The Memory Thief
Published Sep. 5th 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…
Reaching Titus’s home was 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.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 4 votes (13.33%)
Option 2: 6 votes (20.00%)
Option 3: 20 votes (66.67%)
This chapter is dedicated to Elastigirlyz. Thanks for voting.
He stood… between us and the vehicle, clutching what looked like a detonator.
“Welcome,” said Titus. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
I glanced at Lily. She shrugged.
“Why are you still here?” I asked. “Why haven’t you fled?”
Titus’s brow furrowed.
“Why would I flee?”
“Because you lost.”
“Have I?” he asked, glancing at the detonator. I had no way of knowing what would happen if it was activated, but I wasn’t planning on finding out.
“Why don’t—” I began, but Lily cut me off.
“You don’t have to do this,” she said. “Call off your robots. Help us rebuild our society. Together, we can—”
“No,” snapped Titus. “The time for negotiations has passed.”
He raised the detonator and—
“Wait!” I cried, moments before the firing mechanism was activated. “Lily has something to tell you. Something important.”
She threw me a questioning glance, but I ignored it.
“She’s your daughter,” I told Titus. “Please listen to what she has to say.”
The tall man considered my request for a moment before lowering the detonator.
“Keep him busy,” I whispered into Lily’s ear. Turning to Titus, I added, “Handy and I will leave you alone.”
I led the robot to the outer perimeter of the vast chamber within which we stood. Titus’s suspicious gaze remained on us until Lily began speaking. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but I could tell she was trying to reason with her father.
“Stay here,” I told Handy. “Distract Titus if he gets suspicious.”
The robot nodded.
Now that both Lily and Handy had been given their directives, it was time for me to play my part. Unfortunately, reaching Titus unnoticed would require finesse and timing, and I had no way of knowing when he would next glance my way. So, I threw caution to the wind and began moving along the hanger’s curved perimeter. The world beyond the glass scales caught my eye more than once, but I ignored it and focused on the task ahead.
Halfway there, Titus tried checking up on me, but Lily distracted him with a perfectly timed outburst. Though obviously fake, the vocal assault sufficed to distract Titus. Still, I quickened the pace and travelled the remainder of the journey in a fraction of the time. But the need for celerity only increased when I got within earshot of Titus and Lily. The conversation had taken an ugly turn, and the two were now arguing. Though useful in covering the sound of my approach, it meant I was running out of time. It was thus at a full sprint that I traversed the final leg of my trip.
The echo of my heavy footfalls reached Titus before I did. Momentarily forgetting about the argument, he turned toward me. His eyes grew wide, and his right hand twitched, indicating he was preparing to activate the detonator. At a loss for what to do, I propelled myself through the air and tackled the tall man before he could press the trigger.
The next few moments were utter chaos. I struggled to pry the detonator from Titus’s bony hand, all while avoiding his flailing limbs. In the end, I opted for incapacitating him, but my sudden change in strategy provided the perfect opening. By the time I realized what I’d done, it was already too late.
Titus pressed the trigger.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, then a powerful explosion shook the entire structure. Moments later, the world exploded inward in a roaring inferno of blistering heat, screeching flames, and glass fragments. I protected myself as best as I could, but the shrapnel embedded itself deep into my flesh. The heat scorched my lungs, and the flames melted my skin. Within seconds, I had been reduced to a mass of mutilated flesh. I was begging for the sweet relief of death when it happened.
The pain subsided.
I remained perfectly still for a few seconds, then opened my eyes. The flames were gone. So was the shattered glass and the billowing smoke. In fact, the entire world had been replaced with an eerily familiar sight.
I stood in a glass elevator, weightlessly floating toward Titus’s home. Lily and Handy floated alongside me, unperturbed by the oddness of our surroundings. Clearly, they had no recollection of the events that had led to this strange situation.
What happened? I wondered. Did I somehow go back in time, or was everything that happened a mere figment of my imagination?
My sense of unease grew exponentially as we neared Titus’s home. By the time we reached the structure’s topmost level, I was convinced I had lived this moment before.
The vast, hangar-like chamber that stretched before us was exactly as it was before. Two elements made up the space’s only furnishings. The first was a flying vehicle. The second was Titus. He stood between us and the vehicle, clutching what looked like a detonator.
“Welcome,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
I glanced at Lily. She shrugged.
“W-Why are you still here?” I asked, my voice shaky and uncertain. “Why haven’t you fled?”
“Why would I flee?”
“Because you… you lost,” I stammered, struggling to make sense of what was happening.
He glanced at the detonator. Unlike the last time, I now knew exactly what would happen if he pressed the button that adorned it. Still, it wasn’t until Lily attempted negotiating with her father that I decided to take advantage of my superior knowledge.
“Handy,” I said. “Shoot Titus.”
It took a few seconds for the robot to comply. Taking advantage of this, Lily lunged forward, but the blast of red energy reached Titus before she could. Ripping into his flesh, the blast turned his chest into a deep crater of charred muscle and bones. Eyes wide, he crumbled into a shuddering heap.
Titus was dead.
Unfortunately, the death spasms caused his lifeless hand to constrict, triggering the detonator. By the time I realized what had happened, a wall of roaring flames and glass fragments came barreling toward me. The next thing I knew, I was dying all over again.
