Welcome to Saturday Morning 1 Tom Mazanec Lemuel looked up at the stars. He had always loved astronomy, and the skies here in central Brasil seemed to be clearer than in the northern part of the country, with its smoking chimneys and lit houses and buildings, before he was sent here and before the war had turned north Brasil into a smoking ruin, albeit at Avalon's cost of nearly an entire generation of men. They were almost as clear as in his native Tasmanland. He wondered if he would ever have an opportunity to see the stars of the North Sky Pole. Then he felt an instant of dizziness, as if he had fallen a tenth of an inch or a tiny speck of lightning had hit each hair in his fur. What had happened? A silly but horrible thought came to him. All his life, he had been trying to find another tiger-wolf, especially since his parents had died and left him alone. Out there was another tiger-wolf somewhere, who had just died. Perhaps Someone, Mother Nature or Father God or the Grim Reaper, was letting him know that his kind was doomed, that he was the last tiger-wolf and his kind would be extinct with his death. "What that?" asked his co-guard, a furduck, in Feefah. Plattik was also his best friend... they had come from the same part of the world to this dangerous place, to help Brasil win its war against Avalon. They both knew if Avalon prevailed, that Earth would soon be a death trap for all Aesop. "Something ting beak." Something had tingled Plattik's sensitive snout...a feeling, not a smell. Well, that at least likely ruled out his imagining. Several other Aesop species had gone extinct during his lifetime, and he had never felt anything like what he just had. Unless it was because Plattik was his friend? "I felt something too." replied Lemuel, who spoke English (albeit with a heavy tiger-wolf accent) and used it with other Aesop, even ones that could not speak Human languages at all. He could also handle Portuguese, again with a thick tiger-wolf accent. "I better go and report this...it could be important." Lemuel put his rifle into the guardhouse and walked across the field to the sergeant's office. He saluted Sergeant Cardoso and said "Sir, Private Plattik and I just experienced astrange shock or jolt a few minutes ago. It could be some type of enemy action or some sort of new weapon of some kind..." "'Some type of enemy action or some sort of new weapon of some kind. A strange shock or jolt.'" repeated Sergeant Cardoso, whose memory was as good as an Aesop's. "I didn't feel anything." "Perhaps it is because you are Human, sir. Many Humans do not have senses as sharp as Aesop, except for sight, of course..." "SHUT UP, PRIVATE! I have enough sense to know that you are just trying to get out of guard duty. You will return to guard duty immediately and be only placed on report. If you do not you will be in the guardhouse as a prisoner, intead of a guard. Now get out, critter!" Lemuel returned to the guardhouse to retrieve his rifle, and resumed his place beside Plattik. "How go?" asked the furduck. "Horrible" replied Lemuel. "I am now on report." "Bad. You right. Something happen." Lemuel was grateful for his friend's commiseration and resumed listening for strange sounds and scanning the night sky. After a while, however, he saw something odd. A single middling bright star seemed to be moving like a snail across the sky. Slowly, evenly, straight from west to east a pinpoint mote of light was creeping among the stars. Lemuel did not bother pointing it out to his friend...his sight was not quite as good as his own, and he knew from stargazing experience that Plattik could not make it out. He briefly considered calling Sergeant Cardoso, but it would be gone before he could get the sergeant out to see it and he certainly had no intention of getting the results he would get if he tried reporting this now. What was it? Probably a skycraft. But Lemuel had very good hearing, even for a tiger-wolf, and it was so quiet out that he could hear his own heartbeat. Yet he had never before heard a skycraft travel silently like that in the sky. Maybe it was some sort of totally silent skycraft. But that would be a revolution! A skycraft that made no noise? Perhaps it was too high up to be heard. But again, that would be a revolution in sky travel. And going from west to east made no sense. North or south would be more likely, to or from the front. Could it be a natural phenomona? Lightning balls, perhaps? Lemuel knew lightning balls were very rare, and usually lasted only a few seconds. Besides, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The only thing he could match this to was a meteor or planetcule. But it was moving much too slow to be a meteor, and far too fast to be a planetcule. And planetcules were very rarely visible without telescopes. He was still trying to figure out what it was when their relief arrived at the end of their shift. Lemuel went to his quarters. His slender quartermate, Carisk the ichneumon, arrived there a few minutes latter. Carisk was a sanstring specialist, and would most likely soon be a corporal. Carisk closed the door and windows, and came close. "Lemuel, something strange is going on. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but nobody actually ordered me not to. Just don't let anyone know I've said anything about this!. A few hours ago, we started receiving the weirdest messages on sanstring in the twenty yard wave and longer. A lot of them were speech messages, not Feefah. A few were music, but music I have never heard before. Some of the music I never even heard the *type* before...and a few I couldn't even guess the instruments. We heard a little Feefah, but it was pure gibberish. Yet it did not sound random...it sounded like a Feefah made of a completely different alphabet. It had the pace of real Feefah. And the speech signals were very strangely accented, almost like a strange Aesop kind was speaking. But I'm pretty sure they were Human. And every sentence, or every other sentence seemed to have a nonsense word or phrase in it, like 'radio' or 'space station' or 'communist'. That is for the languages I recognized...a lot I did not. There were what sounded like news announcements, but referring to imaginary cities and countries. And just before the end of my shift they started talking crazy, that 'the rest of the world is gone' and delirious stuff like that. Maybe it's a kind of code, but there is a huge amount of it going on all of a sudden." Lemuel and Carisk each retired to their bunks with a lot on their minds. What the hell was going on here?