The Syndicate Pt1 - Temptation
Craig Clark

He sat in the darkened room. No one visited, no one inquired, he was alone and that was the way he liked it.

"Soon now, it will occur." His voice was gravelly, yet soft.

He held his hand up and watched as an arc of electricity emanated between his thumb and index finger. He carefully inserted his left hand into the arc and picked it with two fingers, stretching the beam.

He let it go as it snapped back into place, like an elastic band. For a split second his eyes wandered to a picture that was evident in the darkened room, then he sighed and looked away as if he was remembering a time when all of this scheming, plotting and manipulation didn't really matter

1990 - He sat at the New York bus station, watching. He spied then almost straightaway - four punks wearing gang colours. They were looking for trouble. He knew it. He sat and shook his head. He knew their kind. Out for a quick buck and a good time. He checked his wristwatch - almost forty-five minutes until his bus was due.
"I hope nothing happens." he thought, "I have enough trouble as is."
The four punks all looked in the same direction at the same time. Michael groaned and followed their gaze. A young woman walked into the station. Michael squinted and looked closely.
He knew her, time skipped by as the years wore away.
Four years ago - Michael Garth sat at his desk in the corporate empire that was Garth Electronics. Situated in the sprawling Californian plateau known as Silicon Valley, it was a modest venture by a man, who only dream was to make the world a safer place,
"Umm? Mr. Garth?"
Michael looked up to see a secretary standing in his doorway; he smiled at her nervousness',
"Yes?" he asked politely.
"I brought those corporate files you asked me to get you"
Michael thought back, "What files?"
"Well, files on the representatives coming from Japan I thought you might want them for the negotiations for the Garth plant in Osaka."
Michael looked stunned, "I completely forgot about that. Thank you miss..."
"Lizbeth S. Chambers, sir."
Michael smiled, "Shouldn't that be Elizabeth, not Lizbeth."
She looked confused for a second, and then smiled, "I like being called Beth and Liz so I combine them into Lizbeth, it saves time."
"Timesaver, eh? Well Miss Chambers you just got yourself a promotion. Report to me first thing tomorrow."
Her smile almost illuminated the office, "Yes sir!"
"See you tomorrow Lizbeth."
Michael snapped out of his reverie just in time to see the four punks forcible escort 'her in to a nearby alley,
"I can t get involved, Michael Garth is dead, I am Mark Graves now, I cant get involved!"
Michael craned his neck and saw a group of clustered shadows all fighting,
"Damn It!" he thought.
He sprinted towards the alleyway and stopped at the head.
"Stop that!" he shouted
One of the punks turned in his direction and smiled, a cruel smile that bespoke of the evil in the souls of man.
"Walk on by, hombre. Nothin' to see here."
Michael tensed, ready for the inevitable clash, "Don't think so! What I see is four guys who haven't the temerity to treat a lady with respect!"
Two of the punks held Lizbeth while the other two drew angel-blades and advanced.
Michael took an involuntary step back; he looked down at his hands and saw the telltale pulse of electricity running through the concealed circuitry. He felt the trickle of power cascading round his eyes as more and more of his systems came online. An electrical arc spread between his open hands,
"Leave while you still can!"
One of the punks threw his blade at the effigy of power standing there; a single arc of power destroyed the knife.
"Don't you punks get it? I can kill you in a heartbeat, now beat it!" a lightning bolt flashed past the terrified youths and shattered a fist-sized hole in the concrete wall. They ran, leaving Lizbeth lying in a torn and tattered remnant of the dress she wore earlier.
Michael took a few deep breaths to steady him as the alleyway started to waver in front of his eyes,
"Damn it! Not now." he put his hand on the alley wall to steady himself. He regained his composure and walked to the dazed Lizbeth,
"No more...please."
Michael cradled her gently in his arms as he lifted her out of the alley, he looked at her face as he realized how much time had been lost and what a sacrifice he had made. He closed his eyes as he remembered,
Three years ago - "What do you mean - you're leaving!"
"What do you think I mean?"
Michael staggered back, shocked at the words, he put his hands on the mantelpiece to stop his world from spinning,
"But Beth..."
"You lied to me, you said those plans I found were for a new development at Garths. Was that the truth? No, I don't think it was. Michael I don't care what trouble you are in, I would've stood by you. I would've raised heaven and earth for you and I would not stand by here and see you hurt, but you lied to me. Michael I love you, but I will not be a party to a person who cannot even tell that much. Well Mr. Corporate Big-shot, fix this!"
