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In my story there are two largely unknown secret corporations (on Earth; present day) which are at war. They are quite technologically advanced, although all of their inventions are somewhat feasible. Except for one, which involves an 'aether' (not quite the luminipherous one).

Anyway, one of them has a base about 5 miles under Abbeville, South Carolina. How do they get food to it w/out people noticing? There are about 100 in it.

Edits: The 5 mi. underground is not definite yet. And please ignore the 'corporation' aspect; I mainly used that word because 'secret society' has acquired a sort of specific meaning.

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    $\begingroup$ Your bigger issue will be trying to cool the inhabitants. For each mile, temperature goes up (about) 15 degrees F. The deepest current mine is 3.9km(6.2 miles) deep and the temperature is a sweltering 55C (131F)! Note also that for each ton of food going in, you have to have a ton of waste going back out. $\endgroup$ – Keeta May 18 '16 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ Read up on the US Government bunkers under the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. They were set up to be a center of government after a nuclear attack. Regular food deliveries to a resort are expected, some small amount would be siphoned off down back tunnels to the bunkers. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer May 18 '16 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ There's also the mirror-image of this problem, namely; how to secretly ship out all the... waste products. All that matter has to go somewhere. Engineering a sewer that pumps five miles upwards and then quietly integrates into the civic infrastructure sounds like a challenge even for the Illuminati. $\endgroup$ – Maxander May 18 '16 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ Note entirely sure about the 'warfare' tag here. $\endgroup$ – Tin Man May 18 '16 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Keeta "for each ton of food going in, you have a ton of waste going out" - not necessarily. Some of that food is released as human waste, sure, but some of it is also converted into energy for human consumption, which is released as sound and heat energy. You don't have to transport those back out. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode May 19 '16 at 9:10

11 Answers 11

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  • Digital age of info-tracking, quantifying, etc by the computerized resources of national and powerful business entities; your resourcing the surface world will be noticed. Only a matter of time...not enough to win a war.

  • Human nature and Chaos theory: if you put a person, no matter how loyal, into consistant and constant contact with outside world persons(to gather foodstuffs, supplies, etc), the odds of discovery will increase to the exponential in short-order.

= Suggest your 'Corporation' use some of the, doubtless, sizeable resources at it's disposal to R&D subterrainean environmental and support systems for the long-run. And just plain learn hydroponic farming.

... Guiding BFI(big fat idea): become self-contained, thus limiting odds of vulnerability crop-up, and educated your minions to think better; more resourcefully. it's a brave gnu world after all. ;) Now get off the grid and think outside that box. B4 you can't, anymore, children. (wolfgrin) You'll win that war.

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Run a supermarket

The corporation sets up and runs a completely legitimate supermarket, which provides food for (among all the real customers) several fictitious restaurants. The deliveries are made by a select few employees who are part of the conspiracy. It ought to take no more than one or two delivery puppets to keep 100 people supplied. Plus, of course, the delivery puppets also do regular deliveries as well.

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    $\begingroup$ No need to run a supermarket when you can simply buy supplies and ship them off to where ever. A truck laden with goods goes into a warehouse. It comes out empty, a while later. Nothing suspicious about it. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM May 18 '16 at 3:41
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    $\begingroup$ Comic relief plot twist in the third act when it's revealed that the supermarket is bringing in more revenue than the evil corporation. $\endgroup$ – Crashworks May 18 '16 at 4:05
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    $\begingroup$ @AdreiROM: A mysterious company purchasing food to be shipped to a mysterious warehouse is a trail someone might stumble across or investigate out of curiousity. A supermarket purchasing food is not. $\endgroup$ – Excluded and Offended May 18 '16 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ @TheNate Not if you have seen any of the many reports on the huge food wastage that occurs in food markets in general. There is a deliberate and systemic wastage of perfectly good food for generating the illusion of choice (and thus quality) on the shelves. $\endgroup$ – Aron May 19 '16 at 9:50
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    $\begingroup$ @TheNate: there are roughly 35,000 supermarkets in the US, for a population of about 300 million. Thus, a supermarket, on average, "feeds" 10,000 people. Adding another 100 mouths (as per the question) to one store that are never seen entering or leaving the store will not be noticeable. (I work in supermarket sales forecasting. I have some idea of what is visible in sales data, and what is not.) $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa May 19 '16 at 16:45
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Recalls.

Large unknown corporations will likely be in their position by controlling smaller corporations. Consider how even in the real world, there are ten mega-corporations that are the source of just about everything we eat. If they're becoming powerful enough to actively wage war on each other, they probably act as an umbrella corporation over some of these ten.

Then they fake some data that gets sent to their holdings. Turns out that there's a strain of [insert generic bug like E. Coli] in the [food]! We need to recall all of the [food] shipped out to the stores in the past two weeks!

