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Flatlander

The short story was originally published in Worlds of If?, November 1966, and reprinted in Neutron Star (1968, together with Neutron Star 1966, At the Core 1967, Grendel 1968, The Handicapped, The Soft Weapon and A Relic of Empire), and Crashlander (1994).

Traveling to Earth after his trip to the core of the Milky Way Galaxy, Beowulf "Bey" Shaeffer befriends Gregory Pelton, a fabulously wealthy and gregarious flatlander who calls himself Elephant. Irritated at always being labeled a flatlander despite having logged many hours in space, Elephant decides to visit the most unusual system in or near Known Space, and has his agents put in a call to meet with the nearest Outsider vessel. Elephant show Shaeffer around Earth for a few days.

Four days after landing on Earth, Elephant and Shaeffer travel to the edge of Known Space in Elephant's ship, the Slower Than Infinity, to meet the Outsiders for information on the location of the most unusual system in Known Space. The Outsiders charge one million "stars" (the interstellar currency) for the whereabouts of the system and Elephant accepts; the Outsiders also offer to explain, for an additional two hundred thousand stars, what exactly makes the star system unusual. Elephant declines when they reveal that he will be able to find this out for himself.

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.

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