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more enjoyable than watching a data-crystal. It wasn't passive; the simple act of learning was much more exciting if there was a book to read.

Since his forced alliance with Merreck, he had not been alone in the library either. Jerklenn joined him on most evenings, expanding her own knowledge of her culture's history and traditions. When one of them found a particularly pertinent passage, they informed the other. Vance had never been to college, but he now understood what the fuss was about. The satisfaction he found in learning and gaining knowledge, as well as sharing that knowledge with others, rivalled his other training. In fact, Vance began to liken it to the camaraderie he had felt when training with other Earth-Force recruits.

'What are you smiling at?' Jerklenn asked him one evening.

'Just thinking,' Vance replied. 'If the guys in my old unit could see me now, they'd think I was mad, or just soft. Spending R&R time studying was definitely frowned upon back on Earth by most EarthForce grunts.'

'What is "R&R"?'

'Rest & Recuperation. After you've had a tough time on manoeuvres, you kick back and relax.'

Jerklenn still looked a little confused. 'What do you "kick back" against?'

'I think maybe you should spend more time studying Earth colloquialisms. It might make these little interludes easier on me.'

'Well, we are here to be educated, so educate me.'

Vance considered which details on EarthForce ground pounders at play to share with her, but before he had chance, a figure stepped into the dimly lit library.

'Jerklenn, I would speak with you.' Merreck stood in the doorway, arms folded. Vance was surprised. Who did Merreck think he was, demanding to speak to Jerklenn like that? What surprised Vance more was that Jerklenn immediately stood
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