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As humans evolve, some will start showing abilities that will scare the living snot out of the normal people around them. If enough of these people are walking around you can be sure the normal population will demand a government organization dedicated to observing and controlling these evolved people.

This organization's first act will be to make damn sure that every one of these evolved people is a member of said organization whether they want to be or not.

At one level this makes some sense. The sudden presence of telepaths, telekinetics, teleporters, phasers, etc. could throw society into chaos as long held concepts of privacy and security might be in danger of being thrown onto the scrap heap. But the new organization will almost always go overboard as it was initially formed out of panic. The normals who control the organization will start to see the supers as weapons or tools to be exploited. Eventually an organization composed mainly of superhuman mutants may start looking at the normals around it as an impediment to their natural supremacy. Things will go rapidly downhill from there.

There will be mutants who will want no part of this organization, seeking only to live their lives in peace. As if they will be given the choice. The organization will hunt down every mutant it can find to bring into the fold. Those who refuse can look forward to imprisonment, death or life on the run, except for those few who completely renounce the use of their powers.

See the Cape Busters for an organization of non-supers attempting to wage a war against supers. See Fantastic Recruitment Drive for a cuddlier variant.

Examples of Mutant Draft Board include:


Anime

  • s-Cry-ed has HOLY, an organization composed of people called Alter Users who control matter with willpower. Many Alter Users seek sanctuary in the Lost Ground outside HOLY's control.
  • In Darker Than Black, both The Syndicate, the Pandora Institute and most governmental intelligence agencies are competing versions of this trope, each trying to get their mitts on as many contractors as they can while keeping them out of the others' hands. All of them have pretty much gone into 'contractors are living weapons' territory from day one -- which is frankly true. In the end it turns out they all work for the UN to keep the contractors divided and fighting each other until the time comes when they can be... dealt with. Evening Primrose is the supremacist-run version of this trope, and oppose the UN.
  • The Backstory of Hyobu Kyosuke, the apparent Big Bad of Zettai Karen Children, involves him being a member of such an organization. He had a Start of Darkness when the organization tried to get rid of him; he still has the bullet wound on his forehead.
    • In the current era, it's not a draft board per se, but a Super Registration Act is enforced, and powerful espers are essentially shut out of society unless they join BABEL (or similar organizations in other countries). In the manga, Kyosuke gets around this by taking over a country to give PANDRA similar legal status so the PANDRA children can go to school.
    • It turned out that Hyobu and Fujiko joined ESP unit as children willingly. Through looking at their alternatives and how much espers were hated these days, they didn't have much choice.

