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The Shaper Key

On 26th of February Thomas posted the following

I'm hearing whispers that a couple of new Ingress chapters may drop within the next couple of weeks after all….

All of which has me wondering about an experiment I've been asked to consider, but I'd like to run it by you….

What would you say to a page or community that dropped a free excerpt of serialized Alignment fiction DAILY?

We are talking 300-1000 words that would be commented upon, shared and SHAPED by readers as the river of “flash fiction” pours forth 365 days a year. Rather than waiting 3 months for the next novella or full-length novel to go on sale.

And what about the option of having these selections delivered to your inbox daily? Versus having to check your notifications to read the latest and winding back through the thread for those you missed.

Taking your comments now while we wait for those Ingress chapters to drop in a couple of weeks….

This gave a hint that the next novella release would not follow the same standarts as usual and that a community would be released soon where people could see the story as it unfolded and also interact with it at some level

First 5 pages

The first extract was introduced by Thomas Greanias in the following post


OK, this is a tough one to post. As one who likes to hold out hope for the best, and who believes nobody is truly “dead,” I must now confirm that Hank Johnson has passed from this world to the next.

As many of you know, Hank and I had been working on a big official novel to explain Ingress to the world in a format that would pass government redactions. I had wrapped the manuscript up—or so I thought—only a few weeks ago. But its release in its current form is in doubt as I now must pick up the pieces Hank has left behind and write a new ending.

But with the Austin, Texas anomaly coming up, it seems only fitting to honor Hank and his untold work after the Cross Plains “glyph” event last year.

It's time that story be told.

Here are the first five pages of Hank's further adventure, some of it recasting what you may already know, with more of the story you don't know to follow.

Thomas Greanias

June 6 Cross Plains, Texas

Nobody winds up in Cross Plains, Texas, by accident, thought Hank Johnson. You have to be drawn there or driven there by some cosmic force. And if you’re actually born there, then that’s no accident either. Hank stood before the tombstone of E. Howard’s grave and stared at it as if it were his own.

Would this be his fate if he succumbed to the effects of the Dark XM now coursing through this mind and body?

He was here to find out.

As fate would have it, he had arrived in town in time for “Robert E. Howard Days,” a festival held yearly to coincide with the anniversary of the horror writer’s death. It was the way Howard died, or rather the madness that consumed him just before, that prompted Misty Hannah to suggest that Hank investigate

Howard’s correspondence with his fellow pulp writer and penpal Howard Phillips Lovecraft, better known as H.P. Lovecraft. Somehow, Hank suspected that Carrie Campbell, being the semiotician and all, was the real source all along, using Misty to plant the bug in his ear. Either way, it worked. He was here, hoping to find a clue that confirmed his exposure to the ancient Shaper glyphs he had seen when he was exposed to Dark XM with his pal astro-archaeologist Conrad Yeats beneath the Luizi Crater in the Congo.

His working theory was that similar glyphs to what he saw may have set off Howard and Lovecraft on their horrific descent to death. By inference, of course, Hank, too, could well be on a similar path, which would explain his obsession beyond a thirst for answers.

Could Howard and Lovecraft both have experienced XM in the form of madness? Did their exposure to Shaper glyphs enhance their literary creativity—or possibly trigger their madness before they died? And could he himself suffer the same fate?

Hank had to find out.

Howard was the more famous of the two writers for creating “Conan the Barbarian,” “Red Sonja,” “Solomon Kane” and “Borak” for the pulp magazines, and most notably “Weird Tales” in the late 20’s and 30’s. But it wasn’t those stories that interested him now, but rather his lesser known horror tales because they overlapped with Lovecraft’s: “The Black Stone,” “The Stone Man,” “The Cairn on the Headland,” “The Children of the Night,” “The Fire of Asshurbanipal,” “The Dark Man,” and the “Valley of the Lost.”

While the official story was that the Cthulhu Mythos and the Necronomicon were flights of fancy cobbled together by Lovecraft, and that later on Howard jumped in on the fun, Hank suspected that the truth was a bit darker. Okay, he more than suspected it. Misty tipped him off to the idea that Lovecraft had access to books in the ancient glyphic language, or had come upon them in his occult research, and for one reason or another he had concealed his true source, fictionalizing it as the Necronomicon. But Lovecraft’s search for evidence of the ancient writings and their meaning was very real.

And so was his.

Hank heard a snicker behind him and turned to see a hunchbacked little Mexican shoveling spades of dirt at a freshly dug grave. He was a bizarre figure, sniveling and snorting, like a character out of a Lovecraft or Howard novel.

