So you've been working as a secret agent, or for The Mafia/The Syndicate, or as an assassin, or for an Evil Overlord and their Evil Empire, or for a Nebulous Evil Organisation/The Conspiracy, or as a health inspector, when you decide it's time for you to retire, defect, or just that they've gone one step too far and you need to Resign in Protest.
Ha! Good luck with that, because once you join a shadowy organization of this sort, you can never leave. If your bosses don't force you to keep working, they'll soon start saying, "He Knows Too Much" and making plans for your elimination. This normally only happens in villainous organisations, so the victim is either a villain or an antihero. Expect Retirony and a Contract on the Hitman to follow. If it doesn't, then the author may drop a bridge on you just to prove that crime doesn't pay.
Depending on the genre, one solution is to become a One-Man Army and simply destroy the former organization. One would think that after having half (or even a third or a tenth) of their forces destroyed they'd get the point and just leave him alone, but they never do. The typical route taken is that you fight your way out, but other solutions include killing off your bosses to put the organization in disarray, or faking your own death.
This is different from Unprocessed Resignation, in which the agent would be allowed to retire if the superior would process the necessary paperwork.
- Area 88: At the beginning, the protagonist is tricked while drunk by a jealous rival into signing a contract as a mercenary fighter pilot in a foreign civil war, and is forced to fight a three-year tour under threat of execution.
- In Bakuman。, writers cannot simply end their series when they want to, as long as there's still some life in the series, and if they simply abandon their series, they will never be able to write for Jump again. Mashiro and Takagi manage to secure a compromise in which they quit their current series to launch another that can compete with Eiji's works, and Eiji himself cancels his own series after becoming the most popular manga artist in Jump.
- Beastars: This is supposedly how the Shishigumi should work, every person that tries to leave must be killed or kill someone to actually leave the group. That said, their respect for their second boss is so great that they're willing to bend the rules for him. The first time is when Louis announces he wants to leave to support Legosi, but Ibuki predicts that and that Louis cares too much about him to kill him, so he gives Free a gun and tells him to kill him when he tries to stop Louis from leaving, letting him leave with a warning. The second time is when they meet again, Free points his gun at Louis, but when Louis's horns break, he says he's no longer the man he promised to kill as a loophole to not have to kill him, and they receive Louis with open arms.
- A very persuasive example is in Berserk where Griffith was less than willing to let his best fighter leave him and pursue his own goals in life, feeling that he belonged to him and never before being denied by his minions in life. Very much less than willing.
- Bleach: The Central 46 believes retirement is a waste of the resources used to train Soul Reapers so it's not permitted. Soul Reapers that leave active service officially take "extended leave" and could theoretically be recalled to service at a moment's notice. Soul Reapers officially recorded as "retired" have either died in battle, been promoted to the Royal Guard, or been clandestinely shuffled off to a secret prison where people who are considered a potential danger to society — but who have committed no actual crimes — are locked away forever.
- Cowboy Bebop: Death is the only way to leave the crime syndicates. Especially the Red Dragon.
- In Crying Freeman, The Freeman got abducted, then forced to work as an assassin for the Sons of the Dragon and obviously he isn't allowed to leave them as they initiated him against his will in the first place.
- Darker Than Black: The Syndicate (and probably everyone else). They don't get a lot of choice about joining, either.
- In Death Note, at the Yotsuba group's "meetings of death," one member, Hattori, gets scared of going to jail and says he wants to quit the meetings. After Higuchi warns him that a statement like that might get him killed and Ooi reminds him that he's too deeply involved to escape blame, he apologizes and retracts his statement, but later gets killed anyway.
- Implied in Hellsing with Millennium. If they're willing to set you on fire if you fail your mission or were about to spill their secrets, do you really think they'd let you retire? Not that they care.
- Implied in the climax of Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. After the protagonist Fuse fatally shoots his Love Interest, we see another member of the unit in a nearby derelict building, de-cocking his Broomhandle Mauser which he had aimed at them.
- Akatsuki in Naruto. As Konan unfortunately finds out. It's quite a bit more complicated than that... it's more like the new administration was running counter to its original goals and thereby disgusted original members like Konan.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gendo doesn't forbid Shinji from quitting his position as an Eva pilot, but every time he tries makes sure Shinji knows that it'll just be Rei or Asuka or someone else risking their life to save the world, while Shinji does nothing. That's how he got Shinji to get in the Eva the first time, by showing him a grievously wounded Rei.
- In Noir, the secret organization Soldats has absolutely no problem assassinating people who used to kill for them.
- One Piece:
- The Shichibukai are essentially mercenaries, pirates who work for the government to fight and scare off other pirates. So naturally, if one decides to quit, they go back to being pirates, i.e. enemy #1. It doesn't help that the Shichibukai is made up of pirates with massive former bounties, so as soon as they quit, their bounties are reinstated, leading them to be high-profile targets. and with the annulment of the Shichibukai system every one of them (Barring Bartholomew Kuma who is now a mindless cyborg slave to the Celestial Dragons) is being hunted by the World Government.
- The Big Mom Pirates also have this; once you're a part of the crew, you can't leave. Big Mom claims that if someone of strength wants to withdraw, they must turn over one of their limbs, but according to her daughter Praline, no one has successfully lived to escape Big Mom's control. Only one of her daughters managed to pull this off, and as such Big Mom wants to kill her.
- In Science Ninja Team Gatchaman some members of Galactor actually try to leave, most notably Condor Joe's parents but they are killed before they can do so. In fact, Berg Katse asks a girl who was told she could leave if she completed a special mission why she ever thought she could leave Galactor alive!
- Spirited Away: Yubaba will employ anyone at her bathhouse who asks, but they must sign a contract that makes them forget their true name and binds them to service until they recall it.
- This was true for the Dark Signers in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, and to make it worse, at least three of its seven total members ended up wanting to quit. The fact that most of them didn't join willingly was a big part of that, but the Earthbound Immortals were willing to control them like puppets to make sure they didn't actually turn against them. Fortunately, the Dark Signers, except Roman and Rex Goodwin, were revived as normal humans after the Earthbound Immortals were defeated for good.
- A standard in evil organizations (see Hydra for Marvel Comics) and villains' mooks. No one can leave The Joker's gang alive, or the Red Skull. Even Always Chaotic Evil races are so: Skrulls (Marvel Comics) are said to be euthanized when old. Ninja clans in particular are notorious for this rule.
- The Hand is especially nasty since they can raise the dead. Even death isn't an escape.
- One that deserves special note was the Scourges of the Underworld, the murderous vigilantes that target super-villains because this policy was what led to their undoing. One recruit, Priscilla Lyons, couldn't bring herself to kill her first mark and wanted out, but she knew they'd be after her; prior to this, every would-be defector (or failure, or even members who were in danger of being caught) had been killed by the others before they could spill any of the group's secrets. But she was smarter than the others. She quickly called The Avengers hotline and got in contact with USAgent, and as a result, they both brought the entire organization down. (A few "lone wolf" Scourges have shown up since then, but the actual organization does not appear to have ever recovered.)
- Less sinister version in Ex Machina. During a crisis, Mitchell's second-in-command starts saying he's going to quit, only for Mitchell to interrupt forcefully and say he needs him because he needs someone questioning him every step of the way, even if he can't always agree.
- Late in The '70s, the Marvel villain the Purple Man had a Cut Lex Luthor a Check epiphany. He realized that he didn't really need to be a supervillain to get what he wanted, because he had a Compelling Voice (actually, super-pheromones, but it works the same), so people would just hand him whatever he wanted, and thank him for the privilege. So he tried to quit being a villain and take up a life of hedonistic debauchery. Cue almost a decade of stories in which some Big Bad (like The Kingpin or Doctor Doom) would track him down and force him to help with their latest Evil Scheme. Since then, he's apparently become resigned to his fate, and his last several appearances have shown him trying to Take Over the World.
- Nextwave sees Dirk Anger contemplating/attempting various suicide methods. He eventually succeeds in hanging himself... accidentally, but to his annoyance, Beyond Corporation did not accept the terms of his retirement and brought him back as a zombie. A green one, who craved brains. It's that kind of series.
