Motherfucker actually had left me a TV and VCR with a bunch of tapes labeled "flying". I couldn't fucking believe it, not only did he want me to learn to fly, he expected me to do it off of TAPES!?
I put in the first one - 1. Flying - Takeoff - pushed play, having to laugh when an FBI Warning came up telling me that airing this tape without the express consent of the License Holder put me in violation of copyright laws. The tape wasn't nothing fancy, no credits and music and opening shots with some dude in a scarf and glasses with a foot resting on a rock and his hands crossed over his knee as he talked about man dreaming to join the birds or shit like that. Instead it was just some pale, average looking white guy pointing at the cockpit of a plane and reciting off the different instruments, then going through a step by step process of what needed to be done to make the plane lift up off of the ground.
I quickly learned that this wasn't instructional tapes for people who knew planes and was already in training - this was "Flying for Dummies" or something, for people who had never flown or had only ever flown sitting in a seat in the back of commercial aircraft. The video explained how to maintain direction, what speed was needed to take off over what distance, what buttons to push or switches to flick to lift wheels or raise the tail. I sat there watching it all, and it all made perfect sense, same as 2. Flying - Landing, the second tape that went through the whole process in reverse, how to bring the landing wheels down, control descent and taxi to a stop. Watching the tapes, I could see exactly what I needed to do, it was kind of like a cross between driving a car and piloting a boat, I could definitely do it. There was just one problem.
I wasn't fucking going to fly a fucking airplane, that was crazy.
I watched the tapes over and over again, sometimes I'd even walk out and look at the plane sitting in the hangar, some old piece of shit looked like a leftover from WWII. One time I even got up and sat in the cockpit, checking out the instruments and controls, realizing I recognized stuff, knew how it ran, knew I could do it.
But I wasn't fucking going to fly.
A little after noon, I sat drinking a Sprunk in the office, thinking about ways to get myself back into Michelle's good books when my phone rang again.
"Hey," said Toreno,"How's the flying coming along?"
"Yeah, well shit man," I said, trying to think of an excuse,"I was gonna holla at you about that cause, you know, I'm-"
"Will you listen to yourself," he laughed, really laughed, like he was genuinely amused,"Admit it, you're scaaaaaared!"
"....maybe just a little," I admitted.
"Until you've walked into the middle of a Bedouin arms dealer's camp with nothing but a briefcase full of cash," Toreno told me, sounding like he was bragging,"You don't know the meaning of fear!"
"Oh yeah?" I came back,"Try going to the swap meet in Idlewood sometime."
But it was too late, he'd hung up, leaving me with a clear message. He'd rung to remind me he was waiting on me, and that I had to do what he said, for Sweet's sake. I stood up and looked out the window at the plane in the hangar.
"Shit," I said to myself,"....shit."
Holy fuck I did it!
I sat in the plane, engine still idling but the plane sitting still, placed perfectly on the runway after I'd landed it. I'd fucking lifted the fucking thing off of the ground, flown up, banked perfectly, re-lowered the wheels and brought the motherfucking plane back down to Earth just like the tapes had shown me.... and I'd fucking done it PERFECTLY!
"Holy... holy shit," I said, wiping my arm across my forehead and feeling a cold sweat. Lifting off had been kind of exhilarating an terrifying at the same time, like when you a kid and go on a roller coaster for the first time, and you hit that first drop and feel yo gut stay up in the air while you go down. I hopped out of the cockpit and hit the ground, mouth hanging open, lungs feeling like they couldn't get enough air, legs feeling rubbery as I walked around the plane, checking it out... I'd fucking done it, I'd flown, I'd taken off and landed a fucking plane. Shit, it was easy, it wasn't hard at all, I could do this a million times, no problem, no fucki-
I sprinted over to one of the old airplane remains and doubled over, losing my lunch as I puked up everything I'd eaten, dropping to my knees and heaving till I was empty and it felt like I was trying to bring my entire stomach up. I rolled over onto my ass and sat with my back against what had once been a 747 moving a couple hundred people at a time all over the skies, now just a skeletal remain in an airplane graveyard in the desert. I sucked in a deep breath and started to laugh, then felt like I was hyperventilating and had to get myself under control.
"Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, Sweet what the fuck have I gotten myself into?" I panted at last, still in a cold sweat,"What the fuck am I doing so far from Grove Street, trying to fly a fucking plane.... Jesus, Jesus fuck."
But finally I had to get up (the smell from my own puke was getting fragrant) and stumbled on weak legs over to the plane, stopping to stare it. Okay, I'd learnt to take off and to land, trouble was that wasn't going to be good enough. Toreno hadn't left me a tape to take off and a tape to land, he'd left a whole pile of the motherfuckers, and thinking about the names made me feel like puking up more of what wasn't left in my stomach. Basic Flying Techniques, Advanced Flying Techniques, Expert Flying Techniques, Stealth Flying, Stunt Flying, and the one at the end that worried me the most.
What the FUCK had I gotten myself into?
I got out the plane with the fire extinguisher from the cockpit, putting out the flame on the wing that had started up when I clipped the ground coming in too fast.
"Fuck fuck fuck!" I yelled, relieved I'd landed okay but freaking out over damaging the plane. Now Toreno would have to get someone to repair it, or more likely I'd have to get Dwaine or Jethro, and I didn't want to involve them in any of this. I'd gotten caught up, once the initial freak-out after taking off again had worn away I'd actually begun to enjoy being up in the air. It was kind of liberating, up in the air it felt like you were above it all, free from the world and all the fucked up shit down on the ground. But now I'd gone and fucked it al-
My phone rang.
"What's wrong with the plane?" he asked, and I looked around, expecting to see him in the tower or something, but I couldn't see anything.
"How yo-" I started.
"Nevermind," he interrupted,"What's WRONG with it?"
"I clipped the ground coming in for a landing," I said,"Put out the fire but I don't want to take it back up without it being checked out. I got a couple of g-"
"I don't want those stoners involved in this operation," he said... damn, he fucking knew everything,"You'll have a new plane waiting in the hangar tomorrow. You'll be there bright and early to fly it, won't you Carl?"
"Hey man," I said,"I made a lot of progress today you know, don't want to jinx it or an-"
That shut me up for a second, but he was quiet too, waiting for my answer.
"OK," I said at last,"Listen, I'm trying man, I really am, bu-"
"I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, Carl," he interrupted again,"The one difference between those that tried and died and those that still walk this Earth, is belief in self."
I couldn't tell if he was making fun of me or just enjoying himself, but his voice shifted and he started to go evangelical, shouting through the phone at me,"Nothing is impossible, Carl! Beat your fears, focus your mind and LEARN. TO. FLY!"
Jesus Christ, what a psycho.
"OK, OK," I said,"I'll- Toreno? Oh shit..."
He'd hung up.
I got back to San Fierro after midnight, walking up the stairs to my place and stepping inside, wondering about what Toreno had in mind for me, worried about the crazy shit he seemed to think I was capable of.... woried that maybe I was capable of it.
Closing the door, I noticed a little envelope on the coffee table and frowned. I had a good idea who must have left it, and it bothered me more than it should have that he'd been in my place. What if he'd put in cameras or bugs or shit like that? I picked up the envelope and something slipped out, ID in laminate, turning over and showing my face and name, and above my name.... PILOT LICENSE.
"Real funny, Toreno, nice joke," I said out loud, then took out the sheet of paper inside the envelope and read what was written on it.
Not a joke,
Frowning, I picked up the Pilot's License and took a closer look.... shit, it looked legit, but it couldn't be, you didn't just get a license like that, you had to take tests and pay money and get into the system and..... shit, what the fuck was I talking about, Toreno WAS the system.
I was a licensed pilot.
".....shiiiiit," I said at last, then grinned, holy shit! I was a licensed pilot!
