Sgt. Robert Hannam stood on a dock in Adelaide, patiently waiting his turn in line to board the ship. He pulled out a cigarette and as he raised the match to light it, his own jumper sleeve caught his eye and surprised him. Hannam spent so much time in uniform it was rare that he went on assignment in civilian clothes. These orders were particularly odd. He was taking a ship to Hong Kong with instructions to search for a woman. He was ordered to find her. Find her but not contact her. The assignment didn't make much sense to him. This was something that could easily be done through the War Office or a refugee charity, but Sgt. Robert Hannam always followed orders.

This was the last in an increasingly erratic set of commands the Major had given him the last few years, and in a lot of ways the one he was least comfortable with. His orders were usually simple. A task. A delivery. A disappearance. Anything more complicated and he was closely supervised and checked back often. The prospect of an adventure alone overseas made it worth while, but while an army ran on the strength of its sergeants and Hannam was proud to not be the exception, this was a level of autonomy even field grade officers rarely had. Hannam had to wonder if this was the beginning of the end. The brass were starting to ask questions. Some of the Major's expense reports had been questioned as were his whereabouts for long periods of time. The Major had held them off, citing state secrets and managing to shame his superiors into believing the safety of the country was somehow at risk if they kept him in check. Hannam laughed at that. The Major was a great man and those small minded cretins never appreciated what he did for them, what he did for this country. He should never have had to explain himself at all.

Hannam dropped his cigarette butt on the gangway as he presented his ticket to a member of the crew, ignoring the dirty look he got in return. He boarded the ship and went to search out his cabin. The Major had sprung for a second class cabin with a private bath, Hannam was honored that he thought so well of him. It was practical, of course. The less he had to speak with others the better. Less questions to answer. These days, it seemed like everyone had questions. Once inside he tossed his duffel bag on the adjoining berth, having refused to give it to a porter, and lay down. He lit up another cigarette and stared at the ceiling. He wondered if any of this had to with that blow-up in Ballarat. Hannam had gotten sloppy. He never should have killed the bastard somewhere where he couldn't retrieve the body. Then he panicked and got pushy with a local doctor. The Major was so angry he threatened to let him face charges. Hannam knew he never would, but had he done so he would have gone to trial and hung and never said a word. He owed the Major that much, at least.

He remembered the night they met. Hannam had been living on the streets in Sydney since he was ten. He spent most nights hungry and cold, and wide awake protecting himself from other kids. It was a great improvement from what he knew before. His mother was on the grog and would beat him. His father was worse. He gambled or drank away whatever money his mother didn't, and would turn to Hannam when he couldn't afford a girl. He left as soon as he was old enough to run faster than they could. He ran half way across the city and stayed there. He wasn't scared, he knew they wouldn't come looking for him. One night, as a teenager, he thought he found an easy mark. A soldier smoking in an alley behind a theatre. He didn't know what he was doing on that side of town and didn't much care. Soldiers were usually out for a good time. Men out for a good time carried cash. Hannam walked right up to him, knife drawn, and demanded his wallet. It should have been an easy one. Hannam didn't remember how the knife got knocked from his hand. In a flash his face was being pressed against the wet pavement, a knee sharp against his back. The man hauled him into a nearby hotel via the back stairs. He was too stunned to resist. Once inside, he ordered Hannam to wash up. He thought the man planned to use him like his father had, but instead he ordered dinner. It was the first hot meal Hannam had eaten in weeks. The man questioned him, about his life, his family. Hannam was sullen but answered, he had no reason not to. Finally he said he needed to take care of some business but Hannam was welcome to spend the night. If he was still there in the morning, the man might be able to find work for him, providing he could stay out of trouble. The soldier, a Lieutenant he later learned, was good to his word. He found him a job on the base where he was stationed. With each new promotion or transfer, Hannam followed. When he came of age he joined the army and eventually became Sergeant with help from the soldier, now a Major. Hannam never knew why the Major helped him that night and never asked. It didn't really matter. The Major had given him a new life. Hannam would follow him to the ends of the earth if asked, or even if he wasn't. Hannam would follow.

Still, sometimes he wondered. The runaway soldiers, this woman, the fight with Canberra, the agents in Indochina, none of it was adding up. He was becoming unreliable and the brass knew it. Unreliable men couldn't be trusted to follow orders. Hannam stripped off his thick black leather gloves and examined his hands. The blisters were getting worse, even though he hadn't been out to the testing range in weeks. That tof of a doctor in Ballarat said it was from the radiation. The ship's horn sounded, marking their departure. Hannam dropped his butt in an ash tray and looked out the port window. Bugger the doctor. He was just saying that to make the Major look bad. Lots of people worked out on the testing range and didn't have any problems. The Major would never harm him. They belonged together. The Major's last orders were to lay low, get some rest, enjoy the voyage to Hong Kong, and then find that woman. Easy enough done. Sgt. Robert Hannam always followed orders.