"I told you I don't need to go to the infirmary!"

"Suzi, you've been in and out of bed all night, you've been keeping everyone awake, I counted seven times you've been in and out of the shower, you're starting to smell really strange, and I'm pretty sure you're running a fever. You need to get checked out!"

The infirmary door opened, and a nightgown-clad Suzianna Goldenfur was frogmarched in by an albino hedgehog, the mousemaid arguing and struggling every step of the way. Brother Hollyberry, the infirmary keeper on duty, dashed up to them.

"Well, what brings you here at this time of night?" The old mouse sniffed the air, felt Suzi's forehead, and groaned. "Oh my, it's happened again. A couple of days later than expected, I suppose the stress of arriving here must be affecting everybeast's body clocks …" He bustled off to the cabinet and started collecting various items from inside it.

"What, is she ill?" asked the hedgehog.

"Not exactly. There's nothing we can do except wait for it to pass, I'd recommend you go back to bed, Snowspine – and may I say how refreshing it is to see a student pick one of the less charismatic species for a fursona?" Snowspine smiled happily.

"Huh, what's so great about that?" snapped Brawndomere the mouseboy from a nearby bed. He winced as the effort of sitting up to see better put pressure on his bandaged ribs. "Why'd it want to be a hedgehog anyway? Okay, they do the cool Spiketussling thing, but they're all kind of dumb."

"Young feller, I'll thank you to stop making speciesist remarks, and I'm sure our, er, gender-inconvenienced students would prefer it if you didn't refer to them as 'it' just because they made the mistake of not taking the forms literally," said Brother Hollyberry sternly.

"Hey, I don't think it's an inconvenience!" Snowspine protested. "A bit weird, but it's a lot less inconvenient than these things." She – Suzi wondered whether to keep thinking of the "Not Applicable" students as "she" and "he" and decided it would be far less confusing to do so – tugged ruefully at her spines. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit down now? And don't get me started on getting out of bed if I roll onto my back in the night …"

"See. Stupid spines. Can't even get dressed properly." The mouseboy giggled, then winced as he accidentally put pressure on his ribs again.

Snowspine looked annoyed, and Brother Hollyberry sighed. "Keep this up, mister, and I will have to get Sister Cicely to treat you."

Suzi sighed. Good grief, that boy's so immature, she thought, twitching her nose and picking up a very faint smell and so very attractive …

Snowspine grabbed Suzi's tail as she pounced and yanked as hard as she could, leaving the unfortunate mousegirl sprawled on the floor.

"Get a hold of yourself! What are you doing?"

The pain brought Suzi back to reality, and she blushed bright red.

"I was about to jump a total stranger! What's going on? I swear I don't usually do that! Well, at least not strangers who aren't Martin or Daniel Radcliffe or Orlando Bloom if I ever get the opportunity … or that guy I saw on the bus once who looked kind of like Orlando Bloom and nearly got me arrested … and I really shouldn't have started that sentence, should I?"

"That would be the main effect of your current little problem," Brother Hollyberry said delicately. Snowspine's face settled in an expression of sudden realisation, and she sniggered quietly. Hollyberry continued talking and putting various bits of plant matter into a bowl on the nearest table. "Never thought I'd be thankful for getting old, but the decrease in pheromones is a definite bonus here. Miss Goldenfur, I think you should discuss this with a female healer. Just sit down, I'll finish mixing this sedative and I'll get you an icepack …"

"I can't stay in here!" Suzi yelled, hopping from footpaw to footpaw. "I'm uncontrollably attracted to that guy, this is horrible!"

"Oh, thanks!" spluttered Brawndomere. "Bitch."

Hollyberry ignored him and pulled Suzi down the ward, towards the beds designed for larger creatures. "Just stay here, don't move … aha." He held up a small bag and a chisel and climbed the ladder attached to the largest bed, which was actually, on close inspection, an enclosed tank with smoky fluid being circulated through it by pumps. Drake the ice dragon was sleeping in it, his head and tail hanging out at the ends. The rest of him was submerged in the fluid which, had Suzi spent her chemistry lessons back at home doing anything other than doodling pictures of Orlando Bloom with rabbit ears, she would have been able to identify as liquid nitrogen. Hollyberry perched on the dragon's head and chipped off chunks of the ice which had formed on his scales.