Recalls happen all the time. Nobody will really care. People pretended to care about the Chipotle health issues earlier this year, but that hasn't stopped many people from eating there. You get a temporary dip in public approval ratings, but your profits aren't affected, especially when you take on the cost of dealing with all of the disposal. The stores will ship the [food] to a disposal location, say, Abbeville, South Carolina, the corporation reimburses them for the shipment, and the [food] is then moved from the trucks into the secret base.

Alternatively: You could just ship the food to the base yourselves. Drive down an interstate highway some time, and count how many big semi-trucks you see. One time as a kid, I counted over three hundred on the road between Milwaukee and Chicago. You can pack a ton of food onto a truck and just ship it to Abbeville, and nobody will think twice of another truck on the road. If anyone asks, just say that you're testing the savings that could be gotten by building a distribution center there. Better yet, actually do build a distribution center there, so that you'll have trucks coming and leaving constantly. As long as nobody is actively measuring how much food comes in and comes out, you can say that you're holding things in storage there and they'll never know the truth.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's pretty normal to actually measure how much food (and anything else) went where. People who do those jobs (acountants, auditors) would need to be part of the conspiracy, or silenced under threats or promises. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato May 19 '16 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ You can probably pack more than a ton of food in a large truck - more like 20. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode May 19 '16 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ No need to tell the accountants anything. Just send everything to a secret tunnel entrance located at the dump. $\endgroup$ – Philip Kirkbride May 20 '16 at 10:53
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Hydroponics... create vast hydroponic farms in your underground world. Basically large fish tanks with floating soil. The decay of plant feed the fish, the excrement of fish feed the plants. It's a completely self sustaining farm that reproduces through seeding, etc... oh but everyone will need to embrace the vegetarian lifestyle! Unless of course you just walk a random cow down there every once in a while. A single cow would go unnoticed and would feed a number of people for a LONG time...

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  • $\begingroup$ This. Why smuggle food in when you can just grow it. $\endgroup$ – David Grinberg May 18 '16 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ Couldn't you also feed livestock on some of the plants too? $\endgroup$ – Wick May 18 '16 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Wick Sure why not?! Though you wouldn't really need to feed em plus that then brings water supply into the equation. So I say just bring one down for a slaughter every now and then. $\endgroup$ – ThatTechGuy May 19 '16 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ What you're describing here ins't Hydroponics, but Aquaponics. It's a very interesting concept that scales easily, I run several tanks at home however industrial scale setups work tremendously well. This is pretty much exactly how you'd operate. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Lavers May 19 '16 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ Do you still need electricity to provide light to the plants? That would provide it's own challenges and dangers ... $\endgroup$ – matty May 19 '16 at 3:55
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Here's my design for your underground base:

It's pretty simple. Here's what you need:

  • A house.
  • Someone willing to live in the house.
  • A delivery van.
  • Some way of getting from the surface to the base five miles below (tunnels, elevator, etc. Your choice).
  • An underground base.

All you have to do is connect the base to the house. The person who lives in the house will supposedly have a job as some sort of delivery person for a small company - or maybe a construction worker with a creepy white van - and they drive that van to and from work each day. The van, however, carries food - and lots of it.


As a side note, in the Artemis Fowl series, The People ride in egg-like capsules or more graceful shuttles from many miles underground to the surface in magma streams, which lead to exits through unobtrusive natural landmarks. I suppose your corporation could do the same.

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    $\begingroup$ The idea is nice, but I think the evil government/aliens/teletubbies will have it easy spotting the lonely man who buys several thousand of dollars worth of food each month. Maybe it would be better if it was the underground of a supermarket, then you would only need to invent additional transactions or just label the food as "spoiled" and certify it was disposed of (although if you abuse the later it might be noticed). Better yet, use as cover one of those center who distribute food near its due date to charities; so you do not need to put in money and the spoil rate is justified. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 May 18 '16 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 Those are certainly simpler solutions. I didn't intend for the house's inhabitant to be the one doing all of the food shopping, though; he could pick up goods from many different people at different supermarkets, so it would be much harder to trace the purchases. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 May 18 '16 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 So... expand it a little bit... 5 miles down? Won't be hard to have 10 elevators... 15... 25... some of them at angles. you could spread elevators over a small/medium/large metropolitan area... Put a couple elevators under houses. Some under stores. Mega-corporations? They'll own plenty of buildings - why does it have to have one entrance/exit... Don't we want redundancies and backup escape routes? $\endgroup$ – WernerCD May 18 '16 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ Hell... add some underground "hyper-loops" and you connect multiple cities to the bunker. Plenty of room to move stuff around. $\endgroup$ – WernerCD May 18 '16 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 he doesn't need to buy them. If he works delivering food, that some of this food he carries ends up in his personal car would be hard to spot. Specially when his company expects him to do so. And should someone really notice that he was "stealing" food, it would be thought corruption easier than a conspiration. $\endgroup$ – Ángel May 18 '16 at 23:41
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Why would they have to transport food? Just produce it underground to begin with. They could do this either "the natural way" with hydroponics, or entirely synthetically. Either way the energy (the only real input you need to make food, assuming sufficient technology) can easily be carried in electrically via high-voltage cables, or could perhaps even be produced underground from underground fossil fuels or nuclear reactors.

