The sinking sun had turned the sky into an orange and pink backdrop of flame. Its rippling light, distorted by the heavy air gave the sense it was already under water, shining its last fading rays up through the ocean.
“I was thinking about that being the last sunset,” I replied, my voice barely above a whisper.
“Nice,” she chuckled. “I’m pleased our alone time reminds you of the end of the world.”
A short breath of amusement slipped from my nose before I drew her closer and pressed my lips to the top of her head. “Not the end of the world,” I replied softly. “Just my last sunset.”
“Well that’s much better.”
I laughed. After a few seconds, she turned her face up to mine. “What would you do if you knew that is the last sunset?”
“It is the last sunset,” I replied with a crooked grin.
“What? Did I miss a news flash?”
“It might be,” I said as I squeezed her tight. “It could be the last one…for me…or you, every day.”
“This romantic moment is heading south real fast,” she muttered.
I kissed the top of her head. “What would you do?” she asked after a moment.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, letting the fictional moment flow through me as if I were living it as it formed in my head. “I’d stop dancing around the rules and kill the bastards who are destroying the world.”
“So…if tomorrow was the end of the world, you’d kill the people who are responsible for it…just before everyone dies?”
I laughed again, joined a second later by her. “No,” I replied through a lingering chuckle. “Not the end of the world—just my last sunset.”
“Ooooooh,” she said, her sarcasm drawing the word out with a a subtle rise and fall.
“With nothing left to lose, I’d pull out all the stops, break into every secure data site, hack every computer, capture every video and sound recording, and expose each corrupt person, organization, religion and government to the rest of the world,” I added, letting the sheer immensity of the task wash over me like the waves on the beach in front of us.
“I thought you said you’d kill them,” she said after a moment of reflection.
“That would kill them,” I replied. “Not to mention the civil war that would ensue.”
“So, if this is your last sunset, you would go out and expose all of those things you said, and that would make you feel like you used your last day wisely?” she asked. I could hear the mocking in her voice.
“Well…that and a box of Krispy Kremes.”
She laughed again. “I’m glad to hear I fit in there somewhere.”
“Well you don’t think I’m going to do all that on my own,” I said. “Do you?”
“Ha!” she scoffed. “You said it was your last day. If you think I’m going to let you leave me holding the bag for that, you’re nuts, mister.”
“I see,” I replied softly. “I guess I’m on my own then.”
She shook her head and smiled before looking back to the lapping waves on the beach. The sun was just a shimmering red bump on the horizon now.
“You really think you could do all that in one day?” she asked.
I breathed in, letting the cooling salt air fill my senses before standing. She looked up, annoyed by my departure.
“I guess we’ll find out at sunset tomorrow,” I replied as I turned to walk back to the car.
“Where are you going?” she called to my back.
I turned but continued to walk backwards up the dunes. “I’ve got twenty four hours to see how much of that I can get done.”
I smiled, though it was now too dark for her to see it. “Yeah,” I replied. “Just kidding…I would never eat a whole box of Krispy Kremes by myself.”
“Are you serious?” she said as she scrambled across the sand to catch up. “You’re really going to do this?”
“What do you think?”
She shook her head as she fell into step beside me, hooking her arm through mine. “If it were anyone else, I’d say no,” she replied. “But you are just crazy enough to try.”
I looked over my shoulder at the pink and purple left behind by the now missing sun. “Twenty three hours and fifty five minutes,” I muttered. “I’ve already lost five minutes.”
“I’ll give you the extra five if it comes down to it,” she said, ironically.
“I might have to hold you to it,” I replied as I wrapped my arm around her shoulder.
When we reached the car, I stopped abruptly and looked at her. “Wait!” I said, causing her to freeze and look up. “You said you didn’t want to be left holding the bag.”
“Pfft,” she scoffed with a dismissive wave of her hand. “If you mange to get all that done, and don’t live to see the next sunset, I’ll just take the credit for it all…I’ll be a hero.”
The headlights from the highway lit the smile on her face. I stared at her for a moment as warmth began to surge in my chest—I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I knew this amazing woman would not only stand by my side as I did something as crazy as this, but she would push me forward if I started to falter.
“Deal,” I said finally. “And if we get caught, I’ll take the fall.”
“That sounds like a really good plan,” she replied as she got into the car. “I’m liking this idea more and more.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said. “Let’s get a move on.”
As we sped down the highway toward airport, she reached over and grasped my hand, lacing her fingers through mine. “So how are you going to gather all this information in just twenty four hours?” she asked.
“Twenty three hours and forty five minutes,” I corrected.
“Right,” she muttered, dismissive. “How?”
“I don’t have to,” I replied with a knowing grin. “Someone’s already done the work for us.”
“What?” she asked, a crooked grin of disbelief stretching the corner of her mouth. “Who?”
I stepped harder on the accelerator. “The NSA,” I replied. “They have it all.”
“Yeah…all we have to do is get to their data,” I said.
She shook her head before turning forward again. “I was right,” she said quietly.
“You are nuts,” she said and then turned back to me. “And I’m just crazy enough to go down with you.”
I smiled. “Yep…that’s what I love about you.”