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Maverick, known as Irregular (イレギュラー Iregyurā?) in Japan, is a term given to Reploids and Mechaniloids that are a threat to humans and other Reploids, which can be caused by errors, viruses, reprogramming, or even by their own free will upon deciding that humans are inferior and too weak to live (or some variation of this thought). They are usually countered by application of firepower to a certain degree in order to neutralize them. The Maverick Hunters were formed to enact this.
There is no single cause for a Reploid to act as a Maverick, but generally a Maverick will fall into one of several categories.
There were Mavericks before Zero and his virus spreading capsule was uncovered. Though it is unknown, there is much speculation among fans that some of these Mavericks were caused by errors to their system: after all, X had not been fully analyzed, and he was working with an archaeologist, Dr. Cain, as opposed to a robotics specialist. So it makes sense that there might have been some errors to cause them to go insane - errors which can be likened to humans with mental deficits or biological/emotional imbalance reacting to negative stress violently. Prior to X, robots were made to provide humans with ease of living and subordinated to tasks deemed too dangerous or monotonous for humans to perform. By providing sentience, the ability to not just to think and learn, but most importantly to "decide right and wrong for themselves", these first "Maverick incidents" may simply be the Reploid equivalent of extreme dissident violence. Being as they have become, essentially, a new social demographic born into autonomy to replace robots, with no previous ideology, ethical, or moral code indoctrinated into them, other than specialized programming and bodies necessary for their tasks, early Reploids may have been somewhat more susceptible to negative influences than humans. It is implied by Dr. Light that he intended reploids to exist and develop their own society alongside mankind, peacefully. However, since X's discovery and the proliferation of the reploids by Dr. Cain, these incidents intensified artificially after the discovery of Zero and the spread of the virus from Zero's capsule. Mavericks caused by technical flaws and errors in their Suffering Circuits are usually not destroyed, but rendered harmless for future repairs so they can be reintigrated into society. Zero himself in the beginning was a flawed Maverick, being unwilling to obey orders as well as relishing in causing destruction, which was primarily the reason why Dr. Wily sealed him away.
The major cause of Mavericks is a sentient energy lifeform created in form of a computer virus called the Maverick Virus and later retroactively the Sigma Virus. The virus usually causes the infected Reploid's Suffering Circuit to malfunction, which causes the victim to become very violent and irrational (in other words, irregular), though this is not always the case (such as Sigma, who merged with the virus instead). Viral Mavericks lose their inhibitions and their empathy, as they will follow their own desires without any regret, even if they hurt humans and reploids alike in the process. Viral Mavericks infected by Sigma generally succumb to the belief that the human race is limiting the potential of Reploids. Those Mavericks often deliberately try to injure or kill humans. They will also not falter to attack other Reploids that are trying to defend humans. Reploids who are infected by the virus cannot be restored, because their data is corrupted. They had to be killed until the cure of the virus was found. It came finally with the creation of the Mother Elf.
A similar (though not directly related) effect exists in Mega Man ZX and Mega Man ZX Advent, in which Master Albert and former researcher Serpent were corrupted and manipulated by Model W (the former, Master Albert, who was the creator of Model W, denies this), thus going Maverick in the same fashion. The majority of Mavericks in Mega Man ZX are in turn controlled by Serpent, and therefore indirectly by Model W as well.
Properties of the viruses
The Virus created by Wily is a sentient energy-based lifeform he learned to create from studying the sentient alien energies from Mega Man 8 (Evil Energy) and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters (Alien Energy). The first virus he created, the Roboenza Virus, was the predecessor of Sigma Virus, which brought forth the first mavericks. All viruses are capable of infecting Reploids and Mechaniloids without the need of a network (though they can use it to spread themselves throughout the world) and can move freely through the air. There are some robots, though, who are immune to the virus.
