It was dark and cold.

The void was vast all around the small device. Only blackness and remote pinpoints of light could be seen, nothing more, nothing less. A small section of the panorama was entirely darkened, with no stars in sight – a rocky planet was obscuring them, its night-side currently facing the device.

It was unmanned, and made of some nondescript metallic alloy. Functioning as an early warning beacon, it scanned the skies with invisible radar beams. Should a threat emerge from the darkness, this little toylike construct would be coordinating orbital defenses against the intruder, along with its sisters in various orbits around the planet.

As the inhabitants of the planet below slept, secure in their fortress-like homes, the device detected dozens of signatures, probably artificial in nature, closing in on the planet from multiple directions

It was the time to test the planetary defenses in practice.