By Curtis C. Chen
Clay felt the motion before he heard the sound. The towncar swerved and screeched, its tires skidding off the highway. Clay's head bumped the inside of his window when the car stopped spinning.
"Out!" Selby shouted. "Out of the vehicle! Now!"
The two marshals swung their doors open and jumped out. Clay looked through the windshield and saw a swirling vortex of light sweeping toward them, spitting red lightning.
Selby raised his wand and began casting a warding charm. Mercer yanked open Clay's door. She had one hand on his collar and the other hand on the door when the spell hit them.
Clay, Mercer, and the car materialized in the middle of a flat stone floor inscribed with symbols, surrounded by a perfect circle of gold. A tall, thin man stood outside the circle.
Mercer drew her wand and sent a bolt of energy flying toward the thin man. The missile collided with an invisible dome--an artifact of the containment circle--and shattered.
"Well," the thin man said, "that was easier than I thought."
Mercer pulled out her badge and said, "You just abducted a Federal Marshal, asshole."
"You're just collateral damage, my dear. My target was the invader."
Mercer did her best to keep a poker face. Clay slumped in his seat.
"Oh, yes," the thin man said, addressing Clay, "I can see through the glamours. Straight into your soul--all eight million of them."
Mercer stepped between Clay and the thin man. "If you can read his enchantments, you know his form is impenetrable. Let us go, right now, and we can forget this ever happened."
The thin man raised a hand. A flash of light streaked from his tattooed palm into Mercer's face. She said something unprintable and stumbled backwards, hitting the car. Clay stood up and grabbed her before she fell down.
"That is what I saw the day it attacked us," the thin man said. "Tell me how I can forget that."
Clay lowered Mercer to the ground. He saw flashes of light under her closed eyelids, no doubt replaying scenes from his own rampage through Manhattan.
"I'll come with you," Clay said, standing up. "Just let her go."
"No!" Mercer said. She groped around blindly. Clay moved away from the car.
"Whatever you're going to do to me, you don't want a witness."
"Of course not," the thin man said. "But I do need a vessel."
Clay froze. "What?"
"My wife is one of the souls you imprisoned four years ago, invader. I can free her now, but she will need a body." The thin man smiled. "As they say: two birds with one stone."
Clay's fist smashed against the circle barrier.
"Good," the thin man said. "You've been human long enough to appreciate what it is you're going to lose."
The thin man's palm flashed again, and Clay fell to the ground, unconscious.
"You don't know what you're doing!" Mercer shouted. "You unseal him, and the world ends! Do you hear me?"
The thin man ignored her and walked away.