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A world much like our own. A city like the one in which you live. A corporation whose doors you pass every day. Maybe you notice the subtle sans-serif fonted words adorning the entrance, maybe you pass by obliviously engaged in finishing your latte and catching up on a podcast.

But behind that glass frontage and tasteful minimalist decor lies a terrible secret; for within those walls, unbeknownst even to those that labour tired-eyed over PCs from 9 to 5, plans are drawn to herald the return of foul N'grathotep from its eternal dreamless slumber using the powers of...

?

Spreadsheets? Why would a cult devoted to (or the human avatars of) some kind of eldritch horror from beyond the veil of time and space require a moderately sized office-based company to complete their dark summoning ritual? The solution would need to be something unable to be accomplished by a single person in isolation. I'd like the answer to focus on that aspect: why would they need a company, so I'd like to avoid solutions like "They need a company to use as a front" (sure, a front, but for what exactly?). Could it be for the access to personal information? Could it be something to do with the stock market? What about involving an app of some kind to complete part of the ritual?

The closest I have managed is some kind of entropy-manipulation as represented by enormous quantities of computer data: but I can't very well explain what sort of physical act this would comprise, nor what kind of company one would use as to enable it.

(PS: I've been pointed towards "How would Facebook Sysadmins prevent the summoning of Cthulhu?" as inspiration. I like the idea, but for plot purposes this company doesn't have the scope or reach of Facebook, so they wouldn't be able to reach a billion+ users. I'm trying for something smaller scale, if possible.)

EDIT: Wow thanks everyone. Pretty overwhelmed by the amazing responses! A few great points that have been brought up that I wanted to add:

  • Charles Stross's Laundry Files have been mentioned a number of times as a good source of research. I'll definitely look into those more, as I really like the way he transplants weird eldritch horror into an office environment
  • Related to the above, the idea of using computers or data centres to perform calculations or produce patterns to aid some sort of summons is really appealing, and definitely fits the question nicely.
  • The other common thread is more of a squishy-biological one; the idea that a bio-research company could use their apparently legitimate activities to cover for blood harvesting, or human sacrifices. This I like too, although I'd have to write-around the fact that most of the company employee's don't know what the company is up to. While it'd be hard to justify hiding these sorts of transgressions from the employee population, it's certainly not impossible and there's still scope here.

Thanks again. I'll mark a question as "Answered" in a few days once the activity has died down.

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    $\begingroup$ It's been done: Ethan B Wembelsons and Sons, Gray Lensman by E.E. Doc Smith, 1939. Instead of the rituals directly, the company laid the groundwork: Quietly infiltrating, corrupting, and dismantling the institutions that protected society, directly following the orders of the coming Eldritch Horror. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 5 '18 at 1:37
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    $\begingroup$ There are several points in your question that remind me of Charles Stross's take on eldritch abominations (specifically, dark magic as applied information theory). See e.g. The Atrocity Archives or The Annihilation Score. $\endgroup$ – LSerni Feb 5 '18 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ ...but for marketing purposes I'd suggest Great Hallowed Ones United, Ltd. $\endgroup$ – LSerni Feb 5 '18 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like something quite like Wolfram & Hart from Angel... $\endgroup$ – Jon Clements Feb 5 '18 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ All religions have administrative offices, the crazier the cult the more office space they need to keep track of and control everyone. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 5 '18 at 13:42

18 Answers 18

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Have YOU ever tried setting up classic rituals? Everything's going well with everyone in their matching robes and masks, and just as the Grand Priest is finishing the ritual to summon a Great Old One the hero swoops in and steals the book, or breaks the pentagrams and unleashes something that slaughters the worshipers too soon and the wrong kind of hell breaks loose.

That's why they need to be more discreet about it. Once the company is large enough, the CEO organizes an all-company meeting to discuss the future goals of the company. Everyone wears the free matching GOO Limited t-shirts that they handed out (they're always a bit too long), the CEO starts giving the usual speech about synergy and growth (while for some reason wearing a weird hat), and during the usual company sing-a-long where everyone just reads off the screen (because nobody actual remembers the song), suddenly the words on the screen get weirder and weirder, and your workers start staring straight ahead and chant in unison. Finally you complete a ritual without the heroes getting in the way, since nobody but the Grand CEO Priest knew about it this time.

