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Prefacing information // The Creed of Forgemasters, a religious society worshipping what thry identify as the purity of machines and driven by the holy mission of liberating the pure, immortal souls of humankind from their corrupted mortal shells, exists primarily in the industrial centers of the world. It controls various proxy corporations across the globe, which operate various industrial facilities of completely ordinary and inconsiderable profit and production. The upper management of these facilities is entirely composed of hidden the members of the Creed, undetectable as non-organic to the outside world.

Deep below, though, are massive, sprawling complexes of extremely advanced technological advancements. All who reside there - who can number well into the thousands at the largest complexes - are transplanted into a completely synthetic body, not only physically preforming as well as the organic counterparts, but even better, while usually maintaining the appearance of a human form - or at least the option to take it.

Each Forge Complex is overseen by a Forgemaster - an incredibly powerful machine intelligence, in some cases even given a physical form, who administrates all of the functions of both the Forge itself, and instructing the managers in the front above.

My question is specifically how they can feasably hide the construction of these massive complexes. With the construction, the mass quantities of earth being excavated has to be removed without raising suspicion from anyone, including those who work in the factory above that are not yet initiated into the cult, and then all of the materials being brought in, many of which are eras ahead of the current level of technological advancement. All of these materials will be sourced from other forges, which also raises the question of how they are able to take the materials from their respective forges and able to transport them, possibly internationally, again without raising suspicion.

The majority of my concerns are logistical, but I also have concerns with the legal aspects. As far as I know, most countries inspect international cargo to some capacity, and the construction of underground levels of a structure requires approval, as well as regular inspections. If this is to remain completely secret, that only makes it harder, considering the afformentioned logistical concerns; removed earth, sudden import of building materials, etcetera.

Any more information needed will be provided if asked for! I really appreciate any effort to help out ^^

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    $\begingroup$ Hi, a few clarifications would assist: 1. How big is "massive" re the underground complexes, are they under city centres or outlying areas, is there a time limit on how quickly they must be built? 2. What types of advanced materials are being transported - electronic components, structural materials, radioactive substances? 3. What is the overt business being conducted (or can it be anything needed to cover the covert activities)? 4. Is their tech able to magically hide the underground complexes from ground penetrating radar? $\endgroup$ Jan 4 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ 1: Very large, though they are more 'circular' than sprawling outwards if that makes sense. Most of the size is in monastic cells and automated fabrication areas, but for the most part I imagine them as not much wider than the next 3 or 4 buildings over, considering a semi-normal size for a factory. As for time, no limit, but faster is better haha [: 2: Mainly electronic components, building materials, and machines that will be needed to start fabrication of the rest of the utilities of the Forge. Everything that needs to be brought in beforehand is just enough to give the Forge initial shape. $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ 3: The business varies by proxy, but think metal foundries, assembly lines, recycling centers, etc. Anything that requires a consistent human workforce (for new initiates). But, yes, really anything to cover the Forge located below. 4: Yes, their tech should definitely be able to do that. @KerrAvon2055 $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ Your "Creed of Forgemasters" reminds me suspiciously of SCP's Church of the Broken God $\endgroup$
    – Leviathan
    Feb 18 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Leviathan Church of the Broken God reminds you of my Creed (︶︿︶) The Church did come first! But I was unaware of it until after I started developing the Creed. Some parts have been inspired since, I'll admit, but most of the concept actually comes from an idea for a game from a friend of mine. $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Feb 19 at 1:21

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Mining Equipment:

The facilities are located in mines, where vast piles of mine waste are perfectly normal and unnoticed. The large networks of tunnels established in these locations provides the ideal starting point for your complexes. Equipment is shipped in marked "mining equipment" and literally sealed inside solid blocks of huge diesel engines, substituted for "seismic electronics" and moved in plain sight. Of course you ship mining equipment from older mines to newer ones you're building. Of course mining equipment disappears into the ground, never to be seen again (or it might come back out with different stuff in it to be shipped elsewhere, "to be repaired"). Huge mine carts covered in ore come rolling out with gear inside. And naturally, you are experimenting with new automated equipment and industrial robots to try and protect the health and safety of your workers.

Mines provide a ready source of raw materials for the forges as well. Silica mining provides silicon. Metal mining provides copper, iron, Nickle, etc. Exploratory tunneling is naturally done by higher-ranking staff "in the know" because what if they find something really valuable? Mined out areas are of course abandoned, and if huge caverns are excavated and then abandoned, they very publicly "fire" an engineer for incompetence.

