The Terrorist’s Game
“We care for each other and care about our family, and we are both working towards the same goal.”
Cameron had spent most of his life living and working in the Pacific Northwest in and around Seattle, Washington. He spent a lot of time in laboratories developing programming, mostly for security issues. He liked the colorful and inventive Google Campus where he worked, but most of his friendships and business relationships had been largely online. Instead of spending his time with his contemporaries around campus, he hung out in his lab with his best friends, the computers. Since the Covid-19 Pandemic, he had been more isolated than ever before, working from home most of the time, only enjoying the view of Puget Sound from his apartment windows.
Manhattan had been culture shock in that it was crowded, busy, tall with skyscrapers, and expensive. He was overwhelmed a lot of the time while he was there by the constant traffic, altercations between the locals on the streets, and the never ending noise and lights. New York truly never slept, and it was an overload to the senses of a man who had lived most of his life remotely.
Now, hardly days later, Reykjavik was another culture shock and was completely alien to him. The long drive from the airport in Keflavik passed fields of black sand and basalt from volcanic eruptions of long ago. But Iceland was known for its fire and ice and there were active volcanoes as well as glaciers around the country. The anomalies made the country popular with tourists, not to mention The Blue Lagoon; natural hot springs and spa that they’d passed on the way from the airport as well.
He looked out the floor to ceiling glass of the Vatnstiggur apartment in total amazement at the terrain of the amazing tiny island nation at the top of the world. Iceland was a big rock protruding from the North Atlantic at the end of the Gulf Stream. There were no trees in sight. From what he saw on the way to Vatnstiggur, the houses were primarily constructed of corrugated metal. He thought that maybe it was not a style, but a necessity due to a nearly complete lack of wood. The houses were generally painted in bright colors like red, orange, yellow, blue, and green. Driving down the street was like passing a rainbow.
Larger office buildings were primarily concrete or metal and glass and Nordically modern. Some were built over lakes like the government offices close to the city park. The park, itself sported some trees that had defied the odds and grown slowly over the years, and would hopefully create real shade in the city someday.
Cameron sat by the window in the living room. He gazed out over the harbor with some of the city in his peripheral vision, and was surprised at how busy it was. High rises, such as Vatnstiggur were a new thing in the city; only dating back a decade or two. Historically, the tallest building in the city had been Hallgrimskirkja; the Lutheran Church Cathedral, which still stood slightly taller than the newer buildings per an ordinance in the city. He saw the cathedral on the long drive in from the airport that Iceland shared with the American military.
He hadn’t slept on the flight, despite all the blackness while over the Atlantic, and he knew that he should be exhausted, but he wasn’t tired. He was too wired from the adventure to consider sleeping. Reykjavik was a place that he never considered traveling to and to him, it was a thrilling adventure to visit the city. It was where most of the quarter of a million people or so who lived in the frozen country lived, but it seemed as though they had landed on a whole other planet.
He dreamed of vacationing in the Bahamas like most people, or in his case Hawaii may have been closer to home. Looking out at a horizon that bordered on the Arctic Circle was not something he ever imagined seeing, yet it was right before his eyes. The view made him rethink his personal bucket list for travel.
What was next? What was President Elect of Russia, Eduard Sokolovsky like? Would he get to meet Talia’s daughter, Anya? What was the rest of Iceland like? Were there trees anywhere? Was there a live volcano nearby? Did the locals speak English? Was there a McDonald’s? So many questions to yet be answered.
Then there were the questions pertaining to Talia. Why had she continued to play along with the separatist demands? Surely she could have found a solution with the contacts that she had around the world. Did she truly live in fear of the Alder Nation? It seemed odd that she would be fearful of them, when she didn’t seem to fear anything else in the world. Had she really denied herself any relationships with men since the death of her husband? Was her love that strong for Dmitri? Cameron wondered if she truly saw him differently from any other man on Earth? He felt fortunate and special to say the least, but was concerned that it could change at any moment. He had no doubt that he was not the first priority on her list.
He watched the city turn from day to night and saw all the bright lights of the buildings and roads come to life. Reykjavik was a bustling city in one of the least populated countries on Earth, and at the city’s edge it abruptly changed into barren land. He could see the edge of the city from the apartment; the physical line where the lights turned to black. He had never seen anything quite like the black that lay beyond the city limits. There was nothing outside the city, from what he was told, but tundra and some sheep. The terrain went from metropolitan to outback in a hot minute. Iceland was a one of a kind place.
Talia joined him in the living room. She had changed clothes to something spectacular, but not pink. She wore a lace wrap dress over a pair of sirval pants; all black. At least it wasn’t pink.
“You look nice, or should I not notice things like that? I’m trying not to offend you,” Cameron said.
