Mega Man 2

‘It’s black and square.’

‘Anything else?’


‘Good.’ Teleporting Man taps the pad with his finger. ‘Next. You’re walking in the desert and you see a child lying on the sand. It is bleeding to death. Do you help the child or find the evil robot that put it there?

‘I find the evil robot that put it there.’

‘And then what?’

‘I kill it.’

‘Good. Okay, let’s try a little background.’

Teleporting Man puts the pad down and explains the mission. I am a robot of peace and to achieve peace I must kill. I must contend against the evils of Dr Wily. I must fight the other men, the ones with only one function, the villains, Wood Man, Metal Man, Air Man, Bubble Man. He explains each one in detail, weaknesses and strengths. I don’t know why he’s saying this. I know it already. Training Man told me.

‘I’m ready.’

‘Because those bubbles can do more damage than you think, way more—’


‘But if you focus on…wait, I haven’t finished going through the Instruction Manu—’

‘Now, teleport. Any level.’ I adjust the metal on what I was told was my arm cannon. ‘I’m ready.’

‘Very well,’ says Teleporting Man, pressing buttons. ‘You know best.’

I wait.

1.24528 seconds later, the black square picture above the red square picture vanishes. So does Teleporting Man and the Teleportation Machine. And the grey walls and the Instruction Manual and—

White light.

Brown ground.

It’s a forest, more 2-D than anything I’ve ever seen in my [forty-seven minutes of] life. The wooden machines spring out of the ground, leaving no hole, aiming things at me, I don’t know what.

It’s okay. I was warned about this.

Everything will try to kill you, incessantly. Don’t be scared.

I’m not scared.

I don’t even know what scared means.

I push forward, jumping, shooting, jumping, shooting—it’s weird, the little white dots worked so well in practice, but they don’t seem to be killing much now.

Leaves slice my cheek. It stings. I expect red, but it doesn’t come.

The man in the training room told me it wouldn’t.

Training Man.

I guess he was right.

I shoot the thing that sent the leaf.

Six shots and it’s dead.

I move on, down a ladder and underground into a surprisingly clean cave. A giant metal chicken runs at me, panicked but no real threat. I shoot it three times in the beak. It disappears. Dies? I don’t know. I guess so. I move on, shooting, jumping, shooting, climbing, until I’m back in the forest. I try to look sideways between the gaps in the trees, but it seems I don’t have that function. More running, more shooting, more giant chickens with zero padding. Too easy. Way too eas—

Another leaf.

That sting again, what is it?

I don’t like it.

Avoid the leaves, says what I assume is brain matter. Run and shoot, says the suit. I’m trying, I’m trying.

The suit ploughs on—no, I plough on—through trees that don’t sway and ground without slopes or troughs or anything that might tell me that people ever lived in this damn place.

Vertical energy bar in my way. I don’t—

No, wait, it’s a door.

It machine guns upwards. I enter. A small passage, no enemies. Another energy bar. It opens. I didn’t do a thing, just walked near it. Wood Man’s security is poor. Anyone could walk in. Does Dr Wily know about this?

Energy bar closes: it’s a trap.

Wood Man drops down without breaking his ankles.

Teleporting Man didn’t tell me how to beat this guy, but he did say he was evil so I’m sure it’ll all work out.

‘… … … … … … … … …’ says Wood Man.

I was told not to speak, but I do it anyway. ‘What?’

‘… … … …’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …’ says Wood Man, jumping up to the ceiling and stopping just short of smashing his own head in.

‘I still don’t understand. What language are you speaking?’

‘… … …’

He throws leaves and shit at me and I take most of it in the face. You won’t die easy, Training Man told me, but you’re not invincible either.

I start shooting, numbers over aim, sure my little white dots will make it through that wooden padding. They don’t. They ricochet off and—

‘… … … … … …’

I ignore him and try dodging like I did in the training room twenty-two minutes ago. It worked then, it doesn’t work now. Half a dozen leaves slice into my side. Beginning to think training was named wrongly. Feeling weak. Don’t know if Mega Man 1 felt this too, but—

More leaves, more slices, more something that could be pain.

I don’t like it.

