After I got the message from Zero I headed home and got changed, then headed over to the RC Store. From the message I'd gotten I'd figured some shit was going down, he's been threatened or someone had come in and wrecked up the place... but everything seemed normal, including Zero being a drama queen.
"What the hell you talking about now?" I asked as he walked by me, shoulders squared (as much as he could with his scrawny little frame) and determined.
"The hour of judgment is upon me!" he say, really giving it his all, little nerd fired up and making more of something than it really was,"And I must ask myself if I am a sheep..... or a goat."
I just stood staring at him, not knowing what the fuck he talking about, and then he reached down and pressed some papers into my hands.
"Here are some letters," he told me, hands pressing tight over mine,"I have left everything to you in case I don't make it.... please....."
He stood staring at me, holding my hands, maybe waiting for my reaction, maybe waiting for me to say lines from the script he living in his head - to tell him how grateful I was he was leaving me everything that was his, or that I couldn't accept such a generous offer.
"I already own it!" I shouted at him, surprising him, reminding him that everything he was "leaving" me... already belonged to me,"What's wrong with you, man?"
"C'mon with all the talking, man!" I shouted, so he'd finally decided to man up, put the toys away and throw down with Berkley.... but he still wanted to turn it into Nerd Theatre.... "Is you going to battle Berkley or what?"
We walked outside to where my ride was waiting; Zero carrying a heavy box in his arms, which he'd only told me contained "weapons of war".
"So where we going?" I asked as we hopped into my ride, Zero putting the box in the back,"Where you guys set this up to happen?"
"There's a little place out of the way, just outside Fierro past Foster Valley, under the shadow of Mount Chiliad," Zero said, putting on his seatbelt and taking a deep breath,"Drive and I'll give directions."
"I gotta say, Zero," I told him,"I'm proud of you man, manning up like this to deal with Berkley, I didn't think you had it in you.... you need any advice, man?"
"I know how to handle him," Zero told me, then sighed,"And it's about time we settled once and for all who is superior between us. I just need you as my second and witness, so no matter what happens there is a record of it."
"That's my nigga," I grinned,"Hey, you wanna listen to some music?"
"Actually I would prefer to hear the news, if you don't mind," he said,"It's important to keep in tune with the ongoing drama of the "real" world."
"Hey, today all about you, my man," I grinned,"WCTR it is."
"....teboarding turning your son gay?" Lianne Forget was saying as I tuned in to WCTR,"Also-San Fierro has been hit with one-tenth scale chaos recently following a series of mini-terrorist attacks. Tiny techno terrorists are suspected. More on that story as it comes in."
"Hey, that's us," I laughed, and Zero smiled before remembering he was supposed to have his game face on.
"A District Attorney is facing a long jail sentence after he was arrested outside the Vank Hoff Hotel trying to escape with well over a ton of marijuana," Lianne was saying now,"Police are currently investigating claims it was for personal use."
"Shit, that's me," I muttered.
"Staying with pot," Lianne said,"Police are celebrating the destruction of a major haul of marijuana in Flint County recently. Unfortunately the huge fire caused problems for local wildlife, much of which was found eating chocolate, listening to the same band over and over, and buying fractal artwork - Richard Burns is on the scene."
"Damn, me again," I said.
"Oh man, I am wicked baked," laughed a voice over the radio, that Richard Burns motherfucker,"Hey man, in the movie, you got shot, but you look great, baby! Who's the guy with the antlers! Oh shit! No, dude, dude, I was just checking to see if she was in heat! No, it's cool dude, she's your doe! Dude! Be cool!"
I turned to look at Zero, but he was stroking the little spindly fluff on his chin and acting like it all made sense.
"Ahem..." Lianne said, cutting Richard off as he got his ass handed to him by some pissed-off stoned deer,"Alright. Inhabitants of Bone County reported further inexplicable lights over the desert, Government officials blame the water supply."
"Shit, here I was thinking all the news was gonna be about me," I laughed to Zero.
"And, more positive news came from street good-guy, Big Smoke," Lianne continued, and the smile faded from my face,"Who today unveiled his new orphanage in a ceremony in Los Santos."
"Yes! Thank you, thank you!" Smoke's voice came through the radio, and I slowed the car and pulled over to the side of the road, staring at it. Zero turned to frown at me, but didn't say anything, seeing the look on my face,"I just like to say this a great day for the impoverished and disadvantaged of Los Santos. And it's a real honor that I am as generous as I am.... I remember when I was a little boy my dear mother would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up, and I said,"Mom, I wanna be a savior!" It's a great opportunity, The Big Smoke Orphanage teaches kids important skills. I was an orphan; I struggled! I saw friends make mistakes and get pulled from the path of righteousness, but now, thanks to the generosity of a great man like me, kids is gonna be saved! Big Smoke, baby! Remember the name!"
