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an exchange of problems

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Jenner was waiting in the usual place, all alert impatience. He grinned when he saw Justin, though, friendly and sharp and just that bit mocking. “Given up on the farm, have we?”

Justin sighed. ‘Here we go..’ “Well, it’s a bit hard to manage plants larger than we are. Though Nicodemus has some hopes about the berries.” He knew his rueful tone conveyed his own doubts, as Jenner’s rolled eyes showed his. “And how are things in the thieving at the edges of civilization end?”

“Quite well.” Jenner... smugged, there wasn’t a proper human term word for the way his whole body radiated his pleasure. “We’ve got quite a network going with rat colonies across the city, and they’re even sending us children to teach now.” A twitch of his whiskers showed contempt on that point, though, and Justin wondered how many of the city rats had proven not quite as smart as the lab group, in the same way that so many of the woods rats hadn’t. “We sort out the best of them, and give the rest busy work, you know. Useful busy work, mind, but nothing that might give us away.”

“You need a proper sense of caution, working so close to humans.” Justin murmured pensively, and noticed in an offhand way that Jenner was watching him closely. “I wonder... what would your group think of a sort of... exchange program? Like with the trading, only the students would have a choice. Some of your more reckless students for us...” he trailed off, seeing the gleaming light in Jenner’s eyes.

“To teach them caution out in the woods with more things than just cats and humans to worry about, oh yes. And you’ve been having little problems with rats who’d take better to stealing, haven’t you?”

Justin rolled his eyes, this time, and felt his whiskers bristling. “You do not even want to hear what Nicodemus has to say on the subject. Nor do I, come to that, but I’ll listen again if he gives this a chance.”