THE LAUNCH SITE A sheet of paper was tacked to the wall over Hanson's bunk: Every day in the world a hundred thousand people die. A human life means nothing. General Vo Nguyen Giap, Commander-in-Chief, North Vietnamese Army "In order to despise suffering, to be always content and never astonished at anything, one must reach such a state as this"--and Ivan Dmitrich indicated the obese peasant, bloated with fat--"or else one must harden one's self through sufferings to such a degree as to lose all sensitivity to them: that is, in other words, cease to live." Anton Chekhov Hanson stood just inside the heavy-timbered door of his concrete bunker, looking out. There was no moon yet. The only sound was the steady sobbing of the big diesel generators, but Hanson heard nothing. Had the generators ever stopped he would have heard the silence, a silence that would have bolted him wide-awake, armed, and out of his bunk if he were asleep. He stepped from the doorway and began walking across the inner perimeter toward the teamhouse, a squat shadow ahead of him in the dark. His web gear, heavy with ammunition and grenades, swung from one shoulder like easy, thoughtful breathing. The folding-stock AK-47 in his right hand was loaded with a gracefully curving thirty-round magazine. As he got closer to the teamhouse, he could feel the drums and steel-stringed guitar on the back of his sunburned forearms and against the tender broken hump on his nose. Then he could hear it. Hanson smiled. "Stones," he said softly. He didn't have enough to pick out the song, but the bass and drums were pure Stones. He slid the heavy, light-proof door open and stepped into the bright teamhouse. The song, "Under My Thumb," was pumping out of Silver's big Japanese speakers. Quinn was pouting and strutting to the music, one hand hooked in his pistol belt, the other hand thrust out, thumbs down, like Caesar at the Roman games sending the pike into another crippled loser. His small blue eyes were close-set, cold and flat as the weekly casualty announcement, as he mouthed the words. Hanson shrugged his web gear to the floor, shouted, "Let me guess," and pressed his hand to his freckled forehead. He pointed at Quinn and shouted into the music, "Mick Jagger, right? Your new Jagger impersonation." His snub-nosed combat magnum glinted from its shoulder holster. Quinn ignored him, pounding the floor like a clog dancer. The battered white refrigerator was turned up to high in the damp heat, and gouts of frost dropped to the floor when Hanson opened it to get a Black Label beer. The seams and lip of the black&red cans were rusty from the years they had been stockpiled on the Da Nang docks. Years of raw monsoon and swelling summer heat had turned the American beer bitter. But it was cold; it made his fillings ache when he drank it. Hanson took a flesh-colored quart jar from the top of the refrigerator, screwedAnderson, Kent is the author of 'Sympathy for the Devil', published 2000 under ISBN 9780553580877 and ISBN 0553580876.