X is immune against any kind of virus, because Dr. Light created him with perfect virus countermeasures. He thought X would encounter virus-infected robots in the future. Zero was given the same treatment by Dr. Wily, but those are imperfect as they still allow the Maverick, Sigma, and Zero Virus to infect him. Axl and the New Generation Reploids are immune because of their Copy/Chameleon Chip, which reverts all changes to their DNA Data.
The times the virus was visible and tangible were in Mega Man X2, Mega Man X3, Mega Man X5, and Mega Man X6, where Sigma himself and his agents exist in this form. Sigma can possess a reploid and resurrect himself in its body.
For a time, it was believed that the Maverick Hunter Zero was the sole originator of the virus, and that Dr. Wily had a hand in its creation. However, this is not quite true, as the Rockman Zero Collection Timeline reveals that Zero had a cognitive flaw in his electronical brain and was sealed by Dr. Wily in a capsule, because he was violent and unwilling to obey instructions. The capsule in which Zero was held had been spreading the original virus, which was not only meant to cause Reploids and Mechaniloids to go berserk, but also to remove the cognitive flaw in Zero's brain.
Before the Rockman Zero Collection Timeline was revealed, the Mega Man Zero Official Complete Works spoke of three keys. One of them explained vaguely what the true essence of the Sigma Virus was. It was said that its essence is that of the "Suffering Circuit". The "Suffering Circuit" is Dr. Light's invention which gave X and all the other Reploids the ability to worry and to decide right and wrong for themselves. Dr. Cain copied the Suffering Circuit, but due to some early design flaws in the first mass-produced circuits, it caused some Reploids and Mechaniloids to turn violent and become the first Mavericks. It is not unlikely that Dr. Wily stole the data for the Suffering Circuit from Dr. Light and programmed the new virus with it in order to fix Zero and to make it more effective in causing irregularity in other robots.
In Mega Man X4, a flashback reveals the event where a berserk Zero had slaughtered Gamma's unit and fought Sigma, the leader of the Maverick Hunters, in an abandoned warehouse in the Rocky Mountains. It is the same area where Dr. Light's hidden lab was located. As Sigma and Zero fought, Sigma unknowingly became infected by the virus which was spread from Zero's capsule. Sigma, despite being victorious over Zero, had his pride wounded in this event. Months later, it would change his worldview completely, which the virus further twisted by removing all his empathy. He started to become disgusted with humans and to view humanity as something that holds back the potential of Reploids. It was at this time that Sigma formed his personal philosophy of evolution. The first sentence of this philosophy was, "Evolution requires sacrifice."
Zero's connection to the virus is further elaborated in Mega Man X5, where Sigma claims that the Sigma Virus purifies Zero’s body and alludes to a "father" of Zero who advised Sigma to spread the virus with the hopes of "awakening Zero to his true self," as he had stated.
In Mega Man X8, when Zero meets with Sigma in the final stage, Sigma speaks of Zero's virus having infected him as being the catalyst for the world's destruction, thus verifying that it was indeed through Zero that Sigma was infected (this knowledge was only an assumption in previous games). In the same game, it is revealed by Lumine that New Generation Reploids, who have embraced Sigma's philosophy, can decide to go against the laws of human society and the government. He mocked the term Maverick by saying, "We can go Maverick at will."
There seems to be no single "Maverick Virus", but rather many similar viruses which produce the same basic effect.
The Maverick Virus
The original virus is simply called the Maverick Virus. This form causes the majority of Reploids to go Maverick, especially during the first 4 games. Its effect causes Reploids and Mechaniloids to go berserk and attack Reploids and humans indiscriminately. It was first discovered by a Reploid scientist, Dr. Doppler, who also created the first antivirus programs. It was later retroactivily renamed into the Sigma Virus, because of Sigma becoming the most infamous symbol for Mavericks.
