Before choosing any characters for the ten Things Were Better Then songs, I listened through Weezer's Blue Album in its entirety. As I listened to each of the songs, I wrote down a quick list of possible characters for each song. For Buddy Holly, I got the idea to use Android 19 almost at once. I don't know why Android 19 came to mind - he's a rather minor character, and is rarely if ever written about in fanons (and is never the protagonist of those fanons). The song just sounded like a song about him.
In the above picture, you can see Android 19's name written in pencil. This indicates that I chose him for "Buddy Holly" long before I wrote the names in pen. Kid Goku and Yamcha were also chosen relatively early in the creation process. Later on, perhaps a few days after, I added in the other names in pen. But while I did have the idea of Android 19's story early on in the creation process, I didn't have much of an idea for what I was actually going to write about him until a few days before I actually wrote Ergo Sum.
The above picture shows which theme colors I was considering for this story. Settling on grey was an easy decision because all of the other possible colors were used in other stories. "Buddy Holly" certainly sounds like a grey song. It's hard to describe. Just the way the guitars sound and the loud drums gives it a grey vibe to me. And that was fine. If ever there was a character to use grey with, it was an android.
The above picture shows another page I made a bit later in the TWBT creation process - by this time I had all the theme colors and characters decided (well, most of them). I even started coming up with names. You'll notice that Ergo Sum had its final name on this page, being one of three stories to have its final title this early in the process. So quite a bit of Ergo Sum was done before long before I started to write it. Now, "Ergo Sum" wasn't a final name at that point. I was still looking for inspiration for another, perhaps, should one come, but when one never did, I settled on that name.
Before I began writing this story, I did extensive research on Android 19, because I didn't know much about him. I last watched Dragon Ball Z all the way through in 2010, and five years is a long time to remember specifics about such a minor characters as 19. So what I did is I researched online about his character, his personality, and whatnot, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, found almost nothing about him. There is so little information about Android 19 online that it's scary. This forced me to watch all of the episodes he was in - I think 5 or 6 - to get first-hand viewing of how he acts. After watching these episodes, I felt confident enough to write the story; I wrote Ergo Sum the very day I completed watching the last episode Android 19 was in. Now, this doesn't count his non-canon appearances or anything he did in Hell or after escaping from Hell. This was purely a viewing of Android 19's original life.
The actual writing process went quickly. I started on April 11, 2015 at 6:38 pm my time and finished at 8:09 pm. It took me roughly an hour and a half to write this story. During the writing process, I listened to "Buddy Holly" on repeat mostly. However, during some of the conversations - such as the one between Vegeta and Android 19, I paused the video to copy down dialogue taken directly from the FUNimation dub of DBZ to make this story completely accurate in that regard. Like Skulk and Dragon Ball Z: In Requiem, this use of canon dialogue was somewhat tedious to write, but worth it to remain accurate to the story.
I don't have much memory of writing this actual story. Days before I wrote it, I knew it would be a short story, perhaps the shortest in the collection, and that proved to be true. I wrote it very quickly. Yet, much of it was improvised. All I knew going in was that I wanted to talk about Android 19's life and his struggle with feeling "alive". I wanted to write a compelling story about an uncompelling character (at least, how he was portrayed in canon). It was a challenge - as I've written so many stories and grown as a writer, it is sometimes hard to continue to improve. Trying to flesh out a character who barely has a personality in canon was my attempt to do that. Anyways, onto the endnotes!
|Things Were Better Then|
|Written:||April 11, 2015|
|Released:||April 11, 2015|
|Theme song:||Buddy Holly|
|Things Were Better Then track listing|
This story's theme is Buddy Holly.
“You are an android. An artificial being, unhindered by the weaknesses of humanity. You are smarter than them, stronger, faster, and better. You will not succumb to age or disease. Those are defects ingrained in mankind’s genetic code. Androids have no such defects. You are the perfect lifeform. You are free of all aspects of mortality. You are free from the burden of being alive.”