He stood there as she walked out of his life. He would later justify it as one of many regrets but that does not help at the time. The hurt remains and the emptiness grows. And for Michael Garth it was the straw that broke the camels back.
Leaving his fortune to charity he staged his own death. Because of a broken heart he started to run. Unfortunately the people that were chasing him saw this as an opportunity to commit mass murder. Garths had twelve hundred employees, half that many with families and some semblance of a normal life. All were butchered to preserve National Security, sacrificed in the name of Governmental privacy. Michael Garth saw the papers, he saw the TV reports and he guessed who was behind it and he kept running.
Michael took them both to a small diner after buying Beth a new jacket and trousers. She sat down as he gave their order; she looked at him trying to decide if he was really whom he looked like,
"Michael?"
He looked up with fear on his face, but not fear of discovery and report, it was fear of facing that life again. He managed a small smile,
"Hi 'Beth"
She whispered, "You bastard! You unfeeling bastard!"
He looked into her deep blue eyes and where once he saw love and emotions he once reveled in, now he saw only hurt and hate,
"Beth please, I can explain, if you will let me?"
"Why should I let you explain? So you can lie to me again, so you can smooth over all your past mistakes. So you can..." she broke down into a torrent of tears.
Michael looked down at his hands too ashamed to say anything to this woman he once, and still, did love
"'Beth, I can explain but not here, somewhere more private, is that ok with you?"
She nodded, too choked with tears to speak.
Michael stood to leave and spotted someone in the back booth
"I'll just go and pay the bill, ok. Be right back." he smiles at her as she choked back on the tears.
He threaded his way through the crowd at the counter as he moved to the back booth.
A young Russian sat there reading a book on Americanisms, he glanced up as Michael approached,
"What can I do for you?" the voice was spoken haltingly and with a heavy Russian accent.
"What do you want, Karl?"
"The cure for the Overlord virus," the voice became a smooth clipped English accent with no hint of the former Russian voice
Michael gave a short laugh, "No way, Zychek. I virussed the Overlord six years ago and it stays!"
"You know the more you use the circuitry the more we can trace you."
Michael looked at him, small sparks danced around his irises, " The circuitry in me is all the essential components of the Overlord, without them you will never have a working model; and they stay where they are."
"You are causing yourself no end of misery Michael. Come back with me and we will remove the implants and give you a nice...compensation."
"Karl, we were friends once. Don't try to sweet-talk me with empty promises and smoke and mirrors. I thought you had more respect for me than that."
Karl gave a short laugh; "I had to try, for my employers sake." his face took on a serious look. "Michael you will never win, they want the Overlord and as soon as they de-bug the computers and retrieve you they will have it. You cannot win, Michael."
"My name is Mark now! Don't forget that, Karl!"
Michael stalked away, seething, as the man he had called friend for five years, deeply wounded him. Karl Zychek had joined the Overlord project at the same time as he had.
"Funny how time can change a man." he looked down at his hands and saw the circuitry concealed within and sighed, "or maybe not." he thought sourly.
He calmed himself down as he walked towards Lizbeth's table, "Ready to go?"
She looked up at him with a question on her lips and thought better of it,
"Oh no, ", he thought, "what now?"
The walk back to 'Beth's apartment took the best part of thirty minutes during which no-one spoke or made any move to start a conversation. Michael groaned inwardly as he could almost see the oncoming barrage of questions,
She walked into her apartment and invited him in. He slowly walked in, letting his gaze linger over her apartment, he noticed straightaway that 'Beth had changed. Nothing of Michael Garth existed in her life now. Nothing remained to ever indicate she ever knew him and there was no pictures to remind her of him, the fishing trip, the holiday, the surprise birthday party, all of it gone. He sighed to himself and sat down in her old worn out couch. Memories of her old couch sprang to mind as he sat down,
3 years approximately - "Why do you have this old couch?"
She shrugged, "it is important to me."
"An old couch?"
"Laugh if you want but there are a lot of memories in this thing and I like my memories. The vibrance, the emotions..." she gave a small laugh, "Now c'mere till we make our own memories."
He leaned in close to her.
She sat down on the armchair across from Michael and stared at him intently, he coughed uncomfortably,
"So, tell me."
