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was as much an outsider in this environment as he was. 'I understand,' he said. 'You see, we have common ground already.'

At first she regarded him with suspicion, as if this might be another way to poke fun at her. When she realised his comment was sincere, she returned his smile. Vance held out his hand, hoping that Jerklenn would be a little more comfortable with the human gesture than when they first met. She grasped his hand firmly, a little too firmly for a woman, and shook. Before he could say another word, she glanced over his shoulder and her smile dropped. Vance turned, and there stood Merreck. He levelled a disapproving glance not at Vance, but at the small figure of Jerklenn.

This is going to end in another beating, Vance thought, as he turned and squared up to the powerful Minbari. Mer-reck ignored him and continued to stare at Jerklenn.

'You need something?' said Vance.

'From you, nothing,' Merreck said, without taking his eyes from Jerklenn. Before Vance could think of a retort, Merreck spun on his heels and marched away.

'What was all that about?' asked Vance, turning. Jerklenn was nowhere in sight.

* * *

They had their evening meal, but Jerklenn never arrived. With the buzz of the day's test, nobody but Vance seemed to miss her. As he finished his meal, Vance realised Merreck was absent too.

For a second Vance considered searching for them. He had visions in his head of Merreck tearing into Jerklenn, chastising her for daring to speak to a human. But before he could begin his search, he remembered his appointment with Durhan in the combat hall. He could not afford to miss this lesson. He only hoped his fears for Jerklenn were unfounded.

The training hall was wreathed in shadow. The only discernible features were the outline of
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