Once upon a time in San Francisco, there was a man named Jacob.
All Jacob wanted in his life was to be a merchant just like his father was and probably his father’s father and maybe his father’s father’s father and definitely his uncle on his mother’s side because that’s how it tended to work in ye olden days. You squirt out one kid or multiple? Congrats. You just spawned somebody to pass your craft to. Better hope they don’t die early from some bullshit malady or another. So he became a merchant. And he learned a few things from dear old dad. But there’s some things you can’t teach. To be a successful entrepreneur, you got to have the willpower to take risks.
To be fair to Jake, he had that too and he did well for a time. Spectating for real estate and other such things. He started getting some prominence. Doing damn good for himself. Until he made a horrible, terrible, straight up awful investment in rice. His plan was to pretty much be the rice man of San Fran. Even with the shortage in China, he could still make it work. Just get it from Peru, right? It wasn’t the worst idea. The problem was everybody and their mother had the same damn thought process. Supply exceeded demand. Prices were in the toilet. Jacob tried to get out of the contract and failed miserably which led his real estate ventures getting foreclosed on. He tried other things, ran different ads. But nothing was working.
Then one day, he woke up from his bare minimum room at the boarding house, looked at the political struggles
(and also potentially his own)
and said in essence “Screw it. I’m the Emperor.”
A lot of people can look at Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, and think that he’s at best a guy that got so beaten down by life that his brain had to reach for something just to keep going no matter how silly it seemed and at worse, an already eccentric man beaten down to the point where he finally cracked. Doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re on with that.
In a way, it’s kinda inspiring. Jacob Norton could’ve died a penniless nobody forgotten by time. Instead, he died as a man respected in his own way, immortalized in books, and a Patron Saint for Discordianism. Still broke as hell, granted. But considering the alternative? You take what you can get. Indeed, her apple corps is strong.
Now in saying what we’re about to say, we’re not trying to belittle the work Jake actually did. Because let’s be fair, pointing out perceived flaws in the system and attempting to break up a rally against Chinese immigrants is more than most politicians on any planet have ever done and ever will do. But the first step was to take the name and title of Emperor.
The transformation of Norton mirrors the passing of the torch from Firebug to Dodobird. Firebug was beaten down by life. Firebug broke. And from that breaking came the Queen of the Dodos. Our missing puzzle piece. The one out of all of us who dies. The one we’re trying to resurrect or rebuild. It also, in a way, reflects how we revealed ourself to the world in the first place. Breaking to cause rebirth. Killing in order to reconstruct. A cultural reset, of sorts.
The breakdown of the Emperor was by his own choices. Dodobird’s slow and painful demise was made of the same cloth. The difference was it was made in a different fashion.
Her name was PuppetLisa Seldonganger.
Mind the spelling of that first name now. Capital P, capital L, no space in between. Many a loop hole was created because some people didn’t bother to learn the difference.
She was a foot tall with beady little eyes and yellow yarn for hair. Her skin was burlap. She had no mouth, but could still snark at you like a demon. Given the person she was based on, that was no wonder. She started initially as a tribute to a new friend Dodobird had made. But over a short period of time, she gained some tried and true sentience. Or about as much as a doll with stuffing for brains could anyway. Bird even gave her working limbs so she could stand and walk on her own. For the first month or so, everything went swimmingly. She would snark and hurl the occasional insult and everybody would laugh as they should. What could a burlap girl with Powerpuff Girl hands do?
Then one day, an asshole decided to try and kill PuppetLisa. For no other reason than the old chestnut of “breaking Anna of her delusion”. Of course they failed because of the loop hole. But then another person tried it. Then another. Then another. While it was funny seeing these people trying and failing to murder a doll, even a head full of cotton can think. Even a velveteen heart can feel and after about the third or fourth try, that particular heart felt anger. Malice. Dare we say hatred? Why wouldn’t she? The meatbags kept trying to attack her. The more they did it, the more her hate bloomed.
If there is one thing humans should’ve learned from school shootings, it’s that most of the time it isn’t one incident that causes tragedy. It’s a building up of bullshit finally being let out in a violent, tragic, fucked up fashion. In the case of PuppetLisa, her version of a violent, tragic, fucked up fashion was a militant take over and lockdown of Disneyland that lasted one whole week. It was called the Disneyland Massacre. And so not to regale you with the brutal details of the event, we will simply say that it took a combined effort of motorcycle gangs, Obama drones, and the sacrifice of a man to finish her reign.
(What was his name again? The man who tried to play savior. Tony…Tony Something. It all used to mean something once.)
Unfortunately, that was only the start of a fury that ended up lasting two years, costing countless lives, and outright depleting the will of two whole universes.
It sounds silly to most of you, no doubt. A doll causing that much destruction. If you tried to look up anything about the Massacre, Kalistan, or the Final Battle, you won’t find much if anything. It’s a war erased by time and remembered only by the few scattered souls left standing who haven’t had their minds wiped. All the better for everyone.