He looked around the room, feeling uncomfortable and out of place,
"Let's see, where should I start. I suppose it all started about six years ago. I was fresh out of M.I.T. and I was approached by some men in suits who were curious about my published thesis on my theory about incorporating some aspects of human intelligence into computer circuits. I told them that my theory was just that and that there would be no way to actually try it. The technology is just not advanced enough. We have the basis but not the tools. They invited me to study with some of the greatest scientists in the world, to try to come up with a viable way to tie a pilot's thoughts into his ejection system. I was idealistic and young and I believed them."
She leaned intently over the edge of the chair, "Yeah, and..."
"They took me to a government research center in Texas and we started working, they provided us with tools to work with, pretty advanced stuff, but nothing we couldn't work out. Anyway six months into the project, we had already made some pretty good leeway against the problem, but it would have to mean each plane would have to have one specific pilot, the onboard computer would learn the pilots thoughts as he flew - familiarity as it were, but we had a snag because we couldn't come up with a way to generalize it. So I went to my supervisors' office to ask for some more help and I found plans for frontline military battle suits with specific thought triggered weaponry. Weaponry we were designing, for war, devastation, and destruction. Think of the innocents involved, think of the lives lost, everyone else but me knew about the project and what it was really about, I felt betrayed, cast out by my own government. I worked diligently for the remaining four months and when it was finished,
I snuck into my office at the plant and implanted a computer virus into the master files just as my boss was finishing the type work. I was just leaving when I spotted a light on in one of the other labs."
"And?"
"Erm, can I have a drink please, thirsty work."
She reached for a beaker and filled him a glass of orange juice. He lifted it to his lips and gulped it down,
"Really thirsty huh?"
He looked at her and smiled, "Yeah. Anyway," he coughed politely.
"I walked into the other lab and saw it - a battle-suit. Gleaming electric blue, faceless mirrored mask, rippling with weaponry and I recognized it - It was my work, my designs, and my circuitry. I walked over to the mechanized assembly line and read the process sheet. This was the prototype; there was no other like it in the world..." he paused, reflecting.
"You destroyed it?" she looked into his eyes intent on the story and wrapped up in the narrative.
He laughed lightly, "Oh no, far worse. I went over it and removed all the vital circuitry, power relays, weapon targeting and the core ambient weapon charger. I was about to destroy the circuitry when I blacked out. I am not sure who hit me or why they did but when I awoke the circuitry was gone and I felt itchy." he stopped to let her ask questions
"Itchy?"
"Yeah," he sounded down. He held up the underside of his arms and an electrical arc leapt between them as the circuitry crackled to life and pulses of power flowed through them, highlighting them.
She dropped her glass of juice as she backed away,
"Who...who was that man you were talking to in the diner?"
He sighed, "That was Karl Zychek, he was security chief of the Overlord project - as it was named. He has been after me for as long as I have been running. All the security personnel have devices calibrated to my power output; they can track me if I use my power for anything spectacular, like I did saving you from those.... people."
"But they must have a limited range?"
He gave a short laugh, "No, I am afraid not, they have spy-satellites in orbit which can read a postage stamp from up there, unfortunately it was a joint government/military project so they have the resources to track me wherever I go."
"I have to go 'Beth, I have been around here too long."
She looked deep into his eyes, "Michael?"
He looked at her as he turned to go, "Yeah?"
"Please.... don't go."
He turned around and smiled. Closing the door as he headed back in.
Karl Zychek stood in front of the old house, in the middle of a small town called Winterville. The mailbox had been burnt, but enough of the lettering remained to make out the name - Graves.
Taking a deep breath to reassure himself, he boldly strode across the grass and looked inside the open doorway. Seeing no one, he walked inside. He spent the next thirty minutes getting to know the layout of the house; he had the plans and architectural drawings, but he preferred the actual physical sensation of 'knowing thy enemy' rather than that gathered by second-hand observers. Getting his bearings, Karl surveyed the fire damage; it was confined to the one area - the basement with several scorch marks on the mailbox and the door as if the fire had attempted to escape the house by the most direct route, everything else was untouched. Lost in thought Karl almost walked past the one place in the house he was looking for. Criticizing himself for his lack of vigilance, he walked into the study and sat in front of the computer.
Switching it on he was unprepared for the onslaught of data: -
Downloading from secure link...
