Do you know this joke about some things being so classified that they had to invent a new classification level and then make it classified?
First, nobody uses a simple classification levels anymore, second, it’s really, really not funny once you get transferred here.
From the day one this had the stink of a dead-end job. You learn to recognise it pretty early in this line of work: it’s the smell of dusty file folders, with an acrid undertone of old paper. If you can smell cigarettes, like from an ancient ashtray, you know that you are in the deep, that you’ve meandered your way into some forgotten corner of institutional memory. This stink is pervasive and lingering, everybody uses it to spot and avoid archive drones (well, the smell and the rapid blinking of the eyes not used to daylight). I used to do it, now I’m the one that gets avoided.
I have been transferred here after the great Iraqi WMD fiasco. Officially they had me promoted, then sent here to pore over old case files. I feel like Mulder here. I’m trying to shake this feeling, but it’s really, really hard when you have shelves upon shelves of F2 (or “Fucking Forteana”) to look at.
Most of this is crap. Lights above bases. Bass rumblings in the deep desert at night. Weirdly shaped contrails (a few of these have an Air Force reference case files numbers, with the “Case Closed” stamp – that gave me a chuckle).
But there are a few things in here that gave me a chill.
Exhibit A is a stubby, strange looking plane, somewhat similar to HL-10 that NASA tested in the sixties. It has been discovered sometime in 1965, in stable orbit. The inclination did not put it on the launch trajectory from either Baikonur, Plesetsk or Kapustin Yar, so this caused a bit of a stir – the Soviets had a facility we knew nothing of, or a vehicle more capable than Gemini or any of the planned Apollo modes. Six months after detection it was still up, so the Air Force and NASA put a Gemini up to have a close look. Details of this mission are somewhere else, all I have here is a few photos. The craft looks, for a lack of a better word, abandoned: the payload bay doors are open and there is an umbilical snaking out – but there is no cosmonaut at the end of it. From what I can see on the photos, the cockpit looks much too modern for the sixties. But the most upsetting thing is easy to miss: on the rudder there is a small flag and it’s not the red one with hammer and sickle. It’s the white-blue-red one, with “Rossiya” in Cyrillic underneath it.
It has been retrieved – as far as I can tell, the Space Shuttle was built for this mission. I don’t know what Air Force got from this little spaceplane, but I don’t think that the neutron bombs and Pershing redeployments in the eighties were unconnected with it.
Exhibit B is an ordinary quality tourist photo, from an ordinary digital point-and-click camera. Attached EXIF data analysis says it was taken three months ago in Atlantic City and sets the probability of photo tampering as very low. The smiling pair of twentysomethings in foreground is irrelevant – but in the background there is a low, grey silhouette of a warship. It is close enough that you can just make out the tactical number on the bow – “DE173”.
It’s USS Eldridge. Sold to Greece in 1951 and scrapped in 1999. Said to participate in so-called “Philadelphia Experiment”, which was repeatedly debunked as a hoax. The loons say that this “experiment” was about “tactical invisibility by means of phase shifting”, whatever this is supposed to mean, and its side effects included time and space travel (and gruesome fatalities).
Is there a connection? Am I going crazy? Could this really be a promotion and not pretend-work for the sidelined analyst?
Could this be real?