Tess started to run out, but Nate grabbed her arm. She pulled away from him and ran forward past the real Scott. Feeling like she had to do something drastic, Tess tackled the double to the ground and pinned his arms down. The double struggled to stab her, but her metal arm helped give her the strength to keep him down.
It was strange at first because the double smelled like Scott and looked almost exactly like him, except for the look in his eye. It wasn’t Scott. There was no life.
“Scott, please!” Tess yelled.
Scott looked up and scrambled for his bow. He pulled back the string and aimed it at his double’s head, but he swung an elbow at Tess’s face, knocking her back.
As the double began to run away, Scott fired an arrow, which missed and stuck in a tree. He pulled back the string again and let the second arrow fly.
It stuck through the back of his double’s head. They all watched as he turned around with the front of the arrow sticking though his eye. Tess had to turn away.
She heard the whoosh of a few more arrows impact the double and then heard the sound of his body hitting the ground. She focused on Scott’s face.
His hands were shaking as he lowered the bow. Nate was standing a little bit behind him. His mouth hung open.
Scott eventually snapped back to reality and extended his hand to help Tess up from the ground. She reached up and wiped under her nose. It was bleeding slightly.
They all walked for a little while without saying anything. Tess checked the scoreboard and saw that Scott was now in third under Sonya and Robert.
“What happens with me now?” Scott said. There was a strange, grumpy tone to his voice. “Are we supposed to figure out this stupid game ourselves.”
“Check your objectives,” Tess suggested.
Since Scott had already completed the first part of the level, maybe his objectives would be different.
“Now that you’ve destroyed your twin, you’re vulnerable to attack,” Scott announced. “You can only be eliminated once your twin has been destroyed.”
Tess and Nate stopped in their tracks.
“So…should we not be trying to find our doubles?” Nate asked. His face fell. “I hate this game.”
Scott’s face fell and he looked like he was about to punch something. He swung around to face them.
“It was so hard to do that. I got in my own head. It brought up all these bad memories,” Scott said. He shook his head. “It was worse than I thought it’d be.”
An alert went off on Tess’s screen, so she brought up her scoreboard.
She was suddenly in 4th place.
Noticing her distress, they all froze in place and accessed their scoreboards. Nate looked at her.
“Did someone kill your double?”
“Looks like it.”
She already knew who it was.
Scott eyed her and motioned toward the thicker forest in the distance.
“Let’s go sit down for a little bit and think about this,” Scott said. “We need a new strategy.”
They found a place to hide out for a little while, which happened to be a small cave, but it gave them a few moments to discuss what was happening.
“Is Robert trying to take me out again?” Tess asked.
“I think you pissed him off enough, Gal,” Nate replied. He ran his fingers through his beard. “He doesn’t know where we are, though. Maybe he thought your double was actually you.”
“If he did, he accidentally discovered that we can kill each other’s doubles and then come after that person,” Tess said.
“Maybe you can only kill and be killed once your double is out of the picture. Maybe I can go after Robert now and just—”
“You’re not doing that,” Tess said sharply.
Scott grinned and raised an eyebrow.
“Do you want me to stick around?” He asked.
Tess didn’t answer.
“Don’t mess with her,” Nate said, glaring at Scott. “We stick together. We protect each other. We’ll be safest that way.”
“What happens when we get to the end of the competition?” Scott argued.
“We won’t have to worry about that,” Nate said. “And it’s not something we need to talk about now.”
Tess wanted to ask him what he meant, but they heard a rustling noise a little bit farther away. They pushed themselves back in the cave and crouched down.
When they didn’t hear anything else for a while, they made their way out of the cave. Tess saw a backpack lying near one of the bushes, so she went for it. There was a small pistol inside.
She tried to hand it over to Nate, but he shook his head.
“It’s yours,” he said. “You might need it.”
They scavenged items from the rest of the pack, which included a couple bottles of water, some matches, and extra bullets. Tess shoved her items in her own pack.
After she tucked the gun in the back of her belt and they started back toward the path. Another alert let her know that Larsen had joined the scoreboard. A few moments later, Nate was part of the club. Only the twins and Eleanor remained safe for the time being.
“I feel like this level will be over soon,” Tess said.
“We just need to eliminate someone. Hopefully Robert,” Nate said.
“You think we should hide out or go on the offensive?” Scott asked.
“We’ll see what happens,” Nate said.
By the end of the day, everyone except Eleanor was on the scoreboard and soon everyone was going to be up for elimination. The three of them found a corner of the forest that was wedged against a rock wall and decided to stop there for the night. The game would be ending for the night in a few minutes.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a big day,” Scott said, as he leaned up against the rocks. “We’ll all have tonight to strategize and be ready to fight tomorrow.”
“We’ll be ready,” Tess said.
When they were getting close to the time to head back, Tess noticed Scott staring out into space. There was a strange look on his face. Something like guilt.
“Scott?” Tess asked.
He looked at her and forced a smile. There was no denying something had changed.
“I just…” Scott started. “Just tired.”
When they finally returned to their rooms, Tess made herself some dinner and went over her notes. She added some information about Scott and Nate, but not much else. She was confused about how to move forward this level without dying. She wondered how much Robert knew.
A little while later, someone slipped a piece of paper under her door. Tess picked it up and saw it said 9:30 p.m. There was a heart drawn underneath.
At that time, Tess entered her pod and joined in their small meeting room. Scott was waiting for her, with his hands shoved in his pockets.
“Where’s Nate?” Tess asked.
“He’s coming soon…in about ten minutes. I needed to talk to you first,” Scott said.
“I can’t lie to you anymore. I can’t hurt you.”
“Hurt me? Why would—”
He motioned toward the couch and she sat down. Scott was avoiding eye contact and his jaw was clenched tight, like the first time she had seem him. She wondered if he had been anxious then, too.
“I will tell Nate this because he’s become one of my closest friends in these past few weeks, but I need to let you know first,” Scott said. “There’s a reason I was asked to be in this competition and it’s not just because I’m half-blind.”
“Scott…what is it?”
He took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. He started tapping his foot.
“I was arrested by the police and they found out I was working for the underground, like I told you. But then I met The Creator and he told me they were going to make sure I was executed unless I helped him out. I was recruited by him to take part in Never World because he had something very specific he wanted me to do.”
Tess felt a lump in her throat.
“And what did he want you to do?”
“He told me that you had some information you were hiding. He wanted me to work on protecting you until I could figure it out. You were asked to be part of these competition so I could work on figuring out what The Dark Hand said to you. Do you understand that?”
“To spy on me?”
Tess didn’t say anything for a while. She avoided eye contact with Scott. After finally looking back up at Scott and seeing the sadness on his face, she closed her eyes. She woke up back in her pod.
She opened the pod and sat in there for a little while unsure of what to do. Unfortunately, she knew she couldn’t talk to Scott about it in the game, so she wasn’t sure if she had left prematurely without getting more answers. She just couldn’t look at him or talk to him at that moment. She felt disgusted.
Tess laid down next to her pod and closed her eyes.
Before long, she was fast asleep.