“Thanks. I try to look presentable whenever I’m visiting with my family. I’d love to spend time with them more often. I miss them.”
“The Alder Nation determines whether or not you can visit with your family? That’s insane, and frankly a bit paranoid on their part.”
“I hope that someday I can change that, but I haven’t found a solution thus far. Maybe this will be the time that I finally get my family back.”
“I hope so,” he replied. “Did you want me to go with you, or would you like me to wait here? I’ll do whatever you wish.”
She smiled at him. She had gotten the impression that Cameron was rude in the beginning of their odd relationship. He appeared to have discovered his moral compass upon their arrival in Reykjavik. She didn’t know what to think. Offering to do whatever she wished him to do was, by far, the most considerate thing he had said to her since they met.
“Do you want to meet them?” she asked.
“I would love to meet them.”
“I’ve been a little hard on you. You can come. I want them to meet you. They might like you. I can’t promise, but they might.”
“I can only hope. I would understand if you want some time alone with them. You don’t get to see your daughter often.”
There was a knock at the door. Cameron answered it to find Tyrell on the other side.
“I have something to tell you,” Tyrell said to Talia.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Anya isn’t with Eduard,” he said. She turned away. “It isn’t his choice, as you can imagine. Percival forbade Eduard from bringing her. He didn’t give a reason why. Not that it surprised anyone.”
“Bastard. Sometimes it seems personal,” she told Cameron. “What is the point? Why shouldn’t I see my daughter? I will never understand what any of my family relations have to do with Percival. Is there nothing that he doesn’t want to control every microbe of? We’ve done everything that the Alder Nation has ordered us to. All this accomplishes is to hurt me.”
“Why would he want to punish you?” Cameron asked. “That makes no sense. It must be business. Business is what a terrorist focuses on.”
“I see that reading my books has made you an expert on separatists. But, yes, indeed. What business would include me not seeing my daughter?”
“I can’t read minds, but it makes no sense that it’s personal. Terrorists don’t allow anything personal to get in the way of their agenda.”
“I know,” she agreed. “But, it’s as though it is personal. It’s as though he wants to anger me. I can’t explain it. Percival continually forces my family to do things that have no bearing on any separatist cause. It feels as though he’s trying to distract me. From what I have no idea.”
“That does seem odd. What would he have to gain by not allowing you to visit with your daughter? How would that be a distraction? It doesn’t make any sense. How could he know you’re here in Iceland? Can he track you?”
“Not that I know of. He knows where we meet. He also knows where we go on our mutual vacations. He knows everything about us. I’ve always operated under the assumption that he looked up the properties. We own the properties where we stay when we visit in most locations. He could find that online easily.”
“How many locations do you vacation together in?” he asked.
“We have apartments, condos, or villas in 5 countries, not including the United States or Russia.”
“Then, how would he know which property you were at?”
“I don’t know. The Alder Nation has a broad reach. They have contacts all over the world, and from what I’ve seen, he receives good information. Percival has made it clear that he knows every detail of our lives. That’s why I fear him. What I need to know is why us? Why are the Sokolovskys the focus of his activities? Why do they haunt us so? I’ve never been able to determine that one guiding factor.”
“I’ve always said that you must know that son of a bitch,” Tyrell commented. “I’ve always been afraid that some night, after I left you and went home, that he would send someone to snatch you away.” He looked at Cameron. “This has always seemed personal to me. Every demand from that group, every call. Percival and his people are hyper focused on everything these people do. It’s the most disturbing behavior I’ve ever seen in a terrorist group. I worry that some night those people will kidnap her right out of her bed.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Talia scoffed. “What purpose would that serve?”
“Money,” he said.
“Ransom?” she scoffed.
“You might be surprised. Money is always a motive,” Cameron suggested. “Maybe it has to do with your daughter. Maybe he’s trying to keep you off balance so you won’t even realize that he’s making sure she’ll be alone while everyone else is out of town.”
“That’s stupid,” Talia snapped. “Anya has all kinds of security guarding her. None of the security officers that I put in place would ever allow anything to happen to my daughter.”
“If he knows everything, then he may know everything about her security,” Tyrell offered. “Maybe he wants to get to the girl.”
“Why would he suddenly do something to her? He’s had every opportunity over the years. She’s always been carefully watched by security, because of the threats from the Alder Nation. Why would he suddenly think that he should kidnap her? Why would he suddenly decide to try? What’s changed?”
“Her grandfather was never President before,” Tyrell noted.
Talia’s eyes grew wide. “But, they ordered Eduard to run for President. They wanted him there.”
“Exactly. Now he is there. They need a guarantee that he’ll do what they tell him to,” Cameron said.
“I need to talk to Eduard. Now,” she demanded. “I should have gone to Russia.”