It lay ill the snow. A cold mist swirled gently up the slopes, softly playing on it with pale fingers. Behind it, black rocks, made blacker because of the luminous snow, showed through the sides of the mountain like chunks of solid night. A million weathers had passed this barren space of land. No bird had come near, or animal, or man.
A single mast with a silver circle of metallic light. It lay at an angle, still pointing crookedly at the sky. It was the probe's only eye. Still working after four thousand years.
Far below, three men toiled upwards. They had no knowledge of the probe above them. They were climbers, bent on reaching the top of the mountain. They expected only snow, and ice, and dangerous cracks in frozen white fields.
When they reached the mast, they stopped and stood, almost reverently, near to it. Their chests heaved as they looped their ropes and hung their ice-axes over their arms. White breath billowed from their mouths.
"Is it one of ours?"
"Can't tell. No markings."
"Dig it out a bit more."
Three axes chipped at the brittle blanket, spraying chips of ice. The mast grew longer. The body of the probe began to appear.
"Is it one of them Asian satellites? I heard they lost some a while ago?"
"What kind of markings are they? Russian?"
"You tell me."
"Never seen that before?"
The climbers talked for a while, scratched their heads, looked at their watches, checked the sky.
"We'd better get moving. We have to make camp before dark."