The LONG SHOT ("At The Core" by Larry Niven):
The Long Shot was the result of centuries of development by the Firm of General Products, a company wholly owned by the Piersons Puppeteer species, who wanted to develop a hyper drive that would go faster than the then standard 1.1 lightyear a day which was the maximum that the Outsider hyper drive produced. They succeeded in their original goal, and produced a hyper drive that could reach 0.8 light-years per minute, or 48 light-years per hour, a immense improvement over the standard hyper drive.
Yet by all other accounts, the prototype was a huge failure: It filled the largest hull that the Puppeteers General Products company made to the brim, leaving barely enough space for a life support system which would house one man, and four fusion drives, needed to lift the huge ship out of a gravity well. The money conscious Puppeteer species had spend 6 billion stars (close to 120 billion credits) building a one man ship that would go anywhere in Known Space in 13 hours, yet could go nowhere in less than twelve hours, on account of the six hour minimum needed to accelerate the ship out of a gravity well.
Not willing to spend even more money without at least a chance of some immediate returns, General Products thought up a publicity stunt like no other: They would hire a starship pilot, and he would fly the ship all the way to the center of the galaxy, to take some measurements and pictures, but above all, to demonstrate just how powerful the new FTL engine was. As a publicity stunt it was indeed a thing without peer, as the flight to the Galactic Core would have taken 300 years with the old Hyper drive, yet it could be done in less than four months with the new drive! If successful, they would have financial backers lining up at the entrance to their regional offices. Now all they needed was a pilot. Thankfully, the management of General Products knew just the man.
Enter Beowulf Schaeffer. Schaeffer was a good starship pilot, but a even larger spendthrift, and since his last job for General Products (which had netted him over one and half million stars) four years ago, he had spend well over a million stars, and would soon be in debt. When approached for the job, Schaeffer was at first rather hesitant, as General Products and he had hardly parted on the best of terms last time, but he quickly became enthralled by the prospect of flying a ship that fast. Even better, the job paid well, and he would be allowed to hold any revenue he made from interviews and the like. A deal was quickly made, and Schaeffer set out on his journey. It would prove to be a rather more strenuous job than he had thought, as he quickly found out that the new Hyper drive was TOO fast: He had to steer the ship by hand, guided by his Mass Detector (which operates on psionic principles, making necessary a living pilot), and found out that dodging stars nearly continuously whilst staring at a luminous green orb (the Mass Detector) was a hard job indeed. So he tried to slow down. He TRIED. But one of the things that needed to be fixed in the design of the new Hyper drive was the absence of a throttle...... After solving this problem by traveling in the space between the galaxies spiral arms, where stars are much less densely packed, Beowulf made good time on his trip to the Core.
He would never arrive there. Some three months in the trip, he cleared the last of the large dust clouds that obscured the galactic Core from the sight of the outlying systems, and made a terrifying discovery. The Galactic Core was exploding. Or, rather, it had been exploding. When he informed his bosses over the hypercom, they expressed disbelief, and then growing concern. They asked if perhaps Schaeffer would be willing to abstain from his salary because they would need large amounts of cash, real soon. He laughed and broke contact. That was the last time Beowulf Schaeffer ever saw or heard a Piersons Puppeteer.
Upon his homecoming he found that his salary had been paid in full, and that General Products was GONE. As a matter of fact, every Puppeteer in Known Space had packed up and gone, four months ago. They left the very day that Scheaffer found out that the Core had exploded, leaving the entire economy of Known Space in disarray. No one knew why they had left, except for Beowulf: 30,000 light years to the Core was quite a distance, and quite some time for the radiation of the nova front of the Core Explosion to reach Known Space, but when it did it would wipe out all life in its path. The Extremely cautious Puppeteers had realized this at once, and had left with destination Unknown.
Currently the Long Shot sits in its spaceport berth, abandoned by its makers. Abandoned, but not forgotten.....
The ship is a featureless globe, a thousand feet in diameter. its surface is only marred by the four fusion drives, and the small hatch leading to the control chamber, all of them located at the bottom of the ship. The entire hull is made of the famous General Products Hull Material, and is, quite literary, Indestructible! Since the hull material is transparent, the workings of the ship can easily be seen. The sight is that of a smooth globe, filled entirely with indistinguishable machinery.
The cockpit is rather small, and houses nothing more than a single acceleration couch, a bank of instruments, and the Mass Detector, which resembles a green luminous sphere. If looked into directly, all relative masses in a light-years distance are displayed in the globe, enabling the pilot to evade them. Above the cockpit is a small but comfortable circular room, measuring some 7 feet high, and 10 feet across, where the pilot sleeps, eats, relaxes and can take care of his personal hygiene.
(Note: This writeup can be used as a lure for players, or the target of a quest. Compared to ordinary contragrav ships from Phaseworld it is already extremely fast, but this can be changed according to need. Mentioning of such a fast ship (but unfortunately very lost) ship might get a nice campaign going.
Model Type: -
Vehicle Type: Prototype Hyper drive Ship
Crew: One (Pilot)
M.D.C. By Location:
|Fusion Drives (4 - underside):||9,000 each|
|Landing struts (6 - underside):||3,000 each|
| Fusion power plant||15,000|
| Main Body:||100,000|
| Hyper drive||25,000|
| Reinforced Cockpit:||8,000|
 When the fusion plants M.D.C. is depleted, it will explode, and do 3D4x1000 M.D.C. damage to the inside of the ship. If the hyper drive survives, assume that it can propel the ship into hyper space one last time.
