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“Did you do it?” Bria asked, surprised. Smoke tendrils curled around her into the air.

The spirit man looked around, confused. The reanimated dead woman cracked her neck and stepped off of the curb. She was getting ready to charge me.

“Uh-oh.” I punched my theoretical fist through her middle, hitting that cavernous area with next to no effort and snatching the trespasser. Just like the first soul, this one tried to crawl along the connection.

The heebie-jeebies washed over me. It was like I’d swatted a spider, only for it to come sailing toward me on spider silk. I yanked away, super grossed out and not wanting that thing touching me. Energy pumped into my body and the spirit went flying, smacking the ground and rolling like a real person might’ve.

I cracked a smile. I couldn’t help it. That was kind of badass.

“Okay. That part’s easy,” I said to Bria, letting go of the woman. “What should I do with them now?”

“Are you serious?” Bria asked, crouched over her setup with her hands up and out. A strange, wide-brimmed yellow hat adorned her platinum blonde head. “Did you seriously just rip the souls out of those bodies? Just like that?”

More reanimated dead people staggered into a front yard down the street, learning their new bodies, and learning them quickly.

“Yeah,” I said, turning toward them. “When a person dies, clearly the vault holding the soul breaks open to let the soul free. I wonder if it can be put back in place…” My brain started to wander, thinking through how someone might Duct tape that sucker in there so it wasn’t so easy to yank out.

“Focus,” Bria said, not having risen. “Can you do it again? Should I put this stuff away?”

“Yes, yes.” I waved at her to hurry up. “Like I was saying, without that vault, the soul is just hanging out in there, desperate for a way to escape.”

Bria stared at me for a moment, hands still out to her sides. Like a dam bursting, she was suddenly all action, bending to her incense and snuffing them out.

“Great. Head off those others,” she said, grabbing the candle. Hot green wax spilled across her hand and she sucked a breath through her teeth. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

“But what about—”

“I do not care what you do with the souls, Alexis,” she said, throwing blunted incense into her pack. “Just do it fast. We have to get to that air elemental before he knows we’re coming. He’s the danger now.”

I nodded and turned, just in time to hear, “Watch out,” from one of the newly released souls.

A rotting body, the sex hard to tell, took a running leap, flinging itself at me. Discolored teeth gnashed in a face screwed up in rage.

I threw up my hands to protect myself as the body slammed into me, driving me back. My butt hit the ground first, but I was already moving, grappling with the reaching hands. I pushed the body off me as I grabbed the soul, easily ripping it out and throwing it to the side.

Two more souls, moving fast, caught my attention as a jagged point from the bone in a finger from the falling body scraped across my skin.

“You better not have the plague,” I said through gritted teeth, grabbing the souls from the other bodies as they reached me.

Once again, the spirits tried to crawl up my connection. My survival instinct kicked in, and I kept the souls put, knowing the enemy Necromancer was controlling them somehow. Could I take over? I probed around with my magic until I found a strange pulse of power, foreign to the souls and more alive than the bodies. Focusing hard, I tried to inject my own agenda into that spot while shoving my hand against a gnashing face. These things were acting like zombies. I didn’t want to go down that road.

The souls crawled along my connection again, trying to escape the bodies, and that weird spot of magic stayed strong, ignoring my advances. I pushed harder, trying to get the upper hand. Trying to take over.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Suddenly the body above me flew to the side. The soul came away in my grasp and a startled man in his thirties looked down on me. Bria jumped over me, running for the body she’d just kicked away, but slowed when she saw it was no longer moving.

“Stop screwing around,” she yelled.

“I was trying to control them.” I pulled out the souls and let them go immediately before sending out a shock wave of banishment, throwing everybody at the Line.

“Thank youuuuu,” someone yelled as they disappeared. Wind from the Line blew down over me, ruffling my soul.

“No, no, no, cut that out,” Bria said, clutching her chest.

“Sorry!” I hopped up and energy surged through me. “I think I get energy from taking those souls out,” I said as she slung her backpack over her shoulder.

“Probably. Who knows. You’re a damn freak of nature. Hurry, let’s go.”

