The Terrorist’s Game
“The ability to remain calm and focused in stressful situations is central to making positive decisions.”
Cameron grabbed the remote from the table and turned on the TV while he waited for the style artist that Chip was sending up. He hadn’t checked on the news lately. When he was in the lab working, the news channels had always been on. It worked out for him and his crew of techs, because it fell somewhere between being informed and useful background noise. News channels were always in a state of hysteria about something. Six months of Covid-19 debate, race issues, how to make the world the same as it used to be after the virus, hurricanes. It went on and on incessantly to the point that some news anchors left the business altogether, because they couldn’t stand it anymore. It was all bullshit 24 hours a day, and that made it particularly easy to ignore the sound which allowed them focus on their work. Since he wasn’t part of the rat race anymore and had no need for background noise, he hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention to the slanted news of the outside world.
As he switched from one opinionated all news channel to another to see who had what slant on the latest topics, he decided that he hadn’t missed anything of consequence. It had been a few years since the Covid-19 Pandemic and the world had changed overall. Most wars between nations went by the wayside as a result of the whole world needing to work together to survive the medical apocalypse that was reportedly caused by people eating bats in China. The world had never come together in such a unified cause, and it made relations between acknowledged nations stronger, more congenial, more tolerant.
In the aftermath of the pandemic and the peace it caused between nations, terrorist groups became the predominant threat throughout the world. Separatist groups, as they were currently called still terrorized the Middle East, as well as most of the globe. Each news channel seemed to focus on the activities of a different group. The new groups weren’t like the old terrorist organizations. Some of the older groups still survived, like Al Qaeda, but the new groups were more extreme. The newer groups made it clear that they were out to rule the world. It wasn’t exclusively about religion anymore. These groups, according to legitimate governments, were more difficult to track and predict. They provided much more contact with government leaders and wanted more control than change. Eastern Europe was a hot bed for such activity, as well as Mexico, the Middle East, South America, and parts of Africa. The exact location of the headquarters of any group was all but impossible to identify. Intelligence agencies around the world worked together to unravel the puzzle of the modern separatists and what their rules and hierarchies were.
He had studied separatist groups, and Talia Anderson, the master on the subject. He wanted to sound knowledgeable in her world so that she wouldn’t see him as an idiot. She was currently the Director of Security at the United Nations in both New York and Geneva, as well as providing private services from her personal company for many of the dignitaries that frequented the U.N. from around the world. She was a consultant and provider of security systems and physical guards that worked in cooperation with governments across the globe when she wasn’t at the U.N. She knew every politician in the world, and was extremely well respected by all of them.
Talia was also called upon as an expert on international terrorism and the separatist groups that wreaked havoc around the globe. This was what Cameron had been studying and the side of her that he was most interested in. She was vehemently opposed to separatists and acts of terror. She knew more about the structure, operations, and effects of terrorism in the modern era than almost anyone else in the world. She’d written several books on the subject, and kept up with information and analysis from sources in over 100 countries. She attended congressional sessions and meetings of the United Nations as an expert consultant on separatist groups at member’s requests. She was invited to every party in town where government heads and ambassadors were present, because she monitored their security. That was how Cameron had come to meet her at the party in the Hamptons the previous evening. In short, Talia Anderson was who people consulted when they needed security and information.
He had read all of her books, and was amazed at her analysis of the separatist groups. It was as though she talked to each group personally, rather than having formed opinions based on research of trends and mapped incidents. Every analysis that he read, seemed strangely personal. He wondered where she learned what she knew. There were no classes in school based in this new separatist era, but Talia was well ahead of the curve on up to date groundbreaking information. In essence, her books were the textbooks for terrorism in the modern world. He wondered if she had field experience, or inside information. He had no idea how she could be so well informed. There were many mysteries surrounding Talia Anderson and he felt compelled to find out what they were. He also needed to know where she got her information. Was it intelligence connections? Was she a field agent? Did she know the separatists? Did she investigate for heads of state? He would find out.
That night was going to be Cameron’s night. If he was ever going to get to know the mysterious Talia Anderson and find out any of the things about her that he so desperately wanted to know, it would be that night. It could be his one chance to find out all of the things that he wanted to know about her and how she knew what she knew.
He turned his attention back to the news. If anything of consequence had happened in the world, he didn’t want to be behind. He had to look intelligent to Talia. He flipped through all the news channels. Then he found it. He landed on CNN and saw a story that would allow him to connect to her. There was a story that she would grab a hold of. Talia Anderson was well known for her mysterious ravenous interest in Russia. The political story of the day was that Russia had elected themselves a new President.
