Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1988
The music wasn’t loud enough in Carlos Morales’s headphones to avoid the sound of the torrential downpour. The rain was rattling all around the bus carrying the future soldiers down the busy highway. Carlos tried to keep his eyes shut trying to ignore the impatience growing inside his mind. He knew that there was nothing he could do about it at this point. All he could do was hope to ignore his…needs.
This was the first time he made a trip to the mainland of the United States. He grew up in Puerto Rico all of his life, raised by his mother and the memory of a father who also served in the military. Carlos turned up the volume on his cd player, his black, short-cropped hair seemingly swaying to the heavy metal music. He thought he heard somebody speaking to him, so he had to power down the Megadeth.
But just a little bit.
He opened his eyes again to see the young Asian man sitting next to him. They met and chatted for a few minutes before getting on the bus. They didn’t really speak that much afterwards, but he did remember that the guy’s name was Dylan Kim. Carlos noted the irritation in Dylan’s eyes and he prepared for the obvious complaint that was headed his way.
“Not to be an ass, but can you turn that music down? That stuff’s just a little too much for my ‘fragile’ ears to handle.”
Carlos grinned at Dylan’s attempt at being polite, but he knew that most people couldn’t stand metal, least of all his mother. He nodded politely and left the music at a reasonable level. Unfortunately, his mind focused on the shattering rain outside and his “urges” returned. He closed his eyes again and he forced himself to remember his last day in Puerto Rico.
His mother, Carmen Morales, was ultimately the mother AND father figure in his life, and she was the primary reason why he was joining the military. She knew, as a very select few on Earth knew, that the dark days were coming soon and the world needed all the soldiers it could get. She raised him to become one of those soldiers.
He needed to join the Linian military group, Last Line.
The Linians were a secret group of people dedicated to stopping a man named Chaos from destroying everything human civilization tried to maintain. He was supposedly coming back to finish what he started and the members of Last Line, who had members who infiltrated every major and minor governmental institution on Earth, had to be prepared for his second coming.
There were a few more Linian groups such as The Illusion Guard and Sheild of Destiny, but Carlos’s family were members of Last Line. His father was a respected soldier who died before he was two years old. He had no memories or strong feelings towards his father. That he had an ambivalent attitude about Ramon Morales really drove Carlos crazy. He didn’t remember his mother being sad about the death of her husband, but he assumed that she probably put all that negative energy into training her son to be a soldier.
Carmen Morales was known as one of the great Lieutenants in Last Line history. She met his father when she joined Last Line at eighteen. The amazing thing about the Linians that impressed Rain was that gender was irrelevant to their “special forces”, something that the rest of the human race needed to get over. Soon.
His parents were a dynamic duo of sorts. They were known for their ability to stop “Anomalies” from ever being exposed to the public. Last Line referred to the beings that came from the other realms that had no business on Earth as Anomalies. Linians were the only people on Earth that were aware that other lifeforms existed beyond the Solar System. Their job was to keep this secret from being exposed in the hopes of stopping fear and chaos to spread on Earth. Every once in a while, someone would see something that they weren’t supposed to and Last Line would have to cover it up by dismissing these individuals as delusional. It was a small price to pay to avert mass hysteria.
His mother and father mission success rate was one hundred percent. They did not allow one Anomaly to be exposed to anyone who wasn’t a Linian.
In the back of Carlos’s mind, was the awareness that the rain had stopped. He opened his eyes and was thrilled that his “urge” had gone away. Hopefully the Pittsburgh chapter of Last Line got his request of necessities. He looked over at Dylan Kim knocked out and he realized that he must have been in deep thought for a while now.
He looked out the window and saw a massive military installation lying beyond a massive rain-soaked grassy field. The gray sky was starting to slowly fade away as Carlos started to wonder how blue the sky was back home. But then he started to think about the piano at his home and he was glad that it wasn’t raining right now.
The bus pulled up into the stone-walled fortress that looked like it was built sometime around the fifties. He gently nudged the drooling Dylan Kim awake as the bus stopped in the dampened courtyard. They both noticed all the severe looking instructors lined up in front of the shiny gray entrance to the building looking like a line of cranky trees. Carlos knew that one of them had to be Commander Deborah Faucett.
Commander Faucett promised his mother explicitly that she would knock even more sense into the young Morales. How anyone could be more rigid than his mother, Carlos did not expect that fact to be surpassed. But legend had it that Faucett was as hands on as any commanding officer has ever been in Last line history
The front door of the bus slid open with a pressurized gasp as Lt. Faucett broke from her rank of angry colleagues to march right up the steps to the front of the bus and barked at the riders, “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, you need to get your asses off this bus and line up in front of your masters RIGHT NOW!”
And as quickly as she returned to her lineup, every single recruit on the bus moved quickly of the bus and lined up in front of the commanding officers in horizontal rows twelve going four deep. Carlos noticed a woman that they met, Melissa Davis, was the very first one of the bus, and impressed the higher-ups with her precision movements. Dylan had an obvious crush on her and Carlos, even though he found her to be an intelligent blonde bombshell, let Dylan take the lead because he expressed his attraction to her in the open first.Carlos didn’t sweat it; there’s always more women out there.
Walking off the bus, the aftertaste of the passing rainstorm filtered through his head as he hoped that what he requested was waiting for him in his sleeping quarters. But first he had orders to attend to and that could not wait.
* * *
Through the miracles of modern luck, he found himself sharing a room with both Melissa Davis and Dylan Kim. Once again, gender didn’t matter to the Linians: they were too sophisticated socially to act like children. But what impressed him even more was that the piano that he asked for was waiting for him there as well. The healthy sized room gave the trio plenty of room to breathe and the piano was not an inconvenience at all. His roommates looked at the instrument with slight confusion as Rain decided to explain why he needed it:
“Not to bore you guys to death but I always had this thing when I was a child that involved the rain and a piano. I guess whenever it rains, I just have this urge to play the piano. I don’t understand why that is, I just know that I can’t think of anything else when it rains. They called me ‘Rain’ back home because of it. So… I apologize in advance if it rains at a bad time.”
Melissa’s blonde locks dangled as she unpacked her bags full of clothes and essentials on hr bed, “No problem, Amadeus. I mean how often can it rain?”
She got her answer as they heard another round of torrential downpour pounding the top of the building. Rain was relieved that he could sit down and play out a beautiful arrangement that mesmerized his partners as he hoped that he would do his parents proud and be the best Linian he could be…