The Volunteer Problem
The Cosmic Era has had as one of it's hallmarks, a persistent shortage of manpower. There have been various efforts made to circumvent this problem: clones, autons, extensive use of automation. These efforts do not approach one of the problems presented by this shortage, volunteers. Specifically volunteers for scientific, genetic, and other forms of human experimentation. In ages past, various organizations accepted unwanted children and molded them into crusaders, monks, assassins, social workers, concubines, and the rest. This was seen as barbaric during the Petroleum Age, but the Cosmic Era found itself in need again.
Projects like those that created the elixer and it's synthetic parapsychics was only possible because of what would be considered inhumane testing on children. New anthropontronic systems and Cognitive interfaces have to be tested, and the same goes for genetic modifications, cybernetic upgrades, and the rest. It is an ugly, messy, morally bankrupt business. It has a relentless demand for fresh victims.
Oblation was created as a functional act where normal people could reproduce for profit. This could be as simple as 'selling' their children to an accredited institution, or are finessed as being hosts to bring an embryo to full birth.
Terms like selling, human trafficking, and child servitude are never actually used, such words have such massive negative connotation. The people who work in this sector are charismatic and charming, and skilled diplomats and negotiators, and can convince a family with an unwanted or child they cannot properly care for believe that their child or children will be given a new life that is as lovely as any slice of life anime, with a healthy academic career, many friends, and the ability to use this opportunity to springboard into a life so much better than they could have afforded on their own. For a good number, this is actually true. It also involves a good deal of indoctrination and psychotronic intimation, but the end result is the same. For others, it is a death sentence, or condemnation to a short life of horrific torture and abuse.
Good PR and Slick Packaging
The Oblation Process would have gotten nowhere if it wasn't for good PR and slick packaging. The agencies behind oblation and handling the children worked tirelessly to ensure that it was viewed as a win-win-win scenario.
Win 1 - The child would win in gaining access to life choices and opportunities that they would likewise never have, oblate children almost always were targeted and drawn from the lower income and bottom of the economic and social barrel. Who could stop a child from escaping squalor and poverty?
Win 2 - the parents would get an economic windfall, a large paycheck or similar compensation while having their living expenses reduced. This could get some people out of the welfare loop, or out of predatory loans, or allow them to pay off outstanding debts or damage to their credit rating. It was always presented as optional, so children were never classified as assets in the case of such economic problems. This also opened the door for other economic categories to be incentivized to reproduce.
Win 3 - the governments and corporations would get a double, reducing the number of children living in distress, or the perception that that was what they were doing, and filling a need for warm bodies. The trials and tests the oblate children were used for were very well sold as doing godly work, helping to pioneer things that made life better for everyone.
The department of deniability ensured that a number of things were specifically not being done, or if they were, they were done in a very discrete and easily denied manner. The oblate children were specifically not being harvested for organs, stem cells, or any voodoo like collection of their fluids in relation to prolonging life. This was relatively easy because such things are rare, and organs are easily enough to replace with cultured cloned organs or synthetic ones. A second was that the oblates were not being sold into military service or into sex worker contracts. Both of these things happened regularly, but the DoD made sure that there were layers of protection between the Oblation Program and the agencies that shuffled oblates no longer useful for testing purposes into useful spots in corporate, military, or service industries. It happens constantly, and where there is a scandal, the DoD has ensured that there are multiple layers of scapegoats and battleship armor levels of plausible deniability.
An End of Abductions
One of the old shadowrunning chestnuts was the acquisition of volunteers for medical and scientific experimentation. This involved remote facilities, missing persons reports, nefarious gangs and criminal enterprises, and created a steady stream of vigilantes, people who refused to abide by the daily discourse, and was generally upsetting to the population. If poor children were being abducted, then middle class and wealthy children were vulnerable. Rather than rubber stamping money for more police and more security, this opened investigations and inquiries, and social groups pushing for policy change, and more oversight, specifically civilian oversight.
The Oblation Program created a legal process for this function of scientific research and experimentation, rendering remote paramilitary bases unneeded. Vigilantism declined because the children were, all pretty legalese words aside, sold by their parents or caretakers. Orphanages, juvenile detention centers, and the rest were slashed to near non-existence, for 'the good of the children'.
Anime is littered for dozens if not hundreds of titles were groups of children live in controlled and monitored conditions and are subjected to things that with a little thought, are unconscionable. Daring the FranXX and Neon Genesis Evangalion have children hand picked and groomed to be functionally expendable pilots for war machines in a genocidal civil war. There are more where there are simply groups of kids who exist in a setting where there is no real logical explanation about how they came to be there, with no outside friends or family ties. I know that this is a function of microcosm storytelling, and there is plenty of precedent in sci-fi with titles like Ender's Game.
Oblate Children is how to stock your Assassination Classroom's, Certain Scientific Railguns, Kids in mecha academies, and any other setting where you dump a bunch of kids together for the thematic purpose of drama and trope.
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