OK, I was actually doing this. Shit.
"A patrol vessel is set to enter the rear of the vessel," Toreno said into my ear, sitting somewhere safe in his warm car looking out over the bat.
"Yo, ain't you worried about those guys that are always on you?" I asked, the earpiece acting as a transmitter as well as a receiver.
"Those schmucks?" he laughed,"They think I'm in Afghanistan meeting with the Northern Alliance.... you'd like Massoud, Carl, he's a lot like you.... likes the camera too much, it'llbethedeathofhim.... anyway, get out of the boat, sneak in the back without being seen. Once you're on the inside, I cannot help you."
"Well, can you help me now?" I asked.
"...." he said, sounding like I'd caught him by surprise,"Uh, well, no. Actually, no."
So I was in, simple enough since who would be looking for a guy swimming into the back of an Amphibious Assault ship docked at San Fierro's Naval Base. I'd done the "easy" part, now it was time to go to work.
It was kind of surreal, sneaking my way through the ship, soldiers walking around on "patrol" but casual about it, thinking they were safe here, probably the only thing keeping me from being caught. I snuck past crates in loading bays, up narrow staircases, past little common rooms where sailors could watch TV if they was taking a break from night duty.
Toreno had included a little map of the interior of the ship, and following it I was able to go straight to the SAM room, where the Surface to Air Missiles were maintained. I moved into the room, putting in the code Toreno had written on the side of the map, which didn't just shut down the SAM, but the entire system. Even if they got wind of what was going on, it would take them hours to reboot the system.
The SAMs were down, it was time to move, someone somewhere was going to notice that and send people to investigate, I had to hurry.
The plane was in front of me, it was called a "Hydra", I'd seen them before on TV, and when I was learning to fly I'd read up a little on them, and they sounded like a fucking nightmare to fly. How the fuck Toreno expected me to not only fly it but use it to attack spy ships, he was crazy.
And there was three of them.
"You there?" I asked, but he didn't say anything back, he was maintaining radio silence, but I kept on anyway, being careful not to say his name,"There's three of these fucking things, I take one, TRAINED pilots gonna come after me in the other two, you understand? Hello?"
"Ahhh shit," I said, wondering how long till soldiers investigating the SAMs going down would come this way. I looked around.... and saw a crate, saw how it was labeled, a label that made me smile.
Jesus I felt like I was sitting in the fucking Enterprise or something, there was switches and dials and buttons everywhere, and even knowing flying like I did, barely half of it made any sense. I'd hit the switch outside to raise the platform rose up to the top deck, but now I had to figure out how to fly this thing. A switch labeled vertical thrusters seemed a reasonable enough start so I flipped it, and suddenly the fucking thing was lifting, feeling more like a chopper than a plane.
Now the sailors and soldiers was running about beneath me in a panic, the SAMs had been the first warning, then the explosions, now they was watching as I stole a fucking Hydra right out from under them. I couldn't resist a little wave to them, now that this fucking nightmare of a plane was in the air, I felt more comfortable, if it was in the air I could fly it, and let the rest of this complicated shit sort itself out.
And holy fuck could this baby fly.
"Ya see? Ya see?" laughed Toreno in my ear, obviously thinking I was clear enough now as I flew this beautiful fucking nightmare high into the air,"What did I tell you? It was a snap!"
I rolled my eyes, looking over the instrument panel with it's four billion different buttons, switches and flashing lights. What the fuck did half this shi-
"Stolen aircraft!" a voice suddenly crackled over my radio, making my jump in my seat. The voice didn't sound angry, it sounded excited and happy,"Prepare to be vaporized!"
I looked behind me.... oh fuck, I'd blown up the two other Hydra's below decks.
But there had been one more topside.
"Did you hear that?" I yelled, looking in a panic back at this asshole who KNEW how to fly one of these fucking things.
"Prepare to be vaporized!" squealed Toreno, mocking the excited sounding pilot chasing me who obviously was looking forward to "real" action,"What a bunch of bullshit! Ignore them. They shoot at you and it's an international incident. You're not a British tank, so you should be fine."
"For real?" I asked as the other Hydra sped underneath me.
"Yeah!" Toreno laughed,"Well.... probably...."
"Ahhhh shit!" I yelled and pulled back on the stick, lifting my Hydra high. Maybe I could lose this asshole in the clouds? Toreno didn't care, he was already giving me instructions on how to get to the spy flotilla. I was on my own here.
"Hey asshole," the other pilot's voice crackled over the radio again,"We're on a private channel now, just you and me.... you're going dooooown, boy. You don't fuck with the US Armed Forces, I'm gonna enjoy taking you out.... try and put up a fight, huh?"
