Even with three rotating fans, Mark was coated with sweat. Unable to sleep, he climbed down from his bunk, careful not to wake his sleeping watch partners, and went out on the starboard deck.

For a moment it was peaceful in Vung Ro Bay, just darkened hills and a distant moon breaking through the clouds. Then a red streamer shimmered into the night sky and burst, evoking a chatter of small arms fire from the surrounding jungle.

The war, he thought, turning to go back inside the ammunition ship.
Then he saw something move down the deck.
At first, he thought it was a wedge of shadow.
Then Mark saw him beside the railing: a Vietnamese boy, no more than fourteen or fifteen, so skinny his ribcage was rising up and down under his bare chest, dripped with water from Vung Ro Bay.

Both were clad in shorts: Mark, in white boxers, the Vietnamese boy, in black trunks.

Slung over the boy’s shoulder was a canvas satchel charge.

Immediately, Mark knew he was a Viet Cong diver sent to scale the rubber cords of lamps fastened above the waterline—and hurl his explosive charge into the hold and blow up the ship.

Selected for the mission because his frail body wouldn’t break the cord, the boy diver would blow them all to kingdom come.

He and Mark were trapped, frozen face to face, mirroring each other’s fear. Mark knew something had to be done, before he panicked and called for help from the South Vietnamese soldiers on the bow and stern and they killed the Viet Cong diver—or the boy yanked the fuse and threw the satchel charge into the hold—killing everyone aboard the ship, including himself.

Mark took a step back.
Momentarily, the boy shifted enough for Mark to see him move back as well. Mark took another step back toward the hatchway, and the boy diver inched back toward the railing.
Soon they were imitating each other, step by step, Mark back toward the ship’s house and the boy diver back to the railing.
Then the moment of trust.
Feeling the bulkhead behind him, Mark had to step inside the ship’s passageway out of sight—not knowing once he did if the Viet Cong diver would hurl the satchel charge into the open cargo hold, climb over the rail, slide into the water and try to swim away before the ship exploded.

And the boy diver didn’t know if once he dropped down the cord and began to flee if the American wouldn’t call the soldiers to throw concussion grenades into the bay and kill him.

Enemies, each had to entrust his life to the stranger in the darkness.

Mark glanced once last take at the diver, turned, and stepped into the ship’s house, walked down the passageway, entered his forecastle, climbed up in his bunk and pulled the pillow over his head.

He closed his eyes and waited. Either he would wake in the morning, or he wouldn’t.