The Sigma Virus
The Sigma Virus is a modified form of Sigma's own DNA Soul and Dr. Wily's virus, created by the fusion between them. It is capable of infecting large numbers of Reploids and Mechaniloids alike, making them irrational and aggressive. Sigma has this virus spread across the Earth in Mega Man X2 by network with the Central Main Computer to cause Maverick outbreaks everywhere, and later in Mega Man X5 to cause chaos and confusion in order to mask his true purpose: the Colony Virus. In the same game, the Sigma Virus is displayed as a floating Sigma head, which, when it touches X or Zero, will infect them. From Mega Man X7 onwards, a new version of the Sigma Virus appeared, labeled as the Sigma Virus Mk.II. It is unknown if it is stronger or weaker comparred to the first version.
The Colony Virus
The Colony Virus was used to cause the failure and subsequent crash of the Space Colony Eurasia, hence its name. Little is actually revealed about this virus, except that when it came into contact with the Sigma Virus, the two merged and became the Zero Virus.
The Zero Virus
This is the virus which Sigma had hoped would "awaken" Zero to his "original purpose". If infected, Zero becomes much stronger and temporarily regains his lost memory, but otherwise retains his personality and memories. This virus form is more powerful than either the Sigma or Colony Viruses, and therefore, yields much more power. It appears after the fusion and will show a purple silhouette of Zero, rather than a head of Sigma.
As a side effect, its appearance caused Cyber Space to materialise in the Real World at point 11F5646 as Zero Space.
The Nightmare Virus
This virus appeared in Mega Man X6. Gate, a researcher, found a piece of Zero after he was destroyed. Using this piece, he reconstructed a virus and dubbed it the "Nightmare". This virus is odd because it actually takes physical form - a head possibly made to resemble a decaying Reploid, and a body made of tentacles resembling DNA strands, hinting at its DNA-based structure. This virus latches onto Reploids and infects them. When destroyed, it will drop a nightmare 'soul' which can be collected, but if it is left unchecked, the virus will regenerate.
There are many other viruses in the Mega Man X storyline, but they all seem to share some commonality: they infect previously deceased Reploids and alter their capabilities significantly, but act more as a brainwashing or mind control tool than a cause of irrational aggression. Examples of these viruses can be seen in Mega Man X6 (called Nightmare), Mega Man Xtreme 2, and Rockman X Megamissions (called Limited).
Some reploids are labeled Mavericks because they have consciously decided, without any infection or flaw in their Suffering Circuits, to go against the will of the humans. These are usually criminals, mercenaries, or rebels who act against the government. Such free-willed Mavericks usually act more rationally than viral Mavericks.
A example of free-will Mavericks would be all of the new generation Reploids which came after Axl's creation. As Lumine reveals in Mega Man X8, they can go Maverick at will, because their copy chip contains Sigma's DNA and thus his way of thinking along with his philosophy of evolution - though technically, all Reploids in existence can potencially become free-willed Mavericks due to their ability to determine right and wrong for themselves, so new-generation Reploids are not the exception. Other examples include Vile, Shadow, and the more extreme example of Colonel Redips, all ex-Maverick Hunters that turned evil to become more powerful - though Vile is questionable, as the reason behind his turn is an unrepairable break in his programming, like it was with the first mavericks, which were caused without any virus.
Another notable example of a free-will Maverick would be Boomer Kuwanger in Maverick Hunter X for the PlayStation Portable. The game manual states that Kuwanger sided with Sigma after looking over the facts rationally.
Not all Mavericks try to harm humans or the government. Because the distinction of who is or is not Maverick is decided by the Maverick Hunters, sometimes a group will be unjustly called Maverick for political reasons or misunderstandings, such as in Mega Man X4.
Most notably, this happened with the Repliforce, a Reploid army which was crushed by the Hunters. After realizing the mistake, the leader and commissioner of the Maverick Hunters resigned out of shame, appointing Signas in his place. The Red Alert is also another example, though they had been manipulated by Sigma.