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    $\begingroup$ This I really like: particularly because of the way it wraps it in the hateful business practices of buzzwords and seminars and corporate brainwashing to try and get company employees to sing from the same hymnbook, literally ;) $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 5 '18 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ Going forward I think we should re-synergise the workstreams to match up better with the blue sky ai-ia ftlogn grphl paradigm. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Feb 5 '18 at 7:28
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs: Some meetings are so boring that I doubt anyone would notice if the speaker started speaking in a different language every few minutes. $\endgroup$ – Giter Feb 5 '18 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ I think I've been to that meeting..... $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Feb 5 '18 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ I think I really want to read the story from the perspective of one of the bored employees. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Feb 6 '18 at 14:58
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It IS a front because if you openly state as the firm's mission and vision to summon a destroyer of worlds your business isn't going very far.

Aside from that, there are some things that dark cults need that just aren't cheap, nor easy to arrange.

For example, the summoning ritual may require the fresh blood of 600 healthy, young adult women. Try to imagine, for just a minute, the logistics involved in acquiring that without getting arrested. Just try.

Even if you are not going through the human trafficking route... A young adult woman will have around 4.5 to 5 liters of blood in her body. That fills 9 to 10 bags of donated blood. So you'll need about 6,000 bags of blood.

You can't just steal bags from a blood bank at gunpoint. Even if you don't get caught or shot, you would hardly be able to steal that much while keeping it fresh. Then you lose the bags with male blood. Then you lose the bags with blood from non-virgins. Then you lose the blood from the ones who were not healthy.

What you need is:

  • A team of hackers that will break into blood bank databases and steal sensitive information;
  • A team of investigators that will cross-examine data about individuals to find out which female donors are most likely virgins;
  • A team of doctors and nurses to analyze the blood and separate useful blood from useless blood;
  • A team of cons and white collar criminals that will defraud hospital records and other things in order to obtain blood bags in manners that seem legal;
  • A team of people to transport the blood from hospitals/blood banks to the company's storage;
  • A team of lobbysts to convince the government on all levels - cities, states/provinces and country - to create sexual abstinence programs (masqueraded as STD prevention) so that you are statistically more likely to find virgin blood available in blood banks. And yes, government sponsored sexual abstinence programs are a thing in some places of the world.

And those are just the people who are going to be getting their hands dirty. You'll need managers to coordinate those people's efforts, human resources for recruiting, accountants for handling salaries, IT to develop the ERP system that is going to handle the data, a helpdesk department...

Now, you are unlikely to get all the blood you need in any single city, even if it is a metropolis like NY or Pequin. You'll need to go national at least. So you will need regional directors, and each branch will need another set of all the professionals above.

See, a corporation is not just something you'll use in order to get a nice place that is away from prying eyes. It is the minimum structure and organization that will be able to attain the materials you need for your rituals.

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    $\begingroup$ That is an awesome answer. And to add to all of this, you need PR agents to glad hand and bribe politicians and bureaucrats to keep the police off your back. Accountants to ensure the IRS doesn't come around to ask why you have a 'black ops' fund. And you will need some kind of business to pay for all of this. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke Feb 5 '18 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ The majority of the company would be a regular money making organization. However only higher level accountants, HR people, and managers deal with the special affairs division. And getting a promotion into special affairs, while ensuring a hefty pay raise, has a tendency of making the newly promoted worker being 'moved' out of town, or suffering a fatal problem well outside of work hours and totally unrelated to his or her job. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke Feb 5 '18 at 4:25
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    $\begingroup$ Something else to add. Company meetings, outings and events are a wonderful time to try out greetings and slogans for foreign countries. "Everyone we have a new office in (insert small virtually unknown country here), we may be getting a representative coming over so repeat their traditional greeting with me, "R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." And of course there are acronyms! "What does this company stand for? HASTUR! Helpful! Amazing! Satisfaction guaranteed! Terrific! Unique! and Ready for Action! HASTUR! HASTUR! HASTUR!" Basically a smaller scale version of Giter's idea. $\endgroup$ – Dan Clarke Feb 5 '18 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ You can get more blood out of the virgin girl, if you don’t extract it at once, but keep her alive to let her recover. Of course, this requires some logistics too. It’s simpler, when the girls are unaware employees of your companay who participate in the regular blood donation actions, the company is advertising “to a good cause”. Natural fluctuation of the amount of virgin employees are no problem if the company is big enough $\endgroup$ – Holger Feb 5 '18 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ if you openly state as the firm's mission and vision to summon a destroyer of worlds your business isn't going very far. [Citation needed]. I've seen political campaigns succeed with a message that was, in essence, exactly that... $\endgroup$ – xDaizu Feb 5 '18 at 10:22
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What a legitimate company with innocent employees is good for is what all legitimate companies do anyways : running a business, gathering property, gaining licenses, managing property...