I really don’t like it.

For the briefest second I see five balls of blue light speeding away from me then…

White light.

Black square.

‘You probably shouldn’t have started with Wood Man,’ says a voice I recognise.

‘It’s black and square.’

‘Huh? Oh right, the picture. Yeah, it’s black and it’s square. Okay, let’s try something a little more doable, shall we?’


‘How about Bubble Man? His area’s not that tough, and the guy himself…well, I wouldn’t call any of these fuckers easy, but if you had to choose one.’

‘You mean I’m going back in?’

‘Technically, yeah. But instead of trees, you’ll get ocean.’

‘But, I can’t swim. Can I?’

‘Doesn’t matter. Just drop down and walk along the seabed. Suit breathes for you. Ready?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Okay, teleporting.’

‘Will it hurt like last—’

White light then ground. Unconvincing green stuff that could be moss. Water dropping in the background, way too programmed to be a waterfall. What is this place?

The suit walks along without me.

Giant frogs.

Baby frogs.

Crabs, age unknown.

Just like Wood Man’s place, everything wants to kill me. Training Man said they would, and that’s okay because I can shoot them with my little white dots.

But I tried that last time.

They couldn’t even crack wood.

God, Wood Man. He’s here too, I know he is.

I start shooting. I jump when I have too. Last thing I want to do is drop into the water. Don’t care what that guy says.

Things become replica.

The enemies all have the same face and the same plan.

I shoot a thousand white dots and fall into the blue and it’s no different than any other place I’ve known in my fifty three minutes of life, except it’s slower, it’s all a little slower, especially when I jump and—

A black knife goes into my skull and takes me back to the black square.

I adjust.

‘Sea urchin, huh?’

‘I can’t remember.’ I touch the top of my head, expecting to find a crater. ‘Did I fail?’

‘Fail is a redundant word, my mega friend.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘You died, and now you’re going back.’

‘Back to the sea?’


‘But what if I hit one of those sea urc—’

White light.


Blue water that doesn’t move, that doesn’t even know what moving is.

The suit moves.

The black sea urchins cling to the wall ahead and possibly the ceiling above but I can’t know for sure because I don’t have the ’tilt head’ function installed.

If I want to look back, I have to turn my whole body.

That’s weird. What kind of suit is this?

I don’t know, but it is blue and waterproof so it keeps walking and jumping and shooting until I see that Bubble Man uses the same door installation company as Wood Man.

I don’t want to go in.

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want to feel pain.

The suit does.


The energy bars fire up and down and I’m facing a guy in a green suit. He stands still like Teleporting Man, but also like Wood Man. Inside that suit is Cthulhu. Potentially I could die a thousand different ways.

I conceptualise a deity and pray, even though Training Man told me not to.

This is death number two, and it’s going to be weird. Painful too? I don’t know. I vaguely remember someone saying bubbles don’t hurt like other things do, but right now, nothing seems true. What does real actually mean when water doesn’t move and sea urchins stab me in the head?

‘… … … … … … … … … … …’ says Bubble Man.

No. Not this time, fucker. I fire three quick dots and they all hit. They all hurt. I know they hurt because he does the frozen backwards dance.

I keep shooting, in packs of three.

A web and a bubble hit me in the neck and it’s just like being slapped by oil. But…it doesn’t hurt like Wood Man’s did.

It really doesn’t.

‘That all you got, Bubble Bobble?’ I shout, confident, and somehow it travels through the blue all the way to his head. He seems to nod, though he can’t understand it. If I can’t understand his bubble shit, he can’t understand me. That’s how language works, right?

‘… … … … … … … … …,’ he says, floating down into the far corner.

‘I don’t understand you, idiot.’

‘… … … … … … … … … … … …’

‘You’re stalling.’

‘… … … …’ I picture Bible-thick dictionaries and ESL perverts in my head and shoot. I don’t question where those images came from. There’s no need.

I shoot some more.

Bubble Man stops moving and looks me dead in the eye. He conveys nothing. His suit, his body convulses then splits into six or eight pieces—six or eight, it’s too fast to be sure.

I stare.

Dr God Damn Wily, six to eight pieces.

