seemed to pale visibly, then he slowly turned. Weekes followed his gaze. Randell stood directly behind them, clutching his tray, piled high with an assortment of starters, mains and desserts. His look showed none of its usual jovial demeanour.
'Any room?' he asked quietly. Chavez and Weekes almost leapt apart as Randell squeezed between them. 'Take no notice, Vance. These guys could never make it; that's why they're goading you. Besides, they probably don't know about your "exemplary" test results.'
Weekes whistled a low trill that made Randell glance at him, eyebrow raised. Weekes kept his eyes firmly on his food tray, and Randell shook his head. 'I reckon they'd love to apply too. They just don't have the stones.'
'Hey,' said Chavez, 'we was only kidding. Congratulations, buddy. I'm sure you'll do great.'
'Yeah,' agreed Weekes, 'well done. When's the party?'
'Well, they did suggest I use my leave before training begins. How about a trip to Mars? Some R&R with a long-legged Martian lovely might be just the celebration I need.' Vance beamed at the thought.
Chavez stared open-mouthed. 'Er, I don't know if you've been keeping up with news. Riots? Terrorists? Mars ain't exactly a holiday camp these days.'
'Yeah,' said Weekes, 'and apparently the recycled air makes your skin go funny.'
Vance laid down his fork, looking seriously at Chavez and Weekes. 'Are you sure you're both EarthForce officers and not spies for the Little Girl's Brigade? Where's your sense of adventure?'
'Adventure's one thing,' replied Chavez, 'but Earth-Force ain't real popular on Mars right now. We'd be walking targets as soon as we landed. How about Wyoming Rec Dome? I hear it's wild this time of year.'
Vance began to dig into his meal once again. 'You ladies go to Wyoming