"How does this maddening ability spread to the rest of your species?" Admiral Regel asked.

The Guthry duplicates all frowned simultaneously.

"It doesn't." The older Guthry said after a pause. "It is inherited by Limply's dozens of offspring, and their children interbreed with normal humans as well, but after that our powers create an insurmountable rift between the awakened and the normal humans."

"Six generations from now the human race as it exists will be gone. Their species is consumed by a foolish war against the awakened." The original Guthry shook his head sadly. "It happens in every potential instance where my plan succeeds. They just cannot abide our powers."

"Why should I help you, Linus Guthry?" Admiral Regel flushed with anger. "You are the most hunted fugitive in the galaxy. What reason do I have for not sending a message to the other ships in the fleet with instructions to blow Party Up to pieces?"

"That's the easiest of all." The original Guthry answered without hesitation. "Remember that massive battle fleet that assaulted your planet and catapulted you to the position of galactic super power? That was me."

"That was us." The older Guthry added. "And we let you win."

***************

Raylene heaved herself to her unsteady feet using a chest of drawers as a crutch. Pain shot through her sides as she took a ragged breath. She fought to not double over and clutch at her broken ribs. She weakly picked up the silver scimitar and looked up at the towering form of Maximillian. A faint green filament of energy coiled and twisted around his gauntlet like an expelled pin worm. He was three meters tall and his black armored environment suit was coated so completely in blood that he was glistening. His helmet had been discarded and she could see his hideous gray face, slightly amorphous like molded gelatin with thin ridges of bone suggesting eye sockets and a nose.

Eliza and Tara both were shouting something, but Raylene was stunned from being thrown across the room and could not understand what it was. Maximillian gestured and the white-skinned aliens shoved his hostages roughly into the hallway. Raylene attempted a profane gesture and then realized that she was doing it with her missing arm. She drew a deep breath, winced at the shooting pain, and brought herself fully upright. She saluted the Imperatrixian with the assassin's scimitar and then moved unsteadily towards him.

His plasma flail curled in a glowing arc through the air at impossible speed. Raylene was cotton-headed and badly injured but she had also spent a century training and killing. The hulking brute's weapon might have been fast, but he telegraphed each attack with it so obviously Raylene might have laughed in different circumstances. As it was she barely rolled out of the way. She brought herself up a few feet closer to the alien, tears of involuntary pain stinging her eyes. Maximillian's backswing threatened to take off her lower legs, but with great effort Raylene leapt over it.

The flail hissed and sliced a standing lamp in half with a puff of evaporating metal. Raylene stepped inside Maximillian's reach and spun low. She drove the scimitar into his side with all of the strength she had left. The blade rung against Maximillian's armored flank. It sparked and vibrated hard enough to hurt Raylene's teeth. Maximillian laughed and coiled the whip up and over his body. The air crackled with energy. The angry emerald line of light curved up and then down like a fishing line being cast at high speed.

Heat and pain and the stink of burning skin filled Raylene's senses. Flame licked at the edges of her armor as her remaining arm was severed. The whip cauterized the wound and dropped her steaming limb onto the floor. Raylene fell to her knees and retched blood-flecked vomit onto Maximillian's metal-shod foot.

"Fuck you." Raylene spit out.

Maximillian yanked her into the air by her red hair. She hung limp in his grip, glaring at him with rage. Maxmillian raised the gauntlet containing his flail and amused himself by moving the weapon hypnotically before her face. It curved into a shape not unlike a cobra and swayed back and forth.

Raylene looked past Maximillian, her vision blurry with shock, and gazed into the hazy sky visible through the nearly destroyed wall. She mouthed a prayer to Enoch.

"First I am going to take out your eyes." Maximillian brought the needle-point of the flail close enough to singe Raylene's eyelashes. "Perhaps I will eat them, though your filthy human flesh might pollute me."

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