The Memory Thief
Published Aug. 29th 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 winced, worried something horrible would happen, but the world remained unchanged. Sighing, I lowered my guard and allowed myself to believe Titus’s tyrannical reign had finally come to an end. Of course, that was the very moment things took an unexpected turn.
It started with a slight tremor, but it quickly grew into a powerful vibration that shook the entire city. Moments later…
Option 1: …thousands upon thousands of robots emerged from the surrounding landscape.
Option 2: …thousands upon thousands of winged robots rained down from the heavens.
Option 3: …a solitary, building-sized robot erupted from the depths of the earth.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 2 votes (06.45%)
Option 2: 5 votes (16.13%)
Option 3: 24 votes (77.42%)
This chapter is dedicated to Sarah. Thanks for voting.
Moments later… a solitary, building-sized robot erupted from the depths of the earth. Massive beyond measure, the behemoth grabbed hold of a nearby structure and hoisted itself into a standing position. Now as tall as the statue that once stood nearby, the monstrosity turned its featureless face toward us and let out a billowing roar.
How can it roar when it has no mouth? I wondered. But then I began noticing details I’d failed to take into account, and the horrifying truth dawned on me in all its horrendous glory.
The robot wasn’t, in fact, a robot. It was an amalgamation of thousands upon thousands of smaller bots. Moving as one, they formed the arms, legs, and frame of the oversized being. The “roar” I’d heard was actually the grinding of metal against metal, and the eerie glow that enveloped the giant came from the thousands of triangular eyes that dotted its frame.
Where did they come from? I wondered. But, deep down, I already knew.
These were the same robots that had tormented my people, stolen their memories to fulfill their master’s twisted machinations. They were memory thieves, and they would not rest until every last citizen of The Slums was either dead or forced back into slavery.
I can’t let that happen, I realized. But how the hell was I supposed to defeat an enemy of such magnitude? I was pondering this very thing when something unexpected happened.
The robot started glowing. Faint at first, the radiance intensified until the entire being was radiating red energy. Jumping from bot to bot, it travelled toward the behemoth’s featureless face and formed an oversized triangle. Growing in both size and strength, the eerie glow intensified until a single viable outcome remained.
“Watch out!” I yelled, but it was already too late. A vehicle-sized sphere of energy came screaming toward us. People scattered, but only a few managed to escape. The rest were torn to shreds by the blast. Those lucky enough to survive were left with vicious wounds and permanent mental trauma.
I barely had time to recover before another blast came whistling toward us. This time, all but a few managed to escape the blast radius. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the recipients of the third blast. All but a single individual were killed, bringing the total number of casualties into the dozens.
This is insane, I realized. I must get my people to safety. But then I glanced at the colossus and realized it had temporarily expended its supply of red energy. More was on its way, but it would be a while before it could fire again.
I focused on my companions. Lily and Prometheus stood nearby, resolute expressions plastered across their grim faces. They had survived much, and neither would stop until Titus’s army was defeated.
I knew what to do, but I couldn’t do it alone. If my plan was to succeed, every last individual would have to play their part. Luckily, getting them riled up would be easy. In fact, all it took was a single word.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, then a solitary blast of red energy rose from the crowd. It whistled through the air and hit one of the robots in the face. The resulting explosion caused the metallic being to lose its grip, and we watched in a mixture of awe and disbelief as it plummeted toward the earth.
A heavy silence settled upon us as every man, woman, and teenager present realized victory was still within our reach. Attaining it would require hard work and sacrifice, but we had come too far to give up now. Roaring in an impressive display of confidence, the rebels took careful aim and began firing.
Hundreds of robots fell, torn to shreds by the red energy that assaulted them. But, no matter how many were destroyed, the integrity of the giant remained undamaged. Roaring angrily, it smashed through a building and stomped toward us.
“Focus on its head!” commanded Prometheus.
A few people heard him, but most remained unaware of the change in tactic. It wasn’t until the genius of Prometheus’s statement dawned on me that the news spread.
