Doctor Muto’s myriad lab assistants watched him ascend to the dais, their faces unable to mirror his gleeful expression behind their uniform hazmat masks. He took his place next to a curtain, behind which lay his masterpiece, for he was an artist who painted with a wide brush and little regard for convention, and his medium was science.
“Gentlemen! Today I present to you the greatest scientific breakthrough of all time! Behold!” Doctor Muto pronounced, sweeping the curtain away from a dazzling chrome mechanism. “The time machine!”
Polite applause rippled through the crowd, but it was quickly silenced by one of the many anonymous assistants leaping to the stage. “No! I cannot allow its activation! It will create a future more horrible than you can imagine!”
Dr. Muto was offended and intrigued. “You dare make such claims, sir!”
“I do! For I have traveled here to ensure that your future does not become mine!” replied the assistant, removing his facemask to reveal Doctor Muto himself, perhaps a few years older.
The Doctor stared at this elder version of himself, but before he had a chance to respond, a second lab assistant took the stage, unmasking himself as yet another Doctor Muto, and saying: “No, Doctor! You must activate the machine! If you don’t, none can stop the evil Professor Slagg from using his time machine to enslave the planet!”
Another Doctor Muto revealed himself, saying: “You will learn that Slagg has the world’s best interests in mind! I did!” He struck the previous Doctor over the head, and chaos made its home in the presentation hall. Every lab assistant was eventually unmasked as some strange version of Doctor Muto, and they began fighting vehemently amongst themselves.
The original Doctor made his way to the one place he could foresee safety: the machine itself. As he opened the hatch, out stepped a Doctor Muto looking exactly like himself, who struggled in vain to keep him from entering the device. “You don’t understand!” the new arrival shouted, though Doctor Muto could scarcely hear him, engaging the time drive from within. “You can’t escape that way! The machine’s calculations are off! You’ll just be sent back two minutes!”