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Vaughan Roberts, his muscles tired and sore, stood in the clearing with the other recruits, waiting for the last test to begin. Roberts leaned into the wind that had sprung up, and that made the branches of the trees lift and sway, hiding and then uncovering the dazzling sun. The shifting shadow and glare made it hard to see the guide who had led them almost to the end of the training course, and who now spoke to them from a low platform of logs at the edge of the clearing.

"Just one final test, gentlemen," the guide was saying, "and then your training will be over, and you will be full members of the Interstellar Patrol.

"There isn't much to this final exercise, but you must carry it out successfully to pass the course, so you might be interested in a few brief comments.

"To survive, and successfully do his duty, a member of the Interstellar Patrol must make the right use of courage. This quality is so important the final test will emphasize the proper use of courage.

"Now, this is not a complicated test. But it has its points, gentlemen, as I think you will agree after it is over.

"The problem is simply to climb a rock face twenty-five feet in height, onto the ledge at the top. The climb is not difficult, but to get to this rock face, you must first cross a wide, shallow pool. It is a pretty pool, at first glance. But it is stocked with carnivorous fish.

"Remember, gentlemen, this is a test in the proper use of courage. You may not enjoy it, but you must do the best you can to succeed, whatever that may involve.

"To avoid too high a loss rate, the test will be given by simulator. You will experience a highly realistic illusion, that, to your senses, will be the same as if it were real.

"As an aid in learning, a special guide will be assigned to each one of you in this final test."

* * *

Roberts abruptly found himself standing in the quiet shade of tall trees, on a stony slope that slanted gradually down to a wide, shallow pool of sparkling, splashing water. Directly across the pool was a narrow border of marsh, rising to a steep forested hill farther back. To Roberts' left, across the length of the pool, was a gray rock face, down which a rivulet of water trickled onto a wide rock shelf, whence it flowed quietly into the pool.

For an instant, the scene seemed pleasant. Then Roberts realized that the sparkle and splash were caused by sleek steel-gray forms that burst up out of the water to snap, and then splatter and splash the surface. The ceaseless flash and snap, and the splatter and splash as the carnivorous fish fell back, now made the pool look to him like a kind of seething hellish cauldron.

Just as the full impact of the scene hit Roberts, a powerfully built figure in the shadows near the edge of the pool turned toward him. Wearing a tight, black one-piece garment, with three rows of ribbons at the left chest, and wide belt bearing knife and fusion gun, this figure was plainly the special guide. Roberts, relieved, waited for instructions.

The guide raised one muscular arm, and swept it out across the pool toward the rock face.

"Don't hesitate. This is a courage test. In you go, and head straight for that rock face!"

Roberts, relieved to have some clear-cut direction, started forward.

Ahead of him, the water seethed.

Roberts fixed his mind on the rock face across the pool, made a rapid estimate of the distance, and then saw with a start that the water was so roiled up that he couldn't see the bottom.

The voice of the first guide, back at the clearing, came to him: "The problem is simply to climb a rock face twenty-five feet in height, onto the ledge at its top."

There across the pool was the rock face and the ledge. But considering that these fish were carnivorous, how could he get through them, across a possibly uneven bottom that he couldn't see, without being eaten up on the way?

Nearby, the special guide called sharply, "Don't hesitate! Keep moving!"

Roberts hesitated, then with an effort kept going.

In front of him, the steel-gray forms leaped out, their sharp jaws flashing with a knifelike glint.

The guide, his voice approving, shouted, "Good lad! Now, straight for that cliff!"

Roberts' mind seemed split in halves. Thoughts flashed through his consciousness in a chaotic rush:

"Don't hesitate! Keep moving!"

"There isn't much to this final exercise, but you must carry it out successfully to pass the course."

"Don't hesitate. This is a courage test. In you go, and head straight for that rock face!"

"The problem is simply to climb a rock face . . ."

"Now, go straight for the cliff!"

