"I wish I'd never invented that infernal time machine...it's brought nothing but trouble." --Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future Part III
Some days you're the ball, some days you're the bat. When you're a Mega Man, it's usually more the second, but there are still days when even the best Super Fighting Robot or B-Class Maverick Hunter ends up with something on their plate they didn't expect to deal with. This is the plight of Mega Man X one sunny day in Arcadia, as he's called in to deal with a disturbance that for a change, doesn't involve Mavericks. This time, it's humans... and more specifically, the Emerald Spears. Yeah, you remember those guys.
See, fighting Mavericks is easy. Collateral damage? Happens all the time. No need to worry about holding back. Not so with these punks... being as they're human, X and his backup (oh look, Zero!) have to pull their punches. Actually, I don't think they even throw a punch at all. Take away their toys, but don't break any bones. And no, you can't even tweak their nose.
Still, easy enough: Dodge the big gun, get in close, knock it loose, and grab the punks by the scruff of their collars. This is not a smart way of doing law enforcement, but that's the way it goes in Arcadia when reploids can't so much as fight back in a bar brawl without being hauled in by the Hunters for reprogramming or decommissioning. This small scene sets the stage for the rest of the issue, which is primarily flashback... or in our case, the present. What happened so long ago that kept the Emerald Spears alive and kicking into the new century of 21XX?
Insert wavy flashback lines.
Ah, Xander Payne. And look, he broke into the Chronos Institute and gained access to the Time Skimmer! Yeah, because everyone needs a time machine... wait, no, that's a bad idea, nobody needs a time machine. Well anyhow, it exists, thus the problem. Payne, who took on a false identity to make it into the Chronos Institute, hurls himself into the Time Skimmer's projection stream, intending on going back in time and preventing the robot revolution from ever taking place. Hm. Unwittingly, he might create the Battle Network universe in the process, but that's neither here nor there (shouldn't that be "now nor then"? --Ed.). For now, all we know is that he's going sometime else. Let's hope the Time Skimmer doesn't use Terminator time travel rules, or else he'll land there buck nekkid and missing his prosthetic left eye. Yep, gaping socket in your skull will win over friends in a hurry.
Of course, while Payne's time traveling misadventures likely play a major role in the events of this arc, the main focus is our intrepid Blue Bomber, as always.
Following the arrival of the Series 3 Robot Masters and Shadow Man at Gamma's unveiling, Drs. Wily, Cossack, and Light team up to get the jump on the team and recover the eight energy crystals they stole from the enormous robot. Cossack's not the least bit pleased with the alliance, but sends Bright Man and Pharaoh Man with Mega Man to a mesa (perhaps in the American west or southwest?) where Wily kept a lab that nobody knew about. An older one of his backup labs, mind you... he's not sending them to where they're actually congregating, his new Skull Castle.
Odd though it might be, the three-robot squad is actually a smart play. Bright Man's enormous light bulb keeps things illuminated, Pharaoh Man has like 30 ranks in Trapfinding, and both Pharaoh Man and Mega Man (and Bright Man, though he doesn't use it yet) are equipped with offensive weaponry in case things get rough. They get past some guns hidden the wall, some Batton sentries, and though they find no signs of the Robot Masters, they do find a relic of Wily's buried in the hangar: The Wily Walker. Loaded to the gills with weapons of all sorts, including decay-resistant chemical weapons, it's a walking death machine that's best left untouched. Wily gives them an access code that's supposed to shut it down once and for all...
But then, this is Wily we're talking about. Why would he ever give Mega Man a code to neutralize one of his robots?
Naturally, things go from bad to worse. And 100 years later, Mega Man X checks in on one of Dr. Cain's archaeological digs... in the same mesa.
Try not to panic. Remember, Mega Man takes off his helmet all the time. I've yet to see X do the same.
Aah, setup issues. I love them. They give us the background and let us put forth ideas of what's coming next month. I have a friend named 'Andy', and I don't know if I've ever talked about him before, but Andy has the annoying habit of being able to predict the plots of my stories. Of course, since he's known me for about ten years now, it makes sense that he would... but it's irritating to a degree, and every so often I shake my head and wonder if I've become predictable in my middle age, or if there is some truth to the notion that there's only two to seven stories and we're all just rehashing them. Cosmos mentioned this last Sunday... Gilgamesh. Fun epic read, and the story that would lead to Beowulf, Odysseus, the Goddamn Batman, and even our lovable Blue Bomber. If you look hard enough, you'll find patterns anywhere. Carl Sagan stated in a novel once that the long and winding sequence of digits in pi held the secrets of the universe.
But I digress. We have here a very dangerous situation for Mega Man: Xander Payne fiddling around with a time machine, and 100 years in the future, Mega Man X witnessing the messes left behind by both. So there's two fundamental questions we ask ourselves... did Mega Man die in the past fighting the Wily Walker (which would mean that X's reality we're seeing in the "Dawn of X" story arc is an aberration), and did Xander Payne really go back in time... or back to the future?
I love Xander Payne. He's so much fun to read about and study. In terms of radical terrorists, he's a rather accessible one to psychoanalyze. I personally think that he didn't jump back in time, he jumped forward. While I like his brother and his brother's girlfriend, I don't think either of them have the sheer charismatic personality required to keep an organization like the Emerald Spears going for 100 years. No, it's far more likely that Payne goofed up the Time Skimmer and went forward in time... and is now organizing the new movement in the age of reploids. If he did, then he's stuck there. I didn't see no return button on that Time Skimmer, and it's not exactly portable like a DeLorean. Must be Hell for a guy like him to find out that not only are robots alive and well, but humanity has actually made them smarter... and able to kill people if they have a bad day.
Another reason I'm pretty sure that Mega Man isn't dead... if the Blue Bomber did kick the bucket fighting the Wily Walker, that would mean Wily would be able to keep moving forward with his current Gamma plans in 20XX unimpeded. A world where Wily rules supreme? I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't lead to a timeline where Mega Man X would exist. But hey, I could be wrong.
That's the beauty of this. We may have notions of what Ian Flynn and the gang have planned, we may even have previews (if we bothered to read spoilers), but for all the guesswork and limited sneak peeks, the details elude us until the new issue pops out.
And as I loved to have Wily remark, the devil's in the details. :)
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.