"At the Core" is an English language science fiction short story written in 1966 by Larry Niven. It is the second in the series of Known Space stories featuring crashlander Beowulf Shaeffer. The short story was originally published in Worlds of If?, November 1966, and reprinted in Neutron Star (1968, together with Neutron Star 1966, Flatlander 1967, Grendel 1968, The Handicapped, The Soft Weapon and A Relic of Empire), and Crashlander (1994).
The novel Fleet of Worlds is set in the aftermath of the story, from the Puppeteer point of view. The story is retold, from the point of view of Sigmund Ausfaller, in Juggler of Worlds. The events are also referred to in Ringworld.
Four years after the events in the other short story "Neutron Star", spaceship pilot Beowulf Shaeffer is on Jinx, a planet orbiting Sirius B., when he is again contacted by the Puppeteers, this time by the Regional President of General Products on Jinx, who offers him a chance to guide a cramped (but very fast) experimental ship to the center of the galaxy as a promotional stunt. Shaeffer is offered one hundred thousand stars to make the trip, plus fifty thousand stars to write about it; he is also given the rights to sell the story. Shaeffer, seeing the value of such a promotion (as well as the value of his pay) agrees to go, naming the ship Long Shot.
Beowulf Shaeffer stories
Neutron Star, the first story in the Beowulf Shaeffer series.
At the Core, the second story in the series.
Flatlander, the third story in the series.
Grendel, the fourth story in the series.
Borderland of Sol, fifth story about Beowulf Shaeffer
Procrustes, the sixth story in the series.
Ghost, the framing story in the collection Crashlander.
Fly-By-Night, the seventh story in the series, written after Crashlander.