I live! It's a freaking miracle!

Basically I've been tied down with heaps of stuff, such as school, military life and another fanfiction series which has been enjoying considerable success. But did you think I would just leave this one be? Unfinished?! Hell no! I forgive ya if you have completely forgotten the plot of this story. I'll be more careful to keep track with this one. At any rate, this will be the last chapter set in Vice, and this is where stuff gets interesting. Hopefully.

Enjoy, everyone!

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The Sovereigns' War

VCPR had not shut up, and Tommy was getting sick of it. He'd had enough of Jonathan Freeloader's incessant whining back when he was a beg-a-thon spokesman when VCPR was a truly 'public' radio. Since Vice City News bought a stake in the station, however, he had been reduced to a lowly newsman. He had spent the last seven hours donning his 'Oh, the humanity!' persona every time his bulletin came to air, stating the death toll, the pricetag of the damage and all the possible, hare-brained ideas that the public could come up with as to who was behind the attack that had killed fourteen people, wounded a further six, and destroyed a 1988 Ford Rumpo, a Pontiac Phoenix formerly owned by the manager of the Liberty City Cocks, an old Walton pickup and the only bridge connecting Starfish Island to Vice City's western portion. Tommy rubbed his forehead, feeling his age stalking him. Despite fatigue, he wasn't too desperate to get some sleep. Not after the nightmare with Lance reappeared. He got up from the black leather armchair and wandered, hands in his pockets, toward the window that faced south, out toward the Docks and Ocean Beach. They looked particularly beautiful under starlight as the flashing lights of passenger aircraft gradually floated out of Escobar.

"All of this is mine..." he muttered. It was true, he had enough power in this city to bring it to its knees and turn it into whatever kind of paradise he wanted. He had to hand it to Sonny Forelli, though. At least this place wasn't a dump like Liberty. It was paradise, almost. That's certainly how the tourists saw it up until yesterday. He checked his watch. 12:28am. A new day. And according to Nicolai, it was going to be his last, "Who's gonna take over when I'm out of the picture...?" he asked himself.

"Yer askin' a question Ah didn't expect to hear outta ya." came a gravelly voice. Tommy turned to see Avery Carrington standing at the entrance to his office. He wasn't wearing his usual blue suit and cowboy hat. He wore just a white shirt, partially unbuttoned, and some basic black pants. His head was balding, which was probably why he covered it up all the time. Avery was used to all the Jim Ross jokes (they even hailed from the same state), and waltzed through life with a casual air that Tommy could not even hope to share. "Up a little late, Tommeh?"

Tommy managed to grin, "I, uh... am having trouble sleeping."

"No surprise." Carrington muttered, entering his office and moving to stand beside Tommy and take in the midnight views. He didn't ask to enter, for he needed no permission. The two men had been business partners for six years, and Tommy had everlasting trust for the man, who had cunning and wit as sharp as the katana mounted on the nearby wall. "Not ev'rybody gets shut-eye when there's such excitement in the air. Finally, somethin' decent in six years! Who knows? Might raise the real-estate around here." he chuckled. He faced Tommy, "Or is something else up?"

"Ah, just... nightmares... you know... flashbacks, that sorta thing. I keep getting this dream about one of my former partners killing me, even though I got rid of that piece of shit when we took over Vice. Can't help but think it means something, you know..."

Avery laughed heartily, as only a born and bred cowboy-at-heart like he could, "Ahh, that's bullshit, Tommeh. If I believed the dreams I see, I'd be led to think my old apprentice Donald Love is gonna be the death o' me! Bunch o' crap, these nightmares, Tommeh, ignore 'em." he dismissed him with a wave. He heard Tommy mutter "Let's just hope", and said nothing. Even the top crimelord in the state had the right to feel nervous sometimes. But lately, it shouldn't have been about something as trivial as that. Instead, Avery murmured, "Anything out there that catches your interest?"

Tommy watched the distant figure of a container ship drifting southward to some remote Caribbean destination, its many running lights turning the barge into a distant shimmer. "No... I just wonder how much of this I'll have left when this is all over."

"Don't talk trash, Tommeh, these guys are just thugs who wanna get their hands on our soil. Odds are the folks over at Baxter will drive 'em out by lunchtime if they attack this mornin' like they said. A simple bit o' pest control in the name o' public interest! Should drop the real estate prices round here, too. Win-win!"

"Toreno doesn't share your enthusiasm, Avery, and forgive me when I say that I'm more likely to believe what he has to say about all this. We've been friends since I took over this place, and I did him more than my share of favours. Now he's wanting to do some for me. He even brought Ken back, and to be honest, I kinda missed him. Not too much though... not too much..."

"So what yer sayin' is... you don't think this'll just be a simple cleanup operation, and that we could be dealin' with a full scale war here?"

Tommy actually grinned, "I don't feel any better hearing those words from you, Avery." he sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. His hairline was beginning to thin, and he would be grey before long, he knew. Another sign that his little reign of supremacy might be running out of steam. "The boys are doing everything they can, I know. Maybe I'm paranoid, but... just because I think everything's about to come crashing down doesn't mean it ain't. The western bridge will be out for weeks, and if... if we have to run, we'd have to go the long way."

"Run!? To the airport!?" Avery gawped, flustered, "Tommeh, yer joshin' me! After all you did, after all WE did, yer just gonna throw it all away?"

"No..." Tommy growled, "My empire is only finished when I draw my last breath. And who knows? I might have an heir before then."

"You don't have any kids, though!"

Tommy beamed, "I'm sure Mercedes can do something about that."

There was a moment of relaxed silence, before Tommy's pager started beeping. Spinning around to collect the small device and held it to eye level. He actually squinted, his eyes not what they once were. Reading the text as it scrolled across the tiny machine, he nodded, "That's it then..."

"What's it?" Avery asked.

"The last of my properties is locked down. I've split the boys into groups, and they'll defend each. They'll get a greater cut of the profits from next week's Hotring as insurance." he explained, happy that he had acquired the Hyman Stadium in the fall of '89, and making plenty of cash from it as a result, "I know they want to take down my organisation. I know it, Avery. We're gonna fight for it. You, me, Toreno and his San Andreas boys... all of us." His expression was stern, "Vice is OURS, Avery. You of all people should appreciate a bit of territorial patriotism."

Avery grinned, "Always have, always will, Tommeh."

Tommy nodded, glad he had so many people to rely on. Friends in high places, even if he was, at heart, a ruthless and evil person. He was the lesser of Vice's two evils, this time. And both had manifested here for so long. "We begin in four hours." He tossed the pager back onto the desk, where it skittered to a halt next to some old papers from drug deals long ago made. He only sold the stuff to the suckers on the streets, never kept any for himself anymore. The best way to deal with a temptation like that was to get rid of it. "The sooner we can get this over with..." he rubbed his temples and almost yawned, "the sooner I can get some sleep..."

"Not now Cesar, aight? We can do this after we pop these muthafucker's heads." CJ growled as he brought the Bullet into a graceful turn onto a bridge that crossed one of Vice City's several canals. Ahead of them was the Washington Beach Police headquaters. Not the place to end up at a time like this, or at any time for that matter. After his previous run-ins with certain uniformed, badge-wearing idiots, he kept a wide berth from such places.