"Remember, gentlemen, this is a test in the proper use of courage."

"Don't hesitate. This is a courage test . . ."

" . . . A test in the proper use of courage."

Across the pool, the rock face loomed like a mirage over the water. Ten feet out from shore, a big steel-gray muscular form leaped high and fell back, and the splash briefly uncovered a glistening human rib cage.

Roberts stopped in his tracks.

The special guide whirled, put his hand on Roberts' shoulder, and said sharply, "Go straight in! Even if you don't make it, I'll vouch for your courage. That's all you need to pass the courage test! Now, move!"

He gave Roberts a push to start him into the pool.

Abruptly the two divided halves of Roberts' mind came back together again. He ducked free of the pushing hand, pivoted, and smashed his fist into the guide's muscular midsection.

The guide doubled over, his arms flew out, and he slammed back into some kind of invisible barrier, that recoiled and threw him back toward Roberts. The guide recovered himself, and his hand flashed toward his fusion gun.

Roberts hit him again in the midsection.

The guide went down, and at once came up on one knee, still groping for the fusion gun.

Roberts jerked him to his feet, and knocked him down for the third time.

The guide landed full length on the ground, and Roberts bent to swiftly take the belt, with its knife and gun. He had hardly straightened, when the guide again struggled to get up, and Roberts cracked him over the head with the gun.

The guide sat back down with a grunt, then started up again.

Roberts stepped back, frowning. He held the gun in one hand, and the belt, with holster and sheathed knife, dangled from the other hand. So far, he hadn't been able to put the special guide down long enough to fasten the belt.

The words of their original guide, back in the clearing, came to him:

"Now, this is not a complicated test. But it has its points, gentlemen, as I think you will agree after it is over."

Roberts glanced out at the seething pool, and back at the grim-faced special guide, just coming to his feet.

Despite the gun, the guide suddenly rushed him. Roberts landed a terrific kick to the base of the chest.

The guide went down, and this time it looked as if he might stay there a while.

Roberts clasped the belt around his waist, looked at the fish springing from the water, glanced back at the motionless guide, then looked around, spotted a length of fallen branch lying on the ground with most of the twigs rotted off. He picked up the branch and swung it over the pool, the far end dipping into the water.

Instantly, the water exploded in gray forms.

Snap! SNAP! Snap!

The branch lightened in his hand as two-and-a-half feet at the far end disappeared.

Roberts glanced around at the guide, already starting to shake his head dazedly. With his thumb, Roberts felt the end of the stick. It was cut off smooth, as if by a sharp curved blade.

The guide sat up, his eyes focused on Roberts. He came to his feet in one fluid motion.

Roberts aimed the gun at the guide's head.

The guide's eyes glinted, and he started forward. His voice had a sharp ring of authority.

"Drop the gun. I'm coming to take it, Mister. Drop it!"

Roberts depressed the fusion gun's trigger, and the searing pencil of energy sprang out, missing the guide's head by several inches.

Roberts said flatly, "Halt!"

The guide halted, face stern and eyes intent.

"Now," said Roberts, "just back up to where you were."

The guide didn't budge. "You won't get away with this!"

Roberts watched him alertly.

"I won't get away with what?"

"Cowardice! You don't show the guts to do as you're told! Now, drop that gun!"

Roberts kept the gun aimed at the guide.

"I was told to climb that rock face. I can't climb it if I don't last long enough to get near it. To obey your instructions would guarantee that I wouldn't do what I am supposed to do."

"I told you, Mister, that if you showed courage, I'd vouch for you!"

"That's nice. But that won't get me up that rock face."

The guide's voice came out in a deadly menacing tone.

"Do you question my word?"

"Yes," said Roberts. "As a matter of fact, I question everything about you. I have a suspicion that somewhere there's a complicated little network that projects a mass of muscle, an empty head, and a loud voice, with built-in responses, and that's all there is to you. There's something about you that fits the Interstellar Patrol like oars on a spaceship. Incidentally, I notice you haven't stepped back. Back up!"