Karl sat back in the upholstered leather chair and relaxed, the data flashed up onto the screen in a microsecond, plans, circuit diagrams, schematics and pass codes for the cyber web. Karl sat back and smiled. Raising his hands to his eyes he lifted off the virtual goggles, instantly his perspective and surroundings changed. He found himself in a featureless cube, wires and gadgetry protruded from the goggles, he was hooked up to a machine the nature of which he didn't pretend to understand. He was good at his job, his job didn't involve gimmickry just legwork and deduction and in that area, Karl Zychek excelled. As he was orienteering himself, his cell-phone rang. Picking it up he flipped the talk switch,
"Zychek."
"How did it go, Karl?" the voice on the other end of the phone had an electronic tinge to it, a slight distortion that he couldn't quite place.
"Fine, sir. I used the virtual equipment and the holographic pictures plus the data downloaded from Graves' father computer to reconstruct the day after the argument. It was quite breath-taking to think of the power level necessary to do that."
"Which is why we want him back, Karl. We want him back very badly indeed."
"You have no worries on that end, sir."
"Good man, Karl. Carry on."
Karl closed his cell-phone and walked out of the room with nary a backward glance, smiling to himself.
1992 - 'Lizbeth Graves looked down at her wedding ring. The bright gold of the ring shone through the dirt that was evident on her hands. She wondered why she married Mark in that ceremony six months ago, she wondered why she put up with his tantrums and mood swings and she wondered why she wouldn't let her examine him as she was a trained nurse and he was teaching her about electronics so it stands to reason she could conceivably examine his implants, but he wouldn't let her near them. She wondered about all these things but the final answer in the equation was that she loved him and she knew he loved her.
Mark walked in the room, his hair was unkempt, he was unshaven and his eyes were heavily bloodshot.
"Mark? You alright?"
He mumbled a reply. She lightly touched his shoulder, a static spark jumped from his shoulder to her hand making her wince. He spun on her,
"Never touch me again!"
She sighed and went back to the work of reading her electronics manuals. Mark turned around and left the room. She was reading about the interaction between inorganic and the organic - cyborgs for the most part, and there were areas where someone theorized that they would be impractical due to the psychological unbalancing it would cause to link something as alien as a computer to a human being. It would such a shock to the brain that the results would be unknown. Most of the theories dealt with the practical aspects of it, but Lizbeth had a strange feeling there would have to be mental aspects to take into account. She closed the book and went through to see Mark.
"Mark?"
He sat in front of the television, unblinking as mindless images jabbed into his brain, "What!" he snarled
"Let me see your implants."
He stood up and advanced towards her, sparks crackled around his eyes, an arc danced between his hands, the television channel was lost due to static and he walked up close to her. Sparks jumped from his body to hers; causing her to flinch momentarily but she stood her ground. He leaned in close to her.
"No.", he whispered
She grabbed his hand and turned it over, an arc of power cascaded into her and threw her bodily into the lounge wall, and she slid down the wall onto the ground,'
"NO!" he shouted.
He jumped upright in bed and looked at the bedside clock. It read five thirty in the morning
"Half an hour until I have to get up for work." he mumbled.
He rubbed his forehead of the cold sweat. Mark went into the small bathroom to wash his face.
"What am I doing? Getting married, settling down, being in love. Am I insane?"
He looked up at the mirror, but his image held no answers
"Honey? Are you all right?"
Mark smiled and walked out of the bathroom, his past fears forgotten.
"Yeah love, I'm fine. Couldn't sleep. I might go for a walk to clear my head."
"Mark?" she leaned out of their bed with a worried look on her face.
"Yeah?" he stopped at the door.
"You would tell me if anything were bothering you, wouldn't you?"
He paused at the door and took a deep breath.
"Of course I would, 'Beth. Go to sleep honey. You need it."
He closed the door behind him and left to get dressed in his study
He opened the door to his study and sunk into his armchair opposite his computer. Burying his face in his hands, he cried like a small child. His body shaking as he sought to muffle his sobbing.
After a while it subsides and he stands up and takes a few deep cleansing breathes. Opening his closet he takes out an old pair of jogging trousers and a sweatshirt.
He left the house and quietly closed the front door. He surveyed the horizon, the sun was just rising, setting fire to everything it touched. He marveled at the splendor and took off at a brisk walk towards the local park.
He arrived at a park bench some minutes later and sat down to relax. Time passed and his thoughts jumbled together in a kaleidoscope of images. He foresaw hardship, pain and an endless life on the run,
"Can I put 'Beth through that? Does she deserve that?"
