Chapter 1: A New, Old Hope
When Mark awoke the first thing he noticed was the sleeping form next to him. This brought back memories from the night before when he and Lana had finally "discovered" each other after being friends since early childhood. They had been in love with each other since their early teens but neither had been able to tell the other about their feelings. As he tried to untangle himself from his new lover she stirred and smiled up at him.
"Good morning love." she said, "I never thought last night would happen. I'd given up hope and was going to finally give into Andrew's advances." Her smirk at the end let him know she was only teasing.
"Well good morning to you too then." Mark smiled back to her, "I hope you didn't mind sleeping in the cave all night. I guess we just kind of drifted off after everything."
Stretching her neck Lana replied, "I wouldn't have had it any other way."
"Well, if you don't mind, I must go take care of some morning business." he said as he was walking further into the cave. As he was standing near a bend, empting his bladder, he began to think how this was definitely going to be one of the best days of his young life. After finishing up, he turned and was going to go back to her side when he caught a hint of light coming from around the bend. He called back to Lana to come check out the back of the cave with him then started to walk around the bend. As he cleared the turn he saw that the cave suddenly started to descend rather quickly, so he decided to wait for her to catch up.
Soon she was by his side and they moved down deeper into the cave. All of a sudden the cave flattened out and the walls seemed smoother and more uniform. he quickly spotted a small red light almost completely coved by dirt, but still faintly shining through about chest level on the cave wall, several meters up to his left. When he approached and began to clear the dirt away a voice began to repeat "Warning unauthorized attempted entry hanger bay three, Warning unauthorized..." After the first few seconds of confusion, he grabbed Lana and began to back away from the wall in the direction they had come in. Just as they got the bottom of the rise that would lead them out of the cave, a voice commanded,
"Halt and identify yourself!"
He was barely able to stammer out, "Mark Evans and Lana Stevens."
The voice replied, "Identification not recognized, please step forward for bioscan."
Mark answered, "I don't understand, who are you... where are you?"
"Please step forward for identification bioscan," was the only response.
Mark motioned for Lana to backup then he took a few hesitant steps forward and asked, "Now who are you and where are you hiding?"
"Scan complete. Unable to identify. Please state rank and unit number."
This only confused Mark all the more. "I really don't understand. Whoever you are you must know that talk like that will get you arrested."
"Unable to identify rank and u..." all of a sudden in the middle speaking the voice died, only to be replaced by a much more pleasant, almost feminine sounding voice, saying, "I'm sorry for that, but it took a few minutes to 'wake' me after your bioscan was reported as unidentifiable to my computers." This statement made him even more nervous and confused.
"Look, I don't know who you are or what you want but I don't want trouble, so we are gonna walk out of here and pretend this didn't happen. You are either trying to pull some kind of sick joke or get us all killed. Either way I want no part of it."
At this a young fairly attractive female, dressed in some odd uniform, seemed to materialize directly in front of him. Jumping backwards, he yelled, "What the hell? How did you do that?"
The young woman replied, "Simple, while we've been talking my systems were coming online. Just as you finished saying you were going to leaving my holographic emitters came online so I thought I would show you who I was. Now, if you don't mind, I have a few questions for you. First, why do you keep talking about getting arrested?"
Mark answered quickly, "Well, you keep talking about forbidden topics, like a rank and unit number. I don't know what those are but they sound like something to do with a military and you should know that we are not allowed to have anything like a military. Except for the Keepers, but they're only law enforcers and have no weapons. They're only to observe and report to the Gods through the priests who is breaking laws. Also you spoke of computers, those are forbidden technology. We're only allowed to develop mechanical technologies. How can you not know this?"
While Mark spoke, Lana quietly stepped up behind him and took his hand. The woman responded, "Let's just say I've been asleep for a long time. My next question is why do you follow these laws?"
"Well, for the most part that's how it has always been. Well at least since the Gods came and freed us from the oppression of the old evil Gods. Also, as for the military we have no need, the Gods protect us from all that would do harm. Computers were the means for the old evil Gods to control us so we must never try to build them again lest the old Gods try to reemerge."
The woman seemed to think for a moment then said, "These Gods, do you know what they look like? Those old Gods you speak of, why are they referred to as evil?"
He responded, "No one knows what the Gods look like, well except maybe the High Priests. They're rumored to be able to speak directly to the Gods. And the old Gods were evil, everyone knows of how they oppressed us and forced us to do their bidding."
The woman smiled then said, "I think I have a few things to show you that you might be interested in. But first, you must know that what I'm about to show will change this world forever and you'll never be able to go back to your old life. Would you want to continue?"
He just looked back her, not sure what to do. Lana squeezed his hand and whispered into his ear, "I think we should listen to her and see what she has to show us. My grandfather used to tell stories of how today's Gods are the evil ones and the old Gods were truly our protectors. What if he was right?"
He shook his head and said, "Alright, we'll listen, and watch, what you have to tells us. But after you've your say if we don't like it we'll walk, understand?"
