The Final Planet

The Final Planet

by Andrew M. Greeley

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Overview

For the men and women of the battered pilgrim vessel IONA, members of the Holy Order of St. Brigid and St. Brendan, it was the last chance.

Even with survival at stake, they must obey their holy order's rule: they cannot invade, they must be invited to land. And they don't know enough to be sure of wangling a welcome.

The Holy Captain Abbess Dierdre Cardinal Fitzgerald sends Seamus O'Neil as a spy. A spy? Seamus is a crack soldier, a second-rate bard, and a young man looking for love, but a diplomat he isn't.

The land is beautiful, and the women are lovely and loving-except for gorgeous, chilly Marjetta-but a paradise it isn't.

In fact, the land is more dangerous than Seamus could have imagined. It will be a miracle if he and Marjetta keep their skins intact-much less pull off a landing for the IONA. The Final Planet is space survivalist fiction at its finest, from acclaimed author and priest Andrew M. Greeley.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250237347
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 12/11/2018
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 764,589
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, "The Church in Society," at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.


Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Seamus O'Neill moved his finger to the button to fire the last retrorocket, glanced quickly behind at the inky blackness where the TPS Iona continued its silent orbit. A twinge of sentimentality, not totally uncharacteristic, jabbed at his soul. The Iona wasn't much to look at, you understand — an old battered titanium hulk fixed up to look like a monastery, yet it had been home for the quarter century of his life, the symbol of the Spirit of Exploration for which the Holy Order of Saint Brigid and Saint Brendan stood. Like all the second-generation Wild Geese, he had railed against its confining walls.

Still, he reflected with a sigh of self-pity that came as natural to Tarans as breathing, at least up there you were with your own kind, not set down alone on a heathen planet.

Sure they call it loneliness, he told himself ruefully. Would you believe it, Commandant Seamus O'Neill, lonely, and on the first day too. Ah, 'tis going to be a grand adventure, isn't it? Just grand.

Irony was as natural among the Tarans as self-pity.

He scanned the countdown readout ... five seconds to fire. He thought of Tessie's blond hair and white limbs. You win some, you lose some. 'Course, so far you've lost them all. Seamus was good at the first stages of courtship, something less than sensational at all later stages. He sighed again, a sigh which other earth-descended folk they met on their pilgrimage thought indistinguishable from an acute asthma attack.

He softly pushed the firing button; the shuttle-craft Eamon De Valera jumped in faint protest, then slowed its descent toward the jungle clearing. Seamus O'Neill, not a paragon of religious devotion by a long shot, but not exactly an agnostic either, breathed a short prayer.

"If it's all the same to Yourself, I'd like it to be a safe landing; well, one I can walk away from anyway.

"And while I have your attention, I'd certainly not be rejecting any help and protection you be after willing to provide for this little jaunt of mine, begging your pardon for seeming forward."

Seamus assumed that Himself (or Herself, as you pleased) was fully aware of the situation. Still, it didn't hurt to bring matters up occasionally — with proper respect, of course.

The old shuttlecraft settled onto the firm red soil of the clearing with as much dignity as its weary hull could manage. There was little dust, just as Podraig the foulmouthed computer had predicted. "Touchdown," Seamus informed the stars, in case they were listening.

And then he sighed for a third time, this one intended for Himself, the stars, the Lady Deirdre, and anyone else in the cosmos who might be listening — the immemorial protest of the Celt against his unfair destiny.

It was a historic moment about which no one cared, the landing on a new planet. Even a thousand years after the Second Great Exploration, landing on a new planet should be a major event, shouldn't it? he asked the Deity.

The latter Worthy did not deign to answer.

Well, admittedly, the dominant species here is supposed to have come about the same time the Proto-Celts came to Tara. We became pilgrims because we wanted to keep alive our culture; they because they wanted to build a perfect society. So my belated arrival here is something of an anticlimax.

But still ...

But still, what?

