Master Roshi: Our story today begins not in a new world, but in one that is simply an extension of what began in the old. It is part of a pattern that has been repeated through history time and time again. But no matter the supposed refinements, or technological differences, all of them carry the same basic principle – the destruction of human freedom and the corruption of logic…
A blank gray room awaited them. A blank gray room was left behind them. They sat in a mass of filtered air and stale minds, awaiting their judgment. There was not a sound in the room as the seamless double doors began to open, until their names crackled loudly over the PA system.
“Son Gohan, Trunks Briefs; Obsolescence.”
They stood in unison, walking through the column of guards and into what little was left of their future.
“Step into the light and repeat your names into the microphone.”
The attendant pulled a sheaf of papers closer to him as he droned into his own mic.
“Internal Investigation, Research and Development, Case #83-267, unauthorized interactions, field study conclusive. Citizens have been oriented.”
Atop a large stage, Councilman Sharpner, who was assigned to hear the case, leaned forward, looking down at them calculatingly.
“Do you know why you are here?” he intoned.
Trunks knew all too well why, but the conclusion he had come to about the situation vastly differed from the States’ Official Views. But he guessed that was part of the problem, he had been thinking on his own again… It seemed kind of a paradox, that he would be in charge of an experiment that had revolutionized the way mankind interacted with energy, and yet he found himself here for carrying the “creative process” too far.
“Yes Sir” they both replied on cue.
“You have been under surveillance for unauthorized interactions, the purpose of this hearing is documentation and sentencing, do you understand?”
Gohan stared at the Councilman blankly, but he couldn’t help but wonder if even a man like him couldn’t learn to love somehow; show some real emotion under the right circumstances, care. Gohan couldn’t stop his thoughts from wandering anymore these days, not since he had met Trunks really. He mostly thought about how people would react differently if they knew how to feel what he did. Trunks was like rain falling on a tin roof – impossible to ignore, but filling you with a sense of security, even in his brashness. If they had been observing them with any closeness, there would be no way out of this. But they already knew that. They had taken too many risks.
“Yes, Sir” they replied again.
“As you are aware, significant accommodations are made for Citizens participating in sectors of high-level importance. However, certain duties to the State are mandatory, regardless of rank. Pairings are required for all Citizens. As intellectuals, your requirement is 2 offspring. Due to your involvement in Project 23, you have had your Pairings delayed twice, to allow for focus on this critical work. Now that your work has been finished, you were to be Paired immediately for optimal age indexing with your genetic matches. Pending to the findings of this investigation, your Pairings were delayed until sentencing. Do you understand?”
“The crime of unauthorized interaction carries a penalty of death. At the recommendation of the Council on Genetics, the enforcement of your sentences will be delayed long enough to produce 1 child each from your Pairings-”
“What?” Trunks blurted out of turn. This was not supposed to be happening. Gohan turned to him with his eyes wide at the outburst. It figured though, if anyone was ever going to challenge them here, in their own halls, it would be that man. They were both prepared to die anyway.
“You can’t!” he practically yelled at the Councilman, “I refuse.”
Gohan took his hand, squeezing it tightly.
“I refuse as well.”
The Councilman glared at them as he silenced the room – even the normally sedate guards and lower level bureaucrats reacted to their declarations – no one ever “refused” a Pairing.
“Failure to comply with the will of the State is a treason punishable by death” the Councilman scowled at them.
“We are going to die anyway” Trunks said.
“Then you freely admit your guilt in the matter at hand?”
“Love is not a crime” Trunks said fiercely, “No one can decide what is wrong or right for my heart. Caring for someone else makes life so different, so much more real, I can barely begin to describe it to someone like you.”
“Love is not an authorized method of contact. That erratic, unstable emotion was fazed out of societal interactions for a reason, and has been illegal for many years” the Councilman recited.
“Just because you write down some ‘law’ on a little piece of paper and have “X” number of Council Members sign off on it, doesn’t make it true!” Trunks retorted.
“Love is obsolete and an inaccurate system of procreation. Your case is the perfect example. Left to your own unchecked devices, you would choose to participate in a Pairing that is incapable of producing offspring. It would be sheer madness for the State to allow it’s brightest scientific minds to not pass on their genetic code to the next generation.”
“We’re human beings, not just genetic codes” Gohan spoke up.
“You are wasting the State’s time with your sedition – you have both been found to be obsolete – the sentence is death.”
Gohan braced himself against the edge of the table. It was what they had expected, but it did not lessen the pain of being about to lose him.