Comic Books

  • X-Men:
    • How optional it is to join the X-Men varies among interpretations including some where Professor X is consciously or unconsciously mind controlling the members to keep them from leaving "for their own good".
      • When the X-Men first met the Blob, Xavier ordered his students to attack him when he refused to join them.
    • Also worth noting that the competing form of this was invoked in the New Mutants series between the New Mutants and the Hellfire school and its Hellions. The conflict was largely introduced when Xavier and Emma were feuding over who got Kitty Pryde.
    • Usually they keep it strictly voluntary. In the sense that they will not stop sending people to bother a new mutant until he or she agrees to join out of reason, desperation, fear, or sheer annoyance.
      • Many versions do keep it voluntary, however; Ultimate X-Men has Professor Xavier asking characters no more than once if they would like to join up, then leaving them completely alone, even when they've fought alongside them in the past (Dazzler is a good example). He only seems to insist that they stick around if they've actually been official members of the team for some time (such as Beast). In the X-Men's second incarnation, Professor Xavier is seen offering several characters a chance to join up (including Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine), and although they all accept, nothing indicates he would have pestered them had they not done so. (In the case of Nightcrawler, for example, he isn't even physically present).
    • When you give teens bullet proof uniforms and send them to fight giant robots you're just asking for trouble.
    • During one of the X-Men and Runaways cross overs they had a Let's You and Him Fight over taking Molly back to the Academy before they remembered that they aren't actually supposed to force people to go.
  • During the widely-panned Marvel Civil War event, heroes such as Tony Stark tried to enforce one of these for everybody with superpowers, regardless of status as a hero, villain, or civilian. Potential draftees were given the choices of joining or being held in the Negative Zone until they agreed. It did not end well at all. Oddly enough, the X-Men stayed out of the issue completely, on the basis that no other superheroes gave a damn when it was them being threatened with registration. Or genocide.
    • The Initiative series is about the program enacted after Civil War that takes people with superpowers and either makes them join or does its best to remove their powers. And the guy running it looks like Skeletor, because that's the face of an organization you can trust.
  • Averted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight. While Buffy's Slayer organization tries to persuade new Slayers to join, they don't force them to do so, and allow them to slay independently or as an extracurricular activity. They're less nice about Slayers who misuse their powers, like Simone or Gigi, of course.
  • A relatively benevolent form appears in Judge Dredd - any and all psychics found are rounded up and enrolled in the Academy of Law so that their powers can be used to fight crime. Those that fail to qualify are allowed to live as normal citizens, but must register as psychics.
  • Defied in PS238. The title is the name of Public School 238 -- a super-hero-run school, devoted entirely towards raising metahuman children. When the school's representatives are dragged in front of Senate, at least one senator raises his doubts about how the school won't end up like this, and the representative takes time to explain how that's not the case. It's repeatedly shown over the course of the comic that PS238 is no more indoctrinating than most normal public schools (if anything it's even less so). Later in the comic the school gets an Evil Counterpart in the private Praetorian Academy, which is a lot closer to this trope.

Film

  • Push practically exemplifies this trope to the letter; it's the entire basis of the movie.
  • The Jedi Order in Star Wars averts this trope. Not all Force users are expected to join it, and leaving is allowed, though their indoctrination from childhood means that only twenty masters have (legitimately) left over the thousand generations of the Order's existence. (Of course, Dark Jedi and Sith aren't counted as having left "legitimately", and no information is given on Knights or Padawans.)
    • YMMV, the recruits, post-Ruusan, are harvested at infancy, cut off from all family ties, put through Training From Hell where they rarely, if ever, speak to a Muggle, are constantly raised to believe that they are chosen by the Force and that "attachments" (anything from a close friendship to love) are a one-way ticket to getting Drunk on the Dark Side...and at the age of 13, they either get a lightsaber shoved in their hands or shunted off to a dead-end job in the Service Corps. Little wonder they didn't so much as blink when presented with an army of 10 year old slaves to command!
    • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, during the time of the Sith Empire's war with the Old Republic, all Force-sensitives in the Empire are by law required to be given over to the Sith Academy to be trained to serve The Emperor under the pain of death. The attempt of one droid-maker to keep her daughter out of the hands of the Sith is a major plot point in the novel Fatal Alliance.
  • The NSA (in this case meaning "National Supers Agency") from The Incredibles is another example of a benevolent version of this trope, since they take Supers and give them a common altruistic objective, equipment, training, and a support network, while largely respecting their autonomy. When superheroes were outlawed, they were reorganized to provide a means of allowing Supers to quietly reintegrate into normal society, particularly cleaning up after breaches of The Masquerade and relocating the Supers and their families in such event.
  • Godzilla: Final Wars has mutants recruited to fight the various Kaiju that appear as part of a UN Task Force. It's neither angsted about nor seen in a negative light.

