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Working for a Body Upgrade
Sometimes a minion doesn't want money from the Mad Scientist
or Evil Sorcerer
they call "Boss". Rather, they want to become the subject of the employer's transformation techniques. Perhaps the employee is disabled or ill, and wants to be strong and fit. Possibly they're wanted by the law or by deadly enemies, and need a new face to escape pursuers (or enough power to fight back). Could be that the employer's exclusive brand of augmentation is superior to anything a cyborg-wannabe could acquire elsewhere. Possibly the minion is in the market for a Gender Bender
in a world without sex-change operations. Or maybe they're just butt-ugly and want to be a Chick Magnet
. Whatever the motive, the result is that they hire on with someone who can offer (or at least claims to offer
) a chance to acquire the body of their dreams.
Not exclusive to villainous employers, but good examples aren't often seen, probably due to audiences' expectations of Transhuman Treachery
by anyone so altered. A common motivation for The Igor
or the Vampire Vannabe
. Generally this leads to You Have Out Lived Your Usefulness
and Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves
as often as it does to the promised upgrade.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, the Amestrian military assists Father with his conspiracy, motivated by the promise that he'll make them immortal once his Evil Plan is carried out. Of course, Father neglected to tell them that their immortality would involve them all being transmuted into a Philosopher's Stone, their souls still conscious and tormented for all eternity.
- In Speed Grapher, Suitengu transforms several people into Euphorics, and in some cases it's indicated or implied that, in exchange for the transformation, they would do him a favor by serving as minions whenever called upon.
- In every version of Ghost in the Shell, the Major states that access to the very expensive state of the art cybernetics is one of her job's perks she enjoys the most. In Stand Alone Complex, the barman the team occasionally bribe to leak information for them sells them out because he's desperate for money to pay off what he owes on his cybernetic body (although he's willing to leak the information they slipped to him anyway).
- Cassian of Kaori Yuki's Count Cain works for Delilah because he never physically grew past eight or so, and their Mad Science experiments are the best hope he has going for finally getting an adult body. Doctor Disraeli, his superior in the organization, does eventually transplant his brain into an adult body, but no thanks to Delilah except in that it introduced them.
Comic Books & Strips
- Tyldak in ElfQuest works for Winnowill because she promised to give him wings. She did make good on her promise, on the condition that he kept working for her.
- Prince Raffendorf from Snarfquest parted company with Snarf when he opted to work for Geezel and Etheah for a year, in exchange for them transforming him from a giant humanoid rat back into a human.
- Subverted in Camelot 3000, in which Morgan la Fay tempts Tristan to betray Merlin in exchange for being transformed from a female reincarnation to male. Tristan never gets the chance because Kay betrays Merlin first; in any case, s/he had been planning to kill Morgan as soon as the transformation-spell was applied.
- Spider-Man supporting character Flash Thompson lost his legs fighting in Iraq and was offered a deal to become an operative: he would get to wear a symbiote for missions, during which time his legs would be restored, but he wouldn't get to wear the suit at other times, in an effort to stop it from bonding with him. He's the most heroic Venom so far, although he has a little problem with eating his enemies when he loses his temper.
- In Hollow Fields, the teachers of the titular school are working so they can have new bodies.
- One Judge Dredd strip showed that the many of Mega City One's Olympic athletes receive cybernetic upgrades and performance enhancing drugs from sponsors in return for performing well.
- Daniel, the hunchback in 1944's House of Frankenstein, worked for an evil doctor who's promised to give him a new, straight-spined body.
- In Avatar, Jake is promised the chance to restore his human body's legs if he works for the mining company to persuade the Na'vi to move. Double subverted in that he does acquire a new body, but via a completely different route.
- An old Bela Lugosi movie, The Raven (1935), had Lugosi as a mad surgeon who was approached by a dangerous drifter. The drifter said that maybe if he wasn't ugly, he wouldn't have been forced into a life of crime, "so could you please alter my face?" Lugosi's character responds by actually making the guy even uglier, just to use as leverage and to keep him as a personal servant. Make-your-own-Igor!
- In Repo! The Genetic Opera Blind Mag was given the option of working off her eye implants by acting as GeneCo's spokeswoman. Of course, when she decided to quit they killed her just like everyone else who missed a payment.