- How Al Simmons eventually became Spawn. He was an assassin who wanted to retire from the profession, only for Jason Wynn, his boss, to screw him on his last job and send him to Hell.
- Monica's Gang: A story featured three scientists who worked developing weapons for a Corrupt Corporate Executive. When they decided to quit, he kept them locked in the lab and said he might accept their resignations fifty years later. The scientists escaped.
- The Agency in Zero dispatches agents in order to eliminate enforcers who left the Agency. Edward is sent to dispatch one such enforcer in issue 4.
- Button Man: Button Men (participants in underground gladiatorial combats) are promised huge sums at the end of their "careers", but none of them are supposed to exit the Killing Game alive.
- In Robin, a teleporting supervillain put together a team of fellow bad guys to avenge himself on Robin. When he found one of the others electrocuting Robin it was revealed that while his recruits were in it for murder he had just wanted to humiliate his enemy and he tried to quit. His recruits quickly decided that a teleporter was far too useful and threaten his family to keep him on board.
- The Killer:
- After a hit in Paris goes wrong, resulting in a carnage and him almost shooting a kid, the protagonist decides to retire as a professional killer. However, his trusted handler Edward tries to have him killed out of greed but makes a pretty stupid error by getting a rookie to do the job, which ends in both their deaths when the target finds out.
- Averted by "El Padrino", the killer's later Colombian employer. He's fine with parting ways peacefully once the killer's debt is settled, although he later manages to convince him to come work for them again.
- B.P.R.D.: Ben Daimio attempts to hand in his resignation out of guilt over Roger's death. Director Manning refuses to accept it, as an Eldritch Abomination is rampaging across the country and the Bureau needs all the help it can get.
- The absurdity of this sort of thing is pointed out when a cult with rules like this tries to recruit Artax and Yeagar.
Yeagar: You want us to join a club where the members can't fight worth squat and the punishment for quitting is your head exploding?
Artax: Were you two drunk when you signed up??
Cult Member: [to another one] Guy has a point...
- Note that while the cult in that story didn't accept resignations, the creature that led the group did say that it had often fired members a lot. Whether such members survived or not, it didn't say.
- The absurdity of this sort of thing is pointed out when a cult with rules like this tries to recruit Artax and Yeagar.
- The Conduit in Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race makes it clear twice that those who refuse a job or try to quit only have two ways out: jail or the morgue. Tiesel was threatened with the former by having his crimes exposed when he tried to back out, possibly because he was the new meat and didn't know enough to be a real threat to their plans. When Mr. Black refused to go with their robot genocide plan, he spent an episode trying to prevent the latter.
- A Moon and World Apart: Apparently, Luna's tried to step back from her Head Director job more than once, but nopony would ever try to run and fill the spot in her place (a Director of the Lunar Republic is an elected position, with only those who were confirmed to be qualified for the job being allowed to run — and nopony has ever felt they were better qualified to serve as Director of State in her place), so it reverted back to her every time. And due to the restrictions in the laws, she can't just change them to make it easier for her to step down. Luna later essentially gives Celestia an ultimatum, demanding she give up her position as ruler of Equestria (and Lady of Day) and let somepony else take over, not telling Celestia at the time that she already has a new position in mind for her. When they finally get the chance to sit down and talk about it peacefully later on (and Luna does finally tell her about said new position), Celestia admits that she can't do that — after Luna left, the other nobles forced through a law preventing any Prince or Princess from abandoning their duties in such a manner, effectively making abdication illegal, so as to ensure they wouldn't lose their only other alicorn.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, a vampire decides to quit and run off when he sees what kind of Eldritch Abomination his boss Vladislav is summoning. Vladislav kills him off immediately.
"Mr. Vladislav," shouted one of the vampires, "I'm gone!" He shifted into bat-form, tried to get away. Vladislav snapped his fingers. Two others, gifted with form-shifting, turned into bats, went after him, grabbed him, dragged him back to the gangboss.
With terrible efficiency, Vladislav tore the offending bat to pieces with his bare hands.
- A big part of the plot of Analyze This and its sequel. A mobster wants to retire, both because the violence is getting to him and to keep his children out of that lifestyle, and his peers object strongly.
- Defied in Ant-Man. In the beginning flashback, when Hank Pym resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. upon discovering that his superiors are trying to replicate his shrink formula, Howard Stark has said that his resignation will be rejected. However, Hank leaves anyway.
- Bloodshot (2020): Harting does not allow anyone to leave his employ in order to maintain strict control of his inventions. All of Ray's targets are former employees and partners of Harting who "betrayed" him be leaving. KT's respirator holds her hostage as it'll shut off if she leaves the building without his permission.
- In The Brothers Grimm:
- The Crying Game. Fergus refuses to do a mission for the IRA when Jude asks.
Fergus: No way, Jude. I'm out.
Jude: [practically rolling her eyes] You're never out.
- Big Boy's organization in Dick Tracy.
Big Boy: You are not out! When you are dead, then you are out!
- Since Big Boy Caprice was played by this trope's page quote originating actor...
- The Godfather trilogy, as seen in the page quote, but also The Mafia in general. This may be Truth in Television.
- In Heneral Luna, the titular general attempts to resign his post as Commander-General of War Operations because he's fed up with the constant politicking and lack of commitment from his peers as they've made it nigh impossible for him to do his job. President Emilio Aguinaldo refuses it, then has him killed a short while later.
- James Bond:
- Goldfinger: Mister Solo, after having Operation Grand Slam to rob Fort Knox revealed to him, states his intention to leave rather than take part in the plan with the rest of the gangsters. He is allowed to leave, and in fact, Goldfinger makes a point of saying that "We must respect Mr. Solo's decision". He's then driven away by Oddjob, and rather than taken to the airport, is shot with a silenced pistol by him.
- A View to a Kill: When Zorin dismisses his relationship with KGB to pursue his own business interests, the officers warn him that no one leaves the KGB, ever.
- Licence to Kill: M does not take kindly Bond's desire to hunt down Franz Sanchez after said drug lord crippled Bond's friend and killed his wife. M could not fire Bond or allow him to resign — only revoke his license to kill.
M: This private vendetta of yours could easily compromise Her Majesty's government. You have an assignment, and I expect you to carry it out objectively and professionally.
Bond: Then you have my resignation, sir!
M: We're not a country club, 007!
- Die Another Day implies that MI6 has an "evaluation centre" in the Falkland Islands for keeping agents deemed a danger (which may include those who decide to resign), and M can confine someone there as long as she deems necessary.
- Spectre: Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld didn't like it when Mr. White resigned from SPECTRE after it began to dabble in human trafficking, especially those of women and children, and so, he has him poisoned.
- John Wick: You're not supposed to be able to leave the criminal underworld. When John asked to do so, Viggo Tarasov gave him an Impossible Task. But he succeeded anyway, and since the task involved killing a whole lot of armed gangsters, Viggo had a clear view of what would happen if he tried to go back on his word. Comes up again in the sequel, where after hearing of his exploits in the first film, Santino, who helped John with the impossible task thanks to a Marker, forces John to perform a hit for him by invoking said Marker. The fact that he not only forced John out of retirement (as well as later trying to backstab him) is pointed out as a horrendously stupid move.
- Kill Bill: When The Bride tried to resign from the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, they tried to murder her. The second installment indicates that she didn't quit as much as walk off her current assignment and allow Bill to think that she was dead. This way she could start a new life somewhere else and avoid having Bill raise their child as an assassin. The ironic part is, by the time she woke up, the Deadly Vipers were defunct as a team; in fact, only two of them were still active criminals.
Bill: There are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard.
- Kill List: Jay and Gal are employed to do three hits by a mysterious, wealthy man. Although they sign up willingly, one blood pact and several very strange experiences later, they try to bow out. They are then informed that their employer knows where their families live and will kill them if they don't complete it. Turns out this is because they are a pagan cult and are going to make Jay their new leader.
- After Mata Hari tries to resign from espionage work, her spymaster sends out his hitman to have her killed. She escapes from the hitman but winds up being arrested and executed by the French.
- And similarly, Mean Guns.
- Averted in Men in Black, where the technology to alter people's memories means an agent can retire without the agency worrying that He Knows Too Much. Although the second movie shows that it's possible for the agency to find an ex-agent and restore their memory if needed, which verges into Mandatory Unretirement (if things get to that point, they're not going to take no for an answer).