Literature

  • The Department of Paranormal Resources in the Temps Shared Universe is another (relatively) benevolent version. Although its main purpose seems to be to draft paranorms as crimefighters, its more subtle role is to reassure All of the Other Reindeer that the paranorms are on their side, or at least controlled. This reassurance helps protect the ones with useless powers from mob mentality.
  • Aes Sedai in The Wheel of Time, who hold a monopoly on organized use of the One Power. They constantly search for girls with the power and induct them, track down runaways, and immediately break up any rival attempts to organize users. Aes Sedai do let go trainees who refuse to go through with promotion tests or women who are (arbitrarily) too old to be initiated in the first place if the Aes Sedai think they have learned enough to not kill themselves, but those sent away had better keep a low profile or else. They monitor the movements of an organization called the Kinswomen that helps runaways, allowing them to recapture them. However, they do not know everything about the Kinswomen.
    • Actually subverted. The Aes Sedai really induct very few women who can channel the Power. Mostly women have to travel to Tar Valon or be lucky enough that an Aes Sedai finds them. When they start to actually make an effort to recruit all comers they end up with more apprentices than they have had in two millenia. And boy, do they need them, as the Black Tower has been doing a non-stop recruitment drive from when it was first founded, and has about three times the numbers of the White Tower.
    • The Black Tower has a very short policy on people leaving: they're classed as deserters and their heads hung from the Traitor's Tree. It's unclear whether they recruit unsanctioned male channelers by force; Fanon tends to have them be very intolerant of the subject.
  • The Esper Guild in Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man is a generally benevolent example of this trope.
  • In the classic short story "Scanners Live in Vain" by Cordwainer Smith, humans are unable to cope with the "Great Pain of Space" and rely on cold sleep ships crewed by habermans whose brain has been severed from all sensory input except the eyes, and whose body therefore has to be regulated by implanted instruments. These habermen are condemned criminals and derelicts, supervised by a small group of volunteers called Scanners who maintain an elitist and secretive fraternity -- so much so that they're prepared to kill a human who's come up with a means of traversing space without the use of habermen, under the justification that they're saving humanity from the space wars that would now be possible.
  • Anne McCaffrey's Center, and its successor Federated Telepath & Teleport (from the Pegasus and Tower series) generally don't actually force anyone to join if they don't want to-- but they could, since they have legal jurisdiction over all Talents. They do apply a significant amount of wheedling and sly pressure. Fortunately the benefits of being a registered Talent outweigh any drawbacks, to the extent that many people are disappointed that they aren't Talents. Furthermore the series is far enough to the idealist end, in that Telepathy and Empathy actually seem to instill relentless ethicality, that the Center is never abusive. FT&T gets a little exploitative (it's structured more like a for-profit corporation, this was inevitable) but never badly.
    • No one (mentioned in the books, at least) has actually refused to join when offered, although in a couple of cases, it takes either outright bribes (Jeff Raven) or an appeal to the Talent's more mercenary side (Tirla, who was enticed with the promise of all the pretty things and food she wants), and it was never presented as an option for the Rowan (who was raised in an FT&T school and groomed to be a Prime virtually from birth).
    • Vsevolod Roznine is the exception to the rule, and the reason that the Center has jurisdiction over all Talents; after he was caught using his telepathy in an attempt to stir up a riot and Mind Control another Talent, he was mind-blasted, taken to the Center, and blocked so that his power only worked in gestalt with the Talent he tried to control.
  • In the science fiction novel The Shockwave Rider, the US government takes genius young kids (mostly orphans) and removes them to schools where they are indoctrinated into considering the government as their parents. This is to create the new elite to run the nation.