Mining accidents provide context for closing off areas, the disappearance of staff, and the like. Toxic gasses and poisonous minerals would be harmless to androids, but provide ideal reasons why rich veins of ore (too close to the forge) are inexplicably abandoned. And most mines have poor maps of where the actual tunnels are dug, so if a later seismic detection shows more tunnels, well those were the ones filled with poison, and the company admits to covering up an industrial accident.

And if someone decides to go in and inspect the tunnels anyway? Well, they were warned it wasn't safe and accidents happen...

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  • $\begingroup$ That's a really interesting idea! I'd been mostly focused on factories, I hadn't even considered mines! If nothing else, this could make for a very interesting proxy company. Thank you for the help! $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 5:36
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Location, book-keeping and interlocking businesses

First priority is to avoid attention. This means that each Complex needs to be located where:

  1. There is no possibility that the local city will want to acquire the land in future to build an airport, or highway, or subway tunnel.
  2. Do not locate a Complex anywhere near a secure government / military facility - they will extensively check nearby businesses for potential security issues.
  3. The underground complex will not in any way affect the local water table or current / future underground utilities.
  4. All land above the planned Complex is owned by the proxy company so no one starts digging down on their land and stumbles into the Forgemasters' secret caverns. Corollary - if plans change and the footprint of the Complex needs to expand then land must be acquired first.

Moving spoil - Each Complex must have a relationship with a local mine or refinery. Given that mines are not typically in "the industrial centres of the world" they will not be the primary sites, but they are a perfect spot for dumping spoil. The managers need to ensure that the mine / refinery is squeaky clean as far as EPA (or equivalent) regulations go so no one has cause to inspect it further, or a geologist examining the tailings may figure out that some of the spoil came from a distinctly different area. Simply get raw materials from the mine / refinery, but when the trucks get sent back for more raw materials they are carrying spoil rather than travelling empty. With humans, sooner or later a driver with a semi-trailer full of spoil would have an accident and his curious cargo would be investigated, but a high-tech AI should be able to drive perfectly every time. The AI will also be able to cook the books on fuel consumption to hide the fact that the trucks are carrying a full load both ways.

Moving materials - Governments attempt to detect illegal cross-border movement of drugs, money, immigrants, criminals, terrorists, weapons (including some high-grade electronics and cryptographic software), munitions and most importantly stuff that import / export duties haven't been paid on. As long as the shipments are composed of chemically safe, inorganic, non-radioactive raw materials that the appropriate duties are paid on, everyone will be happy. The greatest risk is with the electronics - make sure that any tests will show them to be sufficiently dumb processors that they are not on the restricted export list of the USA and its allies.

However, there are two significant risks associated with international shipping that eventually may compromise the Forgemasters. The first is if a semi-trailer is hijacked or a ship is taken by modern-day pirates. In this case a container of super-advanced materials may end up being fenced to a very surprised recipient. The second risk is due to the number of shipping containers lost overboard (approximately 3000 in 2020, apparently). Some of these sink, but there are salvage operators who make a living on retrieving some of those that float. The Forgemasters may need to put homing devices on their shipments and keep a retrieval team on retainer to keep their secrets from getting out.

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  • $\begingroup$ The solution to logistical concerns is even better logistics! Makes sense. It'd only make sense for the Creed has some kind of division for avoiding these kinds of accidents, with plenty of precautions to avoid it. In the case of hijackings especially, I could easily see my hidden robots disguised as a PMC and quickly wrestling back control. This answer helps! Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ As for maintaining control of the site, this is something I've also been keeping at the back of my mind. Even a single break in could have potentially devestating effects if someone happens to see something they weren't supposed to, much less the entire building being siezed and placed under impure human ownership. As for that, I think a sufficiently hidden entrance might do the trick, as well as silently dismantling said entrance and reconnecting somewhere nearby later on in this scenario. I mean, they can literally just wait forever for new real estate if all else fails. $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 6:48
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  • Can't post it as a comment, cuz javasripts on wb are broken for my version of chrome, but I have to point it out

Main problem is energy supply, and hiding that energy signature - as you dig your underground, you do it once, but energy and heat it a problem the whole time. And it is one of the things satelites are looking for - so if you wanna hide you need to think it trough.

A water body in reasonable proximity could help, and then it also can be an option for disposal of excavated ground, transporing it underwater or dump there etc, depends on the body.

  • also do or participate in some land reclamation project, a lot of ground is moved in and out.

  • trash disposal sites, recycling companies - they are known for different shady schemes - get one and on the surface you do regular shady business, but in reality ... and it allows you to import export stuff as scrap for recycling - chips - yeah we got a 100'000t of cpu chips for recycling yesterday, and send 50'000t memory cards for recycling to another place, metall - ..., gold rare earth elements - get them in alloys, load scrap in smart way etc.

