhat like a suburban mother demanding something of a barista.
"It's a laundromat?" The dog asked, confused, or at least very convincingly feigning confusion.
"Not the basket, this!" She reached out and grasped the hem of his shirt, tugging up. Right where the insignia had been was just plain black fur. "What? It was just there, I saw it!"
"Uh... Miss, could you not?" The dog asked, maintaining the appearance of confusion and awkwardness, whether it was genuine or not.
Zuma scrunched up her face, ears laying back. She stared at him for a moment before she let go of his shirt, storming back to her own clothes with her tail fluffed up and shaking behind her. It was everything she could do to keep herself moving at a normal person's speed in her frustration. Once she had a moment to herself she'd quick-change then get the answers out of this dog.
Said canine had made his way over to one of the broad tables set to one side and was folding his clothes, gradually transferring them from basket to neat stacks on the table. At this angle, the cat saw his other side.
The black-footed cat hoped he'd raise his arms and turn around or something, just to prove she hadn't just been seeing things. When he finally did, he didn't turn around, but she did spot another marking. This one appeared to be three red leaves, going from small to large from left to right. She recognized this one as well... but it was a hero's mark. She had met Red Scale and he was on the level. What was his mark doing on the same body as ParaVolt's?
Zuma watched the dog for a few more moments, before ducking behind a row of washing machines and tugging out her phone. She tapped 9 twice before holding it down. The speed-dial showed a row of 'x's and it started dialing.
The phone picked up. "What's your situation, Zuma? You didn't report starting a patrol."
"There's this dog that's really suspicious." The spotted cat spoke quietly into her phone, knowing it would cancel out the white noise of the washers around her. "He has ParaVolt's insignia on his stomach, as well as Red Scale's. But they disappeared when h-"
"Drop it, Zuma." Dispatch interrupted.
"What?!" The cat almost shrieked, before dropping her voice. "It's clearly suspicious, why drop it?"
"Taller black dog, purple hair, wears glasses, heavyset?" Dispatch asked patiently.
"Yes, but-" She started, but was again interrupted.
"You do not engage." Dispatch asserted.
Zuma's mind raced. What sort of thing was this dog to be known about at headquarters and also have this response? Was he already under investigation and hero actions might mess up the case? Was he just that powerful that she'd be overwhelmed? Was he just some weird fanboy of supers that was otherwise innocent? "Why, though?"
"You don't harass Safe House." Dispatch snapped, before letting out a groan. The cat could picture the anthro on the other side rubbing his head because he'd said the wrong thing. A name.
"And just who, pray tell, is Safe House...?" Zuma hissed into her phone.
Safe House sighed a bit, carrying the last of his laundry up from his car to his apartment. The rotund dog wagged idly as he closed the door behind him, setting the folded clothes onto one side of his couch alongside the other stacks he'd brought up. He returned to the door to lock it, doing the chain and two bolts, before pressing a button on a small panel next to the door. The door glowed for a moment, before fading to its normal appearance. "There, locked. Now, business." The Labrador walked over to a calendar on the wall. Normal appointment things were written on it. He tugged a small flashlight out of his pocket, and turned it on. The faint violet beam illuminated luminous lettering.
"Now Scaley, I heard that the Guild apprehended the rogue assassin that was trailing you two days ago. Are you sure you still want to stay the full week?" The black dog spoke while looking over the calendar, sweeping the black light over it. His eyes had gone distant however, like he was looking through it all.
Safe House nodded after a moment or two, as if responding to an unspoken reply to his question. "Alright. I'm happy to be hospitable for as long as you wish to stay. You're a good guest." He replied in turn, before turning the page of the calendar into the next month and shining the black light at the lettering there. "And what about you, lightning rod? You've got quite the stay planned..."
The Labrador's cell phone chimed from his pocket. "Hold on a sec, Para. Getting an alert..." He tapped his thumb on his phone, letting it read his biometrics before it opened the message. The message was from a series of series of 'x's, a redacted number.
"New querist regarding Safe House. Authorize? Y/N" Attached to the message was an image file. The dog tapped to open it, and found a dossier photo of a masked feline woman, a series of non-concentric circles all travelling through the same point on the right side superimposed at the corner. It was the Insignia this Super used as an identifier, and in the lower right corner was printed the name "Zuma."
Safe House chuckled a bit. He figured he'd be getting a new query soon, but not so immediately. The mask did nothing to disguise that the spotted cat was the same woman who had accosted him in the laundromat. He closed the photo and tapped Y on his phone, before sending the response. "Might be having a new guest soon, everyone." He spoke out into the empty apartment, giving the heft of his belly a soft rub.
Zuma clapped her paws with a grunt of exertion. The speed she brought her hands together sent out a wave of force from the point of impact, knocking back the group of goons that had started closing in on her. Not a moment after she'd asked about Safe House to the dispatch, had the voice on the other line redirected her attention to a robbery in progress and told her to deal with that while he authorized her request, whatever that meant.
While the mooks where each unbalanced, she darted out towards the closest. As she moved, her perception of the flow of time ramped up. She skidded on her heel, spinning around and feeding out a length of rigid wire from a hidden spool in her bracer. The cat grasped the henchman's wrists and deftly brought them together behind his back, before wrapping the wire around them both, twisting the ends together, before she bent the ends back on themselves to blunt them. She then prodded a spot on the neck, triggering a reaction where the thug started to scrunch his shoulders up.
The spotted feline continued this, focusing on doing so quickly, but not so quickly as to do any lasting damage to the henchmen she was apprehending. When she came to a stop, the whole group hit the marble floor of the bank's lobby, heads tucked forward and shoulders contracted, protecting them from accidentally striking their heads and leaving them bound.
"Ugh, I fell on my keeeeeys..." One of the Mooks complained.
"Too bad your boss didn't follow you boys in, or I'd have bagged him too." Zuma gloated, putting her fists on her hips.
The hostages around the room applauded, and she soaked it in. "All in a day's work. Now, if you excuse me, I'm sure the police can take it from here." She walked confidently to the bank's doors and opened them up, spotting a police vehicle parking. "Bad guys have their wrists bound, are unharmed. You have plenty of witnesses."
The boar scratched the side of his head. "Well, thank you Ma'am. Usually we have to sit casing exits for a while when a super's engaged."
"Heh, other supers aren't my speed." Zuma winked, and darted off, the world becoming a blur around her.
The cop sighed. "Just hope she was as thorough as she was quick..." He looked off after the streak of color she left in her wake.
His partner laughed. "I heard the first heist she busted up she slapped 'Hello my name is' stickers on the perps' chests with 'Bad Guy' written in sharpie." The cavy adjusted his hat and closed the door on his side of the car. "The Guild's lawyer nearly got the case thrown out for 'planting evidence' on that one..."