The Memory Thief
Published Sep. 12th 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…
“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.
NOTE: Click Here to read the full chapter.
Option 1: 3 votes (12.00%)
Option 2: 7 votes (28.00%)
Option 3: 15 votes (60.00%)
This chapter is dedicated to Steven. Thanks for voting.
He raised the detonator and pressed the button that adorned it… but nothing happened.
I waited a few seconds—just to make sure—then focused on Titus’s face. His brow was furrowed, and his thin lips were curled into a grimace of confusion. Clearly, he was just as perplexed as me.
“What ha…” I began, but my voice trailed off when something unexpected happened.
The ceiling came alive.
Moving like the scales of a snake, the triangular panels retreated, forming a gaping hole amid the glass dome. I caught sight of dozens of stars peeking out from behind a thin layer of clouds, but I soon forgot about them when a dark shape detached itself from the landscape and began moving toward us. Though familiar in appearance, I was unable to identify the flying mass until it entered the hole and was revealed in all its glory.
It was a flying vehicle.
Identical to the one I’d use to travel to Elysium, the tear-shaped transport pod hung from the rotating blades that kept it aloft. Whistling softly, it descended until it came to a standstill at the far end of the hangar. Slowing to a crawl, the blades gradually descended until they touched the floor. Moments later, a hidden door slid open, and a dark figure stepped out.
It was Lily.
She was just as gorgeous as I recalled, yet there was something different about her. Something unusual.
She was smiling.
Why is she smiling? I wondered as she began moving toward us. She took long, purposeful steps and halved the gap between us in mere seconds.
“This can’t be,” muttered Titus. “You should be halfway to Elysium by now.”
Lily threw her father a contemptuous glance.
“You underestimated my resourcefulness, father,” she answered. “I hacked the vehicle’s system and took control.” She winked at me. “I also took control of the main system and deactivated your army’s self-destruct feature.”
Titus was stunned. I was overjoyed. Not only was Lily alive and well, but I now understood why Titus’s dramatic display of dominance failed to live up to the hype. In deactivating the bots’ self-destruct feature, she not only rendered her father’s detonator useless, but she saved the lives of countless innocents. Once again, I found myself counting my blessing to have such a smart, resourceful—and beautiful—ally.
A heavy silence followed Lily’s explanation. When Titus finally spoke, it was with a complete and utter lack of empathy.
“Shoot her,” he commanded.
At first, I didn’t understand who he was speaking to, then a blast of red energy emerged from my peripheral vision. I barely had time to realize Handy was the shooter before the glowing sphere sent Lily crumbling to the ground. She shuddered for a few seconds, then grew still.
She was dead.
“You bastard!” I yelled.
I took a step toward Titus, but he stopped me with a withering glare.
“She’s not dead,” he growled.
The slender man’s eyes narrowed.
“Do you really think so little of me that you believe me capable of killing my only daughter?”
I hadn’t really taken the time to think about it. I merely saw the only girl I’d ever truly cared about collapse, and I assumed the worst. But now that I studied her closer, I could see that her chest was rising and falling to the slow rhythm of her breaths.
She was alive.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but the sense of helplessness that gripped me when I saw Lily collapse remained.
“It’s a shame it had to come to this,” muttered Titus as he approached his daughter’s unconscious frame. “I hoped to resolve this without the use of violence, but I now see there is but one way to fix this.” He sighed. “I must erase her memories.”
My eyes narrowed.
“You’re not touching her memories,” I seethed.
“You’re in no position to make threats,” he said. “Restrain him.”
By the time I realized who he was speaking to, Handy had already snuck up behind me and wrapped his powerful arms around my frame. I struggled to break free, but his grip was too strong. I watched, helpless, as Titus crouched and carefully lifted Lily’s limp body. Cradling her like an oversized baby, he began carrying her toward the flying vehicle.
“Stop!” I commanded, but Titus ignored me and kept walking.
“STOP!” I yelled, this time with as much force as I could muster.
The tall man slowed to a halt and turned to face me.
“What is it?” he asked, obviously annoyed.
“Why have you spared me?”
“I already told you. I’m no evil mastermind. I’m a visionary, a man who will stop at nothing to bring peace and order to the world.” He smiled weakly. “One day, you’ll understand why I did the things I did. Until then, try to forget about Lily and the infantile dreams she sewed into your unconscious.” Another sigh. “Enjoy what little remains of your life.”