"Handy having this fellow around," he commented absent-mindedly.

Another mouse in a habit and name-badge, this one a female whose badge read "Sister Cicely", walked up and glanced at Suzi.

"Another one?" she sighed.

"Another one? You mean I'm not the first one with whatever this is?"

"Oh no, young Miss Fernflower was brought in a few hours ago. Don't worry, it's just your heat period. It's not a big problem-"

"HEAT PERIOD! But that only happens for ani- oh, yeah …" Suzi trailed off, plucking at her fur. "Funny how I forget about that." Snowspine hid her laughing. Suzi glared at her. Cicely ignored them.

"Now, let me fix you up with some nice nettle soup which should help

that, and I can explain everything."

Brother Hollyberry shuddered. "Nettle soup? I'm pretty sure that won't work."

"Oh yes it will, it cures everything."

Hollyberry muttered something about "only because it's easier to pretend to be well than to drink the stuff". Cicely bustled off, leaving Suzi feeling rather stunned.

"This isn't funny!" she snapped at Snowspine. "It's alright for you, if this is what she says it is you won't have it!"

"See why I said I don't think it's inconvenient?" Snowspine quipped.

"Miss Goldenfur, be nice. It's not your friend's fault that you still have ovaries." Hollyberry slid down the ladder and gave her the newly-made icepack, and picked up the pestle and mortar again. "The ice'll help. I'll just finish mixing this for you, it'll help you sleep. And I recommend you run before Cicely comes back with the nettle soup, it looks like vomit and tastes like ditchwater. Just try to avoid going near too many adult male rodents on the way. Your little friend Fernflower suffered the same earlier this evening, and … well, you'll see her on the way out. Cluny wasn't best pleased when she ran into him on the way to the dormitory."

Suzi shuddered, wondering whether she really wanted to know what Cluny had done. She nodded. Brother Hollyberry handed over the mixture and turned away, muttering under his breath about Sister Cindy. Suzi drank the mixture and shuddered. It tasted awful. She could feel it working, but still ... She decided to flee before she had to find out how much worse the nettle soup was.

"Thanks for bringing me up here," she said grudgingly to Snowspine as they walked towards the door, then screeched to a halt as the pheromones hit again. Snowspine glared at Brawndomere, who was fanning himself, aiming his smell towards Suzi.

"Come on, girl, you know you want me," he said in a ridiculously overdramatic tone as Suzi hurled herself at him again, eyes agleam.

Snowspine sighed and cuffed her round the face. Suzi shook her head, blinked, blushed again, and glared at the smirking Brawndomere.

"That wasn't funny."

"Yes it was," he said, grinning widely. "Hey, I'm stuck in bed with five broken ribs, I gotta make my own fun. Shame Fernflower isn't conscious yet." He gestured to a bed further down.

"How'd you break your ribs, anyway?" Snowspine asked him.

"Apparently even in Mossflower you can't win in a wrestling match against something twenty times your weight on the first try," Brawndomere grumbled. "Stupid overgrown bunnies."

Suzi and Snowspine stopped and gaped as they drew level with the next occupied bed. They hadn't previously noticed who was in it, as she was mostly covered by a blanket, but close inspection showed it to be Fernflower, with what looked like broken facial bones, two black eyes, lumps under the cover which suggested casts on at least two limbs, and the words "'NO' MEANS 'NO'" carved in mirror-writing into her forehead.

"Well, that's scared me into being cured," Suzi muttered.

By morning, Suzi was feeling better. She headed down to breakfast and winced when she saw the bandaged mouseboy further down the table. She ignored him when he smirked and waved, hoping that he wouldn't try that again next time. When would the next time be? She wished she actually knew something about rodent biology beyond "small, fluffy, squeaks, eats cheese, really cute, some anthro versions cute in entirely different way, Mickey Mouse just annoying since I turned eight" …

The students started to dash for breakfast as usual, then paused, realising that there was no food on the tables. Kit and Minty were standing on the stage at the front of the room, Kit holding a microphone.