While most of that can be accomplished by a private person or a small group, forming a company is more convenient for all the same reasons normal businessmen find companies. Having an organization that supports you and handles all the legal details is so much more convenient.

A foundation or a religious organization might be even better but a company does provide better camouflage in cases where you are dealing with legitimate actions that can be handled by ignorant employees.

This suggests few possibilities :

You need money. The simplest solution, really. You need resources to get things done and in the modern world that means money. Making money is what companies are generally for. There is a perfect alignment of purposes. You will get good efficiency and nobody will suspect anything because nothing suspicious is being done.

You need property. Suppose the ritual needs to be done in multiple locations at once and requires lengthy preparations for maximal chances of success and can only be attempted when the stars are right. Say, every 21,568 years? You'd want guaranteed access over time to all the locations and that means you'd want to own them. A property management company would be pretty convenient as it would be in better position to buy and manage the property than any single person.

You need unusual resources. Renan already mentioned blood but plenty of other possibilities exist. Lots of chemicals would raise red flags for a private person but be available in bulk for a business in the right industry. For drugs the this goes double. A drug company might be able to research and manufacture drugs that are not even available otherwise. Materials such as gold or depleted uranium are much easier to acquire in quantity, if your business has a legitimate reason to do so. A construction or mining company would have easier time getting explosives or heavy machinery to dig up a temple that has been buried by two million years of sediment.

You need connections. If hands need to be greased and licenses acquired to do some of the preparations without somebody asking inconvenient questions, having a company that handles the networking and negotiation provides more value than just a front. This does include lobbying. (I originally failed to mention this because I personally see lobbying as legalized form of bribery. It works the same and has the same effects. Kudos to Murphy for pointing out the oversight in a comment.) While individuals can lobby and lobbying is often done via personal contacts, having a company gives you much more flexibility and reach.

You need the bodies. Suppose the rituals require a sacrifice of few thousand sentients? You could purchase them from some unscrupulous human traffickers or sponsor a terrorist group to grab "hostages" from some convenient location but... Do you really want the return of our rigthful overlords to depend on such people being reliable? Do you even want to associate with such people? Even if you manage to find the one group that no law enforcement agency has yet found, these people themselves will still be a pain to interact with. Much easier to have a company that has necessary amount of employees with a margin of safety and then simply invite them to a company wide event. Surely everyone would be happy to attend a retreat on that paradise island in the pacific the company bought years ago and has been busily developing ever since before it opens for tourists. Well, nobody ever said it is being developed as a tourist resort but what else could you do with an island in the pacific.

Some combination of the above. Reasonably, if you find a company, you will expect to benefit in more than one way. You might even have more than one company handling the various things in various jurisdictions. So the main company would be just a holding company and actual work would be done by small companies being run by unwitting flunkies without you having to work.

Which suggests one more possibility. You might just be lazy or busy. Why should a high priest of Cthulhu handle boring paper work?