"This seat taken?"
Mark looked up to see a withered old man standing there.
"Yeah, sure. Help yourself." he gestured.
"Thank you." he sat down exhaling as he did so as if he were carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"Married?"
Mark looked up to see him looking at his wedding band, "Yeah, about six months ago."
"You happy?"
Mark winced "Why are you asking?"
"Just an old man taking an interest. I f I am being too personal just tell me. I won't mind."
Mark smiled a light smile "No, you are not being too personal, I am just being rude. Yes I am happy, very happy."
"So, why the frown?"
Mark looked at the old man intently, "Do you believe that you should sacrifice your happiness for the greater good?"
The old man thought about it for a while, "There are a lot of things worth sacrificing for, but if you are happy. Why sacrifice at all?"
"If you love someone enough, should you put her happiness ahead of your own?"
"A marriage is a strong thing, it can handle many things: Fire, floods or natural disasters. Love endures. Remember that, son."
Mark lay back, resting his head on the park bench, thinking, as he watched the clouds pass overhead.
Lizbeth woke up and reached across the bed for her husband, she touched nothing but pillow,
"Mark?" there was no answer. She thought back and remembered his walk. Looking across at the bedside clock, it read six-thirty in the morning. She lay back, worrying. She knew he was worrying about something but he wouldn't open up, she hated that. He would worry himself to death about something they should face together and things he should tell her, he wouldn't. She felt like hitting something. Instead she got up, put on her dressing gown and went downstairs for a cup of tea.
Boiling the kettle didn't take as long as she thought. Making the tea was another story. She felt off kilter, off balance as if something was seriously wrong and things didn't feel right, Mark's walk, his moods these last couple of days. He was expecting something to happen and didn't want to worry her,
"Damn it!" she didn't expect an answer, but she felt better saying something, anything.
There was a light knock at the door.
"Mark?" she rushed to let Mark in who had obviously forgotten his keys.
She opened the door to see someone she had never met but nevertheless had known of for the past two years.
"Mrs. Graves." He bowed his head respectfully.
"Mr.Zychek." she took a deep breath
"Won't you come in? I have just brewed a nice hot cup of tea. I think I need something to drink right about now."
"That would be nice. Yes, I will, thank you."
He walked in with all the grace of a hunting predator and the confidence contained therein. She guided him through the lounge into the kitchen; asked him polite questions about how he liked his tea, he nodded and answered. They moved through to the lounge and sat down.
"So, Mr.Zychek. What can I do for you?"
"I came against my employers better wishes to inform you of the man you call Mark Graves."
"Not the man called Mark Graves, sir. My husband, Mark Graves." she leaned forward to make eye contact. Karl leaned back and sipped his tea.
"My apology for miscalling it but the information is the same, regardless of how you present the subject."
"Go on."
"Mark Graves was born in Idaho, Missouri in the year nineteen seventy. His father was a skilled doctor and theoretical electronics engineer, his mother was a caring housewife."
"I know this, Karl." Karl smiled as she lapsed into the form of address Mark used.
He took a deep breath and then continued, "Mark was born with a birth defect, a unique form of disease which caused the misfiring of neurons in one of the lobes of the brain. This had a few side effects. To the benefit of himself he became quite brilliant, I have his IQ test results if you would ever care to see them, the other side effect was that he would blackout and fly into murderous rages. His father became obsessed with balancing out his son's biochemical imbalance. To this end he put forward several designs for an experimental cybernet which when implanted would correct the imbalance through the use of mild electrical charges to the affected areas thus correcting the...effects."
"You're lying! Mark would have told me." she looked shocked.
"Mrs. Graves please understand. Mark was an isolated boy, brilliant by our standards but withdrawn from society because he could never fit in, the slightest insult to him could cause rages the likes of which you have never seen. He started fearing for himself and people around him, so he would withdraw, perhaps rightly worrying that he would do something he couldn't live with. His psychological evaluation would suggest that he is highly motivated by guilt and 'doing the right thing,' regardless of how it affects others. May I finish my story?"
Lizbeth nodded.
"Thank you. A few government front companies bought the patent and paid him quite handsomely to develop it. And so in the year nineteen eighty-six in the basement of their house. Paul Graves implanted the cybernet into his son; Mark didn't know anything about it or so I was led to believe and Paul Graves for all his brilliance and ingenuity and goodwill made his one fatal mistake."
"And that was...?"
