Fandom: Megaman X
Spoilers: Plot spoilers for Megaman X6, and a not-really-secret-anymore gameplay feature from Megaman X8.
This is my first time doing something like this. Please don't eat me alive. ;_;
Silly Zero. You just had to interrupt their sweet little moment. :(
He’s a battle-hardened warrior struggling to cling to his optimism in a world that seems to get darker every day. She’s a brilliant scientist and technician who buries her personal feelings under a professional demeanor.
Together, they fight crime! Er...Mavericks. Whatever.
The Megaman X fandom is not, generally, conducive to musical-chairs shipping the way many other fandoms are, for several reasons. First there are the obvious questions that come up in shipping a bunch of robots—Reploids do feel emotions, and canon does include characters with romantic inclinations towards one another, but while emotional attraction is present in canon, physical attraction is still a question mark, and every possible interpretation of how it works probably exists somewhere in fandom. Setting that aside, there is a fairly limited number of characters who actually stay alive long enough to do much with.
So it’s only natural that the recurring characters, those who stick around consistently, get paired off with regularity. Unless one is writing AU or tragedy, there’s not much of a choice for shipping.
X and Alia are pairable almost by default. X is the hero, and while the series has no female lead, Alia is the only supporting female who’s stuck around for the long haul—four games, half of the main series, which might seem unimpressive until you consider that the closest contender, Iris, appears in only one game in the main series and one of the side-story games. The other girls in the main series, Layer and Pallette, have only been in one game—and once you move past those four, there are no girls in the main series (although there are several in the side-story game Command Mission).
I’m not into Megaman X for the shippiness—there are precious few ships in the fandom that I truly take seriously. I’m mostly interested in non-romantic character interactions, the unexplored intricacies of human/Reploid relations, the dark plot, the way the characters deal with living in a world that truly seems to have no hope left. (And the asskicking gameplay and the thrill of blasting Sigma with hot plasma—I may be a gamer who digs plot and characters, but I am still a gamer, after all.)
But X and Alia stand out. Those who simply pair them because they’re the leads are missing out on some wonderful character interaction. They’re linked by their mission, linked by their personalities...they just click, and even when the world is falling down around them, they give me a quiet moment of fangirlish hope that they’ll be able to get through it, as long as they have each other.
“Humans and robots living in harmony and equality. That was my only wish.”
—Dr. Thomas Light, Megaman X8
The Megaman X series, in a nutshell, is about robots beating the crap out of each other, with the lives of all the humans in the world as the prize. In the year 21XX, humans begin to share the world with newly produced “Reploids,” robots with the ability to think and feel emotions the same way humans do. Since Reploids have free will, they are not bound by their programming to obey Asimov’s laws of robotics—and of course, this means that some of them don’t. Those Reploids who hurt humans are known as Mavericks, and they are opposed by an organization of Maverick Hunters.
Although it is implied the Hunters are a large organization, the series focuses entirely on the exploits of only a few among their numbers; while your average Hunter may be able to handle a random Maverick attacking alone, the large-scale uprisings are inevitably led by Sigma, a Maverick so powerful that only three Hunters have fought against him and lived to tell the tale.
Series mainstays X and Zero are veteran Hunters with impressive service records. Late in the series, a third character, Axl, joins the Hunters and quickly rises to the upper echelons, although he is far younger and has only fought in two major uprisings to date. A handful of other characters from the support staff are introduced in the second half of the series: Signas, the commander of operations; Alia, a navigator; mechanic Douglas; Lifesaver, the head of the medical staff; Layer and Pallette, two more navigators who join later on.
Outside of this core group, however, the only major characters introduced fall into two groups—bad guys, and casualties. Through eight games in the main series and several side stories, the Mavericks just keep coming and the body count just keeps rising. The Megaman X series does not have an optimistic view of the world it takes place in or the conflict it chronicles.
“We’ve made this mistake time and time again... Why must Reploids continue this accursed cycle of aggression?”
—X, Megaman X7
X only wants peace.
Although he is arguably the most prominent member of the Maverick Hunters and the savior of the world eight times over, X despises violence and would much prefer to see everything settled with more peaceful solutions. He does have good reason for his ambivalence about the wars that plague society; X is the first robot ever developed with the ability to think, reason, feel emotions, and make his own decisions. He was the final creation of the renowned robotics engineer Dr. Thomas Light, who realized that X’s abilities were dangerous and sealed him away for thirty years of diagnostic tests to ensure that he would not break the First Law of Robotics: A robot must never harm a human being. X was discovered years later by paleobotanist Dr. Cain, who used X as the template for the new line of Reploids, which were completed with X’s assistance.
As such, X has some serious emotional baggage to drag around—being a “father” to all Reploids in more ways than one, it is quite likely that he has some kind of repressed guilt about the conflicts that have erupted as a result of the Reploids’ existence. He feels compelled to continue fighting the Mavericks, because his sense of responsibility will not allow him to do otherwise—but this conflicts with his peaceful nature, and as a result, he’s got enough angst to power Tokyo. X is slower to anger than his fellow Hunters Zero and Axl, more likely to try and reason with his foes, but his first priority is to protect the innocent, and he takes it very seriously. X is a lethal force of destruction when he chooses to be; those who manage to penetrate his defenses and arouse his anger will not likely live to regret it.