What’s that supposed to mean? I wondered as Titus resumed his journey to the flying vehicle. But then it hit me, and the world I knew came crashing down around me.
“You’re going to destroy The Virt, aren’t you?” I asked. “You’ll bury us alive and start over.”
Titus didn’t respond. He merely kept walking, his shoulders hunched under the weight of the genocide he was planning to commit. I considered trying to break free, but I knew it was pointless. Unless…
“Handy,” I whispered, tilting my head back and staring up at the bot’s metallic face. “Are you still in there?”
There was no response, but I refused to give up.
“Come on, buddy,” I muttered. “Don’t leave me hanging. I need you. We all do.”
I kept trying, pausing every few seconds to check on Titus’s progress. It took a while, but my words finally got through to whatever part of the bot’s constitution made him different from all the other mindless drones.
It started with a slight twitch but quickly grew into a full-body shudder. Then, the metallic being’s grip loosened, and his single eye stopped glowing. For a brief moment, I worried he’d run out of power, but then the triangle that adorned his featureless face started glowing, and the friend I thought I’d lost was reborn before my very eyes.
“Glad to have you back, buddy,” I muttered. “Could you do me a favour and shoot that flying vehicle?”
No sooner had I pointed at the teardrop-shaped pod than a blast of red energy went flying toward it. Whistling past Titus, it sailed through the vehicle’s open door and slammed into the transport’s interior. Nothing happened for a few seconds, then a powerful explosion shook the vehicle. Torn to shreds by the force of the blast, the aircraft’s frame exploded outward, sending both Titus and his daughter flying.
Desperate to protect his sole remaining family, Titus shielded Lily’s frame with his own. While effective, the maneuver put him in the direct line of fire. Knocked out by a large chunk of metal, he soared through the air alongside his daughter.
“Watch Titus,” I told Handy as soon as the tidal wave of shrapnel had subsided. “Don’t let him get away.”
Rushing forward, I raced past the tall man’s unconscious frame and skidded to a halt by Lily’s mutilated body. Luckily, the scrapes and cuts that riddled her frame were superficial, and her breaths were deep and steady.
I dropped to my knees and carefully began shaking her.
“Wake up,” I urged. “Please wake up.”
It took a while, but she finally emerged from her slumber.
“What happened?” she croaked.
“It’s over,” I said as I took her hands in mine and carefully lifted her into a seated position. “It’s finally over.”
One Week Later
I had never seen so many people gathered in a single place. Everywhere I looked, I saw smiling faces. The nearest ones belonged to my friends—the surviving members of The Cluster. The rest was a mix of my people and the citizens of The Virt. Here and there, I also spotted one of the people Lom had rescued from stasis. Though eclectic, they all shared one common factor.
Their lives had forever been altered by Titus’s so-called selfless actions. But their days of suffering were now behind them. For the first time in the history of The Slums and The Virt, the future was bright.
I tore my gaze from the crowd and focused on the makeshift stage that stood before me. Built from fragments of the statue that once towered here, the metallic platform was a living embodiment of what was possible when hard work met determination. Soon, the collective efforts of our new society would transform The Virt into the jewel of modern engineering it once was. But that would take time.
Smiling, I focused on the man standing at the front of the stage. Though he looked no different than he had before, Prometheus now exuded a quiet confidence that made him appear older. Clearly, he was the best man to lead our new society.
Speaking of men who had forever altered the course of our lives, Titus stood to Prometheus’s left, shackled and under Handy’s watchful eye. Across from him stood a man I never thought I’d see again.
I had no idea how he’d managed to survive the robotic ambush, but I was glad to see him alive and well. Countless innocents had perished during what was now being referred to as the Memory War, and though I’d initially disliked him, I was growing to appreciate Apollo for the selfless man he had proved himself to be. Still, I was surprised when I learned he passed on the role of new leader of our yet unnamed society. But that was for the best as it had left the position open for Prometheus.
“We have all suffered,” announced Apollo’s son before I could note anything else about my surroundings and the people who inhabited it, “but the darkness of our past need not cast a veil of shadow upon our future.”
A powerful cheer rose in response to the young man’s wise words.