"FUCK FUCK I'M HIT!" I shouted, seeing flames on my tail, the whole fucking plane shaking after the fucker had hit me,"FUCK FUCK!"
"Fire detected," a tinny voice said out of my instrument panel,"Countermeasures activated."
"Huh? Wha?" I asked, but looking behind me... the fucking fire was out?
"Hey yo?" I asked, feeling stupid,"There a fucking robot in this thing? Hello?"
"It's not fucking K.I.T.T, Carl," Toreno said in my ear, making me blush,"The Hydra is designed to take a licking and keep on ticking... within reason. Now kill that fucker and get to the flotilla."
Easier said than done.
I could NOT lose this asshole, and he'd managed to hit me another couple of times - nothing direct, but enough that the Hydra was starting to shake as it flew, everything on the verge of falling apart. And all the time he was on the radio, insulting me, laughing at my attempts to shake him, a flyboy asshole having fun, like a fucking cat teasing a mouse till it got bored enough to bite its head off.
I tried everything I knew, every bit of skill I'd developed flying, every trick I'd been taught. I'd thought I was good at flying... hell, I WAS good at flying, but this motherfucker, it was ALL he did, he lived, breathed, ate and shit flying, this was HIS element and I had to admit, as good as I was, he was better.
If I could just get him to stay fucking still, but he was constantly moving, I was constantly moving, and I wasn't used to the idea of fighting someone in a 360 degree range. Plus the Hydra was shaking apart, he was constantly mocking me, Toreno had gone scarily quiet, I couldn't fucking do this! I could not outfly this motherfucker!
And that's when I realized what I had to do.
Derek "Dutch" Mason frowned, the wannabe had stopped? Well that wasn't any fun, he'd really been enjoying himself chasing after this asshole and now he'd given up? Shit, he hadn't seen any real live action since he'd been stationed in Iraq a year earlier, and while this asshole was clearly an amateur, he was better than the Iraqi Airforce had been.
"Guess the party's over, huh son?" he said into his radio over the private channel, having shut down his regular channels so he couldn't be called back. This asshole had invaded HIS ship, destroyed two of HIS beautiful Hydra's and stolen another, he didn't intend to come back till the wannabe was dead,"Don't think I'm gonna go easy on you."
The wannabe had turned the thrusters vertical so the Hydra was essentially hovering in the air, buffeted by the high altitude winds, smoking pouring up from the damaged tail section, the wannabe obviously struggling to hold himself steady. Maybe he'd had a death wish? Whatever, "Dutch" would be happy to oblige. He turned his own Hydra around expertly and flew in on a long arc, not bothering with a missile lock, wanting to open fire with the guns and tear the ship in two aiming manually. It was so long since he'd had a chance to kill a man an-
"Warning," said the tinny voice of the onboard computer,"Missile lock acquired."
"No," whispered Dutch, realizing the trap he'd just flown into.
"Missile lock acquired," my "K.I.T.T" told me.
"Fuck you, flyboy," I said, and hit the trigger.
Sometimes it wasn't about being better, it was about being smarter.
I turned the thrusters horizontal and pushing the groaning Hydra through the air towards where this flotilla was supposedly meeting, not so far from where Barbara lived, way out far in the desert away from everything - a nice quiet place for a meeting.
And an ambush.
Adjusting the thrusters so I was hovering, I leaned back in the pilot's seat and breathed a low sigh of relief.
"You see?" laughed Toreno's voice suddenly, making me jerk up in my seat which - in the Hydra's current condition - made it lurch to the side before correcting,"Child's play!"
"FUCK YOU TORENO!" I yelled, suddenly furious with this fucking asshole, playing his games with me like nothing had changed,"I never want to go through this again!"
"Ooh, what a big whiner! You want some cheese with that whine?" he laughed, then suddenly he was all serious again - or at least as serious as the crazy asshole ever got,"Hey, you were spectacular, you know what? I'm beginning to think my little Carl is a double agent. Oooh!"
"Shut up, Toreno," I sighed, fed up as I adjusted the thrusters on the Hydra - already coming as second nature to me - and flew up the river,"Where do you want this thing?"
"What thing?" he asked,"I don't know what you're talking about - YOU stole it, got nothing to do wtih me, Idon'tknowwhatyou'retalkingabout. See ya 'round!"
"Toreno?" I asked, the earpiece silent,"TORENO! SHIT!"
But it was no use, the fucker was gone - used me again and then disappeared, leaving me in a stolen fucking Military Jet worth who knew how much, the thing barely holding together, the military probably out in numbers looking for it. Shit, I had to get to cover, fast.
I hopped out of the Hydra, staring at it wondering what the fuck I was going to do with it. I guess I could move it into the big hanger where no one would ever think to look, maybe one day I could bring up Dwaine and Jethro to help fix up the tail.... I had to admit, now that the danger was over, the idea of flying it again was pretty tempting.
