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model. However, Mishal explained the main differences. The Fan'ir Ranger flyer was a combat version of the standard model: stealthier, more heavily reinforced, and sporting an advanced weapons array. Vance drank in the explanation of the control and weapons systems. He listened avidly to Mishal's safety code and, after several minutes, was practically itching to start the test flight. Then before any of them had a chance to sit in the pilot's seat, the lesson ended.

Vance could barely hide his disappointment.

At lunch he sat with the same five trainees as at breakfast. William seemed almost bewildered by the brevity and pace of their lessons. The other two humans just looked tired. 'All this after just five hours sleep? How do they expect us to cope?' William seemed a wholly different person to the ebullient acolyte at breakfast.

The female Minbari leaned forward. 'Today is simply to introduce us to the main disciplines. I am sure the pace will slow.

'I didn't catch your name,' said Vance.

'Jerklenn,' she replied.

'Well, Jerklenn. This is William, and I'm Vance. Pleased to meet you.' He held out his hand. Jerklenn looked at it as though Vance had just visited the latrine and not washed up afterward. Slowly, she extended her own hand and grasped his. The gesture was awkward, with Jerklenn obviously unaccustomed to handshaking, and she attempted an awkward smile that looked as hesitant and out of place as the handshake.

'Tell me,' he said, motioning toward the rigid figure of Merreck, who was even now frowning in Vance's direction. 'What is that guy's problem? I know he's Warrior Caste and probably has to put on an air of superiority, but he seems to be singling me out for special attention.'

Jerklenn didn't have to look to know whom Vance was speaking
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