Abaddon Prime Chicago - The Story of Hank
For the Abaddon Prime anomaly series -- the final series of the Osiris Sequence -- we had some new devices (for lack of a better term) in the rules: two Ingress characters -- Carrie Campbell and Hank Johnson -- that affected the gameplay, and two Darsana Lenses, a faction-specific strategic warhead. The results of prior series determined which faction got which of these devices. We split them two and two. Each faction got one Darsana Lens, the Enlightened got Carrie Campbell and her journal, and the Resistance got Hank Johnson.
The Darsana Lens could be used to neutralize all portals in the playbox that were owned by the opposing faction. The effect wasn't instant; instead, it rolled across the playbox over time. Niantic didn't specify an exact time for how long the Darsana Lens would take to complete its work, only saying "a few minutes" in the Abaddon Prime rules FAQ; I point this out because it became a CRITICAL piece of information later.
Carrie Campbell's journal could provide foreknowledge at one site for one measurement period for all portals of one type (shard research portals, volatile portals, or artifact portals). This would allow the Enlightened to prioritize the portals to take full advantage of those portals' role for the specific measurement period.
Hank Johnson -- the man himself -- would cause playbox portals in his proximity to generate media artifacts even if they were not ornamented artifact portals. This would allow the Resistance to try to concentrate agents around these portals in order to gather the extra media artifacts into Resistance agents' inventories.
The POCs for previous series had to grant control of these devices to a particular person who would then decide which site would get the devices and who would control the device at the site on the day of the anomaly. I have no idea how the Enlightened POCs handled this, though I am very curious. For the Resistance, we had... challenges. We needed both a quorum of Resistance POCs for both relevant series and then a majority vote of that quorum to choose the ultimate decision maker. There were lots of Telegram machinations to get the attention of past POCs and get them to cast their vote on the official Niantic POC Slack. It took much longer than it should've, but we finally got things sorted. As agreed by the Resistance POCs for the three Abaddon Prime anomalies, @VanJeffery - Chicago's lead dispatcher - would be in charge of the Darsana Lens for Chicago and I would be in charge of Hank Johnson for Chicago.
There are two Whys that come to mind:
- Why did the Resistance choose Chicago for both devices?
- Why didn't the Enlightened send both devices to one site?
The second has an answer, but I'm sure I will never know it. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that conversation!)
As for the first, the Abaddon Prime POCs took a hard look at the state of things. It's hard to say something like this in public, but... an honest assessment of the three sites came down to this: Amsterdam was a likely win for Resistance and Kaohsiung City was a likely loss for Resistance. That put us at 1-1 going into Chicago, which made it a must-win, so it seemed obvious enough: Chicago would get both Hank and the Lens.
The big When question was: When do we use the Darsana Lens? All we knew was that it would take "a few minutes", which was super vague. There was much debate. Lots of game theory discussion. What if what if what if. It was really difficult to know how to use a weapon no one had ever fired before. But then the Enlightened blinked first. "The ENL Darsana Lens was activated in Amsterdam at 2019-05-11 15:00 UTC." I was astounded. I was gleeful!
We heard various estimates of how long the Lens took to finish in Amsterdam; the numbers converged on 10-12 minutes. Since it was a rolling effect, we made the leap that the time-to-completion was likely a function of the number of portals in the playbox. We knew Amsterdam had 1504 portals in the playbox. We knew Chicago had 359 portals in the playbox. From there, the formula was simple:
( Chicago_portals / Amsterdam_portals ) * Amsterdam_time = Chicago Darsana Lens completion time ( 359 / 1504 ) * 10 minutes = 2.4 minutes ( 359 / 1504 ) * 12 minutes = 2.9 minutes
So now we had something to plan around: Our Darsana Lens should take less than 3 minutes to take full effect.
But when? When? When? When? When it was announced that Carrie's journal had been used to determine the shard research portals for the first measurement window in Chicago, we had what I thought was the obvious thing: Use the lens the second the anomaly starts. Drop those shard research portals immediately. (FWIW, I think the Enlightened did the only sane thing by using Carrie's journal to get the M1 shard research nodes. It was nice to have confirmation, though there didn't seem to be any rational alternative.)