  • The Unseen University believes any young man with natural magical ability should be under the aegis of the university (or, recently, one of its sister institutions). Or, in the words of its founder, Alberto Malich the Wise, "We'd better keep the bright young buggers where we can see 'em". Since the role of the University is to keep wizards too busy with college politics and big dinners to actually use any magic, and "there were still quite deep scars in old buildings that showed what happened when you had the other kind of wizard", he had a point.
  • In Laura Anne Gilman's Retriever novels The Council is the association of 'current' users who become progressively more ... persuasive about making everyone join them
  • Hogwarts was a benevolent kind of such organisation for the majority of the saga and turned into an oppressive one under the Death Eaters' reign in the seventh book (the attendance was voluntary and mandatory respectively).
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy possibly has a variant of this trope. The magicians who rule London pay people good money for their unwanted toddlers to act as their apprentices. This doesn't seem too selective, but it's also mentioned that the children must past certain tests to be accepted. It's not mentioned what these tests look for--whether to make sure they aren't complete morons or to determine whether they are simply more intelligent than other children of their age--but this may count.
  • The White Council in The Dresden Files. They won't bother you if you're too magically weak to do much. The problem is, someone with a lot of power who just happens upon magic by accident isn't going to know about the Laws of Magic. It's quite possible to break some of them with the best of intentions-- messing with someone's head to get them off drugs or magically keeping someone alive long enough for an ambulance to get there is good, right? But all 7 laws exist for a reason: Black Magic in any form is addictive, so breaking one Law is a slippery slope to breaking the rest. So you get the death penalty if you're caught violating any them, even if you'd never even heard of the White Council or anyone else who could do magic. There's not enough recruiters out there to find most potential wizards, leading the world to kinda suck.
  • This trope is essentially the premise of Jeffrey De Rego's Union Dues universe.
  • There is an SF story wherein the world is secretly controlled by an oligarchy of telepaths. Telepathy is kept secret, and it isn't really researched, to maintain the masquerade, but one thing is known for sure - it is not inheritable. So how do they find new members? There's a brilliant solution. In every single university there's a guy somewhere, spreading telepathic messages about the room he is in. The messages can be heard by telepaths only. Those who come are accepted into the society, those who don't are either muggles or not curious enough and thus of no interest to them.
    • Similar to a Real Life test for a radio operations job back in the old days when Morse code was a necessity: applicants were told to go to a particular waiting room, and they would be called in. So they went and waited, listening to the piped-in muzak. Except that buried within the muzak, several decibels lower, were Morse-code instructions to leave and go to a different room. Testing for Morse competency and picking out signal from noise (or even worse, signal from signal) at the same time!
  • The Psychology Service from James H. Schmitz's Hub stories uses a semi-voluntary version of this, similar to the above. The Service ostensibly exists in order to tag and control all telepaths, but is actually another arm of the Overgovernment. In order to maintain its semi-monopoly on telepathy and psionics, telepathic machines are installed in all spaceports, and if the device gets a response from a telepath, the telepath is tagged and implanted with a compulsion that strongly suggests the individual in question seek out the Service to learn about themselves. A few, such as Telzey, are able to overcome the compulsion, and the Service will generally leave them alone (or actively work with them) if the telepath has demonstrated that they know the rules and will not muck things up.
  • The Bondsmagi of Karthain from the Gentleman Bastard series are part this, part criminal family. The whole venture started when one powerful mage went to a less-powerful mage and said, "Join or die." The two worked their way out to three, and so on. They have an exclusive monopoly on sorcery in the world, and if they find anyone practicing who doesn't want to join with them... well, they aren't going to be practicing much longer.

