The lights went out.
"Not again!", complained Sal. "Just when I was about to win!"
"Well, I wouldn't want to lose my unbeaten status.", joked Jon. "Did you hear a thump just then? As if something hit the ground."
"Oh, I'm not sure. Now that you mention it, I think I did."
"I'd better go outside and have a look. Someone might be hurt."
"Do you have to? It's an awful night, and I can't imagine there's anyone out."
Jon got ready and went outside. He immediately knew something was wrong, when he saw a strange glow in the distance. He headed towards it.
The Army's Commander squinted at the chart, finding it difficult to see by the dim emergency lights. "It's finally come - ", he announced, "the day when the Venusians have decided to invade. Let's go and give them a welcome they won't forget!"
Jon had nearly reached the light source. Whatever it was that had landed in that crater, it wasn't anything natural like an asteroid. It looked metallic! He came to the edge of the crater and peered in. It consisted of a large multi-sided box with several metal legs. It could only be a visitor from outer space!
Just then he heard a sound behind him. He swung round and came face to face with a party of soldiers. "You'd better go home Jon, this is no place for a scientist.", warned the Commander, leading Jon out of his soldiers' line of fire.
"But this is precisely the place for me!", argued Jon, "We have an alien visitor. You're going to need me to analyse..."
"There'll be nothing to analyse when we're finished.", said the Commander. "We're going to blow this thing back to Venus!"
"Don't be so hasty!", Jon pleaded, "The Venusians might be friendly. Can't we at least examine the, erm, thing before you destroy it? I mean, I can't see any weapons."
The Commander looked closely. "Hmm. Digging tools, cameras... you know, you might be right. It also looks robotic. Okay, I'll keep lookouts posted. In the meantime no-one is to go near it. Not even in the interests of science. And if it even looks threatening, we'll neutralise it. Agreed?"
The lookouts were instructed to keep behind the cameras at all times, so that they wouldn't be detected. Over the next few days and months, the robot dug some holes in the ground, but otherwise seemed harmless. The soldiers even started to enjoy their regular game of hide-and-seek with the robot, which never saw them.
The area was kept sealed off for years by the military (who of course denied all the rumours about aliens), until eventually the robot stopped moving. Then Jon was allowed to take a look at it.
One day, Jon returned home in a state of great excitement. "Sal!", he shouted, "Listen to what I've discovered!"
Sal looked somewhat less enthusiastic - she was sure that whatever it was would be beyond her limited scientific understanding.
"We were wrong!", said Jon, "The alien robot didn't come from Venus. I checked it's rockets and fuel tanks against the relative positions of the planets at the time of its journey, and..."
"Then where is it from?", interrupted Sal.
"The Blue Planet. Earth. Who'd have thought there'd be life there as well?"
NASA's Phoenix probe landed successfully on Mars on Sunday, and the first pictures were received yesterday. The probe's aim is to look for signs of life on the Red Planet.