"It's FANTASTIC, holmes! They've got garages and testing simulators... they even run a street racing ring that operates on weekends! I wanna live at Sunshine Autos, holmes, it's the BEST!"

"Yeh, well..." CJ glanced out the window at a shapely pedestrian lady as she strode past. "I'm sure we can do somethin' like that at Wang's showroom back in Fierro. You know how much spare cash we're gettin', man? We could by half of fuckin' Bone County with that paper, man!"

"Let's hurry up and finish this then, ese! What the hell are we out here for?" Cesar complained. It had barely hit 7am, and everyone was busy doing something, such as arming themselves to the teeth (Sweet and Phil), keeping the mansion secure (practically everyone who was on hand) or some start-of-the-day partying at the Malibu (Kent Paul, obviously).

"We gotta look for suspicious circumstances." CJ replied, dully, as though repeating it for the ten-millionth time. "I think we should just head out the the beach, stop for a few minutes, and then head back... stop fuckin' about and get something worthwhile done... hell, man, I barely remember why we came here."

"Well I do!" Cesar replied, letting one of his arms hang out the side of the mint-green sportscar's windows, "Toreno thinks that all the weird shit with the Ballas back in Los Santos and these Russian vatos are connected somehow! Geez, CJ, where you been lately?"

"Guess I just got bogged down with bein' here, man. Don't worry, man, just chill... we'll clear this shit up, and then... I dunno, I just don't wanna leave this place, man."

"What would your brother say if you told him tha-"

CJ slammed on the brakes as a guy on a shiny blue motorbike swerved in front of him, cut him off and then sped off between two lanes of cars. CJ raised a beseeching hand out the window, brimming with obscenities he knew the rider would never hear, "FUCK!" He poked his head out of the Bullet's window and yelled, "DICKHEAD!" he tried to make a gesture toward the car, but it had already cruised off, "These Florida assholes dunno how to drive, man..."

"Good, we agree." Cesar muttered, "So you can come home to Los Santos after all."

CJ only grinned, shaking his head.

He took a sidestreet and they soon found themselves cruising southward down Ocean Beach Drive. Some of the buildings still glowed with a vivid array of lights that looked somewhat useless in this morning hour, although several were still bright enough to cast a glow upon themselves. There were few cars along the main road but that didn't mean there weren't idiots who tend to cut them off. Ocean Drive was a long and fairly straight north/south road which ran along the eastern beach, from the southern tip of Vice's east island up to the high-rise apartments and office complexes near Malibu. CJ glanced out his window toward the beach at his left, which was guarded by only a small brick dividing wall and pavement. Seating benches were spaced along the grassy area closer to the road, as palm trees stretches their long, ferny leaves to the morning sky to take in those first few rays of hot Miami sunshine.

"Shoulda come here later, ese, we coulda found ourselves some hot mamacitas in bikinis!" Cesar suggested.

"Now that's my territory, homie." CJ replied slyly, "Besides, y'all got Kendl to be fantasising over." It only dawned on him a moment later how weird it sounded, saying that about his own sister.

"From what I heard from her, ese, there's nothing in the way of beaches Downtown. It's just land meeting sea and no sand and no surf. Boring as shit, man. And she ain't into fast cars as much as us, holmes, so she's really itchin' for some fun."

"It's a long drive from here to the Hyman Condo, though, cos we did a nice job of taking out that bridge on Starfish Island. And from what I hear, the streetgangs up north would want to get their hands on a good car like this. Motherfuckin' wannabes..."

Cesar only made a grumbling noise and said no more about it. He glanced over to the rear seat, where a shiny Mac-10 sub-machinegun sat upon the flawless leather rear seat. They could take any shark that wanted to steal their car and dump their bodies over the edge of some bridge. But alas, there was a time for that and it was not now. Cesar shook his head, "I just keep thinkin', holmes... what's all this gotta do with Ballas and Vagos gettin' powerful stockpiles and shit, man? I mean... if this Russian prick wants to invade with his army of cacos cos of some weapon Toreno won't even tell us about, then why get the Santos streetgangs involved at all?"

CJ shook his head, "I remember Smoke gettin' into all kinds of shit with the Russians, and maybe they called up a favour or something, man, I dunno. No point in thinking about it unless Toreno talks. Which doesn't seem likely..."

Cesar pounded the door in frustration, "Fuck, man... My gang is probably gettin' hit right now, and we got problems here in Vice, Kendl's worried sick, and I feel REALLY uncomfortable about all this, all cos we're not allowed to know what the Russians are after? Why bring us here at all? Hey, CJ, you listening? I think we should go back and demand more info and shit from Toreno, otherwise we should just head back to Los Santos before the Varrios and the Grove are flattened, ese! There's no point in it!" He glared at a girl rollerblading down the sidewalk briskly, carefree and without the tumultuous stress going through Cesar's head right now, "I mean seriously holmes, why bother? What's this Vercetti guy done for us? And what has... CJ, why are you pulling over? Ese? HEY!"

"Just a sec, man..." CJ muttered with a quick, dismissive wave. He squinted as he gazed out past the palm trees, beach-going earlybirds and the small wooden lifesaver's hut, toward the open water to the east. The sun, still rising, was casting a glare into his eyes that was difficult to ignore as he tried to focus on something that had caught his attention out at sea. "...the fuck is that?"

"What do you see, holmes?" Cesar asked. CJ had pulled the car over in front of a small hotel and restaurant, parking between a sleek Oceanic cruisercar and a Banshee convertible. Cesar, unable to see past CJ, opened the door and climbed out of the car.

"You see it, homie?" CJ asked, putting on a pair of green-tinted sunglasses to block the glare of the sun. It was distant and obscured, but definitely there. And nobody had seemed to notice it except him.

"Holmes, it's probably just a tanker or somethin' from the docks."

"No way, man, it's too dark and sleek to be a tanker. Looks almost like a giant hump in the water... but that can't be right. And look, Cesar, it's moving!" CJ was right. The distant, vague dark object, sitting far offshore, was slowly sidling northwards. The hull seemed curved and CJ could not make out a bridge or any discernable structure upon it. The rear of it seemed more distinct though, rising further out of the water like a bulge. Neither of them could tell what it was - some sort of ship? - but it gave them both a very bad feeling. CJ snapped his fingers, "We could ask Toreno."

"And what the fuck are the odds of him giving us a straight answer, holmes?"

"If it's nothing to worry about, there's no reason for him to not tell us, man. And if he doesn't, then we know something's up." He pulled his cellphone out and punched in Toreno's number. As far as he knew, Toreno was still at the mansion, making more of his unseen preparations. The phone connected and began to ring. Good. Sometimes, getting through to him at all was the hardest part. After a few moments, Toreno's slightly muffled voice picked up.

"Morning, Carl. Up early?"

"Toreno, there's something out east of the Ocean Beach area that needs a look at. Something's out there but I can't tell what it is."

"What makes you think I would know?" Toreno replied casually.

"Listen, Toreno, don't fuck around with me! I know you've been installing all sorts of hardware and crazy shit with Tommy's men. You would at least have put a radar in or something!"

Toreno chuckled, "Good, CJ, good. You know the priorities. Yeah, I stuck a radar in. Where did you say it was, Ocean Beach?"

"Just east of the Drive."

