AKA: Emperor Lars XVIII
As seen in: Gradius II (MSX)
Also in: Gradius ReBirth (Wii)
Distinguishing feature: So undistinguishable that people think his ships fly themselves
Strengths: Trucker-like stamina to remain alert during long interplanetary round trips.
Weaknesses: Post-traumatic anxiety resulting in a chronic fear of Moai.

Profile by Nicola Nomali | January 22, 2011

Society on Planet Gradius never came closer to complete destruction than during the Bacterian Wars, and every citizen knows the name of its savior: Vic Viper, the single fighter craft that destroyed countless Bacterian battleships and mammoth space fortresses from the inside out. Indeed, so much has been made of the Vic itself that most people seem to think the cockpit was just for show. But just as Bacterian's mechanical drones moved and attacked with a limited set of predictable patterns, the Vic would never have been able to maneuver through waves of enemy fire, nor squeeze between the shifting walls and slamming gates of the flagship Zelos, nor shoot the core with such reliable accuracy, had it not been guided by human hands. Hands belonging to the most important, if unsung, hero in Gradian history: Mr. James Burton.

Burton might be considered a child of destiny; he was born to the Leek, a race who derived potent psychic powers from the magnetic ions in their bodies yet were spurned as somehow "primitive." When the Bacterian Empire first descended upon Gradius, the radiation generated by the conflict wiped out most of this frail people, including Burton's parents. At three years old, he was taken into the custody of the Space Science Agency so his powers could be studied; indeed, he played a role in the creation of the Vic Viper, with its unique "Leek Power Engine." At twelve, with tensions mounting between the Gradian Empire and the remnants of the Leek, he was transferred to the Ministry of Defense.

By the time the Bacterians returned, Burton was still just a lad of seventeen, but the Space Force had no choice but to acknowledge his talent as a pilot and entrust him with the Vic Viper as the planet's last hope. By taking the fight to deep space, he won the war without a single casualty; he was awarded the rank of Special Captain, and perhaps even satisfied his desire to avenge his parents. But destiny wasn't finished with him.

Six years later, in 6664, a scientist named Dr. Venom attempted a coup d'etat of Gradius (which, incredibly, no one saw coming); in return, Emperor Lars XVII had him stranded on the remote planet of Sard. Then, in the exceedingly ominous year of 6666, communications with Gradian bases on seven different planets suddenly ceased, and Venom resurfaced under the auspices of the Bacterian Empire. Replacing the Vic Viper with the Metalion, named for Gradius's sun, Captain Burton gave geocentrists everywhere a treat by visiting each world in the solar system and wiping out the invaders. When Venom himself closed in on Gradius, Burton punched in for a double shift, turned right around, and fought his way back from the far end of the system. By this time, his bosses were running out of titles to bestow upon him, and since the previous head of state had died, they just went and appointed him Emperor Lars XVIII.

In 6709, Lars orchestrated the liberation of Planet Latis and its adjacent worlds from the Bacterian entities Salamander and Zelos Force. As he was now nearly septuagenerian, he put to work a new generation of pilots: Iggy Rock in the Saber Tiger and Zowie Scott in the Thrasher. Although, perhaps knowing how much the public still adored the Vic Viper (and how preposterous these upstart kids' names were), the story he disseminated was significantly different: That the Vic was back, baby, and had teamed up with a handsome prince from Latis named Lord British. Who flew a space plane called... Lord British.

Old James's mind might have been going at this point.

Lars XVIII died at seventy-seven, the last pure Leek, having led a full life of noble service and demonstrable worth. Not even the Bacterians could find joy in his passing; in 6809, bitter over the fact that they could never touch him while he was surrounded with Options and firing Ripple Lasers in their faces, they went back in time to 6644 to kidnap him when he was a defenseless child. Fortunately, he had a descendant to look out for him -- David Burton, flying the Vixen, who rescued his ancestor and successfully prevented the space-slime from subverting history in their favor.

It was their own fault for not being up on history, really; the campaign to nab James was temporally identical to the conflict that led to his parents being killed and his being inducted into the Imperial Order of Core-Shooting in the first place. Hence, the following was Burton's lastóand somehow, firstócontribution to the Gradius Military College: "Always know a causal loop when you see one."

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