Timeline contacts Outlander and Relay about a disturbing vision involving Cortex. He is confident that the vision is precognitive and is concerned for her safety. Timeline already confirmed with JASOC that she is not on a mission. Outlander then confirms that she is not on a mission for CIA either. They are provided with her home and office addresses.
Cortex finds herself tied to a chair in a dimly-lit and apparently vacant office suite. There is a male figure standing at the edge of the light. He appears muscular beneath a stylish suit and wears a featureless mask that covers his face. He has an accent but Cortex can only place it generally to Western Europe. Cortex tries a covert telepathic connection with him and fails. A second attempt without subtlety succeeds.
The man is the international assassin known as El Matador (real name Esteban Oriol). He knows she works for the US government but does not know any specific details about her status with CIA or JASOC. He has not yet identified anyone else on the team. He did not previously know that she was an SPB, but he figured it out after her failed attempt. He tracked her based on a description provided by the man she convinced to allow Outlander to join the tournament in Thailand and has been hunting her since a week after the completion of Operation: Caged Wren. The fact that Outlander disappeared following Wren’s rescue started him on the trail. Matador has seduced and/or interrogated four government employees from various agencies and subsequently killed all four. He is under orders from Ajna Syndicate to assassinate US President Ellerman in retaliation for US interference in Thailand, but does not yet have a concrete plan to carry out that mission.
When Cortex reveals that she knows about his mission to assassinate Ellerman, El Matador strikes quickly—delivering a vicious kick to her head that renders her unconscious (and results in multiple fractures). When she awakens, she is still tied up and can tell that she has serious but not life-threatening injuries. Her psychological evaluation of El Matador reveals that he is narcissistic and arrogant without any regard for human life. She also discovers that he is almost invisible in shadows and can go desolid.
When Outlander, Relay, and Timeline arrive at Cortex’s home, Outlander is able to follow her scent to a four story office building in a somewhat economically-depressed area. Half of the building is vacant, including the suite to which Outlander tracks Cortex. After Relay confirms that Cortex is inside, Outlander smashes through the door. In the ensuing fight, El Matador appears to strike a fatal blow to Timeline, only to have Timeline disappear an instant before the strike lands. El Matador does not stay in the fight very long, using his desolidification to slip into the ground and escape.
After reporting back to JASOC (and getting Cortex some medical attention), the team is assigned to the Secret Service detail protecting the President. Cortex is not permitted near the President and instead is stationed in an administrative area outside the Oval Office where she can “vet” all visitors. Outlander and Relay are assigned to the POTUS personal protection detail. Outlander takes the day shift and Relay the night switch.
During her assignment, Cortex picks up a stray thought about killing “all the freaks”—seemingly referring to SPBs. She recognizes the thinker as US Senator Kenneth Stauss (R-MI), a very senior member of Congress involved with many important committees, but cannot probe further before the senator leaves her line of sight (this occurred after the senator’s meeting with the President).
On the night of Friday June 12, Relay notices a figure walk through a wall in the White House. She quickly warns the Secret Service detail, teleports POTUS and FLOTUS to an area of safety, and then fetches Cortex and Outlander. Outlander impersonates President Ellerman to trap El Matador. The assassin enters the room and attacks with the blunt end of his weapon but Outlander’s defenses withstand the attack. Outlander attempts to use Eel’s Touch on El Matador but misses the agile assassin. Cortex launches a mental attack against him, making him mad enough to attack Relay instead. Relay’s taser attack misses him and a second Eel’s Touch manages to damage him a little. El Matador phases through the floor while Cortex and Relay teleport down to find him. They can’t locate him, so Outlander maintains the appearance of the president and stays in the bedroom. Eventually, he opens the door and is attacked by the waiting Matador, who focuses all his power into attacking Outlander, thinking he’ll kill the president. Outlander, having barely been scratched by Matador’s previous attack, does not drop his shape shifting against the incoming blade and is hit in the head. He falls to the floor, bleeding and unconscious and now on the brink of death. Cortex decides to take a chance by using her mental powers to entangle his mind since Matador is so easily able to phase through walls. Her plan works and he’s unable to move, allowing Relay to taze and subdue him. Relay is able to stabilize Outlander, which allows him to regenerate to full health. He makes a mental note never to maintain a disguise when faced with a deadly attack. The attack on the president’s life never makes the headlines and the team members each receive commendations from their respective organizations.