On a passenger flight from Jinx to Earth, Beowulf Shaeffer
(Bey) befriended "Elephant", an imposing Flatlander. Reaching
Earth, Bey realized he needed a guide when a pickpocket informed him
stealing his wallet was legal. Visiting Elephant, who had volunteered to
act as his guide, he discovered the Flatlander was actually the enormously
wealthy Gregory Pelton. One of Elephant's friends, Sharrol Janss,
turned out to be the pickpocket; she and Bey became lovers.
tired of offworlders thinking him a "silly Flatlander" and wanted an
accomplishment which would impress them. At Bey's suggestion, he contacted
the Outsiders to find the location of the most unusual planet in
Known Space. After a few more days sightseeing, he and Bey left in
the Slower Than Infinity (ST∞)
and met Outsider ship #14. The aliens suggested a planet orbiting
the Fast Protosun, near the edge of Known Space. The protosun and
its planet were moving at a high relativistic speed, far beyond that which
the ST∞ could easily match. The Outsiders offered to "tow" their
ship to that velocity, but for a very high fee. However, Bey gave them a
first-hand account of his trip to the galactic core [see
"At the Core" (story summary)], and in return the
Outsiders waived their towing fee.
After traveling via hyperdrive to the
location of the Fast Protosun, Bey and Elephant decided to survey the
planet from orbit before landing. They started noticing odd things: There
was an extremely high radiation level; the protosun shouldn't have been
glowing, but was; the cold, airless planet was almost free of craters, and
its crust was worn away. Elephant dubbed the planet "Cannonball Express".
supposedly invulnerable General Products hull of the ST∞ turned to dust! Saved by their spacesuits, Elephant wanted to land on the
planet anyway but Bey thought it too dangerous and insisted they return
home. Flying in hyperspace in a hull-less ship nearly drove them insane; the
hyperspace blind-spot filled most of their vision. They were barely
speaking to each other, since Elephant thought Bey a coward. Finally
nearing Jinx, Elephant called General Products to report the
failure of their hull.
The Puppeteer representative was quite apologetic, and said they didn't think antimatter was to be found in the galaxy in
such large quantities. He explained the planet Bey and Elephant had been
investigating was composed of antimatter (see antimatter planet).
Shocked at their narrow escape, Elephant admitted Bey had been right.