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) had a double whammy of this: both of the title characters work as assassins, and when their respective employers begin to think that their relationship is a problem, the answer is not to let them go quietly.
- Nuns on the Run: The problem the heroes find a way to overcome.
- The entire plot for Operation: Endgame at first seemingly revolves around setting up a situation where all prospective defectors and/or resignees are tasked with killing one another.
- The President's Analyst: Sidney Schaefer believes he will not be allowed to resign since he knows too much about the president. After a paranoia-induced dream, he deserts and is pursued by people who want him dead or captured.
- Basically the whole plot of Sexy Beast. Though in this case, the obstacle in the way of retiring from the London mob isn't so much the organization itself as a single psychotic member.
- Shot Caller: After Jacob becomes a high-level member of the Aryan Brotherhood, their leadership imposes that he will continue to earn for them after leaving prison, even threatening his wife and son. Jacob eventually decides that killing the leader and taking over the entire gang is the only way he can permanently ensure his family's safety.
- Spies Like Us:
Fitz-Hume: We were just talking and we'd like to go home now. So, uh, thanks for the bruises and you can keep the stool samples...
Col. Rhumbus: Boys... it'd be a shame to have to kill you now. [drives off]
Fitz-Hume: What'd he mean by that?
Milbarge: It means we're O.I.O.
Fitz-Hume: What's that?
Milbarge: Obligated Involuntary Officers.
- Sorry to Bother You: The WorryFree corporation offers an employment deal of work, housing, and food for the rest of one?s life, with the caveat that one can never exit the deal. And they plan on mutating their workers into human-horse hybrids to make them into literal livestock...
- Thor: Ragnarok: The Grandmaster's gladiators are unable to leave due to having chips embedded in their flesh that shock them if they disobey. Nevertheless, the Grandmaster refuses to call them slaves and insists on calling them "prisoners with jobs".
- Alex Rider: Max Grendel in Scorpia begins drawing up plans to retire from the titular terrorist organisation, citing a distaste for their latest scheme, which involves a mass-murder of children. One of his colleagues gives him a briefcase as a parting gift... which turns out to be full of scorpions.
- In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, unwilling to countenance the socialist direction in which the U.S. government is inscrutably headed, institutes "the strike," encouraging all of the major players who run the industry, banks, etc., to quit their jobs and join him in his secret hideout of Galt's Gulch. As the government becomes more tyrannical, his idea spreads and more and more people begin quitting their jobs or working under their means, refusing to be exploited. In response, the government institutes Directive 10-289, in which nobody is allowed to quit their job. If they do, they are branded as an outlaw, and their job is given to somebody else that isn't currently employed, regardless of that person's ability to actually do the job.
- Aubrey-Maturin: Secret agent Duhamel falls victim to this when trying to defect.
- An outright heartwarming inversion of this is seen shortly before the climax of By the Sword when Captain Kerowyn of the Skybolts Mercenary Company calls an assembly to make it clear that they are in an untenable position against a foe that would, even if they surrendered, murder the lot of them out of hand if they were lucky. Having been chosen to lead them for her defiance of an incompetent predecessor that came within one battle of wrecking the company a decade ago, she tries to call another vote on whether she steps down in expiation for getting them into this mess... and is immediately shouted down.
- In Catch-22 the main characters have to fly a certain number of missions before they are discharged. The number of missions keep increasing, however...
- Ciaphas Cain: In The Emperor's Finest, Mira seems to think Cain can quit his job as commissar to become her consort. Cain knows better:
If I abandoned my assignment to return to Viridia with her, I'd be branded a deserter, and the only question left open about my future would be whether the ensuing tribunal had me shot by a firing squad, or packed me off to a penal legion to let the enemies of the Emperor save them the ammo. [...] Once you put on the scarlet sash, it's there till they bury you in it (assuming they can find enough bits for the ceremony, which in our vocation is never entirely certain).
- In Codex Alera, Amara ends up leaving the First Lord's service — but he manages to draw her back in, much to her hatred and disgust.
- In The Dresden Files, this is how Lara Raith treats her employees. After several of them are crippled/fatally wounded in an attack by an Eldritch Abomination, she orders her people to take them to her (life-force sucking) sisters, who are also wounded. Harry protests, knowing that if the sisters feed on those people, the people will die. Lara calmly states that they know too much about the White Court to allow them to be let go and that with the sheer severity of the injuries sustained, their quality of life is borderline nonexistent. Harry, naturally, finds this to be reprehensible, and Lara retorts that he seems to have forgotten that she's a monster. A neat, habitually polite, incredibly efficient monster.
- The Final Fantasy VII novel Final Fantasy VII The Kids Are Alright: A Turks Side Story (also known as Final Fantasy VII Lateral Biography Turks -The Kids Are Alright-) reveals that the Turks are this type of organization. Even if you think you're retired, you can be called back in at any time.
- The Firm: This is a defining characteristic of the eponymous firm, Bendini Lambert & Locke.
- Years before Galaxy of Fear, Mammon Hoole worked for the Empire in a lab. When something went horribly wrong and a world was cleansed of life, his lab partner stayed with the Empire and profited significantly from it. Hoole left, horrified, and found himself blacklisted by the Empire and blamed for the disaster. He had to drop part of his name.
- In The Giver, when Jonas is appointed to the job, Receiver of Memory, one of the stipulations he's given is that he may not apply to be "Release" after issues that occurred when the last Receiver of Memory did so.
- Going Postal: Moist von Lipwig is a Boxed Crook offered a choice between employment as the new postmaster or execution. A golem is assigned to assist him, and as an unstoppable retriever if he tries to run away.
- From the Harry Potter series, the Death Eaters are this sort of organization, as revealed in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
Sirius (talking about his deceased brother): From what I found out after he died, he got in so far, then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out. Well, you don't just hand in your resignation to Voldemort. It's a lifetime of service or death.
- It's shown in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that there was a much more specific reason Regulus was killed: he found out Voldemort was using Horcruxes.
- In the George R. R. Martin Thousand Worlds short story "The Hero": Kagen, the eponymous Super Soldier, is a veteran of decades of combat, but feels like he's getting slow and that it's time for him to retire. He petitions his commanding officer for permission to muster out and maybe head back to Earth to see what he's been fighting for, as he's never been there. The commander tries to convince him to stay on, saying no one ever really retires, there are no high gravity barracks to accommodate Kagen's Heavyworlder physiology, and they're about to see some major action where Kagen's experience will be needed, but he won't be swayed. So the commander arranges for Kagen to be killed after his retirement ceremony and has a cover story concocted to explain his death, as he thinks a Super Soldier let loose on Earth would be a disaster waiting to happen.
- David Weber's In Fury Born has a rare good guy example. Once you join the Cadre, you never retire; you're only placed on "reserve status" and they can reactivate you whenever they want.
- William Johnstone westerns tend to have plenty of outlaw Mooks try to Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, and while some are allowed to leave, plenty of them have their bosses shoot them in the back as they go, or threaten or bribe them into staying. In the book Dreams of Eagles, the trope is referenced and lampshaded when the main characters son calls out to a member of the outlaw gang he's shooting it out with that he'll allow the man to leave, but can't promise him that one of his former comrades won't shoot him in the back. For better or worse, the henchman gets another member of the gang to promise to shoot any member of the gang who tries to kill him for quitting.
- If you're an agent of the Laundry in Charles Stross' The Laundry Files, you can't quit. Ever. In fact, you probably weren't even given much choice in joining — most Laundry agents were too close to unleashing Eldritch Abominations by accident and simply weren't safe to leave in civilian life. If you screw up they'll put you on unimportant duties but they can't fire you for the same reasons. It's strongly hinted that Laundry agents don't even get to quit once they're dead. By The Rhesus Chart, this policy has become impractical due to the large number of people aware of the Masquerade; they're still bound by the same (magically enforced) secrecy provisions, but are allowed to take ordinary jobs in society, with the Laundry using them as contacts in the larger world or a reserve force to be drawn on in case of emergency.
- Guards of the Citadel of Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings swear to serve, "until my Lord release me, or death take me, or the world end."