She took off at a fast jog, running toward the house of horrors. I tried to keep up, but my shoes kept trying to slip off, hindering my progress. She dodged to the side and kicked open the aging gate. Wood splintered and a hinge broke. She kicked it again before battering her way through.

Hobbling now, I stepped over the curb and ran onto the weeds and dirt of the front yard, angling for that fence.

“There’s two of them,” John yelled from the house, confirming what Bria had already sensed. “They went around back.”

My shoe flipped off and my heel crashed down onto a rock. I cried out and staggered to the side, pain throbbing up through my ankle and into my calf.

“Mother trucker…” I slipped the shoe back on and hurried forward as a surge of debris flew through the air. I ducked down as I went through the fence, but the strange, shimmering debris flew high over the house, untroubled by gravity.

Another soul flared to life as I limped down the side yard, picking my footing a little more carefully.

“Alexis,” I heard, Bria’s call ending in a grunt.

More debris, transparent and sparkling, sailed up through the air at the end of the house. I followed the fence, which wrapped around the back, ending in some badly leaning tattered boards.

A vicious howl rent the air as I stepped around the side of the house. The man with the black hair sat cross-legged amid curling smoke and flickering candles, his face screwed up in intense focus and his hands resting on his knees. A body shook and trembled as it straightened up from the other two dead people, their faces slack and eyes staring at nothing. The animated dead body turned its head up to the sky and let out another howl.

On the other side of the yard Bria jabbed at the red-headed guy and clipped him on the chin. He lifted his hands and I could feel magic build before Bria struck flesh again, dragging a heavy boot across his thigh.

He staggered but didn’t fall and shook his head. She was after him again, but I had already shifted my focus back to the black-haired Necromancer. His eyes flickered open and his face, flush with fatigue, turned toward me slowly. The animated body shook next to him before facing me.

“You’ve left your materials behind,” the Necromancer said in a taunting voice. “Game over.”

“You got me all wrong, bub,” I said as the jacked up, reanimated body lurched toward me, a thick guy with a face that looked like it was melting off.

For effect, I held out my hand with my fingers open as I reached into the chest of the (currently) slowly moving body. I squeezed my fingers into a fist, grabbing the soul. The body shook and the soul skittered up my connection.

“Ew,” I said, yanking my hand out and shaking it off. I hated that feeling.

The soul tumbled to the side, a look of shock replacing a disgruntled expression. The jacked-up body collapsed into a pile of gross.

“What—” The black-haired man’s eyes widened and he jolted backward. He looked down at the body in utter disbelief.

“Yeah. Game on.” I ran at him and planted one foot before pulling back the other. My shoe flew off, but I didn’t let that stop me. I kicked forward, my foot hitting his face like it was a soccer ball.

He grunted. Spit flew to the side. Lights out.

He collapsed like his previously animated bodies.

A blast of air pulled my focus.

Bria staggered back in the sudden gale, her arms windmilling to keep her balance. The red-haired man kicked out with perfect form. The bottom of his shoe sole hit Bria mid-chest. She grunted and bent as he seamlessly transitioned into a round-house kick.

“No!” I said, too far away to help.

His foot hit her square in the face.

Crack.

She didn’t even stagger backward. She just dropped, knocked unconscious.

I didn’t have time to call out. The red-haired guy shoved his fists through the air and a gale burst forth, slamming into me and picking me up off my feet. I flew, rotating ass-over-end again and again, and crashed into the ground. The dead bodies caught my fall, lifeless and weirdly squishy.

Spikes of air sparkled in a ray of sunlight as they gathered above me, lengthening like daggers. The ends gleamed and I knew they’d be as sharp as any knife. Air wrapped around me. Clumsy but effective, the hold trapped my arms to my sides.

“Good trick,” I said in grunts. “Very quick way to end a fight.”

I tried to fall into a trance to call the power of the Line, but the air bands around me squeezed, cutting short my breath. Panic crept in and I attempted to reach into his chest, my mind hazy, my mental efforts clumsy. He grunted as more of the strange debris rose into the air.

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