"That will be acceptable," the woman said, "But I warn you, what I'm about to show may frighten you at first. So please, let me explain everything before you make any decisions."
"Okay, let just do this so that we can get on with our lives." Mark said, "What is your name if you don't mind me asking?"
"You may call me Moon," the woman told him then indicating the wall near the light said, "Follow me please." as she said this the dirt on the wall began to fall away, revealing a doorway.
Walking through the door, Mark asked, "Where did this come from? Are we in the mountain? How long has this been here?" he then froze and stared as the lights began to come on in the huge room they entered.
The walls were lined with many different looking ships various sizes. Some were in the middle of the room with parts laying around them as if they had been dropped and left in a hurry. He didn't understand what he was seeing but knew it should not be here, whatever here was.
Moon chose this moment to begin her explanation, "This is hanger bay three of the Three Moons Research Facility. It was once the most advanced research and development facility in the Empire. But then the Enemy came and began taking worlds. This world was about to be taken and the Facility had to be hidden, or the Enemy may have gained access to all of the research housed here." Mark began to ask a question but Moon stopped him, saying, "I will answer all of your questions in time. But, please, let me tell the story of this facility and the people who worked here first.
"Once it was decided that the facility was to be hidden, all personnel were evacuated off planet so that they could never give up its location. All personnel except for ten brave souls who choose to stay behind and oversee the hiding process. The method used was to send out several maintenance drones and have them replicate soil so they could cover the facility and make it look like just another mountain. With their task complete, the drones sealed the mountain by closing off two access tunnels left so even they wouldn't be outside to give away the location. After this was done the ten researchers began to shutdown all of the facilities systems to avoid detection from space. I was one of two systems left active, in hopes that the Empire would quickly reclaim this world. But, after several years and no return by the Empire, I was forced to go into a standby mode to avoid the increased Enemy presence here on the planet. It was in that standby mode that you found me and were questioned by an automated response for trying to enter a restricted area.
"Now, I would like give a little more history of your race before I let ask your questions." Moon paused, as if trying to consider how to proceed then continued her tale. "In order to fully understand what this means you would have to have the true history of your people. Would you like for me to continue? This will have a great impact to your beliefs and practices."
Mark and Lana both just nodded their heads for Moon to continue.
"I'll begin just before the Enemy appeared and attacked the Empire. The Empire was a peaceful entity, composed of one-hundred and fifty-two inhabited planets. The populations ranged from several billion all the way down to the newest colonies with less than a hundred thousand. Some planets had smaller populations for other reasons as well but for the most part people were free to travel or relocate as they say fit. The Empire had been stable for hundreds of years but it did know war on occasion. These wars were sometimes internal conflicts but for the majority these were fought when alien cultures were encountered. Not all alien encounters led to wars, but one did and it is what led to your planets current state. The Enemy appeared, and without any attempt at communication, began to attack the Empires ships. Within a few years the Enemy had begun to enslave entire worlds. Their technology seemed cruder than the Empires, but they made up for that in sheer size and numbers. The Empires largest ships where only about half the size of an average Enemy ship, and they seemed to have an endless supply of these vessels. This brings me back to your situation, your people were once citizens of the Empire and there were no Gods oppressing them or forcing them to serve. This seems to be a lie embedded by the Enemy to help your people forget their true heritage. Why they would do something like this I do not know, but maybe with time we can figure it out. Now, this is only a very tiny amount of your true history and if you choose to stay and help me free this world and fight back against the Enemy then I can show the rest of your heritage. But until then some things I must keep to myself. So do you have any questions?"
Mark just stared at her for a few moments before saying, "I don't know what to say; this seems so impossible. I mean space travel, space wars, alien races, what am I supposed to say? I think Lana and I need to talk."
"That is fine, I'll take you to a more comfortable area so you can talk then I will answer any questions you may have." Moon said. She then led them through a different door into a lounge-type room before closing the door and leaving them to talk.
"Well, we sure did pick one hell of a cave to spend the night in." Lana said to Mark, who seemed lost in thought.
He looked up before saying, "You know, this is either greatest thing to happen to us or the worst."
She just looked at him then asked, "Why would it be the worst? And I thought the best thing to happen to us was last night?"
He chuckled then went on, "Well if it's all real and we decide to leave, how would we explain this to everyone? I mean, we would probably be killed just to keep the secret."
She thought for a moment then replied, "Then let's stay. This place must be able to support us. We can stay here and help Moon with what she needs us to do. And maybe as a reward for helping her she can send us back to this Empire and we can live happily there."
Unsure of how to continue, he just said, "Okay, but if we do this how do we know our families will be safe and what about all our friends? I don't think we'll ever be able to ever go back to homes. Are you ready for that?"
She just nodded then said, "I think I've always been looking for something like this,. You know some explanation beyond what the priests go on and on about."
He looked at her then just smiled and said, "I always knew you didn't buy into everything either. Now, let's find this Moon lady. I have a few questions for her."