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Diabolus Ex Machina

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Henry had been one of the first to leave, apparently over creative differences. Others followed, including Sammy and Susie, who had departed after the latter lost the role of Alice Angel. Wally, surprisingly, was one of the last to go, given how much he'd complained.

They were the lucky ones, and not just because most of them found greater success or were otherwise greatly fortunate after leaving. They were lucky because they got out in time, before Joey really went over the edge. And none of them were crazy or stupid enough to go back.

Those who stayed behind, on the other hand...

(BATIM)

"YOU ARE TROUBLED, MR. DREW?"

"They're abandoning me!" Joey snarled, pounding the wall. "I thought they were more loyal than this! Don't they understand what I've been telling them about belief?"

"AS I RECALL, GRANT COHEN SUGGESTED THAT SILLYVISION WAS NOT MAKING ENOUGH MONEY TO STAY IN BUSINESS. IT SEEMS THEY ARE UNWILLING TO 'GO DOWN WITH THE SHIP,' SO TO SPEAK."

The studio director clutched his head, breathing heavily in anger. "I've already lost nearly a quarter of my staff, and there's no way I can replace enough of them to keep the studio afloat. Something needs to be done, and quickly."

"GIVEN THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THE STUDIO WILL SOON CLOSE DOWN, PERHAPS IT IS BEST TO FIND ANOTHER WAY TO ENSURE THEY REMAIN." There was a pause. "DO YOU RECALL WHAT I SAID ABOUT FULFILLING MY PURPOSE?"

"You said creating them from scratch wasn't physically possible--that you would have to use a 'base' of some kind," Joey said. "Are you suggesting I use my employees to...to bring Bendy and his friends into reality?"

"NOT ONLY WOULD IT BE DIFFICULT TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE SOURCE OF POTENTIAL BASES, BUT IT WOULD PREVENT THEM FROM LEAVING THE STUDIO. THEREFORE, USING MEMBERS OF YOUR WORKFORCE TO CREATE LIVING VERSIONS OF YOUR CHARACTERS APPEARS TO BE THE OPTIMAL SOLUTION."

Joey was silent for a moment, mulling over the logic of the idea. Part of him objected to using people who had done nothing wrong as sacrifices to achieving his goals. Then he remembered the all the departures--Henry, Sammy, Susie, Norman, Thomas, Shawn, Grant, and even Wally, among others. Hell, Allison was on the verge of quitting too.

Desperate times, desperate measures.

"Alright, DEM-I," he finally said. "Let's give it a try."

(BATIM)

"No, no, please..."

Joey tuned out the pleas for mercy as he worked the controls. True, he did feel a little guilty--Gregor was one of the best sax players he'd ever heard, but you couldn't make dreams without giving a few things up.

"BEGINNING SCAN," DEM-I announced. "SUBJECT: GREGOR TREADWAY. OCCUPATION: SAXOPHONE PLAYER. ACCESSING FILE."

There was a slight creaking noise before the machine came to life, pouring ink over Gregor's body and leaving him completely drenched. It seeped into his pores, slowly turning him from flesh and blood to ink.

"STRONGEST CHARACTER MATCH: BARLEY."

Gregor cried out in agony as the ink began to remake his body. Slowly, he shrank a foot or two, the outline going from that of an average human man to the shape of Barley, the strongman of the Butcher Gang. At the same time, his voice deepened somewhat, until he sounded almost exactly like the sailor Toon.

Watching in terror from outside, Allison clutched her heart, mind whirling. To think that Joey was doing such horrible things to the people who worked for him!

"You were right, Susie," she whispered, remembering her mentor's warning. "He really is no good."

In that moment, she knew there was only one thing to do.

She ran to the recording booth, grabbed her coat and bag, and scrawled a quick note on the back of a music sheet. Then she headed out the door, mentally making a note to call Susie the first chance she got.