Kelly had not walked far when she cried out. 'Not this again!' she groaned behind clenched teeth. A strange, numbing sensation was slowly beginning to dawn upon her and the other survivors.
Unbearable heat bore down on them from above, threatening to turn gelatinous eyeballs into a slimy liquid, and boiled brains into mush.
'I can feel it eating away at my nerves.' Hal screamed, collapsing onto his side.
'Run... now, now, now!' Jensen roared.
'I can barely move!' Hal replied.
Rachel scooped up Connor and darted for refuge. It was only typical that another solar flare would hit, just as they made it back outside.
'Rachel has the right idea, help me up then you two.' Hal asked. Pulling savagely at his numb, sweat-drenched hands, Jensen and Kelly sought to save him.
The brutal, fatigue inspiring heat was not enough to melt tarmac, yet it was enough to slow down their progress considerably.
'I can't see properly!' Jensen asked, wiping at his eyelids.
'Your eyesight can't get any worse Jensen, surely not.' Kelly chuckled.
'How can you joke at a time like this?' he asked.
'It's my coping mechanism.' Kelly replied.
Hal grinned broadly. 'It's so damn hot out here, and it's still night time for crying out loud. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to take some layers off.' he promised.
'Please don't Hal, I'll pay you not to, hell, I'll cool you down myself if I have to! Anything to avoid that.' Jensen pleaded.
'Okay, okay I won't de-cloak as they say.' Hal agreed reluctantly.
The byplay was a distraction; it would only occupy their attention for a short while. It would not shield the mind from the horrors which awaited them.
The surface of Awen was boiling, and sweat-drenched feet were swimming inside of soaking wet socks. Sharp pains shot through their traumatised bodies' with every step, and realising that they could not stay outside in such an unstable environment for long, they desperately sought to outrun the rising of the sun.
Broken, burnt-out cinders which once used to be vehicles, now littered both sides of a lonely road.
'Those poor souls.' Rachel sobbed, falling to one knee before the sorrowful sight.
One could not truly contemplate the sheer devastation which Awen had suffered, at least not until they witnessed the remnants of furnaced ash and bone first hand.
Human remains lay silent within their vehicles, where the hand of death had reached out and slapped hundreds of unknowing victims into dust. They were walking through a mass graveyard, where every person provoked feelings of unsettling familiarity.
'We were lucky.' Hal said, whispering a quick prayer.
Had other areas of the planet been affected just as badly? They pushed forward into perpetual darkness once more, their minds racing with fears of impending death, and of losses which they could not yet know.
'Help us!' a myriad of voices yelled from somewhere up ahead, each of them desperately clamouring for attention from anyone passing by.
'We're over here!' one piercing voice yelled somewhat louder than the rest.
The voices grew louder and louder, yet they remained hidden.
'Where the hell is that coming from?' Kelly demanded.
'Over here! Come on, over here!' the faceless voices repeated. Wherever they were, they could see Hal and the others walking towards them, if only that worked both ways.
'Damn it. They can't see us, Grace!' the voice of an older male cursed.
Shattered structural membranes of seemingly unfinished buildings punctured through cracked stonewalling; fallen roof tiles decorated uneven flooring, and burnt wooden beams formed jutting palisades of horror. This was not the home that they once knew.
'I see them!' Rachel shouted in mid-stride, racing over toward them.
The trapped survivors cheered. 'I'll be damned, that was lucky, James.' the deep-voiced woman said, pressing her head firmly into his shoulder.
'Are any of you hurt?' Rachel asked immediately.
'Thank you, lady, thank you, there are seven of us pinned under here. We had to drag three of them inside with us when the micro solar flare hit; they are still unconscious. We made it inside, but my oldest son, he was trying to help someone out of their car, did you see him out there?' Grace asked, blinking away tears.
'You ask this now, Grace? We need to get out of here!' the older man crowed, lacking any sense of sympathy. She stared daggers back at him, daring him to speak again.
'I'm afraid that we haven't seen him, but, that's not to say that he didn't find somewhere else to hide though. Don't worry, it's Grace, right?' Jensen asked.
'That's right.' she agreed.
He would not tell her about the mass graveyard that they had just passed through, as no good could come of that.
Jensen closed his eyes. 'I know how you feel Grace; my family are out there somewhere too. They could be lost, hurt, or both.'
'Then what do you say? Will you break us all out of here so that we can help you out?' Grace asked.