Alejo accepted the luxury, nodding thanks. Leaning forward, he allowed Leandro to
light it, and then leaned back against the parapet, inhaling slowly with eyes closed,
holding the smoke deep in his lungs before exhaling and savoring its sweet aroma.
Turning to face the old fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana across the canal, Leandro
said, “So the Line has fallen.”
“It has.” Alejo searched his uncle’s deeply lined face for reaction, but saw little.
“The Guard retreated through San Jose de Las Lajas this morning, and an officer I
spoke to confirmed it.”
Leandro shook his head. “No surprise, really. Over the past week my ships have found
what few coastal towns and villages remained deserted. One gunboat never returned.
Another was attacked. Strange creatures the survivors said. Human-like, but not human.”
He took a drag on his cigar before stepping away from the parapet to stroll along
the allure--the wall-walk. “For some time I’ve suspected someone, or some thing,
directs these Pariah. Has organized them. I dispatched spies, but they discovered
very little. And one by one they failed to return.” He stopped, his features finally
betraying a hint of worry. “They are coming for us.”
Alejo shivered involuntarily. “We can fight.”
The older man shrugged. “We have little choice but to. There are thirty thousand
men, women and children in Old Havana to protect.” He stabbed his cigar toward the
city. “We must trust in the fortifications along the Avenue del Misiones to keep
the Pariah out. But, they are hundreds of thousands strong. They could overwhelm
us through sheer numbers.”
“We have weapons, Uncle. Bows, spears, guns. And tanks. Don’t we have tanks?”
“Oh yes, we have tanks. Russian T-72s. But we have little petrol and no munitions.
Those were exhausted during the revolt of 2019. No, I fear we must defend Old Havana
with the limited resources available.” Leandro sighed, then allowed a thin, humorless
smile. “But don’t worry. If the worst happens and they break through, I have a plan.”
They were interrupted as dinner was announced. Leaving the walls, a rare sliver of
sunlight broke through the heavy grey clouds to blaze across their retreating backs.