Trunks didn’t lessen his grip on Gohan’s hand – he could see that he was having trouble – instead he pulled him into an embrace that was all too quickly ended by the guards. But it was worth it to see the determination back in Gohan’s eyes.
“You will refrain from any further unauthorized contact, or you will have to be physically restrained. Do you understand?” the councilman barked.
Trunks just smiled and nodded his head. That smile vaguely disturbed the Councilman.
“Your execution will be carried out within the next 48 hours. You have many options available to you: pills, shots, electrocution, or any other way in which you prefer to die. The exact time is also up to you, but must take place within the 48 hour time frame. Do you understand?”
“Yes” Trunks replied, “I want to invoke the alternate methods clause.”
Gohan looked at him questioningly, they had not talked about this
“Son Gohan, what is your preferred method?”
“Wherever he goes, I go” was all he said.
“Trunks Briefs, what is your preferred method?”
“I would like an assassin to be assigned to us, and only to him will we divulge the method” he said.
“Rather unorthodox, but permissible as long as the execution takes place within the requisite time frame.”
“I have one more request,” Trunks said, “I wish for our execution to be televised.”
Gohan gasped at that, Trunks knew how much having to watch the televised executions disturbed him. At first it was because he was afraid of what would happen if they were caught. Later though, the more his relationship with Trunks opened his eyes, he began to feel genuinely sorry for the people on the screen…
Trust me, Trunks’ eyes implored him.
Of course he did.
Two days later, they had eaten their final meal together, and were doing the dishes just out of habit, when the crew arrived to install the camera in their sparse room. They were quick and efficient, in and out in only 15 minutes. Trunks and Gohan stared at it for a moment after the men left, but then went on with their last moments as planned…
The previous night, when they had been holding each other afterward, Trunks whispered “I’m sorry…” quietly into his ear, clinging to him tightly.
“You were worth it, Trunks” Gohan whispered back. He felt the wetness of a tear slide down around the place where their cheeks were merged, and kissed it away. They had decided then to relive only the good today, as much as possible, and spend their last moments with each other, not with fear.
As the clock struck its hour warning, the mounted camera blinked to life, and a few moments later there was a knock on the door. Trunks opened it to find the Councilman standing there, arms crossed in an air of superiority.
“Ah, I see you got my message, please come in” Trunks stepped back, pulling the door open all the way to let him enter.
“A most unusual request, Mr. Briefs… a cryptic note asking me to visit the home of a condemned man in the last minutes of his life… Highly suspect as well…” the Councilman began.
“Oh, is it?” Trunks asked, inviting him to elaborate as he closed the door behind him.
“Yes, of course. The implication of a dying man wishing to act out some sort of last, pitiful gesture of vengeance upon his condemner cannot be overlooked.”
“Then why come?” Trunks asked.
“Because the State is without fear, the State is beyond reproach. You are nothing to the State.”
“You look so bored” Gohan said from the couch. He was sitting there casually, wearing jeans and a loose dress shirt that was unbuttoned, watching the interaction between the two men.
“What?” the Councilman turned to him.
“You must be awfully put out, having to come all the way over here to prove that the State is not afraid of two pathetic, ‘obsolete’ men… and yet the look on your face is just so, blank…”
“Obedience does not require joy or sorrow, only the honor of serving the State is relevant.”
“I see” Gohan replied, “So all you live for is the honor of the State?”
“Of course, as all proper Citizens do.”
“But what kind of life is that? A machine could just as easily perform all the services you render to the State, so what’s the point?” Gohan prodded.
The Councilman didn’t answer right away.
Good. That meant that he had no canned response… and was having to think.
“Machines cannot pass judgment” he said after the small delay.
“So would you say then that the ability to judge is a purely human trait?” Trunks questioned him.
“The complexity of evaluation required to make determinations of that sort is beyond a computer” he replied.
“So you freely admit that there are some things that only a human can do?” Trunks smiled, but there was a sadness in the rest of his face.
“I didn’t come here to debate with you, I came to prove a point. The will of the State is supreme. The fact of the matter is, in less than an hour from now, you will be no more, but the State will go on forever.”
Trunks went over to Gohan on the couch, and sat beside him, pulling a box off the seat to make room for himself.
“Aren’t you the slightest bit curious, Councilman Sharpner, as to the method in which we chose to be disposed?” Trunks said as he lifted the lid.
“If you wish me to know, you will tell me, it really is irrelevant.”
“At exactly 6pm, a bomb will go off here, destroying us and everything you see here” he told him anyway.
Gohan smiled as Trunks pulled a small slip of paper from the box.