“And who are you supposed to be?” Hank asked him.

“The grave digger, senor,” he said with the oddest accent Hank had ever heard.

Maybe he wasn’t even Mexican, Hank decided, but some weird Indian off the reservation or something. Whatever he was, he was damn ugly. And weird. Yet there was something oddly, horribly familiar about him in an evil, twisted way.

“I dig the graves. I dig one for you, you want.”

“Maybe another day,” Hank said and left the graveyard behind, and the demented hunchback howled like a hyena to the setting sun.

Hank caught a lucky break the next day in Cross Plains. His search for the lost letters had come up dry at the local library and museum, but a local benefactor told him that the letters were discovered during maintenance at the Howard home, as if Howard or surviving family members had hidden them. Hank could only speculate on that, but was thrilled to have them for a night.

There were three yellowed and worn letters, folded and bound by a string, which Hank carefully untied inside his room at the local inn.

The first letter was comprised of two pages, with blocks of typewritten text. Hank picked it up with trembling fingers and began to read:

Dear H,

I plan to return to the mine as soon as Mother heals up a little bit. It should be soon; my father is a doctor. There’s no telling what I’m going to run into out there: Comanche holdouts, holed up bank robbers (don’t laugh, times are tough here), and other treasure hunters who might not take kindly to my search. A friend of mine said he would loan me a gun. I’m of two minds about whether to go myself or take on a partner. The problem with partners is they can talk, and they’ve been known to get greedy. As you and I both know, the silver is the least of it, but what a thrill it would be to find the actual mine that Jim Bowie, by some accounts, got a look at. Perhaps he left his knife in there. That would be a great souvenir to have on my desk next to Cleopatra and my Underwood, to hold papers down during twister season. That’s right, you don’t have twisters back East. I wonder how they compare to northeasters. One of these days, I will have to travel back there and meet you man to man or writer to writer. I would greatly look forward to meeting Smith, too.

I learned something intriguing about Jim Bowie while talking to an old man in town. He says his grandfather actually went with Bowie and fought alongside him at [BLOTTED OUT]. This may or may not be true, but my estimation of him went up a notch when he poured out a detail that isn’t publicly known. He said he’d heard talk when he was a kid that Bowie had more than just patriotic reasons for going to the Alamo. Speaking strictly for myself, the fight would have been enough to get me to saddle up, standing there next to Crockett, Travis, and Bowie himself. Staring down the entire Mexican Army dressed up like Napoleon’s Grande Armee would have been a heck of a sight, even if it was the last thing you ever saw.

Here’s the latest lead. As I said before, and you read in Dobie, the Spaniards had a rich silver mining operation that they inherited from the Indians, who, of course, didn’t really mine, but picked nuggets up off the ground and hammered them into crude jewelry. The Indians inherited this practice from other people, the “Anazktec,” of whom little is known.

The Spaniards made a haul but were constantly harassed by the Comanches, a brave and vicious race, not unlike the Vikings of the desert, who still raid and pillage in some sparsely civilized parts of the state. At some point, the Comanches overran the Fortaleza, and the Spaniards hid the aforementioned silver and made tracks. It is said that they took with them a map and a number of other documents pertaining to the mines, so that they might be found again, as they had removed all trace of their whereabouts.

That map, along with, more importantly, artistic reproductions of petroglyphs and “advanced writings in some unknown language,” like a primitive version of an illuminated manuscript, were then carried to San Antonio. There, as legend has it, they were left for safekeeping, should the Spanish be killed by the Comanche on their way to Mexico, where they were headed to request more conquistadores, harquebuses, and other things useful to warding off attackers.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. I believe that Bowie went to the Alamo to find the lost maps and documents because rumor had it that the mines he’d seen were just a glimpse of a vast, hidden mineral wealth.

I wonder if, in those last days of his life, Bowie ever found these documents. Were they in the room with him when he died killing Santa Ana’s men with his Arkansas toothpick, or did he put them back where he found them so that they might escape fire and theft? Maybe, just maybe, they’re still hidden there, waiting to be found by yours truly. I thought they would be of great interest to you because I suspect that the copied artworks might contain something from that lost language you keep talking about in “Necronomicon.”

By the way, a local pastor told me that translates to “Book of the Dead.” Not that I am in high standing with him, since he was decidedly disturbed by some of my weird stories. “[BLOTTED OUT]” is probably at the top of his list of offending tomes.

Well, I have much to prepare before my journey. I also have to make sure Father can spare the care for a night or so. As I told you, doctors are in short supply in Cross Plains and environs.