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    $\begingroup$ I was about to write an answer, but this covers a lot of ground allready ... Eldritch Ones ltd. could be a holding company for all of the above, with very strict compartmentalization so that no employee can connect the dots. Strict compartmentalization and mushroom management are also soul crushing, which may or may not suit the Eater of souls ... $\endgroup$ – mart Feb 5 '18 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ @mart Ditto, I was going to run with money and resources but this answer put it better than I could have. Minor addition: lobbying. Some things can't be easily bought, even by a wealthy individual. For example if your ancient buried temple is under a nature preserve. But a big company can twist a lot of political arms by doing things like agreeing to set up their new callcentre with 10K jobs in the state if they also get to build it where they want: right over the secret temple. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Feb 5 '18 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Murphy I was trying to cover lobbying with the "connections". Seems like I failed. I'll edit in an explicit mention. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 5 '18 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ I can just imagine the conversations between Research and Upper Management: "Sir, while we in research recognize your brilliance in conceiving of new products and opportunities, I feel I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't point out that there are no known therapeutic benefits to ingredients such as powdered rubies, emeralds, virgin ram's horn, and...did I get this one right?...'...the blood of a virgin, sacrificed at the dark of the moon upon the Altar Of Ultimate Peril'?". "Oh, just shut up and give me the damn capsule, will you? My lumbago is acting up..!" $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Feb 6 '18 at 15:36
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Magic is granted by the great old ones in exchange for making sacrifices to them, the catch is you can't just abduct and kill people they need to be sacrificed willingly, as it turns out depressed office workers committing suicide fits the "willing" criteria.

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    $\begingroup$ This gets a +1 just because it made me laugh out loud. Maybe I should call it "Electronik Artz" $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 5 '18 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ This very much reminds me of Apathy: The Calling $\endgroup$ – walrus Feb 5 '18 at 8:28
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Because the Great Old Ones looked upon Earth, did their job and investigated the planet/plane they are going to invade/contact, and (correctly) identified the dominant life form - not Formicidae, neither (by a long shot) Hominidae, but the corporations. The corporations are aggressive, intelligent, psychopathic and remorseless entities, and relatively powerful to cause problems.

So, they've set up an explorer - an agent if you like, passing for a native. Maybe a diplomatic envoy later on. They might find certain affinity with and fondness for these undercivilized and underdeveloped, but psychologically similar, species of Earth.

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    $\begingroup$ This reminds me of Ford Prefect from HHGTTG, confusing cars for the dominant life form on Earth. +1 $\endgroup$ – BlackVegetable Feb 5 '18 at 15:50
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Let's start with a controversial real world example.

In the 1930s, the woes of Germany and the oppressive demands placed upon it by the Treaty of Versailles means that a new radical war veteran with an economic plan for Germany's future comes to power;

Adolf Hitler.

He decides that there needs to be a purging of an ethnic minority within his country, and effectively declares war on the Jews within his borders.

Doing that took a lot of record keeping. Look up a book; IBM and the Holocaust. This goes into some detail about how this company that was later to become famous for its computer technology offered new cutting edge tabulation systems to the Germans to deliver on their goals.

This is not an IBM-bashing exercise by the way; I'm not going to get into how much (or how little) IBM knew of Germany's intent and what systems actually changed hands etc. That's not the point of this answer.

The point is that even the complete horrors of something like a holocaust has to be administered. Records were kept and maintained. Existing property that was owned by Jews was appropriated and redeployed for the use of others. This involves administration, either by computer or other methods. After all, complete destruction is never the end goal, even in total occupation scenarios.

More recently, have you ever seen the budget materials put out by Islamic State in some of their controlled regions? They openly tell you how much property was in essence stolen from people unaligned with their goals from within their borders and it's actually written into their budgets as income for things like roads, sanitation and the like.

Whether we like it or not, even the most horrific and destructive intent can't be realised without the paperwork being complete.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Wossname It took a while to get my breath back after reading that. wish I could give rep for comments $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Feb 5 '18 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ Oh this comment is just too great, made me laugh really hard :D $\endgroup$ – Hakaishin Feb 7 '18 at 15:14
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The ritual might require a very large number of participants. But not all of these participants might have to know they are participating. For example, if your ancient prophecy requires that everyone has the mark of the devil on their hand in order to conduct trade, then you might want to get into the business of payment solutions. Come up with a payment system which requires an RFID chip implanted in your hand. Print your satanic symbol on the chips, convince everyone that it is better than credit cards, get the majority of stores to accept no other payment, and voila, prophecy fulfilled.

