The Memory Thief
Published May 30th 2020
What is The Memory Thief?
The Memory Thief is a collaborative book. Each week, I write one new chapter and provide three possible options for what could happen next. Readers vote for their favourite and watch as the story comes to life. Click Here to learn more.
Last week on The Memory Thief…
I took a few minutes to deliberate. Apollo’s approach would require the sacrifice of countless lives, and there was a high likelihood that he would end up replacing Titus as tyrant of The Virt and The Slums, but it was nearly guaranteed to succeed. Lily’s strategy involved no bloodshed and could sever Titus’s hold over both cities in one fell swoop, but the odds of it succeeding were very slim. Not to mention the fact that both our lives would be on the line.
It was an impossible choice to make, but one that had to be made. I went back and forth a dozen times before finally picking one. I was plagued with doubts, but my mind was made up, and it was time for me to announce my decision.
I looked at each strategist in turn and said…
Option 1: “I choose Apollo’s plan.”
Option 2: “I choose Lily’s plan.”
Option 3: …nothing. The wall to my left exploded before I could utter a single word, and dozens of robots emerged from the landscape and started converging toward us.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 0 votes (00.00%)
Option 2: 9 votes (40.91%)
Option 3: 13 votes (59.09%)
This chapter is dedicated to John. Thanks for voting.
I looked at each strategist in turn and said… nothing. The wall to my left exploded before I could utter a single word, and dozens of robots emerged from the landscape and started converging toward us.
“We’re under attack!” yelled someone. I couldn’t tell who it was, nor did it matter. Reacting on instinct, I grabbed Lily’s hand and dragged her away from the threat. Blasts of red energy lit up our surroundings as we travelled into the depths of the building, but I ignored them and surged on, dragging Lily behind me.
We made our way past the MAT, out a hole in the wall, and down a dark alley between two half-erect structures. The explosions of energy and panicked screams faded until the sound of our own heavy breathing was all I could hear.
“I think… it’s safe… to stop,” I panted.
We slowed to a stop and took in our surroundings. The torches that lit up the vast cave now stood behind us, and our immediate surroundings were bathed in shadows. Still, I could make out a small, rundown shack. Made of scavenged scraps and covered in a thick layer of dust, the tiny structure would provide just enough space for Lily and me to hide.
“This way,” I muttered as I dragged her toward the structure.
“Are you sure—” she began, but I cut her off.
“We need to hide,” I said. “We can’t risk getting captured by the ‘bots.”
Lily sighed but did as told. Soon, we were crouching in the darkness, our bodies so close I could feel the heat wafting off her. Once upon a time, I would have welcomed the closeness, but I only had one thing on my mind.
We crouched in silence for what felt like an eternity before my heart slowed to a crawl, and my breathing returned to normal. Still, I waited a few more minutes before speaking.
“I think it’s safe,” I muttered.
Lily didn’t say anything, but my eyes had now adjusted enough for me to discern her face, and she seemed angry.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered. I wasn’t sure what I was apologizing for, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
Lily remained silent for a while before sighing.
“It’s fine,” she said. “I just didn’t think…” She hesitated. “I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Did you know the robots were going to attack?”
Another bout of silence followed by a stiff nod.
Is this a joke? I wondered, but Lily didn’t appear to be in the joking mood. In fact, I had never seen her so distraught.
“How is this your fault?” I asked, refusing to jump to any conclusions before I knew all the details.
Lily averted her gaze for a while before nodding once more.
“I’ll explain everything,” she promised, “but first, there’s something you must know.”
I nodded, indicating I was willing to listen.
“This is the story of a man named Titus,” she began. “He was a brilliant inventor, and all he ever wanted was to make the world a better place. He invented hundreds of machines and devices to help those less fortunate and changed the way people approached everyday life. But his efforts weren’t purely selfless. His company—The Triangle Corporation—became the largest privately-owned company in the world and made him the richest man ever to live.” She sighed. “But it wasn’t enough. His dream was to solve the energy crisis that plagued the globe. He worked tirelessly, and eventually discovered human memories were among the most potent sources of energy in the world.”
Lily paused, momentarily lost in thought.
“Titus devised a way to easily and painlessly extract memories and, once the initial tests were conclusive, he approached the government and tried convincing them to adopt his novel approach to solving the energy crisis.” She paused for effect. “They refused, claiming extracting memories was a violation of human rights. Titus was furious. He severed all ties with the government and retreated from the public eye, using his vast fortune to fund a secret project.
“It took many years, but his brainchild was finally born. When he unveiled it, everyone was in awe, for he had created the most beautiful city ever constructed. Made from metal and glass, the edifices were among the tallest in the world. The design was both modern and eco-friendly. But even more shocking was the revelation that the residences would not be auctioned to the highest bidder. In order to inhabit Titus’s futuristic city, you had to sign over the rights to your memories. Many saw it as an infringement on their rights, and the government tried to stop him, but Titus had hired an army of lawyers and ensured the contracts he asked potential new residents to sign was fully legal. As such, there was nothing the authorities could do to stop him.”