- Vladimir "Viktor Suvorov" Rezun, a defector from the GRU, Soviet military intelligence, started Aquarium, one of his books on the subject by reminiscing about how he was told, when joining, "Theoretically there's only one way out for any member of the organization—through the chimney of the crematorium." And then the recruiter showed him a film of somebody who tried to leave being put into the furnace alive. note
- This is brought up in The Princess Bride (the book, not the film). Prince Humperdink informs his head of law enforcement Yellin of a plot by nearby Guilder to assassinate his bride-to-be Buttercup. The problem is, there is no plot. It's just an excuse for Prince Humperdink to murder his bride and go to war with Guilder. As such, Yellin can find absolutely no evidence of any plot and feeling himself incompetent at his job, hands in his resignation. Prince Humperdink refuses to accept his resignation, however, because he needs Yellin to rule Guilder after the war is over. As such, he confesses his true intentions to Yellin, who graciously accepts the Prince's offer to rule Guilder in his name.
- Sprawl Trilogy: Corporations often lock prominent scientists and top executives into ironclad contracts that never allow them to change jobs. Leading to an underground industry in "extractions" that are practically kidnappings (preferably with the target's cooperation), and countermeasures such as insulin pump implants loaded with addictive drugs or Synthetic Plagues.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire you have both the Kingsguard and the Night's Watch. Both require an oath to join, and once that is said, there is no way out. It's possible to be reassigned from the Kingsguard to the Night's Watch, but it is almost never voluntary; one known case of such a reassignment was accompanied by castration of the Kingsguard member guilty of amorousness. If you desert, they will hunt you down and kill you. The exceptions are Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Boros Blount of the Kingsguard, but both of those got fired rather than resigned, and those are the only examples in recorded history where this has happened. By firing those two, the Lannisters created a pretty foundation-shaking precedent; later Cersei plans to use that precedent to assassinate Jon Snow and get the assassin out of the Night's Watch scot-free. However, these plans do not reach fruition.
- Star Wars Legends: Uli Divini was a genius teen surgeon during the Clone Wars who had enlisted for one tour, after which he would go back to his homeworld and presumably start or join a practice. Instead, since the new Empire was short on doctors, they executed an Imperial Military Stop Loss Order, or IMSLO. As a result of that, Uli served for twenty years, getting rather jaded in the process. He tends to Princess Leia after she is tortured, and since he seems like a pretty decent guy she demands to know why he still works for the Empire; he tells her that he can't leave, he'll be shot. He joins the Rebellion when the Death Star is destroyed, somewhat to his own surprise.
(IMSLO is) A retroactive order mandating that, no matter when you'd been conscripted, once you were in, you were in for as long as they wanted you — or until you got killed. Either way, it was kiss your planned life goodbye. Imperial Military Stop Loss Order. An alternative translation, scrawled no doubt on a 'fresher wall somewhere by a clever graffitist, had caught on over the last few years: "I'm Milking Scragged; Life's Over."
- Averted in Super Minion. Members of Hellion's Henchmen are free to quit the job just like any other, and they don't even mind former minions going to the other side of the law. Even outright betraying them and selling information to the heroes won't usually earn much of a grudge, though you aren't likely to get your last paycheck. The only thing that will earn serious ire is revealing the civilian identities of coworkers, which is considered bad enough that Hellion will personally kill anyone who does.
- Tales of the Branion Realm: The sovereign cannot abdicate, since he or she doubles as the Vessel of the Living Flame; only the Vessel may rule and only the ruler can be the Vessel. The Flame passes through the family line without regard for sanity, health, legitimacy, gender, or age, so there is no way to be skipped save death. There are two known attempts — an apostate who converted to another faith, and a crown prince who abdicates in full knowledge that he could be executed for it.
- The Dark Forest from Warrior Cats. In The Last Hope, Beetlewhisker tries to leave, but Brokenstar kills him.
- We Sold Our Souls: Kris's old bandmate Terry sold his soul for fame and fortune. He got it — he's a multi-millionaire heavy metal rocker — but in return, he has to feed Black Mountain with the souls of his fans. Black Mountain is never satisfied, regardless of how many it receives, and he can't ever be free or they'll kill him.
- Whateley Universe: The Sonnenkinder, as said in The Final Trump (Part 5):
Jana Kolbe, recently of the Sonnenkinder's External Projects Executive."
"The Sonnenkinder?" Mara and Nick echoed in chorus.
"WHY do people always react that way?" Jana asked with a slightly halting British Received Pronunciation accent.
"Well..." Nick hedged, "To be honest, I didn't think that it was possible to leave the Sonnenkinder."
Jana nodded with a sour moue. "I hear that a lot. But there will be more."
"They made the mistake of excoriating me to the Rank and File. But instead of screaming for the blood of the traitor, the general reaction was 'you mean you can DO that? Just LEAVE?'" Jana let out a gusty breath. "Right now, the Reichsmarshal is putting all of his efforts into preventing any more defections, but believe me, I'm just the first of a wave. What the Reichsdirektorat will do then? Not my problem."
- X-Wing Series:
- Gara Petothel/Lara Notsil. After discovering that Good Feels Good and The Power of Friendship is something she'd not felt since she was little, she wants to give up her plans as The Mole. It's never that easy. In her case, though, it's more of a fear of a Face Heel Door Slam than this trope. Leaving wasn't the problem — well it was, but she could handle it — being accepted by the new team was, as she was technically guilty of treason for her previous acts, which (as Wedge later points out) would almost certainly have resulted in her being executed for same. After The Reveal, she's forced to go back to Zsinj. She proceeds to sabotage Zsinj's efforts from the inside. Afterward, she ends up Faking the Dead, creating a "new" identity for herself — actually a very old identity, but now on a more permanent basis — and hooking up with Myn Donos, who by this point had forgiven her for destroying his squadron. Her former squadmates quickly figure it out, but all agree to play along and pretend that "Kirney Slane" is not Gara Petothel with a new hair color.
- Wedge lampshades this in one of the comics◊.
Wedge: After every major victory, I hope the fighting is over, but it'll never be over. Even after we defeat the Imperials, there will be someone... another threat to peace...
- Subverted in another book of the X-Wing Series, when Warlord Zsinj mentions that it's about time for one of his subordinates to retire. Face Loran, impersonating another of Zsinj's subordinates, asks if he should take care of that himself.
Zsinj: I meant an actual retirement, Zurel. He goes away to live in a cottage somewhere and writes his memoirs.
- Wedge and Tycho keep trying to retire and always end up getting called back by the next Really Big Galactic Crisis. They're getting older.
Wedge: We keep trying to retire. Give up this life of shooting things.
Tycho: We're really men of peace at heart.
- In 30 Rock, Jack learns that the Bush administration is doing this, forcing him to instead lead a costly, embarrassing & useless military research project to get fired.
- Alias: Sydney Bristow tries to quit SD-6, The CIA, and just about any other intelligence agency, even being called back into action in the series finale, after achieving happily ever after isolated on a remote island.
- The evil law firm Wolfram and Hart doesn't just have its employees sign contracts that are in effect until death, they extend beyond the grave.
Holland Manners: Oh, no. I'm quite dead. Unfortunately my contract with Wolfram and Hart extends well beyond that.
- Lee was rudely awakened to this policy while attempting to jump ship to a rival firm. When they found out during a telepathic scan, they promptly blew his brains out.
- The evil law firm Wolfram and Hart doesn't just have its employees sign contracts that are in effect until death, they extend beyond the grave.
- Babylon 5: once a psychic is conscripted into the Psi Corps, they are not allowed to leave. Anybody who does leave is hunted down and executed. The telepaths who take sleeper drugs are sometimes killed or commit suicide. Oh, and did we mention that ALL human telepaths are legally required to make the choice between joining the Corps or taking the sleepers, making the only legal "third option" (and a rarely-taken one at that) to become a citizen of an alien government?
- In the 1970s The Bionic Woman episode "On the Run" (the final episode of the series), Jaime Sommers tries to resign from the OSI but discovers that if she does so, she'll be confined to a government compound for the rest of her life. (This storyline was inspired by The Prisoner (1967).)