"Alright, now, let's see..." there was some sort of ambigious activity on the other end of the line. Perhaps the reason why Toreno was muffled and distant. Interfering equipment perhaps. After a few moments, in which CJ glanced with Cesar who was still eyeing the weird and distant object, Toreno's voice came back, "Sure you're not seeing things, Carl? There's nothing out there."

"Toreno, it's a big, black, dark, long sort of object floating out past the lighthouse and heading north! Looks like some sort of ship. Can you pick ships up on your little screen?"

"I've got all traffic, air and sea. Land vehicles are a different matter, though. Building obstructions and line-of-sight."

"So you should be able to see what is out there, right?"

"Hold up, I'll get confirmation. One of Tommy's men is inbound in a chopper. We can get him to check for us, up there. Just a sec..." there was more muffled noises, and CJ felt left out already. He hated a situation where he had something staring at him, right in the face, and yet he could do nothing about it. Typical Toreno-style setup. Right down to the letter. "Yes, Antonio, how ya doin'..." Toreno muttered into a different speaker, but he was still audible on CJ's line, "Listen, we got a call mentioning an unidentified object at grid eighty-seven-alpha-billie-jean. Can you check it out for us? According to our radar equipment, it's not there."

CJ waited. Waiting sucked. Cesar blocked the sun with his hand before being distracted by a passing female beach-goer, who gave him a cheeky wink. He smiled back at her, "Woooo..."

"You sure?" came Toreno's voice. CJ growled. "Alright, uh... listen, inform the boss that... hang on, wait..." there was a clattering noise, and Toreno's voice came back clearer, having picked up the other phone, too. "We're getting something now. But... it's not big enough to be your little friend, CJ. I'm reading... three small contacts emerging from out of nowhere. I think your object might be some sort of stealth vessel."

"What do you think those three things are?" CJ asked loudly, enough to get Cesar's attention. The Latino man squinted, and his jaw dropped a little. "What are they, Toreno?"

"I can't tell, but they're heading toward the beach."

"CJ..." Cesar muttered, "I think there's something coming to meet us!" he pointed toward the smaller, boxier objects that had been launched from the mysterious object, now ploughing through the water toward the beach. Several other pedestrians had reacted to it, as well, and a couple of worried screams came from a pair of beach-babes on the other side of the road.

"Four more objects!" Toreno yelled, "Two of them are following the same course as the others but the others are... oh my God..."

CJ's eyes widened as he saw what the other two objects were doing. These ones didn't steam through the water. They ripped through the air, approaching the beach at high speed. Cesar spat, "HOLY SHIT, HELICOPTERS!"

"The same type as the one which attacked us the other day! FUCK it, Cesar, we gotta go!" CJ snapped his phone shut as Cesar clambered into the Bullet and slammed the door. CJ planted his foot on the gas and the car lurched forward, ducking out of its parking spot but scraping the Oceanic's rear fender in the process. CJ snapped it into a turn and sped back up the Drive toward the Washington Beach turnoff. Behind him a missile rocketed into one of the hotels, spewing a burning gust of debris across the road as people everywhere erupted into panic. "We're going back to the mansion," CJ informed, "Those things in the water... they might be landing craft... and those helicopters will make short work of any cops who try and stop them." An ambulance shot past them, toward the scene of the first missile hit. Another tremor rocked the car, another explosion not far off.

"That was a carrier, wasn't it?" Cesar asked. There was a grim smile on his face, knowing that the fun had started, "A stealth carrier that Toreno couldn't see... it's perfect, holmes... they planned it perfectly."

"Yeah, but they didn't count on the little surprises that Tommy's got waiting for them back at the mansion. And the army won't take kindly to this either."

Cesar chuckled, "Whadya know, holmes?" he turned to CJ, amazement on his face, "We're at war!"

Atop the Chariot hotel, a stocky man in a green/brown uniform adjusted the zoom on his binoculars and with an amused grin, lowered them from his face. Adrik Nicolai was most pleased. He and his followers had planned this for years, anticipating the fall of the great and mighty Soviet Union. It would be his job to bring it to power once more, just as Stalin, rest his soul, would have wanted. The great empire that would spread across the world, embracing the gift that is communism, would flourish and prosper for centuries should they get a foothold here. America. The land that tried, and failed, to kill the dream off.

"The attack goes as planned." he announced to a group of three men positioned behind him, one leaning against the body of a dark, forboding craft whose twin rotors seemed to stick into the air like lethal daggers. "I anticipate a full military counter-attack by the city's armed forces within the next 20 minutes. We may treat ourselves to the spectacle of Ockchabursk in action once this happens." his accent was rich and the scar that ran down one side of his face twitched whenever he moved his lips. "Alyosha," he spoke to one of the men nearest to him, who was tall and extremely chiseled like a professional bodybuilder. He wore an identical uniform to Nicolai, but lacked the large ensignias of rank. His blue eyes glared at Nicolai icily, his blonde hair short and spiked, "once our foothold is gained, I want you to co-ordinate the advance toward Starfish Island from the south. You will rendezvous with Yevgeniy's team at the southern mouth, by the docks."

"Yessir." Aloysha nodded, attentive, his accent not quite as thick.

"Vyacheslav," Nicolai spoke to the other man, who was shorter but no less muscular. He had a mat of brown hair, neatly combed, and a goatee, "your team will assist Semyon and Timofei in the northern advance. All craft will converge on the central river system in order to advance to Starfish Island from all directions except west."

"Why not west, sir?" asked Vyacheslav, his accent so distinct that the third man, who was of African-American descent with a bit of Hispanic blood mixed in yet unnoticeable, could barely tell what he said.

Nicolai beamed, "The thrill of the fight, my friend. If we completely storm the city from all angles, where is the fun in defending ourselves? The more we have to deal with, the more that the rest of this wretched country will realise that we are too much for them. With Ockchabursk, and then Aurora, we will be unstoppable, comrade!"

Vyacheslav grinned, "I see, sir. Which team are you leading?"

"I will stay with the street units. The friends we recruited from the west will finally show us what they can do."

Alyosha grinned, hands behind his back, staring toward the great dark mass in the eastern ocean, "Commander Kseniya's group, sir? I hear she is quite the drill thrall."

Nicolai glared, "That is enough, Alyosha, I assure you that you will all serve under her someday."

"Don't we look forward to it." Vyacheslav chuckled.

"To your duties, then!" Nicolai snapped. A former Master Sergeant, he knew his combat roles and how to lead a unit. As of now, none of them held an actual rank. They were not part of any official military organisation, but an offshoot syndicate with their goal set out for them. Nicolai was no greater than the lowest midshipman or the newest Balla recruit, but his experience set him above the rest. They were all equal, part of the greater system, Sovreignity, that their organisation would introduce and spread across the world. "Today, we seize Vice and strip Vercetti of his power and life. This is just a stepping stone, my comrades. Today, Vice. Tomorrow, America. Next week... the world, comrades."

Both men snapped to attention, made a gesture of salute with their clenched fist across their chest, and then spun around, both men filing into a second craft which stood upon the roof of the large highrise, an old Mi-2 transport helicopter. The men would be sent out to Ockchabursk, meet up with their units and carry out their duties from there. In moments, the helicopter was airborne, swung around and floated off, leaving the two men alone next to the second, formidable looking machine.

Lance Vance stepped forward, arms folded, "You seem to have everything worked out. I almost don't need to even be here."