Karl looked Lizbeth straight in the eye, "He switched it on."
"The resulting power surge blew every major electrical system in the house from domestic appliances to computer circuits five rooms over, upstairs. Mark was cured - in one sense of the word."
"In one sense of the word?"
"You have to understand, Mark never knew what was going on. Having major surgery performed on you to control your electrical impulses can be disorienting at best, radical brain surgery at worst. Either way Mark over-reacted."
"And?"
"He lashed out with his cybernet and killed his parents. The electrical fire covers half the basement, the stairs and the way outside ending eventually at the mailbox not to mention the scorch marls on the grass.
There was a clatter of china as Lizbeth's cup fell from her hands.
"This affected him profoundly. He tried to control it by studying every known text, theoretical and practical on electronics. Applying for every major university, immersing him in books and studying with anyone who would teach him, all to learn control and patience. The thing he forgot was that you don't learn control, if you can't control yourself, what chance do others have?"
"Then the government stepped in, right?" Lizbeth's voice had grown cold.
"We approached Mark to help him control the... urges. Lashing out periodically to release pent up power was getting costly to the environment and drawing undue attention to him. We offered him an option, build a cybernet for us to use in planes to let pilots control their vehicles through electrical impulses and in return we would give him facilities to study his own cybernet and maybe give him a cure to his power problem."
"And he accepted?"
"Oh yes and quite enthusiastically too. He worked for six months for us, until he found out that there were other applications to building a cybernet for us, weapons control, military work and other dreadful things." Karl stopped and took a drink of his tea.
"You don't approve?" it wasn't a question.
"Mrs. Graves, I am a security man I understand the need for things like this, I do not like it but I accept it. To question something as fundamental as self-defence would undermine every belief an American has." He smiled at the inflection he put on American.
"Mark then developed scruples and ran. The rest you know."
"Why didn't Mark tell me this if it were the truth?"
Karl adopted an accent, "Oh hi honey, I killed my parents and am a walking death trap, so how was your day?"
"Mrs. Graves, Mark has been through the proverbial wringer, it will take a long time for him to trust. I have no doubt he loves you, I also have no doubt he will do what he thinks is best for you and forget himself."
Lizbeth's face contorted slightly, "Oh no, Mark!"
The first sign Mark had of trouble was when he felt a movement on the periphery of his awareness. Opening one eye he spotted a sniper in the trees off to the far right,
"Damn! Why cant they leave me alone?" he thought.
Standing up he gestured to the old man, "Thanks for the advice; take care of yourself. Bye."
Mark started to walk away when he felt a sharp jabbing pain in his leg. Looking down he spotted a syringe protruding from his calf muscle. His leg went dead instantly. He backhanded the old man as the make-up flew off as the young man tumbled to the ground. Darts whizzed past his head as he ducked behind the trees for cover.
"Damnit!! Why cant they leave me alone!!" he thought desperately.
"I have him!" the man shouted
"In your dreams!" a crackle of electricity engulfed his fist as he backhanded the man out of his way.
A beam of bright white light hit him in the leg, it went numb. Mark staggered and fell
He felt hands grab him and lift him. Adrenalin coursed through him as his implants came online, the assailants never noticed the static charges as the first tell tale warnings ran through Marks body.
"NO!" he thought as the possible carnage ran through his mind. He felt an urge to release, a need to lash out. He blacked out as he lost himself to the maelstrom.
Karl stood up even as he put the cup down.
"Thank you for the tea, Mrs. Graves. If you want to visit Mark, here is my number."
"What do you mean 'visit Mark'."
"While i have been here enlightening you, my men have been capturing Mark as he went for his walk in the park"
She slapped him "You bastard!"
Karl looked down and spied a folder from Lizbeth's doctor.
"Congratulations."
She stood there trembling with anger as he left the house.
Mark awoke to see scorch marks and burning trees, foliage and plants. Skeletons were littered around him. If they knew where he was that means they must know about...
"Lizbeth!"
He started to run.
He reached the house within ten minutes. Time seemed to slow, he spotted their garden that she had tended so lovingly, the house they had built, he spotted her in the window as she waved to him, but she seemed distracted somehow, not quite sure how to react to him.
Then the house exploded, he was thrown backwards as he landed among her prized plants as their beloved house went up in flames.
"Don't go, Lizbeth, please don't go."
He hugged his legs as he sat there
Time resumed as he sat looking at the picture
"I still miss you"