“Shoot the eye!” I yelled. “SHOOT THE EYE!”
Picking up the command, the soldiers began chanting. Soon, all but a few random shots were being directed at the behemoth’s triangular eye. While effective, the strategy failed to pay off. That is, until the robot tried retaliating with a blast of its own. Unable to progress beyond the barrage of incoming shots, the miniature sun exploded in a fiery blast of red energy and shrapnel.
The resulting damage was beyond anything I ever could have imagined. Not only was the giant’s head completely destroyed, but the loss of its central command centre caused its body to fall apart.
I watched, amazed, as thousands upon thousands of robots rained down upon the city. A few managed to grab on to the neighbouring buildings, but most fractured their bodies upon the cobbled streets that stood far beneath. Soon, not a single robot remained airborne.
The colossus had been defeated.
A powerful cheer rose from the mass of rebels and the members of The Triangle of Justice, but the joyful outburst petered out when the carpet of fallen bots began to move. Within seconds, the dented beings had regained their erect postures and were starting to move toward us. They were still far away, but it was only a matter of time before they reached us.
There’s no way we can defeat them, I realized. There were five of them for every one of us, and they were impervious to both fear and pain.
“Should we order a retreat?” I asked Prometheus.
I glanced at Lily.
“Crap,” I muttered. The choice to stand and fight or order a retreat was mine to make. Unfortunately, I was torn between my desire to see Titus punished for all he had done and concern for my people’s safety. I was struggling with this difficult issue when something happened that wrenched the power of decision from my hands.
The earth began to shake.
Subtle at first, the tremors intensified until the mere act of standing became difficult. Though familiar, the sensation kept me trapped in a state of confusion until the cobbles before me were dislodged by the sudden appearance of a strange-looking vehicle.
Reminiscent of a teardrop, the vehicle’s rounded head was worn by time and use and came equipped with a set of mandible-like gears. The rear narrowed to a point, and hundreds of scratches and dents made up the once shiny surface. The final detail I considered was the large dent that stood at the base of the door. Though familiar, I didn’t put the pieces together until the door swung open, and its occupant was revealed.
It was Lom.
I stared at my friend for a while, unsure what to make of his unexpected arrival. This not only allowed me to recognize the vehicle as the one I’d used to travel to the memory sorting facility, but it made it possible for more vehicles to appear. Dozens had emerged from the depths of the earth by the time I found the strength to speak.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I’m here to save your butts.”
He stepped out of the vehicle, followed closely by Handy. I studied the robot for a moment before focusing on Lom once more.
“What does that mean? I asked. “What’s going on?”
Nearly a hundred teardrop vehicles had now appeared, and more were surfacing every second. Though most remained sealed, a few had opened, revealing men and women of all ages.
“Did Squid tell you I was working on a backup plan?” asked my friend.
“Well,” he said. “This is it.”
Most of the vehicles were now open, and nearly a thousand people were amassed before us. They wore resolute expressions and clutched odd-looking weapons.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“Former citizens of The Slums.”
“Do you remember your first visit to the memory sorting facility? Do you recall what happened to me when I was captured?”
“You were frozen and held in a stasis chamber.”
“That’s right. The same thing happened to these people.”
I turned my gaze to the crowd, which had now grown past quantification. Their faces were foreign, yet I found the same fierce determination as I had among the citizens of The Slums and the members of The Triangle of Justice.
“How many?” I asked, too overwhelmed to form a complete sentence.
“How many were rescued, or how many agreed to help?”
“Ten thousand were rescued. Five thousand agreed to help.”
That was incredible news. Not only did we now stand a fighting chance against Titus’s approaching army, but I had proof Lily’s father wasn’t as evil as I’d been led to believe. Sure, he was responsible for the suffering of countless innocents, but he had opted against slaughtering those who opposed him. Of course, that didn’t change the fact that his army was closing in around us, determined to wipe us off the face of the earth.
“How did you pull this off?” I asked, taking advantage of the temporary reprieve.
