The Villain in my story kidnaps people and transfers their souls into robot bodies, wiping their memories in the process.

This process has been going for a while, around thirty years. The current number of converted souls sits around 150 000. This means that every day, the Villain has to kidnap around twelve to fifteen people.

He has a victorian-age steampunk nation roughly the size of Greece at his disposal in terms of population. I haven't calculated the exact number, but the capital sits at around 3 million people.

My question is, how would the Villain (who does not control the government) manage to keep the daily disappearance of 15 people a secret, or otherwise discouraged the government / the police from investigating them?

We can assume most of these kidnappings would be from social groups with either high fatality rate (factory workers, coal miners,...) or those that don't concern the government as much (street thugs and the homeless, orphans on the street)

What is an effective way to keep such a large-scale operation undercover and sustainable?

At which point will it become unsustainable and the truth will come out?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It looks like you're world is already built and are asking how a scenario in your world will play out. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 2, 2020 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ One old episode of Ghost in the Shell had a similar story (girls kidnapped to transfer their souls in robotic versions of sex dolls). I can remember which one, but if you go through the plots you can find some ideas. $\endgroup$
    – FluidCode
    Mar 2, 2020 at 20:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As a comparison, the topmost rate of kidnappings belongs to Colombia in the 2000s with about 10 per day; and Colombia in the 2000s was a very abnormal country. For reference, given that you said "steampunk", there were about 400 murders per year in the notoriously seedy Victorian London; abductions very much rarer. Fifteen people disappearing day after day would have resulted in an instant massive response from the government. But that's Victorian London; maybe steampunk Athens is totally different. (Note that even late 20th century New York never went above 2300 murders per year.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 2, 2020 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Might depend how visible those 15 are. If it's 15 people from the very lowest rung, it might take longer to be noticed. But, as AlexP says, it would be likely to get noticed quite quickly. $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Mar 2, 2020 at 22:12

3 Answers 3



Honestly, simplest thing I can think of is if the country has been in a long term war/series of wars. It isn't unheard of historically for wars to last several years, and also historically normal for hundreds of people to be killed each day during war. All you need is for the villain to have the appropriate opportunity to abduct soldiers, or civilians in the war zone, and nobody would likely bat an eye depending on the level of communications technology.

If you want to make the villain particularly devious, give him some military authority. That would instantly give them the means and the resources to both pull this off and cover it all up. Need a fresh batch? Order a particular platoon to scout out "enemy territory", only for them to go MIA. Maybe a van of refugees never makes it to the camp, must have been "attacked be the enemy"...

This also opens up the victim pool to individuals from the other side, that won't be missed by your government, and the other leadership will also just assume are casualties of war. You could also take victims in larger batches over more spread out periods. That way instead of a stead 15 per day, maybe its 30 one day, then 57 three days later,...etc. Irregularity would make it even harder to notice anything unusual was happening.

Honestly, it might be in your villain's best interest to actively work at making this war(s) last as long as possible.


Slavers and Ports and Bribes, Oh My!

Ports OK, your guy is going to have to set up down by the Docks. That is going to be the most likely place for a highly transient population. In times past, it was only really the Officers of any given ship that remained consistent. The rest of the crew may or may not ship out with the same ship for consecutive voyages. The Captain of the ship would sail when he wanted or needed to, and if a crew member hadn't made it back about before they pushed off, no one was going to go looking. They would just hire the next likely looking fellow and sail away. This works for you because you could just wait for a sailor to hit port, get drunk, and fall out the tavern door. You 'help' him back to the lair and he changes career from sailor to victim. Keep your predations prudently limited and you can go without being noticed for a long time. Wait until several ships dock in a short time period to guarantee that nobody spots you. This is helped if the concept of press gangs is still a thing in your society. Which leads, naturally, to the next point

Slaves: No one cares what happens to a slave. Buy a bunch and say you are taking them to a salt mine or some other enterprise with a really high death rate. Actually send some to the mine, but the rest are ready victims for you. Obviously, slavery has to be legal. If it isn't we get to the last.

Bribes. Pay a few watchmen and they will conveniently never notice that the Full moon tavern has a less than stellar rate of people making it home after dark. Pay the dock masters not to notice the press gangs are a little more active. Pay the higher officials to let you have condemned criminals for the mines if outright slavery is not legal.

With these, you should be able to operate in silence for quite a while.



This questions reminds me of the one where people are afraid of the monster and don't go out at night.

People who are lost camping or hiking in small groups would certainly be noticed, but it wouldn't necessarily be criminal. If the villain stirred up a fiction about "the monster".

What might seem like your typical monster killing - is actually a sophisticated criminal activity of soul theft. The people don't know, they just don't go out at night!

Unfortunately, this might not add up if EVERY day some people got captured. But why limit this to just 30 years? For 150,000 people I think you might need 50 to 80 years. The authorities wouldn't be expecting such a long-term endeavor.

  • $\begingroup$ This does not answer the question, which is how to stop people noticing the disappearances. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2020 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 I disagree, their question is how to keep the organization a secret. I'm trying to say that the villain disguises the operation as "just another monster killing" $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 1:50

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