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This Arc can fit so Many Assholes in it

This Arc Can Fit so Many Assholes in it

Malachi Desault liked things done in very specific ways. It was a control thing, really, and he was well aware of it. His need for control in itself needed to be satisfied in very specific ways. Never entirely given into; only indulged in times it benefited him.

Any psychiatrist would have diagnosed him as highly neurotic, but he liked to think of himself as organized. In every job interview he’d ever had, when the inevitable question of what he thought were his strong points came up, ‘organized’ was the first word on the bullet-pointed document he had printed in bulk. His answer for what his weaknesses were—for the record—was that he was diligent to a fault.

Of course, his days of job interviews were long over, another time, another life even. Nowadays he had peons to interview other people for him. Although of course he always had the final say. It could have been considerably less work, he imagined, to provide his employees with less much-needed oversight. Malachi ruled this city, he could have just sat back and relaxed.

But that really wasn’t his style. When he had first come to Discord, it had been a hive of excess, debauchery, and utter chaos. Yet beneath all that dirt, he’d had a vision for this city. It could be shining, pristine, every building a beautiful white box, every citizen a beacon of class.

After years of work, Discord… well, Discord hadn’t changed all that much. The Distillery District was a problem he hadn’t managed to sort out quite yet. That area was a stronghold for the daemons who were still loyal to the old, hedonistic ways of his predecessor. But Sixth Avenue… it wasn’t the pure ideal of what he saw in his mind. However, in the short time that he’d had, it was a stunning success.

He could gaze down upon it from his unassuming office window on the edge of the Tea Party. Its stately buildings rose to meet the chaos of the lower city, stalwart in their newly discovered ideals. They were a vision of the future, his future.

But of course, that would all come in good time. It wasn’t as if he had any sort of time limit anymore, being a daemon and all. The best path forward would be to follow the corporate creed, just as he’d been taught back in the day. Make changes so slowly, so imperceptibly, that the plebeians don’t notice until it’s too late to do anything about it.

At the pace he’d been going, it would take a very long time for his vision to be realized. Yet if there was one thing that Malachi had in spades, it was patience. That was, incidentally, the second bullet-point on his list of strengths. The only potential obstacle was the old guard in the Distillery District, who numbered far more numerous than he would have liked, and the hypothetical return of the city’s first ruler. But he was prepared to deal with both of those problems, preferably in one neat little plot, if he could manage it.

Were that scenario to occur, it would be the ultimate test of his ordered mind. He would have to let things get worse in order for them to get better. It would be difficult, but it would be worth it. It would solidify his position against the rising forces of chaos. Even if he didn’t think it would ever occur, he secretly was hoping that it would.

At the very least, this office acted as a final bulwark, a stronghold, a safe haven. It was the one place where his creed had broken down, where he had indulged in his need for order. The walls were white, only ordained with a few small, framed paintings of German Sheppards—the ideal in canine aptitude. Not that he would ever own a dog. Too much hair.

His desk was a smooth, neatly-finished pine. All of his paperwork was organized in stately stacks, if it couldn’t be relegated to one of several file cabinets against the far wall, which was sorted by a system that exclusively made sense only to Malachi. The only sort of baubles or personal effects that adorned the desk were his paper-weights; simple white geometric shapes that Malachi found pleasing.

A single, plastic fern sat in a ceramic pot over by the doorway, and Malachi would sometimes stare at it as he ruminated from his leather office chair. Every surface was polished and dust-free, exactly to his specifications. Everything in this office was perfect.

He sat down in the office chair, and noticed a small crack had formed in the arm. He’d have to get it replaced. But besides that, everything was going well. Perfectly well.

And then the clock tower rang.

The clock tower, that eyesore on his skyline, hadn’t rang in fifty years. It could only mean one thing. The heathen was back, in whatever form that may be.

And just when everything had been going so well…

~~ o ~~

Mike had not expected this to be the start of his Tuesday morning. It was so out of left field that even he couldn’t have predicted it. He was superhuman, not omnipotent, after all.

The culprit of both his condition and his Tuesday was currently sitting on a wooden crate, her fans straining against the raw processing power she was no doubt devouring. Mike wasn’t a computer expert by any means. But he knew enough to wonder why on earth Abigail had chosen that particular brand to shove her consciousness into. There were far better options. Like… any other option. Though he supposed that she’d probably been too pressed for time to really think about it.

“Ooo, isn’t this all so exciting?” her voice chirped through shitty speakers. “I’m finding it hard to believe that we even made it at all!”

He could believe it, once she had explained it to him. Between her slightly spaghettied code and his ability to see every individual molecule in the universe, opening a door and charting a course to their current location had been easy.

“What is this place, again?” he asked, more out of habit than any actual interest. If this was a different reality like she said, it didn’t feel all that different to him. Sure, the sky might be green and purple instead of blue, but the protons and neutrons were exactly the same.

“Discord, Nihil! The city of daemons. Oh, do you think daemons bleed?” On the screen, a very pixelated image of her bounced around with wild enthusiasm. She was still a little hard to make out, and she hadn’t quite gotten the hang of eyes yet, her glasses instead rendering as simple, white circles. Yet it was a vast improvement from just a few days ago, when she’d managed little more than a voice and a DOS prompt. Electronics might have not originally been her strong suit, but Abigail was a genius, after all. She learned fast. Maybe she’d had some help from Victor as well, before he’d finally gone off the deep end.

Mike kinda wished he was still around. Then maybe the task of babysitting Abigail might not have fallen on him.

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” he sighed, not even bothering to look in her direction.

“They are in mortal bodies, I suppose,” Abigail pontificated. “But I can’t imagine that their possession doesn’t alter the physiology of their hosts somewhat. Do you think it’s black? Or blue maybe? Ohh, I so wish that I could find out firsthand.”

