Gah, you guys! At this point in my real Choose Your Own Adventure history, I’d get the dreaded “You have just died of dysentery” message (or was that Oregon Trail?). Anyhidilly-hoodilly, luckily that hasn’t happened to us. Yet! But y’all are so intrepid and foolhardy, who knows what’ll happen? I mean, yr aunt JUST DIED, and instead of running straight for your room and an EFFING SHOWER, you chose D.  Take your tech map and the microchip and tell Cain, “I’m going to Unit 25. You can come with me, if you want.”

So in the (paraphrased) epic words of The Clash, if Cain stays will there be trouble? If he goes, will it be double? Let’s find out!

Chapter 13: Your Message Has Been Deleted

You hold your breath, not sure how you want Cain to answer you. His black eyes flash, but he shows no other emotion.

“Sure. And we can take a look at that microchip on the way.”

Shit, you think. How long was he standing in that doorway? What else has he seen? You shake off your misgivings, but you’re startled when you realize you’ve reached into your trouser pocket and grasped a knife — you didn’t even know that pocket was there, let alone that there’d be a knife in it. Aunt El must have given you some of your old pre-Incident clothes.

You relax your grip, but you have to admit you’re glad to know you’ve got a weapon. Cain may be hot, but you’re starting to get fuzzy memories of the two of you that are not so swoony as the ones you got earlier. You aren’t getting specifics yet, but there’s lots of shouting and spikes of fear and rage. In-TENSE.

“Lemme see that microchip,” Cain says, waving his hand at you impatiently.

Hesitating, you turn it over in your hand before offering it to him. “It looks … funny. It’s not like the chips we use in class. Is it some sort of medical device?”

“It’s pre.” You look puzzled, so he continues. “El was smart — she didn’t want just anyone to be able to read it, so she used tech pre-robot revolution tech. Luckily, we’ll pass a whole storeroom of old computers and other junk on the way to Unit 25. We can check it there.” He pockets the chip, and you wonder if you’ll ever get to see it again.

Cain definitely knows where he’s going, but you pull out the tech map so you know where you’re going, your aunt’s warning to trust no one but Chance and Rolex echoing in your mind. And her. She said I could trust her. Just up ahead, you see a tech storeroom marked on the map, and true to his word, Cain stops at the door. It’s locked, but he waves something small and light green in front of the bioscan sensor and there’s a soft click and the door slides open. Cain strides in, and you scurry after him, barely registering another soft click as the door slides closed and locks behind you.

“Here we go,” he says, grabbing a decrepit-looking piece of tech (if you could call it tech). You’d laugh at the little tower with its huge lens if you weren’t so keyed up. Cain jams the microchip into a slot on the base of the tower, presses a button and a 2-foot image of your aunt is projected into the air in front of you. It flickers a bit, but her voice is clear.

Be careful. Remember what I warned you about. I don’t have much time — the holographic Aunt El looks over her shoulder nervously — but I need to show you something. Your memories will start coming back faster than ever now, thanks partly to the trigger from reentering the resistance lair at the football stadium, and partly to removing the tracker. The tracker was also a memorydamp, producing interference to maintain your wipe. Anyway, there are some things you’ll never remember because you’re too young, but you need to see them. While your parents and I led the vanguard against the machines, not all humans resisted. There were many who helped usher in destruction, some out of greed, some out of fear, and the worst out of pure evil. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to tell who’s who anymore — most of us from the vanguard are gone, or have paid too heavy a price to break our silence, and the collaborators aren’t obvious. They don’t all hold high human offices. Some may even be among the revolutionaries of the new vanguard. That information was part of what you were after in Unit 25, but it might not be there anymore. Never forget your enemies are everywhere. I don’t know if I’ll be around much longer, so I want you to pay close attention to the clips I’m about to show you. Some of the collaborators you may know, and some you may meet soon and you need to know who you’re dealing with. Destroy this when you’ve committed them to memory. I love you. You’re our only hope.

And Aunt Em flickered out. You reach out, crying, “No! Wait!” but before you can finish, a new scene flares into life where mini-Em had hovered. There’s no sound, but it’s a city in ruins. Smoke is everywhere, and a few fires still burn. There are flashes from incendiaries and primitive laser weapons, and a man runs past. He’s tall, with blond hair and a “V” stitched on his shoulder. Before you can see his face, a laser blast rips through his body and he falls to the ground. A woman hurries up, lazrifle slung over her back, and starts rifling through his pockets. She grins when she finds a chip very like the one you’re viewing, and turns to look at someone just off screen. Her hair is black, and those dark eyes look so familiar—

Just then, Cain smashes the projector and the image goes out. You blink in the sudden darkness, then scramble on the floor for the microchip. Just as you wrap your fingers around it, Cain’s boot crashes down on your hand, forcing you to let go of the chip. When he moves to snatch the chip from your crunched fingers, you remember your knife and you also remember the soft click of the door locking behind you just a few minutes ago.

Looking up at Cain, you:

A.  screech, “Ow! That’s my hand, you clumsy brute!” and feign innocence of what you think you just saw.

B.  grab Cain’s ankle and try to flip him. No way is he keeping that chip.

C.  make a run for the door, and hope it will open for you.

D.  hand Cain the chip, saying coldly, “There was no call for violence. I didn’t even know she was my aunt until a few hours ago — what makes you think I believe her? Or that I’d be on her side?”

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.