Repressing an urge for yet a fourth — and even louder — sigh and removing his crash helmet, Seamus gazed out the shamrock-shaped observation window above the Dev's console. A terrible, unfriendly, lonely heathen planet it was — as well as the final chance for the end of the Iona's pilgrimage. Still, Zylong was indeed the most beautiful planet he had ever seen — perhaps, as Commodore Fitzgerald had said, one of the most beautiful in the galaxy. During the decades of the Iona's erratic and dubious pilgrimage in search of a world that wanted its scholarship and service, O'Neill had set foot on many life-supporting planets. Sometimes he had landed in peace, sometimes armed to the teeth in the company of his fellow soldiers of fortune, the Wild Geese — mind you, only in self-defense, for the Tarans were basically a peace-loving and noncombative people.

Why fight with others when you can fight much more constructively and with no bloodshed among yourselves?

Anyway, the Rule of the Holy Order was strict: their mission was to keep alive the Spirit of Exploration during the long interludes between the Great Explorations and to land and establish a permanent monastery on only the planets that needed and wanted them.

God knows, if herself's analysis is to be believed, they need us. Ah, but do they want us? That's the issue, my boy, isn't it?

The Holy Order no more made converts than did St. Columcile in Switzerland or St. Donatus in Italy or St. Killian in Bavaria long ago during the First Exploration. Peregrinationes pro Christo. If the natives were so impressed by the scholarship and service of the monks that they became interested in the Faith, that was another matter.

Would they be interested here in this great, terrible heathen place?

Seamus doubted it. Moreover, he doubted that they would want anything to do with the Iona or anything it stood for. Of course, there were ways of interpreting the regulations.

Heathen place it was, but luxuriant too. A wonderful place to bed a "proper woman," always supposing that you could find one such to begin with.

None of the planets he had visited compared with the pictures of the Iona's home planet, Tara, to say nothing of that misty island on Earth from which his remote ancestors had come, but Zylong in its lushness approximated the beauties of those homes more closely than anything he had seen. The painter who had created the scene in his window had laid on all the colors with a wild and heavy hand. It looked like a slick picture taken from one of the tattered old books in the monastery library, too rich, too lush to be real. The greens were too thick, the blues too deep, the reds and purples too rich.

And best of all, it was not rushing through hyperspace at a rate several times the speed of light.

"Ah," Seamus O'Neill murmured to himself, 'tis the perfect planet for us to settle, save that the locals might not exactly want us, worse luck for them. Give us the slightest hint that we're welcome, and sure we'll be here, bag and baggage, to stay. We'll not interfere with them at all, but give us a few years and they'll be after sighing just like us."

O'Neill disliked this mission. If he had come on the Napper Tandy with his lead platoon of Wild Geese, he would not have to wait for the initiative of the other side. He did not think of himself mainly as a soldier; it was something he did because on a pilgrimage you had to have soldiers. Mind you, he was not altogether incompetent as an officer. Weren't there those on the Iona who, bad luck to them, argued vigorously that he was better at being an officer than he was at his other profession of bard. Spying, however, was not his line of work.

Not at all, at all.

He was prepared for death, if needs be. If it were all the same to Himself, he'd postpone death for a few years. A few decades, even. There were a number of tasks he'd just as soon finish before the account books were closed. Like persuading a proper woman to share his proper bed for the rest of his life.

That thought caused him to sigh again and indulge in a number of harmless if very distracting fantasies about amusements one might enjoy with such a proper woman. First of all, you kiss her very gently and then ... Well, if it's all right with You, he interrupted whatever the Deity was about with another request, I'd like a few years of someone like that next to me at night.

However, mortality rates on pilgrimages were high among both monks and Wild Geese. If his life were to be as short as his parents' lives had been, well, there was no good purpose served by complaining about it. Spying was different; whatever fancy names the Commodore gave to his mission, he was still a spy. He came along on the tiny Dev, armed not with a laser pistol but with a small harp, dressed not in the proud uniform of a commandant but in the dull gray of a wandering minstrel. There would be no electronic communication with the Iona; the Zylongi were not to be aware of her existence until a final decision to land was made. Only his own telepathic powers would be in use — weak and skittish as they were.