- Burn Notice: Played with — Michael didn't want to leave his old organization, but everyone there wants him to just sit down and shut up. "Management" threatened him about leaving them, but he seems to be doing all right so far. And then, of course, Season 3 comes along and gives him a "Be Careful What You Wish For" as his search to get his job back leads to Strickler selling out Fiona to an Irish terrorist, Michael's CIA contact Diego being killed, and Michael's killing off Strickler having even further unforeseen consequences.
- Chuck thinks he's free to leave the CIA in the second season, but he would have been assassinated by his own handler had he actually quit. Furthermore, in a somewhat non-fatal version of this Trope, Chuck quits the Buy-More at the end of the same season, but his job hunt at the start of the third is manipulated behind the scenes by the CIA (because he can be surveyed by them more easily at the store), so no other company but the Buy-More will hire him. As of the fourth season, Chuck's attempts to find a job outside the CIA after being given explicit permission to leave are foiled by the CIA, which is apparently willing to go back on its deal with Chuck and blackmail him into working for them again.
- Averted with the Tanglewood Boys gang from CSI: NY. The Tanglewood Boys seem to be precisely the sort of group that this trope would apply to, but the official gang tattoo includes room for two dates: the date when someone joins the gang and the date when he leaves it. And while Danny says that leaving the gang alive "hardly ever happens," the show gives at least one example where it did: Danny's brother Louie.
- Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk runs his criminal organization by manipulating and blackmailing people into doing his dirty work for him, and then makes it so they have to continue working for him because any attempt to quit will generally result in either the employee being killed or more likely his loved ones.
- Doctor Who: In "Fugitive of the Judoon", the titular fugitive turns out to be on the run from the Time Lords because of a job that she didn't apply for and can't exactly leave.
- A large part of the plot in La Femme Nikita, as well as The CW reboot series Nikita. Sort of. Late in the second season of Nikita, Percy admits he's tired of the whole conflict and offers Nikita a deal to make Division leave her and her crew alone if they just stop interfering in Division operations. Nikita turns it down, as she refuses to let the fight end on anyone's terms but her own — after all, she's in it to save the world.
- In The Fixer, John Mercer can either work for Lenny Douglas or go back to prison.
- The Flash: the first episode that introduces Leonard Snart shows him to be this sort of man. When a member of his crew of robbers tells him he's out, after the "Streak" stops them, Snart calmly puts a bullet in his head and tells his corpse, "Well, if you're out, you're out." When Snart's obsession with the "Streak" results in the remaining two robbers deciding to quit, they pull a gun on him, causing him to applaud their forethought and tell them to hope that they never meet again, referencing this trope.
- Like the books it was based on, Game of Thrones has the Kingsguard and the Night's Watch, which are meant to be served in until death. Jon Snow gets to resign from the Night Watch through Revival Loophole: he did serve until death, technically, and the fact that he's resurrected doesn't change that.
- Several episodes of Get Smart dealt with CONTROL protecting defectors from retribution from their old employer KAOS.
- Heroes: The shadowy Company started by "the 12" doesn't like quitters. One guy does manage to quit, but he has to fake his death and remain invisible at all times in order to do it.
- The Pretender: The Centre won't accept Jarrod's resignation although he doesn't exactly try and stay below the radar after he escapes. Plus he was never an employee, only a company asset.
- The Prisoner (1967) is based entirely around this trope. In the opening titles, an unnamed British intelligence agent (only ever referred to as "Number 6") hands in his resignation, at which point his employers drug him and ship him off to a bizarre isolated "Village" which is really an elaborate, luxurious prison. For the rest of the series, the Village wardens employ bizarre interrogation methods, trying to uncover why Number 6 resigned, while Number 6 tries to escape—and failing that, fights from the inside by screwing with the Village's plans. In this case, he did officially resign, in the sense that his crossed-out identification picture is shown being placed in a filing cabinet labelled RESIGNED. So technically he's not working for them anymore ... but he's not working for anyone else either, and it's possible that (along with preventing him from revealing sensitive information) was the whole point.
- The Sopranos:
- In "Members Only", Eugene Pontecorvo requests a resignation from the mob to retire to Florida after getting a hefty inheritance from his aunt. Tony Soprano brings up omerta and disallows Pontecorvo's retirement. It also turns out that Eugene is an FBI informant, and they also disallow his retirement, insisting that he continue to spy on the mob.
- Tony tells Dr. Melfi on a few occasions that for a guy in his position, the only way out is prison or a bullet in the head.
- In Star Trek, once someone is recruited into Section 31, they're considered to be an active agent for the rest of their career in Starfleet, as Malcolm Reed and Julian Bashir learned. What makes this worse, is that's it's also implied applications are not accepted. Once you're deemed to be a suitable candidate, you're given a brutal Secret Test of Character and then are considered a member, whether you want to be one or not. If you try to resist or go against the wishes of your handler, chances are Section 31 will simply have you killed and replaced with another unwilling agent. In Bashir's case, he was considered useful enough that Section 31 preferred manipulating him into carrying on their missions. Sometimes capitalizing on the fact that he's not going to ignore a threat to the Federation just because it was Section 31 that informed him of it and other times giving him a different mission than what they actually want to be accomplished, so that his attempts to subvert them will play into their hands.
- UFO: In "Kill Straker!", Colonel Foster is subject to alien brainwashing. The others contemplate killing him because He Knows Too Much about SHADO, and therefore can't just be fired.
- Defied on The Wire. Cutty returns from prison and joins Barksdale's crew (Avon having recruited him in prison). After he can't pull the trigger on Fruit during an attack on a Stanfield corner, he apologizes to Avon, saying "The Game ain't in me no more" and clearly expects to be killed in response. Avon lets him go with a Man Hug.
Slim Charles: He was a man in his time, y'know?
Avon: He a man today. He a man.
- In one episode of The Wonder Years, Kevin gets a job at a hardware store, a job he hates, but when he decides to quit, his boss won't let him.
- The Magnus Archives: Employees at The Magnus Institute, or at least in the archives physically cannot quit their jobs, no matter how much they might wish to, except by gouging their eyes out.
- Pretty much every evil organization in Feng Shui is like this. The Ascended are particularly ruthless in this regard when it comes to their Pledged pawns.
- Shadowrun: The mega-corps are so powerful they have sovereignty and can enforce their own laws. It's pretty common for employment to be mandatory for life, with imprisonment, death, or other punishments as a penalty for trying to quit. Extracting a (willing or unwilling) target to work for a new employer is a common and lucrative job for shadowrunners.
- Common behaviour for the clans and sects in Vampire: The Masquerade, since they really don't want their secrets leaking out to enemy factions.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Sidestepped by The Inquisition, of all people. Very few of them want to leave in the first place, and those that do have enough clout in the galaxy-spanning government that they could just sneak off to some remote world and take up an "undercover" desk job or something.
- The Tau's Fire Caste (the military). There are only two ways to get out: death, or by opting to take a third "trial by fire" (the first two are given to all Fire Warriors), after which they are allowed to become military advisers instead of continuing to fight.
- Technically applies to all five castes, though the civilian and government castes are much more chill about letting you retire once you get old.
- While some Imperial Guard regiments have a fixed length of enlistment, others are more like this; some literally keep fighting until they are too depleted to be useful, then muster out all survivors, while others let enlisted men retire only at periodic reorganisations while taking reinforcements at all times. Depending on when he joins, a soldier in one of these may serve for two years or twenty. Officers have a more defined idea of retirement age, but talented ones may be called back into service when necessary.
- The story in the original Bushido Blade states that the player's chosen character is part of a small assassin cell that has a "You only leave when you die" rule in place. They want out.
- A City of Heroes story arc involves a Crey employee who wants to move out of Paragon City with his wife. They go to some extreme measures to try to keep that from happening.
- Kasumi in Dead or Alive, who left her clan to search for her brother and stop DOATEC's evil plan.
- Deus Ex:
- The biggest downside of all that neat nanotechnology you have is probably the kill-switch no one told you about that can be activated if you ever decide to change sides.
- This trope is also discussed when engaging in a social duel with a particular augmented soldier who observes that once you're part of a secret military organization, you can't resign without being designated as "going rogue" by the higher-ups who seek absolute silence regarding their illegal and shady operations and will paint a target on quitters for hitmen and legal authorities.