Or maybe you need a lot of people to pray to your dark god in order to give it more power? Then make its name the activation keyword for your home automation solution.

"Ok Cthulhu, dim the lights"

"I ̷HEA̵R͞D͜ ͜Y͡OUR ̛P̴RA͝YER, ͜M̨ORTA̸L!̶̢ M̢AY̶ ̶D͡ARK̢N͡E͟SS̛ ̷ENG͝U͏LF͠ Y͞OÚ... errr... I mean... lowering light intensity to 20%"

Millions of people asking your dark god for favors, multiple times per day. That should give it more than enough faith-power to awake.

In order to spread your covertly evil products to a large number of unsuspecting consumers on a competitive market, you will require a large multinational corporation.

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    $\begingroup$ Alexa: She Who Must Not Be Named. $\endgroup$ – papidave Feb 6 '18 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting: If you released your home automation software some time before an official live-activation, you could even have some degree of coordination. Everyone waits excitedly, midnight ticks by and their new hi-tech home management AI thrums to life, all across the world a hundred thousand users chant, almost in unison, the mysterious passphrase that activates their user license: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn..." $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 6 '18 at 23:54
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Prologue

A kid finds an abandoned iPhone. Excited, he picks it from the floor. As the camera focus on his face, we can hear Siri saying...

Į̴̱̩̥̘̱͈͈̮͙̘͙̣͓͓̙̹̲̫́͢͠t̨͕͎̣͇̫͘͢ ̡҉͕̭̙̦̩̱̟̮̭̞̱̮̺͕͈̘c̶͔̼͍̤̯̦̭͙͓̟̱͘ͅo͏̛̮͍͙̯͔̣͘͜m̨̢͕͎͕̪̹͕̬̀͠e̱͈͓̠͚̺͖̻̦͙̗̥̼̼̬͝ś̸͖̪͍̱̳͉̤̫̮͎̗̗̯͉̫͉̻͞!̶͏̶̛̝̺̭̱̤̻̩̟̳̙͓͙͍͇͎̙̥͔́


10 years later

Our story starts with a few surviving heroes of the Last Secret Eldritch War - or The Facebook Takedown, as it was publicly known. Usual movie tropes apply - they are unaware what the Great Old Ones name is about.

"Can you believe this? 'Great Old Ones LLC. buys EA.' I didn't knew they had this kind of money."

"Oh, they have it alright", said a weary-looking Hackerman. "In fact, I think they have been negotiating in a far more devious coin. You see, this whole hip indie gaming company thing is just that, a facade. Deep beneath that nice Los Angeles building they keep their real business - internet trolls. And not only there, they are everywhere. They deal with the worst human traits: fears, hatred, bigotry, you name it. We never won against Cthulhu, not entirely."

"That's... no, I don't buy it. Why do they need a trendy small indie company then? Can't they just take over some shady government?"

"But that's not how these entities, or at least their envoys, operate. They want the adoration from all forms. They want the silent prayer of every bile-spewing, poorly written Youtube comment; every overly demanding GitHub issue; every newbie-bashing StackOverflow comment... while at the same time they want to be seen as benevolent saviors of the gaming industry themselves. By letting people escape from this depressing, madness-fueled real life into cutesy bubblehead entertainment fairylands."

enter image description here
cute-death, deviantart.com

"They learned their lesson", he continued. "Too big, they attract too much attention. Too evil, and nobody likes you. We won't see another Facebook around soon. But the adorable Goo LLC? Perfect for the job. And that CEO, so young and flaunting a 10-year old iPhone? The perfect front man."

The silence hung heavily for a few seconds.

"So... that means another Secret War is inevitable?"

"It already started, my friend. And we're losing. The world is madder and madder by the minute."