Live Action TV

  • Psi Corps from Babylon 5 was the former Trope Namer, back when the page was called The Corps Is Mother after their expression "The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father". Psi Corps controls all human telepaths and telekinetics, demanding from them Corps membership, imprisonment, or a life on suppressive drugs that cause depression. Many telepaths opt to head for the depths of space.

 "Somewhere on Beta colony there is an institution. In one room of the institution there is a man who spends his days and nights screaming at things that only he can see. Things we planted in his mind. They have to keep him in a straitjacket 24 hours a day or he'll claw his own eyes out just to make it stop."

    • The attempt to control telepaths through this organization rather backfired though. Quite quickly they decided they were superior and to take over the world. Good job on gathering them all into a convenient group so they can form conspiracies easily. For the Psi Cops, hunting rogue telepaths isn't about serving or protecting mundane society like the propaganda says; it's because no one in their creepy "family" is allowed to leave.
      • Yeah, like convincing a bunch of mind-readers that you're exploiting them because you have their best interests at heart was ever going to fly, to begin with. And it doesn't help that the senator who proposed the idea for Psi Corps had a chief aide who was secretly a super powerful psychic; it's hinted he arranged to have the senator assassinated and managed to somehow get himself put in charge of the organization.
        • Also note that Kevin Vacit, who was head of Psi Corps while technically being a rogue telepath himself, had a daughter who he deliberately gave away to be raised by other rogue telepaths, because he didn't want his own kid to be exposed to what he was planning to do with the Corps. Puts a whole new twist on "The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father", doesn't it? Vacit's daughter, Fiona Temple, was the mother of Stephen Kevin Dexter, more commonly known as the Psi Cop Alfred Bester.
      • Vacit originally wasn't too sure about the Corps. Then he had an encounter with a Vorlon ship, which gave him a sense of a looming threat (i.e. the Shadows), reinforcing his belief that he must build an organization to shelter and train telepaths for the coming war. Then Vacit dies and is replaced with a telepath-hating "mundane".
  • This issue is a major part of the plot in every season of The 4400, as it deals primarily with a branch of the Department of Homeland Security in Seattle adapting to handle the 4400 super-powered individuals, as well as other organizations that tangle the web. Pretty soon we have NTAC (the previously mentioned organization), the 4400 Center (created by a member of the 4400 for the group when they were first faced with discrimination), the Nova group (super powered terrorists, who are wiped out for the twin crimes of a) assassinating or trying to assassinate the people who almost wiped out the 4400 and b) turning a desert into a fertile arable plain), and a government conspiracy to both suppress and replicate 4400 powers. Overall it comes over as a fairly plausible set of reactions given the implausible circumstances and makes for an intense plot told from many perspectives.
    • And by the end of the show, half of Seattle has superpowers including almost everyone in NTAC.
  • The Company in Heroes, which hunts down potentially dangerous evolved humans with two-man "one of us, one of them" teams, among other things.
    • Then there's Pinehearst...
    • The current Mutant Registration Act they've got going on just wants to imprison.

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer 40000, humans in the Imperium who are gifted with Psychic Powers are trained by the Adeptus Astra Telepathica, in cooperation with the Inquisition. Given the source of these abilities, and the potential "perils of the warp", it is perhaps understandable that psykers are treated with a measure of concern. Unregulated psykers deemed uncontrollable (and especially those affected by warp entities) are treated harshly, whilst those who are merely too weak or undisciplined to serve are put to other uses.
    • Though the ones who are used for said purpose are actually apparently the best treated psykers in the Imperium, being sacrificed to preserve the life of a Physical God is apparently treated by the Imperial Priests similarly to martyring oneself to help the Imperium.
  • While the core Mutants and Masterminds game doesn't usually invoke this trope, the spin-off Paragons universe has it in spades including two competing Christianity-based cults, multiple mercenary and terrorist groups, and even the Paranormal Professionals Society, which is a combination legal fund and temp employment agency for paranormals complete with a Las Vegas trade show. The degree to which the various groups Gotta Catch Em All is, of course, up to the GM.
  • In Cthulhu Tech, all parapsychics (people born with innate abilities, which can range from mind control to having control over gravity) have to register with the Office of Internal Security, be tested, are subjected to surveillance, and if their powers are deemed Invasive or Dangerous, they have to wear badges in public to inform people of it. In addition, gravikinetics are forced to join the NEG or die; they're just too dangerous to leave off a leash. On the other hand, looking at what kind of place the Cthulhutech setting is, it's fairly justified.
  • White Wolf 's Aberrant has Project Utopia, who do this very subtly--they're just helpful folks who want to teach you how to control your superpowers and use them for good. Except that they also sterilize you so you don't make more little superhumans and (largely out of ignorance) persuade you to overuse your powers, causing bad mutations and insanity.
  • Traveller : Averted. It is illegal in the Imperium to have a psi school and presumably one can't accidentally develop psi powers to the point where they are dangerous. Among the Zho, psis are an oligarchy and don't need such things. An Alternative Character Interpretation might be that they are a Mutant Draft Board that existed so long that it is the essence of the ruling class.
  • Paranoia has this trope gone mad...rather like everything else in Alpha Complex. Mutations are officially treason, however a mutant may confess their mutation and become registered - they must wear a yellow stripe on their uniform and effectively become second class citizens, passed up for promotions and scapegoated for any number of treasons. By the way, if you're a player character, you're a mutant. Oh, and since Alpha Complex is run by The Computer, the Machine Empathy mutation is cause for immediate execution and probable erasure. There is, of course, PSION, the pro-mutant Secret Society that wants to put the mutants in charge, and are therefore doubleplus treasonous.

