Beowulf Shaeffer - Character Biography - History


Very little is known of Shaeffer’s early life. It is known he was raised in a large home on We Made It (as related in "Flatlander"), and is presumably from a wealthy family. He is presumably descended from a number of chronologically earlier Shaeffers in the Known Space universe: Charles Martin "Lit" Shaeffer (First Speaker of the Belt Political Section in World of Ptavvs and At the Bottom of a Hole), Marion Shaeffer (a Belter policewoman in The Patchwork Girl) and Brobdig Shaeffer (a Crashlander hyperspace engineer in The Heroic Myth of Lieutenant Nora Argamentine).

If he was made chief pilot for Nakamura Lines in 2622, as sources indicate, and this occurred shortly after graduation from a four-year college education majoring in starship piloting, entered at age 18, Shaeffer would have been born about 2600.

Shaeffer’s interest in flying developed during his childhood in Crashlanding City at Crashlanding Port where he and other youngsters observed spaceships coming and going as well as the people who arrived and departed on them. Of those youths, Bey was the only one who went on to become a pilot. He attended college on We Made It where he presumably took courses in spaceship piloting; he related some aspects of courses he had taken to Elephant while they were exploring the antimatter protostar and planet.

In 2622 he was made chief pilot for Nakamura Lines, a space cruise company on We Made It. He flew for Nakamura Lines until a stock market crash in 2639 forced the company to fold, leaving Shaeffer unemployed on We Made It but with the expectation of back pay, against which he continued to live comfortably for the next two years. However, he never received any back pay from Nakamura Lines or the bankruptcy courts.

In 2641, nearing the limit of his credit, Shaeffer is approached by a Pierson’s Puppeteer, the Regional President of General Products on We Made It, with a proposal for work. In return for paying Shaeffer’s debts and a half-million additional stars, Shaeffer would make a close fly-by of neutron star BVS-1 in an attempt to discover what had killed two humans, Peter and Sonya Laskin, who first attempted the fly-by. GP hulls were known to be effectively invulnerable, and the company was extremely interested in finding out what could get through them. Their interest was largely financial; they were concerned that the low insurance rates their hulls traditionally enjoyed would be increased. Shaeffer agreed to the mission, but planned to steal the ship. This plan was interrupted when an ARM agent, Sigmund Ausfaller, planted a bomb in the ship’s lifesystem in order to ensure Shaeffer completed the mission, in order to maintain human-puppeteer relations. Shaeffer duplicated the Laskins’ experiment and determined they were killed by tidal effects during the close approach, effects that almost killed him as well. Returning to We Made It, Shaeffer learned that puppeteers seemed not to understand tides, implying that their world had no moon. He blackmailed the regional president of We Made It for one million stars.

Four years later, in 2645, Shaeffer is on Jinx when he is again approached by the puppeteers, this time by the Regional President of General Products on Jinx. Puppeteers have developed the Quantum II hyperdrive, capable of traveling one light-year every 1.25 minutes, but the engineering is unwieldy and requires further research to become more useful. The puppeteers hire Shaeffer to travel to the core of the Milky Way galaxy as a publicity stunt in the ship, which Shaeffer names the Long Shot. In doing so, Shaeffer learns that the core of the galaxy has exploded and a wave of hard radiation is spreading outward. In about twenty thousand years it will pass through known space, rendering all the worlds there uninhabitable. When Shaeffer returns to Jinx he discovers that General Products has become defunct and that all puppeteers have disappeared.

Traveling to Earth in that same year, Bey encounters Gregory Pelton, a wealthy flatlander who dislikes being called a flatlander, and they become friends. In an effort to do something really unusual, Pelton meets with an Outsider ship to buy information about the most unusual world in known space. Shaeffer, in gratitude for Pelton’s help in showing him around Earth (and for getting him introduced to Sharrol Janss) offers to pilot the ship for Pelton. They examine the system the Outsiders sold them information on until Pelton’s General Products-hulled ship suddenly disintegrates. Pelton is determined to land anyway but Shaeffer convinces him that unless he can explain what happened to the hull he should return to Jinx to collect the indemnity on the hull. Arriving on Jinx, Shaeffer and Pelton learn that the system they visited was composed of antimatter, which annihilated enough atoms of the General Product’s hull (composed of a single large molecule) to cause the molecule to unravel. Shaeffer returns to Earth with Pelton and he and Sharrol move in together in Nome.