- Dragon Age:
- If an Antivan Crow like Zevran fails an assassination he/she is considered dead to the Crows. Some Crows like Ignatio are willing to merely pretend the errant Crow is dead. Others want to make absolutely sure that is the case one way or another. If the Warden lives, Zevran will tell him/her that he knows the Crows will keep coming after him and that he will keep on fighting them for his freedom which is canon in Dragon Age II. If the Warden dies, Zevran will return to Antiva and take over the organization. It is both a victory and a defeat. Zevran has his life and a position of power and influence — but he never truly escapes the Crows.
- The Grey Wardens themselves aren't big on people walking away from them, and even if you try, you still have the Taint in your blood and a sharply reduced lifespan before the "last walk".
- Eternal Champions has Shadow, who was part of an assassin agency. When she found herself sympathizing with their victims and unable to kill anymore, she threw herself off the roof of their headquarters — they gave her no other way to leave. Challenge from the Dark Side clarifies that she didn't fall to her death by choice.
- Cid of Final Fantasy Tactics A2 was once a part of The Syndicate Khamja, but left when he decided the privileges didn't outweigh the dirty work he had to do. Illua had him shot, and he only survived because there was a nearby Judge who he could swear himself to. She sends her minion to shoot him again during the storyline just to let him know she hasn't forgotten.
- The Loptous Sect in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. In Thracia 776, Salem questioned the Loptous Sect's actions and defected. He was almost killed trying to escape. He even has this to say about the order:
Salem: The Lopto order does not tolerate traitors. That's the rule...
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, C.J. finds out that this is also true about gang-banging. So, he takes over the entire state.
- In Grand Theft Auto V, Michael attempts to enjoy his retirement from high-stakes robbery but finds himself dragged back into the game after accidentally owing a Mexican drug lord a lot of money, then doing a favor for FIB agent Dave Norton, who helped fake his death, which then drags him into a conflict between the FIB and the IAA. But, in the Golden Ending, he is freely allowed to leave and start a new life altogether.
- Kingdom Hearts: Organization XIII operates this way. Marluxia, Larxene, Xion, and Roxas all have Axel, the group's official assassin, sent after them when they go rogue. When he eventually turns traitor, too, second-in-command Saïx comes calling. The Trope Namer is a line spoken by Saïx to Roxas when he tries to stop Roxas from leaving the Organization for good.
- The Sith on Manaan in Knights of the Old Republic has a double subversion. The young Selkath who are being trained as Sith claim that one who wanted to leave was allowed to do so, but if you look a few rooms over, you find him dying, and this convinces the Selkath to run away.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a side-quest involves finding out Dorian, one of the guards in Kakariko Village, used to be a member of the Yiga Clan, a clan of assassins and bandits out to kill Link. He tried to leave the organization, but they tracked him down, killed his wife, and threatened his children in order to get him to work as a double agent. When he steals the key to a Sheikah shrine, he is told "You Have Outlived Your Usefulness" since he was in fact marked for death when he left the organization. Then Link saves him and they wisely back off.
- Mass Effect 3: This turns out to be the case for anyone who decides to quit after joining Cerberus, including most of your crew from the second game. A number of missions center around helping various former teammates fight off Cerberus retribution, and at least one former crewmate's survival relies entirely on a dialogue choice when you first run into them in the third game.
- Mass Effect: Andromeda: Vetra's Loyalty Mission has her and Ryder run into a bunch of people who used to work for a criminal named Merriweather, who gave them jobs but made them do increasingly illegal things until they wanted out. Vetra supposedly helped them get away, but Merriweather's tracked them down and captured them. Fortunately, Ryder manages to solve the problem by getting rid of Merriweather.
- Metal Gear: Solid Snake's actions in service to the CIA has assembled enough war crimes to, if the U.S. government so chooses, piledrive him into federal prison until he's a "very old man." Essentially, Campbell can revoke his retirement anytime he pleases, which he does twice.
- In a rare example that's not related to the military or organised crime, workers in The Outer Worlds are technically company property. Being a capitalist dystopia, the price you pay for being a colonist is indentured servitude. This somewhat mirrors Real Life colonization of the Americas, but is much worse - the "price" is so high, the servitude lasts for life. You can't even get out by dying - if the death was your fault, you're guilty of the crime of damaging company assets. And since you can't pay anymore, your fellow workers will be forced to pay a hefty fee as compensation.
- Overwatch: Baptiste was a member of Talon because they paid him well, but after realizing how evil they were, he left, only to be persued by Talon assasins aftewards.
- When Kyle leaves a message for the U.S. President in Parasite Eve 2 that he is retiring, the President is outraged because the guy knows too much on what happened in the hidden research facility that he was assigned to spy on. We never get to see what happens from there due to The 3rd Birthday having its plot being totally separate from the original canon.
- Subverted in Saints Row: The Third with Killbane. After the Saints interfere too much with Morningstar business, the DeWynter twins tell Killbane they want out. However, Kiki makes the mistake of hitting Killbane's Berserk Button by calling him by his real name multiple times during this, resulting in him killing her by breaking her neck and acting like Viola is still working with him as a rejection of their resignation. Later on, when Matt Miller's been beaten by the Saints he tells Killbane he's also backing out, he's trembling in terror of being killed the entire time like Kiki was, only to be left breathing a massive sigh of relief when Killbane not only lets him go because he was polite about it but wishes him the best and says he can use Killbane as a reference. Presumably, if Kiki hadn't mouthed off in the process, the Twins also would have left unscathed.
- Shadow Warrior (1997)'s Excuse Plot has Lo Wang quitting Zilla Enterprises after learning of his employer's plans to rule Japan using creatures summoned from the dark side. Master Zilla decides to use said monsters to kill Wang. Much ninja asskicking ensues.
- Part of Taki's All There in the Manual Backstory in the Soul series. In order to leave Japan and investigate Soul Edge, she has to abandon her Ninja clan. One of the steps involved in doing so was fighting her pissed-off master, who wanted Soul Edge for himself.
- Inverted, more or less, in the games of the Trails Series franchise with the secret society Ouroboros and its Enforcers. Thanks to the extraordinary amount of freedom granted them, they can go off and do their own thing for apparently as long as they want and still nominally be considered a member of the group without having to perform any duties. They can even fight other Enforcers and still be welcomed back with open arms. In the The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel games, Sharon Kreuger is welcomed back at the end of Cold Steel III, despite having spent years serving the Reinford family.
- There's a saying in The Witcher games that Witchers never die in their beds. Meaning that they never live to see retirement, between either their profession as hired monster hunters (or regular mercenaries in a pinch, whatever pays) or the Crapsack World they live in killing them first. Their mutations giving them considerably longer natural lifespans, making them very good at very specific tasks, and being irreversible, pretty much shoehorns them into Witcher work until it kills them. In the third game, Geralt does get to meet a Witcher trying to use funds from Witcher work of dubious ethics to start a "regular" trading business (that is strongly hinted to be less than 100% legal and ethical itself), specifically claiming that he was trying to prove the "never die in their beds" saying wrong. The player can see that this fails.
- All throughout the Yakuza series, we learn over and over that it is very, very hard to outright leave the Tojo Clan. Kiryu and Majima both have felt this firsthand, and on multiple occasions each.
- Kevin & Kell: The cult in The Wild. Rudy is forced to recruit for them at an airport, watched by several agents who plan to eat him if he attempts to run away. Kevin manages to sneak him past the agent at the exit by disguising him as his seeing-eye dog. On the other hand, when Ralph joins and never amounts to anything, the pack doesn't try to stop Kell from retrieving him.
- The Order of the Stick:
- When Haley quits the thieves' guild, the leader, Bozzok, gives her a head start before the ditzy-but-powerful assassin Crystal is sent after Haley. Of course, she has to reenter Greysky City later in the story. Like the thieves guild rules say "You can only leave in a coffin. And vampires can't even leave in one of those."
- Right-Eye ditched Xykon in order to start his own peaceful goblin community and almost convinced Redcloak to settle down with him. Then Xykon found his village and not only forced him to rejoin but also forced the villagers to serve as his mooks.