Even if electronics weren’t her field, cryptobiology certainly was. And she was having a field day.

“Why did we actually come here?” Mike interrupted, having no patience for her usual antics. “I can’t imagine it’s just to get your hands of a daemon of all things.”

“You’re no fun,” she pouted, her face growing larger on the screen to make absolutely sure he could see her grumpy expression. “Truth be told, meeting that Kei woman did peak my interest, but if you must know, we are, disappointingly, not here to do much of anything.”

“Then why go through all the effort to get here?” Mike gestured vaguely around the abandoned warehouse they were currently occupying.

“Because we’re here to observe,” she explained. “That little pest in my brain, you remember, the one that almost killed me. Well, it inadvertently… showed me some things. Something very important is about to happen in this city. Something that I may have… helped get the ball rolling on a little. And you know I just can’t leave an experiment unfinished.”

He just shook his head, and sat down on an old, wooden chair. He didn’t have the energy to question her any further. Mike was tired of focusing hard enough to keep the world from dissolving before his eyes. Though, at the very least, he didn’t have to pretend to be Mike Miller on top of all that when he was with Abigail. She knew what he was.

“You didn’t have to come along if you’re going to be so grumpy about it,” she huffed.

Slowly, he glanced up at her. “Abigail, you wouldn’t have been able to get here at all without me. You literally can’t move.”

“Oh, that’s right, I’d almost forgotten. It’s such a shame, really, that this was my only option at the end. I needed the Truth to show me how to make you, so it was absolutely necessary for the cause, but I had no idea it would be such a pain to get rid of afterwards.”

“I still just can’t believe you used Doug to do it. It isn’t like you to give one of your precious subjects a break.”

The fans picked up speed again as she thought. “I imagine I must have been feeling sentimental.”

“You ‘imagine’?” Mike narrowed his eyes in confusion, something he didn’t feel much anymore, so it was somewhat of a novelty.

She nodded vigorously. “I can’t remember a thing about the few minutes leading up to my death. I don’t even know if I’m the original ‘Abigail Hodge’. For all I know, I’m just an exact copy and the real ‘Abigail Hodge’ really is dead. I have all my other memories, but there’s no way to truly know for sure.”

“So maybe Doug really did get what he wanted,” Mike smirked to himself, just a smidge.

“I’m still here, so he certainly did not,” she countered. “But Doug isn’t going to be worried about me for much longer.”

“What makes you say that?”

As if in answer to his question, from far away at the top of the hill, the bells of the clock tower, which up until this point had been silent, began to ring. Mike frowned. He hadn’t even noticed its gears moving before now.

“Oh, is it starting already?” Abigail giggled. “I hope you brought popcorn, Nihil. Cuz the show is about to begin…”

~~ o ~~

He stuck to the alleyways when he could, it was better for everyone in the city that way. Some people would recognize him from the old days, and then he’d have to kill them.

That was a joke, of course. He didn’t kill people in the middle of a crowd. It destroyed the entire mystique of the whole thing. And in the end, hiding his presence entirely was a lost cause in Discord. But if he could keep it as rumors instead of an active manhunt, that would be much preferred. He wasn’t officially banished from the city by any means, but he didn’t think the powers that be would appreciate him that much. He left too many bodies lying around on their pristine streets.

Not that the upstart Tea Party’s tentative authority really reached down here to the bottom of the hill. The Discord he remembered wasn’t quite gone yet, but give it another fifty, or a hundred years, and it might be. This was only a temporary state of affairs, at least he’d been assured of as much, but time was such a mutable concept out here that who knew how long ‘temporary’ might end up being. He hoped that it wouldn’t be so long that the damage was irreparable.

That’s why he came back every so often, to keep an eye on things for him.

‘Course, he never saw all that much, sticking to the increasingly small area where he wouldn’t be found as he did. That was for the best though, as he wasn’t just here for business.

Daemons were his preferred victims. It was like fucking with a rubber. Not quite as satisfying as raw-dogging it, but satisfying enough. If a daemon’s body became uninhabitable, they’d just go off to find another one. Maybe a little traumatized, but alive. Plus you could torture them for far longer before they croaked.

It didn’t satiate his urgings—the ones that nowadays very much belonged to him—as much as it did to see the light really, truly leave their eyes, but it was good enough. It kept them quiet enough.

He could usually tell who was a daemon and who was not, it was some sort of disconnect between the body and how it moved. Some irregularity, incongruity. Usually too subtle to spot unless you were looking for it. Luckily, he’s guessed right again. Nobody human would survive him digging around in their guts for this long. The daemon under his boot moaned.

“Cheers for sticking around this long, mate,” he rasped. “Gonna have some trouble finding a new meat suit, eh? Not a lot of debtors hanging around, huh?”

The daemon obviously didn’t respond, as his throat was too filled with blood to do much more than gurgle pathetically. It might also have been due to the insane amount of pain he must have been experiencing from getting his intestines literally tied into knots.

For the grand finale, he decided to rip the daemon’s heart out, grunting as he slowly cracked the ribs apart to get at it, then crushing it in his hand with a disgusting splurt sound that sprayed viscera onto his face. He licked it off, chuckling.

The daemon was gone now, forcefully ejected from a body that could no longer function, and he was left with the assorted remains. He didn’t plan on sticking around for long, and made to shake the blood and meat off his coat sleeve when something made him pause.

It was very faint all the way down here, but he had good ears. It was the edge of an echo, but one that he knew all too well. A ringing bell. Not just any bell, a bell that he hadn’t heard in a very long time.

He grinned, and sniffed the air. He couldn’t believe it. After all this time, this was what he’d been waiting for. He could smell the change in the air.

Laughing Jack had returned to Discord just in time to see his old pal meet him there.

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