I ignored the minimum wage asshole wannabe 5-0 in the security booth, he had to let me in, I had a fucking pilot's license. I'd had a moment where I thought he was going to look at it and say it was a fake, but apparently it checked out and they opened the gates to the airport for me.
I'd had a quick meal and shower, changed clothes and then headed out. I had to admit that now I wasn't actually in the air, I was missing how cool it felt, plus I wanted to play with my new toy, my pilot's license.
I rode up inside, staying clear of the big ass runways where the big planes came in, looking for the little huts and hangers where they kept private planes and crop dusters and little one and two engine planes. I remembered this is where I'd first met Toreno, saving him from being cut up by Da Nang Boys when they found out he was in the shipment they'd jacked. I wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that I'd saved him anymore, but I put that aside, checking out a funny looking plane sitting out on the tarmac.
"Ugly piece of crap, ain't she," grinned a voice, and I turned to see a skinny little white guy in coveralls stepping up wiping his hands with an oily rag,"The Beagle - functional, solid, tough.... ugly as sin."
"If she flies, she flies," I said back, shrugging,"... she does fly, right?"
"Oh yes, she does that," he nodded, and I noticed a little label on his breast pocket reading Gus,"Getting near the end of her shelf life, but still runs."
"I'm new to all this," I told him, showing him my pilot's license, which made him grin. I guessed all new pilots did that, scared they were going to be told they was imposters so get the fuck out,"How I go about taking one of these up in the air?"
"Oh weeelllll," grinned Gus, rolling his head around on his neck,"There's all kinds of paperwork and fees to be paid and then you gotta file a flight plan and we gotta go through the pre-flight maintenance an-"
"I get it, I get it," I grinned, reaching into my pocket,"How much?"
Okay, I had to admit it, this shit was addictive.
I flew along, just enjoying flying without any of the stress of LEARNING like Toreno wanted from me. I went up high, moving through the air looking down on forests and roads and cars and towns and farms and lakes and rivers. It was fucking hypnotic, and unlike a car or a boat, once you were up and flying, most of the hard work was done and all you had to do was keep an eye on the instruments every now and then until it was time to land. So I just flew and flew, feeling a high like nothing I'd known before, feeling totally relaxed, feeling like nothing could get to me, nothing at all.
Well, that was until I ran out of fuel.
I heard a strange noise, the background drone of the engines I'd successfully tuned out suddenly coming back full force as the drone started to rise and fall, and then make a sputtering noise. Frowning, I looked over and saw the propellers weren't quite turning as smoothly as they had been. I looked down at the instrument panel, but it was still reading a half tank of gas so that couldn't be.... wait a second..... shit.
It had a half full tank when I fucking took off, hours ago now.
"Motherfucker," I whispered as I tapped the fuel gauge and suddenly the needle fell back to below the E. I looked around, but there was nowhere to put her down safely, I was close to Blueberry and it was surrounded by trees, with a river running directly beneath me.
"Fuck fuck fuck, fuck you, Gus," I whispered, then turned and looked behind me, spotting what I'd been hoping to see. Gus wasn't completely fucking useless after all. I grabbed it, sorted it, then turned back to the controls as I heard the engines start to whine and saw one of the propellers was all but stationary now. Taking the stick, I pushed the Beagle's nose towards the river, so it wouldn't crash into someone's house, and as a whining sound started to fill the air, I grabbed the door, jerked it open and.... jumped out.
I landed on the roof of the Ammu-Nation, shock running up my feet, pulling off the parachute and letting the wind catch it and pull it through the air. I looked down onto the roof platform where a tight-bodied brunette who looked like she had a stick rammed firmly up her ass was standing in boots and army fatigues, ignoring me as she blasted with a Desert Eagle at targets set up on the wall supporting the roof I was standing on. I jumped down to her level, and she finally stopped shooting, then turned and raised an eyebrow at me, looking me up and down like I was a piece of meat.
"Well," she said, and her voice immediately reminded me of those rich white assholes I'd spent the previous week racing with, she was one of them all right - Old Money,"You certainly know how to make an entrance, and unlike most of your kind you don't look like you eat steroids for breakfast."