"Testing, testing, is this thing on? Aha." Mister Kit tapped the microphone and cleared his throat. "Sorry to delay your access to the food, students, but we have an important announcement. It has come to our attention that we need to address a few things. Specifically, the issue of heat periods."

Several students blushed bright red.

"There will be a lecture about how to cope with that particular problem today. We figured it would be best to give you all the details A.S.A.P. We don't want any incidents like we had in the past. You really don't want to know what happened the year we were founded, but suffice it to say it was messy."

"Now we won't spoil your breakfast by dwelling on that any further, but there is another issue which must be addressed," said Miss Minty, tapping her cane. "Bring 'em up, buckoes."

Several staff members stepped onto the stage, dragging … things on leashes. Minty picked up one of the creatures and held it up for inspection. It was about the size of a small rabbit, and it did have black-tipped rabbity ears, but otherwise it looked like a walking wig, with no discernable face or limbs. It squeaked and bounced in her grip.

Kit, meanwhile, was holding up a different creature. This one was small and spherical with a musteline face, tiny stubby legs and a very short black-tipped tail. More of the two types of creature scampered around the stage, pulling their hapless handlers with them and being growled at by the Mini-Deepcoilers. Suzi caught the stink of beer from the area of the stage and wrinkled her nose, but couldn't figure out what was causing it.

"Meet our latest arrivals, Win and Blackbery and their many little friends," said Kit. "Now just think for a second about where these little fellows could have come from … You don't know? Well, let's just say they'll be having fun with you in Proofreading class today."

The staff members scattered about the room started to snigger. The students looked puzzled.

"Yes, it's finally happened enough times to increase the pressure on reality to just the right level and create these," said Minty, tail swishing as she put Blackbery down. "Meet the Stouts and Hairs."

Some of the students continued to look puzzled, but others groaned and slapped their foreheads or burst out giggling.

"Oh, that's just bad," Sandflame Montmorency sighed.

"We know. Try to refrain from creating any more of these little fellows – not that they aren't lovable if you don't mind the smell and the shedding." Kit scritched Win's ears.

Badrang, standing at the back of the room, raised a paw. "Question. These Stout things are fat stoatlike things which reek of beer, yes?"

"Yes?" Minty replied, raising an eyebrow.

"So how am I supposed to tell them apart from Clogg?" Badrang said with a broad smirk, and ducked as a wooden shoe came flying at his head.

"Hey, are you okay?" asked Thom as Suzi slumped down at her desk near the front of the classroom, yawning widely.

"Mmmrrr … oh, yeah, I'm fine," Suzi muttered in reply. "Just tired." She was usually pretty good at getting through a schoolday after a late night on the computer, but spending a night pacing the dormitory and taking icy showers every fifteen minutes had taken a lot out of her, and she'd lost sleep all week with the vast amounts of reading and homework she had to do after her detentions. At least they hadn't been woken at four in the morning since the first day, but dawn was still earlier than she was used to, and there wasn't even a bus journey she could nap on as she'd learned to do en route to her real school.

She checked her timetable. That was weird, there was no teacher's name listed for this class … She glanced around. Had she been less tired, she might have been able to put two and two together when she saw several vermin – Shadow, Scragg, and both Killconeys – at the back of the classroom, along with a comically oversized CD player. She did think it was slightly odd that all the desks were very close together for such a large classroom, leaving a very broad path around the outside of the room. As she looked over her fellow students, she notice another oddity, and started to ask "Why are Fernflower and that ratgirl gagged and chained to their desks-"

As Scragg hit the button on the CD player and "Ride of the Valkyries"boomed out, the door burst off its hinges with a loud crash and roar.