The "Liberion Rebellion" led by Epsilon in Mega Man X: Command Mission is another prime example, as Epsilon only wanted to create a place where Reploids could live free of world politics, but his plan to induce Reploid evolution through Supra-Force Metal, not to mention some of his Cadre's questionable tactics, was interpreted as Maverick activity by the authorities. However, after learning of Epsilon's true motives as well as the betrayal of the Far East HQ Hunter Commander, Colonel Redips (who, having somehow deduced himself as the destined ruler of all Reploids, is a perfect example of a free-will Maverick himself), the authorities chose to defer the "Maverick" status from Epsilon, although the Hunters had already destroyed him by that time.
Yet another excellent example would be the Resistance in the Mega Man Zero series; these Reploids do not seek to harm humanity in any way (with the notable exception of Elpizo, another classic example of a free-will Maverick), not to mention the fact that this organization is actually led by the human pacifist Ciel, but are designated as Mavericks due to their defiance of the Neo Arcadian regime and its constant "retiring" of Reploids falsely accused of becoming Mavericks.
Mechaniloids are true robots. They follow orders given by both humans and Reploids. In a way, Mechaniloids are to Reploids as work animals are to humans. Each mechaniloid has an AI and the programming to make it obedient. Mechaniloids, like Reploids, can be infected and carry a Maverick virus, usually with the intent of spreading it onto a network (it can be assumed that this is the reason why entire mining sites are taken over by Maverick mining units).
Problems caused by Mavericks
The greatest threat Mavericks present throughout the series are the existential clashes between Reploid and Man, as seen with Sigma and his forces, and the potentiality for mass genocide and eradication of the human race. As Reploids are essentially living machines, made for conditions and ability greater than any normal human being can withstand and perform, Mavericks are able to turn this great power and ability from one of good to one of evil with a single thought.
Socially, Mavericks present a large problem to the governments in the Mega Man X series. They actively fight against the governments and the Maverick Hunters, causing large amounts of collateral damage during their attacks.
Mavericks are usually the most destructive when they group together. This is usually hard for viral Mavericks to accomplish, but numerous times Sigma has been able to use them for his elaborate schemes against the Maverick Hunters.
Respondents to Mavericks
Due to the many problems posed by Mavericks, the Maverick Hunters were formed by Dr. Cain. The Hunters enlist Reploid soldiers to fight the Mavericks and perform rescue operations on their victims. On numerous occasions, this organization has stopped Maverick attacks on human cities, but it has also failed to prevent some large-scale damage, such as the destruction of Doppler Town, the Sky Lagoon, and the space colony Eurasia.
Also combating the Maverick threat are various mercenary groups, most notably the Red Alert Syndicate (who became infected with the Sigma virus themselves) and solo mercenaries like Dynamo. The mercenaries and their organizations tend to be illegal and are also targeted by the Maverick Hunters. Some mercenaries have even been known to work for the Mavericks, making them all the more dangerous to the Hunters.
In the Mega Man Zero series, the government of Neo Arcadia has strict anti-Reploid laws designed to protect the human populace from Mavericks. This results in much oppression of Reploid workers who are often executed for petty crimes or other false pretenses. A so-called "Maverick" group known as the Resistance, led by the human Ciel, forms a safe haven for such Reploids who are otherwise doomed to "retirement." It should be noted that during this time period, the term "Maverick" has been redefined to simply mean anybody who fights against Neo Arcadia.[Citation needed] In fact, the only reploids remaining who have the original definition of "Maverick" placed onto them are Copy X (for antagonizing Ciel, as well as being directly responsible for the missile strike of Area Z-3079 that resulted in the deaths of countless human bystanders, while actually serving as Neo Arcadia's figurehead leader, showing the level of corruption involved with the ruling regime at the time) and Elpizo (for wanting to establish a Reploid-only civilization and eliminate humans [a la Sigma]). Despite him technically being a human being instead of an actual Reploid, Dr. Weil was explicitly compared to a Maverick for his heinous actions and villainous intentions by Zero when confronting him at his lab.
