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Being 'scooped up' for military research - or being a creation of military research - has been a common trope of movies and TV for many years. However, in most western nations, if not most nations around the world, undertaking research on unwilling human subjects is illegal.

In my world, around nineteen years ago, humantaurs began to appear at a rate of 1 in 100,000 births. Eighteen years ago, an entire mountain appeared in Port Philip Bay off Melbourne at dawn and disappeared again the following midnight, and began appearing in other places around the world on a semi-regular basis. It was filled with all sorts of strange people alongside normal humans. The modern world began to become aware of magical realms in which other different humans and maybe-not-humans lived.

There were satyrs and fauns seemingly from classical mythology, unicorns, lamias with serpentine tails, water-breathing merfolk. Elves, gnomes, pixies and faeries that range down from four feet to four inches tall, and the faeries have wings and can fly. Fire-breathing flying wyrms. Dryads, oreads and nereids. Flying lilim with wings... they're all apparently just varieties of humans whom we didn't know existed, and all are able to interbreed and produce viable offspring. There are even centaurs, bostaurs (cattle centaurs), cervitaurs (deer centaurs), dverge and svart-alfar, who might not be human at all. All of these peoples have human levels of intelligence, and the ability to communicate and insist upon their human rights.

So, considering that we start off with our modern-day society here on Earth, just how likely is it that some of these people might be 'scooped up for military research' when they begin to appear, i.e. kidnapped off the street or someplace else, tossed in a van and carted off to a secret research facility to be experimented upon against their will by some corporation or government, or some similar non-consensual variation thereof, how likely would it be to be revealed to the general public, and what might the legal, social and political consequences of such non-consensual research be if it happened at all?

I do not count researchers advertising for volunteer test subjects, paying them for their time, and allowing them to leave if they wish to mean that the subjects were 'scooped up for military research'. The relationship between test subject and researcher must be non-consensual to be the subject of this question.

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    $\begingroup$ ??? The USA routinely "scoops up" people off the street for various purposes. Maybe other countries do it too, but it seems that the USA is for some reason unable to keep the secret secret. Famous example, one out of many. (Link is safe, goes to Wikipedia.) In other words, it is actually happening in the real world, and it is not a particularly rare occurrence. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 4, 2023 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ A country at war might try to scoop them up and put them on the front lines - the most basic military research, did they work as soldiers. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Feb 4, 2023 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ I am surprised at my answer being deleted! I thought it was a good riff on the strange world you presented. If your question must be strictly considered as the real world and your fiction as presented is irrelevant, is it still a worldbuilding question? Or just a question about how the mundane actual world works? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Feb 4, 2023 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP That's not "scooped up" for military research, that's arrested and extradited without public trial for being an international criminal (and yes, it's better than what Monty's looking for). Can we prove anything like what Monty's describing since the CIA's mind control and LSD tests in the 1950s when actual U.S. civilians were "scooped up" for testing? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 5, 2023 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk, It is entirely possible that people in other realms would snatch people for any number of nefarious purposes. However, those realms are my own invention, which is why I limited the scope of the question to a offshoot of the real world. BTW, I didn't delete it, I just flagged it. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Feb 5, 2023 at 14:51

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100% realistic. There is little doubt that it actually happens.

Example: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen ran a company being paid $81 million by the CIA for pseudoscience/torture.

Example: Prisoners being used to test weapons on them in 2010

And that's just the stuff we've heard about. God knows what goes on in black sites, Guantanamo, Xinjiang, etc.

The crux of your doubt seems to be that it's "illegal". But it's not unrealistic that illegal things are done.