Precisely how half a dozen rats were managing to steer a human-sized motorcycle between them, Suzi would never know. She had to admit, it was an impressive bike, even with the plastering of Biker Mice from Mars stickers, many of which now had spectacles or moustaches scrawled on in black marker. It was huge and sleek and black, and moved as if the restrictive laws of physics didn't quite apply to it. Gasps of admiration and applause came from various students, especially the boys, as the shark-sleek machine did a circuit of the room. A large rat in a batwing cloak was balanced on the handlebars, whooping and cackling insanely.

The large rat leapt off the bike as it passed the podium at the front of the room, landed neatly on the podium with a swirl of his cloak, and took a bow. As he did so, the other rats promptly lost control of the bike, and it crashed into the wall, leaving a large hole in the plaster. The rats screamed and cursed, scrabbling to find the brakes, as the still-running wheels left skidmarks on the floorboards and more plaster rained down.

Shadow, Scragg, and the two Killconeys each held up a little placard reading "10". Cluny bowed again and pulled a face which was probably meant to be a polite smile.

As Scragg turned off the music, there was a horrible screech. For a second Suzi thought it was the bike's brakes. Then she realised the sound was coming from Thom's mouth. He was frozen with horror, gaping at the rat-infested motorcycle, and he was wailing as if he was watching someone sacrifice his firstborn child.


"Correction, my boy," said Cluny. "It was your bike."

"You filthy thieving scum! What have you done to my Cynthia?!"

There was a long silence, broken by quiet sniggering.

"You know, Thommy, it takes a guy who's either very secure in his own masculinity or very bad at connecting his brain to his mouth to publicly admit that he calls his motorbike 'Cynthia'," Suzi said. Thom looked daggers at her.

There was a loud CRACK, and everyone in the room jumped.

"Thank you. We can discuss my bike later, you're here for a lesson," said Cluny, lowering his tail.

Suzi finally remembered what they were here for. Oh God, Cluny is teaching this?!

Ew ew ew ew ewww! She did have to admit Fernflower looked happy despite the shackles, insofar as she could tell through the bandages which were slipping over the other mousemaid's eyes. The puddles of drool trickling under the ball-gag and forming on her desk were a clue. Shadow slunk up and placed a basin under her chin. She didn't notice.

"You see, it has come to our attention that some of you are experiencing a certain aspect of non-human biology which you probably didn't bargain for," Cluny began, grinning evilly. "I'm just going to walk you all through how to deal with them – and before you ask, I'm the one doing this job because everybeast else wanted extra pay for it and I thought it'd be worth doing it just to see the expressions on your ugly little faces."

A collective shudder passed through the class.

"We have a strict policy here; abstinence unless either you can prove you're of sound mind and capable of meaningful consent, or you're smart enough to avoid being caught. Sorry, ladies, but the influence of excess oestrogen counts as not being of sound mind. Not that I think any of you are of sound mind under normal circumstances. Females are to leave the males alone and males are to refuse any advances that are made, no excuses accepted on either part. Anyone who deliberately takes advantage of a female in heat, or any female who uses their heat period as an excuse for harassing other students or staff, will be punished. Among other things, they will be the ones who get to explain the situation to their parents if necessary."

"Explain what to their parents?" asked a confused-looking white-furred otterboy, whose ostentatious pike tattoo did nothing to change the fact that he looked about ten years old.

"Well, Mister Streambattle, remember we told you that you would be put back in your home at the end of the school year, only a few seconds after you left? The guilty male party will be the one who, if such an unfortunate situation should occur, gets to help the young lady explain to her parents who he is, what he did to their daughter, how she managed to go through an entire pregnancy and birth in one night, and possibly why she produced a litter."

A few students blushed. Some spluttered indignantly. Most winced.

"I hope such a situation will not arise, and so that unpleasantness will not be necessary. In all seriousness, the infirmary does have a ready supply of sedatives available, and the Protectors of the Plot Continuum sent us some Anti-Lustin for emergency cases. I recommend you use them, ladies, it'll play merry hell with your sleeping pattern otherwise. And the sleeping patterns of other students, from what I hear. And if that doesn't work, we do have pepper spray for the males. You are encouraged, nay, instructed, to use it. And before you even think about using it to give you an unfair advantage over the staff in, for example, combat or stalking situations, I've been told to tell you that doing so will result in you experiencing the other kind of mace."

