Mission X by Kathrine Zahm
35 word pitch: The game taught Xander everything, from parkour to Portuguese. When the final championship teams him with Akemí and bans life saving reboots, Xander must risk life and limb to escape the girl of his nightmares.
Growing up in a game has its perks. Perk number one is that by eighteen, Xander knows almost every skill imaginable, from parkour to Portuguese. Hacking TSA security? A breeze. Assassinating Presidents? He can do it in his sleep. Perk number two is that Xander gets to win. It’s not just the money; the satisfaction is better than any drug. But the biggest perk of all? The game never requires Xander to work with other players. Social interaction is more painful than losing. Okay maybe not losing.
When the final championship, Covert Ops, requires Xander to work with Akemí, he hopes it’s a random one mission gig. When they reach the Kyoto train station checkpoint and open the new rules, Xander’s already cold heart turns glacial. Six teams, comprised of one male and female partner each, will compete elimination style through a series of complex missions. It’s too bad both team members have to be alive to qualify to win, or Xander would have offed Akemí in mission one.
The rules also state that foul play is on the table. No one gets a penalty for causing bodily harm. Oh, and one final rule change: Life saving reboots used whenever a mission went south are now banned. Playing against deadly competition with a championship in the balance, Xander must learn to cooperate while risking life and limb if he ever hopes to escape the girl of his nightmares.
Mission X is a YA sci-fi at 67,000 words.