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Gold and trade. The aliens exchanged gold for trade goods at the Line, a line etched north-south across the soil of a continent of a neutral planet. If any human or alien crossed this line to the other side they were killed. If any trader did not meet the specified requirements of their trade goods they were killed.
This high-risk activity employed traders who for a short time were willing to take the risk in return for a lot of gold. But it got very risky when a starting trader took a desperate girl under his wing, and was eventually forced to cross the Line into alien territory, to become a negotiator on the side of the Waps, the alien creatures on the other side of the Line.