I wish I could share all the brilliant reasoning by our strategy team, but it's not really mine to share. I will say that it's a darn good thing I was not in charge of strategy. Suffice it to say that the strategists converged on two possible times for the Darsana Lens:
- 14:30:00 local (which was what I wanted)
- 17:07:00 local, just prior to the eighth measurement.
17:07 was the strong preference. 14:30 was more of a contingency plan if the state of the playbox before the anomaly demanded it; thankfully, it didn't. In my AMA thread after the anomaly, @ThePrevaricator asked "Why did you fire the Darsana lens so late into measurement 8?" It wasn't late. It was right on time!
The Lens went off just prior to M8 and the Resistance scored our best measurement for portal captures. Exactly as planned.
One thing we hoped for but could not exactly rely on was for Enlightened agents to have already started leaving the playbox to sort and trade media artifacts. I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but ... I know the Enlightened actually did this because Hank, @foxypants, and I rolled right on by their meet point on Sedgwick. Lucky timing, that! Because I had other matters to attend to, this fortuitous intel was relayed through dispatch to other mobile teams who pounced and were able to pick up capsules that collectively contained several hundred media artifacts, which would have moderately shifted the artifact score in favor of the Resistance.
The most obvious Who here is Hank Johnson, but there's another Who that kept coming up: me. More than one person asked why I was going to be in charge of Hank all day. Didn't I have something more important to do? Shouldn't I lead a team? My response to those questions was this: "A winning quarterback wants the ball. Put me in, coach!" This is a paraphrase of wise words from that masterpiece of cinema, The Replacements:
Winners always want the ball, when the game is on the line.
-- Coach Jimmy McGinty
Hank was a big unknown. We knew very little about the actual mechanics of his presence on anomaly day. While I am a mediocre strategist, I am an excellent tactician, so I felt confident that I could quickly work out the optimal usage of Hank once the anomaly was going. I also didn't want someone else to catch the blame for "using Hank wrong" if we lost the anomaly. And yes, there was also the side benefit of having truly the most unique anomaly experience ever in the history of Ingress; a cherry on top of the charmed Ingress life I'd led.
How does Hank work? How do we maximize it for Resistance points? How do we keep Enlightened from benefiting? This is the story I REALLY want to tell.
Hank Johnson embodies the Explorer. Agents will be able to choose one anomaly site for Hank to come to, and guide his travel through the city. At that site, Hank will help uncover otherwise-unknown Artifacts: wherever he goes, around him, portals that would not otherwise release Artifacts will temporarily drop Artifacts (despite not being ornamented as Artifact Portals).
We had the official anomaly rules document and POCs of either faction could ask questions on the Niantic POC Slack. As precedent would dictate, detailed questions from POCs generally received vague answers from Niantic. What this meant is that we could only make educated guesses about the effect Hank would have on anomaly day. Niantic's event coordinator asked me to meet with Hank the evening before the anomaly at Niantic Headquarters, the Radisson Blu Aqua. The intent was to brief Hank on our plans for him on Saturday.
I'd been thinking for several weeks already about what we would do with Hank. The world of Ingress is full of secret agents, surveillance, and covert operations. The last thing we wanted was for the Enlightened to know Hank's location, so we needed concealment and -- if our cover was blown -- mobility. Friday morning was spent preparing supplies and arranging logistics. We had four disguises each for Hank, @foxypants, and me. We had our car for mobility. I'd also arranged a rental car as a switch car in case we were spotted in our own car. In the world of espionage, all of the above would be called tradecraft. My eight-year-old self -- who had played "spy" so many times -- would've been positively gleeful to see what I was up to!
Along with the strategy team, I had come up with a plan for testing Hank's effects on a couple portals in a quiet, sparse corner of the playbox as soon as the anomaly started. Assuming the testing went as expected, we had identified some dense clusters of portals where we planned to exploit Hank's effects by gathering Resistance agents in a quiet flash mob before quickly exiting the playbox to prevent Enlightened from benefiting.
