“Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage!” -The Cowardly Lion
The difference between Harvey Greenleaf and Xander Payne is that one guy is willing to pull the trigger and deal with casualties, while the other one preferred a less violent upheaval. If you had to have one, Harvey is the better choice for a terrorist. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he wants to change society by removing robots. Xander just wants to kill all robots. And now that he’s given old Harvey the Chuck Norris treatment, he can go about doing it.
Of course, while our grumpy Cyclopean antagonist prepares to change the world with explosions, the work of Mega Man and his three pals goes on. Thanks to the wondrous power of armor recall, Rock and his dog Rush are able to continue their trapping of the Emerald Spears grunts in enclosed spaces. Unfortunately, you pull the same trick enough times, they all wise up. Especially if they have radios and can call for backup.
Of course, the secondary motive for Rock’s actions is to play distraction: If the Emerald Spears are busy looking for him, then they won’t be going after Quake Woman, Elec Man, and Pharaoh Man as this arc’s “helpers” continue the work of bomb locating and defusing.
For the moment, Mr. Payne is unaware of the subterfuge taking place at the Expo. The good doctors are keeping him occupied, mostly by driving him nuts. All they do is talk, talk, talk. Xander is a man of action, and all this talking is bound to drive him batty. He finally comes clean about his monocular destiny as well: It seems that during the Robot Rebellion, he suffered the loss of his eye in the ensuing carnage. Turning the argument back against the doctors, he accuses Lalinde of being a flip-flopper. After all, she was arguing against making robots too human during the debate in Issue 13. And in the tradition of dramatic reveals all happening at the same time in true Kumbaya circle sharing fashion, we learn that Lalinde’s arguments were shaded by personal experience.
It seems that Tempo (Quake Woman’s informal designation) was originally a lot like Rock and Roll in personality. When an accident almost led to Lalinde’s creation being destroyed, the trauma was too much for her to take. So, she gave Quake Woman a downgrade, figuring that if anything ever happened again, losing a blank automaton would be easier than having a child torn away from you.
Now, I do believe it’s time for us to do a flash-over to Dr. Wily in the jungles of madness…
Work continues in the Lanfront Ruins, with Dr. Wily’s Series 2 and Series 3 Robot Masters chugging along. To the pile, he adds Shadow Man, who is a robot of ancient or alien manufacture who was found offline in the ruins. It’s a sizable force at his disposal now, and yet he has another problem. A foreign robotic presence has intruded into Ra Moon’s perimeter, and the giant black eye at the heart of the ruins has disabled it with another of his EM pulses. When Wily’s Robot Masters drag the intruder inside, Wily nearly has a conniption fit.
Aaaaaand it’s Blues. Well, the circle is complete now. Close to death thanks to a faulty power generator, he’s somehow found his way back into the storyline, and to Dr. Wily. More on this development later.
(More Wavy Lines)
Xander Payne finally decides to check the security sensors that his crew has hacked, and discovers that all his wonderful bombs are being taken out by Mega Man and company. Naturally, this sends the guy off the deep end. All his plans! His dreams of a robot-free world, gone! Up in smoke because of more damned robots! He orders his men to open fire, and this is when things get dicey: There are still humans around in the expo, and they’re unfortunately being put in the line of fire.
The First Law prevents him from harming humans, but it seems that Light thankfully read up on his Asimovian heuristics and instituted a First Law failsafe: In order to protect humans, Mega Man and the others can fight back against the Emerald Spears terrorists. This is known as the Zeroth Law, and I’ve talked about it already: I’m just glad that Rock is more interested in the short-term application of it than trying to use it to justify world domination.
And wouldn’t you know it? With the gloves off, Mega Man, Rush, and his three helpers are remarkably efficient at putting the kibosh on the terrorists. It helps that Elec Man can’t be hurt by electricity, that Pharaoh Man’s plasmic discharges can ruin blaster pistols with the best of them, and Quake Woman is a terrific area denial specialist thanks to her drill arms.