Glowering, the muscular figure backed up several feet.

"All right," said Roberts, "turn around."

"Go to hell."

Roberts aimed the fusion gun at the guide's midsection. "Friend, there's a kind of courage that makes sense, and there's another kind that's stupid, even in an illusion. The more I see of you, the more convinced I am that the Patrol would never have let you in. It follows that what you really are is a special kind of highly advanced electronic booby trap. You almost got me into that pool, but not quite. That push was too much. If this were strictly a test of raw courage, I'd have had to go in under my own power.

"I was helping you."

"That's the point. That help would spoil the test."

The guide spoke in a reasonable, persuasive voice. "I could see you weren't going to make it without help."

"In that case, I'd have been allowed to fail. What's the point of a test if you pass those who should fail?"

The guide now looked sympathetic.

"Lad, I knew a little help at the right time would get you over the hurdle. I never thought you'd show a yellow streak this wide. But I'm still willing to overlook all of this, if—"

Roberts shook his head critically. "Among other things, now you're ignoring the fact that I was given a definite goal, with no set time limit. Why should I have to immediately jump in with the carnivorous fish? I was told to cross that pool and climb up that rock face onto the ledge. That may involve the right use of courage, but instant suicide won't accomplish the job."

"Well, now, that about the rock face was only how it was expressed. The thing is to show courage. That's the test!"

"When you're ordered to attack, the thing to do is to just rush in quick where the defenses are thickest, eh?"

The guide looked reasonable again.

"What do you gain by delay? Sooner or later, you'll have to go in. There's a field of force on all sides of us, overhead, and under the ground surface, that leaves just this space between this edge of the pool and the trees. The only opening in the field is toward the pool. There is no other way out. What do you gain by putting it off? I'll overlook what you've done if—"

"Turn around," said Roberts.

The guide looked blank, and ignored the demand.

Roberts shifted the gun slightly.

"Turn around."

The muscular figure turned around.

Roberts said, "Lie flat on your face, hands at your sides. Now, keep your arms straight, but work your hands and arms under your body, so your right thigh pins your right hand, and your left thigh pins your left hand. All right, work the whole length of your arms under. Stay that way."

The guide lay flat on his face in the stony dirt.

Roberts walked over.

"Bend your legs slowly at the knee. Raise your feet."

Roberts piled stones on the guide's shoulders, and on the flat soles and heels of the guide's boots.

"Now, don't move, or the stones will fall off, and the clatter will warn me."

* * *

Roberts walked back near the water's edge, and looked out over the pool. He had one obstacle temporarily out of the way, but he was still a long distance from that ledge. He carefully felt along the invisible barrier, and, so far as he could judge, it was exactly as described. It felt somewhat like the edge of a kind of large transparent balloon, yielding as he pressed against it, but growing progressively harder to force back as he displaced it. When he stopped pushing, it forced him back.

As he moved around, he glanced repeatedly at the guide, who was cooperating, so far.

There seemed to be no way around the barrier, and very possibly no way to shorten the distance across that stretch of seething water. What the bottom was like was anyone's guess, but it could be uneven blocks of rock, covered with slime, and littered with the skeletons of past victims. From what Roberts had seen, ten seconds in that water would guarantee that he wouldn't climb that rock face.

A dull glint from the direction of the rock face briefly caught his attention, but, when he looked, he saw nothing different, and merely retained the impression of a falling rock. He glanced around.

There had to be some way to either get over the pool without going in it, or to deceive or eliminate the fish.

Roberts glanced at his prisoner, then looked at the forest cut off from him by the unseen barrier. Experimentally, he fired his fusion gun. Swinging the beam to be sure he was seeing what he thought he was seeing, he found that the barrier stopped the beam each time. It didn't reflect it. It seemed to absorb it. That meant that he couldn't hope to fell across the pool any of the tall trees beyond the barrier. And where the fusion beam could reach, there were no trees close enough to the pool to do any good.

