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Prologue: Part 2: El Presidente

Shane waited a few minutes to ensure that he did not appear too soon after Ortega.  He maintained a pretense of checking various aspects of the library just in case someone decided to check on his whereabouts.  He was in the middle of pretending to inspect a bookshelf when Presidente Vasquez's secretary entered the room.

"Señor Donovan?"

Shane turned and feigned surprise.  "Hello, Maria."  He motioned at the shelf.  "I was just verifying a few things."

"I see," she said, perhaps a bit more hesitantly than Shane would have liked.  "I have been looking for you.  Your presence is requested by El Presidente."

"Well, then, lead the way. 

Shane followed the aide through the throng to a group in the center of the room.  As Shane reached the group, a tall, bearded man in a military uniform turned toward him.

He reached out and took Shane's hand.  "Welcome, Señor Donovan.  My apologies that I have not been able to speak with you earlier during your visit.  I hope your accommodations here are sufficient and you are enjoying our hospitality."

"The accommodations are excellent, sir," Shane assured him.

He knew that the Costa Blanca President had been reluctant to bring in Nightwing.  Former general Juan Carlos Vasquez had taken control of Costa Blanca two years earlier in a coup that had overthrown the elected government and did not trust anyone with past associations with western governments.  It had taken a lot of effort to convince Vasquez's subordinates that Nightwing's sole interest was pecuniary.  Despite Shane's past connections to the ISA, they had made a convincing case that morality played no role in the corporation's operations.

It took a while, but they finally prevailed over Vasquez.  Morality was not one of his high points either.  Since assuming the title 'Presidente,' Vasquez had turned his country into a haven for drug cartels, gun runners, and criminals of all shapes and sizes, relying on their money to prop up his government.  Getting a unit into the country would be a huge coup.

"And I am sure that security here is up to your high standards?" said Vasquez.

Shane pursed his lips for effect and gazed around the room.  Then he began to rattle off some defects.  "You have three floor-to-ceiling windows.  They use an old glass/polymer laminate that is serviceable, but will hardly withstand a sniper with a super-high-power rifle.  Upgrading to a new aluminum oxynitride design would be recommended.  Your screening guards failed to remove handguns from Lord Daniels' bodyguard and Enrico Padilla.  And . . ."  Shane motioned to a tall man in Nigerian apparel the corner.  "Over there is Prince Ndonga of Nigeria, who your guards allowed to pass through the gates."

"So?"

"There is no Prince Ndonga of Nigeria," Shane explained.  "That's really my associate, DaJohn Thomas of Philadelphia."

Vasquez's mouth hung open and he looked like he was struggling to get his jaw to function.  His face began to flush with anger.

Before any of the guards wound up in front of a firing squad, Shane tried to diffuse the situation. "I assure you, sir, that Mr. Thomas is an excellent operative and most convincing."  He tried to change the focus.  "Look, those are a few things that I have been able to discern while at the party.  Obviously, there are many things that I cannot observe from here -- your perimeter defenses, communications, transportation.  They'll be addressed in our preliminary report."  Shane paused.  "So, no, sir, I must say that your security is not up to Nightwing's 'high standards,' but that's the reason we're here.  Once our job is complete, your security will be state-of-the-art."

'Minus a few backdoors that we leave for the ISA to exploit,' Shane added silently.

The President remained quiet, but no longer looked like he intended to blow his top.  He studied Shane carefully, before giving a small tilt of his head in assent.  "Very well.  Perhaps we could learn from your organization."

"Now that's what I love to hear.  That's bloody brilliant."  He suddenly recalled the matter with Ortega, and added, "We are by no means finished with our analysis.  There may still be a few more tests we will be running."

"What sort of 'tests'?"

"I can't disclose them yet, but I assure you that they will be in our report.  But I remind you that, as we advised before, there may be some slight disruptions."

The President remained impassive.  "I see."

Shane let out a slight breath, feeling a touch of relief.  "Now I should let you return to your guests."

He began to turn away, ready to leave the party and begin planning his early morning excursion, but the President spoke again.

"Actually, Señor Donovan, there is a guest that I would like you to meet."  He raised a hand in the direction of a man whose back was to Shane.  He had not seen the man enter and could only see the white hair and a perfectly tailored tuxedo.

The man turned, as Shane's chest constricted and an icy wave raced over his spine. 

"Actually, 'meet' ma not be the correct word.  I believe you already know Señor Kiriakis."