“Much has changed since Titus’s downfall…” continued Prometheus.
He was right. Not only had the citizens of The Slums been freed from their underground prison and the residents of The Virt forcefully expulsed from their Mind-Altering Terminals, but the world beyond our little world was now open to exploration. Though little was known of it, I was told the country in which Titus’s experiment had been successfully run for the past few decades was called Canada. One of the largest in the world, it stood near the northern pole and was among Earth’s most prized living environments due to its varied temperatures and resulting seasons. The leaders of this great nation allowed us to maintain our independence, but they left an open invitation for anyone wishing to leave the painful memories of their past lives behind. As of yet, not a single individual had taken them up on their offer, but I suspected that would soon change.
“…but there is one detail we have purposefully delayed addressing,” concluded Prometheus. “It’s time for us to determine Titus’s fate.”
A tidal wave of jeers and insults rose from the crowd and descended upon the former leader of The Virt. Though he remained physically unaffected by the verbal assault, I could tell the hatred left a deep emotional wound.
“There are many ways in which this tyrant’s fate can be determined,” explained Prometheus, “but I can only think of one befitting of the situation.”
He glanced at me, his piercing gaze boring deep into my soul.
“The young man I’m about to introduce is the reason we’re standing here today. Without him, we never would have had the courage to rise up and fight for the freedom we so rightly deserved.”
I gulped, suddenly aware of what was about to happen. Desperate for reassurance, I glanced at my friends—Lom, Squid, Finger, Maggot, and The Twins—but they merely beamed and gave me thumbs up. Seeing them so happy reminded me of the only member of The Cluster who wasn’t present. Though Piggy and I had a rough start, he’d proven himself worthy of respect when he rescued Finger from a group of drunkards. And my respect for him only grew when he insisted on accompanying us to The Virt. But it wasn’t until he sacrificed himself to save me that I realized he was, in fact, a hero.
Sighing, I turned my gaze to Lily. Beautiful as ever, the young woman wore a mask of apprehension. Unlike the citizens of The Slums and The Virt, she saw Titus not as a tyrant, but as a beloved father. I could only imagine what was going through her mind.
“Are you all right?” I asked, yelling to be heard over the roar of the crowd.
She nodded and put on a fake smile.
“You should go,” she screamed back. “They’re calling your name.”
I didn’t understand who “they” were until I focused on the sound of the chant that rose from the surrounding mass of bodies. Though distorted, it was impossible to mistake. It was a name. My name.
“SPY! SPY! SPY!”
I experienced a moment of confusion before realizing Prometheus was motioning for me to join him on stage. Confused, I slowly made my way toward the makeshift platform and hoisted myself onto it.
“What’s happening?” I asked, but the roar of the crowd drowned out the sound of my voice.
Prometheus stepped to the edge of the stage and motioned for the crowd to quiet down. It took a while, but the chanting finally died out, and an eerie silence settled upon us.
“Spy,” said Prometheus solemnly. “You’re the one who captured Titus. It’s only fitting you be the one to determine his fate.”
“What are my options?” I asked in a hushed tone.
“It’s up to you.”
I was hoping for more, but I knew no further guidance would be given. Clearly, this was a decision I would have to make on my own. Unfortunately, I had no idea what punishment was warranted.
Should I sentence Titus to death or pardon him for his crimes? I wondered. The way I saw it, both options were flawed. A death sentence would mean turning Lily against me while a pardon would imply losing the respect of my people. Memory extraction was also an option, but that would mean sinking to Titus’s level. Clearly, there was no easy way out.
I glanced at Lily. Her fake smile was gone, replaced by a mask of sadness. Like me, she knew her life was about to change forever.
Desperate for clarity, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Though comforting, it failed to provide a clear solution to my current predicament. It wasn’t until nearly a full minute had passed that the solution presented itself in the form of a feeling. Faint at first, the sense of clarity grew until I was convinced the choice I had selected was the right one. Filling my lungs one last time, I opened my eyes and focused on the shackled man standing across from me.
“Titus,” I said. “For your crimes against the citizens of The Slums and The Virt, I sentence you to…
Option 1: …death.”
Option 2: …have your memories extracted and destroyed.”
Option 3: …a lifetime of exile and shame.”
NEXT CHAPTER: Click Here to read Chapter 38.
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