The Guardians were introduced in Mega Man ZX, as an organization which travels around the world protecting the civilians and investigating the cause behind the Maverick outbreaks. While not outright stated, it's revealed through flashbacks that the creator and first commander of the Guardians was Ciel, so it's most likely that the Resistance in the Mega Man Zero series evolved into the Guardians. The current commander of the Guardians is Prairie (who is heavily hinted to be Alouette). Serpent, the main antagonist was a member of the Guardians until he was infected and corrupted by Model W, which caused him to wipe out his unit and run away with the Biometal. Giro stated that he was also a member of the Guardians. In Mega Man ZX Advent, Vent and Aile have become full-time members of the Guardians.
Summary of in-series significance
Mega Man X series
Originally, the term Maverick is used for a Reploid that goes berserk, violent, and insane due to technical flaws with their suffering circuits or because they are damaged through external means. Later reploids are labeled Maverick upon being infected by the Sigma Virus or other type of virus. They were the only enemies that would be in the levels.
Mega Man Zero series
In the Zero series, the term Maverick is used for any Reploid who opposes Neo Arcadia (more specifically, the human population of Neo Arcadia). Ciel created a Resistance to protect innocent Reploids labelled as Mavericks, although the only reploid characters who have the original definition of Maverick applied to them are Elpizo and Copy X, since they tried to harm humans; Elpizo wanted to make a Reploid-only nation and eliminate humans (mirroring Sigma), and Copy X, aside from antagonizing Ciel, was also responsible for ordering the missile strike on the human residential place Area-3079, which resulted in the deaths of several humans.
In Mega Man Zero 4, Dr. Weil takes control of Neo Arcadia after Copy X's death, and similarly to his figurehead predecessor, any who opposes him, human or Reploid, is considered a Maverick. However, for wishing for humans and Reploids to either accept his rule or be destroyed, this makes him a Maverick himself.
Mega Man ZX series
In the Mega Man ZX series, there are still Maverick attacks. Model W's ability to corrupt machines also turns Mechaniloids into Mavericks, making them act outside their program parameters and attack anyone nearby.
Mavericks also play a major part in the creation of Mega Men, as most of the Mega Men are survivors of Maverick Raids, and it's implied that the Mavericks involved deliberately leave survivors in their wake so that they'll become Mega Men and partake in the Game of Destiny. It's unknown exactly how becoming a Maverick Raid Survivor results in becoming a Mega Man, though Serpent's dying words to Aile in Mega Man ZX, Aeolus' Cipher from Mega Man ZX Advent, as well as Prometheus and Pandora's rant after being defeated by Grey/Ashe implies that Master Albert's blood has a substance that has similar properties to Biometals, due to mentioning a mandatory Blood Donation from himself to Maverick Survivors that he created.
Ironically, when Vent/Aile are in the city (Area C) in Mega Man ZX Mega-Merged, the citizens react as if he/she is a Maverick, considering the Biometals are based on the most ardent Maverick hunters. in Vent's story, before Serpent's death, he declares Vent to be a Maverick for blocking his progress, and in both stories' endings, Serpent also decries all of humanity for being "the true Mavericks" as his last words, in reference to their having hatred in their hearts.
Mention in other series
- In Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Zero's introduction quotes when fighting against Sentinel has him referring to Sentinel as a "Maverick".
- In SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, Zero compares Wild Iori with a Maverick.
- In Project X Zone, when Juri is assigned to X and Zero as their Solo Unit, Zero occasionally asks X if they should regard Juri as a Maverick due to her psychotic laughter and love of hurting her opponents.
- In the Mega Man comic book story "The X-Factor", the term Maverick originated as a buzzword to describe irregular Reploid behavior.
- They are referred to as their original name, "Irregulars" in the Mega Man Xtreme 2 English manual.
- The term "Irregular" is also used in the western version of Mega Man X4, in Magma Dragoon's intro screen.
- In the Archie Comics franchise during Worlds Unite, Maverick-aligned characters often have a purple speech bubble with a pink border and text and purple eyes.