Although X does leave the Hunters for a time to try and work for more peaceful solutions, he simply can’t remain on the sidelines when so much is at stake. And so he keeps pushing forward, fighting to protect the future, and being there when he’s needed—whether for the entire world, or for a single friend.
“I’m not interested in miracles.”
—Alia, Megaman X5
Alia is both a doer and a thinker, the glue holding the Hunter command staff together. Although she’s not a fighter, she has a brilliant mind, expert analysis skills, and a calm demeanor that allows her to keep providing the support that the Hunters need in times of dire crisis.
In the past, Alia was a member of a research team in Reploid engineering, along with her equally brilliant colleague Gate—until Gate’s creations were labeled as potentially dangerous and destroyed. She has mastered all programming languages and is a consistent source of information and data analysis. She’s repaired X’s armor, done research into developing a program with complete resistance to the Sigma virus, located hidden bases...whatever the obstacle to the mission, Alia looks for a way around it, and she usually succeeds in finding one.
Alia has a caring nature, and she watches out for the emotional welfare of the other members of the team—keeping X’s temper in check when Isoc insults Zero, trying to smooth over X’s initially hostile reaction to Axl, admonishing Axl when he insensitively jokes about his itchy trigger finger around X. She has lingering regrets about the operations she took part in to dispose of Gate’s creations, which had not yet posed any kind of threat. Although the exact circumstances of her employment with the Maverick Hunters have yet to be made clear, it’s not a far stretch to suggest that she transferred to a position with the Hunters so that she’d only be acting against Reploids who were truly causing harm.
She’s levelheaded and doesn’t indulge in unrealistic optimism, but Alia still believes there may be a better future in sight, and as long as she remains with the Hunters, she will help them work for it.
“What is it, Alia?”
“Ummm... Nothing... Just be careful...”
—Alia and X, Megaman X6
Compared with the level of subtext in some other fandoms, one could say there’s hardly any subtext for X/Alia at all. But when considering the pairing, you have to consider that this is a fandom that usually only introduces characters outside the inner circle of Maverick Hunters so they can be killed off for more angst. The series only shows what’s going on in the middle of world crisis after world crisis and there is very little insight into the personal lives of these characters, so every bit you do get counts that much more. So what do we have between X and Alia?
Mostly just a lot of little moments in X6 when she starts trying to say something, backs off stuttering, and asks him to be careful. (Well, that and the fact that Alia's on the comm giving X constant support for four games in a row.)
But when you consider Alia’s behavior elsewhere in the series, things start to make more sense. In X5, Alia’s first appearance, she does not have these little moments of hesitation. She delivers her information professionally (even if much of what she tells you is common knowledge to any self-respecting platform gamer), and she doesn’t show as much personal concern for X’s welfare. Note also that while she has plenty of moments in X6 where she seems quite worried about X, she does not have the same problem when talking to Zero. There are only two things in the series that can shake Alia’s professionalism: talking to X, and talking about her past colleague (and probably love interest, but that’s a topic for another manifesto) Gate.
X6 is the game where Alia really gets enough attention to become a character in her own right, as the False Antagonist* is Gate, and even her post-stage status reports are colored by her past relationship with him. At the end of the game, after defeating Sigma, X recovers Gate’s remains. When Alia questions him, he simply replies, “He was your colleague, right?” and then adds a bit about not wanting to lose anyone else. Alia thanks X on Gate’s behalf, and the two vow to keep moving towards the future and, as Alia puts it, “build a real utopia...together.” This doesn't have to be shippy, I suppose, but I’ve always considered it a nice way of showing that while Gate was important in Alia’s past, X is important to her future, and X doesn’t mind that there’s a part of her heart that may always belong to someone else. They have an understanding, and that’s enough.
*Although every game in the main series except for X8 ends with Sigma as the final boss, most of the games present a stand-in for him at first, who inevitably turns out to have been manipulated by Sigma, and then dies once the heroes learn that they shouldn’t even be fighting this person in the first place.
X6 is the best game for X/Alia shippers; she’s back to staying pretty collected in X7 and X8. However, I blame game mechanics here, as the navigation dialogue in the later games seems to all work from the same script no matter which character you’re playing as. (If one wants to construct an excuse for this that relies on characterization, however, I like to imagine that Alia canned it because she didn’t want to deal with teasing from Axl.) There is also one nice little moment in X’s ending of X7, in which X is worrying about the future (as usual) and Alia quietly sympathizes, but for the most part, the relationship gets pushed into the background again.
X8’s navigation system does give one last bit of not-quite-evidence for this pairing. Prior to X8, Alia was the only navigator who appeared in the series, and she provided all of the analysis from X5 to X7. In X8, however, two new navigators, Layer and Pallette, are introduced, and the player can choose who will advise them in each stage. The navigators are also unlockable characters, and each of them copies the fighting style of one of the male leads—Layer fights like Zero (and canonically, she’s interested in him), while Pallette fights like Axl. No prizes for guessing who Alia fights like.