* * *

Roberts watched the fish leaping from the water, raised the gun, waited, then aimed at a gleaming gray form, and squeezed the trigger.

A large sharp-jawed fish dropped back, eyes bulging, hit awkwardly on its side, and flopped around on the surface.

All across the pool, the leaping and splashing stopped. The surface of the water roiled in a hundred swift brief currents. The injured fish was jerked, wrenched, and ripped to bits, sharp snouts and sleek flanks showing for just an instant around it.

Roberts aimed carefully, and fired a second time.

A second fish twisted up nearly out of the water, and fell back with a flat splash.

The others at once tore it to shreds.

Roberts fired a third time, at an exposed flank.

A third fish flopped on the surface.

The water around the injured fish was alive with snapping, tearing, steel-gray forms.

Back of Roberts, there was the clatter of a fallen rock.

In rapid succession, Roberts fired at several more fish, then glanced back.

The guide had dumped the stones from one foot, and was carefully lowering the other.

Again, out of the corner of his eye, Roberts sensed motion at the rock face. But there was no time to look in that direction.

He fired carefully, just over the guide's head.

The guide froze.

Roberts turned back, and glanced briefly at the rock face. All that moved there was falling water.

He looked back at the pool, and fired at another fish, and then another.

He kept firing methodically, until suddenly there were no more targets.

A few bits and fragments floated on the surface, but nothing attacked them. The flying insects ranged over the pool unmolested.

Now, supposedly the remaining fish were glutted. If so, it should be safe to go across the pool.

Roberts glanced at the rock face to his left, estimated the distance, and blinked.

Down this face of rock, along with the trickle of water, flopped a sleek steel-gray form, bounding and turning, to hit the rock shelf below, where the water flowed out toward the pool, with a loud splat.

Roberts abruptly realized what this would do to his plans, and raised the gun.

Behind him, there was a crash of pebbles, and a sudden scramble.

The guide was on his feet, hurtling straight for him.

* * *

Roberts sprang aside.

The guide changed direction and slid, then Roberts was back out of the way, and put the thin, dazzling beam of the fusion gun in front of the guide's eyes.

The guide stopped.

Now, Roberts thought, he had survived that.

But, at the same time, that one fish that had come down the rock face had flopped into the pool. And that fish wasn't glutted.

Roberts glanced out at the water, and the bits and fragments were no longer floating on the surface. But that little appetizer wouldn't be enough. The fish would still be hungry.

There was a splash, and out of the corner of his eye, Roberts could see the sleek gray form fall back and vanish, after snapping up one of the flying insects.

The guide said, "Drop the gun," and began to slowly walk toward Roberts. "Drop it!"

Roberts put the beam of the fusion gun over the guide's left shoulder. Then he put it past the guide's head, over the right shoulder.

The guide grinned, and his eyes glowed.

He kept coming.

From the direction of the rock face, something flashed briefly, falling down the stream that flowed over the rock, to hit with a splat.

The guide charged.

Roberts sprang aside, kicked him under the chin, whirled like a ballet dancer, and hammered him across the back of the neck as he passed.

The guide grabbed unsuccessfully at Roberts' leg, then went down on his hands and knees.

Roberts said coldly, "It's a mistake to try unarmed combat on a man armed with a knife and a gun." But he was noting that blows that would have killed an ordinary person were about as effective with this opponent as taps with a length of rolled-up paper.

The guide stumbled to his feet, turned and faced Roberts. "You won't fire the gun or use the knife. Not to kill me. Because you're yellow." He straightened, and his face showed pitying sympathy. "Sorry, lad, but you're yellow."

The guide began walking calmly toward Roberts, his face sure and confident. "Drop the gun. You won't use it. Drop it."

Roberts aimed at the guide's head.

The guide kept coming, his face reflecting quiet confidence.