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    $\begingroup$ I like this too. These are great suggestions. What site do you use for the text up there btw? This lot: Į̴̱̩̥̘̱͈͈̮͙̘͙̣͓͓̙̹̲̫́͢͠t̨͕͎̣͇̫͘͢ ̡҉͕̭̙̦̩̱̟̮̭̞̱̮̺͕͈̘c̶͔̼͍̤̯̦̭͙͓̟̱͘ͅo͏̛̮͍͙̯͔̣͘͜m̨̢͕͎͕̪̹͕̬̀͠e̱͈͓̠͚̺͖̻̦͙̗̥̼̼̬͝ś̸͖̪͍̱̳͉̤̫̮͎̗̗̯͉̫͉̻͞!̶͏̶̛̝̺̭̱̤̻̩̟̳̙͓͙͍͇͎̙̥͔́ $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 6 '18 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ @neophlegm - give this a try: lingojam.com/GlitchTextGenerator $\endgroup$ – OnoSendai Feb 7 '18 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ Wait, Internet Trolls? Oh, no! It is too late. $\endgroup$ – Theraot Feb 8 '18 at 17:57
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Maybe Cthulu put it off to long.

If he just pops up out of the abyss, we will put an armor piercing round between his eyes and be home in time for dinner.

Maybe we would catch him in a really big net, then put him in a giant fish tank to amuse our children. Maybe we will slice him up into 20,000 tons of calamari and throw a big party.

He still wants to come back and return our puny world to the old ways, but now he needs to make the world ready to accept him.

Instead of simply crashing through our cities and sacred places, devouring our souls, he has to offer something for them. Perhaps he sells knowledge of the future and buys people's souls.

His long term plan is to create medicines for treating mental illness. After his company has cured Parkinsons, schizophrenia and alzheimers, he will reveal himself as the dark master behind the corporation and ask to peacefully co-exist. For now...

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    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of the excellent game "Cthulu Saves the World" where he must be a hero to regain his evil powers, so he can destroy the world. $\endgroup$ – BlackVegetable Feb 5 '18 at 15:51
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You want to hide in plain sight.

You start a company that produces and sells Cthulhu-themed card, board, role-playing and video games, books, and anything else you can think of. Your fans are nerds who love to play cthultist in their free time. You still need a decent staff of salesmen and marketing specialists to get as many fans as possible, as well as designers, artists and game developers.

One time you organise a big event, inviting all your fans, and you "roleplay" a grand summoning of the Old Ones with hundreds of completely motivated fans.

This assumes that there are no special requirements for the ritual other than enough voices for the chant. Actual human sacrifices could break the immersion quickly, if they happen before the point of no return.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't know why I didn't spot this response before. This is great and really quite unique: I don't think anyone else has taken this approach before. I love how you could include all the usual tropes of pop-culture companies here to further your evil gains (viral marketing, social media campaigns, geek themed merchandise). $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 7 '18 at 21:10
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For some reason this has shown up in replies to the OP, but not yet as an answer.

Charles Stross's Laundry Files series imagines magic as a branch of applied mathematics. Obviously this leads to geeks being magicians, as a starting point.

That's only the start of the setup though. To set the scene for the apocalypse to come, simply carrying out processing operations attracts things which see us as a tasty snack. Human brains can't stop thinking and serious computer power is only making things worse, so at some point we're heading for a showdown with Cthulhu.

The ones who know about this would like to survive this showdown. Not all of them are human - other things walk the Earth too, and they see their best chance of survival as throwing in their lot with humans. (Or perhaps just using humans as cannon fodder. Whatever - at least some of us might make it.) This is not something which the mass populace can be allowed to know about until it's absolutely inevitable though. Mass panic will make things worse. Mass deaths as a result will attract the hunters more quickly. And there are already enough Cthulhu cultists who hope that joining Him will at least mean they get eaten last, and we don't want any more.