"Don't be ridiculous, Lance. You're one of our best helicopter pilots, and the score you wish to settle with Vercetti gives you all the more reason to join our ranks. I'm surprised it wasn't you who came to us."

"You approached me because you sought inside information on the workings of Vice City's biggest crimelord. Something your men couldn't ever manage to do without getting shot. Hell... you nearly advertised in the goddamn paper."

Nicolai nodded, "The position was one of great importance, and we were desperate for an individual to fill it. But, now that we have all we need, if you are not content with your position, then," reaching into his uniform jacket, he pulled out a small pistol and aimed it at Lance's head, "you may go."

Lance flinched, "Hey man, calm the fuck down. I'm stayin'. All I said was that, with everything, I don't think I could possibly make things better down there than it is already. I mean look," he pointed southward, "Half of Ocean Beach is burning, and your men have come ashore. Your red and green Sovereign Sabres will fill the streets like much needed blood through the city's veins. And check out down there..." he pointed to the Washington Beach Police Department, the police HQ in Vice, which was burning and cratered with helicopter missile hits. Wrecked police cars littered the streets. "The bacteria, the unnecessary infestation... all of it is getting cleaned away. Vice will be liberated at last, thanks to your help, and I can rebuild the proud organisation that I spent so much of my time on before Diaz had to go and shoot my brother in cold blood. Without Diaz and now without Vercetti... things will be just perfect."

"Your action in this endeavour will ensure the success and foundation of your new business and your place as the overlord of Vice. So why not start now, so that your dream comes true sooner?" he asked with a grin.

Lance grinned back and clapped his hands together, "Alright then! Let's pop!"

Nicolai turned to face west, out toward the hub of Vice's underworld power. Their men could not get too far on land without getting stopped by roadblocks and squad cars and men with SMG's, but none of that mattered if they went their by air. Unfortunately, Vice had considerable air power as well. Helicopters from both sides dueled above the raging gunfire below, American Hunters tangling with Nicolai's own Hinds and Havocs. There would be jets here, soon. One thing Ockchabursk had little of. Although he could always call for more. "Gorbachev and his lackey Yeltsin think Russia's path is set for us." he chuckled and shook his head, "No... our true glory is ahead of us. Onward, my comrades, my soldiers. Today begins a new revolution."

Lance called out from the large gunship, "Hey! You talkin' to me!?"

Nicolai growled, "Get on with it!"

The Bullet screeched to a halt and both men were out of it in half a second. "FUCK! Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK fuckfuck fuck..." CJ muttered to himself, running up the large stariway to the entrance of the mansion. Starfish Island was alive with activity right now as several helicopters circled overhead and armoured Securicars collected yesterday by Tommy's men patrolled the streets. The main gates to the island, on the only bridge left connecting it, were to be closed once everyone was confirmed to be either on Starfish or at some location on Vice City West. Barricades were being set up on the Viceport, Leaf Links and Prawn Island bridges to try and halt the advance of the Russians, giving people time to evacuate. But the majority of the public, along with the VCPD, were clueless as to what was going on. CJ came to a halt at the top of the stairs and gazed out to where they had just come from. Buildings burned, gunshots rang out and every now and then, a stray rocket from a helicopter whizzed past, high overhead. "Shit, man... this is real fucked up, Cesar man... they just keep coming."

Somebody came through the mansion's double front doors. It was Tommy, wearing his usual Hawaiian T-shirt and jeans. And he looked tense, "Toreno's just informed me, the Sovereigns are attacking with helicopter gunships and have landed their vehicles. Their cars are Sabres, with a green and red colourscheme that resembles some sort of emblem. And according to your brother, CJ, from what he saw... there are Los Santos streetgang members mixed in with them."

"FUCKIN' PERPETRATORS!" CJ howled. He wanted to shoot something. Anything that moved. Even Tommy.

Tommy ignored the outburst, "Mike estimates that they could overrun the city in a matter of hours if nothing's done to slow them down."

"So what's the plan?" Cesar asked.

"You're leaving."

"What's the REAL plan?" CJ asked, sternly.

"Toreno wants all of you back at the airport as soon as possible. I'm staying."

"You're talkin' bullshit, holmes!"

"I've defended this place from attack before, I will do it again. Even if this time I don't make it. You know what you need to do. Toreno says that whatever they are after is located in San Andreas, and this attack is just a warm-up. I want you lot out of here. NOW!"

"Tommy, man, you can't just exile us! We came here to help you!"

"And how do you plan on doing that? There's no less than an army of angry Ruski pricks heading this way, and you lot are just a couple more bodies for their count. I don't want you caught up in my little war."

"Your little war, man? The fuck?" CJ growled, "People are dying out there, man, and it's not just cos they want you! If these assholes want you, they'll have to come through all of us!"

"I appreciate this, guys, but-"

"Tommy, let 'em stay if they want." came Toreno's voice, the well-dressed man appearing outta nowhere from behind Tommy. He was always one for sudden entrances. "We can have the helicopters on standby to take them to Escobar, but til then, let's see what they can do."

Tommy's jaw twitched, and CJ could tell he didn't like that idea. But Tommy nodded, "Alright, fine, but at the first sign that things are going bad, you're outta here, got it?"

Cesar and CJ nodded.

Tommy glanced at CJ, "You know how to fire a Stinger?"

"Do I!" beamed CJ.

"What can I do, ese?"

Toreno smiled, "I got just the thing for you."

Tommy took a pace back, glaring out to the east, "Shit... here they come..." Sure enough, appearing from the giant smoke cloud that hung over the burning city, a fleet of attack helicopters began their advance upon Starfish Island, "Get everyone ready. This is it, Mike. Are Phil's lot ready?"

"Rooftop snipers and gunmen are in position!" Toreno yelled over the increasing din of dozens of Russian-built turbine engines driving their airbourne war machines. "Carl, get to the roof! Talk to Phil, he'll get you a rocket launcher! Cesar! Come with me to the garage."

'Garage?' Cesar mouthed.

There was a thunderous BOOM overhead as a missile streaked across the sky and slammed into the nearest helicopter, which seemed far bigger than the others that it accompanied. The rotor was blown clear away from the rest of the craft and it nosed downward violently. Toreno recognised it as one of their larger troop transports. Land, air, sea. The Russians had their landing forces well organised. The helicopter slammed into an open area next to the hardward store on the other side of the remaining Starfish Island bridge, and sent a plume of thick black smoke into the air as it burned, the smoke soon to mix with the rest high above, becoming one with the destruction around it. A Hydra jet and several USF-18 fighters split formation, firing off their missiles at the oncoming aerial attack fleet. Toreno beamed, "Looks like the military got here just in time! That gives us some slack, so let's not waste any of it. Tommy, unless you wanna present your head for their gunsights, I suggest you head inside!"

"I have another idea, Mike. Seasparrow all fueled up?"

"Oh, no, Tommy, not against this lot, you're mad!"

"I've pulled through some tough shit before, Mike. Why not do it again? I know you would!"

"Take care of yourself, I'll maintain radio contact."

"Let's bring this fuckers DOWN, homie!" CJ shouted.

Nicolai watched, feeling somewhat exposed upon the rooftop of the Chariot. But his men knew where he was. The people of Vice did not. To them, he'd seem like a bystander who came to the rooftop for a closer look. The staircase to the roof was not locked up, but the building would have been evacuated by now. He was safe and alone up here. He brought his binoculars to his eyes and watched as battle erupted again across Vice's skies as his helicopter legion scattered to deal with an incoming swarm of pests. He reached for his radio, and flipped open a communication channel.