Robert squeezed the trigger.

The fusion beam hit the guide's left eye. There was a dazzling white glow, the flesh peeled back like paper in a fire, and there was a splintering crack! Bits and fragments of glass or plastic, glowing redly, flew out in a shower.

"Halt!" said Roberts.

The guide halted.

Where the flesh had peeled back to expose the left eye socket, a silvery glitter showed instead of bone.

Roberts reminded himself, all this was taking place in a simulator. But the problem remained.

Roberts studied the motionless roboid "special guide" and said, "I didn't realize the Patrol was so hard-pressed for manpower that it was recruiting humanoid robots."

"No, sir."

"How come that now I'm 'sir'?"

"At this stage, sir, I am programmed to so address you."

"You will obey my orders, now?"

"Yes, sir.

"At this stage?"

"Yes, sir.

"So that, if I order you to go over to the water and kneel down you will do it?"

"Yes, sir."

"And if I command you to carry me piggyback across that pool, you will carry me piggyback across the pool."

"I will obey you in this phase, and, at your order, will do anything I am capable of doing."

That left unanswered the question whether the robot was capable of carrying him across. It also raised another point. Roberts cleared his throat.

"When does 'this phase' end?"

"When an internal mechanism gives the appropriate command signal, sir."

"When will that happen?"

"I cannot predict, sir. It depends on circumstances."

Roberts nodded. That fit in. The "command signal" would be given at that unpredictable moment when Roberts stuck his neck out far enough for the "guide" to heave him into the pool.

"I see," said Roberts. "Can you cross that pool without being attacked?"

"The fish are turned back by a chemical repellent with which my garment has been impregnated. Sir. They would otherwise bite me as they would bite you; but they would not ingest my substance, as it is not nourishing to them."

"All right. Go over near the edge of the water, and kneel down."

* * *

The robot willingly and obediently went near the edge of the water and knelt down.

Now, thought Roberts, if he climbed on its back, it would take him partway across and then toss him to the fish.

The function of this "special guide" seemed to be to give disastrous advice and murderous assistance. It followed that there was only one thing to do.

Roberts stepped back, aimed deliberately at the base of the robot's neck, and depressed the trigger.

The fusion beam sprang out.

There was a flare of flame, flying sparks, the "head" tilted and separated from the robot's body, and the body rose and wheeled toward Roberts.

Roberts shifted his aim to the lower chest, and the robot fell forward on the sand.

From the rock face to one side a dull flash briefly caught Roberts' attention.

Down the rock face, another steel-gray wetly gleaming length of muscle and hunger tumbled, to land with a splat, and flop into the pond.

Roberts wiped the sweat out of his eyes, warily circled the human-like form, and crouched near its feet. Carefully, he undid the boots, and, holding the gun, stood thoughtfully considering the one-piece garment. He carefully pulled off the boots, but he had a disinclination to get in reach of the arms, however motionless the robot might seem.

Was the thing out of action, or wasn't it?

He stepped back, found what was left of the long stick he'd held over the water, lightly pressed the end to the edge of the one-piece garment, partway up the back. He moved the stick as if he were tugging at the cloth with his fingers.

Pebbles flew and dust whirled as the headless robot sprang at the stick.

Roberts fired at the robot's lower chest, and again it dropped to the ground.

Now, this time was it finally out of action, or wasn't it?

And what if, in trying to make sure he had hit the control mechanism, he hit the energy-source instead?

Roberts blew out his breath and stubbornly considered the situation.

The obvious thing to do was to get that repellent-impregnated garment.

Roberts raised the gun, and methodically burned the thick arms off the trunk of the mechanism, cut a line across the garment with the fusion beam, warily took hold, and pulled the garment free. A hard kick threw him back and could have knocked him into the pool if he hadn't expected it. But now he had the cut, but still usable, garment. And he could see that he was going to need it.

