Dominic threw himself at the King, but before he could reach him another form burst from between the guards and smashed headlong into the king, knocking him sideways and sending the sword skittering to the floor. Dominic grabbed for it, mentally whispering a prayer of thanks that the device had not detonated, and lurched to his feet.
The king lay on the ground, obviously dead by the gout of blood and brain matter splattered across the floor. Over him stood the tattered shell of a man who had addressed Dominic through the recording that he sent out of the Kingdom in Sera’s possession. Conner Norton. The Fool. He was screaming incoherently and kicking at the fallen king’s chest and skull. One of the guards leapt at him, swinging his sword. The blade clanged off of the metal shell of Norton’s shoulder. Norton whirled and, in a single brutal swipe, tore his fingers through the guard’s throat.
Dominic turned away and faced the crowd. They stood frozen in silent terror at the sight of their dead ruler. He searched the crowd for his companions and found them standing together at the base of the dais, surrounded by a ring of dead guards and foolishly brave nobles. Smoke drifted through the air around them, wafting off the bodies of those who Natalia had blasted with her microwave beam.
He heard an insistent beeping sound and looked down at the sword in fist. He held it up and examined the hilt. The grip was nearly separated from the blade and the space between the polished steel and stained leather glowed softly. Dominic gently twisted them apart and a gleaming silvery device slid neatly out of a hollow in the hilt.
It was a magnetic containment chamber. No larger than his thumb, but capable of generating a magnetically reinforced vacuum that would hold a sample of antimatter in perfect suspension at its center, isolated from the rest of the physical universe so it would not annihilate. At one end of the device the case was cracked and gauged. Dominic’s sensors detected the chemical traces of a shattered polymer battery. He turned the device over in his hand and saw numbers counting down.
Less than five minutes remained on the counter.