“Don’t you die on me.”—Vincent
April 13, 2027
She doesn’t have a lot of time. I can hear myself gasping—every single whiffling note. I can’t lose her. My heart is thumping through my rib cage. It has had enough. My only hope is Philip rescuing us in his NASA-collaborated DoD supersonic aircraft, the X60. They’re close. They must be.
It’s 11:30 a.m., according to her blood-soaked wristwatch. I can’t see mine; my hands are busy tightly pressing my jacket over her wounds. Her blood is still leaking through it, reaching my hands, turning them red. The intreton in my bloodstream has healed my wounds. I can’t even tell her flesh from the intreton attached to the tip of the spike Vandal used to strike us.
As I look into her eyes, my tears make her face hazy. “Don’t you die on me,” I growl, shaking her. I have made an impenetrable shell of crystalized intreton around us. We are invisible to the world—but not to Vandal. I didn’t even create the intreton case with sparks, like last time. I just thought of it, and it formed. But how? How did my whole body emit sparks? Is this the power the future me had warned me about? Or is there more?
Vandal, encased in his two-story, manned Jaeger, knocks the wall of the intreton shell with his ten-foot, thorned flail. The blast from his flail pierces through my ears, hurting my head. I want to cover my ears, but I can’t. I have to keep pressing her wounds. The high-pitched ringing has conquered my eardrums and is ratcheting around every corner of my head. My skin crawls and shivers to the screech of his flail on the paved road. I squeeze my eyes shut. That’s all I can do. I can’t close my ears—my hands are busy trying to keep her alive.
Suddenly, Vandal stops. Why? What’s that sound? I look up, seeing the X60. I exhale in relief. She’ll live.
Why couldn’t I untangle Vandal’s identity earlier? I could have stopped the death . . . it hasn’t even been a month since Vandal murdered ….Fuck, I can’t even face that reality, that he is gone. We are barely fifty feet from my shattered G-Wagon, smashed against the guardrails. The batteries are steadily catching fire. I need to get out of here before the authorities start looking for us. The blinking blue and red lights and their accompanying sirens are getting closer to me with every tick of my 36,000 vibrations per hour wristwatch.
Why is it taking so long for Philip to pull us out? I shout at my phone, resting in my jacket pocket. “Ludwig, connect me with Philip.”
“Hurry. She’s bleeding out.”
“Almost there. I’m hovering above you. My men have blocked the road from the police. You are invisible to the outside world, right?”
My voice quivers. “Yes. Is Dr. Lee ready?”
“Yes. You’re doing great. We will get you out.”
“I can’t lose her.”
She opens her heavy eyes. I touch her cheek as tears stream down my own. “We will survive this.”
She lifts her hand and touches my face. Tears pour out of her eyes as she mumbles through her trembling lips, “Anata o aishiteimasu.”
Why is she telling me this now? After walking away? I cradle her head against the nook of my neck and shut my eyes. “Shhh. Boku mo itsumo.” These can’t be her final words. Kissing her head, I ask, “Why did you throw yourself like that?”
She whispers, “I’ll keep doing it.” Her breathing slows. “Because you’re my . . .” Her eyelids get heavy, yet there is that unmistakable smile. She slowly closes her eyes. I feel my pulse racing in my shaking hands.
Swallowing hard, I shake her. “Open your eyes. Wake up! Wake up!” I put my ear against her heart—still beating.
What do you mean you will keep doing it? Why did Vandal choose this moment to attack me? Were you the target? He knows hurting you will inflict the most pain on me. That’s it; there is only one way to stop this from happening in the future. I have to change your reality and erase Vince from your life once and for all. I’ll set this right. No one will come after you if we never meet. And you wouldn’t have the urge to save me. But before that, I must shield my house with intreton. Even if the core selects the path of least resistance, my actions might change the reality of those in my house now; they are connected to you.
I’ll rip Vandal from his forty-foot Jaeger, and he will beg for his death. Blood rushes to my head.
There are some lines one must not cross with me. Vandal, you won’t dare cross another line after today.
I clench my jaws, gritting my teeth.
You’re done, motherfucker.
Gripping her tightly in my arms, I scream at the top of my lungs, “She will live!”
Her hand against my cheek, she murmurs, “Let me go, Vince. I got my minute with you.”
Frantic, I declare, “Never.”
This world makes no sense without you in it.
The intreton shell shakes as it topples. What now? The ground beneath us disappears, and Philip’s skyhook pulls us out.
 I love you.
 Me, too, always.