"My kind?" I said, too surprised over how weird she was reacting and too shocked over the fact I just jumped out of a fucking airplane a thousand feet up only a couple of minutes ago,"What the fuck does tha-"
"How delightfully ghetto," she smirked, then said the last thing I'd expected to hear.
Surprised, now it was my turn to look her over. Okay so she had a stick up her ass and a voice like a pompous bitch, but that little short-haired cut of hers was sexy in a mean kind of way, she had a tight little body and nice firm tits, if a little small.
"Yeah... sure," I said at last,"That sounds good."
"Good, it's agreed then," she said, all business, like we just signed off on a deal,"Meet me at World of Coq in Los Santos at 11 tonight, I work late, I eat late."
With that she turned and went back to shooting at the target, and I shrugged and headed down the stairs.... still a little confused over what the fuck was going on but figuring I'd better find a motel room to crash in and sleep the day away. I'd crashed the Beagle, but hey, Gus' fault for taking a bribe I guess. And now I guess I had a date tonight.... that was good.
I'd been a little wary of coming back to Santos, but at midnight in the glitzy part of town, there wasn't much concern about running into Ballas or Tenpenny, Pulaski or even Smoke. She was still dressed the way I'd seen her in Blueberry, but the staff in the restaurant knew her and this late at night no one was going to kick up a fuss, so we just settled down to have a nice, expensive goddamn meal.
She told me all about herself, since that seemed to be her favorite subject. Her name was Helena Wankstein, she was a VERY successful divorce lawyer and her life was "a mess, but she didn't want my sympathy". The way she said her life was a mess reminded me of those rich kids you see on TV complaining about how they life is going down the tubes when you know they're gonna end up lawyers or bankers getting paid big bucks in whatever place they Daddies own. She said she'd been devastated since the "frightful business" that lead to her "losing" her last boyfriend, but when life closes one door, it opens another, which I guess meant me. Finally she stopped talking and I assumed that was my cue to say something.
"Yeah, when I was gro-" I started.
"Oh Carl, don't be a bore," she interupted,"I'm not at all interested in your clichéd life story."
"Eh?" I said, all I could think to say, surprised.
"I mean, I didn't invite you out for sparkling wit and conversation," she said,"I had your life story from the first time I saw you, though you do get points for a creative and original entrance."
"Oh really?" I asked, grinning,"Why don't you tell me MY life story?"
"Hmmm, let me see," she said,"You're nouveau riche, you came into money only recently in your life. Whatever it is you do, you use your hands, but it pays well, or rather... you pay yourself well. You don't have the guilty air of a lucky windfall, you didn't win the State Lottery, you built something up yourself from nothing and feel absurdly proud and protective of it. You've recently broken off a relationship you thought was going somewhere, which is why you seem to be under the impression I'm interested in anything more than some.... fun. Quite frankly, Carl, I'm using you, try to enjoy the ride."
"You see all that, huh?" I grinned, pushing my plate away, done,"Painting pretty broad strokes, lady."
"That's because people perpetuate stereotypes, Carl," she sniffed, sipping her coffee,"I bet you never knew your father, and you were either brought up by your mother or grandmother... and whoever it was, I bet they had three pictures on their mantel - Martin Luther King, Jesus, and JFK."
"You got something against Dr. King and President Kennedy?" I asked. She'd hit a sore spot, yeah my Moms had those pictures, only they was on the wall,"Or Jesus?"
"Oh my goodness!" she giggled, lifting a hand to her mouth,"You really do perpetuate the stereotype, don't you Carl! I bet you're a Democrat!"
"Well.... I guess, I only voted the once," I admitted, and she let out a loud,"HAW!" that caused the Head Waiter to turn his head in surprise,"What's so funny?"
"Nothing, nothing," she giggled,"I'm always amused by clichés, a black Democrat who doesn't know his Father and was raised by a single Mother!"
"I was an orphan, my Pops died when I was young," I said, getting a little irritated now, but that just made her laugh more.