Hidden Info

Hidden Info
From the Twitter post

Caps spell ENTANGLER. Cassandra is the 'entangler of men'. Vig autokey lowers, reverse for threevcdthreegtwowseveno

Rows of 3 . Reverse first and third line. Read from top to bottom.

Reverse halves, keyword is mirror

Atbash. Rows of 4, read from bottom up, left to right. Translate the numbers that are in italian

ascii to hex. Treat hex as octal. Octal to ascii. Pairs. Numbers to letters

Second set

Original Link

Hank set the pages down on a table next to the fireplace and picked up his bottle of Russian River Pliny the Elder and took a swig. Lost languages. Symbols. Howard had to be talking about glyphs. Glyphs that went back ages. Glyphs perhaps of Shaper origins. Glyphs like the ones he saw beneath the Luizi Crater. He picked up the Lovecraft letter, which Lovecraft wrote in reply to Robert E. Howard’s letter. This one was also typewritten, on a single sheet of paper, with symbols Lovecraft had drawn at the bottom.

Dear R:

I look forward with great interest to hearing of your upcoming exploits. There is a pronounced shortage of Comanches in my area, most likely because they have been run off by the particularly murderous breed of debt collector who has recently descended upon [BLOTTED OUT] and me. Damn my father for squandering the family fortune on drink and dice.

I will sketch some sample glyphs from the Miskatonic documents so that you might compare them to whatever you find. Please keep them secret, not only because of the occult nature of our work, but also because they seem to draw unwanted attention.

I hesitate to write this because I do not want to unnecessarily worry you, but shortly after my visit to the special collections area of the University library, I was visited by some men who were curious about my interest in such things. They claimed to be researchers, but they did not seem academic, at least not in the normal sense. These were hard men who appeared to be weighed down by an unseen burden. They had the sallow, haunted look (which I fear I have been developing as well) of men who have gazed too hard at things that should not be gazed at. They seemed to be well-versed in my work, yet they were definitely not typical WEIRD readers.

For your own safety, I would not recommend staring too long at these symbols. Also, if you choose to write about these matters in your fiction, be sure to disguise them. You don’t want to draw the wrong kind of attention.

In less apocalyptic matters, have you any recommendations for new publishers now that WEIRD is dead? I am having little luck with New York literary houses who, despite the fact that they understand the popular appeal of our fantastical literature, seem embarrassed to publish it.

All good wishes.


Hank stared at the glyphs. He had seen them before. He had actually written them down for Carrie Campbell and given them to Misty Hannah, who in turn had handed them off to Klue. Hank took another swig of his brew and picked up the final letter, which was Howard’s reply to H.P.

Dear H.

I went up to Caddo Peak and saw a green flash at sunset. That’s when it snapped. I made the journey. It is better that I not write of it. This letter could fall into the wrong hands. We must meet in person. I have been visited. Nightmares. Waking nightmares. Glyphs match across space and time. I don’t know whether to leave them on the pyre or hide them. I have noticed new abilities. I have had strange ideas, even for me. Have you been experiencing this?

If they catch up to me, and if you are able, find out about the Bowie place I mentioned in my last missive. And hide that missive. Just in case.

Yours sincerely,


Hank put the final letter down with the other two. There could be no doubt that Howard was enlisted in his Shaper Glyph quest by Lovecraft, in the same way he himself had been by Carrie Campbell. And that shortly before his death by suicide, Robert Howard went in search of the fabled San Saba mine.

“And now so must I,” Hank thought to himself, before he did a faceplant on the table and passed out for the night.

It was the shouts that woke him up the next morning, the final day of “Robert E. Howard Days,” and he blinked his eyes open as shafts of sunlight illuminated the letters on the table.

He slowly got up and walked over to his window. He looked out across the main road and saw the crowds at the Howard house. Dozens of Ingress players and other festival attendees stood with their cameras. Even a couple of hobby drones hovered overhead.

A minute later Hank ran over and saw for himself what all the commotion was about: A gigantic glyph had magically appeared on the back yard grounds of the Howard house.

And it wasn’t just any glyph. It was the Shaper symbol from his nightmare. The one that had also seared itself on Carrie Campbell. “Has to be a prank,” somebody said. “Maybe one of the Shaper cultists.”

That’s what Hank thought, except that until that moment it was known to nobody but him and Carrie Campbell.