“It was easy,” said Lom. “Handy and I snuck into the facility and unthawed everyone. By the time the robots realized what we were up to, most of them had been called away. We overpowered those that remained and stole their vehicles.”
“And the weapons?” I asked.
“We found them.”
“You found them?”
“You’d be surprised the things Titus keeps in that facility.” He smiled. “But that’s a story for another time.”
He eyed the approaching army or robots.
“Are you ready for the final showdown?” he asked enthusiastically.
“Not really,” I admitted. Unlike Lom, I had witnessed the horrors of war, and I wasn’t looking forward to the upcoming carnage.
“Come on,” he said. “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for ever since we learned the memory thief’s true identity.”
“You’re right. Let’s put an end to this madness once and for all.”
I motioned for Prometheus and Lily to join us. Together, we devised a simple defence strategy. There was no telling how effective it would be, but we were optimistic. Still, it was with a heavy heart that we doled out the orders. Soon, the outcome of the war would be decided, and life as we knew it would forever be altered.
The first few robots fell with surprising celerity. Not only were the weapons Lom’s people sported incredibly effective, but they were hungry for vengeance. Nonetheless, countless innocents perished in the first few minutes of combat. But that all changed when Prometheus had the genius idea of having them work in teams. Fighting as one, the duos not only proved more lethal, but they helped quell the rising death count. Soon, five robots fell for every human killed. Still, it wasn’t until nearly half the robotic army was eliminated that I allowed myself to believe victory was within our grasp.
I can’t believe it’s almost over, I thought. But I forgot all about that when Lily appeared before me, a worried expression plastered across her face.
“We must go,” she said. “Now.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “We’re about to win.”
“Exactly. My father is nothing if not pragmatic. The moment he realizes defeat is inevitable, he will flee.”
“Do you really think he’d abandon you?”
“We snuck in, remember? My father has no idea I’m here.”
A short silence followed the reminder.
“What do you think he’d do if he got away?”
“Destroy the evidence and start anew.”
“You’re right. He must be stopped. Should we sneak in or—”
“There’s no time for that. We’ll take the main elevator. Hopefully, we can reach him before he escapes.”
I gulped. Things didn’t go so well the last time we took the elevator, but now wasn’t the time to focus on such things. Titus had to be stopped, and Lily and I were the only ones who could do it.
“Let’s go,” I said. I grabbed her hand and led her across the battlefield, but we only covered a short distance before Lom appeared before us.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked.
“We must stop Titus,” I said. “Please don’t try to stop us.”
He snorted. “Stop you? Like hell. I’m coming with you.”
I glanced at Lily. She shook her head.
“I’m sorry,” I told Lom, “but this is a two-man operation.”
“You’re my best friend, and I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you. Stay here and lead our people to victory. Lily and I will take care of Titus.”
Lom hesitated for a moment, then nodded sadly.
“Fine,” he muttered, “but only if you agree to take Handy with you.”
I smiled, thrilled at the prospect of fighting alongside my robotic friend once more.
“You’ve got yourself a deal.”
“Thanks. You too.”
I hugged him, then motioned for Lily and Handy to follow me.
Reaching the glass elevator was easy. Too easy. Not only did we encounter no resistance from the robots, but they seemed to go out of their way to avoid us. I told myself it was because we were travelling with a bot of our own, yet I couldn’t help wondering if it was the handiwork of someone who once claimed to have surveillance cameras hidden throughout The Virt. But why would Titus help us? It made no sense. Still, it was with a growing sense of unease that I led my companions toward our enemy’s lair.
Reaching Titus’s home was just as easy. Deserted level after deserted level flashed across my field of vision as we travelled toward the structure’s topmost level. Vast beyond reason, the hangar-like chamber was empty but for two elements. The first was the flying vehicle I had used to travel to the outside world. The second was Titus. He stood…
Option 1: …by the vehicle’s open door, ready to escape.
Option 2: …between us and the vehicle, dressed in a glistening robotic suit.
Option 3: …between us and the vehicle, clutching what looked like a detonator.
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 36.
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