John Van Der Beer is an agent with the CIA.
At least he will be. When we first meet him he is a hedge-fund manager at a major brokerage firm enjoying a meteoric rise up the ranks in the days before the 9/11 attack. Though still young he was both fearless and determined when he came up with an idea and the impressive successes he has so far achieved stood as proof that his ideas were sound and well thought out. Already incredibly rich from that successes and with a beautiful woman at his side, his future was assured.
Then after settling yet another gigantic win for his company, he took what was him a now normal walk along Wall Street in the early morning to help unwind. He had just bought a breakfast sandwich from a vendor a few blocks from his office in one of the World Trade Center buildings when the first plane struck one of the towers. He never finished that sandwich.
The same meticulous planning and determination, and yes, ruthlessness, that made him nearly a legend in the financial world would come into play when his life's goals changed in an instant. He hired one of the best military trainers to teach him everything he could about weaponry, explosives, and tactics, or as he succinctly put it - "teach me to kill". He paid one of the premiere experts on Islamic terrorists to instruct him into the why's and how's of organizations like Al Qaeda. He similarly approached turning his admittedly soft body into a lean, hardened tool. And he studied relentlessly the languages of his new enemy, first Arabic and then Russian and anything else used by the Chechens.
When despite several months and many, many calls to the CIA to talk them into accepting him, he switched to Plan B and "boarded a plane to Chechnya" with his normally short trim beard already longer and bushier.
He was heading to work - just in a different vocation.
- When a CIA station chief threatens to waterboard him when he will not reveal what he knows without a pardon, Van der Beer comments, "I fooled [Al Qaeda] for six years. How long do you have?"