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looks, gruel dripping from the side of his mouth. A couple of the male recruits were smiling, and Vance noticed Jerklenn was still eating, obviously trying to ignore him. 'Don't tell me you guys aren't starving,' said Vance.

'We're a little hungry, sure, but anyone would think you hadn't eaten for days.'

Vance frowned. Was this some kind of joke? 'I haven't eaten for days. Did you guys not go through the same thing I did? The tunnel, the darkness, the wild growly monster thing?'

'Dark and definitely subterranean, sure, but we all got fed. Only once a day though. And what growly thing?' Vance could tell from his tone that William was not kidding.

'You guys don't mean the blue lichen stuff do you?' It was a tentative question, but deep down Vance already knew the answer.

'No. Dry Minbari bread, water and some kind of meat sausage type stuff.'

'Kaer'vas,' said Jerklenn, as if suddenly intrigued by their conversation.

'Yes, that's it,' William looked suddenly enthused, 'kaer'vas. It was quite nice actually. Don't tell me you actually ate the lichen. That stuff smelled disgusting. Didn't you find the rations?'

Vance began to think back, unsure of whether to be angry or flattered. He remembered Turval's words that the trial was much harder for him than for the rest. Well, it would appear it was. Then it made sense. Vance had more military training than any of the other recruits, with the possible exception of Merreck, and three days underground with food and water would not be much of a trial for him. To raw recruits, however, he could imagine how disconcerting it could be, especially when surrounded by the unknown and the darkness.

Without a word he finished his breakfast gruel, now feeling no embarrassment at the gusto with which he wolfed it down.
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