"Ockchabursk, we have aerial contacts. Proceed with elimination of enemy command. Show the people of Vice what the greatest Soviet achievement can do."

"Acknowledged, sir. Preparing strategic MIRV strike."

Nicolai turned to the great black shape in the water, and waited. "Now, my comrades... our swords are drawn."

There was a flicker of light and a puff of vapours from the top of the distant craft before a round, cylindrical object rocketed up into the sky, propelled on a beam of golden light.

"This might help." muttered Toreno as he fixed a small box-like device within the Seasparrow's tailboom structure. He tapped one of the buttons on it and all sorts of lights began flickering on the machine. The Seasparrow sat in its usual spot in Tommy's backyard, between the four rectangular ponds, surrounded by ferns.

Tommy blinked, "Um, great... what is it?"

"Portable ECM and jammer. Disrupts any form of enemy target lock upon this craft. Since the Seasparrow's only got its gun, you don't have to worry about it interfering with yourself."

"And the Vice fighters?" Tommy asked.

"They have guns, too. Helicopters move slowly, they can bring them down no problem without a target lock. You sure about this?"

"I am, Mike. They're after me. It'd be stupid on my part to just sit back and let them come. Keep the island safe, ok? When this is over, we'll head over to the Malibu for a good drink."

"If it's still standing..." muttered Toreno. Tommy climbed into his helicopter as Toreno backed away, its motors revving up, the blades cutting through the air as they began to spin faster and faster. The downdraft only made Toreno retreat further. Tommy brought the helicopter upwards and tilted it forward slightly. Toreno started at the sudden burst from the Seasparrow's gun, and he saw a small vessel explode in the water nearby. A Russian landing craft? They were this far in already? Another fighter roared overhead, so loud that everything around him shook. A stray missile shot overhead, toward the Seasparrow as it ascended out over the water, before it lurched downward and smashed into the water, sending a plume of spray upwards, which the rotors of the seacopter cut through as it turned around to face off with another unseen airborne foe. There was another distant rumble, but this one didn't sound like any sort of explosion or collision that Toreno had ever heard before. He glanced up at the rooftop, wondering if it had come from a rocket that had been fired from up there. No, Toreno realised, it sounded too distant for that. He glanced out to where the foreign menace had come from.

And there he saw it.

Rising into the sky was the great flicker of golden light, rising up into the atmosphere, fired from a location far out at sea. A chill ran down Toreno's back, "Oh, shit..." he reached for the radio in his pocket and brought it to his mouth, "Tommy, you see that? To the east?"

Tommy's crackly voice replied, "Is that a missile??"

"It's a ship-launched ballistic missile, and for all we know, it's heading this way."

"No, no... look, Mike..." he paused, and there was the sound of an explosion through the speaker. Tommy was probably over the burning side of the city by now. Closer to whatever it was that had been fired, "It's turning but it's heading out Viceport way... you don't think that..."

"What could be out there that's so important to them?" Mike pondered aloud. The thunderous WHOOSH of a rocket fired from the roof made him instinctively duck just as a small helicopter spun into view out over the water. The rocket hit it side-on, knocking it sidewards before it lost its engine and spiralled downward into the water. Someone on the roof, he couldn't tell who, was cheering. The flicker of golden light had almost disappeared; it was so high up. If the Russians could take out Starfish Island with a ballistic missile, why bother wasting all their hardware and men?

"Mike, I just got word from uh... whats-his-name, uh... Sweet or whatever he calls himself."

"Go ahead."

"We got Russian gang cars heading toward the island from the Vice Point side. All the guys we sent out to slow them down are being brought back here. We make our stand on the island."

"Alright, Tommy, I'll work all this out. You just stay up there and don't bite the dust, ok?"

"You have no idea how long I've wanted to do this shit again, Mike. I'll be in touch."

Toreno charged up the rear steps, across the porch and into the mansion through its back entrance. He knew this place fairly well but still got lost from time to time. He made his way up toward Vercetti's office, where Tommy himself should have been right now. More distant noises of heavy weapons firing and exploding against stuff, hopefully Russian stuff, shook the building. He cursed, hoping that the whole mansion didn't cave in with a sudden missile strike. Hopefully the flares that Phil had managed to come across, old military grade, wide use in 'nam, were installed and ready by now. He wouldn't be surprised if half the world knew what was going on right now.

He picked up the radio, tuned in to all frequencies on his side, "Alright, all teams, I want a status report. How goes the pest control?"

A voice he didn't recognise, probably another of Tommy's loyalists, came back with a reply, "We have craft entering the main water system from the south, near the docks, and we're trying to hold them off here. Did anyone see that thing they fired up into the sky?"

"We did, and we don't know what it's for yet, so keep an eye out. All bridge teams, report."

"All barricades untouched, sir." was the almost instant reply. They had planned this for half a month. Toreno expected no less.

"Alright. Evac teams, what's the status of getting all immaterial personnel to the airport for San Andreas departure?"

"Um..." came the voice, "This is, uh, Wu Zi Mu... I believe we're going to the airport now. Just passing Little Havana police station."

Toreno knew the man was blind, but didn't bother asking how he knew where he was, "Alright, inform me once you are there. We may need you to stay until all this winds up. At this rate, though, we will have no problems. The military's doing its job well." He moved to the window, "Inform Cesar's girl that he's working on something that will greatly improve our chances. I'm gonna check up on him in a moment, so if you..." he broke off and nearly dropped the radio mic as something shot down from the sky, over the docks, and slammed into somewhere very close to the airport. Another streak followed it. A third streak of light rained down. It hit the Viceport bridge which spanned the bay. An explosion tore the bridge apart, sending debris crashing into the water below. At once the radio erupted with dozens of frantic voices and calls for help. Toreno could only make out a couple.

"-hit just beyond the airport-" "-WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT-" "-lost all contact with southern barricade group-" "-Sunshine Autos maintaining lockdown, will stay on the line-"

"Jesus Christ, what the hell happened?!" Toreno yelled into the mic, probably only adding to the din.

He got no reply, instead, Phil Cassidy's panicked voice screamed back, "ONE'S HEADIN' FOR THE MANSION!"

Toreno's eyes widened, "FLAAAAAARE!" he screamed. Less than two seconds later, an almighty tremor rocked the mansion and Toreno lost his balance, stumbling to his knees, "Phil, PHIL! What the fuck happened?"

After a moment, Phil replied, "Uh... the flare worked, but... I think we just blew away half the island in the process. About three mansions on the other side are jus'... gone."

"What was it? Was it a missile?"

"You tell me! Yer the military man! Looked like the same things that hit the bridge and over near the airport. Looks like they hit Fort Baxter. Russian pigs musta... I dunno, hit 'em with a missile barrage or somethin'."

"That missile they fired... it musta been a MIRV, shit! If they fire another one they could hit any point in Vice with no problem. Didn't see that coming..."

"HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Phil hollered as something made a loud noise on the radio. He was no doubt having fun, even if he only had half the number of arms that everyone else in their group had. Still the best sniper amongst them. "Mikey... We got a problem up here, all the military flyboys are acting erratic. Accordin' to radio chatter, they've lost their chain o' command. They took out Fort Baxter with that missile strike. Shook 'em up real bad. Dunno if we can still count on 'em."

