Trader's World
used to be an enormous big Greaser whore down in Punta Arenas. I bet she's still there. Her name is Little Suzie. I always wondered what it would feel like to jump on top of her. 'Course, she has sixteen sorts of pox, but if you'll go there and take a wallow, then come back here and tell me all about it, I'll pay you out of my pension."
    Of course, Jack Lester, what was left of him, was clinically insane. His conversation proved it. But he was still the Traders' best proof that help was always on the way.
    * * *
    Lover-boy Lester was far from Mike Asparian's thoughts as he sat in Lyle Connery's office. He had more immediate things to worry about. This was going to be the big one, the ultimate test that decided whether or not he would become a full-fledged Trader.
    "Final Trial, so of course you're entitled to help from a Mentor," Lyle Connery was saying. "But I'm afraid we're having Mentor communication problems in Strine territory. Probably a Chill jammer in there. If you lose contact, you'll have to use the old-fashioned back-up system. This is a Trader recording disk. We used them as standard operating procedure before we had the Mentors. This one replaces your top shirt button."
    Mike looked dubiously at the training director, then at the tiny disk on the table in front of them. It was about a quarter inch across and made of a white pearly material.
    "Don't worry, it's unobtrusive and it works." Connery reached out a muscular bare arm and held the disk on edge between thumb and forefinger. "Audio and visuals. Not as good as a Mentor, but pretty good quality. All you have to do is make sure you give it a clear field of view. Just be sure you bring it back—swallow it, if you have to."
    "But suppose it's—what if I—"
    "Excrete it?"
    "Yes."
    "You won't. When the disk senses the composition of digestive juices, it extrudes hook attachments and stays put. It will be in your stomach until we take it out."
    Mike looked again at Lyle Connery's expressionless face. This was the final test. According to camp rumors, any trick in the book could be thrown at a trainee. But surely there were limits. "Suppose the Strines take it out first?"
    "That's a danger. But you can decrease the chances of that. Tell them you're part black. That way they'll be less likely to do any fancy cutting up on you. They save their most elaborate interrogations for white people. Illogical, but it's built into their prejudices."
    "According to the gene codings, I am partly black."
    Connery consulted the screen in front of him. "So you are. Then you ought to be convincing." The disk came rolling on its edge across the table toward Mike. "One other thing: has anyone talked to you about your Mentor assignment?"
    "No. The Medlab people said they were waiting for Daddy-O's assignment of somebody with the right Strineland experience."
    Connery frowned. "That should be easy enough. Let me find out what Daddy-O has been up to. You'll need a day or two to adjust to the presence of the Mentor, and your flight to Orklan is scheduled forty-eight hours from now. We don't have much time. You need to go and get an equipment check, and then you'll need a time-zone and a seasickness shot. You can get all those at the clinic. Might as well do it now."
    Mike was dismissed. Lyle Connery waited until he was gone, then shook his head in perplexity. He called for a Daddy-O voice and video connection.
    "Are you sure you want to do this?" he said as soon as the connect light came on. "I have to believe you know what you are doing—but in five years as an instructor, I've never seen a trainee treated this way."
    "State your objections."
    "You're not being fair to Asparian. This is his first solo mission. We usually pick out something simple as the entry test for full Trader status. But this mission profile would scare a Trader with twenty years' experience. It's too tough for him."
    "Need I remind you that you are the one who has constantly lauded Asparian's superior talents and

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