Hank looked up at the skies. Storm clouds were moving in, which meant it was time for him to move out and find the lost San Saba mine like Robert E. Howard before him. There, Howard saw glyphs of Shaper origin and went insane. But Hank too had seen these kinds of ancient “black” glyphs associated with Dark XM beneath the Luizi Crater, and he had not gone insane.

Or had he?

The next step on his quest would prove it one way or another.

A light drizzle began to fall on Cross Plains as the “Robert E. Howard Days” came to an end and the weekend tourists dispersed. As Hank Johnson’s car left Main Street headed south, the hunchback from the graveyard, carrying his shovel on his shoulder, walked up to a shiny Dodge pickup, tossed his shovel into the flatbed, and climbed into the forward cab next to the tall and once again dark-skinned driver.

“He’s going to lead us to San Saba,” he said as he worked his deformed lips.

The tall man looked down at him and frowned. “Stop talking Chinese. I can’t understand a word you’re saying.” Then he turned the ignition, shifted gears, and followed Hank Johnson out of town into the desert.

June 8 Texas (USA)

The effects of the glyphs on his own person were evident to Hank immediately upon leaving Cross Plains, because somehow, and he didn’t know how exactly, he had a clear idea of where the lost San Saba mine was located, even though he couldn’t find it on any map. It was like his rental car was steering itself, even though his hands were on the wheel. Or like Howard was sitting in the seat next to him.

That feeling soon took shape in his rearview mirror, where he picked up a follower not far out of Cross Plains. It’s hard to know when you’re being tailed on a long Texas highway, but Hank had that feeling. It came from years of working with the Special Forces and was probably heightened with some doses of XM. He tested his theory, doing the things one would do if he were checking for a tail. The responses were textbook professional. He was being followed. Funny thing is that it would have been harder to detect an amateur.

His spider sense started tingling as he began winding into a hilly area west of Abilene. A cloud front rolled in, obscuring the sun, and he was seeing unfamiliar birds circling in the sky. They weren’t the scavengers of the American Southwest, but their distant cousins, African Hooded Vultures. To the south, he spotted a verdant canyon in the distance. It looked almost tropical. He knew that extreme microclimates existed, but he’d never heard of this one. It was almost like a man-made jungle had been planted in Texas. He figured it was his imagination.

Hank was snapped back to reality when his engine suddenly cracked. His hood flew up like an enormous sail and caused him to careen around the road until it blew off. His engine smoked, oil and coolant erupted and he steered his car off the road into a thicket of scrub trees.

Only one thing could have caused this—a 50-calibre bullet into the engine block. Hank knew that because more than once he’d been on the other side of a Barret .50, firing into a vehicle. It was designed to punch armor and damage vehicles with precision, at range. And it did its job.

He tried to make the scene look worse than it was. He jammed in the cigarette lighter, which incredibly still worked, and set fire to the car, hoping to cause an engine explosion and some distracting smoke and flame for his pursuers.

He looked for an escape route and found what appeared to a dried stream. He jumped into it, hoping it would give him cover as he fled. In the distance he heard gunshots, but his heightened senses told him that the bullets were not aimed at him or at the wreck. They told him there was a third armed presence on the field.

As Hank stumbled down the dry creek bed, he had an eerie flashback of the cracked ground in the Congo. Only there was something wrong with this creek bed, and he realized what it was. The base of it was not rock but paving stones. Ancient paving stones. It was subtle, and an untrained eye would have missed it. But Hank was not at the bottom of a creek bed, he was walking on an ancient road five feet below ground level.

After a quarter of a mile of running in a crouched position along cracked, broken pavers, he hit a bend and stopped, caught his breath, and attempted to gain his bearings. Behind him, a tall column of smoke rose from his car. Good. Looking for his body would eat up valuable time.

He heard more shots and got moving again.

Some distance ahead was that strange green foliage he had seen on the way in, maybe a mile away. But the landscape he was standing in was not indigenous to Texas either. It was like some veld in Southern Africa, a space so wild and open. The difference was subtle, but it was there.

And now he knew he was being watched.

Hidden Info

Hidden Info
In the twitter post

two rows, rearrange columns to make the word comint

Replace scanner with ingress

groups of 3, read down columns, —– is a link

2 rows. rearrange to spell the word code

Third set

Original Post

June 8 San Saba Mine Texas (USA)

Hank looked up to see a military helicopter buzzing over his burned out shell of a rental. The chopper drifted around for a minute, and then dark figures began to rappel down to the ground. Not good.

He heard some cracks from behind but didn’t bother turning around to see what they were as he took off on foot.

