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apologetically. He and Vance stared at one another again. Vance heard footsteps behind him, probably the maitre'd or owner. The Colonel looked past him, at whoever was approaching. He didn't say a word, nor did he have to; the look on his face could have dissuaded a charging bull. The footsteps stopped and then retreated in the opposite direction. Vance never took his eyes off his father.

'Despite what you think of me, this mission is too important for you to turn down.' The Colonel's voice was quiet and controlled once more.

'Why me?' asked Vance.

'Because you're young, you're the best and not least of all, because you're my son.'

Vance almost reeled. Many years had passed since he'd heard his father utter that rare admittance.

'I'm sorry, Colonel, but it's out of the question. I intend to join up with the Razvedchiks, and nothing will stop me.'

'Don't you even want to hear the details? I guarantee you'll be intrigued at the very least.'

'Can't hurt, I suppose,' said Vance, picking up his fork and girding himself enough to pierce one of the under-cooked squid carcasses on his oversized plate.

'Good,' said the Colonel. 'Obviously everything I'm about to tell you is deemed confidential under the Earth-Force Military Secrets Act.' He paused, waiting for Vance to acknowledge what he had just said. Vance nodded. 'I was recently contacted by an old colleague of mine, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair. I don't know if you've heard of him?'

Vance swallowed a half-chewed piece of the rubbery invertebrate. 'Pilot in the Minbari War. Highly decorated. Used to run this place until he took a position as Earth Ambassador to Minbar. We learned about him in Military History.'

'Well, Sinclair and I were at the Academy together. We went our separate ways when he signed
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