"I knew you would be asking this question eventually. I wish it was under different circumstances that you were asking me this, but I know you have your reasons now."
I leaned closer to her, my curiosity taking control of my physical movement.
"Yes...the war was a lie...the surface is safe...but there are other reasons for not going up there that your father has kept in place. Maybe one day, there will be a way for people to go back up there, but our way of living would most likely have to change..."
"But why did we come down here in the first place?"
"Because our people were worried that there might be a nuclear war. Things were not looking good for the world then...there was terror everywhere. They didn't want anything to do with it, so they escaped the problem."
"They ran away from one problem only to create another. Now, people here have no idea that there is another world. They could be roaming free where there is sun, open air, a blue sky..."
"I will admit that your father has not been very fair in the secrets he chooses to keep from the people and I do not agree with him, however, that being said...I have absolutely no power over him. I am powerless to everything. I'm sorry, Nova...I've never been able to take care of you...or do anything."
She put her face in her hands.
"Mom...what are you talking about? You've always been there for me..."
"Oh, I've been "there" for you down here, but I could never "be there" for you up there."
"What do you mean?"
"You weren't born down here, Nova..."
I stared at her, my eyes widening.
"You were born on the surface...in a place far away from here. You were born on a completely different continent. Europe. But this underground community is in North America."
"H-how is that even possible? How did we even get down here?"
"You're going to have to take it easy, Nova...just sit and let this sink in. I don't want you to freak out over everything I am about to tell you...it isn't very pleasant."
"Trust me, this all stopped being pleasant the second I suspected that father has been lying to me...to everyone."
"Aerolite is not a terrible person, he is just a coward."
"Then why did you marry him?"
"I didn't have a choice. Nova, after the community that migrated down here had disappeared from the face of the Earth, quite literally might I add, the government of your birthplace had vowed to find out why and, if they were all still alive, where the people of this community were. There were other people trying to create underground communities in fear of war. It was mainly communities of young men and women that were being created, they wanted to avoid a draft."
"So there was going to be a war."
"Not really a war, but the countries wanted to show their power, so they were drafting soldiers claiming that war had potential to start soon. However, before they could indicate that they by no means meant to really go through with a terrible war that would kill millions of people, many underground communities had been created and the new goal of the countries was finding all of these people who had either completely disappeared from existence or who were actually on the run. Families were scared that their loved ones had been taken and killed somehow and an uproar was on the verge of beginning. It would have meant absolute disaster had they not found the majority of people. The only underground community that had not been found was that that went by the code name 'Caldera'."
"Yes. I was on the mission to find the remaining hidden community...we traveled around for years. Of course, I was only about five years older than you are now, I was still young and carefree. It felt like one big adventure. You get that side of you from me. At the beginning of our mission, I got pregnant with you. You were born almost a year after we had begun the search. We rested for a long time in temporary housing, your father and I...your real father, because you're early development was much more important than trying to find people who didn't want to be found."
"Aerolite isn't my real father..."
"No...that's why you two have never seemed to get along. You are nothing like him, and, while that scares him, he knows you are smart. I stumbled upon the community when I was going for a walk with you. You were three. You don't remember it, because you were so young, but once I had seen the community, Aerolite refused to let me leave. He needed someone to follow in his footsteps. He put me in the school system as a teacher and nobody in the community batted an eye. You were homeschooled until high school so it wouldn't raise any suspicion among the students, the young ones who had not yet been brainwashed by the government."
"Mom...I have to do something...I can't continue to let people live like this when there is so much more to the world above us. I want to see stars, I want to feel wind in my hair, rain on my face...I want some reality to all of this, and that's what this community is missing. Is that the reason I haven't ever really fit in? Because I'm a surface dweller?"
"I know you want to make a change, and you can...but not with everyone. Sometimes...you have to pick your battles. The adults who live here will never go to the surface. However, the young ones...that is, your age and below, will probably go with you. There's still that spark of mischief and longing for adventure in their eyes. I don't think they would put up too much of a fight. There's only so long people can choose to stay underground. We aren't meant to be in the dark like this...this entire time I've been desperate to tell you, but I didn't want to let you know until you were about to come into power."
"No...Mom, you need to stop being so apologetic. You did everything that you could to make sure I would be okay...and I think I turned out alright..."
"You never really knew your father, though..."
"Do you have any pictures of him? Any way that we might be able to trace him in the event that we are able to go back up there?"
"What do you mean 'gone'?"
"He...he's dead, Nova."
"W-what happened to him?"
I could tell she was reliving something from her distant past, something that she had repressed. I could see the fear, the hurt and the anger in her eyes as she opened her mouth to respond. Her tone was bitter and full of a hatred that she'd clearly been waiting to express.
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