It was a sense of pride, being an android. He was perfect in every regard. It made him special. Nineteen was the next step in human evolution – the removal of the human element. He remembered placing Dr. Gero’s brain in his new android suit. There was something eerie about that. The doctor was dead – a human weakness – and yet his brain lived on. Nineteen was careful not to damage it. He placed it the cranial shell of a new body, and then his old doctor, his old master, was an android too. But he was not like Nineteen. He was not pure. A fragment of humanity lived on inside his new body. That made Nineteen titter to himself. He would never tell Twenty his true feelings.
“Hey man? What are you doing? H-hey… get off of me!” the man with ashen hair screamed before Nineteen threw him into a wall.
His friend shook like a tree in a hurricane as he stepped back in horror. “What?!” he cried. The foolish human couldn’t contain his emotions as he looked around, from his bleeding friend to Nineteen and Twenty to the other pedestrians frozen in shock. “What did we ever do to these guys? Why do they–”
That was when Nineteen grabbed the man by the neck and giggled. “All of your energy is mine!”
“Very good, Nineteen,” Twenty said approvingly, tugging at his grey mustache. “These humans will provide us with adequate power.”
There was a feeling growing inside Nineteen as he absorbed the man’s power. Nineteen stared into the man’s face. He had stubble, black and silver; sweat was pouring down his face; his eyes were cloaked behind a pair of round sunglasses. Still, Nineteen could see his terror. His mouth was open, screaming soundlessly. He was frightened and weak. He was human.
“Ka… me… ha… me… ha!!”
Goku’s energy wave came screaming down at Nineteen. The plump android smiled, his sensors reminding him that that was a human emotion, one of glee and contentment. He placed his arm out and absorbed the blast. He felt power surge through his circuits, and there was something else there, a deep pang of something Nineteen’s sensors could not describe. He looked back up at Goku and laughed. The Saiyan was no match for Nineteen. He was an android after all.
Nineteen scanned the sky and saw naught but Goku and a few birds perched on rocky spires. There was something coming to Nineteen, an iron, cold feeling that wasn’t natural. For a brief moment, he considered that he might be malfunctioning, but in the next, he was kicking off from the ground and shooting like a bullet towards Goku. It was just the two of them, and soon it would be only Nineteen.
He didn’t care about anything. Nothing mattered to an android. He only reacted, did as he was told. He only wanted to crush Goku because he had been programmed to want that. Nineteen wanted to believe what he was telling himself over and over again in his head as he punched at Goku. The hits connected. He felt flesh against metal, blood against steel. He felt it, but he did not.
He looked just like Dr. Gero’s doll.
“What is this thing, Doctor?” he had asked, hollowly.
“Hmmm, that?” Gero looked annoyed behind his mustache. He was reading a daily newspaper. “That’s just a little prize I brought back from an enemy base years ago. I thought it looked funny when I found it there, so I took it to remember the battle.”
“It looks like me,” Nineteen replied, obsequiously. He could almost understand Gero’s sentimentality.
“Nonsense,” Gero replied, brushing Nineteen’s comment aside. “Nothing is like you, Nineteen. You are special, a completely new being. You are the future. Don’t forget that.”
In the past, Nineteen had agreed with that statement. He had been invincible on the suburban blocks of South City, on the busy streets of East City. He had slaughtered humans at will. Nothing could stand up to his dreadful power.
Now he was running, oil spewing from the gashes in his arms. He was running, not looking back. Memories fuzzed over his vision as he fled across the rocky island, away from Twenty, away from Vegeta, away from all life.
“Let me ask you: Does a machine like yourself ever experience fear?” That had made Nineteen feel weird. Then he had attacked Vegeta.
“Silly robot. Do you really think you have a chance against a Super Saiyan like me?” He was no robot. He was an android, a warrior never before seen in the universe. Nineteen was above them all, the Saiyans and humans alike. Why did they resist him? Why were they so arrogant? Emotions clouded their judgment. They could not see that they were going to die. All of them would die.