Although that last part has absolutely no bearing on character relationships and development, it is kind of cute.
Finally, although the various manga based on Megaman X are not considered part of canon, the 4-koma collection based on X7 does have a few cute little gags that lean towards X/Alia. Of course, the 4-koma also have jokes including crossdressing Zero, Axl trying to fight off Mavericks with a megaphone, and Alia beating up Signas, so how seriously you choose to take this is up to you.
“Alia, Alia? I’ve already lost the transmission... I have to go alone.”
—X, Megaman X6
There are several possible ways to play out the relationship between X and Alia—and to explain the fact that while there’s evidence supporting some interest, there’s still been no canon hook-up, despite the fact that they’ve had a few games since X6 to quit beating around the bush and get together. Some simply ignore the lack of any defining canon evidence, and this is perfectly plausible—the games do only show the cast reacting to threats of world destruction, and as such, it’s reasonable to excuse X and Alia’s behavior as maintaining their professionalism. There are more important issues before them than love scenes.
Another take on it is that X and Alia are simply shy about confronting each other with their feelings. This, too, works; both characters tend to keep a leash on their emotions in order to function in their jobs, and it’s not difficult to imagine that they simply aren’t comfortable with relaxing enough to admit how they feel. Although they have plenty of close interaction, it is nonetheless professional interaction, and they may be anxious about moving to another level of attachment.
The third explanation—and the one I will admit to favoring—is that their reluctance to make things official stems not from shyness, but from the risk that comes attached to their profession. X is one of the three most prominent Maverick Hunters, and even when he tries to leave active duty he still finds himself coming back into the line of fire. He is a very real target, as anyone who wants to cause major destruction is going to have to go through him first.
Hunters and their navigators work closely together, but at the same time, they must remain prepared to operate without each other—there are several cases, usually in the final levels of a game, when the transmission is lost, and the Hunters have to finish up the job on their own, and presumably the navigators have to keep trying their best to monitor the situation without being able to talk to the Hunters directly.
This situation in a way mirrors X and Alia’s personal lives. They may be used to one another’s company, but they also have to face the possibility that one day, X may not be coming back from a mission. Both have faced losing the most important people in their lives before as a result of Maverick activity; Gate for Alia and Zero for X (we’ll ignore the fact that Zero returned from the grave, as there was still a period of grief in which X had no way of knowing this would happen). They know what it’s like to lose a dear friend, and neither of them has any wish to repeat the experience.
It’s quite possible that X and Alia, faced with growing feelings of attraction, simply try to ignore them as best as possible, because they wish to spare themselves the heartbreak that would undoubtedly ensue should X finally fall in battle. But this scenario still leaves them with an undercurrent of emotion that still affects them, and they’ll have to deal with it sooner or later.
And when they do, the fangirls will be squeeing in the background.
Despite the fact that’s practically the default het pairing in the fandom, it is quite difficult to find well-written X/Alia fics. As such, I only have a couple of recommendations, but they’re good ones, so hopefully quality will make up for lack of quantity.
Reploid Anatomy 101, by Menolly5600
This fic, while not focusing on the X/Alia relationship, has plenty of sweet little moments, as well as the obligatory harassment of the couple by Zero and Axl. There’s a good mix of comedy and drama in here, and it’s an all-around good read.
Legacy, by Liquid Engineer
I think Liquid Engineer does an admirable job of X/Alia in all of his fics (and he does have a couple other fics that you may want to check out), but this one in particular is simply amazing—I consider it the definitive X/Alia fic. It’s a sequel to his one-shot The Just and the Law, and it’s the finest drama I’ve read in the fandom. If my fangirling here hasn’t convinced you to read it, then go read it anyway. It’s unfinished and on hiatus, sadly, but there’s still a good solid base there with some very touching moments.
A community for fanworks from all of the Megaman series. (Hey, small fandoms have to share space. You take what you can get.) I've not seen any X/Alia stuff posted there yet, but hey...you never know.
I seem to recall there once having been an X/Alia fanlisting, but it seems to have disappeared, sadly. Most of the links I have here are more general resources than stuff relating to the pairing, because quite simply...if there are good pairing-related sites out there, I haven't found them. (If you have any, please share!)
Megaman X Online
Part of the larger Megaman Network site, this is the first place I go for series information. This site was invaluable for writing this manifesto, and the scripts have come in quite handy for me when working on fanfiction. Additionally, there are analyses of the plot, compiled information about the various factions, a very nice character database, and more. It's a treasure trove of information, and very useful for anyone looking for an overall understanding of the series.
Another general Megaman site; this one I find most notable for its gallery, which has a truckload of official art from the entire series (although X6 is mysteriously absent).
A site devoted to the ladies of the Megaman series, thus including Alia by default. There's some very nice fanart in the gallery section, although it's all lumped into one gallery and isn't sorted by character, so it takes a bit of sifting to find what you're looking for.
Dr. Neko's Lab
This site has a few scanlations of the X7 4-koma, and there are some cute X/Alia moments (although most of the cute moments have yet to be scanlated, but I imagine they'll turn up eventually). Take a look at #8!