"In crime news, Asian gang trouble in San Fierro is on the ris-" Lianne went on, but I switched off the radio.
"That's enough fucking news," I said, cold, and started the car back up and coninued driving.
Zero didn't say nothing.
We pulled up into a little dipped in area just past Foster Valley about half an hour later, and I was a little surprised by what I saw. I'd expected a remote location for the fight and that's what I'd got, but we weren't alone, there were at least 15 other guys here.... all nerds, and they didn't look like they was waiting for a fight, they was.... playing with toys?
I got out of the car, staring around at nerds as young as twelve and as old as 30 driving RC cars around on little dirt tracks, a few arguing over some model trainers and even some huddled around what looked like a little miniature rocket.
"Zero what the fuck is this?" I asked.
"There is balm in Gilead, Carl," he smiled,"Welcome to Camelot, our home away from home. Miniature enthusiasts gather here on weekends to exchange ideas, compete against each other or cooperate to builder a bigger and better mousetrap, as it were. I imagine this is much like the ancient Greek forums...."
"Didn't they fuck little boys?" I asked.
"Oh Carl," sighed Zero,"In any case, our battle is not to take place in front of my compatriots here, but inside that shed."
He pointed over to a big shed, the windows boarded up from the inside. I didn't like it, it looked like a great place for an ambush - these guys were nerds but this Berkley motherfucker played for keeps.
"You guys got like a fighting area set up inside there?" I asked,"What the hell you do out here anyway, apart from play with toys?"
"They're not toys, Carl, how many ti...." started Zero, then sighed,"We come here for the reasons I mentioned, but also to be clear of the short-sighted, the cruel and unjust that fear our intelligence."
"Oh, bullies and jocks, huh?" I grinned.
"Yes, bullies and jocks," sighed Zero, then grinned,"I imagine even now it vexes them that they cannot find us to take our their simplistic aggressions upon us."
"Yeah, I'm sure they're thinking about that and not too busy fucking they girls," I grinned, slapping him on the shoulder,"Come on Zero, let's go deal with Berkley once and for all."
I grabbed out the box for him, it was heavy for me so I didn't even know how he'd carried it at all, and together we walked for the shed. As we walked, nerds cut off what they were doing, all turning to stare at us... or rather, at Zero. They looked surprised and shocked and like they in awe, some of them mouthing his name, some of them mentioning Berkley. It looked like Zero was nerd royalty, and then we stepped into the shed and I got to see the "battlefield" that Zero and Berkley would be fighting on.
Berkley was in there waiting alongside that Dennis motherfucker who'd figured out the Baron was built by Zero. There were crates packed up along the edges of the big-ass shed, a huge table set up in the middle with a giant "miniature" model of what I guess was they battle-field, complete with grass, rocks, a river, bridges, and two little forts on each end.
"So it comes to this, Berkley," Zero said.
"There are no need for words," Dennis said, while Berkey just stood staring... man, he wasn't what I was expecting, I kind of thought he'd be like an exact double of Zero or something but he was.... well, I guess not all nerds were skinny little bitches,"The rules are established, only the prize remains in contention, have you agreed to our terms?"
"On the condition that you agreed to mine," Zero said,"If I lose this contest, I shall hand over ownership of my shop to Berkley and leave Fierro, admitting him the better man. But if he loses to me...."
"Mr. Berkley will close up his mail-order business, admit your superiority to himself and leave San Fierro, as agreed," Dennis said, sounding self important,"So let us finally establish once and for all who the better man is."
Berkley nodded, Zero nodded, and then everyone turned around and started moving stuff about leaving me standing there looking stupid. Zero was reaching into his box and pulling out little miniature pieces - what looked like bombs, planks, a little car and a tiny helicopter. Over on they end, Berkley was watching as Dennis grabbed out little barrels.
"Zero, what the fuck going on?" I whispered to him,"I thought you and Berkley was gonna throw down?"
"Throw down?" he asked, confused, then his eyes lit up and he laughed,"Oh Carl, Carl Carl Carl, Carl Carl Carl Carl Carl, we are men of science and engineering and intellect - not common buffoons. No, at stake has always been the issue of our superiority, who is better than who, and so now we will prove it one way or the other."