He ran. He felt nothing. The fight was over. He didn’t care about that anymore. “Despicable. What a useless machine.” Vegeta had said, standing over him. The Saiyan Prince had been so proud. Nineteen hated that. His sensors told him that he was feeling again, that he was experiencing, but Nineteen ignored them.
He had had his moment of triumph – several of them, actually. Vegeta had thought he’d beaten Nineteen. Emotions make them so stupid. That was when Nineteen had jumped up and grabbed onto the Saiyan’s arms. “Do not try to escape. Yes, it is useless. Until I have all your energy, I will never let you go.” He knew he had made Twenty proud with that maneuver.
He had calculated it. Vegeta did not have the power to escape his grasp – the databanks had confirmed that. Nineteen had lured the warrior into his trap. He was going to win. Then, Vegeta had ripped his arms off. Nineteen had felt that.
“What a pity.”
Nineteen didn’t know why he was running. Logic was gone. The databanks were useless. Emotion was a virus in his circuits. Was it fear? Was it hopelessness? Was it recognition that he was not, in fact, perfect? All options were equally unsavory to the android who thought he could not feel as humans could, who believed he was better than them.
His sensors alerted Nineteen that there was something warm – nay, burning hot – on approach. Running still, he did not glance back at it. He knew what it was, but he would not dare let it enter into his thought processors.
Ahead, a group of birds took flight. Briefly were they silhouetted behind the sun. Grey clouds dotted the sky, or perhaps not. Perhaps it was a clear day, sunny and bright, or maybe it was a cloudy day with a chance of rain. Nineteen’s visual sensors were malfunctioning. “Malfunction. Malfunction. Ma-malfunction… function… function,” he tittered uncontrollably. It was getting hotter, his sensors warned.
The birds were seabirds, veritably, with lead-colored feathers, and Nineteen saw them rise into the open sky as he once had been able to and then dive straight into the water. His sensors were screaming. It wasn’t hot; it was boiling. He needed to move out of the way. Survival notices flickered across his visual sensors, warning him to move aside or else be obliterated. How could he die? He wasn’t alive. He was better than that. He ran. Nineteen was tired, weak, losing oil. He was malfunctioning. He knew then that he couldn’t get out of the way. He didn’t want to care.
The light wrapped around him like a golden shroud as his sensors beeped and whistled. He couldn’t feel it, but he could feel something else, something inside him, churning, buzzing. It was so visceral, so real, that for an instant, Nineteen knew that he existed, and then the heat surrounded him completely. His sensors popped and exploded. His body began to disintegrate. It was nothing, everything. He thought he saw a seabird rise from the water ahead, but in the next moment, he knew it had not. The yellow heat suppressed his vision, swallowed him up, and there was nothing he could do about it. He was the perfect lifeform. He wasn’t alive. He was better than that. But now he was dying. And in the last moment of his life, that scared Nineteen the most.
- "Ergo Sum" is a reference Descartes' famous quote, "Cogito Ergo Sum. I was in a philosophy class at the time I wrote this story, and the idea of what is existence - existentialism in a way - heavily influenced this story.
- Because of how short this story is, I have read it numerous times - far more than I've read any of the other TWBT stories. I've read this story through I think half a dozen times. The pacing of Ergo Sum is one of it strongest components. You start reading, and it just sweeps you along, and before you know it, you're done. For me, at least, I believe I succeeded with the pacing, and that made this story overall quite a bit more enjoyable.
- This story was written to be quite different from the other TWBT stories. It is a collection of memory fragments, all of which Android 19 remembers as his circuits are shutting down and getting corrupted as Vegeta destroys him.
- Dr. Gero's opening quote mentions that Android 19 is "the perfect lifeform". This is a reference to my story The Perfect Lifeform.
- Dr. Gero's dialogue has always been easy for me to write, in comparison to some other canon characters, and watching the episodes Android 19 was in before writing this story allowed me to have a fresh example of how he talks. Thus, his dialogue in this story reads to me as very in-character.
