It reads like a thriller novel: US Army Special Forces launched a raid on a European software company to find proof President Trump actually won the election by an overwhelming margin. But that evidence was "disappeared" by a subversive cabal.
The lead protagonists even have sinister names: The ominous Dominion, and the suitably foreign-sounding Scytl.
So far there's not a hint this far-right Qanon conspiracy theory is more than a story.
But it's a good – and timely – one.
Hours after polls closed on November 3, President de-elect Donald Trump pulled the trigger on a scenario he'd been trumpeting all year. Mail-in votes were insecure. The election was rigged. He tweeted about "surprise ballot dumps". He complained about "miraculously" lost seats. In later days, he escalated this to "widespread voter fraud" and "illegal votes".
Two weeks later, lawyers, activists and rewards for information have failed to produce any concrete evidence. Republican and Democrat officials say the polls were secure. International observers confirm they saw no evidence of irregularities. US national security agencies agree.
Trump's quest for fake ballots has so far failed to produce. So now he has a new target – thanks to Qanon.
It's all about software companies Dominion Voting Systems and Scytl. They produce vote tallying systems. "Glitches" in their equipment apparently changed votes in President-elect Joe Biden's favour. Or so the social media outrage claims.
President Trump has seized on this as an opportunity. He has accused Dominion of being a "Radical Left" business that had deliberately "rigged" the election against him.
Meanwhile, his supporters are spreading incredulous claims.
Did the US Army raid Scytl's headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, to seize its computer servers? Is Dominion a software company founded by dead militant communist Hugo Chavez?
THE RAID THAT NEVER WAS
Qanon is convinced it happened. But, despite the suspect computer servers apparently being in a busy commercial precinct of Frankfurt, Germany, there's not even a hint it did.
No photos. No videos. No eyewitness accounts. No police, military or vandalism records.
The US Army says it didn't happen. It doesn't have the authority to act in such a way, anyway.
Scytl points out it doesn't have an office in Frankfurt. It's based in Barcelona. And that hasn't been raided, either.
But the accusations are specific.
Texas Republican Representative Louie Gohmert escalated the conspiracy theory into the ranks of government officialdom earlier this week. He said he had heard from "former intel people" that evidence of vote-switching could be "gleaned" from Scytl's servers.
When questioned about his source, he would only say a "German tweet in German" was behind his allegation.
But the story had already gone viral.
Former Trump campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to allegations he had lied to the FBI over Russian contacts, tweeted: "Breaking: Congressman Louie Gohmert has stated that The US Army has seized servers for Dominion in Germany."
The US Army asserts: "Those allegations are false".
Scytl has since issued its own statement: It does not "tabulate, tally or count votes in the US."
Scytl says its only link with Frankfurt was the temporary use of backup servers there in 2019 for a European Parliament project. Scytl general manager for the US Jonathan Brill went on to say the company's US products were all securely housed in the US to meet electoral regulatory requirements. And those systems were used for training, delivering absentee ballots, and displaying results gathered from other sources. Not tallying.
But the story has taken on a life on its own.
A MATTER OF DOMINION
Dominion Voting Systems burst into social media shortly after the election. It codes electoral software for US state and regional governments. It provides vote-tallying machines to electoral officials in 27 states.
President Trump has seized on the idea it may have changed votes.
"Dominion is running our election. Rigged!" Trump tweeted Monday.
No evidence to support this accusation has been produced by the president or whatever individual or organisation is behind the Qanon movement.
But Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was sweeping in his critique: "I don't think people have any idea of the dimension of the national security problem that Dominion creates. This Dominion company is a radical-left company. One of the people there is a big supporter of Antifa and has written horrible things about the president for the last three or four years."
Dominion had close ties to Venezuela, he told US media, "and therefore China". It used code created by a company founded by Hugo Chavez (who died in 2013).
Giuliani on Sunday said he had "proof that I can't disclose yet" about Dominion's "corrupt machines".
He's yet to release such proof.
Many of Dominion's customers are solidly Republican states. Florida and Ohio, electoral battleground states that were won by Trump, use its equipment. And State Republican officials are going on the record to defend the integrity of the voting systems they signed-off on.
Dominion has issued a statement saying they have not seen any evidence of "any vote switching or alleged software issues with our voting systems".
But Trump has seized on one apparent admission: "(There are) components in our products that come from China," a Dominion executive recently told US government hearings.
Those same hearings were told this was limited to the LED displays – a product not manufactured by the US.
HOUSE OF CARDS
Trump's chances of taking back the top job through recounts are wafer-thin. Biden leads by some 14,000 votes in Georgia. In Arizona, it's 10,000. The largest margin to be overturned by a recount in recent decades was just a few hundred in the 2008 Minnesota Senate vote.
Any cause, beyond democratic choice, to skew such results would have to be big.
Thus the shift of focus away from mail-in votes towards software.
Scytl's servers contain "undoctored" electoral results that would reveal President Trump won the election with a massive 410 electoral college votes out of a total of 538. Dominion's doctored software switched two million votes to Biden's favour.
These allegations remain unsubstantiated.
"There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Chris Krebs ruled last week after examining allegations of interference.
President Trump fired him on Wednesday.
Trump has claimed Georgia had lost military ballots. Election officials there demonstrated they had not.
Trump posted a video of election officials handling ballots. "Is this what our Country has come to?", he decried. But it was later shown to be officials doing what they always do – collecting votes for counting.
He pointed to a Pennsylvanian postal worker claiming ballots were being backdated. But that worker later backed down in the face of conflicting evidence.
So far, accusations against Scytl and Dominion appear headed for similar outcomes.
Misinformation is flying thick and fast on US social and traditional media forums. Which is why the Department of Homeland Security has produced its own conspiracy theory debunking website. It details the simple practicalities and specific security measures within the US electoral system that makes many such fraud allegations unfounded, if not impossible.
But that's not holding back the conspiracy machine.