Galley City by John T. Cullen

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Another of the first True E-Books Published Online 1997

= Pioneers =

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25 light years from dying Earth, a fresh, earth-like planet broadcasts radio invitations to come to a thriving alien starport. Paul and Licia Menard (lovers) join Earth's six final surviving humans to journey 1,000 years and join a star-faring civilization.

What the pioneers find is however a world of jungles and plains, with no sign of advanced civilization, but ancient ruins everywhere. They find blue-skinned, stone age villagers with dim cultural memories of star flight. As six excavate an ancient, purposely sealed chamber in the village of Akha—they begin unearthing answers to questions nobody ever thought to ask. Those questions involve not only the Storybook Planet (from the novel's original concept name) but the fate of now-lost Earth, and the Empire of Time (series by John Argo).

Already, one of the pioneers is dead—from a lander crash upon leaving the mothership. Dead is engineer Tynanís spouse, Nancy-meaning one of three breeding pairs is lost. Another couple, the Wengs, are lost somewhere—itís not clear if their life craft burned up in orbit, or crashed and burned, or if the two scientists are struggling alone and lost someplace far away. Paul and Liciaís lander burned up on crashing, though the twojust barely escaped unhurt. With each of the three life craft/landers that is lost, an entire library of dead Earthís civilization is gone forever.

Just three pioneers are accountedfor in Akha: the dangerously explosive trio of Licia and Menard--plus the odd man in: handsome, rugged Tynan, who soon starts eye contact with Licia. Sparks fly. One of the men must leave, forever, on his own in a vast wilderness haunted by roaring beasts. Will it be Menard or Tynan? Ancient laws of evolution, survival, rivalry, and conquest kick in—the Human Condition, at its last gasp, far from lost Earth.

Is there any hope for mankind? Menard and his fellow surviving pioneers befriend a beautiful, exotic blue princess named Auska. Her father is a local stone age shaman who, like all his people, is illiterate—and yet, he wears a metal disk that carries with it telepathic images of a fabulous, long ago starport named Avamish.

The Blue Princess, young Auska, becomes part of a pioneer love polygon, a Platonic link to all mysteries. Is she clever and deadly, or a brave pioneer in her own right? Every year, shamans and folk from around the blue world gather in eerie, crumbling, empty Avamish for the annual Storybook Festival. The three pioneers, joining Auska and her father, seem destined to fined their fate on a long journey to the ruined starport—which contains far more secrets than anyone had imagined. And now, as locals come streaming to the dead city from all directions, Avamish calls the pioneers into its muted and haunting embrace.

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