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    $\begingroup$ Considering the base is already 5 miles (~8km) under the crust, it is expected that the ambient temperature of the surrounding rock is about 330°F (200°C)...at those temperatures you can easily convert the heat to electricity - no need for fossil fuels or nuclear reactors. The main concern will be keeping the base cool, but you have a virtually unlimited supply of energy to handle it. $\endgroup$ – Emerson May 18 '16 at 5:58
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    $\begingroup$ How do you intend to harvest energy from heat rather than a heat differential? $\endgroup$ – R.. May 18 '16 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ Easy: Incorporate the heat up/coolant down into some sort of geothermal plant at the surface. Cool off below, Make electricity above, siphon off the electricity you need and sell the extra electricity you make... now you have a business above to get "supplies" for... and you are making money "on top" of it all /ba dum ching $\endgroup$ – WernerCD May 18 '16 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Certainly an option, but I don't think it's meaningfully distinct from generating electricity outside and bringing it in; it's not a closed system and the activity will still have noticeable effects outside. $\endgroup$ – R.. May 18 '16 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Emerson: You have to expend huge amounts of energy to even have liquid water down there; converting it back to energy is just an exercise in inefficiency. Re: thermoelectric, I think you missed the key phrase temperature differences. This is all the kind of thinking of perpetual-motion loons/con-men. There is no way around thermodynamics. $\endgroup$ – R.. May 19 '16 at 15:30
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A lot of industrial processes use agricultural products as feedstock.

Run a shell corporation or corporations dealing with food.

If you need grain? Run a brewery. Siphon off some grain or 'reject' some of the supply, and send it off. Likewise run a cannery for vegitables, and have 'rejected' or 'offcuts' used to supply your needs.

Milk might not meet "standards" for butterfat or such or "just went bad"

Frozen meat could 'fail' inspections and be 'destroyed', funneling it into your underground lair.

Considering that food is overproduced in many places, a quiet offer to purchase commodities meant to be destroyed at a fair price would likely make many small farmers happy. "Dispose" of it for them 'charging' them for it, while paying them under the table.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you run a processed food plant, (aged cheese, beer, etc.) warehousing stock for a few years is normal. A bad batch can kill a year's production, but would send up red flags. The obvious result of those flags, though, is to suspect bad management which is probably expected of evil corporations, in general. $\endgroup$ – The Nate May 18 '16 at 19:55
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Food Waste Disposal Site

Considering the vast amount of food wasted in the US, it should be incredibly easy to organize a few shipments of food for 'disposal', that is really entirely edible and viable food that is rerouted to the secret base.

The secret base could even be underneath the food disposal site. That means that few people will be poking around there, due to it being waste disposal (so it will be in the middle of nowhere), and it will be almost impossible for the entrance to the secret base to be discovered accidentally.

This also would account for any electronic equipment that needs to be shipped there, as the disposal site will probably need at least some industrial machinery. If it just needs more repairs than usual, it can be put down to old terrible equipment that needs frequent repairs.

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Your problem isn't food delivery. Food delievery is easy. You simply pay people to deliver food. Nobody inspects food transfers strongly enough that a truck driving food around get's strongly monitored. As long as the driver is on the paycheck of the secred society there's no problem.

On the other hand you forget the problem of building an underground basis in which 100 people can live in the first place. That's going to take heavy building machinery and a lot of workers. It's going to get noticed by the local government and the local government is going to want building permits.

That's why actual secret societies like the Mafia or groups like P2 don't have underground bases hidden 5000 meters under ground. That's why other mechanisms for secrecy get used in real life.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, not that we know about... $\endgroup$ – Azor Ahai May 18 '16 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Azor-Ahai : We do have relatively decent history for P2. We also have information about what mafia did because some mafiosis talked. We don't know everything that the Mafia does and we don't know to what extend organisations like P2 exist today. $\endgroup$ – Christian May 18 '16 at 18:25
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You do what everyone else who needs to serve hundreds of meals every day does: You buy the food from food service distributors.

In principle this is pretty easy: You set up a dummy corporation registered somewhere more privacy-conscious than Delaware, and the corporation buys all the food from distributors, the same way restaurants and supermarkets do.

The best part of this is that these transactions are often conducted old-school, offline, with phone calls and occasionally faxes and physical letters, which makes them much more difficult to discover through today's typical "big data" search techniques.

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Consider this:

Your society has the technology to build a base 8 kilometers under the surface. And keep people alive. Well an average person uses less then a cubic meter of food and water each year.

Given your societies technology level it would be easy to incorporate a 10*10 shaft of a kilometer long in your base. That is enough storage to feed 100 people for a 1000 years.

What I'm saying is: you don't import food, you build it into your base when constructing it.

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protected by Serban Tanasa May 20 '16 at 17:54

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