The world is falling apart around Xander Payne all over again, and the madman finally snaps. I love what Light says to him here: “Who has the guns? Who has the bombs? Who’s truly brought terror and harm to the people tonight?” It’s a logical and sound argument: The robots didn’t start this fight, but by God, they’re ending it. They’re protecting the civilians and putting the Emerald Spears out of commission.
And here’s the trick: Whatever his flaws, Xander Payne is dedicated to his quest. Driven by revenge, by pain, by all the dark emotions of humanity, he is willing to do what others won’t, go where others won’t, all to achieve the goal of a robot-free world. He only has a few bombs still online. His time is limited.
And he decides: “Whatever it takes.” He hits the trigger.
And then nothing matters at all.
Issue 13 argued about the validity of robots with humanlike emotions. Issue 14′s theme was the power of choice, and how the difference of opinion can lead to tragedy when a more violent perspective wins out. In Issue 15, we are given yet another theme to examine: What constitutes a valid use of force.
The Emerald Spears desire a world without robots, a world where the fate of humanity isn’t spinning out of control (in their mind, at least). To achieve this goal, they took an entire Robotics Conference hostage, making a slow attempt at first to evacuate the humans, but clearly failing to evacuate everyone. They brought in firearms, ushered people and robots along at gunpoint, and emplaced high explosives at key points around the Expo to bring it all down in a cloud of fire and dust.
Harvey Greenleaf’s more moderate brand of terrorism lost out when the results were too slow in coming for a man hellbent on bloodshed and destruction. Xander Payne, a man with a very large axe to grind, carries all the psychological markers of a true believer: To him, robots in the world isn’t just a social issue as it is with Harvey Greenleaf; it’s a matter of life and death, and more specifically, life as he knows it.
The goal is so vital to him, and to what he sees as the only “right course” for the world, that he is willing in his own words, to do whatever it takes. Casualties are the cost of war, and he does believe himself at war. If a few innocents die, if hundreds, if thousands have to die to assure the end of robotkind, then that is the cost, and he will shed no tears. As Joseph Stalin once said, “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”
Payne’s polar opposite in this conflict over the use of force to achieve one’s goals is Mega Man: Throughout this arc, he’s kept himself in civilian mode. Only when civilians were at risk did he armor up and get to work… and even then, he was careful to fire nonlethally, aiming for the weapons of the Emerald Spears terrorists as opposed to the fighters themselves. In Mega Man’s perspective, all life, whether human or robot, is something to be valued and protected. Remember how much he angsted over having to take robot lives in the first arc? Though he’s gotten a slightly tougher skin, he still has that same line of thought: Casualties are unacceptable.
If a major issue with robots is whether or not to assign them emotions, then this arc is a parable for including them. Mega Man and his friends do great things with their emotions intact. Xander Payne, a human, and even Noele Lalinde, were led down a darker path by theirs. It is one thing to have a thought, or a feeling. It’s another thing entirely to act on it.
Xander Payne is resolved to change the world, whatever the cost. And that makes him a very dangerous man. Perhaps he is even more dangerous than Wily.
Wily is driven by personal ambition, a desire to be declared the best, a need to prove himself. In other words, his is a self-motivated evil. Xander Payne is a man driven by a vision of a “better world” where his struggles, his pain, and whatever violence and death is caused by his quest are all worth it, are all necessary for the endgame. He considers himself a prophet of sorts, a man who declares in angry voice and rules by the sword that his perspective, his views are the only correct ones.
Our world is full of Xander Paynes, men who claim a moral superiority and demand that the rest of us fall in line behind them and accept their vision of the world as our own. The danger of such a view is forever made clear in the violence we live with every week, every day. Killings and bombings and acts of terrorism done in the glory of Divine Gods and the preservation of race and nation.
It is the Xander Paynes that will bring the world to ruin, not the Wilys.
For the Blue Ink.
When he isn’t writing “The Blue Ink” reviews for The Mega Man Network, Erico (The Super Bard) spends his days keeping track of the “Legacy of Metal” fanon, dabbling in cooking and tea-brewing, and exploring the human condition from his Iowa stomping grounds.
The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.
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