So the secret is concealed behind anonymous government offices, and boringly corporate buildings with indeterminate names and logos on nondescript industrial areas. Some people are actively recruited to join the organisation because of natural talents, and some are simply drafted because they find out too much and can't be allowed to tell anyone what they know. Their employment contract includes clauses which make disclosing secrets a firing offence - as in it causes you to spontaneously combust. Eventually it'll be necessary to admit what's going on, but it should be as late as possible, and when they do, they have this organisation as the spearhead for the battle.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for expanding my comment, I would have written it as an answer myself but I'm at work at the moment so couldn't spend enough time to make it answer worthy. $\endgroup$ – RobbG Feb 6 '18 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ @RobbG No worries - I'll happily poach the upvotes. ;) Trying to summarise the depth and quality of Stross's worldbuilding without going tl;dr is always tough though. If I've missed anything which would improve the context for the OP, please do add it. $\endgroup$ – Graham Feb 6 '18 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @neophlegm Solving certain equations causes certain outcomes. Gates can be constructed with suitable geometries of HV electricity, lasers, or the intestines of a living sacrifice. Generally practitioners solve equations using pen and paper (conductive ink, blood, or other media) or computer code (defensive wards by the the later books have become smartphone apps). Solving them in your head is possible, but microscopic magical parasites find your brain and eat small chunks of it, so combat magicians often "retire" young with something like CJD. $\endgroup$ – Graham Feb 7 '18 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ The second book (The Jennifer Morgue) also has the exact thing you're asking about, an international corporation dedicated to dredging up the old one's for personal gain. (at least as far as I remember) $\endgroup$ – RobbG Feb 7 '18 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ @RobbG There is indeed an international corporation led by an evil billionaire (because the book intentionally parodies, pastiches and averts Bond tropes). It's not exactly personal gain though, because he has a master too. For avoidance of spoilers, I won't add more detail. :) $\endgroup$ – Graham Feb 7 '18 at 18:49
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Tax reasons, and liability shield.

I've done taxes for a lot of doomsday cults. They never listen. The ones that succeed, do so because they work for their own cause, not the IRS.

Remember Y2K? Wound up being a big nothingburger because the end-of-the-world cult insisted on a general partnership (which is to say refused to use any corporate structure at all). Aside from wasting money paying taxes at the 28-35% personal rates and being unable to take deductions, there were several lawsuits where every cult member was held personally liable with no limits - they lost their houses, which were built directly on the ley line intersections. Ugh! Basements full of carefully aligned crystals, all wrecked when the plaintiff prepared the houses for resale.

A proper corporate structure could have delayed the creditors and IRS until after January 1, 2000, when it wouldn't have mattered.


Contrast with The Global Warming Initiative LLC. Operative word LLC. It's just crazy. Aside from the tax situation really working well, the real eye-opener was that nobody questioned what they were doing. People just assumed if a corporate entity does it, it can't be pure evil. (and yet they own a cell phone. How can this be?)

Yes, there were lawsuits against individual Members. And some of them won. But the LLC was manager managed, so all they could get was charging orders, which means they take profits ahead of Members if the Manager ever chooses to distribute profits, which of course he never did. The LLC went bust, but not before all the coal plants and freon factories were built. Mission accomplished.

Bottom line, a good corporate structure is the difference between success and failure. Be like the Lower Manhattan Beautification Committee, not like the Branch Davidians.

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Really, all these great answers and nobody's mentioned EULAs yet?

The corporation isn't the Cult's end goal - the product is.

Cthulhu Corporation produces a seemingly innocuous software product, with a clause in the EULA (End User License Agreement) that collects the soul of every user and uses them to fuel the summoning of Eldritch Horrors.

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    $\begingroup$ Eh, already been done. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Feb 9 '18 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez, yes, but it's still an excellent story seed. $\endgroup$ – Arcanist Lupus Feb 9 '18 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ArcanistLupus It is indeed! That's a cool idea. It's also something that could easily be folded into other ideas suggested here. Nice :) $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 9 '18 at 2:30
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Bureaucracy is the ultimate form of debasement before the Elder Ones.

Violence? Sex? Drugs? Giving in to hedonistic pleasures is exactly what life is about. Life, and reality, are on some level about living for pleasure and joy, and merely giving in to your base desires isn't really moving beyond the veil of time and space.