- In Our Little Adventure, Janice (one of the Souballo Empire's top members) flaunted her abilities to cast master magic in front of Angelo in an attempt to enact his Social Darwinism for him to destroy her. Brian and Angelo do kill her, but Angelo binds her soul to a gem and plans to put the soul back into a clone of her body they made for her. The kicker is that resurrection in this manner causes a loss of character level and Janice will no longer have access to the master magic until she regains the level lost.
Brian: That's the thing with our empire: once you're in, you're in.
- Non-lethal version of the trope in Rival Angels. Anybody who tries to quit working for Yvonne Carmichael (Damage Inc's leader) before she feels like firing them has at least one severe ass-kicking in their future. The York Sisters and all three members of The Syndicate learned this the hard way.
- In Sam & Fuzzy, the Ninja Emperor's retirement package is a body bag.
- In Weak Hero, Wolf declares that he's leaving the Union after he's beaten by Gray. Donald Na, the head of the Union, emerges from the shadows behind him, taunts him into a fight that Donald wins effortlessly, and then tells Wolf that he has another job for him when he calms down.
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: Any poor shlub, be they brain pod or grub, that tries to leave the employ of Evil Emperor Zurg will find themselves being hunted down by the feared bounty hunter Shiv Katal. Fortunately Shiv is actually Buzz himself, who uses this situation to rescue the defector and help them start over in a new life.
- Nonlethal example for the eponymous organization in Codename: Kids Next Door. You can quit if you want and you actually have to when you turn thirteen, but anyone who does so (with a few exceptions) is subjected to Laser-Guided Amnesia. Very much justified, because some of their worst enemies are former members.
- Danger Mouse attempts to resign in "Demons Aren't Dull" when in a subplot he is humiliated on a testimonial TV show. But he changes his mind once Colonel K tells him the show was never transmitted. It was a Baron Greenback plot all along.
- Donald Duck learns this the hard way in the 1942 short "Donald Gets Drafted". Inducted into the army, Donald gets fed up with his drill instructor, Pete, over his basic training and shouts "I quit!" Pete threatens him with brass knuckles and Donald instantly backs down. Justified story-wise due to the fact that you couldn't simply quit if you were drafted into the military and if anything he displayed lighter ways of convincing Don compared to a lot of his counterpart's methods of admonishment. Pete's threatening of Donald is also justified due to the mentality present during World War II — not helping the war effort and doing your patriotic duty was considered tantamount to aiding the Axis.)
- The Flintstones:
- At the end of the episode "Fred Flintstone: Before and After", where Fred joins a group called Food Anonymous to help him win a weight loss contest. After winning, Fred resigns. However, it seems that those who join are permanent members as the head of the group steals Fred's dinner (a trait that Food Anonymous employs) and runs off, ignoring Fred's claims that he resigned as he chases after him.
- In "The Beauty Contest", Fred and Barney are chosen to be the judges for a Beauty Contest (their names being the only ones in the hat). At first, the two are ecstatic, until they realize Wilma and Betty would object and try to drop out, only to be informed by the Grand Poohbah that either they do it or turn in their hats.
- In the Futurama Movie Within A Show "The Magnificent Three" from That's Lobstertainment!, the Vice President of Earth (played by Calculon), also the son of the President of Earth (played by Harold Zoid), refuses to follow in his father's footsteps and tries to resign at the end of the film. However, the President tears up his letter of resignation right before falling off the roof of the White House to his death, leading his son to become President, much to his dismay.
- In one episode of The Jetsons, Mr. Spacely hires George to be the judge of a dog show, but tells him his wife's dog has to win or he'll be fired. Then he's coerced by a gangster that his dog better win or George will sleep with the fishes. Even moreso, his family enters Astro in the dog show and expect him to play favoritism. George tries to get out of the mess by resigning as judge, but Spacely orders him to be judge under threat of losing his job otherwise.
- Justice League:
- Task Force X — better known as the Suicide Squad, though they couldn't use that term on a kids' show. At the end of the episode of the same name, the criminals think they're done after one mission. Nope... they've got a long time to work off their sentences. They're let off once the parent organization (Cadmus) is disbanded at the end of the season.
- Cadmus also manages to briefly twist Captain Atom into working for them, by reactivating his Army commission. Turns out "Captain" isn't just a cutesy name, it's his actual rank. He's not happy about it, but is duty-bound to follow orders.
- In the Screen Songs cartoon, "Gobs of Fun", the mouse captain finds a note from his crew outside a pub saying they quit. In response, he chews a tack and rapid-firedly spits onto the note "SEZ YOU", before marching into the pub and throwing his crew out of it and back onto his ship.
- The Simpsons:
- "Don't forget, you're here forever." Of course, despite that, Homer actually did quit and was hired again lots of times since that was said. A combination of Negative Continuity of the series and Mr. Burns' tendency to forget who he is was are likely to blame.
- Homer's one-time boss Hank Scorpio is a straight-up aversion. The man is not only a James Bond-style supervillain but also the most Benevolent Boss ever. Scorpio takes a time-out during a U.S. Army assault on his headquarters to listen to Homer's concerns about how moving has affected his family and receive his resignation. Scorpio accepts it, gives Homer a short talk about the importance of family, and politely tells him "on your way out, if you wanna kill somebody, it would help a lot."
- The Venture Bros. features a heroic version when Brock Samson goes on the run from three assassins after leaving the O.S.I. The twist ending, however, reveals that his termination from the O.S.I. was a misunderstanding or a manipulation, and they did not hire the assassins. The contracts actually came from the Blackhearts mercenary group who knew all along that Brock would defeat them and just wanted to eliminate the competition. Brock was deceived by his old mentor who infiltrated the Blackhearts as a triple agent (and a transsexual), and ultimately this was all part of a ploy to take down that organization too, and to found the shadowy S.P.H.I.N.X. team out of O.S.I. defectors.
- Stop-loss policies in the military allow the army to keep you in it past the time you (think you) agreed to enlist for and can even stop you from transferring to somewhere else. These are usually enacted when recruiting is low and the military is busy in several places around the world. People want to leave active duty but are prevented from doing so.
- In addition, they can recall you to active duty for a time after you are discharged from the service, but the period of time in which they can do so is spelled out in the enlistment contract. During that period of time, you are considered to be a member of The Reserves. Retired officers, on the other hand, can be recalled to duty at any time. Though practically speaking, at some point a retired officer would be considered too old to be fit for military service, even in desk duty. So even in the event of a dire national emergency, the odds of being recalled to duty shrink dramatically the longer you've been retired.
- The truth is that when enlisting in the United States armed forces, you do agree to enlist for the entire duration of stop-loss and inactive ready reserve. Your enlistment contract is absolutely unambiguous about the possibility of stop-loss and inactive ready reserve. Now, recruiters and the personnel handing you the contract are usually quite loathe to bring up the topic for some reason...
- To leave the Canadian Forces before your contract expires you need to submit a Voluntary Release Memo, which begins with the phrase "I, [Rank and name], request a voluntary release" for a reason. It's rare for such a thing to be rejected, but if they still need you you're not going anywhere.
- This is quite standard for criminal gangs and syndicates the world over. Once you join a criminal organization, you're in it for life, and the only way to leave it is in a body bag... unless you're willing to turn yourself over to the authorities. Only a few individuals have ever been lucky to leave alive. Prison gangs in particular have a "blood in, blood out" policy — joining the gang frequently requires spilling the blood of someone from a rival gang (blood in), and once you're in the gang, the only way out is death, either at the hands of the gang or at the end of your natural life (blood out).
- Some countries forbid their heads of state to quit office, even if it's the only thing they can ethically do. The closest example of this trope is Mexico since the Mexican Constitution states the only way a Mexican president can be able to quit office is being judged for federal crimes (like high treason) or dying due to natural causes or accidents. This law was created after the Mexican Revolution for preventing a president from quitting so easily and for avoiding coups d'etat — see the Pedro Lascuráin case.note However, the term of office was fixed to 6 years, so they're not stuck for life. According to Wikileaks, there is a way for a Mexican president to quit office, but it implies suspending the Constitution (so any laws regarding the presidential mandate will become void), and no Mexican president will resort to that, even in the most dire of circumstances, since it could be used against the president themself at any time.