* * *

Down the rock face across the pool, another steel-gray form spun and fell, hit the shelf below with a splat, and flopped into the pool.

With an influx like that, there must be some way out for the fish already in the pool. But from where he was, Roberts couldn't see it. He shook his head, put the garment on over his fatigues, put his shoes back on, started for the pool, and then paused, looking at the robot.

The headless, armless torso had rolled toward the place where he would have landed if that last kick had fully connected, and now it was feeling carefully with its feet along the water's edge. Finding nothing, it lay still.

Roberts stood frowning.

Considering the source, how had he come to take that piece of information for granted?

He took his shoes off, and pulled off the robot's repellent-impregnated garment. He put his shoes back on, searched along the edge of the invisible barrier, found a second long stick, tied one leg of the garment to the stick, and let the other end of the garment hang free. He walked down near the water's edge, swung the stick out over the water, and dipped about eight inches of the garment into the water.

The stick jerked in his hands. The garment was cut off in a ragged edge half-a-foot above the water, and the steel-gray forms shot up in a boiling froth to snap bits off the part that dangled higher yet.

Roberts straightened.

This was the "repellent-impregnated" garment he had almost relied on.

Roberts glanced around at the robot, saw it was too far away to bother him, drew the fusion gun, lowered the remainder of the garment's dangling leg barely into the water, and shot the first fish to leap out after it.

Other fish attacked that one, and, using his tried and proved method, Roberts reduced their numbers by enough to satisfy the appetite of the remainder.

And once again the pond became placid.

* * *

The robot was now exploring the far edge of the barrier's opening on the pool.

Roberts, thinking over the situation, decided that things were about as favorable as he could hope to get them. Most of the fish in the pond should now be digesting the last meal, and any that might still be hungry ought to be attracted first to the remaining cloth on the end of the stick, rather than to him.

Dipping the cloth in the water, with the stick held in his left hand, Roberts eased carefully into the pool. The fusion gun, he held in his right hand, ready to use in case the cloth were attacked. But when he tried to move forward, his feet at once came up against some obstruction. He tried in a different place, with the same result.

The trip across now turned into a nightmare all on its own. Through the water, still murky, but no longer so badly stirred up, loomed skeletal rib cages and piles of bones. Here and there, a fish hung sluggishly, fins moving spasmodically. Roberts worked his way across, looking up frequently at the rock face, down which from time to time fell a steel-gray form that he had to kill before it got in the pool, because, if he didn't finish it, it might very well finish him.

By the time Roberts was halfway across, the worst of the horror looming up at him through the water had begun to ease off. The bottom was becoming clearer, apparently because most of the victims had never made it this far.

From there on, suddenly it became almost easy, and the bottom was so flat and unobstructed that just a little carelessness on Roberts' part would have dropped him down a narrow vertical cleft not eight feet from the edge of the rock shelf. He got across that with a sense of relief, reached the shelf, and just then something tugged at his shoe.

The cloth on the stick jerked, there was a splash, a sense of something brushing his leg, and when he looked down, the water was stained with red.

He threw the remainder of the "repellent-impregnated" garment into the pool, and pulled himself out on the rock shelf. He moved over near the face of the rock, took off his shirt, and bound it tightly around his badly bitten lower leg.

Now he discovered that the shoe of the same leg had been cut open, and he was bleeding from inside the shoe.

He took the shoe off, clenched his jaw at the sight, tore off strips of his ragged trouser legs, bound his foot, put the cut shoe back on, and laced it tight.

The bandages were turning red, but there was nothing he could do about that. He looked up at the rock face, which was apparently a form of shale, with many little ledges, some of them dry, and some of them, where the water flowed down, wet and mossy. The face wasn't vertical, but if he should slip, there was nothing there to give his bare hands a real hold until he hit the rock shelf at the bottom.

Carefully, he started to climb, clenching his jaw against the pain from his leg. About fifteen feet up, there came a flop-thump from above, and one of the steel-gray fish bounced past, snapping at him on the way by.

