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JOHN'S HEART JACKHAMMERED in his chest. He followed Tom and Cara up the stairs, both said they'd entered via this route. "Nice one, Ace."

The trio burst through the exit and into the late afternoon sun. Tom continued on, scouting over a nearby ridge, when a bright light flashed. He put his hands up, but it did no good.

John watched Tom's body melt in seconds. The ridge John and Cara remained beneath worked as a shield from the radiation, but the hundred-story explosion that mushroomed up from Mexico's valley would take them in the shockwave certain to follow.

"Sweet mother of God." It's over. He collapsed to the dirt. Nowhere to run.

"So not good." Cara plopped down next to him. "The concussion of the blast must've triggered some sort of inert energy. And if that portal worked anything like theoretical-event-horizons of a black hole, then we just sentenced the planet to its destruction."

John managed to rope his arm around Cara and pulled her into him. She rested her head on his chest and drew in a stuttering breath.

"If this is the end of world." John kissed the side of her head. "Then I'm glad I'm here with you. I—"

Cara looked up to John, the rising explosion roiling outward in the reflection of his eyes, growing in intensity.

She placed her fingers on his lips. "Love you." Cara pressed her mouth to his until they were both consumed by the brilliant white light.

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