The next morning, Tess ate breakfast and prepared her pod. As soon as the alarms started going off, she put on her goggles and was ready to go.
When she reentered the game, she stared down at the creatures below her. Perhaps if they were following her, they would provide enough distraction as she retrieved her egg. She had to make a run for it.
She eased herself down the ladder and hung a few feet above them. Once she was ready to go, she jumped over them and started running as fast as she could. She knew how to get back, so she didn’t have to waste time bringing up her map.
It was a long run, but Tess kept herself going as she found the path she had been on the previous day. She saw someone standing along the tree line, but she didn’t slow down. They were waiting until after she had her egg to kill her anyway.
Tess saw it placed up on a tree stump and went for it. She heard a girl’s scream right after she scooped it up, but she kept on going. It was heavy in her arms.
“Stop her!” Robert’s voice growled.
She couldn’t tell where everyone was coming from, but she felt a hand yank at her shoulder. She swung around and belted Eleanor with her metal fist. She flew back into a tree, looking stunned.
Tess couldn’t focus on her for too long because she heard more people coming in her direction. She had to find somewhere safe. She had to look for Anton.
“I have other plans now,” Robert shouted. “I don’t care about you! I’ll get you where it hurts the most.”
His voice was getting farther away the more she ran, so she began to slow down. She needed to catch her breath and bring up her vitals. She knew she couldn’t be in good condition. She wanted to call out for Anton, so that he could rejoin her, but she didn’t dare. She’d just have to wait.
Tess walked by herself with her egg cradled in her arm for about a half hour. She heard screams in the distance, but the game didn’t end. She had no idea what could be going on. After realizing she probably didn’t need to keep the egg with her anymore, she put it next to a tree. She tried to kick it open, but it was as hard as a rock.
She sat down next to the egg and accessed her map in an attempt to find a place to go. When she did that, she realized she could see everyone’s location in the game. She wasn’t sure if anyone knew about this yet, so she had to be extra careful. Maybe it had kicked in when she got her egg.
She did notice that Anton was close by, about a couple miles away. She also noticed that he was already heading in her direction. Maybe they could meet half way if she hurried. If anyone else figured out they could track each other, she might have to change course.
Tess headed in his direction as quickly as she could. Unfortunately, the rain started back up again, so she paused halfway through to check the map. Everyone, except her and Anton, were staying where they were.
She wondered what was going on or if her equipment was possibly broken.
Finally, after about an hour, Tess started to see Anton heading in her direction. He seemed tired and worn-out, but she didn’t see anything else wrong with him. She gave him a hug and he hugged her back.
When he paused to stare at the empty space in front of him, she knew he was checking his map.
“I think everyone’s afraid to attack now,” Anton said. “No one’s moving.”
“Maybe they’re figuring out a strategy.”
“The good news is I think you’re off their radar now,” Anton replied. “Looks like it’s everyone for themselves.”
“Except us,” Tess said.
“Looks like Nate and Scott are still together, too.”
As scared as Tess was to lose, she was glad that Nate and Scott were also okay.
Anton told her that the closest people to them were Sonya and Larsen, but they were still pretty far away. They found a safe place to sit and decided to wait it out as long as they possibly could. Tess wasn’t about to be the first one to attack.
“How hard was it to get your egg?” Tess asked.
“I had a little scuffle with Eleanor, but I was able to get away. I don’t know if she waiting for me or if she happened to run across my path,” Anton admitted. “I don’t know who’s working with who.”
Tess thought of informing Anton about Eleanor’s and Sonya’s possible alliance, but she didn’t say anything. She wasn’t sure if Sonya was talking to her because she thought Tess could keep a secret. Tess had always been very good at keeping secrets.
“We’ll figure it out,” Tess replied. “It’ll all come out in the open.”
They only had a few moments of rest before Tess started to feel a familiar rumbling. It started off very faint, but she knew something was coming. Anton started to sense it, too.
He placed a hand on her shoulder.
Before they even had a chance to gather up their things, they could see the massive dinosaur approaching in the distance. Tess was pretty sure it was the same creature she had seen a couple days before.
“Go!” Tess shouted.
Tess and Anton both took off into the jungle, but the T-Rex was right on their heels. It had spotted them and Tess wasn’t sure it would let them get away.
The trees were a blur as Tess continued to run. She knew Anton was much faster, but he kept to her pace.
They were separated when a massive tree collapsed in front of them, due to the T-Rex’s thrashing. Tess tried to climb over it, but it was too big. She started to sprint around, but the dinosaur started after her from her right side. There was no sign of Anton.
“Anton!” Tess shouted.
She needed to make sure he was okay, but the massive creature was right behind them. It seemed to have trouble navigating through the thick trees, but its frustration only made it more dangerous. Trees were slamming into the ground all her.
“Tess!” She heard Anton reply.
She spotted him as she started toward his voice. His arm was outstretched, so she clasped onto his open hand. Before she could say anything, Tess felt a pulling sensation and saw the world blur around her. When it finally stopped, she saw they were out of the path of the T-Rex. Tess could hear it stomping around, but she was positive it couldn’t find them.
Just then, Tess turned and was face to face with Robert. He shoved her to the ground and pointed his gun at her.
“Finally caught you,” Robert said.
Tess tried to catch her breath and think clearly, but it was all about to come to an end.
“Do it, then,” Tess said. If she was going to be eliminated first, she wasn’t going to beg. There was no point. “Just get the level over with.”
“Are those your last words?”
Tess didn’t say anything. A smile crept across his face as he pointed the gun at Anton.
“I’m guessing you’re all out of steam,” he said.
“No!” Tess yelled.
She tried to pull herself up in time, but she heard the gunshot echo throughout the island. Anton collapsed to the ground and she hurried to gather him up in her arms. There was blood everywhere, but his eyes were will open. She pulled him up into her lap.
She heard Robert’s voice, but he didn’t look up.
Tess grit her teeth as she tried to cover up the wound in Anton’s chest with her hand. He stared up at her and tried to say something, but no words came out. She saw the life leave his eyes. It felt real. She couldn’t stop it from feeling real, no matter how many times she told herself it was just a game.
Prepare for pod reentry in 3…2…1…
Tess tried to clutch onto Anton’s body, but there was nothing she could do. Anton was gone and the level was over.
She was alone.