"Oh my, a poor orphan from the ghetto who made good, what a hoot!" she laughed. Before I could snap anything at her though, she leaned forward with a hungry look in her eyes,"Carl, tell me what you'd do if you ran the country."
"What the hell?" I said, put off guard,"Shit, I don't know.... look at social services I guess, make sure all the money didn't go to the rich, that the little people got some too."
"Oh really?" she smirked at me,"Go on."
"You making fun of me, lady?" I asked.
"No, I'm really interested," she insisted,"What would you do about healthcare?"
"Well uhh.... no more not serving people unless they got insurance," I shrugged,"And lower the cost of prescription drugs."
"Oooooh," she said, biting her lower lip, catching me by surprise,"What about welfare? Housing?"
"Shit lady, I don't know," I said,"Try and make it so people all had jobs and owned they own place, help out those who don't and can't.... why you asking me all this?"
"My God, you'd ruuuuuuinnnn the country," she moaned, and I realized she was wriggling about on her chair, was she.... was she getting horny?"Tell me more, I want to hear more, Carl."
This was one strange bitch, but fuck it, let's see where this went. So I started talking, just about the way I thought things SHOULD be, and she sat there listening, looking fascinated, moving about more in her seat, letting out little moans now and then.
Fuck, I never thought politics would get me laid.
We left World of Coq a little after one that morning, Helena running her fingers all over me. I wasn't sure exactly why all the shit I'd told her had gotten her so hot, but I wasn't arguing with it. We hopped into her Sadler and I drove us towards her place as it began to rain, her giving me directions in between whispering dirty words into my ear and running her hand up and down my leg. It was all I could do to keep my eyes on the road, especially as the rain came down harder, and then when I saw her place.... well, we was lucky I didn't run us off of the road.
"Nice place, damn," I said,"It in yo family?"
"No, Carl," she grinned,"I used the money from my fee for winning a generous settlement for a gold digging bitch to take half her husband's hard earned assets to buy this place, and I picked it up cheap after the bank foreclosed on the mortgage and evicted the family whose family it WAS in. What do you think about that?"
"Jesus Christ girl, that's just plain fucking nasty," I said.
"Oh Gooooooooddddddd yes!" she moaned, running her hands down her sides,"Get out of the car."
She hopped out and I followed, standing in the rain as she walked up to me, rain soaking her tight little body as she wrapped her arms around me.
"Girl, why the fuck this shit get you going?" I asked.
"Because Democrats are useless, overthinking, well-meaning morons who'd ruin the country, Carl," she grinned up at me through the rain,"And as a useful, direct to action, always right BITCH there is nothing dirtier, sexier or more erotic than letting myself be used and demeaned by a Left Wing idiot."
"Left wing idi-?"
"Carl," she said, grinning,"Shut up and use me."
The next morning, I hung my clothes out on the line to air them out after running them through Helena's washing machine, dressed in an old set of overalls and flannel shirt that belonged to one of her ex's. She'd been as good as her word, letting me "use" her, making me whisper "dirty" shit in her ear like "increased taxation to fund welfare benefit rises to match inflation" and "affordable tract housing". But this morning when I woke up, she'd made it clear that while she enjoyed seeing "stereotypes perpetuated" she wasn't one herself, so she wasn't going to fall in love or cuddle or make me breakfast or wash my clothes. I got dressed in these old clothes, threw my stuff in the machine and made some breakfast while she sat at a desk by a big window looking out over the fields towards Santos in the distance, doing paperwork for some Divorce Case she was handling.
I'd stood looking at Santos, feeling a little tug at being so close to "home", even if home for me now was Fierro and the Johnson Family Garage. I forgot about that though when I heard her laughing, and walked over with my coffee to find out what it was that had her laughing - another stereotype?
It was WCTR, and that asshole Lazlow was interviewing some guy called Colin.
"The Celebrity Du Jour," Helena laughed, rolling her eyes,"Some crazy man they found hiding naked behind some rocks on the shore in San Fierro."
"And that makes a celebrity?" I asked.
