"It's terribly confusing, I'm sure." Guthry spoke in his eerie soft voice and patted Regel's armored pauldron condescendingly.

"Should I assume no explanation will be forthcoming from you?" Regel asked with ill-concealed irritation.

"Oh no," Guthry beamed, "I would be all too happy to explain. In fact, I'm somewhat proud of all this. It's the culmination of my life's work."

"Do tell." Regel sulked.

One of the Linus Guthry duplicates began to explain as the original fiddled with his deactivated psycho dampener.

"Crutch Limply is nothing less than the progenitor of the entire human race, and he has been created following my exact recipe."

"I am human, despite your claims to the contrary, but I am an awakened human." One of the others continued. "My birth takes place roughly 5,300 years from now but for humans of my epoch time does not exist as a simplistic linear rut."

The original Guthry pried the psych dampener from his neck and tossed it onto the floor of the elevator.

"The universe is a big place." The original Guthry reclaimed the narrative. "It is an infinite place, in fact. Part of that infinite expanse is in the lateral flow of time. It diverges constantly, creating billions of looping timelines spawned from potential outcomes to the most mundane events. Each second - each fragment of a second - contains limitless potential. Any given instant is the proverbial hurricane triggered by the wings of a butterfly."

"This is idiotic." Regel waved dismissively.

"Perhaps," Guthry conceded. "But it is a carefully planned idiocy. The awakened such as Crutch Limply exist as a linked consciousness of iterations throughout all of time and space. This link allows us to move and shift throughout overlapping realities at will. Each one of the versions of Crutch Limply or Linus Guthry you have seen is as real as I am. A simple trick of confluence, a gathering of one person."

There was a snap and a white-haired Guthry appeared in the elevator. The newcomer picked up the conversation without pausing.

"I exist in this fashion, as does the awakened human race, through my own efforts."

The older Guthry tapped a cigarette out of a package and lit it. The other Guthry duplicates wrinkled their nose in distaste.

"It began by first identifying a race with at least some percentage of powerful psychics and a willingness to use them for invasive scans." The older Guthry puffed a cloud of bluish smoke into the cramped car of the elevator. "The Imperatrixians served that purpose quite well. Your espers are the match to light the fuse of mankind's evolutionary cannon."

"The Trade Federation espers." Admiral Regel's secondary stomach was flip-flopping beneath his jelly-like skin.

The older Guthry turned away to talk with the others. The original returned to the conversation.

"That is correct. The powder in the cannon was provided by my unwitting Numinian cohorts. I'm sad to say that their species ceased to exist completely at the moment my species began. Their lurking presence - and I have never been entirely sure which of the pair it was - inside Limply's brain was carefully orchestrated to coincide with the arrival of your bounty hunter. He brought Limply to your espers exactly as I had hoped."

"Why that wretch?" Regel asked. "He seems quite crazy."

"The appalling information stored in his brain, the millions of seconds of pornography, created an immense psychic landmine for your espers. What was honey to the bear of the perverted Numinians was a destructive catharsis for your espers. Their psychic power, the Numinian's incorporeal essence, and Crutch Limply blended like ingredients in a soup pot."

"That's why I called it a 'recipe' earlier." One of the others chimed in.

"Limply is also exceedingly strong-willed. He seems mad, and in fact he is temporarily mad, but this whole experience kills most of the other candidates."

"Kills?" Regel questioned.

"Kills." The original replied. "This plan unfolds in various other potential timelines, with mixed results. In most the candidate simply dies and your species subjugates the earth. In a few the candidate succeeds but is an absolute shit and doesn't turn out the way I need them to."

"This is the good one." The old Guthry interjected and stomped out his cigarette.

"So if ya'll can just teleport wherever or whatever, why didn't you just jump straight to the bridge and take care of Limply yersself?" The copilot of the drop ship asked in his drawling voice.

"Ho ho," Guthry laughed. "You will understand why when we get to the bridge."

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