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  • $\begingroup$ That link isn't anyone being "scooped up." It might be unethical, but nobody was kidnapped. The reference to Mitchell and Jessen is good, though. The CIA's mind control and LSD tests in the 50s might be the earliest documented example of U.S. citizens being "scooped up" for illegal and secret testing. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 5, 2023 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH: They were kidnapped in secret, for unknown reasons and purposes. They were most definitely not arrested and extradited for trial. The first sentence of the linked article: "Extraordinary rendition is a euphemism for state-sponsored forcible abduction in another jurisdiction and transfer to a third state". How do you know that none of the abducted people was put in a laboratory for purposes of military research? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 5, 2023 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Your only example, Abu Omar, was scooped up/abducted/rendered extraordinarily, in Italy in concert with the Italian SISMI. He was then sent to Egypt and interrogated/tortured for years and eventually released. I don't believe he's ever claimed that anyone carried out any experimentation on him. For all I know every missing child on a milk box has been abducted by the government - except that it can't be proven. You are right, of course, that the idea is perfectly believable. Governments have been "scooping up" people forever - but most get interrogated or killed, not experimented on. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 5, 2023 at 18:04
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'Scooped up' sounds so sinister ...

Think of them as undocumented immigrants who are obviously suffering from some serious medical conditions. If they can speak English, their answers indicate that they are in denial about their strange condition. A country might decide that, for their own good, these people need to get into medical care. Which starts with determining the underlying cause of the strange condition. The louder they protest, the more obvious that they are not sane.

Meanwhile ACLU stands on one side and files briefs that Fauns totally are people, too, while on the other side the MAGA gang thinks that illegal inhuman immigrants have even fewer human rights than illegal human immigrants.

Think back to the early days of the Corona pandemic. Governments in the West were dusting off little-used emergency laws and regulations, and citizens who were ignorant of what is on the books became indignant at these restrictions of their personal self-fulfillment. It took months or years for courts to decide if a specific mask mandate, a vaccination mandate, a lockdown was appropriate at that time and place. Meanwhile the debate also became a stand-in for general pro- and anti-government stances.

Over the years, things would hopefully regularize. Perhaps there is some UN resolution that human rights apply to almost human people, too. But UN resolutions are not binding law. There might have to be a constitutional amendment in the US if hold-out states bicker, like the 14th amendment to clarify that skin color does not preclude citizenship. Or there are supreme court decisions. If the EU is true to form, there would be sweeping announcements followed by interminable wrangling over the details. More autocratic regimes would be worse. Can you imagine what North Korea would do to one of your centaurs?

The consequences of the revelation would differ from country to country and depending on the intrusiveness/destructiveness of the research. Consider how the US and the world reacted CIA black detention program. Loud protests from people who deeply care about human rights, but many shrugged it off as 'they're terrorists, they had it coming.' Even if a few individuals were innocent, and many cases could not be proven to the standards of US law.

One thing where I'm unsure is the religious angle. A faun, in particular, looks rather like a devil. Significant parts of Western society are religious in name only (going to the Christmas services with the little children, but not true believers). Others have a very non-literal interpretation of the Bible, with Noah's flood or the Garden of Eden as metaphors to convey moral teachings. Yet there are those who hold the Bible to be literal truth. And magical creatues might run afoul of Exodus 22:18.

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    $\begingroup$ As an evangelical biblical literalist*, I strongly expect that Exo 22 will have little to zero bearing on fantastic creatures, as the typical evangelical knows the historical context of Exodus and the law at Sinai; a fantastic creature that isn't actually casting spells or doing magic is simply not a sorceress. (Note: there's a wide secular misunderstanding of literalism. We don't read the whole Bible literally: Psalms are poems, for example. We read the parts that purport to be histories literally. And that doesn't exclude allegorical meanings, we just insist on a base literal layer). $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Feb 4, 2023 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ This is a really plausible vision of the wider sociopolitical situation that might result from these creatures appearing. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Feb 4, 2023 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ Written like someone who has no grasp of the actual reasoning of the people who he disagrees with... $\endgroup$
    – Jedediah
    Feb 5, 2023 at 13:55
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At this point? It's unlikely.

