Hollowpox The Hunt for Morrigan Crow - Jessica Townsend Page 0,1

her blonde curls swinging dramatically. ‘Oh yes, very funny. Except who’ll be expected to stop the bleeding when she falls onto the tracks and snaps her tibia in half? I bet none of you even knows how to splint a leg.’

‘That’s why we have you, Anah.’ Archan smiled at her, his pale cheeks dimpling, and bent down to help Miss Cheery pick up the scattered papers with his free hand.

‘Yeah, Dr Kahlo,’ added the brawny Thaddea Macleod, nudging Anah in the side and nearly knocking her over. (It was a gentle nudge by Thaddea’s standards, but sometimes she forgot her own considerable strength.)

Anah made a face as she straightened up, but seemed somewhat mollified by Thaddea’s use of the word ‘doctor’.

‘Miss, what’s …’ Archan was staring at one of the papers, frowning in confusion. ‘Are these new timetables?’

‘Thanks, Arch. Help me pass them out, will you?’ the conductor replied, waving Unit 919 onto the train. ‘Come on, everyone aboard or we’ll be late. Francis, put the kettle on please. Lam, hand round the biscuit jar.’

Hawthorne gave Miss Cheery a puzzled look as she handed him his timetable. It was the last day of term, and they usually only received new timetables once a week. ‘You gave us these on Monday, Miss. Remember?’

He dropped into a beanbag while Morrigan settled on the sofa between Cadence and Lambeth, scouring her own timetable. As far as she could tell, it was identical to the one she’d been given at the start of the week: there was Tuesday’s workshop in Undead Dialects, and Wednesday’s masterclass in Observing Planetary Movements, followed by a class in the Sub-Five espionage wing called Cultivating and Handling Informants (that had been Morrigan’s favourite lesson of the week so far – turned out she was quite good at spy stuff).

‘I do remember, yeah,’ said Miss Cheery. ‘Despite my advanced age of twenty-one, Hawthorne, my decrepit brain does still allow me to reach into its vast memory bank to the distant past of four whole days ago.’ She smiled, raising an eyebrow. ‘These are new timetables. Please note where today has been updated.’

Morrigan skipped to Friday’s column and, spotting the difference, asked, ‘What’s C&D?’

‘I’ve got that, too,’ said Hawthorne. ‘C&D, Level Sub-Two. Last class of the day.’

Mahir put his hand up. ‘Me too!’

There was a general murmuring and comparing of schedules, and the scholars found they all had the same class. Mostly their timetables were individualised – tailored by Miss Cheery to help each of them develop their unique talents and work on their weaknesses – and it had been a couple of months since Unit 919 had had any lessons together as a group.

‘Miss, what does C&D stand for?’ asked Francis Fitzwilliam, sounding slightly worried. His brown eyes grew large. ‘Does Aunt Hester know about this? She says she has to approve any changes to my timetable.’

Morrigan raised an eyebrow at Hawthorne, who made a face back at her. Francis’s family went back several generations in the Wundrous Society, on both sides – the famous Fitzwilliams and the admired Akinfenwas. His patron – the Society member who nominated him for admission and therefore had a stake in his education – was his aunt on his father’s side, Hester Fitzwilliam. She was very strict and, in Morrigan’s opinion, a bit of a cow.

‘And she says I’m not to do anything that could put my olfactory instrument at risk,’ Francis went on.

‘What about your old factory?’ asked Thaddea.

‘My nose,’ he clarified. ‘What? Don’t laugh – a chef’s sense of smell is his greatest asset.’ He nervously pressed on the end of his light brown, gently freckled olfactory instrument.

‘No need to worry about your schnoz, Francis,’ said Miss Cheery, with a mysterious sort of half-smile. ‘But I can’t tell you.’

Nine eager faces shot up to look at her, their interest immediately piqued.

Hawthorne sat up straighter. ‘Is it … Climbing and, um … Doing … something?’

‘Nope. Solid guess, though.’

‘Camouflage and Disguise!’ said Thaddea. She twisted her long red hair into a topknot and rolled up her grey shirtsleeves, as if keen to get started immediately. ‘We’re going to learn evasive combat techniques, aren’t we? Finally.’

‘Costumes and Drama?’ was Mahir’s guess.

‘Ooh! Cats and Dogs!’ Anah clapped her hands, bouncing up and down on her cushion. ‘Are we going to play with cats and dogs?’

Miss Cheery laughed at that. ‘Lovely thought, Anah, but not quite.’ She held up her hands for quiet. ‘Now everyone stop guessing, please. My lips are sealed. I am a vault.’

Anah’s shoulders