Every member of the Trilateral Commission had an IFF transponder implanted at the nape of the neck to prevent friendly fire accidents. Weapons aimed at one of the transponders would simply not fire, even if the trigger were to be pulled. Normally the omni-directional high energy laser array would be used in an environment where every friendly had one of these implants. In the event that this was not the case the operator could program target exclusions manually. It was fairly time-consuming and the unit could not be moved during the exclusion process, although the targets could move some. Of course, Captain Henry didn't bother with such ridiculous formalities. He just pressed the fire button.

The chromium oxide battery inside the HEL unit flooded all 128 auto-targeting lasers with energy. These, in turn, each discharged a femtosecond 50,000 joule pulse of focused energy. Because of particulate obstruction of internal lenses three of the lasers did not fire. Most people in the room were simultaneously hit twice. Clothing, hair, and skin disappeared in a white flash of steam. Organs burst, blood boiled away, bones cracked and splintered with the force of gunshots. The armored suits of the Panzer Kommandos sagged and melted. Fuel, ammunition, grenades, and RPG rounds exploded in one pyrotechnic instant.

The three lasers locked on to Captain Patrick "Liberty" Henry failed to fire. The IFF transponder in Zeke Caruthers' neck saved his life had not already been quite dead. Every other living thing in the room had been incinerated.


"I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Lord Admiral Regel." The human bowed graciously and gestured with an arm for Regel and his entourage to follow.

"I am not used to being made to wait, ambassador." Regel voiced the displeasure of his security team and the various diplomats he had brought with him.

"Oh, again my apologies, Lord Admiral. There is some misunderstanding though; I am not ambassador Magnus Uusitalo. I am merely one of the house staff here." The human bowed again, amazingly calm and collected despite the presence of so many heavily armed Imperatrixians.

A murmur of irritation went up from the troopers close enough to hear what the human had said. Finland had seemed all too happy to accommodate Admiral Regel's demands to search their territory for the fugitive Linus Guthry. Already teams were being ferried down from the fleet in orbit to the various urban centers, such as they were, of Finland. Still, being left in a room to wait for the ambassador to greet them at his leisure was not something Admiral Regel appreciated.

"Just through here, Lord Admiral." The human held an enormous creaking wooden door open for them to pass.

"I advise caution, my lord." One of the security troopers whispered.

Their armored feet thumped heavily on the bare stones. The structure they were in was quite unusual. Regel recalled that one of his advisors had referred to it as a "castle", a sort of primitive redoubt, although why it would still be in use even among the humans was a mystery. Surely the thick stone walls would be easily destroyed by the crude weapons the humans wielded. Then, as they came from the dim natural light of the hallway into the large chamber beyond, Admiral Regel realized it was a matter of aesthetics.

Light streamed through intricate stained glass windows depicting strange winged humans frolicking and armies of sword-wielding men facing off. Beneath these impressive windows stood a line of men in garish finery standing at attention with simple steel pikes held to their shoulders. These rows of men flanked a large ornate throne of gold and glittering jewels. A muscular man with steely blue eyes, flowing blond hair, and a muscular physique stood with one hand resting on the arm of the throne. He wore a contemporary uniform of human commerce not unlike the cassocks worn by the esper traders on Imperatrix.

"My Lord!" One of the troopers cried aloud.

Regel's eyes were drawn to the man lounging in the throne. He was gaunt, pale, with short dark hair combed into an immaculate part. His dark eyes were boring holes in Regel. He wore a simple suit of powdered blue that made him appear slightly comical, or at least might have had his eyes and face not been so hauntingly serious. Regel had difficulty telling one human from another, but as to the man in the throne there could be no doubt of his identity.

"Thank you so much for stopping by." Linus Guthry's voice sounded like a river of blood flowing across a bed of silk.

– Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons (@sexyfacts4u)

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