He stood up, placing down the car and the little helicopter, then pointed over the little battleground,"Behold, No Man's Land!"
"Man, y'all take this shit seriously," I sighed.
"Berkley's headquarters is across No Man's Land," Zero explained, pointing at the base across the far end of the table,"I'll drive the Bandit, you fly the Goblin and help any way you can. If I am able to get the Bandit into Berkley's base within the agreed time-limit of eight minutes, he must leave San Fierro for good!"
"Well how hard can that be?" I asked.
"Because, Carl," sighed Zero,"On the other side, Berkley and Dennis will be making every effort to hinder my progress. If my miniatures are truly superior to his, I will be able to bypass their efforts and enter their base. If Berkley's are superior to mine, they will stymie my efforts easily enough and I will have been bested."
He handed me the controls to "The Goblin" which I guess was the little helicopter, then turned and looked across the length of the table to where Berkey and Dennis were waiting, grinned, and shouted at the top of his lungs.
"LET BATTLE COMMENCE!"
I could not believe this was how I was spending my Sunday afternoon.
"Damn it, I'm blocked," complained Zero as he drove the Bandit down the little road and found a bridge with a barrel blocking it, left there by a helicopter being piloted by Dennis, who was flying around dropping other barrels around "No Man's Land","Carl, don't be an idiot, use the Goblin to move that barrel!"
I frowned and looked over the map as Zero stood waiting for me to do as I was told. But I was thinking now, checking out the way that the map had been set up beforehand by Dennis and Berkley, setting it up so there was no way Zero could complete the course in time.... not unless I did something they weren't expecting.
I left Zero stuck where he was.
"Carl! Move that cursed barrel!" shouted Zero, then lower so Berkley and Dennis couldn't hear,"You're making me look bad!"
"Relax," I told him, thinking ahead,"Stay where you are, I'm gonna clear the way ahead.
"Carl, what are you doing!?!" demanded Zero, sitting in front of the barrel, his way blocked,"MOVE THAT CURSED BARREL!"
"Coming," I told him, moving the helicopter back towards his end of No Man's Land,"And if you'll pull yo drawers out yo ass and drive, you'll see I've cleared the way for you."
"Good work, Carl," Zero congratulated me as he zipped the Bandit around the track quickly, making up all the lost time,"But we have only begun to fight, as we get closer, Berkley will have more defenses prepared."
I nodded and sent the Goblin flying down to grab another barrel, and then flinched when a small bang sounded and a little clump of dirt flew up from where Zero's Bandit had just been.
"Berkley's using tanks!" Zero warned,"Carl, do something, I can't get any closer!"
I looked up and saw a smirk on Berkley's stupid fat face, but he wasn't looking at me, just right at Zero, and Dennis was staring at Berkley, looking like he in love. No one was paying any attention to me, I was just the dumb muscle brought along by Zero, and as long as Zero wasn't telling me to do something, they didn't care what I did.
For nerds who were so smart, how could they be so stupid?
Berkley flinched backwards, looking up at me, realizing I wasn't just along for the ride. His surprise changed quickly though, his eyes narrowed, then they just went.... dead, and I realized he wasn't like Zero at all, he was a fucking psychotic, one of those nerds who ends up so broken and pissed off and fucked over that they turn completely in on themselves and end up going crazy and going on a gun rampage.
He switched a button on his controller and took control of another of the little tanks, but instead of opening fire on Zero's Bandit, it was on my Goblin. I turned it around and flew back to our base, grabbing another of the little bombs Zero had brought and flying back towards the tank. I dropped the Goblin down to blow the tank, and looked up at Berkley.... and saw he was smirking, hitting a switch and taking control of another tank further up inside No Man's Land... he'd set me up, distracting me with one tank as a decoy to open fire on me with another.
I pulled the Goblin up and back, retreating towards out base as Zero rounded the last corner to the base.... but that last tank was still in the way, and Dennis' copter flying around keeping an eye on things. I looked up at Berkley and already I hated that smirk of his, that creepy, dead-eyed,"I'm better than you," look.
"ZERO!" I shouted, coming to a decision all of a sudden,"I'M PLAYING CHICKEN WITH THIS BITCH!"
"Wh... WHAT!?!" he shouted, as I pitched the Goblin forward directly towards the last tank,"CARL NO! IT'S A TANK! IT CAN SHOOT!"