Just not anytime soon.
I looked around at the old deserted airstrip, then walked up to the AC Tower, lifting a barrel lid and grinning what was inside. True to his word, Toreno had organized drops of money to come in here as part of his operational expenses, and he'd told me I could help myself to it. I had 10 million to my name, but I wasn't going to say no to 10K sitting free in a barrel for me.
After all, I had a long fucking trip back to Los Santos.
Franklin "Fido" Wilkins moved easily along the upper tier, sloppy grin on his face, walking in a smooth lope that he thought made him look cool and had seen him mocked mercilessly behind his back on the street. This was his first time in, and he was looking to make a name for himself so he wouldn't be turned into a prisonhouse bitch like his buddies had mocked him to his face. Luckily for him, just such a chance had come along as he'd been transferred to County Lockup, where he'd shared a cell with a VERY important person, someone who - once he was clear of his own shit - could maybe help Fido out, get those drugs charges dropped, get him back out on the street.
All he had to do was kill someone.
Fido had killed several times before, never been caught, he thought it was funny they'd gotten him on drug dealing while he was responsible for unsolved murders, but he wasn't about to brag and get another twenty years added to an already stupidly high sentence. So this wasn't nothing, he'd go to the cell, shiv the guy before he had a chance to react, tell the dying man the message he'd been given, make sure he was seen by the other prisoners before tossing the shiv. They'd never talk, he'd be known as THE MAN for killing who he was going to kill, and that poor, nice cop who was just waiting to get the dumb charges against himself dropped would see to it he was out of prison before the end of the year.
Nice guy, that Tenpenny.
Sweet Johnson sat on his bunk, arms dangling between his legs, staring at the wall. Staring through it might have been a better description, he was seeing something far away - Grove Street, thinking about what it must be like now without him there to hold shit together. Were the Ballas on the block by now? All the Grove Street homies hooked on crack? He'd heard that the false peace that had come in when Tenpenny and Smoke flooded the streets with drugs was well and truly over by now, people were robbing, jacking, mugging and killing to get money for more drugs... and that fuck Tenpenny's lawyer was arguing that this was a sign of how vital to the peaceful management of the streets his client was. Sweet had read all about that in the paper, which usually he just browsed through looking for information about what was going on in Grove Street, maybe what was happening to his family.
In prison, there really wasn't much else to do but think about outside and wait for the days to pass.
Fido was holding the shiv tucked up in his sleeve, knowing that he'd have to be quick. He knew his target's rep, but his target didn't know him from anyone, Fido had never run with no gang, so maybe he'd just think that Fido was in the wrong place. Take advantage, hit him while he was confused, give the message, then get the hell out. He repeated the words Tenpenny had hammered into his head again, wanting to make sure he got it right.
"Every block belongs to Tenpenny, motherfucker, it always has, and it always will."
He reached the cell before his target's, took a deep breath, then stepped forward.
Sweet saw a shadow cross his feet, someone standing in the open cell door, a couple of hours till the cell doors shut, an hour after that it was lights out. He looked up at the man standing there, looking nervous, a little guilty. He didn't know him.
"Who the fuck are you?" he asked.
Fido stepped into the doorway, blinking as he saw the man inside who looked up at him, looking irritated.
"Who the fuck are you?" the man asked.
Fido made his move.
It was past midnight, but Kevin Holloway's upscale Vinewood home was empty, the lawyer currently banging his secretary's brains out at the Jefferson Motel, his wife in Liberty City visiting with her mother, taking the children with her. So when the phone rang, there was no one to pick it up, and the machine picked up for him.
"Mr. Holloway, this is Barry.... Judge Snyder's clerk, remember?" said a nervous voice,"Anyway listen, I know it's late, but this is about your client, Sean Johnson.... listen, something's happened, I need you to call me as soon as you can, OK?"
Holloway wouldn't get the message until the following morning, when he would arrive at his Office where an identical message had been left.
By then, it would be too late.
It was late, but I was burning the midnight oil, talking to a grumpy asshole on the other end of the line about some new equipment for the soundroom. Madd Dogg had gone to bed a couple of hours earlier, exhausted but happy over cutting rhymes again, Rosie was the same, pouring himself into his accounting work, and Kent Paul and Maccer had gone clubbing, leaving me alone, doing business because if I didn't do things, no one else would. I didn't hear him come into the room, didn't hear him step up behind me silent as a ghost and reach down towards me.
"Hey!" I shouted, standing up as he hung up on the supplier, turned and leaned back on an instrument panel,"I was in the middl-"
I stopped, seeing the look in his eyes. He actually looked.... concerned?
"We need to talk," he said.
What he told me would change everything.