- In Iron Man 3, the Vice-President seems to be working like this on his young daughter's behalf, as she is disabled and Extremis' tests on amputee veterans show it has at least the raw potential to regenerate healthy limbs.
- In Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger, Pog the bat works for Clothahump because he's in love with a falcon and wants the turtle wizard to transform him into one.
- In Lonely Werewolf Girl, the Big Bad, Sarapen, has a servant called Madrigal who has been promised a werewolf upgrade if he serves Sarapen well enough. Sadly, since werewolves are born not bit in that verse, all he does is Outlive His Usefulness.
- Taylor in Animorphs becomes a voluntary controller when the Yeerks promise her a new face. She was a popular, beautiful girl whose face was badly damaged in an accident. She also gets prosthetics to replace the arm she lost in the same accident.
- Case agrees to work for Armitage in return for having the nerve damage that prevents him from accessing cyberspace corrected. Once he gets the fixes he needs, he gets press-ganged into continuing to work for Armitage in order to get the antidote for the poison sacs bonded to his rebuilt organs.
- Molly once worked as a prostitute in order to get enough money for her finger blades, ocular implants, boosted reflexes, and her other cybernetics.
- In the Secret Histories novels, some of the rogue Droods return to the family in hope of getting their lost torcs replaced.
- In the Forgotten Realms novel Pool of Radiance, a half-orc assassin works for the story's big bad at least partly in exchange for her heart's desire — a proper human nose. She never gets her wish because she gets herself promptly killed attacking the protagonists after an attempt at "negotiation" goes poorly.
- Special Circumstances agents in The Culture are often augmented far and above the "standard" bodily augmentations of the rest of the citizens of the Culture. For verbose examples, see the description of Djan Seriy Anaplian in the novel, Matter. Such augmentations as Djan's programmed combat subroutines, "laser" fingernails and the antimatter bomb implanted in her brain.
- Condo, The Igor to Mad Scientist Solon in the Doctor Who serial The Brain of Morbius, has been promised a new, complete body.
- In "The Five Doctors", the Time Lord high council offers the Master a new series of regenerations if he will rescue the Doctor from the Death Zone. Subverted twice in that Borusa, head of the Council, doesn't actually want the Doctor rescued, and the Master only accepts the mission as an excuse to obtain true immortality from the heart of the Zone.
- In a comedic Italian TV Series, an ugly gardener decides to work for the villain of the week in exchange for a plastic surgery to become handsome.
- In Star Trek: Enterprise, members of the Suliban Cabal receive genetic enhancements as payment for completing missions. Normal Suliban cannot shapeshift, cling to the ceiling, see into an extended spectrum, or squish themselves under doors, while most of the members of the Cabal can.
- In Fringe, the writing machine storekeeper does this, in exchange for a cure to his legs' paralysis. The paraplegic subjects of the floating experiments likewise agree to steal rare metals to support the researcher's work, which grants them mobility.
- Halfway through Power Rangers S.P.D., we find out that Mora, a Bratty Half-Pint that can create monsters for Emperor Gruum, is actually an adult. She works for Gruum because she likes being a child and he's able to turn her physically into one again. This is revealed to us when he turns her back into an adult as punishment.
- In The Year of Rogue Dragons, most of Sammaster's dragon minions work for the promise of being made into dracoliches, which would make them super-powerful and also immune to the Rage.
- Some of the shadowtalkers in Shadowrun products have worked for corporations, on or off the books, in exchange for installations of cyberware they couldn't otherwise afford or gain access to.
- In the Ravenloft adventure From The Shadows, it's the player characters who act out this trope, as they're reduced to disembodied heads imprisoned in Azalin's laboratory and have no choice but to do his dirty work if they're to get their bodies back.
- In Eclipse Phase many people escaped the Fall by uploading themselves to other planets or habitats, but a lot of them were unable to purchase new morphs and are still bodiless "infomorphs". The Hypercorps often take advantage of these "infugees" with indentured labor contracts promising them bodies after so many years of work (usually just a cheap synthmorph or splicer).