She paused to make sure I was listening, then continued.
“Most people refused to even consider Titus’s offer, but many saw it as a way to start anew and rid themselves of the painful memories they harboured. Soon, the city was full, and Titus began extracting people’s memories and using them to generate the world’s first truly green source of energy.”
“For a while, everything was perfect, but then the government sent in spies and saboteurs and the production of M-Energy—that’s what they called it—ceased. But Titus had come too far to give up. He quarantined the city, shutting it off from the outside world and creating a wall of artificial fog to protect it from prying eyes. But his plan backfired. The citizens saw the forced isolation as the start of a new dictatorial era, and many tried to leave. A few succeeded, but Titus refused to give up. He wiped everyone’s memories and fabricated a story about a cataclysm that supposedly wiped out most of the world’s population. He called it the Great Darkness and told everyone within the city they were the sole survivors.
“For a while, his strategy worked, but people eventually began remembering. They convinced others to rebel, and soon riots broke out all across the city.” She sighed. “Most people would have given up, but Titus refused to let his dream die. He created an army of robots and sent them to patrol the streets, but it only made things worse. There was a war, and more than half of the population ended up dying. Realizing he couldn’t win by force, Titus erased the citizens’ memories again and sent whoever caused trouble to a makeshift city his robots had built deep beneath the earth. At first, there were only a few people, but the number quickly rose, and soon, thousands were living in the underground city.”
She paused long enough for me to ask a question.
“Why did Titus do all this?” I asked. “Didn’t you say he was trying to help people?”
“Titus didn’t see himself as a bad person. He was only doing what he thought needed to be done in order to make his dream of providing a clean source of energy to the world come true.” She sighed. “He believed the benefits outweighed the risks. It’s why he kept the citizens of the underground city in a perpetual state of misery. Not only were the memories they produced more powerful, but it kept them from asking too many questions. Those who got too curious or regained their memories were frozen and stored in an underground facility.
“For a while, everything went according to plan, but the citizens of the aboveground city grew restless. Desperate to remedy this, Titus distracted them with Mind-Altering Terminals. Soon, all but a select few had chosen to live their lives within the various digital constructs Titus had created for them. Those who remained were sent to the underground city, which had become known as The Slums.”
She fell silent for a moment, which allowed me to ask a question that had bothered me for some time.
“What about the memories?” I asked. “Doesn’t living in virtual worlds hinder their collection?”
“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “All I know is Titus never does anything unless it benefits him, so he must be getting something from them.”
I was a little disappointed, but the specifics were unimportant. All that mattered was freeing the people Titus enslaved and allowing them to reintegrate the real world.
“What happened then?” I asked, eager to learn how the story would end.
“Not much,” she admitted. “Titus has maintained control over both The Slum and the Virt for nearly a decade, and not a single uprising was recorded during that time. But that’s about to change.” She smiled. “We’re going to stop him.”
A heavy silence followed the statement. It was a nice sentiment, but I hardly saw how two teenagers could overthrow a man as powerful as Titus. But then I remembered something Lily had said at the start of our conversation, and I forgot all about that.
“When the robots attacked, you said, ‘I didn’t think they’d find me so quickly.’ Why? How are you involved in all this?”
“Please,” I insisted. “You promised.”
She sighed and nodded.
“Very well,” she said. Taking a deep breath, she peered deep into my eyes and uttered the most unexpected words ever.
“I work for Titus.”
A deafening silence fell upon us. My mind reeled, struggling to make sense of what Lily had just said.
“You work with Titus?” I asked, too stunned to think of anything else.
She shook her head.
“I work for him, not with him,” she corrected.
“What’s the difference?”
“I grew up in Titus’s home,” she explained. “My mother was employed as his maid, and when she passed away, he took me in and allowed me to take her place.” She averted her gaze. “I always knew he was strange, but he had always been kind to my mother and me.” She sighed. “I only recently discovered the truth, and I’ve been doing everything I can to stop him ever since.” Our eyes met, and I saw the sadness that inhabited them. “Why do you think I came looking for you?”
“You’re the key to everything,” she said. “I can deactivate the robots on my own, but our window of opportunity will be very short, and we’ll need help from The Triangle of Justice. You’re the only one they listen to; they look up to you.”
“True,” she admitted, “but he knows how important you are to the success of the mission. He wouldn’t jeopardize everything just because he doesn’t like you.”
“Good point,” I conceded. After a moment of silence, I asked, “What’s the plan?”
“We’ll get to that,” she promised. “First, you must ask yourself whether or not you trust me.”
“This can’t work unless we can trust each other. I trust you. Do you trust me?”
I took a moment to think about it. Part of me worried she was manipulating me—after all, she’d done it countless times before—yet another side of me insisted she was my one true ally in the fight against Titus. But logic could only go so far. In the end, I had to trust my gut.
I studied Lily for a moment before voicing my answer:
Option 1: “Yes.”
Option 2: “No.”
Option 3: “I don’t know.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 23.
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