Roberts began to climb again. When he had almost reached the ledge, he paused, studying the green moss at its rim just above. The moss had little stalks on it, and each stalk had a set of miniature spikes at its end.

What would happen if he touched that? Was it, perhaps, poisonous?

He looked around, then carefully worked to the side, and now he was on slippery wet rock. There was still moss up above, and he kept moving to the side.

Overhead, an occasional insect flashed out over the edge of the ledge, and then darted back again.

Another carnivorous fish flopped over the edge, and snapped its jaws shut not three inches from Roberts' left shoulder. He kept moving steadily to the side.

Finally, there was no moss up above, and no flying insects darting into view and back again.

Cautiously, he worked his way up onto the ledge.

To the side, where he would have come up if he had climbed straight up, was the edge of a shallow pool into which water flowed from a further, more gentle, incline of rock. Over this pool, flying insects darted irregularly back and forth, to vanish suddenly as the fish shot up and snapped their jaws.

Roberts straightened and drew a deep breath.

Provided he had understood the rules in the first place, he had finally made it.

* * *

Abruptly the scene vanished.

The familiar guide—who had been with them throughout the course—looked at him with a smile.

"Well, Roberts, you made it."

"Thank you, sir. It's over?"

"It's over. And you are now a full member of the Interstellar Patrol. There will be a little ceremony later on, when the others join us.

"'The others'?"

"Your fellow basic trainees. I regret to say, Roberts, that even among the best material for the Patrol, there are those who believe the sanction of authority is everything. Hence when they are told they will pass the last test if they merely plunge straight in, like so many sheep—Why, they do it! Even though it involves the sensations of being eaten alive by carnivorous fish."

"Don't they pass the test?"

"Oh, they barely pass the test. But the Board of Examiners immediately decides that their action brings into question prior indications of basic suitability for the Patrol. You see, we don't encourage unthinking reliance on authority, or on the appearance of authority. Some of the great defeats and disasters of history have followed from exactly that cause. We have trouble enough without that. So, we pick this last test to give a little reminder that our men should have the courage to think. Consider this, Roberts. A recruit in the Interstellar Patrol is given disastrous advice by someone with an air of authority—advice that obviously means the recruit will fail to do what he is supposed to do—and the recruit does it! We can't have that."

"What happens?"

"The Board of Examiners grudgingly recommends that the trainee be allowed the opportunity to repeat the test. Thus, after having unthinkingly taken his supposed superior's word for it, and having as a result experienced the sensations of being eaten alive by carnivorous fish, the trainee finds himself right back in the same spot all over again, with the same pool, the same fish, and the same electronic boob giving the same worthless advice. What do you suppose happens?"

Beside Roberts, his friend Hammell suddenly appeared, his face red, massaging his fists, and feeling tenderly of places low down on his legs.

"Well." said the guide, smiling, "this time you made it."

Hammell growled incoherently. There was another little blink of time, and there stood another friend and fellow trainee, Morrissey, electric-blue eyes blazing in anger. And there beside him suddenly stood Bergen, his blond hair on end. One after another now, they appeared, until the whole class was there; and then before them appeared a slight well-knit figure with a look of self-discipline and good humor.

"Gentlemen, in the Patrol, thought does not solely radiate from the top down, but takes place on all levels, including that lowest and hence closest to the facts. Any time you are tempted to pass the buck upward or to blindly accept obviously disastrous orders without objecting to them, remember this incident. Possibly by doing so, you may avoid an experience worse than this one.

"Very well, gentlemen, you have now passed the basic training course of the Interstellar Patrol, and you are full members in good standing of the Patrol, with all that this implies. You will now receive your weapons and full issue of uniforms, with appropriate insignia, in the order of your passing out of this course. As I call your names, step forward, salute, and receive your weapons and uniforms.

"Roberts, Vaughan N."

Respectfully, Roberts stepped forward and saluted.


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