- The Dark Eldar Haemonculi of Warhammer 40,000 have the means and expertise to modify their clients' bodies considerably, the most obvious being the Scourge (a Dark Eldar turned into a functional Winged Humanoid via hollowed bones, grafted flight muscles and enormous wings). There are also Wracks, Dark Eldar who willingly have themselves turned into gigantic Frankensteinian monstrosities in the hopes of new experiences.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, quite a few people are implied to work in order to get augmentations.
- In the first Deus Ex, the two early-generation cyborgs Hermann and Anna are implied to ignore their boss' corruption because he's the only one who can provide them with continuous upgrades to prevent their being scrapped for obsolescence.
- Inversions are common, too. In Killer Instinct, Sabrewulf enters the tournament in hopes of finding a cure for his lycanthropy so that he can become human again.
- In Mass Effect 2, it is stated that the heretic geth are working for the Reapers because they were promised a Reaper body as a collective platform.
- Many splicers in BioShock work for Andrew Ryan or Frank Fontaine in exchange for ADAM that will allow their continued genetic modification.
- The hacker protagonist of System Shock is hired to hack into a complex artificial intelligence system as a Boxed Crook; however, an additional motivation for him is receiving a military-grade neural implant.
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has Raiden working for a private contractor. They make it clear that his cyborg body is company property. However, when he goes rogue to stop a conspiracy that will turn children into super-soldiers, his support staff isn't too concerned about getting his body back. They even help him with his attempts to do so - off the record, of course.
- In Girl Genius, the captured (beheaded!) general of an invading army agrees to work for Klaus for, among other things, a new body and a brass plate that says ABOMINATION OF SCIENCE! His enthusiasm stems largely from the fact that, being legally dead, he's now free of his marriage to his hated wife and any responsibility to his hated children.
- In Keychain of Creation, an alchemical exalt had taken control of a town and this is now the common goal of its citizens, either through government service or just paying for them.
- Completely voluntary and benign version in Questionable Content, Marigold buys her AnthroPC, Momo, an expensive new chassis. And upon hearing how much it cost Momo offers to get a job to pay it back.
- In S.S.D.D Robert had an eye condition that would have rendered him blind by thirty, and fixing it would have cost his college fund. But the CORE would give him brand new eyes for free if he enlisted. They also claimed they would give him natural-looking eyes, instead of the jet-black ones they gave him that scare children, by the time his term was up, but they never followed through on that little detail.
- In the first season of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, the brain-like alien Krang has made a deal with Shredder, wherein Krang provides Shredder with a lot of weapons, while Shredder must give Krang a new body to replace the one he lost. Shredder is more busy dealing with the turtles, but eventually builds Krang the desired robotic body. (The turtles are able to defeat that as well, but Krang uses it in many later episodes of the series.)
- In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Wonder Man works for the villains because without the Enchantress' magic, he would have dissolved, and he's promised that his loyalty will be rewarded by making him human again.
- Inverted in The Spectacular Spider Man, in which Molten Man was tricked into getting transformed because of a gambling debt and is deliberately given Power Incontinence absent a control that's in the hands of the Green Goblin. The latter forces him to be a criminal with the promise of allowing him to control his powers; if he refuses, he'll naturally be left in his transformed state.
- In Batman Beyond, Inque—a sort of liquid shapeshifter—is released and assisted by the man who was supposed to be guarding her. In return he wants to be turned into a being like her. Inque not being the world's most trustworthy person, she agrees...but only gives him half the treatment, turning him into a formless blob with no ability to move.
- A two-way example in Transformers Generation One: In "Ghost in the Machine", the disembodied Starstream bargains with Unicron's head in exchange for having his original body restored. Unicron demands new eyes and a new body (Cybertron) for himself.
- In Transformers Animated, this is how the bounty hunter Lockdown likes to be paid. But he's not above picking up parts another way in the course of the job.
- This is part of the deal the Gurkhas of Nepal have with the Brits. Being a British soldier pays very well by Nepalese standards, but the medical services are a major incentive, primarily the dental care and the vaccinations we in the western world take for granted.
- Poor young men with bad teeth in the United States have been known to join the military primarily for the dental.
- Some athletes sign on with college or professional teams as much for access to superior training resources, that will let them improve their physical performance to its optimum level, as for an education or salary.