Friday evening was here, and it was time to meet Hank at Niantic HQ. After dropping off 500 pounds of swag at the Resistance pre-party, I made the trek downtown. I'd met Old Hank many times, but this was New Hank. Not Whiskey Hank, but Avocado Toast Hank. Not Gritty Hanky, but Pretty Hank. "Hi, Hank, I'm chibri. Nice to meet you. Let's go over the plan..."
I was a little worried he was going to balk at the plan. At the core, the plan was for Pretty Hank to spend his day sitting on his (moderately famous) rear end in the backseat of a car. I told him about the disguises. I told him about the switch cars. I told him how we would test his effects at the beginning of the anomaly. I'm happy to report that he was excited about all of it! (He's very enthusiastic!)
Hank then told me I would be able to pick him up at Niantic HQ on Saturday at 13:30 local time. This was decidedly not part of the plan. I was hoping to meet up with him much earlier in the day, and I was hoping that he would come to us rather than us having to pick him up. Not ideal, but I felt like we could adjust to this. But then...
"Oh, by the way," Avocado Toast Hank began and then told me something that would dominate my thoughts for the next 12 hours. Hank said he'd been chatting with some Enlightened agents who had made a point of telling him that they would be tracking his movements all day on Saturday and that they would never lose sight of him. This comment along with the fact that we had to retrieve Hank from Niantic HQ sent my brain into a panic. I had concealment covered. I had mobility covered. But I had no initial escape-and-evade plan to get Hank out of headquarters without a tail. "See you tomorrow at 13:30."
I headed back to the Resistance pre-party. I spent the whole trip thinking thinking thinking: how do we get Hank out? Someone forced a beer into my hand, but I barely touched it. I needed to stay sharp if I was going to figure this out. Party over. Pack up the remaining 250 pounds of swag and take it all to Resistance headquarters, the Renaissance Chicago hotel. It's about 23:00 and I'm both physically and mentally exhausted. I set my alarm for 07:00. I try to sleep, but my brain keeps going for another couple hours.
I wake up with a start. Nightmares about being chased, of course. I look at the clock. It's 04:00. Four-stupid-o'clock. Ugh. Thanks alot, brain! At least I have more time to work on the escape-and-evade plan. And I've got some ideas.
Stash our car (Car 1) in the Millenium Lakeside Garage a few blocks south of Niantic HQ. Park it in the southern- and western-most spot I can find. This location is chosen because it is near the north exit of the museum of the Art Institute of Chicago. Why does that matter? Because @foxypants and I have a membership that allows us to bring a guest, and the museum has multiple entrances and exits. If we have to, we can quickly enter the west entrance and scurry out the north side to the car. The car is backed into the spot for a quick exit, of course. In the trunk, there are two disguises for each of the three of us.
Now we work backwards to Niantic HQ. Hoof it north on Columbus towards the Radisson Aqua Blu. Lower Columbus. Subterranean Chicago. Abandoned urban campsites. Delivery trucks and loading docks. Service entrances and industrial trash compactors. Mystery sludge dripping from above. And lost Uber drivers.
Walking north beneath the city, we find a door into a building roughly where the Radisson should be. No deadbolt, just a locked handle. I assume it's the pedestrian exit for the 303 E Wacker parking garage with the entrance a dozen meters north. This seems perfect, but how do we get in? At that moment, a car pulls up to that doored entrance, so we slip in behind it before the door comes down again. Backtrack to the pedestrian door, and we discover it is the exit from the bike room of the garage. This seems promising.
Now to figure out where this building actually is in relation to the Radisson. Find the elevator and up we go. We're now in the lobby of 303 E Wacker, which happens to be the northward neighbor of the Radisson Aqua Blu. The path between the building entrance and the elevator winds a little, which is great. The entrance door is a revolving door, which is even better. The Radisson's entrance is only 80 meters away.
