21 February 2015
Anomaly fielding is like a game of chess. Launch your plan too soon and you give your opponent time to organize a defense and take it down. Execute too late and you’ll be trying to climb out from under your opponent’s field instead. For Shōnin Las Vegas, the Enlightenment attacked first, beating out the resistance fielding operations by less than an hour. Suddenly, Resistance leadership is scrambling to figure out how the field went up and how to get it down in time.
The first anchor was in the frigid North reaches of Saskatchewan. In an epic mission, four highly-prepared Enlightened agents trekked miles in sub-zero temperatures to establish the anchor. A feat so arduous, it nearly took one of their lives. This portal was legit.
The second anchor was at the Trinity test site in White Sands, New Mexico. These portals are only accessible to the general public once a year. A few months ago, a private tour of resistance agents was able to capture all the portals less the one used in this operation: the road was washed out.
The final anchor was at the Skunkworks in Palmdale, California. This portal is inaccessible to the general public with legal authority to shoot trespassers. An employee of the facility took advantage of this fact to establish an “untouchable” anchor.
The Enlightenment knows the Californian Resistance has incredible resources and clearly planned to thwart them. They knew we have multiple pilots and sought to deny us that advantage. Fortunately, our opponent suffers from an inability to read aviation charts. White Sands is deep within restricted airspace (making it completely inaccessible) but Palmdale is protected by nothing more than the Class D controlled airspace around its airfield, no different than any other minor towered airfield.
I am a very casual player. Before Shōnin, it has been weeks since I last touched the scanner. However, I have a very unique ability: I happen to be the pilot who flew +David Bauman
when he took out the field anchored at Point Sur. When I awoke Saturday morning, I didn’t even know Shõnin was about to start. The Resistance had been desperately seeking a means to bring down the Enlightenment field and this brought them to me.
I was quickly brought into the emergency planning channels. Once all the necessary flight planning had been completed, I headed off to the airport to start the preflight inspections while my WSO (weapon systems officer), +Tash Hepting
, made the long trip from his house to the airport in South Bay. Once everything was in place, we started the engine, relayed our intentions to the tower, and took off a little before noon.
When most people think of airplanes, they think of jets. A light aircraft is not a jet. It has a reciprocating engine, just like a car. Burns gasoline, just like a car. Travels at 200 mph...quite a bit faster than a car, but not as fast as a jet. From the airfield in South Bay to the target portal, it will take us over two hours. Along the way, I’m practicing my technique to hit a ground target while Tash is getting his equipment ready. He has come to this with full determination: satellite modems, signal amplifiers, everything one could imagine. This mission will not fail on his account. Trickles of information come in from the ground. We lost the first measurement but by only a handful of points. The field is the only thing preventing a resistance victory.
As we close in on the target portal, I slow down to 88 mph indicated (which, after factoring in density altitude and tailwind, still comes out to over 115 mph on the ground) and Tash starts providing real time estimates to the Resistance. We could be there in time for the third measurement, but definitely before the fourth. Instructions are disseminated to Team captains: start gathering the very portal keys Enlightenment agents are unwisely discarding.
Around the third measurement, we make our first pass over the target portal. Unfortunately, a glitch in the communications gear causes a signal loss right in front of the portal. Our first attempt is a failure and the Resistance is forced to enter the third measurement still covered in slime. The original plan, in case of failure, was to continue onto the destination airport, refuel, and make a second attempt on return to South Bay. Given the nature of our failure, this plan had to be discarded: we learned nothing from the first pass.
After a few minutes, I gathered enough courage to key up the mic and nervously ask ATC for permission to circle back. Without any hesitation or concern, the friendly controller gave me the all-clear and we circled back for our second pass. This time, with just 20 minutes left before the final measurement, Tash’s ADA hit home and the field collapsed. +William Olsen
, positioned deep in the California desert, threw a blocker to drive the final nail into the coffin.
Vegas exploded into a chorus of cheers. The field, which all-but-guaranteed an enlightenment win just moments before, was gone. Resistance captains ordered their teams to link all the things, using the very keys enlightened agents were discarding just minutes before. The timing was classic Hollywood. It could not get better if one tried. And with the mission finished, we continued to our destination airport to rest, eat, and go on standby.
The final scores were announced: the resistance took Las Vegas by 50 points, exactly half the points the enlightenment would have earned had the field survived the fourth and final measurement. Our operation singlehandedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. We were the heroes of the hour and our channels of communication were clogged with cheers and praise.
When deciding our next course of action, I explained that it would be three hours back to South Bay but only one hour if we continued onto Vegas. We decide that we might as well make an appearance at the Resistance after-party and learn just how things turned out on the ground.
Upon landing at Henderson, the very same Bill who closed off the Enlightenment’s only chance to rethrow their field, arrived to take us to the after party. Tash, already a notable fixture in the Resistance was recognized immediately. He quickly diverted attention to me and I was soon regaled with drink offers, women flashing their breasts, and stories of just how incredible it was on the ground when the field went down. I finally had the opportunity to meet the other infamous Resistance pilot, +Jeremy Angel
, and we nerded out on airplanes for a while.
Unfortunately, I was required to turn down the drink offers. The FAA has strict rules regarding private pilot compensation and I was planning to fly out the next day. Hopefully no one was insulted. Of course, storms followed me into Vegas, so I was trapped there for an extra two days. And those two nights? What happens in Vegas...
I also would like to thank +Patti Beadles
for letting me crash on her hotel room couch, +Cynthia Clark
for driving me around town, +Steve Finch
for getting me back to the airport, and all the Resistance agents in Las Vegas who turned this into an epic story instead of just a cool one.
My little soapbox: While leading to great stories, airplanes should not be a required tool for remaining competitive in Ingress. Two of the portals used in this field are on secured military facilities completely closed to the general public. While I lack strong feelings regarding the existence of such portals, I become profoundly annoyed when they are used to adversely affect the gameplay of tens of thousands of players who have literally no recourse. Stories should be about how ordinary people accomplished incredible (or at least creative) feats, not how a defense contractor shut down half the US from his desk portal.
To aspiring skygressors: FLY THE AIRPLANE. The first, second, and third responsibility of the PIC (Pilot In Command) is the safe conduct of the flight. I had literally nothing to do with Ingress during this flight. The game was purely the responsibility of my passenger who is depending on me to get him back home safely. This is not a military mission: failing to capture a portal does not cost human lives but prioritizing the game over safe operation of the aircraft will.