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Procrustes

"Procrustes" is an English language science fiction short story written in 1994 by Larry Niven. It is the sixth in the series of stories about crashlander Beowulf Shaeffer. The short story was originally published in Bridging the Galaxies in 1993 and then republished in Crashlander the year after.

The story is retold, from the point of view of Sigmund Ausfaller, in Juggler of Worlds.

Sharrol and he had gone to a party held at Carlos’s home in the Great Barrier Reef. There they met Feather Filip. The party was to feature recreational sex interspaced with small dinner dishes, tapas. Once there, Carlos tells them that Feather is an ARM, part of the United Nations police. After a few hours of eating and sex, Feather activates a shield to keep them from being spied upon and gets down to business, knowing that anyone who’d been watching would expect that Feather had something too kinky in mind to share over surveillance tapes. Carlos worries that the ARM will care what they’re saying, but Feather says they will dismisses it as “Feather coming down after a long week.”

Carlos and Feather intend to leave Earth, for keeps. They want to go as a group, four adults and two children, to match the profile of a family on Fafnir that has fallen on hard times. They will provide the family, the Graynors, with transportation to Wunderland and funding once they are there, and under their name Carlos, Feather, Shaeffer and Sharrol and the kids Tanya and Louis will continue on to Home as Shashters (residents of Fafnir's one continent, Shasht). Sharrol is annoyed; she and Carlos had talked this over extensively, years before. Sharrol has Flatland Phobia; she can’t leave Earth. Carlos knows that. They have an answer for that: Sharrol, Tanya and Louis will travel in cold sleep to Fafnir, then again on to Home. Both Carlos and Feather have their reasons for going. Carlos is tired of the ARM supervising his every move. Feather is about to retire and knows she will never be let off-planet and the United Nations will never approve a “schiz” (a paranoid schizophrenic) having babies. Feather also tells Shaeffer the UN will never let him off Earth again; he knows too much about the Core explosion, the Puppeteers and Kdatlyno, and Julian Forward’s work. Carlos told Feather he wanted to offer them the chance to come along, but they do need a pilot, and Shaeffer fills that need. They talk it around until Shaeffer and Sharrol are convinced...

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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