- Uniquely among modern European monarchs, the British sovereign cannot unilaterally abdicate. They may declare an intent to abdicate, but may only leave office after receiving the permission of the Commonwealth governments to do so. The historical basis for this is that one of the main points of contention after the English Civil War was who got to decide the succession to the throne, and after The Glorious Revolution of 1688, the question was decisively settled in favour of Parliament having the sole right to decide who gets to be King (or Queen). The UK and then the other Commonwealth Realms inherited this principle from the English (and Scots, who adopted it at the same time).
When Edward VIII abdicated, it took a full day for the then six Commonwealth Realmsnote to complete the paperwork, with one of the Realms (Ireland) intentionally taking an extra day as a gesture of independence and as a convenient excuse to mostly write the monarch out of their constitution.note If any future monarch declared an intention to abdicate it would take much longer to obtain approval. In 1936, the UK parliament was able to legislate for the realms on such affairs as long as the prime ministers of the other realms agreed, but today it would require legislation to be passed in 8 of the 16 realms individually.note In Australia and Canada, moreover, it further requires the consent of all States/Provinces.
For an example of how difficult this can be: Under the Perth Agreement of 2011, the Commonwealth realms agreed to change the rules of succession so that brothers did not automatically take precedence over sisters. Most realms passed legislation allowing this in 2013 but it wasn't fully in place until March 2015. Why? Blame the Parliament of Western Australia, which didn't get around to voting on the matter until earlier that month; only at that point could the Australian Commonwealth government commence the federal legislative process. (Amusingly, the "Perth" in "Perth Agreement" is the capital of Western Australia; it was signed not even a mile away from the Western Australia Parliament House).note And if (somehow) you find yourself in the line of succession but want out, don't think that you can avoid this mess by just stepping aside from your place in the succession: that, too is set by Parliament, and would also require an Act of Parliament (well, all the described Acts of many Parliaments) to modify. The only way someone can lose his/her place in the succession is to convert to Roman Catholicism, as it's written into the rules that nobody who is or has ever been a Catholic could be in remainder to the throne. This itself is no small undertaking, as while converting to Catholicism is easier than converting to, say, Judaism, they still make you go through several weeks to several months of courses to prove you're serious.note
- Technically the case for Members of Parliament in Britain. A rule dating from the time of James VI and I forbids resignation from the House of Commons. In those days, being an MP could be quite a hassle, especially for those representing rural constituencies far from London: you couldn't handle personal business back home and the trip to and from Westminster could only be conducted by poorly-maintained roads, and not to mention that before 1911, Members received no salary at all. And it was at the time not unusual for an MP to be elected involuntarily, providing further incentive to quit. As a result, the House passed a rule barring its members from resignation. However, as part of the Act of Settlement 1701, anyone holding an "office of profit under the Crown", i.e. a paid job in the executive or judicial branches of government, was disqualified from Parliament unless re-elected in a by-election; the English Civil War had made Parliament wary of royal influence on the Commons and wanted to keep the king from controlling MPs by giving them jobs (if an MP's income depends in part on the king, he might be trusted to vote the king's way). This had two effects:
- Until the early 20th century, any MP appointed to the Cabinet—including the Prime Minister—had to seek re-election in his constituency in order to hold the seat and the office. At first this wasn't a problem, since most Cabinet members were Lords anyway, but as the number of members of the Commons in the Government rose, an exemption was made for certain situations.
- One could once again indirectly resign from Parliament by taking a paid office under the Crown. Eventually, it became the custom to take the office of Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds or the office of Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, which had been sinecures with piddling pay for generations, as the means of resignation from the House. This has become so common that someone taking these offices is simply said to have resigned from Parliament in daily speech and the press.
- In an amusing incident, Northern Irish Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who had been an (abstentionist) MP for Belfast West since 1997, decided to resign Parliament in 2011 to seek election to the Dáil Éireann. When he won a seat at Leinster House, he submitted a letter of resignation to the Speaker but didn't apply for a Crown office, as he is opposed to the monarchy on principle. The Chancellor of the Exchequer's office (which handles these things) sent him a letter apologising and saying, essentially, "sorry, there's no other legal means for you to retire from the Commons, so here's your commission and your cheque for the pittance we technically have to pay you".
- Most of these has been codified in the House of Commons Disqualification Act, where Section 2 provided at most 95 MPs can keep their seats while holding a ministerial position, and Section 4 specifically stated "the office of steward or bailiff of Her Majesty's three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, or of the Manor of Northstead" are disqualifiable offices, but MPs "disqualified" this way may still enter elections while holding such positions.
- French kings were banned from abdicating because of the principle of Indisponibility of the Crown, i.e. the king was banned from tampering with royal succession. This principle led to one of the stranger disputes within the royalist camp after the Revolution: Philippe, the second son of Louis XIV's eldest son, had disclaimed his right to inherit the French throne in order to become Felipe V, King of Spain. For nearly two centuries, this mattered not one bit, as Philippe's elder brother's descendants held the throne until the Revolution, after which they were (usually) not anywhere near being on the throne. However, after the collapse of the Second French Empire in 1871, the Legitimists—the supporters of Philippe's older brother's line—had a plurality in the parliament of the supposedly temporary Third Republic, and were waiting for the last member of that line (Charles, Comte de Chambord) to either (a) come to his senses and reign as a constitutional monarch under the Tricolor or (b) die so that his heir could take the throne and do what Chambord refused to do. The issue of who that heir actually was split the Legitimist camp, with a majority supporting Philippe, Comte de Paris (who was (1) the seniormost member of the House of Bourbon if you cut out the descendants of the Philippe who became King of Spain because he was the heir by agnatic primogeniture of Louis XIV's younger brother; and (2) the preferred monarch of the somewhat more liberal Orléanist monarchists, who had a majority between themselves and the Legitimists), but a distinct minority supporting the seniormost male-line descendant of Felipe V, on the grounds that Felipe had not the authority to disclaim his right to succeed to the French throne.
- One of the rules of The Shinsengumi was that membership was for life.
- On a national scale, once a state is in the United States, it's in for good. The American Civil War showed that secession was unacceptable as a practical matter, and the Supreme Court later made it clear that it was also unconstitutional. (In theory, a state could exit the Union by means of a constitutional amendment, but that's rather different.)
- In late 2017, Spain is sending the same message to Catalonia. The Spanish constitution is very explicit that secession is forbidden, and Spanish courts held that the Calatan regional government acted illegally by even attempting to hold a referendum on that subject.
- One theory about Malcolm X's assassination holds it was the Nation of Islam pulling this on him after he repudiated their beliefs and converted to Sunni Islam.
- In a less gruesome version, many Asian sweatshops will hold onto their workers' first month's paycheck until they're given permission to leave their jobs, which in practice happens very rarely. While workers aren't technically prevented from quitting, they have to sacrifice an entire month's wages to do so, and the suggestion that they might someday be granted the elusive permission serves to discourage them from leaving without it.
- After John F. Wallace resigned after one year, and John F. Stevens resigned after two years, a frustrated Theodore Roosevelt selected Major George Washington Goethals of the Army Corps of Engineers to be Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal, explaining that he wanted somebody who wouldn't be allowed to quit. Goethals took up his assignment with a sense of duty and saw the project through to completion.
- A judge may deny an attorney's request to resign from a case. Judge Furman denied motion for some Justice Department counsel to withdraw from the 2020 Census case after they resigned when the White House and DOJ continued to pursue the citizenship question despite the Supreme Court ruling to remove it.
- Since the ratification of Japan's current constitution in the aftermath of World War II, the Emperor is legally not allowed to abdicate the throne. When Emperor Akihito wanted to abdicate the throne due to him feeling he was too old to do the job, it took years of debate for the Diet (the Japanese parliament) to pass an exception to the law for him. In the past, however, abdicating the throne was very common and expected of the Emperor to do once he (or she) became old, with more Emperors having abdicated the throne than dying on it.
- The controversial Sea Org branch of the Church of Scientology asks its members to sign a "billion-year commitment," on the assumption that they will return to the organization even after they are reincarnated in future lives. The church claims the commitment is merely symbolic and not legally binding, since admittedly it would be rather hard to enforce.