"Hold up, I'm gonna head down to the garage to check on Cesar. He should have nearly finished his little mod job by now. We're gonna stop those commie pricks from getting to this island by land. Just keep and eye on us up there."

"You got it."

Toreno closed the line and left the office, barrelling down the grand staircase three steps at a time. For all he knew, they'd fire off another missile from that great black... thing, and they'd only have a few minutes to anticipate where the multiple warheads would land. With that monster out there, firing missiles, launching helicopters and landing craft... they might just win this. he had to get to the garage, before the island began to swarm with angry Russian invaders.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"The time is... 1021 hours." muttered Toreno. "At 1023 we intiate."

"You sure 'bout this, man?" Cesar asked, "It's not a bad car right there, holmes. Isn't there something a little more tacky lyin' around?"

"Old wrecks won't attract as much suspicion, though, will they?" Toreno rebutted. They had driven a small two-seater Euros onto the centre of the only bridge linking Starfish Island with the rest of the city. Its dark-blue paint scheme was visible on the wall-mounted camera that Toreno had focused on it, the men huddled around a small control PC in Vercetti's garage. The distant sounds of the approaching Russian squatters penetrated and sometimes shook the walls. The airspace around the island, for now, was clear. Nobody was attempting an aerial invasion as of yet, although Toreno didn't rule out the possibility of one later. Tommy's Seasparrow was hovering just south of the mansion, right where they wanted him. Toreno would contact Tommy in a moment.

"The boys over at Escobar air traffic control report that all flights to and from the city have been halted, and that reinforcements from the USS Wyoming and Liberty City squadrons are inbound. ETA... 40 minutes." reported one of the few men Toreno brought along to help him. Referred to as 'Stinson', he was a long-time government informant placed in the VCPD to weed out possible corruption. He was placed there by Toreno himself. Now that a simple case of bad cops wasn't the most important thing on his mind, he had joined up with Toreno here and had spent the last few days monitoring the city in lead-up to the invasion that was bound to happen. He was surprised the Russians hadn't damaged more than they had, but when their target was not the general public, Toreno understood why they conserved their resources. Once they got ahold of the place, the suffering of the citizens would begin.

"40 minutes might not be enough. Do they know of the stealth ship?"

"They do, sir. As far as the CIA knows, however, there's no record of any such ship in existence."

"Don't call me sir. I work for a living..." Toreno muttered, paraphrasing an old military saying.

Cesar shook his head, "Man, this is crazy! We're talking about sealing ourself off here!"

"That's why we count on nobody 'cept 8-Ball. Only he has enough of the juice to pull this one off." Toreno smiled. Friends in high places...

"You did fine with the last one, ese."

"That was 8-Ball, too."

"1022... Mike." Stinson told his counterpart. Toreno nodded, hands folded and resting his elbows upon the desk where the computer was positioned. He smiled beneath his interlocked fingers, wondering if this would be enough, or whether there was still no hope for Vice City, this island, or Tommy. Something in the back of his head, planted there by his past experiences and his record for dealing with such events as these, told him it mightn't be. But there was always they chance that they could fight back. Outnumbered by their immense ground force and recruited soldiers, Vice's only hope came from the air. But if that abomination out there in the ocean fired another one of those missiles, that hope might fade very fast. That, or there wouldn't be any Vice City left. He rotated the camera to the right, showing the burning high-rises down by Ocean Beach. Some of them were lucky to be still standing. Others had mercifully crashed down long ago, sparing onlookers of the horrendous sight of watching one of the city's icons slowly consumed by flame. He hoped he'd never see such carnage again. But if only it were that easy.

He picked up his little radio thing, "Tommy... feel free to head out now. Get their attention, let them know it's you."

Upon the little radar screen on the second monitor, the little blip to the mansion's south began to move. It slid over toward the eastern island, and toward an area of land that was under the ownership of Avery Carrington, who had been in quite an uproar about the Russians "tramplin'" his turf all morning before being moved over to the western island with all other non-essentials. No point in dying in a war as a business man. Not exactly the most distinguised way to end. Tommy's voice crackled over the rather patchy line, "I got them, they're tailing me now!"

Toreno focused the camera on the bridge, where the Euros was parked, idling. "Got it Tommy. We'll get as many as possible. Thank Mr Vialpando for rigging the fireworks."

"Still a nice car, man..." Cesar muttered, hands in his pockets.

The Seasparrow quickly ducked into view on the screen before zipping out of picture again, the blip re-entering Starfish Island airspace. What followed was a mass of deep green cars so numerous that it looked like some sort of citywide procession. "Ladies and gentlemen!" Toreno announced, his finger hovering over the spacebar, "Time for some Bloodring!"

TAP

Instantly the Euros tore itself apart as the brigade of Russian muscle cars engulfed it and stormed past, exploding with such force that the whole building shook. The Russian cars, all bearing the same insignias on their hoods, had slowed to investigate whether the small and compact sports car was friend or foe, and by the time they worked it out, it was too late. Those not caught up and incinerated by the enormous explosion were catapulted off the bridge and into the water. Just like the other day, faking Tommy's death. Only this time, there were no unnecessary civilian casualties. Only acceptable enemy losses. As expected, the bridge's supports gave way and the roadway collapsed into the water, taking charred cars with them. The archway at the end of the bridge fractured into splinters of plaster, the gates toppling with the bridge into the cold blue grave. The remaining cars ground to a halt, several occupants getting out, brandishing their weapons.

Cesar snarled, "Ballas!" he swore in his native tongue, his knuckles white with contained rage.

Toreno smiled, "We're on our own now, gentlemen. Tommy, how you holding up?"

"I wonder how easily this bird's gun can pop a fuel tank." he chuckled, "With them all clustered together like that, they'll all go up if just one gets hit." he heard a bullet strike against the tail structure, which prompted him to press down on the trigger, hard. From beneath the bubble canopy, the Seasparrow's minigun let loose, rocking the cabin and reminding Tommy that he was still alive, whereas those down below would not be for long. He panned the gunfire along the blockade of Sabres, shattering windscreens, puncturing panels and mowing down those foolish enough to step out of their vehicles. Then one bullet entered a car to the forward-left of the mob, ripping through its fuel tank at such force that the heat generated by the impact and the friction against the fuel within lit a tiny spark.

The car seemed to bulge as its innards lit up, before splitting apart and spewing flames everywhere, lashing the cars around it and setting them alight, too. Tommy nodded to himself, satisfied. A good portion of their ground team was crippled. Things were looking alright. He swung the Seasparrow around, taking in the half-wrecked island before him. But when he glimpsed side to side of the island, his face fell. He saw not just one or two but an entire armada of tiny boats laden with about five people each coming at Starfish Island from either side. Just then, Toreno called, "Tommy, hope you know that we've picked up another aerial unit from the Russians. This one's quite huge. How many things can they fit into that floating barge they've got out there?"

Tommy felt something freeze over inside him. Answering the call, he muttered, "Mike, meet me in the yard."

"Sure thing, Mr V. What're your orders?" Toreno asked, almost playfully.

"You're leaving." he sternly replied. Before Mike could even think of a reply, he closed the line.

Mike stormed toward the Seasparrow, "Tommy, what the hell!?"