  • make it look like you a resource bull on wallstreat who is smarter than everyone and cuz have place to store stuff and do not need to sell futures short, and you are bull anyway prepping for doomsday(of your own making, muhahah). (And it is a valid strategy, it just slow in making money, there are spikes 2-3-4 years and overall it a legit way to store value, just bulky)

Energy will be a problem. For high tech you may need something like 3000kwh per tonne of production, just as minimal requirement. (Bare minimum is about 600kwh per tonne - just melt something like iron, glass etc - 900kwh if you do it in 1t batches and such.)

With super intelligence it does not require that much equipment to kickstart production, so as produce everything it may need locally. What it needs from super intelligence is just know the sequence of development and energy and raw materials. Efficiency can be lower than if you do it in more regular way, but I guess it does not matter, and may be preferable than smugling hightech components which you can't explain. (On the other hand disguise them as regular consumer goods is also an option, so as recyclible materials they do not have be totaly broken, people recycle it that way ripping out working components)

But in general not such a big deal. If you do not have necessity to sell stuff for profit, from those hidden underground facilities, things are ok. And on surface as usual, as everyone does, have regular business. I mean when did you evolve, 2 seconds ago, eh, why you're still so noob, do not lower our overlord pride, eh.

  • can't comment so, just this way, an update to your comments.

If you have energy, and 100 percent efficiency then you do not have a problem. Just evaporate this excavated ground. By this I mean - ground is about 40% by mass Oxygen. Split it, use Iron(about 1-5-15percent depends on rocks and ground) and stuff for industrial purposes or just dump metals inside. Electrolyse stuff and you get at least about 2.5 times reduction in volume, vent oxygen outside. You will have an underground system as big as you have energy for making it. And recycling business is all you need to get any materials you may need, as you have energy to extract it from that, and no body can tell exactly how much you took from that. Buy a landfill etc.

Mine it is like a nail waiting to be hammered, and there is no need for anything rural, work in a city, as long as you do not need to explain where your goods are coming from, and you do not need because you do not sell that hightech stuff, and front business sells legit stuff, does legit work - in such situation it is zero difficulty to have all you want in there.

Also high tech - okay magma is your source for all materials so as you dumpster, it just idk 20 km below. In essence, the way you solve problems, high tech, handwavium you really can have only those problems you know how to solve. So happy 1km3 caving.

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  • $\begingroup$ No worries abt the technical difficulties! It happens [: Anyways, DWKraus' mine answer just keeps on giving. By having a mine proxy, raw material can be easily secured at a low price. As for energy, I imagine the facility runs off a highly efficient power source of some kind (fusion reactor?) that allows the running of not only several automated production lines, but also arrays of servers and other computers, as well as energy expensive subterranean utilities. $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ As for the heat and detection concerns, I believe that I should be able to kind of handwave that with the Creed's (intentionally ill-defined) highly advanced technologies. The complexes are likely kept very cool, because robots, and I would imagine that, by virtue of them being underground and in an area surrounded by other buildings at the surface, running cold is even easier. $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 6:44
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The Forge Complexes were already there.

The machine intelligence and synthetic people are relative newcomers. The spaces they now occupy are not. These spaces long predate the modern city. The builders of these deep spaces had other motivations, some of which can be deduced by looking at what they built and some of which remain obscure.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this idea. I've actually considered it quite a bit, and I do like it, but I also think I'm going to save it for a separate project, either in the future or one I'm already working on. Still, it is fun for me to imagine how the Creed would react to finding an abandoned forge complex deep below the Earth. $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 18:29
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Construction of complexes occurs in rural areas. This isn't unprecedented, in the United States throughout most of the 20th century, factories and other such places of mass employment were constructed far outside of urban centers, and in many cases outside of suburbs (often assuming those would be built afterwards, once there was a factory to employ the suburbanites).

When building in rural areas, there's just that many fewer eyes to worry about. Bulldozers are already called for when you're building a 400,000sqft roofed structure. Heavy equipment is already called for.

So, they dig deeper, take longer, and more shipments to the site occur for steel and concrete. Who notices? Do you personally know (roughly anyway) how much steel or concrete it takes to build a rust-belt auto factory? Would you be able to tell if four times as much was brought in, supposing you know? It doesn't all show up at once, after all, for you to easily count it. Trucks come in all hours of the day and night. Tarps covering the goods.

Some of the hick locals might gossip, but they always do that. Even in the real world today, if you knew where to listen, you'd hear a few "what's taking them so long to get XYZ finished?" questions.

Legal aspects are even easier to dismiss... with even a little judicious bribery, no one's going to care. Inspections for things that aren't nuclear plants don't occur until they're nearly ready to tool up and get in business. Secret entrances to lower levels, keeping things OSHA and fire code compliant up top, and there's just very little risk there.