Darkclaw, still pinned under the motorcycle despite, or possibly because of, the "best" efforts of Redtooth and Fangburn, groaned "Yeah!" and raised his only free paw, which was clutching a spiked iron ball on a chain. This didn't quite have the threatening effect he'd hoped for, but the class took the point.

"This isn't faaaaaaiiiir!" Tiraamilaen screeched, rocketing up out of her chair and raising one paw in the manner of those about to start an indignant rant. "You sexist jerks! You're giving the guys pepper spray because you think we can't control ourselves enough to leave them alone? I oughta-"

Scragg produced a glittery rubber ball and Tiraamilaen's rant abruptly cut off with a shriek of "Eeeee shiny!" She pounced as Scragg threw the ball, along with a dozen other students, about half of whom were boys. The vermin darted out of the way and the unlucky ottergirl cannoned head-first into the wall, leaving a dent in the plaster.

"See?" Redtooth pointed out. "We aren't insulting women, we're just assuming that you're all equally incapable of self-control. It's safer for us that way."

"If you think we're incapable of self-control, why are you giving us pepper spray?" asked Sandy the raccoon.

"The real reason?" said Redtooth with a shrug and an evil grin. "Mostly it's because we like seeing you hurt yourselves."

"Now anyway," said Cluny in a businesslike manner, slamming his paws down on the desk and causing everybeast to jump, "the specifics of the oestrus process are different for each species, even if the basic effect is the same. A lot of you will only go through it once this year, round about winter or spring – that holds for foxes, stoats, ferrets, hares, so on. On the other paw …" Cluny glared at the obliviously ecstatic Fernflower, "… mice unfortunately get it for about twelve hours every three days or so, usually at nigh-"

"It's going to happen HOW OFTEN?!" Suzi shrieked, before she could stop herself. Cluny's eye fixed on her.

"I've heard rumours about you, Miss Goldenfur, and I'd appreciate it if you would enlighten me as to how anybeast will notice a difference."

One crushingly embarrassing and fur-crawlingly creepy lecture accompanied by much sniggering from Cluny's followers later, Suzi wandered unsteadily down the corridor, still sleepy and now also feeling very ill. It was weird; she'd probably met at least a couple of her classmates on the Internet and said far more detailed things in front of them herself, but she cringed at going through such a class with them now that she was thinking of them as actual people rather than computers which spewed reviews and squeeings. Odd how you didn't notice that was how you were thinking of them until you met them and were surprised to find a face there, even if at this point in time it was a decidedly more bewhiskered face than you'd expected …

Several of the boys were grinning and examining the mace canisters Redtooth had given them. A white-furred dog-fox was deep in conversation with Aaron Fuchs, Alexander Bluestripe, and a creature Suzi didn't recognise who looked like a cross between a rabbit and the Alien monster, about whether they could find an excuse to use the spray on someone and pretend it had been an "emergency". Aleen Streambattle (the youngest student at the age of eleven) was still looking decidedly nauseous. Seeing a white-furred creature's face trying to turn simultaneously red with embarrassment and green with disgust is rather odd.

"How come I don't get to use mace?" Zeph Zefire muttered irritably.

"You keep insisting you're a girl, they're going to act as if you are one," Snowspine pointed out.

"I am a girl! I just happen to have a slight addition at the moment! And I don't know how much the others' heat will … reduce pickiness!" Zeph shot a death glare at Stripey Sordfang, who was walking a short distance behind her, singing snippets of "Dude Looks Like A Lady" under his breath and attempting to look innocent, which he had probably been physically incapable of doing even as a human.

"You just want to mace Tira-whats-her-face with the gold eyes, don't you? Not that I object on principle, but would it even work if her eyes are solid metal?"

"Well … Maybe we can persuade one of the boys to test it for us?"