Tommy popped the door of the heli open before the blades had even stopped spinning. "I'm not gonna argue with you Mike. See up there?" he pointed skyward. Toward the clear, slightly cloudy sky overhead. "The military was called off. The rest of our choppers are either down or occupied. And on both sides of this island is a landing fleet. If they set foot on this island, they'll ransack the mansion until they take everything that is mine. If you get out of here, Mike, at least you can stop their main plan."

Mike glanced around, as though seeking ideas, "But... Carl has a Hydra, he could bring it over and-"

"One Hydra, Mike..." Tommy shook his head, "You'd be throwing Carl's life away in some stupid rescue idea. Mike, it's over. You all need to get out of here. You are the only ones who know about their objective."

"We're taking you with us, then!" Mike protested.

Tommy smiled. A sort of saddened smile, "Mike, I've defended this place from half the mob. I'm sure a few Russians won't stand much of a chance. I'm the only reason they're here."

"And if you're iced, they'll take over Vice!"

"Let them!" Tommy growled, moving up the outer stairwell toward the rear entrance, "Taking over Vice won't win their little war. Taking whatever they want from the government will. Take everyone you brought with you and get the hell out of Vice, Mike. Look after them, ok? There's a Maverick still on the roof. Take everyone you can fit. Some have already left. I'm staying."

"T-Tommy..."

"Mike... go!" he ordered. Mike hesitated, before turning and bolting indoors for the rooftop helipad. Tommy leant against the balcony rail, staring southward at the glistening waters and the forms of tiny 5-man landing craft slowly sweeping toward him. He had a feeling this might have been it. Nobody stays on top forever. After six years, the reign was over. Tommy's only regret was not being whacked by a more prominent underworld figure. That, and not checking up on Mercedes this week - she had been complaining of strange illnesses, so he felt guilty for not being on hand for her more often. His hands gripped the stone rail and his eyes narrowed, his mouth twisting into a snarl, "Come and get me, you goddamn pricks!" he snarled. He whirled and slipped inside, into the hallway and straight into the main chamber. He heard the sound of a helicopter starting up. He smiled to himself. Convincing to get Mike Toreno to do anything that he found out of place was a very tough ask. He finally got through to him after three years. He entered his office, crouched beneath the main desk and pulled out an M-4 assault rifle, an Italian-made combat shotgun, and retrieved his favourite pistol, a Colt Python, from the filing cabinet. All stashed here for a time like this. The island was cut off. The last heli had left. No boats. He was alone. He sat down at his desk and smiled. Would anybody miss him? Umberto might, and no doubt the chubby Cuban and his gang would talk of him and his 'big cojones', but in ten years' time, Tommy doubted he'd be anything more than a memory. This place had long lost the stench of the corpses of Mafia thugs and their boss Sonny. Tommy hardly remembered what his old boss even looked like. However took over this city next would think the same of him, a decade down the road. He sighed and waited for his guests to knock.

Several minutes passed before Tommy heard a buzz coming from his cellphone, the one he picked up off a man he killed in an Ocean Beach alleyway. The only people who called him were those few entrepeneurs who felt courageous enough to discuss business propositions to him mano-a-mano. But with his empire in lockdown, all businesses closed and assets under wraps, there was no way anybody would be calling yet. Unless Vice's little war was over and everyone was emerging from their homes. Yet, there was one person...

Tommy felt a tingle down his spine when he answered his phone, hearing a heavy Soviet accent speaking back to him, "Mister Vercetti... Tommy... Vercetti... I'm assuming I need to give no introduction?"

For the first time ever, Tommy replied to the Russian caller, "It'd be the only polite thing you've done recently, asshole."

The man chuckled. So calm. So fucking annoying, "Yes, Mister Vercetti, I've been told that you have quite the sharp tongue. My name is Adrik Nicolai, and I am a former officer and tactician of the Red Army, the glorious armed force of the Soviet Union."

"Get with the times, prick, there is no more Soviet Union. The Wall came down, Gorbachev declared glass...nox... or whatever, and the world pulled its pants up."

"Mister Vercetti, I am astonished that you are unaware of our purpose here. The goal of myself and my followers is to correct history's greatest oversight."

"The fact that the Harwood Butcher became Vice's king of kings for six years and you didn't get off your asses to get rid of me sooner?" he was playing with them and loving it. Fun before death. Could be worse...

"Your charm never fails you, Vercetti, but I am not one for games. Vice will become our foothold, from which we can bring down the rest of America and make them pay for their crimes."

"You know, if you wanna do that, then stop yapping about it and actually kill me. I'm sitting here, waiting. Get your landing craft to storm this place and overwhelm me. Or have those big missiles launched on that place. That way I could go down and make headlines. C'mon! You know ya wanna!" he dared.

Another soft chuckle, "Mister Vercetti, we would never waste the resources of Ockchabursk itself to eliminate someone as minor as yourself." 'Ockchabursk' mouthed Tommy. Was that the giant ship? Or the missile? And if he was so minor, then why invade the city and kill its citizens just to get to him? "Mr Vercetti, I have arranged a special parting gift. You will notice that our landing craft are diverting to other points on both sides of the city. They will not be your audience today."

"Shit..." muttered Tommy. He wanted to rip through a few Commie carcasses...

"Instead, I have somebody who wishes to speak with you. But first he needs better line of sight. One moment..."

Tommy raised an eyebrow. Then he heard the sound of somethin rocketing toward him. He was nearly blown out of his chair as a thunderous roar cut through the building, the forward end of the mansion caving in just above the main entrance, the whole front of the mansion blown apart suddenly. Tommy swore over the deafening noise, and picked himself up off the ground. That was a missile strike! But when he glanced at the radar screen that was still operating on the PC by the wall, he saw nothing. Long range weapon? Or a rocket launcher? His ears stopped ringing after a moment, an eerie silence filled the mansion again except for a distant rumbling that he could not pinpoint. He picked up the phone from the floor and screamed into it, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PLAYING AT, YOU FUCKING PRICK!?"

"Just a moment, Mr Vercetti. My friend would like to speak with you. If you would, please direct your attention to the north, just above the rooftops."

Vercetti followed his instruction, gazing out the gash blown in the front of his estate. He squinted as he focused beyond the rooftops and palm trees and half-demolished properties to find a small grey object, floating in the air, growing ever-gradually larger. The source of the distant rumble. Tommy's eyes widened as it approached. It was unlike any sort of helicopter Tommy had ever seen before. If helis were fish, this one was the shark. The craft was bulky and formidable, small winglets containing an array of underslung weapons. Its paintscheme was almost midnight black, and the helicopter's curvature explained why radar could not see it: stealth. A pair of giant rotoblades, one atop the other, spun in opposite directions, eliminating the need for a tail-rotor on its V-shaped empennage. He couldn't quite make out the pilot. Although he was sure that he was seeing things, but the pilot looked a bit like-

"Mister Vercetti, listen up." Nicolai's voice instructed.

Tommy brought the cellphone to his ear as the helicopter slid closer, entering a stationary hover over the main street. The voice he heard chilled him to the bone.

"SURPRISE, TOMMEH!!"

