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blinking the tears from his eyes, he focused his blurry vision on Merreck once more. The Minbari simply waited, knowing he had the upper hand. To his right, Vance noticed Durhan pacing toward the combat circle. Jerklenn ran toward him, demanding he do something to stop the fight, but Durhan shook his head. Vance could not hear their exact words, but Durhan was bound by the laws of the combat circle. And since Vance made the challenge in the first place, he had to see it through to the end.

Vance needed to take the initiative before he became disoriented, before Merreck could take advantage. But how was he going to do it? The Minbari was just standing there waiting for him. He cast his mind back through all of his EarthForce combat training. Surely there must be something in his repertoire he could use, some dirty trick that would tip the balance.

In the two seconds he had to think, he realised there was nothing: no move, no feint, no dupe could be used to defeat Merreck. He knew this must be why they had been losing the war before the Minbari had surrendered at the Battle of the Line. There was no option but to adopt the same policy EarthForce had used.

Vance charged in. The smile instantly dropped from Merreck's face as he lowered himself into a crouching defence. In the time it took him to cover the distance between them, Vance forgot all his denn'bok training. The weapon was now a useless piece of metal in his hands. He swung it sideways at Merreck, who easily batted it aside. As the denn'boks clashed, Vance loosed his hold on the weapon and barged straight into his opponent. Merreck had not expected a brawl, but he adapted instantly, moving backward and allowing Vance's own attack to overbalance him. As Vance fell forward, almost on top of Merreck, the Minbari
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