Bey and Sharrol begin to explore options for having children together. As an albino, the Fertility Board of Earth will not grant Bey a parenthood license. Sharrol, who has Flatland Phobia, cannot leave Earth for a planet that will allow her and Shaeffer to have children. Finally, in 2648, they decide to ask one of Sharrol’s friends, Carlos Wu, a registered genius with an unlimited parenthood license because of his intelligence and resistance to disease and injury, to help them have children. Bey leaves Earth for two years, and is traveling from Down to Gummidgy aboard the ship Argos, captained by Margo Tellefsen. Also on board is the Kdatlyno touch-sculptor Lloobee. When Lloobee is kidnapped just outside Gummidgy system, Shaeffer and a fellow passenger, Jinxian Emil Horne, team up to discover who the kidnappers are. They locate Lloobee but are captured; Shaeffer escapes when Lloobee leaps at one of the kidnappers, distracting them while Shaeffer flees. He manages to get to his car and heads back toward the spaceport. Bellamy, leader of the kidnappers, pursues him and Shaeffer rams Bellamy's ship, damaging his own ship and crashing it. Bellamy lands but his ship is unstable due to a landing leg not extending and the ship crashes, killing Bellamy. Later, with Lloobee and Emil rescued, Bey agrees to spend two years with Margo Tellefsen while waiting for Sharrol and Carlos to have two children for Bey and Sharrol to raise on Earth. Tanya is born in 2649 and Louis in 2650.

In 2650, Shaeffer is trying to return to Earth from Jinx but a series of ship disappearances around Earth system is making ship captains wary of returning there. Running into Carlos Wu at the Institute of Knowledge, Bey also learns that Sigmund Ausfaller is attempting to return to Earth and Carlos decides to join him. Bey joins as well, despite his dislike for Ausfaller; it has been too long since he’s seen Sharrol. Just before reaching the hyperdrive breakout point at Sol system the ship’s hyperdrive inexplicably disappears. Carlos theorizes that a high gravity gradient would have caused the motor to take off at a higher level of hyperdrive. They approach a scientist living in cometary halo, Julian Forward, and learn that he has captured a quantum black hole and is using it to make ships disappear. They manage to stop him and Forward is killed by the quantum black hole.

Resuming life on Earth, Shaeffer learns in 2654 that Carlos Wu has an agenda of his own. He and his companion, Feather Filip, ask Bey and Sharrol and their children to secretly emigrate to Fafnir. Feather has been an ARM “schiz” (a paranoid schizophrenic) for 35 years and is about to be retired; she knows the ARM will not let her leave Earth or have children under Earth’s Fertility Laws. Filip finds a ship that will accommodate the group and Carlos’ special autodoc. When they arrive at Fafnir, however, Feather shoots Shaeffer and Carlos escapes with the children. Sharrol kills Feather, feeds her body into Carlos’ autodoc as biomass material, and removes Shaeffer’s head and places it in the intensive care cavity of the ‘doc. The ‘doc rebuilds Shaeffer over a four-month period, but his height is adjusted to match the intensive care cavity and his rebuilt muscles are adapted to Fafnir’s gravity. His new height is 5 feet, 10 and one-half inches. Locating Sharrol, they let Carlos know that they are alive, that Feather is dead, and that they will rejoin him sometime in the future, when they are ready to make the trip.

In 2655, while at a water war game, Shaeffer is found by Ander Smittarasheed, who is gathering information for Sigmund Ausfaller about puppeteers. Shaeffer recounts his adventures over the last fifteen years to Smittarasheed and attempts to sell him the location of Carlos Wu’s autodoc, a valuable prize to the ARM since its technology is based on nanotechnology. He represents Carlos and Sharrol to Ander as dead, killed by Feather, who is presumed still at large. Ausfaller, also on Fafnir, plans to take Shaeffer into custody but is killed by Ander using the same weapon that Feather shot Shaeffer with a year and a half earlier, a punchgun. Shaeffer and Sharrol manage to escape to Home with their daughter Jeena and their unborn child, leaving Ander to take the blame (rightly) for Ausfaller’s death.

Official questioning by Fafnir cops about the fate of Ausfaller result in a boarding delay, allowing Beowulf to travel to Home as an upgraded First Class passenger aboard Odysseus, the same ship that Sharrol and Jeena travel Ice Class (cryogenic suspension). Due to a raid by a Kzinti pirates claiming to be operatives of The Longest War (a kzinti term for evolution, also used for deniable Patriarch operatives), he encounters fellow passengers Fly-By-Night, a latent Kzinti Telepath from the covert joint human-kzinti colony of Sheathclaws, and Fly-By-Night's Jotok slave Paradoxical (Par-Rad-Doc-Sic-Cal). When a cargo module with a one-in-three chance of having Beowulf's wife and child are taken as hostages, he joins Fly-By-Night and Paradoxical as prisoners of the pirates. Working together, they overcome the kzinti pirates, and arrive safely at Home.

Read more about this topic:  Beowulf Shaeffer, Character Biography

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