“Aha!” he thought. “Thank God I turned this on. I would hate to have gone to dinner with her and not known about this.”
“Today, in Presidential Elections in Russia, the Russian Minister of Defense, Eduard Sokolovsky, was elected President by a record 85% of the popular vote,” the announcer said. “The newly elected Russian President appeared at a press conference with his sixteen year old granddaughter Anya, to thank the people of Russia for their support. The inauguration ceremony will take place next month on the anniversary of the October Revolution. Sokolovsky is the fifth publicly elected President in that country.”
“Good,” he thought. “I’ll have some news to surprise her with.” Somehow he thought that she already would know. From what he had read, she always knew what happened in Russia.
Cameron was glued to the news when there was a knock at the door of his mini suite. It startled him, because the hotel was a secure hotel, and he needed his card to operate the elevator.
One thing about Cameron Walker. He was extraordinarily smart and more than a little bit paranoid. He had started hacking into computers at an early age. He did most of his shopping for video games and computer components on other people’s accounts. The first program that he ever created was a virtually undetectable ghost that monitored accounts that were either overused or recently cut off; giving him the opportunity to use their credit card without the owner noticing the activity. He had no idea exactly how much of other people’s money he spent during that period of his life, but it was a sizeable amount that created a problem in the online shopping industry.
When the time came for him to go to college, his family didn’t have the money, so what he did was design a program that protected card holders from exactly the process that he’d been using for years. He sold it to Google, made a ton of money and never went to school, because he didn’t have to after that. He had always made his own path in life. His family took no interest in helping him progress in life with things like college money or encouragement. With no one to rely on but himself, he took the short cut and the easy way every time. The background material he studied to make himself look intelligent in front of Talia, was probably the hardest work he’d ever put in, without getting paid.
Cameron sat, wondering how someone got to his room, and he heard another louder knock. He went cautiously to the door and looked through the peephole. He saw pink hair. He opened the door to find a young woman carrying a Harley Quinn backpack, wearing a sparkly jean jacket with a tie dyed t-shirt underneath. As he glanced down, he saw that she was wearing black leggings with sugar skulls on them and black thigh high boots.
“Hello,” Cameron said.
“Hi, are you Cameron Walker?” the girl asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Hi, I’m Emily. Your style artist? Chip called me?”
He felt foolish suddenly. “Of course, come in.”
Emily looked around the suite at the clothes laid out everywhere and smiled. Chip had said that they were in the middle of a makeover for a special date. She could tell by what she saw that her new client was extremely nervous.
“I don’t want to ruin what you have going on here,” she said, gesturing to all the clothes. “Where would you like me to set up?”
He suddenly realized that his hotel room looked like the room of a teenager before their first big dance. He quickly gathered several things by their hangars and hung them in the hallway closet.
“Sorry, fashion is new to me,” Cameron said. “You can set up anywhere that’s good for you.”
Emily set up her styling tools and supplies in the kitchenette and dining area. She didn’t say much while she got her things out of her backpack. Once she had everything where she could use it easily, she got a glass of water from the faucet.
“Okay, I think I’m ready,” she said as she turned to Cameron. “Come have a seat, and then you need to tell me what your plans are, so I can get an idea of how to make you look.”
He sat in one of the straight backed chairs that was at the tiny breakfast table. Emily put a vinyl cape with unicorns on it around him to ward off excess hair that would fall during his haircut and style.
“I have a date for dinner tonight with the most impossible woman in the world,” he said. “She is rich, perfect in every way, and smarter than me.”
“Wow, that’s quite a description,” Emily said. “So, classy is good.”
“Sure,” he answered. “But fashionable.”
“Got it,” she said. “But remember, she’s not the most impossible woman in the world. I have that client.”
“Really?” he asked. “Who’s that?”
“I hate to brag, but I style Talia Anderson’s hair, and she is amazing, but she’s the most impossible woman I’ve ever met,” Emily said.
His anxiety kicked in. “Oh, God, I think I’m gonna puke.”
“Relax,” she said. “I’ll make you look great for your date. Let’s talk about good stuff. What’s her name?”
“Talia Anderson,” he replied.
Emily stopped moving for a minute. She took a deep breath. “Good to know. I can make you irresistible. Remember, you’ve got the right girl. I know her.”