- The central theme of this story is brought up in the opening quote. When Gero says "You are free from the burden of being alive", he sets up the idea that being alive is a burden, a problem, a genetic defect. Yet, as the story goes on, Android 19 struggles as he realizes he is feeling emotions, and by the end of it, he seems like perhaps is actually alive, for he strongly feels emotions and accepts that he is. It is an ironic quote when compared to how the story ends. The bookends of Ergo Sum are deliberately as far apart as possible. The binaries of life/machine and life/death are relevant when comparing the beginning and ending of this story.
- "Nineteen was the next step in human evolution – the removal of the human element." - loved coming up with this line. Again, this hints at the themes in this story.
- Android 19's first memory is of him making Dr. Gero into an android. I always wanted to portray this and was unable to in The Perfect Lifeform because of how that story was written. Android 19 felt emotions in this early memory of his - he felt superior to Dr. Gero because he was a pure android, but he kept this to himself. This foreshadows his more overt emotions later in the story.
- The transitions between memories are minimal or non-existent on purpose, as this is accurate for how memory works. You move from one thought to the next, and I desired greatly to portray this as humanly as possible, perhaps to show the irony of Android 19's thought processes.
- The man with the ashen hair is the first reference to this story's theme color.
- Notice how Android 19 focuses on the emotions of the humans he is taking the energy from in scene 2. It's most curious that he would be so attuned to such a human defect.
- "“What did we ever do to these guys? Why do they–”" - this is a reference to a lyric taken from "Buddy Holly".
- The dialogue in memory two is the dialogue I am most proud of in this story, particularly Dr. Gero's. The way he tugs his mustache as he talks always makes me laugh.
- Android 19 has been taught to be a speciest against humans. The way he describes humans as being weak might be a clever look into his own psyche.
- Android 19 feels something when he absorbs the humans' energy. Perhaps he is absorbing their emotions, similar to how when Cell or Majin Buu absorbed someone, they took on their traits. However, do note that Android 19 was feeling some emotions even before absorbing his first human.
- I quite enjoy the transition from the second memory to the third. The Kamehameha shout was a great move.
- The third memory is taken directly from the anime/manga. It is a retelling of part of Android 19's battle against Goku, his last moment of triumph. I felt this memory was a good place to end the first section. As the turn comes, Android 19 is decidedly less successful in each memory.
- Again, when Android 19 absorbs Goku's blast, he feels something inside him. He's feeling something alive, something sentient and emotional, and he's scared to even think about it because he knows what it means to feel.
- The birds Android 19 sees are highly symbolic and also reference this story's theme color. Similar seabirds appear in the next few stories as well.
- Notice that Android 19 mentions the sky here - it is empty save for Goku and the birds. That says a lot about Android 19's emotional state.
- The iron feeling Android 19 feels references the theme color and also references blood - an important aspect of life.
- "He felt it, but he did not." This kind of contradiction was seen in earlier TWBT stories as well. Android 19 feeling and not feeling is important to see how his character is developing. It implies how scared he is, how immature he is, how unwilling he is to face reality.
- The thing about Dr. Gero's doll came from a recent interview with Akira Toriyama. In that interview, he revealed a lot about the androids, such as Android 16 being inspired by Dr. Gero's dead son (which I reference in TPL) and Androids 17 and 18's names (which I also reference in TPL). I referenced the thing he said about Android 19 here with the doll. The story of the doll was mostly made up by me, though, and it has a humorous meaning as it relates to Android 19.
- The transition to the defeated Android 19 fleeing from Vegeta is a striking image. He also states that he is fleeing from all life, which of course is ironic.
- The conversations in the second section are all canon conversations.
- When Vegeta asks Android 19 if he feels fear, 19 feels "funny". He is probably feeling fear but doesn't know what that actually feels like because he's been suppressing his emotions.
- "He didn’t care about that anymore." - this is a second reference to a lyric from "Buddy Holly".