Seriously, if Gustavo Fring had merely been sacrificing virgins instead of cooking meth, would Hank or anyone else have ever bothered him about his laundry facility?

Since the cultists themselves aren't involved in drugs, the only other circumstance that might draw the attention of authorities would be espionage. If somehow the people who are doing counter-intelligence against your world's Soviet commies, if those people catch hint of some super-secret operating headquarters for another power... they might try to do something about it. But only if it's a plausible, non-absurd threat.

They have to think that it's the Alternasoviets for that. Do these cultists trade with those people? Are they involved with them? Do they sometimes share safehouses, or sell code-breaking equipment to each other? Are cultists seen and photographed attending arms sales shindigs? If not, if their social graph is as disconnected from such people as it sounds like they are, then counter-intelligence is unlikely to ever stumble upon them or to follow up if they do.

The weakness in this story, if any, is that cults tend to be parasitic upon the greater society at large. They have to recruit and convert other people, and at a greater rate than those who defect. And they have to do this with dogmas and mythologies that tend to be offensive and antagonistic to society at large. All the while still participating in and benefiting from that society's economy. But your cult doesn't have that problem, really, does it? It manufactures new members. As many as it has space for. It doesn't need their economy, except perhaps as cover... it maintains a separate, hidden economy. Almost an ideal autarky. These cultists don't get lonely if disconnected from other people... because, well, they're not even people themselves.

Were such beings real, I couldn't plausibly say that we would have discovered them in our own world. Nor can I plausibly say they'll be discovered in yours.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer. It sets a really interesting theme that I might explore more going forward. My one issue, though, is that an industrial complex in an isolated area is less likely to attract new hires than a factory in an industrial district with good wages and known for consistent and easy promotion. It blends in, and its close enough to the rest of the city that, when a worker gets 'promoted', the empty position can be filled quickly. Steady stream of converts. They don't just build members, they convert them in the most literal sense. Immortal soul in immortal body. $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Jan 4 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ @INPU The thing to remember is that rural areas tend to have extra people that move away to live in cities, while cities themselves tend to be net negative... their populations would decline without the steady influx of newcomers. Rural areas might lose dozens or hundreds of people per year, and never notice. "He just moved away to NYC!" Especially for an organization that could plausibly fill in back history for the converts. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Jan 4 at 20:15
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Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in plain sight through successful proxy companies, sounds good. I would further say that if the front companies covered any industry that is neatly aligned with what the AI wants to accomplish, and actually turned a good profit every year, the AI's activities could go unquestioned. These are only possibilities but here are the three industries I would argue for:

1.biomedical research and tech

2.mining possibly rare earth minerals

3.cybersecurity for government and big business

I'll explain why: You want to run businesses that actually align with everything you intend to do in your world. It makes it plausible why no one, including employees really question all this stuff. You don't want to run a cherry factory in New York if your main goal is to make people into cyborgs in subterranean factories.

biomedical research: "Liberate humans from their shells" sounds pretty sinister mission statement, but it sounds less insidious if it is a biotech company.If Forgemaster inc. actually runs a biomedical tech business, who is going to question experiments if they say they are for the good of human kind? It gives an excuse for running invasive experiments: Forge master industries could practically start inserting neural chips into people's brains, and it would almost look legitimate. Never mind these trodes, they eliminate memory loss in old folks. I know that your AI is more industrial in style, but why not set up in a hospital basement and get started "extracting humans from their shells?". Even if only a few actual patients are served and meanwhile cult members are being "improved" that will work. Invent a new technology like Elizabeth Holmes'Theranos, or even Elon Musk's Neural link, get a charismatic leader to sell it, and if you have prototype, or even a working device, even better. Such research projects take years to complete so, as long as the accounts are in order, no one will look too closely. Of course there are counter balances, such as medical ethicists and government oversight bodies, so you'll have to convert some of those people to your cult as well.

rare earth minerals: Need to go deep underground? well there is a shortage of materials for cell phones and computers, so the profit margins of finding a new deposit somewhere would be high. It would also, enable the AI to dig and build. Mining facilities could be rationalized as resources for the medical tech research arm.

cyber security: Ok, maybe this is going a little far, but I can see why it would be important. The police can't find the records because the shipping manifest has disappeared Owning a security company gives you a key into companies, and if you are successful, it gives you an excuse to test virus simulations in host companies or governments. The AI could occasionally solve its' problems by deleting threats like records police departments were gathering on its suspicious activities. As long as it was clever about timing, it might be able to do it.

An AI would play the long game. It would try to make the proxy companies aligned with its interests and successful in the long run.

It won't scare people with changing everybody into cyborgs...at first.

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