Human beings have achieved interstellar traveling capabilities and have surveyed several planetary systems near our Sun. Three of them have been, or still have, intelligent life (Quraqua, Pinnacle and Nok, which has three cubic stone solid satellites in orbit). First there is Quraqua, where the planet seems to have harbored an advanced civilization for millennia. Quraqua is filled with abandoned cities, temples and roads, and an orbiting moon with a strange symmetrical, solid rock, uninhabited city. This strange lunar city called Oz represents the greatest mystery, for the Quraquans never developed space travel, so they couldn't possibly have built it. Inside one of the planet temples there are a series of inscriptions, most point to legends of holy destruction and salvation. There is also a strange characteristic on Quraqua, apparently the civilization was destroyed routinely every 8000 years. After this destruction they had to re-learn what the past civilization had discovered and sometimes the new civilization could not achieve the past greatness.
Our story's heroine, Priscilla Hutchins [Hutch], takes us to Quraqua. She's a pilot assisting in the archeological surveyors removal from Quraqua. The planet is classified as terrestrial, but still needs some terraforming before human beings can colonize, so the archeological sites are going to be destroyed or buried when the polar caps are melted to make way for a better atmosphere.
Later on they go to Beta Pacifica III, which they find (only a repeating beacon) and that marks their decision to go there. Upon arrival, decelerating from hyperspace, they appear drawn by a huge gravitational field from a bowl -like object that was not detected in their sensors. The spaceship crashes and punctures this object while damaging the life support systems. They send a distress call and finally are rescued by a spacecraft from the same corporation in charge of terraforming Quraqua. Doing some scientific analysis on-board, the crew finds out that the bowl-shaped object is in fact a huge antenna (which was sending the repeating beacon received on Earth) made up of organic-like membranes (that's why the crash didn't destroy the spaceship). This antenna is one of many orbiting a large planet, but the only one still working. They convince the corporation's captain to explore the planets in Beta Pacifica , finding vestiges of a civilization and an orbiting spacestation.
After assembling an away-team, they arrive at the spacestation and quickly find out that this planet belonged to the once great monument makers. Yet, the station appears old fashioned and technologically void, not the kind of development the monument makers should have achieved to make interstellar travel and build such wonderful artifacts on Pinnacle, Nok, Iapetus and Quraqua. They find some monument maker bodies, apparently strapped into their seats.
Later on they descend to the surface and find that the once big cities are completely destroyed. After some perils three members of the team die. The remaining members on the surface are rescued and taken to the corporation's ship. A while after the ship originally intended to rescue them, after the collision with the antenna, arrives. Then Hutch makes the most important discovery: apparently every eight thousand years a major devastation wrecks through planetary systems nearby. It destroyed Quraqua twice and Pinnacle once, and quite possibly Beta Pacifica three times. Quite possibly the devastation is periodic and has the form of a destructive wave. Some simple calculations suggested the wave would be localized in the vicinity of the star LCO4418.
The remaining original crew from Quraqua travel to LCO4418.
This report prepared by Mario De Leo
Pilot Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins, the main character in several of McDevitt's novels, travels to the planet Quraqua to evacuate Academy scientists who are studying the remnants of the planet's long-departed in habitants. The scientists' time has run out and they face a deadline to evacuate the planet, as other humans orbit, awaiting to terraform its surface. A breakthrough find days prior to the deadline threaten the safety of the scientist, Hutch must use all her abilities to rescue them from the initial effects of the terraforming.
The findings add to the mystery of the Monument Makers, a vanished race who has left breathtaking monuments around the known galaxy. Hutch puzzles with the monuments, suspecting at least some have to do with the death of Quraqua's inhabitants. Back on Earth, Hutch learns of a repeating signal coming from Beta Pacifica III, a distant sun. Sent to investigate, Hutch and her crew face many life-threatening dilemmas on or near a planet in this system, and discover more clues from the monument makers. This planet's extinct inhabitants had suffered from the same devestation as those on Quraqua. The additional clues found here lead Hutch's crew to an astounding, and very dangerous discovery.
This report prepared by Roger Perry