Forty Years Ago


Carlos Hierro looked up at the brassy sky overhead, squinting against the scorching sun. They had run out of water hours before, and he was sure the soldiers down below knew it. That was why there had been only sporadic exchanges of gunfire over the last hour or so.

They know they only have to wait us out.

He shook his head as he looked around at his comrades. Adalberto was no longer moving. He had bled out from his wounds sometime in the last few minutes. They simply no longer had the medical supplies to save him.

The others, all ten of them, were ragged, sunburned, their lips cracked from lack of water, most of them down to their last couple of magazines. Nilo and Omar weren’t going to be able to go far even if they ever had a chance of breaking out, Nilo with a broken leg from a soldier’s bullet as they’d reached this little refuge in the rocks, and Omar nursing a gut wound that would be his death.

Carlos knew they were all dead men. He glanced up at the sky again. Here, in the last moments, he found he was grateful that Palmira was safe, in hiding with their son. These brutes wouldn’t get their hands on either of them.

He knew what would happen if they were found. Palmira had protested bitterly when he’d made the decision, insisted that her place was at his side, but he had held firm, and now, as death closed in, he was ever more glad that he had.

Keeping his head down, he moved to the gap in the rocks overlooking the government positions below, and the sea beyond. The heat beat on him, reflected off the rocks, and he struggled to swallow against the dryness in his throat.

The soldiers weren’t being all that careful. He could see them down there, moving from rock to rock, barely bothering to take cover. They didn’t need to, not really. He and his comrades didn’t have enough ammunition left to risk wasting it on chancy shots, and the soldiers had to realize it.

He lifted his Kalashnikov, nevertheless. It was beginning to sink in that there was no getting out of this outcropping of rocks alive. The city of Santa Paz, green and lush in the middle of the coastal desert, seemed to taunt him, the knowledge that these animals still held firm control eating at him.

Someone below must have seen the sun glint off the gunmetal. Muzzle flash flickered in the rocks below, and he ducked just before a burst of machinegun fire splashed fragments of shattered stone and dust over him, the crackle and slam of the impacts echoing across the hillside.

Gritting his teeth, he leaned against the scorching rock as dust continued to sift down out of the air as the machinegunner punished him for daring to show himself.

Not like this. The thought was a sudden intrusion, but it was as clear as if it were a bolt from the cloudless sky above. He didn’t believe in divine inspiration, but if he was going to die, he wasn’t going to die of thirst while his enemies gloated down below, fed and watered and comfortable.

He rolled to put his back to the rock. “Nilo, Omar. Can you get into position to start shooting at them down there?”

Nilo nodded, though it looked like Omar might be too far gone. He was still moving, still breathing, but he hardly seemed aware of where he was anymore.

The wounded man dragged his shattered leg behind him as he crawled to the rock where Carlos waited, though he paused to take Adalberto’s one remaining magazine. He was obviously in a lot of pain as he hiked himself up to where he could lay his battered Galil in the crack in the rocks to start to shoot down into the government positions below.

While Nilo got into position, Carlos crawled back into the rocks, looking up and around for a good way out. Their final redoubt was near the crest of a hill overlooking the capital city, and there wasn’t a lot of cover they could use. But he was determined to get down out of that outcropping and deal some death to the monsters who fought for the government before he died.

“Come with me.” His voice was a hoarse rasp through his cracked lips. His tongue felt thick and rough in his mouth.

Without waiting for a response from the dead-eyed men who’d come with him on this ill-fated final raid, he looked to the only opening in the rocks off on the flank, heaved himself to his feet, and dashed through it.

It was more of a lumbering lunge than a dash, but he got out and threw himself flat as a bullet smacked into the rock nearby. They were watching all sides of the rebels’ last covered position.

He kept crawling, the desert growth and the rocks tearing at his hands, his knees, and his already dusty and tattered clothes. His rifle burned his hand where he gripped it, and banged and knocked against the ground and the rocks. He ignored the noise and any damage that might be done. None of it mattered. So long as the rifle fired, and the Kalashnikov always fired.

More gunfire was starting to snap toward their position, and he heard a sudden burst of meaty impacts behind him, barely audible over the crackle of bullets going by overhead. Alonzo was dead.

He didn’t look back. He just kept crawling. He wasn’t even looking that far ahead, knowing only that there were soldiers in every direction, and that he needed to lash out, to take some revenge before he died.

It was pure good fortune—not that he believed in such a thing—that brought him to a small arroyo running down from the top of the hill. He fell into it, just as another burst of machinegun fire spat grit and dust over him, the bullets sending up geysers of dirt and shattered rocks right where he had just been.

Tomas appeared above him, having scrambled to his feet to try to race to cover. More bullets slammed into him, blood erupting from his chest, and he collapsed at the lip of the arroyo, his eyes open and staring fixedly at nothing, red running from under him into the dust.

Carlos had no idea how many of them were left now. He didn’t know if he cared. A strange detachment had come over him, and everything seemed to be muted but clear.

Rising up out of cover, even as the gunfire kicked up dust and grit all around him, he leveled his AK-74 and opened fire.

The Kalashnikov bucked and rattled in his hands, bullets skipping off rocks and kicking up dirt, though he was pretty sure that some of them struck home, green-clad soldiers dropping out of sight in the dust.

Then he felt a fiery impact in his side, and then one leg went out from under him.

He pivoted as he fell, seeing three more of the men in green looming above the arroyo, where they’d come up on his flank. He swung the rifle toward them, sending off one last stuttering burst that caught the soldier on the left, the bullets slamming into his ribs and then tearing out his throat, sending him spinning to the desert ground with a spray of gore.

Then the weapon clicked on an empty magazine.

Both of the soldiers who were still standing had ducked for cover as he’d shot at them, evading the burst of fire that had killed their comrade. One of them rose up onto a knee as Carlos stared at his empty weapon, realizing at the last that it was over.

The soldier’s rifle barked, and Carlos felt another blow. It didn’t even hurt that much, though he was sure the pain was coming. Another blow and another slammed him back against the rocks at the bottom of the arroyo. He felt something wet around his mouth, and he realized it was getting hard to breathe.

As the two soldiers scrambled down into the arroyo above him, and proceeded to empty their magazines into him, one last thought floated through his mind, just before the pain made everything turn black.

Ernesto. Keep the Cause alive.


Legacy of Terror comes out on Kindle and Paperback March 29.

Legacy of Terror Chapter 1

Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Since he got out, he's been writing, authoring many articles and 24 books, mostly Action/Adventure and Military Thrillers, with some excursions into Paranormal Fantasy and Science Fiction.

2 thoughts on “Legacy of Terror Chapter 1

  • March 12, 2024 at 9:12 am

    For some stupid reason I am thinkng of Far Cry 6, the ‘not Cuban’ one.

    • March 12, 2024 at 9:19 am

      Well, I never played that one, so there’s not really any link there.


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