Video Games

  • The Terran Ghosts in Starcraft, formed initially by the Confederacy to keep their psychics under control, forcefully takes all people born with psychic powers and turns them into spies and/or Super Soldiers.
    • The ever-practical Arcturus Mengsks restores the Ghost Academy upon crowning himself the Emperor of the Dominion, knowing the value of psychic assassins to be used against his enemies.
    • Also, as mentioned in the StarCraft: Nova novel, all psychics slated to be Ghosts (some weaker psychics act as "sniffers" of rogue telepaths) are mind-wiped in order to ensure their past experiences will not interfere with their duties.
  • After the Vell-Os (a psychic offshoot of humanity) were defeated in Escape Velocity: Nova, they were enslaved by the then-government of most of humanity, the Colonial Council. This was kept up through the collapse of civilisation and reconstruction all the way to the start of the game, although at some point the official stance became that they were willingly serving the Federation. It is made clear in the Vell-os storyline that you aren't one, but as you are an unregistered (and, at first, unaware) telepath the Bureau that has jurisdiction thinks you are one and enslaves you.
  • In Mass Effect, Kaidan, a member of humanity's first generation of biotics, reveals that when news of the Bizarre Baby Boom first went public, a military corporation called Conatix "encouraged" all human biotics to go through Training From Hell at the hands of hired turian mercenaries. He even implies that Conatix may have deliberately engineered element zero spills to expose pregnant women and create more biotics, but he admits the evidence is merely circumstantial. This practice ceased when Kaidan killed a particularly sadistic instructor at Jump Zero, and the Ascension Project was founded. While biotics are no longer required to join the Alliance military, their whereabouts are still monitored, and they're given preferential recruitment in the corps because of their rarity.
    • Cerberus still kidnaps and experiments on biotic children.
  • In Dragon Age, all mages are required to join the Circle or be killed by templars. The reason for this is twofold: first, because mages who are not formally trained are prone to suffering Demonic Possession, and second, because the Chantry still remembers that the ancient lords of the Tevinter Imperium acted very irresponsibly with their magic.
    • This does not stop Apostates and mercenary mages from being dreadfully common, and sometimes absurdly more powerful than mages with formal training (either due to the use of Blood Magic or by becoming abominations). Additionally, several members of the Circle are semi-openly cooperating with the illegal mages.
    • It should be noted that each nation has their own Circle and templars, except for the remnant of the Tevinter Imperium. It is also not the case with the Dalish elves, but only because they're always on the move and damned hard to find. They don't see mages as evil, but only their Keepers are trained in the use of magic.
      • Even Tevinter still has both. The difference there is that the Circle was eventually used to bring the Magisters back to power, and the templars are under their control.
      • In this case the Draft Board ultimately falls during the events of Dragon Age II after centuries of oppression and purges against dissident mages. The catalyst is Hawke defeating Knight-Commander Meredith after her attack on the Circle of Kirkwall which causes the mages of every Circle to rise up against the Templars and start a war. Years before this happens one Templar even notes the recent increase in mages means they are too numerous to police properly.
      • The Qunari are even worse with their "saarebas," stitching their mouths shut and enslaving them as AttackAnimals. Most of the saarebas accept this because of their cultural conditioning with some exceptions.
  • The Malta Group of City of Heroes formed when the US repealed a metahuman draft act and began losing its edge (Or so they think, as the Russians never had near the amount of metahumans that America did) in the Cold War (the Russians had a similar program that they didn't repeal). Since, they've used whatever means necessary to bring as many metahumans under their thumb as possible.
    • In this game's Going Rogue expansion, in the Praetorian Earth parallel world, all metahumans are drafted into the empire's Powers Division. All player characters who start in Praetorian Earth start as new members of Powers Division. They may also secretly join the Resistance. Or not.
    • This isn't limited to just powers either. Anyone who owns a weapon or has combat training is drafted too. Yes, even if you want to learn karate for self defense and exercise, you're drafted.
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