Dawn was breaking somewhere over the high parapet beyond the hill to my back, although the jungle down in the valley only glowed slightly with the coming of the light. The rain was gone. There would be sun.

The radio handset hung down from my right hand, the dangling cut cord swinging gently in the early morning breeze. I knew it was Pilson’s handset and I knew what that had to mean. What kind of mission had I sent Nguyen on with just a word and the nod of my head in the dark? What had made Casey move out toward the river bed without proper flank security or support when incoming fire had been taken just moments before? Was the man completely crazy or possessed of a courage I knew I lacked? And, what could possibly have been accomplished, even if it proved that my artillery strike hadn’t killed every member of his scouting party?

I crouched against the trunk of some unknown jungle tree spreading out above me. The gentle breeze, impossibly making itself so deep down near the jungle floor, shook large droplets of the night rain loose from the leaves. They came down singly, making it seem like God was selecting small certain targets for his own artillery. I bent my head back and waited. It took only a few seconds for a big drop to smack me right between the eyes. First Platoon had established a perimeter while Second had gone through to head west toward the river and find out what had happened to Casey and the men with him.