Authors: Thomas Greanias
Niantic Labs @ Google
Mountain View, CA
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 Niantic Labs
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address @lantis Books, 701 5
Floor, Seattle, WA 98104.
Cover design by Erik Hollander, HollanderDesignLab.com.
To the Enlightened and Resistance players of Ingress
who together are helping shape the world’s vision of reality.
Writing is a dangerous game. You take the word in your head and put it onto the page, but then the page suddenly picks the next word, and before you know it you are falling between the lines into a world you scarcely imagined.
Such was the case for me in researching this tale. An interview here with astro-archaeologist Conrad Yeats would lead to an interview there with adventurer Hank Johnson, each of whom shared often compelling but at times contradictory accounts. And there was no hiding from linguist Serena Serghetti, who for years has taken exception to my depictions of her in my novels, and who had plenty to say for herself.
Finally, nothing prepared me for my introduction to the Ingress “game,” or “inquiries” and “cautions” from Niantic Labs. Or to players like Mistyayn and the Blue Herons in Seattle—thanks for watching over the @lantis Media Tower—without whose support this story would not be possible.
The result is
The Alignment: Ingress.
Fans of my Atlantis series will find it helpful to note that this story falls before the events of
and as such is a prequel of sorts. For Ingress players and new readers alike,
The Alignment: Ingress
now becomes the first book in a whole new series of adventures.
As a former journalist, I’m often asked why I choose to publish my books as fiction. Truth be told, these days fiction can be closer to fact than nonfiction. Many of my friends in the intelligence community, for example, have taken their own cracks at writing novels only to see the good stuff redacted due to national security and nondisclosure agreements.
I suffer no such restrictions.
I do, however, accept a moral responsibility to not disclose specific tactical details involving exotic and chaotic matter, which pose dangers to private individual players and the general public alike. Also, exact archaeological locations, per Serena Serghetti’s wishes, have been fictionalized to protect the integrity of the actual sites.
And so, with palpable excitement, I’m writing down what I've witnessed thus far in the world of Ingress, a tale that in its own right is a transdimensional portal for all of us.
he tavern was on one of those uncharted islands in the Cape Verde west of Africa where pirates, smugglers and other globe-trotting rogues have gathered for a thousand years to swap tales. Visible only from the secret cove below, the watering hole looked like an old Portuguese galleon lodged into the high cliffs, because, in fact, it was. How it got there was as much of a mystery to Conrad Yeats as the friend he had come to meet.
The two men sat at a small table on the creaky poop deck overlooking the crashing waves of the horseshoe bay, the fiery copper sun sinking on the horizon, Conrad Yeats with his pint of brown ale and Hank Johnson with a questionable but potent local brew. Between swigs Conrad noticed Hank scoping out the boats anchored further off—a rogue’s flotilla of smuggling freighters, pirate ships and playboy yachts with half-naked women sunning themselves in the late afternoon rays. Hank was looking for something or, more likely, looking out for somebody.
That was the trouble with Hank Johnson. Conrad never knew which Hank Johnson he was talking to. Was he the fellow archaeologist, anthropologist and host of the upcoming “Nomad” TV documentary series, here to rub it in after Conrad’s own “Ancient Riddles” show failed to get picked up on the Discovery Channel? Or was he the “exotic matter” seeker from the top-secret Niantic Labs in Geneva, still on the hunt for the mysterious forces that he claimed were shaping humanity? Or was he up to his old tricks as an ex-Special Forces and current PSYOP soldier for the paramilitary contractor IQTech? In that case, Conrad would have to be extra careful, because IQTech’s chief, General Montgomery, was an old buddy of his estranged father, USAF General Griffin Yeats.
The only thing Conrad knew for sure was that every one of Hank’s superhero suits seemed to attract its own set of supervillains. The guy had so many grenades in the air there was always one going off, and Conrad didn’t want to be around when the next one dropped.
“What do you see out there on the water, Hank? One of your transdimensional portals or something?”
“Something.” Hank smiled boyishly, the faintest crinkles of age showing around his eyes along with the first flecks of gray in his hair. Conrad, barely into his 30s, wasn’t there yet, but every adventure with Hank sure seemed to add a few years. “So how are things going for you, Conrad? Still searching for Atlantis and those—whaddya call ‘em— Pillars of Creation that reveal the secrets of all time?”
“First Time,” Conrad corrected him. “And I’m here in this netherworld, talking to you. That’s how things are going for me.”
Hank nodded his condolences. “I hear your underwater city dig beneath Lake Titicaca tanked, and that Abdil Zawas got the whole damn Peruvian army after you. How much did you lose for your so-called investor?”
“Nothing a spectacular artifact can’t take care of. Did you look at my celestial map?”
“Yeah. But tell me what happened in South America. I gave you all those XM maps.”
“You know what happened. She happened.”
“Sister Serena Serghetti,” said Hank with a broad grin as he leaned back on his straw chair. “The Vatican’s top linguist, beloved environmentalist, Mother Earth. Mess with that virgin, and you get the wrath of God.”
“So I’ve discovered.”
“Look, Conrad, guys like you and me, we’ve got a better shot at finding the Queen of Sheba than the perfect girl.”
Too true, Conrad thought, and part of the steep price he had paid for this life he had chosen for himself. “Let’s forget about Serena, Hank. Tell me about this girl of yours that you’ve been raving about.”
“She’s Persian.” Hank slid his Nexus 10 tablet across the table.
Conrad angled the screen and saw a Byzantine-like painting of a woman reclining in a garden under a tree. Actually, it was an unusual Islamic illustration.
“Nice, Hank. What am I looking at?”
“Just flip the picture and you’ll see.”
Conrad used his finger to swipe from left to right. The illustration curled up like a page to reveal on its reverse side the celestial map he had forwarded to Hank—the constellation Virgo reclining in the heavens.
He flipped the page back and forth. Hank’s girl in the garden was the terrestrial match of his celestial Virgin in the sky. They were perfectly aligned. Hank’s girl was a royal, a queen, and probably associated with a king’s fortune somewhere.
“She got a name, Hank?”
Conrad froze. Bilqis was the Arab name for the legendary Queen of Sheba. “I thought you said guys like us didn’t stand a chance with girls like her.”
“No, I said you had a better chance with her than the good Sister,” Hank said, grinning at him. “The secret is flowers.”
Conrad took a closer look at the flowers in the painting. Then he followed the woman’s gaze to the hoopoe bird nested in the ferns at her feet. The ferns were connected to a long, snaking root that ended at the tree over her head. The root, he realized, was a representation of the Nile River.
It was a coded map.
Conrad glanced up at Hank, who said nothing but nodded knowingly as he took another swig.
It all made sense now to Conrad. The tree was Jerusalem, where the Bible said the Queen of Sheba delivered four tons of gold to King Solomon in his Temple in exchange for his wisdom. The long root from the Jerusalem tree represented the Nile as it wound through ancient Egypt and Nubia, from whence the Queen of Sheba’s gold was mined—or thought to have been.
King Solomon’s mines.
So Hank obviously thought he had found them, and that they were, in fact, the Queen of Sheba’s mines.
Hank said, “I think we’re dating the same girl.”
“Maybe,” Conrad told him. “We have alignment between the celestial and terrestrial maps. But you’re looking for the ingress to her bank, and I’m looking for the entrance to her tomb. Each hides something different, and each is in a different location.”