I'm looking for a short story I read long ago. I thought it was Larry Niven but I can't find it. All I remember is that there were two men who got in a fight. One takes off and the other chases in their spaceships.

They chase each other for decades (centuries?) until they can't remember what they were fighting about. Their autodoc (or equiv) keeps them healthy along the way with the ships basically going the same speed and never catching each other.

  • Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! Take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit any more details. Specifically things like when you read it, or where?
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:43
  • "The ringworld is unstable" :) Just for fun link 'Instability of Niven's ringworld' Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 16:09
  • Niven used a similar theme for "A World out of Time," (news.larryniven.net/biblio/…) a fix-up novel made from earlier novellas: A corpsicle revived by a totalitarian state steals the ramjet he was supposed to pilot; a bureaucrat bedevils him by transmitting his personality into the ship's computer. Their antagonistic relationship endures through decades of ship time. Due to time dilation, the solar system they return to 3 million years later is no longer controlled by The State; Earth has been moved to orbit Jupiter. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 17:14
  • If the answer below is not correct, perhaps the same as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/133353/… ?
    – Otis
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 17:39

3 Answers 3


This sounds a lot like Larry Niven's The Ethics of Madness, although it's not a perfect match (the chasing ship does eventually catch the pursued).

The two ramscoop ships continued their chase at high relativistic speeds into the far distant future. Eventually Doug discovered his pursuer was dead; the lifesystem of Greg's ship had been destroyed by laser fire. But Greg's ship on autopilot continued the chase. Finally the ships edged too close and Doug was killed.

  • Ooh, I think that might be the one. I did read the short story collection Neutron Star and The Ethics of Madness is in there. Perhaps you're right. I think they did catch up with each other in the end. The story would need a conclusion in the end after all. I'll take a gander. Thanks! Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 15:46
  • 2
    If this is the story I remember, the fight started as a misunderstanding on the part of the pursuer who had not been getting his medication due to a faulty "auto-doc".
    – Verdan
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 19:11
  • 4
    @Verdan - that's correct. The fleeing man was mentally ill, had inadvertently failed to take his meds, and had killed the pursuer's family because of that. He was treated and released. The pursuer was also mentally ill, because of the trauma of losing his family. Hence, the title "The Ethics of Madness" (I think it was a framing device that asked whether and which of the two would be considered culpable).
    – iayork
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 19:15
  • @BrownMeteor If you enjoy apocrypha, see Man-Kzin Wars 14, short story "Heritage", for an odd coda to "The Ethics of Madness", presented as an aside in the middle of the main story.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 21:07

You might be looking for The Long Chase.

It is the story of a spaceship AI brain (copied from a meat brain long ago) on the losing side of a war where all AIs join a collective. They attempt to flee the battle, but find themselves being chased relentlessly at near lightspeed with the end being inevitable. While it does, at its core, involve two people chasing each other in space, but both "people" are AIs, the "fight" was a war, and the protagonist is captured and assimilated, albeit with prior plot involving them having set up a contingency plan to be revived years later.

Both Niven and Baxter have written stories with similar plots but this one does not end in a capture.


Another possible story would be Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds (the collection of stories is also titled Galactic North).

A "lighthugger" (this universe lacks faster-than-light travel and these ships accelerate to "hug" the speed of light) is damaged. After stopping for repair, it is ambushed by pirates. The pirates harvest brain implants from the passengers (torturing the crew and killing the passengers). After being tortured, killed, downloaded and cloned, the pilot of the ship pursues the pirates for about 7,000 years before catching the pirate ship with the remains of the stolen passengers.

The ship was originally carrying terraforming self-replicating bots called Greenfly - also stolen by the pirates. Greenfly later destroyed all of the non-stellar matter in the human area of space.

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