But office work? Never has there been a practice of man more removed from our animal nature than sitting in a cube under the mindless hum of fluorescent light, filling out spreadsheets with impersonal numbers. The elder gods delight in this form of self-inflicted torment, not in the name of any profane power, but in the name of productivity. The hypocricy of slowly destroying our bodies and minds, growing flabby and weak, over-caffienated and filled with junk food, all in the name of a sterile and joyless middle class life? That sort of alienation from our natural state is what the Old Ones draw joy from.

Yog-Sothoth draws joy from all corporations, and in truth, there are few CEOs of companies in the Fortune 500 who don't keep a tidy and sterile altar somewhere on the corporate campus. When the suffering and depersonalization of the work force align with goals of corporate profit, all in the name of increasing some meaninglessly large bank account, the dark ones smile.

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They may be using the Law of Contagion or The Law of Similarity.

The law of contagion is a magical law that suggests that once two people or objects have been in contact a magical link persists between them unless or until a formal exorcism or other act of banishing breaks the non-material bond. The first description of the law of contagion appeared in The Golden Bough by James George Frazer. Bonewits and Bonewits have noted parallels in quantum physics.

They are using the lever principle.

By corrupting one company, it might lead to the corruption of other companies and since the companies are part of an economic system, that may lead to the corruption of that system.

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This topic has already been explored in the video game 6 Days A Sacrifice.

A very Scientology-inspired organization is a front for a cult to bring a transdimentional horror into our universe. They use a shiny office building and a biological research complex as a front to make money required to maintain a cloning complex, which they require to produce sacrificial clones to maintain the mind/spirit/something of a possessed man, essential in contacting the aforementioned transdimentional horror.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the biological research idea. I think that provides a lot of cover for things like collecting blood. $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 6 '18 at 22:41
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To Minimize Public Knowledge of the Cult

But I do not think my life will be long. As my uncle went, as poor Johansen went, so I shall go. I know too much, and the cult still lives. --Call of Cthulu, H.P. Lovecraft

The Cthulu Cult cares very much that its operations remain undiscovered. So much so that they killed Johansen, a man that many would have simply dismissed as crazy. In the 1920's, their loose cult of sailors, servants, and slaves was able to track down and discretely eliminate people who knew too much around the world.

It follows that in a modern day setting, with a huge population increase, they'd need to be far more organized, with databases full of people they're keeping an eye on, Eldritch AI analyzing social media posts to sift the crazy conspiracy theorists from those who have actually stumbled upon the Truth, Artifact Management to secure and eliminate evidence of otherworldly bas reliefs and/or statuettes, Incident Management, Human Resources, Livestock Procurement, and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ This is good, but I'm not sure it quite meets my requirement for potential secrecy from the employees: maybe the first few bits though. A company specialising in big-data wouldn't attract any suspicion keeping tabs on people. $\endgroup$ – neophlegm Feb 6 '18 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ @neophlegm Ah, missed that part. But yeah, a bunch of data analysts could be told the company is selling info and specifically targeting conspiracy theorists/fantasy nerds/something. And the company could legitimately be selling that info, but also eliminating people and squelching rumors along the way. $\endgroup$ – SethWhite Feb 7 '18 at 15:30
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The Lunar Calendar!

It may be necessary to have concentrated emotions line up with a anchint calendar. The need for the office becomes more appertain if the summoning ritual requires these emotions to be repeated in the same location.

Lets work back from the summoning itself.

  1. The summoning is completed when their is a mass feeling of fear. This is accomplished through the laying off of all employees. Could easily be accomplished by a mass murder how ever, who rely wants to get that much blood on there hands.
  2. (a day before the summoning) The ritual calls for 50 people to maintain a sense of frustration or the next 10 hours. Good news team we are all working extra hours to learn our new agile work flow!!!!!
  3. (half a moon before summoning) A large amount of lust can easily be accomplished through setting up a rather intense office party!
  4. And so on

This may need to go on with the same group of people, priming them for there eventual demise. All in all the need to prep a location bye charging it with emotions could be accomplished very easy with an office environment! If you have any ideas on what emotions can be triggered bye different activities please comment below. Thanks for your time!

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protected by James Feb 7 '18 at 16:46

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