No. 226

November 8, 1989
“Commander, should I initiate the Protocol?”
“Not yet, Comrade. Not yet.”
“Hurry up with the camera, will you? This place isn’t going to film itself,” said Jack Hurdy.
“Yeah, I’m coming. Give me a break,” replied Frank Dealer.
The pair were on location, shooting a documentary about former Soviet airbases now abandoned after the end of the Cold War. This one was rumored to have, at one time, sheltered nuclear missiles.
They were about to uncover something far more sinister.
After some time, picking their way over broken concrete and collapsed walls, they penetrated the heart of the complex.
“Look at that,” Dealer whispered. “It’s the launch tube.”
Hurdy said nothing, but slowly made his way the edge of the hole. He kicked a small rock over and shuddered when it hit the bottom many seconds later. “Wow,” he managed.
Dealer had moved around to the opposite side of the silo. He leaned over the edge with the camera pointed straight down. “There’s stairs,” he called back.
They descended together, both trying not to disturb the years of debris that had accumulated on the rickety gantry.
Hurdy breathed a sigh of relief when he set foot again on the solid floor of the pit.
“Maybe we can find the control room,” said Dealer.
“Sounds good,” Hurdy agreed. “Do you have a light?”
Dealer snapped on the light rig attached to the camera and panned around the landing. “Jack, I’m not sure this was a missile base.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Hurdy. “Why?”
“Something’s just wrong.”
“We’ll get to the control room. It’s just your imagination playing tricks on you.”
Quickly gathering their gear, the two filmmakers set out into the dark. After working around two dead-ends and up a ladder, they found their target.
“You see?” said Hurdy. “This is it. Destructo-central.”
“No. No, this isn’t for nukes,” said Dealer. He stepped forward to get a better look at the instrument panels. “This is some kind of transmitting station.”
“Transmitting? Like broadcast?”
“Yes. Like our dish back home, but way more power.”
Dealer was now studying the buttons intensely, but he was confused by the notations.
“My Russian is rusty,” he continued. “This one says ‘power’, and this one says ‘activate’, but this third one, I think it says ‘protocol’.”
“Why is the light still on beside it?” Hurdy asked. “Maybe they never shut it down?”
“It’s certainly possible.”
“Don’t press it.”
“Don’t worry,” Dealer assured his friend. “Not going to happen.”
He continued his investigation. Mold and dust had obscured some of the labels. Picking at some with his pocket knife, Dealer cleared off another line of letters.
“Huh,” he grunted.
“What?” said Hurdy.
“That says ‘cats’.”
“Like the animal?”
“Yup. Like the animal.”
“It says ‘cats’ in a nuclear missile bunker?”
“I told you, man, I don’t think this has anything to do with missiles.”