Tommy's eyes widened, "LAN-" he was cut off by a hail of gunfire that let loose from the nose-mounted turret on the giant black stealth, ripping through walls and shredding mounted portraits and eviscerating everything in its way. Tommy ducked, the turret swivelling, pocketing the entire mansion with a deadly spray. He ran onto the grand staircase and ducked as the rain of bullets passed over his head, ripping apart his office behind him. It was firing through the gash it created so he got below aiming height. Behind him, he heard the walls of his mansion begin to creak as their strength was literally blown away, leaving a cratered remnant. Tommy realised he still had the phone in his hand, and he brought it to his ear, trying to think of anything to say. Everything above the staircase had just been ripped apart. But he heard only a derisive laughter through the speaker.

"I've waited a loooong time for this, Tommeh."

"How the hell-"

"Say goodNIGHT, Mr Vercetti."

Tommy heard a loud whoosh. Two of them. Two warheads shot through the wall cavity. Missiles. INSIDE the mansion. "FUCK!" Tommy screamed as the two missiles roared over his head, slamming into the office behind him.

The whole city seemed to quake for a moment as its most prominant mansion, the Vercetti Estate, tore itself asunder. The enormous white building was obliterated in a single, incredible eruption of flame and flying debris, which cascaded outward from the burning property, consuming everything around it. The hedge maze on one side of the building was smothered by the wave of fire, as were the palm trees forward of the driveway. The mansion's turret-like parapet on its easter side literally blew its roof before collapsing inwards. The tiny Seasparrow was lifted into the air by the force of the explosion, its fuel tank igniting and ripping the tiny chopper to fragments. Flames spilled into the bay, onto the road, and across the island's lush greenery, setting everything ablaze. The giant helicopter hovered above it all, its pilot extremely satisfied with what he had accomplished at the touch of a button. He picked up his handset.

"This is Wraith One. Target neutralised, mission complete. Proceding back to Ockchabursk." he informed. Then he lowered the handset, clicked it back onto its holder, and gave a small salute in the direction of what was left of his former partner's home, "Adios, Tommeh... you got too old for it."

Carl Johnson set the Maverick down on what was once a flat and open patch of greenery on the mansion's outer limits. Everything around the mansion that had once been green was now a horrid black, most of it still smoking. No matter where you were in Vice, everyone had seen the mansion's demise. He powered down the helicopter and stepped out of it, hoping that, by any sort of miracle, Tommy had gotten out. Flames still flickered on scorched bushes and tall palms, the smoke rising like a thick dark beacon into the late morning sky. CJ always thought that scenes like this were supposed to be accompanied by dismal weather with thunder, lightning and little light. And yet, everything about the weather seemed perfect. Vice City's tropical paradise had not stopped to watch the passing of Tommy's 6-year empire. Gone, in an instant, its headquarters destroyed. He muttered to himself, disgusted. The Russians had actually won.

The rest of the crew were waiting at Escobar. The leader of the Russian invaders, a man named 'Nicolai', had addressed all citizens on the radio and by any other means of public communication, and informed that they will commit no more hostile acts unless provoked. They claimed their mission was complete, and that the city now belonged to 'The Motherland'. Bullshit, CJ thought. They were just jealous cos it snowed to much in Russia.

All flights had reopened at Escobar, and Sweet was intent on leaving this paradise lost and returning to San Andreas, where they could finish business. CJ had stopped him up for one moment, just to make sure they didn't have any more passengers to bring along.

He walked along what was once the mansion's rear courtyard, with its four sparkling ponds, small monolithic poles of quartz and huge, bushy shrubs. The shrubs had been burnt to a swizzle, the stone pillars shattered and the ponds now filled with murky debris and dirt. The wrecked structure of the mansion lay before him, ruins piled so high he didn't know where Tommy could have hidden. And, if his body was still intact, where it might be buried. The Vercetti Estate was his pride and his joy. And now, seemingly, his tomb. Only a few areas of the outer wall remained standing, but it was all blackened to almost beyond recognition. Half a bubble canopy, warped and scorched, was all CJ could find of the trust Seasparrow.

"TOMMY!" he called. He knew he'd sound stupid to anyone else who witnessed that explosion. He had seen it from Downtown. "HEY, TOMMY! YOU 'LIVE!?" he hollered. He was, literally, talking to a brick wall. Or what was left of it. He made his way around the side, past more once-pristine pools now clouded with so much wreckage that there was more dirt in that water than water. The front of the property was just... gone. As though no walls had ever been built. He was amazed to find the giant stone staircase that lead to where the main entrance was still inact, albeit similarly burned, like the rest of this place. He saw inside (or what had been inside) and was met with a terrible feeling inside, like reliving a bad memory. He had been inside this building less than an hour ago, and standing atop it even more recently. There was no roof left; it had all caved in. "TOMMY!" he yelled again, into the smouldering ruin. He expected no reply, and didn't wait for one, turning to investigate some more.

But a reply came anyway, "C-Carl..." came a weak voice.

CJ whirled, "Jesus! Tommy, how the hell ditchoo-"

Tommy Vercetti shut behind him the only functional door left in the whole place. The door lead to the holding area inside the grand staircase, which had somehow survived (although it looked less like a staircase and more like a giant chunk of obsidian now), and dusted himself off. His shirt was ripped and his shoulder and face were bleeding. He walked with a limp. "Who knew that... hiding underneath a bunch of stairs would save you, eh?"

"You're hurt, man, we gotta get ya outta here!"

Tommy glanced down at himself, and coughed a little. CJ hoped his wounds were external only, as he was beginning to like him. They'd make a good team, he thought. "Hmm... mustn't have... stopped everything from fallin' on me... and my head hurts like shit..." his gaze darkened, "Lance..."

"Who?" CJ asked.

Tommy shook his head, "N-Nevermind, I... I think I better sit down, and..." he coughed again. He had inhaled a lot of smoke. "I must look like an idiot, eh?"

"Whatchoo mean, man?"

"I spent all this time... gloating about how I anticipated death... wanted to fight off anyone who intruded upon my mansion and... nagged with a Russian moron who wanted to send me to hell with gift-wrapping... and then when they try and kill me, I hide under some stairs and live... pretty dumb huh?"

"Not exactly the most, uh... heroic ending, if I might say so." CJ offered. Tommy only smiled. He glanced around at what was left of his home of six years.

"So what now? The very core of my organisation is gone. I have nothing. They wanted to kill me, but I'm alive yet ruined. Isn't that almost as good?"

"C'mon, man, we're gonna get you to the airport, clean you up, and then we're gettin' you outta here before those motherfuckas come headhuntin' again."

Tommy squinted, "Out of here? To where?"

CJ put his hand on Tommy's shoulder, "We know what they plan to do next. Come with us, man. Come with us to San Andreas so we can stop these fuckin' idiots from screwing up our world. Consider it a way to get payback. Whatchoo say, playa?"

Tommy glanced at the ruined mansion again, before turning back to CJ, "If it means I get some revenge... and I might be able to finish some old business..." he grinned, "Count me in. This place has been my home, but... now that it's gone, I guess I need the next best thing."

CJ beamed, "That's what I like to hear, man!"

"I guess I got my things together," Tommy muttered, shrugging, "Hope the flight is a long one. There's... there's a lot we need to discuss."

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How was that, guys? I can assure you, there's more to come and I will NOT take as long to update again, I assure you! I apologise again for the huge wait. I would not call this my best work of fiction, but I wanna make this as good as possible, so all your helpful insights, tips and contributions are greatly encouraged and appreciated.

See y'all round for the next one!!

Griddles.