Six to eight pieces.

I feel sick in my throat.

You don’t need to eat, says a voice that may or may not be Training Man. Dr Wily does, but you don’t, and that is why you will win.


I don’t even want to play.

The suit does.

It poses, triumphant.

I expect all of Bubble Man’s workers to rush in and kill me, but they don’t. I hear music that is neither foreboding nor trance. I look at my chest and remember that I don’t actually need to breathe.

White light.

Black square.

‘Good job, killer. Now why don’t we try something a little…harder…a little…hotter perhaps.’

Teleporting Man is already pushing buttons on the machine.

‘He split into pieces,’ I mutter.

‘Pretty spectacular, huh?’

‘Is that what happens to me?’

‘When you die? Yeah, something like that. Okay, next up, Heat Man. Hope you’re not afraid of lava. Or lava-synth.’

‘Wait. He said something—’

‘Who did?’

‘Bubble Man. Wood Man too. They were talking to me. You didn’t say they could do that.’

‘Did you understand them?’



‘But Bubble Man sounded strange…scared maybe…at the end.’

‘Evil doesn’t feel fear, and neither do you. If they speak again, just imagine they’re calling you a dickhead. Okay?’



White light.

Red water.

Ten thousand kelvins and somehow I’m not sweating a drop.

I don’t want to do this anymore, but the suit does so I go forward, shooting more metal that wants me dead, jumping over lava that probably isn’t real lava but is still programmed just enough to kill me. Split me into six or eight pieces like Bubble Man.

Can lava do that?

I blink and the suit has me at the energy bar doors already.

They open.

I go in, my eyes closed.

It’s either a guy with good padding or a guy who throws useless shit. Not much I can do except shoot.

I shoot.

‘… … … … … … … … …’ says what I assume is Heat Man.

‘Shut up.’

‘… … … …’


I shoot more dots, each one bouncing off fire and disappearing from programming range.

‘… … … …’

‘I’m not listening.’

‘… … … … … … … …’


The fire continues, hitting me square on.

It stings.

I don’t feel good.

‘… … … … …’ says Heat Man.

‘Don’t,’ I say, the suit raising my arm to shoot.

He doesn’t listen.

Things get very hot then very, very cold.

White light.

Black square.

‘That went well.’

‘What happened?’

‘All the wrong things.’

‘I died again.’


‘I can’t remember dying.’

‘It’s not something that can be remembered, not really. Can you remember falling asleep last night?’

‘I don’t sleep.’

‘Good point.’

‘I only die.’

‘Well, far as I can tell, you jumped face first into one of his fireballs. I’m guessing you won’t do it a second time.’

‘You’re sending me back to Heat Man?’

‘Yup. Same place. Just before his main chamber.’

‘I don’t want to.’

‘You ready?’

‘I want to take a break.’


‘I said I want to take a break.’

‘A break?’

‘Yes. I want to take a break. Now.’

‘Ridiculous. Mega Men don’t take breaks. Nor do they “want” or “not want” anything. What’s wrong with you? Are you malfunctioning?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Mega Man 1 was never like this.’

‘He wasn’t?’

‘And he died, what, something like seven hundred times.’

‘Seven hundred—’

‘Yeah, seven, eight hundred, maybe even more than that. See, Dr Wily used to be a lot more cautious, made a lot of the villains borderline impossible. That level with the Tina Turner music…man, that was a tough one.’

‘I want a break.’



Teleporting Man stares at my 28-pixel face in its 52-pixel suit. He picks up a pad, the same one he used to ask all those weird questions before.

‘What are you doing?’

‘There’s a hurricane coming to your village. People live in shacks, some of them are going to die. Do you find the robot that made the hurricane or save the people?’

‘You can’t make a hurricane, that’s stupid.’

Teleporting Man looks at the pad then back up again. ‘Do you find the robot that made the hurricane or save the people?’

‘If I do this correctly, can I take a break?’

‘Answer the question.’


‘Do you find the robot that made the hurricane or save the people?’

‘I save the people.’

‘You sure?’


‘One hundred per cent?’


He puts down the pad. ‘Shit.’