I'm to charm them with my wit and song — and Himself knows I'm a great bard no matter what those blatherskites on the Iona say about me. But while I'm awing them with my songs and stories, I'm supposed to be finding out what makes this heathen place tick.

A hazy sun, turned rose by the thick upper atmosphere, was beginning to decline from its zenith. Its light softened the edges of the surrounding thick green foliage and deep crimson flowers, and the golden stream flowing nearby. A nice place, O'Neill thought. I wouldn't mind raising wee ones here at all, at all.

It was in the nature of things that the proper woman in your proper bed, properly disrobed and loved, was a requisite for having wee ones to raise. So far, Seamus had not done all that well, despite his brilliant fantasies, in dealing with that requisite. I'll probably end up a crusty, lonely old bachelor, if I live long enough to become crusty.

Then, having enjoyed his self-pity almost as much as he enjoyed his imagining about the proper woman, he got reluctantly from the pilot's couch. It was time for work.

He had been briefed to expect a hot humid atmosphere, but the wall of moisture he met leaving the Dev startled him. The fragrance of the flowers was as strong as their color, an overwhelming sweet scent, like the monastery greenhouse at Easter. Or a wake. O'Neill's poet's gown began to stick to his body. He unzipped the front of it, thinking again about the proper woman and about the possibilities of zipping and unzipping her garments.

Steady, now, Seamus O'Neill, Commandant in the Wild Geese, you have better things to think about than undressing a woman.

Have I now? Like what, for instance?

Well, like the fact that the Lady Deirdre is monitoring all your thoughts.

Ah, sure she's a woman of taste and discretion. She wouldn't be after monitoring my harmless little fantasies, would she?

You'd better not be taking a chance.

Ah, 'tis yourself, Seamus O'Neill, who has a good point there.

Virtuously, he raised the zipper on his poet's gown.

"Peace to this planet." He repeated the usual Taran greeting and knelt on one knee, making a perfunctory sign of the cross. "'Tis neither ours nor theirs," he added a prayer of his own, "but Yours. Protect it and us and them from all evil. Grant that I may bring to the good that is here something that is better, and to the bad, healing to make it good."

He paused to consider the elegance of his prayer, simple, heartfelt, appropriate. Not all that bad for a spur-of-the-moment effort.

Pleased with his creativity as a man of prayer — and resolving that he would jot it down as part of the record for future historians just in case the Lady Deirdre missed it — Seamus O'Neill walked around the perimeter of the small landing site. The jungle looked impenetrable. Even so, the briefing officer chose it over the desert, which was supposedly dominated by aborigines; as interesting as those original Zylongi might be, they were not the primary object of his mission.

Podraig, Iona's foul-tongued computer, had refused to advise about the landing. To set down on the plain outside what seemed to be their capital might be seen as a warlike invasion; the Dev might be blasted out of the air before it touched ground, and Seamus with it, worse luck for him.

"Do they have the weapons to blast anything out of the air?" Seamus had asked the computer.

"No frigging data," snarled Podraig.

On the other hand, if he landed in the desert or the jungle at some distance from the capital, they might not even notice him. Or if they did, they might not think it worth the effort to rescue him. Maybe they were a race of mystics, like some of the solitary monks on Iona, heaven save and protect us all.

So with the computer refusing to make estimates, the decision was to drop him in the jungle. Better to be marooned in the jungle with plenty of water and food — all of which might be poison — than to be blasted out of the air or die of thirst on the desert.

"Why not put me down on one of the mountains?" Seamus had demanded ironically. "They say freezing to death is a pleasant way to die once you get used to it."

No one had bothered to laugh.