Because they've already been among us for 18 years. That's about the length of the heroic age of any new scientific endeavor, really, the period in which it's the big new thing that everyone has to get into. And yes, in those early years, it was quite hazardous to show your face as a centaur or a faun or whatever, with everyone and their dog(-person) hopping on the bandwagon to study the new arrivals. Even among legitimate organizations, there was tremendous pressure to produce test subjects by whatever means were expedient.

But now, they're a known factor. The literature has been written. You don't need to test a pixie's lifting strength or a centaur's anatomy, or whether svartalves have the same type of pain reflexes as humans, or how hot a wyrm's fire gets if it really tries. The major research has been done, and redone, and collated into books that are sitting on your lab shelf gathering dust. Not only that, they've figured out the degree to which you can use ordinary humans as proxies for supernaturals, the same way we use animals as proxies for humans now. Maybe an elven immune system isn't exactly the same as a human one, but you know that if you're looking for a booster shot against a disease it's close enough. Maybe if it passes human trials, you'll have the budget to try it on a couple elves, if it's worth the bother.

For most ongoing research, given the rarity of this supernatural life on the one hand, and the extreme commonness of plain ordinary humans on the other, there's a strong incentive to use the latter if you can. If you can't, you're going to have to talk to your very skeptical director and explain what exactly needs such a huge expense. (That goes doubly if you have to get them illegally, of course. It should go without saying that deniable mercenary teams aren't cheap!) There just aren't that many questions that are still unanswered and are important enough to demand answers and can't be adequately explored by human (or animal) models to make it worthwhile.

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I guarantee that they'd be scooped up and studied. Starting with the idea of illegal immigration, invasive species, and a possible invasion, the military would apply a high level "need to know" priority on all things involved.

The problem is that the world currently has a pretty impressive surveillance state. Anything that's even vaguely interesting looking can be found somewhere on the internet. The military might get lucky and be in the right place to scoop something up before anyone else notices, but if these appearances are widespread, it's only time before some of them go viral.

Would the military do a snatch and grab? I think that a lot of people would want to get their hands on a sample. Pharmaceutical company owners would probably kill for one if they were in short supply. It would be quite the bull market until the market got glutted.

Some people would definitely be in a fury to eliminate them, because that kind of conviction and certainty feels really good with a side of abject panic.

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So, as a different answer to those already provided:

Who says they have to be scooped up?

Think of both the Cosmetic and Medical fields that partake in Student testing. Find someone who could benefit from a lump-sum of $$$, offer to pay them - do experiments - job done.

There's many ways to 'legally' do something 'immoral', so long as you can (mostly) claim it was done with prior consent and it was done without coercion.

And so long as the deception isn't obvious enough to be proved in court, the entity doing the tests walks away without conviction and the cycle keeps happening.

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In my world, around nineteen years ago, humantaurs began to appear at a rate of 1 in 100,000 births.

That's fairly common, really. There would be thousands in my country by now. I think it would depend how society interprets it. Is this a weird, naturally occurring mutation or something? Or could we come to believe that for a while? Do the parents of the first few born this way, get all sorts of tests done at the hospital and a public discussion happens?

If yes, we may come to view them like regular people, and in some places they would probably have legal rights to not be experimented on. Though that doesn't always stop governments.

Eighteen years ago, an entire mountain appeared in Port Philip Bay off Melbourne at dawn and disappeared again the following midnight

Now, that's different. It would probably be interpreted as an unknowable threat. Aliens arriving silently arriving in orbit and hovering there might be an analogy. I would imagine that the various three-letter agencies would totally flip out. Even if the law prohibits them, at least some of them would go rogue. Just about anything that would potentially let them learn more about it, could be justified in their eyes. If the existence of the state and society itself is thought to be under threat, sometimes even polite and usually rights-respecting governments will make people disappear. There are many real historical examples of human experimentation, as well as secret kidnappings and disappearances to extract information.

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