After the horrors of the first lecture, Suzi was quite relieved to find out that her groups' next lesson was possibly the most boring one on the whole timetable; Proofreading and Spellchecking for Beginners. Even if the two Killconeys were teaching here as well, and Konnie was still sniggering at random moments – she'd been one of the worst parts of the whole previous lesson, making dark and cryptic comments about "be thankful ye didn't sign up as a ferret" which Suzi didn't understand and wasn't sure she wanted to understand – it was a reasonable class in which to switch off one's brain.

"Now," said the teacher, some Abbey mouse or other whose name Suzi hadn't picked up, "as we said last lesson, using a spellchecker is very important. Unfortunately, it can't catch all mistakes. For example, see these." He patted one of the three Stouts which sat beside his desk. "The word 'stout', s-t-o-u-t, is a perfectly legitimate word, meaning, depending on context, large and bulky, strong and resolute, or a type of alcoholic drink made from malt and hops – the last one being responsible for the unfortunate smell of our new arrivals. Unfortunately, the spellchecker won't pick up whether it's been used in an incorrect context, for example to refer to a musteline creature, which should be a 'stoat', s-t-o-a-t."

Suzi's head slowly eased down towards her desk and her eyes slid shut as the teacher droned on about the Hairs. She managed to sit upright quickly enough not to be noticed when Killconey slapped down a sheet of paper in front of her.

"Now. Pick up your pencils and copy out the sentence; 'Captain Clogg is a stout stoat.' Make sure the spellings are around the correct way," the mouse teacher instructed them, writing said sentence on the board. "Good. Now keep writing it until you can get the spellings correct consistently."

The sound of frantic scribbling filled the room as the Killconey twins bared their fangs in identical evil grins. Suzi blearily stared at the paper and picked up her pen, managing to write the sentence out a few times before everything blurred into rows of squiggles. She felt her eyelids drooping.

She was woken abruptly when two hares slammed open the door and dragged in a struggling Nikki Zorra.

"This is yours, I believe, Saxtus old thing?" said one hare, dropping the vixen, who landed on her rump with a clatter of bangles and a string of highly inappropriate language. "We found her hiding in the broom closet down the hallway with a camera. This was taped to the door." He held up a sign with the words "DELICIOUS CAKE - FREE" scrawled on in pink marker pen, above a cartoonish picture of a cake.

"Not my fault I figured hares would be smart enough not to believe it," Nikki muttered. "I had a specific target in mind, not my fault it was you who opened the door, I just want my cute gullible mustelids …"

She made her way to an empty desk and sat down, her muttered complaints blurring with the sound of pens scratching to form something very close to white noise. It was rather relaxing … Suzi's head rested on the desk and her eyes closed.

Girl Killconey slammed a metal ruler on the desk loudly, taking the tips off four of Suzi's whiskers as she did, and barked "AHA! Are we borin' ye, missy?"

The unfortunate mousemaid sat bolt upright and screamed "Eep no of course I wasn't asleep sorry miss sorry sir!"

Saxtus tutted and looked at her over his glasses. "Falling asleep in class? Goodness, you really don't seem to be taking this lesson seriously. I think double homework should teach you the importance of-"

"WHAT?!" Suzi wailed. "B-b-but I was up all last night, and I'm still in detention-"

"Triple homework," Saxtus said sternly. "Sorry, I'm under strict instructions to make sure everything I teach you sinks in by any means necessary."

Suzi sagged back into her seat, defeated. It looked like she wasn't going to get any sleep tonight either. And it was Sunday tomorrow, so according to the timetable it was a full day of Practical Weaponry …

"Just one of those days," she muttered to herself. "Or two … or three … or a full bloody year looming ahead …"

The door burst open with a crash and Martin practically fell into the office. Miss Minty looked up from her paperwork. Martin or Rose even leaving their room within the first two weeks of the school year was cause for concern; after the disastrous events in the year of the OFUR's founding, they preferred to monitor potentially problematic students on the security cameras and work out a strategy before allowing themselves near the danger zone.

"Abbey Warrior or not, I hope there is a good reason for this intrusion," the wolverine said coldly. "What did I say about knocking before entering my private office? And why do I smell brandy?"