“You’re not a cheap date” Trunks said with a laugh as he passed the receipt to Gohan.
“Dating is not an authorized interaction” the Councilman interjected.
“We know,” Gohan said “we didn’t ask you.”
The next item Trunks pulled out was an oddly colored block of metal, and experiment gone wrong – the first they had ever worked on together. Gohan didn’t touch the metal, but ran a finger down the side of Trunks’ hand as he held it.
“What do you hope to accomplish with your little display here?” the Councilman asked.
“Nothing.” Gohan answered, “This is not a display, this is the way we have chosen to live our lives.”
The Councilman made an indignant snort, and the admonished them;
“You will be begging on your knees just like all the rest when your time is up; crying and pleading for one more chance – but none shall be given.”
They ignored him.
Trunks pulled out a single men’s shoe – and Gohan blushed. He tapped it against Gohan’s arm twice, gesturing for him to take it as he winked and grinned. Gohan held it for a second, blushing deeper, and then set it next to him on the couch.
Councilman Sharpner had seen enough.
“I am leaving now, you clearly have nothing important to say or reason for calling me here – you are a waste of time” he said as he moved to the door. When he reached for the handle, he saw a strange sort of device attached to it. It wouldn’t turn.
“What’s going on here!” he demanded.
“It’s locked” Trunks said as he pulled out a handwritten page. He skimmed it briefly, his eyes misting, then folded it and tucked it into the breast pocket of his shirt. Gohan ran his hand down the hair at the back of Trunks’ neck as he placed the letter next to his heart.
Gohan turned to face the Councilman.
“There is a very important reason for you to be here. You see my partner and I are conducting one last experiment, one that has to do with perception, or judgment, if you will” he said calmly.
“This is absurd, let me out of here!”
“No. You see, some very interesting data is going to be collected in the next few minutes, allowing us to perceive just how much difference there really is between us, the obsolete who love each other, and the State that demands intolerance.”
“You’re insane – open that door immediately!” he ordered, but neither of them made a move.
The Councilman went over to the single window in the room, but found it barred with steel to prevent the escape of the condemned. He went back to the door, trying the knob again; then tried to break it down, all to no avail. Finally he stopped and composed himself, taking out a pack of cigarettes and lighting one up. He moved to sit on a chair opposite them, and finished smoking before commenting into the silence:
“Someone will come for me, I am a high ranking State Official.”
“True, very true… they may be here already actually, but it won’t make any difference – no one is getting through that energy field unless we say so” Trunks informed him.
The Councilman paled.
“What do you think you’re doing, are you mad?” he shouted, jumping up from his chair.
“Like we said, we’re just collecting data.”
“This is not some experiment!”
“Oh? What is this then?”
“This is my life we are talking about, I am a Council Member, not a love-mad obsolete fool!”
“Even you my dear Councilman, are replaceable, you said yourself the only thing that separates you from a robot is the cognitive ability to pass judgment – and any human has that” Trunks smiled as he held Gohan’s hand with both of his, “why should you be let go if not for that?”
“Because I don’t want to die! I want to live!”
The smile on Trunks’ face widened.
“Fascinating” he said, but didn’t get up, “even an ant wishes to survive, but that too can be given to the hard-wiring of a machine… The State’s unmanned space exploration uses programs designed to maximize the survival of the ship. I know, we helped write them.”
“Please… Please! Whatever it is that you’re trying to prove, I don’t even care. Please! I beg of you! Let me out!”
Gohan smiled, hearing exactly what he had been hoping for. He got up and crossed over to the door, unlocking it and opening it wide as the Councilman ran through it and into the waiting arms of the ineffectual rescue squad. He sighed, closing the door again behind him.
“And suddenly, in the eyes of love, there is precious little to distinguish us” he said to no one in particular as he made his way back to the couch. Once he had sat down again, Trunks straddled his lap. He kissed him tenderly, then simply embraced him, resting his chest against his shoulder as the bomb went off around them and they were incinerated in a blast of heat and light.
The next morning, Councilman Sharpner walked in to work and was greeted by an unusual sight. There was someone in his chair. He frowned, looking around.
“What’s the meaning of this?” he said loudly, seeing that the rest of the Council was already gathered.
“Councilman Sharpner, you have disgraced the State; you have been found obsolete” his replacement, Councilman 17, informed him.
Master Roshi: Well there you have it kids, never trust an android. (18 smacks him on the side of the head) What I meant to say was (rubbing his head), that any state, entity, or ideology which fails to recognize the rights of man, is in and of itself obsolete.
18: Just stick to the script next time old man.
Master Roshi: Yes Ma’am.