Anyway, here he was in the jungle. Did the locals know he was here? Did they care? Did they have any intention of rescuing him from this fragrant, hellishly hot landing site? He had nothing but a harp to ward off any animals that might lurk there. In the briefing the monk Kiernan — Kiernan Pat, the one with the Ph.D. in biology, as distinct from Kiernan Tim, the subnavigator — had said, "Sorry, we have little information about nonhuman fauna. There are herds of cattle, which the dominant race — vegetarians, you see — keep for their milk and fur. ..."

"Fur ... cattle with fur?" Seamus protested.

"Heathenish, isn't it? The subordinate race are omnivorous and consume small animals, so there's probably a predatory food chain. There is no reason, of course, to assume that there is an absence of large predators. I'd be interested," he smiled faintly, "to learn that any of them were hominivorous."

"You mean man-eating?"

"That's right."

"I'll try to let you know, Kiernan, me boy."

"You do that, Seamus."

Seamus sat down in the shadow of the Dev and peeled back the top of his poet's gown. Strumming his harp, he crooned an ancient and mournful Celtic melody, adapted to fit his situation. It went on — interminably, he himself was willing to admit — about a woman mourning for her sweet lover who had gone off to a strange world to spy on the enemy.

If the Zylongi had sound-scanners focused on him, they knew he was a minstrel — that is, if their culture had any sense of such a person. And if they had the good taste to enjoy his music.

Do they even have music here?

All rational life forms have music, the teacher had insisted in the monastery school's class in xenology.

How do we know? Seamus had demanded.

Well, he had not been designed to be a scholar anyway. "You're not stupid at all, at all, Seamus Finnbar O'Neill," the Lady Deirdre had said with some sympathy. "It's just that your talents are not in the scholarly direction."

"Not anywhere near it," he admitted ruefully. "I find it hard to concentrate in a classroom. ..."

"Especially when there are young women present."

"Well," he admitted with a winning smile, "they do make concentration a little more difficult."

"Sure you'd be thinking about them even if they weren't there."

"It might even be worse," he agreed.

"You'll be the death of me yet," she had sighed. "You're a terrible cross for an old woman to bear."

Seamus had refrained from denying that she was old. His instincts said that her displeasure over his grades was not to be turned away by compliments — even accurate ones.

Seamus had no objection to accurate flattery, but he never considered his creativity to be limited by accuracy — especially when women were the issue.

The Captain Abbess's comment on his intelligence was motivated by a mistake he had made in one of the planning sessions for this mission. She had been giving the standard lecture about the origins of space exploration. In the middle of the twenty-first century, it was said, the abundance of cheap energy, combined with a long period of tranquillity on Earth, had produced the Second Great Exploration, during which many pilgrimages went forth for wealth or adventure or faith or ideology or in search of a better world.

Seamus had been daydreaming about the glorious swelling breasts of his "proper" woman. He felt he ought to say something to indicate that he was listening.

"Columbus and Leif and Brendan and them fellas, and them all being Irish too ..."

Herself was quite upset. "No, that was the First Exploration, a thousand years and more before the settlement of Tara.

"Our Holy Order exists," she said icily, "to keep alive the Spirit of Exploration that brought our forebears to Tara so long ago."

"'Tis true," Seamus had said, as though giving the woman good grades on her historical knowledge. The Tarans wanted to keep alive the era of adventure, and the Zylongi, apparently, wanted to forget all about it.

While he sang of the lamentations of his unfortunately imaginary lover, O'Neill considered his chances. Carmody, a Brigadier serving as the Iona's Operations Officer, assured him that the best data indicated no serious danger in this reconnaissance. The Zylongi were far below normal on the aggression scale; they would probe, find him harmless, and release him.

"Will they now?" O'Neill strummed a chord on his harp that was supposed to indicate irony. "Would you care to offer an estimate of the probability of such a happy outcome?"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Final Planet"
by .
Copyright © 1987 Andrew M. Greeley.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Song of the Wild Geese,
Technical Specifications: TIPV/IONA,
Part One: The City,
Part Two: The Country,
Part Three: The Festival,
Tor books by Andrew M. Greeley,
Praise,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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