It was always cold at the peak. Of course- 12,000 feet up, there was nothing but the thin walls of the Observatory to protect from the harsh winter wind howling outside. Underneath, in the labs, and even further below, in the living quarters, there was rock and stone to insulate one from the exterior, and the reactor at the bottom level always pumped hot air throughout the facility.
But the reactor, despite its powerful technology and easy maintenance, was not quite strong enough to warm the Observatory itself, and although it kept the room from freezing and the equipment from seizing up, one seemed to always need extra clothes to push back the chill. Even with them, the cold was a constant companion to anyone attempting to peer into the night sky on those long, quiet nights.
They were peaceful nights, something that the Watcher enjoyed. He remembered nights that had not been peaceful, nights that were full of fear and murder and rage. As a young man, those sorts of nights had shaped him into who he had become. The nights of blood and anger were things that, once experienced, never left the consciousness of a person. They festered and oozed under the surface, coming back at low hours of the morning right as one falls into the space between sleep and dreams.
Those sorts of nights were long ago, however, and he had long since made peace with such occurrences in his life. He sought consolation and wisdom from his work, content to map the stars and universe beyond, to send his calculations and observations around the world to eagerly awaiting scientists and engineers, who would frantically take his work and try to turn it into something- maps, discoveries, papers, grants. He was mildly interested by this, but never dove too deep into what others did with what he saw. He trusted they would attempt to improve either the world or their standing in it (the former of which he supported more than the latter, although, like everything, he kept this to himself.)
His only companion at the Peak was a ancient Russian mountain dog called Mishka. Originally used for hunting bears, the breed was huge, with thick fur covering every inch of his body. Protective, powerful, and wise, Mishka was of calm temperament and extreme loyalty, and stayed by the Watcher wherever possible, which at the top of the Peak was almost always.
On the late nights in the Observatory, when he would work, the Watcher would sit next to the massive telescope and look through a viewfinder, which he preferred over the modern computer viewing most researchers used. Mishka would lay at his side, raising his big head every now and again to glance at the only door leading outside, alert to any possible threats from the exterior. He only growled once in all his years, and the Watcher had quickly retreated to the lower levels after checking the door was locked and fasted against the outside.
The Observatory was accessible only by air during the winter, and only briefly during the summer months by road. It had been extremely expensive to build, and required year-round maintenance by the Watcher. Only the Observatory itself was visible, the rest of the facility buried deep underneath, into the mountain. The visible building was made of thick concrete, ten feet thick, and rounded at the top, with a sealed space for the telescope to extend from. A electrified chain link fence, topped with barbed wire, wrapped around the building, and the one door into the facility was made from reinforced steel. Some visitors were unnerved by the construction- one visiting politician had exclaimed it was built like a tomb. Others said it was like a bunker. The Watcher was mildly amused by the opinions. He preferred to think of it as a home- abet one built to keep out the things that stalked the Mountain in the winter months. Fortunately, such things very, very rarely ventured to the Peak. There was enough prey at the lower levels, and usually, if one left such things alone, they would not seek out conflict for the sake of conflict itself.
The Watcher had lived at the facility with Mishka for over forty years. People visited almost never, and when they did, it was only during the summer, either to help him update his equipment, or to seek his guidance in matters of science. He grew his own food and had a deep well he drew upon for water. He set traps and hunted during the late spring, early fall, and summer, and smoked and salted the venison and goat he killed. He was content with his lifestyle and it’s near-perfect self sufficiency, and kept contact with the outside to the very minimum required by his work.
He did, however, follow the happenings of the world very closely. He was the Watcher, and he did just that, watching as countries rose and fell, as people grew in popularity and fell into public disdain, as wars were fought and ended with no real solutions or gains for either side. He was interested in these happenings, but at a distance. None of it was of his doing or involved him, and although he tracked and recorded events, he never attempted to reach out, to offer his opinion, or to change anything.
He continued to watch as the world began to unravel, and did not interfere, although perhaps he might have been able to change things had he done so. He had once been a man of great influence, and some of his connections, he was sure, still remained. But he was no longer that man. Now, he just Watched. That was enough.
It started with two countries, as it always did- one East, one West. They began with squabbling over passage through the sea, a passage that had been fought over since man first sailed the seas. Their fight escalated into combat over territories, technology, then allies, then entire oceans and continents, then slowly, the world. People began to fall into one of the two camps, and those calling for peace and compromise were quickly stamped under the feet of war.
The Watcher watched this, and recorded. That summer, he bought more equipment and supplies than he had in all the time he had been at the Peak. The Supplier only nodded sadly. Both the Watcher and the Supplier saw what was coming. They were both old enough to remember the last time. When they said their goodbyes that summer, there was a pause before the Supplier left as he went to leave, then stopped and turned to face the Watcher and Mishka, who was as always at his side.
They looked at each other, two old men, for a long time before the Supplier spoke.
“I don’t suppose you’d accept my offer to join me on the way down this time.”
The Watcher smiled and shook his head no.The Supplier sighed.
“No, of course not. Well, my friend, I wish you luck up here on your mountain. I hope we may speak again next season.”
His small, sad smile, showed they both know they would not.
And that winter, he went outside for in the snow for the first time, Mishka by his side, to watch the light from distant explosions as cities were leveled and millions died. He remembered his own nights of fear, anger, and rage, and a single tear rolled down his cheek, freezing halfway down. Then he turned, and walked with Mishka back to his home, his Peak, his Observatory, and shut the door against the distant light, hoping to never Watch such light again. Twice in a lifetime, he decided, was enough.
Even for the Watcher.