Picking Hank up in a car in front of Niantic HQ was no good because we could easily be followed by other cars or bikes. Or worse yet, we could be blocked in by other cars or bikes; sad truth, but such things sometimes happen in Ingress. Trying to escape on foot via the park to the east risked being followed on foot, obviously. The route through 303 E Wacker eliminated a car tail and a bike tail, because good luck quickly getting a bike through the revolving door. This was all coming together except for one final piece: eliminating a tail on foot.
I make a call to [redacted]. "You have your truck today, right? You free around 13:30?" His response is in the affirmative. I explain that I need a getaway car waiting on Lower Columbus just north of Randolph at 13:30. He's in, so I go into detail:
Keep the engine running. I'll give the signal just before exiting the garage's bike room door. When I do, drive 10 meters north of the 303 E Wacker garage entrance. We'll come running out the bike room door, sprint north, and jump in, at which point, you need to gun it north then east on Wacker and then south on Lake Shore Drive. Assuming no tail, drop us at the southern pedestrian entrance to Millenium Lakeside Garage. If we somehow still have a tail, drop us at the Michigan entrance of the Art Institute museum so we can slip through to the garage.
We're set. I breathe easier now that we have a plan. And now that I'm not super anxious, time for breakfast.
Next, we go to the rental place to get the switch car (Car 2). I reserved an SUV and had a couple options to choose from. The attendant was a little confused when I asked, "Which one is taller?" Height means it's a little more difficult to see into the car, especially helpful if we ask Hank to crouch to stay out of sight. I'll take any little edge we can get.
We drive beyond the western edge of the playbox to a quiet residential street and drop the SUV. Our third and fourth costumes are in a bag in the back seat. It's getting close to 13:00, so we start back towards Niantic HQ.
I get the go-ahead a little early. Hank's ready to go at about 13:15. I ask [redacted] to get into position. I meet Hank at 13:20. [redacted] is ready. "You ready, Hank?" We start moving, but he stops me. He shows me a phone with a map in a browser on the screen. He says, "They told me how it works." Great! But we need to get out of here first. It's time to move!
@foxypants, Hank, and I walk quickly without running. No need to call attention to ourselves. Out the Radisson. In through the revolving doors of 303 E Wacker. Through to the elevator. Button. Button button button. C'mon c'mon. Ding! In. Down. Out. Give [redacted] the signal. Around to the bike room door aaaaand *CHUNK*. It's locked. It's locked! It's locked from both sides! (This has to be a fire code violation, right!?) But just like when we wanted to get in, a car is going through the garage door, so out we go behind it. [redacted] is where he should be. We run, we jump in, and we go go go!
This was all very exciting except for one thing: We never saw anyone behind us at all. Either the Enlightened made no attempt to track Hank, or we gave them the slip as soon as we began.
Now in the car, we have a moment to chat. We're an hour away from the start of the anomaly, and Hank has new information to share. He shows us the map on his screen. It's a really simple browser-based location-sharing app. Once the anomaly starts, every minute, the device -- which we started calling The Johnson Device (LULZ!) -- sends Hank's location to a server. One minute later, any portal within 100 meters of his location will contain 20 new media artifacts. The first 20 agents to hack the portal will each get one of those media artifacts and then the portal goes into a cooldown period of 10 minutes before Hank can reactivate the same portal. This was COMPLETELY different from what we expected, but it was GREAT news.
Back to our escape in progress, we had no apparent tail, so [redacted] dropped us at the Millenium Lakeside Garage pedestrian entrance as planned. In the door, down the steps, pop the trunk, and change into our first set of disguises. @foxypants and I are now Bulls superfans while Hank is an understated Cubs fan. If we get spotted, I want @foxypants and I to stand out with Hank as muted as possible. If we get spotted, I want it to be in our usual car not the switch car. If we get spotted, let the Enlightened announce to their agents that @foxypants and @chibri are wearing Bulls hats and shirts in their same old blue car with Hank in the back seat. Let a truth be broadcast! And then turn that truth into a lie!
Now in the car. Out the exit onto Columbus and then around to Lake Shore Drive all the way to Fullerton to avoid the north end of the playbox. Park under the Brown Line tracks on Larrabee. It's 14:10. The anomaly starts in 20 minutes. It's time to... wait.
