Malaya 1957, a country on the brink of independence.
Acting on secret intelligence a Gurkha patrol from the British Army is sent deep into the jungle to ambush a group of Chinese Communist Terrorists. It is accompanied by Alick Gordon, a young officer from the Scottish Border Regiment, Arthur Bryant, a seasoned District Superintendent from the Special Branch of the Malayan Police and Jalil, a tracker and guide from the local orang asli people.
The Communist Unit is led by Hor Too, a renowned and ruthless jungle fighter and is accompanied by Ah Sim, a female member of the Politburo. The tide has turned for the Communists due to the successful counter-insurgency campaign, where the phrase winning the 'hearts and minds' of a population was first coined.
The outcome of the ambush is unexpected and Alick Gordon is deeply affected by some of the deaths. In the days after independence (Merdeka) he takes a short break and makes a journey across Malaya. He finds comfort and solace in the company of those he meets, and one person will change his life forever.
The acrid smell of cordite filled her nostrils as the Tommy gun chattered, hurling bullets out towards the enemy position. Peering cautiously over the tree root she could see the slow, placid waters of the brown river meandering around the edge of the swamp she had so recently crossed. The soldiers had taken cover on a small beach, hidden from view by some fallen branches. As they fired at her their red and yellow muzzle flashes were startlingly bright in the fading light of the jungle gloaming, but any illusion of beauty was quickly dispelled by the sound of bullets cracking over her head, accompanied by dull thuds as some of them hit the trunks and branches of trees.
Leaves drifted down slowly from the gloom of the jungle canopy, sliced away from their stems by the high velocity rounds. Her stomach tensed as she gently squeezed the trigger again, aiming at where she knew that she had seen one of the men go to ground.
She tried to ignore the throbbing pain from her injured leg and bit her lip as she forced herself to focus, raising her left hand to wipe away the sweat that was stinging her eyes. There was a sudden movement to her right and, switching her aim, she fired another burst, vaguely registering that the soldier had thrown himself backwards into the swamp to avoid her bullets.......................