Long Shot (Niven)
Long Shot is the name of a fictional spacecraft from the Known Space universe. It first appeared in the short story "At the Core" by Larry Niven, and played pivotal roles in several of his Ringworld novels.
The Long Shot was named by its first pilot, Beowulf Shaeffer, both because it could cover long distances and because he was unconvinced that it would actually work. The vessel is built inside a #4 General Products hull, a thousand-foot sphere of clear, near-invulnerable material. The interior of the ship is mostly taken up by the experimental "Quantum II" hyperdrive, which was invented by the Pierson's Puppeteers, an advanced but cowardly alien race. Unwilling to risk one of their own, they instead hired a human pilot to test the vessel. The Quantum II drive travels a light-year in one and a quarter minutes, as opposed to the standard hyperdrive used throughout Known Space and by every known alien race, which travels a light-year in three and a half days.
The Puppeteers planned the first flight as a publicity stunt; send a man to the galactic core, then sell the story rights. But when he got there, Shaeffer found that a chain-reaction of supernovas in the core's densely packed stars had sent out a wave of radiation which would reach Known Space in 20,000 years; the Puppeteers, fearing faster-than-light travel, left Known Space immediately, apparently to escape the explosion. Leaving behind only a handful of their insane (because only a mad Puppeteer will subject himself to the risks of space travel and interaction with aliens), they packed up their homeworlds and fled; at relativistic speeds, because hyperspace is dangerous.
Later the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds discovered something in their path: a Ringworld, with room on it for their entire race and then some, and if they could get it moving it would make a perfect escape vehicle from their (slowly) dying galaxy. Once again, they hire some adventurous aliens/humans and Kzin to take their risks for them. The Long Shot was to be their payment. It was also used to transport this motley crew, in stasis, to the Fleet of Worlds.
After the events of the first Ringworld novel, the Long Shot was turned over to the governments of Earth and Kzin to be reverse-engineered, in hopes that someday it could be not only copied, but improved upon to the point where it would make a viable engine for passenger shipping and transport; after all, that wave of radiation was still on its way from the galactic core. Mankind would need to find a new galaxy someday. During the events of Ringworld's Children, however, it is revealed that the Kzinti government had illegally armed the Long Shot and brought it into a war zone, thus jeopardizing the single most valuable asset in Known Space.
As Ringworld's Children ends, Louis Wu, who was in Protector form at the time, captured the Long Shot, returned himself to human form using a nanotechnology healing device, and turned the ship to the planet called Home.
Fate of Worlds sheds new light on the ship's history and reveals the ship's ultimate fate.