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"Okay, that'd better be good." I get out of the bed, cursing, and turn the TV on just in time.

"And so," says the President, "I will let the NASA Administrator speak".

Well, half of the nation doesn't like the President anyway, so whoever speaks instead it's good news. The TV shows a weary man in his sixties. "As you may already know," he says, "we have been withholding images from our Curiosity rover mission for some time. Some of you may believe that we have been doing it for years, but that's wrong. We have been doing it for sixteen days. But now we are sure that there is no mistake and that it's pointless to conceal our discovery."

I sip the remains of the cold tea I had left on my table before going to bed early, wondering if I'm still dreaming. If it was real, I should already be hearing screams of joy of numerous conspiracy theorists, dancing and throwing their foil hats into the air.

"Sixteen days ago we found an artificial object on Mars. It is very unlikely to have been delivered by any unmanned mission we are aware about. There are no known landing sites in its vicinity. We can't identify any tracks around it, but there might be something under the dust that we can find after careful examination. Perhaps we will have to send another rover equipped specifically for this mission now that we know what to look for."

"Anyway, we have found an artifact, it took us sixteen days to get to it and inspect it. We have no doubt that it is a Soviet flag."

The old TV shows a series of photos of a flag hanging on a pole. On the progression of photos it looks twitchy.

"The Martian wind isn't usually strong enough to make it wave, but what can be seen in the upper left corner of it is definitely sickle and hammer. We don't know of any mission that was capable of delivering it. The Soviet rovers from missions Mars-2 and Mars-3 couldn't carry it for sure, and Mars-4NM and Mars-5NM were canceled due to lack of a sufficiently powerful heavy carrier rocket."

"Curiosity is equipped with the ChemCam instrument, which allows to vaporise a cubic millimeter of matter with a laser burst and inspect its composition via spectrography. Unfortunately we can't examine the flag itself as it is too high, all that's available is the pole."

"And so we did it. We analyzed the pole. It is very likely to be something like wood, something that was alive once." He draws a deep breath. "And it definitely isn't from Earth."