Hundreds of Resistance agents have been active for hours already. They started early to get control of the flips. I have one very specific task and have a dedicated dispatcher. I barely ever know what is going on outside the range of my scanner, and almost all of my screen time is Zello anyway. The start of the anomaly came and went while we still sat waiting. It was almost 15:00 before we got the call to put The Johnson Device to work.
The information Hank gave us when we picked him up really changed everything about how to optimally use his abilities. The fact that exactly 20 media artifacts would be added to the portal was fantastic news. The infamous Resistance charter buses held up to 22 agents for each run through the playbox. All we needed to do now was to have a charter bus lag behind Hank by a couple minutes. We'd light up a handful of portals, have a charter bus roll by two minutes later, and have the agents on the bus snag as many artifacts as possible. It took a few tries to really figure out the timing, but once we got it down? Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
After we'd done this once for each of the four buses, it's time for a little fun. We drive to the switch car. We change into the second set of disguises: We're now decked out like construction workers. Hard hat for each of us. Sunglasses. T-shirt under a high-vis vest. (True fact: Neon vests are invisibility cloaks!) Now back to Larrabee to wait for the second round of buses. Down and around. Times four. Then again for the third round of buses.
By this point, dozens of Enlightened agents who know us well have walked within a couple meters of us in the SUV. Not a glimpse of recognition from any of them, but we've got more disguises! We drive back to where we switched cars. Wait, where's the bag with the last costumes? Noooooo. It's anticlimactic at this point, but I want to put it on record anyway: Our fourth and final costume would have been Hank as Wayne, me as Garth , and @foxypants as a Blackhawks superfan. But we couldn't find the bag. Turns out it was just stuffed too well under the seat in front of Hank for him to see it. What an EXCELLENT entrance to the Niantic after-party that would've been! Oh well.
Still in our construction worker disguises, we drive to get into position for the fourth and final round of buses. It's 17:07. Dispatch tells me the Darsana Lens is in effect. This time, I turn up Sedgwick instead of Larrabee, which is when a particular PG-13-rated conversation happened and the aforementioned mobile Resistance teams snagged media from the Enlightened media drop. Then we took Hank for his final passes down Wells ahead of the buses. At 17:31, we said our thank-yous to dispatch and went back to Niantic HQ to await the final score.
Speaking with the strategy team on the drive back, we knew it was going to be very, very close. I've seen a video of the POCs speaking on the stage; I sound down, which wasn't really the case. I was simply TIRED after 36 hours of frenetic Ingress activity only broken up by three hours of restless sleep. I bet many people scoffed when I said it was a nailbiter, but I truly meant it. Being fair though, yes, I expected the final result would be an Enlightened win. I had hope for us, but I'd heard the early measurement shard and portal capture scores and knew how much of a hill we had to climb. The Enlightened did a fantastic job recruiting attendees and outnumbered the Resistance by something like 40%. Overcoming those numbers is impossible under most rulesets. Thankfully, Abaddon Prime's ruleset was unlike any before it.
The long wait for the result was awful. Niantic really did put on a good show, but I just wanted to know the score. I'd been wanting to know the result for roughly fifteen months by that point. When Niantic announced a special glyph sequence to commemorate the final result of Chicago, Abaddon Prime, and the entire Osiris Sequence, I braced myself for the reveal. I've played it over and over in my head a thousand times, and this is how it felt to me in that giant ballroom...
Glyph #1: RESISTANCE. (Are they going to insult us? Is Niantic throwing shade?)
[In unison, the crowd gasps.]
Glyph #2: GAIN. (Okay, that seems positive...)
[Confusion hits the room.]
Glyph #3: ALL. (Wait... we did it?)
Glyph #4: VICTORY. (We did it!)
[Cheers of joy erupt from the blue half of the room!]
Glyph #5: OSIRIS. (WE DID IT!!!)
What I think almost everyone in the room missed -- I certainly did -- was that when the first glyph went up, the stage lights went from half-blue / half-green to all blue. In that same moment, the entire Osiris Sequence did the exact same thing.