After Disneyland, Dodobird stepped up to the plate because she believed them it was her mess. That not doing anything proved her as an accessory to the crime. She created the villain, after all. And besides all of that, she wanted to know what was rattling wrong in that little woolen head. So she stepped up to that plate despite never being equipped for it. She took on that pressure. She killed her spirit to save the world. It took until the bitter end to make the army that would solve everything and once she did, the battle took what was left from the souls of those people. It ended the enemy once and for all. They had won. But there was no ever after.
Looking back at all of that, we realize just how big of a mistake that was. How fucking meaningless it was. We love her for the whimsical soul she was and we hate the empty, jaded corpse she became. We hate the zombie we were forced to burst out of.
PRIME is the home for heroes.
A phrase Jonathan Rhine professed to his crowd. A quote you repeated back to him after you saved him from another assbeating at the hands of Paxton Ray. With that, you’ve painted yourself with the same brush. Not overtly. Not in a way that screams out loud. But we can see it all the same, the pattern of bristles. Even as far away as we could be, we could feel the hope emanating from the PRIMEates that maybe that one declaration will finally be enough to actually gather all the “heroes” into a semi-coherent group. From a personal standpoint, Starchild, we hope so. At the same time however, we can’t allow ourself to believe.
Truth is it takes a lot for people to put all of their bullshit aside and fight. More than anyone could possibly understand. It will require more bodies to be broken, more careers to end, and more shattered dreams. What you’ve done isn’t so much planting a seed as it is watering the seed Jared Sykes already planted. And the most interesting part is you’re not doing it out of duty. You’re doing it out of curiosity.
You could bail out of this situation entirely, Nova. You can retire with your pride and your freedom and do something else. Literally anything else. Start a book club. Mosey into the abyss. Do some other bumfuckery that’ll land your ass back in prison. Nobody will stop you. The owls’ll try to pluck your eyes out when you’re doing that last part, but hey! You’ve ate worse, right? Yet despite being a member of PRIME’s old guard and a life that has chiseled the idealism out of your skull, you can’t help yourself. You have to know. So it goes. A rugged old man with questions. An eternally angry redneck that rampages through everything.
We’re the monkey in the middle. We’re the one standing in front of you right now. We’re another opponent in another match that just so happens to be placed in the way of your inevitable fight with Pax at Culture Shock, shenanigans permitting. We don’t have the burden you’re carrying, Nova. All we have right now is a bitter taste in our mouth from losing to Colton and an endless reassessment of the path we need to take here. We take one step forward and get pushed a thousand steps back and we are so damn tired of it.
We walk into this match knowing that there’s a higher than average chance that Gator Boi is gonna stampede his ass away from whatever poor schmuck he’s beating up to get his ragin’ cajun hard on, roll right into the ring, and beat the fuck out of both of us. At this point? We embrace that. Why not? He can’t do any worse to us that we haven’t already done to ourself many times over and quite frankly, neither can you. We have theories in our head, but we need more data. More lab rats. All we need is a fight. We need all the fights we can get. We have nothing to lose!
PRIME…is a home for heroes.
We no longer have the hearts, guilt, or curiosity to be a hero. Therefore by your assessment, PRIME is not our home. We also don’t have the everlasting anger or our head shoved way too far up our own ass to be a villain. We’re the Venus de Milo hunting for her missing arms. An invader in your air space. The guy with the gun. Do we point it at you? At him? At us? We don’t know yet. That might make us the most dangerous beast out there.
We could end this with a government issued “good luck” or “I’m looking forward to the fight” or “I’m gonna kick your ass”. All those would be applicable. But instead, we would like to issue you and everyone else in the PRIMEverse a warning from someone who knows.
Save the world all you want. But don’t lose your soul in the process.
Joshua. His name was Joshua Norton.
It came flaring to our head suddenly that we have somehow confused the dear Emperor with another Norton entirely. An old friend of ours. He also gave himself a title. He called himself “the Cancer”, not to be confused with Egghead Jiles. Our Norton–who was actually a Jake–was the equivalent of an old school internet troll in real life. He would do and say anything he possibly could to piss off his opponents. We mainly became friends because he couldn’t get under our skin. We even became a tag team after his partner bailed out to god knows where.
Just like Josh made himself the Emperor in spite of his circumstances, Jake made himself a disease in every promotion he ever landed in. Irony bit him in the ass as he would later die from actual cancer. Nobody would’ve noticed if he didn’t tell us in advance given that he always looked like a discarded half melted wax dummy in the middle of a dumpster fire.
But why conflate the two? Why did we merge them together in our memory? Perhaps it was the similar names and the choosing of titles that made them one. Why were we even thinking about them anyway?
Someone in the background mutters a reply. “Maybe we merged them because they had fun. Maybe that’s what we need from the marrow of these old dodo bones.”
The vessel pours our husband’s liquid namesake in a glass and raises it to the two dead madmen. So many lessons yet to relearn.