"E-emergency, ma'am," the mouse panted. "You and – whew – you and Mister Kit are needed in the Headmaster's office. Urgent message from PPC Headquarters." He held up a half-empty brandy bottle. "It's medicinal, I swear, ma'am. Trust me, you'll be needing some as well when you find out what's happening! Huh, I thought I was unshockable these days, but …"

"What? We can't be having our Designated Yearly Emergency already, it's not halfway through September yet!" Minty dropped her papers, grabbed her cane, and followed Martin. Kit appeared from his own office next door, dragged by a frantic Laterose, and together the group ran down the corridor to the huge and imposing oaken door of the Headmaster's office.

The room behind the door was in near-darkness, as is appropriate for all mysterious authority figures. Despite the incredibly-expensive-looking high-tech computer on one side of the enormous desk, a well-worn old typewriter occupied pride of place in front of the high-backed swivel chair. The chair was in deep shadow, but there was a suggestion of baldness and beard on the silhouetted figure, and had the co-ordinators looked under the desk they would have seen carpet slippers. Martin and Rose both briefly dropped to one knee in front of the desk, and the co-ordinators bowed.

"Good evening, sir," said Kit.

"Oh, hello there," said the shadowy figure wearily in a broad Liverpudlian accent. "Bad news, I'm afraid."

"We gathered – begging your pardon, sir," said Minty. The figure waved a hand.

"It's alright, Minty, I have bigger things to worry about at the moment." The figure sighed. "My poor creations …" He leaned forward in a businesslike manner. "Now. I want all four of you to promise me – swear to me honestly – that what I show you won't be spread around the staff. I don't want them to get upset, I know what happens when they do and I will not have a repeat of that unfortunate incident with the pet shop owner's son."

"You have our word, sir," Kit assured him. "I speak for all of us, we won't talk."

"Good. I received this" – the word "this" was uttered in tones suggesting the most abominable and unprintable curse possible – "from the Protectors of the Plot Continuum's Department of Intelligence." The Headmaster turned the computer monitor around.

Kit and Minty gaped at what was on the screen. Minty broke the silence.

"Ohh dear."

Miss Minty: Yay! Ten chapters down! We're sorry for the delay and we hope to increase the speed of updates in future – we're both at kind of difficult points in our lives to be keeping up with these, but we try. And the last scene is the beginnings of a tie-in to events in the PPC, which will be showing up later. If you're not familiar with the PPC, just keep reading the OFUR, all will be made clear.

Would like to remind everyone that apps are CLOSED now. May reopen later, but for now we're rapidly losing track of who's who. Give us a chance to catch up. If we do reopen them, Aleen will stay the youngest character because I refuse to include under-elevens in a fic involving so many jokes about bad furry porn, attempted tentacle hentai, drug use (even if so far it's only been catnip), etc. It's not our business if under-thirteens read it and there's no reasonable way we can stop you anyway, just don't tell us and keep it away from your parents.

I actually looked up the details of mouse breeding for this so it would be accurate. See what I do for you people? Look up the ferret thing yourself, unless you want to wait several years for us to reach OFUR-year springtime. (It's actually used as a plot point in my latest fic under my "Laburnum Steelfang" account on ffnet, but that one's rated R and pretty gruesome.)

The Stouts and Hairs are fun. Hairs are misspelled food items and Stouts are misspelled drinks. Still stuck on what to use for a Wilverine, though, maybe we should stick to having only one of those … And here we see what the large heavy thing Cluny was hauling into the building in Chapter 2 is, and what class he's teaching. He will be teaching similarly embarrassing topics later. Ouch.

Since Snowspine is now here, I figure I should plug Vengeance Quest, one of the few epic fanfics I ever actually managed to finish. Gory, but very good stuff. She let me borrow some of her critters for the PPC because I thought they were insanely cool, hence why I'm showing nepotism in the advertising here. I think that's only fair.

Mr Kit: Yeah. Looks like we have a problem.

And as for Cluny, well, expect more. And Signs will be appearing later. Although, I wonder if you can make any guesses from reading what will occur.