- Android 19 is quick to judge others based on merely their species and their ability to have emotions. Yet he does not look at his own flaws and his own burgeoning ability to feel. This was a specific character consideration, one which Android 19 never fully resolves due to his nature.
- Android 19 felt Vegeta rip off his arms in two ways - physically and emotionally. The emotional aspect of this is only hinted at though.
- Android 19's sensors constantly remind him when he is acting like a human, but he rarely heeds their warning. I had to have this to bring attention to Android 19's weird behavior. Without the sensors, it would not be as clear how strange 19 is behaving.
- Android 19's tale is sad because he was ruined as a character by Dr. Gero. He was brainwashed into thinking he was better than others just because he was an android, not because of his character - in fact, he didn't even want to have a character. This has real-world parallels with stuff like racism and whatnot. But I see Android 19 more as a tragic character than as a being deserving of what came to him. He was taught to behave how he does. He was programmed a certain way. That he can't overcome that programing ends the story with a very cynical message. Of course, he begins to accept his ability to emote at the end of the story, but by then, it is too late. So the ending is a warning about taking too long to find answers. It's an ending of consequences. Android 19 had to pay for what he did, and he only tried to change himself when it was too late. And too late is too late, after all. This isn't a fairy tale where reality is suspended to save someone who otherwise cannot be saved.
- 19 knows that Vegeta's attack is bearing down on him at the end. He doesn't want to think about it because he doesn't want to feel fear. He doesn't want to act like a human. His defiance is silly, really, but his devoutness to his cause has a certain nobleness to it, even if it's a nobleness for a ridiculous cause.
- The third to last paragraph is a second description of the sky. The grey clouds and blinding sun of course symbolize Android 19's state of mind and his character arc. Notice how after describing the sky, Android 19 recants his description and thinks perhaps it's a clear day. He attributes this to his malfunctioning nature, but it is consistent with his character up to this point.
- The way Android 19 titters constantly is a reference to Varys from A Song of Ice and Fire.
- The seabirds diving into the water has specific symbolic meaning. They wouldn't do such an action for no reason, after all.
- "How could he die? He wasn’t alive. He was better than that." - this sums up Android 19's point of view.
- The golden shroud that envelops Android 19 is a reference to Maggy the Frog's prophecy about Cersei's children in A Song of Ice and Fire.
- The last paragrah is by far my favorite prose in this story. It is full of paradoxes and binaries. It is highly emotional compared to the rest of the story. This is the climax of Android 19's character arc. He realizes he's alive only at the last moment because he knows he's about to die. And one cannot die if they aren't alive after all. He gives into fear at the last moment, just as he dies. This is overtly a sad ending, but again, I think Android 19's arc is a complete arc, and considering he reaches a new understanding about himself before dying, there is a sort of victory in that. I like having stories overtly end one way and subtly end in the opposite way (Burning Man, for example, is like this, just in the opposite way Ergo Sum is). So that was fun to do here, even if I'm not endorsing what he did. As I stated in an above endnote, Android 19 still failed because he changed too late. That cost him his life. But he still grew as a character by accepting his existence and emotional abilities at the end of his life.
I did not expect to like this story when I wrote it. I was apprehensive even of writing it because I thought if it's a story about Android 19, I'll never like it. However, I'm happy with how it turned out. Android 19's struggle is tragic, but feels real, and his character arc is complex and complete. Considering I was using a character most people don't care for, there was a risk with this story, but I think I succeeded with Ergo Sum's plot and themes. I particularly like the dialogue and the transitions between scenes. The lines about how Android 19 is feeling but not feeling or giving into emotions while trying to think he isn't are quite beautiful, and the ending is one of my best paragraphs of prose in this entire collection. So I'm pretty happy with this story. As I stated above, I've read this story the most out of all Things Were Better Then one-shots, and the pacing is the main reason for that. The elegant prose and pacing really make this story work. They are a bigger part of this story than they are in other TWBT one-shots. Overall, I'd give Ergo Sum an S-.
<---- Part 47
Part 49 ---->