Having flown U.S. domestic into Texas, Hank had brought no weapon, which now seemed ironic for a state where every other cowboy struts around with a side-holstered six-shooter.

Instinctively, he knew this was the time to drop his photo card for Carrie, just in case he didn’t make it out of there.

He set up his phone camera and started recording. “Carrie, this is for your eyes only. The spec op guys are relentless. I can’t shake them. Which means I might not get out of this. If that’s the case, I’m going to leave my camera’s memory card someplace where they can’t find it. If you’re watching this, that means you got my message.”

He uploaded the recording to YouTube and hid his camera card in the crevice of some rocks—primitive cover, but good in a pinch.

Just as he finished, he heard the cracks of more gunshots. Voices moved toward him. A thicket not far away exploded with activity as a jaguar sprang out and tore away.

A jaguar in Texas?

Two more figures emerged from the brush—a tall, dark-skinned man and a shorter hunchback. Hank suddenly recognized them and blinked, unable to believe it at first: They were Hulong’s own Mr. Smith and Mr. Chen. He thought they were dead, but somehow the two came out of the Luizi Crater alive, if damaged.

And they were coming after him like the Devil.

Hank flew down the trail of broken pavers as fast as his pumping legs would take him. Soon the pavers beneath his boots turned into something else, something far more subtle. He was now on an ancient path with natural markers that echoed images he remembered while reading one of Robert E. Howard’s letters. Some explorers call these kind of maps “songlines.”

What Howard described as a monster in his fiction was in fact a rather sinister looking rock formation ahead. Hank could almost feel himself floating toward its invisible maw against his will.

Then in front of him he saw darkness in the ground. At first he thought it was a puddle, but it didn’t look right. No reflection. Then he realized it was a gaping hole in the path. He crawled to the edge of it. The bricks underneath him shifted slightly, like they were ready to collapse into the hole.

He peered down. Darkness. But he could pick out some roots snaking down around some carved rocks that resembled elaborate stone pillars. It became evident to him that he wasn’t on the floor of a lost civilization, he was on the roof of it. The dry river bed he had been running across was, in fact, the top of an aqueduct. The aqueduct of an underground civilization.

Another crack from a gun.

Hank turned and saw the swift, methodical pace of armed forces snaking down the river towards him. He didn’t know whether they’d spotted him or were taking the course of least resistance across the hardscrabble terrain. But he wasn’t going to stick around and find out.

He made the calculations and then made the jump into the darkness, catching a vine that held him in midair. He swung himself back and forth until he could reach the giant pillar that held up the aqueduct he had been running across. Below him was more darkness.

The vine went down a long way, and when it grew thin, other roots which had circled around the giant pillar like a giant python also held true. It was almost pitch black, and that was good.

Shimmying around the vine like an agile primate, he heard a scream and caught his breath in the darkness.

One of the troopers apparently hadn’t been as lucky as he had on the descent. He had plunged to his death at the bottom. Another shadow leapt across the circle of daylight above him, but got a foothold on the rocks. He cursed loudly in Chinese , but he didn’t lose his cool. These guys were very well trained.

Hank reached the bottom of the pillar. It was maybe three or four stories high. He looked up to see more commandos coming down the rope. For a moment he thought he was doomed, until he finally reached the floor of the structure.

He could barely see in the dim light and didn’t dare turn on his flashlight. But he could see enough to know that he had landed on a small street flanked by ornate structures.

This wasn’t going to be a cave battle down here, he realized. This was going to be a house-to-house fight in an ancient underground city. His odds had just gone from nil to something slightly better. Aside from thin columns of light piercing the darkness, the cavern was pitch black. He heard the muffled echo of a dozen bodies stepping slowly through the ruins. Here and there he heard directionless command sounds as they advanced towards him.

Then, he heard something else…a scampering, slithering sound….

Hidden Info

Hidden Info
In the Twitter post

vigenere autokey tyoqpjagzrauzrvcxszyivyat with rubicon, reverse for threeusathreehsevenvninec. Add rubicon

Rows of 4. Read from top to bottom right to left. Replace kureze with victor

Rows of 4. Reverse middle one. Read from bottom up right to left

400AP / 300XM / L2R / L5XMP / PS(2) / LA / HS cr0xv1u0ff42myg4gh14litv1wm30yjs3ax
Extract lowercase, vigenere autokey with 'nine' for ksffourqfourbsevenqatem

Reverse. Lower casing to higher casing, Caps to numbers and numbers to lower casing. base 64 decode

resources/books/the_shaper_key.txt · Last modified: 2016/06/18 21:20 (external edit)