"Fuck him, I'm taking him out, I don't give a shit!" I yelled,"Remember what you said about proving who was better.... who was smarter? Well I'm proving I'm better, I don't need to be smarter! You get me, nigga? You get what I'm saying?"
"I.... do," he said as I sent the Goblin into a suicide dive towards the tank, which was firing on me, scoring a couple of glancing hits that shook it in its path,"I do, Carl, TAKE HIM OUT!"
"Idiots," laughed Dennis, while Berkley's smirk grew wider, and pulled his copter up higher and back to get out of the tank's line of fire,"YOU BLEW IT, ZERO!"
Dennis let out a loud whooping laugh and slapped Berkley on the back, while Berkley just stared directly at me, that smirk on his face, his eyes still cold and dead, but that hateful smirk saying it all - you blew it, you fucked up, you....
"You lose," I said, smirking right back at him, and his eyes widened as he realized what I'd done.... I'd distracted him and his bitch away from the real threat.
"Ha ha!" laughed Zero as he rode the Bandit into Berkley's base, Dennis too high up to fly down and drop anything down in time to block him. We'd timed it just right, I'd taken control of the spare Goblin, but didn't have enough time to fly back in and move obstacles, but Dennis and Berkley had been so focused on me they had left themselves out of place to stop Zero,"HA! Berkley, you sir, are a loser, leave the field of battle in shame, pack up your crummy mail order model business and GET OUT OF MY TOWN!"
I couldn't believe it, but I was actually proud of the little nerd.
Of course it wasn't over as simple as that, with Berkley beaten, I expected him and Dennis to make a few empty threats and leave, but Berkley just stood there glaring hate at Zero while Dennis looked like he was about to burst into tears. They just stood there though, watching while Zero packed up his stuff, then turned to head towards the door.
"We leaving first?" I asked.
"We have an audience out there waiting to discover the result of this Clash of the Titans, Carl," grinned Zero,"Carl, you were all a duelist like me could want in a second, sir, I salute you! But there are certain niceties that must be observed, such as...."
Suddenly he dropped his shoulders and put a hangdog expression on his face, opening the door to the shed and shuffling out to where all the other nerds had gathered, all of them waiting with expectant looks on their faces. I walked out after Zero more confused than ever as he shuffled forward with a miserable look on his face.... then lifted his head and let out a whoop, raising his arm. The nerds erupted into cheers and started chanting his name, rushing up to congratulate him, leaving me standing there feeling stupid. Why the hell did he do it like that? This wasn't a movie or a TV show, but sometimes I felt like he didn't know the difference between the two.
Berkley and Dennis came out next, trying their best to get by undetected, but the nerds saw them and all turned to point, laughing before one of them broke out into song and the others all joined them, singing after Berkley and Dennis as they trudged away defeated and humiliated.... humiliated by nerds.
"Na-na na naaah! Na-na na naaah! HEY HEY! GOODBYE!"
By the time We got back to Fierro and Zero's store, it was dark, my Sunday all gone. Zero was beaming, fucking ecstatic, he'd finally beaten his lifelong nemesis and gotten the big theatrical production out of his life he'd always wanted. I wondered - a little sadly - if this would be the defining greatest moment of his life, and then figured maybe I was being a little harsh on him.... still, I did want to get him laid one of these days, being this nerdy wasn't good, seeing Berkley had shown me that, you could reach a point where you became too far gone into yourself and became a psycho.
"Carl, I don't know how to thank you for today," he told me,"When you told me about being better but not smarter, I understood you perfectly, you wanted ME to be smart while they concentrated on YOU trying to be better... sheer genius, a tactical move that Napoleon hims-"
"Zero, calm down," I told him,"I helped you out because you a friend, man, and because helping you helps me. You own the market now, man, you got a monopoly, plus you got fame among your customers - everyone doesn't just HAVE to come to you for what they want, they WANT to come to you. And that's good news for me, too, because you a friend but I'm still yo' landlord, and you gotta pay rent."
"Of course, filthy lucre," grinned Zero, unlocking the store door and turning to face me,"Carl, I'm a man who values my privacy, I pay high rents to keep the building to myself, something that the previous landlord valued only so far. You could make even more money if you rented out the other floors in this building, or you could take a loss and continue to just have me as sole tenant... and spare yourself the extra effort that extra tenants will bring. What is it to be?"
"Zero," I grinned,"Just pay your rent, and there won't be no reason why the two of us won't both be happy with the situation."
He grinned back, shaking my hand before walking into the store - his store - the only store of its type in all of Fierro. Between the two of us, we'd just gained a monopoly.
God bless America.