 The Main body of the ship is indestructible, and can only be damaged by the following: Direct contact with Antimatter(for which the damage rating applies) or direct contact with a black hole, in which case it is simply swallowed. If the hull is touched by antimatter, and the M.D.C. is depleted, the entire hull suddenly falls apart into a monoatomic dust. Only these two can damage the Hull!! It is a single artificially reinforced macro-molecule!
The hull stops all physical forces, and forms of electromagnetic radiation, excluding the visible spectrum, which it will let through(Yes, a visible laser can do damage DIRECTLY to the interior of the ship.), and gravitational forces. However, these limitations only apply to the hull! Multidimensional weapons like Rift cannons and Phase beams WILL do standard damages to the ships interior, because the hull is not a forcefield, and only stops physical and electromagnetic attacks. Similarly, Gravity bombs may not damage the hull itself unless they score a critical hit (the mini black hole touching the hull directly), but they will still do damage to the innards of the ship as per normal rules.
 When there is more than 10 % damage done to the hyper drive, there is a flat 5% chance that, upon activation, the drive will smear the entire ship out as a stream of quarks between wherever it is and the land of OZ. For every additional 10% of damage, the chance of this happening increases by another 5%. When the M.D.C. for the hyper drive is depleted it will stop working, and be a useless hunk of metal and exotic alloys. It will be utterly useless, and will offer no hope of ever giving away a glimpse of how the drive worked.
 The cockpit is a small and difficult target to hit: -4 to strike (remember, its inside the ship too!)
Driving on the Ground: Not Possible.
Sublight: Has four fusion reaction drives that allow it to accelerate at up to 4 G. Maximum speed is theoretically unlimited, due to the hull construction.
Stardrive: Uses a Experimental Hyper Drive system that allows the ship to reach 48 light-years per hour, and 48 light-years per hour only! It goes at full speed, or not at all (it is left to the GM to decide if the pilot has penalties when flying the ship through hyperspace
Atmospheric Propulsion: Maximum cruise speed is Mach 2.5 (1,853.6 mph / 2,983.1 kph), can enter and leave an atmosphere, but is not meant to do so.
Maximum Range: Effectively Unlimited by Hyper Drive system but only Reaction mass onboard for 1 month of 1 G of acceleration. Double the consumption of reaction mass for every additional G of acceleration. The ship has supplies for one crew member for about twelve months.
Length: 1,000 feet (300 meters)
Height: 1,000 feet (300 meters)
Width: 1,000 feet (300 meters)
Weight: 9 million tons (8.2 million metric tons)
Power System: Advanced Fusion with 25 year life span.
Cargo: Minimal Storage Space 7x10x10 feet (2.1x3x3 meters). This is not only storage space, but also the pilots berth and relaxation area!
Market Cost: 6 billion Stars or 120 billion credits to construct. Any race in the three Galaxies would pay hundreds of billions of credits for the single working copy of the ship.
WEAPON SYSTEMS: NONE.
- Hull: The ships hull is constructed out of a single reinforced
molecule, which is almost indestructible. The Hull will only allow the visible
spectrum of light to penetrate, all other forms of radiation are stopped.
No physical force save the direct contact with a Black Hole can destroy
it, you could throw it into a sun, and the hull would be totally intact,
even if the sun were to go nova. The innards of the ship would be another
story, as the light entering the ship would quickly be of such intensity
that the innards would be melted to a puddle.....
The only other force save a Black Hole which can destroy the hull is direct contact with Antimatter, as the antimatter will eventually annihilate so many atoms that the entire molecule disintegrates into a monoatomic dust. It should be noted that ordinary AM warheads use up their AM in the explosion, so that little or no AM actually touches the hull of a ship being attacked with these weapons, and therefore these weapons do not damage the General Products hull. Normally there should be no reason to shoot Anti Matter at the ship GM`s! Any players coming up with the idea have either read Niven`s Known Space stories, or are grabbing at straws! Either way, they should provide a good explanation of just how they came up with the idea.
Spells and Runeweapons (someone will try em eventually...) also ultimately do physical damage, and will NOT harm the hull. Hitting the hull with a Runesword may wear out the sword before the hull gives! On the other hand, spells CAN damage the inside of the ship (and therefore the pilot), it is only the hull that is invulnerable to them. The spell Annihilate (Rifts: Federation of Magic) is the only exception because it uses a ball of anti-matter.
Even with exhaustive study it will NEVER (and I do mean that!) become clear how the hull is made, or how it can be replicated. The players who wish to find out how the hull is made can do so by actually finding a Piersons Puppeteer (nice quest in itself) and buying the secret, because the manufacturing process IS FOR SALE! Only after they have found the Puppeteer should they be informed that the bidding starts at a cool TRILLION Stars (20 trillion credits)...... Get your bids in now people, `cause there`s only a year left before the auction closes....
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[ Beyond the Supernatural®, Heroes Unlimited®, Nightbane®, Ninjas & Superspies®, Palladium Fantasy®, and Rifts® are registered trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]
[ Long Shot, Beowulf Schaeffer, Pierson Puppeteers and anything else I forgot to mention are Copyrighted © by Larry Niven, 1966. ]
[ Based upon the short story "At The Core" by Larry Niven, copyright © 1966, first published in "World Of If", november 1966 ]
Writeup by Mischa (E-Mail Mischa)
Formatting and Minor Revisions by Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).
Rifts Conversion Copyright © 1999, Mischa. All rights reserved.