The pain didn’t last long. One second, I was shrieking at the top of my lungs; the next, I was back in the elevator, floating alongside my unsuspecting companions.
What the blank is happening? I wondered. I was tempted to share my confusion with Lily, but I knew that would only make things worse. She knew nothing of what had transpired, and trying to explain the odd situation I found myself in would only confuse her. The only upside was that I was no longer surprised when we reached the hangar and found Titus waiting for us with a detonator clutched in his bony hands.
“Handy,” I said, wasting no time. “Stun Titus.”
The robot fired a small blast of red energy, and Titus crumbled into a shuddering heap of unconscious flesh. By the time the tremors ceased, the detonator had fled his grasp and was rolling toward the flying vehicle. I didn’t realize what this meant until the cylinder collided with the vehicle’s base, and the triggering mechanism was activating. Moments later, the world lit up with fire and glass.
“Dammit!” I swore when the familiar elevator appeared around me.
“What’s wrong?” asked Lily.
“Never mind. It’s not important.”
Our next few visits to Titus’s home ended in the same way as the previous ones. The manner in which the detonator was triggered varied, but the result remained unchanged. I tried everything I could think of—I shared my peculiar predicament with Lily; I reversed our trajectory and fled to the safety of The Virt; I even goaded Titus into killing me—but the result was always the same. It wasn’t until well over a dozen failed attempts that I finally realized what was happening.
“This isn’t real,” I gasped moments after the elevator appeared around me. “I’m inside a MAT.”
Lily frowned, but the world dissolved before she got a chance to speak. Now bathed in darkness, I felt around for the familiar hardness of the Mind-Altering Terminal’s inner shell. Sure enough, the egg-shaped compartment was present and accounted for. Even the cool, viscous liquid in which I’d been bathing for god knows how long was present. Sitting, I expulsed it from my lungs and waited for my blurred vision to sharpen. It took a few seconds, but a familiar landscape was soon revealed.
I was back in Titus’s home, only this time I was in the game room where Lily and I had been tricked into thinking we had hacked the system that controlled her father’s robotic army. There was no sign of Lily or Handy, but my clothes lay nearby, along with a towel and a note.
The first thing I did was dry myself off. Then, I slipped into my clothes and retrieved the note.
We need to talk. You know where to find me.
He was right. I knew exactly where to find him. Still, it was with a growing sense of apprehension that I made my way toward the elevator. I worried it wouldn’t respond to my touch, but a portion of the glass pane slid open when I pressed my hand to it. Stepping inside, I let the mysterious force that governed the transport tube carry me to the very summit of Titus’s home.
A sense of déjà vu enveloped me the moment I stepped out of the elevator. The chamber was just as vast as it had been inside the MAT, and Titus stood a short distance away, brandishing a detonator. The only difference was that the flying vehicle that once stood behind him was gone, indicating this was, in fact, the real world.
“Welcome,” said Titus. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
I gulped, creeped out by the familiar ring of the words.
“You said you wanted to talk?”
“But first, let me congratulate you on beating the simulation. I assumed it would take you much longer.” He smiled. “Once again, you’ve proven yourself more resourceful than I gave you credit for.”
I ignored the compliment.
“How did I end up in the MAT?”
“I pumped sleeping gas into the elevator. The rest, you can figure out for yourself.”
“What have you done with Lily?”
Titus’s eyes narrowed.
“I didn’t do anything. I’m her father, and all I care about—all I’ve ever cared about—is keeping her safe.”
“Where is she?” I growled, taking a threatening step forward.
“I sent her away,” said Titus, unimpressed by my attempt at intimidation. “She’s safe from you and all your meddling friends.”
Well, I thought. That explains why the flying vehicle is gone.
“What will you do with her?” I demanded.
“That’s none of your business.”
I considered insisting, but I knew it would be a waste of time, so I voiced another of my many unanswered questions.
“What’s your plan for The Slums and The Virt?”
Titus’s lips curled into a smile.
“You’ll soon find out. In the meantime, there’s someone who wants to meet you.”
I didn’t understand what he meant until the echo of footsteps reached my ears. Turning, I found a tall metallic being marching toward me. Though Handy remained physically unchanged, the manner in which he carried himself worried me. Gone was the nonchalance with which he once navigated the landscape. There was also a coldness about him, as though the thing that once made him unique had been removed. Clearly, this wasn’t the same Handy I’d grown to know and love.
“What have you done to him?” I demanded.
“It,” corrected Titus, “and all I did was fix what was broken.”
I glanced at Handy once more, but all I saw was the friend I’d lost.
“Why are you doing all this?” I demanded. “Why not just kill me?”
Titus shook his head sadly.
“I’m not an evil man,” he said. “I only did what I had to for the world to live in a perpetual state of bliss.” He sighed. “Nonetheless, you’ve been a thorn in my side ever since my daughter erased your memories and tricked you into believing you were some sort of hero. So, I thought I’d give you a chance to witness the outcome of your little rebellion.”
He raised the detonator and pressed the button that adorned it…
Option 1: …and a powerful explosion shook the structure. Moments later, a tidal wave of fire and debris came flying toward us.
Option 2: …and a series of distant explosions shook the city, indicating The Virt—and everyone within it—was in mortal danger.
Option 3: …but nothing happened.
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 37.
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