"No, Carl," she smiled,"What makes him a celebrity is that he turns out to have amnesia, all he knows is that his name is Colin, and wherever he was before they found him by that sewer pipe is that he'd been underground without food or water for days before he was found."
"Huh, weird," I said.
"..eard you, like, died twice in hospital!" Lazlow was saying,"Did you.... see God or something? Because I've got a bet about which one he's going to be!"
"I don't know about that," this Colin guy was saying,"I don't like to make a fuss."
"He did die, yes," said a female voice that I was surprised to recognize... Katie?"But the Doctors were able to bring him back from the dead and slowly he has been recovering his health. It's a remarkable story."
"And I understand you've been by his side ever since?" Lazlow asked,"This is Katie Zhan, ladies and gentlemen, a lovely Nurse dedicated to restoring Colin to health, no matter how long it takes. Colin, I think you're faking it just to keep her by your side!"
"Oh no I wouldn't...." Colin said, sounding uncertain,"I....I don't like to make a fuss...."
They kept talking, but Helena wasn't listening any more, rolling her eyes at me.
"I've seen a million gold diggers in my time, Carl, she'll leave once the media interest in him dies down."
"....as a result, Colin's heart is susceptible to failure at any time... wow man, that's got to be a bummer!" Lazlow was saying.
"Yeah... somehow I think she in it for the long haul with him," I said, then turned and headed out to the laundry room to grab my clothes to take out and put on the line. Shit, guess Katie got what she always wanted - some dude who'd been dead and could go back there at any time. Good for her, I guess. I grabbed my clothes and headed outside as Entertaining America ended and a show called "He Said, She Said" came on, something about a Left-Wing, Right-Wing married couple who ripped each other's ideas apart. Sounded familiar.
As I hung up my clothes, wondering if me and Helena had any kind of future together, I saw something glinting from inside the shed, the door slightly ajar. I ignored it at first, then frowned and looked back.... was that what I thought it was? It couldn't be....
OK.... what the fuck?
I took a look around, feeling a little uneasy, which was silly since plenty of people out in rural areas had firearms and chainsaws and.... well.... I couldn't explain the flamethrower. There was a big thick wooden chest down in one corner of the shed, and I headed over to it and knelt down, opening it up with the same uneasy feeling growing on me. Inside there was nothing but some old scrapbooks and photo albums, and for a second I felt silly, until I opened it up and saw what was inside.
Newspaper clippings, photos, all about Helena and a guy - some dude called Jeffery Gambin - which would have been fine.... except his face was scratched out of each and every photo. The front scrapbook was full of articles about him or her and cases they were working on - divorce for her, corporate for him. He was some young up and coming Corporate Lawyer making a name for himself. Only, as the book went on, the articles changed to the search for "missing lawyer" and then "body discovered" and then "Body Identified - Missing Lawyer Jeffery Gambin.
The only thing that stayed the same, was that throughout all the articles, wherever something was mentioned about Jeffery's politics or lifestyle or personal statements, "somebody" has scrawled through them with a red marker, and made hard little notations in tiny little writing along the borders.
....liberal on homosexuality. LIED in statement....
........hasn't joined Republican Party!
..gave a homeless man money, doesn't "get" it..
....perpetuated the stereotype, UNACCEPTABLE....
......divorce, divorce, DIVORCE......
"Oh holy shiiiit," I whispered under my breath. I quietly put the book and album back into the chest and closed it, then slowly stood up and quietly moved out of the shed. I took my clothes off of the line and put them into the back of the Sadler, then quietly, quietly slid myself into the driver's seat, released the handbrake and moved it quietly towards the fence.
"CARL!" shouted Helena, and I jumped up in my seat and hit my head against the roof. I turned back and saw her head poking out of the second floor window, looking confused,"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"
I looked out the window up at her, not sure how to react, and then suddenly I just burst out laughing.
"PERPETUATING A STEREOTYPE, YOU CRAZY BITCH!" I laughed,"PERPETUATING A STEREOTYPE!"